Saturday, September 15, 2007 

Scum-watch: Those thieving migrant scrounging sponging scum...

Horror of horrors! You know what those Poles are doing now? Only writing in their newspapers about how easy it is to claim benefits!

THE biggest Polish newspaper in Britain has run a special edition bragging how easy it is to claim benefits.

And it describes the simple ways immigrants can grab a cheap home with free furniture and child benefits.

The piece in this week’s edition of The Polish Express is even illustrated with a picture of a couple with a pushchair being showered in bank notes.

It takes quite something for the king of gutter journalism to turn its sights on others, but the Scum is nothing if not brazen.

The front-page article, headlined Benefit Hunters, reads: “The longer we are in Great Britain, the more rights to social security we are given and the better we are at taking advantage of them.”

Other pictures show a woman holding a set of keys and a model of a house, and a child clutching coins.

Another photo shows a man entering a Jobcentre with the caption: “Poles are visiting the Jobcentre more and more often — not to find a job, but in order to get benefit.”

It says: “You can apply for benefits as soon you take up a job in Great Britain.

“You can apply for the remaining benefits after working in the UK for a few months or a year.

“The formalities concerning an application for social security are extremely simple. Do not delay in submitting an application.”

In other words then, all the Polish Express is doing is informing its readers of their rights as they currently stand. Still, with a helpful coating of Sun hyperbole you can soon turn such a story into a migrants stealing our benefits extravangaza.

The paper features a case study of “Pete”, a Pole who came to Britain two years ago and settled in a Welsh seaside town. Unlike the 1.6million Brits waiting for homes on council housing lists, he was given a two-bedroom house with a garden straightaway.

Pete is quoted as saying: “The house in which I rented a room was falling apart.” When he went to a housing association he was told to register with the Home Office as a person working in the UK to get a National Insurance number.

He says: “Never in my life did I expect the whole process to last such a short time.

“They just gave me the keys and told me to move in. They did not even want any deposit.”

He adds: “They asked me if I had furniture. I didn’t, so they sent a lorry with a brand new bed, table, chairs and a cooker. They even brought it all in!”

The paper explains he pays £60 rent a week for a two-bedroom house with a garden.

After living there for two years, he will be able to buy the property at a discount on its market value.

What's that I smell? It couldn't be bullshit, could it? Considering earlier in the year, after Margaret Hodge's outburst about migrants taking all the houses the government came up with figures that showed actually only 2% of all lettings last year had gone to foreign nationals (around 2,200 houses in total), it might just be that "Pete" or the Express have rather embellished their account.

It is estimated around 112,000 migrants who came to the UK to work are currently claiming state benefits — up from 46,620 last year.

The Scum naturally doesn't bother to present a breakdown of those figures. Thankfully, a slightly less egregious newspaper but one which is still wholly disingenuous has previously done the job for us:

If you bother to do the working out, it actually works out that 84% of eastern European migrants aren't claiming any benefits; and those that are are almost universally taking advantage of benefits that as taxpayers' every other person in the United Kingdom is automatically entitled to. The £125 million figure though is complete bollocks, as is most of the article other than the stats, as Five Chinese Crackers pointed out.

Next up we have the usual rent-a-quote suspects spouting out their indignation at how appalling this all is:

Shadow home secretary Mr Davis said: “Statistics like these show why the Government’s claims that numbers coming here would be low — and restrictions would be placed on benefits — were just more spin. The public will want to know what action Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is taking.”

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch, attacked the newspaper article last night.

He said: “It’s appalling that Polish immigrants should be encouraged to live off our taxes even if they have to work for a year before the whole system is wide open to them.

“The Government claimed to close off the welfare system to ‘benefit shoppers’.

“But it looks as though some people are finding their way through these checks at our expense.

“The money employers save on lower salaries will be paid out by taxpayers funding benefits.”

Which only just goes to show that the supposed head of an anti-immigration thinktank hasn't got the slightest clue what he's talking about. If he had even browsed the recent figures he'd know that what he's saying simply isn't true, meaning that he's either lying or doesn't have the adequate knowledge to be able to comment on the Scum's article. Not that that usually stops anyone else.

But Polish Express editor Adam Skorupinski was unrepentant.

He said: “It was not our intention to encourage Polish people to seek benefits. We definitely think there’s a problem with benefit hunters from Poland and Eastern Europe — but it’s not such a big problem that it’s hurting the British public.”

As the figures for those claiming out-of-work benefits more than bear out.

The Scum couldn't resist commenting this in its editorial column:

IT’S bad enough that Britain has turned into a haven for Europe’s scroungers.

Yes, of course it has Rebekah my dear, keep taking the medicine.

Now a Polish immigrant newspaper adds insult to injury by cheerily telling its readers how best to squeeze handouts from British taxpayers.

Or, err, considering that they're also paying tax, how to claim benefits they're entitled to.
It cites one extraordinary case of a Pole given a two-bedroom house and a truckload of new furniture with practically no questions asked.

Extraordinary in its lack of truthfulness, one suspects.

Its front page pictures a couple pushing a pram while being showered in British bank notes.

Less painful than being hit with pound coins I suppose - although if that was the case the Scum could have made a joke about golden showers.

Many immigrants, Poles especially, do enrich our country through hard work.

Really? Reading the Sun you would have thought they'd come here to do everything but, seeing as we're the haven for Europe's scroungers.

But others have come here solely to milk the over-generous benefits system which is the talk of Europe’s spongers.

As the figures bear out. Oh, wait...

The Polish newspaper has a right to free speech, however disgraceful its message.

Quite right too. The Sun can just direct its hatred at the Polish themselves instead.

The fault lies with the Government that allows this gravy train to roll on and on.

Who could possibly disagree?

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Friday, September 14, 2007 

Cowardly assassination of a real resistance fighter.

I'm not one to make liberal use of the word "cowardly" when describing attacks by terrorist groups, especially those that result, either purposely or accidentally in the death of the perpetrator himself. Whatever we think of the motives behind suicide attackers, or what personal inadequacies or perverse thinking leads them to make such a unjustifiable decision, the act itself of ending your own life, in essence for what you believe in, even if you believe that the act itself will result in your installment in paradise, is not one which can be described as "cowardly". While suicide has for a long time been caricatured as taking the cowards' way out, and we can criticise the person for not caring about the mess that their death will both leave behind and create, the taking of ones own life requires strength that can never be dismissed as being easy to achieve or as an essentially empty act.

This is why the spectre of suicide bombers on the loose is so viscerally terrifying; the cliche of "them" loving death while we love life does have some merit to it. We do everything we can, not just to escape death, but to prolong our lives and to halt the visible signs of aging, while their attachment to at least this plane of existence is so flimsy that they'll sacrifice everything for something completely unachievable and take numerous innocents with them in the bargain.
Susan Sontag's comments just after September the 11th, that "cowardly" would be a term better applied to those who also make use of planes but who rather than using the machines themselves as weapons drop their explosive cargo from a great, safe height, have never lost their resonance.

The assassination of Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha, the leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, most likely by a improvised explosive device planted in his car by al-Qaida fighters disguised as petitioners who visited the Sheikh yesterday on the first day of Ramadan, was however most certainly a cowardly act. Rather than killing him using a suicide bomber, as al-Qaida in Iraq's calling card has been, they used their weakest and lamest tactic, used to kill dozens of American soldiers, as well as countless other innocent Iraqis.

We shouldn't overplay the significance of the emergence of the Anbar Salvation Council, which is exactly what Petraeus did earlier in the week in his statements to Congress and the Senate, but the rising up against the "Islamic State of Iraq" has always been the most welcome development to occur in Iraq in years. It showed that no longer were the Iraqis prepared to exchange one tyranny for another, from Saddam's secular police state to al-Qaida's extremist implementation of Sharia law, which had for a time prospered amongst the Iraqi tribes that had the most to lose from Saddam's overthrow. Their tactics may have at times been no better than that of the fighters they turned against, but they remain the best hope of eradicating the "Islamic State", something that the Americans can never possibly imagine to achieve.

While Abu Reesha's death shows just how deep the problems in Iraq still are, away from the rosy image presented this week, it by no means marks the blowing apart of the hopes of pacifying Iraq, as Patrick Cockburn writes. If anything, Reesha's death is likely only to galvanise those opposing the takfirists into being ever more determined to eject the murderers that set-up home after the invasion.

Another welcome development was contained in an interview with the spokesman for the Islamic Army in Iraq, who made clear that his group, unlike al-Qaida, are prepared to negotiate with the Americans. It can't be coincidence that as al-Qaida continues its barbarism, exemplified by the indefensible attacks on the Yezidis, the other insurgent groups continue to move towards a position of opposing the "Islamic State" while being prepared to end their own struggle, as long as the Americans themselves also withdrawal. As the release of another new report suggests that the death toll since 2003 could be even higher than previously feared, the need to bring the conflict to an end becomes more urgent than ever.

Similarly, the deteriorating situation in Basra, as reported by the Times which makes clear just how unsafe former employees of the British army now are, necessitates that we quickly identify all those we owe a debt of service to and offer them sanctuary, even if only temporarily. You can still make your voice heard by contacting your MP and informing them of the "we can't turn them away" campaign.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007 

We're all doomed part 94.

Even the Grauniad on occasion likes to try and scare its readers: what other reason for plastering "Al-Qaida has revived, spread and is capable of a spectacular" in a font bigger than the masthead across its front page?

The alarm bells ought to start ringing when the article notes, around 300 words in, that the International Institute for Strategic Studies's director of transnational threats and political risk is one Nigel Inkster, a former spook who was in the frame for becoming the head of MI6 three years ago before he left. Unsurprisingly then, he goes further than the report itself in stating without hesitation that "al-Qaida" is stronger than it was prior to 9/11 and capable of carrying out a similarly spectacular attack.

The proof behind this? Very little. Apparently, the mere fact that a planned attack was foiled last week in Germany involving vast amounts of hydrogen peroxide, and that last summer's "liquid bombs" plot was similarly stopped shows that al-Qaida still has the ambition to carry out spectaculars. We shouldn't let the facts get in the way of the IISS's certainty: that the group allegedly behind the German plot was the "Islamic Jihad Union", a group meant to have split from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, although Craig Murray relates that he was never able to find any proof that the IJU had even existed. It's quite true that IMU has found something of a safe haven in Waziristan, the same Pakistani tribal area where the Taliban have been regrouping and where it's most likely that the real al-Qaida itself is slowly regenerating, but this plot involved two home-grown Germans, rather than all involving foreigners. As for the liquid bombs plot, we're no nearer to discovering whether the attacks were even viable, let alone whether those arrested have established links to al-Qaida.

Where the report does it get it right is in suggesting that al-Qaida's ideology is taking root: this is sadly the case, and most certainly 9/11's real legacy. The threat it also likely to get worse before it does get better: that threat however does not necessarily come from al-Qaida itself, but through those highly influenced by the same takfirist ideology who take matters into their own hands. It also places too much emphasis on the fact that the al-Qaida brand is taking off across the world: that the GSPC has changed its name matters not one jot, except to Algerians themselves. The real danger remains that when the US does finally withdraw from Iraq, we're going to have a lot of redundant mujahideen much more globalised in their thinking than they were either at the end of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or from Bosnia. Some are likely to join other struggles wherever they are then, but others are also going to turn their attention to the West. Such experienced fighters are always going to be far more dangerous than the idiots who try to blow up airports with patio gas canisters, petrol and matches.

What the report doesn't say is that we are ourselves are getting far better, both at tackling radicalisation and at spotting the dangers themselves. The defection by Maajid Nawaz, formerly of Hizb-ut-Tahrir to arguing against the politicisation of Islam as practiced by the group is incredibly welcome, especially as unlike Ed Husain he isn't calling for its banning and recognises that most of those within it are actually just typically young: angry and alienated rather than potential terrorists. Someone with his authority tackling the message of such groups, and doing so theologically rather than just rhetorically is the biggest threat which those who prosper on ignorance and one interpretation face, far beyond anything that the government's policies on cohesion can produce.

As Jason Burke also identifies, the report also mentions how climate change has the potential to have an effect similar to nuclear war, far beyond anything that any terrorist group can ever achieve. Putting too much stock in immediate rather than gradual doom may have been around for centuries, but it's still no less virulent today.

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Nice report, we'll take it!

Be honest - did you really believe that David Cameron was in the slightest bit sincere about his quickly found love for green issues? Admittedly, in a world where you can be lectured on the environment by Joss Stone, who so profoundly informed us during Live Earth that all you have to do is replace your light bulbs, plant a tree and "it's done", it doesn't take much more knowledge than that to be taken seriously, and rightly mocking articles about Cameron's bike riding exploits with his documents following behind him in a car aside, his repositioning of the Tories over the issue has forced both of the other parties into taking the pressing danger of climate change far more seriously than they would have otherwise.

Even so, it's still a shock that the Conservative party, of all parties, has put together such a well-thought out, reasonably radical highly credible action plan that isn't afraid to slay a few of the parties' sacred cows. True, it most likely doesn't go far enough: the Lib Dems have set the incredibly ambitious target of a zero-carbon Britain by 2050, but as yet their policies on achieving that are rudimentary to non-existent. The Tories' "Blueprint for a green economy" (PDF), chaired by John Gummer and Zac Goldsmith, is mostly made of proposals that can either be implemented almost immediately or within a matter of years. It's by far the most serious attempt by any political party other than the Greens themselves to address what is the most urgent issue we face.

Little surprise then that it's been welcomed by most of the Conservative party in the same way as they would a wind farm in their back garden. Mr Eugendies at least kept things succinct. Tory MEP Roger Helmer suggested that they had to pick between being "supply-side tax cutters" i.e. morons only interested in preserving the current status quo and only worrying when London is underwater, and "socio-environmental tinkerers and interventionists", i.e. crazies who want us all to exclusively eat a diet of lentils and fine beans. Brian Wilson, chairman of "Flying Matters", brought up the same spurious argument that putting VAT on an airline seat would penalise the families who only fly once a year while letting frequent fliers off free, as it's been shown that the huge expansion of low cost airlines has come not thanks to working families queuing up to fly but rather through those have always flown flying more often. Anything that is denounced by the "TaxPayers' Alliance", an organisation worthy of constant derision for the fact that it's run not in favour of "TaxPayers" but rather of the narrow interest of those who set it up in the first place masquerading as being represenatative of the huge cross-section of taxpayers ought to be worth supporting, and this certainly is.

For once, a Labour response to the document is actually worth repeating. Andy Burnham is quite right that this report and John Redwood's recent policy review are almost wholly incompatible; they're either going to have to do one or the other, or cherry pick from each. Cameron has supposedly pledged that "much" of that in today's report will be in the next Conservative manifesto, but we should believe that when we see it. To judge by the initial reaction, if anything's likely to further the revolt against Cameron, this document is likely to be it.

It's quite obvious therefore what the opposition parties ought to do if Cameron doesn't keep his word: steal it for themselves. The fact that Gordon Brown has spent the afternoon in a meeting with the milk snatcher herself, just by chance on the same day as Dave's released the report most likely to cause misgivings amongst the not so faithful, isn't exactly a positive sign, and it also shows how Brown's promise of an end to spin is worth about as much as those dossiers were. This week's patriotic, transparent garbage at the TUC from Brown was hardly the high point of his tenure so far either. Co-opting the Tories' best policy ideas in years if they fail to do so themselves might finally put some flesh on the otherwise bare bones of "change".

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007 

9/11, 7/7 and inquiry fatigue.

Peter Tatchell, for reasons unknown, has brought up yet again the supposed unanswered questions surrounding the 9/11 attacks. Sunny mentions, quite reasonably, that to even do this opens you up to the accusation of being a conspiracy theorist, but while true, it's not really much excuse for just giving the tin-foil hat brigade yet another excuse to rear their ugly heads with their delusional ravings of how it was either a controlled demolition, a missile that hit the Pentagon, or even in fact a projected hologram, and err, didn't really happen at all.

Even though some questions do remain unanswered about 9/11, the inquiries into what happened that day have been far more exhaustive than anything we've seen so far into 7/7. We know exactly who did it, how they did it, where they lived previously and their justifications for doing so. The main conspirator that plotted the attacks has been caught. al-Qaida, unlike over 7/7, 21/7 or the Madrid bombings, has claimed responsibility and only yesterday released the latest videotape containing one of the hijackers' living will. What we don't know is whether the attacks could have been prevented had either the Bush administration been more focused on the terrorist threat or if the warnings of the FBI and CIA had been acted upon.

More to the point, the fallout from 9/11 is now much more important than the attacks themselves were, and the continuing questions about them are. They happened; there's nothing we can do about that now, except learn from the lessons they've given. You don't have to be a cynical bastard to note that the Bush administration chose this week for the report to the Senate and Congress on the Iraqi surge: what better time to accuse those of wanting to end the nightmare in Iraq of being unpatriotic? The Bush line on Iraq is that they're fighting the terrorists there so that they don't have to do so in America. It's a laughable argument based on sophistry, but in a nation where 33% still believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, it's one that still holds some weight. Also prevalent in the report by Petraeus were yet more accusations about Iran's involvement, while Rice today scaremongered about Ahmadinejad's pledge to fill the vacuum. The announcement that an American base, you know, the ones that are all going to be dismantled once the US withdraws, is going to be built within 4 miles of the Iranian border just shows where all that is inexorably leading to: another confrontation, more needless deaths, and the threat of yet more collateral damage through blowback.

As Simon Jenkins points out though, at least American democracy has somewhat attempted to hold those in charge of the Iraq war to account. Back here the contempt with which the opposing view has been held both by Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown has meant that we haven't even had the slightest voice in determining how much longer our own troops stay in the country. An attempt to hold an inquiry was voted down by Labour backbenchers too cowardly to listen to the overwhelming view of the public who have long wanted to know how we were dragged into this mess in the first place. Meanwhile, the families and relatives of those caught up in 7/7 are reduced to resorting to legal action to obtain a full independent inquiry into the events of that day and the acquaintances that the bombers had with other now convicted terrorist plotters. Compared to the inquiries and inquest into 9/11, we know next to nothing about where they came from, where they trained and who they had contact with. They deserve so much better.

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How to be witless in just over 1000 words.

Not to come over all Alastair Campbell, criticising cartoons, but the one on the fifth page of today's Private Eye (1193), comparing Citizen Kane to "Citizen Journalist", while somewhat true, takes the usual position that all blogging is "witless".

On the same page, the Eye lays into the true witlessness of the summer: the incessant, ignorant, complicit reporting of the Madeleine McCann case. For every useless, highly skippable blog post, you can point to the amount of dead trees used to print the acres of instantly throwaway, endlessly speculating and empty stories that have been haunting the nation. Despite some of the more thoughtful hacks taking a step back, examining just what has happened and why and how they as the media have been involved since the beginning, most of the coverage is still on the level of this abysmal abortion put together by the Mail's latest Glenda Slagg, Allison Pearson:

The past few days of Kate McCann's life may have rewritten the definition of hell.

I don't know: personally, I think I'd rather be in her position than burning for the rest of eternity, forever condemned to listening to Kate Nash's album over and over again while one of Satan's minions' sodomises me with a rusty knife. Each to their own though. Everyone's definition of hell is different; it can't be rewritten every time a tabloid journalist feels the latest situation means it has to be.

Skipping nearly 200 words of how terribly awful and unfair it all is to this unimpeachable couple:

Imagine how thrilled those literally clueless Portuguese cops were to be handed some inconclusive DNA evidence they could talk up to scapegoat the British visitors who had become such a pain in the backside.

Breathtaking, isn't it? The police are dressed up as the villains in Pearson's narrative of woe, rather than simply doing their jobs; the DNA evidence, collected and analysed by the British Forensic Service rather than any nasty clueless foreign types, is inconclusive; and the British visitors are being scapegoated because they'd "become a pain in the backside". Almost all the coverage has treated the McCanns with kid gloves, willingly blind to almost any possibility that they could have been involved, but this kind of myopia could only have been written by someone who's spent the last few days under the American regime of sensory deprivation. Some have accused those who suspect the McCanns of twisting the truth and the reality of what happened; this goes far beyond any of that, seeing an organised conspiracy not just involving the Portuguese authorities but also the British team who've done all the forensic legwork.

Overnight, Gerry and Kate found themselves trapped in a nightmare straight out of Franz Kafka. A world where lack of hard evidence is taken as proof of guilt and innocent explanations are twisted to fit our darkest suspicions.

Pearson perhaps out to reread, or even read for the first time Kafka. The whole point of the Trial is that K. cannot clear his name because he never knows what he's accused of, comes up against a bureaucracy that hinders his every movement towards discovering what it is the case is about, and finds that he is mocked and even more ruthlessly targeted by the authorities for continuing to maintain his innocence. It's a story about the tyranny of everyday life as well as being about the horrors of the totalitarian and unaccountable state. The control order regime is Kafkaesque, where some of those held under what is essentially house arrest never know what it is their meant to have done, and can't as a result fight back and defend themselves; the situation that the McCanns face is nothing of the sort. For someone who's just twisted the events of the last few weeks into a grand conspiracy, it's ever so slightly rich for Pearson to then suggest that the McCanns' innocent explanations are being twisted by some to fit suspicions.

Now Kate and Gerry have been named as official suspects, it suddenly feels as if it's open season on the doctors from Leicestershire.

Really? Unless you count the Desmond papers, which seem to have decided that going with the opposite of the rest of the press might attract a few more readers to their disgusting publications, the press has almost uniformly been completely behind the McCanns. It's only been the internet, predictably, where others have been suggesting otherwise.

In this post-Diana age, people want proof of grief. They don't want dignity or faith or an attempt to keep up appearances, even if you are collapsing inside.

And just who's to blame for this I wonder?

That Gerry and Kate, devoted parents by all accounts, loaded Madeleine's decaying body into the boot of a hire car four weeks later while they were busy courting the international media to help find their child?

Can you credit it? Of course not. The allegation is not just revolting. It is surreal.

Completely unlike the events of the last four months then. Absolutely nothing has made any sense, and it still doesn't. How does someone, within the period of around half an hour go almost completely unnoticed through a bustling holiday resort, manage to get into a locked apartment without leaving almost any prominent clues, take a 3-year-old girl without waking up her brother and sister and carry her off into the dark, never to be seen again, with only a friend of the family seeing a man from behind carrying what appeared to be a child in blankets over his shoulder?

Whatever you may think about the error they made in leaving their children alone that night, these people are not Fred and Rose West.

The deed the McCanns are accused of would have required such black, cold-hearted evil that I refuse to believe they are guilty unless overwhelming evidence is uncovered.

Nonsense. If the McCanns are guilty, and I have no idea, as pointed out before whether they are or not, the most likely explanation seems to be that whatever happened to Madeleine was a tragic accident. Out of self-preservation, probably because they feared losing their two other children as a result, they planned a cover-up, one that was for a few months surprisingly successful. They have probably been completely overwhelmed by the media coverage of the event, as almost everyone else has been. Nothing they've done is evil, or even instantly condemnable; how do we know we wouldn't have done the same thing in their position?

This is the prism through which the tabloids, and some of the other press have to see absolutely everything through. Every murderer is instantly evil, a monster whose actions are eminently unexplainable. One suspects that the media, if the McCanns were to be eventually found guilty, wouldn't vilify them for what they'd done to their daughter, but rather because they had the audacity to play them for fools for so long.

The one point that nearly all the commentators have failed to make, whether because they're unwilling to because of their own role in it or because they quite like their jobs, is that the media has been complicit in this from the very beginning. Everything was staged and created for maximum publicity, the McCanns both using and being used by the media, each out of their own motives. Is it little wonder after all of that they're unwilling to countenance the possibility they could even be slightly involved? It would be the equivalent of admitting that they'd conspired in it all themselves.

So please, spare us the cartoons about the witless blogs. The tabloid press, and especially the commentators within it are the ones currently being exposed as vacuous.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007 

The poverty of prohibition.

It was a weekend of bad ideas, as Alan Johnson's bung for mums illustrated, but on the scale of denseness it's hard to beat the currently only being floated as part of a longer-term action against prostitution idea of making the buying/paying of sex illegal.

Putting aside for a moment there's a reason why women selling their bodies is known as the world's oldest profession, this idea takes its cue directly from the deeply discredited and fatally flawed part of radical feminist ideology that maintains every woman working in the sex trade, whether involved in producing pornography or working the streets is a victim of some sort. Like all the usual strong but deeply misguided ideological positions, it has more than a merit of truth to it: you only had to see the five murdered prostitutes in Ipswich last December, all addicted to one or more drugs, to see that they were victims who needed help. To apply this universally though is naive, discriminatory and even possibly misogynistic. Cast your way through any local newspaper's classifieds, and you're bound to find a whole cavalcade of advertisements for saunas, escorts and women working from flats, almost all of them selling sex, and the vast majority also doing it out of choice.

Radical feminism in general doesn't have an answer for why these women choose to do what they do, so it more or less treats them as though they either don't exist or as traitors to the cause, in it for the money. The irony of this is that those women are the ones with the most to gain from any ban on the buying or the selling of sex; the ones who don't need to walk the streets, hidden away from the gaze of CCTV cameras and the police are already the ones doing the best out of their work, reasonably to excellently paid and able to argue out their own terms. A ban, as well as naming and shaming, also proposed, would only drive the curious kerb-crawler far away from those women who survive by selling their wares on the streets, leaving them far more vulnerable than they already were. If trade dries up, their drug habits or men demanding money don't, pushing them to shoplift or commit other crimes, only making it more likely that they'll become the latest additions to our already overcrowded prison system.

This policy isn't just based around the notion of victimhood though, it's also based on the farcical assumption that you can somehow control human urges through legislation, and also that the selling of sex itself is morally wrong. You can't outlaw the fact that some men either can't or won't develop normal relationships and so use prostitutes on that basis, nor can you stop the philandering bored husband from visiting the local massage parlour, let alone the increasing fad for stag parties to visit European capitals famed for their red light districts. In fact, it's wrong to assume that it's just men using women; while it's on nowhere near the scale of female prostitution, there are more than enough male escorts out there, available for use by both men and women.

After all, it's not necessarily that men are exploiting women; in some cases it's quite the opposite. What is heterosexual pornography if it isn't a woman using what she either was given or bought to extract money from males who simply can't help themselves? It's them taking the money off idiot males who go goggle-eyed at the mention of all those acronyms that make up the specialist end of the market, rather than being exploited by the men invariably involved in running the actual business. The American pornography industry is remarkably self-regulating, thanks to measures brought in during the 80s after the Traci Lords scandal, and the notion that women are being forced into doing anything they don't want to over there is laughable.

Primarily, the government is concerned by figures that supposedly show that 85% of women working in brothels are from foreign countries, and takes this as proof that forced trafficking is endemic. On the contrary, it rather shows that some of these women know full well that they can make decent sums of money in a relatively short time, far beyond what they'd ever earn if they did the menial jobs most of the other migrants from within the EU are coming here to do, and without any of the stigma of walking the streets back in their home country and without their families knowing what they're actually doing. It's undeniable that some women are being effectively kidnapped and then forced into prostitution by gangs who bring them here, but the numbers are tiny compared to those who are actually more than willing to come here for similar purposes.

It's hard not to imagine that as well as appealing to the more feminist thinking members of the cabinet, it's also something that Brown and his "moral compass" couldn't help but be attracted to. Previous plans by the government that suggested allowing women to set-up mini-brothels where three could work, away from both the streets and predators of all kinds were predictably loudly condemned by the usual suspects, i.e. the Daily Mail, etc. Out the window goes Blair's lack of any principles and in comes the clunking fist's crackdown on vice, whether it be in the form of gambling, drinking or sex.

As Diane Taylor points out, the very last thing that will change the current landscape of prostitution, except for the worst will be the criminalising of men who pay for sex. Prostitution is such an intractable problem, without any obvious solution that it's easy to jump to the obvious reactionary position. Until we start valuing drug treatment programmes as much as we do prison cells, and providing real alternatives to street walking as we do to the thump of the gavel, nothing will be any different. And you're sure as hell not going to stop men from seeking out sex, unless you castrate them all at birth, which brings with it other problems.

Related post:
Stumbling and Mumbling - New Labour's misogyny

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Never forget straw-man day.

What better way to commemorate the passing of another anniversary of The Day The World Changed Forever than sitting down with a nice cup of tea and reading Martin Amis's latest dispatch on how the liberal relativists are traitorous bastards?

I admit, I paraphrase slightly. But only slightly. Amis, who last regaled us with his views on Islamic terrorism, the "long war" and the inadequacies of the leader of the 9/11 attacks, Mohammad Atta, in a fictionalised account of that morning and in a lengthy essay titled the Age of Horrorism, on err, September the 10th last year, today has his latest attempt published in the Times, presumably because even the Observer is tired of his tedious, tendentious ramblings.

Titled "9/11 and the cult of death", Amis travels down the same weary, familiar trail that he has passed along numerous times before. For a man once considered and still thought of by some as our greatest living novelist, it's quite odd how he can't get beyond, like many others, simply and disingenuously comparing takfirist jihadism to either Nazism or Bolshevism. His main link, rather than any real analysis of how these movements became popular and took power, is that all three are at their very heart irrational, against modernity and hark back to a romanticised past which in actuality never existed which they want to recreate.

Thing is, Amis has tried this before, and got burned while doing it. His 2002 book, Koba the Dread, both a memoir and an account of Stalinist crimes, was widely panned because he failed to recognise the difference between Trotskyism and Stalinism, deciding after doing huge amounts of research that both were equally responsible for the crimes committed between 1917 and 1953. Indeed, he even refers to Trotsky as a "fucking liar and a nun-killer", which he may well have been, but does little to prove his point. Even more puzzlingly, Amis in the book quotes Orlando Figes eloquently explaining the difference between Nazism and the Russian revolution, with fascism "spitting in the face of the enlightenment" while communism was "an experiment which the human race was bound to make", yet he still could not see how one has become the embodiment of evil while Stalinism, responsible for possibly more deaths than Nazi Germany, has entered history condemned but with nowhere near as much ignominy. Whatever we think today of Stalin and the Soviet Union, it's hard to forget that without Hitler's greatest mistake of invading Russia and the huge blood sacrifice of the millions of Soviet citizens, the war might still have been lost.

Not learning this lesson, Amis promptly compares today's Islamic death cult to both the Nazi and Bolshevist variants, without worrying about the ahistoricism of such a weak argument. Not content with just that, he then relates a recent experience of when he appeared on Question Time, and after giving what he thought was a centrist argument on the war on terror is loudly shouted down by someone making the ignorant point that because American armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan that it should be bombing itself. Amis takes this, and the audience's apparent "unanimous" applause to mean that if they were given

the choice between George Bush and Osama bin Laden, the liberal relativist, it seems, is obliged to plump for the Saudi, thus becoming the appeaser of an armed doctrine with the following tenets: it is racist, misogynist, homophobic, totalitarian, inquisitional, imperialist, and genocidal.

Not only is this a false dichotomy, it's a fallacious straw man as well. Amis, perhaps unaware of it, appears to be channelling George Bush himself, who said in the days after September the 11th that you're either with us or you're with the terrorists. Amazingly enough, you can both oppose all the above tenets, the murderous rampages against innocent civilians by the "Islamic State of Iraq" and the original war itself, sold on lies and misinformation without having to choose between either. For once, Tony Blair was right: there is a third way, and that Amis and others don't see it is only going to entrench the failure of the so-called war on terror so far.

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Monday, September 10, 2007 

Scum-watch: McCann sycophancy and scummy mummies.

A relatively quick breeze then through today's Scum leader column:

KATE and Gerry McCann must have thought the nightmare couldn’t get worse after their daughter Madeleine vanished.


First, there was the apparent lack of interest from the bungling Portuguese police. Then came the vile rumours about them in the local press.

While there could certainly be something to be said about the slow reaction from the Portuguese police in failing to close or notify the Spain/Portugal border, to call it a lack of interest is nothing short of a slur. They conducted searches throughout the area of Praia da Luz, interviewed everyone involved and shortly declared a man to be a suspect. It was only then that the trail went cold, which isn't exactly their fault. The very nature of the McCanns' media campaign could be just as responsible, resulting in the kidnapper going to ground and keeping Madeleine locked away from wherever anyone could see or find her. It was always a difficult decision to make, and we may never know whether it was the right one.

Now, after receiving dubious forensic reports, they are being treated as “suspects” in the case.

Naturally, if this case had involved terrorist suspects, someone accused of abducting a child or almost anyone else in this country, it seems unlikely that the Scum would be referring to forensic reports against them, compiled by the British Forensic Service, as dubious.

No wonder the McCanns were anxious to be back in the bosom of supportive relatives and friends.

But they would be more reassured if detectives in Portugal concentrated on trying to find Maddie.

In their pursuit of the McCanns they seem to have forgotten even to go through the motions of hunting the kidnapper who might still have the four-year-old in his clutches.

Uh, that was what they were doing up until they first apparently started to suspect the McCanns themselves, wasn't it? So believing of the McCanns, not willing to accept for a moment they just might have something to do with Madeleine's disappearance, the Sun's left with trying to accuse the detectives of not continuing the search for her. The reason they're no longer going through the motions appears to be obvious: they no longer think that she has been kidnapped, concluding that she's dead, either at the hands of her parents as the result of an accident or otherwise. It's one thing to accuse them of "bungling"; another to suggest that they've given up completely.


ALL pregnant mums are to get £120 of YOUR money in the hope they will spend it on healthy food.

Christ, MY money? I'm broke as it is!

Yet wealthy “yummy mummies” don’t need the cash, and already put food under the microscope.

“Scummy mummies” at the bottom of the heap will just spend the hand-out on booze and fags.

Lovely. Considering the very fact that the Sun itself is a caricature, it's not exactly surprising that it's using them in such a crude way here. It does however though say something about the Sun itself: a supposed working class publication, one of its biggest hatreds is of its very readers', condemned as "chavs", "yobs", "scroungers", leftie trade union dinosaurs and now as "scummy mummies". The very fact that the paper of choice amongst such people is likely to be the Sun has never entered into it. Even so, it's quite true that Alan Johnson's idea is a complete and utter clusterfuck, an obvious bribe, as others have expanded upon.

It does however bear comparing to another recent bung; the Tories' policy commitment to recognising marriage in the tax system. Both are aimed at achieving similar supposedly laudatory measure, in the case of the "health in pregnancy" grant narrowing the disparity between the rich and poor in health terms, while the Tories' pledge is in encouraging commitment in relationships and promoting the family as a way of tackling Britian's "broken society". Both are also completely spurious arguments, based on politics and narrow interests. The difference is that Labour's is meant to help the poorest: the Tories' on the other hand, despite all the bluster, is so opaque that an 8-year-old could see through it, an open bribe at middle class families already married. It's interesting then to note that while the Sun (and numerous other right-wingers) fully supported the Tories' idea, it completely rejects the Labour one, even though they're both idiotic. Could it be possibly be something to do with which class each is aimed at? No, that couldn't possibly be it; only the left indulges in class warfare.

While the cost to the taxpayer would be £120 for each pregnant woman, the Tories have raised the figure of around a £20 a week saving for married couples. Do the math: that's a lot more money to those who really don't need it courtesy of the fiscally sound Tories than it is from the stealth taxing, wasteful Labour.

As the Scum says:

It is this sort of expensive gimmick that drives taxpayers crazy.

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Setting up franchises.

US soldiers pose with former insurgents, allegedly from Hamas in Iraq in a village on the outskirts of Baghdad.

In his "The Solution" diatribe, released at the weekend (PDF), rather than pointing the finger at the decadent lifestyles of those that inhabit the "West", a familiar bugbear of Islamist takfiris, bin Laden instead targeted, of all things, capitalism. Coming from someone who used his family's wealth and connections from the very beginning of his radicalisation to finance the various causes he's espoused over the years, not to mention how he now relies on the donations of rich Saudis, to suggest this is ever so slightly hypocritical is akin to remarking that Julian Clary is only a little camp.

Rather than capitalism itself though, bin Laden retains the majority of his fire for corporations, who he describes as the "real tyrannical terrorists". While you can't help thinking that he might not survive telling that to the faces of the families of the thousands murdered by jihadis in Iraq in "martyrdom operations", bin Laden and his mostly autonomous organisation have actually themselves drew on one of the most successful, but also tyrannical business innovations of the 20th century. To quote Tyler in Fight Club, after hearing the narrator explain how he never really knew his father because he'd left and only knew him by the fact that he traveled around a lot, leaving behind women who subsequently had children in different cities, "the fucker's setting up franchises."

Which is exactly the method that al-Qaida is using to further scare the citizens of the West, who go into spasms of terror on hearing of the latest bombing claimed in their name wherever in the world.

The first, inevitable franchise that al-Qaida has managed to set-up is in Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, originally in Iraq prior to the invasion with the Kurdish-based Ansar al-Islam group, first split from them (Ansar al-Islam was eventually to become Ansar al-Sunnah) and set-up his own terrorist group, which went through various names, eventually settling on Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, or the Group of Monotheism and the Holy Struggle. Quickly becoming both notorious for its brutality, such as the suicide bombing on the UN's headquarters and the beheading of various Western hostages on video, subsequently distributed on the internet, al-Zarqawi, having formerly been believed to have been a potential rival to bin Laden, apparently swore allegiance to him, and his group subsequently became known as al-Qaida in Iraq, or the Organization of Jihad's Base in the Country of the Two Rivers. While the name has not stayed the same, with al-Qaida subsequently becoming a "coalition", first in the Mujahideen Shura Council and currently within the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq, the die was cast. That the original group was never Iraqi-based, and still now relies heavily on foreign jihadists, has made little difference to those sympathetic towards the Salafist militant ideology, with the group being by far the most popular
terrorist/insurgent/resistance group in Iraq among the online jihadist community.

Apparently seeing a good thing going on, partly because it suits both the United States, the Iraqi government and al-Qaida itself to blame/claim almost all the insurgent attacks on/for bin Laden's original organisation, it's recently been an idea that has been expanded. Back in May, the previously unheard of al-Qaida in al-Sham (the Levant region, containing Lebanon, Syria and Jordan) released a video of a man wearing a suicide vest and a khaffiya, who delivered a typically bloodcurdling speech of threats against the region's Christians:

“we will tear out your hearts with traps and surround your places with explosive canisters, and target all your businesses, beginning with tourism and ending with other rotten industries... We warn you for the last time, and after it there will only be rivers of blood.”

That would be quite something, coming from a group that previously hadn't existed, and which probably actually really doesn't exist as of yet, except for propaganda purposes. While Fatah al-Islam, recently defeated after the Lebanese army almost completely destroyed Nahr al-Bared refugee camp was an apparent believer in the takfirist ideology, there's little to suggest that there are really any existing groups that AQiAS will be built around, at least as of yet.

The situation is entirely different in Algeria however. While most of the fighters who took part in the civil war have put down their weapons, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat has continued the fight to the present day. A group cut down to its very base, estimated to have around 300 active members back in 2003, it serves both their and al-Qaida's purpose, sharing an ideology and an enemy, to harmonise their wars. Following contact with al-Zahawiri last year, the group formally swore allegiance to bin Laden back in January, and since then has carried out its most deadly attacks in years, all with al-Qaida's name attached to them. While it's true that this has likely increased both the numbers of potential recruits and funding, it's giving al-Qaida far too much credit, and the media, including the Guardian, which does at least mention the group's past in its report, really ought to know better than just give bin Laden's group the "honours".

Just like corporations and their franchises inspire boycotts and opposition though, the same is true of bin Laden's. Up until early 2006 the insurgency in Iraq, despite being both takfirist and nationalist in nature and with many disparate groupings, was mostly united against a common enemy: the Americans and what they considered as the illegitimate Iraqi government and its police and army. Since then, the continued murderous nature of al-Qaida in Iraq's attacks on civilians and its ridiculously harsh interpretation of Sharia law in the places where it had control, often with tribal backing, has finally led to the long predicted backlash, both from the tribal groups themselves, with the setting up of savior councils both in Anbar and in Diyala province, and also from its once erstwhile allies, especially from the Islamic Army in Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades, both of which have now set up their own "umbrella" groupings with other insurgent groups, opposed to the "Islamic State". The 1920RB itself split in half after its leader was killed by al-Qaida; one section, calling itself "Hamas in Iraq" has aligned completely with the American forces in an attempt to drive them out.

If al-Qaida is to become a truly global phenomenon, there are going to have to be a lot more setting up of these franchises. The thing is, while al-Qaida is by no means universal, the ideology behind it most certainly is. At the moment, there's no real need for the formal formation of al-Qaida in Europe or al-Qaida in North America; individuals, not necessarily connected to "the base", as established by both by the attacks in Madrid and Kamel Bourgass, neither of whom have ever been proved to have a link to al-Qaida, have acted under their own steam or with the help of other sympathetic groupings. That, and of course the fact that whenever anything so much as pops the media are screaming "AL-QAIDA" means for the moment that bin Laden has no need to bring the base of jihad to either these or American shores.

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Anyone got a Schilling update.

Schillings have finally this afternoon deigned to reply to my two messages sent on Thursday evening. They requested that I remove their "copyrighted" letter, which I have done, not because I either want to, have to or feel the need to, but because I see no reason to prolong this pointless encounter. They and I consider the matter closed.

This whole affair has only once again highlighted how once a supposedly libelous article/post is out there online, it's incredibly difficult for it be removed, and not even Schillings, according to the drivel on their website about how they're the most feared and leading law firm, are likely to succeed in removing it from all the other sites it has subsequently spread to. Going after bloggers' only linking to articles is also one of the most cowardly and indefensible actions that these parasites, earning vast amounts of money working for some of the most unsavoury characters around spend their time doing. I do indeed hope that they sleep well at night.

Update: Added "Alisher Usmanov" to the labels so that this post will show up on the page currently being linked to by numerous bloggers explaining the temporary disappearance of Bloggerheads and other sites, thanks to Alisher Usmanov and his band of arse-lickers, Schillings.

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