Saturday, August 22, 2009 

Weekend links.

The main story of the weekend remains, quite reasonably, the return of al-Megrahi to Libya. Flying Rodent has an excellent general summation of much of that involved, as does the Heresiarch. Elsewhere the on-going healthcare battle in the US is still making noise, with Lenin's "American Psychos" post and the Daily (Maybe) praising "rationing". Jamie has a short round-up of views from Afghanistan on the polling, Dave Semple responds, sort of, to my Twitter-bashing, Pigdogfucker argues that shoplifting is a victimless crime and Tabloid Watch rips to the shreds the latest Muslim-bashing in the Mail.

In the papers themselves, Marina Hyde provides some pop psychology on royalty, Polly Toynbee worries about the huge numbers of young unemployed, Michael Portillo and Robert Fisk share their perspective on al-Megrahi's release, Andrew Grice dismisses the idea that Daniel Hannan is a lone Tory "eccentric", Patrick Cockburn says democracy and occupation don't mix and John Kampfner sees our deployment in Afghanistan as a "failure on an epic scale".

No really awful tabloid piece stands out today, with even the Sun leader on Lockerbie being restrained, so instead we'll go with Sue Reid's article in yesterday's Mail claiming there were more immigrants looking for work in some areas than they were locals, something which was utterly eviscerated by the Daily Quail.

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Friday, August 21, 2009 

The Maltese double cross part 2.

You do have to wonder exactly what both the United States and ourselves expected to happen when al-Megrahi touched down in Libya. He was always going to be given something approaching a warm welcome, mainly because even while the country has paid reparations for the bombing, he is still regarded as innocent.

As almost always, American and Western lives are regarded as having far more worth than those towards the east. You might have thought that some would have mentioned Iran Air Flight 655 today; after all, it's still possible that the Lockerbie bombing was revenge for it. Flight 655 was shot down by the USS Vincennes whilst it was inside Iranian territorial waters, killing all 290 on board. The crew of the ship were not even slightly disciplined: they instead received Combat Action Ribbons, while the captain received the Legion of Merit. The Iranians received no apology, the US has never accepted responsibility and also never admitted wrongdoing. It did however eventually pay $131.8 million in compensation. Libya, by contrast, ended up paying more than $2.16 billion for the Lockerbie bombing.

It's also fairly remarkable how in this instance the Scottish government has managed to stand up to American pressure not to release al-Megrahi. How very different to the extradition of Gary McKinnon, where Westminster has refused to intervene and where Denis MacShane even claimed that McKinnon's diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome was a ruse. Similarly, David Miliband continues to refuse to disclose 7 paragraphs of a memo concerning Binyam Mohamed, claiming that if he did the Americans would withdraw intelligence cooperation. It might well be that the Scottish, unlike the UK government as a whole, doesn't have to worry about the relationships which would be affected by playing politics as it were, but it also exposes both the cowardice and the disparity of the "special relationship", as well as just how nasty both Labour and the Conservatives have become, both of whom would have apparently denied a man with three months to live a compassionate release. I'm no fan of the SNP, and their authoritarian tendencies especially over alcohol are repugnant, yet they've made the right decision for exactly the right reasons, the only downside being that al-Megrahi apparently had to drop his appeal for his release to be agreed. Justice may not have been fully served, but this may well have been the best outcome out of a slew of worse ones.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009 

The latest in the Glen Jenvey/ TARGET SUGAR saga.

In a revelation that will surprise absolutely no one, Glen Jenvey, of TERROR TARGET SUGAR fame, has admitted that he posted the messages on the forum which led to the Sun's article during the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza in January. Sun - Tabloid Lies contributor Richard Bartholomew has confirmed the authenticity of a message sent to's administrators:

Brother i'm sorry for the Allan Sugar story plant. I'm retired now from spying on Muslims. I saw a chance to install fear back in Jews who were killing Muslims.I was wrong to use you and your site.If you need any thing to help you in any way in the name of Allah just ask.

But yes the Sun did not know who posted it.I say sorry to you from my heart. if you want show the police and get me arrested. but with the first ramadaam coming i want to clear my past sin's before i start my fasting and pray.

I would write this on your forum but im blocked out. may Allah reward you for your good work you do.Ameen

Omar Hamza Jenvey


Glen Jenvey

Jenvey's claim that the Sun didn't know that he was the author of the messages is plausible: the story itself was sold to the Sun through an outside news agency, which presumably Jenvey himself contacted. This doesn't however excuse the Sun's sexing up of the story, claiming that the likes of Alan Sugar were on a "hit list" drawn up by "hate-filled Islamic extremists", when all that was proposed outside of the posts by "abuislam" was a letter-writing campaign, and even Jenvey himself only suggested demonstrations outside their houses, nor their abject failure to check that "abuislam" wasn't an agent provocateur. There was no story whatsoever, except in the heads of journalists flailing to provide a UK-centric report on a war which they otherwise couldn't care less about, while also of course continuing the casual demonisation of Muslims, especially those who dare to criticise policies which the Sun and Murdoch press in general support wholeheartedly.

While Jenvey has admitted to what we were already almost certain he had done, I remain concerned about his mental state and his sudden apparent conversion to Islam, especially his supposed involvement with the likes of Omar Bakri Muhammad. It may yet turn out that this is just Jenvey's latest ploy, or rather his latest obsession, as his mental health has always apparently been precarious, but it equally may be that he is being manipulated by those that are just as bad as the anti-Islam brigade that Jenvey previously associated with. Far be it from me to tell someone what they should do, but what I would suggest is that everyone ought to leave Jenvey alone until it is absolutely certain that he is indeed making his own decisions.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009 

Japanese torture-porn and working out how the BBFC works.

I think I've finally managed to work out how the modern British Board of Film Classification works. After abandoning the ridiculous prejudices of previous, and most famous former director of the board, James Ferman, they realised that every so often, in return for passing "art" films that nonetheless the right-wing press get up in arms about, such as Crash, Irreversible and most recently Antichrist, they have to ban a decidedly non-art piece of trash which makes up somewhat for them not banning something else.

Hence Manhunt 2 had to be banned because the previous game had been (wrongly) accused of influencing a murder. Murder Set Pieces, the last non-sex work to be banned by the BBFC, was refused a certificate shortly after a ridiculous furore involving the BBFC passing SS Experiment Camp, a former video nasty, far more memorable for its original VHS cover art of a partially-clothed woman being crucified upside down while an SS trooper loomed behind her. And now, the Japanese horror film Grotesque has been banned only a number of weeks after Antichrist was causing Daily Mail hacks to wail despite not having seen it.

Perhaps they're all coincidences. It's probably not a coincidence that all three share the attribute that they're not very good. Grotesque, despite not many people having seen it, appears to be the latest tiresome, low-budget entry in the sub-horror genre of "torture porn", which existed before the likes of Saw, but which definitely kick-started its re-emergence. Doubtless some will link the film further back to its Japanese predecessors, such as the "Guinea Pig" series, notorious for their effects on ultra-low budgets and how often they've been mistaken for "real" snuff films, but this seems far more linkable to its American sisters. Plot, of which there isn't apparently much of one, revolves around a couple who are kidnapped and then degraded, tortured and assaulted until one is offered the chance of saving the life of the other, a distinctly Saw-like device, before, and I'm only guessing, both are in fact killed.

As for the BBFC's reasoning, it's difficult to ascertain as the statement which was previously up on their website purporting their decision has mysteriously vanished, leaving us with the Sun's mangling of the press release, or the BBC's rather slimmed down account. Apparently it presented "little more than an unrelenting and escalating scenario of humiliation, brutality and sadism", "[T]he chief pleasure on offer seems to be in the spectacle of sadism (including sexual sadism) for its own sake," and "Its "minimal narrative or character development," he continued, set it apart from such other "torture-themed" works as the Saw and Hostel movie series. Really? Have they honestly sat down and watched the most recent entries in the Saw series, which have nonsensically convoluted plots and where the deaths and torture devices are clearly came up with first and then the story woven around them? The key might well be the sexual sadism, with the BBFC still being cautious when it comes to sexual violence, but that might just be them covering themselves lest the company that submitted the film decides to appeal to the Video Appeals Committee, who overturned the BBFC's rejection of Manhunt 2.

It's also not as if highly similar films featuring high similar plots and doubtless highly similar graphic violence haven't been passed 18 uncut. One was Frontiers, a French film where two young women fall into the grasp of sadistic Nazi cannibals, as one (or two) does. The BBFC justified passing it 18 uncut with the following description:

FRONTIER(S) is a subtitled French film that has been classified '18' uncut for very strong bloody violence.

The film contains scenes dwelling on the terrorisation of victims and the infliction of pain and injury. The inclusion of several 'strongest gory images' (mutilation) preclude the possibility of a '15' classification. However, all elements in this work are containable, uncut, by current guidelines for the '18' classification.

Current guidelines state: The BBFC respects the right of adults to choose their own entertainment, within the law.

Another was Captivity, starring ex-24 starlet Elisa Cuthbert, which I remember mainly because of Peter Bradshaw's review in the Graun:

But there's a twist. The wacko has imprisoned a pretty boy too, Gary (Daniel Gillies) and, against the odds ... well, boy meets girl in the torture dungeon and the old chemistry starts a-fizzin'.

It could have been the basis for a bizarre black comedy, were it not for the chillingly misjudged porn-seriousness of everything on offer. It asks us to believe that Jennifer would want to have sex under these conditions, and furthermore asks us to believe that she would still look like a total hottie. Even after being tortured. Unconsciously, the storyline participates in the madman's gruesomely naive fantasies.

If that was Bradshaw's verdict, you can imagine what the likes of Christopher Tookey thought. Captivity was also naturally passed 18 uncut by the BBFC, who quite rightly don't get involved in matters of taste. Otherwise they might have also banned H6: Diary of a Serial Killer, a Spanish horror in which a killer takes home prostitutes and locks them in a room, strapped to a table, depriving them of both food and water. One begs, pathetically, for a drink: the killer obliges by urinating into her mouth. That was also passed 18 uncut.

Undoubtedly, the BBFC will have justified its rejection in terms of the possibility of "harm", a subjective definition if there ever was one. That it's unlikely that anyone other than a horror/gore hound, undoubtedly already somewhat jaded with the current material on offer was likely to rent or buy Grotesque doesn't enter into it. It also doesn't matter that in the broadband internet age that it's even more impossible to ban films than it was in the video nasty era, when copies of copies of copies of copies circulated, and when those who watched the grainy, almost undecipherable to watch sleaziness thought they were all the better for it. And of course, now that it's been banned by the helpful BBFC, the DVD cases in countries where the censorship laws are not so archaic, ridiculous and opaque will have the legend emblazoned across them that it's illegal in the good old United Kingdom. Achieved? Absolutely nothing, except for proving to the likes of Mediawatch that the BBFC does still ban some films, albeit ones that no one cares about.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009 

Don't tase us bros!

The latest figures released on the use of tasers by police forces across the country are starting to look concerning. While the jump from 187 uses between October to December 2008 to 250 during January to March this year can be explained by how the Home Office allowed Chief Officers to decide when "specially-trained" units can be deployed with the weapons, it doesn't explain why different forces are using them far more readily than others.

The most startling are the number of uses by Northumbria police, which since April 2004 has used tasers in one way or another on 704 occasions, 4 more than even the Met has. This is an astounding number, especially when compared to another force of similar size and with a similar urban environment, Merseyside, who also took part in the same trial as Northumbria and which has used them just 76 times in total. One explanation might that more units were trained in their use than in the other forces, but Northumbria's use still seems to be remarkably high. Northumbria claim that their use is highest because they're the only force to train firearm response officers to also use them, and that the rise would correspond with the drop in firearm officers being deployed, in contrast to other forces, but it also makes you wonder whether because officers know this they more readily call for help when faced with problems they would have dealt with themselves before. Only the Met and West Yorkshire actually fully "discharged", as in fired rather than threatened their use or pressed the weapon up against the person on more occasions.

The biggest worry with the use of tasers has to be that when the police would previously have reasoned extensively to subdue someone who was uncooperative with them, or used acceptable, if subjective force to achieve the same result, the weapon becomes the first resort rather than the last, even if used just simply as a threat. Unlike in the US, where the Taser was meant to be deployed as an alternative to firearms (even if, somewhat predictably, no such fall in the use of guns seems to have been noted), police in this country have only ever used guns when the suspect is also believed to have or has used one. That tasers seem to be entering normal police use, and that as a result, their use also becomes to be seen as normal is a cause for concern when the safety of the weapons is far from being certain. As the Guardian leader argues, the exact circumstances of their use, as well as how they were used needs to be recorded to ensure that the above doesn't become the norm. The police blogger Nightjack wrote that most police were approachable and pleasant, it was just that they had started to dress and be armed like "imperial stormtroopers" which worried and put the general public off. The casual deployment of tasers would only make such attitudes worse.

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Monday, August 17, 2009 

Twitter twatter.

I'm sure that I'm not the only person who's getting thoroughly sick of both the hype and churnalism surrounding Twitter, or more appropriately, Twatter. The latest is that 40% of the messages sent on it are "pointless babble". Shurely shome mishtake? Shouldn't that be 99.9%? You also know that when the government appoints a "Twatter tsar", to go with all the other inexplicable tsars it seems insistent on appointing, the other one being Arlene Phillips as a "dancing tsar", that its demise hopefully won't be that far in the future.

David Cameron, for once, wasn't too far wrong in his view that too many twits might end up making a twat. I can see the point of the likes of Facebook, despite not using it, and do have a MySpace account although again I never use it, they're just not really for me, mainly because I prefer to operate under something of a semi-anonymous shroud. Twitter though, with the exception of when it is clearly put to good use, such as when instant updates are necessary such as on breaking news, reporting on protests and organising around them, seems to be beyond pointless; it's a glorified instant messaging service where every stalker and sad sack can follow your ever so fascinating immediate thoughts on what your sandwich tastes like, what it's like being stuck in a lift, and why the NHS is brilliant. Obviously, accusations of hypocrisy can be levelled against a blogger for criticising such "micro-blogging", and some bloggers do indeed do little more than those on Twitter do, but I'd like to think for the most part I put more thought into what I write here than many do with their numerous updates throughout the day (although blogging has been deliberately lighter this month).

Then there's just the wishful thinking, such as Sunny's that Twitter challenges right-wing dominance online. This would be amusing if it wasn't so tragic. If the NHS couldn't find enough people who could relate their own experiences of its service in a supportive fashion then Daniel Hannan would be more than right in calling it a sixty-year old mistake. Those doing so are clearly apolitical; they support the NHS, not the political arguments behind it. The entire hype behind online political campaigning has got all out of proportion to its actual value and use: there has been no indication whatsoever that the success of campaigns in the US can be translated to this country. Indeed, repeated attempts by the Conservatives to do so have failed abjectly, from their "Tosser" campaign to more recent calls for donations, whatever their size, appropriating from last year's US campaigns. If the Tories, the main players online as we are forced to admit can't do it, how can anyone?

Twitter provides what the other social networking sites do: circle jerks, where like-minded people share like-minded things, all while stroking their egos. Again, I'm not going to pretend I'm also not guilty of this, but Twitter just exacerbates the problems inherent in blogging. It is essentially meaningless, not even giving extra quality to real life relationships like Facebook does. Doubtless I'm about to be flayed alive in the comments, but once again the hype and the defences of it simply fail to live up to the reality.

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