Thursday, November 30, 2006 

Screwed by Inspector Knacker.


Guess who?

2006 is shaping up to be the News of the Screws' annus horribilis. It would be churlish and egotistical to claim that this is down to the curse of Obsolete - after Mazher Mahmood failed miserably in his attempt to stop George Galloway and various blogs from publishing his old photographs - but I'm going to anyway. Ever since Mahmood and Farrer & Co's pathetic legal attempt to silence bloggers, everything has gone tits up. Mahmood's reputation was further tainted when the "red mercury" trial ended with all the accused being acquitted; Tommy Sheridan emerged victorious from his libel trial, only for the Screws to very conveniently get a tape from a former friend of Sheridan's which they claim proves Sheridan committed perjury; then Clive Goodman, the utterly piss-poor Screws' royal editor was arrested, and yesterday pleaded guilty to tapping into Prince William's voicemail.

As well as exposing the shadier, hidden side of tabloid journalism, Goodman's arrest is significant in that the information he obtained was so underwhelming, the kind of banal crap that fills tedious tabloid diaries every day of the week. One of Goodman's exclusives was that Prince William had pulled a tendon - hold the front page! More humourously, the Screws wasn't paying just once for such groundbreaking stories; they were also funding Goodman's accomplice, former footballer Glenn Mulcaire, who did the dirty work, i.e. utilising the well-known voice mail hack which lets anyone phoning in the line have a go at guessing the owner's pin. Most don't change it from the default, leaving their messages easy pickings for snooping hacks and private dicks.

Hilariously, Obsolete's favourite national newspaper editor, Rebekah "Filth" Wade was apparently one of those who was targeted, one must assume by a rival newspaper, although the relationship between Andy Coulson, Screws editor and Wade is allegedly strained. It's often been suggested that Wade is not the sharpest tool in the shed, being ignorant of much outside her favourite topics - stringing up paedophiles and naming and shaming anyone who annoys her newspaper's sensibilities. Even by her standards though, this seems a schoolgirl error - Piers "Morgan" Moron mentions the voicemail trick in his diaries.

Not that anyone should feel any sympathy for Wade - for it seems to have been the voicemail trick which led to this year's earlier outting by force of Simon Hughes, which was accompanied by typically homophobic headlines and reports. Other victims are meant to have included Max Clifford, well known for his likeliness to the little packages left on the streets by dogs.

One can only hope that Goodman is handed a harsh sentence. There only seems to have been one case that could be argued was in the public interest - that of David Blunkett being exposed as having an affair with the Spectator publisher Kimberley Quinn, and even then only if it was affecting his ability to be Home Secretary, which is debatable, as it was after the break-up of the relationship that he in his words became clinically depressed. As the Guardian argues in its leader, what we have learned so far is likely only the tip of the iceberg. The tabloids especially are engaging in illegal methods in order to get background to their stories, whether it's from paying police, getting private detectives to do their dirty work, or blagging information from those with access to databases. Some of the smear jobs conducted on those arrested under terrorism laws seem incredibly likely to have been helped along by these factors. A custodial sentence might send a message that there are real consequences for those breaking privacy laws for less than noble causes. With the government's love for central sharing of information increasing, the situation can only get worse with time, especially as circulations continue to slump.


P.S. Would you believe that there is no mention of Goodman's guilty plea in today's Sun? The only mention of him found via the Sun's search engine is an online report that was put up yesterday, which presumably wasn't spiked as Wade doesn't have full editorial authority over the website.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006 

Rendition: Those liars and their lies in full.


Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop, because we have not been, and so what on earth a judicial inquiry would start to do I have no idea. I do not think it would be justified. While we are on this point, Chairman, can I say this? Some of the reports which are given credibility, including one this morning on the Today programme, are in the realms of the fantastic.

-- Oral evidence given by Jack Straw to the Foreign Affairs committee on 13th of December 2005.

I, I have absolutely no evidence to suggest that anything illegal has been happening here at all, and I'm not going to start ordering inquires into this, that and the next thing when I've got no evidence to show whether this is right or not - and I honestly, and you know, it's like all this stuff about camps in Europe or something - I don't know, I've never heard of such a thing.
I can't tell you whether such a thing exists - because, er - I don't know.

-- Tony Blair speaking at his press conference on the 21st of December 2005.

We already knew that those camps that Tony Blair had "never heard of" existed, as George Bush was forced into admitting they did. Don't worry though, everyone in them was treated humanely, and they certainly weren't tortured.

The most curious thing about the whole rendition scandal is that the same government which didn't know anything about the CIA's fleet of planes and the ghost prisons across the globe, and hence, you would think, has then got nothing to hide, has been so determined to push the debate forward, as outlined in the leaked New Statesman memo. For a government that always dismisses civil liberties concerns with the old adage that "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear", it's odd that government ministers and advisers have been so thoroughly uncooperative with the EU investigation into rendition. If they didn't know anything, why would they do everything they possible could to obstruct and filibuster the Europe-wide inquiry?

The reason, as you've already guessed, is that the government is actually up to its neck in the scandal, as the draft EU report makes clear. Not only have there been another 100 flights linked conclusively to the rendition program which landed in the UK, but the report, drawn up by the Italian socialist MEP Giovanni Claudio Fava, who has received death threats for his trouble, also finds that the government did in fact know full well about the visits by our friends in the CIA. As well as lying about this, they then set out to do everything they could to both play down and ignore the questions asked of them by the committee set up by the EU.

Geoff Hoon, the hapless and hopeless Europe minister, is singled out for the strongest criticism after he adopted the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" approach when questioned by the committee. Sir Michael Wood, legal adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who you might remember from the Craig Murray documents, repeated the same assertion he made there, that information obtained through torture, as long as there was no "direct" involvement in the torture involved, was not illegal under international law. The "information" discussed in those documents was from the Uzbek security services, who among other methods, have been known to rape men and women with glass bottles in order to obtain confessions. The US State Department website page on Uzbekistan admits that "the police force and the intelligence service use torture as a routine investigation technique." That gives an insight into the mindset of those drawing up their considered legal opinions; they know full well how the information they receive is gotten, yet when it comes for them to give evidence to committees set up to investigate the kidnapping of European citizens, who are then taking to "black holes" and tortured, they refuse to even justify their opinions to them.

Perhaps most shocking, or perversely, actually predictably discomforting, is that the denial and no comment policy was adopted across the whole of the EU, making the whole organisation complicit. Nato's chief executive refused to give evidence. The EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was also criticised for his lack of cooperation with the committee. The only conclusion that conceivably be came to is that the governments and their security services honestly thought that they would get away with it. One of the justifications used by Condoleezza Rice was that the United States had been "rendering" prisoners for decades, which is true, but not on anywhere near the scale as in the last five years, and neither had they then been tortured with the help of friendly foreign security services.

Whether the government's arrogance was down to the belief that anything can now be justified in the war on terror, or simply due to the belief that the CIA had covered their trails well enough doesn't really matter. After the system was exposed, instead of admitting to their role in allowing those kidnapped to be rendered, with CIA planes refueling in Britain, they instead denied all knowledge, and continue to deny all knowledge. Rather than condemning a practice that is clearly contrary to international law, they've simply said that they don't approve of it. Instead of investigations, we've had lies. This ought to be a front page reaching scandal. Ministers should be resigning. The sad fact is that in five short years, Britain has moved from laughably championing the benefits of an "ethical foreign policy" to turning a blind eye while men such as Binyam Mohammad endured "horrific torture" by proxy, with our own security services supplying information to "help". While those accused of being terrorists rot in Guantanamo Bay, the head of MI5 makes speeches about the terrorist threat that we've helped create, and like her colleagues refuses to give evidence to investigatory committees. Worst of all, we're letting them get away it.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006 

Scum-watch: Forgiveness? What's that?

For all its disgust and anger at crime, one of the contradictions at the heart of the Sun is just how much it depends on the misery of others, especially those who have experienced tragedies, to sell newspapers. Naturally, all media organisations can be accused of this, and to an extent, they're giving the public what they want.

The Sun though has often taken this to extremes not normally seen in the institutionally uninhibited British press. Hillsborough is a case in point. While other newspapers made similar allegations to the Sun, none did so in the hysterical manner which infected that day's front page. They also quickly retracted the claims when it became clear that they were not true. It took Kelvin MacKenzie until 1993 to personally apologise, when in front of a parliamentary committee. The Sun itself didn't issue an unreserved apology until 2004 - and only then because Wayne Rooney had made the mistake of taking Murdoch's money for his non-existent life story.

More recently, the Sun's sensationalist accounts of serious crimes has again came under scrutiny. Reporting the case of Rochelle Holness, who was murdered by John McGrady, it alleged that McGrady had strapped Rochelle to a table and dismembered her with an electric saw while she was still alive. Holness had in fact been dead for 15 hours before she was dismembered, as a post-mortem established (the story was published before one had even been carried out) and there were no blood stains on the ceiling or walls of McGrady's flat. Their story was not only wrong and deeply hurtful, causing more pain to Holness's family, but the newspaper has so far failed to clarify the story. The article remains, uncorrected, on the Scum's website. Holness's family have apparently complained to the supine and servile Press Complaints Commission, but the case appears yet to be adjudicated. Another similarly disgusting report made the front page a couple of weeks ago, not to mention this summer's fiasco involving the "House of Horrors" which turned out to be nothing of the sort.

It's with all this in mind that we should approach today's Sun leader on the sentencing of the two teenagers found guilty of murdering Tom ap Rhys Pryce, the young lawyer who died only metres away from his house in west London.


...

Tom’s brave mum and dad are devout Christians.

After the murder, they somehow found it in their hearts to say they felt sorry for his killers who started off as decent kids but took a terribly wrong turn.

Their forgiveness is as awesome as it is humbling. But that must not stop the judge doing his job.

He must sentence the killers to life, with the longest possible minimum term before they can be released.

The public must know these thugs will never have another chance to treat life with such callous contempt.

In other words, they should be thrown away and forgotten about. If the Sun had its way, they would most likely spend the rest of their lives in prison. It's a sharp contrast even with the statement of ap Rhys Pryce's girlfriend, Adele Eastman, which is completely heartbreaking:
I very much doubt that as children, any of the hopes and aspirations they held for their future included killing a man, and yet here they stand convicted of that heinous crime. What happened along the way for them to become so cruel and hateful towards others, and at such a young age? What a huge waste of life - not just of Tom's but also of their own - years in prison for an Oyster card and a mobile telephone. How, on any level, could it have been worth it for them?

There are no more tomorrows here for me and Tom, and all of our hopes and dreams have been brutally torn away. I just hope that there is something better for us on the other side. In the meantime, just as hate and bitterness had no place in Tom's life, neither will they in his memory. I am determined to ensure, along with many others, that as much good as possible comes out of this horrific tragedy, so that I can say to Tom when I see him again, as I believe I will, "That was the most agonising experience of my life, but everything that you worked so hard to achieve, and everything of you that you left behind was cherished and built upon to touch the lives of others in the way you would have wanted - and it was all done out of our great love for you."

Fine words, but also followed up by fine actions, for Ms Eastman, ap Rhys Pryce's parents and Linklater's, Pryce's employers, have set up a memorial trust dedicated to helping disadvantaged children.

The judge, rather than giving in to the whims of the persecutors in chief at the top of the Sun, gave an appropriate sentence in the circumstances. Both men have been sentenced to life in prison, with Brown ordered to serve at least 17 years, with Carty serve 21. Whether either will even be released then is anybody's guess. While neither of the men appear to have shown any true remorse, they now have almost the same length of time as they've already been alive to dwell on their crimes. In line with the families' belief in forgiveness, they will most likely at some point be given another chance to prove their worth to society. A harsher sentence, as demanded by the Sun, would have meant that neither would have had to face up to their crime in order to be released. Instead, it would have left them with little hope of ever being set free, and so with no reason to bother to change their ways. While the Sun cannot forgive, the humanity of those who actually experience crime instead of just profiting from it shows through.

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Monday, November 27, 2006 

It's the most miserable time of the year...

Spotted tonight: the first Christmas tree actually set-up in a house, with lights on.

Someone fucking shoot me.

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Sleepwalking into the arms of busybodies.

I try not to stray into hyperbole, or scaremonger for no good reason. That's their job. As you might expect, there is now a huge but coming. But, you have to wonder if in years to come they'll look back and decide if 2006 was the tipping point when Britain became a true surveillance state. Let's face it, when that friend of authoritarians everywhere, David Blunkett, starts speaking out, something has to be wrong.

POLICE and councils are considering monitoring conversations in the street using high-powered microphones attached to CCTV cameras, write Steven Swinford and Nicola Smith.

The microphones can detect conversations 100 yards away and record aggressive exchanges before they become violent.

The devices are used at 300 sites in Holland and police, councils and transport officials in London have shown an interest in installing them before the 2012 Olympics.

Right. In the best possible circumstances then, police might be able to get to the scene of a fight slightly quicker. They're unlikely to be able to break it up before it starts. While the first thought for why they're thinking of installing them prior to 2012 must be in case a jihadist decides to discuss his martyrdom with his fellow bombers before they proceed to explode with extreme prejudice, it also occurs that they might be interested in them for other reasons. Like making sure that those unsightly inhabitants of any big city, beggars, the homeless and prostitutes, are tucked away out of sight and out of mind, away from the shining regenerated smiling happy new East End of London. Not that properly regulated women of the night will necessarily be prohibited;
Athens did exactly that prior to their games. The article continues:

Derek van der Vorst, director of Sound Intelligence, the company that created the technology, said: “It is technically capable of being live 24 hours a day and recording 24 hours a day. It really depends on the privacy laws in a particular country.”

The possibilities are endless for snoopers. It also has depressing echoes of 1984, when O'Brien plays back tapes of Winston and Julia making love out in the countryside, where they thought they were safe.
Thank God then for possibly the least likely knight in shining armour in the country sticking his oar in:

But the former home secretary David Blunkett called publicly on the government to block the scheme.

He told BBC Radio Five Live's Weekend News programme that the suggestion was "simply unacceptable", and smacked of the "surveillance state".

"As you walk down the street you expect to be able to have a private conversation," he said.

"If you can't guarantee that - and here is someone speaking who has been pretty tough in terms of what should be available to protect society - I believe we have slipped over the edge."

Not that the government will take the word of one authoritarian over another - if John Reid wants it, no doubt we'll get it.


Then there's the police themselves to worry about. With the politics of terrorism increasingly becoming a party political issue, thanks partly to the government and partly to the screams of the tabloids, demands that once would have been dismissed out of hand suddenly become attractive to a home secretary determined to make the opposition look soft due to their stance.
We've seen Ian Blair time and again demand 90 day detention without trial, even when the Attorney General himself has said that he's seen no evidence to back up such a lengthy time period, and that's a year after the government first attempted to ram it through parliament.

According to the Grauniad, the ever reactionary plod have even more radical and draconian plans than yet seen. Tarique Ghaffur, assistant Met commissioner,
who has already recommended that flag burning and the wearing of masks be banned, has drawn up his own wish list for Lord Goldsmith to cast his eye over.

Police are to demand new powers to arrest protesters for causing offence through the words they chant and the slogans on their placards and even headbands.

Great. And what's the justification for such a chilling imposition on freedom of expression?

Mr Ghaffur has previously advocated banning flag burning. But this document would take the police a lot further. Mr Ghaffur says there is a "growing national and international perception" that the police have been too soft on extremist protesters, which has led to rising anger across the country. "The result has been to create an imbalance in public perception that is manifesting itself in passionate responses from elements of the community not traditionally given to publicly protesting. What we are seeing in effect is a rise in the politicisation of middle England and the emergence of a significant challenge for capital city policing."

The entire basis for potentially criminalising what are harmless and typical chants on protests is the chestnut the police have come to adore, the extremists. There have been a maximum of 3 protests which have caused widespread publicity this year by well-known extremists: the first, in February, in the aftermath of the controversy of the Danish Mohammad cartoons, involving less than 500 people, where protesters clearly incited murder, with the result of one man being convicted; the second, when
Anjem Choudary and other usual suspects, numbering less than 100, protested outside a Catholic church shortly after the Pope's quoting of a Byzantine emperor, with Choudary suggesting that the pontiff could be subject to capital punishment, although he did not say he should be executed; and the third, when a similar number of protesters made their feelings known outside the Old Bailey during the trial of Mizanur Rahman.

The protests have caused offense, the first one rightly so, and the second one predictably. The hole in Mr Ghaffur's argument is that one of those on the February protest has been successfully prosecuted under current laws; others are likely to follow. As Not Saussure also argues, this isn't about "Middle England" being politicised, it's about the Sun screaming about the "faces of evil" who dare to use their right to protest. The media's focusing and reliance on getting the views of extremists, who represent absolutely no one within the wider Muslim community, has to share part of the blame for the rising levels of Islamophobia.

The police want powers to tackle a "grey area" in the array of public order laws. At present, causing offence by itself is not a criminal offence.

God, causing offence hasn't been criminalised yet? New Labour have been slacking off. Criminalising causing offence in any way whatsoever is a recipe for absolute disaster. How can you justify criminalising extremist groups' banners and chants, without at the same time cracking down on the BNP? How can you legislate without at the same time potentially limiting the right of comedians to free speech? Many people find the stand-up routines of Roy "Chubby" Brown and Bernard Manning offensive. Creating an offence of causing offence would be a meddlesome busybodies dream. It could also be used both ways; the Sun might rejoice that the tiny bunch of extremists are stopped from covering their faces and saying that the Pope could theoretically be executed, but somehow I get the feeling it might feel the opposite if "politically correct killjoys" started targeting page 3 for offending women.

The document continues: "Is the sand shifting in our collective viewpoint around what constitutes 'causing offence'? Equally, we need to have a clearer determination of current community perceptions around what 'public offence' actually means. We also need to think more laterally around how we police public demonstrations where 'offence' could be caused, while still respecting the British position around freedom of speech."

The document, entitled "The widening agenda of public demonstrations and radicalisation", says Islamic extremists have learned how to cause offence without breaking the law. It also reveals that the government has yet to implement the bill outlawing religious hatred which received royal assent in February. It says that the law may prove useless against extremists: "Virtually all activity by protesters could constitute insulting or abusive language, behaviour or banners towards particular religions, but
would fall outside the remit of inciting religious hatred."

The police then want to have their cake and eat it. They recognise that virtually all demonstrations could be considered insulting and abusive, but Ghaffur seemingly wants to bring in a new law anyway. Their real reasoning might actually be that they want to remove all nuances; after all, it's really difficult to tell the difference between inciting murder and calling someone a murderer. Rule of thumb for all plods: calling Blair, for example, a murderer, is perfectly ok. Calling for Blair to be murdered, especially if he is to be beheaded, or killed in a suicide bombing, is not ok.


To give Ghaffur his due, his heart and motives may be in the right place. His concern could be that letting the current situation continue, with extremists causing outrage among those who don't much respect the right to protest in the first place, could well lead to more mosques and hijab-wearing women being attacked as a result by knuckledragging idiots.

The consequences of such a ban though would be multiple.
As Not Saussure again points out, we've already had a young woman wearing a "Bollocks to Blair" t-shirt arrested, as was another young man for suggesting that a police horse was gay. Protests normally involve robust denunciations of politicians, suggesting that they're the real terrorists, for example. Companies are oft accused of having blood on their hands. Both could be under threat for causing offence. If such a law was put in place, you may as well ban all protests throughout the country without prior permission, as is the current situation within a mile of parliament. This might make Ghaffur happy; those planning to attend could in advance tell the police what they intend to chant or show on placards, which the police could then check before giving the ok. Nanny knows best.

As ever, the best argument against such a potential ban is that every additional power given to the police is inevitably abused. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act has become notorious after Walter Wolfgang was refused re-entry to the Labour party conference. Stalking laws have been used against repeat protesters. If the police want to do something, they'll find a law they can justify it under.


OK, you might be saying, but parliament wouldn't let such potentially draconian laws be passed. The answer to that is that we sadly and simply can't rely on that being the case. The recent vote on the setting up of an inquiry into the Iraq war was a case in point:
the government got off the hook through sheer cowardice, by attacking the nationalists who got the debate in the first place. Voting with them would be betrayal, they said, along with potentially undermining the troops, a disgustingly mendacious argument when inquiries have on numerous occasions in the past been set-up during times of war.
Even with Labour MPs being the most rebellious ever, some will always abstain rather than face the wrath of the whips or their colleagues for helping defeat the government.

Such potential legislation then needs to be vigorously opposed before it even gets near the House of Commons. Write to your MP, write to your local council, write to your local newspaper, write to members of the House of Lords. Better yet, join Liberty. It's better to be unnecessarily concerned and do something about it than wait until it's too late.

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I got a bone to pick...

Walking through the glorious cornucopia which is the local shopping mall at this time of year, it's impossible to avoid the hawking calendar stalls, filled with the glossy machinations of whichever page 3 girl or hot-bodied celebrity the public most wishes to jump. What you don't generally expect to find is the err, "official" Che Guevara 2007 calendar:

This bizarre creation is produced by those nice people over at Pyramid Posters, who as well as printing calendars featuring a Marxist revolutionary, also make a pretty penny from selling posters, badges, stickers, keychains, postcards and prints all featuring the familiar cliched but iconic pose of the man.

Over on the licensing page, Pyramid explains it all:

We take our brands and license responsibilities very seriously. Pyramid Posters are one of the founder members of TRAP (Trademarks and Rights holders Against Piracy) and are also a member of LIMA (Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association).

Whether Che would have approved is uncertain. In 2000, Alberto Korda, who took the photograph, went to court against Smirnoff to stop them using Che's image in an advertisement. Korda, who died the following year, most likely left the image rights to his sons. Korda said at the time:
"As a supporter of the ideals for which Che Guevara died, I am not averse to its reproduction by those who wish to propagate his memory and the cause of social justice throughout the world, but I am categorically against the exploitation of Che's image for the promotion of products such as alcohol, or for any purpose that denigrates the reputation of Che"

When your photograph is sitting next to a calendar of Jordan, I'd say that capitalism hasn't so much turned your image into a commodity, as metaphorically dug up your corpse, rooted it, gave a number of bones to a passing dog, then buried it unmarked.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006 

Those little Wikipedia monkeys...

For anyone else still smarting from having watched Esther Rantzen's witless appearance on Thursday's Question Time, where she made Denis MacShane look like Noam Chomsky by comparison, someone saw the red mist long enough to edit her Wikipedia entry:

On 23rd November 2006 Rantzen appeared on Question Time, where she abused the memory of World War Two and the Holocaust by attempting to draw a parallel between Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler. She made the ludicrous assertion that in both the Second World War and the Iraq War, the consequences of inaction were likely to have been worse than action, a statement refuted utterly by the carnage that has ensued in Iraq. It has been speculated that the moustache shared by both of the aforementioned men may have caused her the confusion.

She also justified the utterly disproportionate Israel-Hizbullah-Lebanon war, saying the fault lay entirely with Hizbullah, and that
Israel was surrounded by nations that wanted to destroy it. Maybe she should tell that to the 24 civilians who have now died since the war from setting off unexploded cluster bombs. A British man helping an international team clear them also today had to have his leg amputated after stepping on one.

Update: It's since been removed. Boo. Discussion page here.

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Blair's "socialist" contracts.

One of Blair's other current feats of logic.

After 9 years of Labour, you would have thought that they'd got the crackpot headline grabbing schemes out of their system. In the past we've suffered from the possibility of the police marching "yobs" to ATMs in order to pay on the spot fines; it never materialised. Neither, thankfully, has "Sarah's law", as demanded by the News of the Screws, which was almost certain to lead to suspected paedophiles being strung up by their testicles from the nearest lamp-post.

Well, if you did believe that, then here's Mr Blair's so-called policy review to prove you wrong. Apparently convinced the public is lapping up their continued devotion to the idea behind "rights 'n' responsibilities", Labour's great new big idea appears to be the "social contract". The notion behind it, as explained by the Grauniad article is thus:

Examples include an expectation that a local health authority will only offer a hip replacement if the patient undertakes to keep their weight down. Parents might also be asked to sign individually tailored contracts with a school setting out what the parents must do at home to advance their child's publicly-funded education.

The review is likely to examine fundamentally the future relationship between citizen and state. The public service commission has been asked to consider "whether it is possible to move from an implicit one-way contract based on outputs, to one based on explicit mutually agreed outcomes". It asks "should we be aiming for a more explicit statement of the contract that covers both the service offered by the public sector (what is in and what is not) and what is expected from citizens (beyond paying taxes and obeying the law)". It also asks "whether these explicit and binding contracts could work not just for individuals and communities".

Filter out all the jargon, and what this essentially comes down to is that the government doesn't trust you to keep your end of the bargain. Apparently, instead of simply being expected not to break the law and pay your taxes, we have to do more. The state is doing all these wonderful things for us, and are we grateful? No, we're still as petulant and incalcitrant as ever. As we've already discovered this week, Labour especially doesn't like the way those either critical or indifferent towards it are going.

It seems to be the sure sign that Labour has completely run out of ideas. Thrashing about, trying desperately to come up with something both noteworthy and radical, it's instead a bizarre hybrid, something almost entirely meaningless but which also has sinister overtones. What could be more vacuous than a useless piece of paper agreement that you'll do something to make yourself a better citizen? At the same time, it signals a change in the relationship between the individual and the state. No longer does it seem can you just aimlessly but merrily work your way through life, going to school, getting a job, paying taxes, starting a family, etc, oh no. Now you have to sign on the dotted line and say that you solemnly promise that you won't let your children grow up to hang around on street corners, frightening the old folk. Want to use the maternity ward at the hospital? Fine, but first you have to say you won't smoke or get pissed while little Johnny is growing inside you. Want to protest outside parliament? Sure, but before you do, you have to ask that nice Commissioner Blair for his permission.

We had to sign something very similar to this at school. We had to promise that we wouldn't be late, that we'd wear the correct uniform, that we wouldn't swear at the teachers and that we'd do all our homework like good little girls and boys. Everyone signed it. Did anyone stick to it? Did they hell. It was a pointless exercise because there was no comeback on it. Even if there hadn't been the contract you still would have been punished for doing all the things you promised you wouldn't.

That right there is Blair's plan. It looks earnest and polite, yet like everything about New Labour, underneath the surface it stinks of old-fashioned authoritarianism. What do they honestly think such contracts will achieve? Will anybody take any notice of them? Of course not. If there was anything behind it, it would need to be backed up by real consequences, but if such consequences were there, it would mean the government removing services from perfectly law-abiding hard-working citizens. I may be taking this too seriously, but it almost seems to be designed to nip in the bud the difference between people, to root out individuality. It's society OK, but with Blairism stamped all over it. What a great potential legacy for the Dear Leader.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006 

David Cameron: Yeah, he's still an idiot...

Kids, David Cameron likes you. He wants to be friends with you. He knows where you hang out. He wants to be like you. A little like that strange old guy in the duffel coat who hangs around by the swings. Smells like old wet newspaper, probably has a drink problem. Like that guy, Cameron just wants to be loved; that he comes across to everyone else as being a strange man that you should never ever go off with doesn't occur to him.

Hence his fatuous, hilarious attempt on Comment is Free to get down with kids. As part of the launching of sort-it.co.uk, he's come up with the biggest load of stringed together nonsense you may ever read in your life. It quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't have the slightest clue what he's talking about.

Right now, our political culture is undergoing unprecedented transformation. The old answers will not work in a new age, and political parties need to understand the forces that are stirring within society if they are to keep being relevant.

Yes, you've figured it out. We don't like being lied to. Congratulations.

There are two fundamental and mutually dependent factors that are contributing to this shift. First, we are in the early stages of the internet revolution, and evolving with it is a whole new age of political communication and engagement. A generation of people is rejecting more traditional mediums and forms of interaction in favour of an environment where they are in control.

Before, politicians and the mainstream media believed that when we talked people listened. Now, there are 57m blogs - that means 57m new newspaper editors. Every minute, 15 new user-generated videos are uploaded on to YouTube - that means 450 new news items during the time of an evening news bulletin.

Have you ever actually read a blog Dave, other than perhaps Iain Dale's or ConservativeHome? Why don't you click the next blog button up there at the top of this page and see where it takes you? I just clicked it about 20 times and not a single one of the blogs was about politics. Millions of those blogs may have been started, then probably never updated again. The amount who write about politics and update daily or even every other day is miniscule. The vast majority are full of personal vanity crap, the stuff that only their friends would ever be interested in. And yes, I realise that I'm a horrible hypocrite.

As for YouTube, well, just go to the home page. The top featured video currently is:
Yea im double jointed in alot parts of my body and idk i found out some of the weird stuff i can do decided to record it and yea...im not really proud of it so i wore some weird mask i found in my room....enjoy

99% of the videos are pure crap. Surely your advisers told you this, right Dave? You might want to hug these people uploading their cat falling into a pond, but they don't want to embrace you in return.

People are talking back, and as much as this is exciting and liberating, it is also a challenge. Politicians need to find new ways to communicate with this ever-expanding political class, and work with them to find the best solutions to the problems in our country.

Second, and linked to this, we need to understand that young people are not disengaging themselves from the political arena. In fact, the reality is that they are getting more involved than ever before. Social networks such as MySpace and Bebo bring together people not through common geography, but through common interest.

Again Dave, have you ever looked at MySpace or Bebo? They're the equivalent of a new layer of hell. Every single fucking person thinks it's a brilliant idea to have a song on their page which blasts out at you, making you both jump a mile and want to strangle them at the same time. Animated GIFs also seem a brilliant idea; it's like we've gone back to the days of Geocities. Plus, they don't bring people together through common interest; they're purely there for those who know each other in real life or at school to share their photographs, where they're going out, etc.

Right, so we've established that you don't know what you're talking about, can we get to the point now?

This week, we will be launching "sort-it", an innovative and provocative internet-based campaign designed to encourage young people to think about their own social responsibilities. The first issue we have chosen is personal debt, but many more will be addressed in the months ahead, such as racism and homelessness.

Well innovative and provocative it certainly is. Cameron and his old buddies in PR have got some poor perma-tanned guy to wear an outlandish suit to represent how he's the "tosser" inside young people, the instinct to splash the cash and worry about it later. Presumably tosser is used as "wanker" is just that bit too rude. As with everything that comes out of Cameron's mouth, he and they haven't thought this through. Their thinking seems to be thus:

Hey kids, we want you to engage and listen with us, but first you've got to prove just how responsible you are! Do you spend money like water? Do you snort cocaine, a drug that impoverishes and makes the lives of people in other countries miserable? Do you need some help? Well, we can provide that, but first we've got to point out just what a tosser you are! Sort yourself out! We may be old, not know anything about anything and all have directorships with the companies that give you the credit, but that doesn't mean we can't offer you hopeless advice when you'd be better off going to the Citizens Advice Bureaux!

Dave leaves us with some of his favourite mysticism:

There is an old Chinese proverb: "Tell me and I will forget. Show me, and I will remember."

Or there's that other one: Go to bed with itchy bum. Wake up with sticky finger.

You know Dave, instead of trying to get into bed with all the young people you so obviously adore, you could perhaps do your job as leader of the opposition. Such as challenging Blair to bring the troops home from Iraq instead of just holing them up in a barracks where every passing jihadi or Ba'athist can come and plant IEDs and mortar the base. What we actually had was Hague doing his Churchillian "we shall not be moved" act, wondering whether even this pathetic half-measure withdrawal might encourage those opposed to the British presence to up their attacks. You could demand that there be a free vote on Trident renewal, as Jack Straw tonight said that the vote would be whipped. Oh, I forgot, your line is that it must be renewed, even if it costs £75 billion, so we can expect that free will won't reign on your side either. You could go against the instincts of your party and pledge to introduce proportional representation, which really would give the power back to the people, giving them the opportunity for their voice to actually be heard and their vote counted. What we have now is a government elected with a large majority, when only 22% of the electorate voted for them. We deserve better than this.

Get the picture Dave? No one's going to vote for you based on how much you want to shag their leg, like a too friendly Jack Russell. They care about policies, how you're going to be different to Labour. Your speech last night about Brown and Reid playing politics with terrorism was a lot better than this woe-begotten shambles. In your own words, sort it out.

Related (and better) posts:
Ministry of Truth - Bunch of Tossers
Guido - Who is the real inner tosser?

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006 

Scum-watch: Various bits and bobs.

Warning: Hardly any of the links on this post are safe for work, or in some cases, life itself.

Looks like Murdoch forgot to tell Wade that the deal with OJ Simpson was off. Despite two puff-pieces about the show and book appearing in the Scum, one of which has a lot of what looks highly like exclusive material, there's been no report of Murdoch's statement on Monday, cancelling both.

More stupidity occurred when the Sun, splashing on the setting up of a website naming those who are being sought for failing to comply with notification requirements under the 2003 Sexual Offences act, used the headline "PERVHUNT.COM". It never crossed their minds to actually buy that domain and link it to the actual page, so one of the wags on popbitch.com did instead. They then directed it to page3.com/rookies, where 3 barely legal 18-year-old ladies profile themselves. Says Danni:

Do you have a tattoo?
Yes, I have the Chinese symbol for angel on my lower back

Aww! How sweet!

pervhunt.com does now actually point to the proper page, and with whois.sc listing 4 changes to its history since the 17th, it seems likely that some hard cash was exchanged in order for Wade's blushes to be spared, although they quickly changed the rookies page URL.

Keeping with the theme of sickening exploitation, the Sun currently has an advert for its pervtastic page 3 idol competition alongside the "news" that Rose West has been err, eating some food in prison.

On the page itself:
GIRLS! Don't forget to enter our Page 3 Idol contest.

The winner nets a Sun modelling deal, exotic photoshoot and £5,000.

To enter, post a pic of yourself topless or in bikini to Page 3 Idol, The Sun, 1 Virginia St, London E98 1SN. Or email to page3idol@the-sun.co.uk.

Give your name, age and daytime number. You must be 18 or over and silicone-free. Every usable entry will be posted on our website.

To see our new contestants visit www.page3.com/page3idol.

Welcome then to the sleaziest and cheapest leering lads competition in Britain. And they can't only view pages and pages (I count 40, with more yet to come) of young women undressing for a national newspaper with the distant prospect of winning a paltry £5,000, you can also go and see them do it live, in a Miss World type competition where the swimsuit contest turns into one involving wet t-shirts instead:

In addition to this, far be it from me to suggest that some of the girls might lie about their age, but there doesn't seem to be much of a safeguard against under-age teenagers sending in photographs of themselves in a state of undress. That would be awful, wouldn't it, the self-proclaimed scourge of paedophiles everywhere hosting photographs of under-age girls on her newspaper's website. Let's hope to God that doesn't happen.

Not content with giving over their page 3 site to all and sundry who wish to send in out of focus photographs of their sacks of fat, the page also encourages women everywhere to sign up to MySun, and get them out there too!

We want YOU to appear on MY Sun!

IF you're a Page 3 wannabe then you can post your profile online right now.

Publish your picture on our superb community site MY Sun and get other readers to read your blog, comment on you and spark debates about whatever you fancy.

To join in now, all you have to do is click here.

Ah yes, MySun. This is the Scum's attempt to build a MySpace style community around its newspaper. Like the newspaper (and, like MySpace) it's a collection of the banal, the bullshit and the bastards. Today's profile of the day is "Jennerotic", whose photograph seems to show the 23-year-old laying very close to her webcam. Naked. Her latest blog post, which will no doubt soon be a rival to Comment is Free for well-developed and involved political argument, is titled, Shall I have more cake........?

NOW.... After a nice long hot, soapy bath I've come to a decision of either having some cake or not? I know it (sic) late but it just tastes sooooooo great. So I'd thought I'll celerbrate (sic) ....

Faced with a photograph of Jennerotic coming out of the shower, her modesty protected by a towel, the salivating one-handed hordes on MySun get stuck in:

Hi Jennerotic, can I borrow that towel for a minute? ;)

You look well fit. Please, please, please post more piccies. Are you on Page 3 Idol?

Posted by: Badboy on November 22, 2006 at 11:35:48 AM

Ambassador, with this towel pic you are really teasing us! Can we have the pictures without the towel now?

Posted by: chucky on November 22, 2006 at 04:57:08 PM

Get back in the shower, I'll be there in 5 minutes :))

Posted by: MikeyMouse on November 22, 2006 at 07:50:50 PM

Away from the delights of Jennerotic, the current top discussion on MySun is the deeply thoughtful:
Who is the fittest soap babe on telly?

And as for the blog of the week:

Cornishcream is another of our Page 3 Idol contestants hoping to get a Sun modelling deal. Will she get your vote?

Maybe not, but she might get her fair share of wads, judging by her posted photographs. Badboy puts in another appearance, commenting on cornishcream's baps:

I am officially in love with you. You are so sexy and gorgeous! Where are the pics of your bum I asked for!? You've got to keep your public entertained, you know? ;) Very nice...

Posted by: Badboy on November 22, 2006 at 11:46:23 AM

Finally then, it's time for another of the Sun's favourite rituals, apart from the one alluded to above. Yes, it's BBC bashing time!

The bent BBC

THE BBC parades itself as a bastion of impartial news broadcasting.

Indeed this dubious claim forms part of its bid for a giant rise in funding.

Now we know better.

The Beeb is offering staff cash-for-questions to embarrass the government.

Staff can earn a £100 bounty for new angles on the honours saga.

What an insult. It’s not even enough to pay the new licence fee.



Well, err, yeah, they were, for oh, a whole couple of hours, before they withdrew the offer, realising that it was in their words, inappropriate. How completely unlike the Sun, which on its own website urges readers to text, phone and send in their own pictures of the day's news, with the illustrative mobile flashing the £ just to get the message across. We could also mention Rebekah Wade's confession to a parliamentary committee that she had paid police officers for information, but that would be unfair. Similarly, it would be entirely uncalled for to point out that the Sun was the newspaper which most echoed the government's line on the Iraq war. Or, for instance, how Fox News is about as fair and balanced as a banana. That the Sun still gets away with its shameless attacks on the BBC when BSkyB just cynically scuppered attempts by NTL to take control of ITV, further enhancing Murdoch's grip on the British media, shows just how much power we've already given away to this unelected, unaccountable Australian-American megalomaniac.

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What's the difference between the death of one Lebanese politician and the deaths of over 1000 Lebanese civilians?

The murder of Pierre Gemayel, Lebanese industry minister and a leading critic of Syria's role in the country, as well as being the son of the former president, is a shocking crime that has rightly been condemned by all sides, including by Syria.

What a sharp contrast it makes though with the reactions of both Tony Blair and Margaret Beckett to the events this summer, when Israel launched air strikes across Lebanon in response to the Hizbullah abduction of two Israeli soldiers, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 Lebanese civilians, the destruction of 74 bridges and 94 roads and an environmental disaster after the bombing of Jiyeh power station, which leaked 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes of oil into the Med. The UN has put just the initial clean-up bill at $64 million.

It took 12 days for Tony Blair to even so much as say that he wanted the killing to stop. Before then, Beckett, when asked whether she thought Israel's response was disproportionate, said that she "didn't think it was helpful to get into that." Only when it became apparent that Israel was not achieving its objectives, and that the whole international community apart from the United States, the UK and Israel wanted an immediate unconditional ceasefire, was a UN resolution finally passed, on August the 11th, nearly exactly a month after the beginning of the conflict.

Blair said:

We condemn this murder utterly. It is completely without any justification at all. We need to do everything we can, particularly at this moment, to protect democracy in Lebanon and the premiership of Prime Minister Siniora.

How strange that it's only now that he wants to protect democracy and Siniora. The destruction of a large swath of southern Lebanon has been the catalyst for the current turmoil which Lebanon is experiencing. While Siniora appeared on TV screens daily, pleading for an end to the violence, questioning whether "an Israeli teardrop was worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood", Blair and Beckett refused to stand up for Lebanese democracy.

Whether Syria carried out the assassination needs to be urgently investigated. It's worth wondering however just how Syria would benefit from a renewed surge of finger-pointing at them, just as the country appears to be regaining its stature within the region. The Iraq Study Group seems likely to recommend that the US at least starts talks with both Syria and Iran in an attempt to find a way out of the impasse in Iraq. Syria has just re-established diplomatic ties with Iraq after 24 years. Iran's president has invited his counterparts from Iraq and Syria to a conference this weekend. At the same time, two weeks ago the US suggested that Iran and Syria were plotting a coup in Lebanon, and Hizbullah has almost succeeded in bringing down the Sinioria government, after leaving the cabinet and taking other Shia representatives with them.

As Juan Cole notes, Lebanon has in a sense become the new Middle East experiment for the neo-cons and interventionists led by Bush and Blair. The assassination of Hariri, whether it was carried out by Syria or not, led to the Syrians' withdrawal. Ever since, the nascent democracy in Lebanon has been supported to the hilt by the West, as part of the strategy to isolate both Iran and Syria. Where the real sympathies lie though was exposed by the Israel-Lebanon-Hizbullah war. While the US expected that Israel would destroy Hizbullah in double-quick time, humiliating the Shias and further diminishing Iran and Syria's influence, the opposite happened. While Lebanon itself took the damage of the war, Hizbullah were strengthened immeasurably, winning the support of the Arab street and leading Nasrallah to demand more power for his previously unpopular terrorist organisation.

Gemayel's assassination is only the latest salvo in what is an increasingly bloody situation which is engulfing the Middle East. Whether his assassination turns out to be another Hariri moment remains to be seen. Either way, it shows how the Iraq war has rather than made the region safer and more secure as promised, has instead had the effect of pouring petrol onto an already lit bonfire.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006 

Hi, we're going to bomb your house in 15 minutes....

Palestinians outside a house which the residents were warned was going to be bombed.

It's 10:30pm, and you're about to go to sleep. Suddenly, the telephone rings. Not expecting anyone to be calling you, you nevertheless answer it, after 4 rings.

It's a man who says that he's a representative of France's military intelligence. He asks you to listen very carefully, because this is the only warning you're going to get. He explains that within 15 minutes, your home is going to be destroyed. His justification for this is like a multiple choice question. Either you're a terrorist, or a terrorist sympathiser, or whether you're aware or not, there's a tunnel beneath your house which is being used to smuggle weapons, or to store them. He says that this phone call is designed to make sure that everyone gets out before the missiles strike your home, to avoid unnecessary casualties. He says once again that you have 15 minutes, then he hangs up.

Understandably, your mind is reeling. You know you have to take the warning of the French man deadly seriously. That doesn't stop you from being rooted to the spot, however. It occurs to you that every second you're standing here, frozen, is another second lost. Your synapses are working overtime. Within moments, your house, that you might have saved for years for, that you're so close to finishing paying the mortgage off on, is going to be nothing more than a pile of rubble. Then there's your possessions. What can you possibly save within 15 minutes? Your photographs of your children, your parents, those ornaments that contain numerous memories, all the sentimental things that aren't worth anything but that make you who you are, are about to be destroyed. Then there's all your vanity items that you've collected over the years, all the things you don't really need but that you must have anyway, like that flat screen LCD TV, your brand new dual core PC, all your music, your DVDs. Your antique furniture you inherited.

Before you realise it, you've been sitting on your bed with your head in your hands for five minutes. You've got 10 left, maybe 20, if what you've known of previous attacks on houses by the French is repeated again. Do you run, tell your wife, wake up your kids, grab as much as you can in the fast slipping away seconds, and get outside? Or is there a way to stop this? The French would probably get away with killing you and your family, if you decided to make the futile gesture of accepting your fate, even if you're not guilty. What if however, you ran up and down your street, telling all your neighbours what's about to happen? Would they be prepared to fill your house, or get on the roof and make it obvious that to attack your dwelling is an attack on all of their lives? Could they possibly cope with the backlash from the media photographs of all those bodies of innocent men and women, limbs strewn throughout the debris, with your 5-year-old daughter miraculously surviving, left without parents and siblings? Would they win the resulting argument over whether the actions of those on the ground constitute the use of innocent human shields by terrorists, even if they were defending the home of their neighbour with their bodies completely of their own accord?

Replace French with Israel in the above, and more or less, you have the situation faced by the Palestinians over the last few days in Jabaliya, although I've obviously westernised the reaction. Informed by "Abu Nimr" that their home is about to be obliterated with a burst of hellfire missiles, rather than just getting out and staying alive, residents have decided to fight back with civil disobedience involving the use of potential mass casualties if the Israelis carry through with their warning. Knowing full well that it'll result in yet more bad publicity for the collective punishment the Israelis are inflicting on the Gaza Strip, sometimes in response to the firing of Qassam rockets, sometimes to assassinate militant group leaders, the tactic has worked remarkably well so far.

The start of this new mass resistance was with the protest a couple of weeks ago by hundreds of Palestinian women in hijabs, who marched on a mosque surrounded by the IDF and containing alleged armed militants. The soldiers, uncertain of what to do when faced by a mass of unarmed women, mainly ceased fire. Two of the women were however later killed when the troops shot at the crowd, later justified on the basis that some in the group were armed, something not backed up by television pictures.

Enthused by the success of that march, the tactic has now been repeated to defend houses. While the Israelis use of a warning is meant, so they say, to avoid civilian casualties, it can just as much be a cynical act of warfare: meant to terrify the occupants of an area, knowing that there's nothing they can do to stop the army from destroying their homes. As Conal Uruquat has reported, those whose houses have been destroyed following such warnings have not always had the alleged tunnels beneath their homes.

Naturally, the Israeli response to this mass uprising of resistance has been to allege that the terrorists are using human shields to stop them from destroying the militants' capability to launch the rockets into Israeli territory, one of which last week killed an Israeli woman in Sderot. There is no evidence to suggest that this is the case. Rather, the residents of those around the doomed houses appear to be more than happy to take part in what could potentially be their untimely death. Reports have also suggested that there has been euphoria once it's been realised that the Israelis have called off the air strikes which they said were coming.

It's an incredibly welcome development. It's long been suggested that the Palestinians should drop their violent resistance and instead switch to non-violence, which in the past has been rejected because of the realisation that the IDF just can't be trusted not to attack such protests. After all, this is the same military which has fired hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs into southern Lebanon, purely to punish the residents whose houses were likely also damaged in the month long bombing campaign during the Israel-Hizbullah-Lebanon war, and which habitually fires hellfire missiles into the crowded streets of Gaza City, normally at the cars of suspected militants. One such attack was on the paralysed and half-blind Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Yassin, which also killed his two bodyguards and 8 others.

For the moment at least, this new resistance tactic appears to be succeeding. It can only be hoped that both sides recognise that there is no military solution to the on-going crisis. The pitiful Qassam rockets only mute the outrage when Israeli operations go wrong, such as that which killed 18 Palestinians in a shelling. A return to the negotiation table, where it has to be recognised that for any two state solution to work, the vast vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank have to be removed, has to be encouraged. This could be brought forward by the forming of a coalition Palestinian government, and the announcement of a full, unilateral ceasefire by all the armed groups. That would put the onus on Israel to do the same. As usual, this dream scenario seems as far away as ever.

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Chris Bryant: Humourless ex-Blairite automaton.

Congratulations then to Chris Bryant, Labour MP for the Rhondda. The Grauniad, in an attempt to liven up the coverage of the Labour party conference, commissioned Ros Taylor to write spoof diaries, full of the kind of vacuous babble that is identifiable only as New Labour rhetoric, which often drips from the "ex-Blairite's" mouth like saliva from one of Pavlov's dogs. The Sun and the Daily Mail however failed to get the joke (a good sign of an excellent spoof), and reprinted some of the contents as Bryant's actual thoughts. Bryant subsequently sent in his lawyers, resulting in a clarification in today's Corrections column.

The correction reads:
Chris Bryant MP: on September 25 to 28 2006 Guardian Unlimited published four articles entitled Chris Bryant's Manchester Diary. They were spoof diaries and were meant to be light-hearted and humorous. We had believed that the content and line at the end of the articles, "Chris Bryant was speaking to Ros Taylor", were sufficient indicators. However Chris Bryant has informed us that some people took them seriously, which we regret. Mr Bryant himself had no involvement at all in writing the diaries and we accept that the content of the diaries was not an accurate reflection of his views. We apologise to Mr Bryant.

Obsolete would therefore like to send its own message to Mr Bryant: Well done on your victory, you humourless, Dr David Kelly smearing, self-important, ex-Blair toadying little turd.

Oh, and how could we possibly forget:

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Petitions.

Davide from the Nether-World has set-up a petition on the Downing Street website calling for an inquiry into the 7/7 bombings, which is well worth signing for obvious reasons: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Bombings/

Oh, and if you decided not to bother signing the one asking Blair to resign, maybe you'd like him to stand on his head and juggle ice cream instead, as suggested by Bloggerheads.

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Monday, November 20, 2006 

90 daze.

Remember, remember the Scum of November (2005).

Just over a year ago, Blair was facing down the possibility of a huge rebellion, and even defeat, on his plans to introduce 90 days detention without charge for terrorist suspects. He would lose the vote emphatically, but before then he put up another one of his fights to the death. Among the arguments he used was the following:
"If we are forced to compromise, it will be a compromise with the nation's security."

"We do not want to compromise on the 90 days at all," he said. "It is not the right
thing for the country. Be under no doubt about that at all."

12 months on, and we're facing the possibility of 90 days being reintroduced. We're told again by "Sir" Ian Blair that 90 days is needed. The MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller didn't actually call for it, but there's little doubt that her speech was part of a campaign, even if it's a covert one, for the legislation. Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are both saying it's necessary. The Sun, the chief cheerleader for 90 days last year, which called the MPs' who last year voted against "traitors", said that it should be Blair's first action on returning from holiday in August.

Well, that's all academic now. Lord Goldsmith, speaking in a media briefing, said that he has seen no evidence to justify 90 days. His reasons for doing so ought to be examined. He has in the last few weeks come in heavily for criticism over his apparent refusal to stand aside from having a role as attorney general in the possible prosecution of those alleged to have broken the law over the loans for peerages scandal. The same people angered over this just also happen to be those who are opposed to the reintroduction of what amounts to internment.

There seems little other reason why he would have made his views perfectly clear over the matter. Goldsmith has to at least show signs of independence, even though he is directly appointed by the prime minister. His spinelessness showed through over the war in Iraq; his previously extended, nuanced arguments for why war would be illegal without a second resolution suddenly charged into a single page of why it would be legal under the previous resolutions when the army demanded that Blair make clear that the attack would be permissible under international law. Goldsmith's briefing seems to have been a strategy to buy off some of the opprobrium likely to head his way if he remains steadfast in his having the final say over what could be the prosecution of Blair himself, however unlikely that seems.

Unfortunately for Blair, it means that he's either a liar, a fool, a knave or all three. Blair made clear that he found the case made for 90 days last year "compelling", and his resolve doesn't appear to have changed. Either he's so desperately in bed with "Sir" Ian Blair that he'll listen to his most ridiculous ideas, and if he supports the banning of flag burning then he almost certainly is; or he's playing politics with the terrorist threat, attempting to make the opposition look indecisive and more interested in boring old habeas corpus than in protecting the public from suicide bombers, even if it means his government's defeat.

Whichever the answer, it's worth seeing what the Sun made of Goldsmith's comments. Last year, in their determination to support Blair they used the photograph of John Tulloch, the man horrifically burned by the 7/7 bombings to illustrate why 90 days should be supported. That Tulloch oppposed 90 days and that they hadn't bothered to actually ask his permission to use his image didn't matter; the complaints made to the toothless PCC were rejected.

To the Sun's search engine then:

Hmm, nothing for "Lord Goldsmith". That's odd. Let's try "attorney general":



Well, how very strange. I just can't imagine why the Sun wouldn't report the good news that 90 days detention without charge isn't needed after all.

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