Saturday, June 30, 2007 

Abu Beavis and Abu Butthead do jihad.

Wow, these fuckers really are deadly, aren't they? First they leave two bombs apparently containing no explosives in central London, almost hoping that they'd go off of their own accord; next they succeed in setting fire to the vehicle they're in before they'd even managed to get anywhere near Glasgow airport, with some reports suggesting that after they'd escaped from the jeep, at least one of them already on fire, another pouring petrol around himself and the car, leaving those witnessing this idiocy with the conundrum of whether they should piss on them or not.

Despite it being apparent that those behind these attacks appear to be a bomb short of a timer, the brown trousers-o-meter has now been raised to its highest level, up from shit-speckled to bathing in excrement. This seems just ever so slightly belated, but it never hurts to make the public panic just that little bit more.

The reporting on the car bombs discovered in the early hours of yesterday morning is still confused over exactly what they were made up of, but the consensus appears to be that there was at least 60 litres of petrol, along with gas cylinders most likely containing propane, with a substantial amount of nails included. Whether there were any actual explosives or not is the real question: on Newsnight last night Mark Urban appeared to suggest that there weren't, and others have seized upon this. If there were none present, those responsible may well have been counting on opening one or more of the cylinders, letting the gas build up, then detonating it by ringing the mobile phone, creating the spark needed to ignite it. If this was the case, then either it was discovered too soon and the simple removing of the mobile phone made the whole thing relatively safe, or it failed to work altogether. The failure of the second bomb to explode might mean that the first was also doomed to fail, intervention by the quick thinking of an ambulance crew and the bomb squad or not.

The police themselves seemed to be moving towards the idea that the bombs were not as deadly as some initially made out last night, by changing their description of the devices subtly from "viable" to "potentially viable", as in they could have exploded, but probably without the "carnage" which we were initially informed they would have caused. The Register, which previously cast doubt on the viability of the alleged liquid bomb plot of last year is also already on the case, suggesting that those responsible had forgotten to include an oxidiser which would have turned the result from a fireball into an actually damaging and lethal explosion. This is why it seems so daft to instantly point the finger directly at al-Qaida: yes, those behind these attacks might be highly influenced by the Salafi, takfirist ideology, but if this is al-Qaida then they've got really, really sloppy and inept, compared to the ruthless amounts of planning which went into 9/11 and even 7/7 by comparison.

If the "attack" on Glasgow airport hadn't been carried out with such apparent incompetence, it would have been deeply worrying. One of the things we have yet to see in the west is the tactic perfected, especially in Iraq, of ramming vehicles laden with explosives into buildings with the driver then rapidly fleeing or "martyring" himself by setting off the bomb. At the moment we don't even know if the jeep contained anything other than the petrol which one may have still been trying to spread as he attempted to escape. Of course, it may be possible yet that this was an intended suicide bombing where like with the previous bombs, the materials failed to explode. No doubt we shall find out more shortly.

As could be expected, the Scum is already talking about "brainwashing imams" when there's little to no evidence to suggest that any imams are involved in indoctrinating, most of those who become radicalised either having started off in groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir, or through doing their own research online and meeting like-minded people off of it. 90 days is also inevitably mentioned. One of the bright spots so far has been that both Jacqui Smith and Gordon Brown have been calm, measured and eloquent in their statements, with no signs of there being a return to the bad old days of the Reid/Blair scaremongering partnership. Rachel perhaps says it best in remarking on the deaths so far from the flooding and continuing rain: that seems more of a threat right now than the blundering jihadist wannabes and their plague of burning cars.

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Friday, June 29, 2007 

Cabinet resnore part 2.

There's only thought which comes to mind when examining Brown's full reshuffle. Christ, if this is a government of all talents, then what would a government of no talents look like?

Let's begin with the elevation of a true cunt of capitalism, "Sir" Digby Jones, former head of the Confederation of British Industry, as well as a former director of
iSoft, the company which has so comprehensively failed to deliver the National Programme for IT either on time or on budget. It's not his fault though, and neither should he have known about the accounting irregularities at the company, because "there is a limit to what independent directors can know." He'd also rather that no one had ever found out about those problems in the first place: he dispatched legal letters to the Grauniad suggesting that the paper's enquiries were damaging the company. More recently, despite being the supposed skills envoy, he proposed the rewriting of the dictionary definition of a McJob, because McDonalds argue that err, a McJob isn't a McJob and it's also "insulting". Certainly a noble cause.

Still, he'll doubtless be a revelation as trade minister. According to the BBC:

He said Labour would "increasingly" become less "in thrall" of the unions, who he hoped would "get into a 21st century agenda".

As in roll over and die. Those expecting even the slightest improvement of the relationship between the government and the workers can therefore go hang.


Next up we have Lord Stevens, who's going to become Brown's adviser on international security matters.
Judging by his fine body of work as a News of the Screws columnist, this will mostly involve blaming the Muslims and saying they've got to sort it out rather than anyone else. David Davis seems to be highly optimistic in suggesting that his appointment will somehow result in a "more measured" response.

Of the other "outside" appointments, two Liberal Democrats have ignored Campbell's eventual decision to deny any of his actual MPs joining the cabinet, with Baroness Neuberger (who?) advising on volunteering (why?) and Lord Lester giving his thoughts on constitutional reform. Mark Malloch Brown has been talked up as an Iraq-war critic,
and the Scum has denounced him as anti-American, but as his profile on the Grauniad notes, he counted such quite wonderful people as Paul Wolfowitz and Elliot Abrams as friends, even at the time as that other delightful personality John Bolton was condemning him. A surgeon you've never heard of, Prof Sir Ara Darzi, has become a health minister dealing with patient care, and another heavily titled military man, Admiral Sir Alan West, has become a Home Office minister for security.

The rest of the junior ministerial appointments have been delayed by the discovery of the car bombs, with only a few other jobs announced, but with
Jim Murphy, another execrable Blairite keeping his job, there seems to be little to get excited about. Jon Cruddas may additionally disappoint some people by apparently turning down a job, but he may well have more of an influence campaigning outside the ministerial tent rather than having to compromise inside it.

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Terror! returns.

Now get this, this is insider information, so don't go spreading it to widely, but you know that car bomb that was dealt with by a controlled explosion? Definitely the work of those Islamics. You know the sort? Beards, veils, beheadings, allah akbar, all that. Who else could it possibly be than al-Qaida? Alright guv, you got it all down?

That was presumably what "Whitehall" and "police sources" have been briefing to the thirsty hacks demanding information about the attempted attack outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket. This is despite us being similarly reliably informed that like 7/7, this was another attack that has come completely out of the blue, with no intelligence suggesting that any attempt at mass murder was forthcoming.

The only instant link to similar plots by Islamic extremists was that our old friend Dhiren Barot examined the possibility of using gas cylinders in packed limos in attempts to bring down buildings, and that those arrested under Operation Crevice had discussed the possibility of attacking the Ministry of Sound, although they hadn't seemed to have settled on any particular target. It doesn't fit with any of the other foiled alleged plots, including last summer's "liquid bombs" or the Birmingham beheading conspiracy. We're already being told that it's similar to car bombs used in Iraq, but up until recently most of the explosives used in suicide bombings were taken from left over Ba'athist stockpiles, or those created by the insurgent groups' own well-trained explosives makers. Neither does it appear to have been a suicide attack, unless the "martyr" chickened out at the last minute, the most favoured method of demolishing markets, checkpoints and police quarters in that poor, benighted country, with cars being dumped while full of explosives being preferred for attacking US troops or where security is of a higher level.

All of the above was written before it was confirmed that that a second device had been found, in the other Mercedes in Park Lane, where it had apparently been impounded following being given a ticket in the early hours of the morning in Cockspur Street. The existence of a second device instantly evokes the tactics previously used by jihadists in striking multiple targets at the same time, but it should also be remembered that the IRA used to plant multiple devices.

The point I was going to go on to make was that we shouldn't immediately rule out the possibility that this could be the work of a republican splinter group, either the Continuity IRA or the Real IRA, who planted bombs in London as recently as 2001, although they seem deadlier devices than are usually their handiwork, or the work of a lone, disgruntled individual such as Timothy McVeigh or David Copeland, but as this shows, speculating and guessing at such an early stage of an investigation when we don't know by any means the full facts is fraught with the danger of getting it horribly wrong.

The existence of a second device almost certainly rules out the possibility of these being suicide attacks where the bombers had second thoughts about going through with their mission, instead seemingly planted to either detonate at kicking out time or shortly after it was dumped, with the second then either exploded at the same time or to target the emergency services which would have arrived to treat the victims of the first bombing.

To speculate once again, the second bomb appears to have failed to explode, if the first itself was noticed and defused in time as it might well have been. The very nature of dumping cars in such a way leaves those doing so highly exposed, and you'd expect that we'll shortly have CCTV pictures of those doing so, although if they've got half a brain in their head you'd expect them to be suitably hooded or covered. Creating such improvised explosive devices which then fail to explode is also going to leave a large amount of fingerprints or DNA behind, which should be helpful to the police.

Again, as just mentioned on Newsnight, we should perhaps take comfort from the fact that there seems to have been no actual explosives found, at least in the first car; this seems to have been the work of amateurs, without the training of the 7/7 and 21/7 bombers for instance, hoping that the combination of gas and petrol would almost explode of its own accord. Whomever's responsible, we shouldn't be scared of these people, if anything we ought to be mocking them for their abject failure. What we can expect is that the usual suspects will be ramping up the fear, and pointing towards the need for further new anti-terror laws. They need to be resisted with the same vigour as if this hadn't taken place.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007 

Cabinet resnore.

Around the only real surprise appointment in Brown's new cabinet was Jacqui Smith as Home Secretary, which resulted in both the nation and hacks asking "who she"?

In line with the last three home secretaries, Smith is both a bruiser and a Blairite, coming from her previous job as chief whip, itself previously occupied by that other aggravating Blairite, Hilary Armstrong. Her only real interaction with the public at large has been on Question Time, where she proved herself just as bad as her predecessor and fellow minister Hazel Blears at actually answering questions, instead of just spouting New Labour rhetoric. Her last appearance was noted for her egregious support of the Iraq war, using both the worthless if we hadn't acted Saddam would still be in power argument, followed up by the chestnut about everyone believing that Iraq had WMD, despite Robin Cook for one mentioning in his resignation speech that he didn't believe Iraq had WMD which was actually usable, as well as others such as Scott Ritter, a former weapons inspector who said that Iraq had been effectively disarmed. Doubtless she'll be expected to follow the hard line set out by Blunkett, Clarke and Reid, appeasing the Sun first and thinking about the consequences second, although with the creation of the Ministry of Justice, handed over to Jack Straw, she'll have a lot less to do than they did.

Speaking of Jack Straw, a former Blair ally who saw the way the wind was blowing and swiftly ingratiated himself with Brown, his appointment is despite his blatant lies over what he and the government knew about extraordinary rendition, denying that the government had been involved in the programme whatsoever, something subsequently proven by the EU report into rendition as completely untrue.

Keeping with liars and links with extraordinary rendition, Geoff Hoon has been made chief whip, despite his execrable performance both at the Hutton inquiry, which proved that while he was defence minister the MoD left David Kelly out to dry, contributing to his subsequent taking of his own life, and when he gave evidence to the EU investigation into rendition, which subsequently described him as distinctly unhelpful and evasive. More recently he gave an interview to the Grauniad which was notable only for its ignorance and belated conclusion that he and the rest of the government ministers had no influence over US policy on Iraq whatsoever. It only took them 4 years to admit it.

The Tory turncoat Shaun Woodward has been made Northern Ireland secretary, which should be a nice reward for 6 years of complete loyalty to the Blair regime. Hazel Blears, quite possibly the worst politician to ever hold a government post of any sort, despite her well-deserved drubbing in the Labour deputy leadership election, moves from party chair to communities and local government secretary, which must have mayors and councillors across the country groaning/reaching for the cyanide pills. Everyone's favourite member of Opus Dei, Ruth Kelly, moves from that job to transport secretary, where her religious beliefs shouldn't interfere too much, at least compared to when she was disgracefully given the equality brief.

For some reason known only to Brown, Tessa "I've never met my husband" Jowell, despite being removed from the culture secretary job, keeps her role in cocking up and increasing the cost of the Olympics, where she'll hopefully be more inquisitive about the figures involved than she was with the paying off and taking out of mortgages on her home.

About the only really welcome addition was John Denham's return from the wilderness after he resigned over Iraq, no doubt frozen out by Blair for daring to disagree with him in such a manner. He becomes secretary of state for the new department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, when he would have been much better suited to be either home secretary or justice minister, considering his well-respected chairing of the home affairs committee. As expected, Brown promoted the most obsequious hangers-on/friends of his, Ed Miliband the new Duchy of Lancaster, Nick Brown becoming deputy chief whip and minister for the north, Ed Balls to schools, Douglas Alexander taking over from Hilary Benn at international development, with Alastair Darling the new chancellor, while Des Browne stays defence secretary.

Despite the spin about Brown's government being one of all talents, so far only that wonderfully successful businessman "Sir" Alan Sugar has been appointed as "business adviser", which the Scum has already capitalised on with its quite brilliant witty take on the cabinet appointments, with Brown saying "you're hired!". I wonder how long it took them to think that one up?

Like yesterday, the whole thing was a predictable let down, which has left the BBC sexing it up by screaming "biggest cabinet change since second world war!" and "surprise changes!". Some of the Blairite deadwood might have been removed, but some has inexplicably escaped the chop, probably only not to cause immediate ructions between the warring factions.

As for that invisible member of the cabinet, the Sun has already told Brown what his immediate priority should be. Schools? The NHS? Pensions? Iraq? Immigration? Housing? Err, no.

In the first days of his Premiership, Gordon Brown must decide how to deal with the controversial treaty.

How so?

And if the new Prime Minister means what he says, he will trust the British people he so admires.

In a referendum on Britain’s future role in Europe.


Ah yes, with the people reliably informed by the nation's favourite and most truthful newspaper. Heel, Gordon!

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Life goes on.

A member of the Anbar Salvation Council summarily executes a leading fighter in the "Islamic State of Iraq", named Katiba Daher, according to a forum post.

3 British soldiers killed by a roadside bomb. At least 25 Iraqis murdered by a car bomb in the al-Bayaa neighbourhood of southern Baghdad. 20 beheaded corpses found in the Salman Pak region, south of Baghdad. 21 bodies found on the streets of Baghdad on Wednesday, with another 21 dumped on Tuesday. Dozens of corpses outside the hospital in Baquba, where the US military has launched a major assault on "al-Qaida", i.e. Salafi jihadists and other members of the insurgency. 2000 refugees entering Syria every day, with major consequences for both the economy and the social fabric.

And still the war continues.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007 

One gone, another moving in?

Rejoice? That ought to have been the primary emotion now that Blair's long goodbye is finally over, only for the fact that it's gone on for such an interminable period that the only one I feel is a weariness, with regret that the bastard's leaving with his head held high, going into a job where he's meant to be bringing peace to a region where he has only delivered war and empty promises.

Should we rejoice however now that Brown is finally in the job that he has coveted for so long, a real Labour prime minister after ten years of a phony one? Last night's Newsnight did a good job of showing just how open Brown really has been to the public and to questioning during his tour of the country - shut out at every opportunity by press officers modeled on Alastair Campbell and by security men and police influenced by the same behaviour meted out to Walter Wolfgang. If that's the changes which Brown's promising, then we're getting out of the fat and heading into the fire.

It's probably worth a slight cheer that the dross is getting cleaned out, although we won't have the full details of Brown's new cabinet until tomorrow. Patricia Hewitt and Margaret Beckett, united in being completely out of their depth in their respective jobs, are at least finally put out of their misery. John "not a single shot" Reid has already announced his departure, as has Lord Goldsmith and another Blairite apparatchik, Hilary Armstrong. If Hazel Blears, Tessa Jowell, Lord Falconer, Lord Drayson and Liam Byrne follow suit then Brown might just mean a certain amount of what he says.

He should be similarly judged on just how far his familiar talk of a new politics is. It needs to involve a full, independent inquiry into the Iraq war - involving both how the intelligence was presented by the government in the build up to war, how apparently the planning for after the invasion was either ripped up and ignored or how there was none in the first place, and as Lord Goldsmith has already suggested, how the mistreatment and torture of detainees came to be both accepted and even encouraged, with predictable results. A similar inquiry into the 7/7 attacks wouldn't go amiss either.

Next Brown needs to set out just how soon the troops in Iraq are to be brought back - they are, as General Dannatt said, simply making the security situation in the south worse. Enough blood has been spilt, both Iraqi and British. Handover in the other provinces formerly controlled by the British has already taken place with only minor problems. The majority of troops could be back home within 3 months, with a complete withdrawal within a year easily being achievable.

Reid and Brown have already hinted at a new attempt at reaching cross-party consensus over anti-terror legislation. The introduction of intercept evidence, rejected so far, needs to be reconsidered, despite the concerns of the security services. The disappearance of those being held under control orders has only proved what the critics said they would be: both illiberal and ineffective. Rather than derogating from the article 5 of the ECHR, those being held under them should be either prosecuted or set free, it's that simple. Brown is meant to support up to 90 days detention without trial: he could signal a new approach to civil liberties by deciding that 28 days is in fact more than enough, especially combined with offences not yet used that make it illegal to withhold encryption keys. Putting into action the leak at the weekend of the possibility of the lifting of the protest ban within a mile of parliament should also be one of his first acts in office. Scrapping ID cards and reexamining the need for both the children's database and "the Spine" medical records database, indeed the whole National Programme for IT would also be more than welcome.

Columnists have talked of Brown wanting to make considerable constitutional changes, even as potentially radical as either a bill of rights or an actual constitution. If we're to have either, then the bollocks about "rights and responsibilities" has to be dropped. We have rights: we don't need to be reminded of our responsibilities while exercising them, especially in any document, which is the way the ludicrous debate has been going. Potential electoral reform, also hinted at, would also be welcome. Almost every other election going is now under a form of proportional representation, whether it be for the European parliament or the Scottish/Welsh votes, so let's at the very least have the alternative vote system at Westminster, if not full PR.

This is without even going into the NHS or further education reform, on which Brown's ideas/plans have also not looked particularly promising. If he means what he says, then full consultation, rather than top-down enforced for the sake of it change must be the order of the day. There's next to no chance that he'll reconsider the huge wastefulness of his pet PFI projects, especially considering how they've helped keep him from breaking his so-called "golden rule" by keeping the costs off the public balance sheet, but it's a scandal waiting to happen, and he ought to act first.

There's much much more, on criminal justice, immigration and the environment which could be discussed, but this ought to be a more than adequate basis on which his promises to be different should be eventually considered. An election sooner rather than later would also be a welcome step, if he's to firmly cement his mandate which not even Labour party members were called on to confirm. A year should be more than enough time to consider whether he's been true to his word. If so, rejoicing then might be in order. I'm not holding my breath.

Related post:
Chicken Yoghurt - Bye then

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Scum-watch: "Prophets are rarely honoured in their own land".

Gorgeous, pouting Rebekah meets the President. "So when do you get your tits out?," asks the leader of the free world.

Even in Blair's most hopeful moments and dreams about his eventual departure, he surely couldn't have even come close to expecting the send-off which the Sun's bestowing on him. Sycophancy doesn't even begin to cover it; this is brown-nosing on a level where both Murdoch and Wade have inserted their heads so far up his backside that they'll be able to tell what he had for lunch.


Wade herself plays an even bigger role than usual.
She was lucky enough to conduct the interview with President Bush herself - and she has both a photograph with him and a signed mocked-up Scum for her scrapbook, both reproduced for reasons known only to herself. The interview itself isn't exactly Paxman-esque - it's more of the roll over and play dead, David Frost variety, or in this case, roll over and Dubya will find a bone left over from one of Blair's visits as a reward. We discover that Tony is more articulate than Bush - who would have known? - and that Blair isn't a poodle, he's bigger than that; a border collie, heeding every whistle made by his master, perhaps?

Wade does succeed in getting one quite brilliant quote from Bush however, which really does sum up their "special relationship":

Somehow our relationship has been seen as Bush saying to Blair ‘Jump’ and Blair saying, ‘How high?’ But that’s just not the way it works. It’s a relationship where we say we’re both going to jump together.

Well, exactly. The Iraq war was a suicidal act that only two men completely certain in their own righteousness would still be defending 4 years and so many lives later. It's only a shame that their jumping together was not literally carried out while flying over Iraq, without parachutes.


Oh, but that's just the beginning to the Scum's Blair tribute.
They've devoted a whole special section to him, with dedications from such luminaries as Bob Geldof, Bono and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and from some local people who've benefited from the minimum wage. Considering the Scum's usual stance on potentially inflationary measures, it'd be interesting to note exactly what their position on it originally was. Just to try and keep things balanced, the ex-political editor Trevor Kavanagh sort of sticks the boot in on some of his domestic record, but it's the equivalent of the paper accidentally sticking its toe in Blair's eye while they 69, the gulping and licking carrying on as if it hadn't happened.

It's the leader that's completely and utterly craven:

TONY Blair is one of those rare politicians who make their own weather.

And this remarkable Prime Minister will take away a little sunshine when he drives out of Downing Street for the last time today.


Ah yes, we're going from the sunny warmonger to the dour man who did nothing to stop him. Two cheeks of the same arse.

This country is more tolerant and at ease with itself than at any time in its post-war history.

No thanks to the Scum and its incessant Muslim-bashing, immigrant hatred, gypsy baiting and asylum seeker demonising, not to mention the homophobia which was much more present during the late 90s and has only recently dropped in ferocity.

We’ve enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and social stability.

Well, quite, Blair has done nothing to harm Murdoch and done much to help him further his strangehold over the British media. It's only been in the dying days that his attempt to acquire ITV has ran into something approaching trouble.
Here come the things they've disagreed upon before the lavish praise is turned on once again:

Despite recriminations over Iraq, immigration and rising crime, he can rightly claim that as a remarkable achievement.

Mr Blair himself will admit to disappointments — especially over the billions spent on the unreformed NHS and other public services.

The Sun has been critical over plenty of issues, from welfare reform and MRSA superbugs to pensions and the sell-out on Europe.


All of which ought to point just how far Blair has taken Labour to the right, not the left as his hagiographers like to claim. The Sun has never been Blairite; it's still an unreformed Thatcherite paper, and Blair was never going to be good enough for them on the above, but he's still been performed adequately enough and the Tories badly enough for Murdoch to prefer his Thatcherism-lite over theirs.


But that is only one side of the balance sheet.

Tony Blair has plenty to be proud of in his years at the helm — and not just a record three election victories for Labour.

He has transformed the political landscape and forced the Tories to up their game.

He was right on Northern Ireland. He showed immense courage over Kosovo, over Sierra Leone and over Afghanistan.

He was right to support America to the hilt after 9/11.

And despite all the problems in Iraq he was absolutely right to identify fanatical Islam as this century’s greatest threat to global stability.


He's transformed the political landscape by taking a centre-right position which left the Tories with nowhere to go, and with Cameron now if anything to the left of many Blairite policies. As for fanatical Islam being this century's greatest threat to stability, nothing could be further from the truth. The real threat is from global warning, not a rag tag mob of radical Islamists often more involved in their own internal struggles than in attacking the west.

As our international ambassador, Mr Blair has enhanced Britain’s role as a respected voice on the world stage.

Two words. You know them.

But for Iraq it is entirely possible that Tony Blair could have won a fourth term in power.

But prophets are rarely honoured in their own land.


See, he's no longer just a vicar, he's now a prophet. Perhaps once his conversion to Catholicism is complete he can start on the path to sainthood?

Sometimes it takes a friendly outsider to appreciate the qualities we at home ignore or take for granted.

In an exclusive interview for The Sun, President George Bush explains why Tony Blair is America’s staunchest ally.

In a genuine tribute, he says the PM is the man he’d pick to go into the jungle with.

“History will judge him kindly,” he adds.

This newspaper is happy to agree with the verdict from the White House.


If we consider how Anthony Eden is remembered for Suez and little else, and
that conflict only cost the lives of 56 British servicemen and around 900 overall, then the omens don't look particularly good for Blair, with good reason. 153 dead British soldiers, over 3,500 Americans and somewhere in the region of between 200,000 and up to 1 million Iraqis, the median being 650,000. Blair isn't just covered in blood, he's drowning in it. If history doesn't judge him harshly for his distortions, lies and for what "he believed was right", then history is just as worthless as the Sun.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007 

Everyone's a winner baby!

What a brilliant coup for Brown! Labour gains another desperately needed right-winger without a real Labour bone in his body, the Tories lose a desperately needed moderate pro-European, and Quentin Davies's constituents get shafted good and proper. Everyone's a winner!

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Writing bollocks to the Grauniad.

Like many others who have commented on this topic, I've never read any of Salman Rushdie's novels and have little intention of doing so. I also believe that the honours system should be abolished, and that so many blatantly undeserving people have been rewarded with useless gongs that the whole institution was brought into disrepute long ago.

Both of those things aside, the reaction to Rushdie being knighted has been used by those with the same old grievances to further allege that the West or Britain is intent on insulting or denigrating both Islam and Muslims. My blood didn't really boil though until I read today's Grauniad letters page:

We strongly deplore the recent conferring of a knighthood to Salman Rushdie (Letters, June 21). We see this as a deliberate provocation and insult to the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. The "honouring" of Rushdie at a time when the British government claims to be trying to build bridges with the Muslim community can only be seen as duplicitous. We regard this as a conscious effort not only to offend Muslim sensibilities but also to sow seeds of division. In honouring Rushdie, the prime minister has demonstrated how little regard he has for Islam.


Ali al-Hadithi
Federation Of Student Islamic Societies, Bashir Mann Muslim Council of Scotland, Dr Abdul Wahid Hizb ut-Tahrir, Dr Ahmad ar-Rawi Muslim Association of Britain, Dr Mamoun Mobayad Northern Ireland Muslim Family Association, Dr Muhammad Abdul-Bari Muslim Council of Britain, Massoud Shadjareh Islamic Human Rights Commission, Maulana Faiz Siddiqui Muslim Action Committee, Muhammad Sawalha British Muslim Initiative, Saleem Qidwai Muslim Council of Wales, Sheikh Abdulhossein Moezi Islamic Centre of England, Sheikh Shafiq-ur-Rahman United Kingdom Islamic Mission

Really? Did the panel, not the prime minister, which dealt with the suggestion that Rushdie being knighted think "this'll stick two fingers up at those ever complaining 1.5 billion Muslims"? I very, very much doubt it. It could be argued that they should have foreseen that some would be angered by it, but why on earth should the feelings of any special interest group interfere with giving a writer who is widely regarded as one of the finest literary talents of his generation an honour? To suggest that those behind the offering of the knighthood did so as a "conscious effort" to offend Muslim sensibilities is the same kind of conspiratorial view which reinforces the spurious beliefs held by some Muslims that 9/11 and 7/7 were somehow not carried out by terrorists but by the security services as "black ops". Rather than giving succour to such views, these leaders ought to be helping the communities they profess to represent come to terms with the fact that some in their midst have become radicalised: it's not their fault, but they have to recognise it all the same.


The final letter is even more egregious:

It has become fashionable to associate Islam with acts of destruction and terror. Through this prism, it is understandable why such a divisive figure has been awarded a knighthood. Salman Rushdie did not contribute any constructive work to interfaith dialogue, and those who justify his work, under the false guise of freedom of expression, should ask themselves whether they would accept the idea of a knighthood being bestowed upon David Irving or the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for their tireless attempts to deny the systematic extermination of the Jews during the Nazi era. Isn't it hypocritical to apply different sets of rules?

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London

You'd think that a doctor would know the fucking difference between a work of fiction written by Rushdie and a Nazi apologist revisionist historian specialising in Holocaust denial, but obviously not. It's not that difficult: Rushdie is a novelist, specialising in weaving together stories; Irving is a historian, supposedly dealing in truthful accounts of events in the past; Ahmadinejad is an idiot who hates Israel and thinks that putting the biggest lie of them all back into the public domain will take the attention away from his abject political failure. If Rushdie alleged that Mohammad was a paedophile, in a written history of Islam, as many on the far-right do to bate Muslims, then yes that would be hypocritical. As he has yet to do so, it isn't.


You might like to sign
this petition, via Justin, even if it has been started by Daniel Finkelstein, if you feel the same way.

Related post:
Mr Eugenides - Big Mouth strikes again

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Scum-watch: A constitution which isn't and cooking the figures.

Ignoring the highly suspicious nature of the Scum's story about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard supposedly crossing into Iraq to plant roadside bombs, no longer apparently simply supplying them to the various militias operating in Basra, today's Scum leader is typically filled with crap.

IF anyone can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, it’s Tony Blair.

But even his verbal brilliance cannot conceal the deceit behind the latest EU con-trick.

The document he signed in Brussels is the EU Constitution in all but name.


No it isn't. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it probably is a duck, but this is quite simply not a constitution. If it was a constitution then all of its parts would be binding and applicable across the entirety of the EU - as Blair's success in defending his so-called "red lines" shows. He managed to gain an opt-out from the charter of fundamental rights, which is incidentally a fine extension to the convention of human rights, which any decent democratic country should have no problem signing up to. It's reproduced in full here, but choice parts of it include the complete prohibition of capital punishment, the prohibition of torture, the protection of personal data, the right to asylum, the prohibition of collective expulsion and protection against being deported to any country where the person is likely to be tortured or suffer inhumane or degrading treatment, which ought to explain quite why the Labour party refused to sign up to it.

Bertie Ahern might have said that it's 90% the same - but he also said that was one of the good things. It's hardly been a plot to push through the constitution by the back door, as Angela Merkel and others have long said that they wanted substantial parts of it to remain. You don't throw the baby out with the bathwater just because the baby's voted that the water is too cold; the no votes of the French and Dutch were for specific reasons, concerns over the imposition of Anglo-Saxon neo-liberalism and the eventual ascension of Turkey, amongst others. It wasn't that they wanted out of the EU altogether, which is quite clearly what both the Sun and most of the Eurosceptics want. Kenneth Clarke, long the only remaining sane Tory on Europe, pointed out that the new treaty is far less important than Maastricht, which John Major declined to offer a referendum on.

Back to the Scum:

Mr Blair promised us a referendum — in order to win the 2005 election.

He went so far as to denounce any proposal to smuggle it back in disguise.

Now he — and Gordon Brown — have the gall to deny voters a say before turning Britain into a muted voice on the sidelines of a European superstate.

Mr Blair’s flimsy “red lines” won’t save our status as an independent nation.


To suggest that promising a referendum on any EU constitution helped in any measure Labour's victory is bunkum. The only reason Blair said they'd be a referendum was because it's widely alleged that Murdoch gave him an ultimatum: either promise one or the News International titles go back to the Tories. Blair duly announced there would be one, although he probably knew quite well that either the French or Dutch were in the mood to reject it, negating the need to hold one. Rather than the British public demanding one, or it being a defining issue in the 2005 election, it was in fact only occupying the loonies who think of nothing else - like Australian-Americans who think they deserve more say in the politics of this nation than the actual electorate does.

We have signed this over to an EU President and a preposterous “High Representative” who will dictate foreign policy.

Britain will no longer be able to negotiate independent ties with other countries.

In particular, we will have to ditch our special relationship with America.


More complete and utter rot. Does the Scum really expect us to believe that not just us, but that also the countries Rumsfeld called "New Europe" that went along with the Iraq invasion will just hand over all their foreign policy concerns to a "high representative"? As Nosemonkey points out, the footnote to Annex I.ii.12 of the treaty explains just how member states will continue to be able to exercise their own individual foreign policies:

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

The Scum again:

Those obsessed with Iraq may welcome such abject surrender.

But the time will come when we bitterly regret losing historic links with the staunch ally who saved Britain — and Europe — in two World Wars.


And such historic links, thanks to our current relationship, have destroyed our standing throughout the world and helped to massively increase terrorism, which has actually made us less safe as a result. This isn't to suggest that we abandon all links with America: that would be equally disastrous. It does however mean a reexamination of how the relationship works - one based around consistent, well-intentioned advice, dissent, and knowing when to firmly say no - not one entirely made up of uncritical sycophancy, which has resulted in us having no influence over Washington whatsoever. We could additionally argue until the cows come home about how it whether it was the Americans, the Russians or Hitler's own folly which saved us in WW2, but that's for a different debate.

The next leader is equally badly constructed and full of misinformation:

MINISTERS insist violent crime is falling.

Yet millions of muggings go unrecorded because police fiddle the figures.

They won’t count more than five acts of violence if they involve the same victim.


Firstly this is nothing whatsoever to do with the police fiddling the figures, this is based on research done by Graham Farrell, professor of criminology at Loughborough University, and Ken Pease, visiting professor at Loughborough and former acting head of the Police Research Group at the Home Office, who've discovered that British Crime Survey, not anything to do with either the police, or as we'll see, ministers, only counts repeated offences against the same person for instance, 5 times, so if they've in fact been assaulted 10 times, it still only goes down as 5. The BCS does this so as not to let extreme cases distort the overall rate (how many people do get assaulted more than 5 times in a year?) but Farrell and Pease claim that this in fact distorts its just as much, removing up to 3 million crimes from the figures.

I'm not going to question their research, and the BCS will probably look into exactly what their findings are, but the BCS is still by far the most authoritative indicator of true crime levels, and it shows crime is at a historic low. This isn't a new thing either; the BCS has been using the same method since it began in 1981, so it isn't a sudden change that's brought the figures down accordingly.

Back to the Scum one last time:


Why? Because ministers fear extreme cases “distort” the rosy picture they wish to convey.

There are lies, damned lies . . . and government statistics.


Yes, quite, it's all the fault of ministers who have absolutely nothing to do with the collection of the statistics. It's quite true that the Home Office needs to make the release of statistics on crime wholly independent, so as to prove that they are not being spun, but in this case it is completely blameless. There are lies, damned lies, and then there's the Sun.

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Monday, June 25, 2007 

Won't get fooled again.

Well, could Harriet Harman have got off to a more auspicious start as deputy Labour party leader? Her victory was most definitely a surprise, but it seemed to be one which wasn't that bad, considering at least two of the other candidates on offer.

Could a day have ever have made more of a difference? It was assumed that Harman, having seen the success that Jon Cruddas was having through doing nothing more than stating the obvious, decided to tack just ever slightly further left, but could her performance on today's Today programme be any more shameless? With her bum firmly in the deputy leadership seat, it's already time for the rewriting of history and the dropping of unpalatable old views to Gordon down the memory hole, as evidenced by Justin.

The actual results of the contest were much more encouraging, as Unity argues in his in-depth breakdown. Best of all was the absolute thrashing administered to Blears, who was eliminated in the first round in embarrassing fashion, a rebuff to both the inanity and insanity of 10 years of Blair worship. It will hopefully be the first blow against the remaining ultra-Blairites, many of whom, such as Reid, Hilary Armstrong and Lord Goldsmith have already seen the writing on the wall. Almost equally promising was how Cruddas came out on top in the first round, meaning that if the contest had been held under first pass the post he would have most likely now be occupying Harman's chair. As Unity additionally argues, it's also difficult to genuinely paint this as a "shift to the left" as Blears and other right-wingers have been attempting to do, more than it reflects the reality on the ground after 10 years and the difference in what the main concerns are now. It would be nice to think that Brown would recognise that Cruddas' showing means he deserves a fairly decent ministerial post, and housing would seem made for him, but that might be too much to expect.

As for Brown's ascension after six weeks of insipid navel-gazing, some seem to be getting carried away, especially seeing the long-predicted bounce in the polls for Labour that appears to have occurred. The Brown spin machine though is in complete overdrive: witness the hagiography he gets in today's Mirror, the sycophantic interview with the BBC's Nick Robinson where they go over his schooling and yesterday's leak to the Sunday Times dropping a very heavy hint that he's going to ditch the ban on protests outside parliament itself. Thanks to Brown's control freaks success' in making certain that there wasn't going to be a contest, we've had to next to no real discussion about what he's actually going to do when Blair pisses off on Wednesday, apart from the musical chairs last week over trying to put together a "cabinet of all talents", supposedly including such heavyweights as Lord Stevens, who delivered last year's sectarian rant about how Muslims need to take to the streets to condemn what some allegedly within their religion decide to carry out, as well as being to the right of the Sun on crime and punishment, due to his wife once having to suffer the indignity of discovering a burglar had gone through her knicker drawer. Also mentioned was Sir Digby Jones, the previous head of the CBI, that organisation which holds Labour values so dear to its heart that it opposed the minimum wage. With talents like that, who needs Hazel Blears?

No doubt we are soon to suffer a blitz of just how different Brown is going to be from the man who many wags have long called the domestic prime minister, but nothing could be less heartening than the way that the Scum and Brown are engaged in the same bear hug which Blair decided upon all those years ago. The rage-inducing way the Scum has reported the Labour deputy leadership continues apace, all about how Gordon will not allow the Leftie dinosaurs destroy him, and how Harman embarrassed poor little blushing Gordie by daring to suggest that Iraq was a disaster and that maybe we don't need to replace Trident, both things that the Scum has supported to the hilt, being just as covered in blood in my eyes as Blair himself is. If Pascoe-Watson is right about Blears being rewarded for her loyalty with a promotion, then we may as well give up now. Notice too how the Scum was carefully selected as the paper to leak Brown's intentions for an election within a year to, just as the paper was given first dibs both in 2001 and 2005 to the date on which voting would take place, all signs of just how far Brown is going to be up the arse of Murdoch/Wade, a non-change if ever there was one.

Polly Toynbee often likes to point out how the left regards any Labour government other than Attlee's to be betrayal, and she does for once have something of a point. It isn't though that Labour is never going to be good enough for some of us, it's that they could do and could have done so much more if Blair had pursued redistribution of wealth, increased child care and help with housing with the same vigour as he did Iraq, tuition fees, foundation hospitals and trust schools and all those other things that he deliberately riled the party with, we'd be in a much different position now. The truth is though that we were tricked; we thought that New Labour itself was a front for a much more radical programme that would be really instigated once they'd gained office. We couldn't have been more wrong, and as Polly herself eventually admitted, this is a party which is far, far to the right of the SDP. Unless Brown means what he says, and all the signs suggest that it's froth rather than the real thing, he's going to be found out incredibly quickly. We won't be fooled again.

Related posts:
Bloggerheads - Brownie points
BlairWatch - The new boss

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Saturday, June 23, 2007 

Get off your fucking cross.

Why are so many people increasingly insistent on martyring themselves? Apart from our friends seeking those elusive 72 virgins, we have of late increasingly witnessed those of faith trying to nail themselves up on their own makeshift, poorly constructed crucifixies, in the case of Nadia Eweida almost literally so.

At least Eweida had something approaching a legitimate grievance, barred from wearing a tiny cross for little to no real reason.
Shabina Begum, who wanted to wear the jilbab rather than the the hijab to school, rightly eventually lost her case against the uniform policy, although she carried with her a certain dignity, even if there were allegations of Hizb ut-Tahrir being involved.

None of this applies to Lydia Playfoot, the latest in a probably yet to end line of Christians, encouraged by some sections of the media, to cry about the great unfairness of alleged secularisation and how they're being discriminated against while the Sikhs and Muslims and other faiths can wear their religious clothing without being challenged. It makes no difference to them that Sikhs are required by the "Five Ks" to wear bracelets/turbans, or that a good number of Muslims regard the wearing of the hijab, for reasons of modesty, as similarly sacrosanct to their faith.

Miss Playfoot's father just happens to be a pastor, while her mother is part of the team that runs the UK branch of the "Silver Ring Thing", a deeply sinister organisation which seems to take the worst traits of evangelical Christian doctrine and put them into something which greatly appeals to the easily influenced teenager who feels like an outsider because of their faith. In case you think this might have something to do with her taking the case of not being allowed to wear such a vital part of her beliefs in the classroom, her parents assure us that it doesn't. How dare you think such a thing?

Initially, it does seem that the school is being rather petty. It's a small ring, and unless one of those hormone timebombs known as teenagers decided to feel her up, most of her fellow students were unlikely to take much notice of another whining, angsty 16-year-old with bizarre ideas about sex wandering around the corridors.

It's pretty obvious though that this is a vendetta of the Playfoot's own making out of their wider view of society, at the same time promoting the Silver Ring Thing, with their daughter either being a willing accomplice or unusually comfortable for a teenager with following her parents' wishes. This isn't about having the right to wear a small piece of jewelery in school, it's about nailing themselves up for the entire country to see, at the same time draining a school's resources for their own rather than the greater good. If it also wasn't such a stupid, regressive, worthless pledge that will be broken by thousands of those who make it, things might be different. As it stands, there are fewer dafter, juvenile ideas than saving your "purity" for marriage, as if your first sex won't be just as disappointing, bloody, embarrassing and potentially painful than it would otherwise be if it wasn't someone you supposedly loved. Best to get it out the way than be let down by the reality. It also ignores the obvious: that Miss Playfoot won't already be frigging herself silly whenever she feels like it. Purity is both hypocritical and overrated.

Perhaps in a couple of years she'll have realised this. Most 16-year-olds don't have a clue; I'm far past that age and I still don't. The stigmata look is even less attractive.

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Please sir, can we have some more?

There's a few things I think we could all agree we need more of. Social networking sites, for instance. Indie-rock bands basing themselves around the Libertines. Valedictory TV programmes and newspaper articles looking back over Blair's 10 years. Lawyers. No win no fee firms. Hideously tattooed, mouthy female singers. Adverts where those who've sold their soul to appear in them suddenly break into song for no apparent reason. Blogs. Hollywood sequels. Suicide bombings. Books on how all religion is evil.

Out of all of those, there's one I missed out that is perhaps a little too obvious. Ten years after her death, there just simply haven't been enough books written about Princess Diana. No one has so much as charted her short, tragic, some would say holy life in complete, minute detail. We haven't found out which vibrator she used, that she sometimes went naked except for a fur coat, how she struggled with bulimia or that she hated that disfigured horse-faced cunt Camilla.

Thank Enya then for Tina Brown, who not only had the brilliant, original idea of writing such a book, but who has also produced one of the finest social histories, not just of this generation, but of any generation. The Diana Chronicles is a tour de force, a magnum opus, a truly wonderful achievement from a modest, beautiful, stunningly witty woman which will soon being taught on the Diana bachelor degree courses as the foremost set text. A wonderful example of just how fresh, exciting and completely honest Brown's portrayal of the undead Princess is has been provided by the current issue of Private Eye:


Brown's book is of course not just another vulture picking the very last, tiny scraps of pink flesh from Diana's corpse. It's a sexed-up, all revelatory biography to end all biographies, as Catherine Bennett's review of it shows.

With the princes' celebratory commemoration in the form of a music concert fast approaching, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that rather than being dead, Diana, like Elvis, Tupac, James Dean, Kurt Cobain and Marilyn, and perhaps Pete Doherty when he inevitably takes that one dose of skag too many, is going to be with us until the end of time. She's a license to print money, to pretend that you know what you're talking about when you're called on to comment on the celebrity culture, and like Marilyn, she's never going to get old. Her tits are never going to sag, her forehead isn't going to get wrinkled, her hair isn't going to turn to the colour which most resembled her existence that has since been painted any colour but, gray. She will be forever beautiful and young, while the rest of us will decay, wilt and shrink.

Andrew Roberts, when talking about Brown's book on Newsnight Review, was adulatory in praise, describing it as perhaps the first revisionist account of her life, but that's probably because he gets mentioned and because he quite obviously fancies her. He raised the all important point though: like those incessant books about Hitler and whether he really did authorise the Holocaust or just went along with it once it had been decided upon by others, we've got the rest of our lifetimes to look forward to this modern-day celebrity dictator being written about and eulogised and condemned over and over and over again. Or at least until someone assassinates Paris Hilton.

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Friday, June 22, 2007 

Scum-watch: Standing in the way of control.

(Note: This was written on Friday but is only being posted now (Saturday: 16:05) because my modem decided to die)

After spending most of the week whining witlessly about how Blair and Brown are going to sell our sovereignty to the bureaucrats in Brussels yet again, the Sun's leader today takes aim at control orders instead. To start with though, here's their article on the 7th man to disappear:


AN al-Qaeda terror suspect was on the run in Britain last night after vanishing while on a control order.

Is there absolutely any evidence whatsoever that this man was in any way linked to al-Qaida? Err, no. The evidence against him was so damning that he was released without charge in 2005 after being arrested along with five others under the Terrorism Act. It was only after he and the others were passed on to immigration that all were placed under control orders.

The suspect came to the UK as an asylum seeker but was one of six Iraqis allegedly plotting bomb attacks.

...

The unnamed suspect was linked to Osama Bin Laden’s Iraqi henchman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — killed last June.

Firstly, al-Zarqawi was very much his own man and only probably pledged allegiance to bin Laden, if he even did that, so that the could take on the "al-Qaida" brand. He was also Jordanian, not Iraqi, to nitpick even more. As previously stated, if there had been any solid evidence that they had been plotting bomb attacks, they'd have been charged. Instead it seems that yet again the intelligence against them was of the variety that was either too vague, slight or inadmissible without changes that the government still appears to be holding out against.

The suspect had been on the order since November 2005 before scarpering on Monday. He was tagged and had a 14-hour curfew and travel restrictions.

Tighter controls had been overturned by judges in June last year — on human rights grounds.

The orders were actually quashed by Mr Justice Sullivan, not by judges. He had previously been on an 18-hour curfew.

And yesterday police minister Tony McNulty said human rights had left cops hamstrung in dealing with terror suspects.

This is nonsense, because the control orders are issued by the Home Office, not the police. The police have more than enough powers to deal with "terrorist suspects", it seems that in the case of these men that the evidence wasn't there.

Control orders were introduced in 2005 to counter objections to jailing terror suspects without trial.

By objections the Sun means the 8-1 verdict of the law lords who rightly ruled that indefinite detention without charge was a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

None of the fugitives have been found. Mr McNulty said Labour are considering a Human Rights bill opt-out to allow stricter restrictions.

Probably because they're thought to have left the country, at least according to the Grauniad.

Anyway, to the leader:

YET another terror suspect has done a runner while under useless “control orders”.

That means seven out of 17 potential suicide bombers are now on the loose.


This is more errant nonsense. Some of them might have wanted to be suicide bombers, but the simple fact is that we don't know what most are accused of doing or wanting to do, and neither do they themselves. The BBC recently posted a diary of one of those on a control order who escaped from a mental hospital after he had been sectioned, and while it's full of the typical jihadi thinking, there's nothing in it to suggest he was interested in becoming a suicide bomber, or even where his initial training was leading. Mental ill-health is unsurprisingly a running theme among those being held with little definite details of why. One man previously being held under a control order (I don't know whether he still is) was Mahmoud Suliman Ahmed Abu Rideh, who had repeatedly self-harmed and attempted suicide while being held in custody, whom even the police admitted was no danger to anyone except himself. This isn't to suggest that these aren't dangerous men; some of them undoubtedly are, but to suggest that they're all potential suicide bombers is just disingenuous garbage.

These are not misguided youths who fell into bad company.

They were supporters of Iraqi al-Qaeda leader Abu al-Zarqawi who allegedly sent them to Britain to carry out terror attacks.


See above passim ad nauseum.

Yet they have been allowed to disappear because judges rate their human rights as superior to our national safety.

They refused to put them behind bars where they belong.


Ah yes, it's all the fault of the judges, isn't it? As Mr Justice Sullivan pointed out when he declared the control order on this man illegal, John Reid himself said that the courts could quash the orders, then when they did he fiercely objected. The real fault lies with the government that refuses to respect our international conventions and which has comprehensively declined to legislate so that the evidence held against these men can be actually used against them in the courts, rather than arbitrarily imposing both ineffective and illiberal orders. Their human rights are not superior to our national safety; judges did not refuse to have them behind bars, as their decision was not binding. The government could have ignored it, but instead came up with yet another flawed proposal. Their human rights are the same rights that every single one of us enjoys, seeing as any one of us could be in their position. The talk of suspects not deserving rights is dangerous talk which is giving in to those who threaten us rather than holding up our values in the face of their barbarism.

Instead they were free to come and go, monitored only by futile electronic tags.

Which is rather the point here. For this man to have gone missing, he presumably would have had to remove his tag, which would have set off an alarm. This is as much the fault of putting faith in these piss-poor private monitoring firms as it is anything else.

The truth is that ministers are scared of offending libertarians who would rather put fellow citizens at risk than lock up someone who would blow us to pieces.

Obviously, because this government hasn't spent the last 10 years offending libertarians of every stripe. The rule of law, habeas corpus, the right to be innocent until proved guilty mean nothing to Rebekah Wade, Rupert Murdoch and their minions.

We can only pray they do not use their illicit freedom to do just that.

Or that if they do that they target Wapping.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007 

Is Brown as smart as he thinks he is?

There doesn't seem to be much to add to the discussion about what Brown's motives are in attempting to draw in some Lib Dems to his first cabinet - it screams of him trying to show just how non-Stalinist and pragmatic he's prepared to be, while Ming Campbell is left with egg on his face over his closeness to the party leader he's meant to opposing. The main question is will the public see it as an attempt by Brown to build a new politics, or a cynical move that's only likely to benefit the Tories as the Libs and Labour are condemned for being one and the same. In the current climate, the latter seems more likely.

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Giving al-Qaida credit they don't deserve.

Soumaya Ghannoushi regularly takes a battering on CiF for the more vapid of her warblings, but her latest piece in today's Grauniad probably gets more right than it does wrong. Her description of al-Qaida and how its ideology has spawned autonomous cells that have no real contact with the real leadership of the organisation and that act without hierarchy or a chain of command is probably one of the most accurate I've read in a while, in complete difference to how other commentators and reports often tend to suggest, sometimes for their own reasons, that al-Qaida is some sort of monolithic monster that threatens life as we know it.

Where she gets it wrong is in claiming that al-Qaida has gained a foothold in Palestine, and just how much it cares about what goes on there. She cites the Army of Islam, the organisation holding Alan Johnston, as proof of this.

It's certainly true that some would like al-Qaida to infiltrate the Palestinian territories or even attempt to build some kind of group there that could challenge the hegemony of Hamas and Fatah, as evidenced by an Islamic State of Iraq fighter from Palestine who recently gave an extensive interview on the Paltalk network, where he hoped that a Salafist jihadi alternative would emerge, and that the Army of Islam would be that alternative (PDF). The facts however about the group seem to speak for themselves: it appears to be made up entirely of one criminal family in Gaza, the Dogmush, who seem to have taken up the Salafi ideology more out of convenience and for effect rather than out of any real religious affiliation. They may have previously helped or worked with Hamas when the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped last year, but the abduction of Johnston has certainly not gone down well with Hamas, who made clear that they want him freed immediately and would use force to do so if necessary. It's long been assumed that they were haggling with Fatah prior to Hamas's takeover in Gaza over exactly how much Johnston was worth. To suggest that such a weak group with no support whatsoever is the first signs of al-Qaida gaining a presence in the occupied territories is disingenuous at best and downright wrong at worst.

The reality is that despite all of al-Qaida's rhetoric about Palestine since its founding statement that Ghannoushi mentions, it, much like a lot of the Arab governments, doesn't really care that much about what happens there. Indeed, if the Israel-Palestine conflict were to be solved overnight, one of the main Salafi grievances/excuses would disappear. It makes for good propaganda, how the Palestinians are being oppressed by the Zionists, but the attacks that it's launched since its "official" establishment have almost all been directed against anyone other than Israel. The only assault directly against Israelis were the 2002 Mombasa attacks - and they've never been comprehensively linked to al-Qaida in any case.

The Palestinians themselves would virulently resist any attempts by genuine al-Qaida elements to set themselves up in either the West Bank or Gaza, for obvious reasons, which half explains why they have so far failed to do so. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have also proved suitably radical for those sympathetic to the Salafist ideology; as Ghannoushi mentions, al-Zawahiri recently condemned Hamas for joining the political process, even if it refuses to recognise Israel, something met with complete indifference if not contempt by those who actually have been involved with either group while Zawahiri continues to sit comfortably wherever it is he's hiding out.

Ghannoushi also mentions the emergence of Fatah al-Islam and the other groups in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon as further proof of the growth of al-Qaida, but this again seems flawed. There's been reports suggesting that Fatah al-Islam had been funded by the US as part of an attempt to curb Hizbullah's influence, but it again seems that the group is more of a criminal nature, like the Army of Islam, taking up the Salafi ideology for its own ends. The conditions in the camps are also likely to be a factor in some in them becoming radicalised, and like the Army of Islam, the others in the camp who were shelled and killed in the crossfire were by no means of supportive of their actions.

Her conclusion however is accurate: the blatant idiocy of ignoring the democratic choice of the Palestinian people, while deciding to recognise the use of violence as an opportunity to ditch the boycott does nothing to encourage further steps towards the end of violence as a means of resisting. Sticking it to Hamas for being too radical, as Jonathan Freedland argued yesterday, could have consequences which might result in the rise of a group that does have mass support and genuinely does share al-Qaida's ideology.

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