Tuesday, July 31, 2007 

Wither the Tories?

There's a joke somewhere about David Cameron giving a typically specious speech on school discipline (solution: send 'em out to the voluntary sector) at the same time as some members of his own party are doing the equivalent of shouting out without putting their hands up first and then talking over the teacher, but I'm not sure I know what it is.

There are two conclusions you can come to about why the Tories, after having led in the polls by various margins for over a year, at one point even coming ahead of Labour when asked how they rated the parties on the NHS, are now once again flatlining. The first is that this is just a trough, with Brown getting the expected bounce everyone always thought he would, and that once Brown has been in the job for longer than a month, the Tories will once again find themselves gaining on Labour. After all, the local council elections, discounting the two by-election results in two safe Labour seats, showed that the party was getting back towards the support it needed in order to win the next general election. Factor into this that up until some of the recent reports on policy which Cameron ordered when he became leader that the party had almost no discernible, concrete policies whatsoever, apart from mutterings about the environment and understanding young people more, and things look even better. Once the party finally gets into the minutiae of what it proposes, the gap will lengthen ever further.

The second is that the first is bunkum. The problem, despite all the scandals, cock-ups and outrages of last year wasn't Labour itself: it was simply the tosser who was still prime minister. It was Blair's vanity, his attempt to hang on no matter how much damage it did to his party, that was what the public really objected most to. Despite Gordon Brown being next door for 10 years, having personal involvement of much of what went wrong, the man who signed the cheques that made the Iraq war possible, the lack of a contest within the Labour party over his ascent, and all the attempts by the Tories to smear him as the past and the "roadblock to reform", a change at the top was all that was needed. There are still tough times to come, but David Cameron is now no longer the "new man". If anything, he's now a reminder of all of Blair's worst qualities, defined by the image of him cycling into Westminster while a car carrying his documents follows behind him.

The reality, as it always seems to be, is most likely somewhere in between the two. The Cameron bubble has most certainly burst: the murmurings against him from within the Tory ranks were always there, but while they were ahead in the polls and seemingly back on top, most were reasonably content. Cameron's mistake was in starting to think that he was bigger than the party itself: putting the party down as "Cameron's Conservatives" in the Ealing Southall by-election was a ploy which horribly backfired, making Dave seem like a self-aggrandising narcissist who had single-handedly turned the corner for the party. Selecting Tony Lit as the candidate, hoping that a somewhat well-known telegenic local would bring in the votes needed was the kind of short-sighted stunt which deservedly also came back and bit him in the ass, after those photos emerged and details of a donation to Labour came out. More damaging and hurtful to the party's activists was the grammar school fiasco: whether it was an attempt to create a clause 4 moment, or something which the top brass felt that would appeal to the average voter who overwhelmingly disapproves of grammar schooling and selection, they ought to have realised this was the equivalent of poking a napping rottweiler in the eye with a pointy stick, and the resulting savaging could have been foreseen.

While these are all legitimate grievances as it were, the continuing dissent seems more of the petulant variety than that which is terminal. The hand-over of power has gone better than expected for Labour and the Tories' attempts to try and unnerve Brown have failed, but to get rid of Cameron now or to lurch back to the right would be an act of sheer lunacy, panicking at the very first hurdle. The last two elections have shown that they can no longer win simply by being harder on immigration, crime and Europe and the same economically as Labour when there's little to separate the parties on everything else. The problem with this is that there are already two parties on the centre/centre-right ground; leaving not just traditional Tory voters but also most of the left essentially disenfranchised.

Cameron's solution has been to try to pander to both those sympathetically liberal with his emphasis on the environment and toning down of the rhetoric on crime, as well as a rediscovering of the libertarianism the party was founded on in response to terrorism, while moving back towards the right socially, advocating marriage, talking of a broken society and now demanding that discipline be re-established in schools. While some of the latter is designed to appeal to the Daily Mail set, and he's got the response he was hoping for, it's that well, first no one believes him on the environment, and the socially conservative stuff looks to everyone else as the same old back to basics nonsense about bashing the single mum and lauding the family that neither works any longer or is likely to bring over the floating voter. Some of the other demands about what Cameron should be doing are similarly daft: Graham Brady, who resigned from the shadow cabinet over the grammar school mistake said that Cameron should be focusing "on a grittier, more relevant message to the inner city communities worried about crime". That's all well and good, but those same people are still never going to vote Tory, whatever he says about their fears.

It may all come down to just how much the Tories want to win. However much some of us may dislike it, Blair won thanks to the hatred and boredom which 18 years of Tory government had brought, the sheer desire for power at any cost by those who emerged after the death of John Smith, and finally, by shafting the left and making a pact with the Murdoch press. He didn't need to continue with the radical centrism once he and New Labour was securely in power, but everyone had underestimated just how much he had actually meant what he said. The nightmare for the Tory grassroots, and indeed, many others, is that the Tory urge become inexorable, but that Cameron too means what he says. He might have written the 2005 Tory manifesto, but everything suggests that he really does want to be the heir to Blair. When Brown calls the next election for may well turn out to be the real defining moment.

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Bomb bomb UK!

After two trials, with the juries in both cases failing to reach a verdict, Robert Cottage has finally been sentenced after he pleaded guilty to possessing explosives. A collection of explosive chemicals which were, according to the initial police statement, the largest haul they'd ever seized from a house. Oh, and did I mention that Cottage, by his own admission, had ordered and stored these chemicals because he believed a race war was imminent due to immigration? Rather than using them to make the sort of bombs that explode and slam white hot pieces of shrapnel into those unlucky enough to be in the vicinity's bodies, severing limbs, decapitating heads and generally causing a nuisance, Cottage instead planned to use his chemicals to create bangers which would cause flashes, and scare off any of the rampaging brown/black/Polish people running about looting. Or at least that's what his lawyers argued. Given that the prosecution, according to Postman Patel, admitted that only a "squib" could be produced from his stockpile, he may well be telling the truth. In an age in which innocent brothers get shot and smeared for looking a bit dodgy and possibly having bombs which spray out poison though, it all looks a little like double standards.

The judge, probably more because he pleaded guilty than anything else, took Cottage at his word. I quote:

"I am satisfied it was Cottage's views on how he put it 'the evils of uncontrolled immigration' would lead to civil war which would be imminent and inevitable.

"I accept the intention was to hold these chemicals until the outbreak of civil unrest. That was a criminal and potentially dangerous act.

In other words, he was certainly not the next David Copeland. Remember that. Would it be too cynical to think that if Cottage had brown skin and was called Mohammad that the judge might not have accepted his excuse? Or indeed, that the media coverage of the initial raid and the trials might have been slightly up the news agenda?

Cottage was sentenced to two and a half years, which is probably about right. As he's already spent 10 months in custody, he may only have to serve another 6 or so months. Tom on BlairWatch goes through how long some other terrorists without any equipment are currently spending at Her Majesty's Pleasure, which again just might put this case into some sort of perspective. Gathering explosive material and planning for a civil war it seems is also less of an offence than spending an afternoon with other ignorant goons shouting stupid, inflammatory slogans. Welcome then to modern Britain.

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Scum-watch: Wade found floating off St. Ives.

Has such tedious, idiotic, hyperbolic nonsense ever occupied a newspaper's front page for three days straight? No, I'm not talking about the Star's Big Brother obsession, or the Express' various fixations on Diana and Madeleine, although both could equally apply, but the Scum's continuing insistence that there really is a great white shark currently swimming off the coast of St. Ives. Oh, and it's female, and most likely has a mate nearby.

That's the latest stone tablet to be delivered by today's Scum, quoting this time
"Leading Aussie shark watcher Dave “Sharkman” Baxter":

“That’s definitely a Great White — probably an adult female about 12ft long. Her mate will be close by.”

Incidentally, this leading Aussie shark watcher is so famous that searching for him on Google only brings up the various news articles currently quoting him and his expert insight, oh and one forum post.

Quite why the Scum is continuing with this charade is difficult to fathom. Their original source for it possibly being a great white has decided that it isn't, as noted yesterday, and now David Sims, who leads the only scientific study of large sharks in the UK (and does appear on Google) has ridiculed the coverage by saying that the first film shows either dolphins or porpoises, while the second is a basking shark, as others from the start pointed out it was most likely to be.

God, writing this I feel like a vicious, humourless little pedant, so that must mean that I'm about the same as usual. Does the fact that it's not a serious news story though make any difference when the newspaper is quite possibly purposefully misleading the nation?

The paper is though asking for suggestions for what the shark should be called. How could it be known by any other moniker than "Rebekah"? It's phony, pretending to be something it isn't, and tends to lash out after spending all day drinking.

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Monday, July 30, 2007 

Mr Brown goes to Washington.

After the "terror attacks" and the torrents of water cascading from the sky, Gordon Brown might well think that going to visit George Bush would be a doddle by comparison. The difficulty was always going to be in knowing the right balance to strike - the apparent instant friendship that flowered when Blair 'n' Bush first met, kindred spirits if they ever were two, was never going to be on the agenda. At the same time, with the Scum already howling about the "special relationship", he also can't afford to be anything less than always on-message, even if the tone is going to be very different.

The whole meeting should, and deserves to be strained on all levels. Bush is not just a lame duck, he's a dead duck, festering before the entire planet as he and his neo-con cohorts desperately try to shore up some kind of legacy, and possibly even attempt to draw Iraq out long enough so that if a Democrat manages to win in 08, voting machines and lists aside, that the victor is bequeathed with a gift that no one would ever want. If Brown had really wanted to set out the change in the relationship from being the doormat to being the poodle that bites back, he could, as Ming Campbell pointed out, more than capably have been able to make his agenda clear, urging that Guantanamo Bay be closed down and that Britain has finished with Iraq, getting out within a matter of months, if not weeks. While the hard right here may shout about betrayal, Brown could afford to kick Bush in to touch, even possibly helping towards his and the Republicans' downfall by getting out of Iraq now. The surge is failing, the country is somehow in a worse state after four years of occupation and supposed reconstruction than it was under Saddam and sanctions which contributed towards the deaths of 500,000 children, and yet still our politicians somehow can't dare to anger those who took us into this disaster in the first place.

We can at least be glad that the infectious idiocy which Bush seems to radiate somehow hasn't managed to infect our new Dear Leader. The grimace on his face as Bush drove him round in the golf buggy, not managing like Tony would have done to have grinned uneasily through it, was refreshing in itself. The whole press conference where as usual we learned absolutely nothing, was just as tepid. Bush, still after 7 years doing the same act of attempting to be the class clown without the intelligence to pull it off, speaking in the same achingly slow drawl, which you would take for sarcastic if you didn't know it was the way he always speaks, was attempting to be effervescent, while alongside Brown was almost trying not to be noticed, again, like he was at his first prime minister's questions, visibly nervous. He wasn't exactly icy, but it certainly was someone who was uncomfortable in his skin and rigid in his speech.

This was undoubtedly the way it was always going to be, and like everything that has gone on since Blair's exit, while most things have continued as were, the very fact that it isn't the same grating, agitating bastard manning the helm has changed the situation, and judging by the opinion polls, most of the public's minds as well. Aggravating as such blanket statements made by Brown about how the world should be thankful for the American response to 9/11, this again seems to have been made purely to reassure the already weary and suspicious Republicans after the speech by Douglas Alexander and the interview by Mark Malloch-Brown, who seems to be more than happy to anger the usual suspects that are already biased against him.

Changing the terminology used about the war on terror, or whatever it is we're calling it this week, is one of the subtle, some might suggest cowardly ways of doing things differently while actually doing nothing. It helps that it pisses off the likes of Melanie Philips, but does really suggesting that what salafist takfiris are waging is a war of inhumanity change anything whatsoever, other than changing the original absurd abstract noun? In fact, what others have long been calling the "twat", a war against bullshit, makes more sense, both in the way that dropping bombs on people doesn't tend to help them, and that what we're fighting, if we're fighting anything, is a war against the insanity and inanity of restoring a mythical, religious age of purity through acts which are expressly against that belief system in the first place. We've got more than enough of that here already.

Nothing then that we didn't expect, and nothing of the unexpected. Whereas previously we would have hated every excruciating moment of the press conference, now, despite the apparent status quo continuing, there's enough for most people that they won't fly into the same rage as they would have done. Brown's biggest problem right now is that it simply can't last.

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Various things.

First up, Andrew Dismore and the Joint Committee on Human Rights thoroughly eviscerates the government's "case" for doubling the detention without charge period for terrorist suspects.

Sarfraz Manzoor, in his article on British Asians (much discussion of the report underlying it over on Pickled Politics) and success talks of "coconut" as being the British equivalent of the insult "Oreo". It's no doubt a regional thing, but the insult here has always been similarly junk food based, with those thought of trying too hard to fit in being called a "Bounty".

Finally, with the Scum yet again leading on their brilliant expose of how sharks are going to infiltrate our schools and start eating children, Richard Peirce bursts the bubble by suggesting it's far more likely to be either a porbeagle or a mako shark.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007 

The silly season commences and Fox News takes on Anonymous.

The politicians have deserted Westminster, school's out for summer, it can only mean one thing: the silly season is upon us. What better way to get it started than in today's Scum, with the usual hoary old tale of a "great white shark" being sighted off the coast of Cornwall?

SHOCKED tourists told of their terror last night over the Great White shark sighting off Cornwall.

And one holidaymaker said: “This has got to be every swimmer’s worst nightmare.”


Despite getting the head of the Shark Trust to proclaim that the shark filmed is indeed a "predatory shark", it remains far more likely that it was a relatively harmless basking shark, which are often sighted off St. Ives, as this one was.

Even the Sun's usual standard of journalism can't come close to the level of idiocy displayed in this Fox 11 News "investigation" into Anonymous, a coven of "hackers on steroids" using "secret" websites to defame and intimidate various individuals across the length and breadth of the interweb.

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One can only come to the conclusion that this will not end well.

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Friday, July 27, 2007 

Scum-watch: Floody hell.

The Sun really does seem to be a roll at the minute when it comes to trying to scare those already flooded into even further bouts of ennui, depression and anxiety. Yesterday, in the calm, measured manner for which the newspaper is renowned, it splashed on its own investigation, headlined "THE TOXIC TIDE". For anyone doubting just what sort of toxicity the newspaper was talking about, it helpfully illustrated the problem with the stock poison warning label, the skull and crossbones. Not wanting to be possibly outdone, it listed just about every possible disease that might be lurking in the filthy water:

Experts confirmed that water samples collected by The Sun on the outskirts of Gloucester bore traces of animal and human faeces.

Analysis revealed disturbing levels of bacteria and viruses, including salmonella, hospital superbug C.Diff and cryptosporidium.

Dysentery, gastroenteritis, gastritis and meningitis could all be contracted by the rapid spread of infection, causing crippling stomach pains, diarrhoea, and possible long-term effects in children.


And if that wasn't enough:

One of the biggest fears was that there could be an outbreak of deadly cholera.

Is bacteria (sic) thrives in warm, dirty water and the disease spreads between people who consume contaminated food or water.

The disease — most dangerous for young children — ravages the gut, causing chronic diarrhoea.

That can lead to severe dehydration, rapid kidney failure and death.


Or if that doesn't get you, E.coli will:

The E.coli 157 bug can also be lethal. It surfaced in Britain in the 1980s and is passed on by eating infected food or drinking contaminated liquid. It kills by damaging the kidneys.

Dysentery is also caused by a form of bacteria, spreading rapidly through food, infected water and physical contact with victims.

It leads to chronic stomach cramps, then diarrhoea and possibly kidney failure.


Strangely, nowhere in the entire article is the obvious pointed out: unless you for some reason feel like drinking the water, the chances of catching anything are slight. Thankfully, we have the BBC, which last week the Sun said needed to have the stables cleaned out and the jobsworths sacked in order for trust to be restored, to bring some clarity to the issue:

Professor Kevin G Kerr, consultant Microbiologist at Harrogate District Hospital said: "Some areas of the world experience serious outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid after major flooding.

"But large-scale outbreaks of infection would be very unlikely in the UK, partly because these diseases are very rare in this country but mainly because water companies are able to provide clean drinking water - either bottled or from bowsers - to people without tap water."

Dr Ken Flint, a microbiologist at the University of Warwick, said: "As long as people don't drink the flood water they won't get a water borne disease."

And environmental microbiologist Dr Keith Jones, from Lancaster University, said: "Despite the dire warnings about outbreaks of disease following flooding, they rarely happen.

"Although there is the potential for an increase in enteric disease after flooding, if you follow the advice given by the Environment Agency and the Environmental Health Officers, you should be safe."

Indeed, no disease outbreaks were reported in the flooded areas of the US affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

And there is no evidence from previous UK floods, such as Carlisle and Lewes, that bugs in the water caused an increase in gastro-intestinal illness and enhanced surveillance by the Health Protection Agency has not detected increased reports of infection in areas that are currently affect flooding either.

Not content with just over-hyping the deadliness of the flood water, today's Scum instead decided to err, over-hype the deadliness of the water contained in the bowsers, while having a good old bash at those favoured bogeymen, the one-dimensional, omnipresent yet invisible yobs:

FURIOUS flood victims last night slammed yobs who ruined their emergency water supply.

Gangs of youngsters urinated in a desperately-needed water bowser and tipped bleach into another.

They also emptied one of the mobile tankers of its precious water within 15 minutes of its arrival in Cheltenham, Gloucs — then stood by laughing.


All splashed on the front page, with the headline "POND LIFE" just to hammer home the disgraceful behaviour of these feral youngsters. Oddly, especially for an exclusive that led the paper, the story was nowhere to be seen on the news page by tonight. (I had to search for it.) Could that possibly be related to the BBC yet again having to clarify the Sun's voluminous apoplexy?

Gloucestershire police have said they have received about ten reports of criminal damage to bowsers and one unconfirmed report of urine in one of the containers.

One would presume that the unconfirmed report came from err, the Sun. In any case, "Guinnessman" in the comments on the article has the solution:

Why can't the powers-that-be have the nerve to declare martial law in the worst affected places. That way, these little scum-bags could be shot.

Out of 3 pages of why-oh-whying, calls for parents to give their youngsters a good beating to sort them out and diatribes about chav scum, it's left to the usual one person there often is on these threads to insert just a tiny amount of sanity:

Come on - where's your sense of humour? Kids will always be kids! Can't you see the funny side of peeing in the water? Have you forgotten what its like to be young?

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The devil weed returns.

Is it possible to go a whole week without yet another scare story about cannabis causing collective psychosis in the media? The Grauniad, usually more immune than others to over-hyping scientific studies, highlighted the scary figure that smoking the drug can increase the risk of schizophrenia by 40%, which most of the rest of the media have picked up on.

Unity provides a lengthy fisk, but the most important points are thus: firstly, smoking cannabis does not increases the risk of developing schizophrenia by 40%, it increases the risk of developing "any psychotic outcome", not just schizophrenia. Secondly, this quite wonderful figure of 40% needs to be put into context. The figure is taken from the statistic that 1 in 100 of the population have a chance of developing severe schizophrenia; according to the Lancet study, smoking cannabis increases this chance by 0.4%. In other words, an average user of cannabis, if there is such a thing, increases the possibility of developing "a psychotic outcome" by a massive 0.4%. Doesn't look so frightening now, does it? Unity additionally points out that that the 1 in 100 figure comes from the US, while the National Statistics Office puts the chance of developing a psychotic disorder here at 1 in 200, further lowering the risk.

The study really doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. Those under 18 are at greater risk from smoking cannabis, cannabis increases the risk of developing a psychotic illness, and those with a genetic disposition towards mental ill-health increase the risk of developing such a complaint by smoking cannabis. All these things have been known now for years, and have been considered by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs when coming to their conclusion that cannabis should be, and should remain, a Class C drug.

Still, we can at least be slightly sated that the Grauniad didn't jump to the sheer lunacy of the tabloids. The Mail and Sun, who also just happen to both be hysterical campaigners against the downgrading of cannabis to Class C, try to outdo each other with their own misleading articles. While both claim that smoking just one roll-up increases the risk by 41%, the Mail tacks on the sensational tales of 3 murderers, all of which it attempts to claim were in some way influenced by their use of cannabis. The Sun, on the other hand, just went straight for the jugular. Despite Rebekah Wade previously going on a mental health training course after she splashed "BONKERS BRUNO LOCKED UP" on the front page when he was sectioned, the piece is tastefully headlined "'Psycho' risk from one joint".

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Thursday, July 26, 2007 

Rendition: The whitewash is applied.

Another day, another reasonably damning report on rendition, this time from the Intelligence and Security committee, which ties itself in knots (PDF) in order not to implicitly condemn MI6's role in the rendition of alleged terrorist suspects. First, it provides a lesson in how to obfuscate by defining the different sorts of rendition:

Definitions

6. The term “rendition”is used to mean different things by different people. It encompasses numerous variations ofextra-judicial transfer such as: to countries where the person is wanted for trial; to countries where the individual can be adequately interrogated; transfer for the purposes of prolonged detention;and military transfer of battlefield detainees.

7. In order to provide clarity,the Committee has used the following terms throughout this Report:

“Rendition”: Encompasses any extra-judicial transfer ofpersons from one jurisdiction or State to another.

“Rendition to Justice”: The extra-judicial transfer of persons from one jurisdiction or State to another, for the purposes ofstanding trial within an established and recognised legal and judicial system.

“Military Rendition”: The extra-judicial transfer of persons (detained in, or related to, a theatre of military operations) from one State to another, for the purposes of military detention in a military facility.

“Rendition to Detention”: The extra-judicial transfer of persons from one jurisdiction or State to another, for the purposes of detention and interrogation outside the normal legal system.

“Extraordinary Rendition”: The extra-judicial transfer of persons from one jurisdiction or State to another, for the purposes of detention and interrogation outside the normal legal system, where there is a real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (CIDT).

For example, the transfer of battlefield detainees from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay would fall into the category of “Military Renditions”. The transfer of a detainee unconnected to the conflict in Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay would be a “Rendition to Detention”. A transfer to a secret facility constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment because there is no access to legal or other representation and, on that basis,we would describe this as an “Extraordinary Rendition”.

Isn't that glorious? According to the committee then, what happened to Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil al-Banna, who were rendered to Guant
ánamo Bay as a result of information provided to the CIA by MI6 wasn't actually an "extraordinary rendition", as they weren't being sent to somewhere where there was a "real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment". I don't know about you, but I consider two men being effectively kidnapped by a security service far outside of their own legal jurisdiction and then imprisoned in a camp where numerous former detainees have alleged that mistreatment was endemic, in al-Rawi's case for 4 years, with al-Banna's detention still continuing, to be cruel and inhuman treatment, whether they were personally tortured or not. In fact, I'd say it was pretty much a complete fucking outrage. Using this definition however, the committee comes to this conclusion:

D.Those operations detailed above, involving UK Agencies’ knowledge or involvement, are “Renditions to Justice”, “Military Renditions”and “Renditions to “the Detention”. They are not “Extraordinary Renditions”, which we define as extra-judicial transfer ofpersons from one jurisdiction or State to another, for the purposes of detention and interrogation outside the normal legal system,where there is a real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”. We note that in some of the cases we refer to, there are allegations of mistreatment, including whilst individuals were detained at Guantánamo Bay, although we have not found evidence that such mistreatment was foreseen by the Agencies. The Committee has therefore found no evidence that the UK Agencies were complicit in any “Extraordinary Rendition” operations.

With the goalposts thus shifted, the UK agencies get a clean bill of health. Everything is right with the world after all!

Elements of whitewash are splashed liberally around most of the cases which the committee has investigated. On Binyam Mohamed, who you might remember as the prisoner who had his penis repeatedly slashed with a scalpel, MI6 informs the committee that they one of their men did indeed interview him in Karachi in 2002, and that it's quite possible that information they handed to the Americans on him was subsequently used by the Moroccans who tortured him. However, their conclusion is:

Conclusions
M. There is a reasonable probability that intelligence passed to the Americans was used in al-Habashi’s subsequent interrogation. We cannot confirm any part of al-Habashi’s account of his detention or mistreatment after his transfer from Pakistan.

N. We agree with the Director General of the Security Service that, with hindsight, it is regrettable that assurances regarding proper treatment of detainees were not sought from the Americans in this case.

Throughout the report MI6 is repeatedly let off the hook because "at the time" they didn't know what the Americans were doing to those being rendered. This failure to see any evil in what the CIA was doing only changed after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was unearthed, as is described in a section of the report headed "ethical dilemmas":

149. The Security Service and SIS have, certainly since 1998, where they considered it necessary, sought assurances from foreign intelligence services that individuals facing detention as a result of any action or intelligence shared with them would be treated humanely. This was originally more concerned with the need to ensure a fair trial and avoid capital punishment as CIDT was not thought to be a likely risk.

150. It was only when news surfaced ofthe mistreatment of detainees at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004 that the UK Government realised that there were real risks of CIDT:
Back in 2003 we were concerned about secret facilities but we did not at that stage, I think, make an automatic connection between secret facilities and mistreatment. That sort ofconnection grew later as more allegations came to light or… things like Abu Ghraib came to light, which led you to believe, just a minute, if that is happening there, what might be happening in secret facilities.

From an organisation that is meant to imagine the worst in order to prevent it, this is not just a shocking lack of curiosity, it absolutely reeks of cover-up. Guant
ánamo itself had been open for over two and a half years by the time the Abu Ghraib scandal occurred, where from the beginning there were allegations of ill-treatment and torture. Is MI6 seriously trying to suggest that when it knew full well that suspects were being transferred to black sites and countries where torture was endemic that it honestly believed the CIA's motives for doing so were entirely pure? Why on earth is the Intelligence and Security Committee willing to accept this errant nonsense?

Finally, the allegations of "ghost flights" containing rendered individuals going through UK airspace are similarly dealt with in a "see no evil" style, especially by the director of the MI6:

We have no knowledge of any detainees being subject to rendition through British territory since 9/11; nor have we helped any “Extraordinary Renditions” via UK airspace or territory; nor have the U.S sought our assistance or permission to use UK airspace or facilities… Unless you say you are going to search every aircraft to check the truth of what you are told, it is a difficult issue… As you know… we are prioritising ruthlessly and I could not possibly justify diverting people to check whether aircraft are CIA-sponsored and what they contain,and frankly I doubt the police have the resources to do this.

In other words then, since the Americans didn't feel the need to inform anyone of what they were doing, we're not going to waste any time investigating the possibility, even if it is backed up by mountains of evidence showing the flights linked to the rendition programme have passed through UK airports. The police also have much better things to do than investigating whether men who have been kidnapped and are on their way to being tortured are being flown through UK airspace;
like chastising parents for the way they discipline their children, or removing protesters so that a bull can be slaughtered. The committee's own conclusion is:

FF. The use of UK airspace and airports by CIA-operated aircraft is not in doubt. There have been many allegations related to these flights but there have been no allegations, and we have seen no evidence, that suggest that any of these CIA flights have transferred detainees through UK airspace (other than two “Rendition to Justice” cases in 1998 which were approved by the UK Government following U.S. requests).

All of which reminds one of the phrase "plausible deniability". Don't tell and we won't ask. The silence it seems will forever continue, as shown by Gordon Brown's refusal to condemn the rendition programme yesterday and by the government's pretty pathetic response to the committee's report (PDF). Some things are destined to remain secret.

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What you won't be reading in the Sun tomorrow part 2.

As an addendum to yesterday's less than serious post on the Scum's inability to report on the discovery of 29,000 sex offenders with profiles on MySpace, could you possibly believe that there's also no article on the matter in today's issue of the nation's biggest selling newspaper? Interestingly, there's also none of the usual reporting on some other child sex scandal which the Sun has dredged up either, unless you count the Chris Langham trial. There is however nearly 350 words on how the creator of Facebook allegedly stole the idea from three friends when they were at Harvard, reporting on the court case currently being pursued. Oddly, comments on the piece have been turned off. The hack behind the piece couldn't resist a plug for MurdochSpace right at the end, though:

Facebook has the second biggest number of users of any site after MySpace.

For comparisons sake, all the other tabloids had articles on the discovery of the profiles, with the Mirror running the story which Rebekah Wade couldn't as she commented on yesterday:

MILLIONS of teenagers will be logging on to a social networking website today.

And more than 100 million have posted personal details and pictures on sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Second Life and Bebo.

But while teenagers chat with friends around the world, paedophiles, stalkers, bullies and fraudsters lurk in the shadows.

There are even fears that these sites are being used by terrorists to communicate, rather than making calls or sending emails which can be more easily traced.

And so on. Both the Mail and Express ran articles remarkably free of hysteria.

More intriguing is the Times' coverage of the revelation. I have to admit I expected it to ignore the news much like the Scum, so I was a little surprised to find an article on it. Unlike all the other articles though, the Times has got the UK police to comment on the matter, to make clear to panicking parents that there is most certainly no danger whatsoever.

Convicted sex offenders should not be prevented from using social networking sites such as MySpace, Scotland Yard said yesterday.

The Metropolitan Police was responding to an announcement by MySpace that it had removed 29,000 convicted sex offenders from its user base in America after cross-checking its members against publicly available sex-offender databases.

The force said that it had no plans to share information about sex offenders with sites such as MySpace and Bebo with a view to having the profiles of such people taken down. “Just because you’re a convicted offender doesn’t mean you’re still offending,” a spokeswoman said. “Why would we pursue them in this way? These are people who have served their time.”

Scotland Yard’s position was backed up by the Home Office, which said it was “not intending to disclose lists of registered sex offenders to individuals or organisations not directly at risk or concerned with law enforcement”.


It has to be said that I most definitely agree with all of that. One has to suspect however that if it had been Facebook or Bebo that the Times wouldn't have gone to the trouble of defending them in the same way as it has the social networking site which just happens to belong to its parent company. Both the Torygraph and Grauniad reported on the matter without needing to dash to the police for comment.

P.S. According to the Scum:

The case for doubling the 28-day limit is incontestable.

We face the biggest threat since World War II.


The Soviet Union? What was that?

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Rapture ready: The unauthorised Christians United for Israel tour.

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Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour from huffpost and Vimeo.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007 

It never rains but it pours.

How else to describe the never-ending spectre of the terror threat and the new legislation need to prevent it than as a constant dripping, echoing not just throughout parliament but the country itself, driving everyone slowly crazy with the demands for ever longer periods of detention without charge, continuing crackdowns and the kicking out of anyone who so much puts a foot out of step?

After all the claims that Brown will be doing things differently, that leaks to the press will be a thing of the past and that cabinet discussion will be central, today's Sun draws a line under all of that hype. Splashing his supposed first interview with a newspaper since his ascension on the front page, we're informed of how 4,000 "foreign convicts" will be deported by Christmas. Making promises you can't necessarily keep with the Sun isn't the greatest idea, so Brown must be somewhat confident it can be achieved, even if it means riding roughshod over the rights of those who have no links with their home countries and nowhere to stay. Previous attempts at being tough with "foreign criminals" led to people who had lived here in some cases for decades being picked up by immigration officers, but frankly who cares as it long it adds one to the figures? Brown at least holds firm over the EU reforming treaty, saying he won't sign it if it does any of the things the Scum claims it does, rather than call a referendum. It's the cynical leaking of the exact extension time the government is aiming for that rankles most, however.

Even that's presented in such a way as to try to absolve the PM from himself informing the Scum of his plans. While it mentions the 56 days that the government wishes to extend the time limit to, it pretends that this information, rather than coming from the Scum's interview, was provided by "police sources", presumably the same ones which a couple of Sundays ago were demanding "as long as it takes", as Brown felt that MPs needed to be informed first. So much for that. Quite why they've now settled on 56 days, having been previously pushing for 90 or 45, is uncertain. Why not any similar random figure? 69 days? 82 days and 12 hours? While I suppose we ought to be grateful that it's not the indefinite figure that some were asking for, the strangeness of such a figure illustrates the general lack of any evidence whatsoever for such a expansion of the time limit. As Tim has already pointed out, Jacqui Smith's convoluted attempt at putting forward such a case seem to be an attempt to confuse rather enlighten:
"This all gives us a strong view that the time is right to reconsider whether we should allow longer than 28 days' pre-charge detention," she said. "There is already evidence of us stepping up to the point of 28 days. All of this creates what I would argue is a trend of analysis towards a position where it is legitimate for us to consider again the case for going beyond the current situation of the maximum 28 days. The document will outline what we know about that trend and will contain a discussion of the alternatives, but it will not plump for one solution."

What then is this evidence that more than 28 days is needed? Err, exactly the same mostly specious rhetoric which has been used almost from time immemorial. Huge amount of data to shift through, links across the globe, 200 mobile phones, 400 computers, blah blah etc. As before, this isn't in any way a good enough excuse or justification for those being held to be held longer, it's an argument for the police to be given more resources, or to actually use those they already have, such as to demand encryption keys. The other eyebrow-raising excuse made by Brown is that the alleged "liquid bombs plot" was so complicated that six men were still in custody on the 28th day - what he doesn't say is that three of those were released without charge, with the BBC reporting that two others were charged, so either Brown or the BBC have their numbers wrong somewhere along the line. If this is the supposed smoking gun on why more than 28 days is needed, why did John Reid not come to that conclusion during his own terrorism review earlier in the year? Why did the police themselves not instantly demand longer because of how close they came? Equally disingenuous was Smith's claim yesterday that the failed car bombs of last month were further evidence that pointed to the need for an extension; to my knowledge, all of those arrested have now either been charged or released, way before the current limit was anywhere near being breached.

While the government is most definitely overstating its case, Liberty and Amnesty are not helping themselves by claiming that an extension will turn out to be a "terrorist recruiter's dream". It will doubtless further help to alienate a community which already feels unwelcome and under siege, as well as adding to the grievances of an significant minority, but it's unlikely to directly lead anyone into the arms of jihadists. Liberty's proposal that a state of emergency could be declared if further time was needed is a decent suggestion, but one that would hand terrorists a victory they don't deserve. The last thing we should be proposing as necessary is an emergency when they can't even succeed in setting themselves on fire properly. We should instead be focusing on why this debate keeps going round and round in a circle. Where will it all end? If the threat keeps getting worse before it gets better, as seems likely, are we going to be having this discussion on doubling the detention limit every year? The limit has already been extended over a matter of years, from three to five to seven to fourteen to twenty-eight days, as David Winnick pointed out. Just who is it that keeps demanding the extensions? We need to point out it's the scaremongering belligerents (The Scum, Melanie Philips et al) and those with potentially ulterior motives (the police, the government) that are driving the debate, while all the moderates are almost uniquely on the other side.

The other proposals put forward by Brown are mostly on the cautious side, with both intercept evidence and potential questioning after charge being put forward for a review. The latter certainly needs careful scrutiny if it's not going to be potentially abused. The border force, a policy nicked from the Tories, seems like a decent step at appeasing the tabloids screeching about "terrorists flooding in". More worrying is how within nine months every visa will need to be a biometric one, almost certainly a move towards ID cards being introduced for those of us lucky enough to live here, despite the murmurings that Brown might be about to ditch them.

At the moment it seems that both the Tories and Lib Dems are inclined to oppose any extension past 28 days, although one has to wonder if someone other than David Davis' was shadow home secretary if the policy would be different. If this stays the same way if legislation is introduced, both parties will be worthy of praise, especially considering the loudness of those in favour of the government's position. Brown and Labour need to be told squarely that 28 days is enough. At the weekend, Lord Puttnam and Jonathan Powell's wife were shouting "Stasi!" and "Gestapo!" at the police for daring to turn up on the front door of the fragrant, blameless Ruth Turner at 6 in the morning. Those who have experienced power don't tend to like it when the boot is on the other foot; they ought to wonder what someone entirely innocent will feel like if they're detained for 56 days only to be released without charge.

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What you won't be reading in the Sun tomorrow.

"Calm down dears, I'm only a flaming hypocrite."

29,000
EVIL PAEDO-PERVS have been deleted from the social networking site MurdochSpace, after the site was trawled JUST TWO MONTHS after a similar purge led to the removal of 7,000 profiles of other child sex vermin.

Disgracefully, MurdochSpace REFUSED to comment on the huge number of shrub rocketeers using the website, or to discuss whether more innocents had been contacted through the site by the scourge of modern life. In a statement, its so-called security officer, Heinrich Wigwam, said: "We're pleased that we've been able to remove the profiles of so many registered perverts, it's just a shame that we're not able to do the same to them in real life. They ought to be strung up from the nearest lamppost, or alternatively, made to watch the Fox News Channel. We now hope that the other pitiful social networking sites, such as Fleshbook and Grebo follow our example and provide a safe haven for such vile degenerates, so that the Sun can run huge exposes on how your kids are only safe on MurdochSpace."

Asked for her views on the matter, Rebekah Wade was sanguine. "It's a shame we can't run a huge scaremongering article on how social networking sites are full of predatory nonces slavering at the bit to molest our precious youngsters, but at least we can report on how that evil thespian Chris Langham had such disgusting material that it made a juror cry. Let's just hope he didn't obtain it from MurdochSpace." When questioned on what she thought about Rupert Murdoch in effect making it easier for child sex fiends to stalk their prey by not putting up appropriate barriers on his hugely profitable network, the Sun editor, described by Courteney Cox as powerful, strong and with a dress sense to rival Boy George, was unequivocal. "The man is clearly no longer up to his job. As an established friend of paedophiles everywhere, having made children less safe by continuing to demand a Sarah's law that will drive them further underground, I believe I have the expertise to make MurdochSpace a safer place. My plan is to name and shame every one of them, and let God sort them out when the vigilante hordes descend on their doorsteps to tear them limb from limb. What could possibly go wrong?".

Wendi Deng is gorgeous.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007 

EU talk bull.

With a good portion of England underwater, you'd think that the Sun would have other things on its mind than the EU reforming treaty. After a faltering campaign of sorts demanding a referendum on what it calls the constitution, set to wreak havoc on our nation with a fury which would make the deluge last Friday look like a light shower, the Scum's today asked wee Willie Hague to write a self-regarding article addressed more to Scum readers than anyone else.

IN 2005, just before the French voted on the European Constitution, Tony Blair made a pledge to Sun readers. He said, “We don’t know what is going to happen in France but we will have a referendum on the Constitution in any event — and that is a Government promise.”

Blair and Brown broke their word. The French rejected the Constitution and British voters never had the referendum they were promised.


What exactly would the point of having a referendum on a document which was dead in the water have been? It would have wasted resources, had a derisory turnout and proved absolutely nothing.

Now the Constitution is back under another name — a treaty. Last week, Brown admitted the con when he accidentally said he and the Irish leader Bertie Ahern had been discussing “the European Constitution and how that can move forward”.

Oh God - the plan has been exposed! Even if the constitution had recommended abolishing the EU altogether, it seems likely that the Tories and the Sun would have opposed it on principle. The reasons for its rejection by the French and Dutch voters were not for the reasons that the Eurosceptics loathe it; their main fear was that it in fact entrenched Anglo-Saxon neo-liberalism, destroying their own social models. Throwing the whole thing out and starting again would have been idiotic when the EU desperately needs reform. It may be 95% the same document, but it still isn't a constitution, as it isn't binding.

There would be a new EU president. There would be an EU foreign minister with his own diplomatic service. Brussels would get new powers over our criminal justice system. And the EU would have more powers over asylum and immigration. Blair and Brown claimed to have won key concessions — but these are hollow. The guarantee of Britain’s independent foreign policy would not be legally binding. And legal experts say the European Court of Justice would find ways to implement the Charter Of Fundamental Rights, which Blair and Brown promised to stop.

Hague buys, or rather pretends that the Scum's claims that we won't be able to run our own foreign policy are true, which is complete and utter nonsense. Would "new" and "old" Europe, with their vastly different agendas have really signed up if this was the case? The Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is incidentally a fine document, is legally binding, but is not "justicable" here because of Blair's objections. Blair also secured an "opt-in" on majority voting on criminal justice matters, meaning that it can only vote and get involved when it chooses too. Ironically, Brown recently pleaded with the EU for more data sharing on terrorist suspects, something presumably that Hague and the Scum would like but which is inhibited by the opt-outs and distance which they both demand.

All this is a distraction from the real issues facing Britain and Europe. Our leaders should have been concentrating on the things that matter to ordinary people, like making our economy competitive, dealing with climate change and fighting global poverty.

Not the floods then, eh? Or crime, immigration, terrorism, the public services, civil liberties? How about Iraq? It's just ever so slightly rich for the party most obsessed with Europe to suggest that the EU is somehow a distraction from everything else.

Britain should be the leader of a new Europe — more modern, flexible and outward-looking. But our Government has failed to lead the fight for reform.

Which the Tories will lead, from the err, Movement for European Reform, having decided to leave the European People's Party grouping. So far the MER has a grand total of two parties when it finally forms after the 2009 European parliament elections, the Tories themselves and the Czech Civic Democratic Party. Better start manning the barricades.

This could not be more important. So The Sun is right to campaign to let the people decide, a campaign David Cameron and I are proud to back.

Labour promised time and again that the British people would have the final say on the Constitution in a referendum. It was in their manifesto. It was in our manifesto. It was even in the Lib-Dem manifesto.

It is time to honour those promises.


Even though Kenneth Clarke, one of the more sensible Tories when it comes to the EU, said he felt it was less important than the Maastrict Treaty, which the Tories didn't offer a referendum on. I think many would be prepared to have a referendum - as long as it was what on what the treaty actually contains and not what the Scum and Tories say it does. As it is, the lies have already been coming thick and fast.

On then, to the Scum's own leader:

The new document is designed to deceive. But clouds of waffle cannot conceal the truth.

We WILL play second fiddle to an EU foreign minister at the UN.


Ignorant misinformation. How could we possibly "play second fiddle" to an EU foreign minister at the UN when we have a permanent seat on the security council and the EU most certainly doesn't? Are the French also prepared to play "second fiddle"? I somehow doubt it.

We WILL risk being outvoted on our own foreign policy.

Rubbish. As the treaty itself explains on how each state still will be able to exercise their own foreign policy:

“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”

We WILL be bound by EU human rights laws.

Seeing as the Charter of Fundamental Rights is meant to be the EU version of the ECHR, most of the laws which the Scum already objects to are enshrined in our own Human Rights Act. As previously mentioned, the charter isn't "justiceable" here, although it might be challenged in the courts.

We WILL give up our veto over employment laws, energy and transport.

Not those affected by the Charter, while it's true we probably have over energy and transport.

We WILL give unelected European judges power over our police and law courts.

Again, as above, simply not true.

Britain once warned ALL these measures were unacceptable.

Experts have yet to unravel the text, but every other EU leader admits this is the old constitution in all but name.

Ireland will hold a referendum. Holland and Denmark are certain to follow suit. Many Sun readers voted Labour in 2005 because Labour promised them a say.

They might not do so again if Gordon breaks the promise he made during his campaign for PM.


Ah yes, I can just picture the Sun readers' marching into the polling stations, at one in their belief that they were voting Labour because they knew they'd have a referendum on the EU constitution. This is a fiction on a par with Michael Jackson's insistence he'd never had plastic surgery. Brown also never said anything about giving a referendum on the constitution during his abortive campaign. All the little lies add up to one big one.

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From despair to where.

i want to thank this cultural production for the sounds that it brings
it makes us amplify our manifestos, and it enables me to sing
i want to thank you, my little nemesis, for everything
for making my head explode and my ears ring
The (International) Noise Conspiracy - Will it Ever be Quiet?


In Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk's pungent satire on reality television and the sensationalism of the modern media, the array of characters that gather together in an abandoned theatre, locked away from the outside world for months in order to write their fictional masterpieces, conspire against their host and his helper by sabotaging the food supply, the water, the heating and even the toilets. Their modus operandi is that only genuine suffering, accompanied by physical, rather than mental scars, guarantees exposure in our modern times. Like a version of Alive! in a pitch black warehouse with similarly dark humour, our protagonists, named after the short, personal stories they tell each other, cut off their own body parts and partake in cannibalism, all with the goal of having their tragic, distorted tale of being locked up by an evil tyrant host who tortures them turned into the last word on hostage taking, with all the benefits that come with being famous for all the wrong reasons.

Being both satire and fiction, Palahniuk characteristically takes both the desire to be infamous and for financial reward to as near to the mark as he can. Back here on Planet Earth, all you really need to be infamous, loved, admired and hated in equal measure is to have big tits and a tiny brain. We've seen so many incarnations of this down the years that you would have thought that by now it would have become passe, predictable and tawdry. After 85 million years of evolution, however, all you still need to get the average man on his knees, tongue lolling out of his mouth, worshipping at the feet of a goddess is for her to have a large pair of mammaries and that knowing, sultry, cheeky smile.

In a world in which the weekly "lads'" mags compete to get as many nipples into their soon to be splattered pages, it's perhaps not a surprise that creatures such as Katie Price and her mongoloid husband Peter Andre exist, but it is that they still demand mass attention, lust and envy. Their relationship with the public is amongst the most cynical that the celebrity world has managed to concoct, and by far one of the most exploitative. Their missives to the world are not merely reported or given out in PR statements; they are written up in the elegiac, fawning, sycophantic prose that inhabits magazines such as OK! and Hello!, even when their personal views are so rudimentary and base that it's impossible to somehow make them more dignified.

It's through this modern day version of Moses receiving the 10 commandments from God that we learn of the choice of name that Price and Andre have chosen for their recently arrived baby girl. According to BBC News:

Glamour model Jordan and pop star Peter Andre have named their baby daughter Princess Tiaamii.

You have to feel for the poor child. While she may be brought up in opulence beyond the dreams of nearly every single one of us, not only does she have to suffer having two of the least charming individuals on the planet for her parents, she also has to endure a moniker that not even the most pretentious Grauniad/Telegraph reader would dare to announce in the pages of either august organ. Jordan and Andre subsequently explain how their synapses somehow managed to fuse together such a unlikely combination:

Jordan, who was born Katie Price, said the first name was chosen was because the girl was "our princess".

And Andre came up with the middle name by combining his mother's name, Thea, with that of Jordan's mother, Amy.

No, I'm not sure how Thea somehow fits into Tiaamii either. But wait! There's yet more:

"We've put an accent over the first A to make it more exotic and two Is at the end just to make it look a bit different," Jordan told OK! magazine.

Somehow, you get the feeling that this most learned of couples doesn't really understand why accents are usually used. Surely they could have decided on both a more exotic and different name by following the example of the mother's nom de guerre; how about Princess Syria, Iraq or Egypt? Or how about moving regions to Africa and instead having Princess Zimbabwe, Chad or Darfur? They could have shown their political awareness while also indulging their other desires!

Celebrities giving their children stupid, bizarre, laughable names isn't a new thing. The reigning Queen up until her death was undoubtedly Paula Yates, whose last attempt, naming her daughter with Michael Hutchence Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily set the bar for all to follow. It's not as if the trend isn't just with those who can be compared in the intelligence stakes with Pooh bear: Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow named their daughter Apple, probably to be joined later in life by her sisters Kumquat, Lychees and Pomegranate. Things still could have been far worse for Princess Tiaamii, as Jordan explains:

Jordan also revealed that she had considered calling the girl Tinkerbell, but rejected the idea because too many celebrities had chosen it for their dogs.

One has to wonder then what the problem was.

As much as some of us loathe these grotesque, disgusting, most grasping and desperate of personalities, there are plenty of others that adore them, and follow their every movement as if they were a deity. In addition to this, their control of the popular mind is such that the most popular children's names list in 2002 recorded 51 newborn girls being called Chardonnay, while an additional 14 spelt it Chardonay. A lifetime of mockery awaits them. Like when the emergence of Kylie sparked a surge in girls' being called after the Australian then soap star, the same list also recorded 221 children named "Shakira", while 448 plumped for "Aaliyah".

More than anything, it's difficult to comprehend just how a woman whose biggest claim to fame is getting her plastic norks out is somehow one of the richest women living in Britain today. A sneering Daily Mail article, on "celebrity chavs", claimed that she has a fortune in the region of £30 million. It's equally astonishing that her autobiography is supposedly the 4th biggest selling of all time in this country. It can't be a coincidence that others with no story to tell, with massively warped senses of their own importance almost verging on psychosis, like Charley, currently in the Big Brother house, claim to be writing their own life stories. It's not as if there isn't a pedigree to follow: other non-entities such as Chantelle and Pete have had their lives snapped up and quickly ghosted into book form, most probably by a once aspiring novelist reduced to whoring themselves out to make ends meet.

According to Cosmo Landesman, to claim that such individuals are famous only because they are famous is a "cliched tautology", as they represent the very heart of modern capitalism. Landesman is correct, but not in the way he thinks he is. They represent the very heart of modern cynical capitalism, manufactured, promoted and prepared for almost any eventuality, except murder or paedophilia, the only two remaining deadly sins in the celebrity world. Those such as Jordan aren't able to rise to the top of their own initiative: they're plucked from their relative obscurity and moulded into the ultimate marketable image, entering into a Faustian pact where their "owner" makes pots of money while the star makes a reasonable amount, with the deal eventually ending when the brand becomes too old or out of date to appeal. A new generation of young people see this happening and think that they too can be victorious in this battle: being a braying, ignorant idiot can be incredibly profitable, as can the body you received. That only a few will ever make it doesn't matter: it's a sort of crude, backwards American dream, where the individuality and naivety involved in the belief in that nightmare become even more overwhelming.

The only real surprise is that there hasn't be any organised youth opposition to this development both in capitalism and society: the closest we might well have come so far is in the obnoxious Silver Ring Thing and other similar religious based movements, which have their own crude ideology and agendas behind them. In an age of supposed individualism, most actually seek both to belong and to adhere to a set of values of a certain grouping, whether it be trendy, gothish, gang-based or otherwise. It's perhaps a hangover from the days of the End of History that it seems both old-fashioned and dorky to dare to resist outside these already preconceived, marketed groups, as well as the sum of peer pressure to conform that no such grouping has emerged. If individualism is ever really going to establish itself, then the age of mass trends will need to itself become a source of ridicule, and while its still so profitable, that is far off. With it, the troglodytes and trollops of the celebrity world will continue to prosper.

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