Wednesday, October 31, 2007 

Rulings galore, two right, one wrong.

The government has rightly lost its appeal against the decision that Learco Chindamo should not be deported to Italy upon the end of his sentence. In the ruling the judge makes clear that the Human Rights Act - widely blamed for the original decision - was only a minor consideration, and that his decision is based almost wholly on the 2006 EU immigration regulations. They state that someone can only be deported back to their country of origin if they pose a "genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat" to society. Additionally, the regulations place a restriction on the time spent in one country after which they cannot be deported back to another, the limit being 10 years. Chindamo came here when he was 5 or 6, and he's now 26, well over the limit.

In reality, the government never had a chance of overturning the original ruling, and its attempt to do so was only window-dressing. You could argue that in doing so it raised the possibility the Chindamo would still be deported back to Italy, bringing even further misery upon Frances Lawrence when that hope was subsequently extinguished. This was a difficult case, and Mrs Lawrence has been treated shabbily, especially in the way she received the original news and wrongly had the impression the Chindamo would be deported, no questions asked. Chindamo's apparent recognition of his guilt and rehabilitation, as affirmed by both his prison governor and another prison worker, itself an incredibly rare occurence, ought to have swayed the decision in any case. He appears to be a rare success story of how prison can work - to deport him to somewhere where he cannot speak the language would have been to punish him twice.

More troubling, via John Hirst, is this apparent ruling reported in the Telegraph:

A serial sex offender from Sierra Leone has been allowed to stay in Britain after a judge ruled that deporting him would breach his human rights.

The decision will be an embarrassment for Gordon Brown, who recently pledged to double the number of foreign criminals sent back to their native countries.

Mohammed Kendeh, 20, who has admitted indecently assaulting 11 women, was assessed by the Home Office as being at "high risk" of re-offending.

advertisement

But their attempt to deport him was overruled by an immigration judge last year.

The Home Office appealed the decision, but Mr Justice Hodge, president of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, has upheld Kendeh's right to stay in Britain.

Mr Justice Hodge, who is the husband of the minister Margaret Hodge, said that Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the "right to a family life", meant that the sex attacker could not be deported.


In this case the HRA does seem to have been the main factor. Despite what the Telegraph says, the only real comparison with the Chindamo case is that Kendeh was brought here at a young age and that he has very little (if any) in the way of family in the country he was to be deported to. Kendeh originates from Sierra Leone, not a European country, so the EU rules don't apply to him. The article doesn't note just what sort of family Kendeh actually has here that would mean a violation of Article 8 if he were to be deported, but it does seem perverse on this ground that the ECHR, designed to protect family and private life is being used to justify the continuing stay in this country of someone imprisoned for a variety of offences, including sexual assault. It's also not as if Sierra Leone is especially dangerous: poor, certainly, but he's unlikely to be the victim of torture, violence or otherwise if he's deported. It could be argued, like with Chindamo, that his criminality is the responsibility of this country considering the age he was brought here at, but to my mind in this case that shouldn't be a barrier to his deportation. This is the sort of ruling that undermines the good that the HRA has both done and continues to do, and opens it to the attacks upon it that are often lacking in accuracy.

The other major ruling was on control orders. While the law lords didn't find the 16-hour curfew regime in its entirety to be incompatible with Article 5 of the HRA, it did rightly overturn one of the biggest abuses within it, that neither those under the orders nor their lawyers could even know what the vast majority of evidence against them was. This was the Kafkaesque centre of the scheme, which left some of those previously held without charge in Belmarsh not knowing why they've been detained and now under curfew for years.

Liberty, one of the parties to the case, has said that it won't spark celebrations, but the latter ruling ought to be enough to puncture the last remaining justification for the scheme. The refusal to make wiretap evidence admissible, some of which makes up the cases against those held under the orders will now look laughable when the defence and the accused themselves will have access to the evidence against them. Those against control orders have always argued that they neither provide adequate security, as those who had absconded while on them have shown, while also being substantially illiberal, leaving those on them in unending limbo, unable either to prove their innocence or to have the evidence against them heard in open court, as the allegations are instead heard by a gathered "security" panel.

The refusal to prosecute the men under control orders has always been curious: is it because the evidence against them is so thin that the government will be embarrassed "ricin plot" style when the accused are acquitted, or is it because our security services are overly paranoid that their methods will be subsequently exposed? In either case, they are most certainly not strong enough arguments for the liberty to deprived from those accused, especially for the length of time it already has been. While it's unlikely that the government is suddenly going to see the light, the rug has now been pulled from under them, and the complete repeal of the control orders legislation in favour of prosecution or release is now ever more vital.

Labels: , , ,

Share |

 

Scum-watch: Encouraging cynicism and other tales.

Whenever public cynicism in politics is discussed, it's always the politicians themselves that get the majority of the blame. Some of it is quite rightly deserved, whether because of the lack of difference between the main parties, the spin and lies of the Blair era, or inability to almost ever answer a straight question with a straight response.

The media also though has to cop some of the blame. A perfect example of how newspapers wrongly claim that ministers have deliberately misled or lied to the public is today's Sun leader:

LABOUR’S shabby deceit over immigration exploded spectacularly last night as red-faced ministers queued to apologise for “misleading” the nation.

First they claimed 800,000 migrants had come to work in Britain since 1997. Then they admitted the statistics were out by 300,000 — and the real figure was 1.1million.

Now we learn there are at least 1.5million — almost DOUBLE the original estimate of only a few days earlier.


Rather than the wrong figures given by the government being down to simple mistakes, the Sun is claiming that this was a "shabby deceit", with the government's apology for misleading being sneered at. It's worth noting that not even the Conservatives, hardly slow to capitalise on such woeful inaccuracies, have attempted to suggest that the government deliberately fiddled the figures. In addition to this, the 1.5 million figure now being liberally bandied (originally put into the mix by the Tories) about is similarly misleading, as it includes the children of those who previously emigrated, as well as those who have gone on to take British citizenship.

But why should we be surprised? Labour tried to tell us only 13,000 migrants would come to Britain from eight new EU states.

The true figure was nearer 500,000.


The government's prediction was based on the other European nations not imposing limits like we have now on the Romanians and Bulgarians, when they in fact did. As a result, only Britain, Ireland and Sweden fully opened their borders, resulting in the vast numbers we've seen.

Fiddling figures is a Labour trademark. They fiddle public spending estimates, exam results, NHS targets, prison numbers, you name it.

Just how do you "fiddle" exam results or prison numbers? It isn't possible. The Sun is simply talking rubbish.

The government’s embarrassment is all the greater because this shambles was unveiled not by the Tories but by Frank Field, one of Labour’s most respected MPs.

Frank Field is about as respected as the Tory turncoats are. The poor mite has never got over being dumped out on his backside after his welfare reforms were rejected by Brown back during Labour's first term, and he's beared a grudge ever since, something he freely admits. He's since dedicated his time to proving he was right all along, whilst failing miserably.

Gordon Brown must be thanking his lucky stars he scrapped the election which he had planned for tomorrow.

But with our population forecast to grow by 5million in nine years, immigration will still be the issue haunting Labour whenever polling day finally rolls round.


Possibly, especially when the biggest selling newspaper in the country tells its readers that the politicians are lying to them when they most certainly weren't.

Elsewhere today in the Scum, the Sun's readers are being told how marvellous they are as usual:

BRITAIN’S top security boss last night praised readers of The Sun for helping fight the war on terror.

Admiral Lord Alan West, former head of the Navy, revealed there had been a superb response to an appeal to be his “eyes and ears”.

He had called on our millions of readers to assist the security services by reporting suspicious movements and people.

And your tip-offs may have provided vital information in the constant battle to smash al-Qaeda plots and avert atrocities similar to the 7/7 bombings in London.


Of course. Perhaps their tip-offs might have helped towards only 1 in 400 searches under the Terrorism Act resulting in an arrest. In all there were 44,543 stops under the notorious section 44, a 34% rise over the previous year.

The interview is mostly the usual amount of garbage about the terrorist threat, with West now claiming it will take 30 years to combat the "terrorists intent on mass slaughter." He also says:

“We need to go to the root of it. Having English-speaking Imams in this country is extremely important.

“We are getting more and more Muslim youngsters who all speak English. Yet in some mosques, services given by radical Islamists are not in English.


As yesterday's rather good Policy Exchange report (PDF) (for a right-wing thinktank) made clear, the notion that extremism is all the fault of Imams, especially those who give their sermons in languages other than English is deeply misguided. The only reason the government is so concerned about those who don't speak English is that it means they can't easily monitor exactly what is being said. Abu Hamza gave his sermons in English. Sheikh Faisal gave them in English. Those caught in Channel 4's Undercover Mosque programme spoke English. Invariably, those involved in extremism tend to be able to speak good English, are decently educated and from a middle-class or stable background, while they come under the influence of extremism through their own research or discovery, not through listening to the speaker at the local mosque.

This however is the most hilarious statement in the whole piece:

We have wonderful civil liberties, something The Sun drives home all the time.

How true. This would be the same Sun that called those who opposed 90 days without charge "traitors", the same Sun which routinely ridicules the "civil liberties brigade", the one that supports ID cards,
every police request for more powers and supports the notion of zero tolerance. Those wonderful civil liberties are no thanks to anything the Sun has ever done.

Moving on, here's a story to keep an eye on:

A SCHOOL was yesterday accused of MAKING teachers dress up as Asians for a day – to celebrate a Muslim festival.

Kids at the 257-pupil primary have also been told to don ethnic garb even though most are Christians.

The morning assembly will be open to all parents – but dads are BARRED from a women-only party in the afternoon because Muslim husbands object to wives mixing with other men.

Just two members of staff – a part-time teacher and a teaching assistant – are Muslim.

...

Sally Bloomer, head of Rufford primary school in Lye, West Midlands, insisted: “I have not heard of any complaints.

“It’s all part of a diversity project to promote multi-culturalism.”


The only other place this story seems to have spread to is the Mail, which illustrates the point with a photograph of a woman in a niqab, so the accuracy or otherwise of the report is currently up in the air. Might know more once it does become more widely reported.

Finally, the Sun treats its readers to another thinly veiled attack on Facebook:

A RANDY geek on the helpline at Tesco’s cheap internet access arm sent a saucy photo to a shocked mum – after using her personal details to track her down on Facebook. Furious Tania Roberts, 24, received the snap of technician Jamie Piper wearing only a green towel just moments after he dealt with her query. Fuming mum-of-two Tania – who complained to his bosses – last night claimed she was living in fear in case he was a stalker. She said: “I’m terrified of this nutcase coming round to my house.

All, naturally, without any mention that the Sun's owner also owns Facebook's rival, MySpace. As one of the wags in the comments says:

Oh dear. This sort of thing would never happen on MySpace!

P.S. Heather Mills this morning attacked the media over the withering coverage she's received. Whether she mentioned that the Sun calls her "Mucca" after it "exposed" the fact she had taken part in a sex manual I don't know, but she might have mentioned the same newspaper is currently running a sordid competition encouraging the women of Britain to get their tits out for a woefully small prize. The Sun's response to her claims:

When someone rightly accuses you of disgusting journalism, make sure you select a grab with the person responsible with her mouth wide open.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 

Their figures are wrong, but their policies are rubbish.

Seeing as this blog on occasion is highly critical of tabloids when they get important figures either wrong, or in some cases, willfully wrong, it would remiss not to suggest that the government really ought to be able to better estimate/count the number of foreign workers that have arrived here since 1997. To be out by 100,000 would have been bad enough, but by 300,000 is ridiculous. It's true that estimating and confirming the numbers of those who arrive and leave each is not an exact science, but getting it wrong doesn't just hinder government arguments and those who wish to make their own political points from those figures, it also makes it doubly difficult for the local authorities who are the ones that have to deal with the new arrivals to request adequate resources, which in turn breeds the resentment that does nothing to help with local cohesion.

Who knows then whether the figures now being quoted by the BBC, that 52% of new jobs created since 1997 have gone to foreign workers, are accurate. It seems a figure that is likely to further up the ante and political pressure, especially when the latest polls are suggesting that Labour is falling even further behind the Conservatives.

Whether they will be influenced by Cameron's speech yesterday on immigration is another matter. Meant to be a "grown-up conversation", he deserves credit for not mentioning political correctness or racism, as so many others on the right would be wont to do, claiming that either one or the other or both stop a debate from taking place, one of the most ludicrous arguments there is, especially in a country where we've been talking about the effects of immigration for decades. (See today's Scum leader.) Beneath the lack of political sniping however, with there only being one real line of full attack on Labour ("Labour have no vision, no strategy, no policy") there's very little meat on the bones.

Cameron's biggest error is in conflating two entirely separate issues - migration and family breakdown, or as he refers to it throughout, "atomisation" - and attempting to connect the dots between the two. His main evidence that atomisation is occurring is the large numbers of those who are deciding, for whatever reason, to live on their own, claiming that "divorce and separation" accounts for 24% of the increase in the number of households. He doesn't even consider the possibility that this might be down to the rise in independence, ruthlessly encouraged by the Conservatives, but instead mainly family breakdown and immigration. Living longer factors in, but nothing else does. He then stretches this argument even further past breaking point, arguing that the rise in single households puts more pressure on the NHS (really? As opposed to families?) and even more resources, with those living alone apparently using 40% more water than two people living together.


That inevitably brings the jibe of this being a wet, damp argument. Cameron then considers our current level of "demographic change" to be unsustainable. Both immigration and family breakdown are too high. Again, to Cameron's credit, he accurately quotes the exact immigration figures from the most recent release from the Office of National Statistics (PDF), then he spoils it later on by claiming that "non-EU migration, excluding British citizens returning to live here, accounts for nearly seventy per cent of all immigration." This is strictly true, but it doesn't take into account the fact that 36% of 2005's immigrants came from either the old or new commonwealth, where those who have a British grandparent can come freely to stay in dear old Blighty, as Hopi Sen points out. Cameron is hardly likely to close the door on them, meaning that in actual fact, rather than 70% of all immigration coming from outside the EU, only 25% comes from countries which have no material link with us at all. Cameron wants to impose a limit, although neither he nor Labour want to come up with a figure on exactly what that is, although the Tories have suggested it would be lower than 150,000.

And that, really, is it. Sure, Cameron talks of imposing further limits on "marriages across national boundaries" which have a negligible impact on immigration figures, with the spouse having to have a "basic level of English", which sure sounds nasty and incredibly illiberal, considering how they supposedly want to be encouraging marriage. Can you seriously imagine that being put into practice? "Hi, I'd like to bring my wife back here so we can get married." "Does she speak English?" "Well, a little, she gets by..." "Sorry, no, piss off." Lovely. The plans for thwarting family breakdown are equally threadbare. Apart from Duncan Smith's £20 a week bribe to the already married middle classes, they'll also remove the "couple penalty" they claim is in the benefit system, which others are equally adamant doesn't exist.

Compared to Labour's points-system proposal, and especially considering that the Conservatives have had years to get this policy right, it's close to being intellectually bankrupt. Anyone can say that they'll limit immigration, without saying exactly what numbers that will mean in practice. It's not as though this makes any change from 2005, when billboards sprouted everywhere informing us that it's not racist to talk about it, or impose limits on it; that was similarly based on no actual figures, with asylum seekers being dumped on some island which was never even identified to be processed. The very least the Conservatives could have done is recommend that it's vital that local authorities have the power devolved to them to make their own estimates on the number of migrants in their area and then request any extra funds which they deem necessary. That would be a simple, effective reform that would do much to stem the problems that have cropped up in certain areas before they become too pronounced.

Cameron says at the end that "[they will] make clear how our approach joins up and fits together into a coherent long-term strategy." There's certainly no sign of that here so far.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Monday, October 29, 2007 

It really is all about the oil. Oh, and don't forget the arms deals.

The aftermath of a beheading in Saudi Arabia. There have 117 so far this year.

What word(s) is/are best to describe the government of Saudi Arabia?
Dave Osler uses petrotheocracy, which has a certain ring to it. I've always enjoyed kleptocracy, which is perhaps best to describe China, for instance, and certainly goes some way towards summing up bribes in the region of £1bn to key members of the Saudi royal family. Autocracy, unaccountable, oligarchy, all are similarly suitable, but all lack a certain something. Perhaps we ought to look to the Liberal Democrats for insight, especially as Vince Cable has made a courageous stand to boycott his meeting with "King" Abdullah. Mike Hancock recently referred to those who forced out Ming Campbell as a "complete shower of shits", but even that seems a little too staid for my liking. How about a collection of theocratic, democracy denying, corrupt cunts?

Petty insults aside, the sheer gall of New Labour in inviting those ultimately responsible for the torture of four British citizens wrongly arrested for a series of bombings in the country shouldn't be surprising, but the pulling out of all the stops for their visit is the equivalent of a kick in the teeth to those who dare to suggest that the government ought to be consistent in its approach to all those who deny basic human rights to their people.

As has been pointed out, we'd never dream of inviting Robert Mugabe to have dinner with the Queen, or the head of the Burmese junta to meet both the prime minister and the leaders of the other main political parties, but as for the Saudi royal family, which
if anything presides over a state far more vicious and discriminatory than that of the one in Burma, they're not just welcomed with open arms, we have ministers claiming that the two states should unite around their "shared values". Whether this means that we'll be banning women from driving, while making certain that they're covered from head to toe whilst out in public, re-instituting absolute monarchy, bringing back flogging, banning all religions other than Christianity and removing all rights to privacy is unclear; perhaps it'll just mean prolonged detention without charge for critics of the Dear Leader.

A better comparison might perhaps be made with Iran. Like with the examples mentioned above, it's hard to think of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being invited to share tea and scones with Liz, or Ayatollah Khamenei shaking hands with David Cameron. Iran is simply beyond the pale; she sponsors terrorism and is building nuclear weapons, don't you know? Both sit on veritable seas of oil,
but while if we proposed selling fighter jets to Iran Melanie Phillips would probably explode, Saudi Arabia is an entirely different kettle of fish. While Iran's executions of juveniles and other human rights abuses are possibly worse than those in Saudi, Iran at least has something resembling democracy when it comes to electing the president and the legislature, natives of Saudi Arabia have to make to do with essentially meaningless municipal elections, where women were denied the vote, although it's been solemnly promised they will have it in 2009.

All this moral equivalence doesn't really add up to much in the long run. It ought to be this simple: Saudi Arabia is an theocratic autocracy. Its strict state sponsored interpretation of Islam,
and efforts to spread such an interpretation has greatly contributed to the rise of takfirist Salafism, the kind which al-Qaida takes its cue from. It is endemically corrupt, one of most corrupt regimes on the planet, and it effectively steals the wealth that should belong to its people. The fact that it supports either the "war on terror" or that if the regime fell the replacement could possibly be worse shouldn't really enter it to it. We ought to deal with it, of course, as we should with Iran. We need to help and encourage the reform process, but there's only so far that a reform process can go in such a country, completely unlike in Iran. What we should most certainly not be doing is inviting its rulers to have a nice chat with our own head of state with full regalia, or selling it weapons on a grand scale, which could conceivably be used against an uprising of its own people, especially when there are so many allegations that the deals have involved such huge sums of money going to those who negotiated them.

Instead, what we have at the moment is a country with an appalling record on all fronts holding all the cards. When the Serious Fraud Office gets close to uncovering the full scale of the corruption involved in the Al-Yamamah deal, they threaten to cut off their intelligence links and cancel their next big order, resulting in those with a hand in the till also mounting a specious campaign to call the inquiry off. Rather than calling their bluff, knowing full well that they'll continue to share it with the CIA even if they did act on their words, our former glorious leader ordered the attorney general to put a stop to such an embarrassment. As King Abdullah arrives and the criticism reaches fever pitch, he laughably suggests that Saudi intelligence could have stopped 7/7, thereby making everyone doubly aware of how vital it is that we continue to have close relations with his nation, even if his claims are about as credible as the ones currently being raised at the Diana inquest. If one of our political representatives has the balls to suggest that this visit isn't in our long term best interests and that he's decided to boycott it, Her Majesty's Opposition calls it "juvenile gesture politics", while they just think about all the additional arms deals they could do once New Labour finally enters the annals of history. Best to make a good impression, right?

Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is one of our sorriest in recent times. Even when outrages like the torture of our own innocent citizens take place, so careful are we to ensure that dealings continue in the fog of good vibes as they have for decades,
we go out of our way to make certain that they can't apply for compensation from even the individuals responsible, let alone from the state itself. John McDonnell has said it best:
"We are feting this man because Saudi Arabia controls 25 per cent of the world's oil, and because we sell him billions of pounds' worth of weapons. It is an insult to everything Britain stands for to put these geopolitical concerns ahead of the rights of women, trade unionists and all Saudi people."

This was one of the men who Gordon Brown described during the leadership campaign as
"simply not having support for their views in the Labour party." This royal visit has proved one thing. Brown and the others supportive of it are more happy in the company of a dictator than they are in those with whom they are meant to have common cause.

Related post:
Chicken Yogurt - Monsters Inc.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

 

Tabloid-watch: Star idiocy, Scum's support for the troops, and the Mail gets caught out.

You'd think, writing a blog such as this that often dwells upon the very worst behaviour of this country's tabloid press, that you'd quickly become inured, desensitised to the casual lies, hypocrisies, set-ups, smear jobs and entrapments that are part and parcel of the street of shame, and have been for decades. I sometimes wonder if things have improved in recent years, especially with the set-up of the supine but occasionally condemnatory Press Complaints Commission, and while the overt racism and homophobia that was often present in years gone by has either vanished or become layered and shadowed (the Scum refers to "Gypsies" as "Gipsies" so as not to be accused of fall foul of protests, for example), my conclusion is that there has been no real fundamental change. If they can get away with it, they'll do it.

Before we get to today's most egregious example of abuse, it would be amiss not to take a look at today's Daily Star. While the Daily Star is a newspaper in the same sense that Spinal Tap are a band, it's difficult to know where to apportion blame for today's ridiculous front page, either to the McCanns and their employment of a bunch of idiots describing themselves as private detectives, or to the Star for making up nonsense which a child could see through. According to the Star, private detectives believe that she is being held in Morocco by a "rich Arab family." Apart from it fitting the pattern of everyone being involved in the saga being a nationality other than our own, and therefore inimitably condemnable, why on earth would a "rich" family pay for a child to be kidnapped when it's so easy to adopt, or failing that, even paying to adopt? Such a scenario is about as likely as Madeleine being found tomorrow along with Lord Lucan and Shergar, all drinking in a bar in Haiti. Still, doesn't it fill you with joy that the money donated to the McCanns is being spent so wisely by such competent investigators, if things are indeed as the article describes?

Meanwhile, things are little less desperate over in the Scum. Despite their constant support for "Our Boys", it's deeply concerned that the British public doesn't feel the same about them, or at least in their view doesn't feel proud enough, hence its launching of a campaign to "Help our Heroes". There's nothing wrong with that of course, although whether starting up a separate charity to the British Legion, which already does an admirable job, is going to help is questionable. It's also true that this government has failed the soldiers immeasurably, both in terms of kit and in providing adequate compensation for those seriously wounded, as the desultory pay-outs have proved.

It's quite another thing however to suggest that the apathy showed to returning troops is due to opposition to the war, and not being able to differentiate between the politics involved in the Iraq war and their role in fighting it. I'd venture that while that does have a role, the lack of support at homecomings apart from family members and relatives is more down to the fact that there has no been tangible victory to celebrate. Just what have we achieved, for example, in Iraq? The Scum was about the only newspaper which tried to play up the withdraw to Basra airport as a victory, laughably claiming that the army had fought Shia militants into a ceasefire, while every other source reported that it was down to a deal which had involved the release of a number of prisoners. On a broader scale, we've replaced a murderous dictatorship with a democracy that attempted to run before it could walk, resulting in a murderous, sectarian anarchy that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, resulted in 2 million Iraqis fleeing the country and 2 million more becoming refugees in their own land. Is it much of a surprise that many don't feel like turning up and cheering our soldiers' return? It shouldn't be viewed as a snub to them; this is after all the season where everyone who appears on television has to wear a poppy lest they be accused of not remembering the sacrifices made in the past.

The Sun itself has misjudged the mood of the public at every turn. Its gung-ho support for the war, attacks on those who opposed it, from Robin Cook to George Galloway and disgraceful coverage of the Hutton inquiry went against the grain. It campaigned for a victory parade shortly after "official" combat ended and has opposed every attempt to further investigate how we came to enter the conflict. It mentions vandals allegedly targeting the homes of soldiers while they were fighting in Afghanistan, without bringing up the tissue of lies it cooked up late last year about "Muslim yobs" attacking a house that soldiers had looked into moving into. It weeps crocodile tears for those who have been injured without admitting that without its own propaganda for the invasion and support of Blair those scarred for life might not have been called into action. You have to wonder whether Murdoch will be dipping a hand into his own vast pockets to contribute something, especially considering every single one of his papers supported the war, and that he did so mainly because he was convinced that it would lead to oil at $20 a barrel. Oil has just touched its highest ever unadjusted for inflation level, $92.

Elsewhere today, the Scum is again resorting to talking up the various desperate women who are getting their breasts out on the MySun network:

MY Sun users are once again proving they are simply the breast.

As competition hots up in the search for this year’s Page 3 Idol, several girls have been uploading sexy pictures to their MY Sun blogs.

MY Sun has seen loads of girls show off their breast bits since it launched last year, and now girls are using it to drum up support as they bid to become Page 3 Idol 2007.


Interestingly, on MySpace, on which MyScum is based, nudity is against the terms of services and results in getting your profile removed. On MyScum, a supposed newspaper website, it's actively encouraged.

Finally, we come to the tale of the Daily Mail and the potential paying of Poles to break the law. Via FCC, the beatroot relates how a researcher from the Daily Mail had phoned up a friend in Warsaw and asked him to drive his car around law, breaking the speed limit in front of speed cameras and not paying the congestion charge:

Apparently, he had got a call from the Daily Mail (I can’t remember how they found him – but I am sure he will be telling us) asking him if he would like to drive a car with Polish number plates from Warsaw to England and deliberately park illegally. They also asked him to drive purposely over the speed limit in sight of speed cameras.

There had recently been a report by the BBC claiming that Poles had been parking all over the place and disregarding the highway code, as they knew that because their cars were not registered in the UK there was no chance of them ever receiving a summons to pay the speeding/parking fines.


...

A couple of hours later a 'researcher', Sue Reid (author of
this story), at the Daily Mail offices telephoned me. I told her that though I was British my girlfriend was Polish and that she has a car registered in Poland. We were interested. We were not interested – but we were interested in getting the details of how low journalism has sunk in the UK.

Ms Reid said that she would offer me 800 pounds to come over and park illegally and speed, “Just ten miles an hour over the speed limit, no more…”. We would then go back to Poland and wait for the demands for payment of the fines.
“We know this is going on but we want to prove it by having a foreign car here with a foreign driver for five days and driving and parking in London, Kent, East Anglia and Portsmouth,” said the Daily Mail researcher.

A photographer would follow us around, showing how we were breaking the law. And then, back in Warsaw, when we later failed to receive any demands for payment - as the British authorities would have no record of our vehicle – the Mail would publish the whole thing as an ‘exclusive’ on how Poles and others are breaking the law in the UK and GETTING AWAY WITH IT.

She even offered to put the girlfriend and myself up at her house in Fulham in London, if we had nowhere else to stay.

EU Referendum, which can't resist putting in a reference to its own distortions of what happened in Qana in Lebanon last year, also has the email from Sue Reid.

How is this any different to the fakery scandals at the BBC and ITV? If anything, this is far more serious than anything that the BBC did, especially as it involves paying people to break the law to prove a point. Just how does this sit with the Mail's uncompromising stance on law and order? As beatroot points out, this was the work of the Mail, not the Scum or the Star, designed to raise anger against minorities that may or may not have been exploiting a loophole. Are then the tabloids just as bad as ever? I find it hard to think otherwise.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Share |

Saturday, October 27, 2007 

Mail in trying to prove its own prejudices shocker.

Why is Gordon Brown so reluctant to be a liberal, asks Martin Kettle in today's Grauniad. The obvious answer is because he isn't one. If he was, he would have seen to it that his original soundbite, tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime would have meant exactly that, rather than only the former. He would have opposed all the dilutions of civil liberties we suffered under Blair, and would now abandon identity cards while opposing any further extension of pre-charge detention under which "terrorist suspects" can be held, instead of standing firm by both.

The other though is that he simply can't afford to be, at least not when his biggest friend and supporter, appointed to a panel to investigate whether the 30-year-rule on the release of documents should be abolished, so loathes liberalism, especially any sign that it might exist at the BBC. As Mellomeh points out in the comments of yesterday's post, Paul Dacre's Mail has lazily taken ConservativeHome's own solipsistic search for their own prejudices at the BBC and more or less published it word for word, with a few other examples of alleged bias at the corporation. CH's survey of course doesn't note whether the employees that describe themselves as "liberal" actually work in either the BBC's news or current affairs sections, where their "self-perpetuating institutional bias" as Samuel Coates describes it would be most influential, but that would be expecting too much.

You do however have to love the Mail's last paragraph:

But a well-placed insider said that staff who were Facebook members were likely to be warned to remove their political views from their profiles in the wake of the row.

Would this well-placed insider happen to be of the Mail's own creation? Surely not.

Most of the comments are the usual bag of bilious outrage:

Sory to say it but I stopped trusting the BBC long ago. They are an arm of Nu labour! - John Stretton, Albrighton, nr Wolverhampton

Yes, of course they are. That's why the BBC and "Nu Labour" went to war over Andrew Gilligan's reporting of the WMD lies, not to mention the countless other examples of where the BBC has been highly critical of government projects/policies.

Nothing new here. The BBC and The Guardian are the two cornerstones of Political Correctness in our blighted country...

Those less than 400,000 Grauniad readers sure have a strangehold over Britain, completely unlike the tabloids.

Like the others who have passed comment, I am not surprised by this, it has beeen so obvious in the content of the news and current affairs programs, what does supprise me is that the staff who register on Facebook are so blatent about it. Perhaps thier HR department will look at it and take it into consideration when the axe starts to fall on the overmanning dross. - Mike Woods, Colchester

That would be discrimination, wouldn't it Mr Woods? Oh, shit, I'm being politically correct.
And why are there 10,000+ BBC employees on Facebook anyway? Do these people not have enough work to do? They are paid with public money and I expect value for it. - David G, Carshalton, Surrey

How dare BBC employees have a private life?! I demand they be at their desks 24 hours a day!

For once, the voice of reason comes last:

It is simply that facebook is a young persons phenomena and most people are more liberal in their views when younger and become more conservative with age. Older and probably more influential employees of the BBC won't be on Facebook. - Sara, Cornwall, UK

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

 

The Madeleine circus rolls on.

I keep promising myself that I won't write any more posts on the McCann saga - and then I very quickly find I break those personal bonds. This isn't going to be overly long, although if this longest, most drawn-out of sensationalist crime stories doesn't run out of steam prior to Christmas, it might well only be prudent to suggest that it may merit a review in full at years' end.

The one thing that does appear to be self-evident now is that the sympathy for the McCanns is slowly ebbing away. This isn't necessarily due to the fact that they are almost certainly the only realistic suspects in the disappearance of their daughter, but more likely just through the general fatigue of the sight of both them and Madeleine, staring out at you whenever you enter the newsagent. I'm sick of seeing all of them, sick of reading the confabulated nonsense being concocted on a daily basis by men and women who are an insult to the definition of journalist, and continuously disgusted by the duplicity of the media in its role in first defending the couple from even the slightest of suggestions that they could have been involved and now in routinely damning them and drawing on the most basest of sources, especially those who seem to be eager to be paid for their lack of insight.

You can't just blame the media themselves though - the McCanns' use and now relationship with it has been a disaster from the beginning. They simply haven't managed to get the balance right, just as the press itself hasn't. Granted, you can't damn them too much for not understanding how the feral beasts operate, and their initial approach, in getting as much coverage as they possibly could in the hope that Madeleine would quickly be found if they got her image transmitted across the globe, was probably a risk worth taking. It always however threatened to drive a potential kidnapper to ground, locking Madeleine away where she would never be discovered, or into panicking and to use an unpleasant euphemism, disposing of her. Their subsequent appointment of a spokesman who is, as commentators have pointed out, little more than a spin doctor of the most oleaginous kind, has also thoroughly backfired.

The tabloid media as a whole has delighted in using the story to their own advantage. The faux empathy verging on emotional pornography which radiated from the coverage at the beginning quickly turned to the News of the World and Scum sponsoring huge billboards, posters and t-shirts with their own logo adorned all over them. Celebrities pledged money, their jets, and even inserts in their books. The "bungling" of the Portuguese police supposedly highlighted by the tabloids, often verging on xenophobia, only seemingly resulted in them increasing their briefings to their home media, who in turn denounced the British press and increasingly turned on the McCanns themselves. I watched last week's Dispatches documentary while away, which sent "five of the UK's best-qualified criminal investigators" to Praia da Luz to investigate all the leads, and while a couple were critical of the initial inadequacies of the search around the resort, the level of invective towards the investigation by the local police was notable only by its absence. By far the most revolting development though has been the Daily Express, the worst of the tabloid mentality summed up in a single paper, where Madeleine has not now been absent from the front page for months, the concept of making money out of collective misery far too good an opportunity to miss for Richard Desmond, a pornographer who last year paid himself £40m.

While I have never sought to pass any guilt on the McCanns themselves, either for leaving their children alone while they went out to dine, or for being possibly involved in their own daughter's disappearance, I'm fairly certain that all of us were aware from the beginning of how rare abductions of children from their own homes are: kidnapping whilst on holiday is next to unheard for. As the days, weeks and months have passed, with all the leads apparently drying up, the suspicion was always going to pass onto themselves. I genuinely hope they are innocent, mainly for their own sake. The best thing they could do now though is to completely step back from the limelight, sack Clarence Mitchell and make it clear to the press that they will be making no further comments whatsoever until any new leads turn up. They can still fund their own investigations into their daughter's disappearance, as they seem to be doing, but their own presence in the coverage is only exacerbating the increasingly chilly public mood towards them. At the moment, as perverse as it is, they're only encouraging the mentality which is leading the tabloids to sink even lower than they ever have before: the Daily Mail's current online poll is "Do you think Kate McCann's tears were genuine?", (other polls include is Nigella Lawson getting too fat and Has Strictly Come Dancing become too competitive) and the current results are perhaps indicative, 49% saying yes and 51% saying no. The media is foul enough without having to cover yourself in shit whilst utilising it.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Friday, October 26, 2007 

Buying the Lords.

Ey, calm down, calm down!

Last night's Question Time saw Charles Falconer appearing for Labour. Why the BBC wasn't able to track down any of the current 353 Labour members actually elected to the House of Parliament wasn't up for discussion, but it didn't stop Falconer, a man who has had his whole recent career as a politician handed to him by his former flatmate from defending that bastion of democracy the House of Lords, which coincidentally also provides him with the only legitimacy he has to talk about anything.

There are 99 different reasons for abolishing the House of Lords, the fact that Falconer is a member being 97 of them, with the affront to democracy that an appointed house of so-called representatives still existing in the 21st century and the corruption involved in the appointing of those "representatives" being the other two. Today's Grauniad helps to remind us of the just how the latter goes hand in hand with almost everything the Lords does:

A Labour peer has admitted taking money to introduce an arms company lobbyist to the government minister in charge of weapons purchases. The case of "cash for access" in the House of Lords is likely to ignite fresh concern about ethical standards in parliament.

The lobbyist paid cash for an introduction to Lord Drayson, the defence minister in charge of billions of pounds of military procurement, according to evidence obtained by the Guardian.


Quite why you would pay to meet such a man as Lord Drayson is on its own difficult to fathom. It's on the level of buying a ticket to see Jim Davidson, or putting your face into an angle grinder. Drayson, aka Lord Smallpox, is best known for the completely innocent coincidence of donating £50,000 to the Labour party at a time when the government was deciding who to award the contract for producing Smallpox vaccines to. Seriously, it was completely innocent; the National Audit Office said so, and we can trust a man like Sir John Bourn to have told us the complete truth. Shortly after being made a peer of the realm, Drayson made a further donation of £505,000 to the Labour party, a sort of reversal of how Blair and another Lord, Levy, were alleged to have offered, perhaps not in words but in nudges, peerages in return for loans.

The lobbyist, Michael Wood, who trades as "Whitehall Advisers" and has worked with those completely incorruptible arms merchants, BAE Systems, coincidentally has the equivalent of the key to city of the palace of Westminster, as he holds a security pass as a "research assistant" to the Tory MP and shadow defence minister Gerald Howarth. Howarth had the following to say when it was announced that Saudi Arabia would be purchasing BAE's hopelessly outdated Eurofighters:

"The decision by the Saudi government to purchase the Typhoon is welcome news for the UK defence industry and demonstrates the enduring relationship between Saudi Arabia and the UK.

"The UK defence industry continues to be at the forefront of cutting edge defence technology.

"The Typhoon is a truly world class aircraft and today's announcement confirms the esteem in which UK equipment is held worldwide."


As Politaholic points out, Doug Hoyle, the man accused of taking money from Wood to meet Drayson, stood down so that the Tory turncoat, Shaun Woodward could have his safe seat, realising that he would lose his safe Tory seat of Witney (now occupied by David Cameron) for changing parties. Hoyle was duly rewarded with a peerage.

As might have been expected, as this is after all the House of Lords, taking money to introduce a wannabe arms dealer to the minister for defence procurement isn't "specifically outlawed", although it is "frowned upon". Like so much else, rather than it being out and out sleaze, this just has a stink about it. The same stink that pervades a house that includes those who are there through no other reason than what family they were born into, others purely there because of the religion they belong to, and oh, then there's Digby Jones. Every single reason you could ever need for abolishing the place wrapped together in one bloated corporeal body.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

 

Conservatives in trying to prove their own prejudices shock.

Truly amazing research carried out over on ConservativeHome:

BBC employees went Facebook mad earlier this year with 10,580 now having profiles on the social networking site. Many of them chose to specify their political views as either liberal, moderate or conservative (there isn't a socialist option available to the chagrin of many). An advanced search reveals that more than 11 times the number of BBC employees on Facebook list themselves as liberal than conservative:

BBC - 10,580
BBC liberals - 1,340
BBC moderates - 340
BBC conservatives - 120

Oh god, it's true! How can we lefties now dare to suggest the BBC isn't a bastion of anti-conservatism, biased up to the nines? Doesn't this just show how we're deluding ourselves and protecting our own at the same time when we dare to defend the organisation?

Unsurprisingly, no. As Mike Power points out, even if you take this most unscientific of surveys at face value, it still adds up to roughly 13% of BBC Facebook members and around 6.7% of BBC employees who describe themselves openly as "liberal".

In any case, just what on earth does "liberal" mean? David Cameron, lest we forget, is constantly trying to convince us that he's a "liberal conservative". I don't have a Facebook account, so I don't plan to see if he has one or what he describes himself as, but how would a "liberal conservative" thusly announce themselves as? A "moderate", a similarly nondescript term? All it shows is that someone is attempting to prove their own prejudices, something the Conservatives tend to be incredibly proficient at.

Labels: , ,

Share |

 

Scum-watch: Saying sorry.

One in a continuing series eyeballing the Scum's embarrassing apologies:

On August 6 we reported that Helen Green, Deputy Head Teacher of Newlands Primary School, Wakefield, had told pupils to write out the Muslim Call to Prayer as handwriting practice.

We also published an editorial criticising Mrs Green for setting the exercise. On August 10 we printed readers’ letters which were also critical of Mrs Green.

We now accept that Mrs Green played no part in setting this exercise. It was instead set by a supply teacher.

We apologise to Mrs Green for the distress caused by this error.

Labels: , ,

Share |

 

Lookalike.

Could the "man" the McCanns believe abducted Madeleine have been discovered so soon?



Labels: , , ,

Share |

Thursday, October 25, 2007 

An (almost) turning point on civil liberties.

After weeks of dispiriting convergence between the three main political parties, variously swapping and stealing ideas on inheritance tax, the environment and benefit reform, all without any uniting vision to tie them all together, it's to be welcomed that Brown, after promising so much change and so far delivering next to none has set out how he intends to be different to Blair on constitutional issues, civil liberties and further empowering parliament. To go with a cliche, you wait ages for a decent speech on policy and then two come along at once, as while Brown was talking at the University of Westminster on liberty, Jack Straw was in Cambridge delivering the Mackenzie Stuart Lecture on a prospective bill of rights.

Martin Kettle on CiF has already suggested that these were speeches aimed directly at Guardian/Independent readers and those who've been disgusted by the contempt that Labour over the last ten years has shown for civil liberties in general, and he's almost certainly correct. Straw opens his speech with

If you read certain newspapers you might be forgiven for thinking that human rights were an alien imposition foisted upon us by 'the other'. It is a misconception that has regrettably taken root.

and goes on from there. Straw sketches out how the European Convention of Human Rights came into existence, and it makes for grim reading for David Cameron and his ignorant, ahistorical call for a "British" bill of rights, making clear how it's both a legacy of the second world war and also of Churchill himself. Churchill is at times lionised without any regard for his own character flaws, his incipient warmongering and bellicose, first reaction attitude, but his horror at what "total war" inflicted upon Europe led to the protections we now so take for granted and which some want to destroy without any regard for why they were first introduced. It is undoubtedly his second greatest gift to this nation, and Cameron's populist, almost xenophobic policy of scrapping the Human Rights Act is an affront to his memory.

The tabloid press, especially the Sun, is unlikely to take kindly to Straw's speech, especially because it so effortlessly destroys so many of their paper-thin arguments. At times he invites valid ridicule - he talks of how the government would be damned if they "wilfully and knowingly" deported someone to gross ill-treatment and death, without any apparent knowledge that this government is continuing to do just that, whether it's sending "terrorist suspects" back to Algeria, or wanting to deport them to Jordan and other states known to practice torture on the basis of pieces of paper ("memorandums of understanding") from the respective government solemnly promising they won't touch a hair on their heads, or sending "failed" asylum seekers back to states as diverse as Sudan, the Congo, Zimbabwe and Iraq - but his overall message, especially his sneering at the "media uproar around human rights being a terrorists charter" is refreshing compared to what we were used to from Blair, Reid and Clarke, all of whom went out of their way to appease the most basest and baseless of tabloid accusations over human rights. He'll probably be ridiculed as being a soft idiot tomorrow, but it's clear that the corner has been turned. The rules of the game haven't changed after all, remember.

It's a shame then that the remainder of Straw's speech only repeats the nostrums which we've become used to: that there are rights, and with rights come responsbilities. This is the compromise which politicians have been forced into by the tabloid onslaught, the false dichotomy that somehow because we all know our rights we somehow at the same time don't realise that responsibilities come with them. Our rights, whether we're British citizens or not, are indivisible, and the promotion of the belief that somehow when we lose our freedom we also lose those rights is an incredibly dangerous one. Despite spending half of the speech outlining why Cameron's British bill of rights and repealing of the Human Rights Act would never bring justice closer to home or help get rid of current "undesirables", Straw himself believes that there may well be a need for a bill of rights and responsbilities, but he doesn't explain why one is necessary when the HRA is already almost fully comprehensive and the closest we've came to such a charter so far. If we wanted to expand it further, we could have signed up to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, an excellent document which updates and takes the ECHR further, yet that was one of Brown's red lines, again thanks to tabloid pressure. There is possibly a case for a document, set down in law, which does outline what is expected of us all as citizens, but to connect it directly to a bill of rights is an awful sop to those who would have just one rather than both. Such a document would have to be incredibly carefully drafted so as not to be openly patronising as so much of the discussion on responsibilities has been, all horribly reminiscent of those school behaviour contracts which you were ordered to sign and which were ignored afterwards.

Rather than a bill of rights, what we really need is an actual written constitution, yet that seems to be one of the few things that neither Brown or Straw are proposing, although Brown says this is meant to be a "move" towards just that. Dumping the bill of rights and getting on with that instead would be a better idea.

Brown's speech on liberty then is one of the best he's delivered in a long time, although with his recent pedigree that wasn't that much of a challenge. The first half is an excellent historical narrative, from Magna Carta to the HRA, with quotes from Bolingbroke, Voltaire, de Tocqueville, Orwell, Himmelfarb, Stuart Mill, T. H. Green and Hobson; all of it striking in its difference to the former prime minister, who despite his mendacity was undoubtedly a powerful speaker, but one whose speeches sounded good rather than read good. The inevitable disappointment is that so many of the proposals he's putting forward are either tame or subject to drawn-out consultation. The idea that there needs to be any further consultation on whether to lift the ban on demonstrations within a mile of parliament is a joke: the prohibition makes a mockery of our democratic credentials, and all those men he quoted would have been disgusted by it.

Similarly, like with Straw, Brown has to make concessions to the tabloids, in his case appointing his friend Dacre of the Beast to a committee examining whether to lift the "30-year-rule" on access to government documents. Dacre's loyalty and err, brown-nosing has been rewarded remarkably quickly. The farthest he really goes is in rightly abandoning the Blairite plans to further limit the Freedom of Information Act, which he announces are to be dropped immediately, with a view to actually expanding the act further, with private companies bidding for public contracts also being potentially being brought within its scope, which is incredibly welcome and surprising considering Brown's reliance on the hugely wasteful private finance initiative. Whether words will be converted into actuality will be key. He also opens the possibility of the roughly 250 provisions which give access to private homes, increasingly exploited by entirely unaccountable bailiffs, being brought into a single code.

He is however wholly unconvincing on the need for ID cards, on which the objection is not really to the cards themselves but to the database behind them, while the fact that biometrics are being used by companies already is completely irrelevant; just because they are doesn't mean that the government should be. Out of the window at least has gone the argument for ID cards on the basis of preventing terrorism, but the need for them because of identity fraud is just as flimsy, with Brown's claims of parliament having put the relevant safeguards and accountability needed into the legislation simply untrue. He also says how he "is in no doubt about the desirability of a debate over pre-charge detention", yet there's little point in having a debate when both Brown himself and Jacqui Smith have time and again made clear that they favour an increase from 28 days, and when Smith has hinted that the legislation for an increase could come before parliament before Christmas. They don't seem to realise that an increase from 28 days has become the defining issue, the summation of all that has been wrong about Labour's approach to civil liberties. When we potentially have a longer "pre-charge" period than some dictatorships, something is clearly rotten, and no amount of spurious claims from the police or intelligence chiefs that longer "may" be needed are going to convince us otherwise.

The CiF comment thread on Kettle's piece is a good guide to how much further Brown and Straw could have gone. The "dangerous pictures" bill deserves to be withdrawn immediately; control orders are both illiberal and ineffective; those not convicted of any crime subject to removal to countries which are known to practice torture on the grounds that they are "not conducive to the public good" should be tried rather than simply got rid of; and the tightening of the prevention from harassment act to ensure that those engaged in legitimate protest are not prevented from doing so, all could also have been begun to be dealt with. In places Brown also falls into producing the same sort of chutzpah as that of Straw above, claiming that "our abhorrence of torture is and must be unequivocal", which must be a surprise to those who found themselves kidnapped by the CIA and taken to black sites, all with the connivance of a nod and a wink from the British authorities, who knew full well what was going on. Recent allegations have even suggested that there was a black site on Diego Garcia, the islands we kicked the inhabitants off, giving their home to the US military, from which attacks on Iraq have taken place.

Overall though, this was a good start, and an encouraging break from the past 10 years of hardly hidden contempt for the "civil liberties brigade". These words however must precipitate action, otherwise Brown will fall even further into the currently deserved sobriquet of bottling it.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

About

  • This is septicisle
profile

Links

Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates