Thursday, January 31, 2008 

Sussed out.

There is little more nauseating sight than politicians queueing up to attempt to outdo each other. If you were still harbouring the belief that New Labour under Gordon Brown were going to or had abandoned the policy making by headline way of governing, then yesterday's pathetic display by both Brown and the Conservatives ought to have been enough to shatter that impression once and for all.

The Grauniad's Alan Travis summed the day's events up succinctly, but it more or less came down to this. Cameron gives an exclusive interview to (who else?) the Scum, promising that police will be encouraged to use their powers to stop and search far more frequently, by abolishing the "foot-long" form they have to fill in when they make one and having to have the permission of an inspector or above to make random searches in a specific area. The government instantly replied that was exactly what it was about to do as well, using the Mirror, and more or less making clear that was what Ronnie Flanagan's report on cutting police bureaucracy is also going to conclude. This most pitiful battle royale continued at prime minister's questions, and ended in a similar stalemate.

Cameron's actual interview with the Scum is slightly more conciliatory than it appears at first sight, saying that he will consult with communities on the powers, although whether he'll agree if they come to the wrong predestined conclusion is doubtful. Cameron's argument though more or less amounts to this: I know what's best, and whether you like it or not, you're going to take the medicine.

This is not about race. It’s about stopping crime and reducing the number of victims of crime. The statistics are undeniable and it’s clear by carrying out more stops and searches it is the black and Asian communities who will benefit the most.

I know this is controversial but Britain has changed. We cannot solve a 2008 problem by looking at it through 1980s eyes. It’s a critical debate and one we have got to confront.


The statistics are indeed undeniable. Compared to whites, black and Asians are six times more likely to be stopped and searched. You can argue all you like about whether this is because there's more crime in areas with a higher "ethnic" population or otherwise. I also don't think anyone will deny that the police have changed to a certain extent, thanks partly to the Macpherson report and due to the institution of the IPCC, for example, and also natural wastage, with some of the older guard retiring, but you perhaps ought to ask the black and Asian men routinely stopped in certain areas simply because they're driving a "flash" car for their view on whether the police have changed. As the priest on Newsnight last night said, the first few times those who have been continuously stopped accept it or write it off as acceptable and understandable; when it gets to the fifth or above it's when they start getting angry.

Perhaps far more pertinent than the initial objections based on the proportion of how many black and Asians are stopped compared to whites is another simple fact bared out by statistics. Stopping and searching is about as blunt a weapon against crime as there is, which only very rarely results in charges being brought; what it offers is a deterrent, not anything even approaching a solution, and as a deterrent it's one that turns attitudes against the police that are often never won back again.

But this isn't just a race issue. It's a class issue, it's a youth issue, it goes to the very heart of the debate on the casual slide towards authoritarianism. It's surely not a coincidence that the least likely people to be stopped and searched are white, middle-aged and middle or upper-class, and they also just happen to be the overwhelming occupiers of the Westminster village and the upper echelons of the media. The most offensive thing is that Cameron thought that if he dressed up in the clothes of being concerned about the "black and Asian communities" that they would welcome the de facto reintroduction of the sus laws with open arms. Sure, come on in, shake us down, it's for the
children. This was by far his most laughable argument:

"This is a moment in our history when we have to wake up, sit up and have massive social, political and cultural change. We are never going to deal with it unless we free the police to do far more stopping and far more searching. I am quite clear the current rules have to go."

Every politician has to pretend that this latest outrage demands complete change, so we can't really object to that. What is objectionable is that he somehow imagines that it's the police or stop and searching that will bring about any change whatsoever, except for the worse. He says forget about the 80s, but he surely needs to do the opposite: he needs to learn the lessons from the 80s and realise that those days aren't gone by a long chalk. The clichéd quote is that those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, but that sums up what Cameron really ought to do.

Is it really too much to ask that instead of looking for short-term, self-serving solutions designed for political gain, that we invest in intelligence-led policing that targets the criminal rather than the poor sod who just happens to be walking down the street as the plod also happen to be? Today's report in the Guardian from Stockport provides something approaching a model, but it's one that doesn't allow for a soundbite to give to the Scum. That the Tories and the populist press are going for such measures is understandable, that Labour, faced with crime coming down is even contemplating the bringing back of open discriminatory police practices shows that they've abandoned any pretence of correcting the numerous Blairite failings.

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The heirs of Fagan, that, err, weren't.

They were ‘twenty-first century Artful Dodgers’, we were told, a gang of ‘Fagin’s children’ from Romania, who had been trafficked to Slough, England, in order to work like slaves in a ‘pickpocketing and begging crimewave’. The Metropolitan Police launched dawn raids on various ‘slavery dens’ in Slough last Friday; some of the police reportedly wore balaclavas and riot gear and were closely followed by film crews invited along to witness the moment the ‘child slaves’ were liberated. Footage of officers carrying kids from terraced houses was beamed across the news bulletins, as various newspapers declared: ‘Romanian child slaves freed in Slough.’ A Met officer said his team was committed to ‘dismantling crime networks’ and to the ‘rescue of [trafficked] children’ (1).

There was only one problem with this story: it was as fictional as the original Dickensian tale of artful dodgers. The Roma children were not child slaves; of the 10 kids ‘rescued’ in Slough on Friday (one of whom was less than a year old: hardly pickpocketing material), all but one were reunited with their natural parents or guardians the following day (2). No evidence has been discovered to show that the Roma adults in Slough were involved in a ‘criminal gang’ or a ‘child slave ring’ or any other form of serious criminality. Of the 24 adults arrested, 14 have been charged: nine with immigration offences, three with the theft of mobile phones, and two with handling stolen mobile phones… hardly the kind of crimes that require a heavy-handed, camera-flashing raid at five in the morning.


Who honestly would have thought it?

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A very hollow death.

The image posted along with the official statement confirming al-Libi's death on Al-Ekhlaas.

I'm sure that the millions of people watching the news tonight, after being informed that an al-Qaida leader they've never heard of has been killed, will be thoroughly nonplussed, as they in fact should be. The very nature of al-Qaida and takfirist militancy means that leaders, as important as they are, are dispensable and where one is taken down, another will spring up in his place as surely as the sun will rise again tomorrow, much like the many-headed hydra of Greek mythology. Even if both bin Laden and al-Zawahiri were killed or captured tomorrow, it would likely be only a temporary setback that could, if anything, make the fight against the creed they espouse even more difficult. If the jihad launched against the Soviets in Afghanistan was the opening shot of modern Salafist militancy and 9/11 the event that destroyed the original base, then Iraq was the clarion call which has energised and mobilised a new generation.

As for Abu Laith al-Libi, his death apparently confirmed by al-Fajr media, an al-Qaida go-between, who was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which allied itself with al-Qaida last year, as well as involved in the on-going insurgency in Warizistan and Afghanistan, he has now achieved his no doubt long lusted after "martyrdom". Hope you enjoy choking on all those cocks in hell, Abu.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008 

Not much intelligence from the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Continuing with the security theme, yesterday saw the release of the annual report from the Intelligence and Security Committee. The last report they issued was the gobsmacking whitewash on extraordinary rendition, which decided that MI5's involvement in the CIA kidnapping of Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna because they'd changed the definition of what exactly an "extraordinary rendition" is. To quote from the toadying, ridiculously trusting report:

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 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”.

The security services were therefore cleared of any complicit involvement in extraordinary rendition. Aren't our investigating parliamentary committees wonderful?

Just where do you go from issuing such a laughable written record of sycophancy and admiring disregard for anything other than a clean bill of health for our glorious saviours in MI5 and SIS? To an even more hilariously censored account (PDF) which manages to inform you of almost precisely nothing you didn't already know.

Richard Norton-Taylor on CiF has already said it best, but the whole report has to be read to be believed. There isn't a page that goes by that isn't affected in some way by material it's felt to sensitive for the public to read, and so is instead replaced with asterisks. Predictably, we aren't told how much the security services are either spending or being allocated in funding, but some of the removals just make the whole thing completely impossible to understand or make your marvel at just what the point of even bothering to issue a report was. There's this for example:

We are now engaged in a range of counter-terrorism work; direct pursuit of terrorists, ***, capacity-building with key [countries,] and – this is an absolutely vital point
– ***.
***
***. So put like that and defined like that, this takes up about 56 per cent of our effort… and it is rising.

Or:

SIS has improved its *** and its understanding of the factors that have the potential to affect radicalisation and extremism in the UK.

Its what? Its cookery? Its archery? Its performance? Its dick waving?

The media have focused on the fact that GCHQ suffered from flooding last year and the report's inquest into that, but far more interesting is the report's comments on media relations, the stopping of the SFO inquiry into the BAE slush fund and the possibility of intercept evidence being made admissible. These seem to be Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller's comments on the coverage of the Birmingham beheading plot raids:

We were very angry, but it is not clear who we should be angry with, that most of the story of the arrests in Op GAMBLE were in the media very, very fast. Indeed, before the arrests in Birmingham, the press were pre-positioned and before the police had picked up one of the plotters and the surveillance was still out looking for them, the story was in the press.

So the case was potentially jeopardised by the exposure of what the story was. My officers and the police were jeopardised by them being on operations when the story broke. The strategy of the police for interrogating those arrested was blown out of the water, and my staff felt pretty depressed about the fact that this had happened.

We've never got to the bottom of who was behind the leaking, mainly to the Scum, but most of the fingers were being pointed directly at the Home Office. Not that they're the only guilty parties; the Met, the security services themselves and other interested parties have all leaked stories for their own benefit in recent years. The solution to this though doesn't appear to be to ensure that accurate, non-sensationalist information is supplied by the police or others when arrests are made, transparently making the news available to all rather than just a few, but instead to tighten the screw on the media in its entirety, with again predictably the complaint being that "lives are at risk":

The current system for handling national security information through DA-Notices, and the Agencies’ relationships with the media more generally, is not working as effectively as it might and this is putting lives at risk. We recommend that the Government engage with the media to develop a new, effective system, with a view to protecting intelligence work, operations, sources and criminal prosecutions, whilst ensuring that the media continue to report on important matters of public interest.

The government engage with the media? Who is the committee kidding? Either it will put down more chilling legislation which rather than affecting the sensationalism in the aftermath of the foiling of a "plot" will instead stop legitimate reporting and investigation, or it'll do nothing.

The committee's unquestioning approach to the evidence given them by the security services is once again highlighted by their pitiful investigation into whether there really was a threat of the Saudis withdrawing intelligence cooperation if the SFO investigation into corruption continued:

106. We asked the Chief of SIS about the Saudi threat to withdraw co-operation:

There was some suggestion in some of the media coverage that there was no *** threat to our co-operation… that is not true. There were threats made to the existence of the co-operation [and] there was reason to take those threats seriously…

If the committee is well briefed, it would know that the intelligence between all the major western intelligence agencies is now pooled and shared. Even if the Saudis had withdrawn their cooperation with SIS, they would never dare remove their cooperation with the Americans, who in any case would then have submitted the same information to us. If John Scarlett was questioned about that, it sure isn't in the report.

U. The Committee is satisfied that, at the time, there were serious national security considerations which contributed to the Serious Fraud Ofice’s decision to halt the investigation into BAE Systems’ dealings with Saudi Arabia.

Even if there were, it was still the equivalent of giving into blackmail and letting a foreign country dictate to us what we could and could not do in relation to more than substantiated allegations of corruption. We would never give in to such demands from terrorists or the likes of Iran, so why with our supposed friends? The rule of law means nothing when it comes to continuing the arming of a country with one of the worst human rights records in the Middle East.

Onto intercept evidence. Surprise, surprise, the agencies are firmly against, and the committee certainly isn't convinced either:

113. The Agencies, however, are adamant that their intercept capabilities must not be disclosed in court. If they were, criminals and terrorists would quickly learn what the Agencies can and cannot do, and would emd means of avoiding detection, which would then damage their capability and coverage. Other countries, however, allow the use of intercept as evidence without any adverse impact on their security and intelligence capability, so what makes the UK different?

GCHQ points to a unique combination of factors in the UK:

The UK is the only country which has all three of the following things: an adversarial legal system, subordination to [the European Convention on Human Rights] and a strategic intercept and SIGINT capacity that is worth protecting.

The tabloids' aversion to the HRA seems to be contagious; even the security agencies are now making spurious allusions to the ECHR somehow making it obvious how intercept evidence can't possibly be made admissible. The next paragraph is completely open about how poor some of the intercept evidence is, rather than "strategic" and "worth protecting":

In practice, because of the UK’s adversarial legal system, the defence would be able to test the validity of evidence and thereby explore how it was obtained. As communications technology evolves (particularly internet protocol), we understand it may be dificult for the Agencies to be able to prove intercept to an evidential standard.

So there you are. Admittance that the evidence which currently means those on control orders can't be prosecuted is so flaky or unable to back-up that it would be unlikely to stand up in court. No wonder that the agencies are against it; the last thing they want to look is either stupid or for it to be shown that men innocent of any crime have been held under the equivalent of house arrest for years on their say so.

117. The Director of GCHQ summarised the test for allowing intercept:

… a change to allow intercept as evidence should be introduced only when doing so would have a net benfeit in securing the safety and the security of the UK. By that I mean not just convicting and imprisoning criminals, but also preventing crimes and terrorist actions.

Which just happens to be a test which you'll never be able to come to a definitive conclusion about. Best not to even try then; after all, who cares about those stuck in the eternal limbo of the control order regime, driven to severe depression like Cerie Bullivant, whose only crime seems to have been to have associated with relatives of the fertiliser bomb plotter Anthony Garcia, who had his order quashed yesterday by a judge who was heavily critical of the Home Office.

Its conclusion then:

V. Intercept is of crucial importance to the capability of the Agencies to protect the UK, its citizens and its interests overseas. Any move to permit the use of intercept evidence in court proceedings must be on a basis that does not jeopardise that capability.

In other words, more blackmail. Introduce this and we won't be able to do our jobs properly. Never mind that numerous other countries in Europe also signed up to the ECHR manage it, and that the security services are more than happy with the results of their bugging, crucial to the Crevice trial and now the beheading plot being made available as evidence, intercept would be a step too far. Just what are they so scared of?

The only real showing of teeth by the committee was being denied access to a document prepared for ministers about "an important matter", apparently related to a foreign operation, which the foreign secretary at the time was happy to be given them. The prime minister didn't agree, and the committee said that doesn't say much about his previous pledge to make the committee more transparent.

Indeed, Brown and this government's intentions of doing just that could not be more summed up than in the choice of who to replace Paul Murphy, previous chairman and now the Welsh secretary after Peter Hain's resignation. Margaret Beckett, whose previous performance in her last two jobs, as head of DEFRA and then foreign secretary were both execrable, could not be either more establishment or less likely to ask the pertinent questions needed of the security services. So much too for the independent investigator that the committee was promised. The only way the security services will ever be held properly to account will be if a watchdog similar to the Independent Police Complaints Commission or the Information Commissioner were to be set-up. Why for instance should the head of MI5 be able to make doommongering statements about the terrorist threat in public and then refuse to give evidence to a parliamentary committee under the same scrutiny? Just how far the inroads into everyday life the security services are making were revealed in statistics released this week by Sir Paul Kennedy, which showed that more than 250,000 requests were made to monitor phone-calls, emails and post in just 9 months. The surveillance state is ever growing, yet there is not even the slightest attempt to provide accountability. That simply has to change.

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More on the al-Qaida in Britain hoax.

Despite all the evidence so far suggesting that the establishment of "Al-Qaida in Britain" is either the work of a prankster, a fantasist or both, the Times today continues the purveying of this nonsense in an article which doesn't really bother questioning the source of the posts on al-ekhlaas.net.

Al-Qaeda has threatened a wave of suicide bombings in Britain unless all troops are withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan and Islamist prisoners are freed from Belmarsh jail by the end of March.

The statement, which also includes specific assassination threats against Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, appeared earlier this week on al-ekhlaas.net, a recognised jihadi website.


The al-Qaeda statement added: "If the British government fails to respond to our demands within the last day of March 2008. . . then the martyrdom seekers of the Organisation of Al-Qaeda in Britain will target all the political leaders, especially Tony Blair and Gordan (sic) Brown."

Which really ought to give the game away. If there's one thing that al-Qaida's video releases and statements are, it's professional. They don't make such stupidly obvious mistakes. The article does at least make this clear:

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi internet activity, said it was not possible to verify the authenticity of the statement. But it noted that it had been posted on an open section of the website and not one of the more secure closed forums normally used by al-Qaeda affiliates.

SITE considers the statement of such importance that it isn't currently featured on the front page of their site, nor is any release on the statement among their recent publications.

As for al-ekhlass.net itself, its own view of the importance of the statements, in case their apparent swift deletion wasn't enough to tip anyone off about their authenticity, is more than clear from what it's currently highlighting on its open main page. Linked is the latest video from As-Sahab, "Winds of Paradise 2", featuring fighters "martyred" in Afghanistan, and also the latest video released by al-Furqan, the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq's media organisation, featuring a fighter planting an IED underneath an American Stryker vehicle, which promptly explodes, but the video tellingly doesn't feature the aftermath showing what actual damage was done to it.

Whoever "Umar Rabie al-Khalaila" really is (this might be irrelevant, but a poster on a forum dedicated to jihadist propaganda I frequent is known as umar rabies bro, and claims to be British and in Iraq fighting for the ISI) he doesn't seem to be giving up: his latest effort at convincing everyone that he actually has any links to al-Qaida is to post a speech, currently being advertised with this far from professional gif. Doubtless the security services are keeping a close eye, lest there be the slightest chance that any of his guff is in fact more than grandstanding.

Slight update: Here's the response to the posting of the above banner on the aforementioned forum:

Case closed?

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008 

Getting to the bottom of the beheading plot.

The one disadvantage of the four men who formed the alleged "Birmingham beheading plot" being caught so bang to rights that they've pleaded guilty is that it's unlikely we're now going to learn in anywhere near in full just how far their plans went, and what links, if any, they had with other jihadists overseas.

For those who might have forgotten, the very day after the first arrests, the Daily Mail screamed "AL QAEDA WAS BEHIND PLOT TO BEHEAD SOLDIER". The Sun and Times, as per usual, were at the forefront of the speculation, with the Times claiming that the men arrested may have had a list of up to 25 possible targets, and that two of the men had attended a camp "directly linked to al-Qaida". One newspaper even claimed that two Muslim soldiers had been used as "bait", something that the police later made clear was completely untrue. Indeed, West Midlands police were so angered by the leaks to the press that they made it clear they had hampered their investigation, although it took another two months for Peter Clarke to make a speech saying the leaks might have put "lives at risk" for the Tories and Lib Dems to ask any questions whatsoever.

Although it's still very early days, none of the evidence disclosed today has even suggested that the men had found a target. Rather, Parviz Khan, the apparent ringleader, whose house had been bugged by MI5, was recorded talking of using drug dealers to target a soldier by getting them to approach him and offer cocaine, then grab him off the street once they'd piqued his interest. Why drug dealers would have cooperated with Khan isn't explained, or indeed how they would have managed to so successfully follow their target so as to get close enough to grab him also isn't identified. Basiru Gassama, who pleaded guilty to knowing about the plot but not informing the authorities, was according to the prosecution to have provided the details of the target, but never did. The only solid thing appears to be that they planned to behead a soldier, record it, and most likely distribute it through jihadist forums.

As for links to al-Qaida, Khan has also admitted to supplying equipment such as night-vision goggles, sleeping bags, walkie-talkies and waterproof map holders to his "terrorist contacts" in Pakistan. Whether this was intended for use in Afghanistan by the remnants of the Taliban and the others still fighting there is uncertain, although what use some of the material would have for use in the part of Pakistan affected by the earthquake there is certainly unclear.

Rather, what the opening of the trial appears to show is the continuation of a theme: that instead of having cast-iron links with terrorist groups overseas that are controlling the cells, the groups that have had their plots foiled up to now have almost all been acting entirely alone, coming up with their own ideas, often either overblown and too difficult to pull off, or incompetent, in the case of last year's failed attacks on the London nightclub and Glasgow airport. While it's reassuring somewhat that they're either pretentious or immature, what is more troubling is that they're home-grown, autonomous and fully acquainted with classic terror tactics. The beheading plot was nothing more in reality than a murder plot, but its political subtext would have been overwhelming.

Again, it shows the terror threat is real, but that it continues to be exaggerated for short-term political gain. Refusing to give in to demands for extending either the detention limit further or for a return to Musharraf's supposed plan for tackling radicalisation continue to be justified by the failures and weaknesses of the plots foiled, not to mention the civil liberties implications or the chilling effects on the Muslim community itself.

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Express-watch: Soft touch journalists.

Once you're on a relative roll, why bother to stop? The four previous Daily Express front pages have all in some way focused on immigrants and migrants, each with their own lies and distortions, so they seem to have decided to at least bring the total up to 5.

Screaming "SOFT TOUCH BRITAIN", the Express claims that migrants are now claiming £21m in benefits for their children that are back in Poland. Thing is, I've looked for the statistics that the story is apparently based on, and I can't find any that have been released in the last couple of days that are relevant, unless I've missed them somewhere. There's none on the HM Revenue and Customs website, which the Express claims issued them, the National Statistics site, or the Treasury website, so I can't check on their accuracy.

This however isn't by any means a new story. It's been rehearsed twice before, back in September last year, then raised again in December, presumably when the last new statistics were released. The only difference is that the figures keep rising, again because the immigrants who have came over here are becoming more aware of their right if they're paying tax and making national insurance contributions to claim child benefit and also tax credits. Last time this was raised by the tabloids I emailed the child benefit office themselves, who despite taking two months to reply, explained that the EU rules governing such benefit payments mean that the state in which the claimant works in, whether they're a citizen or not, is responsible for providing the benefit. In other words, if you or I had children and left them here while we went to work in Poland, we'd be able to apply for their equivalent of child benefit, which the Express helpfully explains works out at roughly £10 a month. Our scheme, which is more generous for obvious reasons, works out at £18.10 for the first child a week, and another £12.10 for every other sibling. Doubtless the more rabid newspapers in Poland, if this were happening there, would be demanding immediate changes also.

Anyway, let's have a quick look through the more salient or dubious points of the article:

The huge drain on Treasury coffers provoked outrage, with warnings that the sum is bound to rocket even higher as the latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs do not include child tax credit.

To put this into perspective, around £90bn is spent each year on the NHS. £21m is hardly a drop in the ocean in government spending.

Senior Tory MP Andrew Selous, Shadow Minister for Family Welfare, said: “This shows there is a need for a serious reassessment of this aspect of the welfare state. “The Government still refuses to answer how much child tax credit is paid to migrant workers whose children live abroad. “It has shown no leadership or political will in trying to sort out this issue. We want this money spent on dealing with child poverty at home.”

The same thing the Tories said last time. I took the liberty of previously working out exactly how much the money would be worth to each child if it was directly redistributed to the number of children living in relative poverty. It would have amount to slightly less than £5. Even with the increase this time round, it's hardly going to change their lives.

The explosion in child benefit claims follows fresh evidence that the mass influx from Eastern Europe shows little sign of slowing down. A record 1.3 million Poles travelled to Britain last year, six times the figure before Poland joined the EU.

Err, except these figures are based on the tourist figures, not the immigration figures which detail those who have applied for a national insurance number so they can work here.

Polish official Agnieszka Zablocka, from Gdansk, told the BBC that Britain operates a “pay now, check later” welfare system.

Actually, the onus is on the Polish themselves to check that the children exist, under the EU rules, although applicants can be required to present the birth certificate of the child. Perhaps Zablocka ought to get on with those checks?

Little of the above really matters though. The article's job is already done. Rather than contributing to the economy, regardless of what they're taking out in benefits that any other taxpayer would also both demand and expect, with previous figures suggesting that 84% of migrant workers were not claiming any benefits whatsoever, with tiny numbers on unemployment benefit or income support, immigrants are variously raising the crime rate, taking money away from our children, training children to rob us so they can build palaces back in their own countries, and err, not spending enough when they come here on holiday. The only real question is what the Express would do if the government were decide tomorrow to shut the borders completely. Probably suffer a collective nervous breakdown.

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Monday, January 28, 2008 

Our shared dictators.

Surprisingly little attention has been paid to the death of another sadly missed anti-communist dictator, or as they're glibly known, some of Margaret Thatcher's closest friends.

Like Pinochet, who popped his clogs in late 2006 and never faced justice, Suharto has gone to his grave without having to so much as atone for a single drop of blood that was spilt during his reign of terror, which encompassed the massacre of hundreds of thousands of alleged communists (i.e. what our leaders referred to when talking of Saddam Hussein's mass killings, for example, as "his own people"), with a list of targets willingly supplied by the Central Intelligence Agency, while the people of East Timor were twice menaced by Indonesian troops. By "menaced" I mean butchered and annihilated to such an extent that out of a population of 700,000, somewhere in the region of 100,000 to 200,000 were killed.

All of this happily occurred while we turned a blind eye, oh, and sold Suharto a shedload of weapons courtesy of British Aerospace, now BAE Systems. To be fair to dear old Margaret, this happened under both Labour and Conservative governments, just as New Labour has continued to arm such darlings of democracy as Saudi Arabia, even allowing the princes of that most enlightened country to use the services of prostitutes out of BAE's slush fund. It does however bring it all into perspective though, doesn't it? After all, I don't recall the current leaders of Iran being complicit in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of their own people, or invading other countries and murdering up to around 25% of the population. Indeed, Iraq invaded Iran while we were selling Iraq what would later become known as the weapons of mass destruction, although the United States via funding the Contras in Nicaragua also funnelled money and weapons to the Iranians, despite the embarrassment of the overthrow of the Shah and the hostage situation at the American embassy which dragged on for over a year.

Confused? You should be. At least we know now who our friends are, that our values are shared, and that there won't be a return to the realpolitik and cold war diplomacy that now so scars our conscience concerning the three decades that preceded the "end of history". As for the enemy, well, we're still not exactly sure who they are either, although they too once might have been our friends. There is however a certain irony when you recall Marx's statement that history is repeated first as farce and then as tragedy, especially when examining the comments of the current American ambassador to Indonesia:

The US ambassador to Jakarta, Cameron Hume, hailed Suharto as a "historic figure" who "achieved remarkable economic development", while adding that there "may be some controversy over his legacy".

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Migrants send our crime rates plummeting! (And can't some of them kill Maxine Carr for us?)

Well, the title of this post is probably more accurate than the Express headline.

Another day, another despicable Daily Express front page, this one based on even less verifiable facts than usual. The entire premise of the front page claim that "migrants" are behind a 35% rise in violence (in Kent, not across the country) is a letter from the chief constable of Kent police, Mike Fuller, sent to the Home Office. The Express doesn't provide the letter unexpurgated, and if Fuller did provide figures on arrests or statistics that directly related the increase to the actions of immigrants, the paper certainly doesn't provide it. More than anything, it comes across as a plea for more funding, with Fuller depending on the argument of increased migration to back him up, even quoting that the predicted population rise in Kent over the next 20 years is estimated to be 20%, although what that has to do with the here and now neither he nor the Express explains. As we saw last week, crime, apart from that involving guns and drugs, has actually fell: that the country is experiencing a crimewave due to migration as the Express is claiming is simply not backed up by the statistics.

The other main story on the Express front page, ignoring the latest bollocks about Madeleine, is the manufactured outrage about Maxine Carr apparently being pregnant. What that fact has to do with anyone other than Carr and her partner on its own is questionable enough, but the Express has pulled out all the stops to create one of the most vile, hate-filled articles you're likely to read in a tabloid this year:

Last night the news sent shockwaves through the Cambridgeshire village where Ian Huntley murdered 10-year-old friends Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in the summer of 2002.

One said it was disgraceful that the taxpayer was subisiding Carr’s lifestyle, adding: “It’s outrageous that this woman keeps demanding money from ordinary people. Has she no shame for what she did?”

Err, Carr doesn't seem to be demanding money from anyone. She does however quite clearly require protection, as those who have been mistaken for her have discovered.

Her actions delayed his arrest for a fortnight, adding to the distress for Holly and Jessica’s families. She posed as somebody trying to help to find the girls – all the time knowing that he had already killed them.

This is completely untrue. Carr believed Huntley's lies that he had not had anything to do with their disappearance, and as he had twice before been accused of rape, on one of which occasions the claim was false, she provided an alibi. On the night of the murders she had been visiting her mother in Grimsby, and was not involved in any whatsoever in their deaths. Moreover, Carr displayed all the signs of being an abused partner: Huntley gravitated around women and girls that were impressionable and easily-manipulated, as his relationships with underage girls showed. Neighbours at their first home, before they moved to Soham reported that Huntley barked orders at Carr while he did nothing to help around the house; Carr apparently first realised that Huntley was possibly guilty when he washed a duvet, the first piece of housework he had ever done. She made clear while giving evidence during the trial that one of the reasons she gave an alibi was because she was scared of what he might do if she didn't.

Huntley, now 33, recently claimed he had wanted to confess, but that Carr had slapped him about the face and ordered him to pull himself together before telling him to burn their bodies.

Again, completely untrue. In Huntley's version of events, his "confession" was to involve what he told the trial: that he had accidentally killed the two schoolgirls, a notion he still hangs desperately onto. Huntley is far more of a fantasist and a liar than Carr ever was, and his reliability as a witness is obviously completely discredited.

Since her release four years ago, the British taxpayer has spent around £1million giving her round-the-clock protection from vigilantes. She has lived in 10 safe houses so far.

And just why does she need such protection? It couldn't be because the tabloids have whipped such hate up against her, could it, that completely innocent women have been threatened and thought their lives were in danger because they'd been misidentified as her? Carr was perfect as the next Myra Hindley figure to be brought out whenever it's a slow news day, someone who could have venom directed at her from everywhere because of her role, however slight, in the most heinous and notorious murders of recent times. 1984 had its two minutes of hate; modern-day Britain has its equivalent provided not by the state, directed against a rogue political figure, but rather at a defenceless woman by the press who now emit far more propaganda than any government could ever manage.

Yesterday Winnie Johnson, mother of Moors Murder victim Keith Bennett, said: “Carr was Huntley’s accomplice and she tried to cover up his awful crimes – she is evil too.

The thought of her being allowed to raise and care for a child is hideous. Imagine if Myra Hindley had a baby? Why should we be protecting Maxine Carr anyway?”

See, here's the attempt to build the connection with Hindley. Never mind that Hindley was directly involved in the child murders committed by Ian Brady while Carr could not possibly have been because she wasn't at home at the time, but let's raise the suggestion and then let it do its own work. Johnson deserves nothing but compassion for her plight, but what makes her especially eligible to comment on a completely different case? Why should we be protecting Maxine Carr anyway? I don't honestly know. Perhaps we can remove her anonymity and Channel 4 can base its latest reality show around her. Ten contestants, including 2 celebrities, battle to find Carr and kill her first. The winner gets £100,000 and the admiration of the nation. How about it?

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers will be sickened that ordinary families are struggling to pay their taxes so money can be spent on monsters like Maxine Carr.

“It is time we got our priorities right – punishing the innocent with high taxes while subsidising criminals is very twisted logic.”

Speaking as a taxpayer, I'm more than happy that some of my taxes go towards protecting individuals such as Carr from being ripped to pieces by marauding mobs, just as it also goes to protecting anyone and everyone from being ripped to pieces by marauding mobs. I like to think it's what separates me from the degradation and savagery of inhumane cunts like Elliot. Never mind that Carr has long served her sentence and repaid her debt, she's still a criminal, and what's more, a monster. How can we punish the innocent with high taxes while monsters get free money?! It's insane! The second sentence has to be a non sequitur to end all non sequiturs, but then you couldn't ask for much more than from a spokesman for a Tory front that campaigns for a flat tax.

Next up, compare Carr to another murderer:

The most hated woman in Britain reportedly had a miscarriage in summer 2006, when she was at the same stage of pregnancy that she is now. She fears of a backlash against her, in a story that has many parallels with the case of female child-killer Mary Bell.

Again, never mind that Bell actually killed while Carr only provided an alibi, but obviously both are parallel cases because the tabloids wanted both to be exposed so that the vigilantes could do what the courts refused to. How very odd for a newspaper shrieking on its front page about a "rise" in violent crime to be so disgusted by a woman being protected from almost certain death at the hands of people who almost certainly wouldn't be migrants.

Coming from this blog, the next statement is likely to sound heretical, but it's certainly true. The Sun, despite being little more than a propaganda rag for Murdoch's interests which panders to the lowest common denominator, is now almost certainly a far more balanced, even liberal publication than the Express and possibly even than the Mail. Neither of the two aforementioned so-called mid-market papers bother to provide almost anything approaching an alternative voice to that spouted by its columnists and leader columns, as well as the nakedly politically motivated "news" articles. The Sun meanwhile gave space last week when reporting on the "extreme" mosques in Blackburn to both Ed Husain and Ibrahim Master, formerly chairman of the Blackburn council of mosques, both of whom gave different accounts to what you'd usually expect from the paper. (Incidentally, Iraq's deputy president has since clarified his original statement.) Today Richard Hawley comments on the Sun's "crusade" against yob violence, and condemns ASBOs and other punitive measures. That, more than anything else, is an indictment of just how bad things have got in the tabloid press.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008 

Aitken report: the rusty sword and shield of British fair play.

The Aitken report (PDF) on the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by British forces is typical of almost all of the inquiries ordered by New Labour since it came to power, and especially those ordered post-the Iraq war. With the exception of the Hutton report, which was the most crude whitewash, most of the other reports have been critical of the government, but in their conclusions found that no one in particular was personally to blame.

So it continues here. Aitken finds that there were serious failings in army leadership, planning and training, but no one is personally responsible, and the Ministry of Defence are able to trump loudly that all the recommendations made by Aitken have either been implemented or that the lessons have been learned. After all, there have been no cases of ill-treatment reported since 2004, says the report on page 5, but that might because since then they haven't personally been involved in running prisons or detaining suspects.

The report makes much of how the soldiers had not been trained adequately in how to handle detainees prior to their deploy to Iraq, or how the rules and practices on interrogating detainees set out in the MoD's policy document still doesn't make unambiguously clear that the "five techniques" (wall-standing; hooding; subjection to noise; deprivation of sleep; deprivation of food and drink) are illegal under international law and proscribed by the Human Rights Act, but most astounding is this paragraph from page 13:

22. We need also to be clear about a different but related form of training, given to some members of the Army, in Conduct After Capture (CAC). CAC training simulates the sort of treatment that our people might receive from an enemy that does not comply with international humanitarian law, and therefore introduces participants to illegal I&TQ techniques; and in 2003, attendance on CAC training qualified an individual to conduct I&TQ. In 2005, the Army revised that policy, arguing that exposure to illegal I&TQ methods was not a sensible way to prepare an individual for conducting lawful I&TQ.

Really? What could have possibly made them come to such a conclusion? Oh, this:


Even considering the above, what still isn't explained by this report is how the "five techniques" and beyond became to be apparently authorised by the chain of command. Colonel Jorge Mendonca, one of those charged over the death of Baha Mousa, happened upon prisoners being "conditioned" by soldiers, and understandably concerned, checked with Major Anthony Royle that such practices had been authorised. Royle said they had been, and gave evidence at the court martial that it had been. Nothing in this report explains whether this is accurate or a lie by Royle. What we do know is that US commanders had criticised British forces in 2003 prior to Mousa's death because of the failure to "extract sufficient intelligence from detainees". Whether this lead to a change in the policy, which quickly resulted in the abuses we're now all too aware of or not is still unknown.

What is known, is that for whatever reason, soldiers took it upon themselves to mistreat Iraqi prisoners, whether they were looters or alleged looters in the case of those photographed at Camp Breadbasket, or alleged insurgents in the case of Baha Mousa. You don't need to be trained in interrogating or holding prisoners to know that almost any mistreatment of them is in breach of the Geneva convention - and the beatings administered to Mousa, resulting in 92 separate injuries, went far beyond mistreatment into out and out torture. His death cannot be put down to an understandable mistake in the fog of war; this was manslaughter at best, murder at worst, and the beating went on in front of the noses of all ranks and none. At the court martial it was even suggested that soldiers and officers from across the base came to witness Donald Payne, the only person convicted after pleading guilty, of "playing" the detainees, taking it in turns to beat them, relishing and mocking their cries. A video recording of Payne forcing the three into stress positions and shouting at them was shown to the court.

To add insult to manslaughter, almost all of those called to give evidence or asked for their account of what happened on that day claimed that they "couldn't remember", a term according to Payne's lawyer which was used over 600 times in total during the hearing. The judge was forced into clearing all the others charged down to what he called a "closing of ranks". Some of the ferocity of the soldiers' treatment of Mousa and the other two detainees can be put down to the belief that all three were insurgents and had been involved in the death of one of their popular comrades, something that was later found to be baseless on both counts.

Make no mistake though: imagine that this had been "yobs" in this country carrying out a similar crime where they beat a father to death and recorded some of it on their mobile phones, or the police trying to force a confession out of someone through violence that they had arrested who was entirely innocent. If it had been the former and only one person was ever convicted and then sentenced to only a year in prison, there would have been outrage. If it had involved the police, there would have been similar investigations to that of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, and probably someone actually being held to account, unlike in that particular case. Instead, as Jeremy Vine described when introducing the Panorama investigating Mousa's death, to go by some of the reporting of the court martial you would have thought that no one had died, that beatings had not taken place and that the soldiers involved, whether they were those who were tried or not, had been wrongly maligned. Nothing could be further from the truth, yet now the defence secretary Des Browne has stated that no one else is likely to be charged, and that the only thing Mousa's family can look to draw solace from will be an inquiry that will be set-up into his death. This was our Abu Ghraib, and while only the grunts in that scandal were ever convicted while the higher-ups that authorised the "Gitmoisation" got off scot-free, in our case, everyone may as well have escaped without almost a blemish on their character. This report has done nothing whatsoever to correct that.

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Scum-watch: Living in a parallel universe.

I sometimes wonder if I've gone to sleep at night and woken up the following morning in a parallel universe. Everything seems the same, just backwards. You can't help but get that feeling reading the latest Sun article on their campaign to GET TOUGH NOW. At the beginning of the week, there being little news over the weekend apart from Jacqui Smith's honest but naive comments about feeling unsafe walking the streets at night, the Scum splashed on its front page a letter from a teacher, one Dr Stuart Newton. It was a typical why oh why moan while offering no real solutions, but because the Sun doesn't very often get letters from teachers, or indeed doctors, it no doubt thought it a wonderful way to start their latest doomed and flawed attack.

Six days later, and Gordon Brown has already invited Newton into Downing Street to discuss his hopes and fears. This, it seems, is the way Britain works now. You don't need to be specially qualified to get a job: as long as you're on television, or featured in a newspaper just once, it seems that the government will bend over backwards to listen to you, as long as you're suitably on message and not likely to be overly critical. That would never do. Hence we have a psychologist who worked on a BBC3 programme on unruly children doing a review on the effects of television and the internet on those same said kiddie-winks; a job apparently offered to Fiona Phillips of GMTV fame because she was gushing of the easily charmed Gordo; and now anyone who writes to the Sun can be called up for a special chat with the supreme leader. Perhaps next we could have Rebekah Wade herself lead a review on domestic violence, or maybe Richard Littlejohn advising the prime minister on social cohesion.

Personally, the last lot of teachers I had used to mock those who read tabloids, or "comics", as they were habitually referred to, and this was at a bog-standard comprehensive. It gets even weirder when Newton pinpoints what he thinks is partly responsible for the rise in yobbery:

He claimed TV images of baying MPs in the House of Commons had helped foster a climate of yobbish behaviour.

Well, quite. When the average family from hell sits down in front of their television set, the first thing they switch to is prime minister's questions, or the news covering them.

“It’s the way we seem to run our country that worries me. We tend to think of bullying as something children do at school. But I see quite a lot of bullying in the House of Commons with the way MPs hector each other.

Newton maybe ought to take his concerns up with David Cameron instead - he was the one this week referring to Brown as "that strange man in Downing Street", while all week Tory MPs have been trying their best to promote the idea that he's a ditherer. Untrue as it, I recall the last prime minister wasn't a ditherer - and look where that got us.

He pointed the finger of blame at highly-paid FOOTBALLERS whose menacing behaviour towards referees has encouraged a culture of bullying.

Careful Dr Newton; those footballers became so highly-paid mainly down to Mr Murdoch and his stranglehold over the television rights. You don't want to upset Mr Murdoch, believe me.

To be fair to Newton, he's not a walking, talking Sun editorial in any sense. He hits the nail firmly on the head by saying that Brown only listed punitive measures, coincidentally exactly the same things the Sun always demands, while he thinks "we need a great deal more than punishments". He does also say though:

"I’m so pleased The Sun started a campaign. When The Sun sneezes, the politicians catch a cold.”

Yes. Except rather than a cold, it's the disease knee-jerkitis.

The hypocrisy of the Sun's praising of Newton's arguments is aptly illustrated by one of its most contrary leader columns of recent times:

So many Premiership footballers believe, like Ashley Cole, that they have a divine right to eye-popping wages and to behave just as they like.

Children watch as they scream abuse at referees on TV and get away with it.


Quite so. Strange then that one of those often at the forefront of screaming abuse at referees, Wayne Rooney, had his book serialised in the Sun and sold the paper his story after he signed with Manchester United, causing uproar in his home city of Liverpool, still stung by the paper's coverage of the Hillsborough disaster.

Even more hilariously, these are the first few lines of the first leader:

SUN reader Dr Stuart Newton tells the PM that Britain’s yob culture is little surprise when our own MPs behave like thugs.

Once again he speaks for us all.

Far too often Commons debates degenerate into childish bellowing and taunts.

These are our lawmakers, meant to set the country’s moral tone, braying like donkeys.


While these are choice extracts from the second:

WE’RE not sure which planet Hamid Karzai’s living on. Certainly not Earth.

The Afghan President’s claim that Helmand went downhill after Our Boys arrived is plain wrong.

As well as being offensive and ungrateful.

Karzai’s claims are a gross insult to the 87 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2001, and the hundreds more wounded.

They have given their lives to drag his country out of the Dark Ages.

He should never forget it.


It seems it's not just MPs who indulge in childish bellowing, taunts and braying like donkeys.

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Friday, January 25, 2008 

Is anyone thinking anything at all?


The mid-market tabloids seem to be attempting to out-do themselves this week in the nastiness and disingenuousness stakes. You probably didn't hear about it, but yesterday saw the release of the latest police and British Crime Survey figures (PDF). After spending around the last couple of years stabilising after falling for the best part of a decade, both figures show that crime is once again down, and going down at an increasingly rapid rate. The police figures show a 9% drop in recorded crime, while the British Crime Survey found a 4% drop. More significantly, the BCS also showed that the chance of being a victim of crime had dropped by a further 1% compared to the year previously, down now to 23%, the lowest level since the survey began in 1981. The only real rises were in the police figures, which showed a 4% in gun crime, were they were used to threaten rather than harm, and in drug offences, up 21%, mainly down to cannabis being reclassified at Class C and officers issuing on-the-spot warnings and confiscation rather than arresting and prosecuting. Jacqui Smith might not feel safe walking around London at night, and nor may the general public, as the fear of crime is still high, but neither of the main indicators of crime suggest that we should be panicking by any means over the current level of offending.

Reading the front pages of the tabloids today you'd get a completely different story. Both the Mail and Express go with emotive and indeed startling arrests made yesterday by police in Slough and Berkshire, arresting 25 and taking 10 children care. The arrests were on the basis that gangs from Romania were using children to take part in street crime in London, mainly pickpocketing, opportunistic thefts from those using cashpoints and stealing mobile phones/iPods/etc. It is indeed a matter of concern, especially if the children are being kidnapped, although that doesn't seem to be the case.

It's not very often that the Express front page is less hysterical than the Daily Mail's, but it seems that the paper's subs were last night slacking off. It goes only with "Crime by migrants soars 530%". This is based on figures in the article towards the end:

Before the eastern European country joined the EU, its nationals were associated with 146 crimes over six months in Britain. A year after it joined – over a second six-month period – that figure leapt to 922, a 530 per cent rise.

Well, that's hardly a surprise, is it? Considering that up to 20,000 Romanians and Bulgarians were given permission to apply for work here last year, the crime rate was always going to go up. Rather more applicable figures to this case are provided by the Guardian:

Allen said that between April and December 2006, 12 Romanian nationals were arrested for theft. A year later that number was 214.

Which is also going to contain those who have been caught shoplifting for example, or stealing from work. Again, because of the rise of those given permission to come here to work, the rise seems both eminently explainable and hardly overwhelming.

The Express does however use the same figure of the numbers estimated to have been trafficked here as the Mail does in rather more expansive and sensationalistic terms. According to the Romanian authorities, up to 2,000 children might have been involved. The police don't agree though, if the Grauniad article is anything to go by:

Police say that since Romania joined the EU in 2007 there has been a sharp rise in children being brought to London by modern-day "Fagin's gangs". Up to 200 Romanian children have been forced into crime in London and can generate up to £20m a year for gangs controlling them.

The Express and Guardian also differ over how much this "crime wave" is worth to those behind it; the Express suggests £1bn, while the Guardian suggests up to £100,000 can be made by each child. Even if there were 2,000 children making such an amount in a year, that doesn't get close to £1bn. As for the Mail article, it seems to have disappeared into the ether, but there is a "revealed" article which claims that impoverished Romanian villages are being transformed into "palaces" thanks to the money swirling back. Oh, and it's all down to the Roma, or rather the "gipsies", who the Mail and other newspapers call what are more widely known as gypsies so they can't be accused of racism, instead of the organised criminal gangs which usually aren't anything to do with the Roma. Interestingly, the article is by Sue Reid, who you might remember was behind the Mail's attempt to prove that Polish migrants could drive around London without paying the congestion charge, which was going to involve paying a Polish couple to err, break the law.

All of which help enormously in putting the crime figures down the news agenda. The Mail's article on them doesn't so much as mention that the police figures show a 9% fall in crime, and instead focuses on the rise in drug offences because of its own agenda on cannabis, while saying only that crime in general has remained "stable" while it has in fact fallen, and also picks up on the statistically insignificant slight rise in burglaries, even though on the whole "household acquisitive" crime has fallen by 2%. The Express doesn't seem to even bothered printing an article, with the only piece on its site un-bylined and dated yesterday. This though has always been how they've operated, or at least have operated against the Labour government; if the statistics don't fit with their own prejudices of how things are, they're shoved down the news, distorted and helpfully replaced with something more fitting with their own views. It's the same approach they've used previously over the immigration figures. In a similar fashion, the Sun hasn't even seemingly bothered to report the figures at all, despite its demands at the beginning of the week to "get tough NOW", and yesterday's online report also only focused on the gun crime figures.

(Correction: the Sun did cover the figures here, and sexed it up somewhat by claiming that the figures mean there are now the equivalent of 30 crimes involving guns taking place a day. Remarkably, the Sun's report is probably the most accurate and honest of the three.)

Elsewhere, Richard Littlejohn comments on the goth couple that were not allowed on a bus in Dewsbury:

My Geordie mate, Black Mike, would take one look at her in her absurd "Goth" outfit and remark: "Gi' us a stick and I'll kill it."

Normally, ignoring Littlejohn is the best policy. For the most part, his rants tend to fisk themselves, so flimsy as they usually are to see through. This, however, is simply vile, as his views on why the bus driver was perfectly within his rights to not allow on them bus are:

Let's hope she's housetrained. But just as it's their prerogative to play One Man and His Dog, so the driver should have the right to decide whom he wants, and doesn't want, on his bus.

Presumably Littlejohn would agree if it was the bus driver's policy not to allow black, brown, or indeed, white people on his bus. Just as Littlejohn thinks it's perfectly OK for the bus driver to say "We don't let freaks and dogs like you on" to them, he'll not be offended if I ever meet him and get the opportunity to call him a fat, poisonous, bumptious, heartless cunt.

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Jahongir Sidikov granted asylum.

A rare piece of wonderful news, via Craig Murray:

I can't really afford it, but I have just bought and opened a bottle of the best bubbly I can find in Shepherds Bush. Jahongir Sidikov has phoned me to say that the Home Office has just granted him asylum. You will recall that Jahongir had to physically resist deportation from Harmondsworth Detention Centre to certain torture and near certain death in Uzbekistan.

Jahongir has no doubt, and nor do I, that the actions of readers of this blog were crucial in preventing this appalling proposed deportation. Special thanks go to the MPs you activated. Several deserve thanks, but Bob Marshall Andrews deserves a really special mention.

It is not yet clear whether the Home Office now accept as a matter of policy that it is not possible to deport dissidents into the hands of the evil Uzbek regime. That is a point you might wish to take up with your MPs.

But for now, thank you and bloody well done. I am going to get rat-arsed.

Even this government, which at times seems impervious to reason, can be forced into seeing sense on occasion.

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