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Saturday, September 19, 2009 

Weekend links.

Back to the usual hodge-podge format this week. Lenin recalls the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, Dave Semple and Shiraz Socialist comment on the TUC's passing of a motion supporting certain actions against Israel, Bob Piper is fed up at getting Iain Dale's magazine through his door every month, Jamie also doubts whether the Tories will be better when it comes to civil liberties, Next Left defends Daniel Hannan while Dave Semple (again) distrusts the motives of Hannan and Douglas Carswell. Finally, Third Estate argues against capital punishment whilst also dismissing its opponents.

In the papers, or at least their sites, both Matthew Parris and Peter Oborne are a bit presumptuous regarding the rise and fall and then rise again of George Osborne, while in a Lib Dem special considering it's their conference, David Howarth claims only they will safeguard civil liberties, Polly Toynbee thinks it could be their moment if they go for Labour's jugular, and Andrew Grice says only well-defined policies can win them support, which I don't think has made much difference in the past. John Kampfner calls for the left to reclaim civil liberties, as if the genuine left (or at least the libertarian left) hasn't always opposed Labour's authoritarianism, while Mark Thompson himself makes an excellent riposte to James Murdoch's speech of a few weeks' ago, and about damn time the BBC defended itself. Lastly, I was amazed to think I was going to agree with Tim Worstall on something other than civil liberties or drug legalisation in his piece on pursuing the great possible happiness, until his remedy is a flat tax of 30% on incomes above £15,000, which just happens to be the policy pursued by err, UKIP.

The Mark Thompson speech and article is probably why the Sun has gone to war over the incredibly consequential scheduling of Strictly Come Dancing and The X-Factor at the same time, which the BBC simply must have done deliberately to ruin the biggest TV night of the week, as we move onto the worst tabloid piece contenders. We aren't treated to Simon Cowell's thoughts on the matter online, but it's strange no one is suggesting the obvious: record one and then watch it after the other's finished, or watch Strictly on the iPlayer later. Simples, right? Not in Murdoch land, where it is verboten to point out that BSkyB (prop. R Murdoch) owns a 17.9% share in err, ITV, not to mention News International's interest in seeing the BBC cut down to a husk which can then be abolished entirely later once support has fully dripped away. This is also happening at the same time as BT and Virgin are counter-attacking Sky over their "unfair pricing" and "manipulation" of the distribution of sports and movie channels. Sky defending its monopoly while demanding that the BBC's online activities be cut down to size so News International's piss-poor websites can make a profit? No hypocrisy there.

That isn't the worst though, as that instead comes in the Sun proper, with a simply delightful article on Vikki Thorne, the police officer sentenced to a despicable 15 months in prison because she spent her time while not on the beat moving to a quite different one as an escort, in a Daily Mail type report on how a respectable middle class girl should have known better. Quite how the judge justified the sentence on public interest grounds, let alone knowing full well what she is doubtless in for as ex-filth inside is naturally not considered, but every other aspect of her time is. There's also this clearly invented quote:

A close friend told The Sun last night: "It was a clear-cut case of greed coupled with a seedier side of Vikki's personality, which had obviously been lurking under the surface.

"You don't get rich working for the police and suddenly a TV programme showed her the way to do just that."


Yes, I'm certain that a close friend said that. The sort of article which doesn't make you feel dirty because of the topic being discussed, but because of the sheer relish (sex mad, yeah, I bet she was) with which the hack tells it, without even an ounce of sympathy.

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The Sun article is vile, but not sure why you're slating the judge: anyone with access to police/hospital/other sensitive public databases who uses them for private purposes does deserve real jail time, whether they're a hooker, a moonlighting private detective, a tabloid informant or a stalkey ex...

Fair enough, but 15 months? Even if she serves half that it's far too harsh.

Really? For using confidential police records she had access to as part of her job to screw over her rivals in the business she was moonlighting in? That's about as serious a betrayal of trust as I can think of...

(it's also another good argument against the central IT database, of course)

I'm not sure it's as clear cut as the Sun's making out: the BBC report (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tyne/8249369.stm) only mentions that her superiors became suspicious after they noticed she'd been looking at the details of other suspected brothels and prostitutes, not that she was actually using it to screw them over. She also pleaded guilty; considering that wife of her "pimp" got a 51-week sentence suspended for managing prostitutes, brothels and perverting the course of justice, it looks pretty harsh by comparison even in the circumstances.

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