Wednesday, January 31, 2007 

What to believe? (Part three.)

We were probably about due for another "terrorist" threat to emerge. As the Sun reminds us, every week when there isn't another 7/7 makes it all the more easier to forget about the "new realities" of the 21st century.

As has happened before, the Sun also appears to know better than everyone else exactly what the alleged plot was. Despite pleas from the police and politicians for others not to jump to conclusions and to show restraint in their reporting, the Sun does exactly the opposite:

EVIL Muslim terrorists were to kidnap a British soldier on UK streets and force him to plead with Tony Blair for his life in return for a pull-out of troops from Iraq, The Sun can reveal.

The soldier would have been filmed begging the PM to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan in a sick propaganda stunt.

Army sources said the target was a British Muslim soldier in his 20s.

He would eventually be beheaded on film in a sick mirror of the torture and savage killing of British hostage Ken Bigley if Mr Blair refused.

I don't think I need to remind you of the last time the Sun relied on "army sources".

The BBC is being far more circumspect, for a change:

Earlier BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Daniel Sandford said sources close to the investigation said the aim of the alleged plot was to kidnap a serving member of the armed forces, perhaps while they were on home leave.

He stressed the arrests were based on intelligence, which could prove to be wrong.

The last time the intelligence turned out to be horribly wrong was in Forest Gate, when the Sun delighted in smearing the Koyair brothers on multiple occasions.

The Sun goes on to quote another "source":

One well-placed source said: "This plot represents a staggering change of tactic.

"We have all been braced for more mainland bombs which claim many lives and cause turmoil and widespread public fear.

"This would have taken things to a new dimension. The pressure on the PM would have been unimagineable.

"And there would have been a knock-on effect in terms of military morale."

Well yes, assuming that this plot did actually exist and the whole raid isn't based on similar hearsay stupidity such as the so-called "Fathers 4 Justice" plot to kidnap Leo Blair, or for instance, the fake sheikh's Victoria Beckham kidnap plot which never was, or indeed Mahmood's other entrapment, that of men supposedly attempting to buy the non-existent red mercury substance. Then we've also got to assume that the men would have been able to carry out their entire plot without being caught in the act of either kidnapping the soldier, putting out their demands, and then waiting for any response before actually carrying out the beheading.

Now there will be increased security measures imposed on all servicemen and women to be on their guard.

The cunning plot represents a huge change in tactics by al Qaeda and its supporters.

It proves beyond doubt that terrorist cells are active in mainland Britain - just as MI5 boss Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller warned before Christmas.

And it demonstrates how sophisticated the al Qaeda cells in our midst have become.

Obviously. The men have been in custody for less than 12 hours and already they're al-Qaida, proof that terrorist cells are active, and proves how sophisticated "al-Qaida" now is. Why bother with a trial when it's already obvious that they're guilty?

The president of the local Alum Rock Islamic Centre has already had his plea ignored:

Ayub Pervaz, the mosque's president, said: "If people have broken the law they should be brought to justice.

"But we also appeal for no trial by media. If any of those arrested turn out to be innocent, this should be made clear."

The Sun have also already set about questioning the contents of an Islamic bookshop also raided:

Investigations by The Sun found several questionable books and dvds for sale including 'The Religious and Moral Doctrine of Jihad' listed for the bargain price of £1.95.

By Shaykh ul Islam ibn Taymiyyah the blurb for the book reads: "Ibn Taymiyyah verdicts in regards to Jihad are often not available especially on whom Jihad is to be carried out.

"The shaykhs verdicts are filled with a sea of knowledge that outlines fighting not only the enemy aggressor, but also apostates and even those who oppose clear cut rulings of Islam, despite their claims to be Muslims."

Ibn Taymiyyah has a decent Wikipedia entry here, and does appear to have influenced such well-known Salafis as Sayyid Qutb. However, picking one book out of what was likely a sea of them, probably more because of the word "jihad" than anything else is grossly unfair.

The only thing that can be said is that it is to be hoped that the intelligence is correct and that a horrible crime has been averted. If it turns out to be another Forest Gate, or another case of a plot being vastly exaggerated, ala the ricin case, it will hurt the intelligence services and the police all the more, and only exacerbate the calls for a watchdog over MI5 to be established.

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Scum-watch: Private Eye on the "Windsor Muslim yobs", heartless Screws journalists, and more.

The Eye provides us with the information of where the correction actually appeared in the paper:

Issue No. 1177 also provides this valuable insight into the ethics (or lack of) of News of the Screws hacks:

Then there's the curious incident of the Sun's overwhelming support for the Dome to house the supercasino which instead went to Manchester:

MANCHESTER was as stunned as anyone after the dubious decision to make it Britain’s gambling capital.

The big question is how it beat London and Blackpool for the money-spinning super-casino.

For all its attractions, Manchester was hardly hot favourite. Most bets were riding on the Dome.

Err, no it wasn't. Most assumed and hoped it was going to Blackpool, which seemed the best bet.

To most people, the Dome was the most sensible and logical location.

After which follows a rant about why giving the casino to Manchester is meant to buy off the locals' votes. That most natural Labour supporters would probably be at best curious or incredulous about this government's addiction to gambling doesn't seem to be worth mentioning. Not that suspecting there was something of a stitch-up is necessarily conspiratorial; BlairWatch lists some good reasons for questioning the line up decided upon.

All becomes clear to why the Sun so favoured the Greenwich bid however. As today's Guardian reports:

Yesterday some in Greenwich said the furore which followed the deputy prime minister's admission may have damaged London's case. The result will also have provoked gloom elsewhere. The Guardian has learned that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp holds a 10% interest in AEG's dome development subsidiary.

Who woulda thunk it?

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Scum-watch: Well, that lasted all of, err, a day...

As could have been expected, the Sun's short-lived outrage against ignorance didn't last very long. Taking advantage of a report by the Audit Commission titled Crossing Borders, responding to the local challenges posed by the influx of migrant workers, the Sun is completely breathless in its attack on what the East European migrants have done to our sanctified country:

ROCKETING immigration has left schools, hospitals, police and housing at full stretch, watchdogs warned yesterday.

Towns have been hit by racial tension, street crime and binge drinking as foreign arrivals flood in.

The report says:

There is little evidence that the increased numbers of migrant workers have caused significant or systematic problems in respect of community safety or cohesion. Despite this, community perceptions about migrant workers can be inappropriately negative. They are often confused with asylum seekers and refugees, and the tone of some national and local papers can encourage hostility. While British papers worry about the number of people coming to Britain, Polish papers blame their government for allowing so many skilled youngsters to leave.

On schools the report says:
99 Few migrant workers are accompanied by their families, at least initially. When they do bring dependants, the main impact on education services is related to language, though in a few cases the numbers involved have affected the planning of places. Language barriers and shift hours often mean face-to-face contact between schools and parents can be limited.

100 The need to teach English as an additional language (EAL) is an issue in an increasing number of schools and local education authorities (LEAs). Recent pupil censuses show that over 10 per cent of all maintained school pupils (and over 50 per cent in Inner London) have a first language other than English. Teachers may lack the necessary experience and expertise, schools may be unaccustomed to change or lack the capacity to manage the numbers effectively, and LEAs can find that their central support for schools is too small and inexperienced at dealing with the current numbers and rate of turnover.

101 Schools receive additional funding per pupil, and new arrivals without English count towards extra funding under the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG). This grant is distributed to authorities by a formula, with locally determined formulae devolving at least 85 per cent to schools. The grant was £174 million in 2006/07. Grant levels were fixed for three years on the basis of the 2004 pupil census, to give more security for funding decisions, meaning that it does not reflect the large increases in some areas since then. The DfES has allocated some additional short-term funding for in-service teacher training and materials, and will consult with authorities and schools on future arrangements during 2007.

On hospitals:
103 Most migrant workers are relatively young and healthy, and move frequently. Many go to accident and emergency (A&E) departments if they need medical care, as they would in their home countries, and see little benefit in signing up with GPs. Footnote 4 There is no evidence that migrant workers attending A&E cause a specific problem for hospitals.

104 When dependants join migrant workers there are likely to be issues for health services from doctors’ practices, pharmacists and acute care providers, as pregnant women, children and older people are more likely to use health services. Issues include differing expectations, for example around maternity care; the impact of particular social trends, such as higher levels of smoking by some nationalities; and a need for interpretation to ensure diagnoses are accurate and patients understand when and how to take medicines.

On the police:
70 Some migrant workers may not trust the police in their home countries and so treat British police with suspicion. Differing assumptions can include expecting the police to require bribes. Such expectations hinder crime reporting and intelligence gathering, making prevention and cohesion activities harder.

71 Local police, especially diversity officers, are striving to make links, understand migrant workers’ needs and improve trust, often alongside more trusted groups:

* In Cornwall and Cumbria police attend some employer induction talks and work alongside union representatives.
* Police may collaborate with local authorities and others to set up and support local migrant worker groups.
* Some forces use ESOL classes as an opportunity to meet migrant workers and talk about issues such as personal protection and road safety.

72 Police-led work to educate migrant workers about life in the UK includes providing small cards with visual reminders about road safety and simple leaflets covering basic laws and regulations (Ref. 37). Some are promoting additional driving training for those recruited abroad as heavy goods vehicle drivers.

On housing:
61 Few recent migrant workers are offered social housing tenancies, since many come on special schemes, visas and permits and have no rights to it. Communities and Local Government (CLG) figures show that only 110 accession state nationals have been offered social tenancies since 2004. However, once EU citizens gain residency rights, they become eligible for assistance under homelessness legislation. They will also be eligible to join other local tenants and residents on waiting lists, increasing demand for affordable housing.

There are some problems here however, but certainly not worthy of describing housing as at "full stretch" due purely to migrants:

56 In areas of housing shortage, such as East Anglia and London, migrant workers add to the demand for affordable rented property. Councils in East Anglia report particularly rapid growth in HMOs. For example, in 2002 Breckland District Council regularly inspected around 40 HMOs; by summer 2006 they had a database of 480. In London 10 per cent of all privately rented households are now overcrowded and this is rising rapidly; on present trends the sector will overtake the social rented sector as the most overcrowded by 2007 (Ref. 32). There have been examples of gross overcrowding, including the use of illegally converted attics, sheds and outbuildings. Figures on HMOs are difficult to compare nationally since the data are unreliable, though some authorities have locally comparable records.

58 Poor management and maintenance of privately rented properties can adversely affect the appearance of a neighbourhood, leading to complaints from other local residents. Concerns about the impact of privately rented housing are not new, but where the number of such properties occupied by migrant workers is increasing, problems can become more obvious and may be blamed on tenants rather than landlords.

The term "racial tension" isn't mentioned in the report. Nor is the word "racism". Racist appears twice:

69 There is also evidence of racist views and hostility towards migrant workers in some areas (Ref. 36), and some migrant workers hold racist views too. Police report isolated examples of hate crimes, but there is no regular or widespread disorder.

Street crime also doesn't make an appearance. Crime is mentioned thusly:

68 Migrant workers can be victims of crime, with much reported crime internal to new communities. Overcrowded and physically insecure rented accommodation, where individuals are sharing with others they may not know, makes theft easier and increases tensions between individuals, which can in turn lead to assaults. Poor English makes some particularly vulnerable. Some of the individuals involved in the worst exploitation of new workers are also involved in criminal activity.

From the case study of Crewe council's response:

Mediation was used to resolve neighbour tensions. Community wardens spoke to new arrivals about refuse collection if complaints were made. The Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership identified potential flashpoints. For example, when England played Poland at football, CCTV was installed in relevant pubs and funding was provided for interpreters in the local A&E department.

The police force has had to build trust within the community. A part-time interpreter has been employed and a hate crime answer machine has been set up, to encourage more crime reporting. Concern over training for commercial heavy goods vehicle drivers prompted police to offer sessions on English driving regulations at local depots. The force has invested in 15 hand-held speech devices to improve immediate communication.

Likewise, "binge" also isn't mentioned in the report. The main mention on drinking is here:

73 Cohesion cannot be taken for granted and small tensions can develop, which can fuel local resentment. These include noise and disruption when large numbers of migrant workers leave for work early in the morning, noise linked to increases in the numbers living in individual properties, street drinking, failures to understand local refuse and recycling systems, tensions over other residents’ parking spaces if HMOs do not have adequate parking, and migrant workers appearing to monopolise the internet in libraries.

74 A number of local authorities and their partners have moved quickly to address such minor local frictions as part of wider work to promote locally cohesive communities. Concentrations of poorly managed HMOs are a particular concern, making work with landlords (including enforcement if necessary) important for cohesion as well as tenant safety. Responses include targeted information leaflets for basic issues such as refuse collection arrangements, and adding new languages to recycling bank signs. Informal and often personal initial contact, using community wardens, mediators, environmental health officers and refuse staff can deal with many concerns. Library services have provided more terminals and introduced pre-booking systems. There may be a continual need to repeat and reinforce messages because of high turnover.

75 Policy changes and appropriate enforcement may be necessary for some complaints, for example badly sited caravans or increases in street drinking and rough sleeping. Local dispersal orders were used in Hammersmith to control the large crowds of accession state nationals who had taken over pavements outside a particular newsagent, where cards in the shop window had offered employment and housing. Concentrations of street drinkers and rough sleeping in parks are understandably unpopular with local communities. The City of Westminster works with its local police to manage the particular problems associated with the number of people who arrive every day at Victoria coach station.

Other mentions come in the chapter on destitution:

62 Many migrant workers have limited entitlement to public funds. The few who fail to find accommodation or work, are made redundant, or become the victims of domestic violence and leave their homes, may not be entitled to housing benefit. Because hostels often depend on this, they may not be able to accept such people. Voluntary day centres and church-run night shelters can provide support since these are not as dependent on public funds, but individuals can drift into squatting, rough sleeping and street drinking. There is also a small, but growing, incidence of substance abuse (Ref. 35).

63 While destitution and rough sleeping can occur anywhere, they have been most noticeable in London. Accession state nationals now comprise up to half the recognised street drinkers in Hammersmith and Fulham and one in five of the rough sleepers in Westminster. Half the beds at the rolling night shelters run by central London churches in the winter of 2005/06 were taken up by accession state nationals.

64 Westminster City Council has used a government Invest to Save grant of £297,000 and a DWP secondee to help some accession state workers into employment, and to work with the police to repatriate others who lack the resources to be self-sufficient. CLG provided an extra £140,000 in homelessness grant in 2005/06 to London boroughs facing particular pressures. It is providing Westminster with an additional £100,000 through the homelessness budget for 2007/08 and is in discussions with DWP regarding future Jobcentre Plus involvement. However, rough sleeper numbers at the June 2006 count had increased compared with 2005 and numbers using available night and day shelters remain high. Responses in London will need to be coordinated across boroughs.

The situation then is not entirely rosy, but it's a lot better than it's being made to look in both the Mail (as shown here in a similar post by FCC) and the Sun. While I don't want to dwell on the point of the Sun possibly being responsible for the very ignorance it railed against yesterday (and which is today lauded by Damilola Taylor's father) you can't help but think the views of the article's own responders may have been influenced by the Sun's own misleading reports:

Get rid of all the immigrants and those taking up our prisons too, and maybe the homeless people could get given jobs to help searching the lorries coming in to the country etc.


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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 

Scum-watch: Two faces, one day.

What then, to make of today's Sun front-page? On one level, it deserves to be welcomed and applauded. Any message which points out the values and life that we share, that prejudice based both on background and on the colour of our skin is completely unacceptable, and that children especially are often the ones that suffer the most from the unkindness and closed-minds of their peers ought to be celebrated, especially coming from a paper with such a poor history both of promoting forgiveness and tolerance. It's just that I don't believe the Sun means it, and there are also far more sinister undertones beneath its apparent road to Damascus-type conversion.

More to the point, the very reason for the Sun running this on their front page has to be related in no small measure to the decision of Shilpa Shetty to sell her story to the Mirror. Normally, the tabloids that can't afford/don't want to stump up the cash for the stories of the latest 15-minute wonder to emerge from the reality shows/royal family flunky/mistress of someone vaguely famous is to attack them, rubbish their views and point out all their various flaws. Unfortunately for the Sun, the decision to turn on Jade Goody and the others involved in the bullying of Shetty has meant that with Shetty going to the Mirror and Danielle Lloyd going to the Star, they were left without any of their own exclusives.

Cue some bright spark who came up with an idea to save everything: turn on prejudice day! What better way to make up for the dearth of stories which their rivals have? Hell, they even got the Commission for Equality and Human Rights to OK their use of various racial epithets, just to make sure all was, err, kosher. Graham Dudman, the managing editor and public face of the paper, as Rebekah Wade tends to get into trouble whenever she appears in public,
even went to CiF with his feel-good aren't we doing something good line, trying to rouse interest in something which otherwise seems to have been ignored.

One thing you have to wonder about is just how much the kids which the Sun has pictured know about the newspaper's own recent history in being far from tolerant of their own backgrounds. For instance:

MUSTAFA MIYASAR, ten, from Scotland, has been called “terrorist”, an insult which began after 9/11.

This wouldn't have anything to do with the far from restrained at times coverage from the Sun of the actual terrorist threat. Front pages such as "PLOT TO KILL YOU", editorials warning the public to more or less stay scared, and this from after the conviction of Kamel Bourgass, who neither had ricin nor could have produced it with the phony recipe he had (not to mention he had no links with al-Qaida) don't exactly reassure the public that Muslims in general are not responsible for the actions of a tiny, tiny minority who share their religious faith.

JOYTI PANESAR, 11, of Leeds, held a sign saying “Paki”, an insult towards immigrant workers who arrived from Asia in the ’60s.

Different decades bring different workers. Today it's the East Europeans, and the Sun naturally would never dream of insulting them, casting them as invading hordes or as potentially bringing disease. Oh, wait:

Ms Deborah Jack, the Chief Executive of the National Aids Trust, complained that the newspaper had inaccurately described HIV rates in Eastern Europe. She also raised concerns that the article had confused HIV and AIDS.


The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following correction:

“On 16 November we reported fears immigrants from Eastern Europe made up a large proportion of new UK HIV cases. We have been asked to make clear Eastern Europe is not a significant source of new HIV diagnoses and Romania and Bulgaria do not have high HIV rates. They rank 39 and 44 respectively in the European league table of 52 countries.” In addition, the PCC asked the newspaper to mark its records in order to help avoid confusion between HIV and AIDS in future."

And here's that very day's editorial on the subject:

BRITAIN once wiped out TB and was gaining ground against AIDS.

Today we risk an explosion in both these killer diseases, thanks to infected immigrants.

Virulent new strains of tuberculosis are virtually incurable and easily spread.

Many have arrived from Africa, but startling new figures show a sharp rise in cases from new EU states Bulgaria and Romania which have the highest rates in Europe.

The irony is that the latest increase comes as health chiefs launch an awareness campaign against sexually transmitted diseases.

Understandably, those facing death will do anything to seek health care — especially if it is free.

But we will soon have to choose between acting as Good Samaritan to the world’s sick.

And protecting our own citizens against a deadly epidemic.

The article itself seems to have gone missing, so it looks as if it takes a PCC intervention for such woefully wrong stories to be removed from the archive. (See Muslim yobs passim ad nauseum and Rochelle Holness.) Still, when it comes to protecting "our own citizens" from the sexually infected hordes who are about to invade us, who could fault the Sun for being vigilant?

MARY RYE, 16, from Bromley, South London, has been called “Pikey”, a term said to come from an old English word meaning to travel or from turnpike.

Gypsy groups report the Sun to the police

Patrick Barkham
Thursday March 10, 2005
The Guardian

Gypsy groups reported the Sun to the police and the Press Complaints Commission yesterday, claiming that its new campaign against Traveller camps was an incitement to racial hatred.

Their leaders made formal complaints to the Hampshire and Sussex police, and communities spoke of the fear and intimidation caused by the tabloid declaring "war on gipsy [sic] free-for-all", under the headline "Stamp on the camps".

A woman living on a site in Kent was so worried by the Sun's attitude that she contacted the police yesterday and asked for their protection. Other Gypsies said their children were frightened when they read headlines apparently declaring "war" on them.

Here's some edited highlights from March the 9th 2005's Sun editorial:

Illegal sites are a symptom of the PC-driven victim culture in which even wrongdoers — such as gipsies who ride roughshod over the planning laws — are granted immunity and even given privileges.

The villain of the piece is the Human Rights Act, which our judges have limply interpreted to mean that these wandering tribes have a right to family life and respect for their homes which outweighs any harm they might do to the environment or rural communities.

What a difference nearly two years makes! Also note how the Sun uses gipsy rather than gypsies, purely so it can avoid potentially being racist, as gypsies are defined as a ethnic group. Smart, eh?

ZHAO PENG, 15, from Bristol, has been called “Chinky” a racial slur to describe Chinese people.

The Sun would never be so crude. That's why they referred to Ding Junhui, the Chinese snooker player who recently reached the Masters final as "Pot Noodle".

ZAYNAB AHMED, 16, from London, held the sign saying “Raghead”, a variation on the “Towelhead” insult. She says:
The most terrifying experience I had was when my cousin and I were going home after prayers at a mosque during Ramadan.

There was a massive group of football fans and they started making comments about our headscarves. It was really intimidating. They were laughing and shouting abuse. We were really scared.

Frightening indeed. Is it possible that some of them could have been Sun readers?

FIFTEEN women suicide bombers have been sent to murder British troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban chiefs have ordered them to dress as beggars or teachers and hide devices under burkas, a secret intelligence report has warned.

THE Sun today launches a campaign to close the veil loophole making a mockery of Britain’s airport security.

We told yesterday how a member of the gang which killed WPC Sharon Beshenivsky sneaked out of Heathrow by donning a Muslim niqab, with just a slit for eyes.

Now we are calling on Home Secretary John Reid to turn passport control at every airport in the country into a veil-free zone.

Nevermind that there has been no evidence presented whatsoever to prove that Mustaf Jama actually fled the country wearing a niqab, the Sun still felt the need to start up a pointless campaign. The coverage among the tabloids since Jack Straw's original speech has to been to point out that women wearing the headscarf, especially the full veil, aren't to be trusted; they either aren't willing to integrate, as their choice of religious dress is a wall of separation, or they're someone in disguise.

SEAN CALLEN, 12, of Southampton, hates the insult “chav scum” — a jibe at white working class people who wear brash designer clothes. It shows white people can be victims of bigots, too.

A search of the Sun's archive gives 201 results for chav, among them are such delights as the following:

A DIZZY blonde caught using both hands to doll herself up while DRIVING was heading to meet her secret lover, she revealed last night.

Chav calendar girl Donna Maddock said she wanted to look good for her date with her two-timing fella, who lives with a girlfriend and their child.

And speaking after she was done for careless driving by a court, the defiant 22-year-old said: “I must have looked like Penelope Pitstop driving along slapping the make-up on. But it’s something all women do. I can’t see what the big fuss is about.”

A WOMAN suspected of murdering her own mother was urged to turn herself in last night — by a sister who called her a “chav”.

Chav out first in eviction

TEARFUL Bonnie Holt was boiling mad last night as she became the first housemate to be evicted from Big Brother 7.

The Vicky Pollard-style chav told how she was “bored out of her brains”, sobbing to the others: “It was my time.”

It's the Chavtas, innit

THE SUN is proud to announce a new award for givin' it large – the Chavtas.

Our gongs will go to the champions of chav, the yoof culture phenomenon that is sweeping the nation.

Do you have a blindin' collection of bling?

Do you know somebody who dresses their dog in Burberry to match their own gear?

Write, with a picture if possible, to The Chavtas, The Sun, 1 Virginia St, London E98 1SN.

Then there's today's Sun leader on the subject, coupled with Dudman's own references to yesterday's survey about young Muslims:

Britain’s overwhelming vote to make Shilpa Shetty Celebrity Big Brother winner shows, thank goodness, we are a nation that hates racism.

But the show also proved how name-calling can become racist viciousness. The impact on society of offensive labels can be dangerous.

Shunned minorities retreat into ghettos and nurse their grievances.

At a more sinister level, as new polls show, it splits society and turns thousands of young Muslims into al-Qaeda sympathisers.

This is more worrying now than at any time in recent memory.

Tory leader David Cameron rightly blames multiculturalism and unchecked immigration for stoking the flames. But he puts his finger on another key factor — education. Ignorance breeds prejudice.

Right, so the Sun goes to the trouble of taking a picture of children who have suffered racism, all from different backgrounds, and then it still blames multiculturalism, despite all the evidence that living together fosters togetherness. The problem isn't multiculturalism, if anything it's because we've not become multicultural enough. Ignorance is indeed the problem, but you're highly unlikely to be enlightened from reading the Sun, let's face it. As for shunned minorities retreating into ghettos and potentially becoming radicalised, yesterday's study additionally pointed out how those who have been convicted of terrorism offences or who have killed themselves for their own perverted cause were almost universally better off than average, and had relatively few family problems. Racism might be to do with ignorance, but non-integration and poverty appear to be relatively low indicators for potential jihadis, at least from this country.

To be fair to the Sun, if its front page today does make someone who is prejudiced or racist think twice, and with its circulation reach it will hit a lot more homes than any other paper, then my cynicism can be dismissed. It's now up to the Sun to practice what it preaches - and by the above evidence, it's not hard to see how quickly this will be forgotten along with all the other short-lived outbreaks of moral superiority.

How quickly the Sun can change from attempting to be inclusive and all-embracing back to its hate-filled and downright nasty more familiar guise could not be better illustrated than its coverage today of their victory over Patricia Tierney:
Unhappy slapper loses

THE Sun won an historic legal victory yesterday after exposing the prostitute in the Wayne Rooney brothel libel case as a LIAR.

Gran Patricia Tierney, 52, tried to swindle hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages from us, claiming she was just an innocent receptionist.

She claimed her life had been ruined by a series of articles identifying her as a hooker known as The Auld Slapper in a Liverpool brothel Rooney used as a teenager.

But the court heard The Sun uncovered dramatic evidence last week that proved Tierney HAD been a prostitute at Diva’s brothel in Aigburth.

The mum of seven was caught out because of a damning statement she gave to Merseyside Police in May 2002 in which she admitted offering sex for £45 a go.

She stated: “My role was dual. On some days I would work as a receptionist.On other days I would act as a sex worker. My role would be to provide sexual services for clients.”

Historic my foot. Tierney was a liar, it's quite true, but all of this would never have happened if the Sun, instead of naming the woman and exposing her had simply covered her face and not revealed her identity, simply referring to as an older prostitute, which is what she was. There was no need to humiliate her; Rooney was the one who paid for the sex. As Michael White argues:

It seems that Mrs Tierney did do some sex work when she needed the cash and gave details - in confidence - to the Merseyside police when they investigated another case. Naive as well as greedy perhaps, to think it wouldn't come out. But you can't help feeling sorry for someone - not a rich footballer, but a working-class mother and grandmother of 16 - who finds herself on the receiving end of the tabloid treatment for not doing anything illegal.

"It has destroyed my children, my grandchildren, my husband and myself. What I have done, I had my reasons, but I did not deserve this. If it had not been for Rooney, I would not be here," Mrs T said, in applying for an adjournment.

Prostitution in this country is not illegal, but soliciting is. Tierney was not soliciting, and was not breaking the law. There's some additional information in the Grauniad's report:

Ms Tierney said she was "begging for her life". Mr Riley said the alleged libel and what had followed was "destroying us, slaughtering us".

The Sun had offered the family cash for "a dirty story, the dirtier the better" about Mr Rooney. "We never took any money. It's about getting her name cleared ... We are just low-life to the Sun."

After the judge delivered his judgment, Mr Riley was asked if he wanted to comment. "We never had a chance," he said.

How things change. While the Sun went all out for Rooney then, it later dropped its claim that Rooney himself had hit his girlfriend and told her to "fuck off home", paying him £100,000 in damages. Around the same time, Rooney signed his mega-deal with HarperCollins (proprietor: R. Murdoch) to publish his autobiography in installments.

The Sun's leader is even nastier:

GREEDY tart Patricia Tierney pleasured Wayne Rooney for a few quid in a seedy Liverpool brothel.

Then she tried to screw The Sun for £750,000, claiming we damaged her reputation by naming her.

She insisted she was just a granny helping out at the desk. The case was thrown out because she confessed to police two years earlier that she was a whore.

Now she risks jail for contempt of court.

Serves her right.

One day the Sun might get a taste of its own medicine when it comes to ruining lives. Until then, it'll continue to act almost with complete impunity, smearing anyone and anything that gets in its way, however much it pretends to hate prejudice.

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Monday, January 29, 2007 

Philips justifies her feeble correction.

Korova managed to get a response out of Melanie over her non-retraction of the Sun's inaccurate Windsor Muslim yobs report, and it's a corker. Also worth wondering who "Emma" in the comments is.

Related posts:
Mad Mel Meddles
Scum-watch: Feeble corrections
Scum-watch: Blaming a religion and community shamelessly.

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Multiculturalism, David Cameron and doing the exact thing they're accusing others of.

Amazingly, David Cameron has made something of a better speech on multiculturalism than Blair did back in December. Sure, the belief that multiculturalism has failed is still there, and describing the Muslim Council of Britain as similar to the BNP is not just stupid, it's ignorant, but let's leave it there for the moment.

Some of Cameron's speech was based at least partially on the Policy Exchange's report "British Muslims and the paradox of multiculutralism" (PDF), which this morning created lurid headlines in the tabloids, which Five Chinese Crackers delights in tearing apart. The poll conducted alongside the study is actually far more reassuring than it is frightening or alarming, as Sunny points out on Comment is Free. It's also worth noting that the more radical 16-24 year-olds views would be based on a far smaller sample of the 1,003 who were questioned, which will potentially skew the results. A truly representative survey would sample around 1,000 16-24 year-olds, which would probably alter the results quite substantially.

My problems with the study, which I've flicked through, are also similar to Sunny's. It seems to think that political Islam is one of the main problems, yet their very own poll shows that 51% felt that no Muslim organisation reflected their views, including organisations such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The organisation with the highest amount other than their own mosque was the Muslim Council of Britain, with 6%. These are the very same organisations about to be accused by another Tory policy review of promoting victimhood and being as potentially divisive as the BNP. The study also suggests that history lessons can contain an anti-Western bias, which proves that none of the authors have gone near a comprehensive classroom in years, or bothered to actually talk to any history teachers.

The attacks on multiculturalism are similarly wrongheaded. There is no contradiction between multiculturalism and integration; they are interdependent. Where multiculturalism has failed is that there has not been enough of the second. While some on the right regard 7/7 as the end of multiculturalism, others noted just how the people murdered that day were the very embodiment of that very social policy. They may not have known each other, they may have been purposefully avoiding each other's eyes before they were killed, but they showed that we're successfully living together and think nothing of it.

This is where the Policy Exchange is completely right. There has to be an end to seeing Muslims as different, and some on the left are just as guilty of this as the right is. They're neither victims, nor are they the enemy within. This is where the MCB can be criticised, and where the ideas of the New Generation Network come in.

And so how do the Tories intend to stop Muslims being seen as different and potentially a threat? By, err, naming the very organisations which are seeking to represent them (but failing) and saying that they're the problem. Vilifying them by comparing them to the BNP is just as counter-productive as some of the views the more radical of them espouse. Cameron himself says he wants a more calm debate, then he appears to be doing just the thing that's going to bring in the mouth-breathers. As ever, a compromise has to be struck, and neither Labour nor the Tories have managed it yet.

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Scum-watch: They're still outting "paedophiles".

I'm slightly hesitant about making this post, as the very last thing I want to do is in any way defend either sex offenders or paedophiles. That aside, the Scum, edited by Rebekah Wade, the same woman who masterminded the highly counter-productive News of the Screw paedo-name and shame campaign is once again up to her old tricks.

Normally, this wouldn't be something to be concerned about, and the cases involved are to say the least, potentially worth exposing. The biggest concern as always is that vigilante action will be launched, not just against those have been outted, but against those whose identity may be mistaken in the heat of the moment. Nonetheless, I think the Sun is going too far in at least the second case I'm about to highlight. Others will likely vehemently disagree.

To begin with, the nom de plume of the outter is simply "the Investigator". It's quite true that I'm also anonymous, but the one thing I'm not doing is ruining people's lives for things that they have done years ago. This is exactly what the "Investigator" is doing.

The first article by the Investigator was in last Monday's Sun, with a follow-up the next day, and a leader comment, probably written by the ginger ninja herself.

A BUS driver who picks up kids from school is a convicted paedophile — whose bosses KNEW of his sordid past when he was hired.

David Skinner, 52, was jailed for 18 months for molesting little girls.

Yet he has been allowed to drive a route around Margate and Ramsgate in Kent during which queues of trusting schoolchildren clamber on his bus.

The pervert was yesterday suspended by transport giants Stagecoach following a Sun investigation. But he was working for the SAME company when he was caged for indecent assault and gross indecency.

Open and shut case then right? A convicted child molester shouldn't be working with children, full stop. However:

Balding Skinner — seen by The Sun chatting to kids — was jailed in 1992. It is understood he molested three children aged between six and nine while babysitting.

So we're going back 14 years. He was jailed for 18 months and served 9. He was given his job back, and has been doing school bus runs, but the Sun doesn't say for how long or how often he's being doing them.

And that's it. Well, apart from some hearsay evidence from a a driver source:

One driver called single Skinner “repulsive”. He added: “Some of the drivers who were around when he was convicted knew of his past and were disgusted when he was allowed back on school routes. But when it was raised they were told he would be allowed to stay.

“Drivers get to know kids from school runs and often also pick them up when they go out on the town late at night.

“They know which ones are under-age because they’ve seen them in their uniforms.

“Once, Skinner and another driver were discussing the youngsters all dressed up and he admitted it was tempting to see them like that.”

In all the time he's since been working for the various bus companies, there doesn't appear to have been anything to suggest that he shouldn't been working at all with children. It's obvious that most of those convicted of sexual offences in connection with children are immediately barred from working with them, and that advice is generally given to companies as to who should and shouldn't be doing work such as school runs, but either that wasn't given, was ignored or made clear that he didn't pose a threat, or at least in their evaluation.

The Sun suggests that the manager who cleared Skinner to work the school runs has since left the company, and Stagecoach responded to the Sun's expose by suspending Skinner.

The problem I have with this is more than over the suspension, which seems the right move, certainly from school runs at least, is that he's been doing his job quietly all those years, has seemingly moved on and reformed, and now after all this time he's had been named in a national newspaper as a paedophile for a crime committed over a decade ago. Some will argue that parents always deserve to know of any conviction of an adult working in any way with their child, and I agree that I don't think Skinner should have been doing school runs. It's just that this could have been done without subjecting him to vilification for a conviction in his past. Of course, this isn't how tabloid journalism works. There has to be a story, otherwise the time and money spent investigating is wasted. Yet it would have been far better to inform Stagecoach, make sure that Skinner no longer does school runs, and leave it at that. Instead he's had his life turned upside down. It's true that he may well have ruined the lives of those he abused, one of which the Sun quotes the following day as being terribly upset when she discovered that he was driving buses round. Does that however years later justify destroying his, not to mention potentially subjecting him to reprisals?

Today's expose is far more controversial than that of Skinner's.

A RAT-FACED paedophile is driving a school bus — after being cleared by council officials.

Convicted child molester Nicholas Emms, 35, drives pupils aged nine to 13 to and from school each day.

He is the second paedophile school bus driver to be exposed by The Sun in a week.

Again, if he's been convicted of similar offences to Skinner then he shouldn't be working with children. The plot here though is far thicker than that of his:

But the pervert, who indecently assaulted a girl under 14, claimed: “I’m not a danger. I’ve been cleared for school runs.”

Emms was sentenced to two years’ probation at Worcester Crown Court in 1989.

We're going even further back, and while under 14 is ambiguous
, it may well be that the girl was 13. In 1989 Emms would have been either 17 or 18. Going back again to Wikipedia's quoting of the diagnosis of a paedophile:

The APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition, Text Revision gives the following as its "Diagnostic criteria for 302.2 Pedophilia":[27]

We also don't know the circumstances surrounding the indecent assault. They may have been boyfriend and girlfriend, it could have involved anything. It has to be said that Emms doesn't help his case with the following:

He said the conviction happened when he was a teenager, adding: “Everybody was having a laugh in those days.”

Emms is now 35, is married with a wife and has his own kids, has apparently not re-offended in any way, and has been cleared by the council to drive a bus on the school run.

Is exposing him in the public interest? Perhaps, but only just. It can be argued that the parents will now tell their children to be extra-careful around the bus driver, stay together in groups and don't stay on alone, but apart from that it seems that it would have been far better to let sleeping dogs lie. What has been achieved from "outting" him, apart from scaring parents, making children afraid of adults when there is no need to be anything other than cautious (it's also worth remembering that children are much more likely to be abused by someone known to them, usually within their friends and family) and again, bringing up the distant past of a man whose circumstances were hugely different then? He is also now open to potential vigilante justice.

The debate around child protection is going to be fraught. There's always a balance to be struck, and the Sun may well have done the right thing in naming Skinner. The reason though why we now have the sex offenders' register, organisations like MAPPA and the criminal records bureau is to take the potential for both injustice and justice out of the hands of those who don't know the full facts, and who might act in ways they might later regret. The only thing I can see that might have been gained from the Sun's expose today of Emms is that it might sell a few more copies and may make the "Investigator" feel happier with his work than he would of had he been subbing. The Sun may feel justified in its work, but the balance that it's striking is one that needs to be closely monitored.

I also don't have children. If I was a parent I might feel very different. Comments, name-calling on my naivety, etc, are more than welcome.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007 

Scum-watch: Yeah, it continues.

First up, the Scum did at least have the guts to report the jailing of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, but didn't admit to belonging to the same parent company as the News of the Screws. The story also isn't by-lined, which is odd. Perhaps the journalist involved was frightened of the repercussions of reporting their colleagues' misdemeanors, when usually News International completely ignores them.

On then once again to the continuing shrieking about a situation that the Scum has had more than a hand in creating:

EMBATTLED John Reid was under fire from all sides yesterday as the prisons crisis spiralled out of control.

Judges were in open revolt after being forced to free more dangerous criminals because of the cells shortage.

But other judges were accused of being opportunist and using Reid’s plea to jail only the worst-case criminals as an excuse to go SOFT on other menaces to society.

Yes, of course they are. The "soft" judges are in fact being eminently sensible, as Not Saussure points out regarding the sentences handed down to the two sex offenders, Derek Williams and Keith Morris. Not that this matters one jot to the Sun, it's just something to grab and bash even further with; that they happened to be involved in crimes which are editor Rebekah Wade's favourite was just an added bonus. Instead, the Scum "names and shames" three judges, two of those responsible for the above:

THREE judges caused fury this week by using John Reid’s recommendations to go soft on offenders.

In the first high-profile case Judge John Rogers, QC, gave pervert Derek Williams a suspended sentence at Mold Crown Court.

Then evil Keith Morris was bailed by Judge Graham Cottle at Exeter despite attacking boys.

In case No3 Judge Nigel van der Bijl gave cannabis smuggler Darius Sawka a 12-month suspended sentence at Canterbury Crown Court.

The judge said the normal sentence would be up to three years’ jail. But he told Sawka, 33, a German arrested at Dover: “The current situation with the prison population is that we are being asked to look at alternatives.”

As NS points out, Morris would in other parts of the country likely have been bailed anyway, overcrowded prisons or not. It seems local circumstances intervened in his case. Either way, he's going to prison shortly, has been put under curfew, and will more than likely be tagged and/or have to report to the local cop shop daily. As for Sawka, does anyone still care about smuggling cannabis, or should we even care? It's a Class C drug for God's sake, the arguments for legalising it grow stronger by the day, and the time would be better spent stopping those smuggling the hard drugs that actually increase crime.

In the stakes for useful idiot ex-Labour minister of the day, John Spellar sounds his mouth off to the Scum:

Former Labour Minister John Spellar stormed: “I fear some judges are using this as an excuse for soft sentences. Some of them are perhaps still a bit sore after coming under fire themselves last year.

“I wonder if they are taking the opportunity to pursue their love of soft-touch sentences."

Yes, you're quite right Mr Spellar. Those judges just
love to give out soft sentences and then get screamed at by the ever-reactionary tabloids and opportunist MPs who want to get their names in the papers. Spellar is apparently referring to the Scum's campaign of last year based on the sentence given to paedophile Craig Sweeney, when the judge simply followed the government's own guidelines for sentencing in the circumstances. That the Sun's campaign backfired when the judges themselves struck back at the despicably cowardly naming and shaming, and was abandoned within a month isn't worth mentioning.

John Reid himself puts in a reasonably decent defense of his time as Home Secretary, at least before he gets onto attacking the Lib Dems and Tories in the same politically motivated way that simply turns people off politics.

Then there's this utterly sickening article which pretty much shows what the constant attention the Scum gives to "paedo-pervs" does to people and influences the way they react to a "pervert" being in their midst:

Neighbour Jamie Jones, 18, said: “He’s a beast and a nonce and should be locked up for life.”

Valerie Williams, 27, who has a girl aged two, said: “What more serious offence can there be than paedophilia? It ruins a child’s life. It’s worrying he could be wandering around and looking at my child and others in the street.

“I want signs and photos of him and to put them around the area. People need to be aware of the risk.”

Donna Armitage, 24, mother of a lad aged three, said: “He could look through my windows and see my son. That man should be in a hostel.”

Oh God, he could be looking at your kids?! The horror, the horror. It's no surprise that the man himself is fearing that there could be vigilante action against him or his family; judging by such comments, he'd be stupid not to. Williams himself claims that the images were already on the hard drive when he bought it second-hand, and although I can't find the relevant article now, I did read one which said the date on the files was from the early 00s, which although can be easily faked, does go along with his defense. This iCWales article gives a little more background. Either way, however predictable the response to such a crime is, the man clearly doesn't deserve further vilification than that he has already received.

Meanwhile it emerged that Judge John Rogers, who handled Williams’ case, could come face-to-face with his BROTHER next month in an unconnected case.

So why are you reporting it? Oh, it's because you're assholes.

The Scum's leader focuses on it all yet again:

The Sun has campaigned hard for the suspension of pathetically lenient judges who routinely side with criminals over victims. But Reid and Falconer’s letter was manna from heaven for them. Now they have an excuse, officially endorsed by the Government.

Yes, all very noble of you, apart from the fact that Williams' and Sawka's crimes didn't involve any victims except themselves. Instead of judges using their own common sense, which they appear to have been doing and are being attacked for doing so, this is all part of the judges being soft conspiracy which the Scum's dreamed up, no longer able to credibly attack the government itself for being "soft" on crime.

More than anything, that only 3 cases have come to light regarding the Home Secretary's reminding judges of the rules they know only too well shows that this is a situation which is again being whipped out of all proportion by the media. It's all well and good coming across morally righteous about "paedos escaping prison", but not having any other solution than the current one which is so obviously failing leaves those howling with little to back them up once the hoo-hah dies down.

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Friday, January 26, 2007 

Scum-watch: It had to be a dirty paedo pervert, didn't it?

The Scum is having a field day with John Reid. Gone from praising his illiberal rabble-rousing rhetoric, it's turned on him with all the typical tabloid viciousness of building someone up to then tear them down.

JOHN Reid was dealt a new hammer blow yesterday when a PAEDOPHILE was freed because of his failure to build prisons.

It just had to be. To quote an idiot, you couldn't make it up.

Paedophile Williams — who had more than 180 sickening images on his computer — was let off with a six-month sentence and suspended for two years. He was also placed on supervision.

Married Williams, 46, of Blaenau Ffestiniog, was ordered to be placed on the sex offenders’ register for seven years. He was caught after his wife called in police. The revelation that a paedophile is among those escaping justice makes any hopes Reid might have of succeeding Prime Minister Tony Blair seem ludicrous — without taking account of the crime figures released yesterday.

What I'm about to say a lot will probably disagree with, but Williams is not technically a paedophile. A pervert, yes, but a paedophile, no. A lot like sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken, looking at sexually explicit photographs of children does not make you a paedophile. If we want to get really pedantic about it, then Wikipedia reproduces the diagnostic criteria for psychiatrists:

The APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition, Text Revision gives the following as its "Diagnostic criteria for 302.2 Pedophilia":[27]

* Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
* The person has acted on these urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
* The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.

So it's not clear that Williams would be a paedophile, unless we're also now considering thought crime when it comes down to labelling people. The Scum also doesn't bother to mention the mitigating circumstances which were involved in his case:
that he pleaded guilty, and that the case had taken a long time to come to court, through no fault of his own. It's not as if he was entirely let off or freed - his sentence has just been suspended, and he's been put under supervision and has to sign the sex offenders' register for 7 years. The head of the NSPCC therefore obviously didn't bother even to look into the background of the case before she opened her mouth:

It is unacceptable that people who have committed crimes against children are not jailed simply because prisons are too full if the severity of the crime requires a prison sentence."

Unless we go along with the assumption that those who view child pornography are as a result going to want "new" material and that this will drive abusers on, i.e. supply and demand, an argument that is shaky to say the least, then Williams wasn't committing a "crime against children". Rod Liddle, in one of his rarer lucid moments in the aftermath of the Pete Townshend arrest,
wrote a decent piece questioning the underlying assumptions all around the viewing of child pornography. I'd personally say that the sentence Williams received is about right. Others will more than likely vehemently disagree. In Keith Morris's case on the other hand, he would be a paedophile, or if we're being really pedantic and the child was older than 13, an ephebophile. He has been released, I assume with a tag, when otherwise he would have been held on remand. Anyway, I've been sidetracked. On to the Scum's hilarious piece for looking for Reid's brain:

JOHN Reid skulked off to his office yesterday as The Sun stepped up the hunt for his missing brain.

He looked blank as he emerged from his smart Westminster town house.

I said: “Good morning, Mr Reid. The Sun and our readers are desperately trying to find your brain — can you give us a clue?”

He stared at the floor and shuffled to a Jaguar.

I asked: “Can you recall the last time you used it?” — but he sped off.


Finally, Tim went to the last place likely to know anything — the Home Office. Staff wanted to help — but said they were “not fit for the purpose”.

Oh my aching sides.
But guess what? The Scum have found the prison ship!

THE Sun yesterday found a prison ship John Reid could use to ease the jails crisis — the SAME ONE the Government sold just six months ago.

HMP Weare is still moored at the same Channel port as it was when the Home Office got rid of it for just £2.5million in August.

Mr Reid repeatedly told The Sun that the Weare had been sold off and could not be bought back — while his aides even said it was being lined up for the scrapyard.

For just £2.5million? Seems like a shrewd deal considering its sea-worthiness certificate had ran out,
that it had no fresh air and that the ship itself was in the wrong area for a prison.

But last night it was revealed the vessel has undergone a huge refit and could be bought back — but at THREE times the amount the Home Office got for it.

The Sun stepped in after disclosing the scale of John Reid’s failure to deal with the prisons overcrowding fiasco.

Within a few hours we discovered the Weare, which was opened in 1997 and closed in 2005, is still moored at Portland, Dorset.

It had been completely refurbished by its new owners, Sea Trucks Group, a Nigerian-based firm specialising in supporting the offshore oil industry.

Sea Trucks have spent a small fortune upgrading the vessel to provide accommodation for up to 1,000 people such as oil rig workers.

Exactly, as would the Home Office have had to spend a small fortune to keep it going. It instead decided that it wasn't worth the money, and also explained that it could be shut
because a new private prison had opened in Peterborough. Instead of spending £10 million buying the thing back the money would be better spent on an actual new prison, or on refurbishing extra places that already exist. None of this matters though, it's just something to bash Reid about with.

“As I understand it, when it was used as a jail it only had the least dangerous prisoners so that the security measures did not need to be the very highest.”

At the height of its use the Weare — built in the 1970s and used to accommodate soldiers in the Falklands — held 400 low-risk inmates.

The Sun here doesn't bother to inform its readers of extra details other than it held "low-risk" inmates -
it was a Category C prison, one security level above an open prison. Elsewhere, it's time to "name and shame" some more people involved in the Home Office, whether they're actually responsible for the chaos or not:

NINE top civil servants are responsible for day-to-day running of the Home Office.

They are meant to ensure prisons, probation, immigration and other services meet ministers’ targets.

Sorry to break it to you lot, but if the Home Office’s current shambles is the best you can do, you need your heads examined.

Obviously. Now that they've been insulted by the UK's best-selling newspaper, they're just bound to look themselves in the mirror and think: God - am I really this shit?
On then to the Scum's leader:

THE fiasco that is the Home Office gets more ludicrous by the minute.

It is now clear that John Reid is not the only one whose brain is missing in this benighted government department.

There are 73,359 public servants serving under the Home Secretary and his clutch of ministers and senior mandarins.

Not one of them has managed to find an answer to the problem of a prison network littered with signs declaring: “Sorry, No Vacancies”.

While officials and ministers shrugged, it took The Sun just two hours to find a jail ship floating on England’s south coast.

It is empty but spruced up and ready to take 1,000 criminals.

Laughably, it is the same ship decommissioned by Charles Clarke when he had his turn at making a mess of the Home Office.

If you presented this as the script of a Carry On film it would be rejected as too ridiculous.

Yes, and this sprucing up wouldn't have involved removing any of the normal features of a prison by any chance, would it? I'm sure the workers for Sea Trucks would have loved having their doors locked from outside without being able to get out, or other workers spying on them through the hatches for looking in. It was decommissioned because it wasn't worth spending the money on fixing it up; the money is now not worth spending on buying it back.

But you would have to be an idiot not to know our jails were heading for disaster.
# Convicts and suspects have been crammed into police cells, taking hard-pressed officers off the beat.
# Courts have been told by John Reid to cut the numbers being sent to jail.

You'd also have to be an idiot to think that having a prison population of 80,000 is sustainable, even in the short term. This isn't a very popular view however though in the Scum.

Which helps explain why yesterday’s crime figures showed robberies rising, and big increases in vandalism and drug offences.

Yep - in overcrowded prisons those inside are even more like to come out and re-offend. The Scum just wants more places built, without thinking about how prison for minor offences, especially for vandalism and drug offences simply doesn't work, especially without treatment programmes in the latter case, which are hopelessly oversubscribed and underfunded.

At the centre of this mess the Prime Minister, The Chancellor and all four Labour Home Secretaries are unable to answer a few simple questions:

Why weren’t extra prison places built years ago?

Most likely because they hoped that judges would take notice of their pleas for only serious and violent offenders to be jailed, but instead they've taken more notice of the media and political climate to get ever tougher on crime. Who is this climate driven by? You guessed it.

Who is to blame for this monumental error?

The last few home secretaries, Michael Howard for starting the "prison works!" crap in the beginning, the tabloids, led by this very newspaper, and some judges themselves.

What about using old army camps in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as England?

Because the money would be better spent on new prisons proper rather than doing up dingy and potentially unfit for human habitation army facilities, not to mention angering and not consulting those who live in the area.

How about that floating jail that has been staring them in the face?

Which err, doesn't belong to the government anymore, would cost way too much to buy back and wasn't worth refurbishing in the first place. Apart from that, great idea!

And why does a crisis have to be a catastrophe before this government gets its brains into gear?

But then, we were almost forgetting. Some of their brains are missing.

Probably because they would rather continue with the idiocy of banging up 80,000 or more rather than face annoying the Sun by going "soft". The current situation is still probably better than further riling the Wade and Murdoch banshee.

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