Saturday, March 31, 2007 

Don't come asylum-seekin' with us.

This government regularly finds itself being strongly criticised for its myriad failings. The right-wing press tend to lap these up, whether they themselves or those they support have any solutions of their own.

It's therefore only when you consider how the tabloids have been so successful in demonising immigrants of all kinds that it becomes apparent why not a single right-wing newspaper seems to have bothered reporting the findings of the Joint Committee of Human Rights on how Home Office legislation has affected asylum seekers over the last 10 years (PDF). One paragraph especially is worth reproducing in full:

120. We consider that by refusing permission for most asylum seekers to work and operating a system of support which results in widespread destitution, the treatment of asylum seekers in a number of cases reaches the Article 3 ECHR (European Convention of Human Rights) threshold of inhuman and degrading treatment. This applies at all stages of the asylum claim process: when an individual is attempting to claim asylum, during the period of consideration of their claim and during the period after their claim is refused if they are unable to return to their country of origin. Many witnesses have told us that they are convinced that destitution is a deliberate tool in the operation of immigration policy. We have been persuaded by the evidence that the Government has indeed been practising a deliberate policy of destitution of this highly vulnerable group. We believe that the deliberate use of inhumane treatment is unacceptable. We have seen instances in all cases where the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers falls below the requirements of the common law of humanity and of international human rights law.

In the section on treatment by the media (dealt with in more detail by FCC) the report makes this recommendation:

We recommend that Ministers recognise their responsibility to use measured language so as not to give ammunition to those who seek to build up resentment against asylum seekers, nor to give the media the excuse to write inflammatory or misleading articles.

At the beginning of March, our beloved home secretary made the following statement:

"It is unfair that foreigners come to this country illegitimately and steal our benefits, steal our services like the NHS and undermine the minimum wage by working."

Who needs the BNP when you have John Reid? Not that there is any evidence that "foreigners" are coming here to "steal" our benefits: only 3% of the foreign nationals (662,000) who came here in 2005 were claiming them last year.

Will the report make any difference? When so little of the media seems to have noticed it, or rather bothered to report it (the Independent has a report, the Grauniad bases a leader around it, and the Mirror has a Reuters article although probably nothing in the actual paper; the Mail did earlier in the week report on a Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust paper which covered similar ground) it's hard to be enthusiastic. FCC again probably has it right: asylum seekers are so passé. The new target for irrational hatred is Muslims or east European migrants. When no one cares about you enough to even hate you, you may as well not exist, which seems to be what the government would prefer.

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Friday, March 30, 2007 

Guido and his sock-puppets.



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Peaches and scream.

Peaches Geldof. Peaches fucking Geldof. Or, to give her full name, Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof. The name itself could stop a suicide bomber in his tracks. Why blow yourself up on the public transportation system when just a epithet can inspire similar dread of the downfall of civilised society?

For some reason known only to the editors at the Grauniad, they love every so often to wind the readers' up. The latest example of this is giving over the G2 column slot usually filled by Alexander Chancellor to the aforementioned fruit/plant/celestial being.

It gets worse. She's here to tell us all about her obsession with MurdochSpace:

One night, after watching Hollyoaks (the king of soaps), I browsed other people's comments. Logging on to my friend Jessica's profile (slyly noting that my profile picture was way better than hers in terms of creativity - I was dressed as a clown for a fancy-dress party), I noticed that another of my friends had been cyber-galactically conversing with her. But wait . . . they were talking about me! "Peaches is so annoying," Chloe had written. "She's uploaded about seven pictures of herself posing, then about 10 of Fred [my beloved boyfriend] and then all the rest are of her stupid rat-dog and her dressed as some kind of scary clown. She really needs to stop being such an exhibitionist all the time." WHAT?

How then does our intrepid MurdochSpace user respond to this insult against her honour?

I furiously left a scathing comment about privacy, integrity, respect, etc and then added some abusive picture comments on Chloe's page. Ah, sweet revenge.

Oh, so you're a cunt. Well, that's not exactly much of a surprise, is it? Your father's a cunt who urged the poor to give all their money to charity while he takes all the credit and your mother was a worthless, talentless cunt right up until she finally she did the one thing she'll be remembered for, i.e. killing herself. You couldn't help being given that horrendous name, but you could have at least tried not to live up to it. Instead you and all your vapid, attention-seeking, fame-loving, brain-dead but rich buddies fill up the pages of the newspapers with your miserable, banal and boring antics and then expect that people will care about your fatuous MurdochSpace addiction.

One night, while staring at the flickering screen, surfing my only link to the outside world, I realised I was trapped in a cyber-microcosm of isolation. It was time to come clean or be trapped for ever. I cut myself off MySpace. Cold turkey. I occasionally go back on, just to check messages and show my old haunt I'm still there, in spirit. But for all those starting on MySpace, or Bebo or Facebook, or any of these other so-called "communities" - be warned. Once you log in, you might never log off.

Why couldn't you stay forever logged in? Why is God punishing us by giving you space to write this trite crap? Why can't you just be another MurdochSpace whore, involved in your own little circle-jerk without bothering the rest of humankind and hopefully dying in a somewhat entertaining manner? Why can someone with nothing to say be given a column in a national newspaper? Can't you take Russell Brand and fuck off and die in a corner?

Still it goes on:

I recently turned 18, and instead of feeling a huge change as the tide of adulthood washed over me, cleansing me of my youth and dirtying me with (gasp!) old age, I felt nothing. I had been led to believe that when I reached adulthood, all of sudden I would have to take responsibility for all my actions, that grey hairs would appear, that I would acquire an innate sense of self I had previously lacked. Instead I acquired a dog.

You didn't "acquire" this dog though did you? You didn't just find one in an alley and take pity on it. No, being 18, infatuated with becoming famous yet loaded with money, you had to copy the biggest, most-well known and least talented person on the planet:

Snowy is a teacup chihuahua (insert Paris Hilton jokes here)

Jesus tap-dancing fucking Christ. First we hear about your squabbles with your lame friends, now we're treated to a story about your exclusive, pedigree excuse for a dog.

How can such a tiny dog make such a huge muck?

How can one witless daughter of a half-wit make you lose so much faith in humanity? How can such a tiny woman leave such a great big printed turd in the middle of a newspaper? Why have I not shot myself yet? Still, I have to hand it to her: she's managed in 947 words to mention her boyfriend 5 times, and even plug his fucking atrocious band, which manages to out-pseud even the most pretentious post-rock/prog-rock group:

Every generation has a legend.

Every saga has a beginning.

Every journey has a first step.

Yeah, it's called the saga of the journey to the Jobcentre. Enjoy it. Hopefully Peaches will eventually join you there.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007 

First extract the rafter from your own eye.

What it is about former home secretaries that causes them to go slowly but inexorably mad? David Blunkett now spends his days when he's not advising companies on the ID card scheme that he helped create firing off numerous letters courtesy of his lawyers to newspaper editors, who've dared to make some tiny mistake or perceived slight about his ministerial career. Charles Clarke, somewhat understandably embittered by his sacking by Blair, has since spent his time doing everything possible not to undermine the prime minister, but instead his perceived successor.

Even more puzzling is the Grauniad's role in all this. It not only reports Clarke's latest missive, but reprints it in the comment section. The sad thing is that Clarke does identify some genuine problems that Labour has to face: it's created a media monster through spin which will now be close to impossible to put down; Labour does have to be renewed, and urgently and a leadership contest would be welcome.

Then he blots it all by reminding us of his hypocrisy:

It is certainly right that there are divisions caused by those candidates for leader and deputy leader who have entered the contest before there's a vacancy, who have publicly appointed their campaign managers, and who prefer backroom conspiracy to open discussion of the policy challenges we face.

These actions weaken the party. But they also undermine the authority of the prime minister when authority is important, as in relation to Iran today. These matters have to be dealt with by a strong prime minister. They cannot be addressed by a leader-in-waiting, and divisions in the ruling party do not help.

While Clarke has simply preferred, along with Alan Milburn, to start a fully out in the open conspiracy designed to flush out a New Labour/Blairite candidate to oppose Brown for the leadership. These actions have weakened the party by making it even less likely that there will be a challenger, as none of them want to have the millstone around their necks that is two men implacably opposed to Brown who are dedicated to continuing the dead New Labour project, even if it's in a lighter form.

It's time for Labour politicians to stand up and address the only question which matters, both for us and the country: how can Labour win again?

As David Clark identifies, Blair's refusal to stand-down, coupled with the anger and denial of reality by the ultra-Blairites has made it close to impossible for anyone to emerge out of the 10 years of power unscathed. In short, Labour can't, thanks in part to the in-fighting. The Tories have caught on, as Mr Eugenides notes, bigging up the threat from David Miliband when there is none, all as part of a ploy to try to further damage Brown. Along with Turnball's attack on Brown's "Stalinism", it's working.

As little sympathy as I have for New Labour, it's still dismaying to watch the party tear itself to pieces over a leader that has never loved it and has only used it for his own gain. If there is to be life after Blair, the party has to realise that almost everything associated with the Blair era has to go. Trying desperately to cling on to parts of it, as Charles Clarke and the others like him are attempting to do will only help to further destroy it.

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The world was a mess but at least her hair was covered.

If there is one thing the British media can't be accused of, it's being predictable. You'd think that the fact that the 15 sailors being paraded on television is a potential breach of the Geneva convention would be enough, along with the fact that Faye Turney, who was predictably picked on, was given an obviously false statement to read, while a letter containing strange turns of phrase was presented that was intended to further cause humiliation and worry to her family. No, apparently the biggest insult is that she was "forced" to wear a headscarf:

There's this reactionary, ridiculous pile of crap from the Sun as well:

Then there is the personal degradation of making Faye wear a headscarf. As a woman excelling in a man’s world, she will be furious to have been belittled.

Oh, the inhumanity!

All of which only underlines the complete ignorance of Iran in general. All post-pubescent women, including foreigners in Iran are required, or if you prefer, forced, to wear the hijab, hence why female journalists wear headscarves in their reports. It was unlikely those holding Turney were going to make an exception for her, especially when the footage was broadcast on one of the most conservative satellite stations. If anything Turney actually got off lightly - her head-covering was loose, something that Ahmadinejad has tried to crackdown on.

The Scum's Tom Newton Dunn continues:

But worst of all, they have exploited the terror of Faye’s daughter Molly and her mum’s deep feelings for her.

Which the Sun clearly cannot be accused of doing themselves. For the simple reason that she's a woman, Turney has been the one sailor who's been focused on. The Sun has printed details about her family and her nickname, emphasising that she's a mother with a young daughter. Her family had asked the media to kindly stick their mock concern where the sun doesn't shine, which only encouraged them to dig even deeper. Anne Perkins develops this further. Who can blame the Iranians for doing the exact same thing when the tabloid media in this country is only too happy to play with emotions in such a way?

Parading captured troops in public is a war crime. Britain would never do it.

No, our brave boys would never do something so dastardly. They'd close ranks and suffer collective amnesia instead.

We could additionally argue all day and all night about whether the sailors were in Iraqi or Iranian waters. It doesn't matter. Even if a breach had taken place, the issue could have been easily resolved without the Iranians taking the sailors captive. The manner of their capture suggests that this was planned in advance, either as a response to the looming tightening of sanctions over Iran's nuclear program or to try to use them as a bargaining chip to free the five Iranians seized by the Americans in Irbil.

The criticism on the Daily Mail's front page is similarly disingenuous. Just what else do they suggest should be done? The diplomatic avenue is the only avenue, even when everyone's favourite gung-ho writer of shitty espionage fiction suggests that the appearance of the sailors helps because it gives "our troops clues where they are", as if we're going to storm a raid without the Iranians noticing the infringing of their airspace. As the Guardian leader argues, this whole incident has only helped to show how difficult it is to trust Tehran. They now have to find a way to free the soldiers without losing further face, and at the moment seem to be floundering, making excuses for not releasing Turney as promised. Tehran is of course not only playing for the international community, but for its own population, who for the moment due to the extended Iranian new year holiday are reported to be largely ignorant of the current situation. The liberal opposition in Iran can only be strengthened by the eventual release of the hostages, showing the revolutionary guard, closely aligned to the hard-line taken by Ahmadinejad, as weak. This might be one of the few pluses to come out of a regrettable and thoroughly avoidable crisis.

P.S. The Sun continues to reprint the lies of Ian Huntley today, without bothering to mention that Carr's evidence at the trial makes clear that she did not know that Huntley was responsible for the murders until he himself gave his side of the story. His entire "confession" tape is tainted by the fact that he still refuses to own up to how he murdered the two girls in cold blood -- he repeats his wholly unbelievable and laughable story that he gave in court, that one of the girls died after falling in the bath, while he unintentionally smothered the other by accident, trying to keep her quiet. The Sun's behaviour in bringing all this back up purely in an attempt to smear Carr is indefensible - it would rather believe and print the lies of a murderer than accept that Carr's acquittal was sound.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007 

Building on years of knee-jerking.

A weary sense of deja-vu washes over you, reading yet another outburst of reforms to be made, or at least proposed to be eventually made to the criminal justice system. It was billed by some as the government preparing to admit that less offenders have to be sent to prison, and Nick Clegg has claimed that this may turn out to be "a significant victory for liberalism", but back down here on planet Earth it looks anything but.

It's true that the document behind Blair's speech, Building on progress: Security, crime and justice (PDF), does contain some measures that could be considered liberal. It doesn't risk mentioning cutting the record numbers in prison for risk of offending the tabloids, but does use a euphemism, "stabilising sentencing" which might well mean that the great prison building program, the seeing of no ships and the converting of old army bases into gulags might be put on hold. Non-custodial sentences are going to be made more "effective", meaning tougher or harsher, and drug rehabilitation in prison is going to be strengthened.

The problem is that we've heard it all before. Year after year we've been told that alongside the ever harsher sentencing regimes that community service sentencing is going to be encouraged and tightened. It hasn't happened. Judges have jumped at the chance of using the new indeterminate sentence, but the message hasn't got through that community service was meant to be promoted alongside accordingly to keep the balance right. Why should we be surprised, expect otherwise or blame the judges when all we and they ever hear about is Home Office scandals and that "soft" sentences are being axed?

The same thing applies with drug rehabilitation. It's been a problem for years, nay decades, the solution is relatively obvious, but it just hasn't happened. Prisons aren't the best places to try to treat drug addiction to begin with, but with it being unlikely that it would be acceptable for those who are convicted of crimes that are related to drug problems to instead being sentenced to specialised units, they're probably the least worst option. Again, making heroin available on the NHS would also probably help, but it's a decision that a politician would flinch at making when drugs which help those suffering from Alzheimer's are considered too expensive. Millions can be wasted on a IT system which few people within the service want and which is being "delivered" by the incompetent and the greedy, but making a genuine difference to the lives of people throughout the country is a step too far.

The next bright idea is that in the long-term (i.e. never) "hybrid-prisons" will be set-up to treat mentally ill offenders. This seems to miss the entire point that the mentally ill shouldn't be dumped in the prison system in the first place. The current system, with the mass closure of mental health wards has meant that the current situation is only likely to get worse.

And, err, that's it. That's pretty much all the liberal reforms suggested. The rest range from the unspeakable and the irredeemable to the impossible. Children are going to be subjected to further poking, proding and testing, lest they show any sign of criminal tendencies. These include low attainment at school, bunking off and the abusing of illegal substances. Seeing as the last is definitely a crime and the second can be, excuse me not being too enthusiastic. Again, how is this going to be done effectively in the first place and why is this in any way acceptable in the second? When social workers can't apparently tell that a girl being forced to wear a sign informing those around her that she's evil is at risk of being abused, how is it going to work?

This isn't even the worst of it. Anyone who so much as comes into contact with the police from now on is likely to have their particulars taken, as in their fingerprints and DNA. The "hated" "human rights laws" are to be "reviewed" to make sure that they're not restricting implementation of asylum and immigration policies, which means in short that they're looking to make it easier to deport people but will most likely leave things rightly as they are. Not Saussure notices that the document praises the fact that the police can now use helicopters equipped with infrared cameras that can detect cannabis farms through the heat generated by the growing lamps, which seems like a brilliant use of both time and money. Oh, and it turns out that all those CCTV cameras aren't actually that good are producing clear evidence: more is going to be spent on upgrading them.

The government has driven itself into a hole. Forever wanting to appease the tabloids, it long ago gave up any attempt to fight the causes of crime as well as crime itself. As Simon Jenkins argues, the solutions are relatively simple. They just need a minister and a government that's prepared to fight, and this one, which has been so ready and willing to do it overseas, simply can't face doing it at home.

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Scum-watch: Reprinting the lies of a murderer.

Ian Huntley is a liar. He has told blatant untruths on multiple occasions, made up an utterly unbelievable story about how he came to murder Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, and is quite clearly still in denial about his own role in their deaths. We already knew all of this. Indeed, last August the News of the Screws printed details from the apparent very same audio cassette which the Sun today reports in more detail.

Why has it decided to apparently reprint this sensationalist, sordid, mendacious garbage today? I have no idea. The Sun however makes far more of Huntley pointing the finger at Maxine Carr than the Screws did last summer. Out of all the Sun editorials I've subjected myself to, I think today's is the most vile that I have ever read:

But in confessing, he has done us all one favour.

He has destroyed any lingering suggestion that girlfriend Maxine Carr was an innocent bystander.

If his version is accurate, she was a cold and calculating accomplice in covering up this hideous crime.

Let's get this into perspective. Carr was charged with perverting the course of justice, which she was found guilty of. She was cleared of two counts of assisting an offender, with the jury believing her claims that she lied because she believed Huntley when he told her that they had been in the house but that he had not killed them.
Carr was cross-examined intensely during the trial, with her barrister pointing out in his summing up that some of it was fiercer than that which Huntley faced.

Carr claimed during her evidence that her relationship with Huntley was one which involved abuse. This claim is given credence by the fact
that Huntley had been in a number of relationships with under-age, impressionable girls. The family of the woman who he was briefly married to claimed that he had beaten her so badly that she miscarried the baby she was carrying. Neighbours from where they first lived reported that he used to bark orders at Carr while he did nothing to help around the house. Carr later mentioned in her evidence that his washing of the duvet which the girls' had bled on was the first time he had ever apparently cleaned or washed anything. This ought to have been the first sign that told her Huntley was lying. She apparently, whether because she genuinely believed that he was not involved, or because she was scared of what might happen if she did accuse him or if she told the police her true concerns, both of which she mentioned in her evidence, decided to ignore this. She may well have believed his denials for another reason: Huntley had twice before been accused of raping other women, with Carr both times giving him an alibi. In one of the cases the victim now believes that Huntley was not the man who raped her.

The picture that Huntley tries to paint of Carr is one of a manipulating, scheming woman, more concerned for herself rather than the girls who had gone missing. This seems utterly at odds with the facts:
Carr was turned down for a permanent job at the Soham school because of how close she had apparently become to the children, especially Holly and Jessica. They were so dismayed that she was leaving that they made her a card and sent her chocolates. It was likely their close relationship to Carr that inadvertently led to their deaths; their stop at Huntley and Carr's home, where they asked for her, was Huntley's opportunity. It's true that Carr had been cheating the benefits system and had lied on job application forms, but this seems to have been an exception. She was seen by those around her as being an ordinary and mostly unremarkable young woman. This, combined with her vulnerability and apparent anorexia was what Huntley homed in on.

I could go on, pointing out how Huntley in the tape claims that Carr supposedly took charge out of fear for losing her job when she had already apparently lost it, how he claims that there was no sexual motive to the deaths despite his predatory history, and how he still maintains that he didn't intentionally kill the girls. The public should make their decision about how involved Carr was in the cover-up keeping in mind the fact that a jury, having heard her give extensive evidence, cleared her of helping an offender, while Huntley is a habitual liar who is still in denial about what really happened that fateful day.

This isn't just about Maxine Carr being disgracefully libeled however. While she herself is being put in further flux by the Sun's republishing of these risible claims, those who are unfortunate enough to bear a resemblance to Carr, however slight, are also being put in danger.
Last September I wrote of the tragedy being inflicted both on her and those who have been accused of being her. Since then, according to Wikipedia, Falmouth police have had to issue a statement that she is not living in the Penryn area.

We can expect a further ramping up of the witch hunt against Carr and those who might be Carr given today's front page treatment of Huntley's trite tape. One of the biggest ironies of the obsession with Huntley and Carr is that every front page splash, every small article, every mention of them only serves to remind the families of Holly and Jessica of their dreadful loss. For a tabloid that claims to want justice, it seems remarkable how they're prepared to put the families of victims through their pain time and time again purely out of their own selfish interest, the very thing that Huntley and the Sun are today accusing Carr of thinking only of. The Sun's editorial concludes:

Her involvement, as described, raises grave doubts about her release and her protection at taxpayers’ expense.

Huntley’s prediction that he will go to Hell will come true one day.

If there is any justice, Carr will eventually join him there.

And if Carr or someone mistaken for her is lynched as a result of the vilification campaign led by the Sun, then Rebekah Wade will already have created a hell here on this septic isle.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007 

Scum-watch: Privacy? Us?

"Now, my dears," said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, "you may go into the marshes of Iraq or down by Umm Qasr, but don't go into Mr Ahmadinejad's waters."

5 days after being captured, and with no sign that they're going to be released quickly, the media has started to run out of things to say about the 15 seized British sailors who were most definitely in Iraqi waters at the time. Into this void, the inevitability of looking deeper into the background of those who've been "kidnapped" has edged ever closer.

It was probably with this in mind that the family of the only woman to be seized, Faye Turney,
politely asked the media to respect their privacy. Hence the breathless, vomit-inducing twee rubbish which appeared in the Sun this morning, in a display of revolting mock concern:

Iran kidnaps: Let mummy go

THE brave Royal Navy woman sailor being held hostage by Iran has a three-year-old daughter.

And I would suppose that some of the men captured have children as well. What's your point caller?

Leading Seaman Faye Turney, 26, was one of the drivers of the two boats swooped on by Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards on Friday.

Her little daughter Molly and husband Adam were at home last night desperately waiting for news of her plight.

Wonderful! Now we know their names. Got any more dirt or rather background on this woman currently being held in trying circumstances?

A friend of NCO Faye, called Topsy by pals, revealed: “She is a great girl, with a warm sense of humour. Everyone knows her because there are not many Wrens who do what she does — it is quite an achievement.

“Topsy loves being a mum and her greatest concern right now will be for her little girl and how badly she is being affected by this.

“But like the rest of the boarding party, she is tough and used to confrontation.”

The so-called friend emerges, pocketing a nice little cheque from everyone's favourite tabloid newspaper. The little girl might well not know that anything is going on at all -- until of course the media start focusing on her for no other reason than the fact she's a woman in uniform. I'm sure she'll also love finding out once she's released that "a friend" has informed a national newspaper that her nickname is "Topsy"; now all we need to know is whether Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter were with her when she was captured.

Faye is one of only a dozen women who carry out the tough driving role — her husband is also qualified to do the same job.

Petty Officer Adam has been given special leave to stay at home in Plymouth to look after Molly.

He currently works as an instructor at nearby HMS Raleigh, the Navy’s main training base.

Excellent, now we even know where they live. Next thing to do is to show that you really honestly do respect their privacy by reproducing the MoD's statement on their behalf:

A statement issued by the Ministry of Defence on behalf of the family said: “While we understand the media interest in the ongoing incident involving Faye, this remains a very distressing time for us and our family. We are grateful for the support shown to us by all personnel involved and appreciate it, but would request that our privacy is respected.”

On then to the Sun's leader:

Not that Britain alone can take military action, despite our Trident nukes. The real risk for Tehran is that others, like Israel, will see this as another act of provocation.

And justification for attacking Iran’s nuclear plants.

With huge consequences for the Middle East and the entire world.

A load of utter rot. Israel couldn't care less about 15 British soldiers. The only thing Israel has ever cared about and ever will care about is herself. It won't be Israel that might see this as further justification for an attack on Iran, but rather the propagandists for war like Melanie Philips who'll be more than happy to use it as an excuse. Philips' has surprisingly not yet commented on the snatching of the 15, but she did however write this recent rant piece against Iran:

Meanwhile, Iran speeds towards genocide, with people still scoffing that it’s ‘only rhetoric’.


We have been under attack by Iran since 1979, when Khomeini came to power and declared war upon the west and his intention to wipe out Israel and Islamise the world. Throughout three subsequent decades of Iranian attacks on western interests, we did virtually nothing. Now, with the clock at five minutes to nuclear midnight, we are still in disarray. Washington is mired in vicious internal in-fighting. Our elites continue to demonise America and Israel, thus paralysing our politicians and paving the way for a second holocaust.

Iran is preparing a second holocaust. Climate change is a either a con-trick, a witch-hunt or a fraud. Dr David Kelly was murdered. And somehow we're the ones that are crazy.

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Monday, March 26, 2007 

The journalists have taken over the asylum.

At times, I'd like to be a fly on the wall in the editorial offices of the Daily Mail. Just to get a slight insight into how insidious the actual desire to wind the good burghers of Middle England into unrighteous outrage is. Does Dacre, when he's not calling someone a vagina twice in one sentence, honestly set out to distort a story as much as humanly possible, in order to cause a storm, however little reality there is to the report in question? How can the hacks write such utter bollocks and not want to rise up and throw the right-wing toad in the editor's chair out of the window?

Today's front page splash is a classic. CONVICTS HANDED KEYS TO CELLS, screams the headline, taking up so much of the page that the story is constricted into a tiny rectangle at the bottom. This latest politically correct insult to common sense means that nearly 6,000 out of 9,577 offenders in Yorkshire prisons have "privacy" locks to protect themselves and their belongings.

And that's the story. Note that they don't have the actual keys to the cells themselves. Usually only those in open prisons who are coming to the end of their sentence and who have jobs are given those so they can let themselves out early in the morning in order to get to work. No, these are privacy locks. And they do, to take the quote from the Ronseal ad, exactly what they say on the tin, or rather the key. As jailhouselawyer says, and seeing as he's been in prison and ought to know, these keys aren't a new thing. They've been in the system since the late 70s, and they're designed so that prisoners can lock their cells so that other inmates can't just walk in and help themselves to things, because, believe it or not, there tend to be thieves in prisons. Indeed, they can also be used by inmates to protect themselves: locking themselves in so no one other than the screws can get to them.

Guess what? According to the Daily Mail, this entirely acceptable trend, and I think most would agree that even criminals should be allowed to secure their belongings once they've been locked away, is further proof that the HUMAN-RIGHTS CULTURE IS OUT OF CONTROL. OK, I admit, I've put that all in caps when it isn't in the article, but what other conclusion is the casual reader meant to draw from the Mail's spin on this non-story?

Naturally, they've also got some outraged people in positions of almost power who can shout as loud as they can at this appalling injustice. First up we've got Philip Davies (who incidentally was the MP who had to retract his plea for the non-existent Windsor Muslim yobs to fuck off), the Shipley Tory MP:

Shipley Tory MP Philip Davies accused the Government of "turning prisons into hotels".

He said: "People will be horrified to know so many prisons give inmates their own keys. It will reinforce their views that the regime is far too lax and cushy.

"These people are banged up for a reason. But the Government seems more concerned about the human rights of criminals than those of their victims, who are footing the bill to keep them in increasingly pleasant surroundings."

Every time someone suggests that prisons are turning into hotels, I have to wonder just how much that person would like to spend just a night, not a whole sentence in one of these superb and welcoming lodges. Maybe Phil would like to consult either Jonathan Aitken or Jeffrey Archer, his ex-political colleagues, for their views on the current state of the nation's premier hostels. Neither, as far as I'm aware, were much enamoured with their temporary accommodation.

Next soundbite:

Blair Gibbs, director of the Tax-Payers' Alliance, said: "It is hard to believe we live in a serious country any more when you hear lunacy like this. Our politicians are clearly not capable of running anything that resembles an effective criminal justice system."

Ah yes, the Taxpayers' Alliance. These people really stick in my throat. There's one thing trying to represent a single interest group - I'm a proud member of the extremist Liberty, for instance - but it's quite another attempting to represent the whole nation, because that's what this group is pretending to do. Believe it or not, as elections tend to show, not every taxpayer agrees that taxes should always be moving lower, or as the Taxpayers' Alliance wants, a flat tax. You would also have thought that being a supposed alliance for taxpayers, they should perhaps stick to only commenting on taxes rather than the current banging up policies in the nation's jails. Obviously not. According to Mr Blair Gibbs, which is an interesting name to say the least, this is "lunacy". Personally, I find it lunacy that a group such as the Taxpayers' Alliance can be taken seriously and not told to go forth and multiply whenever they appear. Then again, this is the Daily Mail.

The next step in the article is to bring up a load of totally irrelevant other cases currently afflicting the prison system. Unsurprisingly, overcrowding due to the continuing crackdowns on crime isn't mentioned.

The revelation will still reinforce concern that prisoners' 'rights' are increasingly being pandered to.

In the financial year that ended last March, £8.8million in compensation was paid out to prisoners - almost 15 times as much as just two years earlier.

What the Daily Mail doesn't want you to know is that this figure includes compensation still being paid out to those who were abused during the reign of terror at Wormwood Scrubs in the 1990s, of which more than 160 prison officers were involved in, with 56 prisoners being beaten and psychologically tortured, told that they would be hung with sheets so that it looked like they'd committed suicide. Surprised that you perhaps haven't heard more about this? It's amazing what can be excused when prisons are full of people who are inherently evil or who deserve everything they get. There was incredibly little coverage of the scandal - only the Guardian dedicated much space to reporting it. The Daily Mail dedicated a whole 151 words to their story about the report by Peter Quinn.

Earlier this year, Derbyshire chief constable David Coleman was accused of 'madness' after refusing to release pictures of two escaped murderers amid fears it might breach their human rights. He claimed they posed 'no risk' to local people.

Which was his pathetic, ridiculous excuse for not getting the photographs out soon enough, which the tabloids of course jumped on because it meant they could bash the Human Rights Act again, even when it was comprehensively not at fault.

So there you have it. In prison, much stays the same, as it does in Daily Mail land. The next scheme to enrage Middle England should be starting to hit doorsteps in around 6 hours time.

Related post:
Five Chinese Crackers - Can we have some over-reaction please?

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Scum-watch: Pornography? Us?

You have to feel sorry for the poor hacks enslaved in Wapping. They can surely see the incredible chutzpah in putting up news stories like the following on the Sun's website, but they have to do it anyway:

ONE in five searches on the internet serve up offensive, illegal or unsafe content, a web study has found.

Pornography, viruses and pirated software were found after millions of popular searches were carried out on Yahoo, Google and MSN and other sites.

Imagine for a moment that you didn't know the Sun was the most moronic, dumbed-down newspaper on the face of the planet. Pretend that you didn't know how the Sun and soft pornography go hand in repetitive strain injured hand. There you are, searching naively for the latest on what's happening with the captured sailors in Iran for instance, and you come across the Sun's hysterical jingoistic coverage (The current discussion on MyScum is Iran seizes our boys: Will war get them back?). At the top of the page you're informed that you can vote for the best Easter bunny girl (nudity, obviously). You click, and what do you find? Five talentless butter-faced women, so lacking in self-confidence that they have to get their disgusting flabs of flesh out for leering ex-pats and a media mogul with the morals of a exceptionally lecherous stag. To be fair to them, I shouldn't be so harsh. Kelly, especially, bears much more of a resemblance to an actual rabbit than even she realises - she looks completely fucking terrified, frozen in horror in the headlight of the camera flash, apparently uncertain of what she's doing, or rather scared witless that once she's uploaded her pictorial that no one will care about the two orbs attached to her chest. Her worst fears were confirmed: they did.

No, it's not their fault. It's the fault of a soft pornographic celebrity magazine that pretends to be a newspaper in order to wield a despicable amount of leverage over the government of the day. It's the fault of the politicians that kowtow to this jumped-up peddler of low-brow, mind-numbing, soul-crushing tripe.

Ahem, where was I? Oh yeah, bashing the Sun rather than the man. Here's some more clearly non-offensive or unsafe content from the Sun's current news page:

Who's the sexiest ad babe?

CHECK out sex-tacular babes and vote every day this week for the foxiest one

Cor, it's Tina head turner
CURVY Christina Aguilera snapped hanging out on a street corner in a tight white dress

Is 10 inches too short for you?

CHECK out our celeb mini marvels and decide which skirt is a mite too far in our poll

Paris parties with Amy and Kel
PARIS Hilton pays homage to Brit rock royal Amy Winehouse, watched by Kelly Osbourne

Back to the article:

Searches for celebrities such as Paris Hilton and free wallpapers can produce dozens of links to sites which could contain potentially damaging computer worms and viruses.

Well, it could be worse. You could actually get pictures of Paris Hilton.

Elsewhere today in the Scum, there's an advert article on the fascinating news that "Princess" Eugenie has set herself up on MurdochSpace:

PRINCESS Eugenie has revealed a string of personal details on an internet blog.

The 17-year-old, chatting on website MySpace, says hotdogs and doughnuts are her favourite food.

She praises parents Sarah and Andrew as “wonderful and supportive” and calls the Queen “Super Gran”.

Eugenie, studying for A-levels at Marlborough College, says her most prized possession is her mobile, adding: “Sorry Dad, ha ha!”

She loves sport and TV show Lost, favourite bands include the Stereophonics and the person she wants to meet most is Superman Returns hunk Brandon Routh.

In other words, she's a very ordinary 17-year-old girl. How insightful. Still, I have to hand it to the one commenter on the article:

Doesn't it just thrill you to know that your tax money will finance this deserving and clearly talented young woman to live in luxury for the rest of her life?

Yep, just like those deserving and clearly talented young men who got tanked up at the weekend and then filled the tabloids with their tedious, predictable antics. Harry can't go to Iraq soon enough.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007 

A fascination for penance.

There are acts of contrition, and then there are gestures that are well-meaning but ultimately end up seeming shallow. Slavery was an abomination, on that everyone agrees. We can feel remorse that our ancestors were complicit in this most disgraceful of injustices, we can commemorate the abolition of it, but can we honestly say we're sorry for something which no one now alive was directly involved in?

This is why the whole "apology" debate to me seems utterly perverse. At a time when the far-right is gaining in strength across Europe, when Iran hosts a conference dedicating to "investigating" what "really happened" in the Nazi death camps, when in Turkey talking about the Armenian genocide can result in you being murdered, and when Japan continues to deny or play down the reality of what occurred during their incursions into Manchuria, we don't need to be sorry about slavery, we have to learn the lessons of it and make sure that it never happens again.

The Home Office finally did something about modern day slavery yesterday. After months of arguing, completely outrageously, that signing the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking would encourage illegal immigrants to claim that they were in fact trafficked sex slaves, John Reid signed the convention. While it's a welcome start, the government is now only allowing women who have been trafficked in and forced to work as prostitutes 30-days leave to remain before being deported back to their country of origin. As was shown when a brothel was raided in late 2005, women who often know little English and who have been terrorised by those they're sold to take a while to open up to anyone, let alone those they don't know and who are more than eager to deport rather than comprehend what they've been through.

Amnesty is instead proposing the "reflection" period be extended to at least 90 days, with up to six months being available if they need further time to recover. This is vital for many reasons: the first purely on the grounds of compassion, and secondly as women who have been deported sometimes find themselves straight back in the hands of those who originally sold them. If these women need sanctuary, then they should be given it rather than simply dumped back home for the sake of the immigration figures.

Modern day slavery is actually probably less of problem than has been made out; as ever, it's been exaggerated by the media, when sometimes eastern European women and others have come here to work as prostitutes purely because of the money that can be earned. This though isn't an excuse for not signing up, and for once the Home Office can be proud that it has done something that honestly will help, rather than hinder.

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Friday, March 23, 2007 

Brilliant ideas pt. 94

The whole point of carrot and stick diplomacy is that as well as feeding those you are trying to persuade, you have to be prepared to potentially give them a few taps in order to steer them towards the right decision. Generally, even if the carrots aren't working, you're not meant to then whack the person so hard that you fracture their skull. Alan Johnson hasn't apparently learned this lesson.

On the face of it,
his proposals for extending the school leaving age to 18 are at least worth considering. There are many teenagers who leave school at 16 with few if any qualifications who then spend the next few years of their lives in the cycle of employment in poor-paying unrewarding jobs, going on and off job-seekers allowance when they either get bored or when the work dries up, where further training and education would be a far better option.

However, that's about as far as it goes. For although Alan Johnson accepts that only a "hardcore" would be likely to not go along with his plans, he's already putting into place far-reaching sanctions for those who petulantly decide that school no longer has anything to offer them:

The government wants to introduce “education Asbos” and fixed penalty fines for teenagers who refuse to stay in education or training until the age of 18, the education secretary, Alan Johnson, announced today.
A teenager who persistently refuses to follow an education or training path would be issued with an attendance order, similar to an antisocial behaviour order, or Asbo, compelling them to attend a specific training or education programme.

If an order is broken, the teenager would face a criminal prosecution that could end in a £50 fine or community sentence.

To say this is a bit harsh would be akin to suggesting that Little Britain is a bit unfunny. This wouldn't only apply to those who are simply leaving education, but also to those who already have jobs in family businesses, as well as teenage mothers, who would have to spend at least 16 hours a week in either education or training.

Many would additionally argue that once someone has reached 16 it might already be too late. The whole reason why so many become disillusioned with education during their GCSE years is that they feel what they're learning is going to be little help in the wider world, or that they're being taught to the exam.
The Tomlinson report on secondary education may well have been the solution to this: it would have combined the vocational education which many currently miss out on with the more academic education which currently holds out. The biggest change in recent years is that the bog-standard or close to failing comprehensives have started to split the year groups into the brighter, academic sets which take the GCSEs, while those with the poorer SAT results go on to do GNVQs, which count for a number of GCSEs, but which few employers recognize as such. It means that their results therefore look better than they actually are.

This was the situation when I was in the sixth-form. A number of our teachers regularly complained, or even despaired at the behaviour of some of their classes of 14 or 15-year-olds, realising they were fighting a lost cause when they had already turned off. At 16 currently, a lot of those who disrupt lessons or who don't want to learn leave, with those staying on often coming out of their shells as a result. Johnson's reforms potentially mean that this situation carries on for a further two years for no real purpose, when the changes have to be made at 14 rather than 16. Johnson himself argues:

"There is a risk that it is those young people with lower aspirations, who perhaps come from families and communities that have themselves had a poor experience of schooling, who miss out as participation increases. Within this group are often the young people who would have most to gain from longer participation and higher attainment. We cannot allow the most disadvantaged to miss out."

He may have a point, as some at 16, having realised that they should have studied harder during their GCSEs are faced with few enticing options other than going back to the classroom. Whether dropping the current education maintenance allowance, which rewards those from low income families with £10-£30 a week for staying on is a good idea when these are the exact young people he's hoping to help the most seems to sum up the contradictory nature of Johnson's plans, and
as Not Saussure notes, New Labour itself. It provides all these carrots, then it knocks your head off just in case.

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Scum-watch: They come over here, convert our women....

In the on-going Sun campaign to alert the nation to the foibles of "our Muslim community", today we're informed of the amazing decision of a young woman who's converted from Catholicism to Islam:

A PRETTY blonde teen has stunned her mates by converting to Islam and covering up with a full veil.

Catholic Danielle Jones — now Safiyah — ditched her mini-skirts and crop tops and now wears the full face niqab of Muslim women.

Duh-duh-duh! Would it have made any difference if she was butt ugly, ginger and had previously worn clothes made out of bin bags? Is this the Sun purely being bitter about not getting her to get them out for MySun before she decided to change religions? Does anyone really care? Am I still typing these daft rhetorical questions? Oh, and "full face niqab of Muslim women" has to be the most clunking sentence I've read in a while. Surely now wears the full face niqab style of Islamic dress?

The 19-year-old made her shock decision after her step-dad died of a brain tumour. She said it was her Muslim pals and their faith who helped cope with the loss.

And she revealed the decision to convert made her feel “a million times” stronger.

Safiyah, of Bolton, Lancs, said: “I couldn’t stand the way men stared as I walked down the street. Now I feel a million times more empowered wearing my full-face niqab. Nobody is judging me on how my body looks.

“More and more, the Muslim faith seemed to make a lot of sense to me.

“It’s as if I have found the missing piece of a jigsaw.”

While they won't be judging her on her body, they will of course now be judging her by the decision to wear the niqab. According to the MyScum community, she should have traveled to Saudi Arabia or Pakistan first, and despite taking what seems to be a rather radical step which requires major soul-searching, she's just a silly weak-minded girl.

Safiyah, who hopes to act as a mediator between the Muslim and British communities, added: “I don’t miss drinking. I’m happy.”

Which surely is all that matters, whatever your own views on religion. Oh, and this:

Could have been worse.She could have got a tattoo

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Thursday, March 22, 2007 


Unity has been kind enough to tag me as a thinking blogger. Only problem is I now have to tag a further five who haven't already been (at least as far as I'm aware). Taking them unashamedly from my blog roll:

Five Chinese Crackers
Mask of Anarchy
Blood & Treasure


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Iraq: four years on.

A mother and child walk past the body of an alleged failed suicide bomber.

It somehow doesn't seem possible that it's four years on from the beginning of the Iraq war. Or, indeed, that the war itself has probably claimed casualties every day since March the 20th 2003. Even those of us opposed to the invasion didn't even in our worst nightmares come close to predicting the hell that has engulfed the country since then. I thought that a quick war, followed by the US quickly putting into position some minor figure from the Ba'ath party as a puppet president, or one of its favoured exiles, while elections were planned was the most likely outcome, with some groups possibly continuing to fight the Americans until they left. Instead, a quick victory was followed by unfathomable incompetence at every turn, mass corruption, gross human rights abuses by both the coalition, jihadists and the new Iraqi government, and the slow but steady eruption of an internal conflict that looks very much like a civil war, even if some Iraqis reject that description.

To sort of answer Tim's question about what you were doing on that day, I, being a puffed-up idiotic 18-year-old who was big on daft political gestures, bunked off from sixth-form and err, did nothing. I don't remember whether I used the internet that day - I might well have done, although I also went through a period during 2003 of trying to keep off it, but I do recall watching the more brave members of my age group perform sit-in protests in the road across from the Houses of Parliament, occasionally being lifted away by the police, who were struggling to deal with something that the clearly hadn't bargained on happening. I wish I'd had the guts to do something like that.

Where are we then, four years into this war without apparent end? Our leaders themselves remain in office, despite all the justifications for the war being destroyed one by one. True, some of the most egregious of the warmongers have either resigned, moved on or been sacked, but Blair still occupies 10 Downing Street and George Bush was re-elected, only for his ratings to plummet and for the Democrats to at last win back both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Here, despite endless debate, we still have to put up with the utterly shameless activities of some in the Labour party, like Ann Clywd, who on Monday appeared on Newsnight to again triumph how wonderful everything in Iraq was, or at least in Kurdistan, which had been semi-autonomous for years before the invasion and had already had its own army and security force which wasn't disbanded in the aftermath by the idiots put in charge of the Transitional Authority. Even then, there are regularly attacks in the main cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, which Ms Clywd, having given up her previous status as a sometime member of the awkward squad to support Blair's war would rather you didn't know about.

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Labour continues to dismiss any links between the Iraq war and the growing terrorist threat not just Britain, but to the entire world. 7/7 did not occur in a vacuum, whether those who took part were genuinely radicalised by the war or not. Those soldiers who went out to fight the war have returned to find themselves scorned and forgotten by the government that did so much to make sure that their completely unnecessary addition to the US "coalition" took place. The army itself sees the reality on the ground in Iraq, that the presence of British troops in Basra is only making the situation worse rather than helping improve the security situation and that it's time to get out, but the government would rather ignore this astute analysis and instead draw down the number of troops slowly in deference to their ultimate masters in Washington.

For the Iraqis themselves, after suffering almost incomparably since Saddam launched the war against Iran in 1980, (with Western backing) many did indeed welcome the overthrow of the hated dictator, but their gratitude for their "liberation" was soured by the years of sanctions that had resulted in the deaths of at least 500,000 children (PDF), infamously referred to by Madeline Albright as being "worth it", and by the humiliation of not personally being responsible for their leader's downfall. The first signs that some of the Iraqi people were becoming restive were suppressed by the Americans with lethal force; 17 protesters in Fallujah were shot dead on April the 28th of 2003, with two more killed in another protest two days later. This can now be seen four years on as the catalyst for the beginning of the insurgency, which resulted in the tribes north of Baghdad aligning themselves with the emerging jihadist groups.

The death toll, from the occupation, the indiscriminate tactics of the insurgents and the sectarian conflict sparked by the destruction of the Al-Askari
mosque in February of 2006 is impossible to know for certain. At the very, very least, 100,000 have died since March 2003. The Lancet study of last year estimated that the most likely figure was 655,000, although the margin of error was between 350,000 and 900,000, and as that study is now six months old, the total would now again be even higher. The everyday horror of life, especially in Baghdad and Anbar province, although despite claims to the contrary there are attacks throughout the country almost daily, is also close to being impossible to imagine. For the last year or so dozens of bodies, many showing signs of torture, others with heads either missing or separated from their bodies, have been dumped on the streets in the dead of night. Photographs routinely show men, women and children walking past dead bodies as if they weren't there, or rather wishing they weren't there. A blogger on McClatchy's Baghdad Bureau site describes in excruciating detail how a friend's brother was kidnapped, with them eventually having to search the morgues for his body after he wasn't released despite a ransom being paid. The burying of unidentified bodies is contracted out, with the contractor taking photographs of every body before burial in case the family does eventually come looking. In this case, he had a photograph of the friend's brother, his body bruised and with a hole drilled in his forehead, but when they went to where he was meant to have been buried, his grave was nowhere to be found.

With all this in mind, the results of the BBC polling of 2,000 Iraqis (PDF) were nowhere near as pessimistic as you might imagine. While 2 million have been displaced inside Iraq itself, and a similar amount have fled to surrounding countries, 42% at least believe that their children will have a better life, with 37% thinking the opposite, and 58% still believe the country should remain unified, with 43% supporting democracy. While 35% believe that the coalition forces should leave immediately, 69% think the presence of the US forces is making the security situation worse. Support for attacks on coalition forces is almost split right down the middle: 51% deeming them acceptable with 49% against.

There are also some developments that are worth being cautiously optimistic about. There does finally appear to be a schism opening between the jihadists and the Sunni tribes in Anbar; Sheikh Abdul Sattar has turned against the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq, and according to this Channel 4 News report, has succeeded where the Americans have failed in arresting and flushing out some of the mujahadeen. The surge, after six weeks, has succeeded in bringing down sectarian violence and the number of deaths, although this may simply be a repeat of what happened in Fallujah, with the insurgents and others getting out only to return later once the troops have left. The ISI, which incidentally on its press release blog never claims responsibility for attacks on civilians which its affiliated groups are almost certainly behind, has become more desperate in its tactics in response to this, using chlorine alongside the more conventional explosives in its truck/car suicide bombings. Another report, unconfirmed, was that two children were used in a car bombing at the weekend as decoys.

For if Iraq is going to emerge from this disaster inflicted by the West, the solution is within its own borders. There is little more that we or anyone else can do. It would be naive to think that our immediate withdrawal would result in the violence ending, but it would also be daft to imagine that the sectarian violence would spiral out of control, or that the insurgents would quickly overthrow the government. If anything, the current al-Maliki coalition is weak because it has to justify itself more to Washington than it does to the Iraqi people. As Simon Jenkins argued yesterday, Iraq has had to put up with over a decade of interference from outside. It has to be hoped that in another four years Iraq will be standing on its own, foreign troops long gone, a still unified country gaining in confidence. If this is to happen, we have to get out, and if not right now, very soon.


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Wednesday, March 21, 2007 

Stalin Hood.

picture by Beau Bo D'Or for Channel 4

Well, the least that can be said is that this might put Polly's back up. Rather than lifting the tax threshold that currently means the poor pay more tax as a percentage than the rich do, Stalin Hood instead decided to rob from the poor to try and get the ever disgruntled middle classes and Rupert Murdoch (a suitably sycophantic Sun leader this morning was richly rewarded) off his back. Judging by the front pages of the Murdoch media just featured on Newsnight, it looks like it's worked on the latter. Whether it'll work with the former is much harder to predict.

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