Tuesday 26 July 2011

I was, of course, completely wrong - Nick Griffin clings on

The BNP leadership contest has been decided:
Now that all the votes have been counted, we can announce that Nick Griffin MEP has been duly re-elected to lead the British National Party for a fixed term of four years. The winner, Nick Griffin, received 1157 votes, whilst Andrew Brons, the loser, received 1148 votes. Eleven ballots were spoiled. (1)
So less than 2500 people actually give a toss who leads the rabble to oblivion? That's actually reassuring.

Disastrous result for both candidates, really. Brons lost, but Griffin only won by a whisker, so he's got no authority and his opponents will already be scheming against him.
1 - "Party Leadership Election Result: Nick Griffin re-elected Party Chairman," unattributed article. Published on the BNP website, 25th of July, 2011. (http://bnp.org.uk/news/party-leadership-election-result-nick-griffin-re-elected-party-chairman)

Monday 25 July 2011

The right's responsibility

I wasn't going to make any comment on the politics of the Norwegian massacres, because the idea of dignifying the atrocity with association with political discourse is repugnant. But the picture being revealed around these events; the reaction of the right to the atrocities and the revelation of the killer's identity; and the undeniable links between Anders Behring Breivik and the further right of mainstream politics justifies some comment.

My initial reaction on hearing the identity of the pepetrator (I have the advantage of having been asleep at the time of the initial expllosion and shootings, so don't have to worry about awkward questions along the lines of "Who did you think it was at first?") was that it is a pitiful symptom of How Things Are that they have to clarify the perpetrator wasn't Muslims. That suggests Al Queada's project is coming along nicely.

I imagined there would be a shameless volte face, people moving swiftly from "Islamic terrorists waging JIHAD" (1) to "Unchecked immigration provoking resentment and acts of barbarity in the indigenous population" (2) would be in the offing. While some did manage that about-turn, there were plenty of people refusing to give up the idea that this just had to be a Muslim, that it couldn't actually be a Christianised European behind this. It had to be a convert to Islam. Or even the whole thing was a hoax, an attempt to besmirch the far wright by associating it with psychopaths.

Of course, the kneejerk bigots who were so bloody quick to accuse Muslims and so bloody slow to let the idea go tried to justify their assumption, claiming that it was a reasonable enough mistake in these times, when so much terrorism can be attributed to Muslims. A claim that was only valid if you erase the Western propensity towards terroristic violence from your memory and convinced yourself that only Muslims are likely to be terrorists. Recall:
IRA / Real IRA terror campaigns
UVF campaigns
Red Army Faction / baader-Meinhoff / Revolutionary Cells Movement
Oklahoma City Bombing
David Copeland, the London Nail Bomber
Robert Cottage and David Jackson, the would be BNP bombers
Greece's Revolutionary Nuclei
Animal Liberation Brigade
That's just off the top of my head. these groups and individuals were all active with in the last 10 to 20 years. Only a long time if you live in some weird world that effectively started on the 11th of September, 2001. Loads more out there. It could have been carried out by Islamists, but it isn't accurate to say it was very likely to be. It would be wrong to rush to attribute an unprecedented act like this to anyone without evidence pointing that way.

The point was there is a strong tendency of terrorist violence in Europe and the US, even before we started importing the Muslims. I'm not suggesting Baader Meinhoff were holding a Scandinavian reunion tour.

It would have been reasonable to say that it might have been an Islamist attack; even that it is was likely to be one. But the automatic assumption that this was an act of jihad and who rushed to accuse Muslims, and who still try to cling to that belief, didn't make an honest mistake because they inaccurately weighed possibilities. To make your presumption reasonable, you have to ignore the whole history of politically motivated violence in Europe. The killer - though he'd reject the comparison - has a lot in common with the Baader Meinhoff mentality. The kneejerk bigots jumped to the wrong conclusion because they're obsessed, fixated bigots. Reasonable people deal in possibilities and likelihoods, and don't immediately spew their bigotry when huge gaps remain.

People abandoned sense and intemperately banged their drums and screamed about J-I-H-A-D before the facts were in. There was no suggestion of 'likelihood' or 'possibility' then, just the immediate, automatic assumption this had to be an Islamist act of terror. Which illuminated their mindset perfectly.

If people are going to go about spouting divisive, bigoted, hatefilled rhetoric (from any ideological standpoint), there are going to be violently inclined idiots who will use it as an excuse for, and an incitement to, violence. The killer cited bloggers like Fjordman and Pamela Geller, who occupy a pretty sinister intellectual space. When they, Geert Wilders, and others of that ilk fulminate about treachery, Eurabia, J-I-H-A-D and the like, it may be irresponsible. Like shouting "Fire" in a crowded theatre, to borrow Wendell Holmes's old analogy.

As Bill Clinton said, when Gabrielle Giffords was shot - "Anything any of us says falls on the unhinged and the hinged alike."
1 - "Terror Attack In Norway, Huge Explosion Rips Through Oslo," posted by ZIP on Weasel Zippers blog, 22nd of July, 2011. The point of interest in this case being the comments following the post. (http://weaselzippers.us/2011/07/22/breaking-possible-terror-attack-in-norway-huge-bomb-blast-rips-through-oslo/)
2 - "Extremism strikes in Norway," by 657. Posted on the EDL website, 23rd of July, 2011. (http://englishdefenceleague.org/extremism-strikes-in-norway/)

Sunday 24 July 2011

Norway shootings & Fjordman

Can we just take everything as said about the atrocity in Norway, which has resulted in the deaths of 91 people, thus far? I'm not even going to waste time linking examples of the disgusting frenzy of assumption that this was perpetrated by Muslims. Just take it as said. Unarmed teenagers being chased around an island by a psychotic gunman sounds like the plot of a really lousy horror film.

A rumour has been swirling round some of the further reaches of the internet, that the killer is an anonymous Norwegian blogger who posts as Fjordman. He's pretty extreme, posting on places like Gates of Vienna and Jihadwatch. The rumour was given legs when it was recycled on Little Green Footballs, a site from which Fjordman has apprently been banned but at this time, it is completely unsubstantiated, and I suspect it will stay that way. It's been pointed out that Fjordman has been posting online since the attacks started, so it could hardly be him.

And yet ...

Checking out Gates of Vienna, I tracked down some of these comments (1). Something odd. Someone under the name 'fjordman' is posting on Gates of Vienna, alright, but their blogger profile has only been active since April (2), whereas Fjordman, as a blogger and a commentator, has been active for far longer than that. The blogger profile associated with his original blog was created in 2005 (3). So why is he now using a different profile under the same name?

Of course, it may be there's no mystery, and he just forgot his password ...
1 - "Terror Attack in Central Oslo," by Baron Bodissey. Posted on the Gates of Vienna blog, 22nd of July, 2011. (http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2011/07/terror-attack-in-central-oslo.html)
2 - Profile of the blogger Fjordman, created in April, 2011. (http://www.blogger.com/profile/17466900069876051351)
3 - Profile of the blogger Fjordman, created February, 2005. (http://www.blogger.com/profile/05991840850036778692)

Friday 22 July 2011

To all those complaining about the amount of coverage of phone hacking

You don't think systematic illegality, cover ups, obstruction of justice and possible attempts by the people involved in all that to influence police and politicians, possible collusion between the police and politicians with those same people, is not the real issue?

Yes, the discussion has moved on from the phone hacking per se, because the problem has turned out to be much bigger and more more pernicious than just hacking into the voicemail of celebs, John Prescott and the occasional murdered school girl.

You may say that the News of the World acted illegally, and in accessing Millie Dowler's voicemail, it added to the torment of Millie Dowler's family. But it only did so in a misguided, pettily criminal effort to get the exclusive, to sell newspapers. Whereas the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent, even the likes of The Telegraph, are exploiting this - and thus adding to the torment of Millie Dowler's family all over again - in pursuit of political ends - the break up of Murdoch's hold on the British media.

Bollocks, say I. News International did a lot more than seek to sell newspapers. They appear to have obstructed a police inquiry, bribed police officers, and possibly attempted to suborn very senior police officers. Senior executives seem to hold too much power of politicians, past an present. I am quite confident there is a lot more shit to be squeezed out of this story, but what is already known is sufficient.

Yes, some of the coverage is a bit over the top, but what do you expect? It isn't just the News of the World that has to sell papers, you know, and I don't think a headline like "New Developments In Alleged Accessing Of Voicemail Messages Some Years Ago That's Been Dragging On For Years" is going to boost sales. Blame the sales driven, profit fixated, lowest common denominator, Jordan-is -automatically-news culture of the press (I blame Thatcher). There is a real issue underneath all the froth and the media wankfest - just like there was with the expenses scandal, which featured a similar wankfest - but you're trying to deny that.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

News Corp RIP?

The Wisdom of Crowds is starting to suggest it is All Up for Rupert Murdoch (1).

This is something of a massive hostage to fortune, but I suspect there won't be a News Corp in a couple of years time.

If Murdoch stays, it will destroy the brand. If he goes, it will destroy the brand.

If the name does survive, it will be for a much reduced rump of companies, with most of the holdings sold off, and no-one called Murdoch anywhere near the levers of power - though possibly still clinging onto the levers of profit.
1 - "News Corp shares fall as pressure grows," unattributed article. Published by the BBC, 18th of July, 2011. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14181119)

Monday 18 July 2011

Guardian journalist Nick Davies has compiled a handy list of uncomfortable questions Rupe, Jamie and Bekah might have to answer.

A couple, for Brooks, are particularly interesting:
Surrey police, who were investigating Milly Dowler's disappearance, were provided with information about that voicemail by the NoW. Was that done without your authority? Are you confident that Surrey police have no record of your being involved in the decision to tell them about that voicemail?

When you were editor of the Sun, you published confidential medical information about the illness being suffered by Gordon Brown's infant son. Did the Sun obtain that information directly or indirectly from a health worker? Did the Sun pay a health worker or anybody related to a health worker for that information or for a story related to that information? (1)
Sounds like the Guardian Knows Something.
1 - "Rebekah Brooks and the Murdochs: questions that need answering," by Nick Davies. Published in The Guardian, 17th of July, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/17/brooks-rupert-james-murdoch-select-committee)

Saturday 16 July 2011

Gordon Brown vs The Sun

The other day, Gordon Brown laid into The Sun and News International in an interview for the BBC and the Guardian, which was then Streisanded across the rest of the media (1).

The Sun called foul over a claim, attributed to Brown in the Guardian's version of the story, that The Sun obtained Fraser Brown's medical records (2). The information was actually given to the paper by a member of the public who has "has links with the Brown family," though just how he learned of Fraser Brown's condition has not yet made clear.

The Guardian acknowledged an error was made and retracted the statement (3). The Sun, having been at the receiving end for a the last few days, was entitled to crow over the inaccuracy, especially as it was attributed to Nick Davies, the guardian journalist who has been leading the investigation into phone hacking (4).

Only, The Sun appears to piss on its own victory parade by doing exactly what the Guardian did - making a false claim about what gordon Brown said:
The apology came after we told how our source was the dad of another child with cystic fibrosis - and that the ex-PM was mistaken in claiming we were guilty of wrongdoing. (5)
As far as I'm aware, Brown did not claim the Sun was guilty of 'wrongdoing' with regards the information obtained about Fraser Brown. The Guardian described his comments on that topic as follows:
Brown said he had no idea how the Sun had obtained the information and questioned the paper's claim last night that this had been done legitimately.

"They will have to explain themselves. I can't think of any way that the medical condition of a child can be put into the public domain legitimately unless the doctor makes a public statement or the family make a statement. (6)
The way The Sun obtained the information was obtained was certainly not 'legitimate,' as Brown defined it, but at the same time not quite 'wrongdoing' as the Sun claims. Papers are given information by members of the public all the time; it's how they operate. Brown would have known this, and wouldn't have regarded a paper being given a tip as 'wrongdoing' on the part of the paper.

Nor does Gordon Brown state, or even imply, The Sun accessed Fraser Brown's medical records. That appears to have been wholly a mistake by the Guardian, as their apology indicates.

I think this is the quote that is causing the confusion:
I had my bank account broken into. I had my legal files effectively broken into. My tax returns went missing at one point. Medical records were broken into. I don't know how this happened. (7)
Brown mentions 'medical records' being broken into, but does not specify whose records, or who broke into them. Since the interview also described the publicizing of Fraser Brown's condition, people seem to have made the link between one and the other, though brown doesn't actually make it himself. It may be he was referring to his daughter, Jennifer, who died in 2002 and whose condition was also revealed by the media. Or even his own medical records - remember the rumours about him being depressed, psychotic, hooked on anti-depressants and so on?

Importantly, he also doesn't directly accuse News International of being behind this specific :
I do know that in two instances there is absolute proof that News International hired people to do this and the people who are doing this are criminals, known criminals in some cases with records of violence and fraud. (8)
So he is only saying News International were definitely behind two of the instances referred to, but not all of them.

The Guardian blundered, honestly, in its haste to run its story. The Sun seems to have been lead astray by its pathological hatred of Brown.
1 - "Gordon Brown condemns 'disgusting work' of News International journalists," by Nick Davies. Published in The Guardian, 12th of July, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/12/gordon-brown-condemns-disgusting-work-news-international)
2 - "Brown Wrong," by Tom Newton Dunn. Published in The Sun, 13th of July, 2011. (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3691926/The-Sun-exposes-the-allegation-that-we-hacked-into-Gordon-Browns-family-medical-records-as-FALSE-and-a-smear.html)
3 - "Corrections and clarifications," by the Corrections and clarifications column editor. Published in The Guardian, 15th of July, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2011/jul/15/corrections-and-clarifications)
4 - "Guardian: Sorry, Sun," by Emily Nash. Published in The Sun, 15th of July, 2011. (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3696513/Guardian-says-sorry-to-The-Sun-after-accusing-us-of-hacking-into-the-medical-records-of-Gordon-Browns-sick-son.html?OTC-RSS&ATTR=News)
5 - ibid.
6 -Davies, op. cit.
7 - ibid.
8 - ibid.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Elephants in the livingroom II

Tomorrow's print edition headlines, apparently:
The Guardian: "Parliament versus Murdoch"
The Sun: "Brown wrong - We didn't probe son's medical records"
The Times: "Crisis talks as Cameron as joins the revolt against the Murdochs"
The Daily Telegraph: "Hacking scandal executives face threat of police inquiry"
The Financial Times: "Parties unite in Commons vote to oppose Murdoch's BSkyB bid"
The Independent: "Party leaders unite against Murdoch"
The Daily Mail: "£1,000 bill for Green energy"
The Daily Express: "EU migrants to get British pensions"
The Daily Star : "Hacking scandal latest - Roo sues over tart leaks" (1)
Notice anything about the stories the Mail and the Express are leading with?

Back when I was just a teeny-weeny little student studying Film & Media at the illustrious instituation that is Stirling University in Scotland, one of my lecturers gave me the following definition of what determines if something is news worthy or not: "News is something that someone, somewhere, doesn't want you to know."

In this case, it's pretty clear that some of the media are trying to downplay the story probably because they're worried they're going to drawn into it. That's the news behind the news, as it were.
1 - "Phone-hacking scandal: live coverage," by Andrew Sparrow and Ben Quinn. Published in The Guardian, 12th of Jult, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/blog/2011/jul/12/phone-hacking-scandal-live-coverage)

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Barefaced cheek

You have to admire the chutzpah of this News International statement:
We note the allegations made today concerning the reporting of matters relating to Gordon Brown. So that we can investigate these matters further, we ask that all information concerning these allegations is provided to us. (1)
Yes, indeed. Having carried out our own whitewash investigation into how we allegedly hacked phones, impersonated people to obtain confidential information, consorted with criminals and insinuated one of our rats into the heart of government, we'd like you to tell us everything you know right now so we can carry out our own investigation.

1 - From an unattributed statement released by News International. Quoted in the Guardian, 12th of July, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/blog/2011/jul/12/phone-hacking-scandal-live-coverage)

Coalition scorecard - phone hacking scandal

-1 ... Cameron's attempts to brush off perfectly reasonable demands that he account for the hiring of Andy Coulson, in the face of the revelations that warnings were given.
-1 ... The government's slow, dim-witted, fumbling response to the NOTW scandal and failure to move on the BSB buy out until goaded into action by the opposition.
OVERALL: -2/10. Wracked by scandal, shown to be indecisive, corrupt and self-serving, the coalition (assuming it survives this latest trial) appears to be plunging back into the inky depths, never to resurface. Probably. In this and in other recent events, David Cameron's character, which was one of the factors that seemed to be ameliorating the innate hatefulness of Tory governments, has been found wanting, and he has been shown to be a bit of ham fisted blunderer.

Monday 11 July 2011

Elephants in the livingroom

It seems the Mail is happy to focus anything other than the hacking scandal (wonder why?).

Previously, Wills and Kate provided a couple of days banner headlines across the top of the website.

Now it is, "Pregnant at 15, daughter of Britain's most prolific single mother (... and, of course, she's on benefits just like mum)" (1) and below that, "The new north-south divide: Two families 300 miles apart earn £50,000... but one struggles and the other lives in luxury" (2).

I guess the first rule of phone hacking is: "You do not talk about PHONE HACKING."

EDIT - since composing this, I notice the Mail has bumped both these stories down the page, in favour of a write up on - gosh - Wills and Kate, and another on focusing on the Milly Dowler strand of the hacking saga. But it is still pretty token stuff.
1 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2011/07/should-mail-be-next.html
2 - "Pregnant at 15, daughter of Britain's most prolific single mother (... and, of course, she's on benefits just like mum)," by Neil Sears. Published in the Daily Mail, 11th of July, 2011. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2013309/Pregnant-15-daughter-Britains-prolific-single-mother-And-course-shes-benefits--just-like-mum.html)
3 "The new north-south divide: Two families 300 miles apart earn 50k but one struggles and the other lives in luxury," by Alison Smith Squire. Published in the Daily Mail, 11th of July, 2011.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Murdoch's morlocks

Is Rupert Murdoch losing the plot? This from today's Independent:
Mrs Brooks continues to enjoy the support of Rupert Murdoch. Asked yesterday, before he left for London, whether she had his backing, Mr Murdoch replied: "Total." He added: "I'm not throwing innocent people under the bus... we've been let down by people that we trusted, with the result the paper let down its readers." (1)
200 people - mostly unconnected with this scandal - have lost there jobs, but he isn't "throwing innocent people under the bus"?

Or perhaps mere workers don't count as people to Murdoch. They're just morlock labour, to be used when they are useful, and discarded without a second thought.
1 - "The Battle of Wapping, Mk II," by Jane Merrick, James Hanning, Matt Chorley and Brian Brady. Published in The Independent, 10th of July, 2011. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/press/the-battle-of-wapping-mk-ii-2310041.html)

Rupert and Tony (and Gordon and Dave and Ed)

Another scorcher from Peter Oborne, who might be re-classified as an 'honourary leftie' for his recent columns:
David Cameron and Tony Blair both flew round the world to make speeches to Murdoch’s News Corp while they were in opposition. Ed Miliband was primed to follow suit before the latest scandal broke.

There were those who believed that Murdoch had debased and debauched British public life, and there is indeed great evidence that this was the case. For example, the News of the World was a respectable – if racy – family newspaper before Murdoch brought it under his ownership. As we now know, it converted into a flourishing criminal concern that took an evil pleasure in destroying people’s lives.

Though many were appalled, Murdoch himself was protected by his potent political contacts. Tony Blair, for example, would do anything to help out his close friend and ally. I can even disclose that, before the last election, Tony Blair rang Gordon Brown to try to persuade the Labour Prime Minister to stop the Labour MP Tom Watson raising the issue of phone hacking. And as recently as two weeks ago both Ed Miliband and David Cameron attended the News International (News Corp’s British newspaper publishing arm) summer party, despite the fact that the newspaper group was the subject of two separate criminal investigations. (1)
Oborne really goes to town on Cameron's infatuation with Murdoch and the hiring of Coulson, which was apparently driven by George Osborne, who has been out of the shitlight thus far:
It was at this point that George Osborne, then shadow chancellor and also Cameron’s closest strategic advisor, entered the fray. The immensely ambitious Osborne – who was already cultivating his own links with News International – made the case that Cameron should hire Andy Coulson.
Gordon Brown, of course, tried to cultivate the Mail and Paul Dacre, and massive questions need to be asked about that relationship.
1 - "David Cameron is not out of the sewer yet," by Peter Oborne. Published in The Telegraph, 8th of July, 2011. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/phone-hacking/8626421/Phone-hacking-David-Cameron-is-not-out-of-the-sewer-yet.html)

What's next?

Rebekah Brooks says there is 'worse to come' in the phone hacking scandal that destroyed the News of the World and put 200 people - but not Rebekah Brooks - out of work (1).

Obviously, we'll have to wait to find out what further slime has to float to the surface.

My imagination doesn't run to the depths the News of the World seems to plumb so effortlessly. Political dirty tricks, bridery, corruption and blackmailing MPs / cabinet ministers for information and / or dirt on their colleagues is about as far as I can go. Though that would certainly be nice and sleazy.

Worth noting that the much maligned Labour MP Tom Watson has been asking awkward questions about the News of the World and phone hacking for years (2). The same Tom Watson who was falsely smeared by untrue association with the Damian McBride-Red Rag scandal back in 2009.

It was the Mail on Sunday - another close friend of phone-hacking detective Steve Whittamore (3) - that first made the phony link between Watson and McBride, but The Sun also publicised the story and was successfully sued, paying substantial damages to Mr Watson for libeling him. The Sun and The News Of The World are both owned by Murdoch. Just a coincidence, I'm sure.
1 - "The worst is yet to come, Brooks tells journalists as they ask searching questions about paper's demise," by Tamara Cohen. Published in The Daily Mail, 9th of July, 2011. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2012766/Rebekah-Brooks-tells-News-World-journalists-worst-come.html#ixzz1RaZT0DCE)
2 - "Profile: Labour MP Tom Watson," by Victoria King. Published by the BBC, 6th of July, 2011. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14043436)
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2011/07/should-mail-be-next.html

Friday 8 July 2011

Should the Mail be next?

The top story on the Mail's website today (prior to the announcement of the NOTW closure) was - inevitably - about the scandal surrounding the News of the World, Rebekah Brooks, News international and Rupert Murdoch's increasingly evil looking media empire.

The headline to the story was, "Even war widows were on the News of the World hackers' hit-list: Who else have they targeted?" though it has since been updated and the original version has disappeared down the memory hole (1).

The unasked question was, "Who has the mail been targeting?"

You see, the NOTW was not the only prolific red top employer of shady private detectives. Even though its jounralists seem to have commissioned the most flagrant breaches of decency thus far revealed, they weren't even the most prolific of Steve Whittamore's clients.

Tory grandee Michael Ashcroft obtained a list of 305 journalists who had contacted Whittamore with requests that were either definitely, probably or possibly in breach of the Data Protection Act:
Nevertheless, the ICO data released to me shows that the 305 journalists, the identities of whom have yet to be revealed, commissioned no fewer than 13,343 separate lines of enquiry from Whittamore. These transactions can be subdivided into three categories:-

• those which are positively known to have constituted a breach of the Data Protection Act, of which there were 5,025.

• those in addition which were probably a breach of the Data Protection Act, of which there were 6,330.

• those lines of enquiry which were questionable, but in relation to which there was insufficient information to form a definitive view, of which there were 1,988.

The 305 journalists worked for a total of 21 newspapers and 11 magazines, although some journalists worked for more than one publication. However, the concentration of activity was striking. (2)
Ashcroft goes on to reveal the papers which the unnamed journalists worked for:
Daily Mail 58
Sunday People 50
Daily Mirror 45
Mail on Sunday 33
Sunday Mirror 25
News of the World 23
The People 19
Sunday Express 8
Daily Express 7
The Observer 4
Daily Sport 4
The Sun 4
Daily Star 4
Daily Record 2
The Times 1
Sunday Times 1
Evening Standard 1
Sunday Sport 1
Sunday Business News 1
Mail in Ireland 1
Sunday World 1
The Mail, for all its sanctimonious frothing and screeching, is top of the list. It can't all be harmless tattle about Cheryl Cole type bimbos. Wonder when its time will come?
1 - The original headline was, "Even war widows were on the News of the World hackers' hit-list: Who else have they targeted?" and I know this because I saved the headline. But googling it now redirects to another, unattributed, story, "End of the World: James Murdoch announces News of the World will close this Sunday," published by The Daily mail, 7th of July, 2011. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2012035/News-World-close-Sunday-announces-James-Murdoch.html)
2 - "What Price Privacy Now," by Michael Ashcroft. Date of publication unclear. (http://www.lordashcroft.com/pdf/WhatPricePrivacyFoIAreply.pdf)


So, the News of the World is to be closed, to spare Rupert Murdoch's blushes. 168 years, and snuffed out overnight because a geriatric antipodean is worried his other business deals might be affected. This is why Murdoch shouldn't be allowed any further access to the British media market. H's only interested in the NI brand.

Scuttling the NOTW is quite a spectacular act of desperation. If - as has been claimed over and again - it was just the action of a few rogue reporters blah blah blah - why the decapitation of a venerable title? It's a transparent act of sacrifice, the poor poker player throwing down a jack in the hope that everyone else has been bluffing.

It also begs the question, what haven't we heard yet that was so bad it required this sort of sacrifice?

Perhaps this is why:
Mark Stephens, head of media with Finers Stephens Innocent lawyer, said under British law the paper "may not be obliged to retain documents that could be relevant to civil and criminal claims against the newspaper—even in cases that are already underway."

If News of the World is to be liquidated, Stephens told Reuters, it "is a stroke of genius—perhaps evil genius."
"All of the assets of the shuttered newspaper, including its records, will be transferred to a professional liquidator (such as a global accounting firm). The liquidator's obligation is to maximize the estate's assets and minimize its liabilities. So the liquidator could be well within its discretion to decide News of the World would be best served by defaulting on pending claims rather than defending them. That way, the paper could simply destroy its documents to avoid the cost of warehousing them—and to preclude any other time bombs contained in News of the World's records from exploding." (1)
If so, then whatever still awaits revelation must be potent to warrant junking a whole newspaper. News International mustn't be allowed to get away with it.
1 - "News of the World closes – live coverage". Posted by Adam Gabbatt and David Batty, on the Guardian live Blog, 7th of July 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/blog/2011/jul/07/news-of-the-world-closes-live-coverage)

Monday 4 July 2011

That 'painless' benefits cap

Ther Con Dem coalition has justified its plans to cap total benefit claims for households on the grounds that it is fair, as beneficiaries shouldn't receive more than a typical working family. They've argued it is essential to take these tough measures - while also claiming the cap won't cause any real hardship - because it will save money. They lied.

Straight from the horse's horse's secretary's mouth pen ...
Firstly we are concerned that the savings from this measure, currently estimated at £270m savings p.a from 2014-2015 does not take account of the additional costs to local authorities (through homelessness and temporary accommodation). In fact we think it is likely that the policy as it stands will generate a net cost. In addition Local Authorities will have to calculate and administer reduced Housing Benefit to keep within the cap and this will mean both demands on resource and difficult handling locally.

Secondly, we are worried about the impact of this measure on our ability to build social housing for families through the new affordable rent product. To fund new affordable housing development providers need to be able to charge rents of up to 80% of the market levels but the impact of the Overall Benefit Cap will prevent them from doing so in many areas greatly reducing their financial capacity. Initial analysis suggests that of the 56,000 new affordable rent units up to 23,000 could be lost. And reductions would disproportionately affect family homes rather than small flats. For example it would be extremely difficult to fund any 4 bed properties, so desperately needed, anywhere in the country - disproportionately impacting on families and therefore children.

Finally, our modelling indicates that we could see an additional 20,000 homelessness acceptances as a result of the total benefit cap. This on top of the of the 20,000 additional acceptances already anticipated as a result of other changes to Housing Benefit. We are already seeing increased pressures on homelessness services. I understand that there may be a suggestion around requiring families to divert a percentage of their non-housing (benefit) income to cover housing costs. It is important not to underestimate the level of controversy that this would generate (likely to dwarf anything already seen on the HB only caps) and the difficulty of justifying this in policy terms as well as implementation. (1)
Awesome, Con Dem coalition. A way of reducing economic activity and worsening the housing situation (through fewer social homes being built), increasing homelessness that costs more than the status quo? Outstanding work.

And on top of that, a rather hopeful suggestion that exempting Child Benefit from the housing cap might resolve these issues - finally turning the old stereotype of the benefit queen, who has children to get a better house, into actual policy.

This coalition is so crazed Eric Pickles - ERIC PICKLES - sounds sane and reasoned.

Meanwhile - as the coalition plots to make 40,000 people homeless at the taxpayer's expense, and connives to engineer an unjustified pay cut for public servants - the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg turned his attention to another group of - apparently more deserving - beneficiaries:
As a result of what I have described the Queen is paying a higher rate of tax than anybody else. We should remember that and I hope that the Chancellor will be generous. I would like the 15% provision to be increased because we want to have a glamorous monarchy that befits the status of our nation. We are a great nation, a noble nation and a nation that has had power across the globe in the past. We have one of the finest histories of any country in the world. When I see the coronation coach being pulled through the streets of London, I want to see it being pulled by the finest horses that money can buy and I want to see it gilded with the finest gold that can be bought. I want Her Majesty to have as a jubilee present the finest window that can be funded by Members of Parliament. That is the status of monarchy that we want and I urge the Chancellor to remember that. Even though I know that we are in this time of austerity, that we are all in it together and that the Opposition spent all the money, maxed out the credit card and so on, we should look after Her Majesty. (2)
Yes, as long as the proles can see the monarch trot past in a pretty carriage pulled by some pampered horses, they'll know their place and accept their lot.

These freaks are beyond satire.
1 - "Full text of letter from the office of Eric Pickles," published in The Guardian, 2nd of July, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jul/02/full-text-letter-eric-pickles-welfare-reform?intcmp=239)
2 - Jacob Rees-Moog, speaking in the house of Commons, 30th of June, 2011. As recorded in Hansard for that date, colum 1172. (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110630/debtext/110630-0003.htm)

Sunday 3 July 2011

Miliband bashing

So, Ed Miliband is being castigated for refusing to deviate from his prepare lines during an interview (1).

It was a shite performance, a horrible throwback to the Blairite days of always being 'on message' and controlling the media, making sure they could only use one soundbite.

In fairness, he has expanded his argument a bit elsewhere, but it was infuriating to watch him repeat the same thing. Fuck's sake man, seize the moment, Talk To The Nation. Your point isn't a bad one. Run with it. You've got a privileged position where you get to access the media, I don't get to do that, and I've got lots of things I want to say. Stand aside, man, and let me hog the camera!

That said, the thinking behind the obstruction is clear enough - It's also worth noting that Red Ed is trying a rather transparent policy of Following The Public Mood - condemning the government for forcing the crisis and the unions for striking while a deal is still possible.

Courtesy of UK Polling Report:
On balance the public remain opposed to the government’s proposed changes to public sector pensions by 47% to 37%. However, while they oppose the pension changes, they also tend to oppose the strike – 40% of people support the teacher’s strike on Thursday, 49% of people oppose it. (2)
Red Ed, his finger on the People's Pulse.

And there is something else to consider. Miliband has to watch his words because he knows the Conservatives, and the media, are desperate to portray him as some sort of barely reformed trotskyite dreaming of the 'Good old days' of the 1970s.

I think this sort of crap from the right is what is driving Miliband's tactics over the strikes:
But Cameron sought to steer the debate away from health and on to the union strikes due to be staged on Thursday.

He accused Miliband of choosing not to ask him about the forthcoming industrial disruption because he was in the "pocket of the unions".

"That's what we see, week after week – he has to talk about the micro because he can't talk about the macro," the prime minister said.

"What the whole country will have noticed is, at a time when people are worrying about strikes, he can't ask about strikes because he is in the pocket of the unions." (3)
It's also worth noting that what Miliband did was pretty much what Cameron - and every other PM - does at Prime Minister's Question Time.

The Tories are desperate to link 'Red Ed,' the 'pawn of the unions' with these strikes, so they can bang the old Thatcherite drum, like he's a re-heated incarnation of Neil Kinnock. So - while it's not edifying, nor inspirational - Miliband's obstinate refusal to depart from the scripted line is understandable.
1 - "Ed Miliband TV interviewer reveals shame over 'absurd' soundbites," by Mark Sweney. Published in The Guardian, 1st of July, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jul/01/ed-miliband-interviewer-shame-strike-soundbites)
2 - "Latest YouGov polling on teacher's strike," by Anthony Wells. Posted on UK Polling Report, 29th of July, 2011. (http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/3688)
3 - "David Cameron hits out at Ed Miliband in NHS row," by Helene Mulholland. Published in the Guardian, 29th of June, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jun/29/david-cameron-ed-miliband-nhs-row?INTCMP=SRCH)


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