Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Justifiable Hamaside.

Whenever there is a war on involving Israel and a terrorist group like Hamas, we invariably hear about the seething anger of the 'Arab Street' who all want to see Israel destroyed. So this is a turn up:
The funeral of the killed assassinated dead egyptian border officer was attended by 30,000 of his countrymen, who according to al masry alyoum, turned the event into an anti-Hamas rally, shouting anti-Hamas slogans, and rightly stating that his blood is on Hamas' hands.
In Britain there have, thus far, only been rallies against the other side of the conflict so we are behind the Egyptians on that one.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blair- Still Got The Old Magic.

It's nice to see that Tony Blair is having as much success in his role as Middle East peace envoy as he had as Prime Minister. In fairness the Israeli Palestinian situation has always been volatile even before his Tonyness came along saying "look guys, how come you don't have the Christmas spirit over here?".

The Independent reports that:
Three Israelis killed as Hamas launches revenge attacks
Which isn't really true seeing as it was Hamas's rocket attacks that precipitated the current situation. Perhaps Hamas were taking preemptive revenge.

I'm not sure whether Israel's actions are correct or appropriate. Allowing rocket attacks to continue is clearly not an option but the Prime Minister is corrupt and demonstrably incompetent so who knows whether this is the best response or whether it is being done with one eye on the upcoming Israeli elections? It would be nice if there were a means of targeting those who fire the rockets without endangering civilians but without effective intelligence gathering that is difficult to do.

However the way the UK media have been reporting the situation is misleading in that it present every Israeli action as occurring in a vacuum with no context given for why they are doing it whereas Hamas's behaviour is presented as being a reaction to what Israel does rather than the conscious choices of sentient individuals.

As with Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel two years ago, territory that Israel had completely withdrawn from is being used as a platform to attack and murder Israelis. This clearly undermines the case for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem so you would have imagined that opponents of Israel's presence in the West Bank would have been the loudest in denouncing Hamas and Hezbollah but instead there is a long pause followed by a barrage of propaganda and conspiracy theories to excuse them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Are You More Intelligent Than Andy Burnham?

Okay new poll. The question is this:
How should the government stop loonies putting decapitation videos on the internet?
  • Clamp down on beheadings.
  • Clamp down on the internet.
Update: By a margin of 17 to 1 (thanks Andy), my readers are more intelligent than Andy Burnham.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

'Not An Attack On Free Speech'

"If you look back at the people who created the internet, they talked very deliberately about creating a space that governments couldn't reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now."
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham. The man's intense Stalinism is only mitigated by the fact he's a fuckwit:
Other safeguards mooted by Burnham include compelling websites such as YouTube and Facebook to remove offensive material within a specified time after they have been alerted to it, and changing Britain's libel laws to make it cheaper for people to sue publishers if they have been defamed online. Internet providers will be urged to adopt the proposals in the new year, but if that failed to work, Burnham said the proposals might have to be enshrined in law.

Burnham, a father of three, insisted his proposals were not intended as an attack on freedom of speech
And when I throw a large rock at Andy Burnham's smug face it isn't intended to inflict physical injury it will simply happen to be the inevitable effect. If you still haven't been convinced of his sheer fucking stupidity:
He plans to approach US president-elect Barack Obama's incoming administration with proposals for tight international rules on English language websites
The cretin hasn't heard of the 1st amendment.


Update: It is worth bearing in mind that this plan is not only crazed and authoritarian it is also completely unworkable. Andy Burnham really is the stupidest cabinet minister in recent memory, he is like the secret lovechild of John Prescott and Harriet Harman who's been dropped on his head a few too many times.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Harold Comedy Dies.

In the wake of Harold Pinter's death the Grauniad republishes one of the genocide supporters articles that he did for them. In this paragraph he asks a number of questions:

Sometimes you look back into recent history and you ask: did all that really happen? Were half a million "communists" massacred in Indonesia in 1965 (the rivers clogged with corpses)?

No

Were 200,000 people killed in East Timor in 1975 by the Indonesian invaders?
No, around 18000 civilians were killed. This is horrible but vastly less than those killed in places like Bosnia where he supported the genocide.
Have 300,000 people died in Central America since 1960?
No. Given the population of central America that would be an absurdly low figure even it the region were like Switzerland.

Has the persecution of the Kurdish people in Turkey reached levels which approach genocide?
No.

Are countless lraqi children dying every month for lack of food and medicine brought about by UN sanctions?

No they were dying because Saddam's regime whim he was an apologist for sold all the food and medicine to build palaces.

Did the military coups in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile result in levels of repression and depth of suffering comparable to Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and the Khmer Rouge?
No. Millions of people died in Germany, Cambodia and Russia compared to a few thousand in the Latin American dictatorships. Disgusting as they were the Juntas were less murderous than a certain other Latin American regime that Pinter also supports. It is a form of genocide denial to place the crimes of Nazi Germany on a level with those of Pinochet's Chile.

Whilst the regimes that Pinter condemned were frequently murderous and despicable that was not why he condemned them as can be shown by his wholehearted enthusiasm for far more murderous regimes who happen to be anti-American. His only motivation was an intense xenophobic hatred of the United States.

No doubt he was a great playwright and those who knew him as a person have my sincere sympathies but he should not be portrayed as some kind of moral inspiration which he clearly was not.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Is Cancelled.

Obama Exonerates Obama.

The scandal surrounding the sale of Obama's senate seat threatens to taint the incoming president. Not to worry though, according to the news reports:
Report clears Obama, Transition Team
So that's that dealt with. It's good to know that the President Elect is free from any hint of scandal and so is his team. So who produced this impartial report that so clearly exonerates him and his staff? Well they did:
As President-elect Obama vacationed in Hawaii, his lawyers released a report detailing contacts between the Transition Team and embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The conclusion? There was no wrong doing.
He must be breathing a sigh of relief after his own lawyers cleared him.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting What You Pay For.

The problem I referred to a couple of days ago is still ongoing, so if back links to my posts are appearing on your site then my apologies but I'm not spamming you.

I've just discovered that Blogger are literally impossible to contact so I can't ask them what the problem is being caused by. They used to be contactable, I know because I did so back in 2006. This could violate my privacy, google/blogger is leaving a sign of which blogs I visit, now as it happens I don't visit (many) porn blogs, for example, but if I did stumble across one then the whole world would know as a banklink to this site appears.

Blogger's uselessness is hard to overstate, the provide a 'help group', where lots of other people who are experiencing the same problem can ask for help, but no one who can solve the problem is there. They also have a method of reporting a bug, but only from a preexisting menu of known bugs. So that is pretty much useless.

I realise that blogger is a free service, but even so their customer service is abysmal and it didn't used to be.

Update: Thinking about the problem some more.
  • It affects some other bloggers, so the problem isn't unique there is unlikely to be caused by my own hardware and software.
  • It has emerged recently so it isn't something wrong with the way that I configure my blog.
  • It is only affecting a small number of bloggers, so much so that even on relatively popular sights my unintentional spam is often alone.
  • Other bloggers are complaining about broken widgets.
  • As the problem is unique to Blogger but not universal or even common among all users it might be the result of a broken widget.
  • I shall try getting rid of most of my widgets, and disable banklinks on this site.

Community Work.

I've just been reading something about sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland and how they have worsened in recent years. I realise that this probably makes me a very bad person, but one of the reasons given for increased tensions strikes me as being extremely funny:
Of 214 kids who had attacked children of the other religion, 158 said they recognised them from cross-community schemes.'

Monday, December 22, 2008

The 'Break Your Legs' Charter.

Breaking into some one's home and then physically assaulting them is usually considered a crime, the main exception to this is when the police arrest somebody suspected of a serious crime. It is an extraordinary power and the law only grants it to the police after a warrant has been submitted for approval to a judge.

In this recession it is likely that millions of people will face real financial hardship for the first time. This situation is made even worse by the fact that a debt bubble was encouraged and borrowers were urged to take out unfeasibly large loans.

So naturally the government has decided that now would be a good time to give debt collection agencies the right to break your legs after they force their way into your house.

The government has been accused of trampling on individual liberties by proposing wide-ranging new powers for bailiffs to break into homes and to use “reasonable force” against householders who try to protect their valuables.

Under the regulations, bailiffs for private firms would for the first time be given permission to restrain or pin down householders. They would also be able to force their way into homes to seize property to pay off debts, such as unpaid credit card bills and loans.

The idea of giving private citizens to pin down other citizens who aren't posing a threat to anyone would be extraordinary even without the credit crunch. Often the reason for an outstanding debt is an innocent misunderstanding, such as a householder mistaking utility company's letters for junk mail or assuming that their direct debit was taking care of it. Even when the debt has been incurred through the debtors own mistakes it is often the case that the government, the banks and credit card companies were egging them on. That shouldn't be sufficient to grant some thug the right to manhandle you to the ground and take your property out of your newly kicked in front door.

I haven't had much contact with the bailiffs, but from what I have heard, the employees they use to 'persuade' debtors to cough up aren't exactly the shy and retiring types. They are often steroid pumped men who couldn't get work as bouncers because of their criminal records and face tattoos. When they have the legal right to grapple a householder to ground it isn't hard to imagine how the situation could escalate to something more serious. It also isn't hard to imagine how much fear it would create in the minds of anyone who misses a payment, even if they aren't likely to be subject to the bailiffs.

This is being proposed by a government that has itself amassed a historically unprecedented level of debt that will exceed £20000 per household in a few years, according to the government's own historically optimistic forecasts.

Quacks

There has been a slew of columns about the conviction of Robert Napper for the murder of Rachel Nickell, and the role that a well known psychologist, Paul Britton, played in leading the investigation astray. Nick Cohen who covered the case for a long time has a particularly good article on the matter:

Detectives discounted his denial, which was convincing when you consider he had an incentive to say anything that might please his strange girlfriend. The point of the undercover exercise was not to extract a confession from Stagg, as no judge would have allowed a jury to hear evidence from a honey trap. Britton's pseudo-science aimed at securing more than a mere admission. He believed that his academic insights had given him the psychological profile of the killer.

Detectives set "Lizzie James" on Stagg to see if he matched Britton's description of a murderer, who was excited by his victim's fear and had a "deviant interest in buggery". When Britton ruled that the local loner did, the police believed him. Police say that Britton also told them that the murders of Rachel Nickell and Samantha and Jazmine Bissett were not the work of the same man, although Britton disputes this.

The specifics of Britton's folly are gruesome enough. As professor David Canter of Liverpool University said at the time, he barely mentioned the most striking and revolting aspect of the case: that the killer murdered Rachel Nickell in front of her child. As William Clegg, Stagg's QC, added at the trial, the transcripts of the conversations between his client and "Lizzie James" showed only that Stagg was a friendless man going along with a domineering but beautiful woman.

But dwelling in the detail misses the wider point. Just as dissenting economists are asking by what right their conventional colleagues demand to be taken seriously when no more than a handful warned of a coming banking crisis, so Parliament and the public should be wondering by what right psychologists demand a hearing.

It is not a reputable profession. The British Psychological Society dismissed all charges of misconduct against Britton in 2002, and no-one else has held him to account for what he did to Stagg and, indeed, to "Lizzie James", who went on to suffer a nervous breakdown.

Paul Britton purported to have an insight into how killers think. He was at best deluded. Psychologists haven't merely enabled killers to remain uncaught but, through their 'expert' advice to parole boards, have also enabled known murderers to be released. Killers are relatively rare and in depth stides of them even more so. This means that there isn't a great deal of actual evidence for psychologists to test theories against and therefore conclusions drawn from them should only be accepted provisionally and never be applied to real life situations as though they were scientifically proven laws.

It might not be true to dismiss the whole field as charlatanry, after all it is so wide ranging that what is true for part of the profession is not true for all of it, however there is clearly a tendency on the part of psychologists to pretend to have a more profound insight into the human mind than is the case. As the most media friendly branches of psychology are those that purport to offer shortcuts to solving big problems such as crimes or personal afflictions this means that most of the public faces of psychology are quacks and frauds.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blog Problem.

Blogger has a "Links to this post" function which does exactly what enables people referring to a post to let it be known.

At the moment this function appears to be malfunctioning and several of my posts are being filled with links that are of no relevance and even more strangely several other blogs are also being filled with trackbacks to this site (among others), even though I haven't used the feature to put them up. So I am not spamming anyone with links to my posts, it is a technical fault.

Quote Of The Day.

What we must do, I suggest, is introduce a new concept of universal compulsory volunteering.
Melanie Reid in the Times putting the moron in oxymoron.

{Via here and here.}

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Elections Are Unrepresentative Decides Home Secretary.

Mrs Andrew Marr praises the Home Secretary:

At a time when it's fashionable to decry our politics as being unrepresentative, out of touch or even corrupt, let's stop for a moment to praise the fact that sometimes the system works.
So what has Jacqui Smith done to demonstrate that she isn't unrepresentative and out of touch?:

I'm referring to the decision, announced to the Guardian by the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, to drop plans for directly elected police authorities.
Yes that's right, abandoning plans to make the police accountable to elected representatives just shows how representative the government are!

It is a pity as this was just about the only good idea that the Home Secretary has come up with. Electing police boards to run the local force would mean that the police had to respond to the voters rather than to Whitehall. The reasons given to support the u-turn are pathetic:
It was only when those who really understand the implications – the police themselves, and local authorities – became involved that opposition to the idea started to build.
So the opposition was led by bodies with a vested interest in the status quo. Next week after consulting with turkeys the government will decide to ban Christmas.
The Local Government Association pointed out that turnout in these elections was likely to be low, with the result that minority and extremist parties could flourish. Sir Jeremy Beecham, vice-chairman of the LGA warned that far-right groups could end up controlling police authorities, after exploiting the fear of crime.
They could in theory, but they are no more likely to win elections to policing boards than to local councils, where turnout is also very low but the BNP have only scant representation. In fact this isn't an argument against allowing the public to elect police boards, this is an argument against allowing the public to elect anyone. The threat of the minuscule and pathetic BNP is being hyped up to justify the centralisation of power and maintaining the current top down mode of government.

What would be the worst that could happen if extremist parties got representation on police boards anyway? The police have recently made the news for arresting an MP for receiving leaks and for the De Menesez inquest completely rejecting their account of the events that led to an innocent man's death so it is hard to see how extremists (who wouldn't win control in any case) would make things worse.

Part of the problem of being governed by a small and unrepresentative political class is that they really do believe that outside of their little cocoon the rest of the country is populated by halfwits and bigots who will end up imposing a Fourth Reich if they are allowed to vote on anything of any importance.

Update: Former councillor John Ward has a post up about the same topic.

Advertising Disguised As News.

On the ITV news this evening there was a report about the closure of Woolworths and the impending loss of jobs. This is a pretty depressing story and of tremendous importance to thousands of Woolworths employees. It is therefore extremely tacky to use the news report to plug the Christmas single by the latest winner of ITV's 'X-Factor' by explaining that it was one of the items being sold by the chain and then cutting to a clip of her murdering 'Hallelujah'.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not A Fanatic.

Inayet Bunglawala complains in the Guardian about being slandered by the Daily Express. He has won a libel case against them and it is clear that the Express did not report his words accurately so that is fair enough. However the subtitle makes a more general complaint that he was unfairly portrayed as a 'fanatic'. This isn't libellous, this is a statement of the obvious, as his wiki page says:
In January 1993 Bunglawala wrote a letter to Private Eye, a satirical magazine, in which he called the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman "courageous." After Abdel-Rahman's arrest on charges of masterminding the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in July that year, Mr Bunglawala guessed that it was only because of his "calling on Muslims to fulfill their duty to Allah and to fight against oppression and oppressors everywhere". Five months before the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bunglawala also circulated writings of Osama bin Laden, whom he called a "freedom fighter", to hundreds of Muslims in Britain.[7]
Whilst his praise for Bin Laden was before the World Trade Center attack it was after Al Qaeda had carried out many other attacks including the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which left hundreds of people dead. This doesn't seem like the sort of stuff that a moderate would say.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What's Up Doc?

An NHS doctor has been convicted of terrorist offences for his role in the attempted bombings of London and Glasgow last year. The most notable aspect of the attacks was the ineptness of the execution, in fact the only victim of the attacks was another terrorist doctor who died in the Glasgow Airport assault after immolating himself.

I'm concerned that NHS recruitment has become so poor that people incapable of even driving a car into an airport can become doctors.

It Turned Out That Mr Stabby Couldn't Be Trusted With Knives.

The world's biggest fraudster (allegedly?) is George Madoff who appears to have run a $50 Billion pyramid* scheme. It is a mystery why anyone was surprised, the clue is in the name, George Madoff made off with the money.

These investors are the sort of people who were amazed when it turned out that Cruella De Vil was a villain.


* The word pyramid for some reason made me think of the old confectionary item the "Pyramint" for the first time in about 20 years. This inspired me to google it to see if they were still being made. They aren't but the Wikipedia page on the subject is very helpful noting that:
The Pyramint was a brand of Terry's chocolate popular in the 1980s. It was designed to resemble an Egyptian pyramid made, not out of large stones using forced labour, but of chocolate by a specially designed machine.

George Galloway Feeling The Pinch

With the Credit Crunch and the collapse in oil prices George Galloway is suffering more than most. Listening to TalkSport, the radio station where he works a few minutes ago his colleagues played a clip from his latest show, which I am assuming is completely in context, in which the cat impersonator declares:
"There's not much cash in handjobs"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bad Ideas Still Being Imported.

Following the lead of the Americans, the British government is planning to prop up the car industry in this country*. This is a bad idea and one you would have imagined Britain would avoid given the ignominious history of British Leyland. There is no particular reason to favour car making over any other industry which is struggling in the recession but for some reason the automobile industry seems to have a totemic symbolic value that far exceeds its actual importance. Supporting the car industry makes about as much sense as supporting the retail industry in the wake of the closure of Woolworths.


* Yes we still have a car industry albeit foreign owned.

1000

This is my 1000th post so natuarally I want to make it something insightful, memorable and worthy of marking a blog milestone but why start now?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Who Said The Government Isn't Getting Tough On Immigration?

This is disgraceful:
On 15 November, Colour Sergeant Krishnabahadur Dura of the 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles was killed in action in Afghanistan.
.....
this Government thinks so little of C. Sgt Dura's sacrifice that their first instinct is to weild the full weight of the immigration system against his wife and children.
{Via James Higham}

Dope, Tobacco & Coherent Thinking

This Reason article on the growth of the nanny state in US municipalities confirms something which I have long suspected is the case, that very often a libertarian attitude towards illegal drugs is associated with an authoritarian attitude towards everything else. In fact the correlation between liberal laws on tobacco and liberal laws on illegal drugs is actually slightly negative (about -0.07).

Very few people or politicians adopt consistently libertarian or authoritarian principles, support for liberalising laws on drugs largely comes from those attracted to the counter culture attitude that the likes of marijuana exemplify. Equally support for allowing smoking in public places comes largely from those who view it as an established part of our culture rather than those who oppose state interference full stop.

Personally I think drugs probably should be legal and also oppose the increasing moves to outlaw smoking but principled libertarianism isn't the dominant outlook among advocates of either situation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Polls Close.

I'm closing the Karen Matthews poll now, because it is really putting me off whenever I log on to my own site to see it. Anyway 40% of people think that she gets up the duff so frequently because she's something of a looker compared to her neighbours. 36% think that she gets her baby-daddies really drunk.

Lily & The Solar Powered Lorry.

Plane Stupid vandal Lily Kember is outraged that the newspapers have tagged their organisation as a bunch of trustafarian wankers, many of them came from poor families where their Daddy was poor, their Mummy was poor and even their servants were poor:
one bright spark at the Sun decided to savage me for the heinous crime of being educated at Godolphin and Latymer school. Of course, the journalist, Lynsey Haywood – who sounds pretty well-heeled to me – forgot to mention that I went there on a full scholarship, and that my dad drives trucks for a living.
Isn't a bit rich for an climate change protester to boast about her father driving trucks for a living? Perhaps some concerned eco warrior should do something about that.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Quote Of The Day.

From the Viz letters page:
In his public apology, Russell Brand said that all he's ever wanted to do was make people laugh. Okay, Russell, any time you're ready.

R. Tanner,
Hove

Because 'Progressive Thinking' Has Done So Much For Our Schools Already!

There are many reasons to be sceptical about Ed Balls and his proposals to revamp the primary school curriculum, but none of them are as damning as this claim by David Aaronovitch (or his sub editor:
The call for a new primary curriculum has met predictable opposition. But it is in a fine tradition of progressive thinking

Family Business.

Political nepotism is back in fashion, with Michael Martin is allegedly haggling with Labour to allow his son to succeed him as an MP. Tamsin Dunwoody tried this earlier in the year, across the Atlantic a Kennedy is being lined up to replace a Clinton as the senator from New York.

This is a shame as in general people who rise because of who they are rather than what they have done are less able. I'm trying to remember a quote by AJP Taylor to the effect that even the most successful European monarchs were only of the competence of a mediocre politician like Ramsay MacDonald. This might be overstating it but it contains a germ of truth.

What we really need is a system whereby the offspring of the political elite are shuffled off to somewhere that they cannot enjoy a political career. The House of Lords used to fulfill this function, as the prominent politicians became peers and their children succeeded them to the House of Lords from where it is very hard to become a top ranking politician. There are really only two potential cabinet positions open to Lords so the potential for dynastic rule is minimised. It is notable that the most prominent current dynastic scion in British politics is Hilary Benn, son of Tony Benn who renounced his peerage. Had he accepted his role as Viscount Stansgate Tony Benn would never have become a cabinet minister and there would be a good chance that Hilary would not have even been considered as an MP.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Prostitutes Exposed.

A Tennessee prostitute ring was recently busted by the police and the gallery of the lovely ladies involved is up here. Truly the punters of Tennessee are blessed but before you all try and hook up with them, I'm calling dibs on number 2.

New Poll.

The Shannon Matthews case has raised many questions, how could a mother treat her own daughter like that? How did she think she would get away with it? Why was she getting £20000 a year from the government?

Above all the question on everyone's lips is how did she persuade at least 5 different men to provide her with offspring?
(Apologies for the superfluous apostrophe in the poll)

Class War.

As Laban Tall notes the disruption of Stansted Airport by supposed environmental activists looks a lot like a bunch of spoilt brats deciding to wreck the holidays of the lower orders. Direct action often comes across as the petulant rage of a priviliged class (to borrow a phrase) outraged that their opinions of what must be done don't carry any more weight than those of their feudal inferiors in a modern democracy.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday Round Up.

I'm just going to provide a round up of things worth looking at elsewhere which I haven't been able to link to in an actual post. This might become a weekly feature in which case it will be expanded somewhat or I might get very bored, in which case the concept will disappear into the memory hole never to reappear again.
  • I have added two new sites to my blogroll, 'They're Joking Aren't They' by North Northwester, who is mostly writing about Islam and Islamic extremism at the moment. Also added is the 'Expat Yank' an American living in the UK who writes about both British, American and other current evens.In other blog related news Blognor Regis is now visible to the great unwashed once again.
  • Standpoint magazine has an article about skewed British perceptions of the United States and vice versa.
  • EU Referendum has a transcript of a fantastic exchange between Czech president Vaclav Claus and a bunch of MEPs, including a hilarious exchange with a logically challenged Irish MEP by the name of Brian Crowley.
  • Shuggy's blog has a call for realism by liberal supporters of Obama.
  • Brett over at Harry's Place has a thoughtful post about why liberal's consistantly 'miscast' revolutions, by supporting revolutionaries on the basis of what they oppose without considering what they support. This isn't a trait restricted to liberals incidentally.
  • Pub Philosopher has a great piece on 'conspicuous compassion'.
  • Obnoxio the Clown has one of the best horse sex posts of the week.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Quote Of The Day

Thoedore Dalrymple wrote an article partly about the Shannon Matthews case earlier this year which is well worth reading in its entirety:

Karen Matthews, who received welfare payments of $40,000 a year, had borne seven children to five different men. She called two of her children with the same father “the twins,” thus transferring the meaning of “twin” from the relatively unusual biological occurrence of double birth to what she clearly thought the equally unusual social circumstance of full siblinghood.

..........

The reasons for Shannon’s abduction have not yet emerged, but again the Guardian managed to distract the reader’s attention from less than optimal family arrangements. Instead, it ran an upbeat story on the housing project where the Matthews family lived; that way, the obvious could be ignored rather than denied. The Sun, a tabloid newspaper whose readership is virtually entirely working-class, had described the project as “like Beirut—only worse.” But the Guardian, whose readership is largely middle-class and employed in the public sector, drew attention to the improvements that had taken place in the project, thanks to the local council’s having spent $8 million on it over the last three years—supplying traffic bollards shaped like penguins, for example. Before the improvements, one resident said, “We’d houses burgled, sheds burned, caravans blown up.” Now, only one house in 90 is robbed per year; and, thanks to the penguins, joy-riding by youths in stolen cars is presumably much reduced. The implication is clear: with more public spending of this kind everywhere in the country, administered by Guardian readers and their peers, everything will be all right. It won’t matter in the slightest if children either have no fathers, or different fathers every few years.

And The Winner Is....

The people who voted in my poll of the most dangerous terrorist threat concluded that radical Islamists were the most dangerous. The full results are as follows:

Which one of these poses the greatest terrorist threat?

Damian Green: 0
Iceland: 4
People who don't recycle: 4
Radical Islamists: 14
Walter Wolfgang: 3
In fairness I should probably admit that I voted for Iceland 3 times. Those Vikings haven't fooled me or our illustrious Prime Minister.

Bea-ing Ridiculous. (Updated)

If there is one characteristic that I particularly envy among professional columnists is their uncanny judge of character, honest. After the conviction of Karen Matthews for the abduction of her daughter Shannon it seems like a good time to revisit Bea Campbell's class war column on the subject from earlier this year:
Karen Matthews has acted appropriately throughout: she was waiting for Shannon at home; she contacted the police as soon as she had exhausted all the obvious locations.
Apart from with the bloke she gave her to.
And yet, our eye is drawn to her poverty, numbers of partners, cans of lager going into her household. Everything about Ms Matthews' life has been up for scrutiny.
This appears to have been quite astute.
Karen Matthews has been subjected to a Today programme interrogation that appeared to position the mother as the perpetrator: Sarah Montague asked her seven times about her lifestyle. Her patronising preoccupation was how many men there have been in her life, not her judgment about them. Has any other, apparently blameless mother been so sweetly assailed?
Sarah Montague 1, Bea Campbell 0.
{the McCann's} resources - money, looks, religion, organisation, focus (all a function of class) - were all mobilised to protect them and to obscure the question of culpability. It was the McCann's photo-opportunity with the Pope that eventually exposed the campaign to criticism as inappropriate, not to say unseemly.
Unseemly!?
No one thought Karen Matthews had abducted or killed her daughter - and yet she has been judged. Some commentators think they can say anything they like about this woman and even to her. She has spoken with reticent dignity, yet her class makes her available for blame.
Nope her obvious unsuitability as a parent appalled most people, who kept their silence because of the awful situation they believed that she was in.


Update: Most spectacular volte face ever? (Via Marcus at Harry's Place and Julia)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Not Necessarily Antisemitic"

few, if any, Pakistani militants have been known until now specifically to target Israelis. I say, Israelis rather than Jews because the single surviving terrorist noted that they chose Chabad House to avenge the suffering of the Palestinians. Therefore, the attack was anti-Israeli, though not necessarily antisemitic.
Richard Silverstein at Comment is Free doesn't think that targeting a Jewish Community Centre for a massacre is antisemitic.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Green Leaks.

About this whole Damian Green business, although it was clearly ludicrous and thuggish to arrest him for doing what shadow ministers have always done, it doesn't mean that what he was doing was proper. Some of the leaks that he received were legitimate matters of public interest, such as the illegal immigrants working at the Home Office but some were not, such as the list of Labour MPs who were going to rebel over the issues of 42 days detention.

It isn't unreasonable for ministers to have an expectation that they are able to discuss matters in private with civil servants without their deliberations being sent straight to the opposition. It should not be a criminal matter, so the arrests are the most important part of story. It's as if the police started arresting footballers who dive, on suspicion of fraud, it would clearly be an abuse of power but it wouldn't make divers heroes.

Normalising Deviancy.

I don't believe this claim for a moment:
About 1 in 10 children in the developed world is abused each year but official statistics indicate less than a tenth of those abused are investigated
This is a based on a study by the Lancet who as we all know never publish sensational inflated statistics. If there are over one and a half million abused children in Britain today then it would be horrifying. However as the article explains:

The definition of abuse was wide-ranging and included punching, hitting, beating, burning, rape, exposure to pornography as well as neglect and emotional abuse such as making a child feel worthless or unwanted.

Clearly punching, burning, raping and severe neglect are examples of child abuse (although I suspect 'hitting' means corporal punishment) but when you get into 'making a child feel worthless' then that could mean almost anything. A parent who snaps at a child to shut up might make the child feel worthless, but unless it is constant it is hardly abuse.

Is the reason they are defining child abuse so widely to make it appear as though we are all guilty and that real abusers are no worse than millions of normal people.


Update: More Lancet fun here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pirates: Environmental Heroes.

According to the Guardian, in an editorial about the pirate situation:

Shipping has become an almost invisible industry, the silent motor of global trade, but its consequences are not all benign. Big ships burn dirty fuel and are not subject to any form of carbon emissions regulation, and pump out polluted ballast water, soiling seas. Now the industry needs assistance. But its behaviour should change too.

How did they get from pirates to global warming? I have no idea.

The Children, Won't Someone Please Think Of The Childen!!!

Australia's government is planning web censorship:

The Rudd Government's plans to censor the internet in an attempt to protect children from inappropriate content and extreme and violent pornography has come in for some criticism.

The plan to impose mandatory filtering on Internet Service Providers has invoked the ire of a new generation of civil libertarians who regard any such move as a threat to their freedom and even some children's welfare groups say that mandatory filters, pointedly aimed at protecting children, are ineffective and a waste of money.

How can civil libertarians possible criticise this, after all they're only depriving people of their freedoms for the children.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Is There Anyone Who Isn't Getting A Bailout?

Okay I can understand why they bailed out the banks, I can sympathise with the motives of those who want to bail out the Automobile industry but this is going too far:
Pittsburgh Mayor Calls for Pirates Bailout
I don't think we should be encouraging these Somali sea bandits. In fact I didn't realise they ha been hit that hard by the credit crunch.

Credit Where Credit Is Due.

Is it me or is Harriet Harman acting as the voice of reason here? Seeing as she is always wrong I can only conclude that Damian Green is actually funneling confidential security to Bin Laden.


Update: Dear God, Ed Balls is being reasonable as well! Is the cabinet on drugs.

Update 2: Yaz borders on the edge of sensible too! This is all just uncanny. If Polly Toynbee says something sensible too then we have to conclude that aliens are taking over the bodies of prominent lefties.

Miserable Days.

Cold, dark Sundays in November must be just about the most depressing, energy sapping days of the year. I feel like a miserable Swede. So if anyone has anything happy or cheerful to say feel free to say so.