Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Strikes

Can't say I noticed any problems as a result of them.

The roads were clearer, in fact it would be kind of awesome if they could strike on Friday next time, because I always get home late because of jams.

Bizarro Hari

Given that Johann Hari has been caught stealing quotes elicited from other interviewers and claiming them as his own, what would a Bizarro World Johann Hari be like?

Presumably he'd take dramatic quotes and falsely attribute them to other writers.

Oh wait he does that too! Claiming that a quote by a 1960s Archbishop of Canterbury that "a nuclear war would involve nothing more than the transition of many millions of people into the love of God, only a few years before they were going to find it anyway" came from Christopher Hitchens's book God is Not Great. It doesn't.

One of the amusing aspects of that episode is seeing the self proclaimed scourge of lazy thinking and sloppy journalism, Ben Goldacre, retweeting such an extraordinary quote uncritically and seeming to be largely unperturbed that he's been misled.

* As Yaffle told me when I interviewed him the other day- "I'm no fan of Hari" he said, rolling his eyes, before pausing "but it really is Hitch's quote, verbatim - just not from the book.". Which means in this case Hari is only guilty of being too arrogant to correct a trivial error.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Repost From February 2010- Johann Hari Guest Post

The Lies You've Been Told About Mordor.

The shadow looming over Middle Earth – the shadow of Sauron– furrows his big, non corporeal brow, pats my knee, and tells me about the night he knew he was going to die. “I will never forget – in the early hours, I said goodbye to my ringwraiths. I kissed them goodbye and blessed them.” He knew in his gut he was not going to survive that long, bloody day in the third age, when he and his allies finally decided to stage a revolution against the hated Elvish order. However he survived and since that day he has felt blessed.

Now the Middle Earth armies are once again beating the drums of war against Sauron and his people. They say he is a tyrant but tell that to Gogdush, a 14 year old Orc whose life has been transformed Sauron’s social housing policies. He sobs as he shares his recollection of life before Sauron over dinner- “Before Sauron we were marginalised and kept from enjoying our share of the resources of Middle Earth, we weren’t even able to get food”. He hands me some of the casserole he heats on a small stove whose warm glow is easily outshone by the radiance of my self righteousness, I chew into the tender yet hard to identify meat, by the look of the small yet furry primate foot it isn’t anything I’ve tasted before. “It’s a native delicacy, which we weren’t allowed to touch before Sauron”, Gogdush tells me.

Yet Middle Earth leaders frequently describe Sauron as being a source of pure evil intent on dominating the world. “This is nonsense” Sauron says angrily, "just because we are using our natural resources to construct giant towers that overshadow the entire planet and to raise Orcish armies that doesn’t mean that we are the bad guys”. He’s right of course, the tower building programme is actually one of Sauron’s great success programmes, the towers are capable of sustaining more people than the sprawling individualistic burrows that dominate the Shire, and have a much lower environmental impact.

The second lie told about Sauron’s Mordor is that it is a place of misery and joylessness. In fact it has a flourishing arts and crafts scene, even Sauron himself likes to make jewellery! However I’m here to ask probing questions, such as his record on gay rights:

“Orcs are soulless and sexless creatures who are not borne of the fruit of love but raised asexually from the barren earth of Mordor, since they are neither male nor female homosexuality is a conceptual impossibility, very much like Independent journalists in that sense.”

Quite, it goes without saying that neither Rohan or the Shire have achieved such perfect gender balance yet. But what about Mordor’s labour laws, under which many citizens have to work up to 60 hours a week?

“Look we are a developing country, some of our labour laws need improving and who is likely to accomplish that, me or a Gandalfian puppet?”

Indeed and it is true that labour relations have greatly improved since Sauron returned from his 3000 year exile.

No Mordor is not perfect, yes the relationship between Sauron and Saruman- who was of course backed by the West until he switched sides, is troubling but as I sit in the middle of an Orc camp surrounded by hideous inhuman creatures, I ask myself who are we to condemn these people and the leaders striving to improve their situation?


Dave Osler writes about the Hari affair:
He is not the only guilty party, either. I have heard complaints that one rising star invents quotes and puts them into activists’ mouths, arguing that that is what they would have said anyway. Perhaps that is largely down to lack of professional technique; I doubt whether the young woman in question has got 100 words a minute teeline, which used to be the minimum you could get away with.
I wonder who he means?

Does this mean her articles are about as legit as goods that have come off the back of a Laurie?

UK Uncut Have The Popular Touch

UK Uncut tells it's hardy supporters to- "Come dressed as a worker; a nurse, a teacher, a builder, or anything you choose."

Imitating the life of one of the lower orders is a sure way to earning their love and respect as Marie Antoinette could tell them!

Via Brendan O'Neill.

Because It Worked So Well Last Time

Ex music journo turned proper pundit and all round twat, John Harris, bemoans the lack of support by high profile artists for todays strikers. As obnoxious as the NUM was, there probably was more sympathy for people who do hard, heavy and dangerous work down t'pit and whose livelihoods were threatened that doesn't exist for the current strikers who do a gruelling 7.5 hour shift down t'diversityoutreach office whose right to retire at 55 with a final salary pension is under threat.
Of late we have heard from Judi Dench, Mike Leigh, Kathy Burke and good old Sting about the allegedly pressing need to liberalise the drug laws. The campaign to replace our miserable electoral system with a slightly less miserable alternative brought out Eddie Izzard, Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter, and more
He makes a good point, without the involvement of celebrities we would probably still have first past the post and drugs would still be illegal and the Tories would still have been in power for years after formation of Red Wedge in the 1980s.... oh wait.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nice Work If You Can Get It

A woman who illegally claimed benefits for almost three years has been told to do 180 hours' unpaid work.
Sharon Colegrove, of Blaby Road, Enderby, was sentenced at Hinckley Magistrates' Court after pleading guilty to benefit fraud.
She was given a 12-month community order and ordered to pay £519 in legal costs.
Miss Colegrove falsely claimed £9,172 in housing and council tax benefit between September 2007 and July 2010, having failed to declare that she received working tax credits.
Hmmm, £9172 divided by 180 hours = £50.96 an hour. Remember kids- crime doesn't pay!

Shock As Renowned Liar Found To Have Made Things Up.

Johann Hari has been caught stealing quotes made by interviewees with other journalists and attributing it as his own work.

It has been clear for years that Johann Hari is a liar, and that he makes things up. Even if you don't include claims that seem preposterous but can't actually be disproved the evidence is overwhelming.

Private Eye discovered Hari's propensity to lie back in 2003:

Not that startling, surely, especially if they are regular readers of Johann Hari. He began his career as the voice of yoof in July 2001, just after finishing his university finals, by boasting about his drug habit to the readers of the New Statesman. “Another Cambridge May Week has rolled around,” he wrote, “and I, like half of Cambridge, celebrated with a few tabs of Ecstasy and the odd line of coke.”
Fleet Street editors were thrilled: the Sindie reprinted his piece, and a few months later the London Evening Standard invited him to do an encore. Hari obliged by defending “the Ecstasy I know and love” against the tut-tutting of the Home Secretary. “Clearly, David Blunket needs to be informed of the basic facts about one of Britain’s most popular drugs,” he raved. “If he fancies tying one, I’ll be happy to take him to a decent club. But in the meantime, I’ll try to explain why so many of use the drug weekly.” He duly went on to describe the sensation of being “loved up” and “at one.”
In fact, however, the young rascal had never taken Ecstasy: before writing his lyrical account he had to phone a friend and ask what it felt like! And now, less than two years later, he has already forgotten his brief incarnation as an e-fiend. “Ecstasy defined the generation of my older siblings, not mine,” he wrote in the Indie two weeks ago. “Ecstasy is out.”
No matter: it served its purpose, and Hari was on a roll. A couple of weeks after his original ecstasy article he went to Genoa for the G8 summit and sent a vivid dispatch to the New Statesman about the death of anti-globalisation protester Carlo Giuliani. “On Friday, before the real business of the summit began, the police shot him twice in the head and then ran him over,” he reported. “They killed him, even though he carried no weapon other than a fire extinguisher. When I saw the scene, I couldn’t believe so much blood had poured from just one body.” Yet, as several witnesses can attest, Hari wasn’t there, having hailed a taxi to escape the scene some time before Giuliani was killed.
Now that he’s a full-fledged pundit, Hari has been pontificating in the Indie and on Newsnight about his support for a war against Saddam Hussein. The Iraqis want to be bombed, he says, even if more than 100,000 of them die: he knows, because he’s been there and talked to them. “Last October, I spent a month as a journalist seeing the reality of life under Saddam Hussein,” he wrote on 10 January. “Most of the Iraqi people I encountered…. Would hug me and offer coded support.”
Actually, Hari spent two weeks in Iraq as a holidaymaker, on a package tour visiting ancient archaeological sites. He wrote about the trip in the Guardian on 3 December last year. In that article, however, he complained that it was “very difficult to get Iraqis to express their feelings… I blundered about asking fairly direct political questions, which caused people to recoil in horror… Many people asked quite genuinely ‘why your government hates the Arab world’.” He also met many “dignified, stoical Iraqis” and “doe-eyed children” who complained about western sanctions.
The only person who eventually offered “coded support” was an old man in a souk who had visited London in the 1970s. “After much oblique prodding, he said warmly, ‘I admire British democracy and freedom.’ He held my gaze. ’I very much admire them.’ He added, ’We do not know what is coming. The news we receive here is… unclear.’”
And, er, that’s it. Yet in an Indie column on 15 February, Hari claimed that people in Iraq asked him: “When will you come to free us? When will we be able to live again?” Since these pleas from Iraqis yearning for the bombers to arrive must surely have struck him as newsworthy, why didn’t he mention them in his original Guardian feature?
Answer comes there none. The only question troubling this journalistic wunderkind at the moment is why on earth British newspaper readers suspect that hacks “just make up stories.”

Since 2003 he has carried on lying- inventing an interview with a jihadist who had slashed the throats of 4 female Israeli soldiers (no such incident has ever happened). He was also caught out claiming to have interviewed a former Iraqi human shield volunteer who had seen the light, which was equally bogus.

Johann Hari has been making things up for over a decade and yet he remains a national newspaper columnist and a regular talking head on various BBC programmes. Maybe this latest scandal will sink him but it probably won't and even if it does his presence will be filled with another fabulist like Laurie Penny or someone like that.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Colombo- Bent Cop

The death of Peter Falk, best known for playing Colombo, brings me on to something that I think needs saying- Colombo is the acceptable face of police corruption.

Just consider his methods of "solving" crimes:

  1.  Get called out to murder.
  2. Meet someone at the crime scene.
  3. Decide they’re guilty.
  4. Repeatedly harass them.
  5. Ignore all other leads.
  6. Harass the target some more.
  7. Evidence against the supposed killer magically turns up.
 In fact his methods of constantly turning up to ask "just one more question" as his target tries to get on with life as normal can be considered a form of psychological torture.

Abandoning all other lines of inquiry is an act of gross negligence and must lead to many killers going free.

No you may argue that Colombo always gets the right person however we only have the confession (false confessions are a well known result of psychological torture) and the television's word that he did. What about all the investigations Colombo must have bungled but never made it to air?

Yes mourn the man who played Colombo but also mourn the hypothetical and fictional men and women who've hypothetically spent decades in an imaginary prison for crimes that they did not commit.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Belinda Webb writes of the government's proposal for "Free Schools":
Even the National Union of Teachers thinks the whole idea is questionable.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Brian Haw

Three points on the recently deceased "peace campaigner" Brian Haw:

  1.  His death is of course very sad for the people who knew and loved him personally.
  2. He should have been evicted from outside Parliament years. The right to protest doesn't give anyone the right to commandeer a site which they don't own for decades at a time. It was self indulgent and obnoxious of him to protest in the way he did.
  3. His protest should not be conflated with the wider antiwar movement that arose in response to the invasion of Iraq- he began his one man demonstration in 2001- before 9/11 when we weren't at war with anybody. His original protest was against the sanctions imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War in 1991, which Saddam had abused in such a way as led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. However the widespread deaths from the sanctions had not been happening for a couple of years by the time Haw started his protest. He was merely an opponent of whatever the West happened to be doing.
Still may he rest in peace.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Onwards To Defeat

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, issued the warning as angry unions threatened to walk away from talks over plans to pay more for reduced entitlements.
He told the Guardian newspaper: "It will be the biggest since the general strike. It won't be the miners' strike. We are going to win."
Er does Dave Prentis realise that the General Strike was a monumental defeat for the unions?

Anyway I'm still hoping that they go on strike one day a week for the next year in order to cut the deficit.

The Minimum Wage & The Disabled

Phillip Davies MP has suggested that the disabled should be allowed to work for below the minimum wage has provoked a lot of outrage. This was predictable and it was probably unwise of Davies to suggest it.

It does make some sense though. Working for a living is in most cases beneficial to people- and being out of work long term is draining. Simply getting on the bottom rung of the employment ladder is beneficial in itself and has the potential to lead to higher paying work in the future as skills are developed and contacts made.

Once someone is at the peak of their profession even very serious disabilities may not affect their ability to do their job too much- to take an extreme example Frank Williams has been able to run his motor racing team for quarter of a century since suffering paralysis from the neck down. However in most entry level jobs even a modest disability can damage one's productivity be it stacking shelves or admin work- yet it is these positions that are most critical in setting up a working life.

Even most left wing economists accept that the minimum wage increases unemployment. There isn't much doubt that the minimum wage cuts the employment rates of groups who are relatively less skilled- the young (who have a lower minimum wage), ethnic groups with lower educational attainment and the disabled.

Of course the best solution would be no minimum wage but that isn't going to happen any time soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

British Universities- More Dangerous Than The Congo

Julie Bindel is writing about her favourite subject- the mass rape than female British students are subjected to- "one in seven women students had experienced a serious physical or sexual assault while at university or college".

I've been denounced By Ms Bindel for questioning the source for the statistic- a scepticism derived from both the sisterhood's previous misuse of studies and the specific similarity of Bindel's statistic to the discredited campus rape myth in the USA- and am inevitably accused of denying rape exists for my troubles (as I said it's a Julie Bindel piece.)

Sure enough the actual source for the figure reveals that they got the figure by- an online survey.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How To Appear Sane Without Being So

A USEFUL guide by Frank J FLEMING about how to WRITE on the internet without appearing to BE crazy. This is especially useful IF you are crazy:
Respond to an Actual Point and Not Just Something That’s Been Mentioned
Ever watch a paid partisan shill who, no matter what is said, will go to his couple of talking points? Now that has less to do with being stupid or crazy than just being soulless, but lots of crazy people are the same way, going back to the crazy stuff they really want to talk about no matter what subject people are actually on. And often crazy people will just read until they see a word or phrase that sets them off and then go off on a big, crazy rant before even reading the whole thing they’re reacting to. Often, then, they’re completely missing the point or missing that something is satire and taking it seriously.

Now, I know when people have crazy in their brains, it is really impatient to be let out. Still, you need to teach your crazy to wait and make sure you are actually listening to and understanding what you’re responding to. Like if someone mentions when Hanukkah is this year and you respond with a rant about Jews controlling the banks, you’re not actually having a sane person conversation. You’re just reacting to words someone is saying, which, despite the similarity, is leagues different.
Now, this is really advanced hiding-the-crazy. In fact, it’s at the borderline of trying not to look crazy and actually not being crazy. If you can actually read and understand what non-crazy people are saying and still keep your own crazy, that’s a really advanced state of crazy you’ve achieved. Be proud.

It really is the case that there is a distinctive "crazy style" where people who want to convince you that 9/11 was an inside job- for example- write in such a way that you can tell they're nutjobs within the first sentence.

Subsidised Industry Supports Subsidies Shocka!

The head of external affairs at the Renewable Energy Association and the Solar Trade Association thinks the government should subsidise solar panels!!

Who could have foreseen such a  development?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Amina? No- A-Man-a

Why is this man being excoriated for pretending to be a Syrian lesbian on the internet.

Firstly if pretending to be a woman on the internet is a crime then are we not all guilty?

Oh wait that's just me (or 15 year old "Abigail" to be precise).

But secondly isn't the offence he has committed- creating a bogus identity in order to promote his politics- exactly what fraudster Rigoberta Menchu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for back in 1992?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Another Politician

Rowan Williams is quite entitled to attack the government just as much as anyone else is. What he has to realise though is that if he wants to get into politics he should not be treated differently to any other pundit and should expect to be subjected to the same kind of criticism and support as Polly Toynbee, Richard Littlejohn or Peter Hitchens receive.

He should expect to receive no deference or respect on the basis of who he is or to use the moral authority the C of E has earned over the years through running schools, conducting funerals for all parishioners and not systematically abusing children as a shield against the backlash he has provoked.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Hardest Hit?

Over at the Guardian, Rachel Reeves MP claims that:
Beyond the labour market, women are also being hit hardest by changes to taxes and benefits.
To which I have left a comment:
I'm confused, as an avid Guardian reader I thought that he hardest hit were the disabled..... er the poor..... no wait the old..... and the young... no wait, the middle aged and of course Liverpool.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Posting Even Lighter Than Usual

I haven't posted since Monday and probably won't again until next weekend.

This is because I'm not in the mood because I am having to have my dog put down next week. He's been ill for a couple of months but until last weekend I thought he would recover.

I suppose if you don't have a dog it is hard to understand why anyone would be so upset ( that isn't an insult or a judgement just a statement of fact) and if you do there isn't much need to explain.