Thursday, November 30, 2006

Channel Four secures Big Brother rights for further three years


Race hate victim jailed

Word reached me today of the appalling story concerning Aaron Bennett who has been jailed for two-and-a-half years after wounding two men who attacked him and his girlfriend.

Bennett had wrestled an offensive weapon from the hands of one of his assailants and used it against him. However, the judge felt he had 'gone too far' in his defence. That he had escaped with only superficial injuries only served to strenghten the judge's view of the case.

The case mirrors that of Satpal Ram who, in 1986, was attacked by six men in a restaurant. Amid the brawl, Ram stabbed one of the men who later refused hospital treatment and died. Ram has been in prison since.

The criminal justice system has failed both these men and their cases do little to encourage ethnic minorities to come forward and testify in similar circumstances.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

1000 visits by Thursday?

I've just noticed I'm limping towards 1000 visits, which ain't too bad for four months work I suppose. That's if I get to 1000 before Thursday. Who reads this stuff anyway?

Rowan Williams the racketeer

As if this BA cross farce wasn't nauseating enough, Rowan Williams waded in and managed to sort it out. As usual I'm picking up on things long after the dust has apparently settled but this really hacked me off.

Williams has succeeded in 'persuading' BA to rethink its uniform policy. You might be wondering how the old fella pulled it off. Through cogent argument and a few bon mots from a tongue as silvery as his scraggly beard, you might think. Given he's barely capable of exhorting his congregation to acquiesce on which china to serve the tea in, you'd be wide of the mark. No, instead he stared BA chief Willie Walsh in the eye and, in a move more suited to the boardrooms of the Square Mile than the vestry, applied his spindly digits to his adversary's bollocks and gripped hard.

Williams let slip in Rome last Friday that consultations had begun on a possible disinvestment of BA shares. Then low and behold only later that day, faced with losing £10.25m, BA decided the time was right for a review of its uniform policy.

Apparently, the church has what's called an Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG). The people at the EIAG wrote to Mr Walsh and requested a meeting. Subsequently, John Reynolds, the EIAG chairman, said: "I think this [shows] that the church does have a voice."

Nice. It's probably right that an organisation that trumpets its ethical credentials and is the self-proclaimed moral compass of the nation has an EIAG to ensure its followers hard-donated dough doesn't fall into the wrong hands. But can someone tell me what on earth BA's uniform policy has to do with ethics? The group should be concerned about what BA does with its money. Like whether it's used for gun-running, or paying for prostitutes for its executives, or flying Guantanamo Bay prisoners around the world for the Americans. I'm not interested in getting into the rights and wrongs of BA's policy. But if the best retort Williams and his henchmen can come up with is the fiscal equivalent of taking their ball home because they can't be Wayne Rooney, then they are no better than crooks and should be called by the name.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Litvinenko dies

The BBC reports that University College Hospital has announced that the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has died.

The problem with Polly

As ever, I'm a little behind with this one but I decided I must get something down about it and this has been my first opportunity. Wednesday's Guardian had the Tories in a spin as one of 'Red' Dave's closest advisors, Greg Clark, suggested the party look to Polly Toynbee for solutions to poverty and not, gulp, Winston Churchill.

Well, the gloves were off and there were feathers flying around all over the coop. Reactionary Snob was not happy; Mr Eugenides called NHS 24 but was put on hold and forced to listen to Stones' "Time is on my Side". Doubtless, Norman Tebbit was somewhere quietly going so mad as to almost become sane. Ok, let's not stretch credulity.

The sympathies of the above-mentioned mean their apoplexy is understood, if not understandable. However, the majority of those with something to say on the matter missed the point.

I enjoy reading Polly Toynbee and agree with her more often than not. She's one of a handful of commentators who, it may be argued, sticks mainly to one field, in her case social policy. Nonetheless, what ought to vex people about Clark's comments is not the type of commentator he's endorsing but that he's endorsing one at all.

I may be about to do myself out of a blog here but bear with me: Polly Toynbee's opinion on poverty and equality matters no more than mine, yours, or the piss-soaked drunk outside my window, howling at the moon at 3am. She doesn't speak for anyone but herself; she ain't elected; she has no mandate. She's a successful journalist with a mediocre political past.

I watch 'The Week', 'Question Time' and the like because I'm interested in the discussion and debate. The opinion formers often make things more lively, but as a good friend of mine said to me the other day more often than not they are sniping from the wings, pointing out other people's petty hypocracies which are doubtless no worse than their own. I'd be a bit nervous if John Reid came out and said we should all look to Jeremy Clarkson for imagery on the model system of law and order. Some may even think Reid already does. But I'm touching on personal dislike there when I'd prefer to stick to the reasons for avoiding taking the commentarati too seriously.

They do have their purpose. Christ, I wish it was my job which is why I sit here labouring away, scratching my bonce night after night writing drivel about five people read. Toynbee, Hitchens (Peter), Littlejohn (Gawd 'elp us), Hastings, Jenkins, Freeland, Hari et al all make for entertaining reading. They provoke thought and discussion. They help plebs like me form our own ideas on the issues of the day, if only through crystallising my opposition. They make Question Time more interesting. Even the professional cynics like Ian Hislop, who appears to hate everything, make for interesting viewing. But they're not wonks or policy researchers or even apparatchiks. They have their own agendas and represent no one but themselves and that is why Clark and 'Red' Dave are wrong to bow down before them.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cop reveals heroin plan

The deputy chief constable of Nottinghamshire has told a conference that heroin should be prescribed to addicts to help ween them off the drug and reduce crime.

Howard Roberts forwarded the idea at an address to the Association of Chief Police Officers conference, saying it should be considered. The gasps of disbelief and howls of derision came fairly swiftly but in reality Roberts is a little slow off the mark. The idea is already being tested in three areas of England.

It must be worth considering. If the three pilot schemes show any improvement in the subjects behaviour and help them get on track then why not. It's another option. Something to be considered and if found to be ineffective, discounted.

As with most drug-related societal concerns, people's warped notions of morality kick-in and the visceral response to any radical approach to an ever-present problem is "nooo". The government ponders how to control the poppy crops in Afghanistan and curb illegal exports to Europe. When think-tanks or experts suggest licensing poppy growth in the country to help supply the opiates needed for various medicines in this country, immediately the usual suspects say, "nooo". Why? Because it just sounds bad; it's not right; it's immoral; "nooo". But, hang on: at present the opiates we require are, I believe, supplied by the poppy crops of Turkey. Why not give the Afghans some of the business. Why not test its viability.

We must be more prepared to test ideas, but be equally prepared to admit if they don't work.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A final reminder

Anti-BNP Day of Action
Barking & Dagenham
Saturday 18 November

Labour Hall, Tenterden Road (corner of Green Lane), Dagenham

The BNP is making Barking & Dagenham its national priority. As a result, the local Labour Party and Barking & Dagenham Together are holding the first of a series of Days of Action to take the fight against the extremists into the community.

We urge everyone to spare a couple of hours to come and help defeat the BNP in East London

Something trivial

I am, folks, it may not surprise you to know, a long time subscriber to the New Statesman (gizza job, Mr Kampfner, aw go on). Though it may surprise you that I'm also a sometime subscriber to the Spectator. But let's not dwell on that.

Anyway, something has for a while been bothering me about the old NS. You will of course be familiar with moniker assigned to the President of the United States, Mr George Walker Bush. 'Dubya' is how many of the literati refer to the former booze-bag. But for reasons I cannot fathom the NS spells it 'Dubbya'. Can anyone tell me why? It shouldn't but it bugs the hell out of me, partly because I think the double 'B' is probably correct. Then again, I'm not sure it's not just a stubborn insistence on standing out. (Gasp! How could you accuse the venerable rag of such baseness!) It's like the football commentators who insist on pronouncing a foreign player's name in some utterly stupid way, emphasising all the wrong syllables, when everyone around them sticks to the agreed wisdom.

Now, if you've managed to struggle through that garbage I salute you. I'm off to have a beer and watch QI. I'm off to the anti-BNP demo tomorrow and I'll report back my thoughts at some point over the weekend.

Nothing in particular

Evenin' all. Oooh, that was a bit Andrew Neil. Forget I said it.

Well, it's safe to say I've had a bloody awful day. However, you don't want to hear about me. I thought I'd come on and rant about something but I'm knacked so I might give up.

The latest news on the BBC tells us that a new website has been set up in an effort to track down 'missing' paedophiles. The Crimestoppers website is currently hosting the pictures of five men known to have gone missing from their local area. The site does not contain details of the crimes they have committed. Despite this curious omission, I find the idea dangerous and a trifle mad.

The harming of children by adults broadly summons up two reactions in the population at large, both, it may be said, primordial. We are imbued with protective emotions and an urge to shelter our own. We wrench and weep when we learn of such outrages and reflect on how it can be avoided. But in others it provokes anger, rage, zeal and madness, never better evinced than during the trials of Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr when hoards of empurpled, baying fuckwits stood at the roadside and hurled and eggs and whatever else as the police vans containing the murderers careened by. In fact, I beg your reprieve: a more salient example may even be that of the paediatrician in Newport, south Wales, who was forced to flee her house when illiterate vigilantes laid siege.

I have no truck with the "cut their bollocks off" brigade. It solves nothing. It ruins and humiliates one person but does nothing to prevent similar crimes in the future. I fear of the consequences of publishing these men's details. I fear for anyone who may just bear a passing resemblance to one of these men and is one day assaulted by people who failed to pause for even the most cursory reference to detail.

Those in authority have promised that "any vigilante activity will be robustly dealt with and is likely to constitute a criminal offence." Yes, bloodly likely to, I'd wager. But why run the risk? By then it will be too late and communities will close ranks in the wrong-headed belief that justice has been served. The accusation that the Home Office panders to tabloid sensibilities has been prominent in recent months and this is about the closest we've come to having that view vindicated.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Newell in bonkers blast

Luton Town manager Mike Newell has launched a surprising attack on female football officials.

Newell was upset after his team lost to QPR and lamented the referee, Andy D'Urso, and the assistant referee, Amy Rayner's, failure to award his team a penalty. The BBC reports that Newell said after the game, "She shouldn't be here. I know that sounds sexist but I am sexist. This is not park football, so what are women doing here?"

Newell went on to blame 'politically correct idiots' for presence of female officials in football and now looks set to land himself in all sorts of bother with the FA.

I've had a look at the various things he's quoted as saying after yesterday's game and he's pretty clear on not wanting women in the game and unapologetically calls himself sexist. However, he fails to explain in any detail whatsoever why he thinks it is women aren't up to the task. Nevermind the fact that the person with the final say on the matter was, in this case, the referee, Andy D'Urso. Perhaps Newell is from the Borat school of biology and believes women's 'smaller brains' might prevent them from being objective and sure-sighted umpires. But again if he does think that he doesn't say it.

If anyone's an idiot in this scenario then, unfortunately, Mikey boy, it's you. Time for the FA to send you on an equal oppotunities course methinks.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Government considers tougher race hate laws

Following BNP pair Nick Griffin and Mark Collet being cleared of incitement to racial hatred, the BBC reports that the cabinet is considering revising the laws.

This is bad news. Griffin has already boasted that the trial and retrial has given his party more publicity than it could have wished for. If the government then goes on to revise law in order to huckle a few nutters in the future, I'd suggest that gives Griffin and his odious ilk even more exposure. They will claim they are being targeted, they will claim they are being persecuted, in fact, they will claim anything at all just for the airtime.

Ok, most people will disagree with Nick Griffin's comments. But if he really does believe that Islam is a "wicked, vicious faith", why should he be prevented from saying so? Battles against the far-right won't be won by gagging its leaders. If we are to show these morons up for what they are we must rubbish their arguments, expose their fraudulent statistics and unmask their real face.

Any government measures to toughen laws with which to catch these people will simply make them cause celebres. Moreover it will represent further erosions of free speech. If I want to proclaim on my blog that I hate all religions then I should be free to do. Just as people want to be free to attack Tony Blair, sneer at George W Bush, and ridicule Boris Johnson.

We already have laws which make it illegal to incite violence. Why do we need to be anymore specific about it? Especially as in seeking greater specificity, ministers and the press mistakenly elide the distinct catergories of race and religion.

Snow hits out at poppy 'fascists'

Channel Four news anchor, Jon Snow, has spoken out against what he terms "poppy fascism".

He admitted his decision provoked complaints to Channel Four, but that he did not believe in wearing symbols on air. Another news veteran, John Humphrys, waded in and criticised Snow saying he had missed the point.

Snow may have a point insofar as he shouldn't appear to be promoting any particular causes on air. I'm sure the reaction would be different if he pinned a small Israeli or Palestinian flag to his lapel. It's worth remembering that many of the same emotions which would exercise some of his audience if he did wear one nation's emblem, would be precisely the same as that a poppy or a ribbon or a wristband might provoke.

I know plenty of people who are unashamedly against charities. Not because of the work they do, but because of misgivings about the manner in which their funds are administered and distributed. Others feel they pay taxes to contribute to the very causes charities are set up to assist and as such don't feel they need hand over any more.

It is surely Snow's or anyone else's decision to wear one or not. The same ridiculous hoo-ha was struck up when Huw Edwards or some other Beeb news reader failed to wear a sombre enough tie while presenting the coverage of some royal funeral.

Respect should be measured in behaviour and attitude and not in and adornments and symbols. I say again: "it's not enough to keep the mind alive."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Monkey madness

No, I'm not talking about David Cameron's penchant for 'apeing' his political adversaries. (D'ya like that? Bit laboured? Ah, suit yourself)

No, I refer, of course, to India's Supreme Court's decision to review the fate of 300 monkeys captured while making a nuisance of themselves on the streets of the Delhi. The little rascals have been known to invade local government offices and nick off with official documents (they could be trained by Pakistan for all we know). The court had ordered that the monkeys be relocated to forests in central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. But the wee bastards aren't going down too well there either and there have been complaints.

Now, if like me you're thinking why don't they just shoot the simian pests, they can't. In India, or more specifically, Hinduism, it's not cool to go shooting monkeys. And it's not because they're out of season. They are held sacred by many Indians so you can't shoot, garrotte, or blow them up.

But give me strength. There is valuable public expenditure being invested in the deliberations on the fate of these simian swindlers. All in the name of religion. Religion. Goddamit, surely there are some lawyers in India thinking this is some sort of extended situational comedy sketch. Probably not. They're probably too busy raking it in.

I'm not advocating monkey murder en masse, but all this sitting about considering what to do on account of some dusty text is more than I can handle.
Alternative solutions to this problem are welcomed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tory gaff brace

I'm sure most people have by now read the poem which was sent from the email account of Wiltshire Conservative councillor, Ellenor Bland. I'm not going to uglify my blog by posting it here, but it's available at various news sources. Here's how the Beeb covered it.

So what's the deal? Well, Bland immediately launched her defence by blaming her husband, also a Tory councillor. Presumably, thinking that would put her in the clear, she then focused her energies on excusing her feckless spouse, saying the poem was 'lighthearted'. Indeed it was so lighthearted it also contained the request to, "Please send this to every British taxpayer you know" and a cartoon of the white cliffs of Dover with the words "Piss off - we're full!" scrawled across them.

It seems at this point Bland thought she'd just about convinced us that it was really wasn't worth all the fuss and revealed that she felt her privacy had been infringed. The temerity continued when she announced she was finding the attention "all rather tiresome."

I don't know. Maybe we've got her wrong. She's only an elected official after all. She's one of us really. I'm sure if she offered a thorough explanation we'll all be persuaded around to her way of thinking.

"We have friends who are Asian. I wouldn't be rude to them."

Oh, no, Ellenor, not the "some of my best friends are black/gay/(insert minority here)" plea. Jesus, no, you must have speech writers and support staff. Couldn't one of them have come up with something a fraction less idiotic? She says she wouldn't be rude to her 'Asian' friends. Not to them, no, but presumably she wouldn't shy away from some 'lighthearted' email banter about them. She doesn't think we should be allowed to see her emails so that'd be fair game. Stick to text messages next time, Ellenor. But use your mobile, not your party provided Blackberry.

Doubtless there'll be choruses of support for this halfwit, but how anyone would want someone this inept to continue to represent them is beyond my limited ken.

And before I forget, the gaff which makes the brace is the news that Dave Cameron has sacked Bernard Jenkin from his front bench. Jenkin had previously been tasked with the job of ensuring a more 'representative' Conservative Party. However, prospective Conservative Party candidate,
Ali Miraj, claimed he was told by Mr Jenkin that his chances of being selected in a safe seat were slim. Cameron has denied that this is the reason Jenkin was sacked. Miraj went on to publish his claim on his blog.

The case against hanging Saddam

Chritopher Hitchens puts forward a convincing case for not putting Saddam Hussein to death, in today's Slate magazine.

Hitchens makes reference to
Jalal Talabani, the elected Iraqi president, who is opposed on principle to capital punishment. Talabani is a Kurd and knows more than most what news of Saddam's death sentence would have meant to his people. However, it is time for the culture of violence to come to an end. There is of course an irony in this decision which will please some: Hussein has been tried under the same Iraqi law which existed while he was dictator and has been sentenced accordingly. Might it be more injurous to the man to be forced to watch from his jail cell as a new Iraq is born.

Day of action

Regular visitors will once again have spied that my output of late has been pitiful. Indeed, my last post was somewhat token. I'm afraid this one is likely to be no better. I've not had one of my better days so I've sat at the computer whiling away the hours. However, it's probably as good a time as any to draw some more anti-BNP gubbins to your attention.

I must urge, exhort, plea to, and entreaty anyone in the London area who might be reading this to attend the following event on Saturday 18 November. I will be there but it's no good if it's just me.

Anti-BNP Day of Action
Barking & Dagenham
Saturday 18 November

Labour Hall, Tenterden Road (corner of Green Lane), Dagenham

The BNP is making Barking & Dagenham its national priority. As a result, the local Labour Party and Barking & Dagenham Together are holding the first of a series of Days of Action to take the fight against the extremists into the community.

We urge everyone to spare a couple of hours to come and help defeat the BNP in East London

I'll definitely be back with some delayed and boat-missing comment soon. Unless there's Champions' League tonight.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saddam sentenced to death

Saddam Hussein has been convicted of "crimes against humanity" and is sentenced to death.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Question Time

After years of trying, dreaming, preparing, and practising I've finally made it. Yes, this sad blogger is to appear on Question Time tomorrow night... Albeit in the audience. Where air time is not guaranteed. I'll be sure to don my most earnest frown.

I've to prepare two questions to take with me, so if anyone has any topical and witty suggestions please post them here. I'll name check you. Honest. It's not my fault if they edit it out, though.

Order, order

Uproar spread through the House of Commons at Prime Minister's Questions this afternoon after the speaker, Michael Martin, prevented David Cameron asking Tony Blair who he wanted as his successor.

Mr Martin has been ridiculed in the press a number of times since taking the speaker's job in 2000. What was particularly strange today is that Cameron has asked the same question at PMQs previously without censure. Indeed, he went on to rephrase his question and Mr Martin said he would allow it. On the face of it he seems to be nothing more than at worst confused and at best inconsistent.

Before today, Cameron's most recent question on the topic was worded thus: "Do you back the chancellor as your successor, yes or no? I mean, I do; do you?" Martin failed to step in when this was asked, so why today? Tories will claim the speaker, elected as a Labour MP, is partisan. Some Labour MPs may be wondering whether he is simply past it.

The Conservatives have asked for urgent clarification on the matter.