Saturday, June 30, 2007

Injured Glasgow car bomb man had "suicide belt"

The BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardiner has just revealed on News 24 that the man taken to hospital after today's car bomb attack on Glasgow airport had a "suicide belt".

Cops have "crystal clear" image of car bomb driver

According to America's ABC news.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More on the Verve

I can't imagine they'll hit their previous heights with the new stuff so here's a selection of the best. Forget solo albums and appearing on stage with Chris Martin.

'On Your Own'

'Bitter Sweet Symphony'

'Gravity Grave'

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Verve reform

The greatest rock 'n' roll band since the Rolling Stones are back, at least according to this.

Monday, June 25, 2007

On rape

It was just last week that the New Statesman carried an article from the ever readable Kira Cochrane on the disgracefully low conviction rates in rape cases.

I was appalled to read first of all that a rapist has around a one percent chance of conviction. Even more so when I read that police believe the number of false allegations to stand at 23 percent. If this is not evidence enough of the reactionary and misogynist mentality of the institutions which are supposed to protect us, today we are greeted with the news of convicted rapist whose sentence will probably see him serve two months in prison. Two months for raping a ten-year-old girl.

Now this might seem a quirk, an anomaly, perhaps an aberration, until we read what the presiding judge had to say.

"Judge Hall said in sentencing he faced a moral dilemma as the fact they had sex within 45 minutes of meeting was an absolute crime.

But he said the girl had dressed provocatively and looked as though she was 16."

This is how his remarks are relayed on the BBC website so they are not verbatim. I will concede that I don't fully follow the first sentence in the quote. The second is a little easier to condemn. By what standard had she dressed provocatively? On whose evidence? Presumably the judge didn't have access to pictures. Followed by the staple, "She looked 16, m'lud!"

There would appear to be a form of Tourette's that is confined to the section of the population deemed experienced and sentient enough to pass judgement on us humble serfs. Why, why, why someone tell me is it ever necessary for a judge to comment in such a way. He wasn't there. Who is the arbiter of fashion whom provides such convincing empirical evidence that judges are moved to proclaim with absolute certainty that "she was asking for it!" Even if a number if witnesses agreed that a person was "dressed provocatively", what in the name of fuck has it to do with anything? Are we as humans not responsible for our actions, even allowing for our too-big adrenaline glands? It's not, dear reader, in any way more acceptable than the rantings of the worst sort of Muslim fundamentalist woman oppressor. Why do they seek at all to find excuses in these cases? I'd like nothing better than to see these two antediluvian troglodytes return to whichever epoch they escaped from.

Dr Michele Elliott, director of Kidscape, said the decision had left her speechless. "It takes us back to the 1950s when the victim was blamed if they were dressed provocatively." How grim that her words are perhaps more prescient than she realises when we consider the statistics Cochrane highlights in her article:

"we've seen the conviction rate plummet from 33 per cent in the 1970s, to 24 per cent in 1985, to a negligible 5.3 per cent today."

Love Burns, people

One from the archive... turn the volume up on the computer. Or get yourself some JBLs...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A little pendantry

I was atop the omnibus yesterday afternoon when it slowed in passing a office space to let. The sign in the window - left by the previous occupants, a well-known recruitment agency whom I shall not name because I hate them almost as much as estate agents - said "Due to expansion we have moved".

I can only assume that the sedentary nature of the work had caused irreversible expansion of the workforce's collective girth.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Caution urged

I found this via Tygerland.

I feel I've been 'misrated', 'malrated'. I'm not sure there's a word for it.

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Reid elides race and religion

I suspect the following comments by Home Secretary John Reid will have attracted little attention. Nonetheless, he displays a reprehensible lack of precision in both thought and language. Speaking in New York on the furore concerning Salman Rushdie's knighthood, Reid said:

"A lot of people were upset when John Cleese made Life of Brian... We have very strong laws about promoting racial intolerance. It isn't a free-for-all. We've thought very carefully about it. But we have a right to express opinions and a tolerance of other people's point of view, and we don't apologise for that."

Let me first state that I don't think Reid's remarks are entirely lucid. But allow me to try and unpick what he's getting at. I think he means to say that Britain has stringent laws which prohibit racial intolerance. And rightly so. What this has to do with the Rushdie affair is lost on me. Reid is of course eliding race and religion and this simply will not do. However, nor will religious intolerance (which, when read strictly surely means intolerance by religious people, but I digress). We do and should have the right to criticise each and every religion and surely even John Reid will allow me that privilege.

He goes on to make mention of opinions and tolerance. Again he's tied me in knots. However, this is what I take him to mean:

  1. We have the right to express opinions.
  2. We have the right to express tolerance of other people's point of view.
  3. We don't apologise for any of this.
Now, it may be that John Reid is so reluctant to be drawn on any of this that he thinks speaking in Prescottian sentences will leave us all perplexed while he slips off quietly. After all he only has a week to go in the job and he'd like it to be a quiet one, thank you very much. I think, again I'm not sure, that he is saying the British government, when choosing to whom to give honours, may during the course of doing so express tolerance of a recipient's point of view. The recipient in this case being Salman Rushdie. Whether giving someone a knighthood is in any way an indication of a committee's opinions as to that person's point of view you can decide. I'm willing to wager that whichever committee thought Joseph Corre worthy of an honour didn't reckon on him having a point of view.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Drunk on power?

He had just come from a meeting with Putin so I expect he felt he needed John Barleycorn's trusty kick. I think the Bishop of Southwark does it better.

God is not Great

Last night I attended the latest leg of Christopher Hitchens' tour promoting his new book 'God is not Great'. The scene was the Garrick Theatre on Charing Cross Road where he was joined by the book's dedicatee, Ian McEwan, whose role for the evening was compere and questioner.

McEwan, a long standing friend of the evening's focal point, started off asking questions which allowed Hitchens to outline the main thread of the book. Later he asked the questions the true believer might have attempted, though the exchange remained more coffee house than Newsnight.

For me Hitchens is a joy. I've little doubt he has regard for his own intellect; whether more than is modest is probably down to your taste. However, he cannot be faulted for his command of the subject, which makes him all the more a formiable adversary, particularly when paired with frauds and hucksters like Falwell and Robinson. He was guilty of too often throwing around comments like 'maniac' and 'nutcase' much to the empty-headed delight of some of the braying toffs in attendance. If there were some in the audience not yet 'converted' then this wasn't the language that would win them round. And it does disappoint because he needn't do it; his arguments hold and his deconstruction of his opponents' stances more so. Though I did raise a grin when he described an encounter with an evangelical on some radio talk show in America's Deep South. His interlocutor was apparently left stricken when Hitchens corrected him on a point of church history. "It comes to something when I have to tell these fuckers what they believe, or what they don't believe," he concluded with obvious relish.

Straw wants right to use BlackBerrys during debates

Jack Straw and other MPs want the right to use them on the Commons floor during debates. It could be a winner. They could have Vernon Kay on BBC Parliament urging MPs to email him with their views on debates. Kay could then pick his favourite at the end of the month with a chance for the winner to go into the Big Brother house or something...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Iran condemns honour for 'apostate' Rushdie

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, today criticised the British government for its decision to honour Salman Rushdie with a knighthood. Hosseini told a press conference:

"Giving a medal to someone who is among the most detested figures in the Islamic community is... a blatant example of the anti-Islamism of senior British officials. The measure that has taken place for paying tribute to this apostate and detested figure will definitely put British statesmen and officials at odds with Islamic societies, the emotions and sentiments of which have again been provoked."

What can we make of this intervention? Firstly, it is unclear by what right Iran can claim to comment on the decisions of the British government as to whom it bestows this or that title upon. Rushdie may well be an 'apostate' in the minds of many in the Muslim world but do not the kafirs who number the remainder of the honours lists deserve equal contempt as unbelievers? The whole system must be an affront to Islam if Iran is to be consistent. I should hope in future the Supreme Leader is urgently faxed a provisional honours list for his (for it must be a he) final approval.

The spokesperson claims the honour is "a blatant example of the anti-Islamism of senior British officials." Indeed, I hope that senior officials are 'anti-Islamism' if we are to understand 'Islamism' as a fundamentalist and minority interpretation of the Koran. I am certainly anti-Islamism and I would hope most people would join me in identifying themselves as such. However, even if this is the implication, and I doubt that it is, bestowing the award on Rushdie is certainly no indication of a such an aversion. Though the Foreign Office chose not to respond directly to the bellicose posturing of the Iranians, it did say only that the award was richly deserved.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Vote Lilian Thuram

When Nicholas Sarkozy claimed victory in the French presidential election many in France feared a repeat of the riots of November 2005 during which Sarkozy chose to brand the rioters 'racaille' - 'scum' in French. When he did he was immediately countered by one of the heroes of French youth all over that country. Lilian Thuram, born in Guadeloupe, raised in the Paris Banlieue, told Sarkozy, "If they are scum, then so am I."

Thuram is France's most-capped football player but displays none of the narcissism and ostentation associated with many millionaire players. In recent years he has vocally defended the disaffected migrant youths living in run-down estates across France. "It is true that I have achieved success as a footballer, but this is exceptional and very rare. Most of the kids in the suburbs have no way out and that is why they are violent. I do not excuse violence, but I understand it." This is typical of Thuram's observations on French life, as measured and as elegant in thought and word as he is in stride and tackle.

During last year's World Cup the leader of France's National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, complained that the national football team contained too many "players of colour." Thuram was quick to respond, denouncing Le Pen as ignorant and out-of-touch of the make-up of France. Le Pen went on to query whether, "the coach exaggerated the proportion of players of colour and should have been a bit more careful" and claimed the French people
"cannot recognise itself in the national side." Thuram spoke thoughtfully in response:

"What can I say about Monsieur Le Pen?"

"Clearly, he is unaware that there are Frenchmen who are black, Frenchmen who are white, Frenchmen who are brown. I think that reflects particularly badly on a man who has aspirations to be president of France but yet clearly doesn't know anything about French history or society.

"That's pretty serious. He's the type of person who'd turn on the television and see the American basketball team and wonder: 'Hold on, there are black people playing for America? What's going on?'

"When we take to the field, we do so as Frenchmen. All of us. When people were celebrating our win, they were celebrating us as Frenchmen, not black men or white men. It doesn't matter if we're black or not, because we're French. I've just got one thing to say to Jean Marie Le Pen. The French team are all very, very proud to be French. If he's got a problem with us, that's down to him but we are proud to represent this country. So Vive la France, but the true France. Not the France that he wants."

The press conference at which Thuram spoke then broke into applause. But Thuram went on to undo Le Pen further:

"Maybe we should invite Monsieur Le Pen to celebrate our next victory with us. Then he'd see that we are fiercely proud to be French and he might change his mind. Actually, he's got too much to lose by changing his mind, hasn't he?"

It is clear Thuram feels his upbringing and his responsibility to the children living as he once did keenly. In a recent interview he remarked that, "although I am glad to be French, who can say that I would not be a rioter too if I was not a footballer? I have lived like these kids. I know what the French police are like - how they try to humiliate you because of your race. Sarkozy is afraid of the police and of their right-wing supporters and so he blames the victims, the immigrant youth, for all of this violence. Who remembers now the kids killed by the police?" Days before the Presidential Elections began he told a BBC interviewer that, "Sarkozy has normalised the discourse of Jean Marie le Pen and French society today is now more racist than before."

It's easy for some people to jeer at David Beckham when he falters and stumbles in interviews. But no one should expect footballers to be gifted orators. None the less, in a business which now has many repugnant elements to it, from bungs and agents to training ground assaults and stories of young women taken advantage of, Thuram cuts an impressive figure, if simply because he stands out. He is an advisor to the Haut Conseil d'Integration, a think tank that reports directly to the government on race issues. He is said to take the role seriously, refusing to be the token black and unafraid of criticising prevailing policy.

At present he plays for Barcelona in Spain and at 35 is almost certainly in the twilight of his career. He has spoken of an interest in a life in politics after football, but also, and just as earnestly, a career in teaching. I'd like to see him in politics and perhaps in years to come as French President. There are some in France who deride him as an agitator with a far-left agenda, but in reality he speaks for unity and dismisses the concerns of left and right. I hope he continues to speak up for what he believes and avoids being used for anyone's political ends. Vive Thuram.