Friday, December 31, 2004

Are Newcastle Fans That Dangerous ?

I heard on the news that Premiership clubs are each giving £50,000 to victims of the Toon Army.

Season's Greetings

AL Kennedy's Christmas message, in which the old and much-loved themes of the traditional Guardian Christmas (Iraq, depleted uranium, Christians, TV, excessive consumption) are recycled in true sustainable style.

As much a part of Christmas as the Queen's traditional appeal to the evil Native Brits to abandon their childish fears of our multicultural Nirvana, although I notice her speech to the troops was singularly short on appeals to reach out to unfamiliar cultures.

It's All Our Fault (Again)

I wondered how long it would be. A few days ago I heard the first letter from a Radio Four listener suggesting that the UK was dragging its feet over aid 'despite spending billions on an illegal war'. Then a Radio Five news report in which unnamed persons were 'criticising George Bush' for sidelining the UN, and suggesting that he cared not for the poor and afflicted.

The Indian Ocean disaster is a heaven sent opportunity for liberal breast-beating into which can be shoehorned the correct views on globalisation, George Bush, Iraq, whatever. Try Jeremy Seabrook in (where else) the Guardian, who manages to cover imperialism (holidays to you), Iraq, globalisation and asylum seekers in a few short paragraphs.

"when we distinguish between "locals" who have died and westerners, "locals" all too easily becomes a euphemism for what were once referred to as natives. Whatever tourism's merits, it risks reinforcing the imperial sensibility."

"while the tsunami death toll rises in anonymous thousands, in Iraq disdainful American authorities don't do body counts."

Of course the Guardian has a different, non-imperialist view of dead Asians. If white people kill them the Guardian will give max publicity. Otherwise forget it. Congo is the locus classicus - maybe five million deaths, but an absulute sod to blame on Whitey.

Which is why I've read little about Aceh in the last few years, where tens of thousands died in the wave but the news was slow to emerge - as journalists, diplomats and NGOs have been barred from the area for years due to a separatist revolt which got minimal coverage. I wonder how many have died in the revolt ?

The script has an interesting subtext, too - that these poor people are completely incapable of helping themselves and are utterly dependent on the Great White Gods coming across the sea - a kind of latterday Cargo Cult mentality projected onto the inhabitants of Indonesia and Sri Lanka by BBC correspondents who on a conscious level would reject racist stereotyping as something that only the Evil Right do. The victims are interviewed as if they're chavs complaining that the windowframes have needed painting for six years but the council haven't done it yet.

I'd recommend the reports of a Radio 5 reporter called (I think) Julie Ashmole.

"The promised aid hasn't arrived yet - how do you feel about that ?"

The interviewee failed to rise to the bait. He seemed to have other things on his mind.

I'm trying to find a source for the BBC story of a few days ago that the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) summit a year or two back rejected a proposed early warning system, such as exists for the Atlantic and Pacific, on grounds of cost and the low risk of such an event. I'm presuming it's true, in which case this can perhaps be seen with hindsight as a mistake.

Watch for more breast-beating in the days ahead.

None of the above, of course, absolves us of the obligation to stump up. Hilary Benn has shown the way, announcing that of the Government's annual £400 billion tax take, no less than £15 million, or 0.00375% of Government revenue, has been earmarked for the disaster. An example to us all. For a take-home pay of £20,000 pa it works out pro-rata'd at 75p.

The Government needs the other £399.985 billion for vital health initiatives like this one.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

125 Years Ago

One of the pleasures of a holiday away is the time to read, and despite a return trip to Old Trafford I found time to get through most of Denis Healey's 'The Time Of My Life' and all of John Prebble's 'The High Girders'.

I'd read Prebble's Scots history primer The Lion In The North, and The Highland Clearances, but had no idea he'd been writing so long - The High Girders was published in 1956, and it's about the collapse of this bridge. Which inspired the Bard of Dundee to pen this - started the day after the disaster, when the news became public in Dundee, and finished the following day.

The bridge collapsed at about 7.20 pm, one hundred and twenty five years ago today.

"On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time."

Prebble's book describes the storm that night, when people could not stand up out of doors, the retired admiral in his house overlooking the bridge, fearful for it, reading his storm books and watching the barometer, the young people sitting in the dark with the curtains open to watch the train cross the bridge and the dawning realisation that it has disappeared half way across.

For me the hero of that night is the locomotive superintendent, Roberts, at the Dundee end of the bridge. The train has not arrived, although he knows it went onto the bridge. Contact has been lost with the box at the far end of the bridge. Realising that something is very wrong, he and the stationmaster set out on their hands and knees, in darkness and a force 10 gale, across a two mile bridge to find out what has happened. One turns back, but Roberts crawls on alone in the dark, feeling his way, until his arms touch space and he finds the thousand yard gap where the bridge had been.

The bridge's designer, Thomas Bouch, was blamed for the collapse by the public enquiry, and died of a broken heart within a year, although there is still debate as to the exact cause of the disaster. Bouch had been due to design the proposed Forth Bridge but was hastily replaced.

The remaining girders were reused when the new Tay Bridge was constructed. The remains of the old bridge can be seen today alongside the new one. The railway engine was also salvaged and worked on land for another thirty years, much loved by her crews and affectionately knon as 'The Diver'.

If you're in the land o'cakes, there's currently a commemorative exhibition in Dundee.

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Indigenous People Of Britain

Are quite well described in this BBC item on the end of the United Nations "Decade For Indigenous People".

"Their land has been taken away, their sustainable use of land dismissed, and their cultures have been denigrated"

"There is a sense of hopelessness about the ability to control our own destiny that leads to social ills so common in indigenous communities, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and domestic violence"

"They get disconnected from their communities and the environment and many eventually get completely detached from their own indigenous identity"

Indeed. And anyone who isn't detatched is a Nazi.

Merry Christmas ! Blogging will be light to non-existent as I shuttle between London, Old Trafford (treat for the kids, not for me - give me the Victoria Ground any day) and Swansea. Back on New Year's Eve.

Murderers Against Capital Punishment

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS - Gunmen riddled a Honduran bus with bullets, killing 23 passengers and wounding 16 others in what they called a protest against plans to reintroduce the death penalty.

A police spokesman, Deputy Commissioner Wilmer Torres, the gunmen left a note saying they represented a revolutionary group that opposes plans to reintroduce the death penalty for serious crimes in the country.

The message also threatened politicians who have spoken out against organized crime, including President Maduro.

I imagine Sinn Fein/IRA are against the death penalty too.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Welsh Are Bastards

On current demographic trends, this statement will be true in another thirty years or so.

In 2003, Wales became the first constituent country of the United Kingdom where more than half of births (50.3 per cent) were outside marriage. Northern Ireland had the lowest proportion of births outside marriage (34.4 per cent), while in the United Kingdom as a whole 41.5 per cent of births were outside marriage.

The area of England with the lowest bastardy rate ? Swinging London (34.5%), where the large Asian and African (though not Caribbean) immigrant communities frown on illegitimacy. And the highest rate in England ? The hideously white North-East at 53.5%.

The graph on page 73 shows illegitimacy, after falling in the late 60s and early 70s (probably due to the advent of the contraceptive pill) rocketing in the Thatcher years, doubling between about 1983-1988. By the mid-1980s the working class were increasingly fragmenting, the underclass was burgeoning, and the song which reflected the traditional working class view of bastardy ceased to be heard on the football terraces of England.

Who's your father
Who's your father
Who's your father referee?
You ain't got one
You ain't lost one
You're a bastard, referee

The Writing On The Wall

"30somethings lead a baby boom" trumpeted the Times last week, in an upbeat piece celebrating a 4.3% rise in the number of babies born in England and Wales in 2003. At last, a change in the profile of our ageing population ! Maybe we won't have to work till we drop to pay all those index-linked public sector pensions.

But the really important information was half way down the item.

The figures, published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, show that the proportion of older mothers would be even higher if not for growing numbers of births to immigrants, who tend to start their families much younger. Births to mothers born outside the UK accounted for nearly a fifth of all births in 2003, more than 50 per cent higher than the proportion ten years earlier. The increase was due entirely to a rise in births among immigrant women aged under 35.

The full ONS report is here.

Think about it. In England, one baby in 5 (19.2%) born last year was born to a mother who was not herself born in the United Kingdom. When you consider the number of second and third-generation immigrants (from whatever country) living here, forecasts that the Native Brits will be a minority by the end of the century start to look conservative.

In London, according to the Independent newspaper, 43% of all school children are non-white (note - it's not skin colour but culture which is important - so immigration from Albania, for example, is probably more problematic than immigration from India, a country with which we have many shared cultural links). Given recent large-scale immigration from Eastern Europe, Native British schoolchildren are almost certainly already a minority in London schools.

47.3% of 2003 births in London were to mothers born outside the UK (p74). The NUT will soon have a new minority to worry about.

Way back in the early Eighties when Mrs Thatcher talked about being 'swamped by people of a different culture', she was attacked on the grounds that the number of immigrants was a tiny percentage of the UK population. Nowadays the tone has changed from 'we're a tiny minority' to 'there are a lot of us, so you'd better take us into account'. I don't think that's an unreasonable thing to say - I merely illustrate how the terms of the debate have changed.

There is a politically honourable (though IMHO practically idiotic) position on immigration - namely that any attempt to restrict it is inherently racist, and that anyone who can afford the fare is entitled to live here. For those who take this view, the numbers are irrelevant, although strangely the same rules don't seem to apply, for example, to Jews living in the West Bank.

This may be the view of Her Majesty's Government. But if so they're remarkably shy about articulating it.

Others continue to worry at the numbers. There's a real split on the left between the 'figures are overstated' response (which implies that were they true or understated there WOULD be something to worry about) and the 'it doesn't matter what the figures are' response.

David Aaronovitch criticises the "melange of questionable statistics, assertions dressed as facts and straightforward scapegoating cranked out by Migration Watch UK and its main scribbler, Anthony Browne", and attacks the 'lies, damned lies' of the anti-immigration lobby. Yet when you read the pieces, he doesn't actually rebut anything, presenting the arguments of Migrationwatch as if they are self-evidently incorrect.

In this context an internal Government email is revealing.

"Can we stop saying that Migrationwatch forecasts are wrong . . . Migrationwatch assumptions are often below the Government Actuary's Department high migration variant."

Which brings me onto our old friends the BNP, and the stir created by a recent Searchlight article.

The vast majority of BNP candidates will be in Labour constituencies, an indication of where the fascists’ support is beginning to emerge and solidify. Searchlight has long argued that traditional Conservative voters have been the first to switch to the BNP in local elections, largely as a means to keep Labour out or as an anti-Asian protest, but this vote is soft and returns to the Conservative Party or goes elsewhere in national elections. The BNP support among traditional Labour voters is firmer and is an indication that sections of the working class are breaking with their traditional loyalties. These voters tend to be less embarrassed by the overt racism of the BNP while finding its anti-capitalist rhetoric appealing. It is also clear that many BNP voters, especially the young, have never voted for another party in their lives or have not done so for many years.

I have argued before that New Labour, and the UK left in general, having given up on Clause Four, is implementing the agenda of the 1970s student union, the politics of race, gender, sexuality - none of which have great appeal for the remnants of the British working class.

The coming change in the makeup of the English population is unprecedented. As the Observer said, "It would be the first time in history that a major indigenous population has voluntarily become a minority, rather than through war, famine or disease." I feel that though we may be able to avoid war, famine and disease, the chances of British politics splitting on racial lines are very high, with perhaps Fiji as a model for the future. The only real question is at what percentage level of non-Native Brit population the change to racial politics will occur. Given the large birthrate differentials between immigrants and Native Brits, it's quite possible that it will occur well beyond the point at which political action will be able to prevent minority status occurring. After all, 20% of the new voters in 2021, and half the new voters in London, will have mothers born abroad, and nothing can change that.

So arresting BNP members, Guardian exposes, BBC undercover documentaries, forced multiculturalism in schools are in the long term ineffective. Unless some kind of leftist police state comes into being.

Interesting times for my children. Where's that New Zealand Consulate phone number again ?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

New Blogs In Heaven Tonight

Well on my blogroll, anyway, in no particular order ...

Militant Moderate - who, along with three quarters of the blogging world, isn't impressed with the Tory stand (or lack of) on ID cards.

Mugged By Reality - does exactly what it says on the tin. Good stuff if you don't mind a fair sprinkling of clubbing/party reminiscence. Which I don't. Mind you, as an old man I'd say this was well out of order. But confession purges the soul and after repentance comes salvation ...

What's That Smell ? - I think the word for this is eclectic.

And After Grog Blog - some witty stuff here. I think Norman Geras would appreciate a post which begins:

"I wonder how often Martin Flanagan saw Robert Louis Stevenson bounding in from the Kirkstall Lane End."

Lastly - it's not a new blog, but for all round coverage of the Scottish Regiments disaster and a lot of other things, Cabarfeadh is your one-stop blogging shop. Lots of good stuff, not all on military matters.

More parochially, among the casualties of Hoon's Howler are the Glorious Glosters, the regiment of this man.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Three Great Posts

Difficult to find the time for major posts, what with wrapping, shopping and the odd party - but what need when you can sit back and see people saying just the things you'd want to say, given time, knowledge and writing ability.

Tim Worstall brilliantly takes apart the caring Dutch, who now deliberately kill 4-5,000 old or sick people in their hospitals each year, quite apart from the babies. From 'post-natal abortion', through the killing of the old, to the UK where you must provide ramps for the disabled but can kill a baby for a cleft palate, he hits every target.

Euthanasia has been practised for 10 years in the Netherlands, the first country in the world to legalise the practice, and now accounts for 4-5,000 deaths a year, 3.5% of the national death rate.

Huh? This ever so rare proceedure, one to be used only in extremis, in the most difficult cases, now means that for the poor benighted Dutch they have a 1 in 30 chance of being murdered in their sick beds? This is an advance in civilisation in exactly what manner? With these numbers would you want to be placed in an old people’s ward in that country? It is of course absolute proof that there is no validity to the slippery slope argument, no, none at all.

The practice is severely circumscribed and tightly regulated.

I believe this is known as gallows humour.

Melanie Phillips takes apart the Law Lords judgement on the Belmarsh 'detainees' (who are of course free to leave the UK at any time), focusing particularly on the bizarre theory that the law cannot discriminate between UK and foreign nationals - I believe we still have, for example, residence and immigration laws which (in theory at any rate) explicitly discriminate, and on Lord Hoffman's apparent ability, in his own eyes at least, to judge terrorist threats better than the elected Home Secretary.

And I urge anyone with an interest in the UK Criminal Justice system to read Norman Dennis at the Civitas blog, currently posting up a storm on Blunkett, the myth of "falling crime", and the claim that Jack Straw had left the Home Office "in a mess".

In the first eleven months of 2004, the year of Mr Blunkett's departure, with December's figure of about 2,500 still to be added in, there have been 33,673 personal-property robberies in London--with December included, not fewer than 36,000 for the full year.

Thus Mr Blunkett has not succeeded in getting the figures back even to the 35,709 personal-property robberies of 2000. Mr Blunkett was all the further, of course, from getting back to the figure with which Mr Straw began, the 27,000 of 1997, which included business robberies as well.

Robberies of personal property in London is a good figure to take. The Home Office is directly responsible for London's policing. There's been no significant change in how it robbery is defined. The category of "robberies" has hardly affected by changes in recording practices by the police. The British Crime Survey has too few cases of robbery for it to be of much use, so the Home Office uses the police figures. The figures are right up to date, so officials and ministers cannot claim that things have (unprovably) improved since the figures were collected

For all these reasons, the usual slipping and sliding between one set of figures and another is not possible here.

On the assumption that the December 2004 figure will be very low at 2,500, robberies in London would have fallen from 48,000 in 2001 to 36,000 in 2004.

But as late as 1990 there weren't as many as 36,000 robberies in the whole of England and Wales!

Taking the generous and hopeful estimate I suggested above--that the figure for London for December 2004 might be only 2,500--as late as 1961 there weren't as many as 2,500 robberies a year in the whole of England and Wales.

In the year David Blunkett became Home Secretary, 2001, there were 5,900 robberies in Lambeth alone. The national figure for robberies did not exceed 5,900 until 1969.

It is scarcely an occasion for popular celebration when the figure for Lambeth alone in the first 11 months of this year is 2,419. For this is more than the national figure of robberies for the full twelve months of 1961, 2,349, just before the cultural revolution began to shower its blessings upon us.

No the wonder people "fear" that crime is growing. People would have had to be extremely stupid not to come to fear crime. The stupid thing is to say that the fear of crime is "as much the problem" as crime itself.

Don't Smack Them, Drug Them - Part II

Scotland is the part of Britain which is closest to one of the two dreams of the children's liberation lobby - the removal of a parent's right to discipline their own child.

By happy chance it also has increasing misbehaviour in schools - and a tenfold rise in Ritalin prescriptions to children in the last seven years.

Children are no longer badly behaved - now they 'suffer' from "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which causes (my italics) hyperactivity in children."

The other dream of the children's liberation lobby ? Well, children should have all the rights of adults. Work it out for yourself. Hint - there may be a motive involved. The children's liberation lobby (NCH, Barnados, NSPCC, who support policies which would horrify their founders, such as the lowering of the age of consent for homosexual acts to 16 and the abolition of Section 28) are also the people who are most excercised by internet child pornography. Projection, anyone ?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Two Plays

One play produces protests which get no publicity and the play goes ahead.

The other produces violent protests which get lots of publicity, and the play is stopped.

Violence seems in this case to work quite well. It'll be interesting to see how this one pans out. Will we see Harold Pinter and co lining up to defend free expression against the 'religious right' ? Will the Guardian and U75 talkboards resound with condemnation of the protesters ? Don't hold your breath.

I'm presuming that no-one in Birmingham is planning to dramatise this story in the near future.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

BBC Bias - A Random Selection

Short of blogging time - a few notes made in December 2001, when I was posting to the Evening Standard boards.


Have the BBC learned anything from the last 3 months ?

Not if its recent coverage is anything to go by. A couple of nights ago BBC2 featured a documentary by Bonnie Greer, who started by saying what a patriot she was (she left the US for Britain some years ago) before trawling her immediate family (who to a man or woman thought 'the chickens were coming home to roost') then various Chicagoans for their views. She nodded wisely when people said 'what goes round, comes round', but those who, like the solemn 10 year old boy, said 'these people should be put to death' were pointed out as examples of US 'insularity' and lack of empathy with the Muslim world.

The whole program gave the air of having been put together in that time (it seems so long ago now) when the 'liberal' left was preparing for a global wave of anti-Americanism to be unleashed by the military blunderings of the cowboy in the White House. Markets were crashing, dire predictions were being made of 'another Vietnam', and America was being told to try and work out just why the whole world hated it.

And tonight on Radio 4 news the coverage of Yemen seems to have gone straight back to early October in its defeatism - just substitute 'Yemen' for 'Afghanistan' and rebroadcast. Some polytechnic lecturer was wheeled out to explain why Yemen was so much trickier than Afghanistan for any kind of intervention. Apparently the Yemenis are 'xenophobic' and 'resent foreign armed forces'. And the Brits left 'with their tails between their legs' in 1967. But that's just what they said about the Afghans. And in 1967 I'm pretty sure more than one survivor got back, unlike 1842 when we lost 12,000 (admittedly 9,000 of those were civilians, victims of 'collateral' killing by Robert Fisk's mates).

St George's Day, 2001
Billy Bragg is chosen by 'The World Tonight' as their (sole) guest to discuss 'Englishness'.

March 2002
The Long View - Was Drake a Terrorist ? With Tariq Ali.
Drake equated with Osama Bin Laden.

'Dumbing Down of BBC' discussion on 'P.M.'. Two guests chosen - Tariq Ali and Bob Holman (the Holy Fool of Easterhouse).

14/03/2002 - World At One
Ann Sloman, BBC political head, discussing the Appeal Court decision against the BBC (re pro-life alliance election broadcast censorship) "There is no liberal elite".

28/5/02 – James Naughtie on R4 “Today” (discussing a Ms Amos' imprisonment for not sending her children to school)
“Her daughters say, surprisingly, (my italics) that prison works ..”

(Interviewing Estelle Morris, Education minister) “We know there are too many women in prison who shouldn’t be there (no response from EM) ... are you saying that prison works ?”

Ms Morris “Yes ...”

19/6/02 – John Humphrys interviewing Ivan Massow on ‘On The Ropes’
H - “are you still a Labour Party member ?”
Massow – “I’m really not sure – I may still be paying the fees .... do you pay by direct debit ?”
Humphrys (seemingly flustered) – “I – I can’t answer that one

October 2002
BBC R4 Social Affairs correspondent Rita Chakrabati describes the late Baroness Young as ‘a campaigner for so-called ‘family values’’.

Why is Stephen Lawrence always described on R4 news bulletins as “the black teenager Stephen Lawrence”, when Philip Lawrence is not described as ‘the white headmaster’ and Damilola Taylor is not ‘the black schoolboy’ ?

BBC news does not present news as such, but rather events are selectively used to illustrate an ongoing global morality play where the heroes and villains are well known.

Nationalist rioters in N.I. were reported as ‘venting their anger’ after the release of the jailed paratrooper Stephen Clegg ...

Classic example is the reporting of the Indonesian riots preceding the fall of the Suharto regime in May 1998. Those burning cars and buildings in Jakarta were described in bulletins as ‘protesters’ and ‘demonstrators’, and one R4 bulletin described ‘demonstrators’ burning and looting, observing that ‘Chinese areas were particularly targeted’. A remarkably restrained description of racist mob violence, and one which it is impossible to imagine the BBC using if the rioters were, say, white Britons. As reports over the next few days pointed to continuous anti-Chinese violence including mass rape, the tone of reporting changed and the ‘demonstrators’ became ‘rioters’ – which of course they had been from the start.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Scott Petersen Verdict - Liberal Larry Speaks

Laci Peterson's death was tragic, but let's be realistic. We can all feign shock and horror over the thought of a mangled fetus being picked at by crabs on the beach, but it doesn't change the fact that if abortion were safe, legal, and mandatory, Laci Petersen would be alive today.

I liked the comment from the National Organisation of Women, which should be a big poster on every ante-natal clinic wall.

"... despite all the joy that pregnancy can bring to a relationship, expectant mothers aren't necessarily spared the danger of being slain."

An Early Christmas Gift

It's a while since I've visited the Civitas blog, and I'm delighted to see that Norman Dennis, author of (among many other things) Families Without Fatherhood (available free at the site) and The Invention of Permanent Poverty, is blogging and commenting on the Blunkett brouhaha.

He's that rare kind of modern socialist who believes, as I do, that morality and personal conduct is important in politics. Frank Field is another. The IWCA might also be said to fall into this category.

Anyone who talks about morality is automatically (these days) put in a box marked 'the Right', but I believe morality is politically pretty neutral.

A non-moral Left gives you people who can explain (or support, or commit) killing, stealing, or even mass murder as an inevitable consequence of 'oppression'. A non-moral capitalist Right gives you Berry Birch and Noble, Alan Duncan or Mr Cohen's ways with the Courts pension fund.

"Howard Cohen, a former director of Courts, transferred £3.9m out of the company's pension fund and into a personal scheme just eight months before the furniture retailer collapsed into administration, the Sunday Times reports today. The Courts pension fund has a deficit of at least £14m".

Fathers 4 Justice

Seem to have a new recruit.

"The words "my baby son", "holding my son", and "love for my little boy" were prominent as he spoke of the emotional turmoil he has been through."

Though I'm no fan of the man who accelerated mass immigration and blinked, like his predecessor, when it came to the necessary task of building new prisons (finding he then he had to start letting the burglars out), it's impossible not to feel for him as a human being.

"What sort of human being, what sort of politician do people want? [Someone] who would actually put their career, put their public persona before actually doing what a decent human being would want to do?"

Well, up to a point. I imagine Mr Blunketts grandparents, or the founders of Labour, or the socialists who toiled by day at the furnaces and rolling mills and built the Sheffield Labour movement, the educational associations, the libraries, clubs and discussion groups once such a vital part of working-class culture, would not consider an affair with a woman only a few months into her marriage a decent thing to do. You'd have found eighty years ago that people weren't speaking to you.

In the modern Labour movement not aborting the child puts you on the moral high ground.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

"Politics In Germany Are Not As They Are Over Here..."

There you do not leave office to go into opposition. You do not leave the Front Bench to sit below the gangway. You may well leave your high office at a quarter of an hour's notice to drive to the police station, and you may be conducted thereafter very rapidly to an even graver ordeal.

Winston Churchill, House of Commons, July 13 1934.

It could never have happened here, of course.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Kill The Young

Kill the old.

Kill the sick.

But for God's sake don't let anything happen to criminals.

Monday, December 13, 2004

School Discipline - Governors Strike Back

OK, so the little darlings are hospitalising and raping teachers. But when a 10 year old in Ashton-under-Lyne dismantled a pencil sharpener and used the blade to slash the neck of a classmate, school governors took decisive action.

The child was suspended for two whole days.

And pencil sharpeners have been banned from the school.

Nationalising Children

Stuart Wavell in the Sunday Times reports on the annual Sure Start conference, chaired by Polly 'the nanny state is the good state' Toynbee.

He quotes Patricia Morgan

.. there is no doubt that a 1960s agenda is in play. “There is a feminist drive to get every woman in the workforce full-time and get equal outcomes between men and women, irrespective of what people want.”

She goes one stage further than Kirby by suggesting that the government’s policies are consistent with the eradication of marriage. “Women must be self-sufficient, with a huge subsidy, independent of men. Attention is given to the parent-child relationship rather than the relationship between the adults. The belief is that you can have what is called ‘peripatetic partnering’, where people move in and out of partnerships but the parental relationship stays the same and the children are largely reared by the state.”

I think that's correct, but Jill Kirby of the Centre For Policy Studies makes an important point.

Kirby believes that the government’s underlying concern is with getting dependent lone parents back to work and letting the state raise their children. Its assertion that everyone needs parenting help is aimed at catching these problem families, Kirby maintains.

I put this point to Hodge, quoting the words of Stephen Ladyman, the under-secretary for community, who told the conference how important it was to identify excluded families and “drag them in and make them feel included”.

The anti-family movement, whose most prominent representatives are three wealthy upper-middle class women, Jowell, Harman (bad luck, Harriet, you nearly got him jailed) and Hodge, see in Britain's underclass the perfect recruits for state rearing. After all, many underclass parents don't 'raise' their children in any meaningful sense anyway - so no one will object if the State takes on the task.

As Polly says "As for the moral panickers, if they want to avoid future generations of scary youth, they should urge higher taxes to pay the state to become the best possible nanny to all babies."

Everybody's happy. Chav parents get the child benefits and the free accommodation without even having to pretend to raise their offspring, the State and the social-workers get lots of tinies to try out their theories on. And Joe Public gets to pay for the whole thing.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Can you make it up - BBC Department

Radio Four's new 'comedy' is beyond parody.

School Discipline Part 47

A week or so back we had the eight-year old hospitalising his head teacher. Now this.

We obviously need more of this.

Cash For Good Causes II

It looks as if, not for the first time, Lottery money is going into some very dodgy pockets, not that we can be sure from the cryptic nature of the BBC report.

It has frozen around 30 bank accounts, all thought to be in England and Wales, "to protect charitable funds".

A spokeswoman added: "The majority are from urban areas and they are small community groups."

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Churchill On The Frontier - Mamund Valley III

Our hero has got to the head of the notorious Mamund Valley - and discovered why it's notorious.

The Buffs had now arrived, and it was obstinately decided to retake the spur down which we had been driven in order to recover prestige and the body of the Adjutant. This took us till five o'clock. Meanwhile the other company of the 35th Sikhs which had ascended the mountain on our right, had suffered even worse experiences. They eventually regained the plain bearing with them perhaps a dozen wounded, and leaving several officers and about fifteen soldiers to be devoured by the wolves. The shadows of evening had already fallen upon the valley, and all the detachments so improvidently dispersed in the morning, turned their steps towards the camp, gradually enveloped by a thunderstorm and by the night, and closely followed by savage and exulting foes. I marched home with the Buffs and the much-mauled 35th Sikhs. It was dark when we entered the entrenchments which now surrounded the camp.

All the other parties had already got home after unsatisfactory, though not serious, fighting. But where was the General ? And where was his staff ? And where was the mule battery ? The perimeter of the camp was strongly guarded, and we got ourselves some food amid the usual drizzle of sniping. Two hours passed. Where was the General? We now knew that he had with him besides the battery, half a company of sappers and miners, and in all about ten white officers.

Suddenly, from the valley there resounded the boom of a gun, calculated to be about three miles away. It was followed at short intervals by perhaps twenty more reports, then silence. What could be happening ? Against what targets was the General firing his artillery in the blackness of night ? Evidently he must be fighting at the very closest quarters. They must be all mixed up together; or were these guns firing signals for help ? Ought we to set out to his relief ? Volunteers were not lacking. The senior officers consulted together. As so often happens when things go wrong formalities were discarded, and I found myself taking part in the discussion. It was decided that no troops could leave the camp in the night. To send a rescue force to blunder on foot amid the innumerable pitfalls and obstacles of the valley in pitch darkness would be to cause further disaster, and also to weaken the camp fatally if it were to be attacked, as well it might be. The General and the battery must fight it out wherever they were till daylight. Again the guns in the valley fired. So they had not been scuppered yet. I saw for the first time the anxieties, stresses and perplexities of war. It was not apparently all a gay adventure. We were already in jeopardy; and anything might happen. It was decided that the squadron of Bengal Lancers, supported by a column of infantry, should set out to relieve the General with the first light of dawn. It was now past midnight and I slept soundly, booted and spurred, for a few hours.

The open pan of the valley had no terrors for us in daylight. We found the General and his battery bunched up in a mud village. He had had a rough time. He was wounded in the head, but not seriously. Overtaken by the darkness, he bad thrown his force into some of the houses and improvised a sort of fort. The Mamunds had arrived in the village at the same time, and all night long a fierce struggle had raged from house to house and in the alleys of this mud labyrinth. The assailants knew every inch of the ground perfectly. They were fighting in their own kitchens and parlours. The defenders simply hung on where they could in almost total darkness, without the slightest knowledge of the ground or buildings. The tribesmen broke through the walls, or clambered on or through the roofs, firing and stabbing with their long knives. It was a fight in a rabbit warren. Men grappled with each other; shot each other in error; cannon were fired as you might fire a pistol at an enemy two or three yards away. Four of the ten British officers were wounded. A third of the sappers and gunners were casualties, and nearly all the mules were dead or streaming with blood. The haggard faces of the surviving officers added the final touch to this grim morning scene. However, it was all over now. So we proceeded to shoot the wounded mules and have breakfast.

When we all got back to camp, our General communicated by heliograph through a distant mountain top with Sir Bindon Blood at Nawagai. Sir Bindon and our leading brigade had themselves been heavily attacked the night before. They had lost hundreds of animals and twenty or thirty men, but otherwise were none the worse. Sir Bindon sent orders that we were to stay in the Mamund Valley and lay it waste with fire and sword in vengeance. This accordingly we did, but with great precautions. We proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation. So long as the villages were in the plain, this was quite easy. The tribesmen sat on the mountains and sullenly watched the destruction of their homes and means of livelihood. When, however, we had to attack the villages on the sides of the mountains they resisted fiercely, and we lost for every village two or three British officers and fifteen or twenty native soldiers. Whether it was worth it, I cannot tell. At any rate, at the end of a fortnight the valley was a desert, and honour was satisfied.

It's obvious from the last paragraph that Churchill was at the least agnostic about this punitive expedition, but that didn't stop Goebbels using it (in 1941) as evidence of Churchill's ruthlessness.

Churchill doesn't mention the award of three Victoria Crosses for bravery during the General's 'rough time'. The map (from my paperback edition of 'My Early Life') shows the battle as taking place between the villages of Haxrago and Ka Lozagi, whereas the citations call the village 'Bilot', which I can't find on the map. Nonetheless it looks as if this was the battle where James Smith of the Buffs and Lieutenants James Colvin and Thomas Colclough Watson of the Royal Engineers distinguished themselves.

The attack on Bindon Blood's Nawagai camp is illustrated at the Sikh Cybermuseum site, a more strategic overview of the Malakand Campaign, noting that the pacification of the Mamund Valley cost 282 men out of 1200, is available here.

Last of all and totally off topic, the obituary of a Pathan whose bravery was in our cause - the late Jemadar Ali Haidar VC, who won his medal in this battle.

Links to previous episodes:
Churchill On The Frontier - Introduction
Sir Bindon Blood
Mamund Valley I
Mamund Valley II

Friday, December 10, 2004

Damage Plan

Another musician for this site. Or this one.

Never heard them, but predecessors Pantera were quite good.

Could have been worse though - Great White might have been the support.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

To Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor

Read your Times piece today on prisons and imprisonment.

"The traditional four justifications for depriving people of liberty — retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and reform — are all vital". Fair enough.

"A violent criminal is not, on the whole, one who turns to crime because he is poor and needs to care for his family: a person who cares that much about his family has too much empathy for others to be a violent criminal." Well, up to a point. Few violent criminals are poor, but many successful, wealthy and violent criminals care deeply about their families. Ever heard of the Mafia ? And some sections of the travelling community manage to combine strong family values with an attraction to other people's property. I still remember the itinerant tinker community who terrorised (literally - the local children had to have a police escort as they waited for the school bus) a village a couple of miles away for several months. Come Easter Sunday, the whole site was at Mass - the men, down to small boys, in sober jackets and ties, the girls immaculate in white, wads of notes in the collection tray.

After that I start to get uneasy.

The figures are eloquent. In 2004, the prison population of England and Wales stood at 75,544 — almost double the 1991 figure. It is likely to rise over the next decade to around 100,000 as magistrates and judges hand out tougher sentences in response to more prescriptive sentencing guidelines. Britain already has one of the highest ratios of prisoners to the general population in Western Europe.

This is the standard Guardian set of 'eloquent' figures. The really eloquent figure, Cardinal, is the one you don't quote. It's the crime rate. The reason so many Brits are inside is that so many Brits are criminals. And as for the rise being due to 'more prescriptive sentencing guidelines', had we stayed with the sentencing guidelines of the nineteen-fifties, when 30,000 people were in jail and the crime rate was 10% of its current level, we'd now have a prison population of 300,000. If the propensity to imprison has increased recently under the Howard/Straw/Blunkett regimes, it's after decades in which punishment became lighter and lighter.

Think about youth crime in the 1950s and youth crime now. Despite tales of Teds slashing cinema seats and Pinky getting nasty at Brighton Races, most people would accept that the level of youth crime is far higher now than it was then. They'd be amazed to hear that more young people were in prison then than now.

You don't give your view on 'appropriate punishments' directly, but I'm worried when you talk about the killers of John Monckton, the Catholic financier stabbed with his wife at his Chelsea home.

"I know that when they reach prison, they will enter a system from which they are more likely to emerge as hardened criminals than changed citizens."

Are you saying, Cardinal, that you're worried in case people who stab a man to death, and nearly kill his wife, leaving their nine year old daughter to call an ambulance to a dying father and a critically injured mother - that you're worried in case prison makes them 'hardened criminals' ? What do you consider them to be now - soft ones ?

"The Judaeo-Christian tradition insists that the primary aim of any penal system is to reform and restore."

Did it ? A desirable outcome, perhaps, but the primary aim ? And how does that fit with 1500 years of the Judaeo-Christian death penalty ? Not much time to reform and restore there, unless (as did happen) repentance and the sacraments were accepted at the last. Didn't stop the sentence though.

But it's this sentence that really turns the stomach.

"The men and women currently in British prisons are extraordinarily disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals."

I can think of a much more disadvantaged and vulnerable group - the people who have to live with these people when they're outside, and who constitute the main pool of victims - the poor and elderly who may be just as disadvantaged as the criminals but who don't commit crime. Who speaks for them ?

Will you, Cardinal, speak for the many thousands, probably more than the prison population, who are imprisoned each night on estates all over Britain, afraid to go out on the streets and afraid of being burgled if they leave the home ? What's that ? I can't hear you.

Will you speak for those who are driven to suicide by criminals ?

Will you speak for the victims of crime ? I can't hear you. Oh, wait a minute - "the bishops are alarmed at the way some media treat the claims of those who have suffered or fear crime as limitless, and demand an ever more punitive or retributive penal system. Equally alarming is the way that some politicians pander to the popular indignation, competing to appear ever more “tough on crime”. "

We've seen that the 'ever more punitive' system translates into a system which has been fractionally more punitive for a few years, after forty years becoming less punitive. And what is so 'alarming' about politicians who respond to the concerns of their constituents ? Isn't that exactly what they should do ?

If only you, Cardinal, would take a leaf from the book of the great Scots Archbishop Mario Conti.

"It is not only serious violence on an international scale which mars our society, but also the raw sewage of anti-social behaviour at home which provides so unpleasant an odour.

"I have become aware in my own ministry as Archbishop of Glasgow of the deadening grip of anti-social behaviour on many communities in my own archdiocese.

"How often I have heard priests lament to me that their people do not respond to events and services being held in the evening because of the fear of leaving the security of their homes in the hours of darkness."

Extraordinary - he cares more about his parishioners than the criminals ! Whereas our shepherd seems less worried about the dead and injured in his flock than by the possibility of a distemper outbreak among the wolves.

Here are some of the people you consider to be 'extremely disadvantaged and vulnerable'.

Johnny Doran

Elroy Simmonds

And some of the people who don't get a mention. There are many more.

Olga Turner

Doris Sharp

Finally a tale of a good Catholic family. The Erskines were poor but honest people who lived on a Stratford council estate - not in East London, but Warwickshire. The kids were well brought up and attended St Benedict's School in nearby Alcester, before Anthony began working as a trainee manager at Woolworths.

Unfortunately the Collins family lived next door - violent underclass types who didn't like the sort of kids who did their homework and then got jobs. They made the Erskines life a misery, taunting Anthony's mother about her Maltese origin and abusing his slightly-built father. When one day Anthony intervened as Damien Collins and his friend Mark Hemmings were insulting his father on his own doorstep, Hemmings knocked Anthony down and Collins kicked him to death in front of his parent.

Anthony Erskine's twin brother Ian committed suicide on the anniversary of his brother's murder. What remains of the family has moved away from Stratford.

Collins and Hemmings were given a tariff of 10 years in 1996. They'll be out in something over thirteen months. Amazingly they tried to get the sentence reduced. In the Lord Chief Justice's words "The parents of the deceased make it clear that they feel extremely angry about the possibility of release of their son's murderers. They oppose any reduction in the tariff."

The Erskines' sentence goes on - good people destroyed. What is the Bishop's Conference doing for them, Cardinal - these victims with their 'limitless claims' and their two dead sons ?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

"Custody has its place"

One of my hobby-horses is the Scottish experiment, where the liberal left are following Mrs Thatcher in using the country as a test-bed for future UK legislation, albeit cushioned by vast wodges of English subsidy. In many (but not all - the Scots are pretty ethnically homogenous) ways Scotland is England's future. The campaign for higher NHS spending (Scots are the most unhealthy people in the UK and have the highest per capita NHS spend), ever more exciting sex and drug education initiatives, the battle against 'sectarianism' (attending Mass in assorted rural Scots churches over the years I've never got the impression it's a problem outside of Ibrox and Parkhead) as a substitute for the English elite's obsession with racism, the corruption and nepotism of the Central Belt Labour fiefdoms, the campaign against parental rights (couched in the language of 'child protection') - all these are more advanced north of the Tweed.

Stand by for the new improved criminal justice policy - not so much 'let the burglars out', which Mr Blunkett has already pioneered, as 'don't imprison them in the first place'. It appears the Scots are about to place all their hope in schemes which failed in England - anything rather than build more prisons.

Fraser Nelson makes some points which should be obvious but which bear repeating.

Scotland does imprison a greater share of its population than almost any other country in Europe - 0.11 per cent of Scots are currently behind bars - ranking fourth, behind England.

Surely proof that our judges are a bit too quick to send ’em down? Here lies the crucial distinction. Depressingly, Scotland’s prison population is so high because its crime rate is so high.

Scotland’s sheriffs and judges are already ranked among the most lenient in Europe. Scotland’s convictions, as a share of crime, are almost a third those of Ireland - which, itself, is hardly known as the prison cell of the continent. If Spain’s judges were in charge of Scotland’s courtrooms, our prison population would have doubled.

Beware Of The Boar

The Forest of Dean has dangers enough for the unwary stranger, without these.

That Racist Education System - Part 98

In Southwark, Liberal Democrat councillor Bob Skelly resigned as the executive member for education after a member of "Southwark's education and youth scrutiny sub-committee" asked him what he personally was doing to address the needs of 'Caribbean' boys in Southwark. Apparently "Cllr Skelly appeared to resent questions put to him."

He replied: "Every evening I go out in a big van and kidnap some Caribbean boys. I berate them about their lack of commitment to education and give them a booster lesson in English."

Mr Skelly had previously taught in Southwark schools for 31 years without being detected as the hideous racist he so obviously is.

Meanwhile a further illustration of the institutional racism of our education system was the lack of ethnic minority representation in the BBC's Hard Spell final.

I loved the Calcutta Telegraph's coverage of the event. Have a look at her mother's occupation, and enjoy the classic quote.

"Gayathri comes from a normal Indian family with pushy parents. "

Churchill On The Frontier - Mamund Valley II

September 1897 - our hero is feeling isolated at the head of the Mamund Valley ...

At last we reached the few mud houses of the village. Like all the others, it was deserted. It stood at the head of the spur, and was linked to the mass of the mountains by a broad neck. I lay down with an officer and eight Sikhs on the side of the village towards the mountain, while the remainder of the company rummaged about the mud houses or sat down and rested behind them. A quarter of an hour passed and nothing happened. Then the Captain of the company arrived. " We are going to withdraw," he said to the subaltern. You stay here and cover our retirement till we take up a fresh position on that knoll below the village." He added, "The Buffs don't seem to be coming up, and the Colonel thinks we are rather in the air here." It struck me this was a sound observation. We waited another ten minutes. Meanwhile I presumed, for I could not see them, the main body of the company was retiring from the village towards the lower knoll.

Suddenly the mountain-side sprang to life. Swords flashed from behind rocks, bright flags waved here and there. A dozen widely-scattered white smoke-puffs broke from the rugged face in front of us. Loud explosions resounded close at hand. From high up on the crag, one thousand, two thousand, three thousand feet above us, white or blue figures appeared, dropping down the mountain-side from ledge to ledge like monkeys down the branches of a tall tree. A shrill crying arose from many points. Yi! Yi! Yi! Bang! Bang! Bang! The whole hillside began to be spotted with smoke and tiny figures descended every moment nearer towards us. Our eight Sikhs opened an independent fire, which soon became more rapid. The hostile figures continued to flow down the mountain-side, and scores began to gather in rocks about a hundred yards away from us. The targets were too tempting to be resisted. I borrowed the Martini of the Sikh by whom I lay. He was quite content to hand me cartridges. I began to shoot carefully at the men gathering in the rocks. A lot of bullets whistled about us. But we lay very flat, and no harm was done. This lasted perhaps five minutes in continuous crescendo. We had certainly found the adventure for which we had been looking. Then an English voice close behind. It was the Battalion Adjutant. “Come on back now. There is no time to lose. We can cover you from the knoll."

The Sikh whose rifle I had borrowed had put eight or ten cartridges on the ground beside me. It was a standing rule to let no ammunition fall into the hands of the tribesmen. The Sikh seemed rather excited, so I handed him the cartridges one after the other to put in his pouch. This was a lucky inspiration. The rest of our party got up and turned to retreat. There was a ragged volley from the rocks; shouts, exclamations, and a scream. I thought for a moment that five or six of our men had lain down again. So they had - two killed and three wounded. One man was shot through the breast and pouring with blood; another lay on his back kicking and twisting. The British officer was spinning round just behind me, his face a mass of blood, his right eye cut out. Yes, it was certainly an adventure.

It is a point of honour on the Indian frontier not to leave wounded men behind. Death by inches and hideous mutilation are the invariable measure meted out to all who fall in battle into the hands of the Pathan tribesmen. Back came the Adjutant, with another British officer of subaltern rank, a Sikh sergeant-major, and two or three soldiers. We all laid hands on the wounded and began to carry and drag them away down the hill. We got through the few houses, ten or twelve men carrying four, and emerged upon a bare strip of ground. Here stood the Captain commanding the company with half a dozen men. Beyond and below, one hundred and fifty yards away, was the knoll on which a supporting party should have been posted. No sign of them ! Perhaps it was the knoll lower down. We hustled the wounded along, regardless of their protests. We had no rearguard of any kind. All were carrying the wounded. I was therefore sure that worse was close at our heels.

We were not half-way across the open space when twenty or thirty furious figures appeared among the houses, firing frantically or waving their swords. I could only follow by fragments what happened after that. One of the two Sikhs helping to carry my wounded man was shot through the calf. He shouted with pain; his turban fell off; and his long black hair streamed over his shoulders - a tragic golliwog. Two more men came from below and seized hold of our man. The new subaltern and I got the golliwog by the collar and dragged him along the ground. Luckily it was all down hill. Apparently we hurt him so much on the sharp rocks that be asked to be let go alone. He hopped and crawled and staggered and stumbled, but made a good pace. Thus he escaped. I looked round to my left. The Adjutant had been shot. Four of his soldiers were carrying him. He was a heavy man, and they all clutched at him. Out from the edge of the houses rushed half a dozen Pathan swordsman. The bearers of the poor Adjutant let him fall and fled at their approach. The leading tribesman rushed upon the prostrate figure and slashed it three or four times with his sword.

I forgot everything else at this moment except a desire to kill this man. I wore my long cavalry sword well sharpened. After all, I had won the Public Schools fencing medal. I resolved on personal combat a l'arme blanche. The savage saw me coming. I was not more than twenty yards away. He picked up a big stone and hurled it at me with his left hand, and then awaited me, brandishing his sword. There were others waiting not far behind him. I changed my mind about the cold steel. I pulled out my revolver, took, as I thought, most careful aim, and fired. No result. I fired again. No result. I fired again. Whether I hit him or not I cannot tell. At any rate, he ran back two or three yards and plumped down behind a rock. The fusillade was continuous. I looked around. I was all alone with the enemy. Not a friend was to be seen. I ran as fast as I could. There were bullets everywhere. I got to the first knoll. Hurrah, there were the Sikhs holding the lower one ! They made vehement gestures, and in a few moments I was among them.

There was still about three-quarters of a mile of the spur to traverse before the plain was reached, and on each side of us other spurs ran downwards. Along these rushed our pursuers, striving to cut us off and firing into both our flanks. I don't know how long we took to get to the bottom. But it was all done quite slowly and steadfastly. We carried two wounded officers and about six wounded Sikhs with us. That took about twenty men. We left one officer and a dozen men dead and wounded to be cut to pieces on the spur.

During this business I armed myself with the Martini and ammunition of a dead man, and fired as carefully as possible thirty or forty shots at tribesmen on the left-hand ridge at distances from eighty to a hundred and twenty yards. The difficulty about these occasions is that one is so out of breath and quivering with exertion, if not with excitement. However, I am sure I never fired without taking aim. We fetched up at the bottom of the spur little better than a mob, but still with our wounded. There was the company reserve and the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the battalion and a few orderlies. The wounded were set down, and all the survivors of the whole company were drawn up two deep, shoulder to shoulder, while the tribesmen, who must have now numbered two or three hundred, gathered in a wide and spreading half-moon around our flanks. I saw that the white officers were doing everything in their power to keep the Sikhs in close order. Although this formation presented a tremendous target, anything was better than being scattered. The tribesmen were all bunched together in clumps, and they too seemed frenzied with excitement.

The Colonel said to me, "The Buffs are not more than half a mile away. Go and tell them to hurry or we shall all be wiped out." I had half turned to go on this errand, when a happy thought struck me. I saw in imagination the company overwhelmed and wiped out, and myself, an Orderly Officer to the Divisional General, arriving the sole survivor, breathless, at top speed, with tidings of disaster and appeals for help. "I must have that order in writing, sir," I said. The Colonel looked surprised, fumbled in his tunic, produced his pocket-book and began to write. But meanwhile the Captain had made his commands heard above the din and confusion. He had forced the company to cease their wild and ragged fusillade. I heard an order: "Volley firing. Ready. Present." Crash! At least a dozen tribesmen fell. Another volley, and they wavered. A third, and they began to withdraw up the hillside. The bugler began to sound the "Charge." Everyone shouted. The crisis was over, and here, Praise be to God, were the leading files of the Buffs. Then we rejoiced and ate our lunch. But as it turned out, we had a long way to go before night.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Two Under Age Girls

A man faces up to five years in jail for watching a fourteen year old girl pose naked on a webcam.

A lawyer commented: "Until now, it always was assumed that an alleged abuser had to be in the same place as his victim to commit the offence of lewd and libidinous practice.

"The internet appears to have changed all that."

South of the border, five out of a dozen men who videoed each other having sex with a fifteen year old girl walked free after being cleared of rape.

I'm sure there must be some consistency between these two cases - does anyone know what it is ?

The second case raises a couple of issues aside from the victim's age. The judge, Michael Hucker, called the defendants' conduct "wholly disgraceful". Yet if we ignore the victim's age, in a post-Christian world what right has the judge to pass judgement upon the acquitted mens sexual predelictions ? If sex is divorced from procreation, from marriage, from controlling rules laid down in books written thousands of years ago, who is to say that ringing round your friends inviting them over for 'dessert' is not reasonable ? Anyway, maybe it's a cultural thing - some think one thing, some another. Hasn't the judge ever seen thirteen people in love before ?

I'm not ignoring the hurt of the victim - and that's the second point.

The treatment of the alleged victim by the prosecution in the rape trial was very similar to the treatment of the chief prosecution witness, also a young girl, in the Damilola Taylor murder trial. The defence found evidence of previous lies, of fantasising, of irresponsible behaviour - of enough, in short, to discredit her as a reliable witness. My point being this - that on the streets of Peckham, Brockley, New Cross and the other cultural disaster zones of Britain, the chances of witnesses to, or victims of, serious crime impressing a judge is always going to be small. The alleged victim is unlikely to be a regular churchgoer, the school's star history student, or Girl Guide studying for her Duke Of Edinburgh award. Those who hang out with young criminals, or who are accustomed to being picked up from youth clubs for sex in a car with a relative stranger, may not come over well in the witness box, and may well have their own 'previous' which won't reflect well on their character.

This is bad for justice - but it's the way we live now.

Monday, December 06, 2004


Every couple of years comes a time when Windows 98 starts to creak. The hard disk is nearly full, the desktop has about 100 items on it, performance is achingly slow. The only thing to do at such a time is to completely reinstall Win98, reorganise the disks and delete as much as you can. This takes a few evenings minimum, putting the software back. Couple this with a visit to Yorkshire for a funeral, then a child's birthday celebrations - end result minimal blogging. I now just have to set up the broadband box which arrived today before normal service will be resumed. And there's a lot to blog about.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Churchill On The Frontier - Mamund Valley

September 1897 - our hero has joined Sir Bindon Blood's Malakand Field Force just in time for a scrap.

Churchill (behind the scorer) on the polo field 1897

Our march to the Mohmand country led us past the mouth of the Mamund Valley. This valley is a pan-shaped plain nearly ten miles broad. No dispute existed between us and the Mamunds. Their reputation was pestilential, and the greatest care was taken to leave them alone. But the spectacle of the camp with its beautifully-ruled lines of shelters against the sun, with its cluster of hospital tents and multitudes of horses, camels, mules and donkeys, was too much for the Mamunds. Our fires twinkling in a wide quadrilateral through the night offered a target too tempting for human nature as developed on the Indian frontier. Sniping by individuals was inevitable and began after dark upon the camp of our leading brigade. No great harm was done. A few men were wounded. Sir Bindon Blood continued his dinner impassively, although at one moment we were obliged to put out the candles.

In the morning, overlooking Mamund impudence, we marched on to Nawagai. But the tribesmen were now excited, and when our second Brigade which was following at two days' interval arrived, hundreds of men, armed with every kind of weapon from the oldest flintlock to the latest rifle, spent three exhilarating hours in firing continuously into the crowded array of men and animals. The great bulk of the troops had already dug themselves shallow pits, and the whole camp bad been surrounded with a shelter trench. Nevertheless this night's sport cost them about forty officers and men, and many horses and animals besides.

On this being reported, Sir Bindon Blood sent orders to retaliate. General Jeffreys commanding the second Brigade was told to enter the Mamund Valley on the following day and chastise the truculent assailants. The chastisement was to take the form of marching up their valley, which is a cul de sac, to its extreme point, destroying all the crops, breaking the reservoirs of water, blowing up as many castles as time permitted, and shooting anyone who obstructed the process. “If you want to see a fight," said Sir Bindon to me, " you may ride back and join Jeffreys”. So availing myself of an escort of Bengal Lancers which was returning to the second Brigade, I picked my way gingerly through the ten miles of broken ground which divided the two camps, and arrived at Jeffreys' Headquarters before nightfall.

All night long the bullets flew across the camp; but everyone now had good holes to lie in, and the horses and mules were protected to a large extent. At earliest dawn on September 16 our whole Brigade, preceded by a squadron of Bengal Lancers, marched in warlike formation into the Mamund Valley and was soon widely spread over its extensive area. There were three separate detachments, each of which had its own punitive mission to fulfil. As these diverged fanwise, and as our total number did not exceed twelve hundred fighting men, we were all soon reduced to quite small parties. I attached myself to the centre column whose mission it was to proceed to the farthest end of the valley. I began by riding with the cavalry.

We got to the head of the valley without a shot being fired. The villages and the plain were equally deserted. As we approached the mountain wall our field-glasses showed us clusters of tiny figures gathered on a conical hill. From these little blobs the sun threw back at intervals bright flashes of steel as the tribesmen waved their swords. This sight gave everyone the greatest pleasure, and our leading troop trotted and cantered forward to a small grove of trees which stood within rifle shot of the conical hill. Here we dismounted - perhaps fifteen carbines in all - and opened fire at seven hundred yards' range. Instantly the whole hill became spotted with white puffs of smoke, and bullets began to whistle through our little grove. This enjoyable skirmish crackled away for nearly an hour, and meanwhile the infantry toiled nearer and nearer to us across the plain.

When they arrived it was settled that the leading company of the 35th Sikhs should attack the conical hill and two more companies should proceed up a long spur to the left of it towards a village whose roofs could be seen amid the boulders and waving Indian corn of the mountain-side. The cavalry meanwhile would guard the plain, and keep connection with the reserve of our force under the Brigadier, which consisted mainly of the Buffs (the East Kent Regiment). I decided to go with the second party up the long spur towards the village. I gave my pony to a native and began to toil up the hillside with the infantry. It was frightfully hot. The sun, nearing the meridian, beat upon one's shoulders. We plodded and stumbled upwards for nearly an hour - now through high patches of Indian corn, now over boulders, now along stony tracks or over bare slopes - but always mounting. A few shots were fired from higher up the mountain; but otherwise complete peace seemed to reign. As we ascended, the whole oval pan of the Mamund Valley spread out behind us, and pausing to mop my brow, I sat on a rock and surveyed it. It was already nearly eleven o'clock.

The first thing that struck me was that there were no troops to be seen. About half a mile from the foot of the spur a few of the Lancers were dismounted. Far off against the distant mountain wall a thin column of smoke rose from a burning castle. Where was our Army? They had marched twelve hundred strong only a few hours ago, and now the valley had swallowed them all up. I took out my glasses and searched the plain. Mud villages and castles here and there, the deep-cut water-courses, the gleam of reservoirs, occasional belts of cultivation, isolated groves of trees - all in a sparkling atmosphere backed by serrated cliffs - but of a British-Indian brigade, no sign. It occurred to me for the first time that we were a very small party: five British officers including myself, and probably eighty-five Sikhs. That was absolutely all; and here were at the very head of the redoubtable Mamund Valley, scrambling up to punish its farthest village. I was fresh enough from Sandhurst to remember the warnings about “dispersion of forces," and certainly it seemed that the contrast between the precautions which our strong force had taken moving out of camp in the morning and the present position of our handful of men, was remarkable. However, like most young fools I was looking for trouble, and only hoped that something exciting would happen. It did!

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

How To Improve Behaviour

Worried about kids behaving badly north of the Border ?

The obvious thing to do is to criminalise parents who smack their children. After all, violence breeds violence.

It seems to be a really successful policy.

A police spokesman said: "A 47-year-old woman was injured following an incident at Pinewood Primary in Drumchapel on Wednesday, 24 November.

"An eight-year-old boy will be the subject of a report to the Children's Panel in connection with the incident."

A Scottish Executive report into teachers' perceptions of indiscipline showed an increase on the last study carried out in 1996.

It also found that 56% of teachers said pupils had been physically aggressive to other children, which was a 50% rise on eight years ago.

About 11% said pupils racially abused others which was almost double the 1996 figure and 33% said they had witnessed sexual abuse or harassment, which was an increase of 16%.

Teachers also said they had been the subject of abuse, with 2% of secondary school teachers reporting racist abuse, which was up from 0.5%.

The study found 8% reported physical aggression - up from 1% - and verbal abuse was reported by 45% of teachers, up from 27%.

Further to that, 39% of teachers said pupils had been physically destructive, compared to 18% in 1996, while 84% said children persistently broke class rules, as opposed to 72% eight years earlier.


As long as I can remember the Left in Britain has assumed moral equivalence between Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein/IRA and the Rev. Ian Paisley of the DUP.

But this morning's Independent front page has no difficulty distinguishing between the good guys and the bad guys.

Two large photographs - one of Adams and an unflattering one of Paisley.

Adams' caption describes him as a 'champion of the republican cause'. No mention of the people murdered by his organisation. If you have a strong stomach you can see a few of them here.

Paisley, on the other hand, who has consistently condemned violence from both sides in the 'troubles', is a 'hard-liner'.

The Indie gets more sickening every day.

Rasputin Lashes Out

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a fatwa against those Churchmen who "words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person".

"As I write these words, I have in mind the recent brutal and unprovoked murder of a homosexual man in London by a group of violent and ignorant youths."

He is so right. Christian extremists must be the prime suspects here. Almost certainly the six young people arrested for this crime will turn out to be regular churchgoers, inflamed by the rampant homophobia preached weekly from what loose Canon Slee has called 'The Taleban wing of the Church'.

Only one of David Morley's alleged attackers, a nineteen year old market trader, has been named. He is said to have regularly attended sermons at the notorious St Michael Cornhill in London, where fanatical Christian the Rev. Peter Mullen preaches.

Three of the other accused attend black Evangelical churches, while the two girls accused of watching and photographing the attack on mobiles regularly attend Mass at Westminster Cathedral.

We can reveal that these homophobic extremists justify their sick hatred with a book which they claim contains instructions on how to live. This book has been banned in more aware, gay-friendly countries, such as Saudi Arabia. And you can see why. It's only a matter of time before the Archbishop condemns this hateful text.

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination - Leviticus 18:22

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them - Leviticus 20:13

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error - Romans 1 26:27.

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers-none of these will inherit the kingdom of God - 1 Corinthians 6 9:10.

Monday, November 29, 2004

"Children do not belong to their parents"

Commissar Hattersley speaks.

"The State is no more than the collective will of the people".

Margaret Hodge possesses "admirable common-sense".

And the clinching moral argument.

"Failed families add to the tax bills".

On the subject of Ms Hodge, I was interested (but not surprised) to read on the weekend that she is
a) a millionairess who inherited £8 million from her family
b) privately educated
c) married to a high court judge
A true daughter of the people, just like the privately-educated diplomat's daughter Harriet Harman. I wonder if the third Weird Sister, Tessa Jowell, is also privately educated ?

Time to bring back this bloke, methinks.

English Departments Against The War

Graffiti in Cheltenham, Glos, February 2002.

Happy Birthday

C.S. Lewis.

The barbarians come, Lewis told us, not over the parapet, not carrying their clubs and wielding their weapons, but they come with polished fingernails and blue pin-striped suits, gathering in well-lighted conference rooms. They are the good people who say that they know how to make life better for all of us.

Justice For James

When the website closed I assumed James Bulger's mother, Denise Fergus, had given up the fight for justice for her son, defeated by a criminal justice system institutionally biased in favour of the offender and against the victim. The boys who abducted the toddler, sexually tortured him (batteries had been inserted in his anus) and beat him to death with bricks served less than eight years in youth custody before being released, during which time they were given one-to-one schooling, a better education than poor James could ever have had.

On their release Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss granted an injunction guaranteeing the killers anonymity for life, and a fortune was spent on resettling them under assumed names.

James' mother hasn't given up.

From the News Of The World story.

In a long-running battle with the Home Office, distraught Denise has asked for pictures of the killers and a meeting with them.
"Jack Straw, (the then Home Secretary) the probation service, the social workers and the judges have all kept me in the dark. But the system does not really care about victims and their families," said Denise.
"They refused me point blank—so when I got the letter I decided to take action myself."

Denise hit out at the lifetime injunction that bans publication of anything that might identify the killers.
"I think it is disgusting newspapers cannot report about them now," she said. "There are families out there with young kids who are probably playing close by them and they don't know who they are."

She admitted she once wondered whether she could forgive her son's killers if she ever met them.
"Before I saw Thompson, I did think that if I ever saw his face then maybe I could in some way forgive him, but now that I have I still can't," said Denise.
"I still have the hate inside me from the day they murdered my James. There will be no closure for me. And I am only telling what I am doing now because I want people to know that I haven't given up.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

A Toff Writes ...

"On Saturday I went out foxhunting — seven hours in the saddle. That sort of thing always keeps me in a state of devilish exhilaration for several days; it's the greatest physical pleasure I know . . . one fox killed (I was in AT THE DEATH) . . . And now a happy New Year to all your family and the year of strife 1858".

Friedrich Engels to Karl Marx, as quoted in Francis Wheen's Marx biography.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Two Tales Of the Troubles

For the last six years Lord Saville has been investigating the shooting dead of 14 people by the Army in Londonderry in 1972.

The enquiry has cost over £130 million, mostly in lawyers fees.

Among the over 900 witnesses called were a former Prime Minister and Army chiefs.

30 years ago an IRA team destroyed two crowded Birmingham pubs, killing 21 drinkers and injuring 200, many seriously.

£400,000 was raised by public subscription for the victims. In 2001 Birmingham City council refused an £18,000 grant to host a meeting for the victims of bomb outrages.

Despite the fact that no one has been convicted of the killings (six men convicted and imprisoned had their convictions overturned fifteen years later), no enquiries are being held and the police investigating team was disbanded years ago.

One man claims to know the identity of the bombers.

In the early 1980s Chris Mullin was a Guardian journalist. In his articles at the time, and later in his 1986 book 'Error of Judgement', he claimed to know the identity of the killers - indeed, to have spoken with them.

He also stated that he would not be telling the police what he knew, and gave two reasons for this decision.

Firstly, journalistic confidentiality - he had been given the information on condition he did not divulge it to the authorities.

In any event, as he wrote in the Guardian and in his book, handing over the information would not affect the miscarriage of justice which had already been perpetrated. Mr Mullin's main concern was for the 'Birmingham Six', six republican sympathisers who had been arrested on their way to the funeral of an IRA man blown up by his own bomb. Though not responsible for the Birmingham atrocity they were convicted for it, and served long sentences before the convictions were quashed in 1991. Mr Mullin pointed out that even if the real killers were convicted, it was highly unlikely that the Birmingham Six would be released - so what was the point ? Better that the guilty men go free and six innocent men remain in jail, than that six innocent men AND the guilty men be imprisoned, was the clear implication.

By the time the Birmingham Six were released, Chris Mullin was a Labour MP and had sworn his oath to the Queen. But although the innocent men were released (one to deliver a speech at a Belfast republican meeting urging the IRA to send British troops home in body bags), Mr Mullin's 'journalistic confidentiality' still applied. His lips were sealed. The 'crusading journalist' who has 'long championed civil liberties', in the BBCs words, had helped get belated justice for the Birmingham Six - but nothing for the Birmingham 21 or the 200 injured (one alleged name has emerged - after death).

Chris Mullin is now a Foreign Office Minister.

I must admit to finding it strange that a Minister of the Crown should withhold from the police the names of the killers of 21 innocents and the maiming of hundreds more, that he should be happy for the killers to escape justice - and that seemingly everyone else is happy with this. It appalls me.

Mr Mullin's decision to withold the information is no secret. Yet I've never heard a single question from the Tory benches or from anywhere else on this subject.

Six months before the Birmingham outrage the Dublin and Monaghan bombings killed 34 people. As in Birmingham, the bombers have not been found.

Imagine a young Telegraph reporter concealing the names of the bombers for reasons of 'journalistic confidentiality', then becoming a Tory MP and a Minister ?

I can't either.

UPDATE - My apologies to the then (1990) Tory Minister of State at the home Office, John Patten. Note also the intervention of Clare Short, still sighing for the fine strong sons of Erin. This was one of her Desert Island Disks. My impression of this debate is that Mullin (and Clare Short) are not talking about the names of the bombers, but about the names of IRA men who would testify to the innocence of the Birmingham Six, still imprisoned in 1990. These could in fact be the bombers, but the names are presented in order to release imprisoned men rather then to imprison murderers.

Mr. Patten : The hon. Gentleman has had many opportunities in recent years to tell the House and the outside world that he knows who bombed Birmingham. This obviously makes him uncomfortable, but he has consistently refused to name them.

Ms. Short : The names have been given on television and you have done nothing.

Mr. Patten : The hon. Lady must forgive me ; I am not giving way. Tonight, the hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity to name those--

Ms. Short : He gave the names on television.

Mr. Patten : The hon. Gentleman spoke of two additional people tonight, so we are no longer talking about four people, but six. If the hon. Gentleman has had those names in this possession, why were they not given many years before? One day, the hon. Gentleman must answer that question. If he does not answer it, the House must draw its own conclusions.

A reader also points out that while Chris Mullin doesn't like to name IRA bombers, he's got no trouble with outing other sinister and secret organisations.