Saturday, January 15, 2005

I See ..

Thet the winner of ITV's "Vote For Me" is a chap (RealAudio) who wants to cut the population by a third.

Good idea. But by natural means only I trust.

Sieg Heil !

Never in the field of human conflict has so much nonsense been talked by so many about wearing Nazi uniform. Dressing up is a great Britsh tradition, and dressing in Nazi uniform a more recent one. The late Spike Milligan seldom wore anything else during his 'Q' period. I didn't find it funny, but he obviously did.

Many's the time Susan and I would hie down to Bumbleweeds in Cheltenham for our uniforms before re-enacting "The Night Porter", although Susan wished I wouldn't insist on always playing the Charlotte Rampling role.

Most of the people leading the attack are the usual suspects - Indie, Guardian, Mirror, Sun (though generally of the Right, the Sun is anti-monarchy, Murdoch having failed to get any kind of honour for his services to dumbing down. He seems to resent it).

A few who should know better are also joining in. It's like Diana's death all over again, with calls for 'remorse' to be shown.

Listen to the idiot (Realaudio) who wrote to the BBC complaining that the episode showed how out of touch Harry was. I'd say the opposite. He didn't have to order the uniform from Stormfront Supplies, he got it at the local fancy dress shop. "It must be assumed that fancy-dress parties at which people wear Nazi uniforms are common in middle England", as the Guardian says in this fatuous piece. Not just Middle England - every fancy dress shop in the land stocks them. Were there no demand, you wouldn't be able to hire them.

One of the best Dad's Army episodes features the platoon dressed as Nazi soldiers for an exercise. Sergeant Wilson and Private Pike get the officers uniforms as Captain Mainwaring is too fat for them.

Wilson (adjusting collar), "I must say, these uniforms are very smart - they really do something for one".

Pike gets too much into character, hustling 'his' platoon along with cries of 'Raus !'.

The idiot also mentions that his grandparents fought in the war. Yes, but not singlehanded. So did other people's parents and grandparents - like Prince Harry, strangely enough. Our parents and grandparents fought for a land where a free-born Briton could dress up exactly as they wish.

(A digression - in my dissolute days we once held a Bad Taste Party. Most of us simply wore dodgy clothes. I was surprised to see a feisty, charismatic leading light of the Women's Group at the local university, wearing a ripped dress and with what appeared to be red paint on the inside of her thighs. "You said it was a bad taste party", she said. Even twenty years on I'm not sure I can write down what she'd come as.)

Once again Michael Howard leaps in on the wrong side of the argument. While I admire his political bravery as the best Home Secretary of the 20th century, he has a habit these days of hitting the nail squarely on the thumb. Reminds me of Neil Kinnock, of whom I used to remark that if Mrs Thatcher had announced a policy of shooting all first-born children, up would pop Neil to announce that it was, scandalously, proposed to use American bullets, depriving British munitions workers of their livelihood. He never could get to the nub of an issue, and too many times Michael Howard is doing the same thing.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

More Women In Prison

In the words of Mrs Tony Blair, there are too many women in prison.

Ms Booth pointed to the rapid rise in the female prison population, up 115% between 1993 and 2000, compared with a rise of 42% among men. "That is a hell of an increase," she said.

Isn't that just progress towards equality ? I keep hearing that the over-representation of black people in prison is a function of our racist criminal justice system, and that only when the proportion of prisoners is even between ethnic groups will equality be achieved.

If this is so, why should women be grossly under-represented ? At 52% of the population, surely they should make up 52% of prisoners ?

The great Dalrymple has a tale of one such pioneer for equality, a young murderess who seems to have had a better experience of prison than the late Sarah Campbell.

She said that prison had done her much good; it was the first place in which she had ever felt truly settled. She was going to classes to improve her English and math. She had been treated well and fairly, and felt much better both physically and mentally. I checked with the staff: she was noted for her politeness and pleasant manner. This was just as I had found her.

Although she was distressed when, at my prompting, she recounted her life to me, she never attempted in the slightest degree to insinuate that her experiences were responsible for or explained her crime (although she was still only 18, they were surely far more than any person should ever have to experience). She said, “It’s terrible that it had to come to this for me to take my own life seriously.” She meant it, if anyone ever meant anything; and hers were not the words of someone with a serious personality disorder but on the contrary of someone with a surprisingly robust and decent character.

Back in the liberal world, Youth Justice Board Chair Ellie Roy has complained that children who breach ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) are being jailed. I must confess I thought that was the whole point of the ASBO - that breaching it meant prison.

Ms Roy conceded Asbos had given relief from antisocial behaviour, but said the "naming and shaming" of young offenders "caused real problems" for some families.

Whereas not imprisoning them causes real problems for the innocent neighbouring families. But we know which side Ms Roy is on.

"Once you give a dog a bad name it becomes more difficult to rehabilitate," she said.

Good to see youth justice in the charge of such a hard-headed realist. Can you guess what Ellie Roy used to do for a living ?

"They are not inherently bad people."

Here's what would have happened had Sally Geeson's alleged killer committed suicide after being caught.

Heroin addict Sarah Campbell and a nasty piece of work called Kim Woolley were convicted of the manslaughter of a retired doctor, Amrit Bhandari, who collapsed after being harassed for drug money in Chester. When he refused, Woolley started shouting that he had raped her. Dr Bhandari collapsed with a heart attack, at which point they stole his wallet and credit cards - while he was dying. Not inherently bad people.

Does jailing women eally work ? asks the BBC. Well, it keeps a few disgusting people off the streets.

Why did my daughter die ? asks Sarah Campbell's mother.

It sounds as if she died because she was afraid of reprisals from Woolley, against whom she'd testified. According to this report "she was worried about reprisals from her co-accused in the manslaughter trial - who she was to testify against".

Woolley was given four and a half years in January 2003, so she'll be back on the streets in a couple of months.

From previous reports into youth jails such as Feltham, it sounds as if a very large number of prison suicides are the result of bullying and harassment by other inmates. Perhaps the picture of an undifferentiated mass of poor vulnerable thieves and killers isn't quite the case. It sounds very much as if they're divided into the bullies and the bullied - a very good reason not to be sent to prison. I'm sure I wouldn't last five minutes.

In Bush's Gulag, too, prisoners are far more at risk from each other than from sadistic guards. Listen to Feargal Keane this week on Radio 4.

As a gay black man, Roderick Johnson feared what might happen to him when he was incarcerated in one of the toughest prisons in Texas. But he did not imagine that he would be sold for sex between prison gangs for as little as a few dollars.

Roderick Johnson tells Fergal Keane about one of the silent scandals of U.S. prison life: the sexual exploitation of young men by other inmates with the full knowlege of prison staff. He is currently suing the prison authorities for failing to protect him.

Last year President George Bush wrote into law the "Prison Rape Elimination" bill in Roderick Johnson's name.

The Howard League et al want to solve the problem of prison suicides by letting all the bad people out. I'm all for policies to prevent prisoners bullying each other - not because they are poor victims but because many of them are bad people from whom weaker inmates need protection.

In the meanwhile, as the Manhattan City Journal reports, New York has discovered the ideal way to reduce the prison population - institute zero tolerance of petty crime and send more people to prison. After a few years the message penetrates and crime starts to fall. In time the prison population falls too - because there's less crime.

"For years, the Left has warned that tougher sentencing would create a syndrome of “mass incarceration” and the creation of a “prison-industrial complex.” But as the New York experience shows, the crackdown has worked on more than one level. Good policing and tough sentencing have pushed New York to a tipping point, deterring some potential malefactors from crime. Now, if crime goes down and stays down, the prison population should keep dropping as well."

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Phew !

The suspected killer of student Sally Geeson has killed himself. Police were looking for him. A sort of justice appears to have been done.

Had he been arrested and held on remand before his suicide, he'd immediately have become a poster boy for those who attack "the moral bankruptcy of Blair's prisons policy", another tragic victim like Harold Shipman. Worse, for like the late Fred West, he had not been convicted of the crime. Innocent until proven guilty and all that.

According to Home Office figures (p72) approximately 40 suicides a year are of the chief suspects in homicide cases.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Just Like South Africa

It's always been a problem for the UK Left that Britain hasn't actually got an unpleasant, preferably fascist or racist, recent history to scare people with. You can't say - "If the Daily Mail had their way, it would be like Britain under Anthony Eden !".

We have Mosley (yes, I know the Daily Mail once wrote something nice about him), Cable Street and what else ? Kristallnacht or the Wannsee conference they ain't.

So we have to import our demons from elsewhere and adapt for home consumption. The Shoah is always a good standby - as the Department of Education says "Such events could happen anywhere at any time unless we ensure that our society is vigilant is opposing racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry". Continuous parallels are drawn, for example, between modern asylum-seekers and 1930s German Jewry.

The Ku Klux Klan are another useful standby. I'd like to see all our outdoor Church services end with a fiery cross - it's a wonderful image. But 30 years of BBC documentaries have indelibly associated the fiery cross with a far-away people of whom we know nothing other than that they're not very nice. Only north of the Border does some small memory persist of the cross which summoned the clan to war.

In its time even Pinochet's Chile was used. Peter Hitchens wrote in "The Abolition Of Britain" that 'when he ran schools in his home city of Sheffield, Mr Blunkett abolished uniform - in defiance of a ballot he himself organised - and corporal punishment. In a barely coherent defence of the uniform decision, he seemed to link the idea of school blazers with repressive and reactionary forms of government such as apartheid south Africa and Pinochet's Chile. Many years later, as a consumer of schooling rather than a council leader, he would vote for the introdution of uniforms at his own son's school.'

South Africa is back, following the decision of Greater Manchester Police to ban the word 'township', previously used to describe the sub-divisions. What was wrong with the word sub-division ?

The author of the memo, Chief Insp Jeff McMahon, said the term had "clear connotations" with South Africa's old apartheid regime and outlined the ban in a newsletter to his officers on December 17.

It said: "The term township has been deemed unsuitable for use by the force. There are clear connotations with this term and (the) apartheid regime of South Africa and the discriminatory treatment of black Africans."

His statement continues: "With immediate effect this term will no longer be used. The new term is `partnership'."

It adds: "Thus, in all written and verbal communication this should be substituted where the term township would currently be used. The term partnership suggests the notion of working together to fight crime and protect people."

Inspector McMahon has grasped the essentials of PC policing - form is everything and content unimportant. I do like "partnership suggests the notion of working together to fight crime and protect people".

"Notion" is about right - I'm reminded of Churchill's remarks when WWII officials wanted to set up 'Communal Feeding Centres'. "Why not call them British Restaurants ?" said WSC, "Everyone associates the word restaurant with a good meal, and they may as well have the name if they cannot have anything else".

As you can imagine the locals are well chuffed.

Of course there is one way in which the UK is very like the South Africa of thirty years gone - the guilty white liberal's mania for racial classification. If you have children at a State primary or secondary school, they will have been classified, sometimes via a form sent to parents, sometimes (at secondary level) by asking the children to self-classify (in the process making them ethnically aware in a way they might not otherwise have been), often at primary level by the head teacher's fiat. My children have never been asked so presumably the head takes a look and decides.

Each school's PANDA report (a report on the school by the local authority and not available to parents) contains a page like this one.

PS - according to Gene Expression, nineteenth-century Tory Prime Minister Lord Liverpool would have been classified as coloured under the apartheid laws.

For once ...

I can wholeheartedly recommend Johann Hari's piece on the torture and murder of Iraqi communist and trade unionist Hadi Salih.

Scotsman report :

Hadi Salih, a 56-year-old labour rights advocate and official of Iraq’s Communist Party, affectionately known by friends as Abu Furat, was found strangled to death with a steel wire in his home, his face beaten to a pulp, his hands bound behind his back.

His personal files, containing the names and addresses of colleagues in both the party and the labour federation he led were also stolen, his humble home ransacked.

With its signs of politically motivated brutality and torture, the scene resembled the interrogation rooms of deposed president Saddam Hussein’s security forces, officials said.

"The people who did this are very clearly members of the Ba’ath Party from the former regime," said Mohammad Jassem al-Abad, a leader of the Communist Party, which is participating in the forthcoming parliamentary elections that insurgents violently oppose.

"The way they killed him makes it very clear they’re the ones who did this," he said. "It is their methods. His assassination wasn’t random."

Hari raises no new issues - but his points need to be made over and again.

"The IFTU has reported a pattern of attacks on trade union offices and trade union members. The murder of Salih bears all the hallmarks of Saddam's Mukhabarat - the Baathist KGB. Whatever you thought about the justice of the recent war in Iraq - and there were plenty of good reasons to oppose it - the only decent path now is to stand with a majority of Iraqis against the murderers of Salih and dozens of other Iraqi trade unionists.

Yet - I can't believe I'm saying this - a significant portion of the left is not standing with them. John Pilger - who says he has "seldom felt as safe in any country" as when he visited Saddam's Iraq - now openly supports the resistance on the grounds that "we can't afford to be choosy". The Stop the War Coalition passed a resolution recently saying the resistance should use "any means necessary" - which prompted Mick Rix, a decent trade unionist, to resign from the STWC on the grounds that this clearly constituted support for the murder of civilians. George Galloway has attacked the IFTU as "quislings" and described the tearful descriptions of one of their members of life under Saddam as "a party trick".

A few months ago, Subdhi al-Mashadani, a representative of the IFTU, came to speak at the European Social Forum in London. This is a really important gathering of left-wing campaign groups who fight on issues nobody else in the political spectrum stands up for: defending refugees, opposing the sale of weapons to tyrants, ending the international drug patenting rules that are killing hundreds of thousands of Africans, and much more. So you would expect the international left to welcome him and hear him politely.

But he was an Iraqi who didn't restrict his comments to the need for occupation troops to leave once a democratic election has been held. He also insisted on talking about the nature of the Sunni "resistance" - one of the most reactionary political forces anywhere on earth, consisting of homicidal misogynists, homophobes and supporters of Sharia law. The audience at the Social Forum booed and hissed him so loudly that he had to leave the stage."

Speaking as a homicidal misogynist and homophobe, as well as a former NUR shop steward, the left in the West is a sad remnant of what it was, say, sixty years ago. But people like Harry Barnes and Mick Rix are still keeping that righteous flame cupped between their palms. They must feel awful cold and lonely, though, with only Johann, Aaronovitch, Nick Cohen and Peter Tatchell standing by them.