Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lewisham 1977

I attended many anti-National Front demos in the 1970s, but not the most famous/infamous/violent one. Too far for us Northerners - and there was probably a party on.

Tottenham Lad did.

Thirty years ago, while I was still at school and in proto-left-wing mode, I attended the anti-NF demonstration, witnessing its violence at first hand, ending up the day lying unconscious, beaten, head bleeding, in a grave yard just of Lewisham High Street; oh the folly of youth.

What did "Smash the National Front" mean ?

The nearest English lad crashed to the ground unconscious as he was viciously bottled. The second lad went down initially as he was hit, but tried vainly to get back to up to his feet by crawling along the pavement on extended all fours. A further brutal blow from a bottle sent him down again, to leave him lying on the ground with all his limbs twitching wildly like some grotesque children's wind up toy. The last English lad, turning to see the fate of his two mates, and outnumbered, sensibly made a dash for it, out pacing his would be attackers.

All this happened, literally, in a flash. Having been born, bred, and brought up in Tottenham I can't say I was shocked at what I saw, even though it was the first unprovoked violent attack I had ever seen by grown men. From the silence of the middle class SWP members I think it might be safe to say that more than a few of them were slightly disturbed by what they had seen. Even then I felt sorry for the lads who had been brought down and thought it was unsporting to attack, unprovoked, three strangers blindly from behind.

The Lad now wonders what happened to those three lads. His politics have changed since those days and it shows, but he writes it as he sees it, with hindsight.

The Modern Journalist

Brighton Argus reporter Louise Acford sounds a bit of a girl :

A festival-goer who killed three friends in a horrific crash after necking up to three ecstasy tablets and falling asleep at the wheel was jailed for four years today.

Not only had she been necking Es, but :

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard Clarke admitted she had fallen asleep at the wheel and later confessed to taking half an ecstasy tablet during the pop festival. But toxicology tests revealed she had probably popped up to three pills during the day or taken a tablet shortly before leaving to drive home.

So she 'necked' pills - or did she 'pop' them ? I'm surprised Ms Acford didn't inform us that the defendant was 'off her face', that the car was 'totalled' and the unfortunate passengers 'completely ****ed'.

Does she have a sense of humour ?

Judge Kennedy said you would have to be "made of stone not to be touched by the tragedy on that day". He told Clarke, dressed in a pink flower pattern dress: "You know that you should not have been on the road that night".

Why was the judge wearing a pink flower pattern dress to address the defendant ?

(While Ms Acford may be amusing, the story isn't. The injuries sound like something de Sade might have imagined.)

Truth To Power

David Warren remembers the words of Mother Teresa (pbuh) at a White House 'prayer breakfast' (don't ask) on Feb. 3, 1994, in the presence of President and Mrs Clinton, and Vice President Gore:

"I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself, and if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another ?"


Although I support Wales - more in hope than expectation - I cheered on England in the last World Cup once my beloved Land of Bastards had been knocked out, and I wanted them to see off SA last night as they'd done in 2003.

Blimey. They were dire. I thought Wales were pretty poor against France in the last warm-up game - but at least they put a few points on the board. England were - well, I felt so sorry for those supporters.

What happened to the traditional England game ?

1) establish forward dominance in the first fifteen minutes. Pressure the scrums, get a few rolling mauls on the go, keep recycling the ball and wear them down until the penalties come. Get to the breakdowns quickly and in strength.

2) from this platform of dominance, the holes will emerge for the backs to exploit.

I know they'd lost key players, but not a single kickable penalty ! Farrell continually kicked long, finding SA backs in acres of space and all the time in the world, whereas every high kick by SA found the receiver with the sound of onrushing boots in his ears. It must be said the SA kickers had one of those miraculous nights when everything comes off, while Catt's failed to find touch penalty set the tone for subsquent England kicks. Only Jason Robinson (and maybe Nick Easter) seemed to want to take SA on - and both sides supporters recognised that in the ovation he got when he came off.

In 2003 England seemed set to dominate northern hemisphere rugby for the foreseeable. Where's it all gone ?

UPDATE - well, it could have been worse. But if you don't take all your chances against a team as good as Oz you'll regret it. Just as in the 2003 England game, Stephen Jones missed a couple of kickable penalties in the first half - at 6-3 to Wales it could have been a different game. Twice kicks that failed to make touch led to Australian tries. But they scrapped away and won the second half, though the gap was just too big to claw back. More idiosyncratic southern hemisphere reffing - how Gareth Thomas and Latham avoided cards I'll never know. And you always felt there was some creativity on the field - last night when Robinson went off you couldn't see the SA line being broken if the ref played 25 minutes injury time.

An Example To Others

OK, maybe he only stole £80-90,000, though he pleaded guilty to the theft of £128,301.

Judge Briggs gave him 21 months - he'll serve half. Less than a year in jail for £80K tax-free cash. Let that be an example to others - as, along with all the other similar sentences, I'm sure it will be.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Fight ! Fight ! Fight !

I left a comment a few years back at Meaders' now comatose (and lamented by me - he was a fun chap to debate with) Dead Men Left site to the effect that the SWP/Muslim alliance of Respect was an alliance of two completely different political forces, each convinced it was using the other - and that when push came to shove the Islamists would eat the SWP for breakfast and go solo.

Push hasn't come to shove yet. The Islamists can deliver the votes, the SWP can deliver the organisation - after all, they've fronted just about every 'left' campaign since the seventies. I must admit that I thought the comrades had all gone into this with their eyes wide open, happy to ally themselves with people who, were they white Brits, would be considered right-wing religious bigots. Seems the contradictions inherent in this can't be dialectically resolved that easily, and the internal cracks produced by these stresses and strains have now reached the surface.

George Galloway for the prosecution.

For example, at the selection meeting for our Shadwell candidate two members of staff were openly proselytising for one candidate and against another - including heckling - and even after the decision had been taken. This undoubtedly contributed to the exceedingly poor involvement of the wider membership in the subsequent election. No paid member of staff attended the Shadwell victory celebrations and when I asked one of them if they would be attending I was told ‘no, I will be watching the football’. This was noticed widely by the activists who were present at the celebration and commented upon.

The SWP apparatchiks who do all the work are noticing that the people who get selected are "community leaders" who can deliver votes. These kind of messy compromises are the stock in trade of democratic politics and something that everyone in the traditional parties has to come to terms with. It's all a bit new to the SWP.

What's probably compounding their unease is the nature of the 'vote-delivering'. In traditional English and Welsh politics a person who delivers votes does so by virtue of their policies, their personality or some combination thereof. We have to go back to the early nineteenth century and before that to find people who could deliver votes by virtue of who they were - their social position. And to understand who can deliver votes in Newham or Bradford you'll need knowledge of Sylheti or Mirpuri society.

The SWP defence.

A retreat into a party whose elected representatives are overwhelmingly male and Muslim would be to retreat into the caricature of us drawn by our opponents.


This one will run and run. The SWP's organisational skills are still IMHO votal to Respect's success. It's just their politics and leaders who are redundant !

Rock Shock

I'd been working late and was on the way home when this story broke.

Northern Rock has struggled to raise money to finance its lending ever since money markets seized up over the summer, in the wake of the US sub-prime loans crisis.

The decision for the Bank of England to become the "lender of last resort" is extremely rare - and also comes after consultation with the Financial Services Authority.

According to our business editor, the chancellor, Bank and FSA will make clear that the emergency facility enjoyed by Northern Rock will be made available to any other bank that runs into similar liquidity problems - as against more fundamental solvence issues.

I'm not sure I understand this. I gather there's no issue with solvency, but they can't continue to lend money unless they borrow it, because they haven't got a big enough base of depositors. The Bank of England are lending at "a punitive rate of 6.75%". But the 3-month inter-bank lending rate (LIBOR) is only 0.13% higher at 6.88% - why can't they borrow there ?

Ah - LIBOR reflects short-term loans - up to a year. Presumably NR want long-term money to match the long-term mortgages - or do they live hand to mouth, so to speak, on a succession of short term loans ? Seems like a risky strategy to me. How is the money that've already borrowed (and lent out) financed - short or long term loans (short - see update 2) ?

You have to presume that it's not the interest rates so much as that the other banks are refusing to lend to NR.

If that's true, what do the other banks know that the Bank of England is prepared to ignore ?

If they can't borrow the money at a rate which will enable them to offer attractive mortgages, why don't they just stop new lending ? Presumably the answer is that they'd be basically shutting up shop to new business, with no future profits to look forward to and a huge share price fall. But why should the BoE be concerned with that ?

If LIBOR is at nearly 7% I'd have thought that implies 8% mortgage rates before too long.

I'm sure Tim Worstall and Chris Dillow will explain all.

UPDATE - Willem Buiter is not sure that they ARE necessarily safe from insolvency risks, and is distinctly sceptical about the bailout.

Following the bail out of Northern Rock, I can only conclude that the Bank of England is a paper tiger. It talks the ‘no bail out’ talk, but it does not walk the talk. It does not matter whether the decision to bail out Northern Rock was initiated and/or actively supported by the Bank, or whether the Bank was bullied into it by the Treasury and the FSA. Moral hazard has received a boost in the UK banking sector and in the UK financial system as a whole. We will all pay the price in the years to come, when the next wave of reckless lending washes over us. Let’s hope that the collateral requirements and penalty rate charged on the credit line will be tough enough to limit the damage.

UPDATE2 - it appears they are indeed lending over long periods, but getting the money to lend via a series of short term loans.

Northern Rock said in a statement on Friday that the Bank of England had agreed to provide it with as much funding “as may be necessary” as it warned that it would otherwise be incapable of refinancing maturing liabilities and flagged that full-year profits would be 20 per cent below consensus forecasts.

Those maturing liabilities being the previous short term loan which is now due for repayment.

Analysts at Cazenove said in a note: “We assume Northern Rock will cease writing new business. The lack of new business flow and a penalty cost of funding will have a detrimental impact upon Northern Rock’s earnings ... Northern Rock is unlikely to remain independent but the value of the company to an acquirer may be significantly below the current share price.”

So they will stop new business, but because they still need to refinance the existing loans, that isn't the end of their woes. Hence the BoE bailout.

Meanwhile the rush for the exits continues. If investor sentiment is driven by greed or fear I think we know which is uppermost today.

Declaration of interest - I have a mortgage with Northern Rock, who took over the Legal and General portfolio when that company got out of the mortgage market. I wonder if they'd like me to pay it off ?

UPDATE3 - an anonymous commenter at Willem Buiter :

Laban - this basically comes down to NRK being unable to roll their commercial paper. By that I mean, they have borrowed using commercial paper which is now coming due. They are seeking to issue new commercial paper in order to borrow and thus repay the creditors of the old commercial paper. That probably came due on Monday, and it takes 2 days to settle so they had to sell it yesterday (Thursday). They failed to sell it and have to go to the BoE instead.

Interestingly, this is exactly the same thing that caused Enron to finally succumb to failure (they were unable to roll their CP too). The only difference is they didn't get a bail-out.

OK - now you want to know about commercial paper. I'd not heard of it either. It's all here.

In essence, the commercial paper market is used by companies in need of short-term loans. They issue commercial paper, which is like a bond, as an IOU. Banks are big users of commercial paper. The banks package up billions of dollars of loans made to consumers or companies, through products such as mortgages and credit cards, into special financing vehicles called “conduits”. The banks then sell on the loans held within the conduits to investors, such as money market funds, insurance companies or other banks. They do this by issuing the commercial paper. The life of the commercial paper is typically very short, about 55 days. When the time is up, the bank managing the conduit will go back to the investors and roll over the commercial paper into another short-term agreement with similar interest rates.

In the United States, there is about $2.2 trillion (£1,100 billion) of commercial paper. About half of this is unsecured, like a personal loan taken out by a consumer, but $1.2 trillion of it is so-called asset-backed. This means that the loans are secured against assets such as the bank’s book of mortgage business.

The commercial paper market in Europe is worth $840 billion, of which about $300 billion is asset-backed commercial paper.

For the most part, the commercial paper market carries out its day-to-day business and rarely hits the headlines. In the past few weeks, however, interest rates in the market have hit six-year highs as panicky investors have refused to roll over the paper. Instead of reinvesting in commercial paper that is coming to the end of its 55 days, investors are turning to other short-term safe havens, such as US government debt.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ay Venezuela !

BBC1 have just shown highlights of the youth orchestras peforming at the Proms this year.

Simon Bolivar National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. Gustavo Dudamel conducts an encore.

Stale News

So the BNP website is the most popular UK political website, according to Hitwise.

Just like they were (according to Alexa) when I wrote about the site in December 2003.

The reasons I gave at the time still stand, too. The BNP site has news - the others don't. If I want news on a Tory site I'll go to ConservativeHome, likewise Bloggers4Labour.

Mind, the MI5/Searchlight mole in the webmaster's office is doing his best to trash the appeal of the site - recently replacing the story links index on the regional news pages, where the casual browser can at a glance spot anything interesting and click through, with a blog-like set of postings that I have neither the time nor patience to scroll through on the chance that something will jump out.

The Telegraph report is a little confusing :

The study of over eight million internet accounts found that people who struggle to hold down a rewarding or well paying job, and rely on state benefits and the council for their accommodation were most likely to visit the site.

So the readers are the people Labour used to be about, are they ?

The proportion of the site's visitors that come from the middle classes is also increasing: 59pc are from the more affluent ABC1 social groups, and this figure is up from 50pc two years ago, Hitwise said.

I'm sure you can reconcile these two seemingly incompatible statements if the proportion of ABC1s in the population is very large and the number of "people who struggle to hold down a rewarding or well paying job" is very small, but it would be nice to see the underlying data. Alas the Hitwise UK site, likewise the blog of Hitwise analyst Robin Goad, is as bare of information as the cupboard of Old Mother Hubbard.

More Brussels Video

Cranmer : This is the heart of the European Union. If this can happen in the EU’s capital city, it could happen anywhere throughout the Union. The United Kingdom has spent centuries developing its liberties, all emanating from religious differences, but gradually, one by one, they are being subsumed to the religio-political ideology of Euro-nationalism. One used to have the right to protest peacefully, the right to state one’s view upon a religion, the right to cause offence, the right to profess an article of faith according to conscience. Now it appears that only Muslims have this right – the right to march with threats of violence, the right to demand the death of the Pope, the right to demand the slaughter of British servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, the right to deny the divinity of Jesus, the right to demean the Bible and assert the supremacy of the Qur’an.

Islam is becoming the de jure religion of the state. While Christianity is reviled by the forces of secularism, and the blasphemy laws have ceased to have any meaning at all, Islam is moving in to fill the vacuum. And neither the politicians nor the media dare question its inceasing power, influence, or its becoming the default religious setting of many EU member states.

As in Brussels, so in the UK - the likelihood of being allowed to protest or demonstrate is inversely proportional to the degree of violence to be expected from those who oppose you. And one group seem to have a monopoly when it comes to raising the expectation of violence. It's instructive to compare the treatment of the Brussels demonstrators with that of the London marchers who incited murder.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Believe That Children Are Our Future

Perhaps we should give up now. (I confess I couldn't get beyond Page 2 - "ma mums ex bfs daughter")

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Some Thoughts on Bin Laden Messages

Written for and pinched from this CiF thread.

It's true that while Al Quaeda may not be able to be defeated militarily, neither can they - at present - win militarily. Their hope is that we fall from within - a process in which the Guardian is their ally - that we simply no longer have the will, the stomach for the fight. "We love death while you love life", as someone said - and the calculation is that encouraging Westerners who think they can opt out - who think that getting rid of Bush'n'Blair and bringing home the troops is a recipe for a quiet life - is one half of the PR strategy.

The other half is of course the appeal to the faithful. The first Bin Laden communiques, aimed at a Muslim audience, made no sense at all to a secular Westerner. The tragedy of Al-Andalus ? Who does he play for ? Eighty years of humility ? What happened in 1921, someone ?

But somewhere along the way, after the fall of the Taleban, the destruction of the secure Afghan bases and the fall of Saddam, AQ realised that it was as easy, if not easier, to fight US troops in Washington than in Kandahar - and more to the point, that he had (objective) allies there whose influence could perhaps be leveraged. The 2004 Bin Laden 'election address' hit all the right buttons for the Daily Kos/Guardian audience. Bush stole the election. Sweden doesn't get bombed. America starts wars to keep its corporations busy. It's all about oil. Halliburton. Robert Fisk is neutral (I didn't say Bin Laden wasn't sometimes correct).

The latest communique is even more polished in terms of its targeting. So much so that lefty Michael Dickinson at 'alternative' site Counterpunch writes

"it's unlikely that many, if any, American TV channels or popular newspapers will present their listeners and readers with the most urgent part of Bin Laden's message. God forbid! It might make sense to them. It might make even them think.

After examining the transcribed text of Osama's address, I found much of what he said made sense to me."

Somewhere in London, in Germany, maybe in an ISI office in Pakistan, people are reading that and shouting 'Yay ! He broke the code !'

So we have military action and the appeal to the faithful via jihadi video etc - designed to galvanise the young men.

We have the appeal to the 'it's all our/America's fault' crowd - designed to weaken resolve with all that implies for military action or lack of.

And there's a third leg, not so dangerous to the States but of great importance to us. The Muslim population of England is rising fast, while the natives who aren't emigrating are having children at below replacement rates. The figures as of 2001 are as follows :

white 1.8
Afro-Caribbean 1.8
Indian 2.3
Pakistani 4.0
Bangladeshi 4.7

For example, the Muslim population of Bradford, a town which wasn't exactly short of Muslims in 1981, will have tripled between then and 2011. The tripling is a result of a high birth rate, chain migration and a severe shortage of radical feminists.

"Following initial migration and settlement in the 1960's, Bradford has, over the last three decades, established a significant Pakistani population: in 1981 this community numbered 34,116 persons, in 1991, 38,059 persons and it is estimated that in the year 2011 this population will number 104,000 persons or approximately a quarter of the city's population."

As the minarets and domes rise above our cities, so will the political self-confidence of British Muslims. I can't see Blair's new Muslim faith schools doing anything other than accelerating this trend.

At the same time Islam is attracting increasing numbers of native converts. Traditionally the convert is more zealous than one born to the faith and are over-represented in the exploding or wannabe exploding ranks. I imagine the appearance at the Old Bailey of one Nicholas Roddis of Rotherham, a white Muslim convert, on a charge of preparing acts of terrorism, may have passed by most Guardian readers - especially as his religion was something the BBC report failed to mention. The recent arrests in Germany were of native German converts.

Interesting times.

Department of Bleeding Obvious

Behavioural psychologists found that female chimps mate with the males that give them the most fruit, while male chimps steal "desirable" fruits such as papaya from farms and orchards in a bid to woo potential mates. Oranges, pineapples and maize are among the most sought after crops, with bananas proving far less popular.

The scientists also discovered that the chimp that gathered the most fruit in the "food-for-sex" trade received more grooming from females than the group's alpha male.

Well blow me down, who would have expected it etc etc.

In the immortal words of Mrs Merton "tell me Debbie, what first attracted you to the diminutive multimillionaire ?"

Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin

The writing was on the wall. This is what happens when you have laws that allow immediate citizenship to people with little connection to British history, the British people, British religion and British culture.

Some Brit nationalist ? Oops - sorry, wrong country. It's a spokesman for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre talking about Israeli Nazis.

Inspector Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said the suspects had filmed themselves beating 15 ultra-Orthodox Jews, foreign workers, homosexuals, homeless people, drunks and drug addicts. In one particularly brutal assault, the whole group set about a Thai worker in the old Tel-Aviv bus station. He had to be treated in hospital.

Detectives who raided their homes found the films and a photograph of one of the group brandishing an M-16 assault rifle. They also confiscated knives, an improvised pistol, TNT, wires and detonators.

Some of the footage was shown at yesterday's cabinet meeting. Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister, said: "We saw the appalling documentation of violence for its own sake. We as a society have failed in educating these youths and distancing them from crazy and dangerous ideologies."

Inspector Rosenfeld said the eight had neo-Nazi tattoos on their arms. They would meet every few days and decide who and where to attack next. Searches of their computers and video cassettes revealed links to racist groups in Germany and the United States.

The case has shocked Israelis and prompted calls for the government to reconsider its immigration policy and to outlaw neo-Nazi and other hate crimes.

Efraim Zuroff, who is still hunting Nazi war criminals for the Simon Weisenthal Centre, said: "The writing was on the wall. This is what happens when you have laws that allow immediate citizenship to people with little connection to Jewish history, the Jewish people, the Jewish religion and Jewish culture."

Kippah-tip - the Philosopher.

SIOE demonstration - Brussels, September 11 2007

"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 to the House of Commons, July 13 1934. Now Brussels in 2007 is not yet at this lamentable stage. But it appears that the police at the SIOE demo were targeting elected representatives in preference to Joe Public.

From Brussels Journal : The grey-haired man whom we see being attacked by the police first is Luk Van Nieuwenhuysen, the Vice-President of the Flemish Parliament. Shortly afterwards we see the police maltreating Frank Vanhecke, a member of the European Parliament and the party leader of the Vlaams Belang. We see how he is handcuffed and pushed into a police bus. Afterwards we also see the police "taking care" of Filip Dewinter, the VB group leader in the Flemish Parliament. We see how his arm gets caught between the closing doors of the bus. An Italian MEP and a French MEP were also arrested. The demonstrators were kept in cells for seven hours and released this evening.

UPDATE - this blogger attended. More police than protesters and a lot of media.

UPDATE2 - lots of links here.

As a socialist schoolboy I campaigned for Terry Davis in the 1971 Bromsgrove by-election. Thirty-five years on he's Secretary General of the Council of Europe, 12% of whose £150 million annual budget comes from UK taxpayers.

This is what he has to say :

Press release - 590(2007)

Europe is threatened by bigots - not by Islam

Statement by Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, on the march “Against the Islamisation of Europe” today in Brussels

Strasbourg, 11.09.2007 - European values are under threat, say the organisers of a protest march under the banner “Against the Islamisation of Europe” which was due to place today in Brussels in spite of the ban by the city Mayor. The fact is that Europe and its values are indeed under threat, but the danger is not coming from Islam. Our common European values are undermined by bigots and radicals, both islamists and islamophobes, who exploit fears and prejudice for their own political objectives.

The self-proclaimed defenders of European values say that the Mayor has violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The freedom of assembly and the freedom of expression are indeed essential preconditions for democracy, but they should not be regarded as a licence to offend. I will not enter into the discussion about whether the march should have been allowed or not, but I note that the protesters’ reading of the Convention is selective to say the least. It is very important to remember that the freedom of assembly and expression can be restricted to protect the rights and freedoms of others, including the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This applies to everyone in Europe including the millions of Europeans of Islamic faith, who were the main target of today’s shameful display of bigotry and intolerance.

Council of Europe Press Division
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 25 60
Fax:+33 (0)3 88 41 39 11

The key sentence is "It is very important to remember that the freedom of assembly and expression can be restricted to protect the rights and freedoms of others, including the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.".

It looks as if "the rights and freedoms of others" includes the right not to be offended. Only for some others, of course, not for everyone. That would never do. I like the use of language, describing Muslims as "the main target" of a peaceful demonstration. There have been one or two other "main targets" in Europe over the last few years - of rather less peaceful "demonstrations".

"final warnings for rape"

Asian News :

More than 15,000 crimes did not go before the courts in Greater Manchester last year because police let off offenders with a caution. A total of 32 sex attacks, 33 robberies and 3,071 assaults were punished with a caution, reprimand or final warning instead of an appearance in the dock. And eight young rapists have been handed final warnings instead of being charged for their crimes over the last five years.

Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, can reveal a huge increase in cautions, reprimands and final warnings - up 48 per cent from 2002. Some victims have criticised police for massively over-using the `cheap and easy' caution on serious villains who they say should be punished in court. But senior police said the rise in the use of cautions was part of a government drive to `keep lower-level criminals and young offenders out of the criminal justice system and provide them with the support to break the cycle of crime'. And they said the views and welfare of victims, who are fearful of taking a case to court, are considered. Pc Norman Brennan, from the Victims of Crime Trust, said: "Cautions are all well and good where it is appropriate to use them and they have the desired effect. The sad reality is that cautions and fixed penalty fines are often dished out now as a cheaper, less effective alternative deterrent for many who should be before the courts. I despair of the level of law and disorder in this country. If somebody who admits rape is getting a caution, there have to be exceptional circumstances as to why they aren't charged."

Home Office guideline state cautions should `in general' never be used for the most serious crimes. Children under 18 are now handed `reprimands' or more serious `final warnings', both of which - like the caution - require they admit their guilt. Youngsters who are given `final warnings' are also referred to a youth offending team. Police can issue a reprimand or final warning if it is `not in the public interest to prosecute' but only if the youngster has no previous convictions. Cautions are logged on an individual's criminal record and can be considered by a court or the police in any future offence. In 2006, 15,326 cautions, reprimands or final warnings were handed out in Greater Manchester - up from 10,326 in 2002. No-one was cautioned for murder or manslaughter but eight youngsters have accepted final warnings for rape since 2002.

Of the 9,207 cautions given to adults in 2006, we can reveal 2,106 were for assault, 18 for sex assault and five for robbery. Some 3,802 reprimands were handed to youngsters under 18 during the same year, two for sex assault, 11 for robbery and 560 for assault. There were 2,317 final warnings given to youngsters in the year, 12 for sex assault, 17 for robbery and 405 for assault.

Supt Dave Wilkinson, from the criminal justice division, said: "A caution, reprimand or final warning is given for minor, first time offences, where there is an admission of guilt and can act as a deterrent to getting involved in further crime. Nationally, there has been a drive to keep lower-level criminals and young offenders out of the criminal justice system. This was given as guidance from the Home Office in 2003. A number of important factors are taken into account when considering whether to issue a caution, reprimand or final warning for an offence, including the views of the victim, their age, welfare and mental wellbeing and any aggravating or mitigating factors of the offence. In some circumstances, the offender's situation, for example if there are mental health issues and the likelihood of re-offending, is taken into account. We would not issue a caution, reprimand or final warning where we felt there was an ongoing risk to the public."

Police insisted it was `not in the public interest' to charge the youths cautioned for rape. Det Supt Mick Lay, from the public protection section, said: "Cautions, reprimands or final warnings are very rarely given for serious sexual offences. Between 2002 and 2006, the final warnings issued for rape account for only 0.2 per cent of all recorded rape in Greater Manchester during that period. All reports of sexual offences are taken extremely seriously and Greater Manchester Police will always try to prosecute offenders. However, there are very occasionally incidents where an offender will not be taken to court. This decision is taken only after a full review of the case is made and it is clear it would not be in the public interest to pursue a prosecution. Offenders who receive a caution, reprimand or final warning for a sexual offence will be placed on the sex offenders' register, in line with the Sexual Offences Act 2003."

Demonising The Kids

One-way intergenerational warfare continues :

Witness Lisa Collier told the court she saw a hooded boy grab Mr Greenwood by his clothes and pull him down on to the floor before aiming at least three or four kicks to his head. "From where I was it looked like he was directly kicking that person in the head," she told the jury. Miss Collier said she heard "muffled thuds" as the boy kicked Mr Greenwood "forcefully" before he and another boy, who she did not see taking part in the attack, left the scene.

After the attack, Miss Collier watched as Mr Greenwood used a set of railings to pull himself to his feet and made his way "unsteadily" towards where she was standing. "He was swaying from side to side," she said. "He's done some big sways then stumbled towards the road and then just fell on to the road."

So far, so par. Just another couple of kids kicking a middle aged man to death. Nothing unusual about that in twenty-first century England. It was this that really said something :

Mr Greenwood told Miss Collier he was on his way to visit his children when he was attacked. He said he did not see his attackers' faces because his eyesight was so poor. Miss Collier said: "He needed to apparently use a white stick but he told me that he chose not to because it attracted attention from people and he'd been attacked before."

Hat-tip - Bodo in the comments. Those of you still not depressed enough - try John Trenchard's British Crime Blog - logging violent incidents as recorded by the BBC (i.e. nowhere near all of them - even some murders don't get reported. Like the death of James Houliston. Also recommended - Somebody Got Murdered - monitoring UK murders. I found this last week then forgot the name. If the owner keeps it updated it could be a valuable resource.)

James Houliston memorial in Shoreditch Park.

That Gordon Brown TUC Speech

In his speech, which received a muted response from the TUC, Mr Brown told them that he would not "jeopardise Britain's economic success" by allowing pay rises which were at or above the level of inflation, "unless they are for the top managers and directors who make large donations - I mean who make such a difference to the economy."

Warming to his theme, Mr Brown aked his audience "just who the **** do you think you are ? I f****** own you, and don't you forget it. I made your jobs, I've got friends who could buy you all with their petty cash. There are millions of people in the world who want your jobs - AND they work harder, and for less, than you ******* ! F*** off to Poland and see what the job market's like there if you've got a problem !"

Calming down with a visible effort, Mr Brown concluded that "competition from immigrant workers - I mean pay discipline" was "essential to prevent inflation, improve the profits of my friends, to maintain growth and create more jobs for immigrant workers - and so that we never return to the old boom and bust of the past".

It's One Rule For Us ...

Ofcom's latest Complaints Bulletin (pdf)


This topical news comedy programme was introduced by Sir Trevor McDonald. It included a number of items which ranged from the quality of Big Brother contestants, through comments on the early release from jail of 25,000 prisoners, to a sequence entitled “Saudis Do The Funniest Things” (a spoof clip show). At one point, Sir Trevor McDonald introduced an item by saying: “It’s time for ‘Racist and Dead’, this week, it’s the turn of corpulent, narrow-minded northerner Bernard Manning. Personally, I never thought of Bernard Manning as a racist comic… just a fat, white bastard…”

112 viewers complained that the use of the expression “fat, white bastard” was inappropriate and/or racist.


The Code was drafted in the light of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights. In particular, the right to freedom of expression, as expressed in Article 10 of the Convention, encompasses the audience’s right to receive creative material, information and ideas without interference, but subject to restrictions prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society. Ofcom must ensure that generally accepted standards are applied to the content of television services, so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public, for example from the broadcast of offensive material. Rule 2.3 of the Code states that “…in applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context…”. There is therefore no prohibition on the broadcast of an expression such as the one used by Sir Trevor McDonald, provided that it is justified by context. Context includes, amongst other things: the time of broadcast; the editorial content of the programme; the degree of offence likely to be caused by the material; and the likely expectation of the audience. The programme was broadcast a full hour after the 21:00 watershed, when more challenging material can sometimes be expected. It was clear from the outset that the programme, whilst a comedy, was an edgy, satirical look at the week’s news, and that on occasions there would be some material that risked offending some viewers. In the case of this programme, Sir Trevor McDonald obviously, and intentionally, drew on Bernard Manning’s own style of humour, which frequently played on the real or apparent prejudices of his audience. The comments were clearly intended to parody Manning’s own comedy, where he claimed he was not himself racist, but simply made ‘jokes’ based on racial stereotypes. It was in such a context that Sir Trevor McDonald could therefore state that he did not consider Manning to be a racist but then went on to say that he was “…a fat white bastard”.

Taking the above into account, therefore, we do not believe this specific expression went beyond the likely expectations of an audience for a satirical news-based comedy programme broadcast well after the watershed, and that any offence that may have been caused was justified by the context.

Not In Breach.

I've got no problem with Sir Trev using such an expression, though I don't think it suits him. It's just that the ratchet only ever turns one way.

Monday, September 10, 2007

More Isolated Incidents

Reading murder of Margaret Dolan : The results of a post-mortem examination, carried out on Saturday, revealed she had been asphyxiated, said Thames Valley Police spokeswoman Rebecca Webber. Detective Inspector Dave Hubbard, leading the investigation, said: “I would like to reassure the community of Reading that this is an isolated incident, and that we are not at this stage looking for anyone else in connection with the inquiry.”

Newcastle murder of John Hudson : The death was an "isolated incident", according to Northumbria Police.

Funny - that's what they said about the stabbing on Diana Street a fortnight ago.

The theft of £5,000 from an elderly lady in Windermere : A police spokeswoman said: “This is an isolated incident, unusual for the area. However it has left an elderly woman very distressed.”

Hertfordshire triple murder : "It's an isolated incident and one I hope we never see repeated."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Rt. Hon. Sir Tasker Watkins, V.C., G.B.E., D.L

Social mobility before Roy Jenkins. How ironic that Woy, a son of the Valleys like his miner father Arthur Jenkins, should have presided over the changes that wiped out social mobility for the very people he came from.

The son of a miner, Sir Tasker Watkins was born on November 18, 1918, in Nelson, south Wales, and was educated at Pontypridd Grammar School.

He served as a Lieutenant and then Major in the Welch Regiment throughout the Second World War. He was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1944 aged 25.

(Portrait by David Griffiths)

Against Stupidity The Gods Themselves Battle In Vain

All expectant mothers are to be given a one-off payment of around £120 that they will be encouraged to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables as a way of protecting their children from diseases and incurable conditions later in life.

The feckless will spend it on lager or put it towards a larger plasma TV, those non-feckless who already buy fruit and veg will continue to do so and spend the money in Mothercare, the remainder will spend it as they see fit. The one thing you can be pretty sure about is that it will make damn-all difference to the amount of fruit and veg consumed by pregnant women. I wonder if you can claim the money then ask for an abortion ? I bet you can, because the first few months are the most important from a nutritional perspective. BPAS will be asking its 'clients' "have you claimed your £120 ?".

Sources told The Observer that the government accepts that some of the 630,000 women who become pregnant each year may choose not to spend the money on healthy food.

Alas there's only one suitable expression. No s***, Sherlock ?

Repent And Be Saved !

The great and good Nick Cohen becomes greater and gooder, breaking ranks on the great liberal myth that concern about crime is "moral panic".

An interesting comment by Frank Fisher ("Mr PikeBishop") as well :

Murder has always been at the top of the pyramid of crime, and it still is, but the base has spread greatly. Where once three quarters of murders were "domestics" - husbands, wives, lovers - today that accounts for just a third. In other words, the growth in murder has largely been in new areas: gang crime in particular, random street killings a close second.

Liberal Myth Reworked - "Moral Panic"

A teen binge drinker is much more likely to become an adult who either drinks heavily or is alcoholic, according to an article published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The risk of have a string of criminal convictions as an adult is also much higher.

In this study, the health and prospects of over 11,000 UK children was monitored. They were all born in 1970 and were monitored at 16 and 30 years of age (The 1970 British Birth Cohort Study). The researchers collected data on binge drinking during the preceding two weeks and habitual drinking during the preceding 12 months from the 16 year olds. 25% of the 16-year-olds drank more than two or three times a week (habitual drinkers).

The researchers defined binge drinking as consuming four or more drinks in a row in two or more episodes. 18% of them were binge drinkers - more men than women were in this category.

When they were 30 years old they revealed how much they drank, based on weekly consumption. They were also asked about their consumption of illegal drugs, mental health problems, educational and employment achievement, as well as their personal history.

The researchers saw a strong link between habitual drinking at 16 years of age and problem drinking and illegal drug use as adults. A 16 year old binge drinker had a 60% higher risk to become alcohol dependent by the time he/she was 30, wrote the authors. A young binge drinker is 70% more likely to become a regular heavy drinker by the time he/she is 30, compared to a 16 year old who was not a regular drinker. A 16-year-old binge drinker's chances of having a host of other problems at the age of 30 were also much higher:

-- The likelihood of consuming illegal drugs at age 30 was 40% higher
-- The likelihood of having mental problems at age 30 was 40% higher
-- The likelihood of them being homeless at age 30 was 60% higher
-- The likelihood of them having criminal convictions at age 30 was almost double
-- The likelihood of them having had accidents at age 30 was 40% higher
-- The likelihood of them having gained no educational qualifications at age 30 was 30% higher

The researchers found the figures remained largely unchanged even after making adjustments for other factors which could influence the findings.

The writers added that the difference in outcomes between a teen binge drinker and a teen habitual drinker is significant. They urge health professionals and authorities to focus more on adolescent risk behaviors rather than just alcohol use, access and availability.

"Adult outcomes of binge drinking in adolescence: findings from a UK national birth cohort"
J Epidemiol Community Health 2007; 61: 902-7

Sobering stuff, you might think.

But don't worry ! It's just a retread of an eighteenth-century moral panic !

Professor Peter Borsay - whose work is being published on the History & Policy website - said: 'At first glance, the parallels between the 18th century gin craze and contemporary binge drinking appear striking.I don't think it's the drinking that merits the comparison, but the moral panics that characterised both periods. These were fuelled by pressure groups, the media and a common perception of government complacency.'