Saturday, February 19, 2005

Resistance News

Thr glorious Iraqi resistance are showing their loathing of Imperialist occupation by killing as many Shias as possible on the holiest day in the Shia calendar, Ashura, tenth day of the month of mourning Moharram.

During Moharram Shias mourn the killing of the Prophet's grandsons Hussein and Hassan, which led to the split between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

In Ashura commemorations the faithful carry tazias, replicas of the tombs of the martyrs, through the streets, just as Spanish Catholics carry statues of the Virgin Mary in procession during Holy Week.

The Ashura processions are described in Kipling's "On the City Wall".

"All the processions—there were two-and-twenty of them—were now well within the City walls. The drums were beating afresh, the crowd were howling ‘Ya Hasan! Ya Hussain!’ and beating their breasts, the brass bands were playing their loudest, and at every corner where space allowed, Mohammedan preachers were telling the lamentable story of the death of the Martyrs."

This is a public information post.

Hoots Mon !

The Freakytrigger collective (they also have a blog) have embarked on an ambitious project indeed - to review all the 1,000+ number one chart singles since the 1950s.

Records are rated from one to ten, no tens so far (though the project only seems to have got up to 1965 or thereabouts). Only seven records rate a 9. One is the sublime work of Lord Rockingham, so cruelly spurned by the Student Grants and Clash fans who dominated the Norm poll.

(There was a minor outbreak of heather-scented r'n'r in the late 50's. Bill Haley also struck gold with 'Rockin Thru The Rye', a loose amalgamation of this Burns poem with this traditional song).

Friday, February 18, 2005

Anti-Social Behaviour III

The curfews don't work - like most of New Labour's initiatives.

Neither, apparently, do custodial sentences. I'm not sure, however, if that takes into account the incapacitance effect. When the BBC say "the reconviction rate for those given custodial sentences also increased, to almost 70%", does that mean 70% offend within a year of release, or of conviction ? After all, if they're banged up for a year, there should be 0% reoffending. Unless of course 'custody' isn't very custodial.

Meanwhile, in the Land Of My Absent Fathers, the Children's Commissar is deeply concerned about plans to publicly identify young people who breach ASBOs.

"If someone does breach an order, the behaviour may not be illegal but, by breaching an Asbo, this will lead to a criminal offence.

"And now they will be named. A child who is accused of murder won't be named until they're convicted.

"So in some ways this is putting a disproportionate degree of notoriety on the child because of what may be a very small bit of anti-social behaviour."

Like the small bits of behaviour on the Broomhouse estate.

On the Today programme (RealAudio), this 70s Sussex politics grad and former social worker (he looks an old hippie to me - but what else did you expect ?) talked of how badly we treat our children, what few rights they had, and how even these have been eroded, how the UN Convention should prevent such abuse of rights. (Of course, in more civilised places like the Congo, UN staff treat children properly.)

Apparently, when drawing up the Convention On The Rights of The Child, UN officials thought fit to insert a right to terrorise your neighbours without being publicly identified. I couldn't find this myself, but I'm sure the Commissar knows best.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

"Save Our Scheme"

All good progressives know that you can't turn the clock back. Those nostalgic for the days of the policeman on the beat, preventing crime, rather than policemen in cars, reacting to an already committed crime, are longing for a golden age which of course never existed.

As The Copper puts it :

“Sir, I’ve had this idea about just going out on foot in one particular area, lets call it a “beat”, and well, what we do is just sort of walk around, “patrol” you might say, and just keep people on their toes. People will be really happy to see us and if the offenders see us they might run off.”

“It’s all very well in theory Copperfield, but it simply isn’t an appropriate use of resources. We’re currently flying over the area in the helicopter once a week and are targeting specific areas every third Thursday. Besides, how many detections do you think you’ll get if you just walk everywhere? No, we need people in cars to respond to calls within the approved time. Got any new strategies?"


”Strategies Copperfield. You know, strategies for safer communities, drug free communities, for policing in diverse environments, that sort of thing.”

“No sir, I just thought I could have a walk round.”

“No Copperfield, we need strategies, why don’t you go and see the youth development officer about developing a strategy for “patrolling” and then we’ll see if we can get some Home Office funding.”

A few years ago, the Broomhouse estate in Edinburgh was plagued by violence, crime, and anti-social behaviour. A community group, "Save Our Scheme" (England 'estate' = Scottish 'scheme' = US 'project') was set up, with funding and a long list of liberal panaceas.

The skateboard park, the sports facilities, the internet cafe. Trips to safari parks, an Astroturf pitch for the local school, a team of 'community wardens', a 'residents empowerment project'.

The result ? A community activist speaks.

" ... after five frustrating years dedicated to improving the quality of life in the area nicknamed "Little Bosnia", the yobs’ ongoing reign of terror has now driven the retired management training officer out of the neighbourhood.

Although First Minister Jack McConnell and the city’s Labour administration have vowed to tackle the anti-social behaviour blighting so many Scottish housing estates, the 60-year-old today admitted defeat and has asked the local authority to relocate him.

Mr Pattison said: "I’ve tried to do my best for the community but I’ve had enough and I’m moving out.

"I’m getting tired and I can’t live like this any more. I don’t want any more hassle or problems.

"I’ve got a lot of good friends about where I live and I feel sorry for them because they’re suffering the same.

"It’s mindless thuggery and there’s no reasoning behind it.

"The police are absolutely powerless because the kids are under 16 and they can do whatever the hell they like whenever the hell they like. "

By May 2004 the "Save Our Scheme" campaigners had changed their aims slightly. They now wanted the Children's Panels (Scots liberal wrist-tappers one and all - "the most vulnerable and troubled young people ... welfare of the child is at the heart of the system" - what about their victims ?) abolished and offenders to face formal courts - with prison for the guilty.

As the Scotsman reported "after two and a half years of trying to understand why these youths were out of control and trying to help them, this week the Broomhouse residents group gave up the fight and called for the hooligans to be locked up"

Daily Telegraph - Members of the group were convinced that if they took a personal interest in the lives of youngsters involved in crime they could make a difference.

But, after failing to bring about any significant improvements through attempts to communicate, educate and understand, they have abandoned the "crusade of hope".

Carol Munro, the chairman of SOS, said: "The powers of the police are useless. We've exhausted every avenue in trying to work with these people. We now need to redress the system.

"There's far too much emphasis on working with and rewarding criminals. The authorities need to look at the community instead.

They plan to deliver a petition, to the Scottish Executive, which is also proposing stronger action on anti-social behaviour among youngsters."

I would urge all readers, especially those north of the Tweed, to sign the petition - if, that is, they agree with it.

Something changed after Scots First Minister Jack McConnell visited the area in June, heard residents complaints, and was given a Cathy-Jamieson-style reception from some young people.

Only a month later, the police found they could spare six officers to walk the streets of Broomhouse, doing the old beat policing scrapped in the 1960s (see Peter Hitchens' book 'A Brief History Of Crime' for details).

The result ? The Copper's boss was right. They haven't made a single arrest.

Car crime is, however, down 80%, assaults down 50%, complaints against youths down 60%.

The police seem quite pleased. Andrew Pattison, the activist driven to despair, has stayed on. And tomorrow (Friday) US viewers can see the scheme in action on Fox News.

I think an (approximate) quote from Montague Rhodes James is in order.

"If this story has a moral, I trust it is obvious. If it is not, I do not very well know how to help it."

New Labour - Tough On Anti-Social Behaviour

Picture by Stephen Mansfield for the Scotsman

Labour MSP and Scottish Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson is given a traditional Ayrshire welcome (registration required) on a visit to the village of Auchinleck in her constituency.

"Ms Jamieson arrived at the village’s Co-operative store to unveil the Standing Up to Antisocial Behaviour awards in partnership with the Scottish Co-operative movement. The scheme aims to reward individuals and groups who benefit their communities. She was also there to applaud the store’s decision not to sell Buckfast to anyone under 21 and limit sales to two bottles per customer."

The news that the sacred brew of Buckfast is under threat from the same people who want the pubs open 24/7 will cause consternation at Beelzebub Mansions, where a Buckie and Vimto mix is all that sustains Barry and his trusty man Whittaker.

(Auchinleck is not some giant Glasgow estate, but a small village in Burns country, once a thriving mining area. The deep mines are long gone and the towns and villages, Cumnock, Dalmellington, Burnfoothill, while not unattractive and set in pleasant scenery, all have an air of dereliction. The area's wonderful if you're an industrial archaeologist. But it's not physical poverty that is the blight. None of those kids have cardboard in their shoes as they would have done in the 1930s. And in even poorer Victorian times, "at one typical miners village, Skares, the Cumnock Chronicle tells us there were three friendly societies (Gardeners, Rechabites, Good Templars), a quoiting club, an ambulance corps, a juvenile football club, a brass band, a dramatic society, and a phonetics class".)

UPDATE - in the interests of balance, the Guardian view.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Sell ! Sell ! Sell ! (or not as the case may be ..)

I wonder what this means ?

"U.S. stock futures fell sharply on Wednesday following news reports of an explosion in Iran that state television there attributed to a missile fired by an unknown aircraft.
"This explosion basically sent chills down the spines of futures traders," said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Alaron Trading Corp in Chicago. "Oil prices reacted immediately and rallied up to the highs and this caused a corresponding drop in stock prices"

If somebody's having a crack at the Iranian nuclear program I hope they know what they're doing. There was a long piece, I think in Flight International, last summer, on the possibilities of stopping the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The consensus was that it would be tricky, as the Iranians had split their uranium enrichment program down into hundreds of small centrifuges, widely dispersed and so difficult to target.

More at Al-Jazeerah, with news of a possible Iranian alliance with Syria.

Iran and Syria - both locked in rows with the US – have said they are to form a common front to face challenges and threats.

Iranian Vice-President Muhammad Reza Aref said in Tehran after meeting Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Utari on Wednesday that both countries were ready to help "on all grounds to confront threats".

Al-Utari told reporters: "This meeting, which takes place at this sensitive time, is important, especially because Syria and Iran face several challenges and it is necessary to build a common front".

The announcement came barely minutes after an unknown aircraft fired a missile on Wednesday in a deserted area near the southern city of Dailam in the province of Bushehr where Iran has a nuclear power plant, Iranian state television said.

"A powerful explosion was heard this morning on the outskirts of Dailam in the Bushehr province. Witnesses said that the missile was fired from an unknown plane 20km from the city," Iran's Arabic language al-Alam said.

UPDATE - panic over ?

"TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian state television reported Wednesday that an explosion near the town of Deilam, about 60 miles from a nuclear facility, may have been caused by a fuel tank dropping from an Iranian plane.

The state-run television provided few details but said local officials had told it that may have been the cause of the unidentified explosion.

An Iran's Interior Ministry said Wednesday he could not confirm earlier television reports there had been an explosion in the area nor confirm anti-aircraft fire in the region, which is about 60 miles north of the Bushehr nuclear facility."

Quote of the Day

"there'll always be a job for the man who can find a way to get to the pub quicker"

Dumb Jon on academic plagiarism.

Via Talking Hoarsely, among others, Mark Steyn on the strangely muted media response to the UN sex-for-food scandal.

Polly Toynbee on the Livingstone affair

"this latest episode of Evening Standard bullying"

Ken "says what he thinks and does what he thinks will work", his "plain and sometimes impolitic speaking does him good with voters." Some voters anyway.

In contrast, "Michael Howard - no plain speaker he, but carefully weaselling ...". Well, he would, wouldn't he. You know what he is ? They'd sell their own grandmothers.

"Howard's own grandmother died in the Holocaust when Europe refused to save Jews, yet he would tear up the Geneva convention that sprang from that horror and bar people from even seeking asylum here with an arbitrary quota."

Worse still, "an ICM poll finds that two-thirds of voters support it".

Polly loves mankind. It's people she can't stand.

Of course I don't really think Toynbee, for all her sins, is anti-semitic. What's entertaining is that both she and Martin Jacques, in today's Guardian, still don't seem to have grasped the Blair administration's modus operandi seven years on. Talk tough. Soundbite. Initiatives 'with which I can be personally associated'. Crackdown. Blitz. Czar.

And on the ground ? Business as usual. David Blunkett's tenure of the Home Office was a prime example. He talked tough on crime, then found he was running out of prison space - so started releasing prisoners. That sort of thing can't work for ever, but Blair's done pretty well so far.

Jacques writes "Our hoary old friend immigration is back on the agenda, near the very top in fact. The opinion polls suggest that people are worried. New Labour is now desperately seeking to outflank the Tories while, predictably, utterly failing to make any stand against the new populism and its racist subtext. Of course, the charge of racism is denied on all sides: nobody ever owns up to racism. So why, pray, are the unskilled from the European Union welcome while those from the developing world are not?"

The reason people are worried, IMHO, is simple. Numbers, numbers, numbers. And the reason the unskilled of the new EU are welcome is that the Blair administration, unlike other EU nations, put no transitional arrangements in place. Unskilled EU citizens are entitled to come here. The Home Office's 6,000 to 13,000 projected figure is currently 90,000 plus - and that's assuming that the other 910,000 people are, like Michael Howard's grandfather, telling the truth.

Given that people are worried, Blair could shout 'all are welcome' or he can talk tough. He doesn't seem to think the former is a vote-winner. So he'll talk tough, to Martin and Polly's horror. But nothing will happen on the ground. I simply can't see any will, in any public body to take any measures which could possibly be construed by anyone as "racist" - the kiss of death for a career in "public service". This would be a problem even for a Tory administration - under Labour I don't think it possible.

Martin and Polly are right that moving race and immigration into the centre of debate does shift the centre of political gravity 'to the right', in her terms. But this will happen in any event as Native Brits become the minority community, first in the major cities and then in larger towns.

Polly's attitude to the UK electorate has always been that of the nanny who knows what people need better than they do themselves. This tendency extends to our elected Government as well. Fancy the Blair administration, in its simplistic way, thinking that it knows better than Polly how to win an election !

"Labour holds all the strong cards - from economic competence to successful delivery. Yet all that macho front goes weak at the knees if the Tories say boo on race or tax. Meanwhile, Labour's real enemy is behind them: their own defecting voters waiting for leadership and a reason to vote at all. Labour has answers: behind the pledges are all that's been done and five-year plans ahead. What's the real "forward offer"? If they must use market-speak then it's not the "what's-in-it-for-me?" pledges. Social justice is Labour's only Unique Selling Point. And the only one missing from its pledges."

Fairytale of New York II

Remember this story - about Richard Desmond's top man being beaten up ?

He certainly played with some rough boys.

"SIX reputed mobsters from New York’s Gambino crime family have pleaded guilty to using internet porn sites and “free” sex lines to cheat users across the globe out of $650 million (£344 million) in one of the biggest consumer frauds in American history.

One of the charges involved an extortion attempt against the former porn publisher Richard Desmond, the proprietor of the Daily Express. One of his executives was beaten by the gang."

A useful fraud, porn fraud. You presumably rely on people's unwillingness to kick up a fuss.

"The mobsters also persuaded web surfers to part with their credit card information so that they could enter “free tours” of porn sites, saying the data was needed for “age verification”, and then charged their credit cards up to $90. "

Not a small figure, but a meal for two sort of price. You can see why it might have worked.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Asylum Update

As the two major parties compete to see who can talk toughest (note Des Browne's response), back to what actually happens on the ground.

"OFFICIALS from the Immigration Service who questioned the Government’s target for removing failed asylum-seekers were branded “not one of us” and troublemakers, a senior civil servant has admitted.
The director in charge of detention at the Immigration Service said that he considered the Government’s target to remove 30,000 asylum-seekers as “fantasy”. But he added that reasoned debate within the Immigration and Nationality Directorate was “forbidden”. "

Labour - Antisemitic ?

The Ken Livingstone brouhaha rumbles on. He hasn't quite started hissing at Jews yet, like an away supporter at White Hart Lane, but he seems to have calculated that Jewish votes are expendable, Muslim votes are not. I guess it's all a question of numbers.

Ken also seems to view taxpayers money as his to play with - I wonder who funded the 'Chris Smith coming out anniversary' party ? There were also reports (I'll try and find the link) that he dropped GLC funding for the 'Make Poverty History' bash after being told he couldn't share a platform with Nelson Mandela.

He's peforming a juggling act with London's uphill gardeners, dividing the idealistic Tatchellites, who object to his association with Islamic fundamentalists, from the realpolitikos.

And he's using his powers to pursue his vendetta against the Evening Standard in alliance with Richard Desmond.

For Labour as a whole, the row over the 'Fagin' and 'Flying Pigs' advert has probably helped, if not to attract Muslim votes, at least to help deny them to the Tories. After the row no-one who reads the papers could be unaware that Michael Howard is Jewish. Not exactly a heart-breaking revelation if you're a Labour leader trying to hang onto the Muslim vote.

We can probably expect more of the same ethical stuff, given that Trevor (FCUK) Beattie is running their advertising. Personally, I regard the man who invented the FCUK shirt as this chap.

UPDATE - Harry and Norm give the subject of Ken a kick-around.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Saudi Valentine's Day

Via Dhimmi Watch, this Reuters report.

"The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia's powerful religious vigilantes, have banned shops from selling any red flowers in the run-up to February 14.

"They pass by two or three times a day to check we don't have any red flowers," said a Pakistani florist in Riyadh's smart Sulaimaniya district."

Oyez ! Oyez !

To all loyal subjects of Her Majesty The Queen,

I hereby give notice that this blog shall be henceforth, and from the completion of this post, a Charles and Camilla-free zone.

It's one of those topics which produces fissures and fractures in all directions outside of Guardianista country, views there being fairly monochrome ('class-ridden Britain ... age of deference dead ... toffs ... fox-hunting ... established Church ... private education ... exterminate ! exterminate !'). People with whom one would otherwise hold many views in common get all republican and yah-boo. Instinctive pro-monarchists who are Christians are disturbed by the implications of the proposed marriage for a) the Church of England b) the sanctity of Christian marriage. What the Great British Public thinks of Christian marriage can be seen in the illegitimacy figures.

My views on the great Love Triangle are

a) that pretty much everyone behaved badly
b) that we are all sinners
c) that asking Di to hold the video camera was probably the last straw for the marriage, although constitutional historians differ on this topic.

Whatever happens will be used by the Guardianistas as a stick with which to beat the monarchy. This is a development which must be opposed at all times for the following reasons.

1) the monarchy is the living totem of our tribe.

In the US, to be republican is to be an American patriot, in Ireland to be an Irish patriot, in France to be a French patriot. There is no patriotic British republican tradition - what republicanism exists is, often explicitly, anti-British.

2) Monarchy, like religion, appeals to the irrational in human nature.

I use irrational here to mean something which human reason is ill-equipped to grasp or comprehend, but which may nonetheless play an important role in human affairs. Complex or imaginary numbers could be an analogy. I can't grasp the concept of the square root of -1, yet it plays an important role in physics. (Note - there are also numbers known as irrational numbers).

A society can get rid of monarchy, just as it can get rid of religion. But irrational urges in human beings cannot be so easily removed. If they cannot be expressed via the structures built up in Britain over the centuries, they will find an outlet elsewhere.

The last two (oops - see update) Western European countries to abolish their monarchies were Germany and Spain.

Both monarchies were abolished under reforming leftwing governments.

Both countries became authoritarian dictatorships.

UPDATE - The thoughts of Blimpish are, as ever, also worth a read.

UPDATE 2 - John Pierce points out that the Italians are the most recent Western Europeans to drop their monarchy. I suppose they'd already done the authoritarian dictatorship thing when Victor Emmanuel went, and didn't fancy "getting back in the ring to take another swing".

The Greeks also dropped the monarch - twice. But that's not really Western Europe, is it ? Not if you have to get through Albania.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Talented Tenth

Tony Sewell in The Voice asks why UK educationists focus on black failure and ignore the potential of successful black students to act as role models, raising the aspirations of others.

(IMHO it's because the research funding is distributed by guilt-stricken white liberals. They won't help talented white or black kids - that would be elitism.)

"I now have lost faith in much of our so-called education research.

The more sinister untold story of much of the research on black children is that no one is really interested in those who are doing well in school. They are seduced by the marginal, neglected and disaffected few. This is what is sexy and this is what gets the funding."

"... there is a lucrative industry based on social exclusion or rather, inclusion – (in out, in out, you shake it all about) – I call it the hokey kokey industry. This is where you get funds by saying how your initiative is going to contribute to the helpless mass of black victims undone by institutional racism.

No one, however, is going to fund you if you talk about developing the talented tenth in school.

The classic example has been the use of the black learning mentors in school. This came about in the 1990’s through the excellence in cities initiative. Many schools use the money to buy in black male mentors, talented individuals who are used as a kind of security guard or bouncer inside the school. Their job is to police the black trouble-makers through their special relationship with the ‘youth’. They thus make it easier for white teachers to teach those who want to learn.

However, many of these mentors have told me that they would love to work with a different profile of black child. Why can’t they be supporting those black children who are potential prodigies? Why aren’t they making the humdrum extraordinary and spectacular? Instead, they are always given the most alienated student and tasked with the impossible job of keeping them from being excluded.

The untold story about black children in our schools is that the real neglect is of those children who seem to be doing well but few are willing to find the genius within."

Read the whole thing.

Hat-tip to Booker Rising. One for the blogroll.