Saturday, February 18, 2006

Blogger Was Poorly

The previous three posts have been out there for those of you with RSS feeds or Bloglines or UK Poliblogs accounts. But you couldn't actually link to them (or see them) on th blog, only from a feed. Blogger's better now.

AL Kennedy - "Okay, this may sound crazy"

Tragically for aficionados, it doesn't sound genuinely, full-on hide-the-knives crazy. Very poor form. Going through the motions after a 6-month Guardian layoff. Living off past glory.

Subject : disposing of politicians who've done ... well, not sure.

Madness rating : moderate to poor, rain later
Phase of Moon : nearly full - (on Feb 9) so all the more of a let-down.

Mentions of
Depleted Uranium : Yes
Reality TV : Yes
Christians : No
Porn : No
Blood : Yes
Celebrities : Yes
Bush'n'Blair : Blair ("increasingly mad eyes"), Bush ("crushing the testicles of the person's child")
Swearing : No

Ms Kennedy is another one who won't be passing her culture to her non-existent posterity.

The usual 'edge' of her work may be being distilled into this - her stand-up comedy show (don't think I'll be taking the kids). While it's not the bravery of a squaddie in Basra, she is a trouper. Grudging respect.

No Children

The baby-boomers, liberal types, 60s children, get older - but their successors ? They haven't had any.

Karen Armstrong, academic who left the nunnery (and wrote a profitable book about it), rediscovered orginal sin and guilt when she went to the Middle East.

"The Israelis," she found, "just loved to hate Islam. Nor were European brothers and sisters innocent in this regard."

As a result of her visits to the Holy Land, a serious mood of introspection enveloped the young writer. "It worried me principally because the new awareness struck at the very integrity of Western culture and the value system with which I had grown up," she explains. "Here we were posing as a tolerant and compassionate society and yet passing judgments from a position of extreme ignorance and irrationality."

She's got it ! It's the West that's all wrong !

"Fundamentalism, she maintains, is "a worldwide response to the peculiar strain of late 20th-century life'' and is by no means confined to the Muslim world. In this regard she cites Zionists like the late Meir Kahane, who vowed to push every Muslim out of Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories. She notes that Christian fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell have come to assume astonishing political power in the United States and Hindu extremists have gained extraordinary political influence in India today."

She's right about the BJP in India, and we know of Iran, Hamas in the Palestinian territory, Northern Nigeria, Taleban Afghanistan. But I don't see Jerry Falwell, or Kahane (who was after all killed 20 years ago) anywhere near political power. The comparison is ridiculous.

She was on Desert Island Discs this week, playing the beautiful music bequeathed us by a thousand or more years of European Christian culture (and a nice Islamic piece). She mentioned her growing closeness to religion after years of distance, and her childlessness.

"I think I've come full circle" she said.

I think she's come full stop.

(another child-free zone - the author James Hamilton Paterson, whose "Seven-Tenths - the sea and its margins" is one of the best books I've ever read - now has an unofficial website.)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Good Music - and Strange Music

Driving home tonight, listening to the soul music on Radio Wales, heard a beautiful piece of singing but didn't catch a name. Once it might have been lost to me forever - now you can get home and find the streamed show. It was India Arie's 'Brown Skin' from her 2001 'Accoustic Soul' CD. That girl can sing - and I love the sparse bass & drums.

So I thought I'd take a look round the BBCs streamed output and found this remarkable Radio Leeds show, playing rare stuff from the 50s to the 70s. My period - I thought I'd know half of what was on. More like 5% - and that's only because James Addyman obviously likes the Small Faces and Toots and the Maytals. Just look at a typical playlist - obscure or what ?

I recommend "Do The Boogaloo" by Pete Terrace - about 42 minutes in. More on Mr Terrace here - and here.

"Children In Prison"

BBC news is majoring this morning on the cases of 'children' (meaning anyone from 12, which most people would accept as a child's age, to 17, which most would not) who are detained for criminal offences. (The BBC likes to use the word 'youngsters' for juvenile criminals, with its comforting overtones of school caps, scrumping and dirty knees). Par for the BBC course - the senior staff of the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust could probably find their way to the Today studios blindfold, so often do their stories feature.

It's the picture accompanying the story which is of interest - of 15 year old Gareth Myatt, who died after being restrained by three prison staff. We are not told why he was in custody.

Gareth Myatt

Was he really 15 when the photo was taken ? If not, isn't that a tad dishonest ?

In other BBC news - Peter Sutcliffe to stay in prison.

Peter Sutcliffe

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I'm Not Sure About the Ethics Of This

Using real crimes and real - local - people as the subjects of your journalism exams at City University.

"Peter is going to be OK, but he is not well enough yet to talk to the police. All he has been able to say is that a man hit him with something heavy. Yes I opened the shop as usual today. I have to make a living. I am nervous, and we shall have to think about some sort of CCTV. Peter is 45."

Peter isn't OK - far from it.

"My dad's still not in a good way. He's got brain damage, he still has to go to the hospital and he can't walk properly. But the people who did this are still out there.

"The guy a couple of doors away was murdered and they found his killers. And last year the man in the pizza place up the road was murdered and they caught the kid who did it. We just want them to find the man who attacked my dad and left him for dead.

"They came in the shop, beat him to within an inch of his life and walked out with the till and his wallet. Someone on Holloway Road must have seen something. We just need answers."

Their appeals come as police announce they have reopened the case.

Detective Chief Inspector Mick Redmond, who is leading the investigation, said: "We want to speak to anybody who saw a black man walking down Holloway Road carrying a large old-style cash register at about 3.30pm on that day.

"So far no witnesses have come forward but we are confident that someone must have seen something and we would encourage them to come forward no matter how little they know or saw."

Back to our budding journos.

In January last year Rifat Binboga, 35, was dragged from his shop, Good Value Grocer, at 338 Holloway Road and beaten to death with iron bars. The attack took place at lunchtime after a dispute the previous evening over a £5 phone card. Two youths, both aged 17, were jailed for seven years in December for manslaughter.

After Mr Binboga’s death, Peter Stuart warned that the Holloway Road had become a lawless place where criminals were guaranteed an easy escape. He told the Recorder then: "I’ve had several problems here and there are never any police around. Things are getting worse and stretches of Holloway Road are very dangerous."

The World Weary Detective was blogging the other day about an elderly lady whose death received minimal coverage. Same for poor Rifat Binboga - a Blacknet cache and that's it. Nothing on the BBC.

A murder inquiry has been launched after a supermarket owner was beaten to death outside his store.
Rifat Binboga, 35, from Clapton, east London, was attacked outside the Good Value Supermarket in north London, just before 1200GMT on Tuesday.
Police arrived at the scene to find the father-of-one unconscious and he died from head injuries on Wednesday in the Whittington Hospital.
Two black men were seen running from the scene and police are appealing for witnesses.

Jonathan Fakondoh and Antonio Fenton, both seventeen, got seven years. You serve three, so they must be out by now. Maybe they're studying journalism.

A Minsicule Post

At Biased BBC.

UPDATE - sorry - I meant 'miniscule'. But 'minsicule' is such a nice word I think I'll leave it. If it doesn't mean something, it ought to.

Luvvie Of The Week - Dominic Cooke

All over Europe last week religiously-motivated people who hate homosexuals took to the streets to protest twelve cartoons and demand punishment for the artists and publishers.

From Stratford, Warwickshire, Royal Shakespeare Company Associate Director Dominic Cooke surveys the political landscape with a pessimistic eye.

Q. Why did you want to direct The Crucible?

A. I wanted to direct The Crucible because it seems, sadly, a play very much for our times. With Bush and Blair generating hysteria over terrorism and the frightening rise of Christian Fundamentalism in the US, there are real parallels between the world of Miller’s play and our own times.

"... our post 9/11 world is characterised by politicians, in the US especially, exploiting public fear to get away with destroying civil liberties and also blaming minorities, for example gay people, for corrupting American values. It seems society’s need to find scapegoats and go on witch-hunts hasn’t gone away. We live in very fearful times ..."

He'd still be blaming Bush while they're tightening the noose.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

God, I Hate This Government

Cretinous Charles Clarke (RealAudio) is on the Today programme as I type, explaining how laws against 'glorification of terrorism' would have enabled prosecution of the other Friday's placard-holders.

You hypocrite. There were enough incitements and threats on those placards to get all their holders arrested. Only the political will to enforce the existing law was lacking. As it still will be. For some people. Native Brits with such placards would have been down the nick before you could say 'Nick Griffin'.

This Government seems to operate by an iron rule.

People aren't obeying existing laws ? Pass some more.

Let's go to work before my blood pressure exceeds government recommended limits.

Nanny State, Police State

Compulsory ID cards one day, smoking 'ban' the next.

The ID card is just another straightforward restriction of a Briton's right to live peacefully in a free society. It is of course wholly a result, a spin-off, of unrestricted immigration and our loss of control over our own borders - indeed our own cities. It will in the first instance be used against Islamic terrorists. It will not end there.

(A prototype ID card can be seen here)

The smoking ban in some ways is even more scary, as it shows the total moral and political confusion of our ruling elite, their lack of any firm political, moral or philosophical foundation for anything they do.

Scots and Welsh MPs voted on a matter which is nothing to do with them. English MPs can't vote on the corresponding Scots and Welsh legislation. Do they have no shame ?

Ministers voted against their own manifesto commitment, just as they did over ID cards.

So-called 'Conservative' MPs voted for a ban.

MPS voted to legislate for private, membership-only institutions - a real blow against freedom.

I'm not unmindful of the health risk to employees and bar staff. But surely air extraction technology is adfvanced enough to keep a bar area clear. Whatever happened to the smoke room, once a sensible feature of old fashioned pubs ? There's no doubt that with goodwill on all sides this problem could be sorted.

But as it turns out, the emotional cries of 'what about the workers ?' from Labour Mps contain 50% crocodile tears by volume. Some workers are more important than others. Nurses and care home staff can breathe smoke for all they care - because for the purposes of the bill care homes are 'private residences'. So can prison officers and staff - because the government are scared of violent reactions from people supposedly in the power of the State if 'snout' is taken away. Tells you everything about our rulers. Besides, what would they mix their dope with ?

Arrested individuals can still smoke in the back of the police car.

Oh, and there'll still be one place - and only one place - where you can have a fag with your beer.

The Houses of Parliament. I can't understand why 'one rule for us' wasn't in the manifesto.

But it's the principle that gets me - and that was conceded a long time ago, with motorcycle helmet and seat belt legislation. The principle that public health justifies the restriction of freedoms - particularly the restriction of freedom even in private institutions (which should not be a government's business) potentially has no limits.

You could present a perfectly good case on the grounds of public health for making illegal



Fornication and Adultery

(There is one political force in the UK which would like all of the above to be implemented. Probably just coincidence.)

Monday, February 13, 2006

That Video

As on the BBC and in all newspapers.

"There is no doubt that this video will worsen relations between British soldiers and the Iraqi people, and between Britain and the Islamic world. That's why it's our main news story, with more in pages 3,4,5 and 7. You can see the pictures (and others) in colour next week in our pull-out special 'Images of Abuse - Photographs from Iraq', a review of the British Council exhibition of the same name which is currently at the Institute of Contemporary Arts before starting its world tour.

Unfortunately, for reasons of space we have had to drop the two year old story about a crowd of Iraqi youths attempting to kill some soldiers with stones and home-made grenades. Those soldiers responding, not with bullets, but with batons and riot shields.

Other news - "Publishing those cartoons would worsen relations between Britain and the Islamic world, so we won't publish them. Nothing to do with death threats. Honest""

In my opinion those soldiers are needed in Cardiff.

"Workers were forced to stop work in the St Mellons area after the site manager was hit on the head by a stone and teenagers began stoning the office.

Contractors Lovell ordered staff to abandon the site a week ago and they are due to return on Monday.

The firm now plans to make links with the youths by offering work experience."

What has Britain come to when building workers can't look after themselves ?

Elsewhere I would strongly recommmend a different video - of two brave and peaceful Frenchmen, silently supporting free speech at the weekend's Paris cartoon protest.


"What has happened is that a short blonde Frenchwoman has tugged on their sleeves and gently but firmly started pulling them away.

"I will show you my ID 10 meters from here" says the plainclothes cop. "They are going to lynch you!" she adds"

Read the story and link to the video from No Pasaran !

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Wee Post .. and a Great Quote ... and a Scary Video

The post at Biased BBC.

The quote - I'd let this Dumb Jon post past me, as I avert my eyes from anything about David Cameron.

"Desirable social ends can best be achieved by bringing together the very best brains in the public sector, setting them to work on a particular problem, then calling in an air strike."

I wouldn't always agree with that, mind. A load of government brains didn't do too badly at developing radar (along with the Post Office !) in the late 30s and getting a great operational system going a few years later. In latter years, as the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment, they developed some rather nifty devices called Liquid Crystal Displays - what you're probably viewing this on.

Our wonderful government has just given them a stupid, meaningless name and privatised them. Privatisation must be good, because the stake the government unloaded in 2002 to an American company for £42m is now worth about £300m.

UPDATE - you must see this post (and video) at No Pasaran ! Brave guys.

Back To Normal

A quick look at the Sunday Times this morn - full of good stories.

Turns out Mr Tube-bomber's local imam in Leeds isn't quite such a moderate off-camera.

“What they [the bombers] did was good. They have warned that we are here, we Muslims. People have taken notice that we are here. They died so that people would take notice . . . big meetings and conferences make no change at all. With this, at least people’s ears have pricked up.”

Sad news that Charlotte Wyatt's parents have split. Not that it alters in the slightest the principle that parents, not judges or doctors, should have the final word on pulling the plug on a sick child.

And Rod Liddle seems to have completed the transition from right-on leftie to hard-on rightie.

"For if the right won the economic argument and the cold war, the left won everything else. The followers of Lady Plowden and Shirley Williams still control our education system; children are ill-disciplined and the educational emphasis is on interpretation rather than learning facts.

The left has complete hegemony within our social services. The criminal justice system has moved gradually leftwards, with crimes against property considered to be less serious than “hate crimes”; prison tariffs are shorter. The left has won the argument over immigration (ie, unlimited and in perpetuity). The damaging creed of multiculturalism is only now being challenged by a few brave souls.

Homosexuals may not only legally pleasure one another, but do so in a state of virtual marriage; divorced women, meanwhile, have been the recipients of the second most important redistribution of wealth in the last century, through alimony. Women have equal rights — or slightly more than equal rights — in the workplace.

There has never been a better time to be disabled, either — and you might be disabled without even knowing it: the disabled lobby groups suggest that one in three of us suffers — or lives with — a disability.

Popular culture, too. Find me a right-wing Hollywood film, if you can. Or a right-wing play in the West End. Or a pop star who wishes to give less money to Africa and thinks the war against Iraq was just fine and dandy. Or a right-of-centre novelist up for the Booker prize.

Or, indeed, a programme on the BBC that presents a right-wing point of view without irony or downright condemnation. One suspects that over there in Wood Lane they were all, like me, lefties themselves. And maybe still are."

Out in blogland there's some terrific stuff at The Last Ditch, of which this is a fine example.

"I became a Maoist. I was suspended from school for selling revolutionary magazines; the high point in a period of teenage father-baiting.

Working during school holidays on a building site, I had a "road to Damascus" experience; an encounter with the Shrewsbury Pickets. They were not a rock group, but a foul, violent gang of Communist scumbags. An older fellow-Communist at school patiently explained that the violent intimidation I had witnessed was a perfect example of "the dictatorship of the proletariat"; my friends on the receiving end being, as mere construction workers, the "lumpenproletariat". I may have been an impressionable youth, but I knew that giving an evil thing a fancy name could make it worse, but could never make it better."

But all I've heard on the BBC all day has been this story.

"Video footage of soldiers apparently headbutting detainees and kicking a blood-covered body lying on the ground is being studied by the Royal Military Police (RMP). It is understood that the incident is alleged to have occurred two years ago. The film is believed to have been shot from a rooftop overhead, and it is understood that it is not possible to identify the location, the soldiers or their regiment"

So many questions. Who took it ? Why now if it's two years old ? Why no action at the time ?

The one thing I know is that by publishing the video rather than passing to the Army for action, the News of the World has put our troops in danger, as the Mirror did with photos that turned out to be fakes. While Rupert Murdoch's agenda may sometimes coincide with UK interests, he's no friend of Britain.

But as you can imagine, it's meat and drink to the BBC.