Saturday, December 08, 2007

Britains Never Never Never Shall Be Slaves

Blogger Edwin Greenwood's not just bothered about BBC illiteracy.

And who are these people to deserve the name of Britons anyway? Assorted so-called refugees from the Maghreb and the Middle East with apparent connections to people who want to kill us. Britons? Do me a favour!

Mr Greenwood obviously has access to a better news service than I can find. This new BBC story tells us that Shaker Aamer (who according to his lawyer was dying in January 2006) is a Saudi and that an Abyssinian, one al Habashi, remains banged up in Gitmo. But as I search the BBC stories :

for details of the nationalities of 'UK men' Jamil el-Banna, Omar Deghayes and Abdenour Samuer, I learn about their children and how they long to be 'home' for Eid, but nothing about their nationality.

In other BBC stories, "Concerns over Sudanese woman".

Myth Of The Myth Of The Golden Age (again)

Surely the most famous liberal myth of all - and you'd never guess who's peddling it.

Poll Pot (for it is she, in a fatuous Guardian piece on prisons) :

Look at the website's paper, Historical myth-making in juvenile justice policy, by Abigail Wills. She exposes two contradictory myths: that there was a golden age of law and order; and that treatment of juveniles is now more enlightened.

OK, so I did.

One of the most entrenched beliefs about juvenile crime today is that the stable and law-abiding society of past decades is steadily degenerating into lawlessness and amorality. A textbook example of this is a letter to a local paper in October 2005 which argued that:

people nationally are sick of kids making their life hell ...It never happened in the 1950s; it wouldn't be tolerated, bearing in mind we had corporal and capital punishment, Borstals, Approved Schools, plus a real police force with a free hand on crime (W.J. Warren, Plymouth Evening Herald, 2005).

In this story, these effective strategies were abandoned during the permissive 1960s, leading to '40 years of liberal social policies which have pandered to the yob culture'(Western Morning News, 2005).

On the left, such ideas are widely disparaged as the product of reactionary right-wing nostalgia - a harking back to the imaginary 'peaceable kingdom' of the 1950s. However, more liberal worldviews are not immune from rose-tinted visions of the past. Here, the tendency is to see current problems with youth crime as a consequence of the Thatcherite individualism which destroyed the social cohesiveness and solidarity of the early decades of the welfare state. In 2006, the left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published a report entitled Freedom's Orphans, suggesting that rising consumerism and social inequality since the 1970s have been responsible for producing a generation of children who are 'not learning how to behave ... as they should.' Such ideas are accompanied by an acknowledgement that social fears about youth crime are not new - but alongside this often goes the belief that criminality in the past was somehow more benign than today, and that previous concerns about it were therefore unjustified. In contrast, modern fears are deemed entirely rational and evidence-based. In response to the IPPR report, the journalist Finlay MacDonald, for example, acknowledged that 'each generation tends to freak out a little about the one coming up', but went on to argue that 'this time I'm less inclined to dismiss the brutal headlines ... as just another media concoction.' The idea that society is undergoing some sort of inexorable moral decline holds enormous power.

Government rhetoric has exploited this sentiment, invoking a nebulous 'golden age' of peace and harmony in order to justify new criminal justice policies - while simultaneously denying that this is what they are doing. When launching the 'Respect' agenda against anti-social behaviour in early 2005, for example, Tony Blair stressed that he did not believe in 'restarting the search for the golden age. We are not looking to go back to anything.' Yet he also argued, with no apparent sense of irony, that in the 1930s of his father's childhood, 'people behaved more respectfully to one another and people are trying to get back to that.' More recently, he has shifted this arcadia forward a generation, arguing that:

when I was growing up in the North-east of England, anti-social behaviour wasn't a concept in people's minds. That's not to say that people weren't doing bad things - they were. It was just it was a completely different order of problems that we had to deal with.

The perception that society is dealing with an unprecedented problem has justified radical solutions, including overturning the principle of the presumption of innocence and 'moving the focus [of the justice system] away from the offender, and towards the needs of victims and witnesses.'

With the condescension of posterity, we are unwilling to believe that society in past decades tackled problems of equal magnitude, and spoke about crime in similar languages to those of today. The belief that youth misbehaviour is a symptom of catastrophic societal decline has a particularly long-established pedigree, as the historian Geoffrey Pearson has shown. Indeed, the 'deferential' 1950s of popular and political memory were a time of particular panic about juvenile crime. As The Times noted in 1952, 'there has been a decline in the disciplinary forces governing a child. Obedience and respect for the law have decreased.' As today, such fears were accompanied by a sense that past eras were more respectful, and past criminality more benign. In 1953, the president of the Approved Schools Association looked nostalgically back to his earlier charges, noting that:

many of our boys and girls of thirty or more years ago ... knew the feel of empty stomachs... When they arrived in an Approved School with a good bed, good food and even a minimum of recreational equipment, ... they quickly developed a feeling of satisfaction and security.

In contrast, he felt that the affluence of the 1950s had produced a wholly 'different type of boy and girl.' Politicians and the public of the era were convinced, as we are now, that as a result of trends in modern society, youth crime had become a new and unprecedented threat.

The belief in modern rationality as distinct from the barbarity of the past has a similarly lengthy history. The Approved Schools and Borstals now maligned as 'Dickensian' institutions were, in their day, proclaimed as modern replacements for the earlier, more brutal regimes of the Reformatory and Industrial Schools. Today's language of 'evidence-based' innovations in custodial regimes mirrors earlier discussions about the need for practice to be based on the latest knowledge about child psychology. The pioneering headmaster of the Aycliffe Approved School, John Gittins, declared in 1952 that his institution was 'a kind of crucible in which one is carrying out an experiment using ingredients in a concentrated form.' The enlistment of 'scientific' certainties in validating practice is far from a new phenomenon: for at least a century each new generation has proclaimed itself to be at the dawn of a new, more enlightened age of juvenile justice. Politicians have consistently placed themselves at the vanguard of such progressivism, trumpeting their radically innovative policy transformations. Hazel Blears was but one in a long line; she followed in the steps of Alan Brown MP, who in 1961 was reported to have argued that 'more progress had been made in the past twelve months to halt the ever-increasing incidence of juvenile delinquency than had been achieved in the past half-century.'

In reality, both the golden age and the barbarous past are delusions. It is notable here that both of Tony Blair's examples of 'respectful' communities of the past were roundly denounced by those who had experienced them. A neighbour of Blair's father noted that:

Govan [in the 1930s] was a terrible place to live. Poverty and misery were widespread and it was a violent place as well... You had lads hanging about street corners with no work and nothing to do. They got up to as much trouble then as the young people do now...' (Sunday Times, 2006).

A correspondent in The Independent likewise contrasted Blair's claim that anti-social behaviour was unknown in the 1950s with his memory of 'gangs of "teddy boys" with razor blades and bicycle chains fighting in the centre of town on Friday night' (2007). The assumption that we live in a more violent and disrespectful society than in the past is a highly tenuous one.

The History and Policy website which contains this anecdotal "history" has among its aims to "Increase the influence of historical research over current policy". I get a nasty feeling it's in fact another bunch of lefty tax-funded academics pledged to do battle with those evil tabloid myths that have such a hold over our elected representatives. It's another Centre For Crime and Justice Studies.

The exposure of the myth boils down to two amazing discoveries :

  1. In past times some people complained about the young, and thought they were lacking in respect for their elders. Ms Wills manfully avoided the temptation to quote any ancient Greeks or Romans, wisely finding examples (one example, to be precise) from her ci-devant Mythical Golden Age of the 1950s. The implication, that because people in past times complained about worsening behaviour, therefore at no time has behaviour actually worsened, is unstated.
  2. Two people interviewed by the newpapers said that there was crime and anti-social behaviour in the past, something that no-one could disagree with. One of them, talking of Govan, said the 1930s were as bad as today in terms of juvenile misbehaviour.
Abigail Wills is apparently a professional historian, a Research Fellow at Oxford, no less. I'll pass on a historian using phrases like 'reactionary right-wing nostalgia', surely more redolent of partisanship than scholarship. If the above is typical of the standard of evidence on which historians at our most famous universities now decide contentious historical questions, British education is in worse trouble than I thought. There's a place for anecdote in history, even anecdote from memory, either in supporting other evidence or (in bulk or from key sources) as the evidence itself. Could Ms Wills find hundreds, or even dozens, of such examples - and crucially, given what's probably a universal human tendency to see our childhoods as safer than the present, anecdotes featuring detail on the nature and scale of the bad behaviour - then she might be on to something, especially if her search also involved looking for contradictory evidence. But to hang a thesis on what one bloke in Durham remembers of his youth - that's not history but polemic, and poorly-supported polemic at that.

Historical myth-making in juvenile justice policy, eh ? Tu quoque, old girl.

Here's a graph from this pdf, showing recorded offences in England and Wales 1900-1997.

Maybe Ms Wills trained under Jerry Brotton.

(comments are open on this post)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Reclaiming The Streets

Just three weeks after Gordon Brown's morale-raising visit to Moss Side nick ...

Michael Todd, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, said: "Tackling guns and gangs in Manchester is one of our absolute priorities. The really important thing is he will see the men and women on the Xcalibre Task Force making a real difference to people's lives, bringing these people to account."

... we see a major effort to reclaim the streets - by the gangstas !

A gang of 25 men dressed all in black and carrying guns marched through Manchester streets - triggering a massive police operation. It is understood that police received 999 calls from five different witnesses in different streets shortly before 4pm yesterday. Several callers said that shots had been fired, but there were no reports of any injuries. Police are still trying to establish what was behind the incident and are investigating whether it was an organised show of strength by a gang.

The first sighting of the `army' was on Withington Road in Moss Side, and later calls came from Carlton Road, Whalley Range, and Yarburgh Street, Great Western Street, and Barleycroft Street, near Alexandra Park.

(black balaclava-tip - Tottenham Lad)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Independent - Is A New Ice Age Coming ?

Be fair - they've been telling us we're all going to fry for the last ten years. Now it's time to tell us we're all going to freeze. I don't doubt that climate change has serious negative potential, and needs serious study - but global warming is a religion for many. What would they do if their religion was taken away ? (Woolly hat tip - EU Referendum).

"Something is happening to our Sun. It has to do with sunspots, or rather the activity cycle their coming and going signifies. After a period of exceptionally high activity in the 20th century, our Sun has suddenly gone exceptionally quiet. Months have passed with no spots visible on its disc. We are at the end of one cycle of activity and astronomers are waiting for the sunspots to return and mark the start of the next, the so-called cycle 24. They have been waiting for a while now with no sign it's on its way any time soon."

He's right you know. Look at the decreasing sunspot count here (click the "sunspots" trend chart). Apparently Cycle 24 hasn't kicked off yet and is a year overdue.

"Looking back through sunspot records reveals many periods when the Sun's activity was high and low and in general they are related to warm and cool climatic periods. As well as the Little Ice Age, there was the weak Sun and the cold Iron Age, the active sun and the warm Bronze Age. Scientists cannot readily explain how the Sun's activity affects the Earth but it is an observational correlation that the Sun's moods have a climatic effect on the Earth."

Stand by for a Little Ice Age ? Bring back the Frost Fairs !

There seem to have been 18 sunspot minima periods in the last 8,000 years; studies indicate that the Sun currently spends up to a quarter of its time in these minima.

Oort Solar Minimum
(1010-1050) – temperature on Earth is colder than average.

Medieval Solar Maximum
(1075–1240) – coincides with Medieval Warm Period. Vikings from Norway and Iceland found settlements in Greenland and North America.

Wolf Solar Minimum
(1280–1340) – climate deterioration begins. Life gets harder in Greenland.

Spörer Solar Minimum
(1420-1530) – discovered by the analysis of radioactive carbon in tree rings that correlate with solar activity – colder weather. Greenland settlements abandoned.

Maunder Solar Minimum
(1645–1715) – coincident with the 'Little Ice Age'.

Dalton Solar Minimum
(1790–1820) – global temperatures are lower than average.

Modern Climate Optimum
(1890–2000) – the world is getting warmer. Concentrations of greenhouse gas increase. Solar activity increases.

2000- onwards - heat death or big freeze ?

While looking for more on sunspots I found this well-written Harry Eagar report in a Hawaii paper of a lecture by Jeff Kuhn.

IfA solar session out of this world
By HARRY EAGAR, Staff Writer

PUKALANI – Over decades of scanning changes in the sun, solar astronomers noticed that when there were few sunspots, the Earth was cold; and when there were many, the Earth was warmer.

Today is a time of many sunspots, so that might explain global warming.

Not so fast, says University of Hawaii solar astronomer Jeff Kuhn. You can also find a correlation between sunspots and the number of Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate.

“Ask to see the rest of the data,” Kuhn told an audience of about two dozen people Friday at the Advanced Technology Research Center of the Institute for Astronomy, where he is associate director.

The lecture, the second of a monthly series planned at the IfA’s new home at Kulamalu, was titled, “Why we really need to know how the sun works.”

The University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy has been studying the sun from Mees Observatory for a long time, but why sunspots wax and wane on a fairly regular cycle of about 11 years; or why they sometimes disappear almost entirely are still mysteries.

Kuhn presented a capsule review of Earth’s climate history – which he said is not really known except for the past 2,000 years or so. Thanks to dust from Mongolia, which obscured the sun enough to let Chinese astronomers look at it with their naked eyes, we have a pretty good record of sunspots for the last 1,000 years, and they do correlate well with the ups and downs of Earth’s climate in recent centuries.

“Does the sun affect climate?” Kuhn asked. “Statistics aren’t enough.”

He also gave a capsule history of what is known about the sun’s behavior, the essence of which is that the sun has been getting hotter since the Earth formed – it is about 30 percent more luminous now that it was then.

Run that movie backward, and it becomes evident that so little warmth was reaching the Earth a long time ago that it should have iced up. But if it did do so, the increase intensity of solar radiation that occurred since those early millennia would not have been enough to melt the ice, Kuhn said.

The early history of Earth’s climate remains uncertain, but ice cores indicate that the last 10,000 years have been the most stable ever. In the previous interglacial (warm) period, temperatures swung wildly from hot to cold within less than a century.

The reasons for the dampening of climate swings are not understood, but the factors that affect the Earth-sun physical system are known: the luminosity of the sun, the albedo or reflectivity of the Earth, the emissivity (radiation) of the Earth’s atmosphere and the geometry of the Earth’s path around the sun.

The latter varies on time scales from a year to 100,000 years.

“We have to understand all of these,” said Kuhn.

Emissivity can be affected by ocean currents, which change as continents drift around on a time scale of tens of millions of years; or by the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which can change on long and short time scales.

The concentration of carbon dioxide has been increased by burning fossil fuels, although the added load was small until after World War II, Kuhn said. But the concentration has been higher in the past – maybe a thousand times higher. It has also been much lower during ice ages.

So the question is: What drives climate – those subtle changes in the geometry of the Earth’s relationship to the sun, or the small increase in carbon dioxide?

The GCMs (Global Circulation Models) used by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “do not reproduce these long-term changes” in the Earth-sun geometry, Kuhn said.

He was one of the advisers on a panel of the latest report (IPCC-4) who requested that the report take account of solar variance. The panel was controlled by two men, Kuhn said, who were committed to the view that carbon dioxide is the important component of temperature change, and IPCC-4 leaves out solar components.

“Does carbon dioxide explain temperature change?” Kuhn said. He said the short answer is no.

Glaciers are in retreat, and this is often cited (for example, by former Vice President Al Gore in “An Inconvenient Truth”) as evidence for the impact of carbon on climate.

Kuhn, however, has a pair of graphs that bring that theory into question. One shows when the glaciers began melting, and the other when the carbon dioxide began rising.

The melting began at least 80 years before the carbon buildup.

“It’s not caused by the carbon dioxide,” said Kuhn.

He said carbon dioxide levels have changed by 50 percent over 20,000 years, but climate has been remarkably stable, far more stable than during the previous interglacial period. The Earth is now in a warm interlude in a long Ice Age.

“This change (the warmer Earth era that coincides with the beginning of human civilization 10,000 years ago) wasn’t caused by carbon dioxide,” Kuhn said.

“It was caused by insolation.”

Insolation is the amount of solar radiation or energy received by the Earth.

Kuhn said a study of sea level changes reaches the same conclusion, that climate changes observed now are part of a long-term cycle in the relationship between sun and Earth. The models relied upon by the IPCC “should not be used to predict future climate changes,” he said.

“To change our economy on that basis would be wrong.”

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


If there's one thing that gets my goat, it's highly paid sports stars acting like prats in public. When Morris, Lampard, Gudjohnsen and Terry disgraced themselves in front of American tourists on the night of 9/11 I was disgusted.

When Gavin Henson hammered Mat Tait and kicked a huge penalty against England three years back it looked as if Wales' next great star was born. Unfortunately two big tackles and a kick don't make a career, and, afflicted by a nagging groin strain, he spent the next few years in the gossip columnns rather than the back pages. Wales left him out of the World Cup squad.

Yet in the last game against South Africa I was pleased to see that inside the celebrity there appeared to be a decent rugby player trying to get out.

Oh dear.

The teacher, who asked not to be named, said, “They weren’t inebriated, they were extremely drunk. They couldn’t stand, they absolutely reeked. I found them loud and abusive and there were children in there. They were playing a card game with forfeits, the most significant was that they had to drink one and a half bottles of beer and if they didn’t Gavin Henson clenched his fist and he hit them in the face. I saw it happen at least once but the boy was happy for him to do it. Another boy said afterwards he was desperate for a pee and did it on the floor. A lady started speaking to them and they became abusive.

Then I felt I had to intervene and they began swearing at me, using the ‘f’ word, the ‘c’ word, and they called one lady a ‘fat bitch’. Their seats were soaked and they spat on the table. Some forfeits included holding their heads back and pouring beer down each other’s throats.”

The woman said a train conductor tried to defuse the situation but said she did not have the authority to take the alcohol away.

"I got very, very cross, as did other passengers and I said to Gavin Henson, ‘This will do wonders for your image and the police will be waiting for you when you get off.’ This seemed to sober him up a bit, and he tried telling them [to calm down]. But one boy was so angry he was spitting when he spoke. I was offered a DNA test by the train manager because I had saliva on me. We had 1¾ hours of hell. One lady was profoundly disturbed by the incident. I cried when I got home but she was sobbing as she got off the train".

Gavin Henson is 25. By the calendar. And he's a disgrace to Welsh rugby.

Yes, it's "Female Foeticide UK" !

Killing babies is the most basic of human rights (except for the baby of course).

Unless that is you kill more girl babies than boy babies. Welcome to the wonderful world of 'female foeticide', no longer a basic human right but instead 'an extreme manifestation of violence against women'. Your killing, to be ethical, should of course be race, gender, sexuality and disability neutral. Sorry, did I mention disability ? Forget about that one (and whisper it, but it's not race-neutral either).

Anyway, what's new ? I posted all about this in March, when the great and the good were getting all in a tizz about what was happening in India.

In India you can test for the sex of your unborn child, then knock it on the head if you don't like the result. "A woman's right to choose", remember ? "Every child a wanted child - every mother a willing mother".

In the good old UK, of course, we stopped telling parents the sex of the unborn at scan-time for precisely that reason. But a woman's right to choose can't be thwarted that easily.

Between 1990 and 2005 almost 1,500 fewer girls were born to Indian mothers in England and Wales than would have been expected for that group, researchers say. This represents one in ten girls “missing” from the birth statistics for Indian-born women having their third or fourth child. The findings will be revealed in a special radio programme to be broadcast on the BBC’s Asian Network digital radio station this evening.

One British-born mother, who has three daughters, tells the programme that she terminated a pregnancy intentionally last year. “Meena”, an office worker in her 30s, said that she had no difficulty in finding a gynaecologist in Delhi willing to do a scan to determine the sex of the baby, and then to perform the abortion.

“Me and my husband decided to go to India and try and find out what we were having and unfortunately it was another girl,” she said. “My husband and I thought the burden would probably be too much. So we decided to terminate.”

The programme also sent an undercover pregnant British-Indian woman to several top doctors in Delhi for a scan – three doctors agreed to it in the full knowledge that the woman would abort the child if it was a girl and that such scans are banned in India.

I await the screams of outrage for this dreadful crime from the Stroppys and Natalies of this world, followed by demands for more Indian boys to be topped until equality is achieved.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sleaze - Labour core begins to melt down ...

And still they come. This is getting silly.

Mr Hain last week admitted he had failed to register a £5,000 donation from Labour's chief fundraiser Jon Mendelsohn. In a statement, he said he had been to see the Electoral Commission to inform them that further donations to his campaign were not registered as they should have been. He added: "I am preparing a full declaration to the Electoral Commission.

"As soon as I discovered on Thursday that the donation from Jon Mendelsohn had not been registered I took immediate steps to do so and made this public. I am now doing the same about these further donations. This is extremely regrettable and I apologise."

Times : "If you resign we'll all have to - so stay put"

Gordon Brown’s election chief ordered his sister not to resign as Scottish Labour Party leader for fear of causing fallout throughout the Cabinet. The disclosure that Douglas Alexander put pressure on his sister, Wendy Alexander, came as Peter Hain admitted failing to register donations properly and as the Prime Minister tried to rally his demoralised party at a meeting of backbenchers.

If Ms Alexander had resigned over an illegal £950 donation, pressure on Harriet Harman to step down as Mr Brown’s deputy over an illegal donation of £5,500 could have proved irresistible. She is further being investigated over a failure to declare a £40,000 mortgage to finance her leadership campaign. The latest embarrassment will increase pressure on Mr Brown to strip her of her role as party chairman.

I don't see how Wendy Alexander can possibly keep her post if she's given false information to the Electoral Commission about her donations. The Sunday Herald report, a great piece of investigative journalism, looks damning.

It further emerged that Ms Harman’s husband, Jack Dromey, was at top of a secret list of approved candidates to be given safe seats in the event of a snap election.

It's just a money-go-round, isn't it ?

Sleaze - Labour going critical

Like neutrons multiplying in a runaway reactor while the technicians desperately insert boron rods, it's becoming hard to stay on top of the Labour sleaze stories.

Up in the Land O'Cakes, Labour leader Wendy Alexander appears to be living on borrowed time following her statement that a loan from a Jersey (i.e. offshore) businessman was legal, being sourced from a UK company. Alas a rather unfortunate Word document has popped up, showing a list of donors - the relevant cash showing a Jersey donor, and flagged 'permissible ?'. To put the tin lid on it, the Word doc bears the name of the owner of the computer - Ms Alexander's husband. Mr Eugenides (parental advisory) is distraught, but is hoping to be a shoulder to cry on for the lovely Wendy.

But the most magnificent Labour sleaze story of all is over at Sam Tarran's (who incidentally is posting some cracking stuff at the moment). It's got the lot.

A former Labour mayor and his wife have been jailed for swindling state benefits to pay their daughter's private school fees.

You couldn't make it up.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Islamic Mole Discovered


You have to laugh, really. Looks like Mr Gray's was the "wrong sort of multiculturalism".

A British children’s author who named a mole Mohammed to promote multiculturalism has renamed it Morgan for fear of offending Muslims. Kes Gray, a former advertising executive, first decided on his gesture of cross-cultural solidarity after meeting Muslims in Egypt. The character, Mohammed the Mole, appeared in Who’s Poorly Too, an illustrated children’s book, which also included Dipak Dalmatian and Pedro Penguin, in an effort to be “inclusive”.

Never mind. Slowly we're being trained. Although British Muslims are supporting the jailed teacher, a mob in Khartoum can still frighten a writer in England. A multicultural pig is unlikely to feature in any future children's books.

"As soon as I saw the news I thought, oh gosh, I’ve got a mole called Mohammed � this is not good"

One Woe Doth Tread Upon Another's Heels

So close they follow :

The focus of the sleaze scandal engulfing the Government switched dramatically last night to the Labour Party's second biggest donor - an Iranian-born car dealer who is not even entitled to vote in general elections.

Mahmoud Khayami, a French citizen, has given a total of £830,000 in the past eight months, making him Labour's biggest individual backer after Lord Sainsbury.

The guy's got a house in London and his business is in California. He registered to vote on May 1 (as an EU national he can vote in EU and local elections), dobbed in £500,000 on May 2nd and another 350K in September.

It's not illegal for a change, but he's not exactly a horny-handed son of British toil, is he ? Altogether now :

Arise, ye workers from your slumbers ...

h/t - Ross.