Monday, 22 December 2008

Cock of the Year 2008

Looking back over the year, there have been some absolutely moronic individuals who have raised my hackles in 2008. Preempting the annual reviews that every newspaper likes to indulge in and in preparation for the awards season next year, this is my list of some of the least edifying personalities of the last 12 months, based largely on the rants on this blog.

Ladies and gentlemen, I represent Random Blowe's first annual Cock of the Year awards!

OVERALL WINNER: Ken Livingstone

The 'Cock of the Year' award goes to the former Mayor of London, for his defence of the Metropolitan Police over the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Even losing an election in May hasn't helped this former left-winger ro take some time and reflect, as he showed on the day after the verdict of Jean's inquest, when he praised Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick as the "most talented" officer he worked with, an officer with "Commissioner potential". DAC Dick was the senior officer in charge of the police operation on 22 July 2005, an operation that was the inquest jury believed was a surveillance failure and a communications disaster. Menezes' family lawyer Gareth Peirce has spoken of the "25 serious and catastrophic failures on the part of Cressida Dick alone."

See the Justice4Jean Inquest blog that I have been looking after for the J4J campaign, for a link to Livingstone's interview.

Livingstone's victory in this award category may be a little controversial, as Commander Dick was a early front runner as number-one Cock. I just thought it would mean too many knob gags in one posting...

Muscular Liberal Cock of 2008

WINNER: Nick Cohen

A tough category, with John Rentoul of the Independent an early favourite for coining the phrase 'stoppers' - people who are "named by the pro-war left of Harry's Place and the Euston Manifesto, who want to stop the war, stop globalisation, stop the world, stop Blair... These are the people whose only foreign policy over the past six years has been not to intervene in Iraq and to refuse to accept the possibility that this might have had adverse consequences. They exist all over the world.."

What a complete cock.

Then there was a late challenge from David Aaronovitch, with a truly knobtastic argument in The Times that said Jean Charles de Menezes should be seen as the "53rd victim of 7/7", an argument that insults the families of those who died in 2005's London bombings and that grasped at long-discredited 'eye-witness' testimony.

However, we have a clear winner: the indefatigable Nick Cohen, for his Evening Standard article accusing the Left of using the death of Jean Charles de Menezes as an excuse to beat up the police. Seldom have I enjoyed responding at length to such a complete tool.

Nick, we salute you.

International Cock of the Year

WINNER: Barack Obama

The world is full of murderous, vile dictators, but to win the coverted title of 'International Cock of the Year' requires different qualities - like promising the world and then failing to deliver on every decision made before even taking power.

The clear winner is President-elect Barack Obama. Some may say that the newly crowned leader of the 'free world' has had little time to do anything that justifies this award. But for:

Barack Obama - you are the undisputed International Cock of 2008.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Films in 2008

Another year passes and it's time to reflect on the films I've seen this year.

Since taking up the challenge back in 2003 to see one film every week and post a review online, I've loved sitting in the dark of a cinema and watching something new. With 31 films this year, it has been a more regular pilgrimage than 2007, which was a bad year for film-lovers, but still down on 38 films in 2006, 42 in 2005 and a whopping 60 in 2004.

That means I've been to the cinema 243 times since the start of 2003. At an average of a fiver a time, that's... probably not worth calculating...

In keeping with previous years, I've rated the films I've seen and as you can see, 2008 was a better year too, with six films getting the full 5-stars, compared to only one (The Lives of Others) last year.

You can find ratings for 2007 on this blog and if you want to see the ratings for 2004 to 2006 and the reviews from 2003, visit

5 stars: Unmissable!
4 stars: Definitely worth seeing
3 stars: Decent film
2 stars: Disappointing
1 star: Pants
No stars: Why was this released?

In date order - five star films highlighted in bold

The Golden Compass (***)
Paranoid Park (****)
I Am Legend (**)
The Darjeeling Ltd (****)
The Kite Runner (****)
Charlie Wilson's War (**) - see review
No Country For Old Men (*****)
Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (**)
Colverfield (***)
In the Valley of Elah (****)
There Will Be Blood (*****)
All White in Barking (*)
Juno (*****)
Vantage Point (***)
The USA vs Al-Arian (****)
Son of Rambow (****)
Iron Man (***)
Persepolis (****)
Indiana Jones 4 (**)
Wanted (***)
Wall-E (*****)
The Dark Knight (*****)
Hellboy 2 (***)
Babylon (****)
Man on Wire (****)
Tropic Thunder (***)
Quantum of Solace (***)
W (***)
Waltz wth Bashir (*****)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (**)
Twilight (****)

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Obama's Appointments - Sonal Shah

Sonal Shah, Transition Team Advisor

US Coordinator for Vishwa Hindu Parishad, militant group was held responsible for the genocidal pogroms against Muslims in the western Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 that killed 2,000 people and rendered 100,000 homeless. The Indian coordinator of the genocide, Narendra Modi, stays at the Shah family home when he visits the US.

Obama's Appointments - Greg Craig

Greg Craig, White House Counsel

Lawyer for Bolivian ex-President Sanchez de Lozada who is charged with extreme corruption and genocide for, among other things, ordering the murder of 60 civilian protestors in 2003. Craig says “we do not accept your characterization of those events as a massacre.”

The dictator’s other lawyer, Howard Gutman, was one an early member of Obama’s Financial Committee.

Obama's Appointments - Eric Holder

Eric Holder, US Attorney General

Serves as a lawyer for Chiquita bananas, defending their funding of right-wing death squads in Colombia that targeted union and peasant leaders.

Obama's Appointments - Janet Napolitano

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Defence

Leading advocate of using the military to round up immigrants along the Mexican border, supportive of chain gang prisons for undocumented immigrants and people awaiting trial.

Obama's Appointments - Lawrence Summers

Lawrence Summers, Director of White House National Economic Council

Summers believes poor countries are not polluted enough.

Summers oversaw the imposition of “Structural Adjustment” throughout the globe, destroying a majority of the economy of the former USSR, helping to create crises in Asia and Latin America, and reducing the quality of life for hundreds of millions of poor people through requiring cuts to social safety nets, privatising of public industries, and the free reign of financial speculation across the globe.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Obama Asks Bigot to Host Inauguration Ceremony

Because the search for a 'saviour' is an anathamea to radical politics, I have never understood the blind adoration for Barack Obama.

But his choices so far have shown some very worrying signs of just how much 'change' was just a merchandising slogan. Obama's selection of the preacher Rick Warren to host his Presidential inauguration ceremony in January is particularly fascinating - and poses some difficult questions for his liberal fans. I read the following by Michelle Goldberg in today's Guardian:

If nothing else, Rick Warren is a miracle worker in the realm of public relations. He is a man who compares legal abortion to the Holocaust and gay marriage to incest and paedophilia. He believes that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other non-Christians are going to spend eternity burning in hell. He doesn't believe in evolution. He recently dismissed the social gospel – the late 19th- and early 20th-century Protestant movement that led a religious crusade against poverty and inequality – as "Marxism in Christian clothing". Yet thanks to his amiable attitude and jocular tone, he has managed to create a popular image for himself as a moderate, even progressive force in American life, a reasonable, compassionate alternative to the punitive, sex-obsessed inquisitors of the religious right. And Barack Obama, who should know better, has helped him do it.

Yesterday brought the news that Warren would be giving the invocation at Obama's inauguration. For Warren, this is a bit of a coup, since he seems to aspire to be the country's unofficial national pastor, a role once occupied by Billy Graham. He already played an unprecedented role in the 2008 presidential election when he conducted back-to-back interviews with John McCain and Obama, which essentially made him the moderator, and his church the stage, for the first joint event of the campaign season. By participating in that exercise, Obama lent Warren undeserved legitimacy as a kind of national moral arbiter.

Still, his taking part could be defended as an act of canny political outreach. After all, one of the great things about Obama was the way he tried to connect with audiences that hadn't previously been receptive to Democratic messages. It made sense for Obama to try and win the vote of Warren's followers. But honouring Warren by giving him a major role at the inauguration does not make sense. It is a slap in the face to many of Obama's staunchest supporters.


Monday, 15 December 2008

Letter in "The Times"

This is the full version of the edited letter I sent The Times, which was published today:

David Aaronovitch's efforts (Comment, 13 December) to portray Jean Charles de Menezes as the "53rd victim of 7/7" may, at first glance, seem superficially persuasive, although perhaps not for reasons that Aaronovitch would welcome. Men trained to take lives killed Jean, after all, and he died travelling across London to work, unaware as he left home that his life was in extraordinary danger, or that at the critical moment, there would be nothing he would be able to do to defend himself.

But Aaronovitch is wrong and worse still, his argument insults the memories of the 52 people that died on 7 July 2005. Their tragic deaths were the product of the obscene actions of vile, murderous fanatics, unaccountable to no-one but themselves. Jean's killing resulted from of the conduct and decision-making of public servants supposedly accountable to us, who from senior officers to firearms specialists carried a duty of care that they spectacularly failed to deliver on the moring of 22 July. There can be no equivalence between the two events and the bombings in London and the deaths of so many innocent people can never be a justification for arguing that Jean's death is unfortunate but acceptable 'collateral damage'.

That is why the Jean's family and the Justice4Jean campaign continue to demand justice and accountability from those responsible for his killing – whilst also supporting calls, made by relatives of those who died on London's transport network in 2005, for an independent public inquiry into the 7th July bombings.

In a democracy, the grieving deserve and expect answers from the powerful about whether more could have been done to prevent their love-ones' deaths. Even Aaronovitch, an apologist for unfettered government secrecy and immunity under the banner of 'the war on terror', must be able to understand that.

Kevin Blowe
Justice4Jean Campaign

Bush Ducks Sandals of Mass Disruption

This gets funnier ever time I watch it...

Throwing shoes at a visiting US President is "an important step on the road towards an Iraq that can sustain itself", apparently.

Friday, 5 December 2008

A Very English Fix

This was written in response to a request to the Justice4Jean campaign to guest blog for Dave Hill's London Blog on The Guardian website. But unfortunately, Dave's e-mail not longer works, so I can't send it to him. This is what I wrote:

When the establishment moves to protect their own, it’s often through a very English fix, with the pleasantries maintained and the drama minimised.

So it was when Sir Michael Wright, the Coroner presiding over the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, yesterday explained the absence of the lawyers representing Jean’s family. "The evidence and legal submissions are now all over and we have had their assistance throughout these very important stages,” the Coroner said. “I understand that from this point they will no longer be here. There is absolutely no difficulty about that. No disrespect is meant by it to anyone."

The suggestioin seemed to be that the lawyers were somehow unavoidably busy elsewhere, but the truth was somewhat more serious. After meeting with their solicitors and after a number of telephone calls to relatives in Brazil, including to Jean’s mother Maria Otone de Menezes, the family had decided that the inquest was not longer a transparent or credible investigation into Jean’s death. They had then formally withdrawn as ‘interested persons’ from the court proceedings.

The jury weren’t, of course, supposed to know this and Sir Michael Wright may, too, have got away with brushing it to one side, had it not been for one final act of defiance by Jean’s cousins. In the midst of the Coroner’s summation of the evidence, they stood up, unzipped their jackets to reveal t-shirts with the slogans "Your Legal Right to Decide" and "Unlawful Killing Verdict" and then walked out of the courtroom, in full view of the jury, whilst the Coroner and barristers for the police looked on, open-mouthed. For the first time in many months, Jean’s family no longer felt like bystanders in a legal process that seemed intent on denying them justice.

Their anger is entirely understandable. After warning the inquest jury against “emotional reactions” to the evidence from Jean’s mother, Sir Michael hardly missed a beat before emphasising the need the jury to recall the moment that the highly-trained firearms officer C12 broke down in tears in the courtroom. Remember, the Coroner said, that "this tough, fit, highly-trained, mature man broke down in tears and this fact may assist you in assessing the depth of the emotional experience that he was going through here when he was reliving the terrible events of July 22." So much for putting emotions to one side, or that C12’s “emotional reaction” came a week before his evidence that a warning had been given before shots were fired was flatly contradicted by every single passenger who have been on the tube train at Stockwell station.

But what has appalled the family the most is the Coroner’s decision to deny the jury, after listening to months of evidence from 100 witnesses, the option to make up their own minds and reach verdicts, should they choose to, that Jean's death was negligent or unlawful. It’s anger and disgust shared by the hundreds of members of the public who have e-mailed us over the last few days.

Independent decision-making by juries of the public is the cornerstone of our legal system and juries have consistently demonstrated that they take their responsibilities seriously. Allowing them to do their job without restriction and to reach a verdict based on their own assessment of the evidence is the only way that the public can be confident that the evidence about Jean’s death has been properly and transparently investigated. The jury must be able reach a verdict that best reflects the evidence, without external constraints on what is – and what is not – allegedly ‘justified.

Of course, they may still do so, although it would take a very brave jury to ignore the Coroner’s instructions and remember that they can make whatever decision they wish. It seems rather unlikely but as Jean’s family said in a statement last night, “the jury have the legal right to return any verdict they want to and we hope that these 11 ordinary members of the public will do the right thing.”

Kevin Blowe
Justice4Jean Campaign

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The End of the Bush Doctrine?

Never mind the waffle about Obama's supposed magnanimity in appointing Hillary Clinton as the next Secretary of State, or the fluff about the role of former President Bill Clinton. What does putting a hawk like Hillary in such a prominent foreign-policy position mean for the process of 'change' that we are supposed to be able to believe in?

One of the most accurate critiques of Hillary Clinton's views came in 2007, with the warning that Clinton would continue the "Bush doctrine" of only speaking to leaders of hostile nations if they first meet conditions laid out by the US government. Clinton was also identified as one of a number of members of Congress who were "trapped by a lot of received wisdom" into authorising the war in Iraq "without asking questions." The implication was clear: Hillary Clinton couldn't be trusted to make a clean break with the discredited policies of the Bush Administration, which had so badly damaged the reputation of the US around the world.

And who was it that made these damning accusations? Actually, it was a young senator from Chicago and Democratic primary candidate called Barack Obama.

If he was right then, how can the appointment of Hillary Clinton be right now?

Mumbai Attack - Conspiracies Begin

Expect the imminent creation of a '26/11 Truth Movement', as the conspiracy theories have already begun.

At least the first from Mumbai is more interesting than those that followed the London bombings in 2005. As the photo left shows, it does seem as though the picture of a gunman at Mumbai's CST station shows him wearing an orange cord around his right wrist, which is rather more Hindu than Muslim.

For the rest of the crazier theories, see: Mumbai Attackers were ‘Hindus’ and ‘White Men’

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