Monday, 30 November 2009

Tomlinson family complain to IPCC about 'cover up'

From the Ian Tomlinson Family Campaign:

Today the family of Ian Tomlinson lodged a further complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The IPCC have been asked to investigate the claim that a senior Metropolitan Police officer misled those investigating the cause of the death of Ian Tomlinson by alleging that Ian fell onto the ground before the assault incident with the police officer (which was captured on video).

Paul King, son of Ian Tomlinson, said

"We feel that there has been a cover up from the start. The first statement from the police was that they were trying to save Ian’s life while protesters were throwing missiles at them. Then the police liaison officer told us Ian died of “natural causes”. After the video came out, the City of London Police investigator told us that it may have been a protester in disguise who assaulted Ian. Now it has come to light that a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police has given the investigation misleading information. We are asking the IPCC for a full report on what looks like a cover-up."

Forget Shorter Showers

Why personal change does not equal political change

My delivery from Last Hours of 'Excessive Force' came with a pamphlet reporoducing a piece by Derrick Jensen that originally appeared in the July/August issue of Orion Magazine.

'
Forget Shorter Showers' has sparked a debate in the US about the nature and goals of the environmental movement and about the 'magical thinking' that leads to a reduced ability to meet those goals. It's a provocative and thought-provoking article. This is what Jensen had to say.


Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption — changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.

Or let’s talk energy. Kirkpatrick Sale summarized it well: "For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption — residential, by private car, and so on — is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government [he forgot military]. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution."

Or let’s talk waste. In 2005, per capita municipal waste production (basically everything that’s put out at the curb) in the U.S. was about 1,660 pounds. Let’s say you’re a die-hard simple-living activist, and you reduce this to zero. You recycle everything. You bring cloth bags shopping. You fix your toaster. Your toes poke out of old tennis shoes. You’re not done yet, though. Since municipal waste includes not just residential waste, but also waste from government offices and businesses, you march to those offices, waste reduction pamphlets in hand, and convince them to cut down on their waste enough to eliminate your share of it. Uh, I’ve got some bad news. Municipal waste accounts for only 3 percent of total waste production in the United States.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.

So how, then, and especially with all the world at stake, have we come to accept these utterly insufficient responses? I think part of it is that we’re in a double bind. A double bind is where you’re given multiple options, but no matter what option you choose, you lose, and withdrawal is not an option. At this point, it should be pretty easy to recognize that every action involving the industrial economy is destructive (and we shouldn’t pretend that solar photovoltaics, for example, exempt us from this: they still require mining and transportation infrastructures at every point in the production processes; the same can be said for every other so-called green technology). So if we choose option one — if we avidly participate in the industrial economy — we may in the short term think we win because we may accumulate wealth, the marker of “success” in this culture. But we lose, because in doing so we give up our empathy, our animal humanity. And we really lose because industrial civilization is killing the planet, which means everyone loses. If we choose the “alternative” option of living more simply, thus causing less harm, but still not stopping the industrial economy from killing the planet, we may in the short term think we win because we get to feel pure, and we didn’t even have to give up all of our empathy (just enough to justify not stopping the horrors), but once again we really lose because industrial civilization is still killing the planet, which means everyone still loses. The third option, acting decisively to stop the industrial economy, is very scary for a number of reasons, including but not restricted to the fact that we’d lose some of the luxuries (like electricity) to which we’ve grown accustomed, and the fact that those in power might try to kill us if we seriously impede their ability to exploit the world — none of which alters the fact that it’s a better option than a dead planet. Any option is a better option than a dead planet.

Besides being ineffective at causing the sorts of changes necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet, there are at least four other problems with perceiving simple living as a political act (as opposed to living simply because that’s what you want to do). The first is that it’s predicated on the flawed notion that humans inevitably harm their landbase. Simple living as a political act consists solely of harm reduction, ignoring the fact that humans can help the Earth as well as harm it. We can rehabilitate streams, we can get rid of noxious invasives, we can remove dams, we can disrupt a political system tilted toward the rich as well as an extractive economic system, we can destroy the industrial economy that is destroying the real, physical world.

The second problem — and this is another big one — is that it incorrectly assigns blame to the individual (and most especially to individuals who are particularly powerless) instead of to those who actually wield power in this system and to the system itself. Kirkpatrick Sale again: "The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them."

The third problem is that it accepts capitalism’s redefinition of us from citizens to consumers. By accepting this redefinition, we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming. Citizens have a much wider range of available resistance tactics, including voting, not voting, running for office, pamphleting, boycotting, organizing, lobbying, protesting, and, when a government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have the right to alter or abolish it.

The fourth problem is that the endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act is suicide. If every act within an industrial economy is destructive, and if we want to stop this destruction, and if we are unwilling (or unable) to question (much less destroy) the intellectual, moral, economic, and physical infrastructures that cause every act within an industrial economy to be destructive, then we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible if we are dead.

The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned — Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States — who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them. We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.

Derrick Jensen

Sunday, 29 November 2009

No Way Through - If London Was the West Bank

This film was written and directed by my long-time friend, the fabulous Sheila 'Tequila' Menon, with Alexandra Monro and highlights the mobility restrictions imposed in the West Bank, which are limiting its habitants access to health care and therefore violating a fundamental human right. It won this year's Ctrl.Alt.Shift Film Competition


DO SOMETHING: support Medical Aid for Palestinians. Only this week, they reported that Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulances may not enter Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem to transfer injured or sick persons to hospital without a police escort, even in life threatening situations. This violates the residents' right to life and health and has been condemned by Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights - Israel and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

The Matrix: Reassembled

It's had to believe that ten years have passed since the release of The Matrix. To celebrate, someone has taken the time (440 hours, to be precise) to make a Lego version of the famous Bullet Time scene:


Fox News - 'Everyone Is Scared To Be a Sceptic' on Climate Change

Stephen J. Dubner, author of the pop-economucs book Freakonomics, applies his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing to challenge the science on climate change and accuse scientists of "distorting evidence to prove their point."

Friday, 27 November 2009

Really? Olympics Legacy In Trouble?

The warnings made by the NoLondon2102 campaign prior to London winning its Olympic bid in 2005 are starting to be proved right. Finally, Newham's Great Helmsman Sir Robin Wales has woken up to something most of us have known for at least a year - that the so-called 'Olympic legacy', sold as central to London's bid, is nothing but an illusion. On Wednesday the Evening Standard reported:


The mayor of the Olympic borough of Newham has attacked the lack of progress on government promises to delivery a legacy for the 2012 Games.

Sir Robin Wales said the borough, which will host two thirds of Olympic events, was not seeing an improvement in jobs, housing and healthcare.

His intervention today was timed to cause maximum embarrassment to ministers and Games chiefs as they host an inspection team from the International Olympic Committee.

Sir Robin, a member of the London 2012 organising committee, said he was increasingly concerned that the Olympics would repeat the mistakes of Canary Wharf, which created 110,000 jobs but with only a few hundred going to local people. One in five of the 7,000-plus Olympic workers is local to Newham but Sir Robin believes many are transient and that his borough is missing out on a "skills legacy".

He said: "London's bid book said the most enduring legacy of the Games must be the regeneration of an entire community. Just putting buildings into the ground does not reverse more than a century of deprivation."

Sir Robin is also concerned the Olympic village, which will be converted into 2,800 homes after the Games, could become a sink estate with mainly short-term residents.

Wales was speaking at a symposium organised by Newham Council to discuss how best to secure a legacy from the Games. Speakers included Baroness Ford, chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company and representatives of previous and future Olympic cities including Athens, Sydney, Beijing and Vancouver. Cllr Paul Brickell, Newham’s executive member for the Olympics, added: ”We need a clear story on how we will achieve the single most important legacy item which was central to the bid – if we are all going to work together to transform east London then we need support at all levels of Government for our programme.”

A clear story, or another work of fiction from Wales and Brickell? This from the people who only last month were arguing that branding the 2012 Games site an 'Olympic Royal Park' was "a fitting legacy of the Games"? And what about the pretty specific promises made on Newham council's website?

LAZY FRIDAY - The Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody

Another brilliant Friday lunchtime distraction:

Our First Time At A Coroner's Court

In late October, just before the start of the inquest into the death of Mikey Powell, currently taking place in Sutton Coldfield, I mentioned to Mota Singh, the father of my great friend Gilly Mundy, that this case had been particularly important to his son - not least because Gilly hated public speaking and as far as I know had done so only once, in support of the Powell family, at an public meeting at the Drum in Birmingham. I can still remember driving back to London in the middle of the night after the event and that Gilly was buzzing so much that he hadn't noticed just how much he was breaking the speed limit!

On the basis of that conversation, Mota decided to attend the inquest and, with another friend from Leamington Spa, Janet Alty, has returned on a number of days. This is an abridged account of their experiences so far:

Guest post by Janet Alty and Mota Singh

We have been attending the Coroner’s Court in Sutton Coldfield, where the six week inquest into the death in police custody of Mikey Powell is taking place.

Mota Singh was keen to attend because this is a case that his beloved son Gilly Mundy was very closely involved as the senor caseworker at INQUEST starting six years ago in 2003 when Mikey died.

Gilly died suddenly in 2007 and the Powell family are very pleased to have us support them in his place. Claris, Mikey’s mum, said she feels Gilly’s presence with them in the court.

The inquest is taking place in one of the chambers of the Town Hall, a grade 2 listed building in the heart of Sutton Coldfield, built, they boast, in 1906 for £10,000 and recently refurbished. In the Coroner’s court is a very big bay window which looks out onto mature trees, mostly pines, and the sun shines in so brightly that the curtains have to be drawn.

In some ways, as we haven’t been involved with the family all along, we are hearing the case much as if we were members of the Jury (though we are not able to be there every day). We were there, however, on the first day and listened to the statements of the police barrister and Rajiv Menon of Garden Court Chambers, who represents the family, about how the inquest would be scheduled.

The inquest started taking evidence first from Claris, Mikey’s Mum and the person who called the police because Mikey was behaving in a bizarre manner. We heard her voice on the police phone recording, clearly in great distress and asking for the police to come and help. It was very upsetting. She told of her experience of the police dealing with Mikey and with other family members and told how Mikey called out “Mum, Mum, Mum” as he was being loaded into the police van. It is now clear that those were his last words as he was either dead or very near to death when he was carried out of the van at the police station only seven minutes later.

Next came other family members. It must be so hard for them to keep on telling their accounts again and again, as they’ve already been to the High Court because the police were not prepared to release evidence, which is why it has taken so long for the inquest to take place. The police barrister wanted them to say that it was only afterwards that they accused the police of treating them differently because they are a black family. This rejected this many times.

One of the most important witnesses was Junior, partner of one of the daughters. He happened to be visiting his pregnant girlfriend on the day that Mikey died and was closest to what happened when the police arrived. His story was put clearly but was very exhausting to listen to. He finished by saying that Mikey was put into the police van “as if he were a dog”.

As we are both great people watchers, we spend a considerable time observing the jury members. When they first walked in we were all taken aback with surprise that there wasn’t a single black member, even though they were drawn from the Birmingham Electoral Register.

It has been a very tough job for the jury, especially for the three days that the medical evidence was being given. It seems the pathologists could nor agree on the cause of death and appeared to give conflicting evidence. The medical witnesses are crucial to the case as the family want to prove that Mikey died at the very least of police negligence, if not directly of police brutality, and the police want to prove that Mikey had an underlying condition (sickle cell trait) which made him more likely to collapse and die. The family is very aggrieved at the sickle cell phenomenon being brought into this, as t it appears o them that the police want to use this genetic difference as the excuse for any black person suffering at the hands of the police.

At the end of Tuesday we felt that the balance of the medical evidence lay with the family’s case, but there are more days of questioning still to hear (mostly by the police officers involved) so it is certainly not a clear cut situation.

We are pretty impressed with the Coroner, Stephen Campbell. He is unfailingly respectful to everyone in the Court Room, including the family members who are there to listen, as we are. We felt, however, that the police’s barrister was sometimes patronising to the family members and even to medical witnesses.

In a situation like this where something truly terrible happened, the one thing one can hope for is that some good might come from it. On Monday, one of the medical witnesses said that as a result of being involved in this inquest, he was going to review some of his procedures. He is a teaching professor and highly regarded in his field, so we can only hope that he will make a difference across the medical profession, particularly among his students.

We will be going back for the final summing up and it will no doubt be very emotional, no matter which way it turns out. And we can be sure it will be covered not only by the local Birmingham Mail which carries a report of every session, but by the national papers and TV radio. Please listen out, as the result will undoubtedly have many repercussions.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

My Mate Asad On 'Countries Fiddling While the Planet Burns'


My old friend and comrade, the tree-hugging revolutionary Asad Rehman, on why the Copenhagen climate talks are still so important.

Climate Camp Protesters Win Judicial Review of G20 Police Tactics

Climate camp protestors who were ‘kettled’ and beaten on Bishopsgate on 1st April 2009 have won the first round of a battle to hold the senior Metropolitan Police officers involved accountable.

The judicial review was brought by three people who were caught up in the police brutality on 1st April. Chris Abbott is a researcher and academic who was punched in the face when police officers suddenly surged forward. Hannah McClure is a Masters’ student who was pushed over by an officer who then stood on her stomach. Josh Moos, a Plane Stupid campaigner, who was knocked to the ground as a baton-wielding officer vaulted over him. Mr Abbott’s complaint has been dismissed by the Metropolitan Police on the basis that any officers who may have been involved cannot be identified.

Granting permission for their judicial review to proceed to a full hearing, Administrative Court Lead Judge Sir Andrew Collins commented that the claim involved “issues that can properly be regarded as suitable for the Administrative Court”, including the decision to deploy force which was made minutes after officers had noted a “party like atmosphere” at the demonstration. The judge has ordered a hearing dealing with further disclosure of police evidence early in the New Year.

On 12th January 2010 the High Court will also consider Kent Police’s failure to provide evidence relating to stops and searches of 11 year old twins, referred to as girl E and boy T for legal reasons, under section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which requires officers to have reasonable suspicion that an individual is carrying prohibited weapons or articles that could be used for criminal damage. A further hearing involves environmental campaigner David Morris, who was forcibly searched against his will. All were making their way to the Climate Camp protest at Kingsnorth last August.

Granting permission for their judicial review to proceed last August, the Divisional Court held that they were appropriately selected test cases for thousands of others routinely searched during the course of the protest.

Further information: Bindmans solicitors

'We Will Come For You', Police Warned

This is a excellent guest post by Jamie Potter, reproduced with the author's permission. You can find the original here.

There will be less of this

Police officers across London are quaking in their steel toed boots following an ominous message from a senior member of the Met.

If they are hanging around with colleagues and one turns violent and someone else gets hurt, they too could be facing a criminal prosecution.

If someone dies, they too could be charged with murder, even if they did not so much as shove an innocent man in a protest on the capital's streets.

"Standing by is not a defence," said the Metropolitan Police's Detective Superintendent Simon Morgan on situations where a gang of anonymously clad riot cops leads to trouble.

Employing a centuries old custom called "Monopoly on Violence", police in London have been aggressively pursuing young and old alike who are present for protests and demonstrations in the beating heart of capitalism.

Now, this anachronistic romp in the concrete and steel-lined avenues of exploitation is in jeopardy following a surprising clampdown from upon high.

"Anybody and everybody that is involved in an incident of violence, we will look to identify them and if the evidence is there, we will look to prosecute them," Det Supt Morgan told BBC's Panorama.

A law based on the idea of 'Joint Enterprise' will finally be applied to the police who have faced stinging criticism for their brutal treatment of political protesters.

Joint Enterprise is about sharing the responsibility of a crime and it ensures that police officers who egg on a colleague to violence or who issue a rallying order to others face the same charges as the person who lands the fatal blow.

Ian Tomlinson was only in his forties when he was set upon and beaten in the City of London during the G20 protests in April.

Several police officers dressed in black and armed with batons and shields were present when Mr Tomlinson, a non-protester on his way home from work, was shoved violently to the ground in an unprovoked attack.

Mr Tomlinson died from an abdominal haemorrhage soon after the incident. The officer who delivered the possibly fatal shove has been questioned on suspicion of manslaughter.

The Met are keen to impress that it's not just individuals who could be held responsible for such attacks though.

It is a theme they are taking directly to London bobbies via a speaking tour and a video presentation at police stations across the city.

In the video, Det Supt Morgan says: "If you are involved in a murder in any way, shape or form, we will come to you. We will find you. We will come at a time when you don't expect us and we will enter your life.

"We will invade your home. Invariably your front door will be removed. We will enter, this will be in front of your parents and your family, possibly your friends, and we will change your life."

The application of the joint enterprise law has drawn criticism from some officers who worry that it is being too widely applied, a concern backed by some in legal circles.

Professor Jeremy Horder of the Law Commission said joint enterprise is being used as a blanket power to prosecute those simply present during a crime, not just those who are culpable.

"It may be that only some members of the gang endorsed or encouraged or helped the killing, others did nothing of the sort. But they're all being scooped up in with it."

This worries many in the force who have stood and continue to stand idly by whilst protesters face the frightening brutality of the strong arm of the state.

Despite Ian Tomlinson posing no threat to heavily armoured riot cops - he even had his back turned and his hands in his pockets - none of the officers present were inclined to stop the severe treatment meted out to him by the few bullies in the gang, a blatant contradiction of the police ethic "to serve and protect".

Time will only tell if the videos and lectures will have any effect on the behaviour of riot police on the streets of London or if more systematic changes are required to bring the police in line with basic human rights.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Some Initial Thoughts On The G20 Review

I finally finished reading 'Adapting to Protest' from cover to cover this evening. There a number of areas that I think need comment in considerably more detail, particularly some of the analysis and evidence that Denis O'Connor seems to have noted and then simply ignored.

For the time being, however, the following are some initial thoughts on the report itself.

Some Initial Thoughts On The G20 Review

If you publish a 205-page report, as the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Denis O' Connor did today, you probably know that most people will get no further than the recommendations and executive summary.

Journalists have deadlines, everyone else is so busy and it is a very long report. This may well explain the reaction to 'Adapting to Protest', the long awaited review of public order policing by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, has been largely favourable. The media has described it variously as tough, highly critical, sweeping and even a turning point in British policing (yes, another one). Within only an hour of the report's publication, a representative of the Climate Camp legal team, Frances Wright, had argued that “the HMIC recommendations – if implemented – could help put a stop to some of the worst policing tactics, reduce injuries from police violence, and increase their accountability.”

That O'Connor has criticised public order policing, however, should hardly be a surprise: indeed, it was inevitable. He could hardly do otherwise followed the storm of complaints about police conduct at the G20 protests in April. It is worth remembering that had it not been for those pesky video clips of police beating protesters – and critically, the death of innocent passerby Ian Tomlinson, also captured on camera – there would never have been a review. Usually those skillful dissemblers, the police press officers, would have blamed all the violence on 'anarchist thugs', as they initially attempt to do again, but this time there was hard evidence, seen all over the world – and a bereaved family demanding answers. There would have been an outcry if O'Connor had failed to acknowledge what everyone had seen for themselves, even those who had not been anywhere near Bank or Bishopsgate on 1 April.

But 'Adapting to Protest' does far more than offer a little criticism. Look in more detail and you'll see that it presents a traditional 'British model of policing' that suggests O'Connor is also the chief inspector of Fantasy Land.

As I argued in an article for Red Pepper back in July, the mythical golden age of tolerant, friendly policing, one that O'Connor claims his recommendations are seeking to return to, has never existed and is little more than a comforting fiction. The reality is that throughout the 190 years since the establishment of the first police force in London, policing and the imposition of order using force have been inextricably linked. So why pretend otherwise? Because a comforting fiction is an easy way of pretending that recent events (the review looked only at protests between 2006 and 2009) are basically an aberration, a departure from the 'traditional model'. And with a few simple measures, normal service will soon be restored.

However, if there was a 'turning point' in the way the police respond to public order, it took place nearly thirty years ago, when Association of Chief Police Officers sought, at its September 1981 conference, the advice of the Director of Operations of the Royal Hong Kong Police, Richard Quine, on importing the tactics of British colonial policing to the British mainland. This was in response to the riots in Brixton and Toxteth that summer and the result during the early 1980s was a new Public Order Manual, the rapid expansion of public order training for all police officers, specialist firearms officers taught to use new forms of weaponry firing plastic bullets and CS gas canisters and the introduction of short riot shields similar to those used in Hong Kong. As BBC reporter Gerry Northam noted in his 1989 book on the secret militarisation of public order policing, 'Shooting in the Dark':

"...the selection of paramilitary tactics raised doubts about the doctrine of minimum force and the strict code of secrecy surrounding the decision drove a coach and horses through the concept of policing by consent."
O'Connor's review doesn't propose to abandon the tactics learned in Britain's former colonies: the Public Order Manual won't be thrown out, but clarified, rewritten and refined. There will be no new legislation, but guidance, codification and better training. Legal advice will be sought on the use of intelligence gathering and the role of FIT officers will be 'reviewed'. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) – a private company with no other formal status in law – will not be disbanded as an embarrassment to the notion of accountability but simply made more transparent. Many of these recommendations (especially the focus on training, a particular favourite in every inquiry report I have ever read) could have come from any one of the previous inquiries into the policing of protest that have been held over the last 35 years.

In whose hands has O'Connor placed the implementation of these recommendations? With ACPO and the National Policing Improvement Agency, the very bodies that have proved so adept at getting whatever they want from the Home Office.

In July I wrote that the left's traditional view of the police as simply the arm of the state is now too simplistic, because the police have emerge as powerful political players in their own right, with more influence and greater independence and secrecy, “a kind of Fifth Estate that in the short term is almost impossible to reform”. O'Connor's review may have set out to achieve what it was intended to – to demonstrate that 'something will be done' to return us to the 'golden age' when things were apparently so much better. But somehow, I suspect that the policing Fifth Estate will use its position to ensure that 'reforms' amount to little more than tinkering. That's the way these inquiries have always been handled.

Newham Council Highest Spender in London on PR and Publicity

The Evening Standard, using figures buried on page 43 of the council's statement of accounts for 2008/09, has reported that Newham council spends more than any other London borough on publicity.

Newham's total spending of close to £4 million includes £1.4 million on staff and the same amount on 'other publicity' (which does not include health promotion, road safety or similar campaigns, statutory notices or recruitment advertising). It was one of six local authorities that spent more than £3 million on publicity and PR in 2008/09.

That's an awful lot of promotional material with the grinning face of the Great Helmsman on it!

Black Indie Band Held At Gunpoint By Police

On the day that Denis O'Connor's review of the G20 protest has suggested (on page 67) that the Code of Practice on the police use of firearms might be a model for how public order might also be codified, I received this salutary reminder that its not the manual that matters, but the police themselves:

The Thirst is an indie band based in Brixton that consists of brothers Mensah and Kwame Cofi-Agyeman, Mark Lenihan and Marcus Harris. They were scouted by Ronnie Wood a few years ago, have supported The Rolling Stones, played at the Isle of Wight and Glastonbury festivals and toured with Pete Doherty. Band members are major supporters of Love Music Hate Racism.

On 21st November, The Thirst played a gig in Chase (Cannock) in Staffordshire. The gig went well but when the band left the venue they were confronted by a team of armed police. Under a helicopter spotlight, the band members had guns held to their heads and were all arrested, thrown into police vans and taken to a police station. They were given no information as to why it was happening. They were all released the following afternoon. The only explanation they were given by police was that they were being held on suspicion of possessing firearms.

Because their car had a flat battery, they were treated like criminals. Would the police have acted in the same way if there had been a white driver rather than six young black men?

This is Mensah’s description of what the band experienced:


"We had a good gig. I left the venue and we had to try and jump-start the old Range Rover that we were using, I opened the bonnet and as soon as I did about six police cars came around the corner. I looked to my friend and thought that they'd just want to check our insurance documents. The next thing all chaos erupted, I had red lasers pointed at my chest and on my head. There was a helicopter above us with a spotlight on us. All we could here was shouting.

I had a gun being forced on my neck. "Get down, get on the ground", "turn around, put your hands up" we were getting all different directions shouted at us. It didn't seem like any of them knew what they were doing. The fact alone that I could feel the policeman shaking through the end of the gun he had to my neck was enough to make me feel very nervous. He had my life in his hands and they were shaking.

We were all forced into the van with no information as to why we were being arrested, no explanation. I still can't believe that there was man with a gun to my head shaking. They were apparently waiting outside for two hours for us to finish the gig. Is it reasonable to believe that they thought that our guitar cases and coats were concealing shotguns? We were headlining a gig in Staffordshire! It was like walking into a movie set but it was too real.

The whole band, our manager and our sound engineer were locked up. There was no explanation from the police, we heard that fans from the show had contacted the police. In the end, the promoter of the gig even rang the mayor of the town for his support in order to get us released. All that the police said when they released us was that we were held overnight as we were suspected of carrying firearms. It's hard to believe that this can still happen today. We were treated like animals, we had no human rights."

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Other Iraq Inquiry

Now that Sir John Chilcot has made his opening statement and the world's press focuses on whether ithe Iquiry is actually in a position to pronounce on the legality of the war, it's worth reflecting on what 'our' invasion has achieved for the people of Iraq.

There's a good article in the Guardian by Sami Ramadani - and in Iraq, they are starting a rather different inquiry:


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi authorities are investigating large-scale fraud at Baghdad municipality where employees have stolen millions of dollars, officials said on Monday.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, facing an election next year in which a major theme may be an epidemic of corruption sweeping Iraq as it emerges from years of sectarian warfare, on Monday ordered an investigation into the fraud scheme.

Baghdad provincial council head Kamel al-Zaidy said on Sunday investigations so far had found that $20 million had been siphoned away by a gang cashing cheques in the names of fake employees at a bank branch inside the city hall.

"Billions of Iraqi dinars belonging to employees of the Baghdad municipality are being cashed each day through fake signatures," Zaidy told reporters.

"The case is huge. It involves a large network of people operating under the supervision of the mayor's office."

Zaidy, who is a member of Maliki's Dawa party, said the municipality run by mayor Saber al-Issawi, a member of rival Shi'ite political party the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, had arrested some people but had not gone after the ringleaders.

The mayor's office said it was tackling the fraud and had arrested 13 people.

Corruption has shot to the forefront as one of the gravest ills threatening Iraq's development as the bloodshed triggered by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion subsides.

The country, which is still rocked regularly by devastating bomb attacks, is trying to attract foreign investors to its massive oilfields and other areas of the economy. But corruption could be a deterrent to global firms which could be held liable in U.S. and European courts if they pay bribes.

Iraqis are increasingly frustrated by what they see as a prevalence of corruption, which they blame for the poor state of basic services such as water, electricity, and sewage system.

Earlier this year, former Trade Minister Abdul Falah al-Sudany was forced to resign in a scandal involving food imports. He denied any wrongdoing and is out on bail.

Transparency International this week placed Iraq fifth from the bottom in its index of perceived public corruption, out of 180 countries.

UN Calls For Transparency On 'Israel’s Guantanamo Bay'

From the Ma'an News Agency:


The UN has sent an official request to Israel to admit the existence of secret prison camp 1391, dubbed in the press "Israel’s Guantanamo Bay," according to the Palestinian Authority minister of prisoners affairs.

Minister Issa Qaraqe told a news conference in Ramallah on Saturday that the UN had asked the Israeli government in a letter to officially acknowledge that the facility.

Human rights experts with the United Nations Committee Against Torture questioned Israeli officials about the facility in may when the country came up for a regular review under a treaty obligation, Reuters reported.

Although Israel declined the UN’s request to discuss 1391 earlier this year, Israeli officials have indirectly confirmed the facility's existence. Former Israeli Justice Minister Dan Merridor told the Haaretz newspaper that he was aware of the site but never visited it.

News reports say that Israel has held Palestinians, Lebanese, and other Arabs at the site. The detention of Palestinians there reportedly increased during the second intifada. Former inmates told the Guardian newspaper that they were held in black, windowless cells with little light.

After being detained and transported to the prison wearing hoods, prisoners said they were told they were “in Honolulu,” “outside the borders of Israel,” or “on the moon,” the newspaper said. The government has even airbrushed ariel photographs and altered maps to conceal the facility’s existence, according to the report.

In interviews with the Israeli and foreign press, former prisoners have also reported cases of rape, prolonged nudity, and tactics regarded as torture. Unlike other Israeli prisons, the Red Cross is not allowed to visit the facility.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Daily Mail Story on Compensation for Menezes Family

The speculative story in today's Daily Mail suggesting that the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot dead at Stockwell tube station in July 2005, will receive reduced compensation "because they are so poor" is little more than prurient speculation.

The Daily Mail article looks very much like a classic newspaper fishing expedition, an attempt to see whether the story would elicit a denial and therefore a leak revealing exactly how much the Menezes family had actually been offered.

In a joint statement, the family of Jean Charles de Menezes and the Metropolitan Police have said:

The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and representatives of the de Menezes family are pleased to announce that all litigation between them arising out of the tragic death of Jean Charles de Menezes has been resolved.

The members of the family are pleased that a compensation package has been agreed which enables them to put these events behind them and move forward with their lives. In view of the physical and mental distress caused to the members of the family by these events and the understandable publicity and press interest, it has been agreed that it is in the best interests of the family that no further statement in relation to this settlement will be made either by them or the Commissioner.

The Commissioner would like to take this opportunity of making a further unreserved apology to the family for the tragic death of Jean Charles de Menezes and to reiterate that he was a totally innocent victim and in no way to blame for his untimely death.
So hopefully that is clear - nobody has any idea what the compensation package includes because this is a private matter for the family. The only thing I know for certain is that, like every other police custody-death family I have met over the last decade (which is far too many), no amount of money can ever make up for for the pain and loss they feel.

UPDATE

The Guardian's Vikram Dodd demonstrates how to cut and paste from a rival.

Professor Nutt Slaps Down Sky News

This is great...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Skis In The Desert? Priceless!

Andrew Gilligan in the Sunday Telegraph has what looks like a scoop, although it seems to have been ignored so far today by the rest of media despite being picked up by the Press Association and AP. He has obtained a leaked government report on "lessons learnt" from Iraq that is based on transcripts of classified interviews with British Army commanders, who "vent their frustration and anger with ministers and Whitehall officials". Based on these documents, Gilligan writes:


Tony Blair, the former prime minister, misled MPs and the public throughout 2002 when he claimed that Britain’s objective was “disarmament, not regime change” and that there had been no planning for military action. In fact, British military planning for a full invasion and regime change began in February 2002.

The need to conceal this from Parliament and all but “very small numbers” of officials “constrained” the planning process. The result was a “rushed”operation “lacking in coherence and resources” which caused “significant risk” to troops and “critical failure” in the post-war period.

Operations were so under-resourced that some troops went into action with only five bullets each. Others had to deploy to war on civilian airlines, taking their equipment as hand luggage. Some troops had weapons confiscated by airport security.

Commanders reported that the Army’s main radio system “tended to drop out at around noon each day because of the heat”. One described the supply chain as “absolutely appalling”, saying: “I know for a fact that there was one container full of skis in the desert.”

The Foreign Office unit to plan for postwar Iraq was set up only in late February, 2003, three weeks before the war started.

The plans “contained no detail once Baghdad had fallen”, causing a “notable loss of momentum” which was exploited by insurgents. Field commanders raged at Whitehall’s “appalling” and “horrifying” lack of support for reconstruction, with one top officer saying that the Government “missed a golden opportunity” to win Iraqi support. Another commander said: “It was not unlike 1750s colonialism where the military had to do everything ourselves.”

The documents emerge two days before public hearings begin in the Iraq Inquiry, the tribunal appointed under Sir John Chilcot, a former Whitehall civil servant, to “identify lessons that can be learnt from the Iraq conflict”.

The details about the lack of preparedness for the invasion because of the need to keep plans secret, coupled with the lack of thought given to post-war occupation, reminds me of Imperial Life in the Emerald City, the excellent 2006 book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post, which next year will be released as a Paul Greengrass film.

But I don't remember hearing about the Americans accidently shipping skis to the desert. That's priceless!

UPDATE - 23 November

The Telegraph has produced some of its leaked documents, one of which was in fact already made public by Wikileaks In August 2008. Others documents are here and here. Meanwhile, Gilligan has been interviewed by Russia Today:

Swine Flu Vaccine 'Well Rough' Says Area Man

For reasons too dull to explain, I am apparently at sufficient risk from the threat of swine flu that on Friday I received both a shot of the H1N1 vaccine Pandemrix and, for good measure, the seasonal flu vaccine too. This is partly because I attend a single-GP surgery - the NHS has given each one a standard 500 doses, regardless of the number of doctors or patients. Many others have to wait.

Taking the vaccine seems like an eminently sensible idea to me, despite the inevitable scare-mongering from the Daily Mail. Nevertheless, whilst I've travelled a bit and I've had jabs many times, I really haven't experienced side-effects like this before. I still have a dead-arm, as though I've just been punched hard, that is too painful to lie on. By seven o' clock last night I also had most of the 'very common' reactions that affect more than one in ten people: incredible tiredness, a fever, loss of appetite, aching muscles and joint pain that meant I could hardly move. So much for enjoying Saturday night - I was out cold by about ten and when I woke up this morning, still found I could barely stand.

I know protection against the flu pandemic is important, but jeebus this vaccine is well rough...

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Support Fitwatch - Buy 'Excessive Force'

Police everywhere, justice nowhere

Featuring 19 exciting new and up-and-coming graphic artists, this is a comics anthology against the police.

Whether drawing on personal experiences or imagined stories about modern policing, one theme runs through: a shared view of brutal, oppressive policing. Policing that does more harm than good, and a system which hinders, rather than encourages freedom of expression. Or more simply put: acts like an Excessive Force.

Profits from Excessive Force will go towards FITwatch and the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group, both of whom work towards ending police repression.

Featuring work by: Stephanie McMillan, Ken Dahl, Scott Smith, Edd Baldry, Jimi Gherkin, and many others, they all artfully present their take on the police, with a fine mixture of humour, tragedy, anger and optimism.

There's a preview here (PDF) and you can purchase a copy for £7 + p&p from Last Hours

Plane Stupid's "Polar Bear" Advert

This is hardcore:

Friday, 20 November 2009

No Response To FoI Request on G20 Protest

Sadly, there has been no response yet from the Metropolitan Police to my Freedom of Information request, which they have failed to address "within the statutory timescale of 20 working days". This ran out yesterday.

I have had a reply from the Public Access Office to a reminder e-mail, promising I will be contacted by the Information Manager, and plan to give them until Tuesday to explain what the problem is. If I still hear nothing, does anyone have any suggestions?

A reminder that the FOI request reads as follows:


I would like to see copies of any briefings, notes, e-mails or letters prepared by Metropolitan Police Press officers that were produced between 26th March and 8th April 2009 concerning the G20 protests on 1st April.

This includes any memos, papers, emails, minutes or documents held by the Metropolitan Police Press Office relating to either the 1st April 2009 demonstrations at the Bank of England and at Bishopsgate or concerning Ian Tomlinson’s death. This includes any communications between Metropolitan Police Press Office and the Public Order Unit, the Counter Terrorism Command, members of the MPS Management Board, the Home Office and the IPCC on this subject.

UPDATE: 4.52pm - an e-mail from the Met

To let you know, I am currently acting as Information Manager for your FOIA enquiry 2009100005134.

Firstly, apologies for the slow progress on this particular request; I'm aware we have exceeded the 20 day time limit and hope you'll bear with us.

My colleagues and I are still working to identify all the information relevant to your request, and I hope to be providing a response as soon as possible.

I'll be in touch again next week to inform you of progress. If you have any enquiries in the meantime, feel free to email me.

Regards

Mike McGuill | Directorate of Public Affairs | Metropolitan Police Service

Sikh Extremist To Become BNP's Token Ethnic Member

This from today's Independent:

An elderly Sikh who describes Islam as a "beast" and once provided a character reference for Nick Griffin during his racial hatred trial is set to become the British National Party's first non-white member.

Rajinder Singh, an anti-Islam activist in his late seventies who blames Muslims for the death of his father during the Partition of India in 1947, has been sympathetic towards Britain's far-right party for much of the past decade even though he currently remains barred from becoming a member because of the colour of his skin.

But last weekend the BNP's leadership took their first steps towards dropping its membership ban on non-whites after the Human Rights Commission threatened the party with legal action. The move will be put to a vote of members soon.
The Daily Mail adds:
In December 2001 Mr Singh and another Sikh from Slough who goes under the name of Ammo Singh announced their intention to set up an Asian Friends of the BNP group to act as a supporting body and conduit for funds for people sympathetic to the party's anti-Islamic stance.
Rajinder Singh's decision has been condemned by Sikh groups, who last week were expressing their disgust after a BNP poppy wreath was laid among Sikh tributes at a Remembrance Day ceremony in Birmingham. Dr Indarjit Singh, director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, said:
Sikhism stresses equality for all human beings. Therefore Sikhs who are true to their faith, will having nothing whatsoever to do with any party that favours any one section of the community.
Far from "living a quiet life", Rajinder Singh (left) has been knocking around for years - see this piece from the Guardian from 2001. He has practically no support within the Sikh community but is attracting attention again now because the BNP is unable to accept any new members until it changes its constitution and membership criteria, following a legal victory by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

But will one particularly deranged ethnic member really be enough?

LAZY FRIDAY - Pigeon: Impossible

A brilliant Friday lunchtime distraction:

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Blogging in Cuba - The Offline Edition

A subject to divide the anarchos from the tankies:

You know the way that Israel's defenders complain that left-wing support for an Israeli goods boycott, or for sanctions and divestment, is hypocritical for ignoring how much worse other countries are? It's a instinctual response, almost a nervous tic, one that makes excuses for the actions of one country by comparing them to breaches of human rights in other states, rather than the higher bar of international, universal standards.

But in my view it has a left-wing equivalent, an involuntary reflex when it comes to discussing the 'socialist' republic of Cuba.

This week Human Rights Watch issued a report on how Cuban president Raúl Castro has crushed dissent and continued repression since taking over from his brother Fidel in July 2006. This was covered in the Guardian by Rory Carroll and the responses were as inevitable as the excuses made about Israel. Why focus on Cuba when Colombia is so much worse? Or what about Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic? And isn't HRW is just a biased front organisation? And what about the fact that human rights are a luxury when a country has to defend itself from aggression from a powerful neighbour?

All comments worthy of Israel's favourite spin doctor Mark Regev.

One of the aspects covered by the HRW report is the Cuban government's antipathy to the island's tiny number of independent bloggers - which extends to threats of imprisonment and acts of violence. On 6 November, Cuba’s most prominent blogger, Yoani Sánchez, together with blogger Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo, were abducted by three men who forced them into an unmarked vehicle, where they were beaten and threatened for being 'counterrevolutionaries'. Considering the furore over the possibility of the Press Complaints Commission 'regulating' bloggers in the UK - a far less immediate threat - this seems like an issue where a little solidarity wouldn't go amiss.

The disgraceful actions of the United States towards Cuba shouldn't, of course, be forgotten - it's important that my union Unite has thrown its weight behind the campaign to free the Miami Five, for example. But there's a certain irony in the Cuba Solidarity Campaign promoting a forum tomorrow on US double standards in this particular case, organised by the Instituto Cubano de Amistad con Los Pueblos, that happens to be an online event...

Olympicfield

TheLondonParticular's Cloverfield parody: a video found in 2015 near the site of the London Olympics:

Hat Tip: Games Monitor

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Afghanistan Second From Bottom in Survey of Perceived Corruption

Click map above to launch an interactive version with individual country scores.
The darker the blue, the higher the perceived level of public sector corruption.

Costa Rica may be the happiest country in the world and Germany the most beloved, but Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2009 has ranked Afghanistan, after eight years of military occupation by Britain and the US, as second from bottom for perceived levels of public sector corruption amongst 180 countries around the world. Only Somalia is worse. As the organisation says in its press release:
When essential institutions are weak or non-existent, corruption spirals out of control and the plundering of public resources feeds insecurity and impunity. Corruption also makes normal a seeping loss of trust in the very institutions and nascent governments charged with ensuring survival and stability.
Yep - that sounds pretty much like President Hamid Karzai's government, in whose defence 234 British soldiers have given their lives for since the start of operations in 2001.

Iraq Inquiry Names First Witnesses

The Iraq Inquiry has named the first witnesses who will appear when hearings begin next Tuesday. The first five weeks of hearings aim establish the essential features of the UK’s involvement in Iraq between 2001 and 2009 and are primarily are senior officials and military officers who had "a key role in either developing advice for Ministers or implementing government policy, or sometimes both."

Of particular interest will be evidence from Sir John Scarlett, who chaired the Cabinet Office Joint Intelligence Committee from 2001 to 2004 and was then Director General of MI6 until this year. Next week, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's Permanent Representative to the United Nations until 2003, will be answering questions about developments in the UN in the approach to the war.

The timetable for the first week of hearings is:

Any 'Domestic Extremists' Attending The Wave?

I was thinking of getting t-shirts made bearing the slogan 'Domestic Terrorist' and selling them in support of Fitwatch - another bright idea that came to nothing. However, it looks as if Red Molotov has beaten me to it.

So I was thinking: wouldn't it be great if we injected a little radical politics into the climate change protest - The Wave - on Saturday 5th December by turning up with blue 'Domestic Extremist' shirts (the protest organisers want everyone to wear blue, you see)?

Fifteen quid a shirt might seem a bit steep - but if enough of us order one, wouldn't the impact be great!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Prosecutions Over April's G20 Protests - Update

With almost no press coverage, the prosecutions of over 20 people for the G20 demonstrations in London on April 1st and 2nd continue, despite the outcry over police behaviour on the day. These cases will not come to trial until next year, so there is still time to help see that justice is really done.

As always, many cases are simply lies and distortion by the police but some revolve around people acting in defence of other people who they didn’t know or are not in contact with. It’s not possible to list all the times and locations involved but anyone who saw police violence may be key to preventing a miscarriage of justice.

If you are a potential witness, especially if you have film footage, you should contact

Liam Pollard
Bindman’s Solicitors
275 Gray's Inn Road
London WC1X 8QB

DX: 37904 King's Cross
Tel: 020 7833 4433
Fax: 020 7837 9792

Email: info@bindmans.com
Web: www.bindmans.com

Murdoch's Fox News Peddles Climate Change Denial

Conservatives are turning from healthcare to attacking the Copenhagen climate change summit for their latest craziness. It's all over the place - a combination of straightforward denial, staggering stupidity, appeals to greed, red-bating and a call for technological solutions for a problem they can barely admit exists.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Our 'One Stop After East Ham' Problem

Quite how Nick Griffin intends to represent the electorate of the North West in Brussels if he succeeds in winning a Commons seat in Barking next year is hard to imagine. But Griffin's election is less difficult to believe, even if the fascists must double their vote to win. As a resident in the neighbouring East Ham constituency, I hate to say it but their decision to stand in the parliamentary seat next door is tactically astute.

The BNP's idiotic Richard Barnbrooke came third in Barking at the last general election with close to 17% of the vote, compared with only 9.3% in Dagenham against Jon Cruddas, whose constituency covers the other half of the borough where the BNP have 12 councillors. Moreover, Cruddas is a centre-left MP, someone that many anti-fascists would feel rather more comfortable supporting than Barking's current incumbent. How exactly does anyone planning on actively opposing Griffin in the approach to next year's election manage to swallow down the disgust and loathing they must feel to campaign, for all intents and purposes, for a victory for Labour minister Margaret Hodge?

Here is a loyal Blairite MP who voted for the invasion of Iraq, student top-up fees, foundation hospitals, ID cards, anti-terror laws - pretty much all the issues that the left and most liberals oppose.

Here is an MP who is claimed to have privately described Tony Blair policies over Iraq as his "big mistake in foreign affairs" and criticised his "moral imperialism" but yet has voted consistently against an investigation into the Iraq war.

Here is an MP who claimed expenses for "PR support", provided by her former press officer, even though MPs are barred from claiming expenses for "self-promotion or PR" for individuals or political parties.

Here is an MP who handed the BNP a massive propaganda victory on the eve of local council elections in 2006 by suggesting that racist working-class voters in her constituency had legitimate concerns about immigration because "the political class as a whole has been frightened of engaging in the very difficult issues of race" - and who stoked the flames further in 2007 by arguing for a 'sons and daughters' policy in social housing and blamed new migrants for failing to fit in. Even Cruddas declared his colleague's comments were "not only wrong, they are also inflammatory".

Already, debate has begun about whether minor parties like the Greens should stand down in favour of Hodge in an 'anyone but Griffin' campaign. However, as I have argued at some length before now, anti-fascism that focuses solely on elections and trying to keep out the BNP has seen diminishing returns for enormous amounts of effort (as we have witnessed in voting for the London Assembly and most recently in the Euro elections). At the same time, the government's willingness to play the 'Britishness' card and its renewed attempts to court racist voters by encourage residents to air grievances without being accused of racism, whilst beating the drum for its increasingly harsh stance on immigration, has simply surrendered even more ground to the right.

The centre ground has shifted, the centre-right's efforts to undermine BNP support by co-opting it has failed and where is the left? Nowhere: it has largely abandoned attempts to organise locally in support of working class communities having a say over the decisions that affect them or influencing the running of society, in favour either of focusing solely on elections or soul-destroying sectarianism.

Which leaves us back in the same hole. If Hodge beats Griffin, will anti-racism really be the victor? Will black people in Barking be any safer? Will white racists stop blaming their immigrant neighbours for every injustice they feel they have suffered? Will the BNP implode? Of course not. Hodge will proclaim it as validation for the nonsense she has spouted over the last three years. Mainstream parties will see it as evidence that attacking migrants steals votes from the far-right. And as long as anti-fascism has such a lack of memory that it thinks nothing of importance happens between elections, we'll be back here again in a few years time, agonising about what to do and whether to begrudgingly support another obnoxious anti working class candidate who is most likely to deny the BNP its brief moment of glory.

The practical alternatives are long-term - a realistic political alternative to the BNP, a willingness to see Labour as part of the problem rather than part of the solution and campaigning focused on grass-roots issues. But we don't really do long-term in this country. Which is why we keep losing.

I'm tired of it. Our unwillingness to radically change our tactics means we have no-one to blame but ourselves if Griffin wins victory in Barking in 2010.

Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be

More brilliance from The Onion:


ESCONDIDO, CA—Spurred by an administration he believes to be guilty of numerous transgressions, self-described American patriot Kyle Mortensen, 47, is a vehement defender of ideas he seems to think are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and principles that brave men have fought and died for solely in his head.

"Our very way of life is under siege," said Mortensen, whose understanding of the Constitution derives not from a close reading of the document but from talk-show pundits, books by television personalities, and the limitless expanse of his own colorful imagination. "It's time for true Americans to stand up and protect the values that make us who we are."

According to Mortensen—an otherwise mild-mannered husband, father, and small-business owner—the most serious threat to his fanciful version of the 222-year-old Constitution is the attempt by far-left "traitors" to strip it of its religious foundation.

"Right there in the preamble, the authors make their priorities clear: 'one nation under God,'" said Mortensen, attributing to the Constitution a line from the Pledge of Allegiance, which itself did not include any reference to a deity until 1954. "Well, there's a reason they put that right at the top."

"Men like Madison and Jefferson were moved by the ideals of Christianity, and wanted the United States to reflect those values as a Christian nation," continued Mortensen, referring to the "Father of the Constitution," James Madison, considered by many historians to be an atheist, and Thomas Jefferson, an Enlightenment-era thinker who rejected the divinity of Christ and was in France at the time the document was written. "The words on the page speak for themselves."

According to sources who have read the nation's charter, the U.S. Constitution and its 27 amendments do not contain the word "God" or "Christ."

Mortensen said his admiration for the loose assemblage of vague half-notions he calls the Constitution has only grown over time. He believes that each detail he has pulled from thin air—from prohibitions on sodomy and flag-burning, to mandatory crackdowns on immigrants, to the right of citizens not to have their hard-earned income confiscated in the form of taxes—has contributed to making it the best framework for governance "since the Ten Commandments."

"And let's not forget that when the Constitution was ratified it brought freedom to every single American," Mortensen said.

Mortensen's passion for safeguarding the elaborate fantasy world in which his conception of the Constitution resides is greatly respected by his likeminded friends and relatives, many of whom have been known to repeat his unfounded assertions verbatim when angered. Still, some friends and family members remain critical.

"Dad's great, but listening to all that talk radio has put some weird ideas into his head," said daughter Samantha, a freshman at Reed College in Portland, OR. "He believes the Constitution allows the government to torture people and ban gay marriage, yet he doesn't even know that it guarantees universal health care."

Mortensen told reporters that he'll fight until the bitter end for what he roughly supposes the Constitution to be. He acknowledged, however, that it might already be too late to win the battle.

"The freedoms our Founding Fathers spilled their blood for are vanishing before our eyes," Mortensen said. "In under a year, a fascist, socialist regime has turned a proud democracy into a totalitarian state that will soon control every facet of American life."

"Don't just take my word for it," Mortensen added. "Try reading a newspaper or watching the news sometime."

The Worst Film of 2009

... is 2012, the latest disaster movie from director Roland Emmerich. It's not that I had any great expectations before I headed over to Stratford Picturehouse this evening, but there was nothing on the telly and I felt I couldn't comment without actually seeing the film.

And it was dreadful - two hours and 38 minutes of absolute unmitigated arse-gravy. Gossamer-thin characterisation, an appalling script full of mawkish sentimentality and dodgy science, dull special effects that looked like they had been developed for a rather average Xbox computer game and some of the most staggeringly bad foreign accents I have ever heard. The BBFC review says the film contains "sustained moderate threat" but at no time did it ever feel as though John Cusack (in his worst role since the awful Con Air), Amanda Peet and their irritating moppets would not survive to face more absurd situations and to spout more platitudes. And does Forest Gate's most famous son, Chiwetel Ejiofor, really need the money so badly that he's sunk to this after his great performance this year in Endgame?

Let's put it this way: 2012 makes Independence Day look like 2001. Even Armageddon is a better film. Hell, even The Core is more entertaining. OK, there may well be other terrible films out this year that could qualify as 'worst of 2009', but the fundamental promise of a big, stupid disaster film is that it should at least be properly paced and offer a little 'wow' for its ticket price, even if it isn't that deep, meaningful or believable. But 2012 fails on all counts. And to make matters worse, Emmerich is now developing a follow-up television series.

Perhaps I should have stayed home and watched Doctor Who... at least I'd have something to talk to my nephew and niece about. There is no way they'd ever have the patience to sit all the way through a film as mind-numbingly boring as 2012.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Iraq Inquiry Condemned as 'Whitewash' By Former Diplomat

Carne Ross, the UK's former Iraq expert on the UN Security Council, has told the Observer today that he believes having former Butler Review member Sir John Chilcot chair the Iraq inquiry is "like trying the same crime twice with the same judge and jury – not a credible standard for truth-seeking. Nor would a truth-seeker allow the inquiry's staff to be headed by the civil servant who was in a senior position in the foreign and defence policy secretariat of the Cabinet Office during Britain's military occupation of Iraq."

Ross testified at the Butler Review that "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests." He also argued that alternatives to invasion, primarily targeting Iraq's illegal oil revenues across its south-eastern border with Turkey, were ignored. This testimony directly challenged assertions that the war was legally justified by Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction that could be "activated" within 45 minutes and therefore posed a threat to British interests.

The Observer also reports Philippe Sands QC, a barrister in Matrix Chambers and a professor of international law at University College London, who has said: "Having some familiarity with Sir John's questioning... it is not immediately apparent that he will have the backbone to take on former government ministers." Other (unnamed) legal figures have reportedly expressed their fears that Chilcot "will do a job for the government".

Read more here.

Stephen Colbert Demolishes 'Sesame Street' Critics

A follow up to the story about right-wing moonbats attacking Sesame Street. This week, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert demolished their arguments brilliantly:

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