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Thursday, 30 March 2017

Sun EU Terror Hypocrisy

Acts of terrorism taking place in Britain are universally agreed by our free and fearless press to be A Very Bad Thing. Moreover, the same kind of thing across mainland Europe, in the Middle East, in the USA, or indeed anywhere else is also A Very Bad Thing. So it follows that security agencies across the world sharing information and otherwise cooperating with one another is to be applauded and encouraged.
Or rather, it was: after our not at all unelected Prime Minister hinted in her letter triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that we had a good relationship with the EU on security matters, and it would be a pity if something were to happen to it, those in Brussels, and indeed across the EU 27, expressed dismay at the idea that she would use the threat of pulling security cooperation in order to strong-arm the EU into giving us a better deal.

But this thought was not allowed to enter at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, where the Murdoch goons put Theresa May’s threat on their front page: “PM’s Brexit Threat To EU … YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIVES … Trade with us and we’ll help fight terror”. There you have it in one: it’s OK for the UK to become a rogue state, fine for the streets of EU capitals to be the scene of a few mass murders. And there was more.

THERESA May yesterday offered Britain’s world-beating skill on fighting terror to the EU - so long as we keep free trade … Triggering exit talks, the PM issued a tough warning on the consequences of no deal … She said: ‘Failure to reach agreement would mean our co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened’ … controversially, she placed Britain’s security know-how at the centre of any negotiations”.

Once again the delusion is all too apparent: we have our security apparatus, as do other EU member states, in particular France, Spain and Germany. But because WE’RE BRITISH and our side SPEAKS ENGLISH then WE ARE BETTER THAN THEY ARE. On what basis does the Sun make its assumption? From the use of which performance metrics? But that is not told. Instead, an equally delusional editorial applauds Ms May.

THERESA May’s historic Article 50 letter and Commons statement were a pitch-­perfect overture to the EU: reassuring and generous but with a flash of steel … We hope the EU responds in a ­similarly benign spirit and with less of the intransigence it has shown so far”. There has been no intransigence, merely the following of correct procedure. Do go on.

Mrs May’s challenge is to be as tough, if need be, as the German Chancellor is … Which is exactly why the Prime ­Minister would be crazy not to use our peerless anti-terror security services as a bargaining chip … Some critics may be disgusted at her intention to tie in the free trade deal we want with our spooks’ continued co-operation with counterparts on the Continent … But Brussels wouldn’t hesitate to do it if the boot was on the other foot”. No citation, and none will be forthcoming.

The Sun’s delusion extended to “Mrs May was RIGHT to challenge the EU to join Britain in championing free trade”. Hello Murdoch doggies! The EU already champions free trade. It’s called the Single Market. You may have heard of it.

But good to see the Murdoch goons’ terrorism hypocrisy on full view. One can only marvel at the prospects of the logic gymnastics to come.

Andy Coulson’s Payday REVEALED

After Andy Coulson, who edited the late and not at all lamented Murdoch Screws at the time when it was being effectively run as a borderline criminal enterprise, was found guilty at the Hacking Trial and sent to prison, the sob stories began: his legal fees, totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds, would not be paid by the Murdoch mafiosi, his property might be seized, and his children would have to be taken out of their private schools.
Andy Coulson - looked after by his press establishment pals

Some quite magnificently large onions were taken out to accompany the playing of nanoviolins: “Will £750k legal bill cost Andy Coulson's wife her £1.7m family home?asked the Mail. And while the Guardian reported that Coulson had successfully got the Murdoch empire to pay his legal fees, there was the problem of future employment.

Indeed, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog were bereft at his lack of prospects: “As you contemplate tucking into your Christmas dinner and unwrapping the presents under the tree, reflect on the fragility of our lives. At the beginning of the year Andy Coulson was one of the most powerful men in the country, at the right-hand of the Prime Minister in Downing Street.”. Yes? Yes yes? Yes yes yes?

Now he is a virtually unemployable pariah, abandoned by the Murdochs he long served and disowned by David Cameron whom he propelled into office. He is said to be selling his home and taking his children out of their private schools as he faces criminal charges which could lead to a lengthy imprisonment in the New Year … The greasy pole is a dangerous thing”. Except, as so often, The Great Guido was talking crap.

We know this as Coulson is back, and, truth be told, had been back for some time. As Zelo Street noted last year, the Screws’ former head of PR Hayley Barlow, now at Channel 4 News, was telling her Twitter followers about Coulson’s appearance as a Brexit analyst. The sensitive nature of the rehabilitation is thought to have contributed to Piers Morgan’s hair trigger response to Evan Harris of Hacked Off mentioning Coulson - and Rebekah Brooks - during a heated exchange on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

But it was yesterday’s news that Coulson is being employed by the increasingly downmarket and desperate Telegraph that caused many to sit up and take notice: as Roy Greenslade told Guardian readers, “Andy Coulson hired as Telegraph PR adviser … Journalists said to be shocked as ex-News of the World editor jailed over phone hacking gets job to promote truthfulness of papers”. And there was more.
Paul Vickers - another with a chequered past

His public relations firm, Coulson Chappell, has been awarded a contract to improve the standing of the company’s publications, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph. His main brief is thought to be to promote the papers as truthful and authoritative … The appointment was overseen by TMG’s chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, who is regarded as one of Coulson’s most loyal friends. He gave evidence on Coulson’s behalf at his trial”.

What Greenslade did not tell is that not only had Coulson been doing consultancy for the Telegraph for two years already - a part time engagement, revealed by Private Eye magazine and for which Coulson was paid around £60,000 a year - but also that his current deal is worth a lot more than that. How much?

Well, after it was also revealed that the Tel is sending many of its sub-editors down the road and farming out much of the work that they do, exactly what Coulson is making from his old pal’s selective largesse is understandably of a sensitive nature. But an industry source has given Zelo Street a ballpark figure on Andy’s pay range.

It has been put to me that Andy Coulson is being paid “well north” of £200,000 by the Telegraph. And he isn’t the only one with a chequered past to be hired under the less than totally prestigious leadership of Murdoch MacLennan.

Last year, the Tel hired former Trinity Mirror legal man Paul Vickers, who told the Culture, Media and Sport select committee when asked about phone hacking at those titles “We have done huge investigations and, to date, we have not found any proof that phone hacking took place”. He and his pals can’t have looked very far.
Murdoch MacLennan - leading light of the press establishment

Greenslade was not convinced: “What ‘huge investigations’ were those, I wonder? What we can be certain about is that they lacked the necessary rigour. Just consider the number of claims, the number of stories involved and the number of journalists responsible. Hacking happened, the high court was told yesterday on an ‘industrial-scale’ between 1999 to 2006”. And after all of that, he was still appointed to a senior role in the Regulatory Funding Council, the funding body for sham press regulator IPSO.

Now he’s at the Tel, having been appointed just a year after leaving Trinity Mirror with a £400,000 plus payoff. And he left IPSO’s funding body, but only after a ruckus over his potential conflict of interest over hacking claims at his former papers.

MacLennan, meanwhile, after having headed the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, is now on the board of the International News Media Association. He is a leading light in the press establishment. And he has personally appointed an ex-crim who oversaw the Screws during the most infamous period in its infamous recent history, as well as bringing on board a lawyer whose track record is, at best, chequered.

And that’s scant consolation for all those subs sent down the road. The Telegraph - just another part of the rotten press establishment, looking after its own, and stuff the little people - even if they work in the industry. No change there, then.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Montgomerie FT Groupthink Problem

Even as the process to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is enacted, and most of those who have caused themselves to believe that life will be non-specifically but wonderfully better outside the EU are in states combining rapture and euphoria, in one corner of the Europhobic punditerati, there is only frustration and gloom at one publication that refuses steadfastly to indulge in the consumption of Kool-Aid.
I'm sorry, I haven't a clue. Again

And that corner belongs to the serially clueless and obscenely overrated Tim Montgomerie, self-appointed expert pundit of no discernible ability who has risen without trace to become one of the Pundit Establishment, and “friend” of politics shows across the whole range of broadcasters, from the BBC to ITV to Channel 4 and of course Sky News (“first for breaking wind”). Monty has a problem with the FT.

Why should this be? Ah well. The FT has covered the Brexit debate and associated political process in a way that has incurred the displeasure of not only the Europhobic part of the Fourth Estate, which is most of it, but also that part of the Pundit Establishment which takes those papers as rather closer to gospel truth than they really are. As a result, Monty, being a good Europhobic pundit, is unhappy with their behaviour.
Hence his grouchy observation that “The FT's #Brexit coverage has become a joke”. Ah, but if it were a joke, rather than just not being what the Europhobic right wishes to be served up, the FT would not have the reach it does. Thus Monty’s inability to distinguish between reality and his opinion. And it gets worse.
In other words the FT has a serious groupthink problem. Herds and flocks have more independent thinkers” he added later, taking time out to tell the Spectator’s serially dishonest editor Fraser Nelson - the one who thinks sham press regulator IPSO is the “toughest press regulator in the Western world” - “Don't undersell Spectator Fraser. You have @hugorifkind, Matt Parris backing Remain. Real diversity of opinion. The FT? One herd, one flock”. Ein Volk, ein Reich and all the rest, eh? Keine Scheisse.
At this point, Monty watchers may have heard their bullshit detectors go off, and with good reason: Tim Montgomerie has no room to call anyone else for having a “groupthink problem”. It was him, after all, who in 2009 participated in one of the most serious groupthink howlers ever to hit the Pundit Establishment, as he Phone Hacking scandal was first brought to public notice by Nick Davies and the Guardian.

In the very same paper, he pennedThis is about revenge, not phone taps”, asserting that this was nothing more than an act of payback by the Labour Party for Damian McBride’s infamous emails. It was not. Monty was not alone: this became received wisdom, and continued to be so until the lid finally came off the scandal two years later.

Neither he, nor the rest of the supposedly authoritative pundits routinely called upon to dispense their “wisdom” over the airwaves, bothered to do the most elementary research before launching their tirades against the Guardian; sucking up to Rupert Murdoch, who soon afterwards rewarded Monty with a job, was more important to him.

Tim Montgomerie went seriously wrong then. Now he is almost certainly going seriously wrong again. The groupthink problem here is not the fault of the FT, but of himself.

Guido Fawked - Press Backside Wiper

Although his name is largely absent from the dubiously sourced copy churned out in his name nowadays, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines of Guido Fawkes alleged notoriety has not been totally idle, as the print-only Blogosphere Magazine shows: Staines has featured in an article for the coffee-table bi-monthly, where he no doubt gets to expound the pretence that he is a free spirit of the new journalistic frontier.
This is, of course, total crap, and the only nugget of any worth to come out of the interview is that The Great Guido blew £10,000 betting that Combover Crybaby Donald Trump would not win the US Presidential Election last year. Thus he confirms his continuing conformity to personifying a latter-day Loadsamoney, brandishing his wad as a way of telling the world the his is bigger than yours, and don’t you forget it.

Meanwhile, back at Staines’ obedient rabble who actually write his blog, the idea of independence had the final nail hammered into its coffin yesterday, as readers were treated to not one, but four examples of gratuitous press establishment backside wiping, and typifying this grovelling to his press masters was “Legs-It’s Not Bigotry, It’s Popular Journalism” as the Mail was backed and Owen Jones ritually kicked.
Staines' real boss tells him where he gets off

The idea that the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hackery are in any need of support from Staines is preposterous, as is the idea that yesterday’s puke-making article by Sarah Vine (aka Mrs Michael “Oiky” Gove) was anything other than a typical Dacre broadside to tell his readers that the Little Ladies should know their places, and submit to being made objects of mail gratification rather than independent human beings.

Not that the all-male line-up at the Fawkes blog would be deterred by such considerations, of course: after all, they had more press establishment backsides to wipe, like all of the Europhobic press: “Leavers Walk Out Of Brexit Committee Over Benn’s Highly Partisan Report”, for instance. Trying to set the agenda and pave the way for their pals to behave as badly as ever. Sadly, the “partisan” was not true, nor justified.
Ross Kempsell - the new Fawkes sandwich monitor

And that was only the half-way point: next up was‘Marine A’ Alexander Blackman Could Be Free Within Weeks”. What was the point of the Fawkes folks running a story that the press establishment has already covered exhaustively, other than to let them know of its continuing loyalty? And then came the Pièce de Résistance.

Paul Mason Loses Complaint Against The Sunreally took the biscuit. So sham press regulator IPSO wiped the Murdoch goons’ collected arses. Big deal. But interesting that, unlike the Fatima Manji complaint where Trevor Kavanagh got himself in trouble for putting the boot in on her when he was supposed to be an IPSO board member, the Sun has farmed out the post-complaint kicking to The Great Guido.

There was even an opportunity to gloat, which also reflects badly on Staines: “How does Guido know all this [about how Mason was caught on video]? He hired that reporter”. That “reporter” is called Ross Kempsell. Yes, The Great Guido is so in hock to the press establishment that he hired one of their wannabes. Another fine mess, once again.

Brexit - Press Delusion Complete

The moment all those optimistic, happy-clappy, smiling, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and, let us not drive this one round the houses for too long, utterly delusional campaigners have fought for so long to see has now come to pass: our not at all unelected Prime Minister has signed the letter that will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and set in train the process by which Britain leaves the European Union.
To accompany this occasion, the usual raft of bullshit sound bites has been launched: Britain will be truly global (will we trade with more countries as a result? Don’t ask), the EU will smile on us because they need us more than we need them (not true), the Commonwealth will embrace us with open arms (it won’t), and our Parliament will once more be sovereign (which it was all along). So what of the press reaction?
Very little of this has ventured anywhere near reality: apart from the Guardian, which has at least pitched an honest headline - “Today Britain steps into the unknown” - and the Murdoch Times, which has been granted permission not to drink the Kool-Aid and has therefore given readers the dispassionate “The eyes of history are watching … May triggers Britain’s EU departure”, that delusion has been almost complete.
For those still employed by the increasingly downmarket and desperate Telegraph, there is no room for anything resembling the intellectual process: for them, it is a case of “do as you are told”, embodied by the headline “Unite behind Brexit, says May … Prime Minister tells Britons to put aside differences as she dispatches Article 50 letter to Brussels”. Thanks, but I’ll make up my own mind about this particular clusterf***.
Moving from the Buckingham Palace Road bunker to that at Northcliffe House, the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre (a multi-millionaire bully boy who won’t suffer, no matter how screwed the country becomes) have really been on the strong stuff, telling readers “FREEDOM”. What those readers will be freed from is another matter. But we are left in no doubt that this is “a historic day for Britain”.
For those employed by Richard “Dirty” Desmond to churn out the Express, there is at least some relief that they can focus somewhere other than the meltdown in their chosen party, UKIP. They talk of “Theresa May’s No-Nonsense Message To Brussels … DEAR EU, WE’RE LEAVING YOU … PM signs letter to trigger our EU exit today”. She signed it yesterday evening, and the exit doesn’t take place for two years. Still, details, eh?
But the Pièce de Résistance was the moment of rapture for the Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, once more believing all those other 27 EU member states give a flying foxtrot what they think. “Today, as our PM triggers Britain’s exit from the EU, we beam this message from the iconic White Cliffs to our neighbours … DOVER AND OUT”. Gosh, all those on mainland Europe must be quaking in their boots. Or not.

For so much of our free and fearless press, the delusion is complete: freedom we already had, independence we never lost, opportunity that was always there, the global trade we already enjoyed. Still, there is that Vision and Boundless Hope and Optimism to look forward to. And, of course, ignoring every warning from history.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Katie Hopkins Appeal FAILS

One hates to post on the same subject twice in the same day, but sometimes the good news is just too good not to make sure it reaches the widest possible audience, and I don’t just mean Piers Morgan and Eamonn Holmes standing alongside one another (allegedly). So what is too good to keep quiet? Ah well. This afternoon, another Zelo Street prediction was proved correct in the most delicious manner.
Viewers may want to look away now

Regular visitors will recall that, after pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins was taken to court by writer and campaigner Jack Monroe for acts of defamation on Twitter, and Ms Hopkins lost, there was much talk of an appeal. I was even advised by a prominent QC that she would appeal. But nonetheless I stuck to the prediction, made less than a fortnight ago, that Hatey Katie would not be appealing. And so it has come to pass.
Jack Monroe

What has made the news yet more delicious is that Ms Hopkins was clearly minded to appeal, but for reasons best known to Herself Personally Now, somehow managed not to understand that this meant she had to take certain actions within a specified period of time. It was not quite the same as all those media offers coming in to her - on this occasion, she had to be proactive with no-one to prompt her.
This, it seems, was too much for Ms Hopkins, and as David Allen Green at Law And Policy has told, “Breaking: Katie Hopkins fails in (first) attempt to obtain permission to appeal decision in @MxJackMonroe case. No stay for costs ordered”. That there is no stay for costs ordered means Hatey Katie has to stump up the first instalment of £107,000 as previously ordered at the time the judgment was handed down.
It gets worse: the judge handing down this decision would not have been impressed, even had Ms Hopkins bothered to get her, er, stuff together within the necessary timescale: “Reason for refusal: Hopkins' application for permission to appeal left too late. Judge says permission would have been refused anyway”. Looks like there was no point in her bothering, then. Bear that in mind for later on.
Her appeal was made literally two days too late, as the judge confirmed: “Hopkins’ application for permission to appeal two days too late: ‘the order in this case was sealed two days before her application to me’”. So even if the judge had been minded to allow the appeal, the train had left the station. Where does she go now?
Green gives a hint of that with his final Twitter intervention: “‘There comes a point when the lower court no longer has jurisdiction over the case.’ Judge refusing Hopkins' appeal permission application”. The lower court. That means if Ms Hopkins wants to keep on appealing, she must do so to a higher court. And however rapidly she gets her act together, the reality is that this means it will be yet more expensive.

As the judge on that lower court has already put on record that he would not have given her permission to appeal, it is looking a yet more hopeless exercise. Time for Hatey Katie to admit defeat, pay a rather larger amount than two Dollars, and quit time wasting.

Katie Hopkins Hates Reality

Last week’s attack in London is starting to fade from media view, helped on its way by Police confirmation that there was no evidence to suggest the perpetrator Khalid Masood (formerly Adrian Elms) was connected in any way to ISIS (or whatever they’re called this week), or indeed to al-Qaeda. It was also described asspeculation” to suggest that Masood had become radicalised while in prison.
Viewers might want to look away now

So while the authorities will put in place measures to stop anyone with murderous intent getting into the grounds of the Palace of Westminster, and make it nigh-on impossible for a car to be driven at speed along the Westminster Bridge pavement, London and Londoners will very much carry on with life, all creeds, colours and faiths rubbing along together as they have done for decades past. But there has been a dissenting voice in all this.

And that voice, to no surprise at all, comes from pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins, now needing more media appearances than ever before due to that non-trivial legal bill she ran up losing a libel action brought by writer and campaigner Jack Monroe. Hatey Katie has seen an opportunity to generate interest by coming over all contrarian - while at the same time trying make the rest of the world as frightened as her of Scary Muslims (tm).
So off she went on another Mail Online rantfest: “Even if we were to accept all the other answers from the Met Police - about not being radicalised in prison, what he was doing in Saudi, why he chose to relocate to an extremist community - surely one very difficult question remains”. Like what, apart from accusing the cops of lying?

It’s this: how many other Khalids are there out there not being watched? How many other knife-wielding Muslim converts with a penchant for random short visits to Saudi and multiple homes amongst extremists are still operating unseen?” Ms Hopkins manages to miss that the not-yet-a-Muslim Adrian Elms was also a violent criminal.
But she does know that “The faux liberals of London have been brainwashed into believing 'we stand united', that somehow 'walking down a pavement' is the new brave, and that 'carrying on as normal' equates to being resilient and not cowed”. In other words, nobody is listening to her any more. Well, not in the UK. So what to do?
Simples. She is always assured of a hearing on Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), and so has taken to Twitter to tell “Back with @TuckerCarlson at 2140 eastern - talking about the great multicultural cover up happening here in the UK … Joining @TuckerCarlson tonight. Called a Nazi sympathiser for refusing to sing from the 'we stand united' songsheet”. No, she was called a Nazi sympathiser way before that.
Try again. “This is not the Blitz. We aren't defending the UK. We're asked to be accomplices in its fall. And I refuse to join”. Still no-one cared. How about kicking the BBC? Sure thing: “Mother. Wife. Shocked & saddened. Same language. Same song sheet. Same propaganda. Was there an actual script @BBCNews? N Korea feels free”.

But still no-one who mattered cared. And how will she pay those legal bills after Fox News loses interest? Who knows? And, indeed, who cares? Katie Hopkins doesn’t get London. Worse, she doesn’t get tolerance, fortitude, or forgiveness. Or reality. Sad, really.

Sarah Vine Sexist Tosh BUSTED

After the 24-hour rolling news Speculatron ran out of steam over things to say about last week’s London attack, our free and fearless press has turned, slowly but surely, to the upcoming notification by Theresa May of triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. If the timetable is adhered to, this will happen tomorrow. So those papers backing Britain’s exit from the EU are now thinking up new ways to tell readers how wonderful this is.
Ms May helped them by fetching up in Edinburgh yesterday for talks with Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon. This gave the hacks and pundits their headline, and lots of photos, but then a problem entered: the meeting between the two women was held behind closed doors, and only the briefest of statements was issued afterwards. This produced a news vacuum, and press nature abhors a news vacuum.

So that void had to be filled, and at the Daily Mail this meant telling readers that, whatever had been said, our not at all unelected Prime Minister had won, so there. To this end, Sarah “vain” Vine was dispatched by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre to bring forth the patently ridiculous headlineOne was relaxed, every inch a stateswoman while her opposite number was tense and uncomfortable: SARAH VINE says May v Sturgeon was a knockout victory for the PM”. The supporting article isn’t any better.

How did Ms Vine reach her conclusion? It was all about the clothes, silly. “the First Minister’s natty blue suit with white piping and matching light-coloured stilettos were unmistakably reminiscent of the Scottish flag, a subliminal if not entirely subtle indication of her feelings towards Westminster … May, for her part, was stateswomanlike in a stylish navy jacket, a patterned dress and her trademark leopard-print heels”.
What you will not see in the Mail

Could it get worse? As if you need to ask: “Their expressions … told very different stories. May is pictured laughing all the way to her eyes, her head thrown slightly back, her chin sinking into her neck. It’s a relaxed, natural pose, her gaze confident and aimed directly at the camera … Sturgeon, by contrast, looks less comfortable. She is glancing off to one side, her eyes like two hard little chocolate buttons, her smile about as warm and welcoming as Loch Lomond on a winter’s day”. What a load of partisan tosh.

But it was about to get even worse. A lot worse. “But what stands out here are the legs - and the vast expanse on show. There is no doubt that both women consider their pins to be the finest weapon in their physical arsenal. Consequently, both have been unsheathed”. Shine a light, whatever next? Do I need the sick bucket ready?

Could be. “May’s famously long extremities are demurely arranged in her customary finishing-school stance - knees tightly together, calves at a flattering diagonal, feet neatly aligned. It’s a studied pose that reminds us that for all her confidence, she is ever the vicar’s daughter, always respectful and anxious not to put a foot wrong … Sturgeon’s shorter but undeniably more shapely shanks are altogether more flirty, tantalisingly crossed, with the dominant leg pointing towards her audience”. Oh just f*** right off.
And you definitely won't see this ((c) Steve Bell 2017)

Sarah Vine knows sweet jack about what went on in that meeting, and equally little about what a posed photo of the two leaders really signifies (clue, Sarah: it signifies two leaders posing for the camera before a meeting. Nothing more, nothing less).

That did not stop the supporting acts, bringing forth increasingly silly headlines likeNever mind the referendum! As Nicola Sturgeon ditches her red power suit to mirror Theresa May's sombre look...Who won the fashion face-off at their tense talks?” from the Mail’sstyle editor” Dinah van Tulleken (crazy name, crazy gal?!?) and the inevitable'They look well past the stage of pretending to be chums': Body language expert reveals the truth behind Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon's frosty Brexit meeting”.

The condemnation of this blatantly sexist and demeaning exhibition ranged across the political spectrum, from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to senior colleagues Yvette Cooper and Chuka Umunna, via former deputy leader John Prescott and former Leader Mil The Younger - Tweeting “The 1950s called and asked for their headline back” - to former Tory minister Nicky Morgan.

Yes, the article was written by a woman, and the majority of the Mail’s readership is made up of women, but this is total crap. You don’t know what Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon said during their meeting - just admit it. Try filling the resulting space with news. Or did I misinterpret that word “newspaper”? One more for the bin.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Nadine Dorries - Technophobe Speaks

After Amber Rudd, who claims to be the Home Secretary, was subjected to the inquisition of the host on The Andy Marr Show (tm) yesterday and demonstrated that she did not know one end of Information Technology from the other, some in the press have been following her lead, showing that when Private Eye magazine told the wold “New Technology defeats pissed old hack”, there was more than a little truth in the claim.
So why did Ms Rudd’s fellow Tory MPs not have a quiet word with her? Surely there were plenty of them a little more clued up on the Web, smartphones, encryption, search engines and the like? Ah well. One look at the reaction of one average and perennial back bench Tory tells you all you need to know about that. So come with me into the alternate technological reality inhabited by (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries.
The fragrant Nadine had plenty to say in support of Ms Rudd. The problem was that there was a distinct lack of intellectual heft underpinning it, as well as an equal lack of technical savvy. You think I jest? Consider this Tweet: “To help keep our streets safe, we need to rise up against companies like #Apple and #Whattsapp [sic] who provide space and comfort to terrorists”. She wants to rise up against the firm that made her phone.
That was an inauspicious start, and from there it went downhill in short order, as Ms Dorries then asserted ”#Apple not providing FBI with codes to unlock terrorists phones and #whatsap [sic] not allowing access security services is a dangerous principle”. Let’s take this nice and slowly: Apple CANNOT provide the FBI, or anyone else, with codes to unlock phones. That’s the thing that makes them genuinely secure.
Oh, and how on earth WhatsApp are supposed to have access to a product they didn’t build is, shall we say, a challenging proposition. Still onwards and, er, onwards, eh? “And to those with smart ass comments tell me what your point is AFTER you have been in the middle of and target of a terrorist attack”. This is otherwise known as inflating the soufflé beyond the limits of viability. Or, in more direct terms, taking the piss.
By this point, it had occurred to Ms Dorries that kicking Apple while being in possession of an iPhone might not be a good look. So she tried to square this circle by telling “Love Twitter and plonkers who point out I have an iPhone. If I ever commit a terrorist attack, please #Apple give security services my code”. Sadly, she failed once more. Apple cannot, repeat cannot, REPEAT CANNOT, give security services (or anyone else) her code.
And she still wasn’t for listening, even to Mark Wallace of Conservative Home, who tried to put her straight on the vulnerability of software back doors. “No - you just develop a terrorist related exception that's all or even one for grieving parents too caught up in this one size doesn't fit”. Let’s once more take it nice and slowly: a backdoor is a backdoor is a backdoor, whatever reason used to build it. It is therefore another security vulnerability.

But one should not be too harsh on Ms Dorries: she may be technologically inept, but she is by no means alone on the Tory back benches. That is why Amber Rudd is still Home Secretary - it’s even worse than the partially sighted leading the blind.

Mail Kicks Uber Over Cameron Ties

As Nick Davies observed in Flat Earth News, his go-to book on the machinations of the Fourth Estate, “I know of nothing anywhere in the rest of the world’s media which matches the unmitigated spite of an attack from the Daily Mail”. And now Travis Kalanick and his fellow modern-day transportation robber barons at driver and rider matching service Uber are beginning to realise exactly what he meant.
Because today we learnt that the Saturday salvo fired by the Mail was not an isolated occurrence: this morning, their campaign against Uber has been escalated to front page lead status with the headlineDowning St accused of withholding emails about its secret campaign to help online taxi firm … CAMERON AIDE’S UBER ‘COVER-UP’”. The “cover-up” cannot at present be proved - hence the quote marks - but the Mail is getting close.
Once again, the story is not new, but having it get out to an audience of millions certainly is. Underpinning the story, as on Saturday, is the move by London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to impose some regulatory control on operations like Uber - like ensuring its drivers had a reasonable command of the English language - only to cave in very soon after announcing them.
Bozza’s tone changed almost overnight from complaining that Uber were breaking all sorts of regulations and needed to be brought into line with other private hire operators, to then shrugging his shoulders are excusing his U-Turn by telling that one could not stand in the way of new technology. In the intervening period, Bozza is widely believed to have been leant on by Young Dave and his next door neighbour in Downing Street.
Cameron, though, has since that time gambled once too often, and along with his Uber-supporting pal Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, is no longer running the country. The Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre never really liked Cameron - or Osborne - and now that the latter has exhibited the kind of greed of which even Dacre disapproves by taking on yet another job - pretending to be a newspaper editor - they are both in line for a good kicking.

This the taxi trade understands well, and coming in the wake of recent court setbacks for Uber, on the status of their drivers and failing to overturn new Mayor Sadiq Khan’s move to ensure those drivers demonstrate a decent command of English, know that the tide is turning against Uber, which on top of all that is losing money hand over fist.
Does the Mail’s story have any real substance? Well, yes it does: one of Cameron’s aides claimed in response to an FoI request that there were no emails between his side and TfL to disclose. But when the same request was made to TfL … three emails were disclosed that should have been turned up in the first FoI trawl. Labour MPs are taking the opportunity to pile in on behalf of cabbies. And once more, Rachel Whetstone and her closeness to Cameron and Osborne is under the spotlight.

And, as this attack is backed by a suitably judgmental Daily Mail Comment, we can be sure it has Dacre’s backing. It would surprise no-one if Kalanick himself, and his less than professional past behaviour, was put be under the spotlight next. Get the popcorn in.

EasyJet Cleared For Brexit Take-Off

Of all the recent British start-up success stories, few has impacted so many of the general public as EasyJet: the low cost airline, which launched in 1995 and now operates a fleet of around 240 aircraft. It has brought scheduled air travel to many people who had never ventured beyond holiday charter flights before. Some - me included - have used it for commuting to jobs abroad. But now it faces a problem.
EasyJet took advantage - as did Irish low cost carrier Ryanair - of the EU’s “Open Skies” policy, which allowed it to expand rapidly throughout Europe and secure access to many cities’ primary airports (the carrier flies into Amsterdam Schiphol, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Madrid Barajas, Barcelona - El Prat, and Milan Malpensa, for instance). So after last year’s referendum result, it was rumoured that it would leave the UK.

At the start of last July, the Mirror reportedEasyJet draws up plans to move headquarters out of UK in wake of Brexit vote … The airline has said however that the the vast majority of its staff would remain at the firm’s current headquarters at Luton Airport in Bedfordshire”. The Guardian has since addedUK-based airlines told to move to Europe after Brexit or lose major routes”. This was, predictably, dismissed as scaremongering.
Possible new EasyJet base? Praça do Comércio, Lisbon ...

But scaremongering it was not: Sky News has now heard thatLow-cost airline easyJet close to landing post-Brexit EU base … The low-cost carrier's board is expected to announce the location of a new EU base in April … Sky News understands that the low-cost carrier's board has pencilled in an April decision on the location of a new air operator's certificate (AOC), which will allow it to continue flying between EU member states”.

Like many of the potential post-Brexit company moves, “The decision will effectively entail the establishment of a new legal headquarters for easyJet, although the company has no plans to relocate the 1000 staff who work at its operational head office at Luton Airport”. So very little will change initially, but gradually the airline’s focus will switch to its new legal HQ. So where might that be (apart from not in the UK)?
... Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna

Member states including the Netherlands are understood to have been ruled out … One insider said an announcement was ‘weeks rather than days away’ but added that the shortlist of options was now ‘very short’ … sources said on Sunday that countries including Austria, Malta and Portugal had been under serious recent consideration”. All three are Eurozone countries, and committed to remaining EU member states.

And it isn’t just the HQ that will move: “easyJet is expected to have to amend its articles of association to require that a majority of the parent company's shares are owned by EU nationals”. These moves “follow warnings from officials on the Continent that airlines such as easyJet and British Airways' parent, International Airlines Group, must have a majority of their shares owned within the EU”. Yes, BA will be moving its HQ as well.

As BA’s parent company also runs Spanish carrier Iberia, they might well move their legal HQ to Spain. It’s just confirmation that there will be no sudden or instant change due to Brexit - but change there will be. And once those companies move their HQ abroad, they will not be moving it back. Something else the Leave campaign didn’t tell voters.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Amber Rudd - You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

After last week’s attack in London, and all the talk of tech giants not doing enough to prevent the terrorism-inclined from getting clued up on how to go about their murderous business, we have the spectacle of other tech firms being upbraided for being too secretive, not least messaging specialist WhatsApp, which Khalid Masood is said to have been using before launching his hired Hyundai into the crowds on Westminster Bridge.
Amber Rudd holds The Internet in her hands (allegedly - thanks to Tim Ireland)

With this as the backdrop, home secretary Amber Rudd presented herself for questioning by the host on The Andy Marr Show (tm) this morning, and very quickly demonstrated that she is not only proficient in bullshitting, she is also woefully short of knowledge on the subject which just happened to be under discussion: the technology used in messaging apps, and especially the use of security - like end to end encryption.

Marr put it to her that terrorists being able to keep their messages secret was totally unacceptable. Ms Rudd was not obliged to go along with that suggestion - she could have made good arguments for privacy - but instead replied “There should be no place for terrorists to hide. We need to make sure that organisations like Whatsapp - and there are  plenty of others like that - don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with  each other … on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted Whatsapp”.

Ho yus. There is a teensy problem with this idea: allowing the spooks - who, let us not forget, have leaked and been caused to leak information at a non-trivial rate in recent years - to break the encryption of WhatsApp, or indeed any app, leads inevitably to the criminal element following along behind. Worse, those criminals may have their back door into those apps leaked in turn to terrorists - and there we are back at Square One.

It got worse for Ms Rudd when Marr mentioned the arguments between Apple and the intelligence agencies in the USA: her view was “We’re not saying open up, we don’t want to go into the cloud, we don’t want to do all sorts of things like that, but we do want them  to recognise they have a responsibility to engage with government, to engage with law enforcement agencies when there is a terrorist situation”.

So what did she mean? Marr specifically cited the argument around having a back door into security, and this only made the home secretary’s ignorance more visible: “I would ask Tim Cook to think again about other ways of finding out, of helping us work out, how we can get into situations like Whatsapp on the Apple phone”. Yeah, right.

WhatsApp is not an Apple product; it is an independent company. Cook is not going to be able to help anyone to crack another firm’s encryption. Anyhow, what about that end-to-end encryption? “I do agree what we have to have a situation where we can have our  security services get into the terrorist communications, that’s absolutely the case”.

Well, if she isn’t talking about a back door, what the hell is she talking about? Does Amber Rudd not know that organisations like GCHQ hoover up data in bulk; they don’t do one-off trawls on the fly, and certainly not when the person involved - as Khalid Masood was - is not even on their radar. The interview was not progressing well.

Would she favour using the model used in Germany, where sites allowing proscribed content are liable to be fined? “I’m not sure the German plan has been entirely successful”. Why not? What useful alternative can she muster? “I know it sounds a bit like we’re stepping away from legislation but we’re not …  I’d like to have an industry - wide board set up where they do it themselves. They could do this, I want to make sure they do”.

Without any stick, or perhaps even without any carrot? What was she actually driving at? “What I’m saying is the best people, who understand the technology, who understand  the  necessary hashtags to stop this stuff even being put up, not just taking it down, but stop putting it up in the first place, are going to be them”.

It was all about “the necessary hashtags”. It was at this point that anyone sitting on the fence over Ms Rudd’s ability to understand one end of Information Technology from the other should have heard the warning klaxon sounding long and loud. She doesn’t like encryption, but it keeps all those tens of millions of online transactions that take place every hour of the day safe and secure. Would she want to see that endangered?

Does she want to leave peoples’ privacy open to abuse by anyone with criminal intent? Because as soon as there is a back door into any secure technology, it ain’t going to remain secure for long. And how does she think she will get tech firms to be cooperative with Governments and their agencies without both carrots and sticks - as well as having a minister who knows what he or she is talking about?

Amber Rudd was a totally unconvincing interviewee. And if the Government cannot do any better, we need to know why. Someone send Amber Rudd a copy of I T for Dummies.