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This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Arron Banks Passes The Begging Bowl

Leave EU’s main man Arron Banks, so the accepted wisdom goes, was “The man who bankrolled Brexit”. He had loaned and donated millions of pounds to the cause. He was, we were assured, a billionaire in his own right, and probably ranked as high as any in Rome. Moreover, he was able to call on the services of the most prestigious, and indeed expensive, lawyers when it came to defending his reputation.
So it was that when MEP Guy Verhofstadt Tweeted “Europe has a fifth column in its ranks: Putin's cheerleaders who want to destroy Europe & liberal democracy from within: Le Pen, Wilders, Farage, Orbàn, Kaczynski, Salvini use Kremlin money & intel. Like Farage's friend Arron Banks, who colluded w/ Russians to deliver #Brexit”, Banksy got Mishcon de Reya to fire off a reassuringly expensive missive aimed at securing retraction.
But there was a problem: the letter did not follow pre-action protocol for defamation. Then, when lawyers for Byline Media, which has threatened legal action of its own against Banks and his sidekick Andy Wigmore, contacted Mishcon de Reya as part of issuing a Letter Before Action, they were told, on the personal advice of Anthony Julius himself, that they were not instructed in regards to those complaints.
That meant they were not representing Banksy and Wiggy. What was the problem? Had there been a falling out? Well, maybe the problem is a more fundamental one - money, or in Arron Banks’ case, the lack of it. You think I jest? Check this out.

Leave EU’s Twitter feed has told its followers “It's never easy forcing the Establishment to implement something they don't believe in. We knew they'd fight back - this is why we've stuck around! To keep up the fight, we need your support! Will you help us ensure that a true Brexit is delivered?” They want donations? What for? What role do they have in “delivering Brexit”, apart from none at all? And there was more.
The Leave EU website, under the heading “DONATE TO HELP FIGHT THE INTRUSIVE ATTACKS ON LEAVE EU”, has toldIt has been a momentous week for the campaign. On Tuesday, Leave.EU’s chairman Arron Banks was in Parliament for a three-hour interrogation by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports committee … The now notorious hearing was just the latest move by the Remainer Establishment to undermine the reputation of the independence campaign and spread doubt over the legitimacy of 2016’s historic referendum … They must not succeed. Even the smallest donations will enable us to fight back. Thank you”. What did attending that hearing cost, apart from nothing?

The Brexit legislation is now passing through Parliament. Banksy, Wiggy and their pals have no part in that at all. What Leave EU really means, although it is not admitted, has been enunciated by the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr: “‘Millionaire’ @Arron_banks is now begging for money. Those legal letters must be starting to add up”.
Arron Banks supposedly gave millions to the Leave EU campaign. Now he’s been hit with a legal action for blatantly defaming Byline Media, the millions seem to have vanished and he’s reduced to crowdfunding his defence, under the dishonest pretence of campaigning.

So tell us all again, Banksy, where did all those millions come from? No pressure, now.

Nigel Farage Endorses Child Abuse

Over in the USA at the moment - one can only hope that there is some kind of problem with his return ticket - former UKIP Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage has been doing what he knows best, and in the States that means giving his unequivocal endorsement to whatever Combover Crybaby Donald Trump has inflicted on that great nation, however draconian and inhumane it might be.
Squeaky uncaring sociopath finger up the bum time

And the most draconian and inhumane measure to come out of the Trump gang for some time has concerned those attempting to enter the USA, who are deemed illegal migrants by the authorities there. Parents have been separated from children, the latter being locked up often in temporary cages. The sounds of crying children have played across the airwaves; condemnation has come even from Trump’s own party.
The Donald, being little more than a cheap huckster, blowhard and serial liar, has previously washed his hands of the problem, saying "you can't do it through an executive order”, and insisting that only Congress could fix the policy by passing immigration reform. It was the Democrats’ fault, perhaps Barack Obama did it. That sort of dishonesty.

Into this controversy came Farage, who had been invited on to the friendly territory of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) to pontificate on the matter. This is what he said about it: “So it’s very easy to be compassionate, but you’ve got to understand that in the case of America and these borders, many of these children are being used as a means to get other people in”. The usual pack of lies, then. And there was more.
Many of whom aren’t even their families [another blatant lie] … you’ve got to … Trump has got to stay tough on this and ignore all the screams coming from the liberal media”. This callous shyster managed not to notice that the screams, such as they were, were coming from all those poor children crying out for their parents.
And what that meant was not lost on many pundits, one of whom was Laurence Tribe: “Trump, Kelley, Miller, Sessions and Nielsen are monsters. How eagerly and proudly they abuse innocent children and desperate families for political gain is abominable. Their actions are totally unforgivable”. It was child abuse. And Farage had backed it.

Moreover, Mr Thirsty’s singularly unfortunate “screams” remark had not gone unnoticed, not least by Jo Rowling, who called The Great Man out on it: “The screams reverberating around the world are coming from terrified children in cages. What you’re saying here is that you believe child abuse should be a legitimate tool of the state.” Quite.
Strange, isn’t it, that the far right claim to be hot on child abuse, but turn out only to be really hot on it when they’re using it as a way of demonising Scary Muslims™? When a rogue President leads his country to practice institutionalised child abuse, that same far right don’t want to know, because, hey, he might be an SOB, but he’s their SOB.

The far right won’t be able to admit it, because Nige is their hero, but Farage has just endorsed child abuse. And this morning, after Trump U-turned in the face of nationwide condemnation, the former UKIP leader is left looking even worse. Because he is.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Daily Mail’s Selective Racism

In Flat Earth News, his go-to book on the machinations of the Fourth Estate, Nick Davies discussed the way in which one paper did its work: “it is a model of a certain type of reporting … a model which is particularly associated with the Daily Mail. This involves something like the work of a gardener, who digs out and throws away weeds and stones and anything else which he does not want and then plants whatever he fancies”.
What's so f***ing wrong with kicking brown women, c***?!?!?

What this meant could be put directly:  The story, in other words, is a model of the subtle art of distortion. Aggressive distortion”. And today has brought a text-book example of the genre, as the Mail has once again gone after Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal, but not because she isn’t white, you understand. The distortion begins with the headline.
Priyamvada Gopal

Cambridge University hits back at don who branded 'all white' porters 'racist' for not calling her 'Dr' as college insists there was 'no wrongdoing or discrimination' from its staff” it tells readers, continuing “Priyamvada Gopal, 49, will no longer supervise students from King's College. English lit expert said Kings' porters treat her differently because she is not white. King’s College hit back, saying it was 'matter of procedure, not discrimination’”.
The distortion? Dr Gopal did not take brand anyone “racist” for not calling her “Dr”. Yes, I know it’s there in the first line of the heading, but she didn’t. In fact, that was no more than an aside within her observations shared on Twitter two days ago.
So what’s at issue? This is all about the perceived issue of racial profiling, and indeed low-level racism, exhibited towards a wide range of individuals over many years. This is what she actually said about it: “With deep regret but with 17 years of consideration behind it, I have finally decided on my behalf & of other people of colour @Cambridge_Uni to refuse to supervise any students at @Kings_College. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH of the consistently racist profiling & aggression by Porters.” And there was more.
My attempts to raise this with Fellows & with its management verbally and in writing have failed to elicit any changes. Hundreds of stories abound over the years. BASTA! Where you are in a position to tell them: if you can't be polite to me at the gate, I can't do any work for you, you should. I apologise to any future students affected and to @CambridgeBME but it is more than time to address this long festering sore. Until and unless it is, I will not do any more work for Kings”. She also provided a student testimonial.
Some time ago, I received this from a Kings BAME student. 'I have recently heard about your awful treatment from the porters and gate staff at Kings, and so on behalf of the students of the college I would like to apologise for this unacceptable incident. I wanted to let you know that the issue of racial profiling and unconscious bias at the Kings gate is something we are aware of and are trying our absolute hardest to find some sort of resolution to this - we have collected testimonials of many other students and staff who have experienced horrible unfair treatment from the staff at the front of Kings, and the fact that I am still hearing of so many incidents makes me appalled’”.
This concluded “‘I am in the process of discussing the issue with college and hopefully there will soon be some sort of progress, but in the meantime [we are] urging students to talk about the issue, make sure such incidents are discussed and brought to people's attention, and so we also realise the severity of the problem.' Again, students speak to what their teachers and managers keep denying. I am SO sorry about this”.
The problem has clearly been going on for some years, and there is sufficient scope in what Dr Gopal has set out for the Mail to put some effort into investigating the matter. But instead, we get the usual “Dr Gopal, a vehement supporter of Jeremy Corbyn [bad] … She is a prolific user of Twitter [bad]”, and of course “She was also involved in a high profile row with eminent Oxford don, Nigel Biggar”. That’s Biggar, as in bigot.
When the Mail claims to be at the forefront of investigative journalism, and asserts that it isn’t racist, honestly, it is always useful to remember that it churns out slanted copy in support of bigots like Nigel Biggar, and rather than call out King’s College, just decides to blow the dog-whistle and kick the uppity brown woman instead.

That’s the selective distortion of the Daily Mail laid bare. It is, as Nick Davies told, an aggressive distortion. It is also a superb example of selective racism.

Under Paul Dacre’s less than benign editorship, the Mail always seems to end up siding with, and therefore supporting and empowering, the racists. No change there, then.

Alan Sugar Racism Shame

Alan Sugar, ennobled by the party he spends so much time slagging off, is no stranger to social media controversy, which for him usually means being an idiot on Twitter. He also has previous for being called for racism on, yes, Twitter. So it should have surprised no-one when m’Lord opened mouth and inserted boot in no style at all this morning with what he clearly thought was a jolly bit of World Cup fun.
Somebody take that phone off him!

Sugar decided to make what he clearly thought was a joke about the Senegal team, but not, repeat not, repeat NOT because they were black, you understand. He took the photo of the team and added images of sunglasses and handbags laid out on towels, saying “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multi tasking resourceful chaps”. This duly went down like the proverbial cup of cold sick.
Babita Sharma of BBC World News was one of many passing adverse comment: “A shocking, vile tweet that you take a screen grab of because you know it will soon be deleted”. Paul Waugh of the Huff Post added “Utterly disgraceful. And the 'it was only a joke' line is even more pathetic”. What say m’Lord to that?
After Waugh also took a screen grab, Sugar sniped “why did you re tweet it ...if it is so bad”. After Hannah al-Othman of BuzzFeed News concluded “This is not an okay Tweet”, he was equally combative: “why not it is meant to be funny ....... for god sake”. The punctuation just got fired. And there was more.
Alex Barton wondered “How long before he gets told to apologise for this?” to which The Great Man did some more punctuation murdering as he snapped back “I cant see what I have to apologise for .... you are OTT ... its a bloody joke”. And almost as an aside, he decided to kick Ms Sharma, while he was on a roll. “if it so vile why have you retweeted it . You make me sick”. It’s that cold sick again. But then came the inevitable recantation.
Just been reading the reaction to my funny tweet about the guy on the beach in Marbella . Seems it has been interpreted in the wrong way as offensive by a few people . Frankly I cant see that I think it's funny. But I will pull it down if you insist” he conceded.
That was not enough for Kelechi Okafor, who asked “Why take it down if it was so funny and not racist in any way @Lord_Sugar ?? Had you even washed your bum or brushed your teeth before you jumped online to tweet such trash??” By this time, m’Lord could only manage an indignant “if its so bad why have you re tweeted it”.
By this time, the adverse comment was raining down on Sugar, and rightly so, with his “they all look the same” jest. It was left to Paul Waugh to say what many were already thinking: “Sugar clearly has more in common with Trump than just hosting The Apprentice”.

Alan Sugar has clearly forgotten Denis Thatcher’s dictum: “better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”. Lord Sugar - You’re fired.

BBC Welcomes Another Fascist

Not content, it seems, with the avalanche of criticism following all those appearances on its programmes of former UKIP Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, or indeed the interviewing of Front Nationale leader Marine le Pen on The Andy Marr Show™, the BBC has welcomed yet another scion of the fascist right, with the appearance last night of Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of Germany’s AfD, on Newsnight.
The Alternative für Deutschland, to give it its full title, is part of the European far right. It is happy to work with groups like Pegida. It has links to the Identitarian movement - that’s the hip new word for European neo-Nazism. It contains elements of Islamophobia, outright racism, xenophobia and, yes, anti-Semitism. It is opposed to same-sex marriage. It is an anti-feminist party. It practices climate change denialism.
You'll have to speak up, I'm a bit mutt and jeff

And that’s before we get to Ms von Storch, a granddaughter of Hitler’s finance minister, Lutz von Krosigk. The subject of that Newsnight discussion was Germany’s asylum policy, so her stance on that is highly relevant. Some asylum seekers are most definitely not welcome where the AfD is concerned: “Islam does not belong to Germany. We are in favour of religious freedom of course, but Islam is claiming political power, and this is what we deny”. That’s what Ms von Storch said. On Newsnight (she’s been on before).
Plus, as the Guardian pointed out recently, “von Storch has been a member of Farage’s group in the European parliament since being expelled from the more mainstream European Conservatives and Reformists Group in April [2016], following comments in which she called on European border guards to use firearms to deter illegal immigrants, including women and children. She later described the comments as a ‘tactical mistake’”.
It should therefore have come as no surprise to the Beeb to see responses like “That's Beatrix von Storch, granddaughter of Hitler's finance minister and leader of Germany's extreme right? #Newsnight keeping it classy as it continues to mainstream the most toxic, fascistic elements in world politics”. And there was more.
Jon Worth also registered his dismay. “I cannot comprehend the @BBCNewsnight editorial decision. ‘Oh there’s a government crisis in Germany. Let’s cover!’ ‘Who shall we have on?’ ‘Oh how about the deputy leader of the populist right party who wanted to shoot refugees at the border?’ ‘Yeah, sure!’”. It’s not as if there were no alternatives.
Aaron Burnett spelled out the choices the BBC could have made. “The following MdBs either studied at EN-speaking institutions, or I have personally seen them speak English without notes or translation: .@RKiesewetter (CDU & on Foreign Affairs Comm.) - Norbert Röttgen (CDU, FA Comm Chair) - .@fbrantner (Green, former MEP) … - .@katarinabarley (SPD, has both German & British nationality) - Ursula von der Leyen (CDU, Defense Minister) - Ruprecht Polenz (CDU MdB until 2013 & former Chair of FA Comm.) (This list isn’t exhaustive, there’s more).” Plus there was a further reminder for the Beeb.
Ian Slater, also German based, told “Here in Germany, the tv networks do not give such platforms to far-right extremists from neighbouring countries. Surely the #BBC can’t be so stupid as to keep doing this accidentally (Stone, Coulter, Bannon etc etc), giving an platform via soft interviews”. Bad move from the BBC. And it’s not the first one.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

More Uber Scams BUSTED

With the appeal by driver and rider matching service Uber against TfL’s decision to refuse it a licence renewal coming up next week, those considering whether this is a fit and proper applicant might like to consider the concept of “Ghost cars” and suspect surge pricing tactics that have been linked to Uber recently. Because these are yet more reasons for being sceptical of the company’s ability to clean up its act.
The Ghost car concept is the idea of showing potential punters that there are more cars in the area than actually exist as a way to make them think (a) a car will be with them sooner, and/or (b) the service is superior to the competition.

That idea was detailed by Gizmodo: “If you use Uber, you’ve seen the map that comes up when you want a ride. The map shows little car graphics … Once you request a ride, you can watch a little car creep closer to your destination as you wait. It’s a marvel of technology! Except it’s bullshit”. And why should that be?

Alex Rosenblat and Luke Stark, researchers studying Uber’s user interaction, discovered that the map Uber shows passengers of its available local drivers isn’t very accurate/may be intentionally misleading … Rosenblat interviewed Uber drivers as research, including an Uber driver ‘Heather’ who noticed that the passenger map wasn’t showing correct information”. When “Heather” pointed this out to Uber, there was a surprising reply.

The app is simply showing there are partners on the road at the time … This is not a representation of the exact numbers of drivers or their location. This is more of a visual effect letting people know that partners are searching for fares”. Then came a real belter of an excuse: “I know this seems a misleading to you but it is meant as more of a visual effect more than an accurate location of drivers in the area. It would be better of you to think of this as a screen saver on a computer”.
As Gizmodo observed, “When you open the app and see a bunch of available cars nearby, it makes it seem like it’s definitely the quickest way to get a ride, which makes Uber seem more attractive”. And once Uber has got the punter in its grasp, well, the opportunities for wallet-lightening are, it seems, endless. Right down to your phone’s battery status.

Such as … “Uber knows when the battery on your phone is running low - and that you are more likely to pay higher ‘surge’ prices for a car as a result”. Wait, what? “Uber knows whether a user is on low battery because the app needs to use that information to go into power saving mode”. And although Uber’s head of economic research at the time denied the company would use the knowledge about a punter’s low battery would be used to leverage more money out of them, he did acknowledge “We do have access to a tremendous amount of data”. Absolute data potentially corrupts absolutely.

These two potentially nice little earners are in addition to all the other manifestations of less than totally principled behaviour that Uber has brought to London. And although the company denies using them to further screw over the pundits, I’m sure the people at TfL will want to have the fullest information before them before reaching their judgment.

The list of Uber dirty tricks seems endless, doesn’t it? I’ll just leave that one there.

Tommy Robinson Pals Fall-Out ESCALATES

While Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, continues to serve his jail term in HMP Onley, a Category C establishment near Rugby, and his friends do their best to support his family, some of the less principled but perhaps more financially desperate hangers-on try to profit from the situation. One of those is deeply unpleasant creep Caolan Robertson, who has conned himself a trip to the USA for his efforts.
As I posted recently, Lennon’s PA Hel Gower had told Caolan and Morphine where to get off, if only indirectly. After Robertson had claimed “I have worked with Tommy almost every day for almost 2 years and have never met or heard of you. He told me he does not have a  PA. Your information is completely false. Tommy will clarify all of this as soon as he is released”, and then deleted the Tweet (but not quickly enough), she put him straight.

The team don't talk to Caolan and I regularly talk to the family as well as Tommy ringing me”. So it was no surprise that it was Ms Gower who had the latest information from the Lennon family: “Spoke to Tommy’s wife, her and the kids visited him yesterday and were so pleased to finally see him. Tommy is ok and I won’t duplicate what Raheem reported yesterday. Tommy’s prison number is A2084CG and the prison is:- HMP Onley Rugby Warwickshire CV23 8AP”. She is, effectively, Lennon’s official spokesperson.
And those watching what Robertson was up to might have assumed, because his Twitter feed has been inactive for the last four days, and had no contributions from him for five, that he had now accepted this. But he hasn’t.

This was confirmed when Zelo Street was in receipt of an email this morning sent on behalf of a Washington DC “lobbyist and attorney” called Jack Burkman, which tells “Official Robinson spokesman coming from London to join Burkman at press conference and fundraising event. Burkman also assembling lobbying coalition to obtain a US Congressional resolution demanding the British government release Robinson at once”.

So who is the “official Robinson spokesman”? Is it Ms Gower? Is it, perhaps, Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam, who was mentioned by Ms Gower in that Tweet? It is neither of those. The “official Robinson spokesman” is none other than Caolan Robertson.

You think I jest? Here’s the spiel: “Jack Burkman … has announced plans for an event benefitting the recently imprisoned Rebel Media reporter Tommy Robinson. A joint press conference with Robinson’s spokesperson Caolan Robertson will be followed by a cocktail fundraiser. Burkman and Robertson believe this case is an example of poor freedom of speech laws and they hope holding an event will draw attention and support from fellow conservatives in America”. How much dishonesty is there in that?
Lennon is no longer a Rebel Media contributor, and Robertson ain’t his spokesman. But then, Jack Burkman, it has to be stressed, is away with the fairies. Here’s his ridiculous rant about Lennon’s imprisonment. “This is one of the worst violations I’ve witnessed in the U.K.’s already spotty human rights record … If Theresa May and the British Courts insist on acting in this authoritarian manner, they must be replaced”.

He’s a total whacko. He’s even Tweeted “Shame on British PM May: She has imprisoned Tommy Robinson for no crime other than what he wrote”. And he’s invoked Combover Crybaby Donald Trump in support, telling “The British government is paralyzed. They stifle freedom of the press and arrest journalists for fear of inflaming their citizens and neighbours … If they won’t act, it’s up to our citizens and politicians, even President Trump, to reach out and lend a hand”. Wibble.
Thing is, though, Burkman has a radio and TV talk show, he’s scheduled a fundraising event on June 29 at the Key Bridge Holiday Inn (it’s across the river in Arlington, VA), and he’s decided that Caolan Robertson is Lennon’s “official spokesman”.

All of which means the infighting is only going to get worse. Especially now that Caolan and Morphine has got himself a jolly to DC on the back of it.

Piers Morgan Loses Lineker Tackle

The dread moment arrived at 1900 hours yesterday evening: after all the hype, all the waiting, and most importantly all the apprehension, England’s World Cup campaign got under way with a game against Tunisia in Volgograd. Well, it wouldn’t be the Germans playing in what was once Stalingrad, would it? Not much fun there.
A penalty giveaway and dogged Tunisian defence made for frustrating watching, but thanks to captain Harry Kane, England prevailed, which is, whisper it quietly, more than they did in their opener in 1966. But someone was not happy at the performance, and not only that, he knew better than everyone else. Step forward career armchair expert and whinger supreme Piers Morgan, taking a break from griping about Arsenal.
Sir was on the whine from the word go: “Jeez, get a grip England - this finishing is crap … This is dire … Lingard must be approaching some kind of all-time record for missed chances in a World Cup game”. Perhaps the whine was accompanying the carp.
This excess of armchair lack of expertise may have been what caused Gary Lineker, who has actual experience of playing for England in the World Cup, to muse “Never ceases to amaze me how easy some folk think World Cup football is. Have you watched all the so called big teams? It ain’t that easy, especially against tough defensive opposition. I suppose those that are so critical haven’t been there, though. Night all”.
No-one was mentioned by name, but Morgan suddenly had a Derek Jameson moment. Did he mean him? He surely did! “Do you feel the same way about people who’ve never been a politician constantly spouting off about politics & telling politicians how inept they are” he snarked at Lineker, thus leaving a gaping open goal.
And Lineker was, as was his custom during his playing career, goalhanging in case such an opportunity came along. “Many people who have never played have a good understanding of the game and that football at this level is bloody hard. Therefore do feel free to carry on spouting off about politics and telling politicians how inept they are, Tubs”.
Ouch! At this point, the sensible thing would have been to leave the field of play before it got worse. Not Morgan. “I don’t think you need to have played the game at a high level to know last night’s performance was less than ‘exceptional’”. Armchair expertise is OK if Piers says so! Lineker wasn’t having that. “Given the lack of experience, I’d say the first 30 minutes were terrific as was their attitude, but you carry on knocking them”.
At this point, Morgan made the fatal error of suggesting his was bigger than Lineker’s. “I prefer a more honest critique: good first half, poor second half, lucky win. And may I remind you that we’ve both won the same number of international football tournaments”.
So another open goal got the full treatment. “I prefer a more accurate critique. Excellent first half. Difficult second due to Tunisia, realising they were being overrun & changing to a much more defensive approach. Awful use of VAR, so unlucky not to win by more. And may I remind you that I have 1 more Golden Boot than you”.

Piers Morgan is still trying to win this one in the retelling. But, once again, as Winshton said of Austen Chamberlain, “he always played the game, and he always lost it”.