Welcome To Zelo Street!

This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Friday, 26 August 2016

Uber - Where’s The Money Going?

Driver and rider matching service Uber was Founded back in March 2009 - almost seven and a half years ago. It enjoys a market valuation of around $69 billion. It is backed by the likes of Google and Goldman Sachs. The app, which enables riders to call a driver, might have been expected to have paid for itself by now. Uber charges its driver around 20% of their incomes as a commission. They have hundreds of thousands of drivers.
So it may come as a surprise to some industry watchers to know that Uber is losing money, not just occasionally and in trivial amounts, but consistently, and billions. Worse, the losses appear if anything to be getting worse over time. In 2015, the company lost “over $2 billion” (how much more is not known). But in just the first six months of this year, Uber has lost $1.27 billion. Net revenue was just over $2 billion.

What was the reason for the loss? “The subsidies Uber grants its drivers was the main reason for the loss, finance head Gautam Gupta told investors in a quarterly conference call, Bloomberg said, citing sources”. Subsidies? What subsidies? Uber drivers are self-employed. They pick up the cost of their cars, insurance, licensing, tolls and congestion charges, and of course traffic fines, themselves. What subsidies?

Moreover, where can all the money be going? The app should need little more than customising for each new area in which Uber operates. Drivers just activate the app when they become available, deactivate it when they are not. Otherwise the whole thing should more or less run itself. At first, the scale of the losses is mystifying.

And then the potential reasons for those losses come to the fore. One, Uber has secured finance from a number of sources over the years. The conditions attached to loans and parcels of debt would be interesting to see - especially the rate of interest being paid, and for how many years Uber has been locked into the deal.

There is more: Two, Uber is embroiled in legal disputes with a variety of Governments, its drivers, and other groups on a regular enough basis for this to rack up significant costs. Another item that would be interesting to see - and in full - is the scale of the lawyers’ bills, not just now, but those pertaining to current legal actions, due for payment later.

On top of that is Three, the cost of all that PR and lobbying. Uber is in a constant PR war against established taxi and minicab operators, employing specialist PRs and lobbyists to persuade everyone from the ordinary folk all the way up to the top of Government that they should be allowed to have the playing field tilted in their favour. And then there is the constant rumour that journalists have been bribed to generate favourable copy.

Yes, it would be most revealing to see what Uber is having to pay for all that finance, the cost of its mammoth legal bills, and the whole PR and lobbying circus that it needs to keep on the road in order to convince authorities to let the show roll on.

All those self-employed one-man and one-woman bands in their London black cabs might find it interesting to see just how much Travis Kalanick and his pals are prepared to spray up the wall in an act of vindictiveness, just to put them out of business.

Sun Burkini Ban Pundit BUSTED

[Update at end of post]

The controversy sparked by banning Islamic swimwear - aka the Burkini or Burqini - by women has crossed La Manche and pitted usual soulmates the Sun and Daily Mail against one another. The Mail has, to its credit, gone with the personal liberty angle, that the women should be free to choose what they wear, but the Sun is for the crackdown.
You are English types, yes?

So while the Mail tells readersThe French ban on the burkini is threatening to turn into a farce as police officers armed with pepper spray and batons marched onto a beach today and ordered a woman to strip off”, the Sun has employed the services of genuine French pundit Anne-Élisabeth Moutet to counter-claim “If you’re upset by burkini cop image, you’ve have been sucked in by Islamist propaganda”.
Ms Moutet’s mildly paranoid screed tells “She has no book, no sun cream, no beach bag. Her clothes are not suited to swimming … Another [photo] shows her sitting quietly, looking around, as if waiting for the police to come. Hoping for the police to come? … [The photos are] professionally shot … The photographer was there long before the incident … A belief shared by many is that this ‘victim’ and the snapper wanted the police to intervene - the photos are brilliant Islamist propaganda”. Ri-i-i-i-ght.
One could also posit the opposite position, that the snapper saw the woman there, knew it was a beach where the ban had been imposed, and so hung around to see what would happen when Les Gendarmes fetched up. Journalistic and professional sixth sense.
Ms Moutet is not a disinterested neutral on this. Consider her Twitter excursions: after the FT suggested opinion in France was split on the Burkini question, she sniped “French opinion is ‘split’ 95%-5%. Fuck you, FT”, before telling her followers to Look Over There: “Of course, Islamophobia runs rampant in the Kingdom of Morocco”. They did it too!
We should also Look Over There at someone who agrees with her: “Why the burkini is WRONG, by the great @Nervana_1.Required reading before you start babbling on the French sitution [sic] … Hope you've also read @Nervana_1's great piece on why the burkini is wrong. Egyptian writer, doctor”. And well-known sample of one.
Ms Moutet was also prone to going a little Katie Hopkins: “Belgium: no Middle East colonial past, no headscarf or burqa ban. And yet…”. And yet we don’t know who did it and why. But she was firm on the Burkini ban: “Utile pour comprendre. L'interdiction du burkini est une décision d'ordre public nécessaire”. It was a public order measure; maybe all those Muslim women at the beach would get out of hand. And then came a dead giveaway.
Liberal Outrage Over France’s Burkini Ban is the Latest Failure of Western Feminism http://heat.st/2bAyrK2  via @heatstreet”. Oh dear Ms Moutet! Quoting Heat Street with a straight face. But she’s not a right-winger, no sirree: “Been blocking a slew of Corbynistas eager to derail #traingate. I love the smell of napalm in the evening”. Or maybe she is.
And that 95% was only 64%: “Poll: 64% of French reject the Burkini on our beaches. My @TheSun guest column this morning”. Then the pièce de résistance: “She came to the beach without suncream,towel, bag, book, but with a professional photographer. It was police-baiting”. As I thought: a ranting, intolerant right-winger. And bang to rights.

[UPDATE 1505 hours: France's highest administrative court has overturned the "Burkini Ban", concluding that it "seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms to come and go, freedom of beliefs and individual freedom".

Amnesty International's Europe director has commented "French authorities must now drop the pretence that these measures do anything to protect the rights of women ... These bans do nothing to increase public safety but do a lot to promote public humiliation".

So it's all about the Liberté part of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, then. One might have expected a French journalist to understand that. Unless they were just another screaming right-winger hell-bent on spreading a little anti-Muslim prejudice, of course]

Katie Hopkins - Beyond Bigotry

The behaviour of some pundits out there on the rabid, paranoid, insular nationalist right does not improve over time, no matter how much slack they are cut or whether they are ignored and left to their own devices. This, inevitably, leads us to pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins, who saw the tragic drowning of five young Londoners at Camber Sands the other day not as a time for quiet reflection, but an opportunity to spread a little more hatred.
Viewers may want to look away now

So it was that, like the hacks at her previous berth, the Sun - the paper that dispensed with her services because she was too poisonous even for them - Hatey Katie did not concern herself with waiting for such minor inconveniences as facts, but immediately concluded that the five must have been illegal migrants. This may not have been true, but it fitted her agenda and her paranoid state, which for her is more important.

Ms Hopkins took to Twitter to conduct what she no doubt believed was a jolly funny poll, stating “5 dead at Camber Sands were …”, with the possible answers “Aspiring footballers”, “Mentally Ill”, “Fans of Anders Brevik [sic]”, and “Big fans of inflatables”. Thus her own prejudices: nobody who is not white is allowed to suffer from any kind of mental health condition, because they’re all Scary Muslims (tm) and terrorists!
And the Police all over Europe are covering it up! That, and the other equally unfunny and feeble not-so-wisecracks did not impress very many people, and those least impressed included Sussex Police, who, in a bizarre twist, concluded that, while nothing criminal had been done, they would report Hatey Katie to Twitter anyway. Whether forcibly or otherwise, the Twitter poll has since been removed. But that was not the end of it.
Why should that be? Well, if you’re going to have a self-awareness failure, you might as well do it properly, and Ms Hopkins has in her lack of wisdom decided that, no matter how significant the show of disgust at her bigoted insensitivity, she was right, and she would make sure all those rotten lefty whingers knew it.

So after the BBC reported “Six men are due to be interviewed by Border Force officers after being recovered from a small boat off the Kent coast this morning”, off went Hatey Katie to shout “look over there”, Tweeting “Not to worry, as long as we are policing Twitter, all will be well”. Hello Katie, the five dead were still not migrants.
Oh, and the Police were not “policing Twitter”, they had merely passed it on to, er, Twitter. That was a concept Ms Hopkins found too challenging to grasp, and hence off she went again: “Our police are busy policing Twitter. So I thought I'd go try and offer our hard grafting truckers any help I can”. Well, quite so, they might have some sympathy with all those refugees, and that would never do - Katie to the rescue to stiffen their sinews with few tutorials in plain old-fashioned paranoid bigotry.

Katie Hopkins is so blinded by her combination of prejudice and paranoia that she cannot see when she is not just wrong, but totally out of order. And it’s pointless suggesting she says sorry, because her intellectual capacity does not stretch that far. Sad, really.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Owen Jones And Public Ownership

In the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s adventures on the 1100 hours Virgin Trains East Coast departure from London’s Kings Cross terminus last week, we now have the Traingate discussions rippling out from whether Jezza and his team were being slightly economical with the actualité to the wider question of who owns and runs the railways - and, for pundit and campaigner Owen Jones, to whom they might be accountable.
Owen Jones - asking the questions

To this end he has writtenFrom the floor to first class, Britain’s railways are a disgrace”, which may surprise all those who use Virgin’s “other” franchise, that which traverses the West Coast Main Line out of London Euston. Jones begins with a straightforward claim.

If you believe in free market dogma – that private ownership inevitably brings more efficiency, better quality and cheaper services – then there are two major embarrassments in Britain: the NHS and the rail industry … The NHS is embarrassing because it is a publicly run healthcare system that is superior to and more efficient than the privately run, fragmented mess that is the US equivalent … The rail industry is an embarrassment because it can demonstrate just how atrocious services run for profit can be”.

I’ll concentrate on the rail aspect. Jones also asserts “The desire for the railways to return to public ownership … is not born of mass false consciousness, of a failure to understand that privatisation has been a glorious success”.

His complaints are not new ones: overcrowding, potentially high fare levels, the level of public subsidy, perception that systems on mainland Europe are better-run, and that East Coast was better when in public ownership. To these, Jones adds the idea of passenger and worker representation in the running of franchises.

So let me take all of those one at a time: British Rail was, it has to be said, very good value for the taxpayer. Subsidy levels were far lower than they are today. But there were a lot of old, and ageing, trains, and service levels were not up to today’s standards, especially service frequency. But Jones scores one on subsidy.

On overcrowding, that was there in BR days too. It will not improve any time soon, whoever runs the railway. Modern passenger vehicles have a significant capital and maintenance cost, and keeping them in sidings waiting for the busiest rush hours, or even worse, kept in reserve for holiday periods, does not make economic sense. For long distance services, mainland European operators have a straightforward remedy: no seats are sold without a reservation. No seats available, you don’t get on.

That is, after all, what airlines do. Moreover, it’s what coach operators all over Europe - including the UK - also do. Only the railways retain the “walk up and go” concept. Whenever this is pointed out to pundits, they tend to find it a challenging one to answer. I will be interested to hear Owen Jones’ response to that one.

Fare levels come down to a political decision, made - if only by inference and default - by the last Labour Government, although the Tories have continued the policy. We can have lower fares, but the taxpayer - most of them do not travel by train at all - has to pay more. Government policy is for those taxpayers to pay less over time - and passengers, therefore, to pay more. Private sector operators using demand management to fill trains at quieter periods, while charging more for flexible tickets, are merely continuing a trend started by BR.

And that, as ever, brings us to the question of ownership. Here, some basic facts about the extent of private sector involvement need to be explained.

Let’s take Virgin Trains as an example.

They do not own the trains.
They run several, but not all, of their major stations, but do not own them.
They do not specify the timetable (the Government does that).
They have no say in train maintenance schedules (Alstom and Bombardier do that).
They do not own or manage the tracks on which their trains run.
Their East Coast trains are the same ones Government-run East Coast used.

Their franchise commitments are closely controlled by the Government - this is the same for all other private sector operators. For their East Coast franchise, Virgin contributes the branding and just a 10% share in the operation (Stagecoach has the other 90%).

The rail network is owned, maintained and run by Network Rail - a public sector company.

As to Jones’ more democratic accountability - this is an interesting idea, but it has to be stressed that the most important decisions affecting the railway - new trains, electrification, new ticketing, new lines, and so on - are not the kind of things that are done or varied on a day to day basis. And the scale of investment required is one that Governments will inevitably want to keep an eye on - as they underwrite the lease costs of all those trains.

I can imagine the frustration of Owen Jones, and everyone else for whom the railway does not always function as they might expect, but the private sector involvement is nowhere near as complete as it may seem, and as with so much else, turning this industry-sized supertanker around is not that straightforward.

But it’s good that mainstream pundits want to take the idea seriously. More please.

Murdoch Muscle In Decline

Why do politicians and others in the public eye fear Rupert Murdoch? For many media commentators, that might sound like a pointless question: the reach of the Murdoch mafiosi, through Don Rupioni’s ownership of the Times - which once upon a time really was a paper of record - and especially Britain’s best-selling daily, the Sun, gives him the means to bend those people to his will, and whenever he wants.
That's what I bladdy think of youse bladdy readership bladdy survey, ya bastard Pommie drongoes!

The fear is backed up, not by what we do know, but what we do not: the long-standing rumour that the Sun has in its offices a tall safe full of incriminating stories about the good and the great, and the knowledge that the paper also has the power to protect those in public life, not by putting them on the front page, but by keeping them off it, as was shown recently with former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale.

So MPs, peers, hangers-on, fellow media bosses, and a panoply of Slebs are prepared to doff their proverbial caps to Creepy Uncle Rupe. The media bosses back him up when he wants to bully the Government, the MPs and peers have showed they are prepared to let him into our newspaper market and support his bid for Sky - well, up to a point - and the Slebs mainly go along with the Sun’s promotional efforts.
And, as has been brought into sharp focus by a new survey on audience size and reach, there is now rather more of the myth, and less of the reality, in Murdoch’s media reach. True, the Sun is there at the top of the print pile, but when PC and mobile audiences are weighed too, the Currant Bun has fallen behind the Mail, Guardian, Telegraph, Mirror, and Metro. Even behind the Express. And behind the online-only Independent.

Think about that. The mighty Murdoch Sun back in 8th place in its overall reach. And it gets worse: all the titles doing better than the Sun are putting on readers, with the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent and Express doing best there. But the Sun is merely treading water. And what of the Times? The paywall may be bringing in the money, but its presence puts the title at the back of the field - behind even the Daily Star.
True, the Sun is still bringing in the money, but advertising revenue is in free fall across the board. And the only response so far is to launch add-ons like SunBet - targeting readers for a little marginal income from betting commissions. But the marketplace for online betting is already well-filled with other players. So far, the political and Sleb class has managed not to cotton on to these particular shifting sands. But they will.

The crude desperation of Sun front page splashes - exemplified by this morning’s attempt to frighten readers into believing that the tragic drowning of five young Londoners yesterday at Camber Sands in East Sussex was actually illegal migrants - shows that the Murdoch mafiosi are flailing around for new ideas, and finding none.

So, having taken that reality check, the question has to be asked once more: why do politicians and others in the public eye fear Rupert Murdoch?

Sun’s Sick Drowning Migrant Claim

[Update at end of post]

During the recent spell of occasionally very warm weather - particularly in the South East of England - there have been several incidents where people have been drowned after getting into difficulties in the sea. It may be warm on land, but the seas around Britain’s shores are cold even in late August, and colder the further from the beach that you go. There are also tricky tides and currents to consider.
One location that had already seen a drowning this summer was Camber Sands in East Sussex, an area of dunes and gently shelving beaches popular with day trippers and holidaymakers. Although the water is shallow for some way out to sea, there are potentially lethal riptides. These could have claimed the lives of five men who drowned off the beach yesterday. But the Super Soaraway Currant Bun had other ideas.

Clothed men drowned … Were victims migrants? MYSTERY OF FIVE DEAD AT BEACH” is today’s Sun front page lead, and it’s backed up by the usual presence of “An onlooker” - that’s someone who was looking on from the safety of the Baby Shard bunker - to tell readers “We don’t know if they were caught in a riptide or were illegal immigrants washed ashore”. Yeah, Sun readers, they’re illegal and they’re coming here!

There was more in the same vein: “One theory was that they drowned after being dragged out to sea by a riptide, which has caused deaths there in the past … But the beach has relatively shallow water and was said to be calm yesterday afternoon … Witnesses said the first three men were fully clothed and did not appear to have any family or friends on the beach with them … It led to speculation the victims could be illegal immigrants”.

That would be speculation in the Sun in order to frighten readers and flog a few more papers, then. Also, added to the accounts of real witnesses, the Sun has conjured up “Another witness” - that’s someone else in the Sun newsroom - to stir the pot a little more, with “They had all their clothes on - shorts and T-shirts … We found it quite odd because we didn’t see any family or anything for them on the beach”.

But enough: this is the Guardian’s report of the same incident: “Beachgoers and emergency services tried to save three of the men after they got into difficulties in the water at Camber Sands near Rye, East Sussex, at around 2.15pm on Wednesday. They were pulled from the sea within 20 minutes but died … Two more bodies were found at around 8pm as the tide”. And then the confirmation from the Police.

Suggestions that the deaths may be linked to jellyfish have been ruled out and Sussex police said there was nothing to suggest the men were migrants”. That article also tells “According to figures released by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution as part of its ongoing Respect the Water campaign, 168 people drowned accidentally in the UK’s tidal waters last year”. 168 tragic deaths. Those off Camber Sands are five more.

But for the Murdoch doggies, they can be categorised as “Migrants” and used to generate more clicks and sales. High principles, eh? Pass the sick bucket.

[UPDATE 1110 hours: as the Evening Standard has now confirmed, the five dead men were day trippers from the London area.
"The five men who drowned in the sea at Camber Sands were Londoners enjoying a day out at the beach, it emerged today ... The group, believed to be in their late teens and early 20s, had travelled to the popular holiday spot from the capital yesterday to enjoy the hottest day of the year ... It comes after speculation that the group may have been migrants" tells the paper.

So that's the Sun's front page frightener shot down in flames, almost as soon as it hit the news stands. Way to go, Murdoch clowns]

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Simon Danczuk’s Dodgy Job Offer

As the new session of Parliament is almost upon us, so MPs are rushing to appoint staff so they are ready for the demands of the new term. Spinners and SpAds for ministers, researchers and caseworkers for the Other Ranks, and a host of hangers-on, all are being recruited across the political spectrum. Those recruiting, for the time being at least, include Rochdale’s nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk.
Spanker Si has advertised - under the banner of the Labour Party, so a real Ron Hopeful episode there - for a Parliamentary Assistant, someone to work for him in London. This is the kind of role that would appeal to young people both male and female, but the impression is given from his past form that Danczuk will be looking for a young woman to fill the post. And here we may sound a note of caution.

The claims of Danczuk’s involvement, or attempted involvement, with an increasing number of those young women have only grown over time. This is quite apart from his closeness to Tory Councillor Louise Dickens, the recent brief affair with a 22-year-old woman which was duly consummated over the desk in his taxpayer-funded constituency office, and stories of leering and unwanted attention in central Rochdale pubs.

Thus the potential risk of working for Spanker Si. Take for instance the claims surrounding Elsie Wraighte, such as that in the Sun: “THIS is the aide Simon Danczuk claims to have kissed at a Christmas party, leading to him being dumped by his girlfriend … But Elsie, of Ulverston, Cumbria, insisted she did not kiss Danczuk. She said: ‘It never happened. I have a perfectly clear memory of the night and I promise you it’s not true’”.

Then there was Nasreen Nazir, who has worked for Danczuk in both Manchester and London. The Mail was not backwards in coming forwards to tell “Labour rebel Danczuk gives £30,000 job to stunning aide who claimed he was a sex pest … Nasreen Nazir, 37, worked for Mr Danczuk's company a decade ago … She had begun proceedings against him for sexual harassment … The Rochdale MP denies he had affair with Ms Nazir”.

Ms Nazir was also spending time keeping the MP fit: “Jogging your memory, Mr Danczuk? MP's intimate workout with glamorous aide who once called him a sex pest” was the Mail’s take on this one. And the nudge-nudgery is not confined to those who work for Danczuk: last December, 17-year-old Sophena Houlihan, who had merely enquired about work opportunities, was the subject of asexting” advance.

All of which might leave all those ambitious young women eager to make their mark in the Westminster village more than a little apprehensive. Only this morning, Spanker Si has been caught following another on Twitter, someone who soon afterwards took her feed private. He does like them young. Meanwhile, the Labour Party continues to deliberate over whether he should be expelled from its ranks.

This may be one of those roles that takes a little longer to fill. As it were.

Janan Ganesh - Say Sorry

Zelo Street has previously discussed the body known as the Pundit Establishment, those who are most regularly called upon by press and broadcast media to give their suitably learned views on a range of subjects on which, by inference, they claim, as the old Frost Report sketch might have put it, a feeling of superiority over them. One such establishment pundit is an FT columnist by the name of Janan Ganesh.
Janan Ganesh

Ganesh has co-written a book on “Compassionate Conservatism”, a contradiction in terms if ever there was one, and a biography of the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, The Austerity Chancellor. He regularly appears on the panel of the BBC’s Sunday Politics. He has a presence on social media. And he may even rank as high as any in Rome. But his sense of entitlement has now led him astray.

Clearly, Janan Ganesh is not a supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, nor someone with any time for Jezza’s followers. So it was that he took to Twitter yesterday morning and, under no pressure at all, informed the world “You can do analysis of Corbyn and his ‘movement’ (I have done it) but the essence of the whole thing is that they are just thick as pigshit”. The subject was, apparently, Traingate.
What analysis might this have been? Ah, but we mere mortals are not let into The Great Man’s confidence. All we can deduce is that his conclusions, given the “thick as pigshit” appellation, will have been suitably adverse, and, hopefully for his sake, rather more intellectually uplifting. We can also deduce that Ganesh felt sufficiently chastened by resistance to his product that he deleted the Tweet.

Sadly, having been published long enough to have garnered 670 Retweets and 1,082 Likes, the offending Tweet had also been cached, and so can be seen in all its glory, whatever the wishes of its author. Perhaps Ganesh would be further chastened, and sufficiently to show some sign of regret. He might even say … sorry.
But that is to reckon without the mindset of the Pundit Establishment: from their perches of entitlement, they need only look down on The Great Unwashed, not lower themselves to moving among them. So it was that Ganesh excused himself by Tweeting “Please excuse the trigger-happy tweet about Corbyn/ites. The train farrago didn't warrant it. No return for British Rail though, pls”. So that’s all right, then, is it?

Well, no it isn’t. Sneering that those of different opinion are as a result “thick as pigshit” gets us nowhere, coarsens and devalues political discourse, and ultimately gives readers and viewers yet less confidence in the ability of the pundit doing the coarsening. It would have cost Ganesh nothing to simply hold up his hands and apologise. That he has chosen not to tells you all you need to know about the attitude of the Pundit Establishment.

And the inevitable conclusion is that this attitude is not good enough.

Corbyn Mired By Traingate

Those with long political memories may remember the so-called War Of Jennifer’s Ear, an incident during the 1992 General Election campaign which was used by the Labour Party to show the Tories in a bad light, but which ended up being the subject of controversy, and ultimately a no-win issue which mired Neil Kinnock’s campaign.
Well, now we have Traingte, an issue sparked by Jeremy Corbyn’s team in an attempt to show the rail industry - and therefore the established politics - in a bad light. But, like the 1992 incident, it has resulted in push-back and subsequent needless argument, the whole issue descending into an unedifying spectacle of name-calling - all too much of it from those backing Corbyn. Let’s see what happened to cause the ruckus.

Jezza and his crew boarded a Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) train at London’s Kings Cross terminus to travel to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Someone sympathetic to his cause videoed him apparently having to sit on the floor in a coach vestibule as the train was so full. This enabled adverse comment to be passed on VTEC, Richard Branson, the Tories, and private sector involvement in the railways.

VTEC has now pushed back on the claims, telling that Corbyn and his team had walked past empty - and unreserved - seats in Coach H, past reserved - but unoccupied - seats in Coach F, sat on the floor, done their filming, and at around 45 minutes into the journey had taken seats in Coach H, with the help of on-board staff. Their confirmation Tweet was Retweeted by Richard Branson. This in turn sparked a furious response from Corbyn fans.

Now, I am well aware that many Corbyn supporters will not only not be swayed by anything I say in comment, but will also generate significant numbers of excuses to back up his stance and kick VTEC, but here goes anyway.

Other Passengers agreed with Jezza Fine. Now ask yourselves who is likely to have the most accurate information as to how full the train was - someone sitting in a coach vestibule, or the company operating the train?

Seats only became available after the train made a stop No. Corbyn and his team were seated around 45 minutes into the journey. The first stop was York, at around the 1 hour 50 minute mark.

Coach H is the Food Bar! Er, so what? It has unreserved seats.

But it’s the Food Bar, so there are few seats There are thirty (30) unreserved seats in Coach H - see seating plan HERE.

But it’s the Food Bar, so passengers will leave bags everywhere How did Mrs T once put it? No, no, no, no, no. Passengers take seats in other coaches, then walk to the Food Bar, Shop, Buffet Car, or whatever over terminology may be in use. No evidence has been supplied to support this claim.

The seats were all occupied by children who couldn’t be seen by the CCTV All those unaccompanied kids, by miraculous coincidence, travelling in Coach H of the train Corbyn and his team were on. No evidence has been supplied to support this claim.

Richard Branson Retweeted the response so he was involved No again. Branson does not involve himself in anything at that level. He has merely been tagged or otherwise advised - given the profile of the incident, this is understandable - and has then chosen to RT it.

Richard Branson is personally at fault Very good. Virgin’s stake in VTEC - apart from the brand usage - is a mere 10%. The trains were inherited from the previous operator of the franchise - which was Government-run Directly Operated Railways, who, as a nationalised entity, cannot by definition be the bad guys.

Richard Branson is petrified of Corbyn Do Jezza’s team ever stop to think how those who are of differing view see them? The question has to be asked if only because not only has Branson made no personal comment on this affair, but the idea that he, or any other business leader, is “petrified” of a politician who has so little chance of gaining power is beyond ridiculous.

The trains ought to be run like they are in France, or other European countries Very good. There certainly wouldn’t be any overcrowding on Inter-City services, but that is because in France, Spain, Portugal and elsewhere, if there aren’t any seats available, you can’t buy a ticket and won’t be allowed on the train. Then you could whinge about how rotten it is that, well, something would no doubt be invented.

Travelling by train is too expensive Ultimately this is a political decision - train travel could be cheaper, but then the taxpayer would have to pay more. It’s been a decision of both Labour and Tory Governments recently to make passengers pay more of the share, and taxpayers less.

Why can’t VTEC put more carriages on? There is no wand-waving solution. At present, VTEC are operating their services with the trains they inherited. They will also oversee introduction of new trains and more seats, but this does not happen overnight. And, guess what? There will still be overcrowding at busy times.

Trains get overcrowded. True. But, given the cost of building and maintaining trains, what do you do, buy enough so that no-one ever stands, only to find that for 95% of the time you are transporting large numbers of empty seats around the country and costing those taxpayers even more - even the majority who never use trains?

VTEC and/or Richard Branson are lying There is no evidence to back up this claim. That does not mean some will try and find some, or merely believe what they want.

Richard Branson was once photographed alongside Tony Blair Er, hello, this is utterly, totally and absolutely irrelevant. Here’s a straw to clutch.

Yes, I know, anyone who even suggests Corbyn and his team painted a less than totally accurate picture of their journey from London to Newcastle is a disaffected Blairite, part of a gigantic media conspiracy, a liar, and so much else. But sometimes, just sometimes, when someone says your side has got it wrong, maybe, just maybe, you should hear them out and take on board what they say, without being creative, defensive or abusive.

Because right now, a significant number of Corbyn fans are not doing themselves any favours. But they’re right, everyone else is wrong, and that’s that.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Channel 4 - Murdoch Double Standards

As Zelo Street discussed yesterday, the campaign waged by deeply unpleasant former Sun editor Kelvin McFilth against Channel 4 News, and specifically presenter Fatima Manji, has failed after 17 complaints to regulator Ofcom about Ms Manji presenting the programme wearing a headscarf were thrown out. Worse for Kel was the revelation that none of those complaints actually came from him.
Hayley Barlow ... Murdoch ambivalence

The Ofcom decision was recorded not just by the deeply subversive Guardian, but positively celebrated at Channel 4 itself, where their Head of Communications Hayley Barlow Tweeted a link to the Guardian article and added “MacKenzie urged Sun readers to complain about #c4news presenter @FatimaManji wearing hijab. Ofcom rejects all 17”. Quite so. And on that one subject she has this blog’s wholehearted support.

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, while the stance of some Channel 4 News presenters on the machinations of the Murdoch mafiosi has been uniformly sceptical - lead presenter Jon Snow, who Retweeted Ms Barlow’s comments, is one who comes to mind - that of its Head of Communications is not, as Zelo Street regulars will be all too aware. Why this might be is not difficult to discover.
Hayley Barlow spent more than eleven and a half years as Head of PR at the late and not at all lamented Screws. As Martin Hickman observed, on the same day that Neville “Stylish Masturbator” Thurlbeck tasked Glenn Mulcaire to hack Milly Dowler’s voicemail, “the News of the World wrote to Surrey Police requesting an exclusive interview with the Dowlers - before mentioning that the paper was considering offering an award for information about her whereabouts … Hayley Barlow, the executive who wrote the letter, told the family an interview would be conducted with the ‘utmost sympathy’ and offered them the News of the World’s full support”. We know what happened next.

But of course that was then, and this is now, so perhaps Ms Barlow should also be cut a generous length of slack? Well, usually yes, but once again there is a teensy problem: there was Ms Barlow last month, taking to Twitter to tell “In an authored film on tonight’s [Channel 4 News], former No 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson on Brexit, the past and the future”. Andy Coulson. Who got guilty in the Hacking Trial.
As Popbitch observed at the time, “Coulson has finally accepted advice that he needed to be seen out and about again … Favours were duly called in from old friends like Tom Bradby and Piers Morgan - so if you were wondering why Coulson was suddenly appearing on TV as a Brexit analyst, now you know”.

Now The Great Man was also being touted as a Brexit analyst on Channel 4 News, thanks to his old mucker Hayley. Well, what are friends for?

The problem is that Channel 4 News becomes tarnished, if only marginally, as a result. And that’s not good enough.

Breitbart Mental Illness Hypocrisy

The batshit collective otherwise known as Breitbart London, domain of such less than totally worthy individuals as James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole and pro-am man-baby Milo Yiannopoulos, is also the spiritual and workday home of the deeply repellant Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam, who has, in between cheering for the combover crybaby Donald Trump, been indulging in a little racial incitement.
Behold a weapons grade tosser

There has been an incident on a bus in Brussels in which three people were stabbed. In the past, such news did not merit even a mention outside the city, and certainly not in the UK, but with the right-wing press and other media outlets always on the look-out to blame anything they can on Scary Muslims (tm), and frame any act of alleged criminality as a terrorist incident, these items are lapped up and recycled to frighten the public.
On top of that is the tendency not to trust official news channels, especially if their interpretation of the incident does not match the agenda of those wanting to spread a little racial and religious hatred. So it was that “call me Ray” told his followers “Two people injured on a #Brussels bus after a woman attacked them with a knife. 'Unstable' attacker shot by cops”. Note that “unstable” is in quotes. Because he doesn’t believe it.
Of course they're immediately calling the attacker in #Brussels ‘unbalanced’. Which perhaps tells you everything about her background”. And what, apart from a few nudges and winks, is her background? But he’s off and running, well, somewhere: “All I'm saying is there appear to be a LOT of ‘unbalanced’ people from one area of the world. Weird, right?” There do? Do we get any comparative figures? You jest.
All we get is a Grade A conspiracy theory, and from a master of simultaneously calling others out for peddling conspiracy theories while peddling them shamelessly himself: “Belgian media already going to great lengths to state: ‘The perpetrator of the assault suffers from psychological disorders’ … Public broadcaster RTBF says: ‘According to the first elements of the investigation, it is not an act of terrorism’ despite no info”.
That means it really was an act of terrorism, right? The truth is out there, or in “call me Ray’s” case, so far out there that he lost track of it. But enough: as Sir Sean might have said, I think we got the point. Saying someone is mentally ill is just the authorities covering for something worse, right? So let’s look at how the great Kassam discussed the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in June, to see exactly how that works in practice.
Here’s the Breitbart account, which is still live: “Breitbart London Editor-in-Chief Raheem Kassam has slammed anti-Brexit media, politicians and campaigners for ‘politicising’ the tragic murder of Jo Cox MP, and trying to ‘spin this as somehow [as] linked to the Leave campaign’ … [Remain supporters] seized on the murder of a mother by a mental patient to further their political goals”. Suddenly mental illness is a valid excuse!

How “call me Ray” squares that with the subsequent news that Thomas Mair was found fit to plead is not known. Way to go Ray - a rank, stinking hypocrite of the lowest order.

British Empire Olympic Fail

After the final medal table for this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro had been pored over, and Britons took their place in the sun, basking in the glory of Team GB finishing second overall - the best showing since 1908 - the creative reinterpretation began. First came the comparison of all EU member states, the USA, and China, which showed the EU, unsurprisingly, first by some distance. And then came the real silliness.
To no surprise at all, this involved the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who had what they must have thought was a good idea at the time - to reimagine the Olympic medal table as if the British Empire were still extant. This would put us way in front of the EU, and indeed the rest of the world. But, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with this idea - it was bollocks.

To see just how wrong The Great Guido has gone here, we need look no further than the image behind the headlineEmpire Goes For Gold”. This shows both the American Colonies - later the nascent USA - and what is known as British India. But the American Colonies were lost between 1776 and 1783, and British India did not come into being until the Crown took over from the East India Company in 1858.
It gets worse: the British Empire at its zenith included three EU member states other than the UK - Malta, Cyprus and Ireland. You can’t have “British Empire versus EU” because the two overlap.

And worse still: few, if any, of those countries that the Fawkes rabble have lumped into their mythical “British Empire” would consent to be so included nowadays.

And yet worse: consider all the competing “Empire” claims.

France - much of Africa, parts of the West Indies, Canada, and at a stretch, part of the USA.

Spain - much of Central and South America.

Portugal - enclaves in Africa, India, the Far East - and of course all of Brazil.
Or perhaps we should go all the way back to the Roman Empire, which may not have included Scotland, or even Northumberland, but would take in the rest of the UK, most of mainland Europe, North Africa, and part of the Middle East.

The Fawkes idea is a pile of steaming bullpucky. But that hasn’t stopped supremely gullible Tory MP Heather Wheeler from taking the Fawkes folks on trust - never a good idea - and gurgling happily “Now that's what I call winning!!! Well done Team GB & all our Commonwealth friends, now for the Trade Agreements”.

The USA, Ireland and probably others, not part of the British Commonwealth. It’s certainly Olympian, if only on the ridicule scale. Another fine mess, once again.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Simon Danczuk Through The Keyhole

Unfortunately, the Zelo Street budget doesn’t extend to securing the services of Gross Loydman, so you’ll have to imagine the English language being systematically and slowly mangled as we bring you a special edition of Through The Keyhole. Aaand today, Through The Keyhole is visiting a town in the North of England to ask questions like “Just who might want to live in a house like this”.
Our cameras - well, only one camera, actually - have travelled all the way up the Motorway and through the city of Manchester to the town of Rochdale, nestling in the foothills of the Pennines, where we find ourselves in a quiet suburban street lined with houses and bungalows. Hey, did I just say bungalow? Hold on to that one, we might use it later. There are trees and hedges. There are lots of parked cars.

Now who might park their car on this quiet suburban street? We-e-e-ell, there are BMW owners, Audi drivers, residents with people carriers and 4*4s … and the owner of this little Fiat 500. They all park their cars there. Who might drive a little car like this? What kind of washed-up Z-list not-really-a-celebrity and disgraced politician might drive around Rochdale in a Fiat 500 which his ex-wife allegedly bought for him?
We-e-e-ell, this Fiat 500 is owned by Simon Danczuk, Rochdale’s nominally Labour MP, although he is suspended from the party and faces expulsion. But why is his car parked there? What kind of house owner would allow Simon Danczuk not only to park outside, but actually live in the property? What kind of hypocritical Z-list wannabe might let Spanker Si into her house, or perhaps I should say her bungalow?

Yes, less than a week after Danczuk was sprung from choky in Spain by the decision of ex-wife Karen not to press charges following an apparently violent domestic at their place in Algorfa, his car is parked outside Kazza’s bungalow and the curtains are drawn. What kind of money-grabbing nobody tells the pressI thought he was going to kill me … I know I’m going to be scarred for life” and then lets him use her place in Rochdale?
What kind of person says “I will never be able to forget it … It was as though I was paralysed with fear … I just stood there … The last thing I remember is him kicking and shouting, ‘Let me in’ … I woke up in a pool of blood and thought, ‘I’m going to die’ … He has troubles - he needs to sort them out … I feel sad …  my ex-husband, a man I thought was my friend - has done this to me … And the boys - their dad did this to their mum” and then gives that same bloke free run of her bungalow?

What kind of person tells the press “Apart from the boys, I’m no longer part of Simon’s life … Enough is enough … He has troubles, he needs to sort them out but I won’t be helping … He’s had too many chances, this is the final straw … I will struggle to forgive him … I realise he could have killed me” and then lets him in the front door?

Welcome to the dysfunctional and wacky world of Spanker Si and wannabe Kazza. And that’s all from this special Through The Keyhole - we now return you to reality.

Channel 4 Complaint FAILS

The attempt by former Sun editor Kelvin McFilth to bully Channel 4 News, and presenter Fatima Manji, following her fronting the edition of the programme following the Nice seafront killings, began last month in Kel’s usual bigoted style, ranting “Why did Channel 4 have a presenter in a hijab fronting coverage of Muslim terror in Nice? … Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?” But Channel 4 News did not yield to his demands.
Fatima Manji

Nor did the Government yield to Kel’s further demand: “I do hope that the new Culture Secretary flogs the joint as the country desperately needs the £1billion … It is coverage like this that raises a question mark over the future of Channel Four. They are a licensed business. Let’s sell that licence to somebody who can supply balance in these difficult times”. Thus the real agenda of the Murdoch mafiosi.

As a result of Channel 4 not taking the bigoted has-been seriously, Kel then told anyone prepared to listen that he was going to complain to Ofcom, and encouraged others to do the same. He was serious. Except he wasn’t serious, and Zelo Street duly called him out for turning tail and chickening out of lodging his complaint.

And so it came to pass that this blog was proved to have called it correctly once more: not only did Kel not make a complaint to Ofcom, but the 17 individuals who did complain have had their complaints thrown out. The Guardian has confirmed “Complaints about Channel 4 News presenter wearing hijab rejected … The Sun’s Kelvin MacKenzie did not complain himself about Fatima Manji despite calling for readers to contact watchdog”.

Ofcom was not impressed, as its spokesman told: “We received a small number of complaints that it was inappropriate for a presenter wearing a hijab to present a report on the attack in Nice … We won’t be taking the matter forward for investigation. The selection of a presenter is an editorial matter for the broadcaster, and the way in which the presenter chose to dress in this case did not raise any issues under our rules”.

The Guardian also pointed out that “The Sun distanced itself from MacKenzie’s column, deleting a tweet promoting it as his comments promoted widespread criticism … Manji accused MacKenzie of attempting to ‘smear’ her religion and ‘intimidate Muslims out of public life’ …  More than 800 people have complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation about the column”. And it gets worse for the Murdoch empire.

Also pointed out by the Guardian today is “Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News broke UK broadcasting rules by airing pro-Brexit views on the day of the EU referendum, including accusing the BBC of being like a ‘running ad for Remain’, Ofcom has said”. The culprit? “An edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, a weekday business and financial news programme broadcast at 9pm in the UK and simulcast in the US”.

Cavuto’s show is part of the Fox “opinion” strand, which the Murdoch mafiosi can get away with under US rules, but not in the UK. Bad news all round for Creepy Uncle Rupe.

But well done Channel 4 News and Fatima Manji. Sometimes the good guys win.

Press Olympic Migrant Hypocrisy

Team GB has completed the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with a medal haul which put it in second place overall in the rankings, with only the USA ahead. Yes, we even beat the Chinese, for the first time since that nation returned to the games in 1984. Britain is now officially a “Sporting Superpower”. The value of long term commitment has been underscored. But for the press, their only vision is one of short term opportunism.
Those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet care about one thing, and one thing only: selling more copies, however low the methods used, and indeed, however gaping the hypocrisy. So it is that the Murdoch Sun and the Rothermere Daily Mail - one owned by a foreigner, the other controlled by an offshore company - have together focused their alleged patriotism through the efforts of one man this morning.
That man is double Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metre champion Mo Farah (Mo being short for Mohammed, not that the hacks are dwelling on that), who has been splashed all over the front pages of the Sun, which has declared “Our Greatest Olympics Ever … SUPREMOS”, and the Mail, which has said simply “ON TOP OF THE WORLD”. Farah and his fellow athletes are now, in tabloid speak, “Legends”.
This is, let us not drive this one around the houses for too long, supreme and jaw-dropping hypocrisy, matched only by the shameless opportunism in milking the hard work of Team GB in order to flog a few more papers. Mo Farah is originally from Somalia: he is not merely a migrant, but a Muslim one to boot. And we know exactly what the Mail and Sun have been saying about those kinds of people recently.
For the Sun, we had such measured and informative front page splashes as “1M MIGRANTS HEADING THIS WAY”, and who can forget “Exclusive Shock Poll … 1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for Jihadis”? Refugees from the Middle East and North Africa - that would include Somalia - were Scary Muslims (tm), they supported terrorists, they were all coming over here, and then they would all claim benefits!
The Mail, in its own inimitable style, was if anything worse, with headlines like “WE’RE FROM EUROPE … LET US IN” (the family in question was from the Middle East, but hey ho) and “CALAIS: SEND IN THE ARMY”, instructing the Government how to deal with all those uppity refugees across the Channel. And who can forget Mac’s rabidly racist cartoon depicting all those refugees as terrorists - or even rats?
For most of the year, both the Sun and Mail have one united approach to anyone coming to Britain from the Middle East and North Africa - they’re “Migrants” who bring terror in their wake, sponge off all those “hard working” readers, and overload schools and hospitals. Then for a brief period whenever there is a major sporting occasion and hacks discover that migrants can also win medals for us, and help sell papers, they become “legends”.

I give you the inmates of the Northcliffe House and Baby Shard bunkers. What a total and absolute shower.