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Saturday, 3 December 2016

Breitbart Advert Ban BITING

The accountants at several right-leaning papers - the Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph being part of that list - may by now be looking nervously across the North Atlantic at the campaign to ask advertisers to reconsider their association with the convocation of the irredeemably batshit that is Breitbart. Because what is happening Over There could happen here with equal rapidity if Stop Funding Hate’s campaign takes hold.
It might also be sinking in that the Breitbart response to the advertising ban - to turn immediately to abuse, including smears and falsehoods, in order to try and counter the movement to turn advertisers away - is proving utterly ineffective.

While Breitbart rants “The decision by Kellogg’s, which makes Pringles, Eggo waffles, as well as Special K and Frosted Flakes cereals, among others, will make virtually no revenue impact on Breitbart.com. It does, however, represent an escalation in the war by leftist companies like Target and Allstate against conservative customers whose values propelled Donald Trump into the White House”, more advertisers disappear.

As the site whines “Kellogg’s offered no examples of how Breitbart’s 45 million monthly readers fail to align with the breakfast maker’s values. Indeed, the move appears to be one more example of an out-of-touch corporation embracing false left-wing narratives used to cynically smear the hard working Americans that populate this nation’s heartland” and urges a boycott of Kellogg’s in retaliation, it fails to stem the tide.

And as the Guardian has noted, “Kellogg’s decision to pull its ads coincided with a campaign by Twitter user Sleeping Giants to pressure firms to drop their ads from Breitbart. Sleeping Giants is now receiving support from a likeminded online campaign to persuade consumers to boycott the Trump brand and any retailers carrying their products, organized around the hashtag #GrabYourWallet”.
Sleeping Giants, using tactics that are similar to Stop Funding Hate, have Tweeted out a simple guide:

How to be a Giant:
1) look on Breitbart & take a screenshot of an ad 
2) tweet it to the advertiser with a polite note
3) tag @slpng_giants

How effective is that? Well, the list of advertisers that have pulled their products from Breitbart included, by yesterday’s date, not just Kellogg’s, but also 3M, Braun, Earthlink, Granta Magazine, Mièle, San Diego Zoo, US Bank, Warby Parker, and Welch’s.

Those at the Mail, Sun, Express and Telegraph might be wondering if a charm offensive in the direction of the likes of John Lewis may be in order. These campaigns do not feature any kind of arm-twisting or dark arts, but are simply courteous requests for companies not to advertise on sites that promote hate speech.

The decisions of those companies to pull their adverts are made using the freedom to choose that is an integral part of free societies on both sides of the North Atlantic. Neither Breitbart, nor our own hate mongers, can have any complaints.

Network Rail Control MATTERS

The increasingly downmarket and desperate Telegraph is running a story today which it has framed as some kind of jolly good wheeze, telling readers “Network Rail to hand over control of tracks … Train operators to take charge of infrastructure to speed up repairs and bring down ticket prices”. But someone at the Tel has a very short memory: The Railway got where it is today after something not dissimilar went fatally wrong.
While the article goes on to claim “NETWORK RAIL will be stripped of its control over Britain’s train tracks and power will be handed to operators in the biggest shake-up of the railways for decades, the Government is to announce”, the Guardian has “Network Rail to lose sole control of rail maintenance … Transport minister Chris Grayling believes using Virgin, Southern and other private firms will lead to savings, sources say”.

The Guardian’s take goes on to tellSole control of Britain’s rail infrastructure is to be taken out of the hands of the state-owned Network Rail and shared with private firms under government plans to be announced next week, it has been reported”, which is not what the Tel claimed. And then we find that “Grayling is due to announce the plans at a speech to the thinktank Policy Exchange on Tuesday”.

Do go on. “According to the Telegraph, Grayling is considering introducing a ‘vertical integration’ that would hand more control to those private firms over what repairs are done on the lines on which they operate and when they take place”. Vertical integration - having one body responsible for both tracks and trains - is not a new idea. The problem Grayling has is that the last time we had it was with BR. And he isn’t proposing going back there.

What it sounds like is the Friedmanite idea of having the market decide, and where there is no market, ensuring there is one, and thus proving that there are still no new ideas in economics. But here a significant problem enters.

Network Rail has, over the years, developed standards for the construction, operation and maintenance of railway infrastructure. Thus there are a number of hoops for any infrastructure provider and train operator to jump through if they wish to run passenger train services. If they wish to run them faster, there are further standards for them to meet. Meeting these standards is not an optional extra. And it costs serious money.

One reason for the evolution of those standards - on the building and upkeep of the tracks, how the signalling is installed and maintained, the heights and surfaces of station platforms, the protection of tracks from incursion by people and motor vehicles, and important details like accessibility for the less mobile - is safety.

Network Rail came into being after the débâcle of Railtrack, and in particular the fatal derailment at Hatfield of a down East Coast Main Line express service in October 2000. The cause of the derailment, a badly broken rail, set in motion a panic re-railing programme: Railtrack did not know if there were more potential Hatfields waiting to happen, as the company had ceded much maintenance to external companies.

Worse, Railtrack had lost control of its asset database. Thus it was that much of the panic re-railing exercise was either needless, or not done properly. And in the meantime, the travelling public was subjected to endless delays, with a journey from London to Crewe, which nowadays can take as little as an hour and a half, requiring as much as four and a half hours to undertake, with all the track works and speed restrictions.

Hatfield was not the only fatal accident of the immediate post-selloff period: there was a fatal collision at Southall, after which it was discovered that the driver of a South Wales to London express had been sent out to drive his train at up to 125mph with no driver aids or warning systems working. The Potters Bar derailment in 2002, which killed seven, occurred after a Railtrack inspector went to check the points over which the train later derailed, but checked the wrong line, apparently misinterpreting “Down Fast”.

Put directly, we have been here before, and it would, I suggest, be highly inadvisable to go there again, merely because a number of right-leaning think-tankers think that establishing a market in rail maintenance would be A Very Good Thing.

Losing control” is rather more than simply making economies and bringing down ticket prices. Passengers want to get from A to B in not just comfort, but also, and most importantly, safety. There has not been an on-train passenger accident fatality on Britain’s railways since 2007. There is a good reason for that. I’ll just leave that one there.

Mail Supreme Court Assault BUSTED

Next week, all eleven judges at the Supreme Court will hear the appeal by the Government against an earlier judgment that they could not trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without reference to Parliament. The key argument in favour can be simply put.
What's so f***ing wrong with putting the boot into the judiciary, c***? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

As FullFact has told, this isWhen parliament has incorporated international rights into domestic law, ‘prerogative powers cannot lawfully be used on the international plane to destroy the rights recognised by parliament as part of domestic law’ … Only parliament can take away the rights that parliament created in the [European Communities Act 1972]”.

The matter before the judges is a straightforward one, and involves nothing more or less than interpreting the law of the land. But for the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hackery at the Daily Mail, this is a straightforward case of that court frustrating his will, and to frustrate his will cannot be tolerated.

So today the Mail has turned its guns on the Supreme Court, in yet another vicious - and needless - attack on the independence of the judiciary, inferring bias, complaining about lack of accountability, and suggesting that, should the court’s decision not be in accordance with the Vagina Monologue’s wishes, it would result in a constitutional crisis.

The central thrust of the assault is an article titledThe judges and the people: Next week, 11 unaccountable individuals will consider a case that could help thwart the will of the majority on Brexit. The Mail makes no apology for revealing their views - and many have links to Europe”. The name on the by-line, Guy Adams, means it’s a hatchet job.

Adams also has his name on “The children of privilege who loathe the system that gave them every advantage: The truth about the (white) Black Lives Matter protesters who closed London City airport... and why you'll want to protest against THEM”, “Did a computer reading a doom-laden Brexit report in the FT trigger a 'flash crash' of the pound?” (QTWTAIN), and “A VIP visit, a mystery burglary of five laptops and a tantalising question: Did China's spies steal the secrets of this British invention?” (Ditto).
The Supreme Court judges are smeared one by one. Lord Neuberger “has expressed views that betray an empathy with EU legal institutions”. Lady Hale “recently backed a European Court of Human Rights ruling over votes for prisoners”. Lord Mance “Began his career at a Hamburg law firm in the early Sixties, and has retained intimate links with the European legal establishment ever since”. You get the idea.

Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore “approves of the incorporation of EU law into British justice … he championed the Human Rights Act”. Lord Reed “spent a big portion of his adult life working for European institutions”. Lord Carnwath of Notting Hill is a “committed environmentalist, he has frequently used EU laws to support this agenda”.

Readers are told “How judges are chosen in secret”. Seven sample judgments are discussed, to show how rubbish the judges are at implementing the will of the Vagina Monologue, under the not at all prejudicial heading “Backing a terror suspect and criminal migrants - how judges have been over-ruling Ministers … There have been many cases in recent years of British judges over-ruling decisions made by elected politicians”.

The judges’ family members are included in the smears. House prices are bandied about. We read that “the Supreme Court is 91 per cent male and 100 per cent white. The average age of members is 68. Nine went to public school and eight attended Oxbridge”. The Mail’s 68-year-old white male editor sent both his sons to Eton, not that anything should be inferred from that.

We also get the Mail’s front page lead, under the routinely misleading headline “EXCLUSIVE: Why the judges got it so wrong: Government referendum appeal will say they turned the Brexit vote into a 'FOOTNOTE' as law chief issues blistering warning”. The clear suggestion is that Attorney General Jeremy Wright is right, while all those judges of whom the Mail disapproves are wrong, a most fortunate coincidence.

But all that the article does is to outline the kinds of arguments likely to be made by the Government next week, and in doing so lets slip that their case is a weak one at best. The judgment that is now being appealed did not “relegate” anything. It was concerned only with interpreting the law; this it did. If the Mail’s sight of Wright’s arguments is genuine, there is only going to be one outcome next week - the Government will lose.

That thought is not allowed to enter at the Mail, though, where the assault is backed up by a suitably thundering Daily Mail Comment, where we hear the authentic voice of the Vagina Monologue. The headline, “Why the free Press must shine a light on this unelected court”, from an unelected and unaccountable editor, tells you all you need to know.

Reality goes out the window as readers are told “All hell broke loose when this paper published the headline ‘Enemies of the People’ beneath pictures of the three High Court judges who ruled that the decision of 17.4million voters in the EU referendum was not enough to trigger Brexit”. They made no such ruling. And there’s more.

In an outburst of hysteria, Remainers took to Twitter and other media to accuse the Mail of undermining the judiciary”. If there was any hysteria, the Mail was generating it, and was indeed seeking to undermine the judiciary, as it is doing again today. But do go on.

Like it or not, therefore, the 11 Supreme Court judges are faced with a highly political decision … With no written constitution to guide them, this is not a mere question of law” (afraid it is, Paul. Wrong again) …Yet this is precisely the spirit in which the High Court tried to approach the case, citing pre-Civil War precedents and ignoring the fact that the June referendum was an unprecedented historic event”. So what?

The judges were - for the umpteenth time - concerned with interpreting the law. This they did, and will do again next week. That does not stop the threats: “This paper prays that the Supreme Court will not make the same mistake. But who could fail to have doubts? … the risk is that the judges may be influenced by their personal opinions, no matter how assiduously they try to set them aside … To be absolutely clear, this paper does not for a moment question the judges’ integrity or intelligence … We just believe that on political matters, it is no more possible for them than for anyone else to be perfectly neutral”.

Freely translated, that legitimises the Mail’s assault on the judiciary. It’s OK, by Dacre’s perverted logic, to set his attack dogs digging up every detail of the judges’ personal lives and those of their immediate and extended families. And the bullying does not stop there.
The editorial, disturbingly, continues “And this surely is the nub: human rights laws are so broadly phrased that they allow judges considerable leeway to interpret them, often at the expense of the government of the day … In this sense they have become judicial activists. Which is all very well, but they cannot then complain when their decisions are questioned and their backgrounds and views are analysed”. Activist judges once again, another smear for which the Mail will pony up no evidence, as it has none.

Threats and monstering are justified by the usual get-out clause: “That is why it is so essential for a free Press to subject judges - no less than politicians, civil servants or archbishops - to the scrutiny they would otherwise escape”. The freedom of the Vagina Monologue to rifle through dustbins, doorstep victims, send snappers to case their joints, harass their friends, have them followed, and then smeared in the Daily Mail.

Dacre ends with a supreme slice of delusion: “Though Remainers and the Left may hurl abuse at us, this paper, for one, will always take seriously our role as the Champions of the People”. What kinds of champions that would be can be easily illustrated.

Radio and TV host James O’Brien has summed it up succinctly: “Daily Mail & 'democracy': Ad hominem attacks on independent judges = front page. Conviction of terrorist for murdering elected MP = page 30”. As Winshton might have put it, “Shome Championsh … Shome Freedom”.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Uber Fares To More Than Double

We are constantly being told how much less expensive it is to use driver and rider matching service Uber than to rely on black cabs or established private hire operators, and especially in cities like London. Uber’s cheerleaders keep up the propaganda, which holds, more or less, that it’s all about disruptive technology, that this is what progress looks like, and it will all be for our benefit, as it’s so inexpensive.
However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, one inconvenient fact that the Uber fanboys tend not to dwell upon is that the whole operation is losing money, and losing rather a lot of it. But when this is brought up, it is dismissed as merely the start-up costs of the company, and we are confidently informed that all will be well as the business model matures, the clear implication being that it will still be cheaper than taxis.

This propaganda assault, together with Uber’s incessant lobbying to try and remove or at least relax regulations in order to tilt the playing field a little more in its favour, has established the idea that taxi and private hire drivers might as well give up and join the revolution, that this is indeed the future. But the latest numbers on Uber’s finances tell a very different story, and are very bad news for their cheerleaders.

Izabella Kaminska at FT Alphaville, in an article titledThe taxi unicorn’s new clothes”, has told “Finally! Word is getting out. It’s not just Uber’s ‘innovation’ claims which are questionable, it’s potentially the entire business model”. She cites new findings that show “for the year ending September 2015, Uber had GAAP [Generally Agreed Accounting Principles] losses of $2 billion on revenue of $1.4 billion, a negative 143% profit margin”.

There was more: “Thus Uber’s current operations depend on $2 billion in subsidies, funded out of the $13 billion in cash its investors have provided … Uber passengers were paying only 41% of the cost of their trips; Uber was using these massive subsidies to undercut the fares and provide more capacity than the competitors who had to cover 100% of their costs out of passenger fares”. Have a think about that.

Even if Uber was to wipe out the competition, it would still have most of those costs. Perhaps some capacity would be cut, but to make any kind of profit, fares would have to rise, and rise significantly - by at least 100%, maybe more. Factor in the tendency of the app to jack up prices at the first suggestion of higher demand - the fancily-titled “Surge Pricing” - and you realise this is nothing like the deal promised by all those cheerleaders.

And that is without considering all those overheads, like the advertising and lobbying. There is also the repeated suggestion that Uber may have been making payments to selected journalists and others in exchange for favourable coverage, or, as most people would call it, bribes. This is yet another example of something looking too good to be true, because - guess what - it really is too good to be true.

Uber is not about disruptive technology. It is not about giving customers better value for money. It is an aggressive campaign to wipe out the competition and then, having established a monopoly, put those customers over a barrel and screw them over.

Uber is a lousy deal for its drivers, and ultimately its customers. But not for its bosses, and all the others waiting at the payout window. No-one should be surprised.

Delingpole Feels The Bern

These are not the best of times for the batshit collective that it Breitbart: despite getting their man into a key position in the prospective administration of Combover Crybaby Donald Trump, this convocation of the terminally bigoted suffered the loss of several advertisers this week, and now has come the humiliating debunking of yet another slice of climate change denial from James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole.
"Gay marriage" ... "Global warming" ... "Bat-slicing, bird-chomping Eco Crucifixes" ... "Red meat Conservatism" ... "Rant autopilot" ... "Incoherent Wibbling" ... "Credibility oblivion"

The climate change denial lobby, or what remains of it nowadays, had been rather quiet as the recent El Niño event drove even higher global temperatures, but as the subsequent La Niña followed, and there was a drop in global temperatures, out they came. First out of hibernation was David Rose, telling gullible Mail on Sunday readers “Global average temperatures over land have plummeted by more than 1C since the middle of this year - their biggest and steepest fall on record”. But there was a problem with this claim.

As the Washington Post’s Jason Samenow has pointed out, “Rose’s claim relies on the satellite record of Earth’s temperature estimated from space, which only dates to 1978. The surface-temperature record, which directly measures the planet’s temperature using thermometers and dates to the late 1800s, exhibits a drop but not a record drop … More importantly, Rose conveniently headlined the drop in the land temperature while failing to mention that the overall global temperature combining both the land and ocean did not experience a record fall”. But in the meantime, Del Boy had leapt into action.

Global land temperatures have plummeted by one degree Celsius since the middle of this year - the biggest and steepest fall on record … But the news has been greeted with an eerie silence by the world’s alarmist community” he sneered, citing the MoS and then doubling down in the denial citations, telling “I recommend this sober assessment of the situation written earlier this month by Dr. David Whitehouse, science editor of the Global Warming Policy Foundation”. Of course you do, Del Boy. They agree with you.
But he was away and running: “The last three years may eventually come to be seen as the final death rattle of the global warming scare … [incoherent ranting omitted due to lack of relevance] … This is why there is such an ideological divide regarding climate change between those on the left and those on the right. The lefties get their climate information from unreliable fake news sites like Buzzfeed”. What colour is the pot, kettle?

Delingpole did score one perhaps unintended success: the Twitter account of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology Tweeted out Del Boy’s propaganda, and in the process was given a considerable amount of stick for doing so. But one long-serving figure had rumbled the Breitbart tosh for what it was.
Bernie Sanders took one look at Delingpole’s idiotic claims and summed up their significance on one Tweet: “Where'd you get your PhD? Trump University?

That just about sums up the batshit Breitbarts and their slew of fake news. Rose was wrong in his MoS article, so Delingpole just went a bit more wrong. The “interpreter of interpretations” managed to interpret less than wisely once more.

And, in any case, nobody outside his echo chamber is listening. No change there, then.

So Farewell Then Zac Goldsmith

In the early days of Europhobia in UK politics, there was no greater pleasure than seeing the Referendum Party losing its deposit in a whole string of General Election and by-election contests. This was not unconnected to the leader of that party being the late and not at all lamented James Goldsmith, a monumental shit of no known principle, who, like Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, was indulged by the media but never got into the Commons.
Man of the people, or maybe not

Goldsmith was also despised by many who cherished free speech and the right of dissent from the conventional wisdom, as he had tried - and ultimately failed - to close down Private Eye magazine in the 1970s over allegations the Eye made over his potential involvement in the disappearance of Lord Lucan, who is generally agreed to have murdered his family’s nanny before vanishing off the face of the earth.

The sheer obnoxiousness of the family patriarch has since hovered over the rest of the Goldsmith dynasty, despite the ostensibly agreeable demeanour of son Zac, who became an MP in 2010 when he defeated Lib Dem Susan Kramer to win the constituency of Richmond Park for the Tories. The collapse in the Lib Dem vote at last year’s General Election inflated Goldsmith’s majority to just over 23,000.

And Zac could have remained MP for Richmond Park for the foreseeable future, but for two things: first, he put himself forward as Tory candidate for the London Mayoralty, and then took part in a campaign notable only for its disgraceful Islamophobia and suggestions that his Labour opponent Sadiq Khan was some kind of terrorist sympathiser. This would have gone down like a cup of cold sick with his constituents.

As if that were not bad enough, Goldsmith then had a mardy strop when it was announced that Heathrow Airport would be favoured for expansion, with a third runway to be built in the near future. Pretending to have high principles, Goldsmith resigned his seat and declared that he would contest the resulting by-election as an Independent. This was complete crap, as all the Tories campaigning for him showed.

Not only that, Goldsmith declared that he was in favour of Britain leaving the EU - like father, like son - and in a constituency that voted Remain by a margin of 70% to 30% he was always on a a hiding to nothing. His Lib Dem opponent Sarah Olney, representing a party that has more than 50 years’ experience of winning by-elections (Orpington was in 1962), declared her support for the EU and opposition to triggering Article 50.

And so it came to pass that Zac Goldsmith had his 23,000 majority overturned by Sarah Olney and her confident smile, the Lib Dems securing a dream result after last year’s humiliations. There have been the usual confident noises about Goldsmith bouncing back, but the reality is that this overmonied, out of touch patrician has shot his bolt and would be best advised not to bother even thinking about comebacks.

Zac Goldsmith - so far the only one in 2016 to run a nasty racist campaign and not get rewarded for it. Yes, there he goes, on his way … out.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Brexit - David Davis Sells The Pass

After the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU resulted in a narrow majority in favour of leaving - remember, it was narrower than what Nigel “Thirsty” Farage said would have been “unfinished business” if the vote had gone the other way - and the dust had settled, we were told by our not at all unelected Prime Minister Theresa May that “Brexit means Brexit”. We were on our way out, and that was that.
Not even her appointment of the “Three Brexiteers” - David Davis, Liam Fox, and London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson - would stop the process, despite Fox being unfit for any kind of ministerial responsibility and Bozza being nothing more than a figure of ridicule. But now Davis, the one of the three capable of applying some thought to the exercise, has effectively admitted the game is up.

Davis today faced the Commons, a regular session for the Brexit minister, where Labour MP Wayne David asked him “Will the government consider making any contribution in any shape or form for access to the single market?” Remember, the central plank of the Vote Leave campaign - the lead group for the Outers - was those EU contributions. And the claim of what we could do with them if voters decided to leave.

Davis’ answer, “The major criterion here is that we get the best possible access for goods and services to the European market - and if that is included in what you are talking about, then of course we will consider it”, left open the door wide enough for Sterling to put on around 1% against the US Dollar and appreciate against the Euro. It pleased Remain advocates, and horrified his fellow Out campaigners.
And looks like we'll keep on sending the money

Fundamentalist Outer Peter Bone spluttered “People will be absolutely outraged if we came out of the EU and then carried on paying them £15bn a year, £20bn a year, whatever the figure is - no I don't think it's going to happen”. Iain Duncan Cough managed “I don't think there's any way in which you can reach a deal where you can say 'I'll pay some money in and therefore you allow us access' because you might as well have tariff barriers”, thus showing his basic stupidity. No payment and there WILL be tariff barriers.

Fantasist Tory Steve Baker claimed that paying into the EU budget “would not be free trade”. Think it would, Steve. But the reason for the Outers’ horror and deflection is not hard to fathom: this comes after it was reported thatForeign Secretary Boris Johnson has privately told at least four EU ambassadors that he supports freedom of movement - despite the Government's hard stance on Brexit”. And there was more.

The high-ranking diplomats were speaking under the Chatham House rule, which allows their comments to be reported, but not directly attributed”. So we don’t know whose ambassadors leaked, but we know they leaked, and a Pound to a Euro cent they were authorised by their respective Governments to leak.

Paying into the EU budget for full access to the Single Market would put us in the same position as Norway, which pays as much per head as we do now - but is not part of the CAP or CFP. So we’d still have to separately subsidise farmers, and it would cost just as much. And we’d have to accept free movement. So perhaps someone would like to explain what the point of leaving would be? Don’t all shout at once.

Still No War On Christmas

And so we arrive at December, which means that Christmas will soon be upon us. This may mean family gatherings, a welcome break from work, journeys to warmer climes, or even getting ready for the sales that come afterwards. But to the press, and particularly the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail, it means just one thing - to frighten readers by reminding them they are under attack.
What the f***'s wrong with scaring the crap out of my readers, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay

Yes, many of the Mail’s readers may not attend church services regularly, but they identify as Christian. So the Dacre doggies have served up plenty of frighteners, to remind them that there is a War On Christmas, and that Christians are under attack, living in fear of having their religious freedom curtailed, and even losing their jobs.

The Mail has today combined this mildly paranoid and wholly untrue storyline with its continuing adoration for Theresa May as it tells “Theresa stands up for Christmas: PM says Christians must feel free to celebrate and discuss their beliefs without fear … Prime Minister said employees should able to talk about their faith at work … Equalities watchdog said employers were victimising Christians … Businesses that unnecessarily drop Christmas references were criticised”. And there was more.

The PM, who is not unelected, “said that, in the run-up to Christmas, it was particularly important that people felt able to speak freely about their faith at work … The Equality and Human Rights Commission criticised organisations which unnecessarily drop references to Christmas and use secular phrases such as ‘Season’s Greetings’ and ‘Winterval’”.

It didn’t stop there: readers also gotChristians are 'fearful' about celebrating their faith and marking Christmas at work, a Tory MP claimed today … Fiona Bruce cited a think tank report which warned religious freedom was being eroded in Britain … Think tank ResPublica has warned teachers, magistrates and other professionals have been disciplined and sacked for living according to their beliefs”. It should be noted that the last sentence does not specify Christian beliefs.

Add to that a story off the PA wire that claims “Some Christians feel so ‘picked on’ they are too scared to speak about their faith in public, a bishop has warned … The Right Reverend Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, said some secularists ‘have a problem’ with religion being talked about”, and last weekend’s Mail On Sunday claimingThe Government’s equalities watchdog has hit out at politically correct public bodies and employers who victimise Christians because they fear offending others” and it looks truly frightening.

The reality is that there is no war on Christmas, and never was. This is the annual outing for the Mail’s version of the manufactured controversy that has been going on for years across the North Atlantic, fuelled by hosts like Bill O’Reilly at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), seeing evil intent in greetings like “Happy Holidays”. Seriously.

But the Mail has to flog papers, and Dacre needs to keep his readers scared. So no change there, then.

Breitbart Ad Ban Hypocrisy

Those who think the Stop Funding Hate campaign in the UK, which is no more than an effort to gently persuade advertisers not to place their business with media outlets that demonise the less fortunate, like refugees and minorities, is being rotten to the poor media  might complain a little less vocally after seeing the viciousness of the reaction from the convocation of the terminally batshit that is Breitbart to their own loss of ad revenue.
His legacy endures, and it is poisonous

As the Guardian has reported, “On Tuesday, the Kellogg Company pulled their adverts from the site, saying that it wasn’t ‘aligned with our values’ … ‘We regularly work with our media-buying partners to ensure our ads do not appear on sites that aren’t aligned with our values as a company,’ Kris Charles, a spokeswoman for Kellogg’s, told Bloomberg. ‘We recently reviewed the list of sites where our ads can be placed and decided to discontinue advertising on Breitbart.com. We are working to remove our ads’”.

There was more. “Other companies have pulled ads from the site, including Allstate, Nest, EarthLink, Warby Parker, SoFi and the investment group Vanguard. Many did not realise they were advertising on Breitbart because their campaigns are run through automated systems which distribute ads across a large network of sites”.

Why should this happen? Ah well. The level of hatred and bigotry spewing out of Breitbart of late can be summed up in these three sample headlines, taken from the site: “‘Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive And Crazy’; ‘Data: Young Muslims In The West Are A Ticking Time-Bomb’ and ‘Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism Or Cancer?’

The reaction from Breitbart was furious: the site urged readers toDump Kelloggs” and a statement told “Kellogg's decision to blacklist one of the largest conservative media outlets in America is economic censorship of mainstream conservative political discourse. That is as un-American as it gets”. This is, of course, plain flat wrong: Kellogg’s had exercised their freedom of choice, which is not un-American at all.

What frightens Breitbart is that several key advertisers have already exercised that freedom of choice, and others may follow, which means this is going to hit their operation where it really hurts - in its pocket. The batshit Breitbarts know all about this, because it is a tactic of which they approved wholeheartedly - when it was them doing it to someone else, as happened at the height of the GamerGate ruckus two years ago.

The Guardian again: “The targeting of advertisers recalls a similar campaign perpetrated against the now-defunct Gawker Media by the Gamergate movement which Breitbart vocally supported”. It was OK for Breitbart when they were helping the campaign that forced Gawker to take a seven-figure ad revenue hit, but when Kellogg’s makes the choice, of its own volition, to pull ads from them, it’s suddenly terribly unfair.

All of which makes Breitbart nothing more than a shower of rank hypocrisy. It’s also possible that they’re missing their morning bowls of Froot Loops. I thank you.

[Those interested in this campaign can follow the @slpng_giants Twitter feed]

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Sun Officially A Political Campaign

The Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun are well known for their wilful hatred of the EU. It is also not news that the paper consistently, and stridently, took a not just Eurosceptic, but Europhobic, stance in the run-up to last June’s referendum on Britain’s EU membership. What might not be widely known is that the paper’s campaigning went so far that it had to register as an official Leave campaign group.
We know this only through the reporting of the Guardian and Independent - not even Press Gazette has thus far touched the story - which has revealed thatThe Sun spent more than £96,000 publishing a pullout poster backing Brexit, forcing its parent company, News Group Newspapers, to register as an official leave campaign group with the Electoral Commission”. So blatant, they couldn’t get it past the Electoral Commission.

There’s more: “The poster featuring a union flag and the words “BeLEAVE in Britain”, which had appeared on an earlier front page, was published just a week before the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU … Editorially the paper was one of the most vocal backers of leaving the EU, but the double-page spread fell under the Electoral Commission’s rules regulating campaign spending because it was designed to be displayed, even though the money was reported as a payment from NGN to itself”.

And yet more: “The cost of the poster made NGN one of the largest spenders among 48 groups who had their campaign finances revealed by the Electoral Commission on Tuesday, all but two of which spent under £250,000 … The only organisations on the list spending more than NGN were the pro-remain Global Britain Limited, and leave backers Grassroots Out, Veterans for Britain and fashion student Darren Grimes, who ran the youth-focused group BeLeave” (that excludes Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe).

As the Independent told, the kinds of stuff the Sun published which didn’t have to be declared included a less than totally impartial editorial in which the EU was described as “greedy, wasteful, bullying and breathtakingly incompetent in a crisis … Outside the EU we can become richer, safer and free at long last to forge our own destiny - as America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other great democracies already do. And as we were the first to do centuries ago. If we stay, Britain will be engulfed in a few short years by this relentlessly expanding, German-dominated federal state”.

Nor was the infamous “QUEEN BACKS BREXIT” considered as political campaigning, although that is rather obviously what it was - apart from the headline being totally untrue, of course. And why did the Sun do this? The Independent again. “Mr Murdoch has long been vocal in his opposition to the EU. When questioned as to why, he reportedly  once said: ‘That’s easy. When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice’”. And now they’ve admitted the political campaigning.

If only the Sun, and the rest of the Murdoch empire, would have the backbone to stick around and own up when everything goes belly up, which it is already showing every sign of doing. Sadly, the words of Stanley Baldwin, “What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”, are still true. Murdoch wants to meddle. But not carry the can.

Julia Hartley Brewer - Brexit Clueless

[Update at end of post]

Now relocated from LBC to Talk Radio, occasionally in print in those reassuringly right-leaning papers that want to hear what she has to say, and still inexplicably allowed a platform by the BBC and other broadcasters, wilfully misinformed pundit Julia Hartley Brewer has made no secret of her fervour for Britain departing the EU. Her problem, as shown once more today, is that she has little idea what this might entail.
Stick to facts? How very DARE you!

Ms Hartley Dooda has taken the news that British citizens living in other EU member states will not have their right to remain there confirmed, before the start of those negotiations which follow the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, particularly badly. In doing so, she has taken it upon herself to find a suitable ghastly foreigner to blame for her confused state of mind, and concluded that it’s The Krauts Who Done It.
Armed with this unique finding, she took to Twitter to tell anyone prepared to listen that “Merkel is happy to welcome 1mill Syrians to Germany but not to guarantee Britons a life there. I think that tells us all we need to know”. Bzzzt! False equivalence. Worse, she manages not to realise that those negotiations have yet to start.
But that was no obstacle to her remaining as badly informed as possible, and to double down, she swiftly declared “I have a funny feeling that many Germans may feel rather differently though. So much for European ‘friendship’”. Ah yes, all those silent voters who don’t approve of all those refugees. Sadly, as was pointed out to her, Angela Merkel’s popularity is, despite her eleven years in office, at around 71%. That means Ms Hartley Dooda is plain flat wrong. And she still hasn’t addressed the real issue.
Not only that, she was going to make damned sure she kept Looking Over There. After the suggestion was made that not everything in the Brexit garden was quite as rosy as advertised, she snapped back “No, I'm very happy with how Brexit is going. But Merkel's position shows just how fake this European ‘Union’ is”. It shows nothing of the sort - the real reason for the uncertainty is not the EU, but the UK’s imminent departure from it.
That point was then made plain to her by Jon Worth, who is a British Passport holder who lives in, and works out of, Berlin. He put the point directly: “For me as a Brit in Germany there’s one thing that made my position insecure: #Brexit. That’s the problem, not Merkel!” Merkel cannot say what the UK’s final status will be, and so cannot make any offer.
This met with the stern disapproval of Ms Hartley Dooda, who was once again determined to ignore the fact of the matter and deflect elsewhere: “Those bloody voters making democratic decisions in a free and fair referendum, eh?” So let’s take this nice and slowly, shall we? The status of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals elsewhere in the EU, is unchanged, but what it will be after the Article 50 negotiations is not known. So no-one, not even Angela Merkel, can give guarantees to anyone - yet.

If Julia Hartley Brewer is unable to grasp that straightforward point, one has to assume she is just being wilful. After all, she isn’t stupid - if she was, they would’t have her on the telly so often. Or something like that. I’ll just leave that one there.

[UPDATE 1605 hours: David Allen Green at Law And Policy has tried his best to point out the obvious to Ms Hartley Dooda, but sadly she was not listening.
After he asserted "UK citizens losing their EU-based rights is the essence of Brexit ... Any person supporting Brexit should have realised this", she maintained her previous level of wilfulness.
She countered "we'd lose our right to live/work in the EU.But that's not the same as those already living in EU nations losing their rights", but sadly for her, that is exactly what it is.
Allen Green had to point out "If those rights are based on EU law then, of course, that is what Brexit would mean ... Brexit could not mean otherwise", thus demonstrating that Ms Hartley Dooda has been shooting from the hip without first doing her homework.

Julia Hartley Brewer appears surprised that rights based on EU law might be lost if a country ceases to be an EU member state. One can only wonder what else that should be on the Bleeding Obvious List is going to prove challenging for her. And her fellow Brexiteers]

Has Simon Danczuk Snared Another?

While most of the outpourings from Rochdale’s still nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk are routine right now, it appears he has been unable to shake off his continuing pursuit of female company, despite the litany of failure in his wake - as well as all those regrettable incidents in pubs, at and outside the Lowry Hotel, over social media, and very publicly around his holiday home in the Anglophone town of Algorfa.
Most Danczuk observers will see the usual bandwagon jumping, such as this morning’s attempt to suggest he is taking an interest in the recent revelations about sexual abuse of young men and boys at football clubs, taking to Twitter to tell “Impressed with what @DamianCollins had to say about child abuse in football, on @VictoriaLIVE just now. FA need to be more accountable”. Joining a cause when the bandwagon has already passed by the front door - yes, that’s Simon Danczuk for you.
Also on the Danczuk support list is the supremely irrelevant attempt by his pal Richard Farnell, still leader of Rochdale Council, to whip up indignation about the service provided to Rochdale by the Metrolink tram network. “Oldham & Rochdale Fight For Tram Link To Piccadilly … Council bosses say it's unfair that the two Boroughs are the only ones in Manchester who don't have direct access by tram” reads the report.
Anyone would think that Metrolink doesn’t go to Oldham or Rochdale - but of course it does. So what’s the beef? “Oldham and Rochdale Councils have secured talks about a direct tram link to Manchester Piccadilly station”. Er, what? “The Oldham-Rochdale line is now the only branch of the regional Metrolink network without an uninterrupted link to Manchester’s key station”. Oh, come off it. That is desperate.

The train service that Metrolink replaced didn’t go to Piccadilly, and if punters want to get there from Rochdale or Oldham, they just have to make a same-platform change at Victoria, Shudehill or Market Street. It’s just attention seeking rubbish. In any case, what Danczuk isn’t Retweeting is his latest female encounter.

To see this, we have to mosey over to the Twitter feed of one Edel McCaffrey, who is Head of Communications for Healthcare At Home. Ms McCaffrey attended the Political Cartoon Awards last night, which were held at St John’s Smith Square, conveniently close to Parliament. From there she Tweeted “With @SimonDanczuk at the political cartoon awards @EllwoodAtfield”. And there they are together, happy and smiling.

Who knows, this may be nothing more than a chance meeting. But it looks rather more serious than that. It looks very much as if despite two less than successful marriages, the failed liaisons with Claire Hamilton, Louise Dickens, a Twentysomething who was snapped with him outside the Lowry Hotel, the other young woman snapped outside the Lowry Hotel after the MEN party, the “sexting” shame, and claims of at least two relationships with women he had worked with, Spanker Si is still on the pull.

And if he was, then I’m sure any or all of those mentioned will be more than happy to provide a suitable character reference for him. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Eric Bristow - Say Sorry

Whatever one’s opinion of the sport, darts has always had more than its fair share of characters, and none has been more significant and enduring than the “Crafty Cockney” Eric Bristow, part of whose persona is that he doesn’t much care what people think - and has been dismissive of many journalists over the years. In any case, the arrows can do the talking for him, and a whole slew of titles stands testament to that.
Eric Bristow

Sadly for Bristow, his tendency to shoot from the hip has not served him well when combined with an ill-advised excursion on Twitter in the wake of the revelations over the sexual abuse of young men and boys at a number of football clubs in the past. Much of the abusive behaviour is alleged to have been down to coaches like Barry Bennell, who was suddenly sacked by Crewe Alex in 1992 for reasons that have never been made clear.

The Tweet that began Bristow’s downhill slide read “Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when i was a kid as i got older i would have went back and sorted that poof out”. Homosexuality and paedophilia confused yet again. And his later claim “bet the rugby boys are ok” didn’t endear him to anyone in that sport who had suffered abuse.

Then came the backlash: first, as the Guardian has reported, “The former darts world champion Eric Bristow has been sacked by Sky Sports after he tweeted comments about the football sexual abuse story on Monday … Bristow, 59, had been a regular contributor to the channel’s darts coverage since the early 90s but Sky announced on Tuesday morning that he would no longer be used by it. ‘He was a contributor to our darts coverage in the past but we will not be using him in the future,’ a spokesperson commented”.

Soon afterwards, the Manchester Evening News told its readersCharity reports Eric Bristow to police over tweets on football sex abuse scandal … The five-time world darts champion stunned fans last night with a stream of messages in which he labelled footballers who have recently revealed they were abused as ‘wimps’ … Survivors Manchester, a group which supports boys and men affected by sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation said they had forwarded them to his local police force”.

Then Sky News reported thatNewcastle United have said they will never work with darts player Eric Bristow again after he posted inappropriate tweets about the football abuse scandal … The former darts world champion has been heavily criticised after calling footballers ‘wimps’ on social media, adding: ‘Glad I am a dart player proper men’ … Newcastle United are one of the clubs involved in investigations after the Guardian newspaper reported that a former player had contacted police to make allegations against George Ormond … Ormond was a coach in the North East who was jailed for six years in 2002 for carrying out numerous assaults across a 24-year period”.

Nothing like engaging brain before firing up the Twitter feed, it seems. But thus far, Bristow has not done the one thing that could provide him with some respite from the gathering storm of bad publicity and the serial shunning of those who had previously been happy to provide him with work opportunities - hold his hands up and say sorry.

I’m sure Bristow is a proud man. But now he needs to swallow that pride and admit he got this one very wrong indeed. It would be better to remember him for all the right reasons.