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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Don’t Menshn Tim Hunt

Biochemist Tim Hunt has been in the news, after his remarks to a conference held in the South Korean capital, Seoul. He told the gatheringLet me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry”, and “said he was in favour of single-sex labs, adding that he didn’t want to ‘stand in the way of women’”.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

This caused him to face severely adverse criticism, and Hunt later resigned his honorary position at University College, London. He told the BBC he “‘did mean’ the remarks but was ‘really sorry’”. That was 19 days ago. But in the meantime, the Sun and Daily Mail have tried to push the idea that Hunt either didn’t say what was attributed to him, or he was misunderstood, or he didn’t really give offence, or that his accuser was dishonest.
And, as the first paper to indulge in whataboutery over Hunt’s comments was the Murdoch Times, it should surprise no-one that (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch has gone off on one about the story - and is still at it, two and a half weeks later. “He said it in a very lighthearted manner with no outward hint of malice, condescension, or derision” she claims of Hunt’s remarks, omitting that this was someone’s opinion, delivered after the event.
There was more. Rather a lot more. David Colquhoun was subjected to so much Twitter aggression he called Ms Mensch out for harassment: “in particular you personally advocated #TimHunt not receive due process on Twitter” she demanded. “Can you explain if you ‘Established facts’ by speaking to Connie St Louis only or her colluders” she demanded, including Dorothy Bishop for good measure.
Then came the derisory “I’m writing a blog about you” threat: “Thanks. On record. Later today blogging up your involvement as suggested by your Twitter … I have of course screenshot your tweets so there will be no point in deleting … There will be two #TimHunt blogs - the  reporting is already thoroughly discredit[ed]”. And on she ranted.

To Colquhoun’s protest of harassment, there was only “on your own heads if you do not respond to the questions before I publish”. Ms Bishop’s gentle suggestion that Ms Mensch ask herself how she’d feel if Young Dave had made the remarks - like the Angela Eagle “calm down, dear” and Nadine Dorries “extremely frustrated” jibes - only met with “what things? Prof Hunt made no comments about women in science he joked against himself”.

So that’s more “opinion I like = facts”, then. And she wasn’t letting Ms Bishop off the hook: “answer the question did you personally demand his resignation before speaking to him or establishing the facts … did you personally speak to Connie St Louis whose account is a proven lie”. Ms St Louis might have something to say about that. But what Ms Mensch has to say about Tim Hunt will not move the story forward one millimetre.

She’s been banging on about this for the last fortnight. Incessantly and obsessively. Nobody who matters will care what she writes. So sad to be all alone in New York City.

Tories BBC ISIS Hypocrisy

Nowhere is Young Dave’s combination of rank hypocrisy and shameless opportunism better displayed than in his bullying of the BBC. The Corporation, dammit, still fails to serve up the news in a way that is truly acceptable to Conservatives. Its presenters still insist on asking Hard Questions (tm) of him and his jolly good chaps. So it was that our fearless Prime Minister went off on one yesterday.
I say you BBC cheppies, do as you're told and go and stand in the corner over thyah! Jully good sheow!!

The hated Beeb insisted on referring to ISIS, or whatever they’re called this week, as “The so-called Islamic State”, which suggests that this crowd calls itself that - ISIL means “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant”, and ISIS replaces “Levant” with “Syria” - but that it isn’t really an Islamic State at all. Rather like the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, which certainly isn’t an alliance of ordinary taxpayers.
Dave wasn’t having any of that. So off he went to the Radio 4 Today programme to give that John Humphrys chappie a piece of his mind. “I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State because it's not an Islamic state. What it is is an appalling, barbarous, regime. It's a perversion of the religion of Islam and many Muslims listening to this programme will recoil every time they hear the words Islamic State”.
Jolly good sheow! Except, of course, the Beeb makes the point - and did so in yesterday evening’s news bulletins - of prefixing “Islamic State” with “so-called”. This was just another crude attempt to browbeat the Corporation, and one critic of the Tories saw through it immediately. Responding to Stephen Daisley, Jo Rowling told “you're not the only one uncomfortable with the Prime Minister seeking to dictate BBC editorial policy”.
And then there is the hypocrisy: Cameron is quick enough to go in with both feet on the BBC, but his pals in the right-wing press use the term “Islamic State”, and he doesn’t say a dickybird about it. You think I jest? Let’s see how the Super Soaraway Currant Bun was styling the group recently. “United against I. S. … As Police swoop on first suspected Islamic State terror cell in UK, the Sun urges Brits of all faiths to stand up to extremists”.
But Dave isn’t admonishing Rupe’s downmarket troops, is he? Nor is he wagging his finger at his most ardent cheerleaders at the Telegraph, who yesterday were populating their mobile app with a section clearly titled “Islamic State Top Stories”. No Tory telling-off for the dwindling band of hacks at Buckingham Palace Road, though. And nor is there any ticking-off for the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker, either.
Yes, the Daily Mail is also calling it theIslamic State”, without any sign of the “so-called” that the Beeb use. And, in typical style, the Mail, at the same time, is playing both sides of the field by carrying the story about Cameron bullying the BBC. Meanwhile, nobody seems to be calling out Dave for pushing his own favoured term for the group, ISIL, the first two initials of which stand for, er, Islamic State. So I will.

Cameron’s obsession with the BBC is unhealthy. And his hypocrisy just stinks.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Guido Fawked - Fracking Failure

Those who observe the increasingly abysmal outpourings of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog will not have to look for long to see the influence of their real masters at the Murdoch press, as today’s lament at Lancashire County Council’s decision to throw out an application by Cuadrilla to start fracking for gas - rather than just drilling test wells - makes clear.
Fart in lift Inquiry mulls merits of natural gas

Lancashire Luddites Block Shale Revolutionbleats the headline, as readers are told “Lancashire County Council have refused planning permission for the fracking site at Little Plumpton”, before the assertion that “The refusal means that all applications for shale extraction have been refused in the county”, which actually means “The refusal means that all applications for shale extraction within the county have been refused”.
But good to see Jeremy Wilson maintaining the tradition of shonky grammar begun by the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole. And there’s more: “The council rejected the application after considering legal advice submitted by Friends of the Earth that assured them a  decision to refuse planning permission would be ‘a reasonable one to take and capable of being defended on appeal”. Ah, the rank whiff of bullshit.
As any fule kno, the Council will have considered advice from all interested parties. The idea that Cuadrilla decided to forego the option is the stuff of fantasy. The thought that the rotten greenies pulled a fast one may appeal to those who still find the Fawkes blog credible - so not very many people, then - but the reality is that Staines and his pals are doing no more than peddling the accepted Murdoch line.
Last Monday, there was a typically slanted interpretation of Pope Francis’ encyclical by Sun deputy political editor Steve Hawkes, telling “Two years after appearing to back the eco lobby, Pope Francis said natural gas was the ‘lesser evil’ of fossil fuels. And in a highly influential papal letter he signalled it was fine to exploit this source until the world is ready to go green”. And the Times last week was even more explicit.
Just Frack It … Lancashire should embrace fracking without delay” pontificated an editorial, telling of the wonderful things fracking had brought to the economy of North Dakota. What the ST did not tell was that Lancashire has twice the population of North Dakota, living in an area just one sixtieth of the size. It is then suggested that Britain could be vulnerable to “shocks to the Norwegian [energy] market”.

The ST suggests that all would be fine for fracking companies, if only they would bung the locals a bit more of the old folding stuff. But all their urging - along with that of the Sun, and the Fawkes rabble - has been for nothing. There is a genuine public concern over fracking, which is why the Murdoch empire is wrong, and Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham is right. Imposing fracking without approval of those affected is wrong.

Staines and his pals have shown who their real boss is. Another fine mess, once again.

ISIS - Hitler Speaks

As it comes clear that around 30 British holidaymakers were murdered, and many more wounded, on a Tunisian beach by a gunman claiming allegiance to ISIS, or whatever they’re calling themselves this week, the outrage of the punditerati follows, with the inevitability of night following day. Something Must Be Done, readers are told, and not just that, Someone Must Be To Blame For It All.
There have been a variety of ranting and frothing talking heads on display, and while the response from the likes of Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips shows her peddling the same one-trick pony as always - claiming that Islam is not a religion of peace and is some kind of monolithic enemy, a similar tale to the one we used to be given on Communism - there are some who have at least attempted originality.

Head and shoulders above the rest, in that he has attempted to be original but failed spectacularly, is Max “Hitler” Hastings, who has been wheeled out by the Mail to tell readers that it’s all the fault of Edward Snowden, the deeply subversive Guardian, and all those bleeding heart liberal do-gooders who don’t appreciate the positive virtues of having the spooks snooping on our phone calls and emails.

Just how wibbling is “Hitler”? Feast your eyes on this gem: “It is scarcely surprising that the intelligence services are uneasy about the proposal in the report to government this month by David Anderson QC, that members of the judiciary should exercise powers of independent supervision over SIS, MI5 and GCHQ … A rogue judge granted such licence could delight the Guardian newspaper by adopting a tough line towards government surveillance, but do untold harm to our safety”.

Gosh, a judge might not do what the Daily Mail says he or she should! There’s more: “The West is fortunate enough to possess extraordinary technology for electronic surveillance [but] Their task has been made more difficult by the revelations from Moscow of the American traitor Edward Snowden, who has alerted the world’s terrorists to their vulnerability to eavesdropping”. Like buggery he has. But do go on.

The internet lies at the heart of much, if not most modern terrorist activity, yet such service providers as Google have become increasingly unwilling to give intelligence agencies, and explicitly British ones, information about their users … With reckless disregard for any civic responsibility, they offer customers apps which enable them to encrypt their communications”. See, it’s Google’s fault too!

Hastings falls into the trap that ISIS have set for him: too many Governments respond to an attack on privacy, and civil liberties, by deciding that Something Must Be Done - and taking that privacy, and those liberties, away, thus doing the terrorists’ dirty work for them. Turning the UK into even more of a surveillance state will solve nothing.

Fortunately, our security is not in the hands of Daily Mail pundits.

So Farewell Then The Danczuks

All good things, so it is said, come to an end, and in the case of nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk and wife Karen, some less good things also come to an end. Those who read the Sunday Times magazine feature on the couple will not have been surprised to discover that they have split up, pausing only to ensure that the exclusive story is sold to the Super Soaraway Currant Bun. Publicity whores to the end.
Legendary comedy double act to end

Sadly, the Sun’s copy has been lifted by every other online news source that is desperate enough to carry it, and so the story has been swiftly released on the piss-poor Sun Nation site, free to view. Here we learn “ALL BY MY SELFIE: SIMON AND KAREN DANCZUK CONFIRM SPLIT … Sexy snap queen separates from MP hubby”. He is “very sad” and “absolutely devastated”, while she is merely “gutted”.
There was even the obligatory “pal” on hand to state the bleedin’ obvious: “They have been having problems for quite a while, things haven’t been easy. He’s heartbroken”, while readers are told “Rochdale MP Mr Danczuk, who has two children from a previous marriage, said there was no one else involved”. Well, quite: who the hell would want to get involved in the rolling car crash that was the Danczuks?
Rochdale News hinted at the reasons behind the split: “Their marriage has long been reputed to be 'volatile' and on Friday Mr Danczuk posted a tweet saying he was researching 'Narcissistic Personality Disorder', which many took to be aimed at his wife. The Danczuk's relationship was put under the microscope in a Sunday Times feature just two weeks ago, which described their family life as ‘chaotic’”.
Freely translated into plain English, all the media exposure has just made things a hell of a lot worse. But one should feel little sympathy for this grotesque pairing: they both wanted More And Bigger Publicity Opportunities For The Benefit Of Themselves Personally Now. This they achieved. When the Sun’s Stig Abell muses “sad news about Simon and Karen Danczuk's marriage”, he knows there will be less of them. Thank Christ.

Yes, less of what Camilla Long described as “a tide of sportswear and nipples”. Less of the Spanish poolsides where there just happens to be a snapper and another Sun exclusive. Less free publicity for another of what Robin Day memorably, and rightly, called “here today and gone tomorrow politicians”. And, instead, more everyday reality: Karen Danczuk is in deep financial doo-doo, kept afloat only by her honking great chest.
Simon Danczuk Tweeted at the weekend “My 5yr old said to me yesterday: 'What are you going to be when you grow up?' Not sure the point he was trying to make!!” Both he and his now estranged wife could do with taking the hint and growing up. There are limits to turning your lives into media circuses, and this pair had long ago gone beyond them. It is only sad that so many people gave them a veneer of undeserved credibility.

Still, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh, eh?

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Tories, Uber, And Corruption

The seemingly unstoppable rise of rider-and-driver matching service Uber continues in London, with so little being done by increasingly occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to protect the capital’s black cabs - for whom the costs of getting on the road and remaining there are far higher than Ron Hopeful with his Prius and satnav - that many cabbies’ exasperation with their one-time champion has boiled over.
Whatever Bozza has suggested as a way to assuage cabbies has been too little, and too late, as many of them see fare income fall to levels that are becoming unsustainable. Why the Mayor - and Transport for London (TfL) - have effectively sat on their collective hands and done nothing is becoming clearer, though, as news emerges that Uber may have friends in the very highest places.

While the Guardian reported Bozza’s tinkering around the edges - “Boris Johnson calls for mini-Knowledge for Uber drivers … Mayor speaks out in defence of black-cab drivers and says Transport for London are consulting on language and geography tests for minicab firms” - the Standard’s Londoner’s Diary carried the first suggestion that the Mayor was not acting with as much freedom as he might have liked.
Why did Boris Johnson, staunch defender of the black cab trade, soften his line on Uber at the London Assembly last month?” asked the author, before citing a conversation one cabby had had with “Grant Davis, chairman of the London Cab Drivers’ Club and a lunch companion of one Boris Johnson, whom he updates on the black cab situation around City Hall” as the source of their rumour. The news was potentially explosive.

Boris apparently told Grant, who told Wayne who told The Londoner, that he’d been personally told by David Cameron to leave Uber alone”. However, their reasoning was tenuous. “The chat in the cabbies’ rests is that Dave’s good mate is Steve Hilton. And Steve’s trouble-and-strife Rachel Whetstone, also a family friend, happens to be Uber’s newly appointed UK senior vice-president of policy and communications”.
So close, but definitely no cigar. Meanwhile, the Taxi Leaks blog has something rather more significant: “Political organiser and writer Bryn Phillips has made a number of public statements on Twitter regarding political intervention from the Prime Minister and Chancellor in regards to the licensing of Uber London Ltd”, it tells. Phillips has asserted that both Young Dave and his next-door neighbour have been lobbying for Uber.

That’s not just “telling Bozza to lay off”, it’s an accusation of direct lobbying. By the Prime Minister and the Chancellor Of The Exchequer. The post then goes on to note that TfL ignored United Cabbies Group’s offer to share more than 8,000 complaints about Uber with them, before Labour MP Tom Watson intervened - now they welcome a sight of them. Someone at the top of Government needs to make a full and frank disclosure.

Because if they do not, someone else will make the full and frank disclosure for them.

Press New HS2 Rant - WRONG AGAIN

It’s not often that Zelo Street has to tell its readers that the Sun got it right, and the Guardian got it wrong. But, following the admission that the rail network upgrades put before the electorate last month were not achievable in the timescale advertised - something that industry watchers have been warning for some time - that is what happened. And where much of the press went wrong was on HS2.
High speed rail in Spain SIX YEARS AGO

It’s an easy mistake to make: the electrification schemes that are being put on hold, such as the main Trans-Pennine route from Manchester via Huddersfield to Leeds and York, and the Midland Main Line from Bedford to Sheffield, are part of the rail network. And the HS2 project is going to become part of the rail network. For this reason, rather too many hacks have decided that delays in one must affect the other.

The worst offender has been the Daily Mail, which went overboard following news that Network Rail (NR) could not deliver all its upgrades in the timescale promised by politicians: “Conservative backbenchers were also angry that projects were being scaled back while the controversial £50billion HS2 high-speed rail scheme linking London and Birmingham – which they decry as a ‘white elephant’ – survives unscathed” they frothed.

There was more - rather a lot more. Alex Brummer, who is supposed to be a competent business editor, assertedthere must be real questions as to whether the highly contentious HS2 should be, or will be, undertaken … Whatever the outcome of the Government’s review … the imbroglio raises huge questions over the future of the HS2 project”. There was also a thundering editorial from Daily Mail Comment.

Nor does it bode well for the Government’s prospects of ever delivering the £50billion HS2 scheme, which many consider to be little more than a vanity project”. The paper gave a platform to the now largely irrelevant Stop HS2 group, who were naturally more than happy to pass severely adverse comment. On top of this has come an article in the Guardian which also links the NR upgrades to HS2.

New fears arise that UK rail financial crisis will hit HS2 … Doubts grow at Department for Transport over high-speed link’s ability to keep within £42bn budget and deliver economic stimulus … Concerns over the economic viability of HS2, and its impact on other projects, were raised last week” was their take. And, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with this idea - it was bollocks.

NR is not responsible for building HS2. Delays and re-scoping of NR projects therefore do not impinge on HS2. So the Sun, which managed to discuss the problems in delivering all those electrification schemes without mentioning HS2, gets the bouquet, while the Mail and Guardian get brickbats. That, folks, is the result of not having specialist knowledge on hand at, well, any major national newspaper.

But they’ve all got someone to road test the latest cars, so that’s all right, then.

Murdoch Lawyer On The Carpet

When the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks, and Murdoch Junior, barged in on the Independent’s then editor Simon Kellner for the heinous crime of running a front page before the 2010 General Election that simply saidRupert Murdoch won’t decide this election. You will”, something that Kellner said “came straight out of the ‘Mafioso for Beginners’ handbook”, consequences were maybe not on her mind.
But consequences there have been, because the Indy has, since the revelations that led to the demise of the Screws and the Hacking Trial, become rather less afraid to publish and be damned when it comes to anything concerning Creepy Uncle Rupe. So it is that it’s the only paper thus far to let readers know that Tom Crone, legal eagle to the Screws at the height of its notoriety, is facing investigation by the Bar Standards Board.

As the Indy tells, “Mr Crone faces being disbarred by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) if it finds the way he handled the paper’s legal business brought his profession into disrepute. After the lengthy criminal trial, at which the former editor of the NOTW, Andy Coulson, was jailed, complaints about Mr Crone’s professional conduct were lodged with the BSB”. Several other Screws staff also got guilty.

Why has it taken until now for the BSB to act? “No action was taken by the board while it awaited a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service on whether formal charges would be brought against Mr Crone”. So - let’s get this straight - the CPS has been considering whether to charge Crone, which would, had they decided to go ahead, have led Rupe’s legal man to appear in the dock - like all the others.

And there’s more: “During the trial it was revealed that the personal safe of Mr Crone at News International’s London offices contained transcripts of the voicemails of  David Blunkett, the former home secretary … During the trial at the Old Bailey, Coulson testified that he had told Mr Crone about the hacking of Mr Blunkett’s messages, which took place in 2004”. That might not be the only matter for the BSB to mull over.

There was also the evidence given by Murdoch Junior to the DCMS select committee: “James Murdoch, the former boss of the UK division of his father global’s media empire, told a parliamentary select committee in July 2011 that Mr Crone was one of two executives who he alleged had ‘misled him’ about substantial payments made to individuals to prevent the scale of phone hacking inside the NOTW becoming public”.

A company lawyer who, according to one of the top bosses, has “misled” him? That’s code for a less than full and frank disclosure, or, as ordinary people might call it, lying. What those on the DCMS select committee at the time - like, oh, I dunno, Tom Watson for instance - might make of that will be yet more interesting. Crone might end up counting himself lucky he secured a £300K payoff from the Murdoch empire.

There may be more to come on this one. Or even a lot more to come.

Top Six - June 28

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, I have to empty the washing machine later. So there.
6 Tories’ Northern Powerhouse Fraud What was promised before the General Election was never going to be delivered - and so it came to pass.
5 Super Soaraway No Bomb Plot Yesterday’s Sun front page story fell apart as soon as it was subjected to a little examination. We need full disclosure to see exactly who started the exchange. One sincerely hopes, for the Sun’s sake, that it was not them.
4 Sun Muslim Convert Lies Busted The man who beheaded an elderly woman in her garden had been called a “Muslim Convert” by the Sun - the reality was that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. No regrets from the Murdoch faithful, though.
3 Sun Pundit STILL Bullying Teenager Abby Tomlinson, custodian of the #Milifandom craze, was subjected to yet more grief last week - by the same hypocrite.
2 Don’t Menshn Charlotte Church (Thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch went off on a rant against singer Charlotte Church. But all the sniping she could muster did not as much as merit a reply.
1 Simon Danczuk Janner Smokescreen Nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk jumped on the bandwagon urging action against Greville Janner. But he came to it years later than his colleague Tom Watson, and the thought occurred that he was doing this to divert attention from his and wife Karen’s problems.
And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Telegraph Pundit Is A Europhobic Idiot

Young Dave and his jolly good chaps have taken their ideas for renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU to this week’s European Council summit in Brussels. To no surprise at all, there were more pressing things to think about, mainly Greece and its impending debt repayments (or not), together with the issue of refugees arriving from the Middle East and North Africa. Priorities, priorities.
So Cameron has had to accept that, should he want to have his referendum next year, all the other 27 member states may not have agreed to the renegotiation - whatever that turns out to be. And some of the demands he has no chance of getting this side of hell freezing over, such as opting out of free movement of people, and abandoning the commitment to “ever closer union”. This will be nobody’s fault but his own.

Of course, that is not how the Tory-supporting press sees it, and there is no more slavish backer of The Blue Team and sniffy critic of the EU than Charles Moore (Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge) who has shown his displeasure at those dastardly garlic-crunching foreigners as he tells “Europe’s dining-table diplomacy will leave Britain with indigestion. Seduced by EU hospitality, we have ignored our friends in the Commonwealth”.

The logic of Moore’s argument, such as can be ascertained, is thin at best, as witness “All euro notes depict a bridge, but really they should show a dining table. Most EU crisis stories … climax with a dinner”. Yes, we can manage to travel without bridges, can’t we? And the discussion has to come round to his heroine Mrs T: “When she was Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher hated these Euro-scoffs”.

The EU, you see, has a “lack of legitimacy in the eyes of many. It did not arise from the votes or wishes or common practice of the citizens”. Nor did the United Kingdom. Did the electorate vote on union with Scotland, or the partition of Ireland? Heck no, and in any case, even after The Great War, not all adults had the vote anyway. Moore then claims that the EU will replace, or perhaps has already replaced, its member states.

This is drivel, but he saves the most staggeringly mindless non sequitur for last: “New Zealand has half the number of sheep it farmed 30 years ago, but produces the same amount of meat from them, with far greater profit. In a similar period … The EU’s share of world trade has fallen”. If only all we traded in was sheep, eh? “While the Europeans have been eating their dinners, the world has been eating their lunch” adds Moore.

What he is trying to drive at, and it’s a Telegraph favourite, is that we should club together with other who speak English, despite Canada hitching itself to NAFTA, and Australia and New Zealand doing more of their business around the Pacific Rim. Anything other than have anything to do with those ghastly mainland Europeans. It’s a view that ran out of road half a century ago. It contributes nothing to any real world discussion.

But it fills column inches and makes Moore feel important, so that’s all right, then.

Simon Danczuk And An Offensive Wife

In the Not The Nine O’Clock News sketch where Rowan Atkinson’s Police sergeant carpets an over-zealous Constable Savage, one of the spurious charges that Savage has levelled at Mr Winston Kodogo is that he was “walking around with an offensive wife”. What exactly constitutes “an offensive wife” is left to the viewer’s imagination. If only nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk could leave his wife to the imagination, too.
Behold the representatives of Themselves Personally Now

Sadly for that larger part of the population who would rather she indulge in rather less of her trademark shameless self-promotion, though, the attempts of Danczuk’s wife Karen to generate More And Bigger Stories For The Benefit Of Herself Personally Now know no bounds, to the extent that she has resorted to effectively trolling George Clooney’s wife Amal in the search for a little of that stardust that she does not merit.

Seeing some clickbait on the Express site suggesting Amal Clooney was rather more slender than was ideal (who is judging this “ideal” we are not told), Ms Danczuk declared “Don't want to sound rude but Id have my curves any day over skin & bone. She needs to come mine for her tea!!”, signing the Tweet with her initials as if that puts her on a par with the US President. So did George and Amal beat a path to her door?
Well, no they didn’t, but as intended, someone - apart from Ms Danczuk’s army of Twitter followers, many of whom give the impression that they follow her in order to leer at her cleavage - rewarded her with some coverage (no, not that kind of coverage, unfortunately). Mail Online’s Sarah Burns obligingly gushedGeorge can come too! Selfie queen Karen Danczuk issues unlikely dinner invitation to Amal Clooney after seeing images of human rights lawyer's slender frame”. And there was more.

'Queen of selfies' Karen Danczuk has responded to images of George Clooney's wife Amal looking slender...by inviting her over for ‘tea' … The 31-year-old wife of Labour MP Simon Danczuk spoke out after the human rights lawyer was photographed on Thursday wearing an ill-fitting khaki-coloured jumpsuit … Taking to her Twitter page, mother-of-three Karen compared 37-year-old Amal's svelte frame to her own voluptuous body”.
Er, no

After correcting her age (she’s 32), and getting the number of children right (two), you can pass the sick bucket, thanks. Voluptuous My Arse. The Mail had already shown why this was a non-story by telling “Human rights lawyer Amal met PM David Cameron earlier this week to campaign for the release of the jailed former president of the Maldives”.

George Clooney is, justifiably, regarded as Hollywood Royalty. His wife is in demand for her legal expertise - and at the highest level, too. Meanwhile, Simon Danczuk sucks up to the right-wing press by writing articles knocking his own party, while his wife feeds her Twitter followers a stream of cleavage-revealing selfies and ponders the merits of the correct glass to use when polishing off a bottle of prosecco.

Walking around with an offensive wife”? That might be the Danczuks, that might.

Super Soaraway No Bomb Plot

After at least 38 people, many of them apparently British nationals, were murdered on a beach in Tunisia yesterday, the last thing that we need is someone trying to cause panic. So, to no surprise, Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Sun have used their front page lead today to do just that. But, not for the first time with the red-tops, there is a suspicion that we are not seeing the full story - and much of what we are given doesn’t add up.
I. S. PLOT TO BOMB UK TODAY … Lee Rigby parade blast plan smashed” screams the headline, and here, thanks to the Sun not secreting the article behind a paywall, we can see the first seriously misleading claim. What the Sun is saying is that someone they believe to be in Syria has told one of their hacks, posing as an IS follower, how to make a bomb using a pressure cooker. There is no IS plot.

It get worse: the IS follower is claimed to have told the Sun journalist “can u be ready for 27th of this month? Its armed forces day. There will be a parade in Woolwich. I’ll get you the details”. But readers have already been told “He ordered our team to target today’s parade in Merton, South West London - selected as closest to the Woolwich barracks where drummer Lee Rigby, 25, was murdered by Islamist extremists in 2013”.

Those with any knowledge of that part of London south of the river will know that it’s a bloody long hike from Merton - that’s the area just to the east of Wimbledon - to Woolwich. There is, in fact, an Armed Forces Day event in Woolwich (details HERE), so why would IS want to target a parade several miles away, if their contact had already said “There will be a parade in Woolwich”? And there’s more. Rather a lot more.

When the Sun took their information to the Metropolitan Police, the only reported response was “Scotland Yard urged the public to be ‘vigilant and alert’ at today’s events. A spokesman said: ‘We’d like to reassure the public that we constantly review security plans for public events. Our priority is safety’”. No congratulations on supposedly smashing this dastardly IS ‘plot’? And there is one other problem with this article.

While the Sun tells readers what the IS follower is saying to them, we do not see the full exchange of messages. Did the Sun hack claim to be an IS follower himself? What encouragement did he give to the man in Syria? Did the Sun man claim (for instance) that he was going to perform a suicide attack anyway? Who proposed making a pressure cooker bomb (the kind of device used at the Boston Marathon) to whom?

The Sun claims “He first approached our man on June 1”. It does not claim “He approached our man first”. The claim “The Sun had infiltrated extremists on social networks” equates to having a conversation with one of them. And, as for the IS man in Syria being “confident he was beyond the reach of security services”, er, he still is. Let’s have full disclosure of that correspondence, so we can make our own minds up.

The only “plot” is the Sun plotting to con its readers. So no change there, then.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Sun Paywall A Flop - Official

It’s a month and a half since the General Election, yet the piss-poor SunNation website is still there, and still free to view, despite the Murdoch aversion to giving what they rather optimistically call “content” away for free. Moreover, SunNation is going to remain there, and remain free to view. Not only that, but it will not be the only Sun content available without recourse to a paywall. Why so?
Ah well. Sad to say, Rupe’s downmarket troops have had to concede that their paywall campaign has progressed not necessarily to their advantage. Back in 2013, the Guardian told that “Sun paywall set at £2 with access to Premier League football highlights … Charge will come into effect in August after £30m deal is struck for rights to all 380 Premier League matches a season”. Everyone would have to pay.

News International CEO Mike Darcey claimed that this would give subscribers “a compelling, paid-for package across all of our titles, delivering great value for news that is worth paying for”. For football fans, “It will include access to Premier League clips as well as ‘exclusive offers and promotions’”. Darcey had secured “the exclusive rights to internet and mobile highlights for all 380 Premier League matches on the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times digital platforms”. Two years later, the white flag is being run up.

The same Mike Darcey has now declared that more “content” will be made available free of subscription, telling “Since last summer, we have been working on a cross-departmental project to re-imagine the Sun and evolve its business model to take account of rapid changes in technology and the way readers are accessing and sharing news”.

The way readers are accessing and sharing news”? There is a plain English translation for that one: the magpies at Mail Online (for instance) buy a subscription, lift stories, work an attribution to the Sun into the text, and out it goes as more clickbait. Those not wanting access to football highlights don’t bother paying. And that means, as the Guardian put it, “the audience-killing paywall has made the site less attractive to advertisers”.

Darcey has all but admitted that other sites lift the Sun’s copy: “most of the content put outside the paywall will be developed on a bespoke basis by new teams, but … editors will be able to ‘deploy other Sun stories, especially ones well covered by competitors” [my emphasis]. Murdoch’s attempt to impose his own iron rule - that nothing is for free, and his papers’ journalism is worth paying for - has failed. That will have hurt.

So now the Sun will join the established online market leaders, but a long, long way behind Mail Online - and, something that will hurt even more - almost as far behind the hated Guardian. Two years of putting fingers in ears and not listening has put the Sun so far off the pace that it could take it some years to catch up - if it ever does catch up. “This is the beginning, not the end, of our evolution of The Sun” says Darcey.

He’s bullshitting. Apart from football highlights, it’ll all be free soon. Game over.

Tories’ Northern Powerhouse Fraud

To the all-too-predictable sound of politicians blaming Network Rail (NR), and of course blaming one another, just to be on the safe side, came the news yesterday which was not news to any observer of the UK’s rail industry: the £38 billion modernisation plan was not going to happen on the timescale previously promised - by politicians who should have known better. Neither major political party should escape censure for the débacle.
Look press people, a new train! Or maybe not

All the talk before the General Election, seemingly emanating from the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, of an HS3 network to follow HS2, was no more than hot air. Worse, the electrification of the main Trans-Pennine route from Manchester to Leeds and York via Huddersfield isn’t going to happen. Well, not yet. Nor is the electrification of the Midland Main Line from Bedford to Sheffield.

Why should this not have come as a surprise? Ah well. This all started with the selling-off and fragmentation of Good Old BR back in the 1990s, as “Shagger” Major showed he was even better at flogging off state assets than Mrs T. One casualty was the supply of managers who had been trained by BR, and had often come through the ranks. Then came Tone and New Labour to pick up the pieces.

However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, someone took their eye off the ball when it came to electrification, and very little got done between the mid 90s and the arrival of the Coalition. Thus more expertise was lost. And even in the days when more wiring up was being done, generally only one major scheme at a time was undertaken. That is all that can be managed now. And the major scheme is not in the north.

The only major scheme that can be resourced is the Great Western Main Line out of London’s Paddington terminus to South Wales and Bristol. What is termed “infill” - small schemes like Manchester to Preston and Blackpool - will carry on, and there will be similar work undertaken in Scotland. That is the limit of the expertise the industry can lay its hands on. The politicians - of both parties - should have known that.

When Osborne unveiled what was in reality a stick-on nameplate applied to a 25 year old train (“Northern Powerhousewas built by BR at York in 1990), it did not come with any guarantee that the great modernisation scheme would follow. That much was cynical electioneering; the sniping by Labour’s prize buffoon Michael Dugher is equally bad. Dugher’s party are as complicit as the Tories.

As Paul Bigland has told (see his reaction HERE), while successive Governments have treated transport in general, and the railways in particular, like a political football, expertise has been lost across the board, we end up paying more for new trains, overcrowding gets worse, and the whole shebang costs We The People a lot more money. Patrick McLoughlin has no right to colour himself surprised. And Dugher should butt out.

If we want a seriously good rail network, we have to take a serious attitude to railways.

When Terrorism Is Not Terrorism

When Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale butchered soldier Lee Rigby in broad daylight near his barracks in Woolwich, there was no doubt in the press’ minds that this was not only murder, but a terrorist attack. Moreover, it was a Muslim terrorist attack, as the two killers had apparently converted to Islam, although they for some reason had not changed their names - well, not officially, anyway.
Awaiting sentence ... Zack Davies

So that kind of unprovoked attack - going after someone with the intent to kill them, armed with knives and the like - is terrorism, yes? Well, that clearly depends: yesterday, a sad nobody called Zack Davies was convicted of the attempted murder of Dr Sarandev Bhambra in a Tesco store in Mold. Davies had chased after his target, hacking at him with a machete, and had almost severed one of Dr Bhambra’s hands.

Had it not been for the calm intervention of former soldier Peter Fuller, Davies might have succeeded in killing his target. His objective was clear: he shouted “white power” and “Come here, this is for Lee Rigby”. Davies was part of a neo-nazi group calling itself National Action. The attack was clearly intended as a revenge killing. Dr Bhambra was targeted because he was Asian, and a Sikh.

Where, then, is the T-word this morning? Well, it isn’t: what reports have made the papers are not exactly being given the front page treatment - and Davies is not being called a terrorist. Nor is National Action being called a terrorist group (see my friend Sunny Hundal’s view on that aspect of the case HERE). The Mail is typical.

White supremacist who called Jihadi John an ‘inspiration’ is found GUILTY of trying to kill Asian dentist with machete and hammer in front of horrified Tesco shoppersreads the headline. The article tells that Davies was “A white supremacist who said he was inspired by Jihadi John … He was said to have been obsessed with Nazi ideology, with various associated literature found in a later police search of his home”.

The figure in the ISIS videos, nicknamed “Jihadi John” by the press, would most certainly be called a terrorist. Davies was “inspired” by him. He was tooled up with a machete, a hammer and a knife. The prosecution described him “as a racist with a fascination for Far Right ideologies and read everything from Koran passages, stickers for neo-Nazi group Combat 18 to Hitler’s Mein Kampf”. Yet the Mail does not call him a terrorist.

And this is not an isolated case: across the North Atlantic, the fatal shootings in Charleston recently, by a white extremist in a church where African-Americans worship, was not described as an act of terror in most news reports, in contrast to, for instance, the Fort Hood killings, which certainly were. If it’s terrorism when a black or Asian man does it, it’s terrorism if a white man does it. End of story.

The double standards on such issues one might expect from the Mail. It’s sad to read the BBC doing the same thing. Davies is a terrorist. It’s not different for whites.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Jason Cowley - Prisoner Of A Blairite Past

Persistent and unrelenting complaint about the leadership of political parties is very much a niche journalistic calling. It is a yet narrower one if only one party is involved, and in the case of the Labour Party, that niche has just about been cornered by the Telegraph’s less than celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges, who carped incessantly about Mil The Younger, and will probably whine the house down at who comes next.
Burnham is today's candidate ...

That has not deterred New Statesman editor Jason Cowley from spending a significant amount of time joining in with Hodges, and anticipating the upcoming leadership contest by going in with both feet on Andy Burnham, deploying memories of a glorious Labour past that never was, and accepting the full set of right-wing press narratives without question. Cowley’s look back at the 1970s is the most immediately eye-catching.

In 1976, after Harold Wilson resigned as prime minister, the six contenders to replace him were Roy Jenkins, Jim Callaghan, Anthony Crosland, Tony Benn, Denis Healey and Michael Foot. How Labour yearns for figures of comparable stature today”, he tells. All of those named had already served in Wilson’s 1964-70 administration. Some had served in the post-war Attlee Government. Much of their stature derived from that service.

Yet Burnham, who, like Yvette Cooper, has served in a previous Labour Government, is derided by Cowley as a mere professional politician. What he also fails to notice is that all of those past Labour figures were, at one time or another, reviled and ridiculed by the press, in the same way as Burnham is now: Callaghan over the 1967 devaluation, Healey over the IMF loan, Jenkins for his liberal stance on home affairs, for instance.
... and there is no new Blair

Take also this assertion from Cowley’s article: “Once a Blairite, he has now repositioned on the populist left of the party, becoming the self-declared champion of the public sector, having also assiduously wooed the big unions, which are supporting his leadership bid”. Tony Blair was the chosen candidate of the Trades Unions. Have a think about that. If he achieved that without “assiduously wooing” them, he was a truly remarkable man.

Take also these claims: “Like the Miliband brothers, he was fast-tracked into a safe seat and then the cabinet. If he has a gift, it is for staying out of trouble and sensing the direction of travel”. No, Burnham was not “fast-tracked … like the Miliband brothers”, and certainly not like Mil The Elder, who was effectively imposed on South Shields. He gained the right to succeed Lawrence Cunliffe by his own application.

And those who stay out of trouble and sense the direction of travel do not make the efforts Burnham did to advance the cause of the Hillsborough families, at a time when it was not fashionable to do so. Jason Cowley’s problem is that he is not prepared to give Labour’s most likely new leader a fair hearing before giving up on him. Andy Burnham is not the new Tony Blair, but, guess what? There is no new Tony Blair. It isn’t going to happen.

Labour’s next winning leader will do things differently, whoever it is. That’s reality, Jason.

Gove Fiddles While Rome Burns

[Update at end of post]

What, one might have been tempted to ask in the wake of the “delay” to that much-hyped “British Bill Of Rights”, was Michael “Oiky” Gove doing to occupy his time at the Department of Justice (DoJ)? The Independent had the answer: “Lord Chancellor Michael Gove has been accused of ‘patronising’ his civil servants with an eccentric set of grammar rules and pet peeves designed to shape departmental correspondence”. Really? Do tell.
Instructions posted on the Ministry of Justice intranet after he was appointed Lord Chancellor last month warn officials never to use the word ‘impact’ as a verb and to spell out contractions so that ‘doesn’t’ becomes ‘does not’. The bureaucrats are also told that ‘the phrases best-placed and high-quality are joined with a dash, very few others are’. Mr Gove also disapproves of ‘unnecessary’ capitalisations and the word ‘ensure’, which his civil servants must always replace with ‘make sure’”.

The impression might have been given that the DoJ had nothing to occupy its Minister. However (“Oiky” hates the use of “however” to start a sentence, so I will), it has become clear as the week has gone on that there is much that Gove might otherwise be doing, and that picking over grammar rules is the equivalent of fiddling while Rome Burns.
For starters, successive rounds of cuts imposed in the rates for taking on legal aid work have led barristers and solicitors on Merseyside to decide that enough is enough: in a joint statement yesterday, they told thatIf the 1st July cut is to be implemented then Solicitors will have sustained a 17.5% cut over a fifteen month period in a profession that has not seen an increase to rates in over twenty years”. And there was more.

The message being delivered by individual firms was that they had made an assessment of the cuts that are to be introduced on the 1st July 2015 and in January 2016 and that they will not undertake work at this rate. The Bar confirmed that they would not be prepared to undertake any work on any case with a Rep Order dated on or after Wednesday 1st July in recognition of the damage that these cuts will have upon the Independent Bar”. What, one wonders, is Gove going to do about that?
Dispatching coach-loads of legal eagles to break the action is not on the cards; indeed, other areas may decide to follow suit. There is also the ongoing interpreters’ boycott: “Over 2,300 qualified & experienced court interpreters represented by Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J) boycotting MoJ contracts” they reminded everyone yesterday.

Gove’s earlier intervention, telling the legal profession that they should do more pro bono work, when the skills of the better-off often do not match the demand, will have done nothing to stave off action that could see much of the courts system paralysed within a few weeks. But all concerned can reassure themselves that, whatever solids are hitting the fan, that all correspondence emanating from “Oiky’s” office is grammatically correct.

A disaster at Education, a disaster as Chief Whip. There is no end to “Oiky’s” talents.

[UPDATE 1810 hours: as the Law Society Gazette has noted, the dissent over new legal aid rates has now spread to Cardiff, suggesting that any deal Gove may think he made with those at the top of the professions is not holding. The suggestion of doing more pro bono work may not have helped matters.

Clearly, the brilliance of Michael "Oiky" Gove knows no bounds]