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Saturday 31 December 2011

Goodbye 2011

So. 2011 is almost over. What have we learned from the year?

Politics: while many in his own party continually fail to “get” the new politics, Young Dave, for all his faults, continues to understand the art of Coalition, and also understands the art of making grand gestures while actually doing squit – as with his not so jolly good trip to Brussels. The Coalition held together, which suggests it really could make it for a full term. In the meantime, Mil The Younger did not instantly change the world, which caused the overmonied and undertalented hackery to pronounce him not only a rotten lefty, but a useless one.

Press And Media: it may still not have occurred to some who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet that they have finally arrived in the Last Chance Saloon, even as the Leveson Inquiry is sitting and their dirty laundry is being pored over by a generally unappreciative public. The Screws departed the scene to sighs of relief by all those other titles that added readers as a result. The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) showed yet again that it is utterly useless as it was seen to be absent during Phonehackgate. And Paul Dacre downgraded much of his swearing to merely calling his underlings “f***ing tossers”, but still failed to retire.

USA: the Republican party found no shortage of C-listers willing to take on Barack Obama, despite none of them – even Mitt Romney – looking like credible candidates. This was a turd that not even Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) could successfully polish. CNN remained in third place in the cable news ratings, except when their sister channel HLN pushed them down to fourth. And the country’s most trusted newscaster was still fronting a programme on Comedy Central.

Climate: another tranche of “Climategate” emails arrived, and was talked up by Christopher Booker and his representative on earth James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, but by now the public was largely unimpressed by all the fact free ranting and found more interest in what David Attenborough had to say. So Delingpole and Booker kicked Attenborough, without success.

Astroturf: groups like the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) have come under increasing pressure to say who pays the bills, while blogs like this one have shown just how little grassroots they really have. Broadcasters and some newspapers are getting wise to the TPA.

Blogosphere: it still required the otherwise hated MSM to get stories broken. The right and libertarian leaning blogs started to lose edge and credibility. This was as predicted and is entirely the fault of those running them.

And finally: we are, as last year, no closer to a grown up debate on drugs. Have a happy and peaceful New Year.

Hacking Yearbook

Phonehackgate was first broken by the Guardian back in 2009, and at the time this blog recognised the potential of the story, while a variety of Murdoch cheerleaders were trying to dismiss it as a “non-story”, and even attempting to characterise it as some kind of rotten lefty payback for Damien McBride’s emails. But 2011 was the year that the thing blew up in their faces.

First off came the departure of Andy Coulson, in the wake of support from the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer Henry Cole at the Guido Fawkes blog, the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere, and a last minute intervention from Ben Brogan, political editor of the Maily Telegraph and modern day Ron Hopeful, who talked up Coulson’s career the day before it ended.

But it was in July, on the second anniversary of the original Guardian revelations, that the whole rotten edifice came crashing down around the ears of Rupe and his troops, and their still adoring followers, as the arrests began. Those at the top of the Met were not immune, with John Yates and Paul Stevenson being caused to pass through the exit door.

The twinkle toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks also fell on her sword after overseeing the closing of the Screws, followed by faithful Murdoch retainer Les Hinton as resignation fever crossed the north Atlantic, and here we saw the potential for investigation into the activities of the Murdoch empire in the USA, given the Screws’ inside track on Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s phone calls.

And so it was that Rupe and Junior arrived at the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee session, and were grilled at length by Tom Watson and even Philip Davies. But the bizarre depths had not been fully plumbed until a token nutter interrupted proceedings, only to be felled by a right hand by Wendi Deng and jumped by several of the Met’s finest before being nicked and detained.

There have been attempts to throw the investigation off the scent. Much store has been set by those in the right leaning part of the blogosphere in getting some rotten lefties – which thus far means Piers “Morgan” Moron – as a way of settling the score, but what is now accepted is that the Murdochs are on the hook with no end in sight, because their hacker, Glenn Mulcaire, kept records.

When Zelo Street began its Murdoch Is Served series of posts, I couldn’t have imagined that by the end of this year, it would be on to number 63. And that’s without all the items on the various sideshows. Here’s to post 100 sometime next year.

Political Correctness And A Green Man

Slow news days coupled with agenda driven hackery combine on occasion to produce stories that one instinctively knows are nothing more than the by-product from the northbound end of a southbound bull. One such began life in the Lincolnshire town of Boston yesterday morning, and rapidly found its way onto the websites of the usual suspects.

The county council has clearly been concerned that some pedestrians do not wait for the “green man” to appear before stepping into the road. So plated signs have appeared at some crossings to remind users. So far, so routine, but the wording “Only CROSS with GREEN figure” (not “man”) has set the Political-Correctness-gone-mad-why-oh-why brigade off.

Thus the story went from the Boston Standard to the Maily Telegraph, then to the Daily Mail, and eventually (as it’s cheaper) to the Daily Express, the latter being so tight that the photo from Boston has not been included in the copy. The Telegraph asks “whether the change has been motivated by political correctness”, while the Mail tells of “a move branded politically correct”.

The Express, which like the Telegraph and Mail does not credit the original story, says the “green man” “seems to have fallen victim to the politically-correct brigade”. So has Lincolnshire County Council gone all PC with its light controlled pedestrian crossings? We can check this out by looking at their Pedestrian Crossing Leaflet, available online (see it HERE [.pdf]).

And what is immediately clear is that the leaflet refers not to “green figure” for Pelican and Puffin crossings, but “green man”. So no PC there, then. But a more detailed inspection of the leaflet shows that there are other kinds of light controlled crossings, the Pegasus (where horse riders cross) and more common in Lincolnshire, the Toucan (“two can”) for both pedestrians and cyclists.

For both Toucan and Pegasus crossings, the signal to cross cannot be termed a “green man”, because, well, it isn’t. So the county council would have to produce a different set of plated instructions for both, if it had used the term “green man” at Pelican and Puffin crossings. Then the why-oh-why brigade could call them out for waste, showing its ability to work this into a win-win situation.

But by using the term “green figure”, the county council can use the same plated instructions at all light controlled crossings around its patch, but with the penalty of being called out by the why-oh-why brigade over “political correctness” that does not exist.

No change there, then.

Do Not Arise, Sir Paul

[Updates, two so far, at end of post]

Things ain’t what they used to be for those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet. Influential editors would in years gone by be looking contentedly at the end of year editions of their papers to see that they had been awarded the gong that was rightfully theirs: a knighthood – at least – was recognition of those years’ service, and admission to a suitably exclusive club.

After all, Alfred Harmsworth became not just a mere knight, but a Lord. So did Max Aitken, despite the less than pure aroma emanating from his business dealings. Even the Labour supporting lot got in on the act: Hugh Cudlipp became a Baron. More recently, Max “Hitler” Hastings got a knighthood. So did Simon Jenkins, and he, dammit, writes for the subversive and suspect Guardian.

Moreover, David English, who edited the Daily Mail from 1971 to 1992, also got a knighthood. Heck, even Larry Lamb, who edited the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, got a K at the personal recommendation of Margaret Thatcher. But times have changed, and one name in particular never appears in the New Year’s Honours List, which is the reason for one front page splash today.

Yes, the Daily Mail is in full thunderous rage mode this morning, with the banner headline “TAINTED NEW YEAR HONOURS”. There have been knighthoods for a former convict! And someone who works in the City!! And an OBE for someone who founded an online gambling firm!!! And there is the righteous sub-heading “David Cameron accused of being ‘out of touch’ with decent British people”.

And we know who those “decent British people” are: these are the poor souls who pay for the dubious privilege of taking the print version of the Daily Mail into their homes, the people who buy into the warped vision of reality peddled by the paper, its dubiously talented and overmonied array of mostly dinosaur pundits, and above all its legendarily foul mouthed editor.

Yes, today’s Daily Mail headline means only one thing: Paul Dacre has yet again failed to secure the knighthood that he believes is rightfully his, and as a result has ordered his obedient hacks to go after the honours system with a characteristically mean spirited hatchet job. No matter who you are, this article tells, you don’t diss Dacre, or the vindictive bully will be on your case.

No change there, then.

[UPDATE1 January 1: the attack has continued today with Mail readers being told that "Cameron faces fresh New Year honours row", and that "David Cameron faced an honours row today after it emerged at least four Conservative Party donors were given awards in the New Years [sic] list".

But, leaving aside whether the likes of Doug Ellis are worth a gong (I personally wouldn't pay for his services in washers, but that's by-the-by), the only row is coming out of the Mail, and is only because Paul Dacre didn't get a knighthood, and isn't going to get one any time soon.

Expect more of this petulant dross, and the more there is, the more likely that Dacre will retire, or be caused to retire, during the next 12 months]

[UPDATE2 January 2: the attack has now been joined by paranoid and authoritarian Glenda Melanie "not just Barking but halfway to Upminster" Phillips, indicating that there is to be no let-up from the Mail. Mel argues unsuccessfully that Gerald Ronson and John Profumo are not similar at all, despite both men redeeming themselves by years of charitable works following their falls from grace.

But Mel reserves her largest helping of bile for Peter Bazalgette, because he brought the Big Brother format to Channel 4 (although he didn't devise it, and is perhaps best known for shows such as Ready, Steady, Cook!, Changing Rooms and Ground Force). In a typically nasty swipe, Phillips likens Bazalgette's knighthood "to giving Harold Shipman an award for services to medicine".

Had anyone made a similarly snarky accusation against Mad Mel, she would of course have by now been crying foul, asserting that she had been libelled, and citing the comments as further evidence of societal breakdown at the hands of the "Liberal Intelligentsia". Hypocrisy - dontcha love it?]

Friday 30 December 2011

Guido Fawked – A Good Year’s Fawking

During the past year, Zelo Street has passed adverse comment on the dealings of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer Henry Cole, the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere, at the Guido Fawkes blog, to the occasional clear distress of the petulant and thin-skinned Cole, and more general pleasure of many others, some of whom believe I should be kicking the less than dynamic duo far harder.

In May it was the lack of success that the Fawkes blog was having, from talking up Andy Coulson to doing down William ‘Ague, that caught my eye. Added to the list of non-scalps a few days later was Chris Huhne (on whose fall we are still waiting). It did not help their case that all concerned at Stansted Airport declined to answer their questions (sensible folks they are at Stansted).

But there was always the platform of the Fawkes blog to use for breaking stories. Or maybe not: Private Eye revealed that Staines was of less than perfect courage over publishing the Damian McBride emails, ultimately leaving the risk to Rupe’s troops at the Screws. And Staines and Cole should have thought twice before cheering for the utterly batshit Andrew Breitbart a few days later.

Things appeared to be looking up for the Fawkes blog when Staines theatrically gatecrashed a Cafod meeting in a protest over aid to India, but his victory speech was premature as that aid was not ended, as he had assumed. Nor was the Fawkes crowing over the affairs of Shadow Chancellor “Auguste” Balls all that the duo cracked it up to be. And they were late on Mad Mel’s departure from the Spectator.

What d'you mean, "it's mineral water"?

But it was July that brought the most telling revelations, kicking off with my first real sighting of Staines and Cole at the Huffington Post UK launch party and followed by a further reminder of how they kept calling it wrong. And then came the thus far fruitless campaign by the Fawkes blog against the appalling Piers “Morgan” Moron, where the less than dynamic duo showed off their inability to perform research.


And hard on the heels of yet another glorious failure came the rejection of the second expense complaint against Chris Huhne. An attempt to smear the Guardian over off-the-record Police briefings also failed. And attempts to talk down the Eye were proved wrong as the magazine demonstrated its resilience, but at least there was Labour MP Tom Watson to kick.

But, as Staines never tires of telling anyone critical of him, he’s number one, despite on occasion being reduced to spinning for his hero Bozza, while Cole goes all the way to Moscow and manages to miss the impending hooha over the rigged election in Russia. As always, another fine mess once again.