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Tuesday 31 July 2012

Mitt’s Latest Stanley Steamer

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

Hardly had the Maily Telegraph’s resident apologist for Willard Mitt Romney, Tim Stanley – who you can tell as he’s a doctor – delivered a creative retelling of the GOP’s nominee for the Presidential Election and his foot-in-mouth visit to London, than the process went through another painful iteration as the gaffes continued and the Republican Party’s choice got compared unfavourably with Sarah Palin.

Capital? But I've never heard of Tel Aviv!

The mainstream media says Romney’s tour was a disaster and his campaign is doomed. They’re wrong” asserts Stanley hopefully. But, with Barack Obama ahead in ten of the twelve “swing states”, Romney’s track record at Bain Capital, all those policy flip-flops (especially on health care), and now criticism from his own side, it is increasingly hard for anyone to sound optimistic.

Apart, it seems, from Stanley, who claims everyone who disagrees with him is showing “naiveté” over Romney’s remarks about GDP in Israel and the area under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). That over 65% of Jewish voters in the USA vote Democrat, and that that vote is just 1.7% of the total, does not occur to him. Romney might attract a few more votes, but will alienate others.

On top of that has been his treatment of the press, who have not got to ask a question of the Republican challenger for three days now. Even Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) has been unhappy about this state of affairs: Greta van Susteren, who is accompanying the visit for the channel, got an interview with Romney during his 36 hours in Israel, but hasn’t has a word since.

I can’t help but feel a bit like the press is a modified petting zoo since we are trapped in a bus while Polish citizens take pictures of usshe observed yesterday. Romney’s campaign even tried to keep press out of a fundraising event in Israel. And matters did not improve when the circus moved to Poland, with the media resorting to shouting questions from a distance.

And that has led to yet another unfortunate moment, as Romney’s travelling press secretary Rick Gorka first fired back at reportersShow some respect” followed by “Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people [Romney had just paid his respects at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw]. Show some respect” before telling the man from Politico to “shove it”.

Gorka later called the reporters concerned to apologise, but the damage, once more, had been done. “Mitt's a much stronger and smarter presidential candidate than the mainstream media would have you believe” says Stanley hopefully, but if the string of less than fortunate incidents in London, Israel and Poland is anything to go by, he isn’t, and the Obama team will not be at all worried.

But no doubt Doctor Stanley will have a nice warm feeling, so that’s all right, then.

[UPDATE1 1 August 1430 hours: the idea that the public Stateside might not have picked up on the negative mood of Romney's tour has been dispelled by press coverage, with a CBS News report typical, going through all the gaffes, including Mitt asserting that he hadn't said a range of things about the Palestinian Authority and its citizens, or even inferred them.

And another problem which Tim Stanley and the other cheerleaders might bear in mind is the latest Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll of likely voters, showing Barack Obama ahead in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, three "swing states" that Romney must win in November if he is to have any chance of taking the White House. Around 85 to 90 per cent of those voters had already made their minds up.

Moreover, Obama was at 50% or higher in all three states. The way that the Obama campaign has portrayed Romney, focusing on his time at Bain Capital, is also paying off]

[UPDATE2 3 August 1740 hours: Rick Gorka, who told reporters to "Kiss my ass" and "shove it", has been reported by ABC News to be "taking time off the campaign trail", which sounds kinder than "has been dismissed". Hopefully for Romney, his successor will prove less accident-prone.

Meanwhile, the deeply subversive Guardian has summed up the Romney association with gaffes by observing of his wife's horse Rafalca, which has been competing in the Olympic dressage event, "Ann Romney's horse fails to win dressage but avoids offending British". Quite]

[UPDATE3 7 August 1850 hours: Stanley is still clinging to the idea that the Romney campaign is not in trouble, and is neck and neck with the Democrats', but strangely says Mitt "should pick a Tea Party champ for vice President. It's time to get loud and mavericky". Sadly, as elections in the USA are decided, as in the UK, by those swing voters who inhabit the centre ground, that may not be a good idea.

He also chides the media for picking up on "silly details like tax releases", which is so minor and trivial that it could terminally up-end Romney. Already the thought has entered with many commentators that John McCain saw those tax returns and went with Sarah Palin, who of course Stanley was also lauding as a "Tea Party champ".

And Stanley stresses that the idea of a maverick isn't because Romney is desperate and behind in the polls. Give it time - just give it time]

Arise, Lord Flannel Of Foolery

[Update at end of post]

The central premise of the Guido Fawkes blog is that those doing the writing are the Good Guys, and those they write about – generally politicians and their friends and hangers-on – are the ones for hire, able to be bought and bought off. Thus the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer, the flannelled fool Henry Cole, maintain their image for their readership.

I deserve a peerage, cos I'm on telly!

So perhaps Master Cole would care to explain this magnificently swollen-headed Twitter exposition from earlier today. When Tony Grew asserted “I have always said I would happily take a seat in the (appointed) Lords”, Cole replied “well that’s completely different ... if my country were to ask me to serve, it would be churlish to say no”. There’s modesty for you.

That means, quite apart from the ridiculously exaggerated sense of his own worth – a word in your shell-like, Hen, it’s not exactly a lot – the flannelled fool is saying he could be bought off by the award of a gong plus a decently sized bung. What will the sainted Staines have to say about this wayward lurch from his protégé? Another fine mess, once again.

[UPDATE 1830 hours: Master Cole, who does not, repeat not, ever look in on Zelo Street - and has even blocked the blog's Twitter feed - has nevertheless seen this post. He has told that his remark was "a pisstake", something I will leave to others, who have not exactly been rushing to his defence.
I also have to tell the flannelled fool that (a) his only "worry" was that I would make him look even more ridiculous than he already does, (b) some of us are not stuck in the schoolroom and so do not make the mistake of calling blogposts "essays", and (c) anyone who is bothered can spot one of his whoppers a mile off.

The only "serving" anyone is likely to ask Cole to do in the foreseeable future is the kind where he assists in doling out the food and drink, which will also be the closest he gets to a gong. As I said, another fine mess, once again]

Dick Goes Race Baiting And Disabled Bashing

One self-appointed Olympic participant who won’t be sent home no matter what the nature of his comments – as he’s already there and his legendarily foul mouthed editor is the sole arbiter of right and wrong at the Mail – is the tedious and unfunny churnalist Richard Littlejohn, the Million Pound Hack who has excreted another steaming column of rank unpleasantness today.

Equality, Guv? It's all ethnics and queers, innit?!?

Dicky Windbag has the Equality Commission in his sights: because of this body and the associated legislation, he asserts, “it would mean that no one from an ethnic minority or with any kind of disability could ever be sacked”. He wants the Commission to be scrapped as “even though inequality still exists, we are long past the point where we need a full-time, expensive quango to enforce minority rights”.

Doesn’t the Littlejohn column get subbed? Is there such a thing as a part-time quango? Or a variable scale of quango expense? Whatever. Dick knows that the Equality Commission has a sinister purpose: “a cynical piece of New Labour social engineering designed to scupper any attempt by an incoming Conservative government to tackle the gargantuan budget deficit generated by Gordon Brown’s drunken sailor public spending spree”.

But Dick knows the readers will only swallow his drivel if he serves up a joke or two, however lame. So he has a dig at Trevor Phillips: “If he manages to close it altogether he will richly deserve the knighthood that is often wrongly awarded to him by newspapers who can’t tell the difference between him and Sir Trevor McDonald”.

See, they can’t tell them apart! It’s only a bit of fun!! Where’s your sense of humour?!? And, as the man said, there’s more: “The old Commission for Racial Equality performed a valuable function in the days when racism was rife”. Er, a word in your shell-like, Dicky Boy: had you read what you just wrote, you would know that in your column, racism still is rife.

Take this gem on the Equality Commission and the minority groups within it: “the gays have fallen out with the Muslims and there have been allegations that the Afro-Caribbeans are paid more than the Asians”. Dick, you’ve opened your North and South and inserted one of your Plates of Meat in it. You’re behaving like a total Bell and Cranker. Oh wait, here comes a disability pronouncement.

There are now 3.2 million people claiming long-term disability, even though they are perfectly able to do some kind of job”. The number appears to be those claiming an out-of-work benefit, so Dick is pulling a fast one. And, as I pointed out yesterday, the assumption that all could do some kind of job is pie in the sky. This is just another example of dog-whistling, spiced up with a few choice whoppers.

And then it gets phoned in from a Florida poolside. No change there, then.

Monday 30 July 2012

Disability Through The Other End Of The Telescope

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

There has been no recent shortage of right leaning pundits ready to step up and tell their readers of the necessity for reform of disability benefits, and today the Telegraph’s Cristina Odone has added her name to the roll of shame: “The disability rights lobby should think twice before opposing necessary reforms” she tells, in a pre-emptive strike against an upcoming BBC Panorama edition.

At first, Ms Odone appears to sympathise with those judged fit for work who are clearly not fit, but all changes as she interjects “But wait”, before following up with “Aren’t the Paralympics proof that even the most physically challenged can achieve awesome feats? Their disabilities did not prevent Nelson, Byron, FDR, JFK achieving their goals”. This is the most sublime drivel.

Nelson did not lose an arm, and the sight in one eye, until well into his career, and like the others mentioned, came from money (the “Lord” in “Lord Byron” is a teensy hint, Cristina). The biggest problem for both Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy was not the coping with their conditions, but keeping them out of the media: a disabled man could not have become, or remained as, President.

Moreover, Ms Odone fails to appreciate that disability is, for many, not a stable or static condition: she appears not to know that some disabled not only have good days and bad days, but also that they cannot predict which these will be. And if that is the case, then the idea of work, which, contrary to the suggestion in Ms Odone’s post, many would love to be able to do, is a non-starter.

She also appears not to grasp the kinds of hoops that disability benefit claimants routinely have to jump through, even if they have previously been examined, no matter how many times this has taken place. Ms Odone would have a better grasp of this had she consulted Sue Marsh’s Diary Of A Benefit Scrounger, which has a post on this process published just a week ago.

Without help from another family member, just getting to her appointment would have been well-nigh impossible, and this is in a city that has better than average public transport. But it is the bizarre nature of the assessment form for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) that is most worrying. The questions asked do not appear to bear any relation to the reality that folks like Sue face.

This does not detain Cristina Odone, who is on the home straight: “A man who claims to suffer from a debilitating but unprovable backache, an alcoholic who refuses to tackle her addiction: they may be considered ‘disabled’ but should they receive benefits? When they do, the truly incapacitated feel cheated”. I’m sure Sue Marsh and others in her situation appreciate this self appointed expert.

Or maybe they would prefer someone who knows what they’re talking about.

[UPDATE1 1825 hours: there are in fact two programmes on this subject being broadcast this evening. First up at 2000 hours is Channel 4 Dispatches, then at 2030 hours Panorama, which has moved to BBC2 because of the Olympics. As both are half hour broadcasts, it should be possible to view both without recourse to recording]

[UPDATE2 2105 hours: having watched both the C4 Dispatches and BBC Panorama programmes, it is clear why Cristina Odone has produced her pre-emptive strike. Both broadcasts point up the borderline brutality of the ATOS Work Capability Assessment regime, that there may be targets that ATOS are working to - to minimise the number of those allowed onto ESA - and that the system is failing some to the extent that they have died during the assessment process.

Expect more copy attempting to demonise the disabled in the coming days and weeks. After all, there was much of this over the Motability scheme recently. It is disturbing to think that hacks will readily accede to editors demanding this particular brand of knocking copy, but sadly is not a surprise]

Watts Up With Watts?

Today brings yet more supposed revelations on the subject of climate change, and, like so many London bus stories, it’s a case of waiting for ages only to see two coming at once. This is not a coincidence. Nor is the routine crowing from the denialist lobby at what they are hailing as yet another of those magic bullets that never end up convincing the scientific mainstream that it is wrong.

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, led by Richard Muller, has released a pre-review report which effectively confirms previous reports of warming, with Muller concluding “While this doesn't prove that global warming is caused by human greenhouse gases, it is currently the best explanation we have found, and sets the bar for alternative explanations”.

Given Muller’s previous scepticism, and the hostility of the denialists towards him, there was always going to be a backlash, and this has come from Anthony Watts, who had at first said of BEST that “I'm prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong”. Now Watts has asserted “New study shows half of the global warming in the USA is artificial”.

How so? Well, this reprises the argument over heat island and other distorting influences on temperature recording stations. It is an argument that Watts has ventilated at some length previously. This time, however, he claims to have used “A WMO-approved Siting Classification System devised by METEO-France’s Michel Leroy” to produce “A new improved assessment”.

Moreover, Watts claims that “The pre-release of this paper follows the practice embraced by Dr Richard Muller”, giving the impression that his study is as valid as that from BEST. However, and with Watts and Co there is inevitably a however, he does not tell how or where his study is to be peer reviewed (the BEST study is to be peer reviewed by the Journal of Geophysical Research).

Also, given the reference to Michel Leroy, one might expect, if not endorsement, at least some comment from him in the Watts study. There is none. And the team behind the Watts study consists only of known sceptics John R Christy, Stephen McIntyre, and Evan Jones, which latter you may find hard to find any information for, although I have unearthed a comment contribution from him at the Watts blog.

Both the Muller and Watts studies need to pass muster at peer review before anyone sounds off about their significance. Only one of them so far is going to be thus submitted, and it isn’t the Watts one. So before the denialist lobby call “game over”, they need to wait until the result of that peer review.

If there is one.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Leftie Multicultural Crap – Who’s Driving This Bus

[Update at end of post]

Aidan Burley’s less than helpful Twitter intervention on the Olympic opening ceremony is still making news, although the Games themselves will probably eclipse his media exposure and keep it on the dark side of further examination – provided, of course, that he keeps his head down. All will then be a matter for his party at Westminster and in the constituency.

Donal Blaney congratulates the winner of the Karl Rove lookalike contest

In the meantime, though, those concerned at the kind of ideas and political stance typified by Burley and his contemporaries should, I would urge, look behind the front men to who, and what, is driving the movement that has brought us the New Conservatism, this less than tolerant strain of right-wing belief that is set to cause the Tory Party, and the Republican Party in the USA, significant problems.

And here we encounter an old favourite of Zelo Street, Donal Blaney. Just because he is no longer a front line politician and activist does not mean Donal has retired from such activities to spend more time with his legal practice: far from it. Blaney, as I keep pointing out, is not stupid: he knows that his best contribution comes from organising, networking and enabling. Others can be MPs.

Blaney co-founded the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF), which is modelled on the Young America’s Foundation. It works closely with Stateside organisations such as the Leadership Institiute and Heritage Foundation, and in promoting conservatism, “identifies, trains, mentors and places philosophically sound activists in politics, academia and the media”. For “sound” read “acceptable”.

Like lobby groups such as the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), there is much emphasis on media training: the realisation of how effective a broadcast or printed paragraph can be. There is also the assumption that existing media outlets have an inbuilt left-wing bias, rather than that they do not serve up news that Blaney finds acceptable. He’s a big fan of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

So how does the master handle criticism? As before, Blaney proves Olbermann’s dictum – “The right exists in a perpetual state of victimhood” – true at the outset. Criticism of Burley means unnamed “leftists” supposedly want to “burn him at the stake”. The “faux outrage” is held to be because he is leading the so-called Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC). But TURC is an ineffective joke.

Then comes the magnificent “There is something very sinister about the way that you are not allowed to oppose the ‘acceptable’ view decreed by leftists anymore”, which verges on the paranoid, before he loses it completely and says he wants to spew on someone. And all the time he wants a reasoned critique to be made of Burley – but only one that he deems acceptable, or “sound”.

Thus the authentic voice of right-wing intolerance. He is the one driving this bus.

[UPDATE 30 July 1100 hours: in case anyone had not appreciated the drift of Donal Blaney's thinking, here is a clutch of contiguously broadcast Tweets from the last 12 hours.
From whataboutery on gun control - Donal is with the NRA on this one - to pushing the "smaller state" agenda so beloved of the TPA, bashing anything that looks like "lefties", sneering at Team GB's athletes, and ultimately telling his followers what he does in the mens' room, this is one bloke you might not want to get stuck in a lift with. And, as I noted previously, he's the one driving the New Conservatism bus]

The Intolerant Olympic Commentator

How does a new entrant to the field of group blogs drive traffic? Well, in the case of our friends at The Commentator, this is done by aligning itself to reliably right-wing causes: demonising Hugo Chavez, demonising Barack Obama, and demonising anyone who does not take a sufficiently acceptable stance on anything that concerns the state of Israel. It is this last that has come to the fore at the Olympics.

The former athletes' village at the Munich Olympic Park

Commentator owner Robin Shepherd – to whom I would commend this previous Zelo Street post, just to bring him up to speed on where I’m coming from – has observed that a petition and campaign to commemorate the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre as part of the London 2012 opening ceremony was unsuccessful. The request did not come from the Israeli Government.

Moreover, as has been discovered by those seeking some kind of precedent, there was no marking of the tragedy at the opening ceremony of the 1992 Barcelona games. This, though, does not detain Shepherd, who fashions his observation with care: “refusal of the IOC appropriately to honour the memory of the 11 Israeli athletes” is his line (my emphasis).

Because the IOC will honour the memory of those eleven Israeli athletes, on the exact anniversary of their death – September 5 – and at the exact spot, the airfield at Fuerstenfeldbruck. Whether or not that is appropriate is a matter of opinion, and will no doubt be fruitful territory for many a debate over the coming weeks. But the fact remains that the event will be remembered by the IOC.

This, too, does not detain Shepherd, who merely cranks up the rant-o-meter further: “Jewish athletes gunned down in their prime in the country that gave the world the Holocaust” he froths. Think the Third Reich reference was an isolated one? Think again: “appeasement of the Palestinians and their supporters across the Islamic world”. So Muslims and Hitler go together.

Then he says it’s only because they were Israelis. Did he ask anyone at the IOC? Why bother, when you’ve made up the conclusion? By attempting to portray that body as intolerant, Shepherd shows that is exactly where he is coming from. He pretends to speak for Israel, but it is nothing more than hit-bait for The Commentator. He ends up not advancing the cause of those murdered one bit.

Here on Zelo Street, there is no view cast in stone as to the best way that those eleven Israeli athletes, as well as one German policeman, should be commemorated. But they should be remembered. So here is the memorial to all of them at the Munich Olympic park (the names of the Israelis are marked out in Hebrew). Robin Shepherd has managed not to let his readers see it.

Not that he prioritises ranting over remembrance – perish the thought!

Greenland Hot Ice

Last week, a news item told that all of the Greenland ice sheet had been subject to melting of its surface, and that this was a most unusual event. Both statements are factually correct, and reports also stressed that this was not suggesting that the whole of the ice sheet had melted – after all, this is around 3km thick in places. But that was sufficient for the denialist brigade to kick off.

Quickly manning the barriers were the people at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse), proclaiming “Skeptics put the freeze on NASA ‘hot air’ about Greenland ice”. Fox gave World Climate Report and Anthony Watts equal prominence to NASA in their report. The impression was clearly given that some kind of misinterpretation and scare had been perpetrated.

That this is the official denialist line has now been confirmed by Christopher Booker and James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, sorcerer and apprentice of denialist pot-stirring at the Telegraph, who have as one put up the strawman argument that there is a scare, before knocking it down by saying that there isn’t, which anyone who was interested would have known anyway.

Booker asserts “These Nasa pictures, we were told, showed alarmingly that, for the first time in history, the surface ice was melting right across Greenland. It took only hours for this scare story to be blown apart”. He continues “A tiny rise in air temperatures had momentarily taken them just above freezing, enough to melt a few inches of surface ice”. Spot the mistake?

The story that surface ice was melting across Greenland had been “blown apart”, but there had been melting of “a few inches of surface ice”. Right across Greenland. And the “momentary” temperature rise lasted several days. Perhaps Del Boy can manage a more convincing tack? Well, sadly, no he can’t: his first stab is to accuse the BBC of saying that “97% of Greenland has melted”. Their report says not.

Then Del tells his adoring readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers) that “The right thing to do on occasions like this, I find, is to head straight for Watts Up With That? Unlike, say, the BBC, or the Guardian, or the Independent or most of the rest of the MSM, WUWT's posts are grounded in actual science and real world data”. To which I have to point out to him that Anthony Watts’ site might not be totally reliable.

Watts features guest posts from a particularly combative denialist called Steven Goddard. These are considered authoritative. But Zelo Street has caught Goddard making elementary mistakes such as not being able to distinguish between temperatures and temperature anomalies. He is, as those of us from God’s Own County tend to say, all wind and piss.

Not that I’d want him to rain on the Booker and Delingpole parade, of course.

Top Six – July 29

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’m a bit late getting the breakfast on. So there.

6 Murdoch Is Served (77) Yes, we’re that many posts into the series started in July 2009. This third anniversary edition looked at those being charged and noted that one of their number, Stuart Kuttner, was the one who let the cat out of the bag when he overreacted to Nick Davies on BBC Radio. If only he’d kept schtum.

5 Aidan Burley Gaffe? Taxi For Tories! The MP for Cannock Chase reacted exactly as his training told him to, as he condemned the positive portrayal of the NHS at the Olympic opening ceremony as “leftie”. Burley highlights the problem for the Tories: rather a lot of ideologically sound but intolerant new MPs.

4 Tabloid Troll Spins And Flounders Poor Dennis Rice was clearly unhappy at the latest Phonehackgate developments, and was more than ready to defend Andy Coulson, despite his past, which I felt compelled to remind him about. In detail.

3 Olympic Right-Wing Tweet In Mouth For your enjoyment, this post assembled a selection of the sour grapes, reimagining of history, and downright stupidity exhibited by right leaning Tweeters as they reacted – generally badly – to the rather excellent Olympic opening ceremony.

2 Grant Shapps And Twitter The way in which the Housing Minister gets his Twitter following to gradually expand was laid bare as it was shown he was following and unfollowing others on a scale not humanly possible. Either Shapps has a full time Twitter gofer, or there is some kind of script running in the background.

1 Guido Fawked – Toynbee Hypocrisy No Zelo Street Top Six is complete without an appearance by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer, the flannelled fool Henry Cole, and today’s is no exception. The Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere had accused the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee of hypocrisy: this post shows that they were not only being highly selective in their chosen quotes, but also that they were the real hypocrites. Another fine mess, once again.

And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday 28 July 2012

Olympic Right Wing Tweet-In-Mouth

There is, the great Chief Inspector Clouseau once said, a time and a place for everything. Sadly, like Clouseau himself, some right-wingers find following this advice easier to talk about than to do, as a scan of the mixture of ineptitude, ignorance and sour grapes during and after yesterday’s Olympic opening ceremony shows all too well.

The examples came in thick and fast, typical being Benedict “Famous Last Words” Brogan of the Maily Telegraph who began “Labour’s triumph is complete”, which is an interesting reinvention of “lost a General Election two years ago”.

Always reliable for buffoonery in these things is the flannelled fool Henry Cole, who started by trying to ape Aidan Burley, then fell back on blaming unions for trains not running late on, despite management running the trains. It was management who cut back the hours services ran, such as Christmas services, which ended in 1964.

Martin Durkin tried “Miserable leftist version of British history”. Like Brunel and Berners-Lee are “leftist”. He is a truly miserable git.

Meanwhile, looking in from his freedom-giving trip to the USA, Frank Manning saw something less than ideologically pure, so labelled it “nutty Socialism”. What a prat.

Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle railed at the presence of Shami Chakrabati, but somehow managed not to spot Maestro Daniel Barenboim (not easy).

Raheem Kassam showed how incredibly knowledgeable he is not, by being forced to ask “Remind me why they’re speaking French first?”. A word in your shell-like, RK: the bloke who brought us the modern Olympics was Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He was from France. Where they speak French. Have a think about it.

Then he asserted that NHS was a synonym for Marxism, which will be why no Conservative PM, starting with Winshton, has even considered dismantling it.

And finally comes the loathsome Toby Young, whining “I feel like I’ve just watched a £27 million Party Political Broadcast for the Labour Party”. Yes, celebrating the country’s history and achievements, rather than having a good gripe, is so rotten and leftist, isn’t it?

Some right-wingers can’t get over that last night was quirky, maybe over-long, and occasionally tedious, but it was also feel-good, inspirational, and at times brilliant and downright cool. It showed that we’ve got feelings, but also real style, and a sense of humour. Ah right, now I see where the righties have their problem. As you were.

Aidan Burley Gaffe? Taxi For Tories!

Nobody should be surprised at the faux whining from right-wingers this morning following yesterday evening’s Olympics opening ceremony. As soon as those lights spelled out GOSH (Great Ormond Street Hospital) followed by NHS, one instinctively knew that some out there on the fringe would take offence. That the one stupid enough to stick his head over the parapet was Aidan Burley surprises no-one.

Burley’s Twitter outburst comes from someone whose recent political career presses all the buttons of the New Conservatism: he was a Hammersmith and Fulham councillor, he’s allied himself with folks from the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF) in taking part in the Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC), which does not seek to reform unions but wipe them out, and has been sacked for a Nazi themed stag party.

Groups like the YBF routinely teach that the Tory Party is not Conservative enough, and like the groups in the USA on which it bases itself – such as the Freedom Association and Young America’s Foundation – it majors in educating and placing ideologically sound Conservatives into business and politics. And this is increasingly a problem for the Tories.

The Tory Party has always – of necessity – been a broad church. The Party has recognised the need for compromise not merely with other parties and interest groups as it seeks to influence opinion and pass legislation, but also within its own ranks. This ability to accommodate a range of views is in direct conflict with the ideologues, for whom no compromise is permissible.

So for those people, nothing, but nothing, can be said to be good about the NHS. Anyone saying otherwise must be shouted down and ridiculed. This is both a rite of passage for aspiring New Conservatives, and a duty for established players. Burley is now one of the latter. He is merely reacting as trained.

Burley complains about rappers – see his less than successful attempt to convince in a Sky News interview HERE – yet there was only one, Dizzee Rascal, who was born close to the Olympic Park in Bow. He whinges about multiculturalism, and couples it with all things “leftie”. He expresses dismay at seeing the CND symbol, but misses the huge following the movement enjoyed in the 60s.

After all, in 1963 there was a fortunately brief look into the pit, when the USA and USSR came frighteningly close to what would have been nuclear war, over the Cuban missile crisis. Danny Boyle’s production included not merely progress, but also protest, something that sets us apart from the Chinese. That one of the most prominent New Conservatives has a problem with protest is instructive.

The intolerance of the New Conservatism will be its downfall. Hopefully for the rest of us this will happen before this poisonous strain gets its hands on the levers of power.

Oh Mandy!

While the Olympic opening ceremony was wowing crowds, viewers and pundits alike last night, the Gods of headline writing were not looking kindly on Mail Online, and particularly on the outpourings of appalling Glenda Amanda Platell, obedient servant of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and season ticket holder for the sofa on The Andy Marr Show (tm).

Arentcha sick of her?!?!?

Mandy had been tasked with passing adverse comment on footballer Ryan Giggs, who had committed the heinous sin of not singing along to the National Anthem before Team GB’s first football match kicked off. Never mind that he made the goal that earned his team a draw against Senegal, the iron code of the Vagina Monologue dictates that those not singing along are not the Mail’s Kind Of People.

Sadly, the headline writer must have been one of those 20 million plus who were tuned in to the BBC coverage, with the result that Giggs’ name got mangled and the effect of Mandy’s rant lost. And telling of being “cosseted from reality” and that you “have spent your entire career being a vulgar, self-indulgent bore” doesn’t really fit the normally self-effacing Giggs.

But it does fit Amanda Platell to a T. Couldn’t happen to a nastier hack!

Friday 27 July 2012

He Don’t Need No Educashun

There is an unforgettable moment in the third Harry Palmer film Billion Dollar Brain, where the paranoid General Midwinter (Ed Begley) is ranting about Communists, and Palmer (Michael Caine) is trying to make the point that there may not be much point to the outburst. “Who’re you fighting, General?” he asks, quietly but firmly. The same could be asked of flannelled fool Henry Cole.

I don't need to spell properly, cos I'm on telly!

Master Cole, left in sole charge of the Guido Fawkes blog while the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines piles off to another of his four houses for the kind of holiday he would readily deny rotten lefties like the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, has gone off on a rantfest that would satisfy the most discerning rant connoisseur, on a subject on which he is automatically an expert, that being Trades Unions.

Cole’s expertise extends, of course, to knowing that these bodies are A Very Bad Thing Indeed, although his study of them extends to very little more than the proverbial diddly squat. This mirrors his knowledge of rail travel: he sneers at enthusiasts but then fails to turn up at the right station for his train, even when only presented with a choice of one (and it cost him serious money as a result).

What's wrong is you, matey, not them

But what Cole cannot get into his head is that ignorance is not a merit badge: if you don’t know the first thing about a subject, it is advisable to learn the basics before claiming to be an authority on it. Instead, he assumes that because others of a similar persuasion view Trades Unions as something to be attacked at every turn, he must do the same, and thus has formed an irrational hatred of them.

More trouble smelling his worms

So, as with General Midwinter, he doesn’t really know who he’s fighting, but he’s going to fight them anyway. A typical example is his assertion “Unions taking £2.5m from MOD while troops are being slashed”. Unions are not taking anything from [the] MOD, as I’ve pointed out previously. But Cole does not want to concern himself with learning, as he knows all about it already.

And he's got the survey results ... or maybe not

And the kind of learning he knows all about is what happens in schools: “Had many inspiring teachers who were not formally trained. They outshone the deadwood union types who are impossible to sack” he froths. Maybe things were different when Master Cole was undergoing his suitably expensive private education, but when I was at school I wouldn’t have known whether my teachers were unionised or not.

Spot the agitator? What the hell, rant anyway

But he knows that unions mean “agitators”. Oh yes, because “Poisonous teaching unions are kicking off again. A cornered vested interest group who are a hinderence to the improvement of education”. That’s “which is” and “hindrance”, Hen. Clearly your private primary school English teachers didn’t manage to instil the confidence in the language in you that my state school ones did.

What untrained teaching leads to

For Cole’s own good, he needs to do some learning before he goes badly wrong.

Stanley Misses #Romneyshambles

You have to hand it to the Maily Telegraph’s Tim Stanley, who you can tell as he’s a doctor. His ability to creatively reinterpret politics Stateside in order to make it look as if the Republican Party is about to sweep the board at the Presidential Election is unparalleled, almost as if he were in training for a later berth at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

I can't retroactively de-gaffe?

For some time, Telegraph readers have been relentlessly fed the message that Willard Mitt Romney, the one that looks like he stepped out of a Make Your Own Identikit GOP Candidate Kit, is the real deal, a real Conservative – not like that wishy-washy all too liberal Cameron chap – and that he will wipe the floor with Rotten Leftie Socialist Barack Obama. Except reality is not quite like that.

First, Romney kept generating gaffes during his own party’s primaries. The competition, such as it was, should not have detained him. Then came the fun and games with his “retroactive” resignation from Bain Capital, following the revelation that he did not leave when he said he had done, but three years and thousands of jobs exported outside the USA later.

And then some bright spark had the idea of Mitt visiting London, in little-old-Englandland. Obama had done it, and goddamn it, he was not only a Democrat, but his father came from Abroad, so Romney the Candidate would breeze through the visit. And then, after arrival, he gave an interview to Brian Williams of NBC and, with perfect synchronisation, opened mouth and inserted boot.

He insulted the London Olympic Games’ organisation. He forgot Ed Miliband’s name. He called the part of 10 Downing Street that looks out over Horse Guards’ Parade the “backside”. He talked of “A Shared Anglo-Saxon Heritage” (why not go the whole hog and say your opponent is black?). He let everyone know he’d met the head of MI6. And Bozza ridiculed him in front of 50,000 Londoners.

But Stanley was calmness personified: “Sorry Britain, Romney is here to impress the American voters, not us snobby Brits” he warned, seemingly oblivious to the Democrats preparing a short video of Mitt’s Greatest Gaffes under the strongly trending Twitter hashtag of #romneyshambles. What will happen to his electoral prospects once Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have finished with him?

And the kiss of death for poor Mitt is that the nastiest gaffe – that on “A Shared Anglo-Saxon Heritage” – has brought the approval of Dan, Dan The Oratory Man, who wheels out part of the Bayeux Tapestry in support of his dubious contention. With friends like Hannan, Romney is in no need of enemies. And all the while, Obama is extending his poll lead.

How Stanley will spin that one is going to be interesting. Over to you, Doctor.

Military Union Bashing – Priti Poor Show

Just to prove that MPs can make their mark even when the Commons is not sitting, self-promoting Tory Priti Patel has joined the fray in the Trade Union bashing stakes, getting her name into the Daily Mail and setting off an orgy of sympathetic copy-chasing from the dubiously talented array of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA).

And there is no ambiguity whatever in the Mail piece, under the by-line of Ian Drury, who asserts “The Ministry of Defence is squandering £2.5million a year of taxpayers' money on full-time union staff while forcing crippling cuts on Britain's Armed Forces”. There’s subtle for you. But, as ever, the fact of the matter is a little more prosaic, not that the TPA is interested in that kind of thing.

The latter have put forward Jonathan Isaby, former stalwart of ConservativeHome (not, of course, that the TPA are Conservatives, which was stressed by former TPA spinner Susie Squire to Nick Ferrari on LBC before she went through the revolving door to become a Special Advisor to Iain Duncan Smith, who is, er, a Conservative MP and Minister). Isaby has read from the approved TPA quotation list.

So Isaby begins with “It is appalling”, which certainly gets the TPA approach to facts spot on, before reeling off “we are still being forced to pay scores of MOD pen-pushers to work for a trade union instead of doing their proper job”, “the bloated bureaucracy at the MOD”, and the inevitable “taxpayer-funded union activists”. The scale of false assumption and dishonesty is significant, but predictable.

None of the workplace representatives works for a trade union. If they are employed by and paid by the MOD, then they work for them. Whether the bureaucracy of the MOD is “bloated” or otherwise is not known to Isaby, as he and his colleagues do not engage with the organisations they routinely demonise. And workplace representatives are not “union activists”. So another clutch of whoppers, then.

The Mail then exacerbates matters by asserting that facility time is for “union business”, but it is not: it is for the business of the employer, whether that is health and safety, discipline, dispute, or training related. And – inevitably – we get another run out for the unproven assertion that facility time in the public sector runs at a rate of four times that in the private sector.

Then, at the end of the piece, comes an opportunity for a union to say something, so the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre can claim to have allowed balance, but in reality this is yet another piece of knocking copy to order. There is no zero sum game of soldiers versus administrators: if there is no administration, the armed forces cannot be organised, and cannot operate.

But the object, as always, is not to let such inconvenient factual detail enter.

Twitter Fakes Arrive On Zelo Street

It was a kind of French Connection II moment this morning – although the Gene Hackman characterisation of “Popeye” Doyle is way more handsome that me – when, having caught more than one right-winger in possession of a dubious number of Twitter followers, I log in and find that some kind spammer has done it to me, rather in the way Tory MP Louise Mensch was targeted earlier this week.

The number of accounts that follow Zelo Street had been growing, but gradually, and was at around 965, give or take the odd one or two. At first I was just flicking through the recent traffic – especially that concerning the Twitter Joke Trial, which has now seen common sense prevail – but then realised that the follower number was wrong. It had increased overnight to around 19,400.

So Twitter have been notified, and what else I can do I’m not sure (all sensible suggestions are, as ever, welcome). It’s clear that whoever is behind the spamming has gone upmarket: none of those long lists of Brazilian or Indian names with no photos or Twitter bios that blew the cover of Mark Clarke and Andre Walker – these look to be English speaking, with both photos and bios.

Which suggests that someone has such a high regard for me that they were prepared to shell out moderately serious dosh to accomplish the deed – well, ten to twenty US Dollars, maybe, tops – and I’m afraid that rules me right out. Here on Zelo Street we don’t spend money on anything we don’t have to, and if unavoidable, there’s always negotiation (joke, folks, lighten up).

In the meantime, I have to agree with the serially tenacious Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads that for this to have happened, I must have put some noses seriously out of joint somewhere. Where that may have been is not hard to imagine, but if any of the sad convocation of yah-boo boys out there on the right think that this jolly clever jape will see me off, they’ve got another think coming.

And as to why I Tweeted as soon as the increase in followers was known, well, there is no point in being other than open and honest. Failing to adhere to this simple rule is what has consistently sunk the right-wingers, and the notification also has the advantage of negating any line that holds that I must have done it myself because I’m keeping schtum.

All of this means that it’s going to end up being a pretty fruitless exercise and a waste of money for some buffoon. And with that, it’s time to get a nice cuppa brewing. More later.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Heath’s Claptrap Rallying Call

A form of behaviour particular to the right is the unquestioning support and promotion of anything deemed a significant publication by one of their number: the whole community almost as one tells that, whatever the book, paper or even lowly blogpost, it was an event of the greatest significance. All are urged to read it. The solidarity is unequivocal, even if those doing the commendation have not read it.

Leave them, Al, they're not worth it

This last point undid the dubiously talented convocation of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) when they gave their unyielding support to the Adam Smith Institute (ASI), that museum of outdated economic thought that has fraudulently appropriated the name of the founder of economics, over the latter’s hatchet job on the HS2 project.

Sadly, the ASI “report” had not been read for technical competence: it is difficult to take seriously a paper on railways that cannot correctly figure out the distance between the two rails that the trains run on. The endorsement can be a little too unequivocal and automatic, and so it has been with today’s “Britain Unleashed” rallying cry in the Telegraph by City AM Editor Allister Heath.

Heath is, as anyone who looks in on Zelo Street will know, less an independent force and rather more a TPA stooge. He was not chosen as the head of the so-called “2020 Tax Commission” by chance. So it should surprise no-one that he advocates full implementation of his own body’s report, and removal of supposed “bureaucracy”, which is held to stop firms hiring.

He remembers Margaret Thatcher as if through rose-tinted spectacles, telling that she “eventually engineered a progressive revolution that empowered ordinary people and unleashed an astonishing economic revival”. Empowered ordinary people to do what, exactly? Meaningless flannelspeak. And the “astonishing economic revival” had more to do with North Sea Oil money, and yet more debt.

Heath’s favourite economist is clearly Friedrich Hayek, but once again he has not done his homework: even Milton Friedman, darling of the Thatcherite right and exponent extraordinaire of quack doctory, while admiring Hayek for his book The Road To Serfdom, was not impressed by his economics. But Heath also thinks we should rediscover the spirit that drove the Victorians to build the railways.

So once again he hasn’t bothered looking first. Many of the railway companies were built from the misplaced generosity of shareholders, most of whom never got their money back, or even a fraction of it. Not for nothing was the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway known as the Money Sunk and Lost. I somehow doubt this style of expropriation would get Heath many admirers.

Still, it gets his fellow righties a nice warm feeling, so that’s all right, then.

Super Soaraway Crinkley Bottomed Spin

Earlier this month, I noted that veteran TV presenter Noel Edmonds – or rather the ubiquitous “friends” that prove so useful at such times – was telling anyone who would listen, which meant Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, that the BBC wanted him to return to Saturday night primetime as front man for a new Endemol vehicle called The Bodyguard.

He's not coming back. Or Mr Blobby

Strangely, nobody from the Corporation was available to give a quote, but readers were assured that BBC1 Controller Danny Cohen wanted Edmonds, who fronted the Late Late Breakfast Show, Noel’s Saturday Roadshow and Noel’s House Party between 1982 and 1999, back on his manor. After all, Endemol do Edmonds’ current vehicle Deal Or No Deal, and they were making a pilot show.

Well, now the same Sun is reporting that Edmonds will not be continuing beyond the pilot. And, by the usual fortunate coincidence, the “insider” with the information is telling that it was Edmonds who walked away, because he didn’t feel the new show was sufficiently “amazing, different and exciting”. Is anyone out there not hearing their bullshit detector going off right now?

This report bears all the hallmarks of someone determined to get his retaliation in first. Edmonds never wanted to leave the Beeb’s Saturday evening line-up in the first place: had the House Party been given another series, he’d have been in there like a shot. It wasn’t his decision, though: the Corporation pulled the show because its ratings were in freefall and it was out of time.

And there is another factor working against Edmonds: one hates to have to remind him, being of A Certain Age oneself, but Noel, sprightly or otherwise, will reach state pension age at the end of next year. The BBC make exceptions for folks like Brucie, and even he needs a younger co-presenter to help with shows like Strictly. Edmonds is now personally out of time.

There are dozens of younger men and women who would dearly love a chance to front The Bodyguard. The only problem for the Beeb is to select the one who fits the role and brings the personal chemistry needed to bring in the viewers. There’s no need for the depth of experience that made Forsyth – and Len Goodman – such a good fit for Strictly. This new show is no place for old men.

So forget all the creative briefing to the Sun, Noel. The deal is, there is no deal.

Desmond Joins UKIP

[Update at end of post]

The press empire of Richard “Dirty” Desmond is no stranger to flirting with fringe political parties, as watchers of the Daily Star – the Sunday version of which was the preferred choice of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) as a vehicle for getting his word out to the masses – will know all too well. February last year brought a nadir in that paper’s infamous courtship of the far right.

It was then that the Star ran its “English Defence League to become political party” front page, talking up the EDL and its leader Tommy Robinson (aka Stephen Lennon) and asserting that, in a phone poll – no methodology or other background was released – the paper’s readers had registered a 98% support for the group. The EDL is virulently Islamophobic.

Daily Star editor Dawn Neesom naturally denied any suggestion of Muslim bashing when she appeared before the Leveson Inquiry, but her appearance cannot have been made any easier, coming as it did after her former freelance Rich Peppiatt had appeared and told in no uncertain terms that the Star was looking to demonise Islam whenever it got the chance.

Now, though, the supposedly flagship title in Desmond’s newspaper portfolio, the Daily Express, is also flirting with a fringe political party, and by no coincidence at all it is one out on the right: yes, Des’ finest are cosying up to UKIP, home of rabid Europhobia and mainly popular through the blokish populism of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage. Yesterday the paper lurched closer to backing UKIP outright.

Now You Pay £750 A Year To Be In The EU” screamed the headline. But the “new research” that “reveals” this figure has come from UKIP propaganda, specifically confirmed Eurosceptic and UKIP leadership candidate Tim Congdon. So not only is the Express getting quotes from the party’s MEPs on a regular basis, it is also recycling its propaganda as if it were fact.

Take this gem: “Figures released last night show nearly £20billion from UK taxpayers is being poured into Brussels coffers annually. But the huge burden of bureaucracy and regulation imposed by Eurocrats could mean the true total is more than double that amount, the study warns”. Really? No, not really: the net contribution from UK to EU for 2012 is €5.4 billion, or £4.23 billion at current exchange rates.

As to the “huge burden of bureaucracy and regulation”, that will no doubt be defined by the same party whose leader claims that around 70% of UK law is imposed by “Brussels”, when less than 20% results from EU laws and directives. But the real news is the steady move by the Express to openly support Farage.

Is some kind of idealism at work here? No chance. The sole reason is to prop up the paper’s dwindling circulation, and thus another Benchmark Of Excellence.

[UPDATE 1345 hours: as @dailyexpresslol has pointed out to me, the Express' "chief political commentator" Patrick "Lunchtime" O'Flynn has also recently addressed a UKIP gathering at Frimley, telling his audience how the party's meetings are getting bigger and bigger turnouts while other parties' events are said to attract less and less.

He then talks up UKIP enthusiastically and talks of a "perfect political storm", thus confirming not merely that his paper is shilling for Farage and his fellow pub bores, but also that he is starting to believe his paper's own propaganda. When the paper you write for exaggerates the size of the UK's contribution to the EU by a factor of five and suggests it's really twice that, you're taking a serious detour from the path of reality.

Still, at least O'Flynn is still in a job. Until the next Desmond economy purge]