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Friday 31 January 2020

Hopkins Twitter Ban - Blame Game

So pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins got suspended from Twitter. But, as her account is still extant, there seems a strong possibility that she will be back. And some out there on the right are taking this very badly. There are so many of them exhibiting the tendency to free dissenting speech that the blame game has now started - as in the blame game that asserts, more or less, that somehow the protests are down to the Rotten Lefties™.
Right-wingers going after her ...
... but her pal says it's actually the left!

The blowback against Countdown numbers person Rachel Riley for her involvement in the suspension of Hatey Katie has made two totally untrue assertions: One, that the suspension is all about FREEZE PEACH, which it isn’t - it’s a business decision by Twitter. And Two, that Ms Hopkins somehow was leading some kind of righteous fight against the Scary Muslims™. This is also untrue - she was just dispensing hate speech.
Here’s some of the responses. “I wish you’d be this effusive about real Pakistani grooming gangs preying on young girls in Britain” (“Member of Conservative and Unionist Party”). “Well thank you for deciding, on behalf of all of us, who we are allowed to listen to and who we are not allowed to listen to” (“Former journalist”). And here comes David Vance.
Alastair Stewart leaves Twitter because someone took offence at a tweet he sent to someone else quoting Shakespeare … Katie Hopkins suspended because Rachel Riley doesn't like what she says. And it's still January … I wonder if #RachelRiley can provide an approved list of twitter topics we can discuss; which subjects are unacceptable; who we must not engage with? That would be very helpful”. Vance is a far right wacko.
Or how about “Who the fck does she think she is ?? Little miss perfect always the victim Rachel Riley strikes again” (Another Brexit booster). And “Apparently Rachel Riley doesn’t believe in free speech. You’re a tv presenter ffs who thinks a little too highly of herself. Don’t like it, keep scrolling. Simple” (“American. Patriot. Brexit. Back Boris”).
Then there’s “This is pro-censorship Rachel. If you don't like what a person says, then debate against it. Don't silence them altogether … This is the weakest approach, it's like admitting you can't argue against them so you have to silence them” (Mark Meechan aka Count Dankula, pal of Stephen Yaxley Lennon). And “I think Rachel Riley's gone too far in getting Hopkins banned” (Another “pro-Brexit” voice).
Plus “I was with her all the way until now. Turns out she is another virtual signalling celebrity” (“WE MUST GET OUT OF THE EU”). And “Who next? There must be other people you disagree with. Simply stating something you disagree with can be considered hate if you deem it so. So, where does it end? When you say it ends? I don't remember appointing you my conscience” (“Leave supporter, proud to be English”).
That’s a pretty right-wing crowd. But admitting that would never do. You think I jest? Here comes Tracy Ann Oberman. “Watching the Far Left have a twitter meltdown over KatieHopkins twitter ban at the hands of EVIL Rachel Riley and those of us who have helped Twitter assess these matters , is quite a thing. The irrationality and double think plus the outright LIES”. Forget what you saw and look over there!

Katie Hopkins is out there on the far right. So it is those out there who are screaming the loudest. But remember, ignorance is strength, and right is left. I’ll just leave that one there.
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Brexit - The New Guilty Men And Women

As Bloomberg has pointed out, recent research indicates that Brexit has already cost the economy around £130 billion, with another £70 billion hit to come by the end of the year. Yet there are still those who look to celebrate when the UK formally leaves the EU at around 2300 hours tonight (we even have to keep to Brussels time, such is our moment of national triumph). And many of those celebrating work in and around the press.
What they're telling us ...

To that end, many of those who will go down in infamy as the New Guilty Men and Women have gathered together to reassure Themselves Personally Now that they did the right thing, that all is well, and that they will continue to be able to keep themselves in the style, or in some cases lack of it, to which they have become accustomed.

We know of the gathering, at Brown’s Hotel in swanky Mayfair, through the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, whose Media Guido Twitter feed has carried images from the great event, “THE BREXIT BATTALION (Media Corps) DINNER”. And then come the names, every one of which you would not want to get stuck in a lift with.
... versus what they really think

So who attended? James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, still taking the shilling of far-right Breitbart, and still claiming climate change isn’t happening. Suzanne Evans, Tory-to-Kipper flipper and pusher of falsehood and misinformation. Charlotte Gill, already irredeemably wacko pundit. Liam Halligan, whose HS2 hit job was lame in the extreme, but not as lame as his excuses deployed in its defence.
Julia Hartley Dooda, rich enough not to care about the 99%, and so she does not. Desperate Dan Hodges, floor crosser of no known principle. Christopher “No” Hope, who thinks he is better than the Fawkes rabble (wrong). Rod Liddle (no further comment required). Carole Malone, really in touch with ordinary people.

Charles Moore, the supreme keeper of What Mrs T Really Meant (allegedly). Tim Montgomerie, now a fan of Viktor Orbán. Doug Murray The K. Isabel Oakeshott and Richard Tice, a couple who are really not very nice. Tony Parsons, who claimed migrants stopped him driving his daughter to school a bit quicker.
Three A’s you would avoid like the Coronavirus: Allison Pearson of the Telegraph, Andrew Pierce (speaking as a gay man), and Amanda Bloody Platell. Camilla Tominey, promoted way beyond her capability. And then the Pièce de Résistance.

The loathsome Toby Young, not really a fan of eugenics conferences, honestly, and mass deleter of a Twitter history of which most other people would have been ashamed. The Great Guido himself, able to still live in an EU member state while pushing Brexit, and his former tame gofer, the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole, still pretending to be a real journalist. Thus were the new guilty men and women gathered together.
Don’t expect them to show any sign of penance at the £200 billion bill, the decline in living standards, the effect on jobs, the loss of international status, any erosion of workers’ rights, the loss of freedom of movement, and the realisation that we’ve been had.

But do remember their names. Remember them well. They have sold you down the river. 
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Two More Press Muslim Smears Pay Out

Our free and fearless press, so its defenders like to tell us, is not bigoted, not racist, not sexist and misogynistic, and most definitely is not trying to frighten its readers by peddling scare stories about Scary Muslims™. The problem is that a succession of misleading and even downright untrue articles, from not only the red-tops, but also mid-market tabloids and even supposedly quality papers, shows that these are empty protestations.
We had the Birmingham schools “Trojan Horse” claim, courtesy of Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan, which turned out to be a false scare story. There was no “Trojan Horse” plot, and hundreds, if not thousands, of pupils had their education seriously disrupted to no purpose. The Times’Muslim Foster Parents” scare turned out to be baseless. And now has come the news of two more made-up Muslim bashing stories.

That news has come after the conclusion of legal actions against the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, and the increasingly wayward Mail on Sunday, with the former now admitting that it wrongly went after a Muslim Scout Leader.
The apology tells the whole sorry story. “In articles published by the Telegraph online on 18 January 2019 and Daily Telegraph on 19 January 2019 we wrongly reported that the police were investigating Ahammed Hussain, the Leader of the Scout Group at the Lewisham Islamic Centre, who, we said, had segregated the Scout group by gender in breach of the Scouts Association rules, and had promoted Muslim values and extremist views to scout members in ways that contradicted the Scouts commitment to British values and gave rise to safeguarding concerns”. So what was the reality?

We accept Ahammed Hussain did not conduct himself in the ways suggested, that at no point did the police investigate him, and that it is not in breach of Scouts Association rules to separate the children by gender and that Ahammed Hussain did not breach Scout rules”. Only took them just over a year to own up. And there was more.
Further, the articles said that Ahammed Hussain had links to extremist Muslim Groups that promoted terrorism and anti-Semitism, and could have suggested that he supported those views and encouraged their dissemination. We now accept that this was wrong and that Mr Hussain has never supported or promoted terrorism, or been anti-Semitic”.

Yes, throw in the obligatory accusation of Muslim anti-Semitism too. As Mark di Stefano of BuzzFeed News observed, “eeeeshhhh this sounds expensive”.  What really was expensive was the smearing of a Muslim local Government official by the MoS. We know how expensive not from the MoS, but from the Guardian.
The latter has told that the MoShas agreed to pay £180,000 in damages to a former minicab licensing officer after the newspaper falsely accused him of acting as a ‘fixer’ for paedophile taxi drivers in Rochdale”. Let’s put that in perspective: when Jewish News lost a defamation action brought by Sayeeda Warsi over an article by Islamophobic bigot Richard Kemp, damages were set at £20,000. That’s how bad the MoS article was.

In addition to that, the MoS is on the hook for a cool million in legal fees. Which is what you get for seeing a Muslim, seeing minicab drivers, seeing grooming gangs, and deciding to connect the three for the sheer hell of it. The press is totally out of control.
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Thursday 30 January 2020

Who Is Jonathan Stafford?

In his book Hack Attack, which documents his considerable involvement exposing the phone hacking scandal, former Guardian man Nick Davies describes what are known in the press as “The Dark Arts”, along with some of the characters and organisations dealing in what is all too often illegal information gathering. Phone hacking was only one tool of these practitioners: others included blagging information, email hacking, and burglary.
Who might that have been?

Some of those Davies describes are named - Steve Whittamore, busted in Operation Motorman, is one, and John Ford, who blagged for the Murdoch Sunday Times another - but many are referred to only by nicknames or aliases. One is left with the impression that blagging did not cease with Part 1 of the Leveson Inquiry. And events today at the High Court only serve to reinforce that impression, as one blagger has been unmasked.
It could have been Jonathan Stafford (thanks to Byline Investigates)

Again, it is the people at Byline Investigates that have done the unmasking, one of those jobs that our free and fearless press are unable, or more likely unwilling, to do themselves. The unmasking has come as part of the action against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), which has now been joined by more than 130 people - including Prince Harry.
It was just after noon today when the unmasking took place: “Daily Mirror's ex-Chief Reporter Nic North named in High Court for allegedly tasking illegal private investigator Jonathan Stafford to unlawfully obtain phone billing data”. Jonathan Stafford is the name, and it is alleged that blagging was the game. There was more.
NOTE: Jonathan Stafford has been described in previous court hearings as a private investigator, who allegedly ‘blagged’ phone bills, Friends and Family lists, recent call history from British Telecom and mobile phone companies”. We knew that confidential BT information was blagged - for example, call data for David Kelly, who took his own life after he was unmasked as Andrew Gilligan’s source on the latter’s Iraq dossier claims.
That data found its way to the Sunday Telegraph, where hacks would have lots of leads - people to call up and pump for information about Kelly. So who was Stafford blagging for? “NOTE: Byline Investigates understands Jonathan Stafford is a former actor who turned his skills to obtaining private information by deception on an industrial scale for the Sunday Mirror and other Fleet Street papers including Sun and News of the World”.
A former actor - as was John Ford. Byline Investigates also has a photo of Stafford to go with their exclusive. “Byline Investigates is unmasking arch Fleet Street blagger, who targeted the private information of thousands of people for Mirror Group Newspapers and News Group Newspapers as this man: Jonathan Stafford”. Wallop!
And they weren’t finished yet. “Jonathan Stafford could mimic the language of BT engineers and other officials to obtain call data by deception and used a range of voices to impersonate people in all walks of life. He was known as one of the most effective data thieves in Fleet Street history”. And now we all know about him.

The good thing is that another illegal blagger has been unmasked. The bad thing is that there are scores of others out there. The Dark Arts never really went away.
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The Legalballs Fund

I made a mistake.

After close to eleven years of blogging, I posted a claim that turned out not to be true - and I’m now having to pay for it. Literally.
The claim was about Kieran Mullan, who is now MP for Crewe and Nantwich. I won’t repeat it, and I have already apologised. The detail came from a usually reliable source, but on matters like this, there is no point trying to shift the blame. You publish it - you own it. End of story.

As Zelo Street regulars will know, my advice is always to own up, withdraw, and say sorry. And this I did, hoping it would close the matter. When I left for a family Christmas somewhere rather warmer and less Brexity than the UK, I thought all seemed settled.

But it turns out that this is going to cost me £16,500 that I do not have. It could have even become eye-wateringly expensive. Like losing my house expensive. But hey ho, that’s the way the law works.

That’s why I’m starting The Legalballs Fund as a way of asking all those Zelo Street regulars out there to consider helping me defer some of the financial damage.

The target is to get somewhere near that £16,500. You can donate to the fund HERE.

My heartfelt and grateful thanks in advance to all who chip in. And thanks again - for reading this far.

Katie Hopkins And A Vanishing Twitter Feed

There have been countless complaints in the recent past to Twitter about the content posted there by pro-am motormouth Katie Hopkins. There have also been countless instances of her gleefully posting responses from Twitter telling her that she had not violated any of the platform’s rules. This would be accompanied by a little light goading of those complaining. And so the cycle would begin again.
Viewers may still want to look away now

Even Twitter had, it seems, no wish to rid itself of this perennial bad penny, as she turned up to stir hatred and dispense a little casual racist bigotry. Until now. Because the Hopkins Twitter feed has all but vanished. All that is left are two reports of Tweets that have been removed as they violated the Twitter rules, and a Retweet of Nitin Sawhney.
What's she doing here?

What Sawhney said gave a clue as to what has happened: “If Katie Hopkins’ latest tweets on Stormzy don’t constitute incitement to racial hatred I really don’t know what does. She is a criminal. [Twitter] needs to act”. She had been goading Stormzy.
But the deletions did not happen by accident. After one Tweeter saw the now minimalist Hopkins Twitter presence and mused “On the eve of #Brexit, it appears that Twitter are taking back control of #KTHopkins”, anti-fascist campaigner Louise Raw, who you can tell as she’s a Doctor, replied “It’s Rachel Riley related, unfortunately!” It is?
It seems it really is. This is what Ms Riley has posted: “I met with [Twitter] yesterday with [Imran Ahmed] from [The Centre for Countering Digital Hate] and asked them among other things to review George Galloway & Katie Hopkins's presence on their platform. I am pleased to see that action appears to have been taken! This is what happens when they have the #WillToAct”. One observer was thankful for the action, but mildly sceptical.
Sad that, despite the many thousands of reports Twitter will have received, they only actually act when someone famous gets involved”. Especially given the scores of dedicated anti-fascists who have laboured tirelessly to remind Twitter that Hatey Katie is not some mere ingenue who has fallen in with a bad crowd. She is the bad crowd. Also, the CCDH has some kind of status here? That would be news to many campaigners.
We should, though, be thankful for small mercies, as Louise Raw has told. “Despite Riley’s crowing, we should also note the tireless reporting and exposure of Hopkins by anti fascists etc. And she’s not gone yet! But well done, all right-thinking folk who have done the ground work here. Some cheerful news this chilly Thursday!” It is true that the Hopkins Twitter feed may be bare, but it is, as I type, still extant.
In the meantime, knowing that Katie Hopkins had around 1.1 million Twitter followers, and having first-hand knowledge of what happens when the far-right decides to come after you, I have one word of advice for all those in extremist wacko land who may now be thinking that a pile-on of Rachel Riley, accompanied by the usual threats, may be a good thing.

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Wednesday 29 January 2020

Northern Rail - Shapps Needs To Shape Up

Transport Secretary Grant “Spiv” Shapps was in bullish mood earlier this month as he told “In the autumn I wrote to the necessary parties in this with what's called a request for proposal, and that's simply where you say: ‘Look, I'm going to take action’ … There’s a couple of ways that can go, but one is to strip the franchise, one is to have a short-term contract, but yes, exactly as you said, I'm simply not prepared for the service on Northern to carry on as it is and I am taking action”. He was going to take action twice!
That was how bad the situation on Northern Rail had got, but to a large extent, that situation was not of Northern Rail’s making: much of the recent chaos was down to Network Rail - which is, whisper it quietly, Government owned - delivering infrastructure upgrades late, like electrification. So Northern has its drivers and trains ready to deliver a service which the available infrastructure wouldn’t let it run.

Were track and train not split the way they are, it might have been different, but operators can only work with the industry structure they are handed. So although Labour voices have been in “I told you so” mode today, there have also been warnings - that things are not going to change in the short or even medium term.
A new Northern Rail Class 195 train on test at Crewe

So while Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham told “For months, [Steve Rotheram], [Dan Jarvis], [Jamie Driscoll] & I have called for Northern to be put under public control. If that’s what the Government is proposing, it’s the right decision & evidence that Mayors are getting the voice of the North heard in Whitehall”, one of his pals sounded a warning.

Steve Rotheram added “Today, it looks like government might finally be taking action to strip them of the franchise. This is only a first step, proper investment in our rail infrastructure has to follow”. Also, perhaps operators should not have to make commitments on the back of Network Rail promises until they have been delivered.
Which brings us back to the Government - and Shapps. And Mick Whelan, General Secretary of the ASLEF, had a warning for him: “There won't be an immediate improvement because many of the systemic failures at Northern - the late delivery of new rolling stock, the cancellation by the Conservative government of infrastructure upgrades, trying to run a service with too few drivers - cannot be remedied overnight”.

Also, as the BBC’s Tom Burridge has put it, “Northern's failure is in large part down to ancient infrastructure which struggles to cope with the high volume of trains and passengers at peak times. Put simply, there is no silver bullet for improving our railways”.
There are, of course, improvements supposedly in the pipeline, like two more through platforms at the south side of Manchester’s Piccadilly Station. But guess what? Rather than ponying up the funds for that, which operators have been calling for for years, Shapps and his fellow Tories are trying to curry favour with the wider electorate by pretending they will reverse the network cuts made in the wake of the 1963 Beeching Report. They won’t.

Some politicians can’t resist the urge to chase votes, rather than address the issue that is staring them in the face. Grant Shapps and Northern Rail is a superb example of this.
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Grenfell Witnesses Demand Legal Protection

The fire that killed more than 70 Londoners in the Grenfell Tower back in June 2017 set off a wave of revulsion: the tendency of the combustible cladding with which the building had recently been covered to catch alight, and in conjunction with the air gap to the structure and the funnel effect, render compartmentalisation ineffective, was already known.
Yet residents were told to stay put; firefighters in London were not yet aware of this new risk. Then came the Prime Ministerial visit, and Theresa May’s reputation took another nosedive as a result. Our free and fearless press, meanwhile, having spent years decrying “elf’n’safety”, switched to playing the other side of the field and laid into, er, safety failings.
Martin Moore-Bick, Grenfell Inquiry chairman

The Rotten Lefties™ were spuriously blamed for hijacking subsequent protests. Some even tried to pin the blame on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. But all the froth died away as the business of the Public Inquiry got under way. That Inquiry has now reached Phase Two, which will examine “the decisions which led to the installation of a highly combustible cladding system on a high-rise residential building and the wider background against which they were taken”. This follows on from the Phase One conclusion.
That was that the panels were the cause of the rapid fire spread. But this morning has brought a dramatic development, as Evening Standard courts correspondent Tristan Kirk noted: “Key witnesses to the refurbishment with combustible cladding, are demanding an assurance from the Attorney General that their evidence won't be used against them in any future prosecution. They may stay silent if it’s not given”. There was more.
Harley Facades, employees and ex-employees of Rydon, the [Tenant Management Organisation], 'and others' are the ones asking for the AG assurance. They are claiming a privilege against self-incrimination which could frustrate the inquiry if they are not given the assurance”. Someone appears worried. This development has not gone down well.
Groans in the room and chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick has paused proceedings for everyone to digest this news: ‘This has caused me a little surprise’, he said. So far they have had ‘fullest cooperation’ and no one has tried to dodge questions”. Moore-Bick is a former Judge. If he is “surprised”, that is most likely code for “You WHAT”?
Kirk explained what happened next. “Sir Martin's explanation: ‘I have very recently been advised that when called to give evidence many of the witnesses who were involved in the design and choice of materials are likely to claim privilege against self-incrimination as a reason for not answering questions’”. Someone made the decision to choose that kind of cladding. Even if not incriminated, merely being identified could be very bad for them.
As Kirk has told, Moore-Bick continued “‘The rule of law protects a person from being required to answer questions if to do so truthfully might expose him or her to risk of prosecution.’ Says AG undertaking would be ‘nothing said by witnesses to questions in inquiry will be used in furtherance of prosecution’”. Those witnesses should answer questions without requiring guarantees. But it seems he will seek them anyway.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry is, first and foremost, about finding out what happened, and how we got there. The latter cannot be ascertained unless and until those witnesses provide the fullest of disclosure. And it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
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