Monday, May 19, 2008 

Of conspiracies, conflicts of interests and prostitutes.

The conspiracy theorists will inevitably be swarming over the news that the prostitute who sold the story of Max Mosley's antics to the News of the Screws was the wife of an MI5 officer, and it is indeed a remarkable twist to what has been the Sunday gutter press "scoop" of the year.

Of more immediate interest is that Mosley has hired Quest, Lord Stevens' private security firm, to investigate whether he's been the victim of a "conspiracy" to discredit him. Although Stevens no longer seems to be writing the most reactionary column in the Screws' history, his involvement with the Murdoch paper surely presents something approaching a conflict of interest. Then again, if Mosley is paranoid enough to believe that someone is out to get him when he was stupid enough to think that being dominated by five pros would go no further than that room, then perhaps he deserves to be fleeced of his cash.

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Monday, July 02, 2007 

Pull yourselves together!

After a weekend of hyping up what in the end amounted to two men attempting to commit suicide in public via self-immolation, most of the media has thankfully gotten something of a grip. In fact, by far the most apocalyptic account of what supposedly took place was given by the man Gordon Brown's just appointed as his international security adviser. His article for the News of the Screws doesn't seem to be available online, but the New York Times has some choice parts from it:

At the same time, Mr. Brown’s newly appointed counterterrorism advisor, John Stevens, a former Scotland Yard police chief, said the attempted car bomb attacks signaled “a major escalation in the war being waged on us by Islamic terrorists.”

“It is not simply the horror of yet more attempts at mass murder that is so chilling — but the change in the psychotic thought processes behind it,” Sir John said in a column in the British Sunday tabloid The News of the World. He added, “Now it is clear a loose but deadly network of interlinked operational cells has developed.”

“Al Qaeda has imported the tactics of Baghdad and Bali onto the streets of the U.K,” he said.

If this is a war, then it's a pretty poor substitute for what the citizens of Afghanistan are currently suffering, being shot amongst by the Taliban and real remnants of al-Qaida and bombed into mass graves by the disproportionate response of the Nato forces. Let's not give what some have described as bombers with learning difficulties more credit than they deserve: these may have been attempts at mass murder, but their desire for such a number of fatalities was not only not achieved, but would never have been achieved. It's not by any means clear that there's a loose network; a loose network of moral support maybe, and as we've seen it's certainly not deadly. It's also nonsense that these are tactics taken from Baghdad and Bali: the car bomb has been around for decades, and as much as some point at how Islamic extremism breeds hatred and jealousy of places like nightclubs, it's as much down to the fact that they're soft targets where large numbers of people gather in a confined space.

It's well worth comparing Stevens' belligerence with the stance taken today in the Commons by Jacqui Smith. She seemed to take a leaf out of Ken MacDonald's book, when he argued earlier in the year that there was no such thing as a war on terrorism, rather that those involved in such plots were simply mass murderers and criminals. It's an admirable, simple argument, ignoring the twisted ideology behind it and as a result not giving it either credibility or the slightest veneer of respect. Compared to the brooding fearmongering of the gruesome twosome who were only finally deposed last week, it's a breath of fresh air, and a very welcome one. The only dampener was that Lord Carlile, it has to be said probably at the behest of the BBC, just had to raise the grim idea of raising the period of detention without charge, when so far the consensus from all parties has been to say that's for discussion at another time.

The revelation that none of those seemingly involved in the attempted bombings are British-born is welcome, although as Jason Burke argues, that's not because there aren't willing accomplices or supporters here, more that this seems to have been a sleeper cell that has been woefully funded, if at all. It isn't beyond comprehension that they all could have planned to do this of their own accord a year or two back, and for some reason known only to themselves didn't bother to do any research beyond thinking that packing some patio gas canisters into a car along with petrol and a few nails would kill people.

The amount of comment now descending upon us about the fact that at least two of the suspects are doctors, and all appear to be middle-class, well educated men from stable family backgrounds seems to have ignored almost everything we already know about those who have previously carried out such attacks and who have been attracted to suitably radical groups. Poverty itself is an incredibly poor qualifier to predicting who might become radicalised, mainly because those who are more concerned with living from day to day don't have the time to spend either researching for themselves or attending such groups. While there is concern, probably too much given to radicalisation going on on university campuses in this country, ones across the Middle East, while also having the same liberal fringes here, have a lot more influence than perhaps we've yet to admit. Many jihadis seem to share similar qualities: while there is always the hot-head fringe, equally those with the opposite personality are represented, the shy, inward and quiet, of whom you'd never suspect of having such beliefs. They are the Mohammad Siddique Khans, the teaching assistants who seem friendly, well-adjusted and normal but who inside are increasingly angry, depressed and feel inadequate. These are the ones likely to be the doctors, caring, kind and tender with their patients but still prepared to die for their ideology and turn the Hippocratic oath on its head. After all, al-Zawahiri himself has a masters degree in surgery.

Another interesting point raised has been by Hassan Butt, previously of Al-Muhajiroun, who has come out and pointed the finger squarely at the Muslim community itself for not doing enough soul-searching into its own failure to adequately condemn and challenge the radicals. The government itself has slowly realised this, through its attempts at wooing the Muslim Council of Britain, which has only blamed foreign policy and nothing else. Sunny recently challenged Bunglawala over this and didn't manage to get a proper response out of him. It's more than obvious that foreign policy has had a major effect in making Britain a target, as even government ministers have privately admitted, with the number of plots and muted attacks spiraling since the Iraq war, but the anger was always there, and it is about the decadence and hedonism of modern society, the lack of an Islamic identity, the global ummah, the clamour for Sharia and the impossible but idealistic lust for an eventual worldwide Caliphate, even if one has never existed in any form on the shores of Britain, having only ever reached as far as Spain. Butt is right that there has to be a lot more dissent within the Muslim community about how the theology itself is interpreted, but the very last thing we should do is dismiss it as "their problem" and that it's for them to sort out, as Lord Stevens has previously done. This is something we are all going to have to face up to, and it's going to be an issue for far longer than any bombing campaign will be. Rachel goes into this in a bit more detail.

On a lighter note, it's highly amusing to see the Scum's token Muslim, the Glenda in a veil Anila Baig apparently having a nervous breakdown in print, so frightened is she that she'll be the next one to be caught in the fire started by suicidal terrorists armed only with petrol. Behold:

But the fact that we don’t know where the next car bomb will be found leaves me sickened and petrified. Not for me the pleas from the Home Secretary and PM to carry on as normal.

I’m sorry, I can’t.

Well, uh, you've written this piece, haven't you? To be fair to Baig, she's more voicing the concerns of being targeted because of who she is, something which anyone unfortunate enough to have brown skin is probably feeling right now, a little insecure of how with every attack or even failure some see our own neighbours and friends as the enemy within, helped along by the breathless reporting of incompetent failures. She shouldn't be scared though, none of us should. If this is the best that "al-Qaida" can do, then this "war" is already over.

The other coping mechanism for the tabloids is to once again dredge up the blitz spirit, as the Scum's leader does, something which seems more of an insult to the tens of thousands that died in and suffered the German bombing raids than it is either necessary or appropriate. As Lewis Page, an ex-bomb disposal operator argues on the Register:

Remember, this country carried on successfully for six years with hundreds - thousands, sometimes - of tons of explosives raining down on it every night for six years, delivered by very competent Germans who often died doing that job. The civilian death toll was around 60,000 according to most sources; the equivalent of 20 9/11s, more than three for every year of the war. Civilisation was not brought down. Germany and Japan withstood even greater violence, and survived it too.

Our parents and grandparents stood that kind of punishment, not to mention four times as many military dead, and got on with life. Sad though it is to confirm the oldsters' world view, by comparison our generation - our generation's journalists, anyway - seem a bit lacking in backbone. If all we have to put up with is an occasional 7/7, that's background noise by comparison - it should merit the same sort of headlines, the same political response as motorway pileups or airline crashes.

And if all we have to deal with is clusterfucks like the one just past, it should merit the same headlines and response as my local youths; essentially none (Maybe some sort of special cop/spook taskforce with sweeping unconstitutional powers to hand out clips round the ear. Yes yes, I know, there'd be some kind of legal problem).

Move along; nothing to see here.

They're not terrorists, they're just stupid boys.

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Friday, June 29, 2007 

Cabinet resnore part 2.

There's only thought which comes to mind when examining Brown's full reshuffle. Christ, if this is a government of all talents, then what would a government of no talents look like?

Let's begin with the elevation of a true cunt of capitalism, "Sir" Digby Jones, former head of the Confederation of British Industry, as well as a former director of
iSoft, the company which has so comprehensively failed to deliver the National Programme for IT either on time or on budget. It's not his fault though, and neither should he have known about the accounting irregularities at the company, because "there is a limit to what independent directors can know." He'd also rather that no one had ever found out about those problems in the first place: he dispatched legal letters to the Grauniad suggesting that the paper's enquiries were damaging the company. More recently, despite being the supposed skills envoy, he proposed the rewriting of the dictionary definition of a McJob, because McDonalds argue that err, a McJob isn't a McJob and it's also "insulting". Certainly a noble cause.

Still, he'll doubtless be a revelation as trade minister. According to the BBC:

He said Labour would "increasingly" become less "in thrall" of the unions, who he hoped would "get into a 21st century agenda".

As in roll over and die. Those expecting even the slightest improvement of the relationship between the government and the workers can therefore go hang.

Next up we have Lord Stevens, who's going to become Brown's adviser on international security matters.
Judging by his fine body of work as a News of the Screws columnist, this will mostly involve blaming the Muslims and saying they've got to sort it out rather than anyone else. David Davis seems to be highly optimistic in suggesting that his appointment will somehow result in a "more measured" response.

Of the other "outside" appointments, two Liberal Democrats have ignored Campbell's eventual decision to deny any of his actual MPs joining the cabinet, with Baroness Neuberger (who?) advising on volunteering (why?) and Lord Lester giving his thoughts on constitutional reform. Mark Malloch Brown has been talked up as an Iraq-war critic,
and the Scum has denounced him as anti-American, but as his profile on the Grauniad notes, he counted such quite wonderful people as Paul Wolfowitz and Elliot Abrams as friends, even at the time as that other delightful personality John Bolton was condemning him. A surgeon you've never heard of, Prof Sir Ara Darzi, has become a health minister dealing with patient care, and another heavily titled military man, Admiral Sir Alan West, has become a Home Office minister for security.

The rest of the junior ministerial appointments have been delayed by the discovery of the car bombs, with only a few other jobs announced, but with
Jim Murphy, another execrable Blairite keeping his job, there seems to be little to get excited about. Jon Cruddas may additionally disappoint some people by apparently turning down a job, but he may well have more of an influence campaigning outside the ministerial tent rather than having to compromise inside it.

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