Saturday, December 08, 2007 

The doctrine of pseudo-strength.

It was most certainly get tough week in Whitehall, or at least, get tough on everything other than party funding. One of the very first things that Brown promised, perhaps not in so many words, but in actions, was that there would be an end to the habit of the Blair government of announcing things to anywhere other than to parliament itself. When you're getting assailed from some many different angles, it's always the "little" things that get broken first, hence Jacqui Smith, the third home secretary in a row attempting to convince the public at large that the terrorist threat is so severe that anything shorter than a month detention without charge is insane and potentially cataclysmic liberalism, forgoing the tedious ritual of presenting the latest twist to parliament, choosing elsewhere to proclaim the latest number of days to be pulled out of the Home Office policy hat.

42, it seems then is no longer not just the meaning of life but also the magic number that terrorists need to be held to. The seeking a consensus sessions, which according to Private Eye amounted to the swivel-eyed Smith haranguing David Davis for daring to be a "28 day-denier" have been abruptly canceled, and so has any possibility of dialogue with the Home Affairs Select Committee, a leak of whom's report Smith seemed to be responding to. The committee had come to the not unreasonable conclusion that there was no evidence whatsoever to support any further extension, having only heard support for such a measure from the suitably plied Lord Carlile, butcher of the yard "Sir" Ian Blair and from Smith herself, who previously didn't know how many more days were needed. As for Ken Macdonald, who had so dared to give evidence to the committee that in his capacity as head of the director for public prosecutions he didn't see the need for more time, his treachery was such that Smith's new plans require him to sign off his agreement in any instance where longer than 28 days is needed. Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold. Shami Chakrabati has denounced Smith's plans as constitutionally illiterate, in that although parliament is required to vote on the continuation of the extra time, it doesn't need to do so until err, after the extra time has itself expired. The safeguards add up to Smith agreeing and the same as before, a judge having to reauthorise the continued detention every seven days. What kind of judge would have the balls to free someone after the police had demanded extra time and the home secretary had agreed is not an easy question to answer.

Almost any other government than this current one would be embarrassed by how ridiculous they look, continually having to dilute their plans little by little, without realising (or perhaps they do, they're just that stubborn and petty) that they simply cannot get this through in any form. The obsession with extra time, one kept only by hopeless police officers that can't fuck off when they know they're no longer wanted and by politicians determined to look endlessly tough and at the same time attempt to make the Tories haplessly weak would be easier to take if anyone other than the Scum, the Express and Melanie Phillips was falling for it, but they're not. The opposition against is almost everyone except the Labour front bench and the most vile of the press. I personally hope it does come to a vote - just so that the government can be thrashed again and the Sun can call all the rest of us traitors.

Similar thinking has been going on over prisons. The most disingenuous moment of the week has to have been over the need for "titan jails" - not because they're better than smaller ones, quite the contrary, but rather as Lord Carter openly admits in his report, they can than be referred straight to the secretary of state for planning permission, negating to go into such needless debates over consultation. After all, look where that's got them over the above. They're also a developers' dream, almost certain to be built under the private finance initiative, and then also likely to be ran by private security firms, meaning even more cash to be milked off from the public purse to the unscrupulous who'll then either demand even more or sell on their interest for a huge profit, as has occurred numerous times before. The job's a good 'un - except for those who'll find themselves behind the bars. Jack Straw has tried to sweeten the deal slightly by also investigating the possibility of linking sentences to the capacity available, but expect that to be dropped once the clamour from the Mail and the Sun grows too loud. The statistics for the prison population growth show that we can't build ourselves out of the overcrowding crisis, but by God Labour will try anyway. You can't have the tabloids screaming about soft sentences and the streets being full of drug addicts, the mentally ill and baby molesters; that will never do leading up to an election.

So it also is on immigration, where the points based system will ensure that the unskilled darkies will be kept out while the unskilled from the EU will still be able to come as they are. Add in some clearly unworkable and prejudiced thinking on whether or not to allow in spouses who can't speak English, and then also cut back on translation while not increasing and eventually cutting the funding for those who want to learn and you have a potent mixture to add to the hubris and carelessness which has led to Brown being in the same situation as before Blair had even left.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007 

Scum-watch: Prison ship obsession rises again.

Doesn't it look just so inviting?

If the Sun were a person, its turn on and offs would be intriguing. Tits would obviously be at the very zenith of its sexual fantasies, while evil paedophiles, the scourge of modern life, would be something the person would focus their hatred on, even while secretly glancing at photographs of a 12-year-old model wearing only a bikini. Less conventionally, one of our imaginary Sun person's greatest desires, resulting in numerous rushes of blood to the head, so to speak, is for villains to be caged aboard floating fortresses. It's a continuing obsession, and one which the Scum is again cheering about today:

A PRISON ship is set to ease overcrowding in Britain’s jails in the New Year in a victory for The Sun.

The move comes as the prison population this week soared to 81,455 - leaving just NINE places in our cells.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw is in talks with the Dutch government to secure one of their floating prisons.

Officials have been sent to the Netherlands to get a high-security vessel that can hold up to 200 lags.

In actuality, a prison ship will do nothing whatsoever to ease overcrowding, especially one that can only cater for 200 "lags". As the current prison population statistics show, 177 prisoners are currently being held in police cells. Even with 200 extra places, that would mean that courts could sentence 23 extra to imprisonment on top of the expected daily churn in and out of the prison system before it would again be thoroughly overloaded. The current level of overcrowding is quite simply unsustainable, as politicians not playing to galleries more than know. None of them however have the courage to raise their head above the parapet and say openly that less people need to be sent to prison: the level of opprobrium would be far too great, despite the fact that overcrowding only makes rehabilitation even more difficult, leading to the recidivism rate increasing exponentially, to further tabloid outrage. It's a vicious circle which no politician is prepared to break, through pure cowardice. It's also worth pointing out that the Sun also breathlessly announced back at the end of September that Straw was deciding which of three vessels to chose as the new prison ship, and surprise surprise, nothing more was heard of it until up to this latest wheeze.

All of this is despite the government's early release scheme, which the Sun also covers. Despite 11,000 "crooks" being released up to 18 days early, the prison system is now currently only 9 places away from complete capacity. The Tories said that it would mean 25,000 being released early this year, while also opposing it completely, which if they had been in power and had done might well have led to even the extra police cells being filled, but being in opposition means you can get away with such disingenuous playing to the crowd. The numbers that have apparently re-offended after being released early are surprisingly low, if anything, especially considering that those released were given £45 on being freed that in some cases was expected to last a month, while some were given nothing at all.

The Sun's leader is almost orgasmic at the news that a boat has been found to stow criminals on:

SHIP, ship hooray!

The last time this combination of words was used in the Scum it was on the front page, overjoyed at the suicide of Harold Shipman. How very appropriate.

Finally, Gordon Brown and Jack Straw have found us a prison ship.

It can’t sail into harbour soon enough.

Our prisons are bursting at the seams.

Which of course has nothing to do with the Sun's demands for an end to "soft" sentences and for never ending crackdowns against yobs, gangs and almost every offence and grouping you can think of. The leader but one above this is advocating such a campaign against "underage boozing" which names everyone responsible except for parents. Overage boozing where the editor of a tabloid newspaper gets drunk and smacks her husband (now ex) is curiously not worthy of crusading against.

Rapists, killers and paedophiles have been freed early to make space.

Really? Is that why, err, the Sun's own report on the 11,000 released early only mentions 4 sex offenders who've been let out 18 days early and nothing about any murderers whatsoever? This wouldn't be another huge lie in a Sun editorial, surely not.

Now it seems a 200-cell Dutch barge is heading our way.

It’s a good start, Mr Brown.

But it’s only a start.

Well yes. If things get any worse, he'll be needing to make sure there are cells ready to take him and most of the cabinet. One already seems to have Peter Watt's name on it.

The irony of the Sun's unhinged joy at a prison ship being found is that the leader above it is on Gillian Gibbons "suffering in captivity", and few if any would disagree with that. There is no such sympathy for the mentally ill and drug addicted that will find themselves making up the population of the new prison ship. If it's anything like the old one, then the inmates can look forward to it being "unacceptably cramped and claustrophobic", with "no access to fresh air", "poor healthcare facilities" and with jobs "very limited". Still, they're all villains, aren't they?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007 

Scum-watch: Thoughts on the return of page 3 idol and reoffending.

The Scum's vile page 3 "idol" competition (warning: nudity) has started up again, with the same pathetic prize as last year - a one-year contract with Page 3, as many teenage wank mag shoots as you can agree to, a holiday with added photoshoot and £5,000 - after which you'll be unceremoniously dumped back into obscurity.

As usual, my faith in humanity upon seeing the legions of young women willingly send in photographs of themselves semi-naked in the forlorn hope that they'll be selected to at least go through into the finals has plummeted through the floor. Why do they do it? Is it hubris on their part, or is it the exact opposite, the search for affirmation and acceptance through the exposing of their body parts? Is it simple pride, showing off what they have because they themselves adore how they look and want to share it with others, or again the apparently increasing belief, amongst younger teenagers especially, that glamour modeling is something to aspire towards?

I don't pretend to have any answers, mainly because I'm a butt ugly young male who consequently has never felt the need to shove a JPEG version of his pathetically average penis into anyone's face. It is amazing however what can constitute something sexually arousing to someone, as any quick trip into the cesspool of the internet will quickly alert you to. That's the other thing though - the internet has in effect flooded the market. Once the avid masturbator interested in the equivalent of readers' wives and girlfriends, which is what the page 3 idol competition in essence is, would have had to turn to the pages of the likes of Razzle and Escort, available from your local friendly corner shop, along with brown paper bag and the recommendations of the owner, who would invariably offer you something "harder" from under the counter. Now those women who would have once had pride of place in the centre pages of those crusty magazines, and as any peruser of older issues of such publications will be able to tell you, they were mostly the older, overweight lady, often outdoors and subsequently showing admirable contempt for the public decency laws, are left with desperately trying to gain attention on the plethora of websites dedicated to submissions from the public. They sink without trace.

I have nothing against exhibitionism, which is also what the page 3 idol contest adds up to. The main question ought to be however how many of those who are submitting their photographs to the Scum would have done if there was not a cash prize, the chance of national recognition and sort of fame, however faint, through doing so. The defenders of pornography, and while I dislike it intensely, I'm not ashamed to admit I use it, often point out that the women involved aren't necessarily the ones being exploited - although disproportionately those who have been abused, come from low income backgrounds or had generally what we'd define as miserable lives make up the numbers of those involved in it, as the tragic recent death of Haley Paige, a well-known US porn performer showed - they're exploiting those that are paying for the privilege of watching them au-naturelle. This clearly doesn't apply in the page 3 idol case, as they're making nothing out of it while the one-handed hordes of Sun readers and browsers sneer and jerk in equal measure at the collection of today's unlucky 25.

Disregarding the faux-philosophy and psychology behind why women involve themselves in pornography, if anything the page 3 idol contest does bring a whole new meaning to the idea of selling your soul to Rupert Murdoch. Getting your "tits out for the lads" while drunk is one thing; doing it more than happily for a national newspaper for nothing in return is quite another. It ought to show that the Sun, a publication which is nothing more than a propaganda vehicle for Murdoch which pretends to care what its readers' think and like ought to be thought of no better than the semen-splattered pages of Zoo or Nuts are. Instead, prime ministers and politicians bend over backwards to appeal to the base instincts of a pornographer who just happens to have acquired himself a media empire. The Scum is currently harrying Gordon Brown incessantly about the EU reform treaty - he ought to throw the Scum's exploitation of young women back in their faces. Murdoch isn't afraid to play dirty, as the constant lies printed in the Sun show, so why should those accused of selling this country down the river not respond like for like?

Take its response to the release of yesterday's figures from the Ministry of Justice (I shudder every time I write that Orwellian term) which while showing a 36% rise in those under the highest Mappa regime of supervision committing a serious offence actually recorded no real statistical increase, the numbers increasing year-on-year from 61 to 83, a rise of 22. It also doesn't note that as well as defining a serious offence as "any murder, manslaughter, attempted homicide, rape or attempted rape" it also includes arson, kidnap or armed robbery, as the Guardian makes clear. The Sun leader also erroneously claims that "almost 1,700 serious sex offenders committed more assaults while supposedly being monitored". The figures show nothing of the sort, instead showing that almost 1,700 were charged or cautioned for not keeping up with their requirements under their signing of the sex offenders register.

While statistics are never going to be any comfort to those who are the victims of those crimes, if anything it shows that Mappa is doing the best job it probably can. The fallibility of such organisations is never taken into consideration - some of those who reoffend simply could never have been stopped from doing so or showed no signs of being about to do so. The numbers committing a second serious offence could probably be brought down further, but unless we completely re-evaulate the criminal justice system as it stands, and start locking away those who pose such a serious threat indefinitely and disregard the possibility that they can reform, such recidivism is always going to occur. The question has to be whether we are prepared to lock away even more people than we currently do for even longer, when all the evidence suggests that doing so simply doesn't work.

The recent Guardian poll that suggested that the views of the public have now polarised between the two poles, to describe them crudely as the "harsher" and "softer" positions, ought to tell us that there is now the chance to change course completely. No matter how many times the Sun argues in its leader that the "only answer to swelling prison numbers is ... more prisons", it doesn't alter the fact we simply cannot build our way out of this problem. Polly Toynbee in one of her occasional decent pieces today made clear the way that even good figures that show crime is falling are spun to make them look the opposite.

To change this, Labour, whose policies as the Sun says have been appalling, although for entirely different reasons to why they think they've been, has to take the fight to those in favour of ever increasing draconian responses. Crime has dropped dramatically over the last ten years, and one of the reasons why despite that it continues to be such an issue of concern is that rehabilitation in overcrowded prisons simply isn't possible. To make them more effective, less people have to be imprisoned. This means more treatment for those addicted to drugs, and not inside prisons, but outside them. It means that the mentally ill who are stagnating in jails and only getting sicker need to be taken out of the system. Prison should return to what they were designed for: to protect the public from those who are a genuine danger to society, not as the dumping ground for the misfits and broken. It seems so obvious, but in the face of such hostility from the "popular" press has meant this has been impossible. Sadly, the time for this to happen, when the government had the support which such a move would be possible, has likely passed. This ought to be standard Liberal Democrat territory, but instead they were some of those most outraged by the tiny relative increase. Martin Kettle reckons there is a real choice (a theme I might return to when I have more time) but on crime and punishment, there certainly doesn't seem to be one.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007 

Scum-watch: Irresponsible vagueness, referendum tedium and the return of seeing no ships.

According to the Grauniad, the detectives investigating the murder of Rhys Jones are still a long way from having the evidence necessary to be able to bring charges against a suspect who has now been named 12 times by different individuals as the person caught on CCTV prior to Jones' death.

What possibly better time then for the Scum to publish a photograph of the alleged killer on its front page, even suitably masked?

THE prime suspect in the killing of Rhys Jones is said to be a tearaway “mummy’s boy”.

Twelve people identified the teenager after seeing CCTV footage on Wednesday’s BBC Crimewatch show about the shooting of Rhys, 11.

It showed a hoodie-wearing youth on a bike at the murder scene on the night Rhys was shot in Liverpool.

The suspect, pictured today for the first time, cannot be identified for legal reasons.

He is a football-mad youngster — just as Everton fan Rhys was.

But he is also said to be a gang member who makes money running drugs.

Except he, whoever he is, isn't even a suspect yet; according to the Scum article, he was one of those arrested and released on bail. Isn't this the exact same newspaper decrying the treatment of the McCanns, who have been named as official suspects, now more than happy to splash completely unverifiable information about a "suspect" in another high-profile case? Indeed, they're loving being able to have it both ways: today's article about the McCanns, also on the front page, repeats the latest "slur" by the Portuguese police about Madeleine's disappearance, then condemns them for it. The McCanns are at least able to defend themselves, having the lucky support of millionaires and a former BBC journalist acting as their spokesman; whoever this child is has no way of denying the allegations printed about him.

In actual fact, the supposed details about him are so vague as to be even more potentially discriminatory. There are no doubt dozens of kids on the two estates that fit the description of being football mad, supporting Liverpool, and possibly involved in dropping off drugs. While it's true that the community might well already know who the killer is, the Guardian reporting earlier in the week that the name has been written on walls, all this article is likely to do is increase the possibility of the perpetrator deciding that it's time to make a run for it. Perhaps again the fact that the paper is still widely loathed in Liverpool has gone into the decision to print, although if it was, the fact the article is freely available online means that anyone not wanting to hand over money to the Murdoch empire can still read it and draw their own conclusions. At best this is shaky, questionable reporting and at worst it's downright irresponsible. Not that that's ever stopped the Sun before.

Elsewhere, the campaign for a vote on the EU reform treaty rumbles tediously on:

Even Girls Aloud want to vote

SHE may be in the world’s sexiest girl band but Nicola Roberts is more concerned about Britain’s future than her nails or make up. The Girls Aloud star recently voiced her dismay at the younger generation’s disregard for politics.

Here she explains why it is crucial Britain has a referendum on Something Kinda EU.

And so for 330 mealy-mouthed, no doubt Sun hack ghosted words, Roberts informs us of how vital it is we have a vote. Either she's an avid reader of the Sun, or she shares an uncanny knack of being able to write in a style incredibly similar to that of the average Sun galley-slave:

Personally I’m against us signing up under the terms being suggested because it means we will be handing over so many powers to unelected representatives in Europe.

It will mean they could bring in new laws and dictate the way we lead our lives in Britain. That’s why I think that, if we do get a referendum, we should vote No.

How right you are Nicola, and your view is certainly not undermined by the following:

If young people today don’t know anything about the EU constitution they should go and educate themselves and find out how it could affect them because it’s important.

As perhaps you should instead of prostituting yourself to the Murdoch shilling. If Roberts is genuine about young people getting involved and informed about political issues, she's hardly a shining example by shamelessly parroting the line of the newspaper which just happens to be featuring "her" warblings, or indeed giving the impression that the Sun will educate you about anything other than tits.

Moving on, an older member of a Girls Aloud tribute band has also been sounding off, at least after consulting her psychiatrists:

LADY Thatcher last night sensationally backed The Sun’s campaign for an EU Treaty referendum.

Yes, truly sensational. Old Conservative Eurosceptic prime minister favours a referendum. Hold the front page! It's worth remembering of course that it was her stance on Europe which finally helped bring her down, and which has also helped keep her party out of power for the last 10 years. Apart from that though, really amazing.

Finally, if you wanted any further proof that Brown is either no change to Blair or is moving even further to the right, we've got yet another resurrection of an old failed policy:

FRANTIC Jack Straw has finally bowed to The Sun’s campaign to bring in a PRISON SHIP — as jail overcrowding hit an all-time high.

The Justice Minister was last night deciding which of three suitable vessels will be most cost-effective.

Just in case you need reminding, the last prison ship was sold off after if it was condemned by the head of the prison inspectorate, Anne Owers. Amongst the problems with it was that it was "unacceptably cramped and claustrophobic" and had "no access to fresh air". Despite being meant to be a training prison, "jobs for inmates were "very limited"". How these problems, inherent with ships' design will be overcome is predictably unexplained.

With the Daily Mail already successfully wooed, don't be surprised if this is the first part of the offensive to get the Sun even further on side. If Brown does call an election this coming week, it'll hardly be a huge shock if he decides to change tack and announce there will be a referendum on the EU reform treaty after all.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007 

Overcrowded with the same old nonsense.

It's incredibly rare that I feel even slightly sorry for this government, for the simple reason that it has brought nearly all of the problems it faces now down directly on its own head. The prison overcrowding crisis is most certainly of New Labour's own making, but it definitely isn't the fault of Lord Falconer, the hapless minister now taking the flak. He's been made to look idiotic because of his promise that there would be no early releases only a month ago, but this is a mess of John Reid's creation, with him handily being outside the frame due to the creation of the new Ministry of Justice. In any case, both he and Falconer are likely to be out of a job by next week - Reid already having announced his return to the backbenches, and Falconer unlikely to keep his position in Brown's reshuffle.

To treat New Labour with a fairness they don't deserve, they weren't the architects of the "prison works" mantra which has become gospel to the tabloids and right-wingers and is the true root cause of this latest stupidity; Michael Howard was. The murder of James Bulger almost certainly also had a similar chilling effect on penal policy, even though his death was a macabre, disturbing, freak crime which only tends to occur once in a generation. It did however make people question how two ten-year-olds could possibly do such a thing, with a sick society being one of the easy things to point the finger at. At the heart of this was the belief that criminality in general was being treated with too light a touch, something reprised today when the Scum blames judges for being soft when the prison statistics bear out the fact that they are anything but.

Even so, New Labour has not just continued with Howard's stated aims, it's accelerated them, and with every passing year a new criminal justice bill has brought ever tougher penalties and the creation of new imprisonable offences. When Labour came to power the prison population stood at just over 60,000; within 10 years it's increased by 20,000. Labour additionally, despite the claims of the Scum, has also in that time built 9 new prisons, creating those 20,000 places which have been filled as soon as they were available.

By the reaction which both the Scum and the Tories have opted to go for, you'd imagine that the ministers had suddenly decided to throw the doors of the prisons wide open and let anyone and everyone walk out. Instead, the plans for early release are so timid that within months we'll have the same problem again, with the Home Office admitting that by October crisis point will have been hit. Only those serving sentences of 4 years or less, and not imprisoned for violent or sexual offences will be considered for early release, and even then they'll have to go before a parole board which will consider if they pose a danger to the public or not. Those released will in effect spend the last 18 days of their sentence out on license with a tag, not just let out scot free. Around 1,500 to 1,800 will be immediately eligible for early reason, which will free up places for those currently being held in police and magistrates cells at an obscene cost of up to £1million a week, where facilities consist of a bare cell, toilet and a hard bed, which is not exactly conducive to rehabilitation.

This is why the howls of anguish and outrage from the Scum and Tories are so self-serving and pathetic. They've never had it so good: a party with a prime minister who cares more what the Scum thinks about criminals and prisons than it does what criminologists and reformists do, which has gone along completely with their ever tougher stance on even minor crime, even while crime itself has been shown to have fallen to a historic low, completely ignoring the fact that overcrowding itself is the main cause of re-offending, as it means that rehabilitation is nigh on impossible when prisoners find themselves banged up for increasingly longer periods, unable to get access to education, schemes to ween themselves off drug addictions, or to the health care that many with mental health problems so desperately need. To read the Scum's George Pascoe-Watson with a straight face write how wonderful today's prisons are, with a choice of seven different meals and a television in the cell, ignoring completely how you don't happen to be on your own but instead with other highly dangerous people who you can't trust for a second, not to mention the mind-numbing boredom involved in being banged up is to look into a world where highly-paid hacks who've never so much as been questioned by police except when they're asked how much they'll be paid for providing information about what murder victims were wearing when they were killed spit on their own readers.

The government, having been aware that this was going to happen, has had two options. It either continues on the path it's taken, continues to build more prisons or make places available, or it about turns, emphasises that prison does not work except to keep the public safe from the truly dangerous, makes community sentences for lesser offences more attractive to judges and takes on the newspapers that argue otherwise. It has instead done neither, and Reid didn't help himself by telling the Scum that he'd turn old MoD bases into makeshift open prisons, something that local communities would have rightly opposed, as they are completely unsuitable for such use, as well as look into buying "prison ships", when none of the ports want them and when the only one that was in use
was condemned by the inspector of prisons.

It's difficult to stomach a newspaper that has been instrumental in creating this fiasco, with New Labour almost in effect making Rebekah Wade the home secretary, having the balls to criticise ministers for their failings, but then nothing will ever be good enough for Murdoch's minions, a trap which Blair has repeatedly fell into.

THE prisons crisis is a stinking national scandal.

Much like this very newspaper.

And the Labour government has only itself to blame.

True, for indulging your fuckwitted arguments and petty prejudices for 10 years.

Ministers have known for years that we need more jails — but wilfully refused to build them.

And just where pray are they meant to? Has the Scum ever offered a single sensible proposal for a prison other than pie-in-the-sky nonsense about camps and ships?

While they dithered, the jail population has hit a record 81,000 — double the number 15 years ago.

As a direct result of the Scum's ceaseless campaigns and own sheer lack of backbone.

That record will be broken again next month, with lags crammed three to a cell — fertile ground for riots.

Really? I thought prisons were idyllic, happy places where you get your meals brought to you and where Sky Digital is plentiful?

How does the government respond?

Laughable Justice Minister Charlie Falconer is setting 25,500 drug peddlers and burglars loose early.

This is a nonsense figure which the Scum and Tories have arrived at by looking at the projections for the number of prison places that are going to be needed by the end of next year, then ignoring that those serving sentences longer than 4 years are still going to be getting out in the meantime, freeing up places, coming to the wrong conclusion that 25,500 prisoners are going to have be released to cover those newly sentenced. Surprisingly, it doesn't work like that.

This crisis did not come out of a clear blue sky.

The Sun has been campaigning for years for prison ships.

We called for thousands of foreign criminals to be sent home.

Neither of which offers are real kind of solution, as those countries unsurprisingly don't want them back, at least until they've finished the sentences.

Yet a succession of Home Secretaries failed in their most important duty — protecting the public. They’d rather see hundreds of murderers, rapists and terrorists walk through open prison gates.

I'd say that they've succeeded - crime has fallen dramatically, although it was already doing so before they came to power, and now only those who are no danger to the public will be released; the Sun's hyperbole only underlines the lack of rigour in its argument.

Villains in jail cannot commit crime.

And without those prisons, we are all more likely to become victims of crime.

Because everyone in jail is a villain, as we know, and the fact that the prisons are going to be hopelessly overcrowded whatever the government does, unless it completely changes course, means that those who are released are ever more likely to re-offend as a result. Whatever the government does it loses, all as a result of its initial mistake in even attempting to ride the Murdoch and Rothermere tigers.
P.S. The following comment on the reports into Iran capturing the 15 sailors is a complete joke:

NOBODY would say the 15 sailors captured by Iran in Gulf waters covered themselves with glory.

Nor did the hostages improve matters by selling their stories when they were freed.

This would be the same Sun newspaper which contributed towards the £100,000 paid to Faye Turney for selling her story to the err, Sun.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007 

Scum-watch: Neverending deja vu.

Would you trust this woman?

It's a pretty thankless task being a tabloid hack. According to last year's poll conducted on behalf of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, a massive 7% of the population trust tabloid journalists (PDF), yet the vast majority of newspapers sold in this country are those very same journals which those untrustworthy hacks contribute to. As it doesn't look like the public are suddenly going to see the light and all start buying a broad or an ex-broad, the solution is surely for tabloid journalists to either stop making the news up, and distorting/misreporting the news.

Of course, this isn't going to happen due to the very nature of tabloid newspapers; the editors in charge, and the proprietors themselves. Hence the cycle continues, and when looking at the same shit day after day I suffer from eternal deja-vu.

Today is no exception. The Sun loves it when a "soft" judge opens his mouth, for it gives them an excuse to try and make the public believe that we aren't the most criminally punitive country in Europe, and that prison does indeed work. Or rather, it loves it because it can distort what the "soft" judge actually said and make it look as though he's an idiot who shouldn't be left in charge of a guinea pig, let alone be sending "villains" down the Scrubs. Previous case studies include Lord Philips, who made a scholarly speech discussing the implications of mandatory sentencing, which the Sun twisted into "Top judge: Let killers out of jail". Lord Woolf, who was giving evidence to the Home Affairs select committee, is today's victim.

Woolf in a 'go soft' jail plea

BRITAIN’S former top judge yesterday called for a sentencing shake-up that would put FEWER criminals in jail.

Lord Woolf told MPs that prison should be reserved for “those that really deserve it”.

He told a Commons committee that NO new jails should be built, adding: “We have many people in prisons now who don’t need to be there.”

He also blamed prison overcrowding for high re-offending rates.

His evidence is yet to be posted in full on the select committee website, so I can't go through exactly what he did say. However, piecing it together through the reports in the Grauniad, Torygraph and Times, it becomes quickly apparent that he was predictably putting across a far more nuanced argument:

Lord Woolf said that there were two solutions to the prison overcrowding crisis: to build more prisons or to reduce the prison population.

But putting more resources into new prisons, he added, would not solve the problme (sic) long-term: it was expensive, and unconstructive.

“What we should be doing is to make greater progress to make more effective non-custodial sentences.”

Meanwhile prison places should be reserved only for “those who really deserve it and need it”.

He said overcrowding was a major barrier to rehabilitation, and the country could not afford to keep building new prisons.

“We have not got over the message just how expensive incarceration is. The cost of sentences should be set out in clear and realistic terms.”

He added: “The primary use of prisons must be for violent offences.”

Lord Woolf said prison places were so expensive that they needed to be reserved only for those who "really deserve and need it". He suggested that the Sentencing Guidelines Council should be told by the government how much money was available for prisons for the next five years and asked to draw up guidelines that keep the prison population within those resources.He said: "The judge should know how much the sentence he is imposing will cost the public, and if there is a suitable cheaper option then he should choose that. We have not got over the message just how expensive incarceration is. The cost of sentences should be set out in clear and realistic terms." Lord Woolf, who sat as a judge in the criminal courts for 25 years, acknowledged that the confidence of judges and magistrates in community punishments had deteriorated, partly because of an overstretched probation service. He accepted that violent crime had to be dealt with severely, and denied that he was as "out of touch" as some tabloid newspaper editors had claimed.

A cap should be placed on the prison population to reduce overcrowding, the former Lord Chief Justice said yesterday.

Lord Woolf, who retired last year, said jail should be reserved only for "those who really deserve it and need it".

He said overcrowding was a major barrier to rehabilitation, and the country could not afford to keep building new prisons.

It's quite clear then that Woolf was in fact making the argument that simply building more prisons will not solve overcrowding as the current emphasis on custodial sentences will mean that they will be filled as quickly as they can be built. Additionally, that emphasis on sentencing and the overcrowding which is the result is in fact making the public less safe, as re-offending rates are going up as a result, from 51% in 1992 to 67% now. He didn't in fact say that no new jails should be built, but instead that the cost needs to be considered. It costs a mesmerising £40,000 to keep a person in prison for a year - money which would surely be better spent in a good number of the cases in which someone serves a year or under on community punishments instead. Consider the "gran from hell" sentenced to 6 months in jail at 81, which'll cost £20,000, when there almost certainly most have been a better solution than locking her away.

Woolf has then been successfully proved to be saying that judges "should go soft", so it's time to remind the readers' that the Sun opposes these liberal morons:

UK prisons are at bursting point with a population over 80,000. The Sun has called for more jails to be built and for judges to hand down tougher sentences to criminals.

Home Secretary John Reid has failed to deliver on a promise to turn old Army camps into jails.

Which was completely unworkable and proposed by... the Sun itself!

Here's the leader:

LORD Woolf has learned nothing since retiring as Britain’s top judge.

What's he supposed to learn? That the Sun's right and he's wrong and that's that?

In office, he constantly pleaded for softer sentences and cushier jails.

Now, in his dotage, he wants criminals set loose and plans for new jails scrapped.

That's exactly what he said, yes.

The daft old bird thinks that despite soaring rates of violent crime, we should put fewer convicted offenders behind bars.

Except that he said that "violent crime needed to be dealt with severely". Places are always going to be there for violent offenders; Woolf's point was that we needed to think about how other offenders are managed.

He may have a point that some petty criminals do not deserve to be locked up.

But those are well and truly outnumbered by the villains who are a menace to society and are being set free by wishy-washy liberal judges like Lord Woolf.

Right. Judges have been shown to be in fact getting ever harsher, and the prisons wouldn't be overcrowded if these violent criminals were being set free, but oh, what's the point?

Elsewhere in today's Scum, there's a slight difference in the reporting on two separate cases involving sex:

Lad's 100s of romps with Miss

AN ex-schoolboy told a court yesterday he romped with a married woman class assistant in car parks, hotels and at her home.

He was 15 when he began the alleged fling with Jeni Saville-King.

The lad, now 18, claimed sex acts occurred “hundreds of times” but they did not have full intercourse until he turned 16.

Jurors were told Saville-King, 29, became PREGNANT during the year-long affair but she assured him her husband was the father.

If this had been a man, he'd be denounced as a pervert, a sicko and as abusing his position of trust. As it involves a rather pretty 29-year-old woman, it's instead a semi-jokey, lad's dream come true. Contrast this report with this article on a man only sentenced for theft and admitting to having a problem with a sexual fetish:

Shoe perv walks free


Oh, and one of the finalists in a talent show previously got her tits out (nudity, obviously). Amazing news. Hopefully we'll adopt a similar attitude to reality TV to that taking hold in the States in regard to American Idol: they're voting for the worst.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007 

Scum-watch: Yeah, it continues.

First up, the Scum did at least have the guts to report the jailing of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, but didn't admit to belonging to the same parent company as the News of the Screws. The story also isn't by-lined, which is odd. Perhaps the journalist involved was frightened of the repercussions of reporting their colleagues' misdemeanors, when usually News International completely ignores them.

On then once again to the continuing shrieking about a situation that the Scum has had more than a hand in creating:

EMBATTLED John Reid was under fire from all sides yesterday as the prisons crisis spiralled out of control.

Judges were in open revolt after being forced to free more dangerous criminals because of the cells shortage.

But other judges were accused of being opportunist and using Reid’s plea to jail only the worst-case criminals as an excuse to go SOFT on other menaces to society.

Yes, of course they are. The "soft" judges are in fact being eminently sensible, as Not Saussure points out regarding the sentences handed down to the two sex offenders, Derek Williams and Keith Morris. Not that this matters one jot to the Sun, it's just something to grab and bash even further with; that they happened to be involved in crimes which are editor Rebekah Wade's favourite was just an added bonus. Instead, the Scum "names and shames" three judges, two of those responsible for the above:

THREE judges caused fury this week by using John Reid’s recommendations to go soft on offenders.

In the first high-profile case Judge John Rogers, QC, gave pervert Derek Williams a suspended sentence at Mold Crown Court.

Then evil Keith Morris was bailed by Judge Graham Cottle at Exeter despite attacking boys.

In case No3 Judge Nigel van der Bijl gave cannabis smuggler Darius Sawka a 12-month suspended sentence at Canterbury Crown Court.

The judge said the normal sentence would be up to three years’ jail. But he told Sawka, 33, a German arrested at Dover: “The current situation with the prison population is that we are being asked to look at alternatives.”

As NS points out, Morris would in other parts of the country likely have been bailed anyway, overcrowded prisons or not. It seems local circumstances intervened in his case. Either way, he's going to prison shortly, has been put under curfew, and will more than likely be tagged and/or have to report to the local cop shop daily. As for Sawka, does anyone still care about smuggling cannabis, or should we even care? It's a Class C drug for God's sake, the arguments for legalising it grow stronger by the day, and the time would be better spent stopping those smuggling the hard drugs that actually increase crime.

In the stakes for useful idiot ex-Labour minister of the day, John Spellar sounds his mouth off to the Scum:

Former Labour Minister John Spellar stormed: “I fear some judges are using this as an excuse for soft sentences. Some of them are perhaps still a bit sore after coming under fire themselves last year.

“I wonder if they are taking the opportunity to pursue their love of soft-touch sentences."

Yes, you're quite right Mr Spellar. Those judges just
love to give out soft sentences and then get screamed at by the ever-reactionary tabloids and opportunist MPs who want to get their names in the papers. Spellar is apparently referring to the Scum's campaign of last year based on the sentence given to paedophile Craig Sweeney, when the judge simply followed the government's own guidelines for sentencing in the circumstances. That the Sun's campaign backfired when the judges themselves struck back at the despicably cowardly naming and shaming, and was abandoned within a month isn't worth mentioning.

John Reid himself puts in a reasonably decent defense of his time as Home Secretary, at least before he gets onto attacking the Lib Dems and Tories in the same politically motivated way that simply turns people off politics.

Then there's this utterly sickening article which pretty much shows what the constant attention the Scum gives to "paedo-pervs" does to people and influences the way they react to a "pervert" being in their midst:

Neighbour Jamie Jones, 18, said: “He’s a beast and a nonce and should be locked up for life.”

Valerie Williams, 27, who has a girl aged two, said: “What more serious offence can there be than paedophilia? It ruins a child’s life. It’s worrying he could be wandering around and looking at my child and others in the street.

“I want signs and photos of him and to put them around the area. People need to be aware of the risk.”

Donna Armitage, 24, mother of a lad aged three, said: “He could look through my windows and see my son. That man should be in a hostel.”

Oh God, he could be looking at your kids?! The horror, the horror. It's no surprise that the man himself is fearing that there could be vigilante action against him or his family; judging by such comments, he'd be stupid not to. Williams himself claims that the images were already on the hard drive when he bought it second-hand, and although I can't find the relevant article now, I did read one which said the date on the files was from the early 00s, which although can be easily faked, does go along with his defense. This iCWales article gives a little more background. Either way, however predictable the response to such a crime is, the man clearly doesn't deserve further vilification than that he has already received.

Meanwhile it emerged that Judge John Rogers, who handled Williams’ case, could come face-to-face with his BROTHER next month in an unconnected case.

So why are you reporting it? Oh, it's because you're assholes.

The Scum's leader focuses on it all yet again:

The Sun has campaigned hard for the suspension of pathetically lenient judges who routinely side with criminals over victims. But Reid and Falconer’s letter was manna from heaven for them. Now they have an excuse, officially endorsed by the Government.

Yes, all very noble of you, apart from the fact that Williams' and Sawka's crimes didn't involve any victims except themselves. Instead of judges using their own common sense, which they appear to have been doing and are being attacked for doing so, this is all part of the judges being soft conspiracy which the Scum's dreamed up, no longer able to credibly attack the government itself for being "soft" on crime.

More than anything, that only 3 cases have come to light regarding the Home Secretary's reminding judges of the rules they know only too well shows that this is a situation which is again being whipped out of all proportion by the media. It's all well and good coming across morally righteous about "paedos escaping prison", but not having any other solution than the current one which is so obviously failing leaves those howling with little to back them up once the hoo-hah dies down.

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Friday, January 26, 2007 

Scum-watch: It had to be a dirty paedo pervert, didn't it?

The Scum is having a field day with John Reid. Gone from praising his illiberal rabble-rousing rhetoric, it's turned on him with all the typical tabloid viciousness of building someone up to then tear them down.

JOHN Reid was dealt a new hammer blow yesterday when a PAEDOPHILE was freed because of his failure to build prisons.

It just had to be. To quote an idiot, you couldn't make it up.

Paedophile Williams — who had more than 180 sickening images on his computer — was let off with a six-month sentence and suspended for two years. He was also placed on supervision.

Married Williams, 46, of Blaenau Ffestiniog, was ordered to be placed on the sex offenders’ register for seven years. He was caught after his wife called in police. The revelation that a paedophile is among those escaping justice makes any hopes Reid might have of succeeding Prime Minister Tony Blair seem ludicrous — without taking account of the crime figures released yesterday.

What I'm about to say a lot will probably disagree with, but Williams is not technically a paedophile. A pervert, yes, but a paedophile, no. A lot like sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken, looking at sexually explicit photographs of children does not make you a paedophile. If we want to get really pedantic about it, then Wikipedia reproduces the diagnostic criteria for psychiatrists:

The APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition, Text Revision gives the following as its "Diagnostic criteria for 302.2 Pedophilia":[27]

* Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
* The person has acted on these urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
* The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.

So it's not clear that Williams would be a paedophile, unless we're also now considering thought crime when it comes down to labelling people. The Scum also doesn't bother to mention the mitigating circumstances which were involved in his case:
that he pleaded guilty, and that the case had taken a long time to come to court, through no fault of his own. It's not as if he was entirely let off or freed - his sentence has just been suspended, and he's been put under supervision and has to sign the sex offenders' register for 7 years. The head of the NSPCC therefore obviously didn't bother even to look into the background of the case before she opened her mouth:

It is unacceptable that people who have committed crimes against children are not jailed simply because prisons are too full if the severity of the crime requires a prison sentence."

Unless we go along with the assumption that those who view child pornography are as a result going to want "new" material and that this will drive abusers on, i.e. supply and demand, an argument that is shaky to say the least, then Williams wasn't committing a "crime against children". Rod Liddle, in one of his rarer lucid moments in the aftermath of the Pete Townshend arrest,
wrote a decent piece questioning the underlying assumptions all around the viewing of child pornography. I'd personally say that the sentence Williams received is about right. Others will more than likely vehemently disagree. In Keith Morris's case on the other hand, he would be a paedophile, or if we're being really pedantic and the child was older than 13, an ephebophile. He has been released, I assume with a tag, when otherwise he would have been held on remand. Anyway, I've been sidetracked. On to the Scum's hilarious piece for looking for Reid's brain:

JOHN Reid skulked off to his office yesterday as The Sun stepped up the hunt for his missing brain.

He looked blank as he emerged from his smart Westminster town house.

I said: “Good morning, Mr Reid. The Sun and our readers are desperately trying to find your brain — can you give us a clue?”

He stared at the floor and shuffled to a Jaguar.

I asked: “Can you recall the last time you used it?” — but he sped off.


Finally, Tim went to the last place likely to know anything — the Home Office. Staff wanted to help — but said they were “not fit for the purpose”.

Oh my aching sides.
But guess what? The Scum have found the prison ship!

THE Sun yesterday found a prison ship John Reid could use to ease the jails crisis — the SAME ONE the Government sold just six months ago.

HMP Weare is still moored at the same Channel port as it was when the Home Office got rid of it for just £2.5million in August.

Mr Reid repeatedly told The Sun that the Weare had been sold off and could not be bought back — while his aides even said it was being lined up for the scrapyard.

For just £2.5million? Seems like a shrewd deal considering its sea-worthiness certificate had ran out,
that it had no fresh air and that the ship itself was in the wrong area for a prison.

But last night it was revealed the vessel has undergone a huge refit and could be bought back — but at THREE times the amount the Home Office got for it.

The Sun stepped in after disclosing the scale of John Reid’s failure to deal with the prisons overcrowding fiasco.

Within a few hours we discovered the Weare, which was opened in 1997 and closed in 2005, is still moored at Portland, Dorset.

It had been completely refurbished by its new owners, Sea Trucks Group, a Nigerian-based firm specialising in supporting the offshore oil industry.

Sea Trucks have spent a small fortune upgrading the vessel to provide accommodation for up to 1,000 people such as oil rig workers.

Exactly, as would the Home Office have had to spend a small fortune to keep it going. It instead decided that it wasn't worth the money, and also explained that it could be shut
because a new private prison had opened in Peterborough. Instead of spending £10 million buying the thing back the money would be better spent on an actual new prison, or on refurbishing extra places that already exist. None of this matters though, it's just something to bash Reid about with.

“As I understand it, when it was used as a jail it only had the least dangerous prisoners so that the security measures did not need to be the very highest.”

At the height of its use the Weare — built in the 1970s and used to accommodate soldiers in the Falklands — held 400 low-risk inmates.

The Sun here doesn't bother to inform its readers of extra details other than it held "low-risk" inmates -
it was a Category C prison, one security level above an open prison. Elsewhere, it's time to "name and shame" some more people involved in the Home Office, whether they're actually responsible for the chaos or not:

NINE top civil servants are responsible for day-to-day running of the Home Office.

They are meant to ensure prisons, probation, immigration and other services meet ministers’ targets.

Sorry to break it to you lot, but if the Home Office’s current shambles is the best you can do, you need your heads examined.

Obviously. Now that they've been insulted by the UK's best-selling newspaper, they're just bound to look themselves in the mirror and think: God - am I really this shit?
On then to the Scum's leader:

THE fiasco that is the Home Office gets more ludicrous by the minute.

It is now clear that John Reid is not the only one whose brain is missing in this benighted government department.

There are 73,359 public servants serving under the Home Secretary and his clutch of ministers and senior mandarins.

Not one of them has managed to find an answer to the problem of a prison network littered with signs declaring: “Sorry, No Vacancies”.

While officials and ministers shrugged, it took The Sun just two hours to find a jail ship floating on England’s south coast.

It is empty but spruced up and ready to take 1,000 criminals.

Laughably, it is the same ship decommissioned by Charles Clarke when he had his turn at making a mess of the Home Office.

If you presented this as the script of a Carry On film it would be rejected as too ridiculous.

Yes, and this sprucing up wouldn't have involved removing any of the normal features of a prison by any chance, would it? I'm sure the workers for Sea Trucks would have loved having their doors locked from outside without being able to get out, or other workers spying on them through the hatches for looking in. It was decommissioned because it wasn't worth spending the money on fixing it up; the money is now not worth spending on buying it back.

But you would have to be an idiot not to know our jails were heading for disaster.
# Convicts and suspects have been crammed into police cells, taking hard-pressed officers off the beat.
# Courts have been told by John Reid to cut the numbers being sent to jail.

You'd also have to be an idiot to think that having a prison population of 80,000 is sustainable, even in the short term. This isn't a very popular view however though in the Scum.

Which helps explain why yesterday’s crime figures showed robberies rising, and big increases in vandalism and drug offences.

Yep - in overcrowded prisons those inside are even more like to come out and re-offend. The Scum just wants more places built, without thinking about how prison for minor offences, especially for vandalism and drug offences simply doesn't work, especially without treatment programmes in the latter case, which are hopelessly oversubscribed and underfunded.

At the centre of this mess the Prime Minister, The Chancellor and all four Labour Home Secretaries are unable to answer a few simple questions:

Why weren’t extra prison places built years ago?

Most likely because they hoped that judges would take notice of their pleas for only serious and violent offenders to be jailed, but instead they've taken more notice of the media and political climate to get ever tougher on crime. Who is this climate driven by? You guessed it.

Who is to blame for this monumental error?

The last few home secretaries, Michael Howard for starting the "prison works!" crap in the beginning, the tabloids, led by this very newspaper, and some judges themselves.

What about using old army camps in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as England?

Because the money would be better spent on new prisons proper rather than doing up dingy and potentially unfit for human habitation army facilities, not to mention angering and not consulting those who live in the area.

How about that floating jail that has been staring them in the face?

Which err, doesn't belong to the government anymore, would cost way too much to buy back and wasn't worth refurbishing in the first place. Apart from that, great idea!

And why does a crisis have to be a catastrophe before this government gets its brains into gear?

But then, we were almost forgetting. Some of their brains are missing.

Probably because they would rather continue with the idiocy of banging up 80,000 or more rather than face annoying the Sun by going "soft". The current situation is still probably better than further riling the Wade and Murdoch banshee.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007 

Scum-watch: Downplaying Iraq, hypocrisy over prison overcrowding, and still lusting after young ignorant flesh.

What a happy coincidence it was for the first full debate on Iraq since 2004 in the House of Commons to come on the same day as John Reid was forced to go cap in hand to the judges, begging them to only jail serious and persistent offenders due to the crisis created by the government's perpetual crackdowns, spurred on by the tabloids. There was only ever going to be one topic on the mind of the Sun, but even by their standards the coverage given to the debate is utterly derisory and spectacularly dishonest. The article itself is dumped right down at the bottom of the online news page:

PM's rap for Ming over Iraq

TONY Blair dismissed calls yesterday for him to name the day British troops will leave Iraq.

The PM said it would be “disastrous” to set a deadline for withdrawal while killing continues.

He branded Lib Dem chief Sir Menzies ‘Ming’ Campbell “irresponsible” for demanding our forces are home by October 31.

Mr Blair vowed to see through the mission to put Iraq on its feet.

He stormed: “Our troops are there under a United Nations resolution, with full support of the government of Iraq.

“For us to set an arbitrary timetable — saying we will pull them out in October come what may — would send a disastrous signal to the people we are fighting in Iraq.

“Whatever its superficial attractions, it’s deeply irresponsible, which is probably why it’s Liberal Democrat policy.”

Mr Blair hit out after Lib Dems called for a phased withdrawal of our 7,000 troops from May.

Sir Menzies also rapped him for refusing to lead last night’s Iraq debate. But Mr Blair hit back during Question Time saying: “I’m debating the issue NOW.”

And err, that's it. They didn't even bother covering the actual debate, just the preliminary digs during PMQ's. Doing so might have exposed the war the Scum has supported before even Blair did for what it has been: a catastrophe.

Even so, the sophistry displayed here by Blair is glaring. The very policy Labour is currently pursuing is for a phased withdrawal to begin by the Spring - the Lib Dems are simply calling for all troops to leave Iraq by October, instead of being withdrawn to a barracks, an air base or close to the Iranian border, where they'll simply be an even bigger target for jihadists and roadside bombs. It's the very policy which Sir Richard Dannatt urged, calling for troops to leave soon in his interview with the Mail late last year.

Focusing on Campbell's call was the soft option for the Scum, attacking those who dare to differ from their own continuing support for never-ending war, while ignoring the Tories' more nuanced assaults on Blair's spineless response to whichever new initiative Washington announces. Trevor Kavanagh, the former political editor of the Scum also wrote an adulatory ass-kissing piece a couple of days ago about how Israel is ready to "blitz" Iran, marvelling at the same wonderful airborne harbringers of death that last year killed over 1,000 Lebanese civilians:

The Sun can reveal for the first time the astonishing force at Israel’s disposal.

It has 280 of the most sophisticated warplanes in the world — American-built F-16 and F-15 multipurpose jets, capable of flying to Iran and back without refuelling.

They carry at least two 2000lb long-range precision-guided bombs, capable of flying down an airshaft or through a window. Some have rock-blasting warheads which can reach deep underground, where Iran’s nuclear workshops are hidden.

With more pilots per aircraft than any other country in the world, Israel’s jets could be in the air almost 24 hours a day, flying hundreds of sorties over Iran.

Instead the Scum focused on Reid's failings to provide more prison cells:

A MASSIVE hunt was under way last night for Home Secretary John Reid’s BRAIN after his abysmal failure to solve the prisons crisis.

There were fears for the Home Secretary’s sanity after he broke a series of promises to get a grip of the overcrowding fiasco.

Mr Reid had pledged to build more cells, set up prison ships and turn disused Army camps into jails. But, in what could have been a sign of dementia, he has resorted to begging judges to let crooks loose rather than send them to the slammer.

No he didn't. Reid told judges to remember the other options, such as community sentences, except when dealing with serious and persistent offenders, which should be common sense in the first place. That it isn't is due in large part to the Scum's never-ending demands for tougher sentences, which has been shown before to highly influence judge's sentences as a whole rather than just for those who do genuinely need to be locked away both as a deterrent and to protect public safety.

Another article by the Scum's politicial editor goes on:

SWAGGERING John Reid was in the dock last night for a string of broken promises that fuelled the prisons crisis.

The big-talking Home Secretary was blasted for vowing to BUILD 8,000 more jail places, CREATE prison ships and GRAB disused army camps to relieve overcrowding.

But as jails are now so full that convicts are being kept in police cells, Reid has been exposed as delivering absolutely NOTHING.

This is bollocks to begin with, as the Scum only a few days ago praised the fact that a new prison is to open by the spring in Maghull on Merseyside. Still, at least there's one potentially bright spot to come out of this, as the whole situation seems to have led to the Scum dropping their previous support for Reid as Blair's successor:

Last night 152 convicts were being held at police station and court cells as the number “in jail” hovered above 80,000.

The fiasco will smash Reid’s proudly-held reputation as a self-styled tough guy.

Then the Sun blames Reid for not coming through on stupid and ill-thought out solutions which it suggested in the first place:

Reid cockily assured Sun readers in October that he would supply prison ships. He even ordered officials to scour ports looking for disused ferries.

The Home Office said at the time: “The Home Secretary has made it clear he wants to explore innovative solutions. We hope it will see us with extra capacity on floating vessels.”

But night Home Office officials admitted NO ships have been bought.

The Sun naturally ignores the fact that the last prison ship was closed because it had been recommended for closure by Anne Owers, head of the prisons inspectorate:

Her investigation found that the jail was "unacceptably cramped and claustrophobic" with prisoners having "no access to fresh air". The prison healthcare facilities were "very poor" and jobs for inmates were "very limited".

The money necessary to convert an "disused ferry" (ferries are only ever disused once they're utterly clapped out) to anywhere near something acceptable for use as a prison would much better spent towards building new prison space, or refurbishing current accomodation, something which has been cancelled throughout the system as a result of the overcrowding crisis.

The Scum continues:

In November, Reid vowed to open disused Ministry of Defence sites as prisons.

He said at the time: “We are in negotiations with relevant authorities over a number of sites in England and Wales.”

There is still no news of ANY MoD sites in the pipeline.

The Scum then very conveniently forgets both about its own role in suggesting MoD property as possible sites, and about its abrupt reverse ferret over Connaught Barracks, once it realised that families living locally had soliders serving overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seeing as the existing MoD housing for soldiers has recently been condemned, you have to wonder just how bad the out of use accommodation is. It should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain that such a scheme was half-baked and that it was contradictory in the extreme when the Sun has been fuming about the open prisons, being, err, open when that is exactly what the sites would be, but these are Sun hacks we're dealing with. That they were listened to seriously in the first place ought to give an insight into the mindset of John Reid's Home Office: appease the tabloids first, think about realistic solutions second.

Not that this has saved him from the vitriol of today's Scum, the leader of which is foaming at the mouth:

THIS government’s policy towards locking up dangerous criminals can be summed up in two words: promises, promises.

So today The Sun has this message for Labour: we are SICK of your promises. When the hell are you going to DO something?

The prison population has gone up by roughly 25,000 in the last ten years. They seem to have more than fulfilled their promise.

Once again we are faced with letting out offenders early — or not sending them to prison at all — while judges are urged to give more soft community sentences.

And so the Scum continues the cycle. Community sentences are "soft". The public see them as "soft". Judges don't want to be seen as "soft", so they imprison even more offenders. Continue until the end of time.

The Sun does not believe every lawbreaker should go behind bars.

Quite so. The ginger ninja herself might otherwise have found herself in Holloway for assaulting her ex-husband.

But serious offenders deserve time in custody to teach them a lesson and protect the public.

But it's not working, is it? Re-offending rates have gone up from 55% five years ago to 67% now. As much as "teaching them a lesson", it's further teaching those that go in young that there's nothing for them outside.

Home Secretary John Reid and Chancellor Gordon Brown must stop feuding and come up with the plans and money for more prison places.

Including a prison ship. Do you hear that, Home Secretary? A prison ship. Like you promised.

Brilliant idea. Fuck bricks and mortar, just bring on the floating vessels.

Wake up Labour, and put the country first instead of your own careers.

Perhaps Wade ought to follow her own advice and from now on think what's best for this country instead of what Mr Murdoch thinks is best for this country. That doing so would result in her dismissal would be no excuse.

The failure of mass imprisonment to solve the problem of crime could not be more apparent, as today's figures released by both the Home Office and British Crime Survey show. Despite nearly 80,000 being behind bars, the chance of being a victim of crime has risen for the first time in years, up 1%, while personal robbery, fuelled by the carrying of expensive and easily sold-on mobile phones and mp3 players, jumped by 14%. Only a complete reappraisal of what prison is actually for will solve the overcrowding crisis, but it seems that no one is willing to listen, and with the Scum never ceasing to scream, this government is too cowardly to even consider such "radical" proposals as that of the ex-head of the prison and probation service, Martin Narey. The Scum is already reporting the Reid appears to have heeled to Wade's cry for ships and MoD bases to be used.

Elsewhere, the Scum is today yet again advertising the creepy charms of its MyScum MySpace rip-off community by plugging the desperate flesh-flashing of those who don't know any better, written appropriately by Dave Masters (warning: nudity):

Page editor Di James praised the girls' efforts and said it could lead to one of them being spotted by a top agency.

She added: "It's a great way to put yourself in the shop window!"

Indeed. An Amsterdam shop window.

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