Thursday, August 31, 2006

See you tonight at the free speech demo!

I was delighted to get this message from Chris,one of the organisers of the Anti-SOCPA Free Speech demo which is TONIGHT! In Parliament Square. 6pm for one hour.I wanted to share it because, dudes, shucks, YOU made this happen and I you all. Thank you. A lot. Mwah. x
UPDATE: See Mike's photos of the form-filling in! Thanks Mike! Look out for the lady who baked her application form into a cake.

''I just wanted to say thanks so much for pushing the lone protest event. It was a spectacular success and we got over 120 people applying in person and another 50 odd forms by proxy. This is mainly due to your *enthusiastic pushing in your blog. [*IT WAS BECAUSE OF THE EFFORTS OF YOU LOVELY PEOPLE WHO LINKED, EMAILED, FORWARDED AND WENT DOWN THE POLICE STATION A WEEK AGO TO HAND IN YOUR APPLICATION FORMS - RN xx]

I think we also tapped in to the great British desire to complain about things. Incidents of note:

-They had to put on extra staff to cope with the demand but the police were fairly good humoured.

-They refused to accept a form from Billy the dog – even though he had a properly-filled-out form.

-One lady brilliantly filled out her socpa form on a cake with icing. This caused a lot of head scratching but they took the details and filled out a new form. And then we all ate the cake and the cops all had a slice.

-We had a Medium who claimed to be possessed by the spirit of WinstonChurchill, so Churchill handed in a socpa form from beyond the grave.

-A selection of the protest subject matters were: Goth Pride, Owen Hargreaves contract, ban silly political stunts, the fact that the “mind the gap” announcement at Bow road tube is too loud, the lack of hat wearing in public life, Give Warwick castle back to the public, and my friend Tom who wanted to highlight his belief that every time you have a wank a tory dies.

At least 3 people were there to protest against me personally, including my girlfriend.

- They did a live item on London Tonight and Mark [Thomas]did a great interview.

-The Home office response was: "The exclusion zone, which has the full support of the police, is in place for sensible security reasons.” I can’t believe that I share a species with such total idiots.

-Just as the very last person handed in his form a very flustered pensioner turned up in a taxi. She had seen Mark talking about it on the TV and ran down to join in! She was very sweet and brought her pension book for some reason.

BBC news link

All in all one of the most surreal days ever. Next week [i.e:.TONIGHT - RN] will be great.


Yes, it will. Huzzah! I have my form giving me permission to demonstrate ( in fact I got two) but I still haven't had time to make a placard because this week has been mentally busy. I will rummage about and see what can be found in the back of the wardrobe.

Blogging to come... 5 years of The War Against Terror. Goodbye summer. What KCU are doing to deal with tube-fear and raise money for charity. And what John Reid in a letter said about why the CCTV 7/7 bomber footage has not been released. But all that will have to wait til the weekend...

UPDATE : Ever wondered what some of the U.K's most fearsomely incisive political bloggers look like? Do they all have beards? Do they really wear pyjamas 24/7? Wonder no longer, because Justin, Tim from Bloggerheads, D-Notice and Davide will all be there so you can go and see for yourself!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Free Speech demo links

The demo organised by Mark Thomas and supported by many bloggers is pre-reported in The Guardian and the BBC. Huzzah! Makes a change from demos not being reported at all, which is what seems to be happeneing with any anti-war demos.

BBC link & Guardian link.

I had to get my form in earlier, as I was at a music awards ceremony last night and had to meet everyone at 5pm and doors opened at 6pm. It rocked most excellently. And now I have a headache, and a nice phone screensaver of me in a corset, wearing a snake, next to a tattooed man in a cage eating maggots. (Him, not me.) At that point I was still relatively sober. I declined his offer of a snack.

You can still hand your foms in today to join the demo next week. Today is the last day.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Help defend free speech!

Please pass it on. Please, please. Thanks very much. More detail in this post. Right...

A recent damn-fool law has made it illegal to protest anywhere near Parliament without official police permission, and comedian Mark Thomas is organising a stunt to highlight the danger and stupidity of having this law in a democracy.

Please note that taking part in this is 100% LEGAL, and the whole purpose of the stunt is to overload the system by dozens of people all asking for permission to protest all at the same time.

The law: Under section 132 of the
Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 [PDF] it is an offence to organise or take part in a demonstration in a public place within the “designated area” (up to 1 km around parliament) if authorisation has not been given by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.Participants may be subject to a fine of up to £1000 and “organizers” face up to a year in jail. Tsk! Our How stupid is that? As if our jails aren't bursting at the seams as it is without locking up perfectly reasonable people trying to make a democratic point to a la-la-la-can't hear-you Government.

DESIGNATED AREA: Dozens of people have been arrested for not complying with the law even when they are taking part in “Lone Demonstrations” - i.e. if they are one person with a placard.

Many people see this legislation as an assault on our civil liberties and human rights. It’s not always practical to plan a week in advance what government activities you may or may not disagree with. Sometimes a spontaneous response is called for. And surely the most appropriate place to demonstrate against the government’s actions is within the newly “Designated Area”, at the very core of this country’s democratic foundation.

And why is New Labour so concerned about peaceful protestors anyway?If you apply for permission 6 days in advance for a lone protest (ie 1 person) they cannot refuse permission, so in order to highlight the ridiculousness of having to ask for police permission to hold a peaceful demonstration, Mark Thomas is organising a mass lone demonstration evening.

Anyone who wants to demonstrate about any issue can come along, or even if you just want to demonstrate your disgust at having to ask for permission to protest in a supposedly free country. Remember. This will NOT be breaking the law in any way!

In fact the purpose of this is to get as many people as possible complying with a ridiculous law. All at the very same time! Huzzah!

Stage 1 - Decide on your protest! This can be something you feel strongly about or something very silly – it’s up to you. Then you need to fill in the official form (which is very simple) and there is a copy of the form attached. Here you go.

Stage 2 - Meet on Thursday 24th August outside Charing Cross police station any time between: 5.30pm-6pm to hand in your SOCPA forms. The address is Agar Street, London, WC2N 4JP and a map is attached. You have to fill in form and hand it in to the police 1 week before you protest, so everyone has to turn up at the same time to give their forms to>the Police. This will mean if 100 people turn up and apply for permission, then the unfortunate police have to license and approve 100 lone demonstrations. (Yes, I know they have more important things to do. That's the whole point. It's for the long term good that we do this, so they can get on with catching baddies instead of wasting their time with this nonsense.) If you can’t make it to hand the forms in, but want to demonstrate on the 31st, post them to: Ben Stern S2S Suite Z009 Old Truman Brewery 1 Brick Lane London E1 6QL.

Stage 3 - The mass lone demonstrations will be 1 week later on Thursday 31st Augustand will again be at 6:00pm for 1 hour, so this event is open to those with day jobs. Come along! Join in! Exercise your democratic rights! The more people who, come the bigger an impression this will make!


STEP 1 Forward this on to any friends who have a burning issue that they might need to protest about and persuade them to come as well. This is also for anyone who finds it terrible that we have to ask for permission from the Police to peacefully protest outside Parliament.

STEP 2 Print out form

STEP 3 Fill in form with the issue that you wish to protest about.

STEP 4 5.30 - 6pm Thursday 24th August, show up at the same time as other>lone protesters at Charing Cross Police Station.

STEP 5 6pm Thursday 31st August, show up and protest about your personal issue in Parliament Square.

STEP 6 Consider continuing your protest again at a later date.

Again a group session for shy lone protesters will almost certainly be scheduled. Once again this is COMPLETELY LEGAL – in fact we are encouraging as many people as we can to apply the letter of the law simultaneously. Dozens of people have already agreed to do this so don’t worry that you’ll be doing this on your own. See the links below to learn more about SOCPA, the groups it has angered and the people it has affected. This is also likely to be covered by the press. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about this event.

Big shout out from me to Ben, and to Chris Atkins S2S Post The Old Truman Brewery 91 Brick LaneLondon E1 6QLT: +44 20 7053 2190
F: +44 20 7053 2188


Link to this blog -

See you there. And if you link this, I will link you back in a linky love fest of peace and democracy. I may even *buy you a pint.

UPDATE: 12.37PM - OK IT'S LATE, I'M TOTALLY KNACKERED FROM 2 HOURS POLE DANCING BUT I PROMISED...KEEP 'EM COMING...IT'S TIME FOR LINKY LOVE - big thanks to Justin of Chicken Yoghurt fame, Davide from The Netherworld, Rachel-Catherine, Gamba, Devils Kitchen, Nosemonkey, Matt GB, Peaceful Demonstrator ( let me know yr address p.d and I can link...) , A Very Long Way from Anywhere Else, D-Notice, Bloggerheads, The Chaps at The Chap, Tim Worstall , Infinitives Unsplit, urban 75 massive ( some of them) , Pippa of Philippa's Daily News Planet, Bishop Hill, David Goodman , Clairwil , Mother Damnable,
Dirty Dingus, Memespring DavideMark2 , Pub Philosopher The Vol Abroad , Democratic Underground

and Curious Hamster, who's on a bit of a roll at the moment and should be checked out
if you haven't popped in recently.

Late entries: DEMOs thinktank blog , and Boris Johnson's commentators , L'Ombre d'Olivier, Mike Cunningham, N379P, Leighton Cooke and erm, David Icke. Well, there's a mixed bag for you. It should be great fun next week. As well as making a serious point , of course...

What are we all protesting about, by the way, democracy-fans? Let us know in the comments...

UPDATE: Today, Friday 24th is THE LAST DAY to get your form into the police. Off you go...

Wolf! Wolf?

On August 10th Jim Sheridan, a Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Government's defence team resigned his post for honourable reasons. He said it was because Prestwick, a Scottish airport was being used to refuel US jets carrying bombs to Israel, in particular and because he couldn't stand the UK and US government's foreign policy in the Middle East in general.

'' I don't believe they [the values of the UK foreign policy] reflect the core values of the Labour Party or indeed the country." he said. He wasn't alone; more than 130 MPs - half of them Labour - had just written and asked for a recall of Parliament to discuss the Lebanon crisis.

Mr Sheridan said he would support such a move and suggested that a "significant" number of his colleagues regarded the current Middle East policy as flawed.
"I think we are now in danger of embarking on an extremely dangerous strategy and we have to stop the bombing and killing of people on both sides of this conflict," he said.

Parliament was not recalled. Despite protests, despite high level members of Government voicing deep disquiet, nothing happened and nobody spoke out. Meanwhile, Dr. John Reid drastically revised the content of a speech he had been booked to give to think tank Demos, and used it to berate people who opposed the Government's anti-terror tactics: ''they just don't get it'' he said . He then embarked on a ten day headline-grab, where he strong-armed all over Sky News and lo, within 48 hours we were told of planes falling out of the sky, blown to pieces by over a score of Muslims plotting to cause ''unimaginable'' carnage. And hundreds of thousands of holiday makers were left standing in the rain outside heaving airports, miserably inconvenienced but seemingly, unpanicked. Although, after a hysterical media onslaught, some passengers were sufficiently jumpy a week later to notice two Asian men looking at their watches, and report them to the authorities.

I think there was a plot. Whether it was very advanced, and whether it could actually have been carried out, is what I am not so sure about. If Reid was sufficiently aware of the details to make oh-so-presecient speeches slyly referencing it, and to tip off Blair and Bush well in advance, before proceeding to wreck people's holiday plans with their apparent blessing, then why didn't he grind the airports to a halt before? As soon as he knew? If the threat was so terrible, so ''unimaginable''? ( I can imagine 3000 dead quite easily by the way. That's as many died on September 11th five years ago. And as many die in Iraq each month.)

And why unleash all the chaos and extra security measures after the arrests? And if the FBI and other security services were aware of the potential of terrorists to use liquid explosives for years why continue to let people on planes with them? And since the 9/11 hi-jackers were able to use boxcutters (and possibly faked bomb kits) to hijack aircraft, why are people still allowed to board planes with cigarette lighters and heavy glass bottles full of alcohol which presumably they can use to wallop people over the head with and set fire to things with? Why has so much information about the alleged plotters been leaked to the media? We're even told of *martyrdom videos ( *they don't say whether they were actually made by the arrested men and if they featured the men and if they did, whether they intended to martyr themselves by fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq or by attacking passenger planes full of Westerners departing from UK airports.) The Home Office had apparently known of this plot for months. Why now, then? Why?

And...and...and...but it is easy to descend into lunatic conspiracy theories. I think the plotting was real enough, but I also think it has been milked dry for political gain, and by the US as well as the UK administration. You can choose when to pull a plug, and how you pull it, and what you tell people after you have pulled it. And we all sit back and listen, and listen, and go , hmmmmm. Boilerplating?

I think the timing was v-e-r-y interesting. And very bloody handy for the Government and its friends in the US. And I am frustrated that I, someone who was nearly killed by a suicide bomb, and who has always voted Labour, should even be thinking like this.

And I think that this is the big problem; hardly anybody believes anything the Government tells them anymore. Even if they tell them, look, we have saved you from a terrible fate, people just don't trust them to tell the truth.

But the first job of the elected Government is to protect and serve the people, preserve their liberty and security and their freedoms. And when trust has broken down this badly, so that people think they are lying, lying and deceiving, following an agenda that is not even set by the voters and representatives of this country, when people say that our leaders are silent when they should speak out, speaking out when they should be silent, then where the hell are we going?

I expect there are police officers and security officers who have worked their arses off all summer, who are gnashing their teeth that what they are doing to protect people is looked on as over-hyped and over-spun and even called an outright deceit by those who think there is no threat at all. There is a threat, I am sure of it, and I expect more bombs, more atrocities. But the reaction, our reaction to the threat is the one thing that can be controlled. At the moment it doesn't feel very controlled at all, it feels hysterical.

Margaret Thatcher survived a direct bomb strike just before 3am from a 100lb IRA bomb on the hotel where she was holding the Conservative party conference. People were injured, and killed. She requested that the conference continue as planned at 0930the next day and it did. "This attack has failed. All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail" she said.

I was indescribably thrilled when the Thatcher years ended, but she still has my admiration for that sensible, sane reaction that day. I do not remember anyone demonising the IRA as some kind of Elite Evil Army, Unstoppable Satanic Forces of Darkness, a Nexis of Nihilism, an Axis of Evil, an Arc of Extremism, blahblahblah. I thought of them, as many people did, as murderous criminals who occasionally got lucky; vile because they deployed violence against civilians for a political cause.

I think much the same of anyone planning to blow up a plane. But I don't see why I should skulk about, tagged and scanned and cowering and monitored, and have my life made miserable and have my freedoms for which my ancestors fought nibbled away because of the threat said wannabe-criminal youths may or may not pose.

At the end of the day, however overarching and widespread the ideaology, you are dealing with a few people who are determined enough to blow themselves up. Getting it into proportion, that is just one of the risks we run, daily. I can say that now, because I am no longer suffering from full-blown PTSD. I still hate trains, but that is my personal, private, unfortunate reaction to what happened to me. I am sane enough to recognise when I am being sold a bloated, stinking, overhyped pup and when the damage the hype does is ridiculously overstated in comparison to the risk I actually run.

War on Terror? Pfffff. You don't need to have a war on it; you're just giving vicious criminal acts a status that they do not deserve. You're making the loons look cool, FFS. In fact, the evidence seems to suggest that the tactics of the War on Terror are speeding us towards hell in a handcart. Social justice, fair trade, arms trade reduction, democracy, freedom of speech and worship, custodianship of our beautiful, probably unique planet; these are causes I believe in. Histrionics, and million-pound armed action against whole countries which happen to harbour those sick few who plot murder and mayhem, nope.

Well. I hope the alledged plotters get a fair trial, and that it happens soon. How many in the pipeline awaiting trial now? For how many thwarted terrorist plots? Compared to how many arrests? And how much media coverage?

Wolf? It's getting too dark now to see if it is a wolf or not. And there's too much noise to tell if the warning cry is real.

Simultaneous lone demonstration.

Via email. Come on everyone, you know you want to....

MORE INFO HERE ''Mark Thomas is furious about SOCPA ( join the club Mark) and has organised a Lone Demo in Parliament Square whereby as many people as possible apply as individuals to simultaneously demonstrate about anything they like.
The idea is that the police are overloaded with application forms which they have to process and approve, drawing attention to the ridiculous nature of all the red tape and "permissions". We're meeting on Thursday the 24th August at 6pm at Charing Cross PoliceStation to hand in our application forms. People are protesting about all kinds of things from the righteous to the downright silly.

The demo will then take place from 6pm at Parliament Square on Thursday the 31st August. If we can get as many people there as possible it should be really good fun and make a serious and important point. ( And remember, gentle readers, how it was ace fun when we all did it at Christmas, via Bloggerheads carol-singing ruse.)

You can get a SOCPA demo aplication from Mark's website here. If you can't make it, could you spread the word?''

Of course I will. And I will see you there, (with my battered hipflask of whisky at the ready as usual.) Suggestions for what you want to protest about ( as lone individuals, remember) in the comments box.

UPDATE: There's another one, application form handing-in deadline 15th September, demo 22nd September 2006. See you there again!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Flying toilet terror labs...

linking via Justin and everyone else...

a very interesting read.

Hacker puzzle

Time to waste on a Friday? For those who haven't already driven themselves mad playing the hacker game ( it has been doing the rounds of the intraweb for a while) here is an infuriating brain-teaser to try.

I got as far as 22, then had to get help to get the penultimate clue. There was a brief hiatus on 19 as well, then all suddenly became clear. The object is to get to 23, whereupon a granny will dance for you.

If you find yourself admitting defeat, the answers are here ...and remember, google is your friend. Swots can do this in under 10 minutes. It took me about 25 which included mild cheating.

I'll be back blogging properly about politics and life soon, though I'll be visiting my family over the weekend so it might be early next week before anything meaty gets posted.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

UK Air Guitar Championships

"The Purpose of the Air Guitar World Championships is to promote world peace. According to the ideology of the Air Guitar, wars would end and all the bad things would disappear, if all the people in the world played the Air Guitar. This is why the whole universe is invited to play the Air Guitar at the end of the competition..."
''...As the only activity on stage that takes place without rehearsal, props, a voice or anything but the soul borne to the baying crowd, it is the one true test of man. And as the legend has it, a time will come when all will put down the cell-phones which burden them and the weapons that burden others, and pick up their Air Guitars together as one, and a new civilisation will be formed."You can steal our mobile phones, our cars and the shoes on our feet, but you cannot steal something that is invisible."

Yay! How can anyone resist? \o/ \o/ \o/
Friday 1st September 7pm Carling Academy, Islington.
Tickets £8. Airguitar UK website.
See you there, rock-monsters.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Chocs away

The wonderful and lovely Allan, one of the blog readers, has sent me some of his indescribably delicious Green River Chocolates - ( strapline - 'We Make Your Endorphins Dance!').
Thank you Allan. You are a legend.

Readers, if you wish to partake of what are in my opinion THE best chocolates in the world, then I strongly recommend that you get in touch with Allan and place an order. Green River chocolates are based in Vermont but can be shipped abroad and are packed with great care and attention.

I unpacked my box in the office and sliced up a slab of Athens Hazelnut chocolate to share with my colleagues. It was a slab the size of a pat of butter, and contained creamy, almost-fudgey, fragrant mouth-melting Belgian milk chocolate, with just enough vanilla and toasty hazelnut essences to linger satisfyingly and comfortingly like a warm kiss.

My colleagues fell upon it like wolves. And my endorphins danced and kept dancing until my two-hour pole dancing class after work, which almost finished me off after a 3 week break. We sweated like race horses: Nicola has choreographed a routine that is so damn fast and sassy that I think we must all have lost half a stone between us by the end of the class. Trying to shin up a pole, hang upside-down, swing like a fruitbat whilst shaking your head, then slide down and do a cartwheel kick all in 8 bars in a challenge to say the least, especially when full of slices of chocolate.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Harry Farr

Thought for the day.

He fought for his country for 2 years in the Great War. He survived the Somme. He was treated for shell shock, then asked to return to the killing fields. But he could not go on. He was charged with ''cowardice'' by the army and sentenced to death. He asked not to wear a blindfold as he was shot. He was only 25 years old. Now we would - I hope - recognise him as undoubtedly a sufferer of PTSD, then called shell-shock. Today, his daughter - in her nineties - and the grand daughter he never met have heard that Private Harry Farr is to be post-humously pardoned, and it is hoped that 300 more pardons will be issued for men who were killed in similar circumstances.

I am glad that Private Farr's memory has been belatedly honoured. 90 years on, those mentally crippled by the unbearable after-effects of daily bombs, screams, maiming, death, gas, horror have finally had their sacrifice recognised.

I hope that his family find peace and honour and healing after such a long fight. Rest in peace, Private Harry.

They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not wither them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them.
We shall remember them.

Top linkage

I'm not surprised that newspaper columnists are getting jumpy. Holly with another spot-on post. Diamond Geezer gives us the future of travel ( via Tim's latest Britblog round up) , Justin on John Reid: Appeaser and more on Dr Reid from LiberalEngland. Nosemonkey's not playing scaredy-cats and nor's Davide.

Apologies for not replying to all the comments yet from the last 2 posts; I will try to do so in my lunch hour when I can concentrate. First day back at work and was unexpectedly chucked into a video conference then 3 back to back meetings and when I got home, I'm afraid I just scoffed, flumped and watched Hitchcock's The Birds with J instead. The 4am flight and zero sleep on Friday night is catching up with me.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Minding our language

As expected the ''next 9/11'' plot is all over the Sunday papers. What is interesting though is there are some definite attempts by both the right-wing and left-wing media to link foreign policy and domestic policy, and the widespread domestic anger over the foreign wars of the last decade (which have seen thousands of foreign Muslims killed), with the rise of domestic and international extremism. To look at sleeper cells in the UK - and the link with such cells with international terror networks.

It's clearer and clearer that July 7th didn't come ''out of the blue'', the clues and the anger and the links were there for years. Young Muslims grew up with 'The War on Terror' and many saw it as 'The War on Muslims'. Which is exactly what Bin Laden wanted. And now here we all are, reaping the whirlwind.

Unpacking the current situation is not a simplistic matter of Bush = bad and Blair = bad therefore we= targets because of our leader's actions, and if we remove our leaders we wil be safe. There are criminal plotters amongst us dreaming of large-scale death and destruction for political purposes. Trouble is, this idealogy thrives and spreads when glamorised by heroic sweeping language that talks of ''holy wars'' and ''global wars'' and ''Good vs. Evil'' and ''God with us'' and ''Unprecedented Enemy''. Who uses this language?

Both sides. We do and they do. It's stupid, and it's dangerous and it's hopeless.

There is nothing ''heroic'' or ''holy'' about looking into the faces of holiday-makers or commuters and letting off a bomb. There is nothing righteous or justified about bombing Lebanese people's houses and schools or driving tanks through Palestinian farmers' olive groves. Nor in shooting rockets into Israeli streets and suburbs. These actions are wicked and wrong, they stink in the nostrils of God, they make you want to weep.

Yes, and it makes many people impotent with rage just to witness them on TV. Anger, hurt, heat rises, and the cries of those calling for retaliation and revenge grow shriller, and louder and the bellicose rhetoric of politicians fills the airwaves, and drowns out the quieter screams and sobs of the injured and bereaved. Somewhere in the middle of this, the voices of the ordinary people who just want it all to stop, are drowned out.

The woman who wishes she could still gossip and drink tea with her neighbour, the man who just wants to get the bus to work in peace, the children who no longer have anywhere to play safely.

Has anyone asked people who have been bombed if they want endless revenge and escalating retaliation? I have, many times, and what I keep hearing, not just from 7/7 victims, but from a Jewish man who survived a suicide bomber, from a Palestinian family, from Gareth, a college friend who worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres in Iraq for 6 months was, we just want it to stop.

We just want it to stop.

And one of the ways to make it stop, or to dampen it down at least, is to draw together in common humanity, and marginalise and isolate the atrocities committed on both sides by naming them for what they are. Criminal. Unfair. Unjust. Inhumane. Wrong. Don't wrap wicked acts up in the banner of nationalism, or a holy war against evil faceless masses, don't use false rhetoric to justify the unjustifiable. The extremists will be there on both sides, still, but they will be seen for what they are. Nihilistic, misguided, murderous, power-mad, futile, not speaking for you, for me, but common criminals to be shunned and put away.

There will still be wars, but wars are wars, and criminals are criminals; and crimes against humanity are different to fighting between paid soldiers and civilians are not soldiers and they are not legitimate targets under the rules of engagement. At the moment, we appear to turn a blind eye to the bombing and maiming of civilians in foreign wars. Lebanon. Iraq. Afghanistan. Elsewhere. As if their ordinary lives are of less account.

So now our civilians are soft targets for people who have no armies, no rules of engagement, but only volunteers to step forward to blow themselves to pieces, enraged and inflamed by a merciless idealogy that points at our language and our actions and uses them to legitimise its own.

I refuse to call this a war. I don't call this an apocalypse either. I'm not buying the rhetoric, not drinking up the official line, the official Fear. I call this murderous hateful criminal killing and maiming of ordinary innocent people. We've got more power than those who want to attack us, so we have more responsibility to behave better, and not to fan the flames with language that is deployed to harden hearts and safeguard careers and justify the unjustifiable.

Update: Have a read - What Muslims want ( Review of Jon Snow documentary which I wish I 'd seen) over at Forceful & Moderate.

Update 2: Hmmmmm. Hat-tip, Justin.

Update 3: Slightly edited this post to make it clearer that I was pointing out appalling acts such as deliberate targeting of civilians by Hizbollah and Israel: I'm not taking sides here. I can't, when bombs are involved.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Back again

Back from Turkey having completely changed colour. Body darker, hair lighter, face rainbowed blue purple greeny-yellow (with freckles) due to a thumping black eye after being smashed on the head and rolled by a bizarre series of freak waves. Yes, in the Med. J was scraped and flipped over as well, but as he is 6'2 and I am 5'6 I came off worse. Went to hospital in ambulance with suspected fractured skull and broken shoulder having staggered bleeding from the surf as Turkish and English people on the beach rushed towards me like a scene from international Baywatch but all is well, just a lot of cuts and bruises and swelling. I am clearly quite hard to kill. And I still have five lives left.

Anyway,Turkey was great, chilled out, ate a lot of fish, and it was wonderful to see people I love. Back to find The War Against Terror ( T.W.A.T) has gone up several gears. Which is handy for the papers who were struggling to fill pages with with Big Brother evictees, Colleen's holiday stomach, why Pauline Fowler REALLY left Eastenders, and erm, the thousands disposessed and hurt/killed by bombs in the Middle East. Handy too, for Dr. John Reid , who gets to make a series of jaw-jutting announcements and shorten the odds on his being the PM's annointed successor by appearing on Sky every 3 minutes, whilst Blair in Barbados fiddles with copyright law issues for elderly popstar landlords and Cherie, presumably, burns.

The funny thing is, that liquid explosives are nothing new and if airport security have only just cottoned onto this, despite 9/11, then I'm duly flabbergasted. I'm also a bit surprised by all the new passenger security demands ( everything in clear plastic bags, no hand luggage, no Irn-bru/hair-gel/i-pods etc, which begs the question as to how on earth we are supposed to amuse ourselves if we can't burp our way through sinister-tasting pop/sculpt interesting quiffs/listen to M-People tracks whilst airborne. And I don't envy parents trying to amuse their nippers with a credit card, bunch of keys and packet of tampons for the duration of a transatlantic flight). It seems a tad..over-dramatic.

Before I flew to Turkey, well before this Top Breaking Terror News Terror Plot Foiled Terror Alert, all my luggage was x-rayed, twice, and my hand luggage was manually searched, and dusted for explosives. A chatty man waved a little wand thing over every product in my make up bag, after having a good rummage through my handbag. I was very interested in what he was up to. He explained that he was looking for explosive traces, and that ''some ingredients in ladies' makeup can produce an explosive reading''. (Perhaps the terrorists can learn from this and produce some killer combinations of ''blush explosion'' and ''full-blast mascara'' which when combined produces suitably dramatic effects. I think The Joker tried something similar in one of the Batman films). Anyway, the point being that security seemed pretty on the ball already. All these doom-mongering headlines remind me of the tanks at Heathrow business, ( what happened to that story?) and the timing just...well.. awfully convenient as Blair's inability to get a Lebanon/Israel ceasefire - despite ostentatiously delaying his holiday - and the Labour split as the refusal to condemn Israel's actions as disproportionnate ( you're telling me) whilst horrific reports come in each day from Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon have been engulfing the Government in yet more unwanted headlines.

Coming back from Turkey today on a 3am flight, 48 hours after after the Bottle Bombers Terror Plot Foiled Drama (TM) , I was able to carry hand luggage, ( which was x-rayed twice in Turkey) water for the journey, books, duty-free whisky and moisuriser - and still whizzed through customs in the UK having only been delayed an hour in take off. I had visions of having to camp on airport floors for days and being strip-searched and my luggage rifled whilst tens of thousands of travellers gnawed plastic sandwiches and quietened screaming toddlers around me. But it was all fine.

I'm glad that what appears to be a wicked criminal plot to cause a horrific-but-nonetheless- entirely-imaginable 4000 casualties has been thwarted. Well done to the alleged plot-foilers. I object, however, to puff-chested clench-jawed hardbitten soundbitten rubbish about ''the new and deadly threat'' from ''evil people'' who ''hate our freedoms'' and the need for more and more civil-liberty-busting measures being spouted at what politicians seem to think is a cringing, huddled population. I haven't seen anyone panicking. Despite the chuntering about ''a threat greater than Hitler'' and ''unimaginable casualties''.

This is not a war, it's a nihilstic misognistic macho stupid death-cult idea that attracts the adolescently angry intent on causing vicious criminal acts for political purpose, and it is unfortunately aided in its propoganda and recruitment by the results of a manifestly unfair UK/US foreign policy and bellicose rhetoric that fans the flames of extremist anger.

And we can all deal with it best by keeping calm. As pretty much everyone seems to be doing, bar some politicians and pundits. Who have a vested interest in reminding us that The Sky Is Falling Best Listen To Me

Matthew Parris on the money. And Holly does a great write-up of a meeting with one of the chief benificiaries of the current situation, saving me the trouble ( passport dramas prevented it before I left the UK).

And now I must go to bed, it has been a very long 24 hours with no sleep. Miff is even fatter than when I went away, she is asleep on the desk and J is asleep on the sofa. I need to crash too. But it is good to be back. How is everyone?