Saturday, June 30, 2007

Terror threat level: Hysterical?

Ha ha. Ha. Meh.

*Sigh* And what does this do...

UK Terror Alert Critical: Attack Imminent

apart from just scare us all even more?

( Rhetorical question)
And it keeps raining. And raining. Rubbish. I'm fed up. I'm staying in with Life on Mars 2 and pizza.
UPDATE: 'Re. terror alerts 'If it moves to critical, you should worry," commented a senior Whitehall source''.
( source: BBC report when the new 5-level system was introduced, in August 2006)
Oh for heaven's sake. We ''should worry''. That's the suggestion is it? The official advice is: to be afraid and stay afraid? And what pray, does being told ''to worry'' do to help aid the fight against terrorism? Terrorism being of course designed to worry, nay, terrify and terrorise people, using terror: the state of being afraid?
Very clever. Almost as smart as the terrorists, who have also only managed to hurt themselves so far ( Al-Qaeystone?)
"We will not allow anyone to undermine our British way of life." said Gordon Brown)
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the British public would not be "intimidated or let anyone stop us getting on with our lives".
What is the ''critical - attack imminent'' stuff then, if not intimidating, and likely to make people anxious and therefore stop them getting on with their lives? I can see why they thought it sounded like a good idea, well-meaningly, when it was wheeled out last year - but like most of the new anti-terror intitiatives, all it does is sound scary and ramp up the fear without actually doing anything practical to tackle the situation. The UK terror alert system is a complete own goal. It hurts us, not those who attack us. We didn't have this during the IRA campaign or during the Blitz, so I don't see why turning the adrenalin dial up to eleven is going to help now. We can all see the news, thank you. We don't need to have our strings pulled like this.



One hell of a blog post, in all senses of the phrase 'one hell of'.


Glasgow airport & London car bombs -Terrorists: 0

As The Register points out, and several kind people have just emailed me to say, this week's *terrorism incidents have displayed a staggering lack of competence.

'' Yes, it could have been a real horror. Only, the device could not have detonated. Not under any circumstances. You see, the terrorist wannabe clown who built it left out a crucial element: an oxidiser. The device was pure pre-teen boy fantasy.
"We'll heat up these propane cylinders with burning petrol, and they'll go off like bombs", boys the world over have remarked with glee. They don't realise that air is a poor oxidiser, and the only "explosion" they will get is when gas pressure inside the cylinders is great enough to burst them. Then the propane will ignite, and a nice fireball will blossom. A fireball, not an explosion.
Oh, the Piccadilly fireball would have blown the car's windows out, and popped its doors open, and sent various bits like mirrors and so forth into the air at velocities possibly fatal to people nearby. It would have looked really cool, that's for sure. But an explosive event...a detonation? Not in a million years. Sorry lads: you failed car bombing 101; you did not attend a single lecture; you did not even open the textbook''

( Beavis & Butthead in London jihad)

Which is encouraging, at least as a thought. Cottage-industry terrorism, by under-achievers who are too clueless to do the maths/science stuff about fuel bombs, and who can't drive without crashing into bins, - or who are so Darwinian-Award dim that they set themselves on fire before throwing the Molotov cocktail is clearly preferable to highly-trained steely-eyed holy warriors battling away in an epic global struggle. The 21/7 lot got the chemistry mix wrong too, it seems. The intention may well be the there, but the expertise...nah. Anxiety to amusement, up, down, up, down, it's an emotional rollercoaster today.

Meanwhile the effects of the rainy weather have now killed eight people, and thousands are unable to go home or work because of flood damage to homes and businesses.

*I'm classing Glasgow airport fire-jeep farrago as ''terrorism''. It doesn't appear to have been an accident, and the intention seems to have been to frighten people, so ''terrorism'' it is. Crap terrorism.


Blazing car at Glasgow airport: two arrested

This week is getting madder and madder ( BBC). I don't know if this latest story of a burning car being apparently driven into Glasgow airport was supposed to be a terrorist attack, or what the hell it was supposed to be. Eye witnesses say the car did not explode, but it seemed to be driven into the airport, at high speed, deliberately, whilst on fire.

I am getting quite freaked out by all this. I now think there is likely to be a terror attack on the 7/7 anniversary nest week; in fact I think we are going to get a whole week of wierdness. I'm particularly worried about Live Earth at Wembley on 7/7/07. Loads of happy people, crammed together, televised live international event, famous landmark, decadent Western music, etc. I don't know what might happen, and I feel anxious. Of course that is exactly the point. General Sense of Impending Doom Time. You don't have to kill and maim people to terrorise them. However, today the West End seems as almost busy as usual, with torrential rain doing more to put people off shopping than the threat of car bombs. I am not changing my plans for next week, or next weekend.I'm chalking the jitters up to pre-anniversary panic and - well, what's the point in playing guessing games?

At Glasgow airport members of the public rushed to help, as they always do. As well as members of the public being 'citizen journalists', calling through eye witness reports and filming the event on mobiles, one man, Stephen Clarkson says he knocked the fleeing car driver down, so police could jump on him, meanwhile taxi driver Ian Crosby, who had served in Northern Ireland shepherded people away from the scene in case of a secondary explosion or a nail-bomb. The news reports that police wrestled with two men who had been in the car, one of whom was badly burned and had apparently doused himself with petrol after leaving the burning vehicle, and the men have now been arrested and taken away.

Nobody killed. Good. Let's hope things stay that way. Enough drama for one week.


'My brother the bomber'

I have read a lot on terrorism over the last two years, trying to understand. This month's Prospect magazine was a goldmine of thoughtful articles. The lead article is one of the best pieces of investigative journalism and analysis on 7/7 that I have read. It's by BBC journalist Shiv Malik, who spent months in Beeston researching a programme about the 7/7 bombers that in the end was never shown. Interviewing lead bomber Siddique Khan's taxi-driver brother over several months, and looking at the social context of where three of the bombers came from, he paints a picture of lead bomber Mohammed Siddique Khan's gradual radicalisation over several years, that concerned the community 'Sid' came from, but which was not reported or challenged, because of the divisions and fears within the community.
But does Shiv Malik read too much into one case study? Yahya Birt , national director of City Circle thinks so. City Circle is a group which seeks to 'promote the development of a distinct British Muslim identity; to assist the process of community cohesion and integration by building bilateral strategic alliances between Muslim and non-Muslim communities; and to harness and channel the skills and resources of Muslim professionals into practical projects thereby facilitating and empowering young Muslim women and men to ‘put back in’ to the wider British community'
Birt writes in the same issue that arranged marriages and identity crises are not the drivers of extremism, which is what Malik article says, and that ' it is only the extremists who argue for absolute choices between Islam and the west'. He writes that 'Islamic revivalism in Britain is maturing'. Which is good news, and what City Circle does, looking for common ground, working with, for example, the anti-war movement is a positive example of an engaged, socially responsible British Muslim movement. With an empowered sense of community, British Muslims at ease with their 'Muslim-ness' and the Britishness are far less likely to turn to extremism, whether to ease alienation or to assuage political anger.
People who feel valued and appreciated and confident and useful and fulfilled are less likely to turn to violence, whatever race or religion they are. That has always seemed obvious to me.
But violent murderous extremism does exist. (Not just amongst Muslims, obviously - but that is what I am specifically writing about here , I hope that readers see that I am trying to understand , yet again, why 4 British Muslims committed the 7/7 atrocities, something that I have been grappling with for 2 years and which, this weekend, as we approach the anniversary, as car bombs are found in London and as we await the verdict of the 21/7 bombers, feels particularly timely).
And not everyone is so enlightened and engaged, or looking for ways to channel their energies into useful community work as the men and women who attend City Circle meetings. The question remains as to what to do about the dangerous minority fringe in Britain, with their binarised mindset and cult-like devotion to a toxic, action-heavy, theology-lite political Islamism,unfortunately fuelled by the daily diet of global sufferings of the Ummah, seen on the 24-hour news.
How can the problem be tackled, the ideas refuted, the hearts softened and minds changed, the bombs defused and put aside? Killing yourself and others like this is un-Islamic. It is inhuman. It is just wrong, by any moral code, anywhere. It is particularly abhorrent that a Holy Book, the Qu'ran should be misused in this way to justify criminal activity. (Although it won't be the first time that terror and political power have worn the clothes of religion, as a quick glance through the history of Europe, or anywhere else in the world will tell you).
Ethical foreign policies, greater integration, greater social opportunities, a sense of empowerment and engagement with the political process, a general tolerant acceptance that 'Britishness' does not mean you have to be white, or go to the pub or follow football...yes, all this could help with the sense of aggrieved victimhood and the egotistical lack of empathy towards an ever-widening circle of non-believers that marks out the young British fundementalist extremist's route to becoming a bomber. (A public inqiry into 7/7 and withdrawal from Iraq would help lance several festering boils too.)
But nothing and nobody stopped the young man filling the Mercedes with gas canisters and nails and driving it into London this week. Denouncing or informing on him as someone planning murder and mayhem might have stopped it though. And to speak out against him, whether he is your brother, your co-religionist, your friend or colleague or no - would not be 'traitorous'.
Not to speak out is traitorous. I don't care what race or religion you are, if you are planning to murder and maim people, of all or any race or religion, then you are a dangerous criminal and I hope that you are caught and punished. And if you know your brother - or friend or acquaintance - is an extremist nursing dreams of violence, then you are a coward and a traitor for not trying to stop him carrying out his plans, and you should be ashamed.
Race or religion and politics has nothing to do with it and is no excuse for it: it's a simple matter of preventing people from being hurt or killed. Let me be clear, before people who have not read what I write properly throw the usual race-hate/faith-hate crap at me. I do not seek to blame the 'Muslim community' for the actions of violent extremists on the fringe, any more than I blame 'the vegetarian community' for the actions of people in the Animal Liberation Front. I just condemn people who bomb other people, end of.
But I do feel angry, when I read Malik's essay, about how many people knew or guessed that 'Sid' was an extremist jihadi, and that there were other young men like him in Beeston and Leeds. 'It's just that no-one expected them to actually do anything'.
Well, that comfort blanket sop to the conscience has gone now.
I am sure that the debate is indeed 'maturing', and that young British Muslims in droves are continuing to dismiss the misogynistic, blinkered millenial angst that drew 'Sid' and his followers to their deaths; the toxic group-think that warped them into carrying out their murderous plot.
It is hard to understand how anyone would be drawn into such behaviour - but then again, as Michael Bond writes in the third article from the June Prospect,' Psychology of Bombers', we forget how suggestible we humans all are. And how group-think and behaviour can see us behaving in a way we do not normally contemplate as individuals. The famous 1971 prison guard psychological experiment showed us that much, as did Guantanamo and Auschwitz and the behaviour of people in war.
First World War soldiers following their leaders out of the trenches 'over the top' into suicidal gunfire and falling bombs and barbed wire, 'for King and country' were not so very different in body-chemistry or mindset, I suppose, to the young men hugging each other before stepping onto the public transport system with backpacks full of explosives two years ago. The difference was in what they believed, what they did and why they did it. The suicide bomber claims he does it 'for his people and his God', but really he does it for himself; post-humous celebrity and instant martyrdom. Death and glory. The soldiers running out of the trenches knew no-one would ever remember their names, there was no glory, but their families would grow up in a land that was free, and that was worth dying for.
The tragedy and the worry is that the 7/7 bombers, selfish and violent as their deaths might have been, were not abnormal; they were British, they were human like us, they lived and married and moved and worked among us. They had brothers and sisters and families. It was their actions that were inhuman. Any of us could have talked of 'my brother the bomber', in different circumstances. To deny the bombers' humanity does not solve the problem. The question remains: why?
Kishwer Falkwer, meanwhile, who is the Lib Dem spokesman for communities and local government in the House of Lords writes the final article in Prospect, 'Why Siddique?' arguing that becoming a jihadi bomber is not based on an identity crisis, its political. And round and round we go. Trying to understand.
It's both personal and political, I say. (These days, the personal is the political, more often than you think.) But it is more than that: it is about being alive as a human being. It's about what you understand by your own, and other people's humanity. Whether you prize one group and their aims above another, whether you think blood is a price worth paying for your beliefs. Your blood, or other people's blood. It all starts and ends with the amount of empathy and compassion you have, for yourself, for other people, even if they are different to you.
It's not about being 'Muslim', or 'British', or 'political', or any other label. It's about being human.
Somewhere along the way, 'Sid's' focus narrowed, so he forgot his family, his friends, his fellow-humans, seeing only his 'brothers', and everyone else as 'kuffr'. Because of the narrow grooves his extremist thinking ran along, he shed his empathy, his humanity, and was finally able to look into the eyes of fellow-passengers and detonate a bomb as he did so.
The political became so personal, or the personal so political, that he forgot he was a person who lived amongst people and was no different to his brothers and sisters, no better than them.
He's not the first person to do that, and he won't be the last.
UPDATE: The extremist teachings behind 'jihadi' violence critically assessed by a contemporary Muslim scholar, Shaykh 'AbdulMaalik ar-Ramadani al-Jaza'iri, in the book Talkis al-'Ibad min Wahshiyyat Ab'il-Qataad aladhi yu'du ila Qatli'n-Nisa wa Awlad (Jeddah: Maktabah Asalah al-Athariyyah, 1422AH).The Savage Barbarism of Abu Qatada. ( PDF)
UPDATE 2: Geoff Coupe has pointed me in the direction of the article about the anthropologist Mary Douglas, in Prospect June, which he says ''is particularly apposite. Her theory of 'enclaves' protected by a 'wall of virtue', rings very true.'' Thank you Geoff.

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Talking of 'news'....

Well done that woman. Round of applause for MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski who refused to lead on the Paris Hilton story, attempting to set fire to the script, then shredding it in protest. Hurrah for journalistic integrity. Her co-presenters then proceed to act like boorish idiots,('why are you such a journalist?') which makes her look even more ace by comparison, particularly when she says 'I am about to snap', and 'I'm going to do the NEWS now'. Yay!


Bad news day

A gloomy day, as rain continues to pour down, affecting thousands of poor flooded people in the North and Midlands

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said so far 27,000 homes and 5,000 businesses had been affected across the country and that clean-up costs could reach £1bn. ( BBC)

and five poor souls dead.

Meanwhile, there is much to be thankful for as we find out that there were two car bombs, but their contents did not explode. Well done to the London Ambulance Service and the members of the public who spotted the car's contents. Via Iain, it seems that ABC news are reporting that the police have a crystal clear picture of the suspect outside Tiger Tiger, though the understandably-cautious BBC are reporting it as 'unconfirmed'.

From ABC 'Blotter' Blog

''... officials tell the Blotter on he bears "a close resemblance" to a man arrested by police in connection with another bomb plot but released for lack of evidence.
Officials say the suspect had been taken into custody in connection with the case of al Qaeda operative Dhiren Barot, who was convicted of orchestrating a vehicle bomb plot involving targets in London, New York, Newark, N.J. and Washington, D.C.
Officials say a surveillance camera caught the suspect "staggering from the Mercedes" shortly after parking it outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub...

...The car contained five or six propane and butane gas cylinders as well as 33 gallons of gasoline, all rigged to detonate with calls to two cell phones. Officials say the cell phones failed to initiate the explosions, even after each phone had been called twice. ''

Dhiren Barot's plans included 'gas limos' . At his trial, Edmund Lawson QC, for the Crown said Barot travelled to Pakistan in early 2004 to present the plans for the Gas Limos Project for "approval and funding".

"The principal attack involved packing three limousines with gas cylinders, explosives, shrapnel and the like and then detonating the devices in underground car parks," Mr Lawson said.He added that documents were found which referred to the reconnaissance of London hotels and mainline railway stations, although there was nothing to say that those were due to be the intended targets.( Sky)

Not the best start to the weekend.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Bomb in London

I'm really trying not to get into a flap about this, although I had a jolt when I saw the news ticker about BOMB IN LONDON. News 24 is obsessed with the story, with breathelss reportage of taped-off streets but as we don't know much there seems to be little point speculating about it until we do. Groucho, a poster on urban 75 website has it about right...

''A most likely 'home grown terrorist' bottled it today when a large, or a small, car bomb or potential car bomb, or a car containing gas cylinders and petrol, that might have also contained nails and perhaps a detonator was most likely left by international terrorist elements most probably from Iraq or Birmingham.

Police foiled the attack that might have claimed hundreds of lives, or might have injured passers by, when ambulance workers saw smoke inside the car, that was actually vapour from the petrol, after the car was erratically driven and the driver ran off having either bottled it or left it to go off with a mighty or a smallish bang targeting club goers or on its way to a bigger target.

The car was driven by a suicide bomber who changed his mind when the device failed to go off, or after he crashed the car, having intended to park the car and escape before the potential device or actual device exploded. Carnage was averted as forensic experts, discovering 'what appeared to be a potentially viable explosive device' carried out a controlled explosion manually taking apart the device without needing to blow it up thus leaving vital forensic evidence that may or may not have included nails and a detonator, intact.

So that clears that up!''

I 've had a fair few anxious emails today from people affected by July 7 bombings, with the anniversary coming up, the weather the same as two years ago, it's not a great time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

And finally....

c/o Tim. Hope you enjoyed the pints

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Chicken Yoghurt on Blair

This is fab.
Off to the Red Lion now with Bloggerheads & other political blogger mates to toast Blair's departure. Am quite excited about Gordon Brown. Have worked like a dog for three days flat and I need a pint now.

UPDATE: Couldn't make the bloggers celebratory pintage after all. Phone rang all afternoon, then found it was 5.10pm. And the drinks end at 6pm. Boo.

Good bye Tony Blair

Goodbye Tony Blair.
Though I never met you at all
You had the nous to save yourself
While those around you fall.
The sleaze it swilled around you
But it never touched your toes.
Through it all you held your nerve
And smiled through hammer-blows.

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a showman on the stage
Always knowing who play to
Always facing down the rage.
And I would like to still believe you
Like I did ten years ago.
Your candle may have burned out
But you went on with the show.

‘Prime Minister’ was tough
The toughest role you ever played.
Washington created a superstar.
Blood was the price we paid.
Even as the thousands died
And the press all hounded you
All the spinning had to say
Was you 'believed' in what you do.

Goodbye Tony Blair
From the people that you served.
You were someone less than promised
But perhaps all that we deserved

with apologies to Elton John

PS. If you like that, try older posts How Mad is Tony Blair? and The Rules of the Game Have Changed for more subversive doggrel. And spelling of 'nous' changed on advisement

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Blog rating

Online Dating

(Because I mention death, limbs and abortion, apparently).

Find out what your blog rating is here

Guess the Cabinet

Oh, go on then, time for a wild guess or ten...

Prime minister Gordon Brown
Deputy leader and leader of the house Harriet Harman
Chancellor Alistair Darling
Foreign Office David Miliband
Home Office John Denham
Justice Minister Alan Johnson
Lord chancellor Jack Straw
Trade and industry Des Browne
Health Caroline Flint
Environment Hilary Benn
Northern Ireland Ed Miliband
Wales Kim Howells
Leader of the Lords Lord Kinnock
Education Yvette Cooper
Communities Dawn Primarolo
Work and pensions Douglas Alexander
Defence Stephen Timms
Transport Ruth Kelly
Culture Geoff Hoon
Cabinet office minister Andy Burnham
Chief whip Nick Brown
Chief secretary to the Treasury John Healey

What do you reckon?


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Silver Ring Sting

Excellent piece of investigative journalism from blogger Unity at Ministry of Truth


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Scratch that - good news

Like a muppet, I just lamented that there was not much happening. Then I got the Sunday Times and saw some really good news on the front page: Brown to allow Iraq protests!

After corking movie Taking Liberties, the Lone Mass Demonstrations, the Illegal Carol Services, Milan and Maya's attempts to read out the names of the Iraq dead by the Cenotaph, and many other determined attempts to point out that the SOCPA laws which prevented peaceful assembly to protest spontaneously outside the seat of democracy were rubbish and insulting to the voters of this country, we seem to have got somewhere at last.

Although it seems C4 viewers Most Inspiring Political Figure of 2007, Brian Haw and his peace camp is still looked upon askance and it seems that nervous nellies in the Commons need to barricade themselves in lest someone waves a placard too menacingly and goes off on one. ( They should try using public transport like the rest of us if they want a daily scare about who's fizzing with anger so much that they are in danger of self-detonating). Anyway, we read that...

''The restored right to protest outside parliament will be combined with plans to bolster the protection of the Palace of Westminster and key ministries and government buildings along Whitehall. The Sunday Times has seen a memo from Sir Richard Mottram, chairman of the joint intelligence committee, outlining plans to erect barriers, walls, balustrades and bollards around Parliament Square.

Brown believes the right of the public to protest and demonstrate is crucial to democracy, although he is said to be aware of MPs’ concerns that previous noisy demonstrations in Parliament Square have caused an eyesore and distracted workers in nearby buildings. ''

There are also interesting rumours about an inquiry into Iraq, and I am hopeful, after Brown's criticisms of the ISC whose 7/7 report was full of errors and holes, that we might be getting closer to an independent inquiry into 7/7 as well.

If so I will be absolutely overjoyed. I am crossing my fingers about Mr. Brown and am getting quite excited about what he might change for the better. It is very good to have some hope instead of endless cynical anger bordering on despair after all the disappointments of the Blair administration.

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Is it just me or...? there bobbins-all to wrote about at the moment? Especially in politics.
I think I will take a short break. I feel rather uninspired.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Reflections on The Hendo's blog

There have been a lot of yellow police signs asking the public for information around where I live recently. Stabbings, mostly, assaults, the occasional shooting. The latest one at the end of my road is for a fatal accident; a lorry hit a woman who was crossing the road. The shopkeeper whom I am mates with said it was terrible, but the only thing he took out of it that was positive was that at least it was an accident, not a murder, for a change.
Meanwhile, 21st century life in South London can be scary. Hendo writes in his blog, 'Reflections of The Hendo' about an alarming incident where a young man banged on his door asking for help. He had just been relieved of his keys, PIN, address, bank details by three men who held a knife to his throat and a gun to his head. The police, thankfully, turned up within minutes
Reading around on Hendo's blog, looking for happier news, I discovered these wonderful reviews by the British public of Katie 'Jordan' Price and Peter Andre's album, which I am grateful to Hendo for pointing out to me.
Which in turn reminds me of this 90's flowchart that I laughed at yesterday, c/o a poster on urban 75. (Urban 75 is how I know Hendo.) Anyway, after commenting yesterday about the mugging, I was surprised to find out that Hendo had never had a comment before, so if anyone wants to go and comment on his blog, I'm sure he'd be chuffed.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

My book in my hands

I have got some early copies of Out of the Tunnel. They were meant to arrive on Monday so I have been feeling like a cat on hot bricks all week. The parcel arrived ten minutes ago from Pan MacMillan. I opened it, feeling like I was going to be sick. My hands were shaking. They still are.

I can't actually bear to read it. I flipped through quickly, to make sure that the last-minute subbing errors had been changed, and the dedications page was ok. I sniffed it, smelling the new paper smell. I ran my fingers over the title. I looked at the cover, and felt extremely wierd about seeing my face on it. I put a copy on the bookshelf, (between Barbara Trapido and DBC Pierre!), so I could see what it looked like next to other books. It looks ok: 280 pages, reasonable size ( I don't buy books that are really slim, it seems like a waste of money if I can read it in an hour but my book looked quite chunky). I phoned J, and explained that I felt like throwing up. He thought I was mad. I emailed the publishers and thanked them. I emailed Fergal Keane, who got me into this writing lark in the first place. My sister called and I explained, and she said she was looking forward to reading it.

'I don't read many books, but I'll read your one.'

' Well, you are in it.'

'Am I? Eeek.'

I am about to phone Mum and Dad, but Mum is at the doctors and I am worrying about her.

Now I am sitting here, feeling very odd indeed. I don't know what to do next. Any suggestions?

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I have finally got round to having a Facebook account. I had no idea how it worked before, but when I joined two days ago it asked me if I would like to invite people in my email contact list to be my friends. So I did, and now I have 118 friends! It is a very handy way of keeping in touch with people who don't blog, but I will have to watch that I don't fall into the Facebook black hole and spend hours and hours on there...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Good luck Milly

Writer Milly is grimly battling her previous mega-employer in a constructive dismissal case, so if anyone has any kind thoughts or wise words for Milly in this situation, please pop over and leave a comment on her Yorkshire Pudding Club blog

A reader writes...

My book, Out of the Tunnel, will be out soon, in the second week of July. Proofs have been sent out to newspapers and magazines by the publishers, in the hope of it being covered or reviewed. Interviews have been pitched. All authors are expected to do publicity for their books, and I am no exception. It is part of the contract that you sign. You have to 'push' it. There are thousands of books published every year. Only a small percentage are 'successful'. 'Success' criteria being debatable in these days of store-driven discounts and multi-buys and the collapse of the net book agreement. You don't just have to tell it, you have to sell it, nowadays. Margins are too tight for talent or skill alone to see you through. It's a hard-nosed, cut-throat, high-pressure business. But you can take cynicism too far...

I discovered that some people were saying recently on a few websites and blogs that they thought the whole cyberstalker thing was a 'PR stunt to sell the book'. I didn't bother to argue, after I saw the accusation posted more than once, ( what is the point of arguing with people who think like this?) but for the record, no, it is hardly sensible to try and PR something that has not been printed, or to try to sell something that cannot be found on the shelves. A decade in advertising did teach me that much.

In fact, all the attendant hoo-ha over FJL was a real problem from the point of view of the book launch: the publishers would have much preferred the story, and me, not to be in the news at all, as it was seen as being very risky in terms of the book PR they were planning which is to start when the book is actually available. (Next month, not now.) I am still slightly staggered that a few people actually seem to think that I got harrassed for a year in order to sell a book that, at the time of the harassment starting, back in spring 2006, was not even conceived of, let alone written. Or the idea that I perhaps deliberately arranged to be attacked, bombed and then stalked in order to 'become famous'. Yeah, right. Hmmm...*I failed the Big Brother auditions in 2001, so I thought, what can I do for my next bid for attention...? I know, I'll get attacked by nutters...
* I didn't audition. Obviously. But sometimes I wonder if I have to spell this out.

The CPS and police made the decision to prosecute way back last year because the damn woman was harassing me and it kept escalating and she wouldn't stop, not even after being ignored, arrested, warned, and it was frankly scary...(And no. I didn't 'use it as material'. It is not in the book. Argh.)

I know why I wrote Out of the Tunnel. I wrote it because I was asked to write it. I wrote it because when I had PTSD the first time around, after the rape, I was frantic and desperate to find out what was happening to me, and to read the stories of other people who had lived through it. Accounts of violent sexual attacks by strangers, that's what I was looking for, then. Not really their graphic accounts of survival, but the aftermath. The days, the months, the years after, how they coped, what they felt, if they changed, if they healed. There weren't many books about afterwards, not back then.

Now there are whole shelves in Waterstones and Borders titled 'painful lives'. 'Misery memoirs', they're called in the trade. Child abuse, mostly, suffering and survival and horror and degradation. I have never picked one of these books up and paid for it and taken it home. I tend to read novels, not real-life tales. I wonder whether people will think my book is a 'misery memoir'. Maybe they will. I didn't write it like that. But I haven't ever read any of the white-covered books with wide-eyed children's faces on the cover and titles like Inside I'm Screaming and Stop, Mommy, No. So I haven't anything to compare my book with. I just wrote what it was like, what happened, what happened after.I wrote things I had never told anyone before. Not on this blog, not ever.

'Did it make you feel better, writing it?' friends ask me, hopefully. Sadly, no. Writing it was an absolutely grim experience, and it set off the PTSD again, big-time, and it made me depressed and anxious, and what with the stalker as well, and having suddenly stopped working in an office where I used to laugh and chat all day, it was a pretty horrible time. Stressed as hell, on my own all day, writing and re-living the worst moments of my life, worrying about the effect it was having on me and people I love and respect, and the abusive messages from that strange woman pinging into my in-box all the time, it was frankly, awful. I was pleased when I had finished it, in the same way I am pleased when the painkillers mean the headache has gone. Re-reading the proofs last week was almost more than I could stand. If it had not been for my publisher's patience, and the kindness of David, my agent, who lent me his office to work in, so I had space and peace, and a vase of spring flowers, so I could escape the demented cyber-bombardment and the loneliness of the cold empty flat, the book would never have been finished at all. It is all new content; the blog provided the notes, but it was written as a book, from scratch. Hard work.

'But it will make you lots of money, eh?' people say next. Nope. In fact, my earnings have dropped by more than 80% since I took voluntary redundancy and became a writer. If I make any money on this book, I won't be paid it until March 2008. My redundancy money will have run out long before then. It's almost gone now. Big Fat Advance? Ho ho. Put it this way, if I hadn't taken redundancy there was no way I could have written the book. I would have run out of money after six weeks. And the book took quite a while longer to write than that.

So why did I do it? Because, in the end I had to. I wrote it to pay tribute to the people who helped me and inspired me, including my fellow-passengers. And I wrote it for myself. Myself as I was in 2002, after the rape, and myself as I am in 2007. I couldn't not write it. I want to write, it is all I want to do, now, it is the thing that is most meaningful to me, even though it will never provide me with an advertising director's nice salary and an expense account. But perks and salaries stopped being important. I wanted to start off being a writer by writing my own story first, so it was gone, and done and out there and I could let it go, and move on to writing other people's stories, fiction, new things. I want to write for the rest of my life. But not just about bombs and terror, not any more.

And I wrote for this moment: My first written reaction from a reader who has read Out of the Tunnel. A man whom I like and trust and admire, a commissioning editor on a big newspaper, Bob, who first commisioned me to write my story back in November 2005.

''I’ve just spent the past two hours reading the proofs of your book. I should have been doing something else, but I couldn’t stop because it’s brilliantly written and a gripping narrative. Congratulations.''

That made it, makes it all worthwhile. And now, I want to do more, write more things. I'm still pushing for an independent inquiry into 7/7, with the other survivors and families in the group. I'm also working on a novel, slowly. Doing freelance stuff. It took a bomb going off to start me writing, but now I can't stop. I hope that I can keep writing, make a living from it somehow, but even if I can't, I won't give it up, because writing has kept me moving forward, one foot in front of the other, got me out of the tunnel and into the light. It saved my life, in more ways than one. And it was you readers, you people on the internet who read my stuff and sent support, and cared enough to come back, and kept encouraging me, that got me writing and kept me writing.

There's a dedication in the book to you. You know who you are. Thank you.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Feast from the East

Six handfuls of marinated fat black olives
Six handfuls of chilli and lemon stuffed green olives
8 lamb chops
8 lamb back chops
8 spicy beef sausages
8 chicken drumsticks spiced with paprika, saffron, lemon and honey and salt
1 apple tart
1 pyrex dish of mixed baklava
6 warm flatbreads the size of dinner plates
Huge bunch fresh coriander

One of the reasons why I like living here: the above list was all bought in one shop, chops cut fresh to order, and still got change from £20. In the shop: people from Albania, Algeria, Yemen, Turkey and Lebanon. All united in moaning about the weather. Walked back in the rain, past the smells of roasting chicken on spits and hot coffee. Heard at least six different languages. Saw people from three continents. Now going back out to the Turkish grocers to buy strained creamy yoghurt, strawberries, tzatziki, hummus, fresh hellim and feta cheese, lettuce, red peppers and olive oil, and wine.

Eight of us for dinner tonight. Was going to be a BBQ, but as a) we haven't got round to buying a BBQ and b) it is throwing it down with rain ( again) it will be a Middle East feast instead. Given where I live, it's the easiest and tastiest option. Especially as we only have six knives and forks, so scooping up food with bread and fingers is the most guest-friendly way to eat.

Happy weekend.

A moment of shameless stattery

Just noticed that the blog has had a bit of a milestone moment and passed the quarter of a million visitors mark, recently averaging over 1000 visitors a day. Woot! I would like to thank all my lovely linkers, lurkers, and commenting readers for dropping in and taking an interest in my going on about about terrorism and civil liberties, cooking, pole-dancing, other random meanderings, linky recommendations and ongoing general dispatches posted from my scruffy study via a sticky keyboard covered in toast crumbs and cat paw marks. Have some virtual cake.

PS: Now that I have blogged this, my stats will immediately nosedive, as I believe is traditional when a blogger has a moment of trafficy self-congratulation. Which will take the pressure off me to be amusing/entertaining/thoughtful and means I can go back to writing about J and cats and goldfish and how irritating the out-going PM is without worrying so much.

Friday, June 15, 2007

In Search of Adam

I read this a few days ago, and it made me cry. It is a book of quite extraordinary power and grace, and it hurts to read it. It is painful the way music is painful, the way growing up is painful, the way love is painful; it closes the throat, thumps you in the gut and - this is the power of the book - it stays in you, and stretches your soul taut, and afterwards, your heart beats harder and more strongly, because of what it has learned about love and loss and cruelty, and the price paid in innocence. It is something that I think as many people as possible should read, if they can bear it. Congratulations to the author Caroline Smailes, for the most affecting, and extraordinary book of the year so far.

Amazon - or bookshops as of now
Caroline's blog, Ms. Melancholy's Review,DoveGreyReader's review,Daily Straying's Review


Bystander: What would you do.

An excellent post from the Magistrates blog... with some very thoughtful comments - if you want to comment I would urge you to join in the debate over at Bystander's place

The Guantanamo/rendition argument has been well rehearsed. The Guardian runs a story today that will surprise none of us. Take the (unlikely) case that one of the CIA's aircraft has to make an emergency landing at a small airfield that happens to be in your jurisdiction. Take the (even more unlikely) case that the people who are taken from the by-now burning aeroplane find themselves in the hands of the local police. Some of them appear to be prisoners, and are in chains. By chance, a determined local solicitor is in the police station and he immediately takes legal steps to bring them before magistrates with a view to their release. We won't get into the law here, nor into probabilities (which, in reality, are likely to involve vans with blacked-out windows). So imagine that these men, who have never appeared before a proper court and against whom no charges have ever been laid appeal to you for their freedom. "I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the man must be discharged" is prayed in aid as an ancient judgment, as is that which declares the air of England to a substance than no slave may breathe.What, as a member of the judiciary, would you do?

Twenty-first century neighbours

My upstairs neighbour has just instant-messaged me to ask if the music is too loud whilst he does some spring-cleaning. This saves him walking down the stairs.

It is good to know that should a marrauding intruder get in, as long as I could lock myself into my study and crawl to my computer keyboard, I would be able to get my neighbour to run down with a baseball bat and save me. Similarly, if I am cooking something nice, and he smells it, I can email the recipe over without having to screetch up at him from the window. And when he was travelling in China, we were able to discuss the crack in the outside wall (and see his pictures of pandas) without needing to have a house meeting about it.

I like living now. In the olden days I would have had to go down to the well to have a gossip. Or at the very least, get dressed and lean over the garden fence.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Jon Ronson: R4

Here is a programme which went out at 11pm Tuesday ( or try here: 'Jon Ronson On uncontrolable responses') made by Jon Ronson, about ''uncontrollable responses''. In this programme, we looked at the reaction we both had when we found conspiracy theorists discussing the fact that they thought we were both *'shills' employed by the New World Order, complicit in covering up a sinister Government plot to kills its own people....

The fact that I am not a shadowy composite figure remains, of course, unproven....
*mwah hah ha* ( sinister laugh)

UPDATE: The character 'The Antagonist' was the first person I found linking to my site, claiming that 7/7 was a power surge and act of corporate manslaughter, covered up with a '1000-man terror rehearsal exercise,

'' no-one would tolerate the random exploding of innocent civilians as part of routine crisis management exercises that take place all the time, these exercises employ clever pyrotechnics, stuntmen, and actors ('players' as Peter Power refers to them) to portray the parts of the 'civilians' and 'victims' involved in the crisis to be managed - just like in the movies where lots of things go bang all the time leaving lots of apparently horrific walking wounded, dead people and body parts in the aftermath...''

( from his blog. He is one of the four main leaders of the 'July 7th Truth' campaign' who pose as an open-minded 'people's investigation' into 7/7.)

*originally I had 'Zionist' shills here. Go and have a read of some of their stuff to see the old Z word popping up regularly. However, I can't remember if the 'Zionist' stuff aimed at me, rather than Jon, was left in a comment on my blog by a conspiraloon, or on one of their websites, so I have taken it out as I can't be bothered to hunt about finding it. I have a train to catch. I keep all comments so it'll be there somewhere. Jon got irritated with the Zionist stuff on the website too, but I am losing the will to link.

I know what's going to happen next, an avalanche of the usual insults, and fervent attempts to 'convert' me, and I am not going to be drawn into it, so comment moderator is going on, and if people want to carry on calling me a shill ( hello 'Ally' et al from 9/11 Truth forum'!) and what have you, they can do it on their own blogs and forums. I'm off to visit my parents for a few days and will put comments through when I am back, if they fall within the blog comment policy. My tolerance for abusive trolling is low these days.

The point of speaking out against this paranoid nonsense is because I think it is actually quite dangerous to peddle such tripe as Shayler does, online and in meetings/talks in church halls and pubs all over the country. For how can we work together to defeat murderous terrorism, to protect each other and to defend our ancient freedoms from the effects of the politics of fear- if a growing number of people will not even accept that extremist Islamist terrorism, and suicide bombers exist? It might not be very comfortable to deal with the fact that 4 normal-looking young Brits murdered and maimed so many on 7 July, but if people who have lost loved ones, or limbs, or who lead shattered lives in the aftermath can accept the horrific reality, why can't the internet 'truth-hunter' brigade manage it?


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

PTSD study request

Passing this on as I know quite a few people who have been through PTSD or who still suffer from it read this blog....

Dr Matthew Whalley and a team at University College London are looking for volunteers to help complete a study into the effects of trauma and depression on memory. The team are testing a theory of memory function in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the study involves writing about a traumatic or upsetting experience, and then having an MRI scan to measure your brain activity while you complete a simple memory task. They are looking for three groups ofvolunteers:

1) Participants who currently suffer from PTSD
2) Participants who are currently depressed
3) Participants who survived a traumatic event but who did not develop PTSD.

If you meet any of these criteria and would be willing to travel to central London to take part in the study please contact Dr Matthew Whalley on or 020 7679 5365. Volunteers are paid for their participation. For more information about the study see:


Arms and the unborn

Here's the 18 Doughty St 10pm 'Vox Politics' show last night, where we talked about the arms trade and abortion, amongst other things, in a rather thoughtful programme. You can watch their political programming free on their 'watch again' service ( I quite often have it minimised and listen to it like a radio show whilst I work). There is some good stuff on there, (I always try to catch Peter Tatchell and the Nick Cohen interview was infuritating but informative ). I am glad 18DS is shrugging off the 'Tory TV' tag, and that they have dropped their awful 'attack ads', which didn't help them at all. The more people get involved in 'internet political TV' and 'citizen journalism', the better. There are more and more opportunities now for people to debate, engage, campaign and have a voice. If you don't like what you hear and see, join the debate. It beats hurling cushions at the TV when the news is on. I am not a Tory, but I welcome the chance to debate with other people of all political persuasion when I get invited onto the sofa.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Brit Blog Round up...

..the migrant BritBlog round up has flapped its wings, and this week can be found roosting contentedly over at Westminster Wisdom.

Posts that made me pause and think this week ... Unity on abortion, Tim Worstall and Not Saussure on Martin Kettle, Abby on grief, Dr. Deb explains the various fields of psychology rather helpfully, Bystander explains what happens when you become a Magistrate, DiamondGeezer wanders round what will soon be the Olympic Park, Zoe's daughters prepare to fly the nest, and Emily worries about a scary rash.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Taking Liberties Blogger Outing...

There will be a bit of a blogger outing to see Taking Liberties today. Meet at 4.15pm outside Brixton Ritzy for the 4.30pm showing if you fancy it, and fancy a pint afterwards.

The film opened last night and I can't stress this enough, it is bums on seats over the opening weekend that determines whether films sink or swim.

Therefore if you are vaguely thinking of going to see it, it would be dead helpful if you could act on that urge over the next 48 hours. Cinema listings nationally here. Site here.

This is a really important film and it needs to reach more than the usual activists and politically-aware bloggers. Take your mum and your little brother. Take your flatmate who moans that it's too muggy to sit outside. Take your mate who chunters when he reads the Sunday papers. Take the person you have a crush on. (Getting mutually outraged means passion rises over a drink afterwards and you'll also look very smart and zeitgeisty. Wah-hey). Look, please just go and see it. It's not exactly hard work. It's a damn entertaining movie. And your grandchildren will thank you for it one day.

Don't just take my word for it...
'Shocking, extraordinary - pure dynamite!' - The Times
'Four stars' Time Out
'Watch it and get angry!' Mirror
'Cheerful, polemical and exhilerating' - The Guardian
'If you have any interest in politics whatsoever, it's a film you shouldn't miss.' Eye for Film
'Enthralling and cheeky, it will make you laugh and chatter long after you've left the cinema' - Metro '
'Five stars' Real Movie News
'Bold, fearless and blackly funny, this vital film should be compulsory viewing' Dazed and Confused
'Fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining - an excellent piece of film-making'- The Scotsman
'One of the most important films of the year - Daily Mirror
'Powerful - two thumbs up'- Sky Movies
'Five stars' - BBC movies
'A fascinating, provocactive movie - 8/10' - Daily Express
'A powerful, riveting, moving film' - Mail on Sunday
'This film is pure genius' - Film Exposed magazine
'You'll be shocked and outraged by the stories contained in this fascinating film' - New

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Back in a bit...

Normal blogging service will be resumed in a few days. I am having a break. In the meantime, a reminder....
Taking Liberties

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

C4 and conspiracy theories

I just checked the blog traffic and found a bunch of people coming over from C4 news, not sure how they got here as I can't actually see a link. Hello to you all, anyway. I was out 'til late yesterday , and I forgot to video C4 news last night so I missed it. A researcher from C4 news did call me yesterday afternoon about the report, and ask if I could help - and Darshna Soni, who did the report, talked to me a couple of times about it, once when we met up at the Old Bailey during the Crevice trial ending, and last week. I gave C4 Nafeez Ahmed's details instead, yesterday afternoon, and said he would be a good person to have on the programme.

But I just watched and Nafeez wasn't on, which is a shame. I didn't want to be on, firstly because I am not a Muslim and the programme is about Muslims' views, secondly because it was not directly about the need for an independent inquiry, which is what I specifically campaign about, when asked, with other people directly involved in 7/7, and thirdly because if I worry that I had been on, I would have been deluged with yet more long emails from presumably well-meaning people trying to convert me to their conspiracy theories, which I am totally sick and tired of hearing about, after a year of it. And contrary to a few people's accusations, no, I don't rush off and agree to do every single media approach, and I don't especially like being the one in the spotlight just because I have a blog that's easy to find when you type in keywords. Especially when it brings me unwelcome attention, and when it takes up lots of my free time.

(Re. the various alternative theories about 7/7: I have looked at them all. Yes, all of them. In detail. For over a year. I simply do not find them credible. They are not congruent with the evidence of my own experience, and more importantly, they contradict the evidence I have heard from the police, other credible sources and from many other survivors and eye-witnesses. I am not a fan of the Blair administration, even though I have voted Labour all my life. Yes, I am calling for a 7/7 inquiry, with others affected. But I am not going to go into why I do not believe the conspiracy theories here, again, as that is a red rag to some people's bull.)

You can watch the C4 report here, (and find lots of links to conspiracy theory sites where you can chat about beliefs that the four mass-murderers, MSK, Tanweer, Hussein and Lindsay were all as innocent as new-born lambs, and the Government planted the bombs, with the people who run the websites, if you like that sort of thing. I don't. I used to find it upsetting. Now I find it wearying)

The report covered the prevalence of conspiracy theories and the rising levels of distrust within 'the Muslim community' concerning 7/7 and the Government's anti-terror policies, the breakdown in trust between communities and the Government. A survey of 500 Muslims ( not a massive sample size but reasonable) provided the basis for the report, with Darshna travelling round the UK to talk to some Muslims. Three quarters don't seem to be buying the conspiracy theories, but a worrying 24% do. And as always, it's the minority who get focused on.

It has becoming increasingly clear to me over the last two years that the frequent media hysteria about Muslims, the language used to talk about terrorism, and the disproportionate amount of airtime given to fringe extremists is fanning the flames of paranoia and mistrust and making things worse for us all. I write about this subject often, on this, my personal blog, and I raise my voice in protest, like many other bloggers. I say, again and again, that we should protect civil liberties, that we should avoid stigmatising many because of the actions of a few, that we should not pass hasty draconian laws and that we should treat terrorism as criminal activity, not make 7/7 a special case that necessitates shredding the constitution and causing people to live fearfully. That way anger, alienation, and more violence lies.

I say that a proper inquiry into 7/7 would help to heal these divisions and damp down the wild speculation in which conspiracy theories thrive. And I do not see anything healthy about the growth of the conspiracy theories. How can you work together to solve a problem if you will not even admit that it exists?

It is also obvious to me that the Blair foreign policy has raised the temperature and fuelled the anger (and indeed Blair was warned of this likely consequence before the Iraq invasion in a buried report, Young Muslims and Extremism).

I believe that we need to work together, to heal the divisions and mistrust that are running deep. That means fighting back against the spreading virus of denial and paranoia, which only disempowers people and makes them feel like helpless angry victims. Trying instead to make communication and policies fairer, clearer, more just and transparent and accountable. Looking for common ground. Remembering the majority of people are not convinced by conspiracy theories - that they only want to live and work peaceably together as neighbours and get on with their ordinary lives. But that is not an exciting news story.

I think having an inquiry into 7/7 would be a good way to kickstart the process of healing by opening the debate about why and how home-grown terrorism came at us out of our midst, and I also think that more widely-debated and more ethical foreign policies, trade policies, social and domestic policies would mean less violence and crime. Less hateful hysteria given column inches and airtime, less of the macho politics of fear would help too.

There are no quick fixes. There is a lot to do to make things better, and we can all help to make common cause for peace and justice, or just a quiet life. But I do not see why focusing on our divisions and fears will make us stronger. I would rather look at what draws us together. I would rather walk to my local shops, where almost all the shops are Muslim owned, walk past the women in headscarves and veils, the men gossipping outside the coffee shops, past the Mosque where hundreds worship every Friday, and smile at people, because we are all neighbours, and not be angry, or afraid.

UPDATE: Blood and Treasure , and Radical Muslim on the subject

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Monday, June 04, 2007

BritBlog Round Up

The roving BritBlog round up is over at Philobiblon this week, with the best of British blogging as usual. Enjoy.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

NPD and cyberstalking

So good it gets its own link, because people need to know why. Comments & further discussion of the psychology of stalking welcomed over at Ministry of Truth (rather than here, as I am having a breather from it all, whilst the police crack on)


Brown on terrorism

'Because we believe in the civil liberties of the individual, we must also strengthen accountability to parliament and independent bodies overseeing the police, not subjecting people to arbitary treatment. The world has changed, so we need tougher security. We must recognise there is a group of people we must isolate who are determined to attack. Our security must be strengthened, but we must also strengthen the accountability of our institutions.''
- Gordon Brown

Well, that sounds quite good - tough, yet caring, firm but fair. But what does it actually mean? Is our new PM-to-be ambidextrous in his approach? Right hand, a clunking great fist on terror, left hand, tenderly smoothing our anxious brows, which frown unhappily with increasing concern over the erosion of ancient liberties, and the whirlwind of legislation passed in the aftermath of 'the war on terror'?
Or is it just more New Labour window dressing whilst further freedoms disappear in the name of security?

Brown's speech is being widely reported as being 'tough on terrorism' in today's headlines; the timing is, of course, politically expedient. It is a thumbed nose to Peter Hain, running for deputy Labour leader, and a display of teeth at the Labour left. It is also pouring salt into the wounds of the Tories, struggling for over a month now with the fallout over grammar schools, and Cameron now being called ''delusional'' and ''an absolute prat'' by Council leaders. A new Sunday Telegraph poll has Mr Brown seen as ''more experienced, strong and competent'', and he is marginally favoured to be prime minister. Making hay of the disarray, Brown is hardly likely to do anything that could be interpreted as being ''soft on terrorism'', but it is interesting that this speech does nod to civil liberties and checks and balances: he has clearly learned from the opprobrium being heaped on his outgoing nemesis, Blair.

The charges against the Blair government vary: that they indulge in ''macho posturing'' with regard to law and order (Hain) and they use the politics of fear to exert control and avoid criticism, particularly of foreign policy, that the current PM's style of Government is unaccountable, authoritarian in tendency, and reliant on spin and media management to cover up its flaws.

There is growing public muttering against 'house arrest' and new police 'stop and question' powers, widespread disbelief at an outgoing PM who says that three suspects escaping control orders are ''a symptom of a society which put civil liberties before fighting terror.'' Writing in the Sunday Times last week, the prime minister described this as "misguided and wrong" and said prioritising a terror suspect's right to traditional civil liberties was "a dangerous misjudgement", (!) - and there is further concern at the latest antics from out-going tough-guy Reid

(For heaven's sake. Sometimes I wonder if Reid and Blair have swivel-eyed chats that go like this:

''It's okay to treat terrorists differently to normal humans, they have, y'know, different DNA. Like crabs''
''Yeah, terrorists aren't like us. They're vermin. Lock them up without charge, without trial. Torture them. Or get someone else to do it for us. That will show them not to attack our freedoms'')

So Brown's tough on terror speech where he does go on quite a bit about civil liberties is in stark contrast to the chest-thumping rhetoric that has been coming out of the Home Office for the last year, and the martyred 'look, because I said so and I just know I'm right' dramatics coming out of Number 10 for longer. What has Brown got for us then?

Intercept evidence used in trials. This might help those trapped in the no-man's land of house arrest without enough evidence to bring them to trial. The Security Services, however, aren't keen. The police are in favour. I go with the police. Show the evidence.It's a fundemental part of what we do: we don't lock people up or detain people without it. Not for more than 28 days, which is quite long enough and far longer than most places.

Making terrorism an aggravating factor in sentencing, giving judges greater powers to punish terrorism within the framework of the existing criminal law.I don't see the point of this at all: we already have perfectly-solid laws against conspiracy to commit murder and cause explosions/mayhem, etc. (Dhiren Barot got 40 years for plotting acts of terrorism after all.) The point about terrorism is that it is criminal. Why make it special and different? It makes it dangerously glamorous. Murder is murder. Fraud, extortion, kidnapping...we've already got them taped, legally. I do wish Labour would get over this knee-jerk legislation habit. Particularly since the current Anti-terrorism laws have repeatedly been used to harass and threaten peaceful protesters. Have Judges actually requested these powers? Nope, not as far as I can see. So what is the point of it and where are we going with this? Not somewhere I want to end up.

Allow the police to continue to interrogate terror suspects even after they have been charged with a criminal offence. Nooooo. Arrest subject, provide lawyer whilst questioning them. Produce enough evidence to charge, or release. Once charged, provide representation and await fair trial, whilst continuing to treat suspect humanely. This stunt is completely contradictory to the the principle of habeas corpus. (''Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?''). And it sounds like an attempt to get ''90 days'' in via the back door to me...

Oh, hang on, belt and braces. Increase the number of days a terror suspect can be held without charge from 28 days to 90 days. Grrr. I have already banged on about this and I have not seen any evidence to change my mind about why this is dangerous, and insufferable to freedom-loving citizens.

Increasing the security budget, which has already doubled to more than £2bn a year after 11 September 2001, in the forthcoming spending review when a single security budget will be unveiled. Well, as long as we know what it is being used for...but do we?

Give MPs and peers greater powers to scrutinise the work of the security and intelligence services, allowing them to cross-examine the heads of MI5 and MI6 in public. Accountability and transparency, I am in favour of. But I am also worried about whether it is a way of avoiding an inquiry into 7/7, which I and others are campaigning for. Last month, representatives of the survivors and relatives of 7/7 handed in a letter asking for an inquiry into 7/7 to the Home Office. We heard nothing back and so we chased last week. We got a fax back at the end of last week, and it was not exactly greeted with rapture by the group. I will blog more about that after the weekend, when all the group have had a chance to air their thoughts privately, and after we have had further discussions with Oury Clark, our lawyers.

After the Crevice trial revealed M15 had lead 7/7 bomber MSK in their sights, and let him go again, Blair said that the ISC, (the Intelligence and Security Committee) would re-examine the evidence that came to light (after the Crevice trial of terrorists planning to attack targets like Bluewater and the Ministry of Sound). This was his response to calls in the House, and by us, for an independent inquiry into 7/7, which was chaired by someone outside of Government and the Security Services, with the power to compel evidence and cross examine witnesseses and make recommendations.

But the ISC is not independent. It is comprised of hand-picked MPS who answer to the PM. It didn't ask the right questions. It missed out of lots of things and exonerated the Security Services and its report read as if it had been spoon-fed whole paragraphs by M15 itself. It was, and is, a pathetic substitute for a proper inquiry. And everyone saw that after the Crevice trial ended. So...

Brown will now give Parliament a greater role in overseeing the intelligence services. He will place the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which reports to the Prime Minister, on a similar basis as parliamentary select committees, which are acccountable to MPs.

It's a start. But it's not what we're asking for, is it?

If 21st century terrorism is such a terrible thing, so different to the threat of Nazi invasion or Russian nuclear strikes or IRA terrorism, so terrible that we can shred the constitution over it in a mad rush, and decide it's okay to hold British citizens without charge under house arrest, or in police cells for up to three months, continue to question them after they have been charged, make everyone carry ID cards, and submit to questioning in the streets by police about what they are up to, and strengthen sentencing powers by popping the word 'terrorism' into the charge sheet, then why can't we have an inquiry into 7/7?

I have some high hopes for Mr Brown, but that speech concerns me. It's all very well to go round the country ''listening'', but I hope that he doesn't let me, and others down, by delivering more of the liberty-restricting over-reaction of his predecessors, instead of looking at why we face this threat.

Those who prize security over liberty deserve neither, after all. Nor do they get either for the most part. Fingers crossed.

UPDATE: Obsolete on the subject. Iain Dale on Brown-spin.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Family 'blessed by Allah in tomato'

Friday, June 01, 2007

Hurray! War hero given leave to remain

...and quite right too. Story here.
A massive response from the public, lots of this sort of thing, petitions, pressure, people power - and lo, justice and right prevails. I love it when good things happen, for all the right reasons. People are amazing, and compassion and natural justice are some of the most powerful things in the world. And now I hope with all my heart that that Alan comes home, safe.

Candles in the dark can be seen half a mile away.

A light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness overcometh it not


Taking Liberties - a reminder

Taking Liberties

Ace film Taking Liberties opens next Friday. If lots of people go and see it on the opening weekend, it will get wider distribution across the UK. This would be a Good Thing, because the more people know about what is slowly happening to erode our birthright of freedom, the better. I have already written about it here, and I urge you to go and see it if you can. It's excellent. Here are the cinema listings.

UPDATE: Woot! Check it... BBC , Shadows on the Wall, ('unambiguous and urgent-and unmissable.' ), Londonist ('a depressing picture but is pretty darn good fun to watch; something of a paradox'), and do visit the Director's rather good blog

There is a bit of a blogger outing to see it on Saturday 9th at Brixton Ritzy's, followed by pintage, and possibly curry, so you can come to that if you want, ( email me, rachelnorthlondon AT gmail DOT com) - sadly, stalkertastic latest means I can't advertise movements, etc) or check the website for listings, which are being added all the time. Or you can beat the crowds and see it early...

Names Confirmed so far:
KEN LOACH, Film Director
SHAMI CHAKRABARTI, Director of Liberty
DAVID MORRISSEY, Actor & Narrator of the Film
NICK CLEGG, Lib Dem MP Sheffield Hallam & Shadow Home Secretary

Preview Screening of Taking Liberties followed by a Director's Q&A with Chris Atkins

Interactive fun! Here is where you can download a banner for your website.

There's more! Here is where you can BUY THE BOOK!
And what a top book it is too, by Chris Atkins, Sarah Bee and Fiona Button.
Quick, Amazon are selling out! Get your copy right now this second or gnash your teeth ( until new ones come in)

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