Monday, February 25, 2008

University of Wolverhampton Book Talk

Argh, I need to find something smart to wear, spent the afternoon getting filthy and windswept in the back yard bagging up garden rubbish ready for spring - and now I'm shivering cold and aching with battered fingernails and scratches everywhere, not a good look. I'm giving a talk in Wolverhampton University tomorrow from 1pm-2pm, about terror, fear and civil liberties at the kind request of George Kassimeris, author of Playing Politics with Terrorism

George Kassimeris specialises in terrorism and conflict. Current research interests also include post-9/11 political violence, political Islam, barbarity in modern warfare, political biography and modern Greece. You can listen to an interview with George here.

Tomorrow evening I'm off to the theatre in the evening to see Dirty Dancing with my sister. Then I'm flying to Amsterdam with J for our first holiday since getting married last April. Five days in my favourite city; can't wait to go and lose myself in the colours of the Van Goghs and the flower market again. Miff will be looked after by our friend Russell who is moving in to look after her and the goldfish. So there will be a break from blogging for a while.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Once a month...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Government plans to give the home secretary powers to remove juries from some inquests are "astonishing", an influential group of MPs says.

A little-noticed clause in the Counter Terrorism Bill would also enable the home secretary to change the coroner if deemed to be in the national interest.

Ministers insist the vast majority of inquests will still stay public.

But the Joint Committee on Human Rights warned the measures could affect cases like that of Jean Charles de Menezes...

Full story on the BBC

There is still no date for the inquests into the deaths on 7 July 2005.
I wonder if this new law will be invoked ( if the Government's latest controversial counter-terrorlegislation is passed) and whether there will be a jury at those inquests? Already I hear that the Coroner originally appointed is no longer running the inquests and a High Court Judge is to be appointed instead.
It doesn't look hopeful. It is terrible that the families have had to wait so long for the inquests. Distressing details of the post-mortems were sent out just before Christmas by the previous Coroner.
This doesn't look good.

Andrew Dismore, the Labour chair of the committee, said: "We are seriously alarmed at the prospect that under these provisions, inquests into the deaths occurring in circumstances like that of Jean Charles de Menezes, or British servicemen killed by US forces in Iraq, could be held by a coroner appointed by the secretary of state sitting without a jury.

"Inquests must be, and be seen to be, totally independent and in public to secure accountability, with involvement of the next of kin to protect their legitimate interests.

"When someone dies in distressing, high profile circumstances their family need to see and feel that justice is being done.

"And where state authorities are involved, there is a national interest in accountability as well."

Too right.


Another book review!

Thank you very, very much einekleinenichtmusik!
(For reviewing Out of the Tunnel) And big thanks also to Coco, who attended one of my pole workshops and has also written a review on amazon.
It means such a lot when people read the book and say they liked it. It feels brilliant.


Seven Good Things

Justin at Chicken Yogurt has U-turned on his previous policy of meme-killing, the inconsistent scoundrel, and tagged me to come up with seven things which are positive. His own list includes Fred Astaire, battenburg cake and organ donation.

So here you go, in no particular order.
1. LOL cats (If you don't know what LOLcats are, Wiki explains here. I got slightly obsessed with them six months ago and it is still sadly going on)
2. The LOLcat Bible translation project.
3. The LOLcat SOCPA project
4. Porn by Girls For Girls ( SFW)
5. Go Barack! \o/
6. Gorilla diary
7. That wonderful badger programme

Okay, I'm tagging bagelmouse, the Poet Laureate, einekleinenichtmusik, Henry North London, Andy Ramblings, Chip ( or Ed), and Mark F.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Story of the week....

Pc Emerson-Thomas wanted first go in the van because it was fitted with a new radio, the jury was told.

Prosecutor Mark Spackman said: "The incident began in what can only be described as a petty squabble over who was driving the police van that evening.

There was a cut which may have been caused by the signet ring Emerson-Thomas was wearing
Mark Spackman, prosecuting

"The sergeant told Pc Bartlett to take the van but the defendant was a bit upset about it and he asked Pc Bartlett if he could have it.

"Pc Bartlett simply got up and picked up the keys from the board then sat down at a table to drink a cup of tea.

"He went to pick up the cup of tea and Pc Emerson-Thomas punched his arm causing it to spill over the table and himself."

The trial heard Pc Bartlett picked up a paper towel to clean up the spilled tea.

But Pc Emerson-Thomas was accused of using other towels to wipe the tea down his colleague's arm.

Mr Spackman said: "Emerson-Thomas then shoved the paper towels into Pc Bartlett's face."

Fairwater police station
The incident happened at Fairwater police station in Cardiff

The court was told that other officers had told them to stop but Pc Emerson-Thomas then lashed out at Pc Bartlett with his fist and hit his eyebrow.

"It was a hard punch and knocked the contact lens out of his eye," said Mr Spackman.

"There was a cut which may have been caused by the signet ring Emerson-Thomas was wearing."

Pc Emerson-Thomas was sent home from the station and he has been suspended since.

The court heard that the men had worked together for five months but there had never been any animosity. They had also known each other for four years.



War Child: get involved

'One of the things that a lot of us love about blogging is that we share experiences. We may not meet or even see our fellow bloggers but we feel we know them. For many of us it's an important part of feeling connected, almost like having another support system. Recently I tagged some bloggers on memes requiring a bit more info on who they were and what they felt and what I read really moved me. They made me wish I could pay for their writing, to thank them for sharing, to give them something for giving me their words on their personal stories.

From that thought, and with the help of a small team (Sarah from He Loves Me Not, Ariel from From F*ck Up To Fab, Ms R from Woman of Experience and Vi from Village Secrets) we've come up with a plan! We're putting together a book for WARCHILD written by bloggers and here's where you come in:

We would like you to submit (to us at a written piece about something you've been through from any aspect of your life that you want to share. It can literally be about anything: your relationships, your past, a road not taken, being a parent, an illness or your regrets etc. We've called it "You're Not The Only One" to reflect the camaraderie of blogging.

Proceeds will go to
WARCHILD and, blatantly following in the same fashion as Troubled Diva (Mike Atkinson)'s Shaggy Blog Stories, we will be publishing it through'

more over at Peach


Monday, February 18, 2008

Britblog round up

Disraeli Avenue

In Search of Adam was one of the best novels published last year. Now there is a follow-up novella, Disraeli Avenue and author Caroline Smailes is making it available online as a download and asking for donations to one in four, a small charity doing excellent work.

So with one easy click you can help abuse sufferers and with another click you can download some beautiful, powerful writing. Please do pass it on.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

339 days left and counting

With the cretinous crassness for which he is internationally famed, President Bush this week attempted to justify the use of a method of torture notably used by the Gestapo, the Spanish Inquisition and the Khmer Rouge.

Through forced suffocation and inhalation of water, the subject experiences the process of drowning in a controlled environment and is made to believe that death is imminent.[2] In contrast to merely submerging the head face-forward, waterboarding almost immediately elicits the gag reflex.[3] Although waterboarding can be performed in ways that leave no lasting physical damage, it carries the risks of extreme pain, damage to the lungs, brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation, injuries (including broken bones) due to struggling against restraints, and even death.[4] The psychological effects on victims of waterboarding can last for years after the procedure

Making his point, President Bush referenced the London bombings...

( edited and updated)

It's quite hard to write this without wanting to put my head through the computer monitor but, (and breathe, Rachel, breathe), I have two choices here. I can ignore the unpleasant fact that my country is supporting a President who has okayed a method of torture associated with some of the cruellest, most abusive, murderous regimes in history, or I can continue to write and speak out about it.

Leaving aside the moral objections to the repulsive and degrading practice of State torture for one moment, there's the problem of the utterly self-defeating nature of the policy. Information obtained under torture is frequently useless because of the simple fact that if you torture someone or put them in fear of their life they will say pretty much anything you want them to say to make you stop torturing them. They will do anything, behave in a way that is completely out of character in order to survive. Anybody who does not understand this is in denial about about what torture is.

It is unendurable, that is the point of it. Water-boarding in particular, since it is not merely about inflicting atrocious pain, which can be managed to a certain extent using mental techniques, but activates the body's gag reflex and whatever your mind 'knows' about what is being done to you, and why, your body responds as if it is about to die and you can do nothing about it.

Want to know more? This man describes being waterboarded.

Bush's assertion that the families of those killed on 7th July 2005 would ''understand'' the use of torture makes me want to weep. As usual, nobody actually bothered to ask what the families or survivors of 7/7 thought,
before invoking ''the victims of 7/7'' as a fig-leaf for a naked desire to look tough for political gain, or to excuse or explain foul or cruel practices.

As if everyone involved by chance on that day has but one voice and one view; as if there was something about bereavement, trauma and injury that reduces people to a point where they freely condone torture and any kind of abuse of their suspected enemies. Bush has just given himself away: this is the politics of revenge and hate as well as the politics of fear. It is either the reaction of someone who has been traumatised and is letting his unconscious desire to hit back dictate his actions, or it is someone who is so drunk on bellicosity and power that he has lost touch with what he is supposed to stand for: freedom and democracy and the rule of law.

Either way, it is clear that he is unfit to hold office, since he is behaving in a way that not only debases what he is sworn to protect but endangers the American people. And the people of many of cities and countries as well, including the people of London who use public transport.

It is much easier to hate those who forswear the rule of law and uses cruel and inhumane practices of execution, indiscriminate bombing, kidnapping (which is what rendition is) and torture. This is what we are supposed to stand against. Has Bush no sense of the message this sends out? Does he not understand that every photograph of humiliated, shackled, blindfolded prisoners who are being kept in jail without even having been charged with anything, every news story about rendition, every description of cruelty and every contemptuous breach of international law feeds into the propaganda loop of the terrorists, acting as a recruiting sergeant for a hundred more wannabe Mohammed Siddique Khans? And no, the solution isn't to stop reporting it. The answer is to stop it.

There is a baseline desire for revenge that I understand all too well. There were weeks in 2002 when I entertained the fantasy of seeing my attacker tied up in a chair, in a windowless cell, and me entering that cell with a hammer. But it was justice in a court of law that I wanted, and got. Revenge fantasies have no place in the criminal justice system or for that matter, in a government's foreign policy. The extent of the rage and the hurt of the individual victimised or dehumanised cannot dictate the response of a society to the evil act.

Torture doesn't work. It is a propaganda gift to your enemies, it produces noise, not information, and there is a damn good reason why after two world wars and the death of millions we decided to outlaw it. To have a President attempt to justify it by invoking the guessed-at emotions of the relatives of the innocent dead is craven and despicable.

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