Tuesday, 30 June 2009

"Totally false".

Yesterday's Sun ran "sensational" claims about the autopsy of Michael Jackson, claiming that he was a virtual skeleton when he died, had four puncture wounds near to his heart from attempts to revive him, broken ribs, covered in bruises and was totally bald.

The response from the those who actually carried out the autopsy, the Los Angeles coroner? Ed Winter said:

"I don't know where that information came from, or who that information came from. It is not accurate. Some of it is totally false."

Tonight's big story on the Sun's website? Photographs from the rehearsals for Jackson's shows in London, showing the singer in what looks to be good health, if thin. As a former hack on the paper said, you couldn't make it up.

P.S.

The paper seems to be in a similarly confused mood over the royal family. Says the paper's leader column:

THE Government could learn a lesson or two about economy from the Royal Family.

The 83-year-old Queen is hardworking, devoted to public service - and notoriously thrifty with taxpayers' money.

The monarchy raises more in tourist revenue than we spend keeping them in castles, cars and corgis.

And they cost just 69p a head, less than half the price of a lemonade shandy all round.

Now that's what we call value for money.


While meanwhile the paper rages against the costs of, err, the royal family:

TAXPAYERS forked out £250,000 to do up Princess Beatrice’s university digs, The Sun can reveal.

...

Two tours by Prince Charles — to South America last March and Japan, Brunei and Indonesia last November — cost taxpayers almost £700,000 EACH in travel bills alone.


That, fact fans, is over 100% more than the BBC executives claimed in expenses over 5 years, and which the paper was furious about last week.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Irrational and unpredictable.

When the Sun isn't doing its best to link Iran to the Taliban, it instead uses the kind of logic which would disgrace an 8-year-old. From today's leader column:

HOW dare Iran arrest nine workers from the British embassy in Tehran.

The claim that our diplomats were behind violent street demonstrations over the rigged Iranian presidential election is ludicrous.

Iran's irrational and unpredictable behaviour shows why it would be such a danger if it had nukes.

Diplomats can be ordered back. But you can't order back a nuclear missile once it's been launched.

Yes, because arresting diplomats is just like launching a nuclear missile, isn't it? It also isn't irrational or unpredictable when you note that the regime is blaming those that it has repeatedly in the past, and that this was just a step up from last week's reciprocal expelling of diplomats.

Despite numerous attempts down the years to paint those in power in Iran as "mad mullahs", they're not suicidal. The real reason why Iran must be stopped from becoming a nuclear power is because it will transform the balance of power in the Middle East, putting Iran on the same level as Israel and ahead of Saudi Arabia. This has always been about preventing a re-run of mutually assured destruction; only Israel can be allowed to have weapons which can decimate an entire region in minutes. You can be certain that were we to somehow go back to a time when war against Iran was potentially the next stop on the grand Bush regional tour, the Sun would back it to the hilt.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Columnists.

Is it just me, or have the columnists pages mysteriously disappeared from the Sun's website? I've noted over the last couple of days that the links on the Sun's main news page have gone, but the link to them entirely now also seems to have gone. The page still exists, but the last update was Saturday's columns. Is this the first phase of Murdoch's supposed charging for content plan, or just that no one really gives a stuff what the Sun's monkeys with typewriters churn out?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Goodbye so soon...

Good riddance then to Rebekah Wade (or, according to the Graun, Rebekah Brooks, as she is now apparently calling herself since her recent wedding), who will be moving "upstairs" in News International in a long mooted move and one that she herself has long been lobbying for.

This isn't the place as yet for a long consideration of her time as editor of the biggest selling newspaper in the country, but it remains the case that for the most part Wade proved to be a less controversial editor than her time at the News of the World suggested she would be. The main bungles which did happen during her watch, which included her "BONKERS BRUNO LOCKED UP" front page splash, to say nothing of the time she was arrested after drunkenly slapping her former husband are not much to write home about when you consider the Sun's history, especially while Kelvin MacKenzie was editor.

That's not to say that Wade was a non-entity as editor, far from it. She kept up her campaign for "Sarah's law", legislation which children's charities themselves oppose as either unproved or potentially putting them further at risk as paedophiles head even further underground. Other campaigns have included almost yearly rages against the Human Rights Act, which it has repeatedly lied about and slandered, repeated demands that the detention limit for "terrorist suspects" be extended, whether to 90 or 42 days, with the paper the first time round denouncing those who voted against as "traitors", constant moaning that sentences are not long enough and that more prison places are essential, even when Labour has vastly lengthed and expanded both, and more recently, hysterical scaremongering, both about knife crime and Britain being "broken", as well as a horrendous campaign "for" Baby P, which resulted in two of those involved in his case considering suicide. That isn't to mention other quite wonderful journalistic successes, such as the claim back in January that "radical Muslims" were targeting Jews such as Alan Sugar, which led to legal action being taken, or last year's "IVF twins were dumped because they're girls", which was untrue on almost every count.

All this said, the Sun has certainly become to an extent more liberal during Wade's tenure. Whether this is down to her or because in general society is becoming more tolerant is unclear, but the paper which not so long back was leading campaigns against the possibility of Julian Clary becoming host of the Generation Game because of his sexuality, or which asked on its front page whether the country was being run by a "gay mafia" has moved on. During the Big Brother racism scandal it ran a front page, which although somewhat hypocritical, was the sort of thing it would have never done only a few years ago. It still loathes asylum seekers, failed or otherwise, but that's hardly unique in the tabloid world. Both the Daily Mail and Express are far more reactionary than the Sun on almost all of these matters.

The Sun still matters most though because of its sale and its influence. While the Mail may be catching up, or even caught up, the Sun is still courted by politicians looking for the nod of approval from Rupert Murdoch. He is, after all, the real power behind the throne, and any editor of any of his papers is only following the rules put down by him. His recent comments about David Cameron, that he has to be a second Thatcher if he's to gain his full approval, showed just how politicians have to portray and present themselves to get support. It should be remembered that this is a man who has no vote in this country, who has in the past made it his task to pay as little tax in this country as possible, and who is fundamentally unaccountable to anyone other than himself. Whoever becomes the next editor of the paper, and no one seems to have any idea who it's likely to be, the real power will not lie with he or she.

Update: Stan in the comments at my place reminded me that I forgot about the Alfie Patten debacle, which indeed should be among Wade's worst moments.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Weddings and Iranian funerals.

This tells you just how important the Sun remains, despite the arrival of the Twatter generation, in the estimation of politicians:

When Rebekah Wade, Sun newspaper editor and one of Britain's most powerful women, married horse trainer Charlie Brooks this weekend, she didn't so much invite a guest list to the reception as a power list.

Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and Wade's boss Rupert Murdoch attended a Saturday afternoon reception at Brooks' family estate near Chipping Norton.


Of course, they might have just turned up so they could chat to the actual boss, knowing he'd be in attendance, and while the Sun remains undecided about who it will support at the next election, despite it seeming more than likely that it will back the Tories, there is as they say everything to play for. Can you imagine both leaders of the main political parties being invited to say, the wedding of the Guardian editor, or the BBC director general, or even the Telegraph editor's do?

Stephen Brook also provides us with some apparent information as to when Wade herself might be moved upstairs:

But Murdoch has extracted a promise from her that she will continue to edit the Sun until the general election, before handing over the reins.

Not that the editor makes much difference: it's the master that sets the tone.

P.S. The Sun's editorial today deliberately conflates two completely unrelated issues:

THE dodgy "election" of hardline fanatic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to another term as Iran's President is bad for his country - and terrible for the rest of the world.

With the backing of the ruling Ayatollahs he is likely to continue with Iran's nuclear build-up and keep backing terror groups throughout the Middle East.

But just as important to us is the evidence that growing numbers of young British men are fighting with the terrorists in Afghanistan.

Our soldiers have already told of hearing Birmingham and Manchester accents among Taliban fighters.

And yesterday it was reported that a dead insurgent had an Aston Villa tattoo on his body.

You have to hand it to the writer of this leader column - that's a good connection, and one specifically designed to make the reader believe that Iran and the "terrorists in Afghanistan" are either one and the same thing or being funded by them. Iran might well support and fund Hizbullah, and to a lesser extent Hamas, which is a Sunni Muslim group, but the idea that Iran is doing the same with the Taliban is ridiculous, and not just because Iran originally co-operated with the overthrow of the Talibs in 2001. Iran might well sponsor Sunni jihadism in the form of Hamas, but it does so only because that group has no world view, and is instead dedicated only to the liberation of Palestine. Getting into bed with the Taliban, even the sections of it which are more moderate than the al-Qaida supporters which it also contains and connives with is similar to communists working with fascists (and before someone says Molotov-Ribbentrop, that was cynicism on both sides, knowing that war was inevitable but had to be delayed); they want to destroy each other, not work together.

Equally, the idea that there are "growing" numbers of Brits fighting in Afghanistan is plausible, but not especially likely. The fact that one "insurgent" had an Aston Villa tattoo is neither here nor there; in case the Sun hasn't noticed, the Premier League is global. In any case, I might be in the minority here, but that a tiny number of British Muslims might be fighting those they could have gone to school with, while a cause for concern, is not terribly terrible. Far better that they become insurgents and usually find themselves getting killed in the process than carry out attacks back here. The real problem, much more troubling than Brit Muslims fighting in Afghanistan is them coming back having been trained and graduated from the real "universities of terrorism" which are the camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan; security might be lax in some prisons, but they're not going to learn how to make TATP in there.

If we don't, we are simply playing into the hands of men like Ahmadinejad - who jabbers about democracy while locking up his opponents and supporting our enemies.

If the Sun wanted to do something useful rather than scaremongeringly bleat about terrorists, it would be supporting the young of Iran in what looks increasingly like a potential uprising against the Ayatollahs, but then you rather suspect that the Sun, like Israel and others in both Washington and London secretly wanted Ahmadinejad to stay in power so that the status quo ante, so important to all, stays unchanged.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Dr. Keith vs Medicine

Last week the Sun had an article from it's medical "expert" Dr. Keith.

In it he complains about how medical conditions are being "re-branded", giving the impression of "ITSJUSTPOLITICALCORRECTNESSGAWNMAAAAAADDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!" For a GP this is an odd article to write, particularly as the ones he lists appear to be simply being given more accurate terms:
Acute coronory syndrome (ACS):

It used to be called a heart attack.
Not quite, because it also covers angina, i.e. not a heart attack, but a lack of blood to the heart muscle due to a spasm, not a lack of blood due to a build up of fat.
Erectile dysfunction (ED):

That’s impotence, in old money.
It is a correct description of the symptoms.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD):

Originally, it was emphysema. Then chronic bronchitis. Then chronic obstructive airways disease. And finally COPD.
Nope, these are different conditions, hence different names, which have been given an overall term.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD):

Old name: Heartburn. People used to worry that it might have something to do with their heart. It doesn’t.

It’s caused by acid flowing up (the "reflux") from the stomach ("gastro") into the gullet ("oesophageal").
Fair enough, that's a sensible reason for re-naming it. However, this doesn't fit in with the rest of the article!
Lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS)

Previously known as prostatism, it describes plumbing problems common in older blokes: Going often, especially at night, with a poor stream and a lot of dribbling afterwards.

It was assumed this is caused by prostate trouble – hence “prostatism”.

And sometimes it is. But there are other possibilities, such as stones or a twitchy bladder.

So LUTS may be a bit of a mouthful but it’s more accurate.
Again, you're arguing against your own article!
Cerebrovascular event (CVE):

To you and me, a stroke. I’ve no idea why medics decided "stroke" wasn’t good enough.

They probably wanted to sound clever. But don’t faff around when you go weak down one side – just call an ambulance.
Presumably it was re-named because, once again, it gives a description of the symptoms! After all, "cerebro" relates to the brain and "vascular" relates to blood.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Gordon Smart, age 12 1/2

Here's a URL for you...

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/bizarre/2473451/Ronaldo-defends-himself-after-being-criticised-for-wearing-pink-hat-and-flower.html

That last bit, 'Ronaldo defends himself after being criticised for wearing pink hat and flower', who has criticised Ronaldo?

It doesn't say in the article, so I am presuming it is the chap who wrote it, one G. Smart.

And what, exactly is wrong with pink shirts and, tight trunks Ronaldo's also been known to wear, and flowers?

The article doesn't actually level any accusations, so what was Ronaldo defending himself against? being an idiot? Being a show-off? Being camp or being gay?

All the defensive quotes from the footballer and the references to limp wrists and Elton John smack of playground taunts of gayness and pointing and laughing when your mum turned your socks pink in the wash.

The headline of the piece gives it away, though, quoting Ronaldo...
The pink hat with the flower. I don’t see what is wrong with that if you are comfortable with your sexuality


That pretty much says it all. Another article to be proud of Gordon. Re-inforcing the butch macho image men have to live up to while mocking gays at the same time. Nice.

With a playground mentality of the colour pink and flowers and letching over any young female that shows a bit of flesh, is there something you would like to get off your chest, Gordon? Is there a bit of overcompensation going on?

Friday, 5 June 2009

It's a hard life

One of Roy Greenslades commentors pointed him in the direction of Tatler magazine. The particular piece in the mag is not online, but it is all about Rebekah Wade and her husband-to-be, Charlie Brooks.
So from Tatler via Roy...

When Charlie Brooks wakes up in the mornings at his barn in Oxfordshire, he likes nothing better than to fly to Venice from Oxford airport with his soon-to-be-wife Rebekah Wade, the dazzling redhead editor of The Sun, for lunch at Harry's Bar.

Later in the day, after shopping and sightseeing, the couple fly back to London for dinner at Wiltons in Jermyn Street.
...
When they're not in Venice, Charlie and Rebekah go on holiday with the Freuds on their boat... the Oppenheim Turners at their house in St Tropez... and with the Daventrys in the country.

They spend their weekdays at their flat in Chelsea Harbour... and weekends at their two-bedroom taupe-painted barn outside Chipping Norton... [where] a portrait of Rebekah by artist Jonathan Yeo, flame-haired and smiling, sits almost forgotten against a side wall...

Their weekend routine includes shopping at Daylesford, the most extravagant supermarket in England. They call it 'the mothership'... On Sundays they throw the occasional lunch for 20.


Tax cuts for the rich, anyone?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Have we got tax for you.

Another day, yet another editorial in the Sun demanding an immediate election. It's worth a mention though because it brings up a subject which the paper very rarely touches on, for good reason:

We cannot continue with a Cabinet - and a Shadow Cabinet - whose members have so many questions over their own tax affairs.

Can the Sun really start talking about tax affairs when Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation as a whole are such notorious tax evaders? Actually, perhaps it's a good idea - if the Sun starts deciding that the tax affairs of politicians are important, then it's surely time that we start asking why and how Murdoch and his papers should have such influence over our politics when they do everything they can to avoid paying their own fair share, while of course lambasting other organisations, such as the BBC, that are funded by taxpayers and which stand in their way of further business opportunities. One can't help but feel that maybe the leader writer might be getting a pointer in not mentioning such sensitive subjects in the future...