Thursday 30 April 2009

Who's responsible? We are of course!

There's a quite extraordinary leader in today's Sun (url will change). Extraordinary in that it is utterly shameless in claiming credit for two campaigns, one that it did indeed lead, and which has had negative consequences which will almost certainly affect social services for years to come, and another which it only jumped on on Monday. The paper of course doesn't personally claim credit; it instead claims that its readers are responsible, as it has in the past. This might be the case in the Baby P campaign, but is certainly not in the case of the Gurkhas. In any case:

WHO said people power was dead?

In one amazing day, TWO Sun campaigns result in triumphs for our readers.

GURKHAS win a crucial Commons victory against Government plans to deport them.

And BABY P social workers finally pay the price for their incompetence and arrogance.

Incredibly, the Sun can't even get the campaign concerning the Gurkhas right. The government has no plans to deport them; retired Gurkhas instead want the right to settle here. One would have thought that if the Sun had been covering the Gurkhas campaign since the beginning, it might have been able to get the key facts straight.

First, the Gurkhas...

Labour’s humiliation at Westminster over its shabby treatment of these brave men is a triumph for decency and democracy.

The Sun is proud to have led the crusade to let the Gurkhas settle here.

Gordon Brown has only himself to blame for his bloody nose.

Led the crusade? Prior to last Saturday, only Jon Gaunt had so much as mentioned the Gurkhas' campaign in the paper this year. Last year the paper made 38 mentions of Gurkhas: just once did it make the Sun's leader column, and then it was regarded as the least important issue of the day, below some completely inaccurate nonsense about the European Union and yet more woe from Helen Newlove. To be fair to the paper, Gaunt has at least repeatedly wrote about the Gurkhas, but one columnist does not make a paper leading the "crusade". Notable by their absence from this leader are the far more important individuals who genuinely did lead the campaign, namely Joanna Lumley and Nick Clegg, who obviously come second to the paper's noble leadership and the readers who did much to put down the motion which led to the government being defeated.

And why did it take Haringey Council so long to appreciate anger over their failure to sack those who betrayed Baby P?

I don't know; maybe they were following proper procedure rather than just deciding to instantly sack people based on what was written in Sun leader columns?

Four went yesterday without compensation, including social worker Maria Ward, her superior Gillie Christou and two bosses.

That would be the same Maria Ward who was driven to the edge of suicide by the Sun's targeting of her. Before the Sun shut down comments on its Baby P reports, readers had commented on the Sun's article daring her to do it. The paper had also demanded that another social worker, Sylvia Henry, be sacked. The council found that she had no case to answer. Doubtless she too suffered similar treatment to that which Sharon Shoesmith and Ward were subjected; if she was hoping for an apology, she'll be waiting a long time.

It’s good to see that public opinion can still count in national life.

As long as that public opinion corresponds with the Sun's views, naturally.

From Zero to Hero

Well, what do you know? Russell Brand has been forgiven for his transgression of taste and decency...

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Defending the rich

Trevor Kavanagh has a piece in the Sun, published on Monday just gone (27/04) full of woe for Alistair Darlings budget.

It was a silly budget because now not only is everyone going to lose their jobs but all the wealth creators are going to flee:
The Budget is less than a week old and already Britain’s wealth creators are deserting the sinking ship.

The Sunday Times’ latest Rich List shows our star earners have lost hundreds of millions. Why would they stay in a hostile tax environment?

And what about those who simply aspire to be in that Rich List some day? It’s not just so-called fat cats who are leaving.

Queues are forming for visas to Australia, Canada and the USA.

Wow. I'm not much into finance myself, but that sounds like a seriously rubbish budget.
The examples that Trevor chooses to use to highlight the plight of the poor little rich boys are, erm, dubious at best: Michael Caine, actor and all round national treasure; Tony Blair, ex-Prime Minister now peace envoy to the middle east on behalf of The Quartet,palm greaser special advisor for Morgan Stanley and after dinner/public speaker; Richard Branson, industrialist and the only real wealth creator out of the three.

First off, Michael Caine:
“We’ve got three and a half million layabouts on benefits and I’m 76 and getting up at 6am to go to work to keep them,” says the star of Billion Dollar Brain.

Sir Michael will move to America rather than pay more than half his earnings in tax to bail out these scroungers.

“I will not pay the Government more than I get. No way, ever,” he says.

Does anyone care about an actor packing up his £45million fortune and leaving in a huff?

Micheal is indeed 76 and probably does get up at 6 am to go to work, but he isn't going to work to keep anybody. Trevor points out Michael has a £45 million fortune so if he is still working way past the age when ordinary people are wanting to, if not able to, retire he is doing it out of love for his profession. An actor doesn't really create employment, like a businessman might.
Michael owns and co-owns a few restaurants in Britain, about 5 I think, and a couple of other countries. So not exactly a big employer there either.

Tony Blair, is an ex PM and is not really what you could call a wealth creator either, beyond his office staff. He makes his money from advising Morgan Stanley and giving speeches. He is now an employee, not an employer.

Richard Branson is a slightly different kettle of fish. Branson is a true entrepreneur, starting with nothing and working his way to where he is now but selling and trading and starting companies and building a group of companies. The only good example here.

It's not too good overall so far, 1 good example out of 3. That score gets worse when you consider:
Sir Richard Branson has a complicated series of offshore trusts and companies that own his business empire. Branson, whose wealth is calculated at £3,065m, pays relatively little tax as his wealth is tied up in these companies.

It means that when he retires, he could move abroad — to the island he owns in the Caribbean — and liquidate his assets virtually tax-free.

and I would bet that Michael and Tony have very compentent accountants to help minimise their tax burden.

The Sun is asking the reader to i) feel sorry for rich people that can and do avoid paying their full share of tax and ii) fear for the future of the country by screaming about the flight of wealth creators by using examples of extremely wealthy people that either do not create wealth or avoid paying their taxes.
If these three do leave, their businesses won't. Michaels restaurants are profitable and Virgin isn't just going to up sticks and go and Tony will look a right arse if he turns his back on Britain.
So if these guys do go they will still employ people here who have no choice but to stay andpay their taxes.

Hmmm. I wonder what how much Trevor earns...?

Monday 27 April 2009

Pig flu is here!

Good to see that the Sun is keeping things fully in perspective regarding swine flu:

No advice yet on whether we're all doomed and whether we should be abandoning the country to live on the Isle of Man, but it shouldn't be too long now.

MySpace's new rival?

I guess it was only a matter of time before this started: after having numerous articles having a go at Bebo and/or Facebook, the Sun has moved into Twitter-bashing.

It's only three short paragraphs about how brothels are allegedly using it to tout for business. However, given that it is the third anti-Twitter article in two weeks, it implies that Twitter is considered to be the new rival to the Murdoch-owned MySpace.

The thing is, the Murdoch-owned Sky News has its own Twitter correspondent, so it can't be that bad for News Corp!

Thursday 23 April 2009

Analyzing the budget

You Care (on this story in the Sun):
“ALISTAIR Darling today soaked the rich with tax rises — and hit Sun readers with rises in petrol, booze, cigarettes and even bingo to pay for the black hole in Britain’s finances.”

Are their really no high earning Sun readers, well I suppose they know their market better than anyone.

Interesting to watch the Sun in action trying to convince its readers that taxing the rich is a terrible thing to do. They did their best of course in ignoring any potential benefits to its readers of this tax, instead focusing on beer, petrol, and cigarette rises to try and get the people on side in their low taxes for the rich ideals. Coming straight from the top no doubt from the Mr Rupert Murdoch himself who is notoriously shy of paying any tax at all.

Nice to see the Sun showing who they really support whilst pretending to be the newspaper of the working man.

Read the rest

Monday 20 April 2009

The launch of SunTalk and Abu Qatada.

Today saw the launch of SunTalk, which is little more than the paper kindly stepping in and giving Jon Gaunt a job, after he was sadly sacked from TalkSport for calling a councillor a "Nazi". Because it only broadcasts on the internet and not over the actual airwaves or on DAB, this also handily means that it isn't regulated by Ofcom, instead by the rather weaker Press Complaints Commission. The Grauniad listened in so you didn't have to, and here are some of the choicer parts, with David Cameron being Gaunt's first guest:

10.34am: "Are you ready for some more calls, prime minister?" asks Gaunty. Is there a chance he might be a little right-leaning, do you think? Let's not get ahead of ourselves, says the Tory leader. "Oh come on, behave yourself," says Gaunt. "I bet you stand in front of the mirror wondering what it will be like to be prime minister?" Which reminds me a little of the Alan Partridge episode when he quizzes a distant royal: "Do you want to be Queen? Yes, she wants to be Queen!"

10.39am: It's SunSport's Ian McGarry. "Morning, prime minister." Crikey. He's at it as well. Have I missed something? So this is what they mean by the "home of free speech". If this was a radio station licensed and regulated by Ofcom, then someone might have put a call in by now.


10.53am: "For all those of you who say you hate me, it's a bumper day for you," says Gaunty. "There are four pages of me in the Sun. You can put it on the dartboard." "Use it to light your fire," suggests Cameron. In case you missed it earlier, SunTalk is here. Ah, we're onto immigration. "But there are a million illegals!" suggests Gaunty. "What are you going to do about them?" Ah, yes. "Illegals." Lovely noun.

11.07am: Another caller on Cameron: "He's got a true face, some fair eyes, and I would vote for him anytime." Which just about sums up the tone of the programme so far. This ToryTalk programme is a triumph.


It's Sun political editors old and new, Trevor Kavanagh and George Pascoe-Watson. "Everyone knows that Labour is going to lose the next general election...." Hmm, can you feel a subliminal message here? For those listeners who were not already aware, it does not cost any money to send an email to SunTalk, says Gaunt. Phonecalls are charged at a local rate. "Not a premium rip off rate, as some stations charge, naming no names!" says Gaunty. Let it go, Jon, let it go.

11.45am: "The reason we want to be on the internet is because we want to be the home of free speech," explains Gaunty. "We are not regulated by Ofcom, we are regulated by the Press Complaints Commission. We don't want people to libel anyone or any of that nonsense, we want people to talk from the heart. If we were a traditional radio station that would not be possible." What he's trying to say, I think, is that you can go a little bit further on the web. But not TOO far, obviously. But how far is too far?


1.20pm: "We've put it together in six weeks. It sounds like it!" jokes Gaunt. And it does a bit. For a phone-in show there were only a handful of phonecalls worth listening to. Gaunt is a consummate radio pro and hurries things along - sometimes too quickly, in fact - and had a big name guest in the shape of David Cameron. But once the prime minister, as Gaunt insisted on calling him, exited stage right, the programme lost any sense of occasion, with one Sun columnist turning up after another. Some of them were better value than others - we needed more Ally Ross and Gordon Smart, less P&O travel guide, which felt like it lasted forever. I haven't checked my watch, but possibly it did. Gaunt's dedicated band of followers will enjoy it, I am sure, and if you agree with everything you read in the Sun, then you will appreciate most of the things you hear on SunTalk. But it could have done with a little bit more light and shade, a little bit of left with its right. Preaching to the converted can make for awfully boring radio. Strangely for a project that was so keen to big itself up as the "home of free speech" where people would "talk from the heart", SunTalk played it safe.

The Sun managed to get this sensational story out of Gaunt's interview:

DAVID Cameron today sensationally revealed he is planning TWO TERMS in power if he wins the next general election.

Politician in wanting to stay in government for more than one parliament shock!!!

Only slightly less seriously, there is something intensely humourous about having page 3 girls on the "radio", as the programme also had - Gaunt himself, after all, has a face for radio. Meanwhile, on actual radio, Chris Moyles had a 12-minute long "rant" about Saturday's front page Sun story which suggested that he was shortly to be removed from the Radio 1 breakfast, which indeed does seem dubious when you consider, however much you might personally dislike Moyles, he's been the most successful breakfast DJ on the station for years. Somehow you imagine that SunTalk isn't likely to threaten Radio 1's listening figures any time soon.


There's an standard piece of nonsense in today's Sun regarding Abu Qatada, obviously briefed to them by a friendly "security source":

JAILED hate preacher Abu Qatada was linked to al-Qaeda for the first time yesterday — by one of the terror group’s own leaders.

Adil al-Abbab, revealed recently as Osama Bin Laden’s head of religious affairs in Saudi Arabia, said: “Free our prisoners and the prisoners of the Muslims. O Allah! Free Sheikh Abu Qatada.”

An indication of how important Adil al-Abbab is can be noted by searching Google for him - the Sun's story is the first result. The second helpfully links us to an English translation of al-Abbab's address, and he does indeed call for Allah to free Qatada. He also however calls for the freeing of plenty of others:

O Allah! Free our prisoners and the prisoners of the Muslims!
O Allah! Free Shiekh Dr. Omar Abdul‐Rahman! Sheikh Rifa’i Taha, Sheikh Sulaiman Al‐Ulwan, Sheikh Waleed Al‐Sinani, Sheikh Saeed Aal Al‐Za’eer, Sheikh Faris Aal Shuwayyil, Sheikh Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Sheikh Abu Hafs Al‐Mauritani.
O Allah! Free Sheikh Muhammad Al‐Fizazi, Sheikh Abu Qatadah Al‐Filistini, Sheikh Na‐sar Al‐Marsad, and all the other Muslims.

Most of these are indeed either jihadists or linked to al-Qaida; others Google turns up next to nothing for, and one, Sheikh Waleed Al-Sinani is mentioned in this Amnesty International briefing on Saudi Arabia as being a prisoner of conscience because of his political beliefs and views on human rights.

In any case, the idea that because some speaker no one has previously heard of calls for the release of Qatada instantly links him definitively to al-Qaida is absurd. It gets even more so, though:

Qatada, long suspected of being the network’s top European envoy, was respectfully referred to as “Sheikh” which denotes leadership.

Err, no, although a nice try. Sheikh literally means elder, but in this instance it is being used almost certainly in the sense of Qatada being a religious scholar. al-Qaida uses "sheikh" loosely in any case: they have long referred to Osama bin Laden as being a sheikh, although he has no formal religious training and no authority to issue fatwas, something that he was criticised for doing previously, including by those predisposed towards al-Qaida's brand of Islam.

A UK security source said of the web rant: “This is clearly an own goal.

“These calls for his freedom from a senior al-Qaeda figure end any doubt about his significance to Bin Laden.”

Of course. Presumably bin Laden feels the same about Al-Sinani as well then? The problem with Qatada is that he is enigmatic, as posts over on my place have repeatedly made clear. He probably is an Islamic extremist, but whether he actually supports al-Qaida or not is another matter entirely. This tainting by association is very weak stuff.

Thursday 16 April 2009

How dare this woman sell her story!

There's some quite monumental hypocrisy in the Sun's latest leader column, as well as some predictable myopia (url will change):

IF police are proved to have attacked G20 protesters, they must face the consequences.

Yes, quite. I mean, obviously, those videos showing officers pushing people over when they were walking away from them, and that other one showing a woman being slapped with the back of the hand then hit with a baton just aren't enough evidence. We have to hear what the officers themselves think happened, and they might be able to offer a different interpretation, in which case we should always take their word for it over shoddy unclear recorded pictures. It's just common sense.

But alleged “victim” Nicola Fisher loses credibility by hiring celebrity publicist Max Clifford.

The involvement of Mr Clifford turns a serious inquiry into a circus.

How can investigators have faith in Ms Fisher’s claims when she is touting her story to make a pot of gold?

Indeed, how dare Nicola Fisher sell her story? She should instead, like people's celebrity Jade Goody, have refused to make money from circumstances beyond her control and resolutely stood against using charlatans like Mr Clifford for monetary gain, ensuring that her death was not turned into a public spectacle. She should further take heed of the example of Jade's widower, Jack Tweed, who is bravely facing up to his second spell inside as a victim of a miscarriage of justice, rather than complaining about his lot through the pages of a tabloid newspaper.

Incidentally, the Sun's smearing of Ms Fisher is rather mild compared to the treatment she's getting in the Mail, although the Sun is undoubtedly the police's friend, which the Mail's relationship is far more ambiguous.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Injunctions and Hillsborough.

From today's Private Eye (No. 1234):

A month has passed since Ashley Cole obtained an injunction to stop the Sun publishing a picture of him sitting with a blonde in a nightclub (as footballers tend to do) while his wife was away climbing a mountain for charity. Although the Sun made a front page hoo-ha about the court order at the time, there's still no sign of an appeal.

Nor will there be. For, the Eye can reveal, the photo of Cole and the blonde was far too innocent and boring to be worth printing. The Sun decided instead to wind up Cole with hints of what might be in the picture, in the hope that he would panic and scamper down to the high court. This would be a far better story, implying that the photo really must be sensational. But would even the clod-hopping Cole be stupid enough to fall for the ruse?

Of course. And, on the night he won his injunction, there was champagne all round at Wapping.

Regardless of the fact that Cole had apparently told his wife that he wouldn't go out while she was away, the Sun had no right whatsoever to be sending its paps after him into a nightclub on the off chance of them managing to snatch a shot of some alleged misdemeanour. As unsympathetic an individual as Cole is, he has more than reason to loathe the paper, as I pointed out at the time, and indeed his rage resulted in him spending a night in the cells. It seems likely that all the shot the paper got was of a "blonde" being starstruck or asking for an autograph, which was enough for the paper to claim that two were thinking about discussing Uganda (to keep with the Eye theme). Not a bad night's work, and it managed to give "Lorraine Kelly" or presumably rather her ghost writer a column's subject. As for telling your readers lies, well, that matters much less.


We couldn't really let today pass without mentioning Hillsborough. You might think that the paper might be somewhat ashamed of its own actions 20 years ago and therefore keep its coverage deliberately light, but like with everyone else, they've gone to town in much the same fashion. There's been no repetition of an apology, mainly because it will never be accepted and mainly also because the Sun's hacks now have about as much sense of history as the, err, average tabloid journalist. The double irony of the tragedy was that it helped pave the way for the Premier League - which almost certainly saved Rupert Murdoch's flailing satellite empire from bankruptcy. Smearing an entire city, profiting from it and getting away with it - possibly the lowest point ever reached by journalism as a whole.

Monday 13 April 2009

It's not a matter of life and death, it's more important than that

Here's a pointless article even for the Sun: they're fear-mongering about the prospects of the England football team!

Last week Wayne and Colleen Rooney said that they're due to have a child in October. The Sun says that her due date means that Rooney may miss the "vital" Ukraine-England World Cup qualifier on 10th October because if still pregnant Colleen would be at 41 weeks and so may need to be induced.

There are three main things wrong with this article:
  • Firstly, the Sun should be ashamed to even suggest that they should put a football game ahead of the health of both Colleen and the baby;
  • Secondly, the majority of women give birth at 40 weeks, which in this case would be the week before the game;
  • Thirdly, the game will be England's 9th out of 10 qualifiers. In case you're not aware, in the European section of the World Cup (Group 6) so far England have won their first 5 games, with a total of 15 points, are 5 points clear and at the very worst need 25 points to qualify. Their next two games are against the two weakest teams in the group - Kazakhstan and Andorra - and it is pretty certain that England will win both of these which will give them 21 points. Therefore, aside from the fact that the article implies England are a one-man team and they will fall apart if Rooney isn't playing, it is likely that he may not even need to be selected because they may have already qualified!

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Cry me a river

Once again we have evidence of the Sun's journalists not bothering to make even a minimal effort into researching what they are reporting.

From today's Sun:
A GIRL has become a holy shrine in India where worshippers watch her cry blood instead of tears.

Doctors in Patna, north-east India, have been stumped by Rashida Khatoon's condition, which causes her to shed tears of blood several times a day.

But local Hindu holy men have declared her a miracle.
It's not a miracle, that's for sure. A quick Google search for "cry blood" brings up this article on WikiAnswers:
Q. How do you cry blood?

A. [...] The condition is called Haemolacria. It is actually a symptom of various diseases. One specific cause could be a tumor in or near the tear duct.
The Haemolacria article on Wikipedia states:
Haemolacria is a physical condition whereby a person produces tears which are partially composed of blood. This can manifest as anything from red-tinged tears to those which appear to be entirely blood.

Haemolacria is a symptom of a number of diseases, and may also be indicative of a tumour in the lacrimal apparatus.
I think that the girl would be better off seeing a competent doctor because, if they are "stumped", the ones she has seen don't know what they are doing.