Saturday 29 August 2009

Get your war on.

All of a day later, and up pops Gordon in Afghanistan with the promise of more troops. Coincidence? Probably, as it's somewhat doubtful, even considering New Labour's obsession with the Sun, that yesterday's paper will have persuaded Brown and his advisers to immediately order a trip to the badlands of Helmand. No, but there might have been something much more conspiratorial at work here: I remember Peter Oborne on Newswipe mentioning that the Sun launched a campaign against asylum seekers back in 2003 with the full cooperation of Downing Street, with David Blunkett's interview with the paper sewn up in advance, where he'd agree with the paper's attacks on one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. Is the same thing at work here? Who knows?

Friday 28 August 2009

Don't they know there's a bloody war on? Err, yes, I think they do.

Either Rebekah Wade is going out with a bang or Dominic Mohan is intent on being seen immediately as a "serious" editor for these serious times. Today's Sun splash, and an extra long editorial with short comment pieces from various individuals alongside it, all ask the same interminable question: "Don't they know there's a bloody war on?"

My guess is that they do (they being the politicians) and that you (us) also do. It's just that the war in Afghanistan is one which has little overall consequence for anyone outside of the military. We have relatively few troops in the country (around the 10,000) mark, they're all there because they want to be, which makes a major difference to wars where conscription is used, and their presence has no real tangible effects on us back home whatsoever, except for the families of those who return either dead or injured, not to mention mentally scarred. You can argue that this shouldn't be the case, that there should be more than simple passive support for what the soldiers are out there doing, even if this doesn't extend to political support, but what exactly does the Sun expect? For the country to be put on a war footing? For the prime minister to take personal control? It seems they do: they want him to "take charge and take responsibility for the war", and if he doesn't he should be replaced by someone who will. Has it not perhaps occurred to the Sun that the very last person who should be in charge of the conduct of a war is an unqualified politician? Or do they mean something different when they say take charge and take responsibility?

This point matters because the paper is not only not comparing like with like, it seems a little hazy on history as well, as this passage from the editorial makes plain:

Mr Brown has taken the country to war but is ducking responsibility for the conduct of it. The tradition of our country is that in wartime, the Prime Minister takes charge.

Lloyd George led us in World War One and Winston Churchill in World War Two.

Margaret Thatcher led from the front in the triumphant Falklands War in 1982.

John Major took charge in the first Gulf War of 1991. Tony Blair assumed full responsibility when we invaded Iraq to topple Saddam. And he did the same over the liberation of Kosovo.

Except Gordon Brown hasn't taken the country into Afghanistan; Tony Blair did, in 2001. We've been there ever since. Brown as chancellor provided the funds for the war, it's quite true, but was not personally responsible for taking us there. He also wasn't prime minister when we entered Helmand in 2006: the defence secretary then was John Reid, who famously said he hoped that we would leave without firing a single shot. Then there's the fact that we're there in the country, not just on our own, but as part of the ISAF NATO coalition. Additionally, if we're going to split hairs, Winston Churchill didn't lead us into WW2; Neville Chamberlain did. The war in Afghanistan is also not, in any meaningful sense, a war with specific aims like all of those the Sun lists. It's far more comparable to what we were doing in Iraq from the fall of Saddam up until our exit this year: peacekeeping, reconstruction and providing security. Missions, like Operation Panther's Claw, which had the specific aim of clearing out Taliban so that people could vote in the presidential election, have been few and far between. As also argued above, we are quite clearly not in "wartime".

It's perhaps instructive that some of yesterday's front pages screamed that up to 10 British soldiers had died so that a whole 150 people could vote. The message from that was unequivocal: what's the point? The Sun quite clearly believes there is a point, as it has argued in the past, but it certainly isn't suggesting what it is in this editorial. It seems intent instead on kicking people before they've even had a chance:

There is an air of unreality in the country. While Our Boys are dying, a fool who is out of his depth and with little experience is in charge of defence.


Bob Ainsworth is an appalling appointment as Defence Secretary, yet he's in charge of the war. General Lord Guthrie, the hugely-respected former defence staff chief, makes devastating criticisms of Ainsworth's shambolic Ministry of Defence.

Is Ainsworth a fool? I doubt it, and at least he was previously a defence minister, unlike some of the other recent secretaries which were put in place and which the likes of the Sun approved of a lot more. It's also hardly fair to blame Ainsworth for the problems at the Ministry of Defence when he's only been in charge for getting on for two months.

Guthrie is most likely integral to working out the Sun's real position. Guthrie was one of the founders of the United Kingdom National Defence Association, an organisation which pushes for a return to the levels of cold war defence spending, a ludicrous position when we face a threat that couldn't be more different to that posed by the Soviets. As also could be expected, Guthrie has interests in pushing for an increase in defence spending: according to the House of Lords register of members' interests, Guthrie is a non-parliamentary consultant to BioDefense Corporation, whose mission is to "play a key role in homeland security and the mitigation of bioterrorism", while also non-executive director of Colt Defense LLC, which supplies the American military with weapons.

As could be expected, the equipment provided, or lack of it, gets it in the neck, especially the lack of protective vehicles. Yet the Americans, who do have such vehicles, have experienced 45 casualties so far this month in the country. Jock Stirrup, the current armed forces' chief of defence staff, writing in today's Guardian has a slightly different take:

Equipment is a subject that has generated much debate, some of it well informed, some of it not. Our equipment is good and improving; commanders speak of it very highly. But the enemy adapt their tactics and techniques to counter our capabilities, so what is "the right equipment" in a campaign changes, and often very quickly.

The Sun isn't willing to acknowledge such challenges or nuances, and just blames the MoD entirely.

It comes to down three immediate steps which the paper demands, which attempt to be reasonable but which are in fact anything but:

First, Mr Brown must take personal charge of the war in Afghanistan and tell the country clearly where we stand.

Second, he must sack Bob Ainsworth and appoint a competent Defence Secretary who will work with the military, not against them.

Third, he must make available whatever money it takes to supply the equipment urgently needed on the ground.

The first step is far enough on the second point, not so much on the former as already discussed. The fact is though that there is no convincing argument for our presence in Afghanistan, hence the fallacious argument (which the Sun supports) that what the troops are doing in Afghanistan is protecting British lives on British streets. The reason why the government is obtuse is because it realises this, however inappropriate that is. The best argument that can be made, whether you agree or disagree, is in Jock Stirrup's piece above. Sacking Bob Ainsworth will solve precisely nothing, especially when the Sun doesn't even attempt to suggest someone who should replace him, just as there is no evidence whatsoever that Ainsworth is "working against them". Lastly, just where does the Sun expect the government to get "whatever money it takes" without raising taxes (which it loathes), borrowing yet more (equally) or cutting services (which?)? In any event, helicopters and armoured vehicles cannot suddenly be magicked out of thin air; they take time to procure.

The Sun, as always, wants things done yesterday, and wants more to be done with less. It's trapped in the fatal idea that we are still a world power when we are not, and demands the sort of military spending that a world power would require. We are instead an island nation that requires defence, but not of the kind which the likes of Guthrie support. Gordon Brown can be criticised quite rightly over many things, including the current lack of dedication and explanation vis-a-vis Afghanistan, but the problems can be traced back to both Tony Blair and John Reid, who had the main hand in the calamity currently occurring in the country. The real way to defend the forces is to call for them to be brought home, and for a realistic defence policy which accepts that the main threat comes not from Afghanistan, but in fact from its neighbour, Pakistan. Undoubtedly though, whoever the editor of the Sun, when the paper barks, politicians listen, and Brown and Ainsworth will be surely mulling over what their response will be.

Should the Sun carry a health warning?

The Media Blog has an excellent spot in the Sun this morning...

Just what I needed yesterday on a long driving day. A big can of energy drink.

But why would that make it into the Sun Lies? Surely there can't be any hypocrisy going on with a drinks promotion, can there? Especially a non-alcoholic drinks promotion?

There has been a little controversy in the past about these types of drinks. All that concentrated caffeine and what-not can't be good for you, really. Just like any responsible company, The Sun and News Corp wouldn't want to do anything that might harm their customers, so maybe The Sun/News Corp didn't know about that side of it.

ENERGY drinks like Red Bull can cause heart attacks and strokes...

ENERGY drink Red Bull may claim to give you "wings" but it could also give you a heart attack

RESTLESSNESS, headaches, agitated behaviour and chest pains.
These are some of the symptoms of caffeine addiction, a growing problem among Britain's schoolkids.

Consumption of caffeine-enriched drinks such as Red Bull and Diet Coke is soaring among youngsters.

THE father of an 11-year-old boy found hanged has blamed his death on energy drinks.
Lee Johns said son Tyler had mood swings after becoming hooked on popular caffeine-filled drinks

...a worrying study at the Cardiovascular Research Centre in Adelaide, Australia, showed a single can of sugar-free Red Bull could have a damaging effect on the heart within 60 MINUTES.

None of these articles name Relentless, but as The Media Blog point out...
one can of Relentless contains 160 mg of caffeine. That's twice the amount of caffeine in a can of Red Bull

Thursday 27 August 2009

Spinwatch on Jenvey.

Spinwatch has a new article up which is by far the most comprehensive attempt yet to link together the "network" which Glen Jenvey was formerly a part of, and includes details on others that have been featured in the Sun's pages as "terror experts", such as Neil Doyle, whom I've mentioned on a number of occasions.

It also mentions the Sun's reply to the Press Complaints Commission concerning the "TERROR TARGET SUGAR" story, which had protested about:

In its response to the Press Complaints Commission, a copy of which has been given to Spinwatch, The Sun argued that, ‘to regard Islamic extremists as being in the business of sending ‘polite letters’ is na├»ve and extreme. This is based on the expert opinion of Glen Jenvey, an expert in radical Islam…it is quite obviously a euphemism…’

Yes, obviously... that's why the thread had to be bumped repeatedly by "Abuislam" to try to get everyone interested in the business of sending "polite letters", and why he also had to suggest turning up at their houses in person. The letter itself will be of even greater interest once it can be released in full.

The article was sadly written before Jenvey's confession that he was indeed "Abuislam", and so the most crucial part of evidence concerning the fakery and entrapment which Jenvey's group used is not included. I, as well as others, had long been concerned about the likes of Vigil and Westminster Journal and their sensationalistic approach to "watching" jihadists, a vital security activity which they have risked undermining through their selling of ridiculous false stories to tabloids; I had intended to write a "who watches the watchers?" post but never got round to it. It does however further pin down Patrick Mercer as one of Jenvey's main supporters and pushers, someone who ought to have been far more careful and circumspect in his dealings with such individuals, and whom Tim Ireland is still currently in dispute with over what he knew and when.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Conclusive proof of Nessie!

I was going to write summat about this article in the Sun which claims that the Loch Ness Monster has been spotted on Google Earth.

However, the good people over at the Google Sightseeing website have done the job for me:
Oh for goodness sake. The Sun reported that this: was the Loch Ness monster. THAT IS A BOAT. #eejits
There's nothing further to add.

However, I do like the drawing of the dinosaur they use as an illustration.

With baited breath...

The waiting then is finally over. The moment the nation has been looking forward to has arrived. After months of tension, irritation and terrible puns, not to mention writing, the next editor of the Sun, taking over from Rebekah Wade will be... Dominic Moron (surely Mohan? Ed.).

Who he? Well, he's probably best known for being a former editor of the Sun's Bizarre showbiz pages, which is increasingly becoming a signifier for going on to "greatness", with Piers Morgan and Andy Coulson both formerly helming the columns. More recently he's been the deputy editor for the last couple of years, although even the sad individuals like myself who "watch" the Sun will have been hard pressed to see any of his personal influence on the paper. Indeed, he's even been editing the paper for the last month while Wade, sorry, I mean Brooks, has been getting to know her new husband even better, when not flying to Italy in a private jet and back in a single day of course, and I doubt anyone has noticed any difference whatsoever. Mohan did for a time have a comment page all to himself, a success so huge that he was swiftly recognised by Private Eye as the World's Worst Columnist.

None of this will be seen as a surprise. Wade's appointment as editor was the one which caused the most comment and controversy since Kelvin MacKenzie's days, both because (durr) she was a woman on what has always been a distinctly laddish paper, and also due to her role as the nation's paedofinder general while editor of the News of the World. Murdoch's choices prior to that had actually been far more conservative, perhaps with the exception of the young and relatively untested Morgan, and also more anonymous. Mohan might have had his photograph taken with every "star" going while editor of Bizarre, but that was quite a while ago by modern standards. Murdoch's apparent predilection for showbiz reporters to gradually become editors of his tabloids can be explained easily: they rarely have defined political views, let alone ones which are likely to be counter to his (read Morgan's anguished and fevered political revision prior to meeting Murdoch in his "diaries"), hence leaving all that tiresome stuff to either him or his trusted lieutenants like Trevor Kavanagh, and secondly, considering that most of the nonsense printed in them now is either about who's shagging who and who currently has the biggest pair of tits, it makes good business sense that someone who understands that first and foremost has their hand on the tiller.

As it happens, the editor of the Sun has probably never mattered less, with the exception of when the paper was transformed from the Daily Herald into (gradually, with Murdoch's purchase of the paper in 1969) the super soaraway form which we now know and loathe. No editor since MacKenzie has ever fully stamped their own personality all over it: sure, Wade has stepped up the campaigning slightly, and her continuing emphasis on saving children from the evil all around them has never wavered, while it has probably become slightly more liberal, in line with society in general, but the politics have remained exactly the same. Up the arse of Blair, less up the arse of Brown, and now up the arse of Cameron, all dictated by the true management. The lies, laziness and obsessions will all remain the same under Mohan, and Sun-watching will be just as necessary as before.

Monday 24 August 2009

Facebook-bashing returns?

I'm not going to go too to town over two stories in today's Sun which are essentially Facebook-bashing pieces - the first an interview with the victim of the "cyber-bully" who was successfully prosecuted last week, the second a ream of bullshit about how serial-footballer shagger and Celebrity Big Brother racist Danielle Lloyd had a "nervous breakdown" after she discovered a Facebook group called "I Hate Danielle Lloyd" - but it's worth wondering whether if either story had involved MySpace, owned by Sun parent company News International, rather than Facebook they would have been given such prominence or if the social networking site would have even been mentioned, especially considering how the Sun failed to name MySpace when it came to the gang banned from posting "intimidating" pictures on such sites.

Thursday 20 August 2009

The latest in the Glen Jenvey/ TARGET SUGAR saga.

In a revelation that will surprise absolutely no one, Glen Jenvey, of TERROR TARGET SUGAR fame, has admitted that he posted the messages on the forum which led to the Sun's article during the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza in January. Sun - Tabloid Lies contributor Richard Bartholomew has confirmed the authenticity of a message sent to's administrators:

Brother i'm sorry for the Allan Sugar story plant. I'm retired now from spying on Muslims. I saw a chance to install fear back in Jews who were killing Muslims.I was wrong to use you and your site.If you need any thing to help you in any way in the name of Allah just ask.

But yes the Sun did not know who posted it.I say sorry to you from my heart. if you want show the police and get me arrested. but with the first ramadaam coming i want to clear my past sin's before i start my fasting and pray.

I would write this on your forum but im blocked out. may Allah reward you for your good work you do.Ameen

Omar Hamza Jenvey


Glen Jenvey

Jenvey's claim that the Sun didn't know that he was the author of the messages is plausible: the story itself was sold to the Sun through an outside news agency, which presumably Jenvey himself contacted. This doesn't however excuse the Sun's sexing up of the story, claiming that the likes of Alan Sugar were on a "hit list" drawn up by "hate-filled Islamic extremists", when all that was proposed outside of the posts by "abuislam" was a letter-writing campaign, and even Jenvey himself only suggested demonstrations outside their houses, nor their abject failure to check that "abuislam" wasn't an agent provocateur. There was no story whatsoever, except in the heads of journalists flailing to provide a UK-centric report on a war which they otherwise couldn't care less about, while also of course continuing the casual demonisation of Muslims, especially those who dare to criticise policies which the Sun and Murdoch press in general support wholeheartedly.

While Jenvey has admitted to what we were already almost certain he had done, I remain concerned about his mental state and his sudden apparent conversion to Islam, especially his supposed involvement with the likes of Omar Bakri Muhammad. It may yet turn out that this is just Jenvey's latest ploy, or rather his latest obsession, as his mental health has always apparently been precarious, but it equally may be that he is being manipulated by those that are just as bad as the anti-Islam brigade that Jenvey previously associated with. Far be it from me to tell someone what they should do, but what I would suggest is that everyone ought to leave Jenvey alone until it is absolutely certain that he is indeed making his own decisions.

Street of Shame pt. 95.

Here's this week's entries in Private Eye (1243) concerning the Sun:

Tuesday 18 August 2009

"It wasn't me, it was the other three!"

Claims back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin smuggled his memoirs out of jail using a rule allowing correspondence with lawyers are to be investigated.

What's this got to do with the Sun? Well, the Sun serialised them.

Christopher Hutchings, a media lawyer told the BBC there was currently no law that prevented criminals selling their stories.

"However, the Press Complaints Commission, which governs the newspaper and magazine industry, does have in its code of practice provision preventing such a situation," he said.

Very true. Item 16, part i) of the PCC code states...
Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, which seek to exploit a particular crime or to glorify or glamorise crime in general, must not be made directly or via agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates – who may include family, friends and colleagues.

The Sun received the memoirs through Darwins' lawyer. Only Darwins' lawyer wasn't a lawyer but a fraudster and they both then abused the rule allowing confidential correspondence between lawyer and client.

This arrangement is used to lovely effect by the Sun to deflect the attention of breaking the PPC code of conduct back on to the Ministry of Justice...
However, the Sun claims, the Prison Service failed to carry out basic checks which would have revealed that Darwin's new "lawyer" was really a conman who was freed on licence earlier this year.

I've seen an attitude like that before. Now where was it...?

Monday 17 August 2009

Wi-fi Stress makes you ill, follow-up

A few weeks ago I put up an article about some guy who claimed to suffer from Electromagnetic Hypersensitity.

I wasn't convinced to say the least...

It now turns out that I was right to be sceptical: a systematic review has just been published in the journal Bioelectromagnetics. In summary, it doesn't exist.

(via @Krelnik)

Tunisian duodecaplets

Today's Sun has an article which claims that a Tunisian woman is pregnant with 12 kids.

Leaving aside the complete lack of detail in the story: it quotes "local reports", no names are provided and is nothing more than a mishmash of heresay and rumours, there are reasons to doubt it on a scientific basis, which are alluded to in the article.

It would be an extraordinary event: the odds on it occurring are in the region of 1:80^11, i.e. it would happen once every 80*80*80*80*80*80*80*80*80*80*80 times, so once in every 858,993,459,200,000,000,000 live births.

Assuming that she actually is pregnant with 12 foetuses, it's very unlikely that she will give birth to such a high number. The record number for a multiple birth is 9 babies, which according to Wikipedia, has been achieved on three separate occasions.

In any event, as with all multiple births, there are numerous risks, of which the obvious ones are low birth-weight and premature delivery, the risks of which will increase the more babies there are.

UPDATE (19/08/09): According to the Torygraph, it's fake. The "mother" has refused medical tests and gone into hiding.

UPDATE (20/08/09): The Sun now admits it's a fraud.

Friday 7 August 2009

Remarkable reticence.

The Sun is delighted that a gang from Manchester have had their internet privileges proscribed:

DECENT people should salute Judge Clement Goldstone, QC.

He has banned 10 gang hoodlums from posting sickening group photos of themselves on the internet.

The Manchester yobs had used a networking site to boast about their vicious activities.

Judge Goldstone told them: "The courts will not stand idly by when youths maraud menacingly like packs of wild animals."

Thank you, Judge. Other courts please take note.

The gang in question is the Fallowfield Mad Dogz, as the Sun's report makes clear. Both the Sun's editorial and article are remarkably reticent though about just what "networking" site the Mad Dogz had been using. Other reports are much more clear:

MEMBERS of a street gang have been banned from posting photos of themselves together on the web.

In a landmark ruling, 10 young men - all members of the `Fallowfield Mad Dogs' group - could be locked up if they put pictures of themselves on social networking websites.


An image of the youths in thuggish poses posted on MySpace was used as evidence of their gang membership.

And indeed, a Google search for the Fallowfield Mad Dogs brings up as the very first result the gang's MySpace page, untouched since late last year, where you can see over 36 photographs of the members in various "sickening" and "thuggish" poses. Doubtless the fact that MySpace is owned by the Sun's parent company News International has nothing whatsoever to do with how the paper couldn't name the most easily accessible place where "decent people" could see why they should salute Judge Goldstone.

Thursday 6 August 2009

The pointlessness of it

The Sun...
CRIMINALS are being given exotic salsa dancing classes in prison.
Two officers stand guard while lags gyrate to the trendy Latin sounds in the prison gym.

How dare they? Don't they know they're in there for our revenge? They should be counting themselves lucky they're not still shitting in buckets that get emptied once a week.

Prisoners. Camping it up when they should be breaking rocks. It's youmanrightsgornmad!

Is that what I'm supposed to think?

Well, that's not all. The prison in question, Kirkham, has a putting green. Not just a putting green, but a putting green in capitals. And bold. That's how outrageous it is.

A source, obviously too shy to be named has revealed something that would probably be admitted by the prison itself...
Prisoners at Kirkham really do have a cushy deal. The thinking is that if the guards keep the prisoners happy, they'll behave.

Sound reasonable. if I was treated like an animal I be a bit rebellious, too.

There has been a big crackdown on drugs and mobile phones. The salsa and golf are seen as part of the solution. It would never happen without the blessing of prison bosses.

Again, what the problem? Drugs, obviously bad in a place like prison and mobile phones too, I suppose to some extent. And obviously it wouldn't happen without the governor's say so. It's tunnels and the manufacture of stabbing implements that the governor wouldn't know or approve of.

The article right at the bottom mentions that the dancing and putting green are not funded by the prison service, which should calm the reader down about, and also that these activities do not detract from the proper work and education and punishment that should be going on inside prison, either.

But still. All these dangerous, nasty people dancing and putting, they should be being punished. What the article is missing is that a category D prisons, as Kirkham is, is an open prison where lags coming to the end of their sentence and can be trusted are sent to as prison is about rehabilitation as well as punishment.

With interests and hobbies prisoners are less likely to re-offend, aren't they? And if it's not costing the taxpayer anything, then what is the problem? And so what is the point of the Sun's article?

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Street of Shame pt. 94.

Here's the Sun's mentions in today's Private Eye Street of Shame column (1242), which you'll need to click:

More double standards.

The latest Sun editorial is disgusted at the silencing of one of our most venerable judges:

THE knives are out for Judge Ian Trigger who spoke so searingly last week about our abject immigration controls.

Judge Trigger lashed out in exasperation about the "hundreds of thousands" of illegal immigrants who abuse our welfare system.

"In the past 10 years the national debt has risen to extraordinary heights, largely because central government has wasted billions of pounds," he said.

Like Army Chief Sir Richard Dannatt's damning words about our armed services, this is the unvarnished truth from an expert witness.

Yet the Lord Chief Justice has ordered a probe into whether Judge Trigger's remarks were "too political".

There can be only one verdict: NOT guilty M'lud.

As Tabloid Watch pointed out last week, Judge Trigger's comments, rather than being the "searingly unvarnished truth", were abject nonsense. Illegal immigrants don't get benefits, as should be painfully obvious, while those who apply for asylum receive almost derisory amounts until their application is accepted, while if their application fails they don't receive money at all, rather vouchers which can be redeemed in exchange for goods and services.

The Sun is as usual letting its prejudices get in the way of its thinking. When judges make rulings and decisions which they disagree with, especially when they give out "soft" sentences, they're outraged, and in the past have demanded that "bad" judges be suspended. Political comment on the other hand, which goes beyond the case which the judge is dealing with, is perfectly all right as long as the paper agrees with it. Nothing quite like double standards, is there?