Category Archives: politics

Margot

Dear Prime Minister, please promote Margot James

There was only one true mystery after David Cameron’s pitch-perfect reshuffle last week.

Where was Margot James?

I realise the risk in publishing a ‘please promote my mate’ blog about any MP, not least to the MP themselves, but that is not what I am doing here. Firstly, I know and like just about every Tory MP in the 2010 intake, and I understand there isn’t room in government for all of them, especially when LibDem obstructionists have a third of government seats (notice all those female and BME LibDem ministers by the way? Oh. Me neither). Secondly. Margot James had absolutely nothing to do with this blog and would never have approved of my writing it. And I know those that feed back to the PM will understand that.

Now that my interest has been properly declared, it is worth saying that the entire political lobby in the UK agrees with me on the merit of Stourbridge’s finest. “What, pray, has Margot James done wrong?” tweeted Tim Shipman of the Times, formerly the Mail, a grande dame of Fleet Street himself, being then retweeted by Jane Merrick, Political Editor of the Independent on Sunday. Prior to the reshuffle, Margot James was being tipped everywhere from the Guardian to the Belfast Telegraph – her name was on nearly every list.

And this is because, inexplicably, Margot James has not been promoted before. Every Parliament-watcher was expecting her elevation long before now. She is a hard worker, above average in both speaking and voting. She is loyal: “Hardly ever rebels against their party”. She is extremely nice, and has no enemies that I know of on either side of the house. She is well-regarded locally, and her local paper were none too pleased to find their favorite daughter overlooked yet again. 

James is that rare breed, a person who has truly succeeded before entering politics. One of Britain’s most successful female entrepreneurs, she worked as a corporate leader in PR, winning “communicator of the year” in 1997 and selling the company she founded for millions not long after that. She resigned from the Tory party after Maggie was ousted, but rejoined, and fought the safe Labour seat of St. Pancras before taking Stourbridge from Labour in the last election.  Her service to the Conservative party is not four solid Parliamentary years, it is in fact a lifetime of work.

And James, who had a life and a business before getting elected, is not as young as she looks. She is 56 with a lifetime of achievement few MPs can ever hope to match. I say this with hesitation, but somebody has to, so it may as well be me; not promoting Margot James in this Parliament is more than a mistake, it is an insult.

The PM has made Nicky Morgan Education Secretary, but also Minister for Women. Because Nicky voted against equal marriage, he has given implementation of that law to the promoted Nick Boles MP, now an education minister. This is a mistake. I have long argued in public and in private that the women and equality brief should not be an afterthought shunted as a secondary responsibility to this ministry or that ministry, distracting a SecState from her more important job (previously Maria Miller, as SoS for Culture, was also Minister for Women). Margot James would be the perfect person to be Women and Equalities Minister. She is gay, and she is a feminist, previously Vice-Chairman of the Party for Women. But more than that, she brings a Conservative, libertarian, business-minded feminism to the brief. Women and Equalities should be a Minister of State position inside the Cabinet Office, and the holder should have the right to attend Cabinet.

Margot James would do things with this brief. She would end the scandal of OFSTED guidance on Muslim schools that breaches the Equality Act (forced wearing of the veil, even for non-Muslim girls, forced segregation). She would get rid of the anomalies that favor men throughout the system. She would stand up for equality of opportunity – that was at the heart of Thatcherism.

Failing this, the PM should correct his mistake. It would be a sign of his strength and flexibility. He should either make her a senior whip or make her co-Chairman of the Party (I don’t care if there are three) and a Cabinet Minister right away. She is able, loyal, experienced, hard-working, 56, charming, and has proven ability to run a whelk stall.

Come on David – make us all happy.

David Cameron has had a lot of work and loyalty from Margot James, who because she was an entrepreneur, gay, telegenic and full of substance, was asked by CCHQ to do much extra work in 2010 on the media to win our party the election. She took on those duties unstintingly, as well as ousting a Labour MP from her marginal seat. The Prime Minister owes Margot James a debt. He too is hardworking and loyal. It is time for him to pay his debt. Margot was chosen to represent the ‘new face’ of the modern Tory party and she surely does. It’s time to show that this was not just a PR stunt, and that we believe that impressive entrepreneurs like her are exactly what the Party offers the voters to run the nation.

To my knowledge, Margot, though undoubtedly disappointed at not having been promoted up until now, has always bitten her tongue. This time, though, it clearly bothered her. To Shipman’s tweet, she replied “I don’t know Tim, but if you ever find out, let me know!”

If Margot James is lost to the party it will be a massive embarrassment. It should not happen. She should be promoted now, to give her a year in place before the election. Cameron can make it happen. We need Women to Win, is a great Conservative slogan. We also need women WHO win. And that’s Margot James, Conservative MP for Stourbridge.

Gilad3

Compassion Fatigue – Why The West Is Washing Its Hands

 

The night before the three Israeli teens were found dead, I had a particularly vivid nightmare. I have no doubt it was caused by seeing too many shots and videos of Isis barbarity; crucifixions, amputations, Muslim men lined up like cattle to be shot in a ditch by other Muslims.

I do not remember most of the dream, apart from the sequence that woke me up. Two children, around seven, were blindfolded and an ISIS terrorist was preparing to kill them. In my dream I screamed out for mercy, saying they were just children, and flung myself towards them and then I woke up, heart pounding, drenched in sweat.

Later in the same day, on Twitter, the UN posted a picture of a Syrian child reaching up for a hug. Assad and Putin are starving these children to death, operating mass torture factories. We didn’t act and now it’s too late. ISIS filled the gap left by Obama. And they spread. Evil against evil.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram kidnapped 90 more girls. These are Christian women who will be forced at gunpoint to pretend to convert to Islam, then raped for the rest of their lives to men to whom they are sold.

In the Sudan, Meriam Ibrahim, Christian, wife of one American and mother of two more, was released from Sudanese custody after the US embassy apologised – yes, apologised – for issuing her a visa. The Sudan is currently detaining her two American children and Obama is doing nothing.

When later that same day I heard the teenagers were found dead, I could not imagine the horror of their mothers, or fathom that Hamas – who at one stage wanted to be thought legitimate – would blatantly say nothing to admit guilt in kidnapping them and shooting them. How scared they must have been.

And my dream came back to me very vividly. How I had screamed out to the man begging him for mercy. I wanted to beg a sorrowing and vengeful Israel for mercy. Please, go after the killers but only them. Please, do not storm into the West Bank and engage in collective punishment. Because then somebody else’s boys might die. I said as much on Twitter and was immediately accused of being anti-Israeli, a typical European and an Arabist.

Israel went in and blew up the houses of the suspected kidnappers. These kidnappers have not been caught or tried, but their house was blown up. A child was injured. Another teen, Yusuf was his name – Joseph, in Western parlance, a Hebrew name – aged 18 was shot in the chest in a refugee camp in Jenin. IDF forces say he threw a grenade at them. Palestinians claim he was a passer by. One thing is for sure, neither the injured child nor the dead teen played any role in murdering the three Israeli boys. But they were the ones who were hurt. If Israel invades Gaza, civiliians, probably young children too, will die. That is a fact.

But to say as much is to be anti-Israeli? No; no. And to say to the Muslim world, your silence is disgusting on ISIS, your funding of Syrian terror is disgusting; you fat bastards in your radical mosques in Bradford and elsewhere, radicalising English boys and sending them off to die while you sit at home doing sod all but get fat. Fatness is a part of it. Fatness, slovenliness, warmongering from teststerone free fuckers who would no more endanger themselves than go for a jog in the morning or get a real job. Is that Islamophobia? God no, no it is not. Who is killing more Muslims than anybody else? Is it Obama’s drones or Israeli rockets? No, it’s OTHER BLOODY MUSLIMS – ISIS are the biggest Islamophobes in the whole world.

And so when I say to Israel for the love of G-d, go after those who took your boys and no more, and am greeted by a cry of traitor, I feel like putting my head in my hands.

I think it’s time for some straight talk.

Israel, I don’t care if you are tired of the word ‘restraint’. You need to show some. Because you are losing the West. You have no idea how badly you are losing the west. Yes, Hamas are terrorists. Yes, subhuman pigs slaughtered the Fogel children, and Palestinians just as subhuman celebrated that. By all means, go after them. But if you cannot go in precisely, do not go in at all. When the IRA bombed London we did not strike Dublin. We went after individuals. Israel, I say to you with my hand on my heart; the Gaza rocket strikes have killed NO ISRAELIS. They don’t WORK. They are the weak efforts of losers. you need to understand that the West does not think it is proportionate to reply to NO DEATH with DEATH. Would I stand for rockets, would I stand for my children with PTSD because of constant rocket fire, no I would not. But my answer would be just as the earlier operations in #BringBackOurBoys – go in and capture Hamas leaders and politicians. Take the individuals. Jail them. They are terrorists. Try them. In a court. Do not reply to NO DEATH with DEATH. Hamas strikes do not kill Israelis but Israeli strikes do kill Palestinian civilians. And the rest of the world believes this imbalance is wrong.

‘Screw you, why the hell should you care what we think?” Well, you should care because with every settlement you build you are losing American public opinion. And that means that American Jews VOTE DEMOCRAT. And that means you get Barack Obama as your President and John Kerry as Secretary of State. That means you get Syria. And ISIS. That means you weaken Israel. Materially. In terms.

Israel is the victim of amazing hatred, the hatred that posts swastikas on Facebook pages to celebrate the death of those three kidnapped boys. And Israel was right – absolutely right – to build that giant wall. No Israeli buses or cafés have blown up since. The rockets do nor work. Israelis are safe.

But dearest Israel, you have no right to be in the settlements. Nobody thinks you have a right to be in the settlements. The 2012 film the Gatekeepers, featuring the last six heads of the Shin Bet, showed Israeli intelligence forces did not want the settlements. There will be no peace and no security until the settlements come down. You must dismantle the settlements unless you wish to live in this sick and deadly farce until the end of time.

And Palestine. You must stop your vicious attacks, your celebration of dead Israeli babies taken from their cots and decapitated, of the four year old Fogel boy who was reading his book in his bed when they slit his throat. You come across as inhuman, subhuman hatemongers when you do that. You MUST RECOGNISE THE STATE OF ISRAEL and give up this right to return crap. The land belonged to the Jews before it belonged to you. It is theirs. They are not going anywhere. You should take the occupied territories and build on them and live in a two-state solution with peace.

And Muslims need to stop looking at Israel whose crimes are so few in comparison to those of Assad, of Putin, of ISIS, of Saddam – of the Saudi secret police who burned those girls alive for being improperly veiled. Jerusalem is the least of the enemies of the Ummah. The sick Iraqi cycle of Sunni in power, oppress Shia, Shia in power, oppress Sunni – Islam now is fighting as Christianity did in the 1500s, with all the accompanying tortures and burnings at the stake. They are crucifying other Muslims in Iraq. They are gassing Muslim children in Syria. They are stoning Muslim rape victims and lashing them. They are stoning mothers for adultery. They are hanging Iranian gay Muslim men. I know one thing, I know that Allah – that HaShem, that God – is fucking pissed off with the lot of us.

And here’s the thing. Feel free to ignore all this and write comments saying how awful I am and have no idea. But I will tell you something. The appetite of the ordinary Western voter to lift a finger – even to help in Syria as Muslim children starve – it has totally evaporated. The thought of Israel invading Gaza in some sick act of collective punishment leaves American and British voters cold. Nobody gives a flying fuck anymore. The average Westerner is saying to themselves “these are a bunch of savages and who cares if they kill each other.” Iraq will get no help. Afghans will get none. Syrians will get none. We hear no cries of outrage from the Muslim world. We see no moves from Israel to move to a just peace and get out of territory that does not belong to Israel, the settlements. We see no willingness to compromise and nothing more than a bloody merry go round of torture and death by asshole adults who will throw children and families to the wind because they will never, ever back down.

And so we just don’t care.

And by “we” I mean almost all voters. Not me – I care, I care incredibly. I wanted targeted air strikes against Assad. Now instead we have ISIS crucifying Muslims and Syrian kids starving.

The Torah says, “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord” – that means, it is mine to take; it is not yours to take. Te Qu’ran begins “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” Say it and believe it. What is He? What is He? Is Allah the Merciful pleased as you shoot teenage boys in the head for being Jews, or Muslims in a ditch because they follow a different sect to you?

The Middle East is the cradle of civilization. If it carries on like this, it will also be its grave.

And you will all – Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs and Persians – you will all be on your own.

UPDATE: 18 questions for the @Guardian

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UPDATE: It would appear that – if Buzzfeed is right – an employee/s or agent/s of the New York Times and/or the Guardian knowingly and willingly smuggled life-endangering stolen intelligence across our borders:

Now the Times or an agent for the paper, too, appears to have carried digital files from the United Kingdom across international lines into the United States. Discussions of how to partner on the documents were carried out in person between top Guardian editors and Times executive editor Jill Abramson, all of whom declined to comment on the movement of documents. But it appears likely that someone at one of the two papers physically carried a drive with Snowden’s GCHQ leaks from London to New York or Washington — exactly what Miranda was stopped at Heathrow for doing.

Remember, the Guardian said they agreed to destroy their computers – all of them – that contained the intel; they professed that they did not know what David Miranda was carrying – I believe their corduroy pants to be on fire even as we speak.

If they lied and kept copies and physically shifted the data, the UK and US intelligence agencies should go after them full throttle for espionage. At the bottom of this blog we have the police opening a criminal investigation into Miranda - remember the relief against that bit is only temporary – for transporting this data… if the Guardian have done it, they should be pursued in exactly the same way. Same with the New York Times.

Being a journalist doesn’t allow you to traffic in intel that can endanger lives OR impair the ability of the UK to conduct its intelligence capabilities: The Miranda judge said that clearly today in his draft judgement.

http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/queen-on-application-of-miranda-sshd.pdf

  1. It is also significant that one of the exceptions in Section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 to the protection for journalistic sources and in Article 10(2) is where the interests of national security require disclosure. In X v Morgan-Grampian (Publishers) [1996] 1 AC 1 at 43 it was stated that, once it is shown that disclosure will serve one of the interests specified in Section 10, ie. national security and interests of justice, “the necessity of disclosure follows almost automatically”.
  1. The court also considered inspection and disclosure for the purpose of protecting national security, including by preventing or avoiding the endangering the life of any person or the diminution of the counter-terrorism capability of Her Majesty’s Government (the terms of the exclusion from the undertaking the defendants were prepared to make) should be permitted in the limited period until 30 August, notwithstanding the high importance of protecting journalistic sources

We should also ask why the Guardian is panicking and has run to America (possibly with a copy of the Snowden data it would have been lying about not retaining in the UK).

I speculate, because RIPA and TACT were correctly used to force Miranda to share his passwords: and the UK government and police now have a whole bunch of stuff on Greenwald, Poitras, Miranda, Snowden, Wikileaks and the complicity of the Guardian. They know our guys – and the Americans – have them bang to rights and criminal charges and indictments for Greenwald et al may well be coming down the pipe.

Thanks once more to our security forces at Heathrow for their immense work in catching Greenwald and his non-citizen mule red-handed.

—————————————————————————————

 

1. Why did you initially lie about David Miranda not being offered a lawyer, and then fail  andto correct the record all day long?

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/18/glenn-greenwald-guardian-partner-detained-heathrow

To detain my partner for a full nine hours while denying him a lawyer, and then seize large amounts of his possessions, is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ.

2. Why did you alter the original story that included this lie, wiping the fact that it was Glenn Greenwald who filed it?

http://www.trendingcentral.com/who-wrote-the-guardians-initial-report-on-david-miranda/

3. Having known all day long that Miranda had been offered a lawyer, why did you only run your interview with him admitting this at 10pm, after other UK papers had gone to bed and could not correct their supportive editorials?

4. Why did you first give the entire British press the misinformation that David Miranda was merely your journalist’s husband, when he had been paid by you to work on and “assist in the story”?

5. Since you claim the high ground on “press freedom” I am sure you will wish to be transparent, and address claims that you were not engaging in “journalism” here at all, but instead knowingly abetting espionage. Here we go:

You state

The Guardian paid for Miranda’s flights. Miranda is not an employee of the Guardian. As Greenwald’s partner, he often assists him in his work and the Guardian normally reimburses the expenses of someone aiding a reporter in such circumstances

You paid for David Miranda’s flights and expenses because, you claim, he was “assisting Glenn Greenwald” in his work.

But how was he assisting Glenn Greenwald? If he was transporting purely “journalistic materials”  why did Greenwald not use FedEx? If the data needed to be secure, why not use a P2P fileshare site? Why did the Guardian approve paying Miranda’s expenses when there are direct flights from Berlin to Rio that Poitras and Greenwald could have used?

Is it because Glenn Greenwald explained to you that as a US citizen he could not email, transport, or securely share stolen information about US and UK intelligence operations against foreign regimes without committing a serious felony and needed to use his husband as a mule?

In that case is not Guardian Media Group corporately responsible for abetting espionage against the United States and United Kingdom?

6. The question of “Exactly HOW was David Miranda “assisting” in the story while your paper was paying him to do so” arises even more strongly when we look at Miranda’s statements to US TV. Here is a video of him and Greenwald talking to Anderson Cooper at CNN. You will want to slide the cursor to 5:05.

Here you will note Miranda’s hilarious “not me guv” pretence of not being a mule and Glenn Greenwald’s corresponding smirk sitting next to him.

Miranda: “I don’t know that… I was just taking the fi- … those materials back to Glenn. You know Glenn been working with a lot of stories along the years…I didn’t quite follow everything that he writes every day…I can’t follow him, because I have to have a life.”

Get that, Mr. Rusbridger? Your man “assisting on the story” says that he doesn’t even know what this story is about, he wasn’t even paying attention to it, because he “has to have a life”.

In what way then was he assisting in the story and why was the Guardian paying for his flights and expenses – unless the paper knew that Miranda was needed to physically transport stolen classified US intelligence because, unlike Greenwald and Poitras, he is not a US citizen?

For what reason did you not ask Mr. Greenwald why flights and expenses were necessary for Mr. Miranda?

How precisely did you understand Mr. Miranda to be “assisting a reporter in his work”?

Assuming you knew that David Miranda was transporting incredibly damaging, life-threatening CIA and GCHQ national intelligence, how is the Guardian Media Group not complicit in this?

7. If the GMG is indeed complicit, through knowledge and payment, in the cross border smuggling of stolen NSA and GCHQ data, why should not the US authorities and the Home Secretary prepare corporate and criminal charges against the Guardian, David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald, and Laura Poitras?

8. I believe it to be the case (I am open to correction) that Mr. Rusbridger has stated he did not know what David Miranda was carrying. Is this not completely disingenuous, as the only way he would have paid for the flights would be he suspected a human mule was necessary to transport the dangerous files?

9. Alan Rusbridger tweeted what he claimed was a photo of a smashed Macbook destroyed by security services. In fact, the internet soon proved there were parts from at least four computers in the picture. Why was the Guardian storing unbelievably dangerous material that threatens our national security on as many as four office computers, at least, that could easily be remotely hacked by any number of foreign spy agencies?

10. On a total of how many drives and computers did the Guardian copy this material?

11. On a total of how many basic office computers around the world has Guardian Media Group made copies of this material?

12. You know that on Portugese TV your reporter Glenn Greenwald threatened revenge exposure of British spy agencies, & that Mr. Rusbridger claimed this would not happen. Yet yesterday the Independent newspaper exposed a top secret British base working against our enemies in the Middle East, thereby endangering British intelligence efforts against terrorism and the lives of British intelligence agents?

13. Did the Guardian Media Group or, to your knowledge, any of its employees, particularly Mr. Greenwald, leak this incredibly damaging story that endangers UK intel to the Independent, out of a desire for revenge?

14. Why did you assert that Mr. Miranda was carrying “journalistic materials” if you claim you had no idea what he was carrying?

15. Why do you assert that journalism – reporting about a story or news item – is the same as possessing, smuggling, and copying, stolen classified intelligence information that endangers the life and work of British intelligence agents?

16. In deciding to insecurely hold this information on multiple office computers and goodness knows what other means, were you aware that (again speaking in a foreign language) your “reporter” Glenn Greenwald said to Argentina’s La Nacion:

http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/matthew-dancona-in-this-spy-story-the-state-is-not-so-clearcut-a-villain-8777943.html

Last month, Greenwald told the Argentinian daily newspaper, La Nacion, that Snowden had “enough information to cause more harm to the US government in a single minute than any other person has ever had”

If you are not aware of this, why not? If you are aware of this, why is Guardian Media Group storing this information on insecure basic office computers?

17. Since Mr. Greenwald has made you aware of the incredibly damaging and dangerous nature of this information, why have you not supplied copies to the US and UK governments, so that they can see what Snowden has leaked to China, Russia and Wikileaks, and take steps to protect the lives of their agents and intelligence assets – lives that you and Guardian Media Group are well aware are now at risk from exposure?

Because you yourselves have said you have held back even more damaging and identifying material, you clearly have had sight of it. Why are you not allowing the US and UK to also have sight of it so we can protect our people? Do you literally not care about their lives, knowing full well they’re endangered by your reporter, Glenn Greenwald?

18. Why are you disabling questions on the ironically-named “Comment is Free” on your Greenwald articles? Is it because you have no shame?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10259658/Scotland-Yard-launch-criminal-investigation-over-David-Miranda-data.html

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, appearing for Scotland Yard to oppose a legal challenge by Mr Miranda, said: “That which has been inspected contains, in the view of the police, highly sensitive material the disclosure of which would be gravely injurious to public safety and thus the police have now initiated a criminal investigation.

“I am not proposing to say anything else which might alert potential defendants here or abroad to the nature and the ambit of the criminal investigation which has now been started.”

He added that the material amounted to “tens of thousands of highly classified UK documents”.

Prescott’s Oxford Class War (from the Lords)

ox

My old sparring partner on Twitter, @JohnPrescott, is up in arms because @StephenNolan told him about a pupil from NI who was rejected by the University with seven Grade A* A-levels. The kid has now gone on to Stanford, many congratulations.

Prescott put this down to class war on the part of Oxford. Let’s get rid of this tired old myth once and for all. I said the kid probably wasn’t good enough for Oxford, and he probably wasn’t. Which is not to deny his evident high intelligence but to say he may not have had the specific type of intelligence required for Oxford.

I want to have breakfast outside so this is a bit rushed into bullet points, but

1. Seven Grade A* A levels is not the slam dunk it would have been in 1988, say. Labour’s grade inflation was epic. Very, very many pupils apply to Oxford with large numbers of A* A-levels.

2. Oxford admissions directors go out of their way to try to recruit undergraduates from working class backgrounds. It’s always an advantage and never a disadvantage.

3. However the university refuses, thank God, to drop its academic standards. They will not admit those who are not up to Oxford’s particular teaching style no matter where they come from.

4. This is not class-ist – the interview at Oxford matters more than the grades – grades just get you through the door to the interview. Kids with amazing A level records get turned down all the time FROM ALL BACKGROUNDS. My little sister, applying in 1991, had eleven grade A GCSEs, 3 grade A A levels, and two grade 1 S-levels (Scholarship levels – one grade above A levels back then. This was pre the worst grade inflation, of course, and there were no A*). She did not get in. She was turned down by Magdalen, Oxford and went to Trinity,  St. John’s,* Cambridge (and went on to be highly successful in two careers). My sister was privileged, but had never received a B in any subject in any stage of her school career. Turned down for Oxford. Not a class thing.

5. At Oxford (as opposed to Harvard and Stanford who both wanted the kid) you have a different TYPE of learning than in America. The Ivy League has you “Major” in one subject and “Minor” in another and you must take compulsory classes in various subjects.** At Oxford, you specialise in just one, at most two, and usually one, discipline. Thus his Seven As were irrelvant. They show terrific all round intelligence, suitable for any Ivy League college. They don’t, by themselves, prove or disprove mastery in his chosen subject.  And that’s what Oxford interviewers are looking for.

6. I went to Oxford with a worse record than my sister (10 O levels – 6As two Bs two Cs, 3 grade A A-levels). But I took a risk; I elected to take the then available Oxford Colleges Entrance Examination. If you passed, and passed your interview, you could matriculate with just two grade D A levels (I got three As anyway). The OCE was tougher than A levels. I took it in English. I wanted to differentiate myself from the flood, then as now, of highly qualified applicants jostling for places. I knew I wanted to specialise in Early English and related languages and therefore I taught myself Early Middle English through an old, Victorian Morris & Skeat primer in the school library, gathering dust, and sat the entrance exam writing a paper on “The use of cinematic imagery in “The Owl and the Nightingale”, adding in some references to “King Horn” as I recall.” As this was not on any school curriculum, and is the kind of thing they set at university, I was confident they would be surprised enough to invite me for interview. It worked.

I may have got those C’s in maths and biology O level  – I am rubbish at maths and science, I have an arts/humanities brain – but for Oxford, I could prove myself to have a level of mastery in my SPECIALISED subject of early English. That’s what they were looking for and they took me. Another note – OCE papers were identified by number only. Until they selected me for interview the college did not know my school, my class background, my race or even my sex. It was absolutely meritocratic.

If Prescott wants to get worked up about class and education he needs to get foursquare behind Michael Gove’s revolutionary programme of Free Schools, academic improvement and school independence from LEA’s. Not start chucking around class-ist accusations from his ermine robed seat in the Lords, an institution he professed to despise until they offered him a title. (I see you “Sir” Bob Russell MP. When the speaker first called Russell that a Labour wit heckled “satire is dead!”. We all laughed).

The kid from NI will do tremendous stuff at Stanford and be very well suited there. Or it could be he’s Oxford material but had a bad day at i/v. Unfortunately, 13 years of Labour grade inflation means Oxbridge have more qualified applicants than they know what to do with. It’s not classist.

Oxford has never been so. Indeed I only exist because Oxford admitted my mother, the working class daughter of a Union foreman from the East End (he worked the printing presses on the Daily Mirror), and at St. Hilda’s, she met my father (ChCh), from an old Derbyshire family of landed gentry. That was social mobility, 1968. Thank you Oxford for not being class-biased. I’ve enjoyed my life, and this porridge tastes delicious. Dominus Illuminatio Mea.

photo by Sisiphus007

* I get confused by the Fenland Poly colleges. So grey, the lot of them

** this is why I made it into Oxford but would almost certainly have been turned down by Stanford, unlike the NI pupil. I don’t have all-round intelligence, I am a specialist. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different.

The Zimmerman trial: a guide for the UK Twitchfork mob

trayvon

It was depressing, if not surprising, to see the UK’s twitchforking mob out for the blood of George Zimmerman, rightly acquitted under the law in his trial in Florida. The comments and questions made showed that tweeters had not bothered to follow any developments in the trial, and pretty much did not care if George Zimmerman was guilty or not; they just wanted to see him spend the rest of his life in jail.

No part of the media, or of politics here, has covered itself in glory, treating the trial of this young Hispanic man as entertainment, as a glorified episode of “Law and Order”, or as a political sport, where the right lines up behind the Hispanic and the left lines up behind the innocent African-American victim. I have seen today death threats against Zimmerman, his brother, and the six female jurors who deliberated over this agonising case for sixteen hours and who requested instructions for the legal case for manslaughter from the judge. I’ve seen tweets saying Hispanics are all celebrating by “mowing their lawns”. I’ve seen tweets claiming the mixed-parentage Zimmerman was white Hispanic, when the same people would never described President Obama as white anything, despite his white mother.

It is all very depressing, and we should do better. If George Zimmerman had not had a gun, the worst that would have happened here is a fist-fight. If Florida had not had a Stand Your Ground law, possibly manslaughter charges could have been proven.

But for those morons who, without knowledge of the facts, are out tweeting that a young man should go to jail for a crime he has been cleared of, here is just a sample of the facts that emerged during the trial.

No reasonable person, in my view, could possibly have found beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman either murdered Trayvon Martin or committed manslaughter against him under Florida law.
The prosecution’s case was embarrassingly weak. In reality, it should never have been brought – they knew the reasonable doubt standard. There were more holes than a Swiss cheese in this case, and it would have been a double tragedy to add to the senseless, needless death of the totally innocent Trayvon Martin – unarmed and defending himself – with a young Hispanic man jailed for perhaps twenty years of his life. That is just vengeance at best and simple race-baiting at worst.

Just a few of the “reasonable doubt” pillars established by the defence:

1. The forensic pathologist who corroborated Zimmerman’s account of self-defence after he was attacked by stating the gunshot was fired from beneath the victim.

2. The fact that Trayvon Martin’s own father did not identify the screams on the audio recording as coming from Trayvon; George Zimmerman’s father was consistent that they were his son’s, Zimmerman’s, screams. On the stand, Mr. Martin’s father said they were indeed his son’s screams but that did not jibe with his initial police account.

3. The fact that a key prosecution witness, Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend, changed her story time and again on the stand. She could give no coherent account of what Trayvon had said to her when he called her while he was being followed. She stated she had written a letter at that time to Trayvon’s mother describing events. In court, when asked by the defense to read out the supposedly contemporaneous letter, she had to say “I can’t read cursive” and then to admit she had not even written the letter at all.

4. George Zimmerman, fat and doughy, fancied himself as a neighbourhood watch guy and had been doin it for quite some time. He is Hispanic, and the judge ruled that the prosecution could not say he “racially profiled” Trayvon Martin when he followed him; only that he “profiled” him. In Zimmerman’s stupid and puffed-up mind, Martin’s demeanour indicated he was up to no good.

5. There was clearly a fight between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman in which Zimmerman claimed he shot Matin in self-defence. There was no evidence to disprove this claim and much to support it (see points 1 and 2). Zimmerman was bleeding from the head. Furthermore Florida has a “stand your ground” law that gives protections from prosecution to those who think they are being attacked.

Now because most people on Twitter (and other political internet forums) can see only in black and white, me vs you, Dem vs Rep, they interpret pointing all this out as either an attack on the character of Trayvon Martin, or his grieving family, or a defence of Zimmerman’s actions in following Martin when a 911 despatcher had told him not to.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Trayvon Martin was the innocent victim of a tragic shooting. George Zimmerman should never have followed him. George Zimmerman should have obeyed the 911 despatcher. George Zimmerman should never have had a gun, and there should be gun control in America. Without that gun, the worst that would have happened was a fist fight. And please don’t point out to me Zimmerman had a legal permit. My argument is that gun distribution should be limited to the military and the police (“as part of a well formed militia”, the words written out of the modern interpretation of the second amendment). Trayvon Martin, once he realised he was being followed, had EVERY RIGHT to attack George Zimmerman in HIS OWN self-defence.

None of that changes the trial and the law. When Trayvon fought Zimmerman, even though he had the right to do so, and I would have done exactly the same in Trayvon’s place, if Zimmerman believed himself to be in danger then he had the right to shoot in self-defence. Do I agree with that, no of course not. But there was ample evidence to support that story; the forensic pathologist; the blood and wounds on Zimmerman; the screaming not initially described as Trayvon’s by his own father; and the history of Zimmerman as a wannabe do-gooder neighbourhood guy who saw himself as a protector.

Reasonable doubt was added to by the prosecution’s key witness imploding on the stand. Changed stories – the girlfriend’s letter and testimony in her witness statement vs the stand, the father’s re: the taped voice – that equals reasonable doubt. The wounds, the pathologist saying the shot was from below – reasonable doubt.

The judge appeared sympathetic to the prosecution. Despite reversing an earlier ruling on drug use based on a doctor saying it might have affected Trayon’s demeanour and allowing it to be examined as evidence, she mostly sided with the prosecution. As it became clear that second degree murder was a giant overreach, she (a former prosecutor) allowed charges of manslaughter to be added in at the last moment. Once, when the defence attorney was actually making an argument before her, without a word she got up and walked out on him and out of the courtroom (it was ten PM). Additionally, she excluded texts found on Martin’s phone referring to fights. She gave the prosecution a fair shake.

Given all of this the six female jurors faithfully discharged their duty. They deliberated for sixteen hours straight. They sent to the judge to ask her to instruct them on the standard of proof for manslaughter. Her answer: “Zimmerman cannot be guilty of manslaughter by committing a merely negligent act or if the killing was either justifiable or excusable homicide.”

Before the verdict, there was this:

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family, said the parents are emotional but doing as well as expected as they await a verdict.

“(Jurors) staying out longer and considering the evidence and testimony is a good thing for us arriving at a just verdict,” Crump said.

It therefore seems that to tarnish the good names and character of these six women as racists is utterly wrong. In the question of both manslaughter and murder two they followed the law. The prosecution did not come close to proof beyond a reasonable doubt and they had no real evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s account of events.

A later blog will look at the breathtaking abuse of government and media power against a criminal defendant not yet convicted, and now as we know acquitted, which ought to shock any decent person whether right or left.

A young, unarmed black teenager is dead because of hateful gun proliferation, a “Stand Your Ground” law that encourages vigilanteism, and a “neighbourhood watch” guy who was too prideful to listen to a 911 despatcher who rightly told him to stay away. But wrongly following someone is not the same as murdering them or committing manslaughter. Zimmerman states he thought Trayvon was acting suspiciously, Trayvon attacked him, he feared for his life and he shot him. It was for the prosecution to prove otherwise and they did not. And the racial politics around this tragedy is simply disgusting. Without gun control, there will be more dead teenagers, children, and other innocents in America with each passing month.

photo by Fibonacci Blue

The Guardian/Observer and the Indonesian Farting God

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Why so coy, Guardian and Observer Weakend?

We all know you pulled your front page splash from the Observer on NSA snooping, after Twitter pointed out that your source, Wayne Madsen, was a grade A nut job.

Today and last night, the apparently real Twitter account @WMRDC posted the following:

The real “fruit loops”: Michael Moynihan, Damian Thompson, “Prof” John Schindler, Louise Mensch, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs.

Me and Michael Moynihan? Charles Johnson? Damian Thompson? Too kind, sir, too kind.

I then went through and had a little look at Mr. Madsen’s account. Apparently it is real, as it has been posted links to his nutjob website since 2009. I thought I would treat you all to a few of his previously posted tweets, all easy to see on his recent stream and available to the staff of the Guardian and the Observer.

UK sex scandal: It’s Bo Jo and Sam Cam (Mayor of London and PM’s wife). More at http://WayneMadsenReport.com 

Was Obama’s mother a secret worshiper of an Indonesian farting dwarf god? Today at http://WayneMadsenReport.com 

Evidence that Cheney had Saddam’s chief banker murdered to steal his money. Today at http://WayneMadsenReport.com 

Is Obama a member of a secretive sect – the Subud? Today at http://WayneMadsenReport.com 

More evidence emerges of Breivik’s links to Israel. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

New 9/11 information points to domestic treason terrorism behind attacks. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Arabic-speaking Mossad teams directed 9/11 “hijacking” cells. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Was Obama’s mother a CIA economic hit woman? Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Murder of GCHQ man fits old British intelligence modus operandi. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Proof: CIA actively recruited at Occidental when Obama was student. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Add Obama’s maternal grandfather to list of CIA family members. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Is Obama a real-life “Manchurian Candidate?” Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

The CIA connections of President Obama’s father. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

The CIA-Mossad-Saudi network that launched Al Qaeda. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Obama’s gay Chicago past linked to murder of Obama’s former church’s choir director. Today at WayneMadsenReport.com

Wow. Personally, I’m really impressed by the Obamas, aren’t you? They’re like the Corleones, but Hawaian. Or like that family in Spy Kids or something. Mother! Father! Grandfather! Son! All CIA agents! Members of the secret Sudud society! And worshippers of the Indonesian Farting God!

You don’t mess with the Indonesian Farting God, boyeee.

Now according to this impeccable source, The Observer actually had their splash on the first editions of the physical paper on Sunday, but unlike them, I would prefer to actually double check it.

Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) who broke the massively important #Snowden story was clearly embarrassed by this epic journalistic FUBAR. He personally had nothing to do with the story, but it is not good enough to say that the Guardian and Observer are separate. They are clearly not separate. The story was front page on the Guardian website, under the Guardian brand; the Guardian must take responsibility.

The Daily Beast also alleges that the writer appears not even to have spoken to Madsen, his “source”, and to have plagiarised a blog called “PrivacySurgeon.org”:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/01/nsa-nutjob-anatomy-of-a-fake-observer-story.html

And overlooked by those piling on The Observer was the rather significant fact that the paper appears not to have spoken to Madsen, instead mining quotes from an interview he gave to a blog called  PrivacySurgeon.org. (Indeed, some of Doward’s language is very similar to the source material, but why kick a man when he’s down?)

The Guardian’s US Editor responded on Twitter that they had removed the story, to which Harry Cole provided the perfect riposte:

@janinegibson: Observerstory, taken down while editors look at it.” <- They’re meant to do that before you publish it.

So a few questions remain for that beacon of transparency and of getting other journalists locked up, the Guardian:

1. Did your reporter plagiarise his Madsen quotes, and/or language, from a blog as suggested by the Daily Beast?

2. Did your reporter even speak to Wayne Madsen?

3. Did your reporter google or search the Twitter feed of Madsen and if not, why not?

4. Why are you pretending that the Guardian and the Observer are separate when they have the same editor and the story was front page on the Guardian website?

5. If they are separate, why was it @JanineGibson, Twit Bio “Editor in Chief, Guardian US” who responded and pulled the story?

6. Why did “editors look at” a front page story only after the Internet had Fisked it? What is the Guardian/Observer’s practice in terms of editorial checking on major stories? If such a giant story was run on the front page with zero checks or controls, how can readers have any confidence you check any of your stories?

7. Did the story make the printed first edition of the Observer?

Comment is Free was good enough to ask to reprint my blog on privilege-checking; I double dog dare them to reprint this one, and let their own readership hold them to account on “journalism” that goes beyond mere shoddiness to allegations of quote-mining.

Lastly, what are the consequences at the paper for running stories sourced like this?

Assange turns Snowden into a traitor

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How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.

Truly, Julian Assange is one of the most awful people in the world. A rabid egomaniac with a contempt for women and for the lives of others, he is stinking up the Ecuadorean Embassy while refusing to stand trial for rape in Sweden. His speeches full of self-puffery from the balcony never mention the women who are waiting for justice; women his groupies have been keen to name and slander on the internet.

The guy who put the Ass in Assange has voluntarily jailed himself in a small room, to avoid the possibility of jail in a humane and airy Swedish prison.

How I laughed when hearing that Ecuador, having privately peacocked all over Britain, Sweden and the USA through its grandiloquent offer of asylum, is now desperate to get rid of him, so desperate it’s recalling its ambassador. Hahhahahaha. Excuse me. Laughter break. Hahahahahahaaa. I don’t recall a more satisfying moment in news this year than reading the account of the new consul talking desperately to minister Hugo Swire MP: “What do we do about the stone in the shoe?” Swire (magnificently) “Not our stone. Not our shoe.”

Hhahahahaahaaaaa! Hilarious.

Not quite so funny is the unraveling tale and fate of Edward Snowden. In my opinion, he blew the whistle on something important and unconstitutional. An earlier article on this blog asked for a Presidential pardon for him. I believed it was warranted then. No longer.

Snowden was different from Assange. He revealed the existence of an appallingly widespread snooping programme and lies to Congress, but he released only selective data, taking care not to put American lives at risk. Julian Assange, who I believe is as good as a murderer, did not give a damn what happened to those who worked with American forces against the Taliban:

“Declan Walsh, the Guardian’s Islamabad correspondent, recalls one tense evening: “We went out to a Moorish restaurant, Moro, with the two German reporters. David Leigh broached the problem again with Julian. The response floored me. ‘Well, they’re informants,’ he said. ‘So, if they get killed, they’ve got it coming to them. They deserve it.’ There was, for a moment, silence around the table. I think everyone was struck by what a callous thing that was to say.”

What a guy.

However, the first alarm bells rung when from Hong Kong Snowden praised Assange. He should know better. But the Wikileaks cabal have money and power, enough to fly him out of the country. Julian Assange (dreadful personal hygiene along with the monomania) then totally overstepped his bounds, strong-arming the supine Ecuadorean staff at the London Embassy into offering him a travel document and giving interviews in which he, Assange, seemed to speak for Ecuador. Hahaha, Correa! You utter loser! You feel clever with all those big interviews now, don’t you? And that grant to the USA for education on human rights! Correa is paying a price for his peacock moment – Julian Assange as his house guest – and he can pay it for the next sixty years for all I care.  He slapped down Assange, did a screeching reverse on America after taking a call from Joe Biden, said his consul had overstepped her bounds, and now Snowden’s Wikileaks lawyer companion is a millstone around his neck.

Because Wikileaks are indisputably enemies of the United States. Assange is more spy than traitor, as he is not an American, but by associating himself with these people, Edward Snowden is betraying his country and becoming an international pariah. Worse than that, he has paid the price for Assange’s troops getting him out of Hong Kong – he has handed over to Wikileaks a complete data dump of all he stole. While he, Snowden, only revealed non-threatening evidence of the existence of the PRISM program, he has handed to a man with an utter contempt for American life all the data he stole. He must now bear responsibility for whatever that weak-willed trial dodger and misogynist Assange does with it.

And Assange, smarting from the slap from the hosts whose welcome he probably outstayed about six months ago, lost no time in threatening Ed Snowden and making it clear that he would dump all the files whether Snowden liked it or not.

There is no stopping the publishing process at this stage.  Great care has been taken to make sure that Mr. Snowden can’t be pressured by any state to stop the publication process.

You’re in trouble now, Edward.

There is only one answer for Edward Snowden. Dump Sarah Harrison, your Wikileaks lawyer. State publicly that Wikileaks is threatening you with a complete dump of materials you were careful to only partially release. Call upon Ecudorean President Correa to expel Julian Assange from its Embassy if Wikileaks publishes one line from the NSA dump (incidentally, Ecuador, this is your get-out-of-jail free card to kick Assange out of your London digs. Opportunity knocks, boys, you can turn a crisis into a drama if you move fast). And having done all that, and partially protected the American lives you have endangered by giving data to Wikileaks, come home to America and face the music and let the truth speak for itself.

After all, if what you have done is whistle blowing, it will stand up in the court of public opinion. But Russia? Ecuador? Assange? These are not good people for you to be associating with.

In the meantime, Snowden knocks around the international lounge at a Russian airport like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, which appropriately describes his chances of getting out of this situation with any credit.

PS: I think Assange should stand trial in Sweden for rape. Then he should be extradited back to the UK to stand trial for skipping his bail. Then he should be extradited to the US for trial for espionage, assurances having been given that the death penalty will not be applied. No European country can extradite to the US if the death penalty is a possibility. But Assange should get what’s coming to him. And like the UK, smiling down at Ecuador right now, the US can be very, very patient.

 

photo by Esthr

Asian Grooming Gangs – where are all the other men?

 

don sutherland1In my Sun column yesterday I wrote in praise of Judge Peter Rook QC, a hero to women and children; a brave judge who ripped up the repellently low sentencing guidelines set by the Sentencing Council and threw them out.

Any serious advocate for sentences which reflect the real harm child abuse and gang rape does should read his sentencing remarks. I warn you now that they are unsparing in terms of detail on what was done to the victims, including when they were 12 and 13 years old.

http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/sentencing-remarks-hhj-peter-rookqc-r-v-dogar-others.pdf

It takes a lot of guts for a judge to tear up the loathsomely small penalties that the Sentencing Council think should be paid for gang rape of children. Be in no doubt that there is tremendous pressure on judges to pass light sentences, because jail capacity is full to overflowing. (the political answer is twofold – to remove custodial sentences where they are not necessary and to build more prisons. This is a capital infrastructure project that Osborne could usefully spend on; it provides a great many jobs, it means humane modern prison conditions, and it reassures the public who are crying out at timid sentencing).

His Honour Peter Rook QC had the necessary guts. He jailed these inhuman beasts for life, with minimum terms of 20 and 17 years etc. At the end of the blog I will excerpt the legalese with which he did true justice from the bench – the first time I can ever remember that gang rape received an appropriate sentence. God bless this judge; he has struck a blow against rape and child rape and torture that Parliament did not want and the judicial establishment did not want.

But let’s turn away from the brave determination of the man on the bench and on to the shabby cowardice of local police, local social services, and Oxfordshire county council.

We know how these children were ignored. WARNING – I am about to quote from the sentencing remarks of Judge Peter Rook to ask this question:

Why are only seven men in court? Why do the police, and Oxfordshire social services and council, not hunt down the hundreds of men who raped these little girls? Why have the phones and computers not been seized, why are the phone bills not being handed over by the mobile phone providers and pored over by analysts and detectives? WHERE ARE THE OTHER RAPISTS?

If we say “we jailed the ringleaders, job done” are we saying it is OK for a rapist of a twelve year old to walk away? It’s OK to receive a video of a little girl being gang-raped, get in your car and drive hundreds of miles to rape her yourself?

Thames Valley Police, WHERE ARE THE OTHER RAPISTS?

Saying “you let these little girls down” doesn’t being to cover it. You essentially colluded in their rape, trafficking and torture.

Let us look at the judge’s remarks on the other rapists:

“From the time when EF was 13 you started selling her to other men for sex. To use her words this happened “loads of times” over the next few years. Sometimes you would take photos presumably to entice further customers. Clearly it was a commercial operation. You would actually ask customers whether they were satisfied.”

Photos of a 13 year old girl. These photos were emailed, were texted. The men had phones and computers. WHY ARE THE RECIPIENTS NOT BEING HUNTED DOWN?

“There came at time before she (GH) was 13 that both of you Mohammed and Bassam Karrar started to bring strangers to have sex with her…many times…she had to endure depraved sexual demands…you, Mohammed, made videos…”

To whom were these videos sent? WHERE ARE THE OTHER MEN, RAPING A TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRL, TORTURING HER AND FILMING IT?

“Sometimes there were three or four men…Sometimes as many as nine or ten. GH thought that Bassam was taking lots of phone calls in relation to the Wycombe trips”

WHERE ARE THE PHONE RECORDS? WHY ISN’T EVERY ONE OF THOSE BASTARD RAPISTS BEING INTERROGATED BY THE POLICE?

Two men were convicted at the same time as the five ringleaders who were jailed for life; just two. The names of the pigs are Assad Hussein and Zeeshan Ahmed. For their sexual offences against the victims they were jailed for seven years apiece.

Not one of the men who raped the children in High Wycombe. Paddington Station, Shotover Woods, etc, who paid money to torture and rape them, has been arrested.

No social worker has been sacked. The chief constable refuses to resign. So does the chief executive of Oxfordshire county council.

Where are the rapists? Where are the “customers”? Where is justice? WHEN WILL THE SYSTEM SAY EVERY RAPE COUNTS?

How Hillary Can Have the Last Laugh

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If Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency, it’s going to be a case of Barack Who?

Hillary Clinton joined Twitter yesterday in a moment of social media fabulosity that had me thinking @CoryBooker should watch his back.

First, there was the unadulterated awesomeness of her Twitter bio.

“Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…”

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. The humour “hair icon, pantsuit aficionado” – the CV “lawyer, women & kids advocate, US Senator, SecState” the humanizing… “Wife, mom” – special props for putting “wife” before “mom” – the history… “lawyer, FLOAR, FLOTUS…” FLOAR is such a nice touch… First Lady of Arkansas… reminding us she’s been in the game a long time, some props to Bill’s home state, deprived and unglamorous. It’s the global victrix’s “Jenny from the Block” moment. “Dog owner” – well, if you hate Hillary you just hate puppies. And the glorious ending, “…TBD…” To be determined.

You know what this is? This is Daily Show, Stephen Colbert politics. And I’m not really even using that as a metaphor. So many Americans get their only politicial fix from those shows that she is heading like an exocet missile for the demographic that matters.

And now let’s move on to the avi. And her first tweet. Which was:

Thanks for the inspiration @ASmith83 & @Sllambe – I’ll take it from here… #tweetsfromhillary

This is a reference to the Texts from Hillary tumblr, the funniest political meme in years. She used their main photo as her Twitter avatar. She checks them for inspiration. She @s them. One of the creators responded with the perfect Onion-esque “Area Tweeter Doesn’t Know What To Do With Himself.”

Why does any of this matter? Well, she’s definitely running. I said as much in my Sun on Sunday column months ago after meeting fundraisers who had been at her house discussing the PAC. Secondly, it shows how she is running. She has used her time away from politics to become a kind of legend. Obama graciously gave her clout, but she kept her distance; when Susan Rice was messing up over Benghazi Clinton just stayed quiet.

I know about the Benghazi scandal; it will be old news in 2016. Old, old news. Attempts to revive it by the GOP will have voters rolling their eyes. Unfair? Sure. But there’s no crying in baseball.

Clinton is using humour and feminism “women & kids advocate, glass ceiling cracker” to show the authentic her; to take away any age-related beefs, because her humour makes her seem the most on-it, hippest candidate around; and to pitch to women, who defeated Mitt Romney en bloc.

She’s going for youth. Traditionally a worthless vote. Not last election. Not this election. And she’s going for women. “Glass ceiling cracker, pantsuit aficionado, TBD.”

I’m dead serious about the Daily Show pitching. When my stepdaughter arrived at a university in the key swing state of Ohio last autumn, they were registering the students to vote the same day they arrived. Youth turned out for Obama last election. First election it has ever really shown up. And that is a sea-change in the electoral mathematics.

I think she will run and I think she will win. And it would be very very hard not to vote for her. Even though I support Governor Christie, and he is the best the GOP has got, running against a woman, and one as popular and competent as Hillary, is a tough, tough battle.

If Clinton wins, she will be the most successful woman in history. Barack Obama slaughtered her in a primary that she was supposed to win at a canter, but none of that will matter if Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman President. His achievement would then remain historical, and vital, but it would be dwarfed by that of a woman becoming the most powerful person alive for the first time in history. Obama’s second term is being horribly tarnished right now, with the IRS, AP, PRISM, and Benghazi scandals, with Eric Holder, and the costs of Obamacare kicking in. When Bill Clinton took the stage for Obama at the DNC during the Presidential campaign he was greeted with more enthusiasm than Obama himself. And rightly so; as good as Obama is, Clinton is galactic distances better.

Hillary lost the primary, the Presidency, and got the consolation prize of State. But if she wins in 2016, she will have the last laugh. It will be her face, and not Obama’s, that defines the modern era, progress, and liberation. And she has the chance to do it right, and to achieve great and centrist things for America, and for women’s rights across the globe. And on the latter point, I believe she’s enough of a feminist to actually do that; to hold the Saudis and others much more accountable.

And even though Michelle Obama kicks major league ass, Bill Clinton will be a much, much cooler First Gentleman.

You go girl.

photo by SSkennel

The Campaign to Ban Rape Porn is Far Too Broadly Drawn

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I have been campaigning, and will continue to do so, for the Sentencing Council and the law to reflect the severity of possessing and distributing child rape images.

Women must also demand far tougher sentencing guidelines on rape and trafficking into rape.

As a reminder, to own large numbers of images of children being sadistically tortured or forced into bestiality, the starting point is one year.

For many women gang-raped daily in brothels in the most serious case, the traffickers got eight years. Out in four.

That’s the landscape on which British law operates, and which we must rise against.

However, over the last week or so campaigners I normally support and whose natural ally I am have launched a petition which makes me nervous and which I could not, in conscience, sign.

They want to ban all depictions of rape in acted pornography.

There is already a requirement in law that such depictions be obviously staged with “production values”. If that sounds comical, it isn’t – it’s designed to catch youtube videos of women being actually raped and assaulted.

Campaigners say they want to prevent or ban the following things; “extreme” rape scenarios featuring torture, pretend incest scenarios, scenarios where actresses who are eighteen are dressed or digitally altered to look far younger.

I think there is a case for banning at least the latter two categories. The law in Britain already makes it illegal to own digitised or altered or traced or drawn images of child rape/abuse (distinguishing itself from the US). This is because of the harm that could arise to children by feeding such fantasies. On the same basis, actresses pretending to be far younger or in incest scenarios are feeding the precisely same harm as traced or altered images of child rape or abuse. So far, an important addition to the law.

But to ban all images of rape itself goes far too far.

Campaigners already say that art or fantasy depictions in movies, books etc would be exempt. Consider many scenes from “Rome” for example. If classified by the BBFC they are not porn.

However, campaigners against rape – which I hope we all are – MUST be aware of free speech and where the line of incitement is truly drawn.

Not too long ago, a most dignified man, the barrister Simon Walsh, 50, was put through a disgraceful obscenity trial for owning pictures of violent pornography consenually taken, including “fisting”. He was cleared, but not before public humiliation at having his private life and sexuality exposed.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/aug/08/boris-johnson-aide-extreme-pornography-cleared

This is not a scenario feminists should campaign for as it affects other men and women. Pornography of rape that is clearly dramatized, and consensually made and shot, and does not involve imagery of children or incest, is not necessarily an incitement to actual rape. This campaign would criminalise all those indulging in consensual BDSM pornography. Yes this is embarassing to blog and talk about, but it is a lot better than having somebody like Mr. Hughes go through the dreadful national humiliation of his pornography trial.

Rape fantasy is an incredibly common female fantasy. It is VITAL that we distinguish this fantasy from rape apology, rape excuse, or anything to do with real rape. Psychologists have various explanations for the prevalence of rape fantasy in women, from its being a way for strong women to surrender control to the simpler variant of the woman who wishes to think of herself as a quote-unquote good girl, a virtuous woman, and in her dreams is simply overpowered so that sexual activity is not “her fault” and her “virtue” remains intact. In these fantasies the rapist looks like Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones and the woman finds it an enjoyable experience – it could not be more different from supporting or wishing for an actual rape in real life. Women are not stupid, and they can draw a perfectly clear distinction between fantasy and reality. The women who purchased 50 Shades of Grey – and no, I am not one of them – did not really want to be hurt by an aging billionaire.

It is important that in protecting women and children we are quite clear about what actual rape is and what incitement to hurt children is. Legislation to criminalise a community of fetishists is not right. I may not share their fetish nor am I in the same boat as Mr. Hughes, but adding ordinary, filmed, and consensually dramatised rape scenes – even involving, as in his case, some consensually undertaken depictions of pain – the government should NOT ban it, and as a feminist and one who will be concentrating on rape sentencing and the judges and quangoes who minimise it, I cannot support the campaign as it is written. It is illiberal and wrong and tramples on sexual rights.

photo by Rocketeer