David Miranda – Snowden’s Mule, and physical data

Why was Glenn Greenwald using David Miranda as a mule for stolen, classified U.S. intelligence?

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When I tweeted thanks to our security forces, saying Edward Snowden had stolen classified info and now we had it back, there was an outcry from lefties along these lines:

Louise Mensch doesn’t understand data. She thinks there’s only one copy. She thinks if I copy a photo I’ve stolen it. etc etc etc.

Equally, we had Alan Rusbridger trying to deflect the attention of the UK’s papers from the Guardian’s lies, smears and omissions on the Miranda mule story by diverting their attention to the smashing of Guardian computers by GCHQ. ‘We had copies of the data in New York and Rio’ he said, tweeting an obviously faked picture of a MacBook Air he said heavies had smashed that was actually the components of all sorts of different computers, leading to suspicions by normally on-side geeks that the Grauniad was faking the photo for effect with random computer parts.

Now I don’t want to do our Fourth Estate’s job for them but it looks like I’m going to have to  (again) – after their supine closing of ranks just because Glenn Greenwald is a journalist, and their unwillingness to look at him, Miranda or the Guardian with a critical eye until after the damage was done.

Look, boys and girls, you hold politicians to account, hold YOUR OWN  to account too. No fear no favour – stop turning a blind eye and swallowing the spin so uncritically.

Ask yourselves this damned obvious question. If the data was copied everywhere and it didn’t matter, why is Rusbridger talking about “copies in New York and Rio”?

Why is David Miranda carrying it on encrypted thumb drives?

Why is David Miranda acting as a go-between at all?

Haven’t Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenberg and the Guardian heard of Dropbox? Or P2P filesharing sites? There are a million ways to store locked data in the cloud.

Let’s review:

He was returning to their home in Rio de Janeiro when he was stopped at Heathrow and officials confiscated electronics equipment, including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.

This Guardian quote does not say “rolls of film… written notebooks” etc. It describes only electronic storage devices for data. They could have saved David Miranda “He is my partner, he is not a journalist” ‘s ticket price and expenses by, you know, storing all that in the cloud or shipping it via FedEx.

Glenn Greenwald to the New York Times:

Ms. Poitras, in turn, gave Mr. Miranda different documents to pass to Mr. Greenwald. Those documents, which were stored on encrypted thumb drives, were confiscated by airport security, Mr. Greenwald said. All of the documents came from the trove of materials provided to the two journalists by Mr. Snowden.

But Miranda and Poitras used a human mule (if indeed we believe him, I absolutely don’t, that he didn’t know what he was carrying).

Why? 

Yes, I realise I’m asking journalists to ask hard questions about another journalist and they like to keep those for people outside their club. Thank goodness for blogging and Twitter – and the smashing of big media’s gatekeeping hold on information. 

Ask yourselves if Glenn Greenwald, and Laura Poitras, are actively assisting Edward Snowden in his treacherous dissemination of classified, incredibly sensitive US and UK intelligence? From where I’m sitting, it looks like an attempt to fight charges in advance – by claiming that they are journalists and everything they do is covered by the First Amendment. Hence the New York Times putting Poitras on the cover of its magazine supplement this week and Greenwald’s repeated lies about the role of his husband and the events and aftermath of the detention to British journalists, unchallenged anywhere in the UK press, until I started tweeting about it  & wrote my last blog on the topic.

They hope that claiming a journalistic role will protect them when they are stealing, storing and disseminating classified intel about not just NSA snooping but America’s intelligence programmes against China, Russia and so forth. They are, in doing so, risking countless lives. So are the Guardian newspaper. As Malcom Rifkind said countering BBC bias yesterday on the Today programme, the Guardian had no right to store that stolen intelligence or to report even on GCHQ data collection (legal, not illegal, data collection). As he said, the Guardian’s angle was the GCHQ could legally penetrate comms in a deeper way than was known – and of course the Guardian let Al Qaeda and others know that, meaning that terrorists will start protecting their communications. Some terrorists are sophisticated – others, like many extremist Islamist cells, are not. The latter have been warned off by the Guardian from ways that UK spooks were tracking them.

“Rusbridger was on weak ground” Rifkind said. “He knew he had no legal right to possess the material.” And the point about the Guardian’s immense arrogance was made extremely well in the Daily Mail by Simon Glover:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2398470/The-Guardians-murky-waters-love-country-venture-says-STEPHEN-GLOVER.html

In a BBC radio interview yesterday, Mr Rusbridger claimed his newspaper had ‘held back a great deal’ of information from Snowden that might be harmful to Britain if it ever saw the light of day. Maybe it has, but some stuff has been published that was damaging.

It was because the Government feared the Guardian’s hard drives could contain unused material that might be hacked into by terrorists that it not unreasonably persuaded Mr Rusbridger to destroy them.

 

Indeed. On these physical hard drives a newspaper – just a newspaper, which takes on new staff all the time, where people come and go every day, including brand new employees, the Grauniad stored dangerous stolen classified intelligence. Remember Rusbridger’s tweeted “Macbook” photo that contained parts from all kinds of computers. One of two things is true about it:

1. The photo was faked by Rusbridger, and Guardian hacks assembled parts of many computers, not smashed up by GCHQ, for effect.

2. The photo was not faked. All the parts came from computers the Guardian allowed GCHQ to smash up. That would mean they were storing this classifed stolen data on multiple computers.

So let’s assume that 2. is true although I find the Guardian less and less trustworthy on all matters to do with this story. That means they were storing stolen data that could imperil our intelligence and UK and US intelligence agents’ lives, and materially help terrorist networks and despotic regimes like China and Russia, on a bunch of office computers.

Nice one, the Guardian! Because really, no sophisticated spy agency can remotely access any of those, can it? On your PC and Macbook and MacBook Air and all the other different computers in that pic, no terrorists can send a kid in as an (unpaid) Guardian intern who could pretty easily hack your stuff? You are secure over there in King’s Place, are you, #GuardianBond? And you are holding this stuff on all kinds of different computers, increasing the likelihood of hacks with each one?

In fact the shame is that the Government and GCHQ waited to go in there and demand destruction of the drives. They should have done it right away. 

And so back to the question that the UK’s media and Twitter’s Greenwald obsessives are not asking.

If the data is stored in the cloud why is King’s Place keeping it on physical hard drives? Why is Glenn Greenwald using a human courier at all?

Because Greenwald, and not Miranda, is a US citizen – and it would be a serious felony for Greenwald to transmit, mail, send in the cloud etc, stolen CIA data that risks the lives of US intelligence agencies. If Miranda is doing the transporting Greenwald can argue that he never did this. That he only received the information and did not disseminate it.

Lastly, why is it so important that our police questioned Miranda for 9 hours – after offering him that lawyer that he refused? Well, they got him to surrender his computer and social media passwords. Quite bloody right too. God willing, on that phone, that computer, those soc med accounts, they find some encryption keys, some ways to get in to the Snowden intel he was muling, and save American lives. Of course we know Snowden, the traitor, has permanently leaked that intel to the enemies of America, from his interview with the South China Morning Post and the boasting of Julian Assange:

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.

Let’s just remind ourselves of Assange’s attitude to American lives and allies like translators:

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.

 

That’s the guy Snowden has given his files to. He should rot in jail for it for the rest of his life. So why does it matter that our security forces help the Americans with the stolen Snowden data they got back from Miranda? Because it’s by no means clear the Americans yet know the extent of what he has endangered:

http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/20/20108770-us-doesnt-know-what-snowden-took-sources-say?lite

By cracking the code from Miranda’s copy of the Snowden data,  MI5 can help our American cousins know how bad it is and protect their, and our, intelligence agents from Snowden’s filthy treachery.

Well done indeed to our Border Police. And Theresa May and David Cameron need to be strong on this and absolutely unyielding. Being a journalist entitles you to report on a story. It does NOT entitle you to own, or to traffic, stolen intelligence data that puts UK and US spy programmes and agents’ lives at risk. These are not the Pentagon Papers; we already knew that when Edward Snowden told the Chinese regime, via their state engine the South China Morning Post, about US intelligence efforts against them, and we confirmed that when he leaked everything he had to the rape-charge fugitive Julian Assange. 

If UK intelligence can show US intelligence that Glenn Greenwald was passing stolen, highly classified intelligence info – trafficking in it – to and from Laura Poitras, they should prepare indictments and extradition warrants for both of them. For that goes far beyond reporting on a story, to actual espionage.

Cameron and May should remain strong – let Labour and Yvette Cooper be the ones telling the British public that Miranda should have been free to smuggle CIA data on Britain’s GCHQ around, without let or hindrance.

And the Obama administration should think long and hard before they pre-judge (as a spokesman did) whether they should seek a warrant for the New York Guardian hard drives. Yes there is the First Amendment, but the “fire in a crowded theatre” rule doesn’t apply to openly leaking US intelligence operations against foreign powers. The Obama spokesman rather feebly ran from Britain’s stronger actions saying that in the US they wouldn’t do that (get a warrant to seize computers). Well, they should bloody well try. We might have retorted that in Britain, we wouldn’t have let a twenty-something hacker with no history of service have access to our deepest intelligence computers, either, and lift intel endangering our spies and our allies’ spies with total ease. If Obama were Bush, the US media would be all over that failure.

However, as with this post, it is for bloggers to ask the questions that journalists refuse to. Thank God for the internet, eh?

PS: don’t try to seize this post. It’s stored in the cloud. 

 

 

 

The Smears of Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian – a primer

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Like most people, I fully supported Edward Snowden blowing the whistle on the NSA surveillance programme on Americans. I called for a Presidential pardon for Snowden right here on this blog, and suggested the journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story, should win a Pulitzer prize for it.

http://unfashionista.com/2013/06/09/obama-must-pardon-edward-snowden/

Unfortunately, within barely a few days, my naive belief that Snowden was a patriotic whistleblower started to unravel. He fled to Hong Kong and it became apparent that he had targeted his job not just to gain intelligence on the NSA, but to expose American – and British – spy programmes, putting our agents at risk around the world, and aiding some of the world’s most repressive regimes. With the interview Snowden did with the South China Morning Post, he exposed US intel in China. He then dumped his entire stash of files with the anti-American Wikileaks and Julian Assange, who has previously stated ‘so what’ if US intel assets are killed from leaks.

My blog on that was here.

http://unfashionista.com/2013/07/02/assange-turns-snowden-into-a-traitor/

But with all this distressing realisation that Snowden was just a shitty little spy, one who was happy to suck up to the homophobic regime in Russia where he has taken asylum, i kept looking at Glenn Greenwald’s feed – @Ggreenwald  on Twitter – hoping to see some condemnation of the plain and obvious treason committed by his source. Yet there was none.

I put this down to journalistic “Stockholm Syndrome”, that Greenwald was so in love with his story and his source that he had just gone blind and could see no wrong. When Greenwald frenziedly attacked a Wall Street Journal reporter who suggested he, Greenwald, might have aided and abetted Snowden, I supported Greenwald. I honestly did not believe that Greenwald would stoop so low, knowing as he did by then that Snowden was happy to leak US intel operations against repressive regimes.

The Guardian came out with a “story” that GCHQ had spied on Russia at the G8 and it was rightly met with total derision on Twitter, even amongst lefties. #GuardianBond was the hashtag. (They were shocked, shocked that our spies spy! and on Russia, too!)

Well, the sell-out traitor Snowden took asylum with the homophobe Putin, issuing a fawning statement of thanks, and I assumed the story was dead for a while.

Until the “scandal” of David Miranda’s 9 hour detention broke on Twitter. Boy, did it seem pretty bad – the husband of a journalist, nothing to do with this story himself, detained for no good reason for nine solid hours, denied a lawyer, held under the Terrorism Act, purely to intimidate his husband. Wow. I had no idea our security forces at Heathrow were such utter bastards, abusing their power in violation of all professional standards and ethics.

Except…. for that very reason I didn’t quite believe it.

Everybody else believed it though, and fellow UK papers, the AP, the NUJ, all ran the story unquestioningly – by the way, the lot of you, this blind acceptance because a journalist throws an accusation is a violation of your OWN ethics.

Here’s how the story utterly unravelled over the course of the day.

Glenn Greenwald to the New York Times, pretending Miranda was just there as a spouse, and was not himself a journalist:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/19/world/europe/britain-detains-partner-of-reporter-tied-to-leaks.html

He is my partner. He is not even a journalist.

This was the first clue. It turned out that the Guardian was paying for David Miranda’s flights and that David Miranda was working on the leaks story, making him a journalist. My direct question to Greenwald – and the Guardian – as to whether the Guardian was paying Miranda for his work on the story went unanswered, though Greenwald instead asked me a question of his own.

Here’s where the Guardian admit they were paying for his flights and he was assisting with the story:

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

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/19/david-miranda-detention-labour-glen-greenwald

This showed that Greenwald was lying by saying that Miranda was merely a spouse – he was actively involved in the story with Greenwald.

But hey, no biggie – even if Miranda WAS acting as a journalist himself, you can’t detain someone under the Terrorism Act just for being a journalist. Freedom of the press. And you can’t deny them a lawyer, as Greenwald said the airport police did:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/18/david-miranda-detained-uk-nsa

The official – who refused to give his name but would only identify himself by his number: 203654 – said David was not allowed to have a lawyer present, nor would they allow me to talk to him.

Except, giving an interview to the Guardian just before 10pm and after all the UK papers had gone to bed (so they couldn’t report this) David Miranda confirmed he had been offered a lawyer:
He was offered a lawyer and a cup of water, but he refused both because he did not trust the authorities.
Right. Now let’s pause for a moment and talk about lies of omission. All day long, both the Guardian newspaper and Glenn Greenberg had known that David Miranda was offered a lawyer by airport security. Yet all day long they had allowed the falsehood to be tweeted and written about that Miranda was detained without being offered a lawyer.
Pretty shocking. Pretty untransparent, that, from self-appointed truth seekers.
I was arguing at this point that Miranda, who was clearly working as a journalist assisting on the story, was obviously suspected of not just reporting, but helping Snowden disseminate his intelligence on UK and US spying programmes, which would clearly be a serious crime. I qualified it by saying Miranda may not have been doing that, but it could be reasonably suspected.
I didn’t know then what we all know now, and what Greenwald and the Guardian knew throughout the day but kept secret.
But the final shoe fell. Glenn Greenwald admitted to the New York Times that David Miranda had been carrying, as a mule, stolen, encrypted thumb drives actually containing intelligence data that Snowden stole from the CIA – and those encrypted drives were confiscated.
Remember, Greenwald knew this all along. He knew his husband was not only a journalist but much more to the point, he was carrying top secret, encrypted drives with stolen intelligence information on them – information not just about the NSA but about UK and US intelligence action against foreign powers. Yet he was so quick to lie and viciously slander our security services, saying they targeted his husband only to intimidate him, Greenwald. He always knew Miranda was transporting top secret encrypted files Snowden stole.
Those documents, which were stored on encrypted thumb drives, were confiscated by airport security, Mr. Greenwald said. All of the documents came from the trove of materials provided to the two journalists by Mr. Snowden.
Note the NYT correctly says “the two journalists” – though at this point they are far beyond that.
As I tweeted away on this bombshell, fellow tweeters denied it was possible, even when again and again I pointed them to the quote. Then they asked “If Miranda was carrying encrypted stolen Snowden data, why wasn’t he arrested and charged? Eh? Eh?”
Well, probably because the thumb drives are encrypted and it would take police more than 9 hours to decode them – by which time they had to release Miranda under the law. The only reason we know for sure that Miranda was smuggling this is because Greenwald admitted it to the Times - once Miranda was safely back on Brazilian soil.
In Brazil now Greenwald was threatening, out of sheer revenge, to expose British intelligence and therefore British agents. He tried to deny these threats later, but unfortunately for him, CNN reported his exact words with the video to prove it:

Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who broke the news about secret U.S. surveillance programs, said the authorities who took his partner into custody at London’s Heathrow Airport “are going to regret what they did.”

“I am going to write my stories a lot more aggressively now,” the Guardian reporter told Brazil’s Globo TV on Monday in Rio de Janeiro.

“I am going to publish many more documents now. I am going to publish a lot about England, too, I have a lot of documents about the espionage system in England. Now my focus is going to be that as well.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIvF8KXTW3s (slide to 1:20 for Greenwald)

And lastly of course, we have the juxtaposition of the quotes by David Miranda to the Guardian and the statement by Glenn Greenwald to the New York Times. Miranda states (if you believe him, and I don’t) that he had no idea what he was carrying. Greenwald states that he was transporting Snowden’s stolen, top secret CIA intelligence data on encrypted thumb drives. So basically, you have Greenwald using his spouse as a mule to actively assist Edward Snowden, and you have Miranda lying at the airport when he answers that damned basic security question… “Has anyone given you anything to carry on board?”

“It is clear why they took me. It’s because I’m Glenn’s partner. Because I went to Berlin. Because Laura lives there. So they think I have a big connection,” he [David Miranda] said. “But I don’t have a role. I don’t look at documents. I don’t even know if it was documents that I was carrying. It could have been for the movie that Laura is working on.”

You lied to airport security, then, David, didn’t you?

Ms. Poitras, in turn, gave Mr. Miranda different documents to pass to Mr. Greenwald. Those documents, which were stored on encrypted thumb drives, were confiscated by airport security, Mr. Greenwald said. All of the documents came from the trove of materials provided to the two journalists by Mr. Snowden.

And you knew this all along, Glenn Greenwald, yet you continued to smear our intelligence police, just as you knew all along David Miranda was offered a lawyer yet failed constantly to correct the record?

But you know, why is the New York Times breaking the story that Miranda was transporting stolen intelligence data, stolen by Snowden? Why wouldn’t our fearless truth-seekers at the Guardian let Britain know what David Miranda was really doing?

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/19/david-miranda-detention-labour-glen-greenwald

He was returning to their home in Rio de Janeiro when he was stopped at Heathrow and officials confiscated electronics equipment, including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.

Oh my goodness! Those awful Guardian subs are at it again. They totally forgot to mention that the “memory sticks” confiscated contained classified information about UK and US intelligence programmes against repressive foreign regimes, stolen by Edward Snowden! Ooopsy! Must tie a knot in your handkerchief, Alan Rusbridger, so you can remind your reporters to mention little details like that next time…. before they accuse our security forces just doing their job of intimidation.

Shame on the Guardian for its smear story, its partial reporting, and its vile accusations against our border agents. Shame on Glenn Greenwald for not correcting the idea that David Miranda was denied a lawyer. Shame on Greenwald and the Guardian for not admitting Miranda was smuggling encrypted Snowden files. Shame on Miranda for lying at security about being “asked to carry anything for somebody else”. Shame on Greenwald for – if we believe David (I don’t) – not telling his husband that he was carrying top secret encrypted CIA data that Snowden stole. And a plague on all their houses for conflating whistleblowing on the NSA with revelations of intelligence actions against foreign powers.

Lastly, shame on Greenwald for attacking a fellow journalist, Edward Epstein, for questioning him – as to whether he was actively assisting Edward Snowden. The encrypted thumb drives his husband was smuggling are a pretty solid proof of that.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323873904578573382649536100.html

to end, let’s just remind ourselves of Edward Snowden fearlessly betraying his country to the South China Morning Post:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2013/06/20/edward-snowden-blows-it/

Coda – many have argued that David Miranda, even if assisting in espionage, should not have been detained under the Terrorism Act. This is of course flat wrong. The Terrorism Act does not only apply to men with bombs and guns. Interrupting electronic systems to influence the govt of a foreign power for political purposes is EXPRESSLY COVERED.

http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/prosecution/ctd.html

Terrorism is defined in the Terrorism Act 2000 (TACT 2000) and means the use or threat of action where –

  1. The action –
    1. involves serious violence against a person,
    2. involves serious damage to property,
    3. endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
    4. creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
    5. is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system AND
  2. The use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, AND
  3. The use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause

1 E, 2, 3 are absolutely covered here.

photo by Agencia Senado

Prescott’s Oxford Class War (from the Lords)

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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.

A short fashion post – I love you Issa

Well, I’ll never have a pop at Kate Middleton again. She basically discovered Issa for the rest of the world (or those of us unfashionistas who are style-challenged) and for that I now want to send her bouquets.

Readers of the old unfashionista (and we are working to replicate it) might recall that one of my fashion rules is “Show your waist”. Whether thin or not. Waist to hip ratio is good to emphasize for everybody including plus sizes.

So I wanted an Issa dress but can’t justify spending that much money. Anyway, I finally cracked and bought one at http://www.theoutnet.com – and it looks terrific – and then, just as I was ending a spree of buying autumn work clothes, I catch a tweet from @GlamourMagUK raving about the new “Issa for Banana Republic” collection. Well, scarred by Kate Moss for TopShop and Missoni for Target – all those designer “collections” with five pieces in them so you get “sold out” right away – I did click on the US site for BR, and as it was 6am everything was still available. And I filled my boots. Awesome looking dresses for just $130, about £95. Following every rule I’ve had on the blog for office wear and What Men Want. Knee-length. Fitted, even with a flare skirt, because of the tight wrap waists. Often 3/4 length sleeves. Feminine. Elegant. The only dresses I didn’t buy were the too short ones.

Anyway, they turned up (me guiltily vowing to return anything I didn’t like) and I’m not sending back ONE ITEM. I may as well forget fashion blogging because it’s all Issa all the time for me now. The dresses pack a Forties glamour, they are SO feminine and elegant, they are the kind of dress that will have a man catching his breath whilst not being even slightly tarty or “daring”. Yes, Issa-the-label does some plunging vees and great if you can get away with that or if you want to, but it’s not for me. But the Banana Republic collection isn’t that way.

Here are a couple of shots of two of the dresses: and one with the dress smartened for work with a Hobbs jacket. So often a dress looks lovely online then hangs like a sack. Not these ones. They are keepers. So is the tote, the scarf and the bag.

LOVE. Anyway, if you can get them, get them. I didn’t buy the kimono ones or the short ones; other than that I bought every dress, top and cardigan; I also bought the bracelet and the tote and all three scarves.

http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/category.do?cid=87919&departmentRedirect=true&mlink=5002,6879655,4&clink=6879655#department=136

Brown dress (all dresses with my favourite Jessica Simpson Given heels)

zebra with Hobbs jacket zebra dress IMG_0038 IMG_0033 IMG_0036 IMG_0039

10 Rules for Red Hot Women

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The photo on the left is me in 2004. On the right, 2013.

It’s a great thrill to be in Red Magazine this month and to be one of the judges of the Red Hot Women Awards this year. I was once a nominee (didn’t win – always the bridesmaid) – and I loved the whole spirit of the thing, the unashamed celebration of women achievers in all fields and all backgrounds.

So, since by now everybody knows that self-help books are my guilty pleasure, here are my top 10 rules for a happy life as a woman (uncensored).

1. Be nakedly ambitious.

It doesn’t matter if other people (hi, Daily Telegraph! Hi!) use the word “ambitious” about you as a pejorative. From the cradle, you have been trained to be a Queen Consort; to achieve wealth, power and status by marrying a man. That’s the tale of Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Marry well, and all your troubles will be over.

The fact is that women – just like men – have a need for significance, and the female virtues of self-sacrifice, modesty, meekness, silence and collaboration, while estimable, are a recipe for depression and an alcohol disorder unless you can do something for yourself. Aim high in your field. If that’s not working out, try another field. The game isn’t over until you stop playing; believe yourself to be special and act accordingly. Take a night class. Learn a new language. Start a website. Run for office. Apply for at least one great new job or internal promotion every month – unless you’re founding your own company. I really don’t care who you are; people from poorer backgrounds than you, with greater disadvantages, have started and succeeded.

Don’t be afraid to have male role models. Margaret Thatcher and Arnold Schwarzenegger were mine, when I was growing up.

2. Beauty matters.

It may be right or it may be wrong, but a huge part of our self-esteem is stamped into how we look. Instead of decrying this as unfeminist and refusing to wax our upper lips, flip it on its head; tell yourself that making yourself look as good as you can is your gift to yourself, a sign of how you value yourself. Age is not as important as everybody says. If you swapped my picture above for the ten years younger version I would be horrified.

3. Brains matter more.

Bimbos never prosper; you should constantly learn, adapt, and update your skills even when nobody is paying you to do it. Training yourself keeps you young and again, sends you that signal that your story is not over. You are going to make big changes. You’re moving to Rome, you’re buying a house, you’re taking a doctorate, you plan on getting a pilot’s license. Keep at it. You will never be this young again – take advantage.

4. Love your work.

Either find a way to love your job or work hard at finding a new job. Most of your life is spent in the office. You can’t be happy trading five days a week for two. You need to be happy every day.

5. Better to be single than with a loser.

Do you love him? Do you want him? If the answer to either of these is no, just cut bait. So many women still feel incomplete without a guy. Growing up I never had a boyfriend, not a single one til I reached college. It still worked out OK.

6. Have adventures.

Oh my God, this is so important. Studies have proven that it is experiences, not possessions, which give our lives joy. Travel is the simplest shortcut – indeed, if you go to Egypt and walk in the Valley of the Kings you will return a changed woman – but you should do other stuff, too. Learn to ski in middle age. Walk over a firepit barefoot (I did this). Scam your way backstage at a gig (I did that one billion times). Write to your greatest hero (a letter, not an email). It works, it’s wonderful. If I told you all the incredible things that have happened in my life none of you would believe it for a second.

7. Make sure that you feel intense desire for the man you marry.

If you don’t, your marriage will be miserable.

8. Get money, all the money you can. Women are trained to be reticent about asking for good pay and perks (for fear of seeming “pushy”) and to regard money as hideously selfish capitalist piggery while next to them, less experienced men are shoving themselves forward. “Job satisfaction” is nice but it won’t pay your mortgage bills, and you will be doomed to a lifetime of anxiety. Save and invest (in a house or flat) instead of buying designer stuff. Try to get a flat you can rent out, some kind of income that is not dependent on you being employed. And ask for the job you want. Just ask your boss to promote or employ you. It works more often than not. Benjamin Franklin said “Money is coined liberty.” Freedom; think of it like that.

9. Get fit and stay fit.

OK, so no BS; the magazines and fitness industries have spun you a lie. Three times a week for 20 minutes is going to do the square root of sod all for you. You need to jog about five times a week and lift weights twice a week. Don’t forget the weights. You lose lean muscle mass after 30; pick up that dumbbell, and don’t let an old woman crawl into your body. And don’t diet; you only lose muscle and then regain it in fat.

FIVE times a week. Arnold Schwarzenegger says to do something every day. Listen to him, because he’s gorgeous. I stuff my face with porridge, frozen yoghurt and endless handfuls of nuts but I also work out. If you’re going to kick all that ass, you need some energy. Plus, it makes you happier and less depressed. I’m 42, three kids.

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10. Write down your goals.

Just writing them down helps you achieve them, because it crystallises them in your mind. And you start moving towards them. Don’t wait for your birthday, or January 1st. A new year started today. Pick three or four big changes and just achieve them. And if you fail, so what? The honour in life is in the attempt. Keep trying. And then try other stuff. Nobody ever succeeded at anything by thinking small.

So good luck. Be red hot. Don’t wear too much make up (men hate it. Yes I care what men want. I love men). Go for your dreams and encourage others to go for theirs.

Here’s a short motivational video from Schwarzenegger, my Yoda. What can I say – Thatcher never made any. Watch this, and see if you don’t want to start something special for yourself.

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