The EU constitution is dead, if not yet buried, and often doing a fairly good zombie impression staggering around the continent looking for spicy brains, so this may hold rather less appeal now than it would have done a couple of months back.
Danish eurosceptic MEP Jens-Peter Bonde, hubby of the woman behind the rather good EU Observer news site and the man behind EUABC, has emailed with his latest contribution to the debate, and it's really rather handy - a .pdf fully annotated version of the EU constitution. He says it's a reader-friendly version, and so far I'm inclined to agree - although I haven't read enough of it yet to tell how much his own opinions have been presented as fact, he usually strikes me as being fairly fair.
Look, I know that the BBC Charter renewal thing's coming up and so they've got to give concessions to our philistine government by dumbing down - sorry - making accessible cultural output, but why in hell's name have they got Alan sodding Titchmarsh in to present the Proms? He's a gardener for Christ's sake! He knows less about classical music than I do - and that's saying something...
Still, if you want some top-notch music over the next couple of months, you could do a lot worse than going here and listening live on BBC Radio 3. Nine weeks of superb music played by some of the best artists in the world at the click of a button. And they say the license fee's a waste of money...
Update: Oh for fuck's sake - now he's interviewing Michelle cunting Collins, former soap opera "star" and gossip rag regular. That's it. I'm off down the pub...
If this is true...
Via Robin Grant, if true then this would make me very angry indeed. Edward at Fistful has more, as does Tim Ireland.
There are ALWAYS limits to what the public should be told, don't let anyone tell you otherwise, and now this is true more than ever. It's this little thing called responsibility, tactics. If playing Poker, you do not show your hand for fear of tipping off your opponents and letting them know not to go all-in in case you wipe them out in one stroke. Counter-terrorism operations are, I'm sure we can all agree, just a tad more serious than Poker.
When it comes to last week's attacks I've tried to avoid too much finger-pointing (bar highlighting the impact a certain fascist party may have had), because playing politics over the bodies of the innocent dead is one of the most distasteful things I can imagine.
But if there is any truth to these suggestions - if it does turn out that politics has been played with our national security - impeachments alone won't be enough. This would be gross, irresponsible negligence of the highest order. A blase disregard of people's safety and lives resulting in the maiming and death of scores of innocents. And for what? Power, plain and simple. If this is true, our leaders will have become as bad as those they are supposed to be fighting.
Buy a pint for London's emergency services update
The beer fund is at a respectable level, and I've had a few ideas of how to distribute it. I've also just had a call from the BBC, and they have asked to film any booze-up that takes place, which should help sort out the legitimacy problems a bit.
My current plan is to try and get something organised for next weekend, but I still have a few problems to iron out. If anyone knows who I should speak to at the St John Ambulance service to get some of their people along, I'd be grateful for some pointers.
The easy option would simply be to donate this as a standard charity thing, but that's not the point of this fund - it's explicitly for a "thank you" pint or two for some of the people involved. I still need to know if this will create difficulties, as for the mainstream emergency services it can be tricky. Again - any advice gratefully received.
Thanks again to all who have donated - from the US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands - all over. You're all top - and far more trusting than I'd be...
Update: Have just spoken to someone from the St John Ambulance lot, and they're up for it and on the case, starting to work out details. Should have a better idea next week sometime.
France better than Britain - official! (Or not, as the case may be...) Plus some Chirac interview goodness.
Well THAT didn’t take long
Then again, we have been going on about business as usual, so it's only right that the fight with our European neighbours kicks off again, unimpeded by the actions of four nutters from the north.
The Commission, a tad miffed, said yesterday that Britain’s "rhetoric does not match the reality", adding that "in one forum you put the spotlight on what we actually need to do, but when it comes to practice, then the vision is no longer there."
Hmmm – Blair? Using grand words to get headlines and make it seem like he’s doing something genuinely good, then failing to deliver? Surely not!
Rather tediously, though, this latest spat is all about research funding in the next EU budget. Britain publicly maintains that it is R&D in which the EU should invest, rather than French farmers, as part of the spat with France over Britain’s rebate.
The European Commission, however, is claiming that Blair’s grand words about complete budget overhauls and increased R&D funding are just lip-service, and that the UK is actually proposing to CUT research spending by €429 million while trimming just €150 million from the contentious agricultural budget. Curiouser and curiouser.
Of course, for anyone who has had the misfortune of following Blair’s political career, none of this should be any surprise. He hit the headlines a few weeks back for vocally challenging the CAP – and people began to cheer, as he was saying what needed to be said. He’s more recently been spouting off about poverty in Africa and hanging around with pop singers.
Lots of good press. Brief popularity boost. But will he deliver on any of this? His record’s not good, let’s face it. African aid will probably be computerised and outsourced to Capita, the poor buggers will get overpaid and then have to sell their countries to pay us back. The EU budget will likely be given out as a PFI contract (doubtless to a Labour donor with a dodgy track record in an unrelated field like, say, pharmaceuticals, who will then be given a peerage), and the inevitable overspend will end up getting covered by the government in three years’ time.
But the real killer in this latest spat, from the Blair PR point of view, is the French response: “We support the British proposition, it takes into account our considerations”.
Christ – if the French are happy, you KNOW we’ve done a bad job…
Meanwhile, life on the other side of the Channel has got even more tricky while we’ve been distracted by maniacs and explosions: a bunch of our most likely allies in the debate over the future of the EU have, while we’ve been cleaning up terrorist messes, thrown in their lot with Germany instead.
Austria, Italy, Finland, Poland, Portugal and Latvia could all have been British allies in this budget dispute, had Blair actually bothered to concentrate on the EU crisis rather than juggling the EU, Africa, wars and terrorists all at once and making a bollocks of all of them. Instead they’ve issued a statement with Germany about the future of the EU - the only upside of which is that it’s so bland and vapid that none of them have committed to any particular vision beyond "erm… the EU’s, like, good and stuff, OK?"
Either way, Blair holds the EU presidency. It’s about bloody time he got off his arse and did something with it – Britain won’t get this opportunity again for years. Time to stop faffing about and get on with the job.
Melanie Phillips is a racist scumbag whose words can kill*. Top post title. Top blog strapline.
And here I will proudly announce that the most Melanie Phillips I have ever had the misfortune of reading is the odd quoted sentence, normally while she's being demolished. But I'm a blogger, so that doesn't stop me having an opinion: she's the Cosmo Landesman of political writing - everything she says seems to be aboslutely, precisely, completely wrong. As with Landesman's film reviews for The Sunday Times, believe the diametric opposite of what Phillips says, you'll likely be somewhere nearer knowing what the fuck is going on.
*it is alleged - see comments... Heh!
I'm sure you'll all be fascinated to know that I've just signed up for this:
"I will 'blog for victory' on the 10th of August by writing a post about the need for House of Lords reform, and link to the Elect the Lords campaign website but only if 20 other bloggers will too."Although having done so it's entirely possible that on the day I may end up arguing that we need to go back to a hereditary upper chamber and that democracy's overrated. Despite having had to write a briefing paper on Lord's reform when I was working at the Commons I still don't really have an opinion. All I do know is that the current system is a piss-poor worst of both worlds scenario.
Miss today's by-election? Considering it never made it onto the front page of BBC news, I wouldn't be surprised... By the sound of things, you haven't missed much.
Heh! "Pavement Disgrace". Genius.
(Although despite their inanity it's worth pointing out that if the Tories manage to re-take the seat, which is entirely feasible, it'll be their first by-election win since 1982...)
It's not often you see London come to a standstill. Taxis, lorries, shoppers, couriers, cyclists, office workers piling out onto the street and standing motionless, unspeaking.
A silent, two-minute "fuck you" to the terrorists and all their ilk. Good stuff. London rules.
"So, Mr Muslim, what did you do today?" - missed this, but a top-notch response to Tony Blair's latest patronising bullshit. Our man Justin's take is also spot on, though, so much over the last week or so, woefully - perhaps wilfully - misunderstood by some commentors.
Update: Killer Kitty also on good form.
A bit of light relief: Kilroy faces Veritas leadership challenge. Heh! That didn't take long...
Now there's apparently a security alert at the Houses of Parliament - no links yet, and I'm checking for news from a friend there. Update: Alert over. No more info.
And this on the day that another bomb goes off in a friend of mine's town. I have yet to hear from her.
And one of the confirmed dead from Thursday's blasts was a friendly work acquaintance of one of my best friends.
Isn't the world grand?
London bombs: Blame the BNP
Following this post, it now seems very likely that the London bomber WERE British - although there has, as yet, been no indisputable confirmation. Four men from West Yorkshire have been identified on CCTV from King's Cross, where they are believed to have arrived by train at around 8:30 on Thursday morning. Their houses are being searched for evidence.
The blame, obviously and ultimately, rests with the murderers themselves, and anyone who aided and abetted them.
Some people have additionally laid blame for provoking the attack with Bush and Blair who, the basic argument runs, stirred up shit in the Middle East, providing terrorist recruiters with an unending stream of images of western soldiers charging all over the shop. I can understand the argument - and even sympathise with it, to an extent. After all, if you deny that the occupation of Iraq has spawned more terrorists, how do you explain the difference in the number of terrorist attacks in that country before and after the occupation? But at the same time, ridding Afghanistan of the Taleban and Iraq of Saddam are both undoubtedly good things. Some inhabitants of those lands must surely be grateful, even if the liberation process hasn't been anywhere near as smooth as could be wished.
Others, including people in the comments to my liveblog of the attack, blame Islam itself. This argument is also - to a very slight extent - understandable. After all, there is a very prominent minority within modern Islam who are vocal in their hatred of the west and everything it stands for, and who have called for jihad against us and our values. The Qu'ran can, to an extent, be selectively quoted to back up their perverted interpretation of their faith. But then so, were one so inclined, could the Bible. Christianity has also gone through its stages of calling for the death of unbelievers. Christianity too has tortured and massacred in God's name. Because Christians have now (mostly - cf. the KKK) got beyond that stage, does that give the western Judeo-Christian states the right to get all uppity? Not all western states gave women the vote at the same time; Britain abolished slavery years before America. These things take time, and over time, moderation usually wins out - it's nicer for everyone.
But for homegrown terrorists, surely they need more provocation than that? Events in distant lands may arouse anger. Religious invective may fuel feelings of self-righteousness. But most terrorists normally have some more personal reasons for their actions. There is usually some rationality behind their irrationality. They can usually, in their perverse way, justify their actions to themselves. It takes more than the promise of a few virgins and eternal life in Heaven to provoke someone to kill themselves and others - if not, everyone would be blowing themselves up all the time.
These terrorists could not have been bred in London. Accusations of our capital, which has shown its multicultural unity better than ever in the last few days, being "Londonistan" are blatantly silly, though have - as always - some truth to them. As the cliche goes, there's no smoke without fire. There ARE a lot of radical Muslims in London. The city has played host to some deeply unpleasant preachers, the likes of Abu Hamza and his ilk, who spew hate from their pulpits, stirring up radical anger.
But it is this very tolerance which makes London-born terrorists unlikely. They can give vent to their anger and hatred freely. The very civil liberties which the government is trying to stifle in the name of protecting us - the right to free association and free speech - give an outlet to the rage of a disaffected Muslim youth. They can chant, they can shout, they can rave - and they can get publicity for their cause at the same time. But deep down they know that if they push it too much - as Abu Hamza did - they will find their voices stifled. They have no desire to stir up more hatred of Islam, or they will no longer be allowed access to an audience.
West Yorkshire, on the other hand, has been the site of even more stirring of hatred between communities. Hatred stirred by one of the least British groups in the entire country - the BNP.
It was in West Yorkshire that BNP leader Nick Griffin stood for election just two months ago. His high-profile campaign, played just the right side of the race-hate laws, played much on fears of Muslims. When I commented on Griffin's campaign back in January, this blog attracted a small but determined group of BNP supporters, determined to demonstrate that immigration and Islam are to blame for all this country's ills.
It was in the same region that race riots occurred a couple of years ago, something the BNP were keen to capitalise on as an indication of the volatility and danger inherent in Muslim youth, even while knowing that they had done much to fire them up.
If you were a young Muslim, British born, being told by a party that professes to be the party of Britain, of the nation, that you were not and never could be British, how would you feel? Would you feel included in society? Would you feel any love for your fellow countrymen? Would you even consider them your fellow countrymen?
For most people born in Britain, it is not hard to love this country. We may moan at times, we may get pissed off, but at heart we know it is up there as one of the best in the world - for its stoicism, much lauded in recent days, for its history of toleration and inclusiveness, for its continued ability to punch above its weight on the world stage - even if we sometimes disagree where those punches are landed.
It would take an extended campaign of lies and distortions to convince me that Britain is anything other than Great, even while I can see its flaws. This is precisely what the Muslim population of West Yorkshire have been subjected to by the BNP for the last decade.
It is in the BNP's interest for Britain's Muslim youth to rise up and cause trouble - it would, in their view, prove their twisted take on this country to be right. And so the BNP have been doing their best to provoke, to raise hatred, to cause the people they have long claimed to be dangerous into actually acting in the ways that Griffin and his kind have always professed that they would.
Already, the BNP's policy has begun to work. After "retaliatory" attacks on Mosques in London and Liverpool over the last few days, the anti-Muslim violence has now spread, with more attacks reported in London, Birkenhead, Bristol and elsewhere today. They have already started to use images of the destroyed bus on their political campaign material, in one of the most callous propaganda actions I can remember.
The BNP are as happy about these attacks as those who support the terrorists are. The BNP have benefited more from the attacks than anyone. If the bombers were from West Yorkshire, the BNP helped provoke these attacks as much as anyone.
So, if you're looking to apportion blame beyond the terrorists who carried out the attacks, blame the BNP.
Terrorists: wankerish amateurs
Arrests made in Yorkshire - plus police apparently now reckon there were four bombers, perhaps brothers, perhaps British-born, and that all four died in the blasts. (Hat tip: A Logical Voice).
In other words, this could have been a small group of nutters (which could explain the piss-poor timing the bus-bomber seemed to have - they were apparently not intentionally going for a suicide attack), possibly going for a copy-cat attack, rather than being linked to any sinister international terrorist conspiracy.
Sadly, however, if these murderous morons do turn out to be British the likes of the BNP (already capitalising on the attacks in leaflets) and their ilk are bound to start stirring up yet more anti-Muslim shit.
Nice one, terrorists. Your shoddily cowardly attack has played nicely into your enemies' hands. The BNP get to play on latent fear of Muslims, the security services and government get to call for yet more dodgy infringements of our civil liberties, and in once again choosing to go for completely innocent bystanders rather than the people with the power to actually acceed to your over-the-top demands, you prove yet again that if there's one thing you have no concept of, it's anything approaching religious morality. You profess to believe in Heaven. I suppose that means you also believe in Hell. I hope you're having fun down there - I hear it's nice this time of year.
I had rather hoped that when words of mine first appeared in Time magazine they'd either be as a quote from me as "Man of the Year" or at least paid at NUJ standard rate. Apparently not. Ta to Tim Worstall for the explanation as to why, anyway. (I mean, you know - I'm just a blogger, aren't I? It's not like my day job is in the editorial department of a respectably-sized magazine. It's not as if I've been writing professionally for several years. It's not as if I've had two books published. It's not as if my email address is readily available on this very page... Grrr...)
Attribution, people. Attribution. It's not much to ask.
Nosemonkey's highly sensitive message to Northern Ireland: grow up.
In other news, American military types are now allowed back into London, and police have shut down Luton railway station after finding a car suspected of being used by Thursday's murderers - as well as carrying out controlled explosions in Leeds as part of a raid on a suspected terrorist hideout. Northerners, eh?
The US military: fucking pussies.
Aaaaw! Are the poor liddle soldiers scared of the nasty tewwowists? Diddums.
Update: I'm still trying to work this out (as, apparently, is the British government). Is the US saying that London's more dangerous than Iraq? Than Afghanistan? What's happened to "our closest ally" and all that other guff? Haven't they heard that we're not afraid? Or do they know something we don't? Either way - bloody stupid PR move there guys...
Police name first bomb victims, including a cleaner from my old University.
Charity / legal help needed
My beer fund for London emergency service workers is growing apace, to the extent that I'm getting a tad worried. If anyone knows of any ways I can make this more transparent and legit - or just has any advice on how to organise a thank-you piss-up for off-duty emergency personnel, suggestions would be most welcome.
For some reason people don't tend to take enquiries from someone calling themself "Nosemonkey" particularly seriously... Can't imagine why...
Tim Worstall's latest Britblog roundup is up - entirely unaffected by arsehole murderers, which is only as it should be.
Some reminders of why we love this city from Jon Choo, while Random Acts of Reality, written by a member of the London Ambulance Service so worthy of utmost respect, points to an interesting piece in Newsweek on citizen journalists and the London bombing - it even has a mention for this place, which is nice.