Tuesday, July 27, 2010

gay immigrant benefit cheats in your bin

In February I unpicked a Daily Express article about dawn raids to check bins with hefty fines for people who don't recycle (back on planet earth: there were no dawn raids nor any suggestion of any fines).

The Daily Mail fought back last week with a headline that surely comes from a spoof generator

Are the race Stasi rifling through YOUR bin?

What next? Asylum seekers make paedophile health and safety muslims?

Refuse collection is, it informs us, no longer about getting your rubbish and taking it away. It is now used for

an authoritarian mix of state intrusion and race-fixated social engineering.

The article delivers everything it promises. There are references to Nazi Germany, Soviet bloc authoritarianism, apartheid South Africa and 1984, all for powers that aren't going to be used to penalise anyone for anything.

Even the article concedes all that's going on is some councils have the right to search through rubbish in order to ascertain what kind of people live there so recycling campaigns can be targeted more effectively. You'll get better response explaining the recycling system in a household's first language.

Are they going to send any financial information they find to HM Revenue and Customs? Will they examine private letters for any potentially homophobic or racist content?

Er, no. Your article already told us they won't.

This is the best bin hysteria article since Grade-A cloaca Richard Littlejohn said wheelie bins were for wusses and old 70s-style binmen were

the kind of English yeomen you'd always want alongside you in a fight

Friday, July 23, 2010

making killing invisible

I wrote yesterday's post about the decision not to charge Ian Tomlinson's attacker pretty soon after the news broke. Later in the day the Crown Prosecution Service published their reasons for not prosecuting

Basically, they weren't charging with Manslaughter because the dodgy first autopsy said death was from was natural causes, and this would be enough to cast doubt on the subsequent two autopsies that place the blame for the death on the assault. A charge of Assault has a time limit of six months, which has passed.

Their explanation for not charging with Actual Bodily Harm and/or Misconduct in Public Office is less clear. They say that they can't prove the officer's push caused any harm. But in this part they don't mention the baton strike - wholly unnecessary and disproportionate for a man walking slowly away with his hands in his pockets - which left patterned bruising. This, then, is surely ABH. It also appears to meet their stated criteria for Misconduct in Public Office.

Today, Dr Nat Cary, who carried out the second autopsy, said the same thing

The injuries were not relatively minor. He sustained quite a large area of bruising. Such injuries are consistent with a baton strike, which could amount to ABH. It's extraordinary. If that's not ABH I would like to know what is.

Even the Independent Police Complaints Commission had said there was enough evidence for a Manslaughter charge. Deciding which one of the conflicting versions is true is supposed to be one of the main reasons to have a trial. Sarah McSherry, a partner at Christian Khan Solicitors, said

The evidence they refer to ought to have been tested in open court in the context of a normal criminal prosecution as with any ordinary member of the public. The court would then have decided on which, if any, of the expert's oral evidence was more convincing. It would also have considered the pathologists' professional reputations.

This last line refers to Freddy Patel. He did the first autopsy, the one that the CPS says casts too much doubt on the other two autopsies. Patel has been officially reprimanded, suspended from carrying out any work for the Home Office, and is facing 26 further charges of sub-standard practices including incompetently carrying out four other autopsies, including questionably ascribing deaths to non-suspicious causes.

My friend David said yesterday,

My new parlour game is to dream up scenarios so extreme a cop would actually get charged with something. I'm thinking sawing off the Queen's head live on TV during her Christmas message wearing a shit-eating grin and a T-Shirt bearing the slogan 'I'm Guilty'. What do you reckon - I reckon its borderline.

I think this would definitely get a charge, though. The queen isn't an ordinary member of the public like Ian Tomlinson, Blair Peach, Liddle Towers, Christopher Alder or any of the other hundreds of people whose deaths at the hands of police have gone unprosecuted. It's all about hierarchy. Police are above us, the queen is above police.

Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur it is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.
- Derrick Jensen

So even when there's the clearest evidence of police violence for all to see, done in the middle of our biggest city in broad daylight on a busy day and clearly filmed, they have to find a way to make it be invisible.

The Birmingham Six were innocent people wrongly accused and convicted of an IRA bomb in the 1970s. They were severely beaten by prison officers and police, confessions and other evidence against them was fabricated, evidence that exonerated them was suppressed. They sued West Midlands Police but in 1980 the Master of the Rolls struck out their case, saying

If they won, it would mean that the police were guilty of perjury; that they were guilty of violence and threats; that the confessions were involuntary and improperly admitted in evidence; and that the convictions were erroneous. That would mean that the Home Secretary would have either to recommend that they be pardoned or to remit the case to the Court of Appeal. That was such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say, 'It cannot be right that these actions should go any further.'

In other words, we cannot bear to even think about the police acting in that way, so we deem it impossible.

Even though the Six's convictions were eventually quashed, no police or prison officers were ever convicted of the documented torture and lies that led to the convictions.

Protection of their power and position takes supreme precedence and makes a foul mockery of any claim to being agents of justice.

As Marc Vallee said, the Ian Tomlinson case teaches this fact to a new generation.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ian tomlinson's attacker walks free

In April Sergeant Delroy Smellie, a cop who shoved and then batoned a non-violent G20 protester to the ground, was acquitted. At least that case came to court.

Today - five years to the day since the police shot Jean Charles De Menezes - we're told that the officer who attacked Ian Tomlinson won't face any charges. Not manslaughter, not ABH, not assault, nothing.

Watch the video again.

As with Sergeant Smellie, the officer who attacks Tomlinson is not in the heat of a riot but is acting in a calm, slow, premeditated way on a member of the public who poses no physical threat.

I wrote several posts about different aspects of the case at the time. The obscene partisan nature of the 'Independent' Police Complaints Commission, the way the police lied about what contact they'd had with Tomlinson, they lied about protesters trying to hinder gallant cops (when in fact protesters tried to help and cops refused to speak to ambulance services). They lied about Tomlinson dying of natural causes, they lied about there being no CCTV cameras, then had to admit there were but said they weren't working. There was even the suggestion from a senior investigating officer that Tomlinson's attacker might have been a member of the public dressed up as a copper.

It's the same treatment of smear and lies they gave the De Menezes case, and with the same outcome. The officers who did it keep their jobs, those in charge saw a job well done, only the public were beaten and killed.

It's the same story with the Blair Peach case. It's the same closing ranks and protecting their position that we see over and over, be it the Guildford Four or the Hillsborough Disaster.

What would they need in order to prosecute? There can be no clearer evidence of an unprovoked assault than the footage of what happened to Ian Tomlinson. Yet the officer is free, and ready to be policing London once more.


UPDATE 15:02 : The Crown Prosecution Service have published a statement explaining their decision. Basically, the dodgy first autopsy said it was natural causes, and this would be enough to cast doubt on the subsequent two autopsies that place the blame for the death on the assault, so no manslaughter charges. Assault has a time limit of six months, which has passed.

Their explanation for Actual Bodily Harm and misconduct in Public Office is less clear. They say that they can't prove the push caused any harm. But in this part they don't mention the baton strike - wholly unnecessary and disproportionate for a man walking slowly away with his hands in his pockets - which they say earlier left bruising. This, then, is surely ABH. It also appears to meet their stated criteria for Misconduct in Public Office.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

cutting responsibility, not costs

We can learn a lot about the range and meaning of the colossal government spending cuts from the simple fact (as noted by Johann Hari) that the 'cuts tsar' is a total cloaca called John Browne, the man who was head of BP until he was forced to resign after lying in court.

These cuts are supposed to save money. Yet they're abolishing the Sustainable Development Commission, whose advice to government on issues like reducing carbon emissions saves several times what it costs.

Meanwhile, having reduced government income by giving oil companies tax breaks in the Budget, they're unleashing deep-water drilling off Shetland. What could possibly go wrong with that? I'm sure John Browne can tell you.

Cutting the SDC doesn't save money. It costs money, promotes oil and undermines the alternatives.

Two years ago Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was already saying that there was 'no excuse' for individuals being obese, yet traffic light labelling of food that made it easy to make informed choices should be abolished as it was 'nannying' people.

Now he's in power he's wielding the axe with wild abandon. Last week he waved his hand and abolished the Food Standards Agency (a body set up after the BSE crisis showed that government and the food industry were too close).

He's been forced to backtrack a bit on that one, but he continues to cut swathes of regulation that would improve public health. Martin Hickman lists a bunch of them, including this:

the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence published a plan to prevent 40,000 deaths from heart disease, calling for a ban on trans fats, no TV junk-food advertising before 9pm and restrictions on takeaways close to schools.

The British Heart Foundation, the Faculty of Public Health and the Royal College of Physicians supported those proposals. Yet the Department of Health rejected them outright on the day of publication, saying that people should just eat better and exercise more.

Britain has the highest rates of obesity in Europe. Apart from the quality of life issues, it costs the NHS a huge amount of money. So many of Lansley's cuts, as with abolishing the Sustainable Development Commission, will increase the cost to the public. So, again like the SDC, it's not cutting costs so much as cutting corporate regulation.

As Billy Bragg said, anyone who's ever found themselves in the fridge at midnight can tell you that self-regulation doesn't work. It's the failure of banking self-regulation that made the financial crisis that all the cuts are supposedly a response to.

George Monbiot's recent article talks about Lansley, and about the new self-regulation of farming overseen by a task force of farmers and corporate execs, whilst there is

no-one on the task force representing rural workers, and no-one outside the industry seeking to defend the landscape or the wider environment, water quality or animal welfare.

He goes on

Private Eye reveals this week that the government may scrap property developers’ obligations to provide social housing. This won’t save money or streamline the state, but it will allow developers to create enclaves for the rich and ghettos for the poor, ensuring that the UK becomes an even more divided society.

The plans to slash Housing Benefit thresholds from October 2011 mean that poor people will have to move to wherever's cheapest. As Polly Toynbee says,

What will be the net effect? A mass exodus of the poor, those in work as well as the unemployed, the disabled along with pensioners who form 20% of those on housing benefit – all abruptly ejected from their homes, forced to move to the lowest rent, poorest zones all over the country. This is social cleansing on an epic scale.

If the government expects private landlords to cut rents in response, a recent conference of landlords said demand is so high in the south-east – and anywhere with jobs – that they will re-let vacated properties easily.

Not only will ghettos of the poor grow, segregating society and local schools yet more sharply – but the poor will live in places that are cheap because there are no jobs, cementing in joblessness. The homeless will spill on to every city's streets

The financial cost - of emergency housing, poor health, increased crime - will be vast. The social cost, the impact on lives and wellbeing, will be incalculably huge.

The cuts have no sense of their real results and costs. This is not a measured brace of cutting waste, it is not even an array of money-saving schemes. It is a transfer of wealth and security away from the poor and the removal of responsibility from the corporate drive for ever expanding profit.

It is surely all too familiar to John Browne whose cutting of corners and ideological commitment to unregulated corporate activity led to the Gulf disaster.

Polly Toynbee again:

The whole fiendishly complex NHS has been wired for demolition without Lansley having answers to basic questions about where the debris falls. It's an experiment, a game, a folly on a grand scale.

He and his fellow ministers had years in opposition with a fortune for specialist advice – yet they arrive in office with last-minute sketchy plans to reorganise everything at a time of deeper cuts than ever tried in any western nation. Expect multiple train crashes.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

glastonbury 2010

Glastonbury was fabulously hot all week, which was regarded as unusual by those who've only been to recent ones, but for us old timers felt like a return to form. Feeling your brain melt like margarine and your consciousness ooze and slow to the languid pace and level that the elements demand, it was beautiful.

The heat lends itself well to that finest of Glastonbury activities, aimless bimbling. It's in the hours of wandering that you soak up the vibe of the crowd and see the bits of random incidental stuff that makes it so wonderful. The person playing a piano bike. A piano but with pedals underneath to propel the wheels, steered by turning in the seat. Why was it built? Where else could it possibly be utilised? Brilliantly baffling. It's that stuff that really makes the festival.

Because Glastonbury is done on such a colossal scale, they can really afford to fill it with a squillion little bits of fascinating stuff. This means that, more than any other festival, you could go and not see any of the acts whose names are listed in the poster and programme yet still have an amazing time.

That stuff is difficult to pin down in words, whereas describing the stuff you see on stages is a lot easier, so here we go.

Rolf Harris

When I was in a band back in neolithic times, we eschewed the idea of saving our best songs till last. Always open with a big crowd pleaser, it gets the audience right up straight away, and the vibe can readily be made to stay there. Last year's billing for Bjorn Again - and indeed 1993's for Rolf himself - is the same principle. It's a masterstroke to put a popular and silly act on to open the Pyramid stage on Friday morning.

Tens of thousands of people singing Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport to the tune of Land of Hope And Glory. Perfect.

Let's just ignore the, ahem, mounting evidence that Harris is somewhat fixated with autoerotic behaviour.

Femi Kuti

Not many people watched Rolf followed by Kuti, which isn't surprising. Can't really see them touring together or anything. The field pretty much emptied, and we were left with sunshine, space to dance and bright, hard, contagious, funky, bouncy afrobeat belting out. I genuinely thought I'd not see anything better all weekend.

Nouvelle Vague

And yet this airy, soft jazzy approach to new wave classics also sounded like it was made for this weather. The silliness of the covers fit so well into the festival mindset, but the music was genuinely sweet and balmy. And there was a funny frisson in thinking that I'd seen The Specials do Friday Night Saturday Morning at Glastonbury last year and then Nouvelle Vague do it this year.

Some of my team left as there was a rumour that the special guest on at The Park was

Thom Yorke

Imagine if Thom Yorke was playing in a field five minutes walk from where you're sat now, and that you could just nip over and catch it. What would you do? Yet it's a measure of the festival mindset that we stopped for food on the way.

The topography of the Park field meant you could only see if you were on shoulders, but that didn't really detract from the sense of A Special Moment when he played Karma Police and Fade Out.

The aching majestic sweep of the songs is now augmented by the fact that they've been in our bloodstreams for so very long. Truly special guests, Radiohead's music makes the vast majority of other music, even the good stuff, seem trite and stupid.

Broken Bells

These folks were on after Thom Yorke and I'd not even heard of them before but some of the gang said they'd be good, and indeed they were great, sort of like Air but with a strong sense of melody, rich and varied yet catchy and unpretentious. And, continuing the theme established by Nouvelle Vague and The Specials, Broken Bells did a cover of You Really Got A Hold On Me, which I saw Elvis Costello do at Glastonbury five years ago.

Devendra Banhart

Vivacious eccentric lifting pop, with a hilarious distressingly authentic cover of Tell It To My Heart inexplicably dropped into the set like an anvil on your head. That was mopped up by following it with Lover, one of my favourite songs of recent years, so cheeky and sexy, so effervescent and catchy.

But then it was time to miss the end and gallop if we were gonna be over at the Other Stage to see

The National

Introduced to this band by the impeccable taste of Zoe Goldfish, we followed their 2005 tour when the magnificent Alligator came out.

At Glastonbury it was mostly stuff from the last two albums that I'm much less familiar with, but that didn't matter. On record they have such a brooding, hunched over, mysterious quality, but live it's the power that comes forth. It's astonishing how a band can be so intelligent and literary feeling and yet rock so fucking hard, how they can swap brands of intensity so well.

Jerry Dammers' Spatial AKA Orchestra

Now this was something truly remarkable from the mastermind behind the Specials and 2 Tone. I'd heard good things about his recent stuff, and found it interesting that he refused to join the Specials reunion as he wanted to do something that moved music forwards.

An 18 piece orchestra, half of them brass section, the other half having upright bass, tympani, guitars and of course Jerry amidst an encircling tower of old school keyboards.

There is a very potent influence from Sun Ra here, as they came on in ancient Egyptian garb and a sizeable chunk of the set was Sun Ra covers. However, it didn't have the sprawl of much of Sun Ra's work, there was a tight, sharp reggae basis to it, fused with a snaring funky jazz edge.

There was a fabulous mash up of Sun Ra's Nuclear War and The Specials' Man At C&A, and a sweeping rework of Ghost Town (which, continuing the 'heard this here before' theme, I saw The Specials do last year). On came legendary Jamaican trombone player Rico, whose career has straddled the gap with him playing on the earliest reggae records as well as on 2 Tone classics (he even played on both versions of A Message To You Rudy).

A fabulous reggae reworking of Arthur Brown's Fire followed, with Brown himself coming on to sing the breakdown.

They closed with Sun Ra's Space Is The Place, leaving the stage one at a time, some bringing drums, then out into the audience leading a snaking column around the field all chanting 'space is the place, space is the place, space is the place'. An extraordinarily exhilarating visionary performance.

Quick nip over to Chapati Man for refuelling, which was opposite the Leftfield tent, popped in to catch the last four songs from

Billy Bragg

I Keep Faith is a song close to my heart, a tender affirming song of consolation.

As always, his between song talks were almost as good as the music. He talked of how faith is a loaded word with the heightened religious presence in society, but it's not that kind of faith he's talking about in I Keep Faith. It's the kind of faith you have in the people around you, the faith that makes you believe in their ability and resilience even when they doubt themselves, the kind of faith that lets you know that, if it came to it, the people behind you here in the dark who you've never met would be on your side.

He'd been curating the whole Leftfield thing, and talks about it and its place in Glastonbury here. His prime point has been that the word socialism may be being treated as anachronistic but when he says it he means a socialism that's just organised compassion. We need a compassionate society, that means free health care, free education, decent pensions, affordable housing. Call it socialism, call it what you like, it's the compassionate society as opposed to the exploitative rule of the rich.

Then in an abrupt headstate change it was time to zoom out of that and back to West Holts for

George Clinton

Clinton once said 'a good show starts in the dressing room and work its way to the stage', and it's easy to believe he still works that way. A rolling, rollicking deeply funky party flooded the stage and the field, tunes morphing and seguing into one another. Shit! Goddamn! Get off your ass and jam!

They ran right up to curfew, then after a couple of minutes came back out and played more even though the sound system wasn't on for them and after ten minutes the plugs were pulled on stage. It wouldn't surprise me if they were still funking in the dressing room to this day.

Climate Camp's Tripod Stage

The Tripod Stage field is tucked away near the edge of the site, and that was all to its benefit I think. It meant that Climate Campers could take the time to talk to people who came in, and several times I saw people who've only been media spectators of climate activism make the change and decide to get involved.

They were dishing out copies of the sharp, smart Never Mind The Bankers freesheet that I had a small hand in writing, and also putting on some fine performances from musicians and ranters including Robin Ince, Attila The Stockbroker and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly.

On Sunday afternoon I did another set there with a poetry team including Claire Fauset and Danny Chivers, so missed out on seeing the glorious Staff Benda Bilili whose music was just made for hot happy afternoons like that.

Still, did get to see


Pretty, quirky, like a wheel of intelligent folk with a flat tyre so just as you get the feel of where it's going it goes ker-chunk and bumps you somewhere totally different. Challenging, absorbing, incredibly internal music, dreams made into sound. Which makes them unlikely candidates for joyous singalongs in the sunshine, but it was beautiful and it worked. I clapped so hard I spilt my toffee-apple flavour cider.

Stevie Wonder

The reviews of the recent tour said he kept getting distracted into noodly instrumentals that burst any bubble that the cool stuff developed. So I went along thinking, well, we'll see. It might still be good. And it was off the top end of the scale.

A tight funkily soulful band, plenty of groove and a hefty punch, Stevie being really funny and warm but with a strong righteous political edge, and all the hits I could have hoped for and beyond.

We were bound to get Superstition, Living For The City, Master Blaster, For Once In My Life, Sir Duke and Signed Sealed Delivered, but I hadn't really expected some personal favourites like We Can Work It Out, If You Really Loved Me or Fingertips. He was buoyant on the music, vibrant and witty and it just lifted the whole field high.

(Incidentally, heard McCartney do We Can Work It Out on the same stage in 2004, that's one more for the repeated songs list, sheesh.)

We'll rapidly gloss over the fact that he did I Just Call To Say I Love You and focus on the set closer, Happy Birthday reworked to reference Glastonbury's 40th year, sung arm in arm with Michael Eavis, Stevie delivering like one of the great soul singers of all time and Eavis singing like a septuagenarian dairy farmer.

Sunday is always great at Glastonbury, the outside world has stopped seeming real. You can remember life outside the way you can remember childhood holidays, yes it was your life but it's a very different world now and that old stuff's not really real any more.

Away from the bands, Arcadia was a bit nuts to get into with the post-big stages crush, but the grand mechanical spooky spider thing with a massive sound system would be graced every night by a full-on fireshow in addition to a huge load of sensory candy for the folks that want it banging out.

Shangri-La is, as I said last year, as baffling, uneasy, and tip-your-scales as you could wish for (or wish not for, depending on your pharmacological intake).

And, as ever, few things in life can beat sitting up till dawn in the stone circle, the joyous swirl of this epic expanse of revelry all around you. Glastonbury is pretty much my idea of utopia.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

de burgh invokes satan, amasses weapons

Chris De Burgh is enacting further preparatory works for our takeover by totalitarian shapeshifting lizards.

He has been in Dorset in order to assemble a concept album based on J Meade Falkner's novel Moonfleet.

For those unfamiliar, the novel is a tale of smuggling, that is to say, of moving things around in a manner that isn't obvious in order to hoodwink the unwary masses. The plot features a code that leads to the truth - as do De Burgh's lyrics - and it features an important peripheral character, Krispijn Aldobrand, who - like De Burgh - uses lies to cheat the masses out of their rightful status.

Needing to assume elements of all major powers on earth, De Burgh has garnered official rank in the UN and a claim to royal lineage. To complete this, it was no surprise to see him assuming religious quasi-messianic roles. Indeed, one of his earliest songs - from the era Jim Bliss alleges to be 'quite good' - is A Spaceman Came Travelling, which aligns the nativity with the coming of alien overlords.

Clearly he taunts us with such thinly veiled declarations of the Lizardly plans, and this use of code is akin to Blackbeard's written code of biblical references in Moonfleet.

Now De Burgh is taking it a step further and personally getting active about his position in church. On his recent Dorset trip

He wanted to film in All Saints’ graveyard because of its connection to the book.

He was singing different sections of Psalms that appear in the book as part of a smugglers’ code.

Putting himself at the centre of focus in a church, singing bits of the Old Testament.

If that doesn't instantly make your mind conjure images of violence, repression and ominous foreboding then you are truly blind to what approaches. He beckons forth the dark lords.

We have, of course, previously seen the relevance of the Old Testament to De Burgh. But on his recent Dorset visit, we're told he gathered his footsoldiers around him.

Lifelong Chris de Burgh fans David and Meryl James, of Heathwood Road, Westham, met their musical hero while he was filming in Wyke Regis.

Retired underwater weapons technician Mr James, 65, said: "He was a very nice, approachable man"

A lifetime's experience of underwater weapons?

Add this to the fact that his daughter was Dublin County under-9s javelin champion and we see a terrifying arsenal being stockpiled and readied.

The countdown has clearly begun. We might only have hours left.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

more cruelty from the millionaires

The government says:

- There are 2.47 million people unemployed.

- The recent budget will cause the loss of a further 1.3 million jobs.

- There are 2.6 million people on Incapacity Benefit. The government's new stringent tests are recategorising 68% of them as fit to work. This will add 1.77 million to the unemployed.

Add these three groups together and we're looking at 5.54 million people unemployed.

There are less than half a million job vacancies.

That's more than eleven people per job available.

Also included in the budget is a 10% cut in Housing Benefit for people who have been on Job Seekers Allowance for a year.

This will lead to evictions, which means moving people into temporary accommodation. The other reforms to benefits may well save money, but this one is likely to be far more expensive for the state than the 10% of housing benefit saved. It is simply punitive.

That's just the money side, before we consider the effects on people's families and mental health as they're made homeless because they can't find jobs that don't exist.