ATOS, Actually TOSsers

This beggars belief…

From the local press, so usual caveats apply, but this story really is astonishing. I’ll quote the important parts below.

Wheelchair users have to climb a flight of chairs to prove they are disabled enough to get benefits at a centre in Croydon.

Although there are lifts in the disability benefits assessment centre, anyone in a wheelchair or who cannot climb stairs is banned from using them due to health and safety requirements.

Anyone who cannot tackle the 42-step staircase is instead forces to make a 14 mile round trip to Balham because the centre in Cherry Orchard Road is not disabled friendly.

The local Tory MP called it “ridiculous” in a letter to Chris Grayling.

This is grist to the mill for those who think that the Tories are 1) evil and 2) not actually any good at running a government any more.


When it comes to the PCC we’re all just monkeys

The new head of the Press Complaints Commission Baroness Buscombe wants to regulate us bloggers.

Unity has helpfully provided an open letter to sign, which declines her amorous advance rather more politely than many other bloggers would. All bloggers are welcome to sign up and I strongly recommend you follow the link above and add your name. The letter concludes:

Consequently we would suggest that before your even consider turning your attention to our activities, you should direct your energies towards putting your own house in proper order. Should you succeed in raising the ethical standards and practices of the majority of the national press, particularly the tabloids, to our level then we may be inclined to reconsider our position. Until that happens, any attempt by the Press Complaints Commission to regulate the activities of bloggers will be strenuously resisted at every possible turn.

It appears that there appear to be many things which Baroness Buscombe is unaware of with regard to blogs, but that there are a few things she could teach us all about cheap point scoring with future bosses.

As has been pointed out there are many reasons Bloggers should and would resist being brought within the PCC’s remit.

  • Errors are clearly marked on the posts themselves, and not on page 18 of an issue several months down the line. This is done no matter how embarrassing errors were because the truth matters; we’re not here to make money.
  • Few bloggers are keen to sign up to an organisation which is ineffectual in regulating the traditional media but which would be very keen to regulate blogs critical of it (i.e. all of us). Ultimately those who run the “traditional” media also run the PCC. (H/T Paul Sagar)
  • And last but not least, there is the general air of loathing which pervades any blogospheric discussion of the PCC.

Beyond all this there is another reason why Baroness Buscombe has no chance of regulating us bloggers. Criticising the mainstream media – and attacking its ineffectual watchdog/poodle – are key signals that you are “one of us.”

This signalling reduces the opportunity cost of working out who our allies are. There’s a lot of information out there and its rational to be ignorant of most of it, this behaviour  makes it cheaper to work out friend from foe.

In Chimpanzees grooming is used not only to “pluck parasites” but also “as a social glue between related and unrelated apes.” In the blogsphere criticising our ineffectual press is necessary because of the state of modern journalism but it is also used as something to connect unrelated bloggers like Devil’s Kitchen, Sunder Katwala and Paul Sagar.

This is our in group and there is good reason to stick with it. It provides security, solidarity and a sense of society.

As shown by the recent spat between Laurie Penny and Harry’s Place – and any comments thread anywhere ever – the internet can be an unremittingly hostile place, and this signalling behaviour helps counteract this tendency.

If you look to Tim Ireland‘s brilliant anti-Sun videolemic – or his well drafted A4 insert – you can tell quickly he is on “our” side. Conversely, when someone rushes to defend The Sun or The Mail, because they “just reflect public opinion,” without confronting the fact that they are “just fucking liars,” you know they are dealing with someone from an outgroup.

Numerous blogs have been created to monitor the press but few in the blogosphere refrain from putting the boot in. To some it may seem pointless or that we are merely preaching to the converted, but it serves a much deeper purpose.

We’re just great apes, the ticks we pick are called The Sun, The Mail and The Express, but in the end we just sit around, plucking out vermin. We do this not only because its essential for everyone’s health and sanity but also because it binds us together.

Left Wing blogger in rage at Daily Mail shock: Updated

Its hardly news is it? The Daily Mail’s readers are reactionary bigots.

However, just how shockingly hateful they are is hard to comprehend until you’ve seen their reaction to the death of an immigrant. You worry as soon as you see the title: Migrant found dead in the back of a lorry as it prepares to enter Channel Tunnel (H/T Five Chinese Crackers and Tabloid Watch). But what follows is one of those articles that reveals the Mail does have writers who can write; its not vitriolic, its not angry, its even vaguely concerned. Its the comments that really shock. By now I know they shouldn’t, but they do.

Saved us a house car and free money then.
– martyn robinson, northampton uk, 31/10/2009 09:12

one down, millions to go
– crackers, yorkshire, 31/10/2009 2:42

Good news. One less to worry about!
– keith jones, porthcawl, south wales, 30/10/2009 22:13

Shame but I would be a hypocrit if I said I was sorry!
– Nanny B, West Sussex, 30/10/2009 17:42

At least 115 people have clicked on the green “up” arrow for that top one. 115 people think that this immigrant is better off dead because he was after a “house car [sic] and free money then.”

Mark Twain said that a “lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” and it seems Carol Malone‘s lie that immigrants are given cars is one of them.

The Mail creates an atmosphere where displaying joy at someone’s death seems appropriate. Often its said that The Mail merely reflects it readers views, and to an extent its true, however The Mail will always run up against a problem. Immigrants aren’t that bad.

Sure some are illiberal nut jobs, but I don’t see anyone arguing for Melanie Philips to be deported (well I do… but that’s besides the point) and some do “scrounge” but the vast majority do not.

In fact, economically they bring benefits, that’s pretty hard to argue with, I’d say impossible. The culture, music and food – especially food – that they bring enriches this country, you’re entitled to disagree but remember this. You’re wrong.

So to get round these simple truths the Mail regularly lies, distorts and misleads, ask Nick Davies if you want to know more. This is the end result. This is the real “Broken Britain,” but I don’t imagine I’ll see much about it in anyones manifesto. Apparently hate sells and more hate gets you elected.

Updates from Five Chinese Crackers.

**UPDATE** It’s lunchtime on Monday, and I’ve been checking in now and again, watching as the comments get red-arrowed by the more sane.  One seems to have been deleted, but it’s not possible to tell which one since the option to view all comments has been disabled.

**UPDATE UPDATE** A few minutes later, and the comments are down to 5.  I can’t imagine they’ll all be there by the end of the day, since ‘One down and quite a few to go’ is still there.

**UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE** Quarter to four and they’re all gone.  Phew!

**UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE** Now two are back.  Including my favourite one about trucks not being searched at border controls.  Genius.

It appears the Mail may have realised not all those visiting the site are frothing racist mouth breathers and have removed some of the content. Wouldn’t want the advertisers taking fright.

Just in case any advertisers were interested in what the Mail chooses juxtapose with their material, there is a picture here of the comments in question (H/T Y Dysgwr Araf and Nic Dafis. Cymru am byth!). Delightful I’m sure you’ll agree, really puts me in the mood to buy stuff.

Courtesy of Y Dysgwr Araf

Courtesy of Y Dysgwr Araf

Still a cunt: Peter Hitchens caught abusing the Holocaust

Yesterday the Irish voted YES to the Lisbon treaty. Septicisle surmises the reaction from the blogosphere [inserted below] but I personally don’t really have an opinion.

On the Irish yes vote to the Lisbon treaty, although some wrote before the result was known,Lenin bemoans the victory for neoliberalism, Bob wonders where this leaves the Tories, as does Jamie, while Nosemonkey critiques the view that having a second vote was undemocratic.

Having studied it at University the only thing I am certain about is that the EU is incredibly boring. So dull I can barely finish this sen…

…where was I? Ah, for the record I am vaguely in favour of supranational institutions but think that the EU is a particularly badly run one. [1] One run in the interests of the few at the expense of the many.

I’m more interested in the thoughts of Peter “if I had come first, it would have been hitchenary not reactionary” Hitchens.

Peter is of course livid that the Irish have voted to adopt the protocols of the Lisbon Treaty. But he decides before attacking the EU, or the treaty, or our own Government, he would attack Jews.EUIRELAND

I don’t think he’s an anti-Semite, Jews are probably one of the few groups towards which he does not regularly pour his vitriol. But this throwaway paragraph really took my breathe away [my emphasis].

The Passport you hold is not British, but European. You are a European citizen. British Embassies are European Embassies – as they already show by flying the EU’s meaningless and tasteless blue and yellow dishcloth.  Shouldn’t somebody have pointed out that in the recent history of the Continent, yellow stars call up only one dismal image, the mass murder of Europe’s Jews.

The jaw dropping ignorance of the man is palpable. The coy manipulation of history is truly sickening.

The holocaust still matters. It is as impossible to understate the horror as it is to visualise the scale of what occurred. And Peter “in fact, just shorten that to Cunt” Hitchens wants to use it to attack the fucking EU?

You might not like the EU, but you do not use the holocaust to attack a fucking flag you don’t think is as good as the Union Flag. That makes you a colossal fucking prick.

Peter Hitchens is one of your common and garden Armchair Imperialists, and I understand his hostility to the EU. Not only that but I can see his target market every time I stumble into an Agricultural Show.

He often claims to be speaking from history – he even approvingly quotes Hugh Gaitskell in this same article – but this vile display of manipulation puts pay to any notion of objectivity or historical insight.

As I’ve written this post I’ve gradually become more and more angry, and have inserted sweary things where once were polite ripostes. Fucking Bastard.

[1] In the EU’s defence, it was one of the first transnational institutions and had to make all the mistakes other learn from.

UPDATE: NoseMonkey has also noticed this ridiculoous article and has rightly pointed out the Peter Hitchens represents exactly what is wrong with Euroskeptics today.

Lawsuits from the ’20s/Jackboots from the ’30s

So what do we call these Scum? Anton Vowl asks, what indeed.

The English Defence League claim to have been declared a “proscribed organisation” by the self-proclaimed “anti-establishment” BNP. Yet, their propaganda uses headlines garnered from the mainstream media.EDL

Set up following protests in Luton organised to abuse returning British Soldiers, they are a gang of overwhelmingly (possibly exclusively) white, poor, disaffected football hooligans with a fanatical hatered of Islam.

However rather than being ideological firebrands, the rank and file are apolitical and “their main motivation is actually the beer, camaraderie and chance of a fight.”

Better than Islamists, “brown people” or “foreigners” might be a more apt description for their targets – or it might not – it is quite hard to tell whether their propaganda about targeting “islamification” is genuine or a smokescreen.

Although keen to present themselves as only opposing extremists like Anjem Choudhry, Carl Packman highlights the hostility of the EDL towards all Muslims.

Ray, during the interview conducted by The Stirrer’s editor Adrian Goldberg on Talksport, revealed, however, that it is not just Islamic extremism that he takes a disliking too. The entry explains;

During the course of the interview, it became apparent that Ray’s own view of Islamic extremism isn’t limited to suicide bombers and hook handed preachers of hate.

He argued that the Qu’ran teaches all its advocates to wage jihad or holy war in non-Muslim countries, and acknowledged that on this basis, all devout or practising Muslims in Britain, are – in his words – “at war with our country.”

When pressed, he said:  “They’re ultimately engaged in converting our country to an Islamic state…that is the religious mandate of the Qu’ran that all Muslims must adhere too.”

The organisation, along with another similar Stop the Islamisation of Europe, with divisions all across Europe, has tried its hardest to appear simply against “Islamofascism”, and the apparently slow descent into a totally Islamic state.

A Very 1930s Wardrobe.

Battle of Cable StreetUAF (United Against Fascism) undoubtedly see the EDL as a modern British Union of Fascists, contemporary footsoldiers for the BNP.

In 1936 Oswald Moseley tried to lead his Blackshirts through the Jewish East End of London and was repelled by Jews, Socialists, Irishmen, Anarchists and Londoners. This is the scene UAF and SWP envisage, probably hope for.

This is an unlikely but realistic development from the EDL’s current position. Although the BNP have disowned the EDL – even admonishing them for “marching with negroes” – it seems their mutual disrespect does not extend to Facebook where senior figures remain friends (H/T Eric the Fish).

A modern Battle of Cable Street would not be pretty but it may be on the way. Despite their cowardly exploits so far, it seems the EDL are spoiling for a fight and various Muslim groups are only too keen to give them one.

There is something particularly un-British about Jackboots on cobbled street and it would be hard not to join Lenny’s triumphalism if Cable Street repeated itself. I agree that they must be challenged, but no arguments would be won and it may play directly into the EDL’s arms.

It seems the EDL have struck a chord with some. Their arguments questioning the loyalty of Muslims come not only from their own paranoia and the pages of the Daily Mail, they come from the pages of history too.

A Very 1820s Argument

Anyone who knows anything about the Tudors knows that a lot of Catholics got burnt to death.

Burn Them!

Whether this is entirely accurate or not, it illustrates the difficulties which Catholics have had to endure living in Britain. Since the establishment of the Church of England by Henry VIII Roman Catholicism has been viewed as an existential threat to Britain, and until relatively recently Catholic have been pictured as inferior, feckless and treacherous.

The reasons for this pariah status are many, but the arguments provided then bare a striking symmetry with those deployed by the EDL against Muslims today.

To provide some historical background you have to understand that following the Act of Union between Scotland and England in 1707 the positions of Catholics was enshrined in law as second class citizens. In fact, our constitution still bars them from becoming the Head of State.

Life only began to slowly improve for these poor souls with various Catholic Relief Acts in the 18th Century. While these only allowed them to own property, inherit land and join the army they still provoked riots. While progress had been made since the bonfire-happy 1500s the nineteenth century was still fairly unpleasant place for Catholics.

The slow expansion of the franchise had entirely bypassed Catholics, it was only in the 1829 that the vast majority of the various laws penalising them were repealed. For example, only in the 1830s could they become MPs or senior civil servants.

Catholics and Muslims

First of all, there is the simple pre-existing prejudice that existed and exists against Catholic Irish and Muslim South Asian and Arab immigrants.

It is easy to rationalise hostility to the competing Catholic Irish labour force during the nascent Industrial Revolution, but it is more difficult to explain the brazen Sieg Heils at recent EDL rallies without reaching fairly daming conclusions.

But there are further reasons both groups have faced hostility. These are more complex than simple racism, but can prove just as stubborn to overcome.

Arguments for repressive action against Catholics and Muslims have been couched in terms that portrayed them as a physical threat to the UK. The EDL are quite plain that they consider the recent appearance of Muslims and Mosques an invasion.

The Catholics in early modern Britain were seen as such a threat that Test Acts were introduced in 1672, 1673 and 1678 to “test” those who wished to become public officials. The Long Title of this act was “An act for preventing dangers which may happen from popish recusants.”

The idea of an external Catholic threat to Britain was quite valid at the time, although the threat from actually existing Catholic subjects was negligible.

The King of France had taken in Catholic James II following his overthrow in the Glorious Revolution, and a Catholic invasion was attempted via Ireland soon after. Moreover, the Pope was no mere public figure head in the 17th Century, he was the head of an army and his own Papal states with a penchant for interfering in the affairs of Sovereign nations.

The same challenged is levelled at Muslims today. Under the pretence of helping to avoid another 9/11 or 7/7 Muslims are stigmatised as part of a larger conspiracy just as Catholics were accused of being a part of a “Popish Plot.”

While it probably true that some Catholics were plotting to bomb parliament, just as some Muslims have planned terrorist attacks, it was ludicrous to treat them as second class citizens for the criminal actions of a minority. The threat from a certain tiny number of Muslims has been used and abused to stigmatise the majority. This is as futile now as it was then.

The external threat from Muslims rests on the idea of a unified body politic. Failing this it is argued that Muslims owe a loyalty to the Ummah first, and not their fellow citizens.

The diversity of Shia, Sunni, Sufi and other Muslim sects should be a poweful argument against the idea of any unified force existing, but is seems theology is not be the EDL’s forte.

In retrospect we can see that the contemporary arguments against Catholics seem to hold little more water than their modern equivalents. However, at the time we must remember that there really was a united head of the religion who demanded ultimate loyalty, the Pope.

Of course, for all the theoretical devotion which is demanded by the Ummah – or Pope – the actually existing situation differs greatly from the one proposed by the EDL.

Just as it has proved easy to be Catholics and British, it is equally possible to be Muslims and British.

The arguments that Muslims or Catholics are a threat because they owe a loyalty to something other than the motherland, or fellow citizens, is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. This won’t stop the EDL using it but,  bearing in mind these historical parallels, the majority of the population will not be taken in.

Demographics are Destiny

Ironically, the one thing which made the Catholic’s triumph inevitable has also proved the hardest hurdle for Muslims to overcome: Demographics.

The 1800s saw the Catholic population grow in size, power and influence, while demographic changes did not make the extension of suffrage inevitable it made it possible. Direct action from Daniel O’Connell met broader societal change and helped to smash the old system and bring Catholics into the mainstream.

The paranoia which helped spark the riots which followed the earlier Catholic Relief acts had been disproved by simple experience. The expanding numbers and influence of Catholics was no longer used as reason to mistreat them but as a reason to allow them full rights and respect.

The contemporary account of demographic change is less pleasant. The relative fecundity of Muslims has become a major rallying cry for the EDL. Despite the dodgy figures and sums being debunked the EDL still claim a Muslim takeover is inevitable.

The ideas of a Muslim Majority Europe relies on a series of assumptions so colossal that no demographer worth their salt would back them. Muslim birth rates rarely seen outside rabbit warrens would have to be combined with a lack of integration unheard of outside of southern Spain.

As has been shown time and again, familiarity breeds tolerance and even acceptance.  Today the EDL should be openly challenged, and broader changes in society will do the rest. The numbers of Muslims will increase but not dramatically and the world will not end (personally I hope they see the light and join me in blissful atheism, but that’s for another post).

The changing composition of society proved that Catholics were not bent on world domination and could be trusted. In the following years Catholics made ever greater contribution to society.

Hopefully the same will be said when people look back at this period and the EDL will be relegated to an aside in a footnote on some protests in Luton.

More information on the EDL available from ByrneTofferings and Liberal(Democrat). Pickled Politics, Lenny and Socialist Unity also all carry stories on the EDL. Visit your Pastor for more information on Catholics or email

during the interview conducted by The Stirrer’s editor Adrian Goldberg on Talksport, revealed, however, that it is not just Islamic extremism that he takes a disliking too. The entry explains;

During the course of the interview, it became apparent that Ray’s own view of Islamic extremism isn’t limited to suicide bombers and hook handed preachers of hate.

He argued that the Qu’ran teaches all its advocates to wage jihad or holy war in non-Muslim countries, and acknowledged that on this basis, all devout or practising Muslims in Britain, are – in his words – “at war with our country.”

When pressed, he said:  “They’re ultimately engaged in converting our country to an Islamic state…that is the religious mandate of the Qu’ran that all Muslims must adhere too.”

High Heels, Low Politics

The TUC has recently put forward a motion attacking the inclusion of high heels as part of any mandatory dress code.

When announced, this provoked a minor furore when Nadine Dorries attacked the TUC and instructed them “to get real, stop using overtly sexist tactics by discussing women’s stilettos in order to divert attention away from Labour chaos and debate something meaningful: like where has all the money gone?”

Reading this motion in the context of Dave’s post it is easy to ask; what is the point of Trade Unions? Like Paul Sagar I’m not a member of a Union, and as much as I joke about it loudly in front of my bosses, I have no intention of joining or forming one soon. I don’t consider my job permanent enough and I’m quite content at the moment blogging (although that’s another blog altogether).

This motion surely proves that the TUC has lost its way. Surely the TUC should be concentrating on things like this, not shoes.

Maybe, on this occasion *gag* Nadine Dorries is right.

Oh wait… Now there’s a surprise! Turns out Nadine Dorries is either intentionally misrepresenting the TUC or has the reading comprehension of a child.

Out of the 85 motions in this TUC document the motion discussing footwear is 81st. This has been explained here by Sunny and here by Nicola Smith, not to mention being plain as day on page 40 of the original proposition that no one is banning high heels. There Dorries, look! a third attempt to explain it to you.

I appreciate that Nadine Dorries is an MP and quite busy, but I do like it when my MPs have a slight inkling what they’re talking about, especially on issue where all the relevent information is 5 minutes of googling away.

In short, The Society of Chiropodists & Podiatrists has recommended that high heels should never be compulsory, as they exert unnatural and dangerous force on the legs and body (please click on insert picture for a more detailed version).

Moreover, compensation for damage done to the employee would not be easy to claim from employers, as it would be near impossible to prove causation for long term foot problems. Where gains are privatised and the losses socialised we should seek correct this imbalance.

In this context this motion is not a “waste of time” or “controversial,” it is dull, dull, dull, bread and butter trade unionism.

The TUC examined the evidence and put forward a modest proposal to stop employers forcing staff to do things which were unsafe. As with most the health and safety recommendation these are dull. It’s silly season, its been fisked (H/T ByrneTofferings) but it has poisoned the public view of unions.

Even lefties now see this basic, boring incremental increase in the well being of working people as the machinations of the loony left. It’s not important, it’s not major, but it will make some people’s lives better without any sacrifice from anyone else.

In a bizarre twist, today’s story in The Sun which Nadine Dorries claims to have written, may not even have been written by her.

Just to provide some context, I challenged Thomas Byrne to write about high heels last night as he was stuck on what to write about (it appears we’re in broad agreement here, yippee!). While I was having a quick look around I noticed that Nadine had a new post in which she writes [my emphasis]:

In the first attack, the article I wrote with Karen Brady in the Sun was referred to. I have been told that apparently, the motion mover said that Karen and I and the Sun newspaper in which we wrote, should be collectively ashamed.

If that wasn’t enough; the seconder (sic) linked me with the Daily Mail and said she doubted that I had ever worked a ten hour shift in heels. Wrong. I frequently work 16.

I applaud the society of Chiropodists for pointing out to me the dangers of this; however, having done so I now respectfully ask them to leave it me and every other high heel wearing woman in the land to decide whether or not we wear high heels in the workplace.

Aside from the strange way in which she manages to agree with the TUC position at the end of her piece there is something else odd about this. Last night the article to which she links, and which she claims credit for, was credited to her and Karen Brady. This is how the byline looks now:

By David Wooding, not Nadine DorriesIf anyone can help me get hold of a cached version of that page from last night or a scan of the original paper, it would be much appreciated. I would also quite enjoy some idle speculation as to why the authorship of this article was originally wrongly attributed, or altered after publishing.

Normally I would suggest the appalling writing style, but I’ve read Nadine Dorries’ blog, and this is Solzhenitsyn in comparison.

Bring me the head of Richard Shears

The Daily Mail knows no shame. I was innocently scanning their website, looking for light hearted misogyny and celebrity gossip when this story on Caster Semenaya caught my eye.

The story of the “sex test” Olympic athlete has been in the media a lot in the past few weeks, and I’m not going to pretend that there isn’t a fair amount of public interest in this story, but it takes some bottle to do what The Mail has.

The headline is fairly unambiguous. Gender-row runner Caster Semenya ‘is a hermaphrodite with no womb or ovaries.’ That’s pretty conclusive that she’s “failed” the sex test.

Of course then you notice the old tabloid trick of putting the important information in ‘ ‘ marks so they can plausibly deny reporting it as fact.

That is fairly standard practice now, it wouldn’t shock many and most are wise to this trick. However this later paragraph really stood out, halfway down the page from that headline:

[The Sydney Daily Telegraph] added that Semenya had internal testes – male sexual organs which produce testosterone and which in turn produce muscle bulk, body hair and a deep voice.

Semenya, said the paper, is so far unaware of the tests identifying her as a hermaphrodite.

Without consulting this woman – and I will call her a woman until I’m told otherwise by her – the Daily Mail have seen fit to report the confidential reports of a medical enquiry.

Not only will this report determine her future as an athlete, it may determine her future as a woman. It is treated as flippantly as slagging off Natalie Cassidy or bad mouthing the Roma.

Of course in Richard Shears‘ eyes these aren’t equivalent at all. Stories on gypsies and celebrities get the advertisers interested, they really pull in the punters. Female athletes don’t attract the numbers The Mail needs. However, sneering at an hermaphrodite does the job just perfectly.