Friday, January 09, 2004

BBC Knows Best ...

How did 15-year old Amjed el-Masri die ?

BBC version

"On Saturday morning, Amjad al-Masri, 15, died after being shot in the chest by Israeli troops as they fired into a large crowd of protesters. "

No source given.

We do get the Palestinian and Israeli sides, after a fashion. No names given to any of the deceased.

"Palestinian sources said three were killed by Israeli sniper fire as they broke a week-old curfew, while a fourth was shot dead during the funeral of the others."

"Israeli forces said the troops had "felt themselves in danger".

""One of the Palestinians had dropped a large concrete block in the direction of a soldier," an Israeli Army spokesman said."

What do Reuters say ?

Palestinian witnesses said Amjed el-Masri, 15, was shot in the chest by a sniper as he threw stones at an Israeli armored vehicle from a rooftop in the old city area of Nablus.

An Israeli army spokesman said Masri had been shot while dropping large bricks on soldiers from a roof top, which he called a life-threatening assault, while two other Palestinians had been shot, one while holding a pistol and the other a petrol bomb.

Now I'm presuming the full (with names) Israeli version was available to the BBC. Why didn't they quote it ? And where did they get their story of Masri's death ? Did the (unnamed) reporter actually witness the boy being shot "by Israeli troops as they fired into a large crowd of protesters." ? Or have the BBC made it up and deliberately chosen to ignore the Israeli version ?

Israel claims Masri was "dropping large bricks from a rooftop".

A Frontpage piece condemns the Aussie ABC network and Associated Press, who report the deaths as the shootings of 'stonethrowers'. Yet to the BBC he was just a random victim of troops firing into a crowd. (There is however one other possibility - that a bad sub-editor has confused the deceased 'stone-thrower' with his cousin, 17 year old Mohammed el-Masri, who was shot by troops at the funeral of the three. Now that does sound more feasible - and more as if the IDF shot when they shouldn't. Can a pall-bearer be a threat ? I don't know - and the BBC doesn't seem to either. If anyone does know please tell me.)

Here are pictures of 'stonethrowers' in Nablus, taken the day before Masri's death by AP.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Revolutionary Radio Four

From the BBC website.

20:45 The Other Candidates Are
At the last General Election there were well over three thousand candidates.

Most of them stood no chance whatsoever of getting elected. They were going to lose their deposits, and they knew it. So why do they do it? What drives them on?

2/3. In the second programme of this series, Matthew Parris meets the Revolutionaries:

The Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist) doesn't have many members but has all the features of an elaborate organisation. It has a Central Committee, it holds Party Congresses, it has Party Cadres and it produces pamphlets and a newspaper. Its leader, Chris Coleman, is no wild eyed hothead, but a self-effacing elderly man in a suit. He's a supporter of North Korea. He's convinced the revolution will happen here, but admits he's not quite sure when.

Rob Griffiths, General Secretary of the Communist Party, isn't making any predictions either. He's hoping the Communists will eventually play a part in some sort of broad left wing coalition government. The Communists think big - they want to see an end to American world dominance and to that end they're out campaigning hard in shopping centres round the country.

Dave Nellist of the Socialist Party was once a Labour MP in Coventry but was thrown out of the party for being too left wing. But he had a big local following and nothing daunted, won a seat on the Council. There are now three Socialist Councillors in the City. Dave Nellist thinks things are moving the Socialist way. He thinks that if conditions are right and if he can get some of the big unions on board, there could be a "breakthrough" in the next two to five years.

I listened as Matthew, in his nonjudgemental way. gave his three contributors free rein, with nary a difficult question.

I wonder who programme 1 was about ? And who programme 3 will be about ? Will the BBC go as far to the right as it has to the left in this programme ? Will a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend, as someone once said ?

What do you think ? My money's on the late Wing Commander Bill Boakes, Natural Law and the Greens.

Fare Well

So the great Theodore Dalrymple is retiring and moving to rural France. As he says 'the French are some years behind us in the race to cultural oblivion. No doubt they will catch up with us in the end, but I hope not to see it in my rural fastness'.

Anyone who's spent time in rural France will know what he means. A couple of years ago we were in Sourdeval and attended the carnival. Several thousand people were on the streets all day, much lager and wine was consumed. We sat on the pavements until ten o'clock with our small children in an (admittedly noisy and smoky) atmosphere of perfect goodwill and freedom. Don't try that at Whitby Regatta.

I shall miss his despatches from the urban front line. What will he find to write about in rural France, where drive-by shootings or predatory youths disfigured by tattoos and/or facial ironmongery are rare ?

He is not alone in his decision. I must know of ten or more couples who have upped sticks to France. But he is rare in being totally upfront, not about why he is moving to France, but why he is leaving Britain (he currently works in a prison and hospital in inner-city Birmingham).

My university generation (mid-late 70s) has been (and is mostly still) saturated with the kind of leftism which assumes that most of society's problems stem from straight white males and the culture of our parents and grandparents. So it is strange that so many of us have ended up in the shrinking rural areas, whether here or abroad, where remnants of such culture cling on.

Dave - in turns hippy, probation officer, co-counsellor, radical therapist, musician, prison visitor - last year left Brixton for rural, white and conservative Lincolnshire while the children were still small. Pauline and Barry, impeccably liberal, in a Languedoc village whose inhabitants voted almost to a man for Jean-Marie Le Pen. Beth, ex-social worker in children's homes, travelling street magician and entertainer, from the heart of multiculti (and dangerous) Chapeltown to the isolation of the English Lakes. Gabrielle from London to the Presceli Hills, Sue from central Leeds to Perthshire. Dave and Louise from urban Bradford via rural Whitby to France. Carol from Bradford to rural California, Felicity from Vauxhall to Eire. Jill from Telford to the high Yorkshire fells (where only outcomers can afford houses now), Jenny from Peckham to Dartmouth. I could go on ...

But with the exception of Carol, who married a Californian only slightly to the left of Genghis Khan, my friends have maintained their 70s politics. The Guardian is now read on a slate worktop, overlooking a green-grey valley, or a pine table with pretty estuary views, but it's still the Guardian. They know something was wrong with the city, but it was only wrong for them as individuals. They haven't made any connections.

Similarly Billy Bragg chooses to raise his children in Dorset, Joe Strummer lived (and died) in rural Somerset, Rod Liddle (ex-Today editor) castigated English racism from Wiltshire. A couple of weeks ago I read a Jenni Murray interview in which the Woman Sour presenter and all-round PC exemplar described her decision to move from Wandsworth to rural Derbyshire (and send the kids to Cheshire grammars when they reached secondary school age). And or course every rock star buys a rural retreat or estate on getting the first million or two.

As Patti Smith (another one who headed for straight white society to raise the kids) would have said - 'Ain't It Strange'.

UPDATE - already he's found problems - namely the opening of a Starbucks in Paris. Link via Harry.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Surrender On All Fronts

David Blunkett today threw up his hands and agreed that no more criminals should be sent to prison. He also agreed to subordinate the Prison Service, which currently protects millions of people from crime by locking up some (admittedly a minority) of those who commit it, to the Probation 'Service', an organisation which vies with Social Work departments in political correctness and practical ineffectiveness. On a separate front, IRA/Sinn Fein apologist and domestic violence specialist Ken Livingstone has been readmitted to the Labour fold.

At last, a decision on prisons. The prison population has risen continually since Michael Howard's reforms first started to reduce some crimes, despite the efforts of Scots jurists. At some stage it was obvious that either the trend would have to be reversed, or new prisons would have to be built. Both Straw and Blunkett have sat hypnotised as the prison population rose, and have refused to sanction the major building program which was neccessary. They are left with no option but to try to send fewer people to jail. The methods used, mainly so-called 'community' service, are proven failures and their even wider adoption will result in more people becoming victims of crime.

It is difficult to realise the extent of the rot in the Criminal Justice System unless you have direct experience of it (usually as a victim), but one of the glories of the Web is that the grim facts are there for all to see. Image of magistrates as hard-headed traditional types ? Forty years too late mate - this gives more of a flavour of today's Bench.

"Magistrates rate Probation as having a greater effect on reducing crime than Prison.
Eight out of ten agree that community sentences punish offenders.
Eight out of ten agree that community sentences enable offenders to pay back to the community.
Seven out of ten agree that community sentences help to rehabilitate offenders. Magistrates are not aware yet of the evidence that Probation programmes reduce re-offending.
Magistrates seem to want wider public support for their use of community penalties."

I like "Magistrates are not aware yet of the evidence that Probation programmes reduce re-offending." That's because there isn't any.

If you check out the Youth Justice Board you'll find they're Guardianistas to a man - or more usually, to a woman. And as for the training of Probation Officers - take a look at this management-babble and see if you can find any mention of how they're actually going to prevent reoffending. All I gathered from it is that the male probation officer is an endangered species, outnumbered three to one in the 2000 intake. They also monitor by race and disability, though sadly not by all three - so the spectre of the disabled - no ! Don't go there !

More information on community sentencing is available at Peter Coad's invaluable links page at the Criminal Justice Association.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

At It Again

Aaronovitch started his Indie columns writing about politics, but since his move to the Grauniad sex seems to be occupying him more. Today the Great Masturbator is joining Dot Comrade at Hari's Place in calling for a "regulated sex industry, with brothels and massage parlours subject to council inspection." Applicants for the post please start queueing now. Those rejected may re-apply for the Gender Recognition Panel.

He must be a bit tired after New Year to end like this.

"Finally, I want to anticipate an inevitable rhetorical objection to this line of argument. It is the one that says: 'That's all very well, but what would you say if a legal brothel opened next door, or if your daughter became a prostitute? Where would your liberalism be then?'

To which the liberal can answer with her own questions. 'How far away do you think the brothels are now? And what kind of prostitute would you rather your husband visited?'

Sorry David, but most of us don't live in London. My nearest brothel is a good six miles away. And the last question implies that the husband in question is already frequenting brothels - not a good response to a 'what-if' question ?

Anyway, Aaro - if you really want to know who a woman might want her husband to play away with, I believe this sort of thing is popular with some couples, and is available as an anniversary or birthday gift if your darling is so inclined. Certainly a change from a romantic trip to Paris or Florence - but at about the same price.

Technical Failure ?

In what must be the most amazing bit of detective work since Inspector Morse was shifted to traffic duties, French and Egyptian officials have diagnosed the Red Sea 737 crash as a 'technical failure', despite

No black box recovery
No other telemetric data from the plane
No distress messages

In fact the only available information was that the plane took off, gained hight normally, then suddenly fell into the Red Sea.

The plane had taken off from Sharm el-Sheikh, where by chance Tony Blair is on holiday.

Now it may be that this is all a tragic coincidence. (The American Airlines crash two months after 9/11 appears not to have been terrorist-related, though interestingly a final report is still awaited more then two years later.)

But I can't see that the official Egyptian and French responses are anything more than wishful thinking, unless they know more than they're telling us.

UPDATE - AP have reported that the plane was trying to return to the airport when it crashed, which would explain how it hit the Red Sea (its route to Cairo was nearly all over land).

UPDATE2 - an obscure Islamic group has claimed responsibility. Link via Jerusalem Posts. TASS has other bits of news on the tragedy.