Today is Hiroshima Day
Today we commemorate the "just" bombing of civilians because - hey - it was for the greater good, you know? (Well, greater good for the Allies at any rate. But if you wanted to see an Imperial Japan stretching over the whole of Southern Asia, it was a bit of a pisser really.)
Sixty years ago this morning thousands of people were obliterated in less than a second. By the end of 1945 140,000 were dead out of a population of 350,000 - and thousands more died of radiation sickness over the following years. The official figure now stands at 242,437. From one bomb. Makes the Iraq death toll look like nothing. And in three days time we'll remember Nagasaki, nuked basically for the hell of it, as Japan was already in negotiations for surrender.
These days, of course, the Japanese would probably be called quislings and be accused of giving in to terror. But hey, that's probably moral equivalence or something, right? Because - you know - killing loads of innocent civilians to achieve your own political ends and defeat an ideology to which you are opposed, that's NOTHING like what our terrorist chums are doing, is it?
Hardly an original thought, and likely to piss off a few people to boot, but I'm genuinely finding it very, very hard to see the difference. Can someone explain why it's not simply because we did it to someone else and we won that Hirosima and Nagasaki are OK? If it's a means to an end and to prevent greater loss of life through invasion, wouldn't the same be said of the London terror attacks by an Islamic government if the Caliphate is established here, and of 9/11 if they managed to take over America? Wouldn't they then be able to point to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and say "hey - we managed to do it with far less loss of life"?
How many deaths does it take before it becomes unacceptable?
Either way, you'd have thought the US could have spared SOMEONE to go to the ceremony.
Wikipedia has a good page on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Uzbek blog campaign day - not a bad idea, and well worth supporting. Count me in.
Tony versus Terrorism
Blair's statement on anti-terrorism measures. Mostly fairly typical, platitudinous stuff, and all to be expected. A few bits stand out for confusion, however. But I'll keep this brief as I'm knackered and have work to do.
First up, people will now be able to be deported for "fostering hatred, advocating violence to further a person's beliefs or justifying or validating such violence". All very well and good. But considering the government's line over the last few weeks has been "if you say Iraq is a reason for why London was attacked, you're giving excuses for and justifying the attacks" it's a tad worrying. What, exactly, counts as "justifying" these days? Although I seem to be getting into trouble every time I link to Talk Politics these days, this post may help to point the way to some of my concerns.
Is suggesting that an action - which has led to Al Quaeda's second in command and one of the 21st July bombers explicitly listing it as a reason for their terrorism - may be a contributing cause of the terrorist attacks a justification or validation? According to the rhetoric of the government and some of its supporters, it would appear so. So should we start deporting everyone who suggests a link between Iraq and the London attacks? Again, from the rhetoric of the government it would appear so.
There's also the specific reference to "The sort of remarks made in recent days should be covered by such laws. But this will also be applied to justifying or glorifying terrorism anywhere, not just in the UK."
Does that include George Galloway? How about Gerry Adams, who Blair had a chat with just the other day? Is it going to become illegal to say that you can understand that in the Israel/Palestine conflict Israel has the military advantage, so Palestinian methods are understandable, as Ken Livingstone (a member of Blair's own party) did not long ago? (A statement which did not, despite it's rapid spinning by his critics, actually condone Palestinian terror tactics, but as that spinning proved could be interpreted as such.) Considering the part which states "For those who are British nationals and who cannot be deported, we will extend the use of control orders. Any breach can mean imprisonment" will Livingstone and Galloway find themselves presented with control orders?
I surely can't also be the only one to find "Should legal obstacles arise, we will legislate further, including, if necessary amending the Human Rights Act" a cause for concern? We all know what happened the last time the Law Lords pointed out the flaws of some Blairite terrorism legislation - rather than just lock up foreigners without trial, we can now ALL be locked up without trial. (Something which could get worse with the mention of "a way of meeting the police and security service request that detention pre-charge of terrorist suspects be significantly extended.")
Then there's the clampdown on freedom of speech, which could also lead to innocent people getting screwed: "Once the new grounds take effect, there will be a list drawn up of specific extremist websites, bookshops, centres, networks and particular organisations of concern. Active engagement with any of these will be a trigger for the home secretary to consider the deportation of any foreign national." So if you have, in your browser's history, a visit to an Islamic fundamentalist website, does that count as "active engagement"? Could following a blog link to a statement from a terror cell count? How about unwittingly visiting a proscribed bookshop, or reading a proscribed book (an idea I find fundamentally abhorrent)? Or will we all be able to take the Pete Townsend "research" defence?
You've also got to wonder, when you read things like "the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office are compiling an international database of those individuals whose activities or views pose a threat to Britain's security" why on earth they hadn't done that years ago. How can you defend the country if you don't even know who our enemies are? If they don't know who our enemies are, this surely means that they've been able to enter the country with valid passports for years - making all the guff about both ID cards and illegal immigration sound even more like a load of bollocks.
There are naturally also some valid statements, like "Cases such as Rashid Ramda wanted for the Paris metro bombing 10 years ago and who is still in the UK whilst France seeks extradition, are completely unacceptable", and a good part of what Blair says can't really be denied as being relatively sensible anti-terror measures. The thing about recalling parliament in September is also welcome (although the qualifier "[if] the right consensus is achieved" has slightly sinister undertones...) Even bits some people may not expect me to welcome I do think need to be said, namely "coming to Britain is not a right. And even when people have come here, staying here carries with it a duty. That duty is to share and support the values that sustain the British way of life. Those that break that duty and try to incite hatred or engage in violence against our country and its people, have no place here."
Nonetheless, there is also a lot to cause concern. A lot of vagueness which needs to be made specific. A lot of things which could easily be turned to political ends, rather than to security means.
As for the statement that "The rules of the game are changing", it's understandable (which is not to say that I condone it, please note) - it's just rather disappointing. What happened to "We will not allow violence to change our society and values"?
I know, let's ban the buggers and drive them underground (pun not necessarily intended) - that'll make it easier to keep tabs on 'em...
And no, I have no knowledge of or interest in either of those groups - but they should be allowed to spout whatever nonsense they like as long as they don't incite violence, just as should the BNP and their ilk. Banning them achieves nothing especially useful beyond restricting the freedom of people in this country to form and hold repellant views. Which is a restriction on all of us.
And - honest, sincere question - can someone explain to me the logic of the government's apparent position whereby Iraq (a very prominent war going on for two years and in the papers and on telly every day, being seen and heard about by millions) has no influence on our terrorist buddies, yet a few small groups of nutty preachers (behind closed doors, monitored by the security services, and being seen and heard by mere tens of people) have such an immense impact that we have to proscribe their tinpot organisations and boot them out the country?
Way to keep the moral high ground there guys! The full research paper on the United States' apparent plans to re-start production of antipersonnel landmines can be found here.
(And yes, the US is indeed one of the few countries left which hasn't signed up to the 1997 Ottawa Convention - the Mine Ban Treaty - a distinguished list of 41 nations that includes such bastions of democracy and freedom as Burma, China, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Vietnam, as well as a bunch of other dodgy buggers.)
I like the US. I genuinely do. But it really is very hard to argue against its critics sometimes...
Missed this earlier - the New York Police Department also agree with my assessment of the 7th July bombers. It's like I'm some kind of terrorism expert or something. Which would be an even more worrying thought...
Beer fund update
Have just had a call from the St John Ambulance lot, and it's a go to give their volunteers who were on the scene on the 7th a nice piss-up. Should have date/venue confirmed early next week.
Out with the old... And in with the pro-growth, pro-business new Europe. (Via) - interesting stuff:
"it's not only former Communist countries that have put rapid growth at the top of their priority list. In fact, since the 2004 enlargement of the European Union that saw it grow from 15 members to 25, the pro-growth nations may now be in the majority. Which means that in the latest of the occasional debates over the future of Europe, the tables have been turned on Europe's founding nations, especially France and Germany."
Terrorism: It's the sodding Welsh! That's what I read into this at any rate - and it's not as if the Welshers haven't got a history of acts of terrorism: anyone else remember the Plaid Cymru attack on the Pen y Berth Bombing Range in 1936? No?
ID Cards - commencing propaganda phase two. "Hey, look guys - y'know, I understand entirely - you reckon these things are all about giving things to us! You don't, like, see the benefits to you! Well, guys, here's how it'll b gr8!!! (And worth three hundred odd quid)"
Compassion and understanding. And more. And more. And more. And more. And more. And more.
I've never read this Steven Vincent guy. Know nothing about him. But it's nice to see that if I get blown to fuck going to work tomorrow my parents can look forward to reading a bunch of rabid maniacs going "ha ha - served you right because you disagreed with me about terrorism".
The internet is full of fuckwits.
In my considered legal opinion*, this silly bint should have had the book thrown at her.
* What? I was accepted for a law conversion course once. Just because I turned it down and have only the most basic of grasps of the legal system doesn't make me any less qualified to express an opinion. Just look at Charles "studied economics and maths" Clarke, currently overruling centuries of tradition and the opinions of m'learned friends daily.
MPs to return from recess to discuss bombings. In five weeks.
Good on 'em, I say - leading from the front, not letting the terrorists alter their way of life and all that. The lazy fucks.
The press: scaremongering knobfloggers
Yesterday I reported a minor scare on a bus near King's Cross with the headline "Again?" - a tad premature as it turned out to be little more than a small fire (which happen all the time on London's rather crappy busses), but I at least had the excuse that no news organisation had, at the time I put up the post, got any information about it. Within half an hour, the all clear had been given - as I reported - and everyone got back to going about their business as the two roads which had been closed as a precaution were re-opened.
So, how do we get from "Small fire on bus causes minor concern for half an hour" into The Mirror's alarmist headline PASSENGERS FLEE IN TERROR FROM 'BOMB BUS'? Or, indeed, the London Evening standard's (print only) NEW TERROR ALERT SEALS OFF LONDON?
What's wrong with, erm... you know - not spreading fear and panic further than necessary? Why not - perhaps - report what actually happened without exaggeration? Especially considering that you had plenty of time to find out what the real story was before going to press? Perhaps you'd like to take a leaf out of The LA Times' book, with their infinitely more accurate headline London Blames Engine Fire for Smoke on Bus?
I'll tell you why they don't curb their alarmism - because fear sells. Terror sells.
My daily readership figures have doubled since I liveblogged the 7th and 21st July terror attacks. It's likely that newspaper circulation has gone up significantly as well. Add to that the fact that parliament's in recess, we've got tit all to write about other than terrorism.
And to continue to attract the readers, headlines need to lure them in. Had I titled this post "A thought about something that happened yesterday" it's likely fewer people would be lured in than have been by the use of the wonderful word "knobfloggers" (I'm rather proud of that one - came up with it before any coffee or alcohol as well...). Likewise, the press need to shock, scare, and intrigue to con us into forking out fifty pence for their poorly-produced rags. (At least you can read my turgid shite for free...)
The impact of all this? Terror lingers. Fear is revived. We continue to worry about more attacks (helped by the constant demands that we shit ourselves daily coming from the head of the Metropolitan Police). We fail to get back to our normal lives. And the terrorists have achieved another small victory.
We've already had this debate, but I fear that in the wake of London's latest scrape with homicidal idiots it's going to run and run. (Personally I'm more scared of being stabbed by some idiot while out with the missus than I am of terrorists, but maybe that's just me and the readers of the Daily Mail...)
A Times opinion piece more suited to a particularly idiotic blog is taken apart by a not particularly idiotic blog (which is in turn then attacked by one of the most idiotic blogs going* - and you'll probably have to refresh that link as they don't like people linking direct to posts...)
I, meanwhile, will merely point out that the Times piece, by Anthony Browne, was already worthy of contempt merely for breaking Godwin's Law by the first sentence of the second paragraph. Note to idiots: Nazism was an ideology based on hatred, and the majority of true Nazis were nutters; Islam is an ideology based on religious devotion, and the majority of true Muslims are no more nutty than anyone else who believes in an all-powerful, omnipotent, omnipresent deity. Direct comparisons are doomed to make you look even more foolish than usual.
Oh, and a rather nice fisking by Talk Politics on this as well.
* I should probably point out that the response itself gives a good impression of being sane, and that David T is usually one of the less barking posters there, even if the response would tend to suggest that the blog on which it appears has a rather bad case of double-standards when it comes to people it disagrees with versus people it adores...
Hearing reports of "smoke pouring out of a bus on the Gray's Inn Road" - which runs up to King's Cross, for those who don't know. Also helicopters over Camden to the north.
Will try and find out more, as per.
15:25 - BBC tickertape reports police investigating an "incident" and that the roads have been closed. No confirmation for about 15 minutes though, and the usually sensationalist Sky have nothing, and nor do ITV News, despite having offices on that street. Could merely be a knackered engine. Dunno...
15:32 - Sky page with a traffic camera picture which shows precisely nothing of any use.
15:36 - BBC page up - calling it a "smoking bus", which summons up images of a double-decker slouched against a wall, the collar of its leather jacket up, eyeing people suspiciously James Dean style while sucking on a roll-up. That could just be me though...
15:42 - A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: "There was a small fire on a bus and it seems there was a bag found as well. Nobody was injured."
A Transport for London spokesman said: "The incident involved a 205 bus close to King's Cross. Buses in the area have been delayed."
Sky reporting Fire Brigade called out to a "small fire" on the bus, police called in when a suspect package found. Either way, sounds minor.
15:48 - All over. Police have declared it's a false alarm.
Italian police agree with my assessment of the 21st July bombers. (Perhaps it's time to reassess...)
Bananas cause the EU grief once more - not about straightness this time, though, which is a bit of a relief, at least...
Der Spiegel - American Capitalism vs. European Social Markets, a fairly interesting, easily-accessible piece by Jeremy Rifkind, author of EU/US comparative study "The European Dream", following on from last week's pieces Europe's Commitment Anxiety and Why the European Dream Is Worth Saving. Worth a look, although as it seems to be aimed at Americans the level of assumed knowledge about both European and global politics is insanely low... Which may be a good thing or not, I dunno.
Racialism and stuff, innit?
Now I'm not a fan of targetted searches based on skin colour, even though I can see the logic behind them. They stir up all kinds of racial tension and resentment, plus help create an "us" vs. "them" feeling which is never helpful. So it's quite heartening to see first Peter "useless twat" Hain and then Hazel "dozy nonentity" Blears speak out against them.
But it must be said, Hain's assertions that racially-tagetted searches would help terrorist recruitment, coming as they do so soon after the Dear Leader's dismissal of any suggestion that anything other than their EVIL nature helps terrorists recruit, seems a tad odd. ("Nope, this guy didn't blow himself up because he'd witnessed two years' worth of images of people being killed in Iraq and repeatedly saw Blair and co ignore the public and the opinion polls over the war, it was because some policeman held him up for five minutes to rummage through his sandwiches... Oh yes, and because he's EEEEEVVVVIIIILLLL")
It also seems a tad odd that no one has yet explained why searching random people with bags is less likely to cause suicide bombers to detonate than a bunch of plain clothes policemen rushing at them with automatic guns, ready to shoot them in the head. Krishnan Guru-Murphy tried to get an answer on that very question on Channel 4 News last night, and it was not so skilfully avoided.
But this does start to show the next line of argument for ID cards. Much as with the right to lock us all up without trial, they're going to start off targeting small groups (then it was foreigners, this time it's ethnic minorities) but then say "hey guys, it's unfair and prejudiced to target small groups - we'll target EVERYBODY! Just for the sake of fairness, you understand?"
ID cards will, for some reason which they'll no doubt have worked out by the time they launch this, enable us merely to flash the things at the rozzers and go about our business unmolested. (Because it's not as if the 7th July bombers were - just like the rest of us - British citizens with no previous history of terrorism, is it? Oh... Erm...)
And, of course, the fact that our Ethiopian chappie currently held in Rome used a false identity will also heighten the government's assertions that we should all have official ID. The likes of the Sun and the Mail will doubtless jump in straight behind it due to their ongoing hatred of all things asylum-seeker.
But the major question the government needs to answer - if our dear terrorist chum managed to convince the Home Office that he was a different nationality, had a different name and sucessfully applied for asylum under false pretences without anyone knowing - is how exactly they're going to make sure that this doesn't happen during the process of issuing us all with ID cards in the first place?
Five arrested at the protest ban protest, which was joined by Cherie Blair's sister. Looks like the family are beginning to be a bit of a pain in the arse for old Tony - only a matter of time before he passes a law to ban 'em...
Assuming they haven't been locked up (or shot in the head), expect reports from the Parliament Protest Blog and Bloggerheads at some point soon.
Update: Kitty Killer's initial post and photos.
It'll be interesting to see how people on the ground reckoned it went - from the BBC London news it must be said that it looked to go how I feared it would: most acting sensibly, but a few twats acting like dickheads and making it look like something other than what it was intended to be. The Stop the War Coalition's stupid "Troops Out" banners likewise warped the message - it should have been kept purely to being about freedom of speech. Bring other politics in, you ruin it and lose support. Nice one, Stop the War lot. You've blown it.
Ah... Political loyalty, eh?
"Lord Saatchi, the former Conservative chairman, charged the party £1.5 million for the services of his advertising companies in the general election campaign that he helped to create."Combine that with the news that ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith has threatened to throw a hissy fit if the party doesn't select someone that he likes, and it looks rather like there could be yet another childish meltdown at Central Office on the cards. Not that anyone gives a flying fuck about what Duncan Smith thinks, obviously, but still...
Non-news of the day: I'll quit Commons at next election, Blair tells family and friends.
Well, dur... Did anyone seriously expect him to do a Ted Heath and loyally serve his constituents from the backbenches for another quarter century? And surviving on a measly MP's salary? With his mortgage(s)?
As soon as he announced he was going to quit the leadership it was obvious he'd be heading to better-paid climes. This is nearly as much of a non-story as those "terrorists will try and strike again" ones - patently fucking obvious if you use your brain for even half a sodding second.
Update: Downing Street denies the story - so it MUST be true...
Tuesday update: Ha! Told you it must be true if Downing Street denies it...
The Media and Terrorism - good stuff, a nice follow-up to that Simon Jenkins article from yesterday.
RIP Wim Duisenberg
The former European Central Bank head honcho, who oversaw the introduction of the single currency during his 1998-2003 tenure, was found dead yesterday following cardiac trouble. As he died in the pool of his south of France villa, be certain that some less than respectful comments will be made about how this is indicative of the decadence of the EU, or something...
A few people have been referring to him as the father of the Euro, but his role was more that of midwife and wetnurse, helping drag the prematurely-born currency kicking and screaming into the world, coping with the complications and suckling and nursing the thing through the difficult early years. Having stepped down two years ago he'd passed his charge on to the runtish currency's nanny figure, Jean-Claude Trichet, who's currently having to protect the poor dear from the bullying likes of Silvio Berlusconi and the nasty gang of eurosceptics at the nursery school.
More: Bloomberg, Reuters, Financial Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Times obituary, CNN, Le Monde, Libération, EU Observer, ECB Press Release.
Simon Jenkins is spot-on in the Sunday Times:
"The streets of London are alive with like dangers, with people who shoot, kill and maim dozens of people a year. We fight them all, whatever their proffered and spurious justification. Read the whole thing. Then mark the irony of the front page of the Times being dominated by the story Third terror cell on lose...
"So what purpose was served last week by police crying, 'They’re still out there and trying to get you'? What good are daily briefings on 'the inevitability' of another attack? Street killings are inevitable, too. Apart from the gratuitous damage to public confidence and business, why stoke the very fears, hatreds and antagonisms that the bombers want stoked? Just get on and find the bombers, without publicising their allegedly awesome power to deflect blame from any deficiencies in public safety. Half the British Establishment seems to have signed up to the League of Friends of Terrorism."