Tag Archives: United Kingdom

Shock, horror: UK government uses state broadcaster to broadcast propaganda

This story, which The Guardian broke yesterday, whill no doubt fill all freedom lovers with fear. Could it really be true that the British government, the PM of which has openly called for more resources to be dedicated to ‘propaganda’ in the media, the same government which sacked the entire board of directors of the BBC after the Corporation had the temerity to suggest they’d misled the public, would really use the state broadcasting service to broadcast specifically anti-Al Qaeda propaganda? Surely not!?!

As any fule know, the BBC has been used for this purpose for decades (since forever, basically). In many ways, there’s not much wrong with it: anti-Al Qaeda messages are hardly harmful. But intentionally misleading people (like when they promoted the idea of Al Qaeda as some sort of cogent, identifiable enemy), is.

The BBC deny that this edition of Analysis was influenced by the government. So where, exactly, does ‘security correspondent’ Frank Gardner get his information from? I bet you a tenner that when he’s talking about people as difficult to meet and assess as Al Qaeda, his mates at SIS or FCO give him a pretty good briefing. And why not? It’s not like he’s going to go to Waziristan himself to ask Osama if he’s on hist last legs.

But it’s not just the ‘war on terror’ which the British government operates via the BBC. Most official foreign policy positions are mirrored in BBC coverage. While it is fashionable to call the BBC ‘biased’ (normally because they report the deaths of Palestininan women and children, the bloody Trots!), in fact the Corporation is inherently tied to the establishment, and particularly when it comes to foreign policy. This is why the headline on Radio 4’s PM programme yesterday wasn’t “Is Russia redrawing the world map?” but “Russia redraws the world map” – exactly the UK’s official line, and a far stronger headline than employed by The Guardian or Channel 4.

That anyone at the BBC or the UK government would try to deny what is an obvious, even understandable, state of affairs is hilarious. Almost as much as anyone thinking this is news.

Fawkes and the nasty right

Those of you who follow the UK political scene will be aware of the Guy Fawkes blog. For many, it’s not much more than the most famous of many scurrilous, muck-raking (not that this is a bad thing), anti-Labour Westminster blogs.

But its composition, as well as its readership, is riddled with what might at best be termed ‘dodgy’ thinking. Comments on posts are generally uncensored and expose that the modern, Tory right wing has not changed, despite what Cameron would have us believe. They remain as nasty – and comtemptible – as ever. Those of you tempted to vote Tory in the next election (after all, it wouldn’t make much difference, right?) – remember that Guido Fawkes is very popular not only with politically astute Conservative voters but also, apparently, with many of the party’s activists.

Some comments from a thread that included a picture of Gordon Brown and a group of young boys:

“They all look like nice boys – are they aware of the turd-burgling snot-gobbler’s predilections?”

“I hope Brown is paying for those rentboy’s out of his own pocket.
You never know what these cunt’s try to put on their expenses.”

“He looks uncomfortable because he’s dithering over which one to pick.”

“Hey guys, we all know the filthy habits of Gay Gordo, but those are likely just ordinary innocent (so far) kids – unfair to call them rentboys just because that is what that foul perverted fucker likes.”

“I wonder if the photographer got any shot’s of Brown getting spit roasted.I’m sure his mate’s at Liebour HQ would pay handsomely for them.”

“next thing you know kids get touched up, then go missing, media blackout and files buried for 100yrs
geoffrey, how many times have i told you, naughty naughty, very naughty”

“So lads where is the nearest public lavatory?”

…and I haven’t even posted the ones about Harriet Harman. Nice guys, huh? I always wonder what makes some men write such knowledgeable, angry depictions of the gay sex they claim to hate.

Oh, and the other day I saw someone referring to Labour as ‘ZaNu LieBore’ – possibly the worst attempt at making up a name since that whole ‘Bliar’ fiasco.

Crap political prediction: ERC leadership election

Not that many people care about this but this leadership election could directly affect my household (no, we’re not militants, one of us happens to work somewhere where a change in direction from ERC could mean changes).

Anyway, I reckon that out of the available choices, the Carretero federalist agenda makes sense, though some will say that this is the most extreme of the options on offer. Obvously, Puigcercos is revolting (and he masterminded the last electoral campaign, an unmitigated disaster: he doesn’t deserve to lead). Benach seems OK but he kind of looks like he has a drink problem… sorry but it’s true. Reyner, I don’t really know anything about (but apparently, neither does anyone else)… he seems to be a bit of a radical, and his current’s website incudes a handy map of where they’ve burnt the king (in effigy).

BTW: why is it that so many Americans in Spain love the king so much? Same reason they love the queen of England, I guess.

Yeah, so Carretero should win but Benach probably will. Prediction over.

Edit: Told you it was a crap prediction! Puigcercos and Ridao won!

FT: PP has not moved on from Francoism

While the Financial Times is not normally particularly high-up on my reading list, it does carry some interesting political comment from time to time. A few years back, I recall that the FT attacked the PP for failing to properly criticise Lt Gen. Mena Aguado who famously threatened military intervention should Catalonia pass its new Statute of Autonomy.

Well in this most recent editorial, both Zapatero and Rajoy come in for criticism, but Rajoy and the PP far more so. The present government is credited with having ‘managed the macroeconomy competently but [doing] little to address structural weaknesses such as low productivity growth, a weak technology base and a huge current account deficit”.

Then, after referring to the PP’s constant scaremongering and manufacturing of doubts about the integrity of Spain, this sucker punch:

Mr Aznar also negotiated with Eta, and allied with regional forces, just like the Socialists – as whoever wins next Sunday may well have to do. The PP’s problem is that its current leaders have not completed their journey from Francoist roots to a modern centre-right.

Thank you, FT. All it took was one paragraph but you’ve finally printed something which we here in Spain all know to be true and have been trying to get outsiders (as well as misguided expats here) to see. The language and non-dialogue of Francoism (if not its bizarre economic policies) live on in most of the PP’s currents. The ‘left wing’ of the party (Piqué, Gallardon etc) has just been effectively shut down. Rajoy finished yesterday’s debate with the words of the fascist Movimiento Nacional. They haven’t moved on and many of us here in Spain have been saying that for years.

Unlike in the UK, general elections in Spain remain a choice between two generally very different political parties. The PP, which simply is not a natural party of the centre-right, remains deeply conservative and has been painfully ineffective as an opposition. It would be a disaster if they were elected next weekend.

[Via: From Catalonia To Caledonia]

But what about Azelle?

The Metropolitan Police was recently found guilty on health and safety charges after the unlawful killing of Jean Charles de Menezes. This would be a welcome verdict if it had sent to jail those responsible for killing an innocent man. But I’m not surprised: the Met has a record for getting away scot free after killing innocent men. That such a high-profile police killing should end up being investigated by just the Health & Safety Executive says a lot about the current state of governance in England.

I’ve written before about Azelle Rodney, the innocent man shot dead by the Met in 2005. But sadly, the campaign to restore his name seems to have foundered. Azelle is now forgotten by pretty much everyone but his family. No protest marches for him anymore. But his family are still fighting for his name. A release of ‘secret’ intelligence could finally allow an inquest in to his death to take place.

Ian Blair was Met Commissioner when Azelle was shot, too. What will it take to make this man resign?

Two dinosaurs exchange insults

As you have probably seen, Hugo Chavez was told to shut up the other day by king Juan Carlos during an international conference. Chavez was boorish as usual, using flamboyant insults to lambaste former Spanish president Aznar as a ‘fascist’ (not strictly correct – Aznar was a falangist, which isn’t quite the same thing). When current president Zapatero stepped in to say ‘Steady on, old boy’, Chavez wouldn’t stop interrupting him, despite his microphone being turned off. At this point, Juan Carlos did his bit for international diplomacy by saying “Why don’t you just shut up?”.

The general feeling in the media is that most Spaniards are pretty happy about their king taking Chavez down a peg, but the people I’ve spoken with don’t sound quite so pleased. Chavez was being a complete prick, as usual, but JC didn’t make himself look much more civilised by telling him to shut up, and then storming out of the conference. A friend said to me “He shouldn’t have said that… that’s not how you talk to people at these sorts of events”. And I agree. The king, for all the short term ‘macho’ points he might have earned, didn’t do much to make Spain look like the modern, civilised democracy we know it to be. He may also have piled some more risk onto Spain’s relations with Latin America, which could affect trade and the economy. No, it was an unhelpful flare of temper and not much more.

One man did make Spain look good, and that was Zapatero. In the coverage on the UK’s Channel 4 News, ZP was praised for his composure and diplomacy. Oh, and apparently, our cousin Mariano Rajoy telephoned the king to thank him for sticking up for Aznar… but failed to call Zapatero to thank him. What a petty, poisonous little man Rajoy is. He’s almost worse than Aznar.

Air travel and dehumanisation

We had a wonderful weekend in England. London is a fantastic city where I’d like to spend more time. But our departure from Stansted airport did much to cement  certain views I’ve held about air travel for some time now.

Modern air travel is cheap and quick. It also used to be fairly simple but in the last year or so, it has become an increasingly complicated way of travelling. The trouble started with check-in. We joined the queue for our flight shortly after check-in opened. We spent about an hour and a half queueing because of the ineptitude of the woman at the easyJet desk. She was phenomenally slow and left her post for nearly half an hour after claiming that a passenger with dark skin didn’t have the correct documentation. His Spanish passport was eventually, grudgingly accepted and the queue continued to shuffle on at the rate of one passenger served every five minutes.

A sign by the check-in desk warned passengers to allow at least 40 minutes to clear security – making clear that the onus is on the passenger to make sure that (s)he gets to the gate on time. In this case, though we had joined the queue as it began, we cleared security with about 10 minutes to spare. At least five passengers toward the end of the queue checked in but were then delayed in the security check phase. They were kicked off the flight and the flight’s captain gave us a patronising lecture about leaving enough time to get onto the plane. Perhaps he didn’t know that the five passengers whose luggage had to be removed from the flight were delayed because of one of his own colleague’s ineptitude.

Next, we approached the security check. This is the biggest recent change to modern air travel. Apparently, current rules (introduced in the wake of various terrorist attacks and attempts), insist that every passenger be put through a series of humiliating trials which test whether they’re a terrorist or not. Herded like cattle on their way to the slaughterhouse (or at the very least, the dipping tank), passengers wait in line until shouted at to proceed. Queues appear and disappear as stewards marshall people this way and that like shepherds call sheep. Belts must be removed, jumpers and jackets too. Personal possessions are laid out for all to see in black metal trays for the x-ray.

Next, we are forced to walk guiltily through a metal detector so inefficient that it failed to detect my wedding ring, 2lbs of coins and bulky metal watch which I had elected not to put through the x-ray. The girl in front of me had three bottles of sun cream which were confiscated, obviously because they might have been used for the production of high explosive. After the indignity of dressing myself again in public, I was herded down the next roped-off passageway only to be told to remove my shoes. By this point, I was getting really annoyed. “For Christ’s sake!”, I said as I pulled my trainers off – all the while being told by the woman at the shoe checking desk that I should ‘move out of the way’. This woman obviously noticed my irritation and said to me in a very obviously challenging way, “You seem very angry, sir”.

That short sentence made it clear that the exhibition of emotion of any sort was suspicious and deserved being challenged. I have no doubt whatsoever that if I had remonstrated with her over that fact that only half of the passengers were being screened in this way (the rest were allowed to just walk straight past), I would have been questioned – and probably by one of the police officers armed with huge semi-automatic rifles.

My problem here is not with security per se. I’m aware that there’s a small number of people out there who want to blow aeroplanes up. I’m also aware, however, that 50% of passengers could just walk through the shoe-checking phase. That I carried loads of metal through the metal detector without it noticing. That I could buy a tennis racket or bottle after security which could realistically be used as a weapon on an aeroplane. That it’s by no means inconceivable that a terrorist network could infiltrate airport shops and make sure that a bottle of water, perfume or shampoo that actually contained the ingredients for explosive were placed on shelves for the right person to buy. In short, I don’t believe that the security in modern airports is particularly effective. It still contains multiple holes which could easily be exploited by a committed terrorist cell.

In truth, I believe that these security checks we all have to undergo are part of a campaign of psychological warfare, the object of which is not to protect us but to cow us. The series of controls act more than anything else as steps in a process of dehumanisation and humiliation which never fail to conjure up the feeling of the emotions we might experience as we queue for access to the camps.

Modbury, rain and seeds and stems

We’ve got yet another low-pressure system overhead now, so after a week or so of good weather, it’s back do murky drizzle. By accident of birth, this weather isn’t too depressing for me. Having grown up in south Devon (in England), drizzle and overcast skies act as a fond reminder of my halcyon days (which were mainly spent strolling through woods and fields, smoking cheap hashish and listening to John Peel’s radio show, taped from last week). My town, by good fortune, was featured in an article in yesterday’s Guardian. It’s to become the first plastic bag-free town in Europe! Go Modbury!

I’ve never written much about Modbury because I’ve not lived there in a long time. Gemma and I try to have every other Christmas out there and we’re going over for a friend’s wedding in July. Modbury’s a lovely place: built around two steep streets and a handful of pubs and farms, it’s an up-market holiday spot for media types and city traders. The countryside around it (particularly the private Flete estate) is sublime and at times, Modbury feels like it might be the best place in the world. When you’re fifteen, however, it can be a bit boring.

Idle hands do the Devil’s work. Perhaps all fifteen year-olds are permanently bored or listening to rock music? Just like most teenagers, we invested quite a lot of time and effort into getting stoned. Unlike today’s lucky youths who are generally able to lay their hands on hydroponically-farmed, acutely psychoactive sticky bud, in Modbury we seemed to be mostly confined to ‘soap bar’, the crappiest, least pure hash produced anywhere in the world. In many ways, it’s remarkable that we stuck at it. Sometimes, we walked for miles to buy a ‘teenth’ (1/16 of an ounce) – but then we had nothing better to do, so probably we would have been walking around aimlessly anyhow. Still, I guess that even though we didn’t realise it at the time, we were extremely lucky with where we grew up.

I am also very lucky to be living here in the suburbs of Barcelona. We’re very close to the Collserola park (a protected, forested bit of rocky parkland behind Barcelona), have a lovely terrace with plenty of afternoon sun, and Cerdanyola seems to be on the up and up at the moment. If you’re looking for a flat in Spain, make sure it’s got a terrace. This multi-functional extra wing of the house acts as a scullery, garden, dining room, sun deck and marijuana production facility (among many other things). There are few better things to do in April than spend a weekend in Amsterdam, fly back with some 100% feminised ‘White Rhino’ and ‘Great White Shark’ seeds and plant them. We have high hopes for this year’s crop (mainly because of the price of the seeds).

There is, however, one major problem with growing weed on your terrace (and I’m not talking about the… slightly shady legality of the enterprise). The biggest issue we’ve encountered so far (and it has become worse every year) is caterpillar infestation. This little bichos seem to love prime buds more than anything else in life. A brisk shake of the plant will get most of them off but it can also damage the plant’s stems and reduce the number of precious crystals on your crop. Insecticides should never be used on your weed, and particularly not during the flowering and fruiting stage. So this year, I’m going to employ biological weapons. It’s possible to by ladybirds and other voracious predators via mail order. I haven’t tried it before and I’m a little worried about my ladybirds flying away, just like my parrot did. But it’s worth a try. If you’ve got any other anti-caterpillar advice, I’m all ears.

In praise of reason

We live in confusing times… I remember only a few years ago watching the famous BBC documentaries about the Taleban’s insane regime in Afghanistan – their destruction of Buddhist monuments, their repression of women, their official homophobia. The era of the Taleban was as absurd as a Monty Python sketch, with its beard laws and its choice of executions (stoning or have a wall pushed over on you). We marvelled, I remember, at the way these twisted individuals had managed to overrun a whole country with their crazy beliefs.

The Catholic Church in England has little in common with the Taleban. While they are the representatives of a foreign theocracy, they are never to be seen toting AK-47s at airports, as the Taleban were wont to do. But they are, in their own little way, attempting to subvert the UK’s comittment to equality of rights and opportunities by attempting to derail legislation which would force them to allow same-sex couples to adopt children from Catholic adoption agencies with the same rights as hetrosexual couples.

Their argument, unconvincing as it is, is that the new legislation will interfere with the rights of Catholics to ‘make a moral judgement’, and thus denies them their human rights. A BBC presenter referred to this as ‘a clash of rights’ today on 5Live, as if we were dealing with two sets of faith-based beliefs which were in opposition. That is not the case. What we’re dealing with is the clash of basic human rights of equality against the traditional right of religious folks to exercie their prejudice as they like.

There’s no doubt that the Catholic adoption agencies have helped a lot of children and a lot of couples over the years. But it would be wrong for the government to cave in to demands by a religious group to legalise their dislike for gay partnerships. Modern society should not have to make allowances for the superstitions and prejudices of pressure groups.

On a different tack, I once again offer the marvellous badscience.net as a vanguard against those who would challenge reason and scientific practice in the quest for a cheap buck. More of this, please.

Victory for the homeland!

Those of you who visit thebadrash.com regularly might well be aware that I’m from Devon in England. The second biggest county in the country, Devon is the home of cream teas, Buckfast Tonic* Wine, Old Mother Hubbard and the guys who defeated the Spanish Armada. As well as this, Devon played a crucial role in the establishment of America, played host to a captured Napoleon and is the original location of the world famous Widdecombe Fayre.

So it is with great pride that I, a son of this noble, blessed land, can bring to wider attention the news that once again, Devon has shown itself to be superior to those simpering maniacs to our west, the Cornish. For decades, these Celtic rebels have done their best to steal the limelight from once-proud Devon. At long, long last we can confidently claim that we have scored a major victory against our wicked, seditious neighbours.

That’s right, evidence has proven what many of us have long suspected to be true: the so-called ‘Cornish Pasty’, a delicious snack of buttery pastry, minced beef, turnip and potato is in fact the ‘Devon Pasty’ – and much tastier for the name change, too.

But we Devonish folk won’t gloat about this important moment. Not for long, anyway. The Cornish have lost something which they have valued deeply since they stole it from us, and it must hurt very much to know that they now have nothing.

*Use of the word ‘tonic’ does not imply health-giving or medicinal properties.