Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Political asylum from persecution in Britain?

On April 18, 2006, I wrote the following:
"I regard antisemitism as totally misguided but believe that persecuting believers in it only gives it credibility to those who are persecuted. Last Wednesday, two people, Luke O'Farrell and Simon Sheppard, who publish a British antisemitic website, were arrested by Humberside police in Britain because of what they had written. Details here and here. And what was the reaction from the guys who were arrested? It was:

"To attempt to silence a man is to pay him homage, for it is an acknowledgement that his arguments are both impossible to answer and impossible to ignore"

So a fat lot of good arresting them did. It just reinforced their views and gave those views more credibility to others.

The matter has now gone to trial and the two Brits werre convicted of hate speech. While out on bail, they took a direct flight to Los Angeles and have now claimed political asylum in the USA. Some details here

The prospect of their getting any sort of sympathetic hearing in California seems slight to me. I guess they flew there because it was the only alternative they knew to what they would call "Jew York". I think it is true, however, that what they said would not be a crime in America.

There is no doubt that the two men are stock-standard antisemites with stock-standard theories about Jewish conspiracies. When what is happening in the world seems inexplicably wrong, people have blamed that wrongness on the Jews ever since the Pharaohs.

What rather appals me about the present case is that two "little people" are being assailed for it when the major source of such hatred in Britain undoubtedly comes from Muslims and the Left -- and that is virtually ignored. Once again it seems that it is only white conservatives of Christian background who can utter "hate speech".

In Britain recently, a TV channel did a program which showed local Muslims uttering very definite hate speech. So what did the British police do? Did they prosecute the Muslims concerned? No. They prosecuted the TV channel! Details here. The Muslims concerned have not been touched to this day as far as I can ascertain.

Massive British surveillance plan is 'a step too far'

PLANS for a massive database snooping on the entire population of the UK have been condemned as a "step too far for the British way of life". The Government has proposed to record every phone call, email, text message, internet search and online purchase in the fight against terrorism and other serious crime. The privacy watchdog, Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, said the public's traditional freedoms were under serious threat from creeping state surveillance.

Apart from the Government's inability to hold data securely, he said the proposals raised "grave questions". "Do the risks we face provide justification for such a scheme in the first place? Do we want the state to have details of more and more aspects of our private lives?" he asked. "Whatever the benefits, would such a scheme amount to excessive surveillance? Would this be a step too far for the British way of life?"

It is thought the scheme would allow the police or MI5 to access the exact time when a phone call was made, the number dialled, the length of the call and, in the case of mobile phones, the location of the handset to within an accuracy of a few hundred yards. Similarly for emails, it would provide details of when they were sent and who the recipients were. Police recovering a suspect's computer would then be able to trawl through hard drive records and recover messages.

Mr Thomas's warnings were backed by privacy campaigners, who claimed such Big Brother powers would give government agencies unprecedented abilities to trawl through intimate details of ordinary people's private lives at will. He used the launch of his annual report to speak out after ministers signalled their intentions in their program of legislation earlier this year, describing the move as "modifying procedures for acquiring communications data".

There are fears the data may be shared with foreign governments - such as the Americans demanding personal details of air passengers - accessed by internet hackers or lost by bungling civil servants.


Correct speech rediscovered in Britain

A British school has banned its pupils from using "street slang" as part of a strict behaviour policy which is transforming its exam results.

Pupils are not allowed to use the phrase "innit" or other examples of "playground patois" when talking to teachers. Formal language must be used at all times in communications with adults and pupils have been told that street slang should be "left at the school gates".

The measure, along with a strict uniform policy, is part of a tough stance on discipline at Manchester Academy, in the city's deprived Moss Side area, has restored order. Since the school became an academy in 2003, exam results have improved from about 10 per cent of pupils achieving five good GCSEs to 33 per cent and the proportion who leave without a job or college course to go to is down from 26 to 6 per cent.

"Language is really important and we have to make sure pupils realise that," said Kathy August, the head teacher. "You can get five A* to Cs in your exams but if you go to an interview and you can't shake hands, look someone in the eye and speak in the appropriate register, you are not going to get the job or place at university. It is hugely important. We have high expectations. It makes me angry when I see… pamphlets on drug education or anti-gang material. They are appalling. The way they are written suggests that if you are black and from a particular postcode you will only understand the message if it is presented in a certain informal way, in a "street" form. It enforces the stereotype and ends up glamorising what it is supposed to be preventing.

"There are 64 languages spoken at the school and 80 per cent of pupils are from ethnic minority backgrounds," she added. "We realised very early on that children were coming into the community and picking up the lingo that young people use and that the intonation and patterns of speech of formal language were lacking."

She said that the message had been drummed into pupils that street slang was "just not academy". Children are pulled up when using colloquialisms and told directly that it is unacceptable. "You have to be consistent. We make it clear in our tone of voice and with short imperatives that we are not happy. So it's not 'excuse me, do you mind not doing that, it's not very nice'. We say 'Stop. We don't do that. Thank you.'"


Greenie shambles looming in Britain

The number of Gordon Brown's flagship eco-towns should be slashed by two thirds because most of the proposed schemes are not green enough, senior civil servants have warned. They have advised ministers to cut the number from 10 to only two or three "exemplar" towns, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt. The civil servants from the Department of Communities and Local Government said that most of the proposals being considered by the Government were not sufficiently environmentally-friendly and would be so damaging to the eco-town "brand" that they should not be allowed to go ahead.

One source close to the bidding process said: "You wonder why some of the bids were selected in the first place. Civil servants don't want to advise ministers to go ahead with projects that are going to be a catastrophe. There are two or three in there that could proceed but some of the bids are just suicidal." However, the Prime Minister is understood to be applying pressure to push ahead with the policy in its entirety, setting the scene for a battle between Downing Street and Whitehall.

The source added that officials from the Department for Transport had expressed concerns about infrastructure issues, while civil servants from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are alarmed that some proposed towns, including at Ford, West Sussex, would be built on flood plains.

A pet project of Gordon Brown, and one of the first new policy programmes he announced after taking over from Tony Blair a year ago, eco-towns are designed to be low-energy, carbon-neutral developments constructed from "eco-friendly" materials. Each town will contain between 5,000 and 20,000 homes and will be the first new towns built in Britain since the Sixties. Five will be built by 2016, with another five completed by 2020. A government announcement on the policy is expected this week. It will give an update on the remaining bids and show that three developers have now officially withdrawn their schemes and that a further proposal, for a town in the Leeds area, is still without a site or developer.

Last week, Tesco hinted that it would withdraw its plans for an 8,000-home eco-town at Hanley Grange, Cambridgeshire, after the medical charity The Wellcome Trust refused to sell it a crucial piece of land that was needed to proceed. The likely withdrawal of the proposal by Jarrow Investments, which this newspaper revealed was a front for Britain's biggest retailer, would be the fourth in a series of departures from the original 15-strong shortlist. It has also emerged that at least one more developer does not yet own the land it wants to develop. The Coltishall Group, which wants to build a 5,000-home eco-town in Norfolk, has not yet been told if the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will sell the 625-acre site, which it bought off the Ministry of Defence. The MoJ plans to build a 500-place prison there.

Another source involved with the selection process said that civil servants were now going back to developers who originally submitted bids but did not make it on to the final shortlist, in order to boost numbers, in case Gordon Brown refuses to back down. The source said: "That would be an insurance policy, to make sure there were ten. Some of those shortlisted are now clearly duds, so they have to have more up their sleeve that are not as obviously embarrassing."

Last night, Grant Shapps, the shadow housing minister, said: "Ministers have taken a good concept of building new green housing and have managed to destroy their own project by trampling over local democracy and systematically downgrading the green credentials of eco-towns to the point where they'll be less environmentally friendly than all other housing built at the same time."

The government believes the new towns will combat the growing housing crisis in an environmentally friendly way. But the policy has come up against many high profile critics, including Lord Rogers, the Labour peer and former government adviser on cities, who branded eco-towns as "one of the biggest mistakes government can make".

Gideon Amos, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, said it was important to build as many eco-towns as was feasible. He said: "The credit crisis is leading to an even greater demand for affordable homes - we need as many eco-towns to go forward as can meet the very challenging standards we are calling for."

A spokesperson for the Communities and Local Government department said: "Our position throughout this process has been that we will shortlist up to ten potential sites for eco-towns - and we are making no change to our policy."


Nasty British health bureaucrats refuse to treat dying patient

Bosses in the National Health Service have refused to administer a drug to a patient with advanced kidney cancer even though the medicine is being provided free.

Barrie Clark, 61, was told in May that he could receive a free supply of a new kidney cancer drug on compassionate grounds from the pharmaceuticals company that makes it. Clark was then astonished to be told by the NHS that he could not take up the offer at his local hospital because it was against management policy. He could receive the drug, which has been approved as safe, only by paying for nurses to administer it privately.

Clark is in a similar predicament to patients being denied NHS care if they choose to pay for drugs that the health service does not fund. Campaigners are outraged that the ban on allowing NHS patients to pay for private drugs has now extended to letting them receive additional medicines for free.

In a letter of complaint to NHS Grampian, which runs Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where Clark is being treated, the father of four said: "I have been denied a free drug for a long time when there was no alternative treatment. "We find this appalling and demand that the drug be offered free of charge immediately. How many other people has this happened to? You have jeopardised my life and caused great anguish to me and my family. That is disgraceful."

The medicine, temsirolimus, which has the brand name Torisel, was granted a licence for the European Union in November. The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) has ruled that its benefits outweigh the risks. Dozens of NHS patients have received it on compassionate grounds from Wyeth, the manufacturer, in advance of its commercial launch in Britain. The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) is assessing whether Torisel is cost-effective enough to be prescribed on the NHS.

Managers at NHS Grampian told Clark that he could not receive it because it was not yet on its list of prescribed drugs, known as the hospital formulary. The trust says it will not be placed on the formulary until it is assessed by Nice or the Scottish Medicines Consortium.

Clark, a manager in the oil industry, has been helped by Kate Spall, a cancer drugs campaigner with the Pamela Northcott Fund. Spall said: "I have never heard such rubbish. They are saying this medicine cannot be given because it is not on a drug list, but patients elsewhere across the country are getting it. Are we now in a position where a terminally ill patient is denied a free medication?"

Cancer professors dismissed the explanation as "bureaucratic nonsense". Will Steward, a consultant oncologist at Leicester Royal Infirmary, said: "I really do not understand the decision not to allow a free drug to be administered from the hospital. We do this frequently. "Many trusts have allowed this in the past and this decision is perverse."

Jonathan Waxman, a consultant oncologist at the Hammersmith hospital in London, added: "This is an effective treatment. This shows the mess we are now in." After Clark told the hospital he was going to speak to the media, managers said he could pay to have the drug administered privately. He would need to pay about œ1,000 a month as it is taken intravenously.

Clark said that, although appalled at his treatment by the NHS, his own oncologist had done his best. NHS Grampian declined to comment on the individual case. The Sunday Times has been campaigning to end the ban on NHS patients paying for private drugs that the state does not fund. Last week two patients won appeals to receive cancer drugs on the NHS after they featured in the Sunday Times Right to Pay campaign.

Sheila Norrington, 59, a cancer patient from Maidstone, Kent, was denied NHS care after paying privately for Erbitux, which costs about œ3,000 a month. After the paper highlighted her case, the Peggy Wood Foundation, a charity, agreed to pick up the bills, but last week West Kent Primary Care Trust reversed its decision.

Barry Humphrey, 59, from North Walsham, Norfolk, was told that if he paid for Nexavar, the only available treatment for his advanced liver cancer, he would be billed for his NHS care. His local trust refused to fund the drug but neighbouring Suffolk Primary Care Trust has recommended that the NHS should provide it.

The British Medical Association and the NHS Confederation, which represents hospital managers, support a patient's right to co-pay for cancer drugs without losing NHS care.


Monbiot's metamorphosis

Today, environmentalists like Guardian columnist George Monbiot are adding a gloss of `scientific truth' to elite prejudices and fears.

George Monbiot, the Guardian columnist and predictor of the world's end, has undergone a metamorphosis of Kafkaesque proportions in recent years. Never mind poor Gregor Samsa, who awoke one morning to find himself transmogrified into a monstrous insect; Monbiot has made an even more remarkable cross-species leap. Some time during the past five years he went to bed an hysteric, the closest thing Britain had to a nutty Nostradamus, and awoke to find himself labelled a man of reason, a `defender of truth' no less, who is praised on the dust-jacket of his latest book for possessing a `dazzling command of science' (only by Naomi Klein, admittedly, but still).

How has this happened? How is it that Monbiot, who still writes the same old apocalyptic nonsense (think Book of Revelations but without the hot pokers or sex), can now pose - more than that, be hailed - as a scientific visionary? His metamorphosis from green-tinted despiser of all things modern to man with a dazzling command of science reveals a great deal about the politics of environmentalism, and how it has added a gloss of `scientific fact' to long-standing middle-class prejudices against mass modern society.

Not many moons ago, Monbiot was looked upon by many people as a green-ink eccentric, who was probably given a newspaper column on the same basis that friends of the Marquis de Sade smuggled scraps of paper and pots of ink into his cell in the Charenton insane asylum: because if he's kept busy writing, he won't go utterly off his nut. (The chasm-shaped difference between the Marquis and Monbiot, of course, is that the former wrote some brilliant stuff that nobody was allowed to read, while the latter writes inane copy that one can hardly escape.)

Pre-metamorphosis, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Monbiot penned mad-sounding tracts that said flying across the Atlantic is more evil than child abuse (eh?), and described how manmade flight would contribute to a climate calamity that would make `genocide and ethnic cleansing look like sideshows at the circus of human suffering' (1). Well, what's being gassed in a chamber compared with the carbon skidmark left by a bunch of British chavs taking a cheap flight to vomit-stained Magaluf? He wrote about loitering in busy train stations and watching as City workers, who must suffer from `a species of mental illness', hurried home: `Stress oozes from them like sweat, anger shudders beneath their skin.' (2) (Luckily for Monbiot, he executed this bizarre staring stunt in 1999, before New Labour really got serious about handing out Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.)

Like a latter-day Christian recluse, he wrote of his horror at hearing the sound of human laughter. `The world is dying, and people are killing themselves with laughter', he wailed (3). So disturbed was he by the `gales of laughter' sweeping Britain that he was moved to quote Kierkegaard: `This is the way I think the world will end - with general giggling by all the witty heads, who think it is a joke.' Far from being a `man of science', pre-metamorphosis Monbiot sounded more like Ephrem the Syrian, an early Christian theologian. In the fourth century CE, Ephrem declared that `the beginning of all destruction of the soul is laughing'. If a hermit or monk ever laughed, Ephrem said they had reached `the bottom of evil'. `O Lord, expel laughter from me, and grant me the crying and lamentation Thou asketh for!' Ephrem prayed (4). Monbiot must make a similar prayer: he's certainly had any fleck of humour scrubbed from his constitution, replaced by the crying and lamentation that Gaia asketh for.

In the old days, Monbiot argued that `being gay is arguably more moral than being straight', because gays are less likely to spawn 'orrible little resource-sucking babies - or `screaming shit machines', as one of his fellow green contributors to the Guardian more honestly describes them (5). Men and women of the Enlightenment, who really did desire to have a `dazzling command of science', were interested in using their knowledge to `dazzlingly command' nature - that is, to understand, predict and even control the natural world for the benefit of mankind. Old Monbiot preferred to quote an old Indian proverb: `When you drive nature out of the door with a broom, she'll come back through the window with a pitchfork.' (6) Ouch.

On the rare occasion that Monbiot did dip his nib into the world of science, he invariably got things wrong. He was one of a gang of green-leaning writers in Britain who leapt upon Dr Arpad Pusztai's experiments on lab rats as evidence that GM foods could be harmful to humans. In 1998, Dr Pusztai seemed to find that GM potatoes caused thickening in the stomach lining of rats, and this single, unreplicated experiment was taken as proof that genetically tampered-with grub - an invention that greens consider supremely offensive - might make humans sick, too. When experts picked apart Pusztai's findings, and showed that there was no scientific basis to the hysterical public panic about killer spuds, Monbiot argued that the important thing is how people feel about allegedly dodgy foods: `Food scares happen in Britain because people feel they have no control over what they eat. Our decisions are made for us by invisible and unaccountable corporations.' (7) In a testy public debate on GM, one of Britain's top scientists said Monbiot was either a `liar or a fool', or maybe `both' (8). Again, ouch. Dazzling command of science my arse.

Back then, Monbiot was simply a shrill articulator of petty dinner-party prejudices: car-drivers are selfish; fecund families are dangerous; supermarkets are evil; City workers are slaves, and possibly even mentally ill. Pop into any soiree in the leafy suburbs of Britain and you will hear people saying similar things over their Nigella-inspired main course. Yet now, after the metamorphosis, he's treated seriously (by some) as `one of the best informed people on the planet' (as John Burnside gushes on the back flap of Monbiot's new book). The man who said flying was like fiddling children and being straight was effectively an eco-crime is hailed as a brave defender of scientific truth.

Monbiot's new book, Bring on the Apocalypse (the title says it all), is a collection of mostly post-metamorphosis columns; the articles, in the main, are from 2003 to 2007. It is remarkable the extent to which Monbiot now considers himself a warrior for scientific fact. Gone are the naked assertions about how empty and slavish is modern life (at least as lived by frequent flyers and `mentally ill' City workers); in their place we have `facts', stats and percentages galore, apparently showing the slow but certain destruction of biospheres and ecosystems by mankind. Gone is old Monbiot's suspicion of mainstream science; in its place we have declarations about how the `entire canon of science, the statements of the world's most eminent scientific institutions, and thousands of papers published in the foremost scientific journals' tell us that climate change is happening (9). These newer columns are still jam-packed with expressions of disgust for modernity and its adherents, of course, but each outburst is carefully evidenced, proven, footnoted, fact-checked, scientifically backed up.

The metamorphosis of Monbiot is telling. It shows, in microcosm (after all, we're only talking about the Guardian comment pages here), how the politics and science of environmentalism have added a new, legitimising coating to elite fears and prejudices. The most striking thing about the rise and rise (and rise) of the environmentalist ethos is how it has acted as a life support machine for the political and cultural elite's contempt for the lifestyles of the lower orders, and how it has added a new scientific/end of the world twist to the authorities' attempts to manage, control and change our behaviour and expectations. In our post-modern, anything-goes, Oprah-ised, non-judgemental era, it is increasingly difficult for elite elements to lay down the line on what is right or wrong, or to induce guilt and shame in the `wayward' masses, or to make nakedly moral judgements about the apparently soulless, greedy populace. Instead, `scientific fact' - `evidence' about individuals' disgusting impact on their surroundings - has become the main means through which the elites hector us and police our behaviour. Slowly, inexorably, instinctively, the apparently fact-driven politics of environmentalism has spread to fill the gap left by the collapse of traditional morality.

Everywhere one looks, long-standing snooty prejudices are being `scientised'; old-fashioned hatred for mass behaviour is being replaced by new, superbly convenient `scientific facts' which apparently show - on spreadsheets, graphs and pie charts, no less - that mass behaviour is quantifiably, unfalsifiably, unquestionably Harmful.

For example, a certain breed of middle-class writer and thinker has always hated the consumer society and the masses who patronise it. They talked about the `rat race' (the sight of thousands of men and women in suits commuting to work) and of the masses' brainless dash to buy more and more `stuff' that they don't need. Today, a new diagnosable, scientifically provable illness has emerged to describe the stupidity of the masses: `Affluenza'. Serious writers, researchers and policymakers now claim that years of fact-gathering and scientific-style study prove that the rat race and the stuff race make people mentally ill (though as I argued in the New Statesman earlier this year, after examining the experts' `evidence', actually they have `rehabilitated the sin of gluttony in pseudo-scientific terms') (10).

It is striking that 10 years ago, in Liverpool Street station, Monbiot gawked at busy, besuited commuters and presumed that they must be suffering from a `species of mental illness'. `No retail therapy, no holiday in the Caribbean could restore the damage done by [their] self-consumption', he preached (11). It was unadulterated prejudice, underpinned by a well-to-do columnist's dislocation from the mass of the people, and his inability to comprehend the passions, desires and needs that drive people to work, work, work and buy, buy, buy. Now, lo and behold, research has emerged that `proves' these people are mentally ill. How remarkably convenient.

Likewise, snobs have always detested mass tourism, all of those thousands of good-for-nothings tramping to some beach or to an unfortunate foreign city. When British workers first started venturing to the English seaside in the 1870s, thanks to one Thomas Cook, an outraged writer declared: `Of all noxious animals, the most noxious is a tourist.' (12) As Paul Fussell argues in his book Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars: `From the outset, mass tourism attracted the class-contempt of killjoys who conceived themselves. superior by reason of intellect, education, curiosity and spirit.' In the 1920s, the British literary snob Osbert Sitwell described American tourists as a `swarm of very noisy transatlantic locusts'. His sister, the poet Edith Sitwell, said tourists were `the most awful people with legs like flies, who come in to lunch in bathing costumes - flies, centipedes' (13).

This prejudice, too, has been scientised. The idea of the mass tourist as noxious - that is, `harmful to living things, injurious to health' - has been rehabilitated through the science of environmentalism. Now tourists are seen as literally noxious, farting out smog and poisons from their cheap flights. Pre-metamorphosis Monbiot's distaste for the mass tourist was too similar to the snobbery of the Sitwells and others - he said flying across the Atlantic is `now as unacceptable as child abuse'. So where earlier snobs compared tourists to locusts and insects, Monbiot compared them to paedophiles, the lowest specimen in contemporary society. It was pure moral bombast, fired by a preference for localism over international travel. Yet now, post-metamorphosis, Monbiot cites science to denounce travellers. In his new book, it says that if you throw all the `numbers' into `the equation', then you will discover that `aviation will account for between 91 per cent and 258 per cent of all the greenhouse gases the UK will be permitted, [under a new law], to produce in 2050' (14). Numbers, equations, accounting, 2050. again, moral disgust is transformed into a scientific measurement; prejudice becomes wrapped up in percentages.

Similarly, middle-class disdain for supermarkets and their cheap and garish wares (old Monbiot wrote of how the supermarkets are putting small shops out of business) is today expressed in the extremely dubious science of `food miles': the distance a foodstuff travels, and thus how much it impacts on the environment, before it hits Tesco's shelves. Yet as I argued on spiked recently: `The "food miles" category is not an accurate scientific measurement of the impact of food production on the climate - it is a moral judgement about the "right" and "wrong" way of producing and consuming things.' (15)

Old snobbery about overly fecund families, especially in the sex-mad Third World, has been given a new lease of life in the green-leaning language of demography and the science of `resource depletion'. Even the hatred of football fans now has a scientific basis to it. In the past they were looked down upon as a seething, heaving, potentially violent mob. Now, serious academics and green reporters carefully measure how much football fans travel, eat and discard, and have worked out that a big football event can leave an `eco-footprint' 3,000 times as big as the pitch at Wembley (16). Courtesy of the `science' of environmentalism, even one of the foulest expressions of British snobbery - that against the working men and women who enjoy football - has been scientised; it is numerically proven that these people are, well, disgusting.

Monbiot, who once harried tourists, workers and shoppers over their bad habits but who now writes endlessly of science and sums, personifies an important shift that has taken place under the tyranny of environmentalism: the scientisation of elite fear and prejudice. And what of the science of climate change itself? No doubt there is research that shows the planet has warmed, and that man may have played a role in its warming; yet this science, too, has conveniently metamorphosed into a political and moral campaign to lower people's horizons and keep them in their place. Call me a cynic, a doubter, even a denier if you like, I don't care; but when scientific research continually and conveniently, almost magically, `proves' that people are disgusting and must rein in their desires and change their habits - just as the elite caste, from priests to politicians, have been arguing for decades! - then I get suspicious.

No, there's no conspiracy here; instead our rulers and our thinkers and our betters are instinctively feeling around for a new morality, a new form of control and judgement. And what better than easily moulded research which shows that travelling abroad is irresponsible (fact), over-shopping in supermarkets is evil (fact), wanting too much stuff will make you mentally ill (fact), having too many children is lethal (fact), and football fans are fat, foul and smelly (fact). It's almost as if one of the pious nuns who taught me at school, and who frequently spouted all of the above prejudices, suddenly happened upon scientific evidence to back up her worldview. Well, I say to the new green hectors what I often dreamt of saying to that nun, but never did: F*ck off.

The new scientisation is defensive and censorious. It suggests an elite that has lost the nerve and the will to say what is morally right and wrong, and which instead continually hides behind dubious `facts' to justify its agenda. And anyone who challenges these `facts' is put beyond the pale. When something is `scientifically proven', whether it's that flying is bad or shopping is a mental illness or the planet will end in 72 years and three months, then if anyone stands up and says that travel is a good thing, that the desire for more stuff should be satisfied, and that human ingenuity can and will make the planet a better place, they can be written off as anti-science, as liars, deniers, heretics. Well, when it comes to defending human ambition from the attacks of our pie-chart-armed elite, that's a risk I'm willing to take: let the heresy begin.


Baikal: the gangsters' gun: "James Andre Smartt-Ford, known as Dre, was standing by the steps to the ice at Streatham rink when a black-clad youth emerged from the crowd, gripping a gun. He fired two shots from close range into his victim's back. Dre fell forward dying, his blood spreading across the ice. The revolver that killed Dre had the words "Made in Russia" imprinted close to the muzzle, and was fitted with a silencer to muffle the shots.... That gun, The Times has discovered, was a Baikal IZH-79 - manufactured in the Russian city of Izhevsk to fire teargas pellets, converted in a Lithuanian workshop to shoot live bullets, smuggled into Britain and sold to the armourer of a South London gang. Three years ago no one had heard of the Baikal. Today it is the gun of choice in gangland Britain. The gangs have not chosen it because of any bling or fear factor. The Baikal is a small, snub, black handgun that looks almost like a toy - the sort of cap-gun with which boys played cops and robbers 30 years ago. Unloaded it weighs just 2lb (0.9kg) and sits easily in the palm of the hand. In gunshops in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, it can be bought for 590 litas - about $280 - but in Britain it changes hands for around $5,000. British criminals are drawn to it for two reasons: it is in plentiful supply and works to reliable and deadly effect.

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc

No comments: