Time to change the law on disability hate crime

Lee Irving, a young white man with very short hair wearing a light blue T-shirt with white, green, dark blue and white stripes, in what appears to be a garden with a house and fir trees behind him.Last week in Newcastle, a man who had imprisoned and tortured to death a friend with a learning disability was sentenced to life with a minimum of 23 years for his murder. His mother, girlfriend and lodger were all imprisoned for between three and eight years for such offences as perverting the course of justice and causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult. The main offender, James Wheatley, could have been jailed for a minimum of 30 years if the judge had ruled that the murder was motivated by hostility to his disability, i.e. a hate crime, but the judge ruled that it was motivated by money (Wheatley persuaded his victim, Lee Irving, to sign up to online banking so that he could clear out his account) and thus not a disability hate crime. The usual tariff for murder is 12 to 15 years; the seven years’ difference between the two sentences is roughly half that. As a friend put it on Facebook, ‘unless the defendant screams “I hate disabled people and think they should die” in the dock no judge in the UK will ever treat disability hate crime as disability hate crime’.

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Why I’m against Universal Basic Income

A 32-tonne tipper truck dumps a load of coins in front of a town hall, as people stand and applaud.Recently the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has gained a lot of traction in Left circles in the UK, with calls for Jeremy Corbyn to adopt it and try and make it Labour party policy. This morning, I saw an article on Medium by Frances Coppola, Why the changing nature of work means we need a Universal Basic Income, which suggests that we cannot and shouldn’t try to turn the clock back to a time when there were plentiful jobs in manufacturing because they were “mind-numbing, repetitive jobs”, but rather we should embrace the automation that got rid of them: “bring on the robots, and let the humans go to the pub”. I think this is a rather naive view of both the problem and of UBI as a solution.

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Castro saved his country

Poster of Che Guevara, a former member of Fidel Castro's cabinet, on a red background with the slogan "Hasta la victoria sempre" at the bottom.Years ago, there used to be a common explanation for why communism didn’t work. It was all nice on paper, people would say; the state would share all the wealth around and make sure everyone had what they needed and worked as they were able; yet human greed made the dream impossible in reality. I heard this from an older boy at school around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall; I also saw it written in an opinion piece in the Sun, by Michael Winner if I remember correctly. It was also commonly claimed that the very early followers of Christ practised a form of communism, foregoing personal possessions and sharing everything they had between them.

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What is a congestion charge for?

A road sign saying "Transport for London, Congestion charging, Central Zone, Mon-Fri 7am-6pm". The street scene behind is blurred but seems to include a Hard Rock Café sign.London mayor Sadiq Khan issues £2.5m VW congestion charge call

So, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, is demanding that Volkswagen pay up £2.5m to compensate the London taxpayer for a discount that drivers of some of their diesel cars received from the London Congestion Charge as it was thought that they produced low emissions, which it is now known, since the “defeat devices” scandal, that they did not. 80,000 of these VW, Seat, Skoda and Audi cars were registered in London, although how many of them went into the congestion charge zone (the area inside the Inner Ring Road) every day is not clear. Probably more of them were used for commutes outside that zone, where there are some of the worst polluted roads in the country (like sections of the North Circular Road).

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Lego and the Daily Mail: Before you get too excited …

A front page from the Sun, with the headline "Out on his Ears: Calls for BBC to fire Lineker as he peddles migrant lies"Lego ends advertising with Daily Mail after calls for companies to ‘Stop Funding Hate’ (from the Independent)

According to this report, widely shared by people I know on social media, Lego have announced that an advertising campaign they had been running with the Daily Mail has run its course and they have no plans for any more. This was in a comment to a post on Lego’s Facebook page from one Bob Jones, who said that he could not buy his son Lego for Christmas (which is what he wanted) while they advertised with the Mail. This has been taken as a victory for an online campaign called “Stop Funding Hate” which aims to pressure companies to withdraw advertising from newspapers such as the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express that demonise immigrants and lied to the public during the recent Brexit referendum. However, I believe the idea that this is a huge victory is premature.

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So, about those Democrat infiltrators …

Yesterday, someone posted a link to the blog by the author of the Dilbert cartoons, alleging among other things that violence at Trump rallies had mostly been caused by infiltrators from Clinton’s campaign, who have since been sacked:

1. Trump’s Tough Talk Inspires violence: Ask Clinton supporters if they have seen the Project Veritas video of Clinton operatives talking about paying people to incite violence at Trump rallies. The people on the video have been fired, and we haven’t seen violence at Trump rallies since.

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Is anti-Semitism really “a hate apart”?

Let’s be clear – antismetism is a hate apart | Howard Jacobson | Opinion | The Guardian

The above is in last Sunday’s Observer, and is part of a genre of articles in which an author tries to establish that anti-Semitism is somehow different from other forms of racism. This is in response to comments made by Jeremy Corbyn in regard to accusations of anti-Semitism within the Labour party, in which he condemned anti-Semitism along with other forms of racism and Islamophobia. He asserts:

To assert that antisemitism is unlike other racisms is not to claim a privilege for it. Hating a Jew is no worse than hating anyone else. But while many a prejudice is set off by particular circumstance – the rise in an immigrant population or a locally perceived threat – antisemitism is, as often as not, unprompted, exists outside time and place and doesn’t even require the presence of Jews to explain it. When Marlowe and Shakespeare responded to an appetite for anti-Jewish feeling in Elizabethan England, there had been no Jews in the country for 300 years. Jewishness, for its enemies, is as much an idea as it is anything else.

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Heathrow: No free ride for Zac Goldsmith

A village green in Harmondsworth behind which is a church; to the left is a pub, the Five Bells, and an old house is to the right. Cars are parked on roads outside the pub and house and a yellow litter bin is in the foreground.Today the government announced its preferred option for airport expansion in the south-east of England, and as had been expected, that was a third runway at Heathrow in west London. The other main option had been a second runway at Gatwick, to the south of London. This does not (contrary to the BBC’s report) mean that the plans have been approved, which means it will get built; there still has to be a debate in Parliament (where there may well be a free vote) and there are likely to be legal challenges. The Heathrow plan has long been opposed by Boris Johnson, currently foreign secretary, who represents Uxbridge which is in the same borough as most of the airport (Hillingdon), and Zac Goldsmith, who represents Richmond Park constituency to the south-east of the existing airport, parts of which suffer severely from noise from low-flying planes (having visited friends in nearby Isleworth, I know how disruptive this can be), and has ‘resigned’ in protest, triggering a by-election in which he intends to stand.

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A waste of a life

Nicky Reilly with a bloodied face, being led away by two police officers, one male (off picture) and one female, after the 2008 Exeter bomb blastLast Wednesday, Nicky Reilly, who attempted to blow up a restaurant in Exeter with a home-made bomb which exploded in the toilet, injuring only himself, died in Manchester prison (otherwise known as Strangeways) where he was serving a life sentence for the attack, having been recently been moved from the Broadmoor secure hospital in Berkshire. The circumstances of his death have not been revealed, but we can assume it was not murder as this would have been made public. According to local press reports, Reilly converted to Islam at age 16 and was, according to his mother, a “peaceful follower of Islam” for several years before he was radicalised over a period of weeks in his early 20s by two so-called friends believed to have been in Pakistan and changed his name to Mohammad Abdul-Aziz Rashid Said-Alim, supposedly in reference to the 9/11 attackers (although all but the last are very common Muslim names); the two men apparently went through every last detail to make sure he got it ‘right’, which he of course didn’t.

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What is the real “education gap” in politics?

A front page from the Daily Mail with a lead to their editorial, proclaiming "Damn the unpatriotic Bremoaners and their plot to subvert the will of the British people". Other headlines include "Full steam ahead for HS2", a plan for a high-speed railway across England, and a picture of Rod Stewart and his family.How the education gap is tearing politics apart | David Runciman | Politics | The Guardian

This was the Guardian’s “long read” Wednesday before last, and it explores how education levels are becoming a dividing line in politics, with the better-educated being more likely to vote for broadly liberal or left-wing parties while the less well-educated being more likely to vote rightwards (i.e. Republican in the USA, Tory or UKIP here). This has changed a lot since the early 1980s when the less well-educated were more likely to vote Labour, but that’s because Labour still represented unionised manual workers and degrees were only a possibility for either those from well-off families or those who benefited from selective education.

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Cure or accommodate? It’s not an either-or

A picture of a woman in a wheelchair using a ramp to board a red London busYesterday I saw an advert for a free public lecture at the University of Melbourne (won’t be going; bit too far for me to travel) on the subject “Persons with Disabilities: Cure or Accommodate?” (HT: Carly Findlay). Part of the advertising blurb for the event reads:

“Where should scarce governmental resources be channelled: to improving function and finding cures or making reasonable adjustments to ensure persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in society?”

It then says that “it is the voices of people with disabilities themselves that must guide this debate” and three of the speakers have a disability (blindness in two cases, deafness in one); the other two are an audiologist, who runs an institution that fits cochlear implants, and a psychiatrist. Including a panel member with another type of impairment — say, a wheelchair user, or someone with a chronic illness — would make the panel rather more representative of the disabled community.

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A few weeks back on Android

A white Nexus 5X seen from front and back. The back has the light sensor, camera, fingerprint sensor, and Nexus and LG logos. The front has the speakers, and the screen which shows an aerial view of a beach with houses fronting it, with various application icons.Over the summer, my iPhone broke down. The charging point initially stopped charging when the Lightning plug was not plugged in at exactly the right angle, but one morning while I was out driving and needed to charge, it just wouldn’t. I took my phone to the local Apple Store in the afternoon after work, and they told me they couldn’t fit me in that afternoon and that I’d have to come in first thing Saturday morning. As I needed a phone and couldn’t guarantee that they’d be able to fix my iPhone, which was out of warranty, I went and bought a Nexus 5X from the local Carphone Warehouse. It’s a 32Gb in, I think, aqua blue (which was the only colour they had left). The next morning, I went into the Apple Store and they did manage to get my iPhone charging again, and I put the Nexus back in its case intending to sell it.

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“Sunnis condemn the Saudis” isn’t news

A group of imams in turbans and robes, with a small minaret with crescent and star symbols behindThe Independent carried a story last Thursday in which Robert Fisk claimed that “for the first time”, Saudi Arabia was under attack from both Sunni and Shi’ite scholars as some two hundred scholars, including the mufti of al-Azhar Ahmad al-Tayyib and mufti of Syria Ahmad Hassoun, as well as representatives from Kuwait, Libya, Jordan and Sudan, had met in late August in Grozny, Chechnya at a conference hosted by Putin’s infamous puppet-thug Ramazan Kadyrov and opened by Putin himself, issuing a statement that condemns Wahhabism as a “dangerous deformation” of Islamic belief and calling for “a return to the schools of great knowledge”, presumably meaning the four schools of law. Fisk claims:

Although they did not mention the Kingdom by name, the declaration was a stunning affront to a country which spends millions of dollars every year on thousands of Wahhabi mosques, schools and clerics around the world.

Wahhabism’s most dangerous deviation, in the eyes of the Sunnis who met in Chechenya, is that it sanctions violence against non-believers, including Muslims who reject Wahhabi interpretation. Isis, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are the principal foreign adherents to this creed outside Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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On safety around trucks and mobiles

A blue curtain-sided trailer halfway round a tight corner on a road. Part of this is a public service announcement. I was involved in a minor collision a couple of weeks ago. The scene is in the photograph on the right.

I was taking this bend in the large articulated lorry you can see. It’s a minor road in Edenbridge, Kent which serves some industrial premises as well as some housing. The tractor unit is on its side of the road but the back of the trailer is not. That’s normal when a long articulated vehicle turns a sharp corner. You will notice that it’s not wide enough for a car to get through. Yet, someone tried to drive one through that gap, and the driver’s side of her car ended up against my trailer’s wheels. I stopped when I heard her shouting and honking, and she managed to reverse her car back.

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No, we do not need to act on that referendum

The border along the main Dublin-Belfast road during the Troubles. There is a queue of cars and trucks, with signs saying things like 'Please wait, security check in progress, remain in vehicleIn the months since the referendum on leaving the EU, opinion seems to have hardened on the matter of whether there should be any question of leaving, given the 51.9% vote in favour. In the days following, when the value of the pound had dropped to a long-term low, David Lammy suggested that we should “stop this madness” given the very slim majority, the rapid exposure of the premises of the Brexit campaign as lies, the economic shock and the rise of racially-motivated violence. More than two months later, with favourable trade deals with any other country nowhere on the horizon and hardline anti-Europe Tories in key cabinet positions (such as Liam Fox who favours withdrawal from the EU customs union and a hard border with Ireland, which will make scenes like that in the accompanying picture a reality again), with the new PM insisting there will be no new referendum, no Parliamentary vote and no general election before her government takes the UK out of the EU as a matter of prerogative, the mainstream Left has developed a fatalism over the matter, with both Jeremy Corbyn and Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, stating over the past few days that we “have to respect democracy”; only Owen Smith, the Labour party leadership challenger, advocating a new referendum on whatever deal the Tories are able to strike.

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Modi should have been Keith Vaz’s undoing

A picture of Narendra Modi, an elderly South Asian man with a white beard wearing a long black jacket, and Keith Vaz, a middle-aged, bald South Asian man with glasses, wearing a white shirt and an orange/brown patterned tie, with a black jacket over the top, in the Palace of Westminster.Last Sunday some of the tabloids led with a story about Keith Vaz, the Labour MP for Leicester East, paying male prostitutes, asking them to bring ‘poppers’ and offering to cover the cost of cocaine. As a result of this he has resigned from his chairmanship of the Home Affairs select committee, a position he has held since 2007. On blogs and social media there has been widespread condemnation of the story for being an intrusion into his private life and for the ‘whorephobic’ judgement against his use of ‘sex workers’ and their occupation. Some feminists have countered that his role on the select committee included overseeing an inquiry into how the law on prostitution should be reformed; an interim report recommended that soliciting and brothel-keeping be decriminalised. I believe his downfall should have come sooner, and that there is an element of hypocrisy in this issue also.

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Welcome home and happy birthday

Josh Offer-Simon, a young white boy with short hair, cuddling a small brown dog.Back in February, I featured the story of Joshua Offer-Simon, who was at the time being held in a hospital unit in Birmingham. He had been under section for two years as a result of challenging behaviour stemming from a mixture of ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome and a mild learning disability, during a time when his father was in hospital following a life-changing injury. He was first held in Manchester, where he ended up not leaving his room for several months, and was then transferred to the same unit in Birmingham where Josh Wills had spent three years. He did make progress in Birmingham, but there were safeguarding issues and the management attempted to transfer him to a secure unit in Norfolk, which refused to accept him. Three weeks ago, after attempts to find a residential placement for him failed, he was released from his section and returned to his family; today is his 14th birthday, his first in three years that he has spent at home, with his family, instead of in an institution.

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“Not exactly Mother Teresa”

Mother Teresa, an elderly white woman wearing a white headscarf with blue stripes at the front, with an Indian woman wearing glasses and a white headscarf to her right.So, today the Pope led a ceremony in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican to canonise Mother Teresa, the nun who ran a chain of institutions for the sick, dying and destitute around the world, most famously in Kolkata, India, on the basis that two miraculous cures of sick people have been attributed to her intercession since her death in 1997. Teresa, born Agnese Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, now in Macedonia but then part of the Ottoman Empire, had worked in India since 1929 when she joined the Irish-based Loreto order and was sent to teach in Darjeeling in northern Bengal (now West Bengal). She moved to Kolkata in 1946 and founded her Missionaries of Charity in 1950.

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Listen to women — but which women?

Two women wearing all-over swimsuits. The one on the left has a black suit with pink sleeves and a pink floral motif on the chest. The one on the right is a lifeguard and has a yellow and red uniform suit with "Surf Rescue" and the DHL logo on the front. She is holding a red metal pole.Last Friday the highest court in France, the Council of State (Conseil d’État), struck down the ban on full-body swimsuits or so-called burkinis which had been imposed by some 30 municipalities in southern France on various pretexts such as morality, public order and security, ruling that it “seriously, and clearly illegally, breached the fundamental freedoms to come and go, the freedom of beliefs and individual freedom”. This followed incidents in which women were arrested and fined for wearing the garment in public, and one woman was surrounded by four armed police on a beach and ordered to remove her headscarf (she was not wearing a “burkini”); in similar incidents, sunbathers in the vicinity shouted “go home” and “we are Catholics here”. The BBC carried two important interviews, one of them on BBC London with a female human rights scholar in Toulouse who debunked some of the myths being peddled by supporters of the ban (e.g. that the women approached by police on beaches had gone there to seek out trouble), and another on Radio 4 at lunchtime in which a spokesman from the Human Rights League accused local politicians of fomenting trouble that had not previously existed and dismissed a ruling from the local administrative court in which wearing the ‘burkini’ was compared to allegiance with terrorism, saying, “if someone can think that without being drunk, we might as well quit any reasonable discussion in a democracy”.

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Let’s be clear: the French swimsuit ban is about hate

A woman sitting on the edge of a swimming pool, wearing a black two-piece black swimsuit consisting of a tunic and trousers with pink decorative lines, with a black and pink hood over her head of similar material.In the past couple of weeks several coastal regions of France, including the districts that include Cannes, Nice and Menton, have banned women from wearing the full-body swimsuits known as ‘burkinis’ that are popular with Muslim women on their beaches. The mayor of Cannes justified it on the grounds of “security”, claiming that the swimsuits do not represent “good morals and secularism” and claiming, “manifesting religious affiliation in an ostentatious way, while France and its religious sites are currently the target of terrorist attacks, could create risks of trouble to public order”. In other words, they do not want to see anything that looks like Islam when “Islam” had just attacked them. (More: Aishah Schwartz.)

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