High Speed 2: London to Nottingham, the long way round

A green, two-carriage train on a railway line, with an old-style signal box to the right, on a sunny day with green trees on both sides.Earlier this week it was announced that the route for the proposed high-speed rail line from London to Manchester and Leeds, known as High Speed 2, had been released. The line is already projected to cut a swathe through the town and country from London to Birmingham, necessitating the destruction of homes and businesses around Euston before despoiling the pleasant countryside of the Chilterns and southern Midlands. It is now revealed that there will be two branches, one stopping at Crewe, Manchester Airport and Manchester city centre, and another to a place called Toton in Nottinghamshire, a shopping centre on the outskirts of Sheffield, and finally Leeds.

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Acton’s not white anymore, moans Salisbury Reviewer

Picture of Muslim-owned shops in Acton, west London, from the Telegraph. Two shops are clearly visible, one closed down, both with clearly visible Arabic lettering; rest are out of focus.‘I feel like a stranger where I live’ - Telegraph

This article appeared in today’s Telegraph and I had the ‘pleasure’ of seeing the print edition which has several stock images which are not in the online version. They include a picture of women in veils at an al-Muhajiroun demonstration, and a still from one of those “Muslim vigilante” videos that were shot in east London (Acton is in west London). The article is full of the familiar moans about how a “working-class area” has become full of unfriendly immigrants who cover up to their eyeballs and do not speak to white people or even serve them in shops. I cannot directly challenge the veracity of some of Kelly’s accusations against local shopkeepers, except to say that I doubt it. There are some claims that can be factually challenged, as well as the author’s bias exposed.

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Claire Khaw arrested, allegedly

Picture of Jessica ThomNewsflash! Claire Khaw Arrested, Apparently For Blog Post Accusing Jessica Thom Of Putting On Tourettes « Same Difference

Claire Khaw is the blogger best known for getting onto various radio talk-shows and online forums and spouting extremely offensive views about disabled people, among them that severely disabled children should be rejected (in one Facebook posting she used the phrase “drop it on its head”) because they are a burden on society (you can read of how the disability community came to know about this character here). She has been a member of the British National Party, though she recently tried to join the Tory party, but was expelled from the party after they discovered the nonsense she spouted (on which the Guardian reported here and here). This past week, she (or her friends) reported that she had been arrested, and her computer impounded, supposedly because she had accused Jessica Thom (AKA Touretteshero), pictured, of faking her condition.

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Let’s not panic over Mali and Algeria

Picture of Moktar Belmoktar, a white man wearing dark green battle clothes and a black turban, holding what looks like an assault rifle in his left arm.Until we learn to be as single-minded as the fanatics - at home and abroad - we’re ALL hostages | Mail Online

In response to the attack by an “al-Qa’ida franchise” on the gas installation in south-eastern Algeria, Melanie Phillips has popped up with another exhortation to get tough on both Muslims at home and terrorists abroad. She does not mention Israel, but as anyone who has been watching her for a few years knows, that is her real interest when talking about any issue involving Muslims here or abroad, hence the demand to treat “the Muslim Brotherhood as a deadly threat to freedom everywhere, rather than embracing them within Whitehall as helpful to the West”.

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Burchill’s bigoted rant has no place in the Observer

Picture of David Bowie from 1973; a picture of a white man in a red top with a turcquoise feather thing wrapped round his chest, and various other brightly-coloured accoutrements.Today the Observer posted an article by Julie Burchill, a right-wing columnist given to bigoted rants laden with gratuitous slurs, against the transsexual “lobby” in response to the supposed bullying of Suzanne Moore, a long-standing Guardian columnist, who published an article on female anger in the New Statesman which included a comment that women “are angry with [themselves] for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual”, which many people took offence to partly because it implied that transsexuals are not real women, and partly because Brazilian transsexuals are the subject of much violence, including murder. Moore remained unapologetic, published another article (this time in the Guardian) which appeared to compare them to David Bowie (who isn’t one) and called for people to focus on what “really matters” like opposing cuts and the collapse of the social contract. Then, Burchill weighed in last night, and the piece appeared in the print edition and, under a sub-heading telling “those who feel oppressed” not to bully others in turn, contained:

Though I imagine it to be something akin to being savaged by a dead sheep, as Denis Healey had it of Geoffrey Howe, I nevertheless felt indignant that a woman of such style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chicks’ clothing.

To my mind – I have given cool-headed consideration to the matter – a gaggle of transsexuals telling Suzanne Moore how to write looks a lot like how I’d imagine the Black and White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run would look. That rude and ridic.

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Undateables: same old stories

Picture of Sarah, a young white woman wearing a striped navy blue and white jumper, standing in a school corridor with two boys walking past her.Last Tuesday, the first in the new series of “The Undateables”, Channel 4’s series in which they attempt to match up people with various disabilities with partners, aired. I saw some of the first series, and was disappointed that the first episode appeared to be a re-run of the stories from the first: one guy with autism whose social ineptitude made dating awkward, and another with Tourette’s (not the same people, but very similar stories). The third from this week’s programme was a young woman who had suffered a stroke aged 18, which left her unable to express herself in words, either spoken or in writing. Thus, her mother has to help her with most communication and she has been unable to complete her studies. Others in the series (yet to be introduced) are women with achondroplasia (a form of dwarfism) and another with Asperger’s and severe OCD which means she has allowed nobody to touch her for more than a year, and men with Crouzon syndrome (a hereditary condition affecting the bones of the skull), albinism, learning disabilities and neurofibromatosis (the latter being the only one photographed in a wheelchair). The home page for the first episode is here and you can find the link to watch it on 4oD (if you’re in the UK) there. (More: Kykaree, Writer in a Wheelchair, Adult SLP Talk.)

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Christmas, converts and that fatwa

Just before last Christmas, the Egyptian Muslim scholar (currently Grand Mufti of Egypt), Ali Gomaa (or Ali Jumu’ah) replied to a question from someone whose mother had left Islam, as to whether he and his brother should spend Christmas with her, as she would otherwise have nobody to spend the time with. The mother had continued to serve her sons halaal meat when they visited and greeted them at Eid. The shaikh responded by emphasising the importance of maintaining family ties, including with non-Muslim family members, condemning what he calls “the unauthentic opinions of some self claimed scholars who equate spending time with one’s non Muslim family during Christmas and the like with shirk or polytheism”, and claiming that Islam is “an open system” and that Muslims respect and honour all the Prophets (peace be up on them) including Jesus, and that “there is no legal impediment to participating in celebrating the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him)”. Other scholars have rebutted his opinion, the reply by Shaikh Muhammad Daniel having been shared the most, along with some Hanafi opinions quoted by Abdus-Shakur Brooks.

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Simon Wessely: more sinning than sinned against

Picture of Simon WesselyIn the current New Year honours, Professor Simon Wessely has received a knighthood and will henceforth be known as Professor Sir Simon Wessely. In this he joins the company of Roy Meadow, the doctor who testified against various mothers who had lost multiple babies to cot death, leading to at least three of them being jailed for murder until his errors were unveiled by the BBC. It has already been commented that the knighthood also went to Jimmy Savile, recently exposed (albeit posthumously) as a prolific sex offender, and that the awarding of knighthoods to pop stars and to athletes who have only just proved themselves somewhat devalues them. However, professors, civil servants, military officers and the like do not get knighthoods unless they really are seen as distinguised, so this demonstrates that Wessely is very much an establishment figure.

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Christian persecution campaigners lose Sunday work case

Picture of Paul Diamond, addressing a 'pro-family' rally in MassachusettsChristians have no right to refuse to work on Sundays, rules judge - Telegraph

This is the latest appeal in the case of Celestine Mba, a former carer for children with learning disabilities in south-west London, who had resigned from her job when the management refused to allow her every Sunday off to go to her Baptist church. (She claims they initially did, then changed their minds.) She has now lost the appeal, with the judges citing the fact that most Christians did not demand to have every Sunday off and thus there was no reason for her to. The Telegraph’s report, which seems to rely heavily on material from various “Christian rights” campaigners including the “Christian Legal Centre” which brought this case, alleges that various other faith groups have secured accommodations, such as the right to wear a bangle for Sikh women or the right for Muslims to attend prayers or wear the hijab, a standard plank of the Christian persecution campaigners’ case.

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Tories have lost 2015 already, says Conservative Home editor

Picture of Paul Goodman, a white man with grey hair wearing a dark-coloured suit, a white shirt and blue tie. To his left is what looks like a school display from an Islamic school, with Arabic writing.This article has been appearing in my Twitter feed a lot this morning; it’s by the executive editor of ConservativeHome (and former MP for Wycome in Buckinghamshire), Paul Goodman, and predicts that 2015 is already lost for the Tories and the likely outcome is a Labour-led government. The reasons are mainly that the Left is united as Respect has failed to take off and left-wing Lib Dem voters have defected en masse back to Labour, while the Tories’ vote is being eaten away by UKIP. He also claims that the Tories need to increase their party’s share of the vote by four points or more, which no governing party has ever managed to do. I think the Left should beware of crowing over this article which has appeared nearly two-and-a-half years before the final date for any 2015 election.

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Will Huntingdon toll scheme drive traffic away?

Picture of a dual carriageway full of cars and trucks, and a green direction sign on the leftBBC News - Road pricing: More new roads could be funded by tolls

The battle goes on to find a way to fund a supposedly much-needed upgrade to the A14 in Cambridgeshire, which is a heavily-used cross-country dual carriageway that has two roundabouts in the middle of it, from when that bit of it was just a regional main road from Cambridge to Kettering. The government seems to favour contracting it out to a private company which will fund it through a toll. They seem not to remember the problems that toll roads have always had in this country: people avoid them.

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The problem with ‘privilege’ (and the anti-cuts movement)

The problem with privilege-checking by Tom Midlane (from the New Statesman website)

I had this article tweeted at me earlier this week and the accompanying comment read “Privilege is a myth. Guess before you read whether it’s written by someone with a lot of it”. Actually, the article doesn’t say privilege is a myth, just that sections of the progressive Left have become tangled up in obsessive “privilege checking” while the Right gets on with cutting the NHS and other public services and benefits:

In October Ariel Meadow Stallings, founder of Offbeat Empire (a series of alternative lifestyle blogs), wrote a brilliant blog entitled “Liberal bullying: privilege-checking and semantics-scolding as internet sport”. Meadow Stallings diagnosed the problem as progressives being over-zealous in their privilege-checking and turning their fire on each other, but personally I’m not so sure. While the idea is obviously born out of honourable intentions, I believe the whole discourse around privilege is inherently destructive – at best, a colossal distraction, and at worst a means of turning us all into self-appointed moral guardians out to aggressively police even fellow travellers’ speech and behaviour.

Why does this matter, you ask? The answer is simple: it matters because privilege-checking has thoroughly infected progressive thought. While large swathes of the left are obsessively pouncing on verbal slips on Twitter, the right are acting: systematically deconstructing not just the welfare state, but the state itself.

Privilege-checking plays into the dangerous postmodern fallacy that we can only understand things we have direct experience of. In place of concepts like empathy and imagination, which help us recognise our shared humanity, it atomises us into a series of ever-smaller taxonomical groups: working class transsexual, disabled black woman, heteronormative male.

The NS posted a response from Zoe Stavri (AKA Stavvers) here.

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Kesgrave Hall abuse in the Guardian

Picture of Kesgrave Hall, a yellowish Georgian building surrounded by hills and woodsFormer pupils call for new investigation into abuse claims at Suffolk school | Society | The Guardian

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a journalist from the Guardian, Josh Halliday, who saw a blog post I made in response to the story of Jimmy Savile’s alleged abuse at Duncroft school in the 1970s, and contacted me and a number of other boys who had suffered or witnessed abuse at my school, Kesgrave Hall, in the late 1980s. The story is on page 24 of today’s print edition, and there is an accompanying piece and a video focussing on one particular victim’s story (not mine). Halliday has interviewed a number of former pupils, including me and one of my friends from the same form, and a few older boys (nobody younger than me), and also two former headmasters but no other staff (a director refused to comment). The piece does reflect the violent atmosphere at the school but in some cases trivialises it, and the headmaster’s response is frankly ludicrous.

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There’s no “war” on Britain’s roads

Last Wednesday there was a programme on BBC1 called “The War on Britain’s Roads”, which was based on footage shot from cyclists’ helmets, and included various encounters with dangerous drivers and cyclists and confrontations that sometimes resulted, including a physical assault. They also interviewed a policeman who deals with cycling-related offences and confrontations as well as a woman whose daughter was killed by a truck driver making a left turn. There was a truck driver and a cab driver interviewed as well as two of the cycle filmers, and there was also the usual bellyaching about cyclists jumping red lights and how that could get them killed. It was obvious, though, that the major threat to cyclists’ safety came from aggressive car drivers and negligent truck drivers.

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Ayn van Dyk: beginning of the happy ending

Picture of Ayn van Dyk, a 9-year-old (at the time of this photo) white girl with short blonde hair, wearing a pink top and trousers, the top with grey sleeves and a white CND-type logo on it. She is sitting on a green sofa with a set of brightly-coloured soft toys behind it.This past week I heard some very happy news from the family of Ayn van Dyk, the young autistic Canadian girl who was seized from her home by social workers in British Columbia after a brief wandering incident. Last Tuesday her father signed an agreement with the department to allow Ayn to return home in the next couple of months. This is an agreement that had been suggested about a year ago, but to which they have finally agreed, just as her case was about to go to trial. This means it is highly unlikely that she will be back home for her birthday, which is this month, or Christmas, but she is likely to return in January or February. (More: Hellcat Trish.)

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Labour ‘expels councillors’ who campaigned for rival

A picture of a Sunday market in Brick Lane, part of the area involved in this dispute. Labour party expels councillors who ‘supported rival’ (BBC News; more at The Wharf)

This report is about three former Labour councillors who were expelled from the party in east London for supporting an independent candidate, Gulam Rabbani, in a council by-election in Spitalfields in April 2012. The party has a policy of expelling any member who stands against a Labour candidate in any election or supports a rival candidate in any way. In recent years, in some areas, they have policed this quite ruthlessly, with people expelled in south Wales even for writing a letter to a paper giving a link to a website on tactical voting.

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Final Overground section opens; BBC mourns ‘loss’

A view from a train driver's cab, showing trees to the left, trackbed in front and a block of flats behind it.Tomrrow (Sunday) the last section of the London ‘Overground’ (a mostly overground but partly underground group of railway services which run mostly just outside central London) is opening; this is a line from Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays, where it joins the old East London line which is already operating Overground services from Islington to Croydon via Whitechapel. No new station is opening — the line runs through Clapham, Camberwell and Peckham, and there is one bit of line which has been built across the industrial area north-east of Peckham. This provides an important link from south-east London to the Docklands, but it also ends the Victoria to London Bridge service which has been running, says the BBC, since 1867.

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Punish bad nurses, but don’t let the bosses off the hook

Picture of Kane Gorny, a young man with a tube in his nose wearing a hospital gown, hugging his mother. He died because of negligence at St George's hospital, LondonLast Wednesday the secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt, made a speech at the King’s Fund on “the quality of care”, in which he alleged, among other things, that there had been a “normalisation of cruelty” and gave as examples “patients left to lie in their own excrement in Stafford Hospital”, “the residents kicked, punched, humiliated, dragged by their hair, forced through cold showers at Winterbourne View”, “the elderly woman with dementia repeatedly punched and slapped at Ash Court care home” and “the cancer patient at St George’s, Tooting, who lost a third of his body fluid, desperately ringing the police for help, because staff didn’t listen or check his medical records”. He claimed that this culture of cruelty was “perhaps the biggest problem of all facing the NHS”, apparently ignorant of the fact that the second and third of these examples were not in NHS facilities at all — a pretty staggering oversight.

Ellie Mae O’Hagan, in yesterday’s Guardian, argues that nurses really haven’t stopped caring as it has become fashionable to claim; nursing is a low-status, lower-middle-class profession and any attempt to raise its status is met with ridicule, as with the common perception that degree nurses are “too posh to wash”. She also notes that when there is misconduct in a public institution it is deemed to be a sign of a disease in the system, while when the institution is private, it is “a few bad apples”, and that “when a government wants to dismantle a beloved institution, it is expedient to suggest that it is suffering from a malignancy”, as others have observed about the flurry of horror stories about cruel nurses — and it seems to be always nurses and never doctors). In fact, few people who are not extremely rich can afford to support its dismantling.

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Leveson: what about the content?

Picture of Lord Leveson, chairman of the Leveson inquiry into the British pressLast week the Leveson inquiry finally reported, and the key points can be found here, but they include a new independent regulator backed by statute but independent of government and the industry, with membership not compulsory but non-members monitored by Ofcom; the watchdog should have the power to fine a newspaper up to 1% of turnover or £1m, whichever is smaller, with “sufficient powers of investigation”, a libel resolution unit, and possibly a First Amendment-style law. David Cameron immediately opposed statute-backed regulation, claiming that it would “mean for the first time we have crossed the Rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into law of the land”. He is opposed in this by Labour, the Lib Dems and much of the Tory party as well as some of those who reported to the inquiry about their experience of press intrusion, phone hacking etc., but supported by the Tories in his cabinet (and, of course, the commercial media).

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Good enough for Olympians, good enough for the plebs

Picture of a dark-coloured sheep in a grassy field next to a stream in a valleyBBC News - Lancashire Muslims Halal school dinner boycott call

The Lancashire Council of Mosques has advised Muslim parents in the county to boycott the new ‘halaal’ dinners being offered to their children by the local council in the schools because the meat comes from animals which were stunned before slaughter (press release here in PDF). The council previously had an arrangement with another supplier, which it terminated after an inspection, but council leader Geoff Driver insisted that the council would not supply meat from non-stunned animals and that the suppliers were accredited by the same body that certified meat for the Olympics last year.

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