A rail geography lesson for jihadis and journos

Over the years I’ve noticed that a standard tactic of the dishonest journalist or columnist in the age of the Internet is to rely on the geographical ignorance of your overseas audience, most of whom will not know or care if you claim, for example, that Downe (home of Nigel Farage and his favoured drinking den) is a typical Kent village rather than a well-heeled London suburb, or that parts of London have become Islamic enclaves when in fact they are mixed, and Muslim women just feel more confident to wear the veil because they are less likely to get spat at. Latest offender is Shiraz Maher, whose lengthy piece about a group from Portsmouth who went to fight for the so-called Islamic State in Syria, in the current New Statesman (not currently online) contains this geographical howler:

They took circuitous and different routes to the airport. Rahman, Uzzaman and Roshid all took the train to Gatwick from Fratton Station in Portsmouth. Choudhury travelled by car, while Hassan made his way separately from Guildford.

The seven stops from Fratton, near Portsmouth, to Gatwick AirportI used to live in Croydon, which had a major station on the southern main line to the coast (East Croydon), and there were trains to Portsmouth at least hourly, with another taking a really circuitous route to Southampton (via Hove, the junior partner to Brighton). They all stop at Gatwick Airport. All the trains that go to Portsmouth stop at all four stations on Portsea Island, including Fratton. There’s an hourly direct train from Fratton to Gatwick, which is the nearest major international airport to Portsmouth, and it takes the most direct route, via Horsham and Crawley, and they take just over an hour. So they did not take a ‘circuitous’ route so as to disguise their intentions (and why would three of them travel together if that was the idea?), but a very common and fairly quick route that probably hundreds of people take every day. (And there is a direct train from Guildford to Gatwick Airport as well; it runs hourly, ten minutes past each hour, and is run by First Great Western.)

(Shiraz, readers may recall, is a remnant of the “celebrity ex-jihadi” movement of about seven or eight years ago, which imploded spectacularly when Hassan Butt revealed that his tale of having received jihad training in Pakistan was made up and that the injuries he’d received at the hands of former jihadis were self-inflicted. Shiraz, who regularly crops up as an ‘expert’ on Islamist and jihadi movements in the media, claimed he had joined Hizb-ut-Tahrir after 9/11 and left after the July 2005 London bombings, despite the first being a spectacular and the second, a routine operation for a major terrorist group, and despite HT and Al-Qaida being ideologically and organisationally entirely separate. I didn’t believe it then, and don’t believe anything he writes now, and these slip-ups, or deceits, show he cannot be trusted.)

Possibly Related Posts:


Lipman, the socialist, deserts the poor for Israel

Last week Maureen Lipman, the British comic actress best known for roles in advertisements in the 1980s (as in “if you’ve got an ‘ology, you’re a scientist”), announced in an article for Standpoint magazine that she was not going to be voting Labour at the next election, primarily because its leader, Ed Miliband, had supported the vote in the Commons to recognise the state of Palestine:

“The world is exploding around us. Isis is beheading our civilians while raping and pillaging across Syria and Iraq. Presidents Putin and Assad are playing such heavy-handed games that we don’t know which rebel group to support.

“Hong Kong may be about to see a replay of Tiananmen. Islamist terrorism in every spot on the globe and if one Jew had been responsible for any of those bombings, there would, I am afraid to say, have been another Kristallnacht.

“At this point in our history you choose to back these footling backbenchers in this ludicrous piece of propaganda?”

She went on: “May I remind you that no one is tunnelling into Dover or sending rockets into Coventry, yet we seem to have every right to bomb the living daylights out of Iraq.

“Again. Conclusion: one law for the Israelis, another law for the rest of the world. Plus ca change.”

She also criticised him for eating a bacon sandwich, inviting him for a Sabbath dinner at her house, and told the magazine that, despite being a socialist, that she would vote for “any other party” until Labour was again led by “mensches” (decent people).

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Bedroom Tax gag on Lamont typical of Labour’s cowardice

Picture of Johann Lamont, a white woman with fair hair wearing a light green jacket.Miliband barred Lamont from attacking bedroom tax for 12 months | Politics | theguardian.com

Yesterday, in the fallout from Johann Lamont’s resignation as leader of the Scottish Labour party (a nominally independent Scottish version of the Labour party), “sources close” to Lamont revealed that Ed Miliband had ordered her not to attack the Bedroom Tax (the policy by which a person or family’s housing benefit is cut if they are deemed to have “spare bedrooms”, which may not be spare at all) while he made up his mind on the issue; this resulted in the widespread perception that Lamont was indecisive and vague on the issue. This, to me, is typical of the cowardice which Labour show when the agenda is being set by the Tories and their press, and it goes back to well before Tony Blair came to office.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Julie Bindel does not deserve a “no-platform” policy

Julie BindelThis week Julie Bindel (right) is due to speak in a debate at Essex University about pornography. Bindel is a radical feminist best known for her work with Justice for Women, a group that fought to get women who killed violent husbands and partners out of prison starting with Sara Thornton in the early 90s; she has also written extensively on violence against women, on prostitution and people-trafficking, transgenderism and pornography. Someone has started a petition to get her dis-invited, however, and so far it has attracted 200 signatures, mostly from well away from the university. The event she is due to speak at next week is aimed at first year undergrads and is part of their “Think!” seminars, organised by the social sciences faculty. While other attempts to prevent Julie Bindel appearing at university events have been successful, at present she is still listed as attending the event. (I read about this campaign on the Edinburgh-based feminist Louise Pennington’s blog, but she does not accept comments from men anymore. She covered a previous attempt to exclude Julie Bindel, and I did comment on that.)

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


From Clegg to Clacton

Douglas CarswellThe other night I was driving home (I had a long drive from Diss, Norfolk to west London, which takes three hours by any reasonable route in an 18-tonne lorry) and listening to reports on Nick Clegg’s speech at the (now forgotten, I think) Lib Dem party conference. In that speech, he told everyone off for looking for someone to blame for the current crisis, be it big business, immigrants or Europe. He also reminded everyone how he’d toned down the Tories’ worst instincts during his four years cosying up to them, and promised that he’d never repeat the mistake of caving in on increasing student tuition fees. Then on Friday morning, we woke to find that UKIP had gained the seat of Clacton in Essex in a by-election in which the sitting (former Tory) MP, Douglas Carswell (right), had defected and put himself up for re-election. In a 51% turnout, Carswell won 60% of the vote, more than double the nearest rival (a Conservative). In another by-election in Heywood and Middleton in Greater Manchester, Labour held the seat and increased its share of the vote by 1%, but UKIP came second with only about 600 fewer votes.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Would Braille have thrived in inclusive education?

The other day I had a brief tweet discussion with Liz Ball, campaigns involvement officer with Sense, the British deafblind charity, about whether Braille would have become established as the major means of written communication for blind people had the Victorians embraced inclusive education. That was prompted by an article on the BBC’s Ouch (disability) section on a forgotten group of Victorian educationalists who deplored the trend towards segregated schools for deaf and blind children which often taught particular trades which sometimes enriched the institutions, not the pupils. In the 21st century, the majority of blind children in the UK are taught in mainstream schools and Braille has declined in popularity. I do not think that these two facts mean that Braille would have been forgotten without the segregated schools of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Niqab in Camden: where are the Muslim voices?

Picture of a white woman wearing a white headscarf and separate face-covering, with an embroidered 'border' under the eyes.The niqab is not just a fashion statement | @guardianletters | World news | The Guardian

These two letters appeared in today’s Guardian in response to an article in yesterday’s edition by Gaby Hinsliff, a former politics editor at the Observer, which argued that people who wear unusual or disapproved-of clothing, including niqaab, should not be denied an education even if banning niqaab could be justified in other contexts. The second letter raises the issue that the veil could make it difficult for deaf fellow students or teachers to interact with this girl; the first is just the standard, uninformed white woman’s opinion about what the niqab ‘represents’:

However, she wilfully ignores what it means to cover schoolgirls’ faces: the face-veil is no more just “a scrap of fabric” than a gag is, it is an iconic manifestation of an ideology which holds that women’s faces are analogous to their genitals as a source of shame which must be hidden from all men other than their husbands.

If it is a fashion choice, it is that of Isis, the Taliban, Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, who – along with our Saudi allies – brutally enforce this particular deletion of women from public life. Tolerating misogyny is one thing, but it is depressing that a certain patronising mindset seems to cover its own liberal face so it cannot see and challenge it.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


ITV’s soft focus on learning disability crisis

A woman and man sitting on the floor with their baby son, who has Down's syndromeLast Thursday ITV broadcast a 24-minute programme titled Against the Odds, which supposedly revealed “the reality of life for people with learning disabilities in the UK, with many experiencing harassment and violence and just 6.4% in paid work”, as part of its Tonight strand. They interviewed several families, including the parents of a boy with Down’s syndrome who had faced the suggestion that they abort him, a young woman who had participated in equestrian and running events at the Special Olympics, a man who had been the victim of public harassment when trying to live independently a few years ago, another who was bullied at school because of his condition and had been out of work for four years, and a man in his 40s with Down’s syndrome who was preparing to move into a shared house. The format of the documentary did not give enough time to investigate all these issues, but very little attempt was made even within this limited format. The programme just consisted of a procession of happy endings. (It can be viewed in the UK here for the next four weeks or so.)

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


The UK is not the USSR, nor an abusive relationship

Recently I’ve seen some quite preposterous commentary on the Scottish independence referendum, which is taking place as I type this. I have heard that the turnout for this has been higher than at any recent general election, which shows what happens when voters think voting will make a difference. Social media seems to favour Yes, but a fairly large proportion of the population do not have access to it, or just don’t use it. Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, published an article on his blog, based on a conversation he had with a Polish friend who had changed his mind and decided to vote Yes. The article compared Scotland within the UK to Poland under the Warsaw Pact, and the British media now to Poland’s under communism. It’s a quite ridiculous comparison.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


There will be FUD

A demonstration in favour of a Yes vote in Glasgow, today (13th September 2014); people are filling a street and there are Scottish flags being held in the foregroundIn under a week as of this writing, the Scottish independence referendum will have been held and the votes will either have been counted, or will be in the process. Last Sunday in the Observer, Will Hutton proposed a constitutional settlement to save the union: a wholesale change to the British constitution, giving each of the constituent nations an assembly of its own, including England, the replacement of the House of Lords with a “House of Britain” representing the nations and regions, and greater autonomy for cities and towns. The major parties have already promised to transfer more powers to the Scottish parliament in the event of a No vote, in particular greater control over taxes.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Ice buckets and cruelty

A picture of a black African boy meeting a white woman wearing glasses, and a caption saying "So, let me get this straight: you waste clean water as a challenge in order to avoid raising money for charity?"I’m sure everyone has heard of the “ice-bucket challenge”, in which someone is filmed having a bucket of freezing water poured over their head in response to donations to a charity, usually one dedicated to Motor Neurone Disease, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or, in the USA, Lou Gehrig’s Disease after a baseball player from the 1930s who died of it aged 37. Various complaints have been raised about it, including that it’s a waste of water (see image right), that many people aren’t donating at all or don’t really understand what it’s about, and that it’s already leading to bullying incidents or assaults. However, the silliest complaint, in my opinion, is that the major ALS charities fund research that uses experiments on animals.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Claire Dyer and the LB Bill

Picture of Claire Dyer, a young white woman with shoulder-length hair, looking through a closed window at her dog, Jonjo, who is being held up to the window by a person in a black raincoat.On Friday 1st August, Claire Dyer’s family lost their legal bid to stop her being transferred from an assessment and treatment unit in Swansea, where her family live, to a medium-secure unit near Brighton, some 230 miles from her home. Claire was transported within an hour of the decision being made, without any of her family being given the chance to say goodbye. A number of charities have spoken out over this dreadful decision, including Mencap, after Claire’s supporters contacted them en masse through Twitter in the days before her transfer. Hamish Laing, medical director of the local health board, promised a number of people who alerted him on Twitter that he would “speak with MH team to get more info”, but it didn’t have the desired effect, if he said anything (although she is still under the board’s care, even though she is a long way out of area).

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Claire Dyer: Transfer postponed!

Selection of pictures of Claire and family at the Race for Life in Swansea last Sunday; participants are all in pink, as is usual

Update 30th July, 14:13: See this BBC news report - this may be on TV later, especially in Wales.

Update 14:55: There is to be a court hearing this Friday; Claire will not be moved before then.

Yesterday Catherine Dyer, mother of Claire who I have been writing about for some time, told us that her daughter was to be transferred to a medium-secure hospital unit near Brighton tomorrow (Wednesday). Claire is autistic and displays challenging behaviour (ie., self-injury, hitting others and property), particularly in stressful situations, as is fairly common with autism. However, the family say they have only experienced a few such incidents over the last few years, mainly because they keep her occupied, which the assessment and treatment unit she is currently in does not. Claire has been out or home with her family on most days since being sectioned last September, which is otherwise unheard-of for someone held under Section 3. This will not continue when she is transferred, and visits will be much less frequent as it’s a five-hour journey.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


'Retirement flats' to free up family homes

Picture of Vanessa Feltz, a white woman with long blonde hair wearing a thick white coat of some sortDemos: build retirement properties to free up 3 million family homes

I was going to be writing a piece this morning about how unworkable it would be to ‘encourage’ the over-55s to move out of their family homes in London into retirement flats on the coast, as was being discussed on the Vanessa Feltz show on BBC London yesterday morning. I listened to the first hour and a bit of the show as I drove out of London on my run up to Rotherham; I go out of range around Luton and switch to Radio 4 then anyway. The prompt for that was a Demos report which she said claimed that the think-tank were proposing encouraging older people living in family homes in the suburbs to move out so that young families could move in. However, I took a look at the press release this morning, and it really says no such thing.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:

Online friends, suicide and threats thereof

Recently, two people I know (or knew) on Twitter posted threats to kill themselves. One of them is a woman who has bipolar disorder and has been in hospital on several occasions recently; the other has a chronic, disabling condition and has had her hopes raised and then dashed repeatedly since her condition deteriorated in 2012. The latter left Twitter this past week, after friends took her threats seriously and told both her husband and the police; this led to a hospital appointment having to be cancelled. I wasn’t one of the people who called the police, or her husband, because I do not know more about her than her first name. But if I had done, I would have called whoever I knew could help.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Claire threatened with secure unit transfer again

Claire (a young white woman wearing a stripey white and blue top and grey tracksuit bottoms, wearing red and black ear defenders) sitting on a beach with a small brown dog.Last January I wrote about Claire Dyer, a young autistic woman in Swansea who was at the time being threatened with transfer to a secure hospital in Northampton. Then as now, she was living mostly in an assessment and treatment unit, which is a mental health unit for people with learning disabilities, in Swansea and spending much time at home or out and about with her family, despite being detained under section 3 of the Mental Health Act. Her family were appealing against the section, which ultimately expired (but was renewed), and for a while it appeared that the Northampton option was “highly unlikely”, and bespoke placements (where she would occupy a bungalow and have support staff) were being looked at. This week, however, things have taken a serious downturn, and staff have ‘agreed’ (with other clinicians that have never met Claire) that she should be transferred to a secure unit, which could be anywhere in the UK, as soon as a bed is available. The family have invoked the “nearest relative” method to get her released (this means that if the unit do not discharge her within three days, a tribunal must be held within a month). She has since been denied a routine day out because of medication given in the evening, something that has not been done before and which neither she nor her family were warned of.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Work

The past month or so, I’ve been working full-time, and most of that has been in one job that requires quite long hours — it usually starts at 9am (which is late for a driving job; they usually start around 7 or 8am) and finishes around 8pm. It involves driving an 18-tonne truck from Park Royal in north-west London, via Hemel Hempstead, to a depot outside Rotherham, and back (straight to Park Royal). What I’m doing is delivering sandwiches; the company is a major supplier of them and you can find their sandwiches in a number of high-street shops and at airports and railway stations. The upshot is that I’m earning money, but have very little time for myself at the moment and that includes for writing, particularly as I only got Saturday off this and last weekend (however, for legal reasons, I have to have three days off next weekend).

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


McDougalls' children removed yet again

Mark and Kerry McDougall, the Scottish couple who fled to Ireland in 2009 to avoid the social services in Fife, Scotland, taking her then unborn son into care at birth (on the grounds that she was unfit to be a parent because of her learning difficulties) have had both their sons removed by the same department last Saturday. The couple had returned to Dunfermline last year as they wanted to be near friends and family, but social workers interfered from the start, insisting that Mark not work as Kerry should not look after the children unsupervised. The latest development seems to have occurred after Mark was arrested for calling social services and ‘threatening’ one of the staff (he claims that his offending consisted of nothing more than a raised voice) after they interviewed one of the children at nursery without their presence or consent. Mark was bailed on the condition that he not contact the department.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


So, what are these 'British values', then?

Picture of Michael Wilshaw, a white man wearing a dark suit, accompanied by a middle-aged female teacher in a yellow coat and skirt, watching a lesson through a glass screen.I’m a bit late in writing about this, as I’ve been working long hours the past two weeks during which the Ofsted report into a number of Birmingham schools supposedly targeted by a conspiracy to turn them into Muslim schools by the back door was released and several of them were put into special measures, having previously been classified as outstanding. This past week, one of the governing bodies resigned en masse, and on Thursday it was reported that new government rules will require new academies and ‘free schools’ to abide by so-called fundamental British values, which include “respect for the law, democracy, equality and tolerance of different faiths and religious and other beliefs”, and enable the education secretary to close a school or dismiss governors if he deems them “unsuitable” if his conduct undermines these values. Meanwhile, former prime minister Tony Blair claimed that both the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria and the supposed Birmingham plot stemmed from the same “warped and abusive view of the religion”.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts:


Bloody foreigners

Front cover of Truck & Driver (not the issue referred to in this entry)There’s a letter in the current (July 2014) edition of Truck & Driver magazine from one D Pardner (address withheld) moaning about everything about foreign truck drivers, particularly eastern Europeans. He claims that they cause accidents through incompetence, leave truck stops and lay-bys in a filthy state, break the law (such as by transporting large amounts of diesel to avoid higher British fuel prices), rarely spend money in the UK, and in some cases even import prostitutes from their home countries. I’ve been driving trucks since 2000 (7.5-tonners most of that time, but I passed my class 2 HGV test last November) and I can say that British bad truck driving rivals anything eastern Europe has to offer.

Continue reading

Possibly Related Posts: