Archive for News

Obligatory Phone Hacking Post

Posted in Journalism, News, Politics with tags , , on July 26, 2011 by pieman70

Yes, of course I’m going to comment on this.  I was going to talk about less important things but this has been very interesting indeed.

First, as always, this story has been covered better in the following blogs, Obsolete, Zelo Street, Angry Mob, Enemies of Reason, Bloggerheads and 5 Chinese Crackers, also worth reading is Flat Earth news by Nick Davies, who broke this story ages ago and has been doggedly persistent in trying to get this to the publics attention.

Ok, still here?

So, for those not paying attention, there was a Sunday tabloid called the News of the World owned by a big media baron called Rupert Murdoch.  Rupert owned a lot of media and was feared by politicians.  Reporters at the News of the world, in order to get celebrity stories, started hiring a private detective called Glen Mulchare to hack answerphones on the off-chance they contained juicy gossip.  This was pretty normal as most papers were involved in similar and indeed worse breaches of the law on fishing expeditions for gossip.  However it was discovered that said PI had hacked the phone of missing Teenager Milly Dowler, and had even deleted messages to listen to more messages of her desperate family begging her to come home.  This then opened a floodgate, 7/7 victims phones had been hacked, families of dead soldiers.  Terrible stuff, but for those who have read flat earth news, unsurprising.  What it did was cause enough public outcry to start a boycott of News of the World’s advertising causing News International to close the paper.

This sorry debacle finally brought into the open the true horror of our press.  Politicians had been scared to act against NI for fears of being attacked by their sizable media interests.  The Police were spiking stories and utterly failing to investigate illegal practices by newspapers in exchange for favourable coverage and a cosy relationship.  While phone hacking was the final trigger to get a proper review it wasn’t the only problem, the real issue was the influence of the press, of News international and the complicity of the police.  It also embarrassed many a politician on both sides as they had all been spotted enjoying the hospitality of News International’s summer garden party mere weeks previously.  David Cameron took a particularly hefty amount of flak for his close relationship with Rebekah Brooks and his hiring of Andy Coulson, not to mention his response was to try and hold back and see if the whole thing blew over, said NI papers currently being on his side.  It was not to be.

Those of us who have been fighting to get this in the open scored victories, the Arrest of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, the calling of Brooks and the Murdochs to a select committee.  Murdoch abandoning his bid to take over BSkyB, a move that was to be waived through by our compliant culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.  The lib-dems have managed to make some minor gains and Labour’s Tom Watson has shone.  Its been entertaining to say the least.  It seems that every sacrifice that Murdoch throws in teh hope of all this going away gets eaten up and teh hungry spectre of accountability merely asks for more.  Send down Andy… More, Shut Down the News of teh world…. More, Send down Rebekah… More, Ditch the BSkyB bid…. MORE

The prize however, is going to be a bit more difficult.  Already the Right Wing press are desperate to either paint this as a left vs right issue, with the Stalinist BBC trying to knock out the more efficient private NI.  It doesn’t help that Ed Milliband’s main attack is around Coulson, rather than the cosy media relationship.

What I want to see is some hefty reform.  The PCC has repeatedly shown itself as toothless.  The remaining right-wing papers, led by the Daily “Hooray for the Blackshirts” Mail are desperately trying to play this as a problem with NI, when they’re not playing it as a BBC plot, partly in the hope of occupying NI’s position if it is suitably weakened, and partly in the hope that once this blows over they can carry on as normal with no accountability.  Press reform is not in their interests.

The cry has been that Regulation will equal Censorship.  I disagree.  The regulation need not be state, but it also can’t be Self regulation.  That gave a system which favoured the press over the public and the “Fast Free and Fair” service the PCC claims only manages the “Free” part.

The goal of regulation is not Censorship.  In effect its quality control.  A newspaper is a business.  At the moment it is more profitable for a paper to publish an inaccurate story and apologise later than it is to spend money fact checking.  This must change.  I would propose a variety of options on the new regulator, the ability to impose fines, and in severe cases, to publish retractions in the same prominence and amount for inaccurate stories.  This would be a final sanction for a repeat offender (Say the smears relating to the first Jo Yates murder suspect, later found not guilty) Papers may complain that they can’t run a weeks worth of headlines and blanket coverage merely saying they were wrong.  I beg to differ, and the losses this will make, the missed headlines of current events will perhaps make a paper spend that little bit extra on research.  This would be a top end sanction (Others could include suspension of staff and suspension of issues, but the impact must be devastatingly financial)

It should be sometimes accepted that illegal acts may be required to reveal wrongdoing.  However fishing expeditions are not journalism.  If you hacked the voicemails of every MP there would almost certainly be a couple of juicy stories, but Journalist should have evidence before they resort to lawbreaking.  The definition of public interest should also be tightened up.  Celeb shag’n’tell stories may interest the public, but they are not in the public interest.  Knocking these out of the news may force the press to up their game.

We should also look at media ownership, no one owner or company should own so much of our media.  This should limit the influence of any one company.

We should also be able to read reports of meetings between politicians and the owners of companies (Any company) in fact Lobbying as a whole should be much more transparent.

I think what would really help is a cultural change.  The old rule in news, that Dog does not bite Dog meant that those who supposedly hold the powerful to account turned a blind eye at their own wrongdoing.  Perhaps Dog should eat Dog in this case.

The Jewelry Issue

Posted in Media, News, Religion with tags , , on August 13, 2008 by pieman70

As always the hypocrisy of the gutter press is only matched by the curious ways the memories of its readers work. Take the recent case of the Sikh schoolgirl now allowed to wear a religiously significant bangle despite her school’s “No Jewelry” policy. This strangely caused outrage from some of the more gutter presses editorials harping on about how we “Bend the rules” for foreign religions and treading out the usual “Bet if it was a crucifix this wouldn’t have been allowed” all part of the general intention to make the christian parts of the community, particularly the middle englanders, terrified that we are becoming a foreign country.

I am going to step away from the arguments of what constitutes items you have to wear as part of your religion and go straight to the hypocrisy bit.

In 2006 a case made the papers regarding a BA flight attendant Nadia Eweida, supposedly asked to remove her crucifix as it offended other religions. Strangely enough the tabloids were less focused on their “Rules are Rules” high horse then. Of course this flight attendant, plus tabloids and church members strove to make this sound like BA pandering to minority religions while dissing Christians, after all, they do a BA turban you know, I wring my hands in between typing.

Of course, as with many tabloid stories, the truth is far more revealing. The facts are thus. BA has a no visible jewelry policy, a policy that was in place when Eweida joined the company and which she had been happy to conform to for the years up to 2006 when suddenly, it became a problem. BA offered several compromises, initially that if it was that important to her she could wear it under her uniform and also offering a non uniformed, non customer facing position, however this wasn’t good enough for her and even though she has lost her racial discrimination tribunal she is apparently continuing to fight. As it transpires she was a very difficult worker, constantly demanding concessions to her religion.

Several things annoyed me about the resolution to this case. First was that BA pandered far too much. I would have been out straight away with “She has been content with this policy for x years, why is this suddenly an issue, this is our uniform policy etc. Instead they relented and their uniform now allows for a lapel pin or cross on a chain. This was not helped because Pope Tony Blair weighed in seeing some outraged middle englanders who might like him if he was on side and suggested BA relent.

of course now the tabloids are going nuts in the opposite direction, demanding concessions are not made, despite the fact that, unlike a crucifix, the Sikh bangle is a necessity. Also the school hasn’t ruled out crucifixes.

Now while the school issue in my mind is separate, school being something you have to attend, I now think that employers should be allowed to state the working hours and any terms relating in a contract (For example, shifts covering Sundays, Xmas etc) and dress codes in contracts. roughly as BA have done, but I would like to see these actually enforced in the above situation. The court case should go something like this “Did you sign a contract with a No Jewelry, work on Sundays policy” “Yes” “Case finds in favour of employer” no more of this jumping through religious hoops after the event in the name of tolerance, you accept the conditions or you don’t accept the job.

Guardian follow up

Posted in Media, News with tags , on July 2, 2008 by pieman70

Well, who says blogging does nothing, while the look is the same the search function on the Guardian website now works and you can pull up an archive by columnist, basically now it looks less like “The Guide” and “Comment is Free” are fighting each other. Good work.

42 Days

Posted in Civil Liberties, Government, News, Politics with tags , , , on June 16, 2008 by pieman70

Well, it happened, I even wrote to my MP to try and stop it. See that’s due process for you, I should have used my mighty hammer to stop this nonsense. Brown decided to pin his entire career on a policy that undermined magna carta, was deemed unnecessary by most of those in the know, and was only popular amongst the Sun/Daily Hate fraternity. In fact I had to switch off an ex scum editor for harping on about how if this takes suicide bombers off the streets then its worth it. Yes, we arrest everyone who looks a bit Asian, and anyone who protested against the government just to be sure, and keep them for over a month, without even telling them what they’ve done, brilliant, it was tried in Northern Ireland and was the IRA’s most successful recruiting campaign ever. I do shudder about what sort of deal with the devil has been made with the Ulster unionists.

It is a very strange world we currently live in, where men of principle (well at least showing the most principle) are Tory’s, and the best hope for freedom and democracy lies with the unelected, undemocratic house of Lords.

However, I’m not one for moaning, ok that’s not true, I’m a huge fan of moaning, but at base the problems we have here is twofold.

  1. The government wants more power to lock up those who disagree with them, it is paranoid ramblings but this government has done more to take more power unto itself and less to democratic process than any other
  2. The MPs in the 42 days vote were more interested in what could be got for them rather than the views of their constituents

So, what can you do. Well, when a vote like this comes up, write to your MP about how you want them to vote. It won’t make much difference, but when they do care about you (Come election time) you can broach this subject with them in person when they’re trying to toady for your vote. My actual threat was that if my MP voted yes, I wouldn’t vote labour in any election, so no support for MSPs MEPs or councillors. You can see all your representatives voting records at www.theyworkforyou.com, a useful site that keeps these people accountable.

The second thing you can do is visit www.noliberties.com, the website of the film “Taking liberties” it has details on action you can do and covers exactly what’s been taken by those in power. What I plan to do next time they’re grubbing for my votes, mostly in the next Westminster election, is have a copy of what has been taken, and what acts have done this, and ask every candidate if they will work to repeal these laws, regardless of party politics. I doubt I’ll get a straight yes/no but seeing them squirm should be fun. And BTW coming from a long standing opponent of Scottish Independence, if you can promise me, on the blood of your expense account, that we’ll have none of this nonsense in an independent Scotland, Sign me up matey.

The DIanna non-Conspiracy

Posted in Conspiracy Theories, News with tags , on April 8, 2008 by pieman70

So the Trial verdict has decided that she was killed by a drunk driver and over zealous paparazzi. A trial that has cots the good taxpayer 12 million and worse yet allowed Paul Burrel on TV again.

I initially thought this was all part of a plan by Al-Fayed to embarrass the British Establishment for refusing him a passport. However now I do think he believes his wacky conspiracy theories, and for that he should be pitied. To be honest I’d never have let anything which used the phrase Masterminded by Price Philip into court, and would probably use that as grounds to section the Harrods boss for his own safety.

Dianna did not die in mysterious circumstances, she died in a very unglamorous car crash. Many conspiracy theories (Marilyn Munroe’s death for example) crop up because people who are obsessed over by the general public can’t accept that they can have an ordinary death, or indeed anything as mundane as an accident can take these supposed jewels out.

The Verdict is of course not entirely accurate. ! definite factor killed the occupants of that car, no-one at the trail mentioned this party and indeed it still lurks in that tunnel ready to kill again. Yes, its the concrete pillar. I’m not trying to be funny (Well, a little but still) you have a tunnel with support pillars down the centre, and no crash barrier preventing cars from smashing into aforementioned pillars. If there had been a crash barrier (As you see down the central reservation of most motorways) the car would have bounced and lost momentum. It would still have been crashed but the damage would have been far less severe. Because of there being no barrier the car quite literally went from its high (speeding) speed to dead stop. The seriousness of the accident was compounded by the fact that the occupants were not wearing seat belts.

So, its not a conspiracy, just an absent barrier (Wouldn’t happen here you know) and no seat belts. Not exciting, but the truth.

So, 12 million wasted, and all they needed to do was ask me. I even have a solution for Al-Fayed if he wants more investigation. He can have it, funded from his own pocket. It annoys me that we have forked over 12 million, so that’s 12 million that could have done some actual good in the world, to indulge a clearly disturbed man’s wild conspiracy theories. Although if they’re dishing out money for that I’ll take some, I’ve got millions of wild crazy theories. And David Ike, he can have some too, I’d at least be entertained by his quest to prove that everyone in power is in fact one of the aliens off of V.

What People Believe

Posted in Media, News, Politics with tags , , on August 2, 2007 by pieman70

A report has recently been published regarding the shooting of Charles de Menezes. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6927140.stm One of many but this one addressed the point I was most interested in. It deals with how the information relating to the shooting was handled. This is due to the massive discrepancy between what the Met reported as De Menezes movements before the shooting and what actually happened.For those living in a cave (Or indeed a large section of the British Public, which is where I’m going with this) here are the two events, and it reads like a comedy sketch of bad policework.Police Version: On suspicion that terrorists were living at his address Police folowed de Menezes from his flat on to a bus. He was wearing a large bulky jackect, an unusual garment for such a mild day. On leaving teh bus they follwed him into the underground where he broke into a run, police chased him into the station, shouting stop, Menezes vaulted the ticket barrier and boarded the train where police shot him after he had not acknowlaged their calls to stop.WHat actually Happened: On suspicion that terrorists were living at his address Police folowed de Menezes from his flat on to a bus. He was wearing a denim jacket, not a bulky coat, something that was perfectly normal for the weather. They then follwed him from the bus into the tube station where de Menezes walkedthrough the barrier, picked up a copy of metro and walked on to teh train where he sat down. Police rushed on to the train, wrestled him to the ground and shot him 9 times in the head.There is a fair discrepancy between teh two, not one that could be made by say a casual mistake or a fddly detail. The police report was not an error, it was a lie. A Bare faced lie that, in the most forgiving light, was told to cover up a huge cock up, from intelligence to the very literal execution, that lead to the death of an innocent man. Indeed to further try and cover themselves for woeful intelligence and dangerously trigger happy men they even tried to start rumours that he was an illegal immegrant. WHiel teh report does not accuse commissionar Ian Blair it does point out taht the handling of information was hugely flawed. However this is not my biggest gripe.My biggest problem is with the great brittish public, and their idiotic ability not to be bale to update facts after the first run. Look at any discussuins on the shooting and you’ll always see some Daily Mail reading numbnut saying “Well he shouldn’t have run away, he was wearing a big puffy jacket” etc worse you get some amature bomb squad numpty who’ll add “The police have to shoot first on suspicion, what with the super fast triggers these terrorist have access to” I’ll address this second one before my main and final rant. Super fast triggers. Lets forget the fact that we’re talking about home made explosives for a moment, and so the chances of having some form of high tech trigger are fairly remote. Second, there are 2 ways of detonating a bomb you are wearing. The big red button (possibly what they are refering to if its wired into a hand) but in essence you press a button and go boom, not “Super Fast” and the hand linking is unlikely (Longer wires mean more chance of the trigger becoming disconnected by tugging, think of your walkman headpohones and how they seem to snag on anything) the other is the dead man switch, popular in films release a button and boom. Only this never happens outside hollywood, and if it did, then killing someone is probably unwise. Either way giving police carte blanch to shoot anyone who looks a bit shifty without warning is a hugely dangerous thing to do.On to my final point, a cynic may think that the Police version of events was rushed out first, before any other sequence of events, to deliberately exploit this feature in the dim masses of not updating facts. They know that the vast majority of teh bovine public will take their story and then repeat it parrot (A half bovine parrot) fashion during any debate. The series of events taht makes them look less like gun happy loons and the intelegence side less like bumbling idiots keeps circulating as fact despite the truth being public knowlege. In short if you want to cover youself, tell your lie first, before anyone elses gets out there.