BSkyB is an abusive monopoly, no matter who owns it

Posted in BSkyB, journalism, Murdoch by Deputy city editor on July 8, 2011

I have nothing to add to the shock revelation that journalists are corrupt.

I merely comment that whether Rupert Murdoch should be permitted to take 100% control of BSkyB is the wrong question.

BSkyB is ALREADY an abusive monopoly that:

– imposes itself on captive ratepayers – for mostly uncabled Britain, BSkyB is the only game in town with a 50% market share of pay-TV. It uses its stuctural monopoly to impose rates and services and conditions on subscribers who have nowhere else to go for things like football and films.

– by its structure and practice,  inhibits competitors from entering the marketplace through its control of subscriber management and the only 2 electronic programme guides (EPG)  (standard and HD) available in the satellite marketplace. There are no competitors in either subscriber management or electronic programme guides on the satellite system controlled by BSkyB.

– exercises an unhealthy effect on media plurality through its abuse of the EPG giving itself favoured channel positions and imposing rates, services and conditions on anyone else who wants to gain access to this platform. The victims of BSkyB’s monopoly practices are not only viewers but competitive programmers. BSkyB might claim that access is equitable between its own channels and others, but its charges to itself for its own channels produce revenue for BSkyB while imposing a rent on everyone else.

In a country where abusive monopolies have never been taken very seriously, BSkyB is not just an abusive monopoly but a direct threat to media pluraity, which the lefties say is what they care about. Clueless Murdoch-haters may rave but if the idea is to have media plurality then BSkyB is the biggest problem in town…. worse, even, than the hideous subsidy-junky BBC with its endless, costly, patronising drivel .

The objective of public policy should be to give consumers the benefit of competition right across the board with open entry and diverse choices. Instead, the satellite platform, the most influential platform of all in the UK, is already 100% controlled by a single entity.

Investigate that.

Must read

Posted in journalism, newspapers, Uncategorized by Deputy city editor on May 17, 2010

Jon Stewart is often very feeble

Posted in Daily Show, Jon Stewart, journalism, Media, Yemen by Deputy city editor on January 11, 2010

Mullen can’t beat the Taliban but Stewart was a pushover

Jon Stewart’s team has done a lot to puncture the media bubble but bring in a guest and usually he turns to mush. Why is he so often timid and useless in his interviews? There is something missing.

His performance grovelling before chairman of the joint chiefs Mike Mullen was only a recent example of his tendency to slaver at important guests and refuse to confront them with really hard questions.

Stewart was completely unconvincing with Mullen from the start of this ill-fated segment. In the first 10 seconds he  swallowed entire Mullen’s brush-off of the American role in Yemen and threw away the story of the week in America’s endless war.  The interview proceeded to degenerate into a love-fest for the fighting men and women of America – and leave everything else out of it. This could have been Fox.

Stewart may make jokes about Yemen but maybe he could find in himself a higher comedic purpose.  Stewart is quick to pillory Fox and its bubble head discourse. This has been his greatest achievement.  Fox is ridiculous and dangerous. And the Pentagon is not?

Stewart’s cringing deference to powerful people from Washington and Hollywood is the worst part of his show. Sometimes, he gets the better of his guests. But usually he doesn’t even try.

It is no defense for Stewart to answer that this is ‘just’ comedy. This is his usual cop-out. I remember Stewart going on CNN to tell them they were broadcasting crap. Pots, kettles and the colour black come to mind. Stewart can read a script but can he hold a brief?

Sadly, Stewart has plenty of previous. He has recently been indecently chummy with Janet Napolitano, the secretary in charge of America’s homeland security theatre. The less said about the frequent appearances on Stewart’s podium of  John McCain and Bill Kristol the better.

Letting guests push their books, movies and spin is fine – but only if Stewart pushes back. Otherwise he’s hardly different from all the other dripping wets on the telly. Stewart has done a reasonable job going after the media side of the media-industrial-military complex but he needs to grow some balls.  Stewart has to prove he is at least as good as his writers and more than a mere performer.

Meanwhile, demonstrating further contempt for his UK audience, it is no longer possible to watch The Daily Show online in the UK, so Britons will at least be spared the embarrassment of reviewing Stewart’s feeble performance. Or Mullen’s bizarre attention to his crotch as he walked onto the set.

Many days later. Is this fair? I am reminded of JS evisceration of CNBC’s manic-depressive Cramer. But Cramer wanted to debase himself and regretted it only later. I still Jonathan Stewart needs discipline and must establish himself as someone reliable in an interview and not just a heap of mush.

In Wapping did Rupert Murdoch declare a stately pleasure dome – look on his works and despair

Posted in Afghanistan, journalism, Media, Murdoch by Deputy city editor on January 9, 2010

The Greatest Empire the World has ever Known

Today’s Times newspaper speaks of British forces handing ‘control’ of Helmand to the Americans in March. This is dishonest so many ways. In a story that is transparently briefed by the MoD and informed by the usual suspects, we are asked to believe that the British are in control of anything at all, when it is obvious the British Army is not in control, but has been soundly defeated.

Britain has already previously suffered imperial defeat in Afghanistan so it takes a government of special genius to come back for a second helping and an especially stupid and/or craven media not to notice when a tiny little event comes along to ruin the good war narrative  – like we lost.

The full stupidity and horror of British Army operations in Afghanistan has yet to be fully documented but it began with promises from the government that maybe not a shot would be fired. Then, a million bullets later, British officers were boasting how many Afghans they were killing. Then, the British were unable to move, because Gordon Brown had cancelled the helicopters, as the Taliban drove the soldiers back to bases from which they would emerge only to be immediately killed and maimed by mines.

A number that must now be close to 2,000 British soliders have been maimed, killed and driven mad and thousands and thousands of Afghans have also been killed, maimed and ruined in Helmand. Only for the situation to be worse. Thanks to us.

With at times no helicopters at all, the vainglorious, counter-productive operations of the Bitish army are entirely consistent with the press-on-regardless, even if it’s not working tradition of a fighting force that has been entirely incompetent for much of the past century, and with a long-time proven track record of failure against Muslims. That brave young lives have been wasted is to the shame of not just the politicians but also the senior leadership of the forces who value their careers over candour.

The result of the Bitish operations in Helmand is a place where far from there being any evident progress, everything is measurably worse, and a military-media-industrial complex has emerged to ensure that the truth about this is concealed. I am not reading about this in The Times.

The big stories like Afghanistan show how the important media in Britain and the United States are now almost entirely unreliable. The Times, a flagship of the Murdoch empire, a global media brand, is merely one example of  the institutions that have become ethically and professionally diseased, their pages given over to stories invented by people whose motives and agendas are undisclosed.

Media studies is derided but every young person must be taught that they are being lied to. Academic media studies normally ignore this point.

Content analysis of media always fails because it neglects the problem of what isn’t published. It is what is not said that is really important. What is not said is what counts.

As it was not said in The Times that Obama’s insane re-launch of the failed Afghan War is not even being delivered – because after capitulating to his generals, the Pentagon is finding it not so easy to deploy 30,000 soliders to Afghanistan, where every drop of fuel must be flown in, or fought for.

Surging all these soldiers into Sanguin by March! The Times as usual is sourced from Whitehall and so none of this seems to have occured to anyone, unless I have missed it. Doubtless someone at the Times could point me to various sceptical comments but it is the position of The Times, consistent with all Murdoch media, to support the extension of wars.

The Times has refused to report that the British Army has lost its bloody war in Helmand and is now getting ready to leave while buglers sound the advance, as they did in Basra. In Iraq, too, the Times pretended a false narrative. It was obvious for months or a year that the British had been defeated – but in The Times, they pretended that we were handing ‘control’ of the City to the Iraquis!

Spasmodic efforts by the Times that might have revealed the truth have been systematically gutted as with Anthony Lloyd’s series in which a lot of this was hinted at before the conclusion was reached that with one more heave everything might be alright. So there are passages of passable journalism – but with a conclusion that is consistently perverse.

The Times failed in Iraq and it is failing again in Afghanistan.

It is not just the Times – Sky and the BBC broadcast fantasy stories from the war zones every day. The Guardian is hated most of all by its own readers. The American mainstream media is equally psychotic. But the Times, where I once briefly worked, a long time ago, is a special disgrace. If it is not Rupert’s exclusiveplaything, it is only because it is now also the sandpit for James.

Why cannot journalists tell the truth?  I intend to explore this question further.

Journalists are dangerous and unscrupulous foes. I know because I was/am one. I have made more than my fair share of mistakes in the past but what I do not ‘get’ is how a newspaper that ought to be kicking down the doors (as Murdoch would have done, when he was young), has now become a satrap of government and corporate spin doctors. Murdoch is losing money on this paper and who can be surprised.

The dead hand of the print unions has been replaced by the almost-dead hand of a Rupert Murdoch and his gruesome minions building a palace to a dead religion by the Thames.

Does Rupert have the balls to kill the BBC licence fee?

Posted in BBC, journalism, Media, Rupert Murdoch by Deputy city editor on September 14, 2009

Rupert Murdoch – Wimp?

For many years Rupert Murdoch has been content to tolerate the BBC licence fee, never permitting any of his newspapers to campaign against it. I cannot recall a single editorial in any of his papers unequivocally calling for an end to the licence fee, never mind any sustained campaign on this subject. Rupert’s reason is quite cynical. Sky’s UK pay-TV platform monopoly is intact only as long as the BBC stays out of the subscription business. He is quite happy to accept the incoherence of the licence fee as long as it keeps the BBC off his lawn. James Murdoch did not attack the licence fee in Edinburgh. Neither did his father before him.

I would argue the Murdoch position is no longer sustainable. The disaster facing Murdoch’s newspapers in Britain is about to get worse as we exit the recession without a recovery to bubble-era advertsing revenues for the papers. BSkyB is wobbly, too, and no longer a coherent business.

Ultimately, the Sky platform will probably have to be sold off to raise cash and the channels will have to fend for themselves. The shareholders have been abused for years; separating these businesses would be a pay day for them, as well as releasing some necessary competition in a monopolised pay-TV marketplace.

The newspapers are a more immediate problem. There is a fin de siecle feeling about Wapping as the old man fades and the obituary writers look for rosebud analogies. It looks like a cathedral to a dead religion. As for the future: I like James, too. But the odds of him keeping this leaking ship afloat after the old man pops his clogs are akin to those of Arthur Sulzberger’s emerging as a triumphant leader of the New York Times. (I like Arthur, too.)

I am not sure anyone has absorbed the scale of disaster in Wapping. The top monkeys there actually believe that the patient will get better. This is like checking your 80-year-old mother out of the hospital and expecting her to be fifty again. Putting the editor of the Sun in charge is surely a joke.

The Sunday Times made a million pounds profit a week when I was there. It now loses that much. The Times has never made money. Many advertisers have gone permanently to Craig’s list and ten thousand other alternatives. Readers are treating news as a commodity (and with increasing cynicism). They’re spending their time reading Facebook, not the Sun’s website. Now Rupert claims he can make us pay to read his struggling papers online. You read it here first (maybe). Murdoch’s plan to charge for web content is a fantasy, in the United States for one set of reasons, and in Britain for another. As long as the BBC and others are giving away commodity news, nobody is going to pay Rupert, just to read Matthew Parris.

Maybe the plan has a slight chance if the BBC can be persuaded to stop giving away what Rupert wants to charge for. But charging UK web users to read the Sun is impossible as long as the BBC  extorts £3 billion a year from its captive fee-payers and gives away equivalent drivel for nothing.

What will it take to bring down the Ministry of Truth? Rupert could do it, if he set his editors to a sharp campaign. It only remains to point out the facts. The BBC is an enormous con which is providing services people do not want at a price they are forced to pay. It’s not independent. Or good value for money. Or honest. It is, in truth, a hideous, giant kraken, enveloping and smothering everything it touches.

It is also irredeemably 20th century. Nobody who has listened to Last FM or Spotify can imagine for a minute that we listen to  Wogan, Ross or Evans for any reason than that the BBC monopolises the airwaves. The BBC monopolised medium wave then VHF TV and then UHF TV; they continue to monopolise FM; they have set up a dreadful incompatible-with-everything digital radio service that they also monopolise. And then they have the nerve to tell us we love them, and threaten to send us to prison if we do not pay.

Only their technical monopoly sustains what is now a wasteful, duplicative analogue media stream of pure drivel. Were the technical assets hogged by the BBC to be vacated, we could live in a digital media cloud and have whatever we wanted.

Murdoch can perform a final service to the media should he turn his editors against this monster and create the level playing field he always claimed he wanted. Although News Corp is doomed in any case.

Full disclosure: Rupert used to pay for my advice, but has not for many years.  To this one can attribute the decline of his empire.

Our useless media – a series wearily continued

Posted in cars, journalism, Media, newspapers, The English by Deputy city editor on September 12, 2009

Doubtless the Phoenix Four are as repellant as Mandelson would have us believe. It takes one to know one.

That the government should issue a completely dishonest report into the crash of Britain’s last domestic mass-volume car company, a testament to the years of government industrial policies that pushed it to the brink, is not surprising.

That the media should swallow it whole is also not surprising.

The journalists are so lazy, they cannot even be bothered to read their own clippings, and remind us of what happened.

When BMW decided to get shot of Rover, there were two bids on the table. One was from the Phoenix Four, who pretended that Rover could be revived as a going concern, and the other from Alchemy, a company with a proven track record of restructuring failed business, which proposed that by discarding all the useless bits, and focusing on MG, that something might be salvaged from the wreckage.

Alchemy were too straightforward. they didn’t pretend that redundancies could be avoided. They constructed what might have been a viable business plan. The Phoenix boys, who never looked like anything other than asset strippers, offered the government an electorally-convenient fantasy. Phoenix were given the company for essentially nothing and the government kept its rust-belt marginals as the BBC broadcast Pravda-like bulletins from Longbridge announcing that the government had saved thousands of jobs..

Wind forward. Rover is gone. The millions are gone. More millions have now been spent on an investigation. Labour is still in charge. As usual, nothing criminal seems to have happened.

What we see is Lord Mandelson touting his report touring the studios pronouncing himself outraged – not at his own cynicism and dishonesty, but at the cynicism and dishonesty of the Phoenix Four.

Like the inspector in Casablanca, Mandelson is evidently shocked to have discovered what was going on.

Shameless Mandelson, guardian of public morals, millionaire public servant, who cheated on his own mortgage form, demands that the Phoenix Four apologise and threatens to ban them as company directors (although not to revieve them of the scores of millions which they made from the deal).

This is not just theatre it is demented. Will nobody say that the man on the telly is spouting a fountain of bollocks? Did any of the journalists interviewing Mandelson yesterday suggest that he might like to apologise?  But of course not. Our hacks are too polite or lazy or stupid or ignorant – or perhaps all of these.

When will we have regime change at the Guardian?

Posted in journalism, Media, news by Deputy city editor on June 4, 2009


A desperate, discredited, failed regime

A failed, discredited newspaper

Panorama in Afghanistan: the BBC’s abject surrender to the censor

Posted in Afghanistan, BBC, British army, Delusional journalism, journalism, Media, Panorama, War by Deputy city editor on November 6, 2007

The BBC in Hellmand province: inadequate journalism

I am not among those who believe the BBC has recently degraded since degradation has been its default state for some time. Those who are conscientious objectors to the licence fee are nonetheless invited to review last night’s episode of the flagship BBC current affairs programme, Panorama, restored to prime time, which was last night devoted to the Great Game in Afghanistan.

You can read the Dangerous Book for Boys story on the BBC website here. The story is remote from the actuality, which Panorama censored. This censored story is of unseeable Afghan civilians whose home is bombed then invaded by the British Army, alongside doped-up allies, and subsequently further trashed, in the cause of a ridiculous and ultimately failed military operation, which far from reflecting positively on the British effort in Afghanistan, reveals it to be deeply flawed and actually insane.

This was an example of a program given over lock, stock and smoking barrel to the MoD press office. Amidst all the bang bang, most of it consisting of massive consumption of ammunition directed in no particular direction, it was a classic example of what John Birt used to call the bias against understanding. Not even a perfunctory space is given to those who might suggest that what we were seeing was something completely different to what the script was proposing. The website version attempts a tiny bit more distance. But watch the TV show for yourself. It’s on this link .

It was a filmic narrative constructed from tropes ordered by the MoD, and with inconvenient truths not even filmed, on orders of the MoD. This is why the BBC is a state broadcaster and not a public broadcaster.

The film shows a patrol of British soldiers and their dope-smoking allies from the Afghan National Army sallying forth in Hellmand province to confront the “Taliban.” The Taliban is anyone who defends themselves from this rag-tag band, it seems.

The patrol advanced in glorious formation across the Afghan Plain in a shot borrowed from David Lean. Then they get down into the more verdant area by the river where many of the compounds have been deserted by inhabitants who seem unconvinced that the British are welcome visitors.

Eventually the soldiers make contact with “Taliban” over on the edge of the settlement and call in a few bombs. Enormous explosion follows. Filmed beautifully. Not close enough. Another one. Pictures even better. The soldiers have no idea who or what they are ordering bombed. To say this is a shambles is not, however, on the Panorama agenda.

Advancing up and attacking a new compound they find Afghan women and children, hiding in the remains. The young men are obviously out in the fields, shooting at the British.

We do not see the Afghan civilians whose house has been bombed by the British because the MoD “minder” forbids the BBC crew from filming this. Nor do we ever see the minder. Nor do we see any of the considerable number of British casualties, who are suffering not from gunshots, but from heat exposure. So this is a war with unseen British casualties and unseen Afghan victims. Convenient, isn’t it? Lots of bang bang – but we miss the essential consequences of this operation. And the real director, the man from the ministry, is completely unseen. Excluding the diaster this has been for the civilians, for the British it is at best costly and pointless. More bluntly, it is utterly counter-productive. Fathers and brothers have been killed or maimed on the other side, it seems. For what? British soldiers may with consummate professionalism and bravery embark on these operations but it’s sound and fury, signifying nothing. One cannot avoid the impression that the entire operation existed only to provide pictures for Panorama.

Other bits – the staged visit of the provincial reconstruction team led by its unctuous civil servant, for example; the long scripted bits with the British officers explaining all the good they are doing; the complete cop-out on the question of poppy – were just further garbage. Panorama is no longer any kind of showcase for BBC journalism, except for its worst.

The BBC of course knows no shame in shilling for the MoD and has done so for years. The truth of the military operation on which they were embedded was that the British army were calling in air strikes on civilians and then occupied their house as a base for a prolonged military operation that ultimately was completely futile. We do not know what happened to the civilians. Although if dead, they are counted as Taliban. Faced with the demand of the British military censor not to film the victims, the BBC chose access over the truth. No matter how brave the cameraman this was nauseating but sadly typical of the BBC.

Meanwhile, what is actually happening in Afghanistan…

The Defence of the Realm Blog is also good on this.

Brown cuts & runs

Posted in Bush, defence, defense, Delusional journalism, Gordon Brown, Iran, journalism, Media, New Yorker magazine, news by Deputy city editor on October 8, 2007

The glorious British retreat from the Basra Palace – “probably the worst palace in the world”

In the New Yorker last week, Sy Hersh, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, reported that Britain is ready to join the United States in an attack on Iran. Or at least the Americans think so. Quoth he:

The bombing plan has had its most positive reception from the newly elected government of Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Hersh is a distinguished and sometimes reliable journalist. He is to be commended for a robust approach even if his expertise evidently does not extend to the method by which Gordon Brown recently became prime minister. Unless I missed something, this did not include any kind of election.

Nevertheless, perhaps the British media might be expected to take an interest in this claim/revelation. And indeed, the story eventually made its way to page 35 of The Sunday Telegraph. Tim Shipman now quotes officials in Washington to support (up to a point) Hersh’s story:

Gordon Brown has agreed to support US air strikes against Iran if the Islamic republic orchestrates large-scale attacks by militants against British or American forces in Iraq, according to senior Pentagon officials.

But this is a somewhat different story to that of Hersh, as premier Brown’s support now seems contingent.

Whether Hersh had it right, or Shipman does, or neither, this was about the limit of British press interest in the story.

After all, there are new pictures of Princess Diana! Maddie is still missing! Plus free DVDs for every reader!

Happily, Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, a serious fellow, finally asked the prime minister about this at his news conference on Monday. Here is the exchange:


Prime Minister, you have said that you want to listen to the British people. One of the things that the British people seem to be demonstrating is no appetite for any new war related to Iraq. Yet the war drums are banging in Washington for an attack on Iran. Are you prepared to follow previous Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in saying that such an attack is inconceivable. And indeed are you prepared to go further and say that you would neither support nor assist any American attack on Iran?

Prime Minister:

I will follow what I have said myself only recently that we take very seriously what the Iranians are trying to do in building up their nuclear capability for nuclear weapons. This cannot go unchallenged given that it is a breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If they do not co-operate with the international authorities that are examining their nuclear installations, or potential nuclear installations, that is a very big breach of international rules as well. And we believe however that this matter can be resolved by diplomatic means, by the Resolutions that have been passed by the United Nations, by sanctions if necessary, but I am not prepared to go further than that. What I am prepared to say is we take very seriously what Iran is proposing and we are prepared to use the methods that we have used in diplomatic sanctions to deal with this problem and I do not rule out anything.

Looking at this, it is rather masterfully ambiguous (even after the Downing Street editors have corrected the prime minister’s repeated confusion of Iraq and Iran as he delivered this answer). Brown firmly rules out an attack on Iran when he says “we believe that this matter can be resolved by diplomatic means… by sanctions if necessary, but I am not prepared to go further than that.” Then he technically rules the possibility back in again with: “I do not rule out anything.”

So this is a master class in saying two completely contradictory things at the same time. But here’s what I think. Hersh is wrong. And not just about the British electoral system. With citation to Sam Goldwyn, as far as any adventures in Iran are concerned, you can include Britain out.I reckon Brown, who was never an enthusiast for this war and endorsed it purely as a matter of preserving his own career, is sick of Iraq, has no stomach for a conflict with Iran, and that what we’re already watching is Gordon leading the Brits on a cut and run.

Another fascinating exchange came when the prime minister answered a question from Robin Oakley of CNN, who very reasonably asked the following:


Prime Minister you have presented yourself so far as a national leader who looks above petty party-political advantage. Why did you go to Basra to announce a withdrawal of British troops by Christmas, do it at the time of the Conservative Party Conference to take headlines off your opponents, and use somewhat phoney figures, since a quarter of those you said would be coming home had come home already. Isn’t that just the kind of Blairite spinning that you are supposed to stand against?

Prime Minister:

I think you are wrong in every respect if I may say with some respect to you. I think the facts do not merit these accusations. First of all I had to go to Iraq, to Baghdad and Basra, before I made my Statement in the House of Commons. I think the criticism of me today might have been that I had not had the chance to hear from the troops on the ground, to hear from our military commanders, to meet Prime Minister Al Maliki, to meet the Vice-President, to meet the Ministers for Finance, for Trade and for the Economy to discuss not just troop movements, but also to discuss economic reconstruction in Iraq. As far as what I said, I think you will see when I announce it in the House of Commons this afternoon that my Statement is far more comprehensive about all these things than anything that was said in Basra, and I think you will also find the statement about numbers that I made in Iraq is absolutely accurate.

This seems rather insulting to Robin Oakley! Who is correct here? Both, obviously, The prime minister is a master at counting things once, twice, or as many times as necessary. He subsequently went on to confuse matters still further with talk in the House of Commons of further troop withdrawals accompanied by “briefings” that all the boys would be home by 2008. Whereas Oakley is right that the stunt in Basra was an exercise in tortured accounting, even if Brown is too slippery ever to make the charge stick.

What 2,500 British soliders left in the “Cob” at the airport are supposed to do is left rather vague. Some have driven up to the Iran border with TV crews. Others are filmed training Iraqi soldiers. It is an army now tasked to photo opportunity.

Brown is playing a slippery game, but the troops are indeed coming out of Iraq. Even if they are going to Afghanistan, which is another disaster in the making.

A giant, transparent spin offensive is underway to pretend we have won after all in Basra, with friendly hacks like Con Coughlin of the newly pro-government Daily Telegraph filing magnificently clairvoyant copy from the airport describing the improvements since our army’s triumphant retreat advance from what the soldiers called the worst palace in the world.

Taste this:

In the British-controlled southern Iraqi city of Basra there is a palpable sense that, after four years of incessant bloodshed, a corner is being turned in the struggle to bring the city back to something approaching normality.

But there is no evidence from his copy that he was even there!

Image from Telegraph web site, two days after Coughlin ponounces peace in our time

Coughlin, who just happened to be at the Cob when Brown later dropped by to annouce the withdrawal of troops who had already left, later went on to warn that premature withdrawals could threaten the success achieved by the British. Delusional.

Insofar as the story of a British triumph is concerned, Coughlin at least reveals what he was briefed by officers following MoD-approved scripts. The line is that we have given the Iraqi people the chance to have a nice stable, rich democracy – it’s up to them. By inference, whatever goes wrong in the future is their fault, not ours. That we were responsible for launching an invasion that has seen the place smashed to bits, with probably 100,000 killed and millions displaced, is not mentioned.

Here, though, is the question for the future. We know this about Brown. He is a bit of a coward. He puts his own survival first. He’s not stupid. A man for whom cowardice, caution and prudence are core, does not and cannot like war, which is always highly unpredictable and frightening.

With Iraq off the table, is Brown really prepared to unleash the dogs of war in Afghanistan? This is a campaign that is going to see lots of people killed and a lot of money being spent as even Jock Stirrup’s ropey Eurofighters are sent into the fray to drop bombs on mud huts.

Does Brown have the stomach for this? Me – I’m not sure. And with the Tories as gung-ho on the Pathun adventure as ever, perhaps the PM has something else in mind. To win his deferred election as the man who brought all of this nonsense to an end. Methinks (hopes anyway) that this is the turning point. Think prudence.

Don’t Tase me bro’!

Posted in academic freedom, America, campus, cromulent grammer, democracy, journalism, Media, news, police, students, taser by Deputy city editor on September 19, 2007

The campus police at the University of Florida attack student who asked too many questions.

There are numerous places on the Internet where you can see University of Florida (Gainesville) police officers Tasing/torturing Andrew Meyer, 21, a journalism student who dared to ask John Kerry several highly pertinent questions when he appeared on campus this week.

They comprise a cinema vérité at its purest. The sound is hyper natural. You can hear clearly the victim begging for mercy, the hissing of the Taser and the screams. The Taser is renowned for causing incapacitating physical discomfort, usually short of death, although this is not unknown (Amnesty has documented 245 Taser-related deaths).

Earlier, some students had hooted and yelped in approval as campus police officers moved in to silence Mr Meyer but belatedly as events unfolded one or two in a crowded room indicated they might share the viewer’s horror at these graphic but highly educative events on an American campus. Not all viewers, of course: the imbecilic brigade of the American right is already screaming that this was a set-up. They are the ones who presumably can he heard to hoot with delight when the campus police take out one of their fellow students. And not Kerry, obviously, who increasingly seems to be himself an imbecile.

A very clear version of the incident can be seen here but You Tube has plenty of other examples. It is a frightening and also very powerful scene and one that will do further enormous damage to the international reputation of the United States and to the American campus. And further confirm that Kerry is as useful as a toad in a laundromat.

One reason why America cannot currently win its so-called war on terror is the repeated demonstrations like this one that when it comes to moral leadership, the American cupboard is looking pretty bare.

Free speech is now under physical attack on the campus of the university of Florida, and by agents of the state. Just like the university of Teheran! (This is also the state where not one but possibly the last two presidential elections were stolen by the Republican party apparat, disenfranchising ‘colored’ voters – one of the points being made by the brave Mr Meyer.)

The American campus is already seized by fear with foreign professors harrassed and deported by Homeland Security; arbitrary and capricious border controls applied to visiting scholars, and hysterical Zionist campaigns against anyone who raises their voice against the State of Israel, its historiography, its behaviour, or questions its claims. This has become a new McCarthyism. Joel Kovel’s recent experiences at the University of Michigan show that a university press long thought to be resistant to political pressure will now grovel to blowhards, although to its credit the university has resumed (grudgingly) sales of Kovel’s book, Overcoming Zionism.

This latest incident in Florida is extraordinary because it shows what happens when you put police onto campuses. The gang of police can be seen surrounding Mr Meyer from the very beginning of his questioning of Kerry. Kerry’s own behaviour as Mr Meyer is attacked is bizarre. He apparently sees it as no part of his own duty to interfere in any way. Profile in courage!

There are so many videos taken from so many angles that this is one of those rare events that the revolution has not only seen fit to televise but to do so from every conceivable angle.

The viewer can see the initial assault on the student when the police who had already been intimidating him decided that enough was enough and it was time to bring down this insolent yelp.

The viewer then sees him calling vainly for support from Kerry, anyone, receiving not a single word of support from anyone, followed by shots being wrestled to the ground by numerous officers while he can be heard begging not to be ‘tasered’ – using what is bound to become an immortal phrase: “Don’t Tase me, bro’!” This is a perfectly cromulent use of the infinitive verb to Tase™.

The Taser, normally marketed as  a non-lethal alternative to firearms, has never previously been marketed as a method of shutting up those who have inconvenient questions. Doubtless, sales will spike on this new publicity, with big orders from China, possibly. Meyer spent the night in jail on the trumped up charges of disrupting a public meeting and resisting arrest.

The president of the university pronounces himself regretful for the incident. I would have thought he should have sacked the police at the very least, or at least sent them to the countryside for re-education, and begged the student to accept an apology (two of the officers have been suspended on full pay). I do know this is a student I would hire for any newsroom unwise enough to have me in charge (not that I am ever likely to have the opportunity – it is merely an expression of the instant and wholly positive impact this young man has had on me as an almost singular representative of what remains decent in his profession).

There are also hundreds of news reports. Counterpunch asks why Kerry stood there and said nothing. Huffington is very good on the sequence. As always, the journalism that does not appear is as interesting as that which does. Why have journalists on American campuses shown themselves as craven and ineffective as their counterparts at the New York Times and Washington Post? I look in vain for the story in The Michigan Daily. America needs more like Mr Meyer.

Naomi Wolf is in top form on this here.

The Adventure of a Liftime : this is a terrific & energetic American blog with great detail and links.