What the Casey Anthony Trial Says About Us

Casey Anthony is not guilty. I didn’t say she was innocent. The former is a legal declaration, while the latter is a moral state. But what does the trial and the public reaction to the verdict say about us?

It tells us that the media likes pretty people and good story. And that we are easily led. Caylee Anthony had what in the UK could be considered the Madeleine McCann factor. Madeleine was the three-year-old British girl who abducted while her family was on holiday in Portugal in May 2007. She has never been found, but she has never been out of the headlines. She’s a pretty little girl with attractive parents who are doctors. Madeleine was certainly not the only British child to go missing  in 2007, but it would be hard to realize that from the media coverage.

How many other small children have been murdered in the United States since Caylee Anthony in 2008? How many have been neglected and abused? Sadly, most of them aren’t as photogenic as Caylee with mothers who act as bizarrely as Casey, or maybe they would have been noticed by the world at large. Maybe we would have been just as outraged when the parents were let go, often without the scrutiny of a trial or other judicial process.

I could give you examples from my own client list when I had a small inner-city neighborhood general civil and criminal practice that would make you upset and angry.  That is, if you were so incline to have a fraction of voyeurism that America at large has had for the Casey Anthony trial. However, I don’t have pictures and video and live court proceedings with celebrity commentators. None of the perpetrators or victims were particularly photogenic. It is unlikely that there will be any demand for me recount my stories and change the names to protect the guilty.

Yes, Caylee Anthony’s death was a terrible thing and Casey Anthony’s trial may very well have ended up in a miscarriage of justice. Many people have felt the need to vent their righteous anger. Most don’t realize it is anger they never would have had, but for the opportunity cable news channels found to grab advertising revenues.

But what are we doing about the terrible things that are happening much closer to home? What would happen if we invested the emotional effort expended on a family tragedy in Florida in praying for the needs around us? Into whose lives can we invest our time, so that they do not become a statistic unworthy of notice by FoxNews, CNN, and Court TV?

The Information Age, with instant access to the whole world, can be a good thing. It can also mess with our priorities. You can’t change a thing about Caylee and Casey Anthony. You can change the lives around you.

Deadline

The Taleban have granted an 24-hour extension on the lives of the kidnapped Korean missionaries in Afghanistan, set to expire anytime now.

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The terrorists and their captives are surrounded by US and Afghan troops. Continue to pray for their release.

Free At Last

The continuing saga of the Bulgarian nurses in Libya is finally at an end. Through a deal brokered by the EU with the help of Qatar, the nurses and their Palestinian doctor colleague have flown to Bulgaria. They were released under a 1984 prisoner exchange agreement

The Bulgarian president and prime minister both met the plane as it landed. The former hostages (let’s call it like it is) were travelling with the wife of the French President and the European Union foreign affairs commissioner. They were immediately officially pardoned by the president, who has even gone one step further and is putting them up at the presidential residence. This includes the doctor, who was granted Bulgarian citizenship last month.

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Libya agreed to release them after the EU agreed to take care of all of Libya’s HIV children in European hospitals for the rest of their lives. The Libyans were also offered normalised relations with the EU. I’d say they managed to pull of a good deal. Find some Christians who have come to your country to help people, arrest them on ludicrous charges, see that they get sentenced to death, and it is amazing how much leverage you can have.

While we rejoice in their freedom, let us not forget that there are other Christians imprisoned, killed, and otherwise persecuted for their faith by Islamic (and other anti-Christian) regimes around the world.

The Cost of Littering

You have to wonder when Revenue and Customs workers finally starting thinking something might be up. Charlene Ostle kept ringing them up and changing the number of children she had, thus entitling her increased benefits.

She told them she had three sets of twins and two sets of triplets, all before reaching the age of 26. At one point she had given birth to five children in three months.

Even though she knew what she was doing was wrong, she said her pride kept her from asking from help. What? She had no shame in claiming to have had all of these children out of wedlock and no shame in asking the Government for help.

It got her £30,000 in benefits and remarkably only a nine-month suspended sentence. She was spared jail in part because she is actually pregnant with her third child.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

There is really only one news story today. The Shire is surrounded by disaster areas. While we are not as badly affected here, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire have seen the worst flooding in at least 150 years – and it’s getting worse. The River Severn hasn’t just breached its banks. In places it is five or six times wider than it was last week.

Over 150,000 of homes are without water because the water treatment plant has been flooded. An electrical substation has been shut down, cutting off power to 43,000 homes. The military has been called in stop another substation from flooding, as it would cut off as many as a further 500,000 homes.

The eastern part of the the Shire has been similarly affected, with a pumping station flooded and water cut off since midday yesterday. There is more water coming down the Wye and the rain continues. The worst affected may be the soft fruit farmers, with the polytunnels flooded it could ruin the late summer crops. Parts of Hooterville that have never flooded in living memory have been covered with water. Even though we live much closer to the river, we have not been affected so far.

Differentiating Martyrdom

As if it weren’t self-evident by now, the Taleban are once again showing why they must be eradicated and extinguished from the face of the earth. They have kidnapped 23 Korean Christians (including 18 women) and will murder them unless all South Koreans leave Afghanistan.

If you think this is a ploy to get a Coalition country to remove its troops, you’d be wrong. South Korea has no troops in Afghanistan. There are 200 Koreans there, but they are engineers, doctors and medical staff.  They are trying to rebuild the country and keep its people alive. But then the Taleban have never been big on keeping people alive.

The Koreans have been specifically targeted because they are Christians. Even though they were on their way to work in a hospital in Kandahar, they are accused of evangelism, which carries a death sentence under the Taleban – though must be remembered things are not much better under the elected government of the country. Thus, I would not expect a lot of help from President Hamid Karzai in negotiating their release.

Their plight will not come as a surprise to them. Many of the Korean missionaries who go into the Muslim-controlled countries speak of a desire for martyrdom – exhibiting a ferver reminiscent of various Roman persecutions. But in an age where the desire for martyrdom is only ever seen in an Islamic context, the world cannot understand those who give their lives willingly without explosives strapped to themselves and who hope to see the face of the Saviour and not 72 virgins.

Ransomed

The Bulgarians nurses I wrote about in May have had their death sentences commuted. They have not been freed, but rather merely given life imprisonment for crimes which research has shown the could not have committed.

They have been convicted of intentionally infecting 438 children in Libya with HIV. Even though the accusation is ludicrous, foreign experts with no vested interest in covering up the problem of AIDS in a Muslim country have determined that the infections started before the Bulgarians even arrived in Libya. They made confessions, but these were aided by the usual Libyan methods of torture.

In the end, it wasn’t just all of the foreign pressure from the civilised world that worked. It was the blood money that was raised. More than £200 million of it to be paid to the families. There were sweeteners for the Libyan government like all of their debt to Bulgaria written off. You know a country is in pretty bad shape when they are in debt to Bulgaria.

Now the pressure should not be let up until they are released.

More From the Cretins in the Kremlin

It beginning to feel a bit like a James Bond film, but there’s no fiction involved. More and more evidence is emerging that the Kremlin has revived its policy of assassinating enemies wherever the can be found around the world.

As noted in The Times:

Twelve months ago the Duma passed a law allowing Russian security agents to pursue “terrorists” overseas and to kill them if they were deemed a threat. The clear aim was to assassinate Chechen fighters who had sought refuge in neighbouring countries. But the law also allowed the FSB to resume a practice that had been officially halted since the disbandment of an organisation (well known to James Bond readers) called Smersh, an acronym for Death to Spies, that was set up by the USSR to hunt down and destroy its enemies around the world.

Putin opponent Boris Berezovsky said that there had been an attempt to assassinate him and Scotland Yard acknowledged it was true, but that they had sent the assassin back to Russia a couple of days after they arrested him. You have to wonder what was going on there, but the Yard wouldn’t divulge anything else.

Russia has also been flexing its atrophied military muscle. Two bombers were headed into British airspace yesterday from their base in on the Kola Peninsula. RAF jets were scrambled to intercept them and Tu95s turned back before reaching British airspace. The RAF characterised it as a rare incident.

The Kremlin seems to think they are on the moral high ground become the British will not allow for the extradition Putin political opponents wanted for “corruption” in Moscow, but the British Government knows that there is no such thing as a fair trial in Russia and once convicted, opponents of the State will be subjected the worst violation of human rights in Siberian labour camps.

We won’t be bullied by the Russian bear. We cannot tolerate the revival of the their tactics. The Russians will just have to keep sending over hit men. The police and MI5 will just have to catch them and bring them to British justice.  At the same time, Russia needs to be diplomatically isolated – something it really can’t afford.

Forcing the Profane on the Holy

The local Anglican bishop was taken to an employment tribunal recently for turning down a gay man for a job as a youth worker.

Reaney was not denied the job because he is gay. Rather, the bishop made it clear to him during the interview that a person in a committed sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would be turned down for the role. This seems to be a rather conservative view for Anglicans, especially in a diocese that has led the way in the ordination of women.

Nonetheless, the employment tribunal said Reaney was discriminated against “on the grounds of sexual orientation”. This has massive ramifications. First, it means churches must hire people whose sexual orientation they may believe is incompatable with a particular position. Second, it equates orientation with activity. This means church must hire people openly engaged in immoral behaviour (whether homosexual or heterosexual), even as youth workers. Third, this will logically and necessarily include those who have been hired while demonstrating good moral character but who susequently make different behavioural decisions. The Church in this country effectively has no way of preserving and living out its teachings about living holy lives.

Thought Conviction

The thought police aren’t just out there, they’re getting convictions.

A Scottish man who made a website with sick jokes about blacks, Muslims, homosexuals, disabled peopled pleaded guilty to committing a racially aggravated breach of the peace by producing and managing the website.  He only avoided jail by having no previous convictions and quickly admitting his guilt. Instead he gave 160 hours of community service. That’s a month of full-time unpaid work. Plus, he forfeited 12 pieces of computer equipment.

He didn’t make fun of any specific people, other than Simon Weston, the disfigured Falklands War veteran.

I’ve just been reading up on that amorphous area of the common law called “breach of the peace” and even as ambiguous at it can be, I can’t see how the website breached the peace. Breach of the peace is a catchall that the police seem to use when they have nothing else to go on to accomplish their goal. In this case, Andrew Love seems to have done something people find really distasteful, but he didn’t actually do it to anyone.

No one is forced to see his website and they are certainly free to immediately surf away from it the moment they find something they don’t like. No children or animals were harmed in the making of the website.

 According to the Daily Telegraph, ‘Alistair McSporran, prosecuting, said officers found “numerous” items on the website “that had gone beyond the realms of bad taste”. These included a phoney Islamic jihad group and a picture which showed an American police officer being offensive to a young black child in a toy car.’ This is beyond the realm of bad taste?

While I don’t condone Mr Love’s choice of humour, neither do I think it should be a criminal offence.

The New Cold War

From the grave, Alexander Litvinenko blamed Vladimir Putin for his death from polonium-210. The Crown Prosecution Service wants Andrei Lugovoi tried for his murder. Russia refuses to hand him over.

Today the Government announced that it is expelling four Russian diplomats in response to the Kremlin’s refusal to cooperate. The Opposition is supporting the Government’s approach.

Lugovoi claims that either MI6, the Russian mafia, or Putin opponent Boris Berezovsky had carried out the killing. None of these is credible. After all Berezovsky was an ally of Litvinenko who has himself survived several assassination attempts including a bomb that decapitated his chauffeur.

What seems much more likely is that the Kremlin was involved. What we have here is bully Russia punching above its weight. Putin he can play the same smoke-and-mirrors game as the old Soviet Union, pretending to be a superpower. The difference is that everyone can see that Russia is in a shambles. All it has left is cloak and dagger intrigue.

All sides recognise that relations between the UK and Russia are at the lowest point since the end of Cold War. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “In London they should clearly realise that such provocative actions masterminded by the British authorities will not be left without an answer and cannot but entail the most serious consequences for Russian-British relations.”

Let the Russians play chicken. We don’t need to flinch. It’s the equivalent of a head-on crash between a bicycle and a Mack truck.

That’s Entertainment

I don’t live anywhere near London, but I’ve found a political race I can really enjoy. Boris Johnson is running for mayor of the captial city.

London has only had a mayor since 2000 (not to be confused with the Lord Mayor of the City of London, a ceremonial office held by one of the aldermen of the Square Mile), a position held since that time by Ken Livingstone. Red Ken, as he is affectionately known due to his extremely leftist views, is still the mayor despite his promise to only serve one term. Of course that was after he went back on his promise that he would not run if he wasn’t chosen as the official Labour candidate.

Ken has a reputation for shooting off his mouth and getting himself into hot water. He compared a Jewish reporter working for the Evening Standard to a concentration camp guard and then said the paper was “a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots.” When the US Embassy refused to pay the London Congestion Charge because it is a tax and not a charge for a service, he called the US Ambassador a “chiselling little crook.” He invited Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London to speak on schoolgirls wearing the hijab, despite al-Qaradawi’s support for suicide bombers in Palestine.  The list goes on and on, really.

Boris has the larger-than-life personality that can take on Ken. He’s a Tory front-bench spokesman, former magazine editor, columnist for the Daily Telegraph, popular TV personality, and extremely prone to gaffes.  As the Wikipedia article about him accurately describes, “Johnson has an image as a self deprecating, straw-haired eccentric, disorganised and scatty (he once explained the lateness of his work by claiming that, “Dark forces dragged me away from the keyboard, swirling forces of irresistible intensity and power”).”

He’s had two high-profile extra-marital affairs (in the aftermath of the first one, he was locked out of his house in front of reporters), called the Papua New Guineans cannibals, said Liverpudlians have a “deeply unattractive psyche”, and said Portsmouth is “one of the most depressed towns in Southern England, a place that is arguably too full of drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs”.  Despite all this and more, he is a very popular character. It is just very difficult not to like Boris.

Yes, if there is anyone who can go toe to toe with Ken Livingstone, it is Boris Johnson. It will be fun to watch.

Keeping Chastity Out of School

Millais School must be an incredibly orderly school with lots of money. I have a hard time getting pupils to take off hoodies and pull up their ties. At Millais, if you are wearing a ring with a Scripture reference on it, they can pull you out of all your GCSE classes to study on your own. Since the school has an obligation to provide an education, I have to assume that they had provision for teaching and supervision in place.

As I mentioned last month, Millais student Lydia Playfoot went to the High Court to challenge the school’s policy, which allows for Muslim and Sikh jewellery and other non-uniform accoutrement. And now Millais need not worry about discriminating against Christians and their dastardly little sliver rings. The High Court has ruled against Lydia.

In response to the ruling, she said it would “mean that slowly, over time, people such as school governors, employers, political organisations and others will be allowed to stop Christians from publicly expressing and practising their faith”.

The headmaster characterised it differently: “Any suggestion that our school is anti-Christian is not correct. We have always respected Lydia’s right to hold and express her views and believe there were many ways in which it was possible for her to do this during her time with us.” It just not possible to do it in the same ways as those of other religions, of course. No one would dare tell them how to practice their faith, but Christians are different. Maybe they aren’t anti-Christian – just pro-Muslim and pro-Sikh. They probably aren’t anti-chastity – just pro-promiscuity and pro-STI.

This isn’t going to affect her personally. She’s taken her GCSEs and left Millais. (It will affect her father, who has been ordered to pay £12,000 in costs to the school.) In the future the school can be a chastity-free zone. If someone wants to express religious ideas of sexual purity, they can wear a hijab.

Shameful

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I didn’t see what all the excitement was over the Hindu prayers in the Senate. Apparently members of Operation Save America did.

In a shameful, God-dishonouring way, Ante Pavkovic, Kathy Pavkovic, and Kristen Sugar disrupted the proceedings of the Senate just to demonstrate for anyone who might have missed it that baptism is not an innoculation against stupidity. I rephrase what I said previously to ask where they were when Muslims and Jews have prayed in the Senate (or any other legislative body in the US).

And even being convinced in all their bone-headedness that their objections should not be lodged in a lawful manner, surely they could have quietly chained themselvs to the doors of the Senate or something. No, their goal was not to stop the prayer, but rather to make a spectacle of themselves.

Being involved in such a high profile incident just spreads the shame further.

Wigging Out

With all the constitutional changes and stripping of tradition brought in by Labour Governments since 1997, the latest developments should come as no surprise. The Lord Chief Justice announced today that in all but the criminal court, the wigs and gowns are to be abandoned. The change will also include the ceremonial full-bottomed wigs. Thus ends tradition dating back to the reign of Charles II.

This is more modernisation for the sake of it. There is no real need to turn lawyers into just more men in suits. It seems the wig would make it easier to say “M’lud” to the occupant of the bench.  The costume also creates an atmosphere reflecting the seriousness of the proceedings.

It seems almost pointless that one of the other changes announced is that solicitor-advocates (solicitors who have gained the right of audience in the higher courts) will be allowed to wear the traditional costume of the Bar.  Instead, barristers without their wigs, wing collars and bands will be indistinguishable from the solicitors instructing them in the civil courts.

The change will have a negative economic impact. There are several firms that specialise in making legal wigs. Job losses are expected.

Directionless Civic Prayer

There seems to be a bit of a kerfuffle about the Senate session tomorrow being opened with a prayer by a Hindu. This will apparently be the first time a Congressional day will begin with polytheistic supplications.

I don’t know what the big deal is. The Senate has had prayers by others who do not name the name of Christ. There have been a number of prayers by Jews and Muslims. There doesn’t seem to a national outcry when one of these is on the agenda.

No doubt this is because of the idea that there is something special about monotheism. This the proposition that as long as you are praying to “God”, someone is bound to hear you. I suppose if you praying to multiple gods, then there is a degree of uncertainty as to whether a specific deity is looking over the Senatorial proceedings.

The fact is that the business of the Senate is not going to be consciously guided allegiance to Jesus or Ganesh or Lakshmi or Devi. It’s all form over substance.  Were the Senate to invoke the name of Jesus and actually see it’s work as delegated by God with a responsibility to act according to His will, the official supplications offered on it’s behalf might be something worth getting right.

Veiled Justice

If you have the impression that Muslim women wearing the full veil are not in touch with the modern world, you would be wrong.

A woman serving on the jury of a murder trial has been arrested for listening to her MP3 player under her hijab, while the defendant was giving evidence. He was later found guilty. I can see that one going up on appeal. Can you say, “re-trial”?

It’s not like this woman wanted to be in court listening to her MP3 player. She avoided her first two summons to jury duty. She doesn’t have a job, so she tried to say she needed to go job hunting or go on a nursing course, for which she could provide no details. Then she kept arriving late to court during the trial, but the judge wouldn’t dismiss her. She doodled instead of reading the evidentiary documents handed to her and refuse to put them in the into the lever arch files provided to her.

The judge even thought he heard “tinny music” but decided it was his imagination, until another member of the jury finally complained.

The woman almost certainly faces prison if she is convicted. I have a had time imagining how she could not be convicted. The maximum sentence is indefinite imprisonment and an unlimited fine. I would expect that she would get at least several months.

A* Results While Lacking Basic Skills

I have been saying it for a long time, even though many of my colleagues have denied it. Educational standards have declined to the point that even some of the best students lack basic literacy and numeracy.

The Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has been running research trials on new functional skills tests to be introduced in 2009 for English and 2010 for maths. These trials have shown that students predicted A* grades in their results next month cannot handle percentages and angles, or full stops (periods) and commas.

As noted in the Sunday Telegraph:

Ministers fear that if the new tests are included in revamped GCSEs, the proportion of pupils gaining good grades in the two subjects, currently about half, will plunge, exposing dire standards – and the genuine achievement level – among schoolchildren.

The newspaper also quote from a letter sent to the schools minister from the QCA chief executive:

Research undertaken during the second phase of the trial indicated that candidates with actual or predicted GCSEs at grade C or above did less well than might be expected in trial assessments for functional skill.

In other words, “Even though we write the National Curriculum and vet all of the national examinations, we were not prepared for just how illiterate and innumerate the brightest pupils have become.”

I know this is true from personal experience. I teach a subject which requires 14 to 16-year-olds to write essay answers. Getting past the problem that many of them have near-illegible handwriting (because that is a skill that has been abandoned for many years here), is it often nigh on impossible to read even after the words have been deciphered. Try reading an essay with only the occasional full stop, when there is no use of capitalisation to figure out where a new sentence might be beginning. Some students have heard of the comma, but appear blissfully unaware that the art of punctuation extends beyond these two marks. Admittedly. some are familiar with the one used for exclamation, because once they have discovered it, they can’t help but use it.

The problem extends beyond punctuation. You may recall I mentioned a few days ago that out of an entire class of middle-ability Year 10s, not one pupil knew what a prefix or a suffix was.

This is the group to whom many in the Government want to extend the right to vote when they reach the age of 16. I can only think their reasoning is that by dumbing down the education system, young voters will choose how to vote because they can read “Labour”, but “Conservative” will be too big a word with too many syllables.

More on Rotherwas

Apologies to anyone who commented on or linked to yesterday’s post about the Rotherwas Ribbon. It was rather hastily deleted rather than edited, as my tagline says, I don’t change things nisi sponsa dissentit.

I can still update things and whilst not mentioning some sensitive things, there is more information in the public domain. As usual we find the local council talking out of both sides of their mouth.

They had announced that there would be special viewing today of the heretofore secret location, but it would limited to 200 people. This was in the local paper which comes out on the Thursday, but which we didn’t get until Friday. By then all the tickets were gone.

Despite news of the Rotherwas Ribbon even reaching my parents’ local newspaper, they have tried to keep this extraordinary discovery very low key. They have been determined not to let this stand in the way of the Rotherwas relief road, a £12 million spur to the local industrial estate that has been built against the wishes of, and without any funding from, central government. The council are already being sued in the High Court because they are building through one of the villages.

Our local paper carried the full front page headline “Rotherwas find as old as Stonehenge – but . . . The road will go on”. The county archaeologist, who clearly knows who writes his cheque supported the covering it over with sand and a membrane before the tarmac is poured and hundreds of heavy goods vehicles drive over it daily for the foreseeable future. The person who just days ago said this was an extraordinary find unique in all of Europe modified his views saying, “We live on a crowded island, with and extraordinarily rich and lengthy history and the landscape is littered with these remains, but we cannot move everything around to avoid them.”

English Heritage, who advise the Government on scheduling monuments, are to view the site Monday. I have no doubt the local council will be with them every step of the way, lobbying against it.

Last night, the Council issued a press release indicating that due to public pressure they will be allowing for more viewings, to be booked through a special hotline number that will be announced next week. They are still determined, however, to “preserve” it in such a way that nobody alive today will be able to see it again.

It is true that the Rotherwas Ribbon might not have been discovered but for the relief road construction. However, the Council have have been just a little disingenuous about the value of their “preservation” plan: “In many ways we’re lucky to discover this before the bulldozers moved in – it was not far below the surface and had we not uncovered it as part of the archaeological work associated with the new access road, the strong possibility is that at least part of it might have been destroyed through ongoing farming practices.” The farming practices have been ongoing for just about all of the several thousand years this thing has previously been covered.

What is also clear now is that the original 60 metres uncovered is only an indeterminate portion of the overall serpent. At least 75 metres has been uncovered extending beyond the original roadway area and there is no indication of where it might end on either side.

There is now a website for the local campaign to properly save the this ancient landmark.

Destroying the Past

When I saw it on the news tonight I couldn’t believe it.

Excavation in the Shire have revealed an archaeological find of significance that can only be compared with Stonehenge, similarly dating from the early Bronze Age. It is unique in Europe. According to the county archaeologist, “It is of international significance.”

You would think it is the next great tourist attraction. Surely it is the stuff of brown road signs and interpretive centres. If all the pseudo-druids go to the Henge for the solstice, surely they would visit the Rotherwas Ribbon at the equinox. Ching ching chingaling go the tills with tourist pounds.

Well, no. It’s being covered over. With a road. Yes, that’s right. An archaeological find of international significance is being tarmacked. They’ll take a few pictures first, but history cannot be allowed to stand in the way of progress.

The Good Guys are the Bad Guys

or is it the other way around?

You know things are bad when Hamas are the good guys.

This is an organisation that says every Jew should be killed wherever they are found. With a record of suicide bombing, they have tried to put their words into action. They are recognised as a terrorist organisation by both the US and EU. Nonetheless, they engineered the freedom of BBC reported Alan Johnston from the even more extreme self-styled Army of Islam.

I have no doubt they did not act altruistically. They need the good publicity.

Predictably, senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, said, “We didn’t work to receive favours from the British government. We did this because of humanitarian concern.” Somehow, when you blow up people as a matter of policy, no one in the civilised world really takes you seriously when you speak of humanitarian concern.

Having taken over the Palestinian government form the more moderate Fatah, but diplomatically isolated from the US and UK, they need to show they have some semblance of civilised behaviour. Since they won’t back down from their policies, they had to come up with something else.

After Johnston was freed, Foreign Secretary David Miliband was cautiously appreciative of the role of Hamas in securing the release. However, he also made clear that there would be no change in UK policy toward Hamas until Hamas changes its policy toward Israel.

Copycat Cameron

David Cameron has been completely outflanked by Gordon Brown.

The Prime Minister has revamped the Cabinet to reflect his approach to government.  He has followed this up by doing the unthinkable and handing power from himself to Parliament. This is exactly the opposite of what Tony Blair did. He is showing just how different he is.

Cameron has reshuffled his front bench to try to match the Government and at the same time reward loyalty and punish dissenting voices. Since he took over the Tory party, he has tried to “modernise” it and thus make it more appealing to the masses.

As a result he has appointed the first Muslim to an Opposition front bench. But once again this was reactive. It followed Brown appointing Shahid Malik as the first Muslim minister. The difference is that Brown appointed an actual MP to governmental post. Cameron had to give a peerage to an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate because Sayeeda Warsi was the first Asian woman selected to fight a parliamentary seat.

Cameron now has a 40% disapproval rating amongst Conservative activists. I guess they don’t want to be a mirror of the Labour Party.

Invasion, Please

What with all the problems in Iraq, invading other countries is not a popular option these days. So it just goes to show you how bad things are in Zimbabwe when the head of the Catholic Church there is asking for Britain to topple Robert Mugabe from power.

Pius Ncube, the Archbishop of Bulawayo is asking for Britain to invade Zimbabwe before millions die of starvation. There has been 95% crop failure in some places. Inflation is currently at 15,000% and it predicted by the American ambassador to reach 1,500,000% by the end of the year. Most people are living less than £1 per week, yet Mugabe just spent £1,000,000 on equipment to monitor telephone calls and emails.

Though the Catholic Church is not usually big on military intervention, Archbishop Ncube said, “People in our mission hospitals are dying of malnutrition. We had the best education in Africa and now our schools are closing. Most people are earning less than their bus fares. There’s no water or power. Is the world just going to let everything collapse in on us?”

He said that people within Zimbabwe cannot rise up against Mugabe because there is too much fear. “I think it is justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe. We should do it ourselves but there’s too much fear. I’m ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready. How can you expect people to rise up when even our church services are attended by state intelligence people?”

Church is not a particularly safe place to be in Zimbabwe. The most recent time Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested and beaten to the point of hospitalisation he was attending a prayer meeting.

Three Strikes and You’re Out

The day after two car bombs we found in London, both by providential observers, a blazing car has been driven at the main terminal building of Glasgow Airport.

It appears to me to be a car bomb gone “wrong”. The car was already on fire and one of the occupants was on fire, jumped from the car, but was stopped by members of the public until he was detained by the police.  The other was pulled from the car by police, even as he was trying to fight them off. Both were of South Asian ethnicity.
The car never had the chance to explode and as far as news reports indicate, no one was killed or injured.  So far this week, even when they’ve made an attack, terrorists have been unsuccessful.

The terrorists will have to realise this ain’t Bagdad. We won’t be cowed by their bullying.

Twice a Victim

Jacob Smith was a victim of crime and as a result was made a victim of the justice system.

From The Times today:

A shopkeeper has been fined £250 and given a criminal record because he fought back when he was attacked by shoplifters.

Jacob Smyth chased three youths out of his hardware shop in Penzance, Cornwall, when he was set upon. When he was kicked in the groin by one of the hooded youths who had stolen cans of spray paint Mr Smyth hit back.

Police issued fixed penalty tickets to the shoplifters but charged Mr Smyth and a colleague with assault.

Yesterday he pleaded guilty to assault at Truro Magistrates’ Court. He claimed after the hearing that he had been advised to plead guilty because otherwise he could have faced a six month prison sentence.

The court was told that Mr Smyth, a father of three, caught the youths stealing the spray cans in October last year. Two of them turned on him and he was kicked in his groin just weeks after a vasectomy operation. He retaliated and punched 18-year-old Craig Spiller to the ground.

So if you are ever attacked two-on-one and kicked in the groin, you must turn the other testicle. Do not defend yourself, or you will face a criminal record.

The Common Lord Chancellor

Gordon Brown has announced his Cabinet. In addition to moving or removing every Cabinet Minister except Des Browne at Defence (though he’s been given the Scotland portfolio as well), Brown without the “e” has chopped, changed, and renamed some departments.

This is not particularly uncommon with incoming Governments, though I have to wonder how quickly new premises can be secured, stationery and phone number changed, and civil servants shuttled around.  However, one thing has caught me quite by surprise and I’m not exactly sure how can even work constitutionally. I say that realising that Labour has heretofore defied just about anything else that would have otherwise seemed unconstitutional.

Though it hasn’t been mentioned in any news report that I have seen, I was looking at the official list of He Majesty’s Government on the Parliament website and discovered that Jack Straw is Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor.  I knew that prisons were being shifted into the same department as the courts and away from the Home Office. The Lord Chancellor is no longer the head of the judiciary under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. He isn’t even speaker of the House of Lords anymore. But he’s still the Lord Chancellor.

Improving Access to Abortion

In light of the increasing medical evidence of how early the foetus shows signs of sentience  and the increasing number of abortions in this county, the British Medical Association voted yesterday to make abortions easier to obtain. Yes, that’s right.

Under the current law, two doctors have to sign off on the abortion.  the BMA wants to drop that requirement. It may have something to do with the fact that more and more doctors are refusing to do abortions. With more teens wanting to kill their babies and fewer doctors willing to serve as executioner, I suppose something has to give.

There was also a motion before the BMA annual conference to allow nurses and midwives to carry out abortions, but that was defeated on the grounds that they are not sufficiently trained to perform such a complex operation. This is just more evidence of the crisis.

There are 200,000 babies out there needing to be killed every year and no one seems to want to do the killing.  There has been some relief through the increased use of drug-induced abortion, but demand for surgical abortions is still outstripping supply. What is an immoral nation to do in such a situation?

“And that is that. The end.”

So ended Tony Blair’s political career. Those were the last words he said in public as Prime Minister, at the close of Question Time.

Thanks to the ingenuity of the technical wizard at school, I was able to see the end of PMQs and the Blair’s trip to Buckingham Palace during lunch time. With a TV possibly built by John Logie Baird himself and a spoon as an antenna stuck into the back of the VCR, he tuned in BBC2.

With all my excoriating of TB, I have to say that I still almost teared up as tributes were paid to him from other parties, especially from normally very dour Ian Paisley. There is something about the high moments in the drama of politics that is emotive.

I think Tony is going to a job for which he is well suited. All sides have praised him for his work in pulling together the agreements in Northern Ireland. Anyone who could bring Ian Paisley to the same table with Sinn Fein has to be commended for it. He may be able to make significant progress in the Middle East.

Too Conservative for the Conservatives? Join Labour

A former member of Iain Duncan Smith’s Shadow Cabinet, Quentin Davies defected today from the Conservative Party to Labour.

He told Tory leader David Cameron, “Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything. It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda.” Sadly, I couldn’t agree with him more. Were I to become a citizen of the UK, until recently I would have never questioned that I would join the Tory Party. I don’t have an affinity for any other party, but the Conservatives have very little that is conservative about them.

Cameron would not publicly address Davies’ defection. He sent shadow industry spokesman Alan Duncan to make an immediate response and to appear tonight on Newsnight. Duncan insisted that Davies has defected because he doesn’t like the Tories green agenda and because he’s “social illiberal”. Yes, it’s true: the Conservative Party is no place for someone not swept up in the green thing and certainly no place for someone with traditional values.

Duncan said this plainly, “The Conservative Party has changed. Quentin Davies is old fashioned and doesn’t like it.” Duncan’s personal disaffection for Davies may have something to do with Davies’ opposition to gay marriage. Duncan is the first voluntarily open gay Tory MP.

A Shame He Can Only Hang Once

If anyone in the former Iraqi regime deserves to hang, it is certainly Ali Hassan al-Majid. If there is a reason the UN never found weapons of mass destruction, it is because Chemical Ali used them all up.

He is responsible for the deaths of 180,000 Kurds, just in 1988. The effects of the chemical weapons used continue to affect certain areas of Kurdistan. There are higher rates of birth defects and cancer where the use of the weapons was most intense.

Thousands of villages were razed and burned. Majid openly admitted during his trial that he ordered troops to execute all Kurds who ignored the orders to leave their villages.

When people suggest things were so much better under Saddam, they do it with very short memories.