I Told You 'Bout The Swans That They Live In The Park

As others have already noted, the Mail has found another swan story with which to beat the foreigners. As with the original story seen in The Sun and Mail many months ago, it seems to have little or no basis in fact. Still, why let that get in the way of a good smear.

The vital ingredients for this Right Royal recipe are all there:

The hearsay evidence.

"It makes me sick to my stomach. I have heard it is mostly Eastern Europeans who are camping here until they can get a house," she told The Sun.

Leaving aside the fact that this quote comes after mentioning a David Gibson, it is unacceptable to allow uncorroborated third-hand comment to masquerade as fact and evidence. Of course, the Mail knows exactly what it is doing as many of its readers (certainly judging from its readers who post) do not read past the headline. As I recently pointed out in the story in Wirral regarding travellers, this kind of reporting is despicable.
  • Tenuous link to Eastern Europeans

Three tents remained in the camp on Wednesday. Two young Poles living there refused to come out and speak to reporters but denied taking the swans.
A Romanian bible and cooking equipment could be seen outside another tent, while putrid food and thousands of feathers were nearby the third.

  • Link to last urban myth
The discovery comes six months after it was revealed that Polish and Lithuanian immigrants in Bedfordshire appeared to be killing swans for food.
They were spotted trying to drag the 20lb birds away from the Grand Union Canal, while remains of butchered swans were found on the towpath in Leighton Buzzard.
Hundreds of swans were thought to have disappeared from the area, prompting the local angling club to erect a sign reminding people they are protected by law.

Yet wait! As others such as septicisle point out, the original story, like this one first emerged in the Merseyside favourite, The Soaraway Sun. The same paper, which in 2004 grudgingly 'apologised' (clarified) when a challenge was made to the Press Complaints Commission (as reported by the Telegraph here)

The adjudication, whilst disappointing given the agenda of the right-wing press, nonetheless shows that these stories are usually complete crap. That is not to say that the story could be true or have some semblance of truth; the worry is that evidence that would be laughed out of court, is routinely allowed and implied as being factual.

Then, the Mail just allows the comments to flood in as the usual suspects find the green-coloured font on their PCs:
  • Just one more example of the rape of this country. Even our precious wildlife is being decimated. But the biggest criminals are those traitors in Westminster who have betrayed us.- John Reed, Wolverhampton. England

  • Our shores have previously been invaded by foreigners who showed less barbarity than this scum.- Tc, Leeds, U.K.

  • That's what happens when you open the country's doors to the scum of Europe! Nothing will be done to these pieces of dirt, I guarantee it!- Sarah, Glasgow

  • This is surely a crime Swans are protected birds. How disgusting people can come to this Country and just do as they like. They should be thrown out ASAP.- Jacqui W., Southampton

  • No good Erecting signs they probably don't understand them any way. No we have to be really tough here. This is a crime of the worst form and has to be sorted out now. It's great this so called EU lets all get together lark. We just don't live the same as these people therefore we will never integrate.- Jacqui W., Southampton
Strange how Jacqui Weems, Southampton gets two comments published, yet any one disagreeing gets short shrift. Note also that she is now truncating her name. Of course, I could just be putting 2+2 together to make 5 as there could be an immigrant-hating, semi-literate shit with the same initial. I always like to chuckle at her singular use of grammar and spelling!

The Sun actually gas pictures! Strangely, there is no picture linking the shocking carcasses and the cooking pot. Also, no sign of the large pinch of salt needed to be taken when reading these stories.

What if there was some truth in it? Well, there was the case of Shamsu Miah,
who may have been one whooper short of a lamentation, but contrast that with this case (spookily also in Bedford like the one alluded to by The Sun above).

There have also been cases in this area of swans and other wildlife targeted by air rifles (the main photo was taken by moi in Chester), and let's not forget the pollution caused by (some) anglers and the environmental costs of the humble plastic bag. Maybe the Mail would like to start a campaign...........

Finally, I think I've identified a possible foreign connection -

Iraq yesterday, Turkey today, tomorrow Swans?

I Feel The Earth Move

Having refrained from the demon alcohol tonight whilst I worked, I thought it funny that the room was shaking, and my sofa was rocking up and down beneath me.

I checked out the site here and found that it had indeed been a tremor at 4.7 on the Richter scale. Eventually, BBC and Sky News reported on it, but the first information came from that site ad pinpointed the epicentre (as shown on the map) before the TV people could establish this.

The bloke who has the 'End is Nigh' sign in the shopping centre will be pleased!

The Nasty Party Rallies

Following one from the recent posts on Auschwitz, we see that Cameron's true colours come to the fore with his comments on the proposal to have Sixth Formers from every school visit the camp.

From The Guardian: 22/02/08

Cameron branded 'sick and ignorant' in Auschwitz row

David Cameron was branded "sick and ignorant" today and urged to apologise for describing school trips to Auschwitz as a headline-grabbing "gimmick".
The Tory leader sparked a major political row when he condemned educational visits to the concentration camp to teach pupils about the Holocaust.
Cameron told a Conservative "North West Conference" in Bolton that Gordon Brown's government was obsessed with gimmicks that "grabbed the headlines but amounted to nothing".
Number four on the list of 26 government gimmicks he cited was "trips to Auschwitz".
The schools secretary, Ed Balls, called on the Conservative leader to apologise.
"This is a truly disgraceful remark by David Cameron and he should apologise immediately for the offence he has caused," Balls said. "Anyone who has seen the horrors of Auschwitz at first hand knows what a life-changing experience it is."
Earlier this month, the government announced a £4.65m payment of funds to the Holocaust Educational Trust to extend their programme of sending two sixth-formers from every school and college in the country to Auschwitz to learn about the Holocaust.
Balls added: "To call the announcement I made … a 'gimmick' just beggars belief. In trying to make this issue into a matter of party politics, David Cameron has shown once again that he not only lacks judgement but also a basic sense of decency."
Government minister Jim Murphy, who has organised school trips to Auschwitz for more than 450 Scottish teenagers since 2004, also rounded on the Tory leader's comments.
He told guardian.co.uk: "I have organised trips from Scotland for to Auschwitz for Scottish teenagers for the past three years.
"They have a lasting impact and are a poignant and moving reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust. To describe it as a gimmick is sick, ignorant and an insult to those who have perished and those who still live today with the memories of the darkest moments in human history."
The Tory party claimed that schools would have to find £100 to fund every sixth-former's trip.
"We've never known a government that is so obsessed with short-term gimmicks, with top-down control, with endless meddling and interfering in every part of everyone's life," Cameron said."Yet we've also never known a government that is so incapable of even the most basic level of competence.
"We've had a gimmick for every week that Gordon Brown has been prime minister. It would be funny if it wasn't so serious."
But the Labour party insisted today that since it began taking schoolchildren to Auschwitz in 1998, at an average cost of £350 per pupil, the Holocaust Educational Trust has always asked schools to contribute £100 towards the cost of each trip.
Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "Since we have received government funding, we have been able to offer two students from every secondary and sixth-form college in the country, the opportunity to visit the former Nazi camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.
"Often participants describe the experience as life-changing. We have already taken over 5000 students on this project and the renewed government funding announced this year will enable us to take over 15,000 pupils nationwide up to 2011."She added: "This is such a worthwhile project and we are very grateful for the government's support."
Henry Grunwald, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "The Board of Deputies does not get involved in party politics but we are surprised and disappointed that David Cameron should in any way have used the word gimmick in connection with visits to Auschwitz.
"MPs of all parties have supported these visits and understand their importance and we are grateful to the government for having made funding available to enable two sixth formers from every secondary school to participate in them."
The Tories insisted that the party was a firm believer in the trips' education value.
A spokeswoman for David Cameron said: "We are not saying trips to Auschwitz are a gimmick. The government was trying to suggest in a press release earlier this month they were going to fund two children from every school. The problem is they said they would pay for it in full.
"But when you look at the analysis the schools have to pay £1.9m. So what exactly is the government paying for?"
The spokeswoman added that a Tory government would pay for the trip in full, without asking schools and colleges to contribute.
When pressed, she said this would be paid for from lottery funding.

Liverpool Cityscape - Ben Johnson

I'd not visited the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool for decades. It is one of those strange traits that one tends to traipse around far flung galleries and museums yet ignore the culture on one's own doorstop. Barcelona, Milan, Crete, Poland, Paris, even Weimar, Germany (City of Culture 1999); I've been there. Therefore, in our Year of Culture, I thought a visit was a must. I intend to spend some time at as many of the 2008 events as I can, particularly when the new camera arrives (RIP and Stop The Clocks Olympus MJU 400).

At the moment, Ben Johnson is artist in residence and can be seen completing his epic cityscape work. There is a webcam link here and there are far better photos on the Gallery's Flickr site.

The painting is superbly detailed and 'photographic' was a description heard more than once whilst viewing. However, as Ben Johnson points out, it is more than that:

My brief was to create a panoramic portrait of the city of Liverpool to act as an icon in the year 2008. It would also be an historic document celebrating Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture. Liverpool’s existing buildings were to be portrayed together with the buildings that have been designed and will be completed within this period, or landmark buildings upon which work had started.

I also took some snaps (borrowed Nikon L11) of works by Freud, Epstein and John Gibson. More information can be found on the main site here.

All in all, well worth a trip. And it's free!

Cliff Hanging

I was a bit worried about attracting attention from the paramilitary wing of the Cliff Richard Fan Club (Knitting Needle Section) with this post, but here goes.

The destitute man's Elvis, Sir Harold Webb, immigrant and scholar has been giving a sermon. In his interview with Q Magazine, he claims to be the ultimate pop star and that the fabs, particularly the late George Harrison (nice Christian values there: kicking the dead) were often out of tune. He cannot recall the actual song but He has spoken and as you can see from the picture above, In the Beginning........

If one cares to read the late Ian McDonald's excellent academic tome, Revolution In The Head (and I think it is a worthwhile read even though it sometimes delves into pedantry) there are references to the glitches and mistakes contained in Beatles studio recordings. This makes it all the more fascinating to hear the songs through headphones and decent hi-fi equipment.

Yes, the lads were human - not a deity like Cliff; to listen to bootlegs and the Anthology out-takes is to be there in the studio at Abbey Road.

I must confess, I do have a Cliff recording - it was sneaked into a Van Morrison CD I bought. Enjoy my royalty payment, Cliff - Xmas is almost 11 months off.
Update: Perusing Tory MP wannabee, Iain Dale's Diary, I noticed that I have a Low Musical Compatibility with him on Last.fm and that his top artist is Cliff Richard! The Prosecution case rests.

Labour Panders: Eat Shifts or Leave?

Apologies to Lynn Truss for the awful grammar above but it was a valiant effort.
Although the Labour Goverenment is constantly villified by the right-wing press (and in particular by our Daily Heil and Daily Excess), it still seeks to pander to its readership and surrender to its editorial line.

Today's story on Flint's plans to persecute/nurture Council House tenants (workable or not) is a case in point and reminds me of te situation in the quaint village of Port Sunlight in these parts, and Saltaire. Workers were to be grateful for affordable housing and tied to their cottages.

I shall do some research and post later, but it is a thought......

Fagin's Gang: What the Dickens!

The Pastor Niemoller theme seems to be leaping out at me at the moment.

As 5CC notes, there was an excellent piece by Ally Fogg in The Guardian which deconstructs last week's story about police and social services raids on Romanian families in Slough and the reporting by the media in general.

Contrast the story that appeared in the Express (and the well-informed comments of the BNP huggers) and the one above. Interesting to note that if the police and care workers were to visit many a street in this country that they may find a small percentage worth arresting, a small percentage of which would actually be worthy of a charge, of whom......well you get the general drift.

Of course this is not to condone crime, and I'm careful not to fall into the trap of justifying one misdemeanour because others do it. However, it needs putting in perspective when considered alongside the long-standing campaign of hate against travellers over the years. Many a radio station phone-in is clogged up with listeners claiming to know someone who heard that they don't pick up their rubbish before leaving. This is particularly ironic in this area. when Bill Bryson visited Liverpool for his book, 'Notes from a small island' he described the city of hosting a 'Festival of Litter'. Embarrassing but true.

It does now seem that the story is at the very least, exaggerated. Further investigation by Mr Fogg appears to have elucidated that the press, having been invited to the lynch party, merely accepted the press releases of the local authority and police at face value (which, like the Phil Collins album of the same name, is not to be recommended).

I attempted to make comments on the Express and Mail sites pointing out the flaws, but guess what? Freedomanddemocracy rules huh?

Both papers have been a bit quiet on the subject. Maybe if a little blonde child had been spotted with the Roma, things might have run and run.

Footnote: the pic is a cartoon of Disraeli as Fagin; a useful device used in the past. Given that Disraeli was a One Nation Tory, this sits uncomfortably with the Mail's alleged anti-Semitism and the divide-and-rule agenda of the right-wing press.

The tradition of blaming the travelling community for life's ills is not just confined to the national press. I complained last year about the story in the Wirral News which uses the lazy device of quoting a local worthy who refers to what the feeling is, therefore, in the journalistic playground of the local rags, justifies the headline, Travellers Blamed For Missing Stone.