Archive for July 2012


As we all are probably aware, right about now in a place formerly known as Stratford, the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Summer Security Theatre and Censorship Olympic Games is getting under way.

With something like 20,000 members of the armed forces deployed to provide protection from ‘terrorism’ in ways which range from having HMS Ocean stationed in the Thames, RAF Thyphoon fighters on patrol, missile batteries deployed in various places around the captial (woebetide you if you object to having a battery on your roof as the justice system thinks that this is perfectly fine), as well as 12,500 police officers (some armed with SA80 A2 Rifles), the UK has excelled itself in producing a piece of security theatre to rival that of London Heathrow – but then again LOCOG and the IOC wouldn’t know about that as, like with LHR, ‘VIPs’ such as them don’t have to put up with all of that inconvenience… unlike us ‘little people’.

If that isn’t enough, a censorship regime which would have had Erich Honecker drooling with envy has been enacted. Legislation to protect sponsors and branding means, amongst other things, that, unless your company is a corporate sponsor of this bloody expensive shindig, your stores in the shopping centre next door to the pretty looking stadia can’t even mention that there is a wee sporting event going on least they fall foul of the branding police.

But that won’t bother the members of the Orwellian sounding ‘Olympic family’ as they won’t be shopping in Westfield – they, their relatives and hangers-on will be splashing the cash at the high end stores on Bond Street and the like, and will be using the specially created Zil Lanes to allow themselves to be whisked from their five star hotels in the west end of London to the Games on the east side. Should they feel it necessary to actually watch any of the sporting events that is.

In the mean time those of us who chose to use the Olympic Motto (Citius Altius Fortius’ / ‘Faster Higher Stronger) or common words such as ‘Games’, ‘Two Thousand and Twelve’, ‘2012’, ‘twenty twelve’, ‘Gold’, ‘Silver’, ‘Bronze’, ‘London’, ‘medals’, ‘sponsors’, and ‘summer’ in a sentence in the wrong combination and context – however innocently – might find ourselves in a spot of legal bother.

And of course I wouldn’t want to be someone who once again reminds everyone that the logo for this whole business looks like Lisa Simpson giving a blow job, would I?

Lisa Simpson giving a blow job

The UK can at least console itself with the knowledge that, even before the sport gets underway, we are certain to win at least one Gold medal at London 2012 – in how to enact a quasi-facist state in order to protect corporate sponsors on a money-spinning brouhaha using income stolen from the tax paying public. Silver and Bronze medals won’t, of course, be awarded.

I wonder how if the people of Rio de Janeiro are yet aware of what their politicians have let them in for come 2016?

On a less sour note, all the best to those who are competing. You’ve all generally spent years training for this so it is just a pity that it should be against a backdrop of totalitarianism.

Criminal Stupidity

Dumb criminals are, well, dumb. Heck, there is even a website devoted to exposing ther stupidity to the world.

Meet Martin Peckham… the latest addition to the pantheon of stupidity. Aged 41, he is supposedly a dental technican when he isn’t being an idiot. And, oh boy, is he an idiot.

Martin apparently needed some money to pay for a house and his wedding (although why anyone would wish to marry such a fool is beyond me) but was a little strapped for cash. So he did what any normal person in such a situation would do and he lowered his sights a bit.

No, silly me, this is the age of ‘must have’ so he took out a loan.

Whoops, no he didn’t do that either. No, Martin, being the intellegensia that he is copied the actions of two other (allegedly*) dumb criminals and decided that the best way to raise the readies was to blackmail Bernie Ecclestone. As you do.

Demanding a sum of £200,000 he claimed, during phone calls to Ecclestone, that kidnappers were planning to abduct his daughter, Tamara.

Truely a first class criminal mind.

Three things:

  1. If you are going to blackmail a man worth over £2bn, why would you go for a measly £200k? I’d have thought £2m at least.
  2. Even as someone who doesn’t follow F1 or the gossip columns, I know that Tamara Ecclestone is a bit of a socialite. Common sense therefore says that she is probably followed by paparazzi 24/7 and thus any kidnap attempt would likely to be a non-starter. Instead why not mention family members whose movements aren’t tracked all day, every day?
  3. Demanding money for handing over details of a crime makes you look like more of a scumbag than the supposed criminals you are intending to shop.

Martin Peckham, you are a prat and you deserve everything you get.

* They are facing trial in February so any comments on their case will be censored.

For a lesson in how not to conduct an investigation…

With the release of documents from the professional standards unit of West Midlands police (WMP) it appears that detectives in the force haven’t learnt anything from the bad old days of the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad.

The story starts with the arrest on suspicion of being involved in the ‘commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism’ on 14th May 2008 of Rizwaan Sabir, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham and his friend Hicham Yezza, a staff member at the university. They were arrested after a copy of the ‘al-Qaida Training Manual’ was seen on the latter’s computer by a colleague. It was there becase he was helping Sabir draft his PhD proposal on the ‘evolution of global militant Islam’.

The document had been downloaded by Sabir from the US Deprtment of Justice website and is, so the Guardian reports, also available from major bookstores as well as the university library. Hardly a secret document then so it seems that this was a case of people putting two and two together and getting five.

As part of the obligatory investigation WMP interviewed Dr. Rod Thornton, then a lecturer in the department of Politics and International Relations at the university.

Now, however, the results of the internal West Midlands police professional standards investigation into the affair following complaints by Thornton over the police’s handing of the case is complete. It found that officers effectively invented what Thornton, the university’s sole terrorism expert, told them about the al-Qaida training manual in a police interview.

During the interview Thornton said that he merely told police that Sabir was studying al-Qaida, but was never asked to discuss the manual. Thornton says that officers invented claims that he had concerns over the manual which he says are an apparent attempt to justify the arrest and police anti-terror operation, codenamed Minerva.

The findings of the force’s standard’s inquiry upheld Thornton’s claim that officers “made up what he said about the al-Qaida manual.”

It also states that the actual minutes of the Gold Group meeting of the detectives assigned to the case “incorrectly recorded” their conversation with Thornton.

Internal notes from the Gold Group meeting, dated May 17 2008, actually reveal police quoting Thornton as believing the manual was a “tactical document” and could not be considered relevant to Sabir’s academic research into terrorism.

Thornton has now referred the police treatment of him to the IPCC. The standards board, however, says that no officers will be investigated for misconduct.

Now call me odd but if officers have been found to have been making stuff up, is that not an open and shut case of misconduct. Or is it that the individuals involved have now left the force so there is is no point in disciplining them?

WMP released the pair after a week without charge but left incorrect information on Sabir’s file which asserted that he had been convicted of a terrorist offence.

The whole business cost WMP £20,000 in compensation and a personal apology from the Chief Constable who ‘conceded that “there was “no evidence to justify any criminal charge” against Mr Sabir” and agreed to “delete the inaccurate information from the intelligence files; and acknowledged that her officers? actions were unlawful and “apologise[d] for any embarrassment, frustration and distress” in respect of a stop and search on 4 February 2010 that was based solely on the fact of his wrongful arrest’.

Whilst WMP were obliged to investigate, to me this saga hightlights the following:

  1. the idea of possession is in some way equates to intent is, as I’ve said before, stupid
  2. by encouraging people reporting on others we find ourselves living in a country where innocent motives are discounted in favour of criminal ones and we are guilty until proven innocent
  3. there is apparently such a need to find ‘terrorists’ in order to justify the state-driven paranoia that some police officers would rather lie instead of admitting that a mistake has been made

Is it any wonder I despair?

Flying the flag in Southend

About 10 weeks ago, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council put out a self-congratulatory press release to say that they’d been awarded a purple flag because of the quality of the nightlife in the town and how safe it was for those on a night out.

My reaction when I first read the press reports was to scoff and wonder how anyone could be so naive but someone (I think it might have been Demi) pointed out that this wasn’t necessarily the case.

A quick bit of digging later and I mentally filed the story under things to blog about only to forget about it – probably due to alcohol. Lost it would have remained but until a few days ago when I happened to see this tweet from an Essex police officer:

at which point what passes for my brain cell reminded me that I meant to write something about the whole business.

A purple flag is awarded by the The Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM), who, if I’m reading their website correctly, appear to be a group of self-appointed experts who think that they know what is best for town centres. Membership of this organisation is, it has to be said, cheap in the grand scheme of things with (ex-VAT) prices for the current year being £237.50, £312.50 or £397.50 depending on the size of the local population.

The flag, has, according to the website

…been designed as an objective assessment that will help you improve your town or city centre at night. Most significantly it is designed to provide recognition that your centre is managing its night time experience and thus help overcome any negative public perceptions that may exist. Purple Flag provides the opportunity for successful centres to present themselves in their true colours and in a positive light to town centre users, including operators, residents, tourists and visitors.

Purple Flag aims to raise the standard and broaden the appeal of centres between 1700 and 0600. The scheme is managed by the ATCM working alongside the Purple Flag Advisory Committee – a partnership of key stakeholder groups, including central and local government, police, business and consumers.

How altruistic of them to let people know how nice a town centre is as an after hours social place. Still doesn’t answer the question of why they would assume that Friday or Saturday night in Southend is a nice place to be though…

Oh, it turns out the purple flag isn’t awarded as the result of an anonymous user exercise or some such like. it is something which a local council has to apply for. The upfront cost to an applying council with a population of the size of Southend is non-refundable sum of £2,250 + VAT. The yearly fee for keeping it (if you get it) is £750 + VAT and ATCM are (along with the drinks company Diageo) available to help for an addition £500 + VAT. ATCM have an address in Queen Anne’s Gate to maintain…

What we don’t know, of course, know is how many hours – and at what cost – the council and the Essex Police spent on

  1. submitting the application,
  2. ferrying around the ATCM staffers when they were in town, and
  3. the jolly to Bristol last week.

Personally I’m of the opinion that even a thruppenny bit would have been too much.