The two Jeremys.

There’s an episode in season 3 of the ‘West Wing’ where President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) are talking in the Oval office. They’re discussing the upcoming election and how the Republican candidate (in a clear comparison with G W Bush) is the polar opposite of Bartlet.

Toby says to him “Well, there’s always been a concern… about the two Bartlets. The absent-minded professor with the “Aw, Dad” sense of humor. Disarming and unthreatening. Good for all time zones. And the Nobel Laureate. Still searching for salvation. Lonely, frustrated. Lethal.”

I mention this because this afternoon I got to see the current leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn address a crowd of around 200 people in Sunderland on a whistle-stop tour of the North East following the hustings last night. Now I’m going to put my cards on the table and start by saying that although I have supported Labour for most of my adult life (barring a month when I was struck with “Cleggmania”) I have only been a fully paid up member since November/December last year. I joined because I believed in Jeremy Corbyn, that he was the man to lead us into government and to reverse the damage caused by the conservative party. However, after revelations from former colleagues and some close to him, I believe he isn’t the man to lead us so in this leadership election I am backing Owen Smith.

I went to the rally (which had moved location due to concerns about safety) with the intention of seeing what the fuss was about although friends reactions varied from “Don’t get arrested” to “you’re going to chicken suit him, aren’t you?” I’ve  seen Jeremy at the Dispatch box, at the leadership hustings and in the rare interviews and appearances he does on TV and he isn’t what I would call, impressive. For the most part he seems to spend too much time with his nose buried in his notes mumbling or with the look of a very disappointed university lecturer, so I at least knew sort of what to expect.

First impressions were that a large proportion of the crowd were from Unite and Unison including a few who are/were SWP not that long ago, momentum members and people from the various Socialist parties selling their newspapers. As the event went on they were then joined by quite a lot of students while the locals mainly stuck to the fringes of the crowd.

The first up was a woman with a guitar, who sang a few songs reworded with more current issues such as refugees and then sang one that was essentially how great Jeremy is (#notacult). While this was going on a man in the crowd started shouting at the people there, resulting in a young man in a Momentum T-shirt to start shouting back at him and getting quite aggressive, which didn’t defuse the situation. It was surreal to walk between people clapping at a song that had the line “Kinder and Gentler” while walking towards this guy and a former SWP member as he yells “I’m a fucking Union man” and the kid in the Momentum Tshirt is getting more irate. As I walked back to my Wife I noticed the kid had been taken to the side of the crowd where the councillors were and was getting spoken to by a police officer.

There then followed Katherine Mason who set up the Penshaw Clothes Bank. In her speech she described the work she does and the impact it has on the most needy in the area, she was incredible and rightly received a large applause at the end. Following her were people from the Unions and a Councillor from Northumberland.

This all leads me to Jeremy.

He wasn’t what I was expecting, instead of the mumbling under-performer, there was a man who was full of passion, who didn’t read from a notepad, was lively, and animated. He didn’t really say anything new and the speech wasn’t that special. Apart from a few lines about local council cuts he didn’t really address the issues people in Sunderland face or believe are important. There was nothing about the EU which struck me as odd considering Sunderlands prominent part in that result. I can’t imagine someone with absolutely nothing in Pallion, Pennywell or Penshaw really caring about building a movement similar to the Bernie Sanders one in the US (Reminder, Sanders stepped aside for party unity.) Although he did once again tell us that the Party abstained on the welfare bill, but what he didn’t say was that during the 3rd and final reading before it becomes law MP’s voted against it.

His message was aimed at the Unions and the younger students in the crowd and this has been one of my main issues with him.

He and his supporters measure their success on the size of their rallies and the support they get there. He isn’t trying to speak to the wider electorate or the wider membership of the party. His message is full of broad ideas without specifics and no specifics ever emerge bar the ones that are unworkable. The idea that his investment banks will be covered by taxation and closing loopholes and avoidance schemes sound all nice, but the practicalities and the likely return to the treasury wouldn’t be enough. He announces policy through the Morning star, his chancellor announces policy seemingly on the fly in areas that aren’t in his area of responsibility (just ask Sharon Hodgson about that) and his supporters lap it up. They can’t understand that in the wider public he isn’t as well liked, they can’t see that Labour have consistently been behind in the polls bar a few day in April and when you do challenge them on it they blame the right wing media, the PLP or some vast conspiracy.

One of the most telling things about to day was the concentrations of different groups of people. Momentum members and the unions/SWP/TUSC were the closest to him, then people like myself were next, and the locals many of whom won’t be labour members were out in the fringes. These were the ones who left immediately after he stopped speaking and from the bits of their conversation I heard were the least impressed by his message. And for me this summed up the situation perfectly.

I thought I would be leaving the event feeling angry, however the overriding feeling was one of disappointment. Disappointment that for almost a year we’ve had a different Jeremy than the one we had in the campaign in 2015, while he was full of energy and was a breath of fresh air, the Jeremy of Labour leader has been the opposite, an almost paranoid, ineffective politician who hasn’t been able to meet the demands and duties of leader of the opposition. For a brief moment I remembered what made me like him and join in the first place but then as I walked down the street past the charity shops, the pawn shops and the now empty shell of BHS I remembered why he needs to go.  Labour is a union of left-wing movements but they realised long ago that those movements needed proper representation, and needed to be in Government to bring their aims to fruition. Labour is about coming together, to change the country for the better, to make sure that your children have it better than you. That they have the best schools, the best teachers, the best hospitals and the best doctors all free, that they can realise their potential and reach for it. And even if they fall, that there’s something there to catch them. And right now that is simply not going to happen.

As I got home I heard that the appeal by Labour had been successful and that the voting block would stand, this cause a lot of fellow Smith supporters to be happy at this as those supporters were believed to be more for Jeremy than Owen, however like Toby says during that tense conversation with Bartlet:

” There’s an old expression: “Quando dio vuole castigarci ci manda quello che desideriamo.” When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.” 


Olympics, bringing people together.

There’s already all sorts of bad behavior by athletes at the Olympics, with the Lebanese team not allowing the Israeli athletes on the bus, a report that a Saudi judo athlete (judist?) forfeited his match rather than face an Israeli athlete (the Saudis say it was an injury), literal finger-wagging by American swimmers towards Russian […]

via North and South Korean gymnasts pose for a selfie — Why Evolution Is True

An election, a referendum and a pregnancy.

It’s been well over a year since I last posted anything to this site and now I have another one  I thought it was time to revive this.

Firstly in the year and a bit since we were last here, Labour headed right into an electoral nightmare with the general election, then the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader really put the lining around the grave. We had a vote on leaving the EU, which we promptly agreed to resulting in the pound dropping like a brick, the Prime minister leaving and Labour falling even further back.

More importantly though, in December I will become a father. To say i’m scared is an underestimation i’m actually terrified at the responsibility of another human and raising them. However that fear gives way to excitement at a new chapter of my life and all the things I’ll be doing. If this place gets a bit “baby orientated” I can only apologise but there will be more as we go along.

Smoking is bad for you in the Caliphate (reposted)

Beheadings have become commonplace in the territories held by the militant Islamic State, but the severed head reportedly found last month in the eastern Syrian city of Al-Mayadeen was nevertheless unusual.

It had a cigarette placed between its lips.

“This is not permissible, Sheikh,” someone had scrawled in Arabic on the decapitated corpse lying nearby, according to an account from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group. The body and head belonged to an Islamic State official, a deputy police chief.

From consuming alcohol to cursing, vices of all types are frowned upon by Islamic State.

But it is the militants’ injunction on smoking, in a region rife with chain-smokers and water-pipe aficionados, that may be the hardest habit to kick. (About half of Syrian men and one in 10 women smoke, according to the World Health Organization.)

Shortly after the group’s takeover of large swaths of Deir Elzur province in eastern Syria, Islamic State began to close tobacco shops and shutter the ubiquitous water-pipe cafes.

Although smoking is allowed under Islam, some ultraconservative variations of Sharia law condemn the practice as a slow form of suicide, and therefore haram — forbidden.

For those who live under Islamic State rule, a respite can be found beyond the “caliphate” it controls.

“I’m enjoying it while I can,” said Mohammad Khalil, relishing his cigarette recently as he sat near the gate of the Akcakale border crossing in southeast Turkey.

On the other side lay the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, where the Islamic State’s black-on-white flag was fluttering in the wind.

“Once I go across I can’t smoke in the open,” explained Mohammad, taking another long drag.

In November, Flavien Moreau, 27, a French citizen who had traveled to Syria to join Islamic State, was convicted on terrorism charges upon his return to France and slapped with a seven-year prison sentence, according to France24, the French news broadcaster.

His career as an extremist warrior had been brief. Only two weeks after joining the group, he said he handed over his Kalashnikov rifle and headed back to Europe.

“I really struggled with not smoking,” Moreau testified, according to France24. “I had brought Nicorette gum with me, but it wasn’t enough,” he explained, referring to the nicotine replacement product. “So I left my gun with my [commander] and I left.”

Violators of the smoking ban face a minimum punishment of 40 lashes with a whip. Repeat offenders face lashes as well as prison time — and, as in the case of the beheaded police official, may even be executed, according to activists contacted in Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa in northeast Syria.

Still, the ban hasn’t stopped people from trying to sneak cigarettes into Islamic State terrain. Contraband smokes arrive via the Turkish border and from areas under the control of less militant factions.

“There is a lot of smuggling going on,” said Abu Mohammed, a Raqqa-based activist who uses a pseudonym for security reasons. “There are many ways to do it,” he explained via Skype. For instance, smugglers hide cigarettes inside cans or in sacks of flour or stuff them inside bags of Arabic flatbread.

More innovative was an approach pioneered by a truck driver making regular runs to the Iraqi border town of Qaim, where there is no smoking ban. Once there, the trucker would strap cigarette packs to the wings of carrier pigeons for hassle-free home delivery to Raqqa, some 175 miles away, according to an account on an opposition news website on Facebook.

With tobacco a proscribed item, prices have skyrocketed.

“In the past you would pay 50 Syrian pounds for a pack of Gaulouises Red,” noted Abu Mohammed, a price equivalent to about $1 before the war began. “Now you pay 150 [Syrian pounds], and some times you can’t even find it.”

Hitherto unknown — and inferior — brands of cigarettes have also cropped up, often at highly inflated prices.

“People are forced to buy them anyway,” lamented Abu Mohammad. “It’s something that is important.”

Daring a Saturn V

“I had control of that vehicle right in the palm of my hands. If the guidance failed or started to stray or went somewhere we didn’t like or the ground didn’t like, I could flip a switch, and I could control seven, over seven and a half million pounds of thrust with this handle and fly the thing to the Moon myself. And I guarantee you, I had practiced it and trained for it so many times, I almost dared, I almost dared her to quit on me. Every breath she breathed, I breathed with her. She was, she was uniquely something special, and what a hell of a ride she gave us.”

Eugene Cernan

The Brand delusion

What to say about Russell Brand that already hasn’t been said (criticism from the Sun aside)

Well I feel I should lay my cards out on the table. I’m not a massive Brand fan, I loved him in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshal’ and ‘Get him to the Greek’ and I respect him when he mentions drug abuse treatment. However for the most part I find him shallow, annoying and sounding like a first year Politics student who swallowed a thesaurus. Now his book ‘Revolution’ has been thoroughly deconstructed by people far better than me, and with more free time clearly. Usual criticism of the book is that it is devoid of content, riddled with factual errors and a waste of trees so bad it could be considered eco-terrorism.

Of course there is always more to this, for one it’s long been suspected that Brand didn’t write it and that accolade goes to Johann “I’ve changed” Hari, a man who would find impersonation very easy. Of course this makes it hard for the usual suspects on the Brand Bandwagon, take for example the Guardian.

The guardian must have struggled with this, for one they have an unhealthy obsession with Brand (although they seem to have flavour of the weeks anyway) Nick Cohen brilliantly reviewed the book here, but naturally it was a bit negative so what to do, especially since the comments from the readers went in a different direction.

Well they assembled a sort of bizarro avengers including Owen “Misinformation” Jones and a few other “of our young writers” the end result isn’t a surprise, they found ‘Revolution’ to be “a hopeful handbook of new ways of thinking.” While not agreeing with his call to “Not vote” (a message I hope returns if he decides to run for office.)

What annoys me isn’t Brand per se, I find him tedious yes, would I actively go out of my way to say, push him in a fountain?
probably not. My issue is with the media’s reaction to Brand, and the mentality of some of his followers.

Take for example the issues around the new era estate in Hackney, London. This is the story about an estate that was bought by a US firm Westbrook Partners who planned to refurbish the estate and hike rents from around £800 to £2000. Now this is a story that has been going on since March when Westbrook bought the estate. Now it’s worth noting that there were protests and 38 degrees were involved pretty much from day one. It was making news. However in marched Brand at the request of one of the organisers of the protest.

From then on the story the media picked up on wasn’t the shameful way this estate of 90 families were being treated, it was Russell Brand. The Sun leapt on him with the venom normally reserved for Paedophiles, or Ed Miliband.

We know something about being hypocrites
We know something about being hypocrites

Channel 4 gave up on journalistic standards and the golden rule of Journalism “Don’t be like the f*cking Sun” and decided to question him about his own house, because (and this is the rare moment I defend Brand) that is somehow relevant, because they clearly aren’t aware of Brands own background which isn’t exactly silver spoon.

The good news is Westbrook transferred ownership of the property to a social housing agent who has promised not to raise rents for a year and then assess the levels based on affordability (although a little piece of me still thinks we’ll be reading about Hoxton in a years time, pessimism prevails)

So this brings me to Act 2 of the Media Vs Russell Brand. Now the dust is settling how did they respond to the news that the residents prevailed. Well the Guardian went with the story, and mentioned Brand briefly, the Independent (whose demise will be welcomed since it’s been going downhill at great speed) went with the narrative the Brand saved it in the same way the US claim to have won WW2. The Metro (DM but free) went with “Did Russell Brands revolution work?”

Russell brands admirers however went with this being a massive victory for Brand, not for the residents, 38 degrees, or any of the local and national figures who spoke out. But Brand.

The truth is really, it was all of those things. Brand did bring a bit of attention to the campaign, although mostly so the media could get their claws out and savage him (for example there were more stories about C4 questioning his house value than the reason he was actually in front of the press. The reason wasn’t important he was just with the residents handing over a 38,000 signature petition) but his involvement came a bit too late for him to take the lion’s share of the credit, 38 degrees petition undoubtedly did some good, the protests at westbrooks london office would have also had an impact. Sidiq Khan, Labour and City hall calling on a reversal of the decision and the NY mayor lambasting Westbrook for their work in New York also added fuel.

But the real winners weren’t Brand, Khan, Labour or 38 degrees. It was the 90 residents of the estate who can after 9 months sleep in their houses free of the worry that they’ll be forced to move from their own homes, some of which they have lived in for decades. The losers though, have to be the media, they had a chance to help those residents, most didn’t until the prospect of settling a few scores got in the way.

As an aside it’s worth mentioning this, when “Brand’s” book was published a group I admin at over on Facebook were obviously mentioning it every 20 seconds (much to my protest) one person who never wrote or contributed chimed in saying Revolution was a serious book, full of good ideas and we should all read it and learn from it like she did.
She couldn’t answer one question about the book, or respond to criticism over the Book or Brand. Instead just went into personal attacks how we were just slaves to the system, anyway, it eventually came out that she hadn’t read the book beyond the first few pages so she got more and more personal until as admins we took the decision to remove the thread and her.

We thought that was the end of it but then some eagle eyed member saw her post in a Brand group that we were all fascists clamping down on dissent and opposing views, it had nothing to do with the drivel she was spouting or the personal attack. This is the sort of person who polluted the Hoxton stories on the Guardian for ignoring the contribution of the saviour and are claiming he won it single handedly.

So the problem isn’t really Brand, it’s the media who fawn attention/ attempt pathetically to discredit a man who doesn’t take that much effort to do that and the fanboys who think he’s the Moses coming down from the mountain.
When in fact as anyone who watched Brand on Question time knows, he’s a charlatan, a man who makes a lot of noise but lacks substance who until this week probably realised he was in way out of his depth and in the real world, it takes more than a cheeky laddish personality and a vocabulary Dr Johnson would be envious of.

Carl Sagan November 9, 1934 — December 20, 1996

I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking. The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides. [Carl Sagan, 1996]

An Update On Mo Ansar – Tell Mama Threaten Potential Legal Action

Mo Ansar just doesn’t know when to quit.

Homo economicus' Weblog

If you are new to the curious world of Mo Ansar you may want to read this post first for more context, though not essential.

The Mo Ansar vanity exercise goes on via Twitter, though now his persona is fighting for islamic orthodoxy, or more specifically for only those that fit a certain criteria for having anything worth saying about reform. Especially after he smears them.


The man that most fits this criteria is, of course, himself. Readily available for media engagements day and night. Those regular slots on TV have dried up since the exposes on him hit mainstream media.

Quilliam and TellMama

View original post 782 more words

Target beat

“But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,”

Well good news, Lunar Mission One has exceeded their initial funding goal of £600,000 making a final total of £672,447. This means that the programme has now got the initial funding and next month the initial team will meet and plot out the first 6 months of the project. This includes the vital marketing branch who will work to ensure the funds keep flowing allowing the mission to continue.

Of course like any venture there are risks, it won’t be easy and it will be expensive. But if the last few weeks have proven, there are people out there who are willing to chip in and help.