Monday, January 29, 2007

Czech documentary

Miff and I were asked to be in a Czech documentary about six weeks ago, so if anyone speaks Czech, and wants to watch it, here it is.

Right, back to work...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

To Shelley, and friends

Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."
"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die... By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heavens knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."

Charlotte's Web, E. B. White

'Charlotte's Web was one of my favourite books as a child. It was my sister's favourite book. And last year I found out that it was also the favourite book of a young woman from New Zealand, Shelley Marie Mather, whom I never met, but we shared the same journey to work one day in July 2005.

I made it, she didn't.

It is her birthday. Shelley, I never met you, but I think we would probably have got on pretty well if we had shared a beer. I'm toasting you with one now, you and those who love you. I have been talking to your lovely mum and her lovely partner; I have been honoured to have been corresponding with them both for a year or so now, and then to meet them both last year was a blessing and a privilege. They give the warmest hugs I have ever had.

Shelley's mum, and her auntie are poets. Shelley by all accounts, loved London, loved people, loved life, loved words. Maybe I can see where she got her love of words from. Her auntie. Her mum. Perhaps other people in her family too...

But nobody knows what makes you write. Just to write is a blessing.

"Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider's web?"
''Oh, no," said Dr Dorian. "I don't understand it. But for that matter I don't understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle."

Still fully booked

Blogging will recommence in February. Every minute I have is now spent on the book as I approach Deadline Crunch ( January 31st). The print production schedule is very tight. After submitting the MS, there will be a frenzy of editing. Then I'm going to grab a quick break in Amsterdam with J, and hopefully go and stay with Holly who is moving abroad for three months after a gruelling battle getting off the anti-depressants she was prescribed for PTSD after July 7th. Please go and say hello to her, she is an inspiration, and she is going through it at the moment.

Wedding preparations are squeezed in during odd fifteen minute breaks. And only things that I absolutely have to do, like confirming venues and getting invites printed and designed. I have no life at all at the moment, no down-time. It is pretty shattering and I look like shit, white-faced with black rings under my eyes like a panda. Never mind, hopefully it will all be worth it. Only a few more days of this insanity to go.

Thanks to everyone who has written with emails and comment about the back-up/losing 8000 words of the book problems, and the other stuff that I don't/can't/won't talk about here. I appreciate you all, hugely. If I haven't got back to you and thanked you personally yet, please forgive me. I have not been able to keep on top of everything because of the pace of trying to get the final 30,000 words done by Wednesday. I am really sorry about that. Back soon.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sorry, normal service will resume shortly

*Much wailing and gnashing of teeth* because my PC crashed and I lost the saved-as-draft post on women bloggers, and 8000 words of the book yesterday. I have been working flat out on the book to catch up, as the deadline looms ( end of January).

Thus, emails, comment moderation, blogging, phone calls, texts, eating hot food more than once every three days, exercising, dance classes, taking baths, reading, surfing, wedding stuff, a social life and everything else I enjoy has been sacrificed on the altar of Dire Necessity. Yesterday was absolute hell on wheels. Today better, as I have backed up everything and am emailing myself the saved MS at regular intervals in case the hard drive dies. A Trojan attack has been repelled and malware sought and destroyed and still my PC creaks and shudders. I miss you, I miss this blog, but it will be finished soon and then I can be celebrating. J and I are planning a trip to Amsterdam, to celebrate my birthday in February and a year of being engaged. I am looking forward to February, a lot, when everything gets back to normal, (though I will be in editing hell for a few weeks I suppose. But I am very pleased with the way that the book is going. And the publishers are being lovely.)

At leats the discovery of melatonin means I can sleep again. Best wishes and please bear with me whilst I type,type, type like the wind. Back soon, I promise, with lots to say...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Nominate posts for Blogger TV on 18 Doughty St

Iain Dale has invited me back tomorrow to appear on 18 Doughty Street. Blogger TV which can be found here 9-10pm. Afterwards I'll be co-presenting Vox Politics with Iain from 10pm -11pm. For the first hour ( 9pm-10pm on Blogger TV) we'll be talking about blog issues du jour, including 25 minutes on 'why do so few women blog', and looking at our best three blog posts of the week. Then at 10pm -11pm we'll look at topical news issues, and at 11pm check out Tuesday's papers and reveal the panels' best blog posts of the day. I'll let you know who the other guests are as soon as I know.

So if you have spotted any great posts this week from bloggers of either gender - please feel free to let me know in the comments, so I can big them up on 18 Doughty St tomorrow and link to them on this blog..

Next up...'women bloggers'.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Saturday Blogging round up

Via Confessions of a Psychotherapist, whom I have just blog-rolled, comes this gem from That's So Pants on ancestral voices prosphesying a talent for writing.

Meanwhile, Not Saussure writes in defence of Jade and her coven and RabbitStike takes on idiots and idiocy (incudes hi-octane swearing). There, thank God I don't have to write something on the Sleb Big Bruvvah controversy currently convulsing the nation. If I did, it would basically go: bullies whose behaviour is ignorant, spiteful, vicious and cowardly can rightly expect to be judged and found wanting, you reap what you sow, ignorance is no excuse, the people have spoken, blah blah, yawn, and I am very glad to have spared you it and to direct you to more interesting writers on the subject instead.

How Bloggers can influence behaviour: Lucy continues her Spinster's Quest by reading Girl with a One Track Mind's book, ( warning: hot sauce) which makes her very frisky.

In other political bloggery, Justin pokes David Blunkett with a pointy stick and Tim Ireland has been bashing Guido, who has been bashing back, and in doing so, regained some lost form. I have purposely stayed out of that row, but have de-blogrolled Guido because I hadn't been reading his blog properly for months, and that is because his commenters are generally indescribably bonkers and tiresome, and I can't be doing with wading through any more foaming lunacy at the moment, life's too short. Ministry of Truth has a round up, Paul Linford monitors the players. Chicken Yoghurt's musing on the ructions here and Nosemonkey's thoughts are here.

Right, must crack on with stuff I have to do. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Blow winds and crack your cheeks...

Blimey, the cat has just heaved herself through the catflap, leapt onto the desk scattering papers everywhere and streaked through the house with her fur all blow-dried backwards from the wild winds that are battering outside.

This wind reminds me of the greatest Evening Standard article ever written, 'My Tornado Hell' by Caroline Phillips, which was lovingly retyped and posted on the internet. Caroline's writing enthralled the blogosphere in December after the Kensal Rise tornado cruelly struck her gracious home, causing pandemonium and damaging many of the designer artefacts she grievingly details for her fascinated readership. For those of you who have not yet seen this quite extraordinary piece of journalism, I urge you to have a read, weep, and count your blessings.

My top six quotes from this genius feature (which is not a spoof, I swear, it is actually, totally real.)

1. ''A black roof tile speared the American walnut floating shelf...''

2. ''A wooden bowl of Christmas clementines. These are vomited across our limestone floor.''

3. ''For three years, I'd indulged my passion for perfect decor. In January, it was to have been shot for Homes & Property...''

But there is hope for the inhabitants (whose names and social standing are thoughtfully detailed throughout the piece so we don't get the wrong impression of the area...). Caroline bravely makes the best of the situation...and thanks God for insurance.

4. ''Simon Willsmer, our loss adjustor, hasn't yet broken that news to us. The insurance companies have taken a recent slating, but he was sensitive and honourable. He said we could stay in a hotel. Adrian explained that there is only one hotel in London: Claridge's. Simon did not demur. And he loved what's left of our specialist-polished plaster walls...''

5. ''On Friday evening, stupidly, we met friends for dinner in that awful eye of the social tornado, Cipriani. I wore Tornado Chic - the grey pants and multiple jumpers that were still my only clothes. I screamed with grief in the loo.''

6. ''Oh, and now we might just get that communal garden we've always wanted.''

The reaction of some of the piece's readers at mum'snet can be found here ( start at the bottom). I am terribly sorry for Caroline's trauma, but my goodness, that's some reaction she mustered for the paper.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Nightmare in Downing Street

Iain Dale on Doughty St has emailed political bloggers and journalists with a press release about a statement made in an interview on the internet TV station by Lance Price, former Downing St spin doctor, about the origin of the famous slur on Gordon Brown being ''psychologically flawed''.

You can watch the interview here. Or full version here

Coming as this does a few days after More4's ''The Trial of Tony Blair'', (repeated on Thursday - tomorrow - on Channel 4 and well worth watching) - this is rather interesting stuff, though not surprising as the relationship between the Chancellor and the PM is famously portrayed as dysfunctional. The TV drama was powered by this, with a broodingly dour, insecure Brown being briefed against by a manicly delusional still-messianic Blair in order to cripple the new PM's election majority by arranging a pre-election leak about tax-rises to the Tories, and Brown in turn vengefully allowing the former PM to be prosecuted for war crimes by the Hague. It was a bleakly black comedy, with some nice touches, ( like Brian Haw taking up residence outside Connaught Square) but ultimately a caricature that tried to punch so many targets it rather diluted its angry power.

Caricature and satire has resonance when it distorts a still-recognisable truth. And the toxic shambles of the 'orderly transition', the uneasy truces, ferret-sack-infighting, and the near-implosion of the Labour party a few months ago caused by Blair's refusal to name a date, his determined clinging to power, even when it seems to work against the interest of the party, has led me to wonder on more than one occasion, just who is psychologically flawed ( see: How Mad is Tony Blair?)

Price stops short of confirming that the damning indictment issued from the lips of the PM, but ho hum...

Lance Price: Well no, I don’t know, I don’t know for a fact it was Alastair Campbell. I’ll tell you what somebody…somebody very close to the Chancellor who was having this discussion, many people had this discussion obviously, said to me; “By the way everyone says it was Alastair, it wasn’t Alastair”. He said it was Tony Blair. It was Tony Blair who said it. It was completely unacceptable for the news to be out there that this was what the Prime Minister said about the Chancellor so therefore Alastair took the rap and Alastair’s been the lightning conductor ever since. Now I have no idea whether that’s true but people very close to the Chancellor believe its true and maybe even the Chancellor himself believes it was true and if you look in Andrew Rawnsley’s book where the quote first appeared, he said, I think he described it as somebody with a better claim than anyone else to know the Prime Minister’s mind. Well, the only person with a better claim to know the Prime Minister’s mind than Alistair Campbell is, possibly Cherie, is the Prime Minister himself.

Iain Dale: Another thing is that Andrew Rawnsley has said that once Tony Blair ceases to be Prime Minister, he will reveal all. That would add fuel to the fire.

Lance Price: Maybe, Iain, you heard it here first.

Mind you, it could just as well have been Cherie.
I wish they were better than this: it is demeaning to have the Government engaging in petty bitching cliquey office politics so publicly, instead of proper politics. I support Brown, I do not want a Conservative Government, and the man has waited a long time, thought and prepared, watched and listened and I hope, will be a new start . He deserves his chance.

Nobody is ''psychologially perfect'', though some delusional people think they are. Psychological health is being self-aware, knowing your weaknesses and strengths and vulnerabilities and not being too proud to change or ask advice.

Anyway, I don't think Brown is psychologically flawed, in the way that it was reported as being meant, ( though I bet he is pissed off and resentful after all this time), but the fact that someone who I think is deeply psychologically flawed is apparently calling Brown ''psychologically flawed'' reminds me yet again of the wise words of Tim Field from BullyOnline, about people projecting their own weaknesses onto those they unfairly snipe at, and how, in doing so, they reveal more than they realise about their own demons and fears.

UPDATE: Iain reveals that the matter was raised in the House at PM's Question Time, Gordon was asked about it by the press pack in India as well as his views on Celebrity BB and tells us that now the Queen is keenly following the story. The Queen should start a blog, I bet she could break some hot stories. Or just have a whinge about how awful Tony Blair is, the cause that is currently uniting left and right as one in the blogosphere...


Sorry, I need to write this down after a week of keeping silent. I need practical advice and maybe some of you have got some ideas. I can't sleep properly any more. And I need sleep to function; I am rubbish without it. I am trying to look after myself better, something I am not good at: since January 1st I have been exercising most days, working with a SAD lightbox to counteract the effects of the short days and winter gloom, taking vitamins, St. John's Wort and milk thistle, drinking juice in the morning with a healthy breakfast, not drinking any alcohol or coffee at all in January, keeping in touch with friends, planning our wedding, going to dance class last night...

I do not want to take pharmaceutical anti-depressants or drugs. I am not ill, and I do not think they will help. My G.P can't do much. She just looks sad, calls me 'my dear', bites her lip, says she is sorry that all this is going on, flutters her hands. I end up telling her not to worry.

Last night, I lay awake til 4.00am ( that was the last time I looked a the clock). The last two nights before that, 3.00am, and I have not slept until 2.00am for the last ten days. I drink chanomile tea before bed, I have long baths, I read a chapter of a novel and make sure the room is not overheated. I curl myself into J's back. I close my eyes and I try to relax, but my mind races and revs and worries, and I am afraid to sleep again, because the dreams are back. The dreams are frightening and vivid: this time it is not black smoke and screams, but vampires, someone peeling back the cover and clawing at my skin, drowning in foetid stinking flood water; all the themes are of invasion, psychic attack. I feel haunted, and sickened, and shaky, and angry and sorry for myself: why me, why me, again?

I touched on the reasons why I am so stressed in this post, and much as I would like to write more, I can't, for legal reasons. I have promised myself that when this is over, even though January is an alcohol-free month, I will pour myself a glass of champagne and cry with relief. There is a bottle in the fridge, waiting. At the moment, I do not let myself cry. I have not felt able to blog because to do so makes me more vulnerable to what is going on. I bite my cheek, and I put on an exercise DVD, and I work up a sweat instead, punch the air, dance.

But I am getting completely sick of trying to pretend everything is fine, when it is not. It is really getting to me now. There are limits to how much I can stand. Some of the damn PTSD symptoms I thought had gone away are coming back. I have not seen a counsellor since early last summer: I completed my course of practical Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy with a psychologist to manage panic attacks on public transport, and I got on with my life. But I have just started seeing a counsellor again; someone to talk it through with, for 50 minutes a week, so I feel that I am not going mad. I have had two sessions. It is a relief to be able to talk to someone in confidence about how I feel.

It's frustratingly hard to write in this situation, because I am exhausted. I am feeling angry, because I left my job to do this, to write. I have always wanted to do this, and what I am trying to do is being over-shadowed at the moment by this wretched business that I can't bloody well talk about or defend myself against.

But I have a book deadline, so I need to keep going. I know some of the readers of this blog are vaguely aware of the situation, and all I can say is, thanks for your silent support, and for not responding to what is going on. I appreciate it. It is hard because we are reaching the end-game now, and I have to keep telling myself that it is always darkest just before the birds start singing and the sky lightens. Soon this will be over. Winter will become Spring.

As I wrote that, the sun just came out. There. I'll be okay, I always am. It's always all right in the end, and if it's not all right, it's not the end.

I am going to write something about politics, so this is not at the top of the page, and so all the people who come here looking for stuff on current affairs don't get cheesed off with all the dark night of the soul stuff.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

First Lone Mass Demo of 2007!

Passing this on... For previous posts on subject look here and here and here. For a salutory tale about being crushed by the wheels of bureaucracy whilst struggling for democracy, and the unremitting purgatory of trying to hand in the damn permission form at Islington nick, look here and here. I recommend going to Charing Cross with the form, where they are nice to you and will acknowledge your existence. For a history of SOCPA struggling, look here. Get your permission-to-demonstrate form HERE. And now a message from the organisers...
First demo date for 2007 is WEDNESDAY 17th JANUARY from 6pm until 7pm. Again we shall be handing in the application forms the week before on WEDNESDAY 10th JANUARY from 5.30pm until 7pm. ( That's today, folks - RN)
If you are unable to attend, you can of course hand in your application up to six days before the 17th January. The demonstration itself will as usual be in Parliament Square.If you have any questions please contact me
attricia_bird AT yahoo DOTcom. Thanks, Rachel ( Not me, another Rachel -RN) on behalf of Mark Thomas Mob No: 07952 145854.
The forms ( get the form here) when completed should be sent back to Charing Cross Police Station by office by one of the following methods. 1. Hand delivery to Charing Cross Police Station onWed 8th Nov 2006.2. Sent by recorded delivery to Operations Office,Charing Cross Police Station, Agar Street, London, WC2N 4JP.3. Taken into a Metropolitan Police Station, the Station Officer should sign the form in the appropriate place. They should then ( a) Photocopy the form and hand you a copy. (b) Send a copy by fax to this office on 47527. (c) Send the original by internal dispatch to Operations Office at CX.

Vote Mr Benn!

The BBC Politics Show is having a ''Magnificent Seven'' Political Heroes Quiz. the deadline for voting is 12:00 on Thursday 11 January 2006 - the results will be announced on the Politics Show of 14 January 2007.

Dear lefty/democracy-loving readers, please VOTE TACTICALLY - it is now down to Thatcher vs. Benn. If you are a lefty, you can't let Thatcher win, can you? Argh. If you get an error message as I did the first two times I tried, please keep at it and try another browser or something.

I did the Political Compass quiz once. Marvellous thing, do try it. I came out about a milimetre to the right of Tony Benn. Tony Benn is therefore getting my vote.

UPDATE: Looks like we won, well done everyone, especially my determined comrade in the mighty struggle, Mr. Johnny Void whose badgering of the blogosphere and hassling of urban 75 message boards was instrumental in this stirring ( apparent, cross yer fingers) victory for lefties in crushing Thatcher into second place.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

On Intelligence Failures

This is the dictionary definition of ''failure''. act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success: His effort ended in failure. The campaign was a failure.
2.nonperformance of something due, required, or expected: a failure to do what one has promised; a failure to appear

If you are charged with protecting the country, and your job is to watch for terrorists, and you have two of the July 7 bombers in your sights, and you record and film them consorting with other known terrorists, talking about jihad, but you let them go, and they go on to kill, then that is a failure.

If your job is to know what to look out for with reference to the behaviour of self-styled jihadi terrorists, and the men you have in your sights, whom you are following, display many if not all of those danger-behaviours, but you let them go, and they go on and they kill 52 and maim and wound hundreds, then that is a failure.

(You don't need to be a spook to know what to look for: even I can tell you what the behaviours are likely to be, after researching and studying it: I have written about it before. The Spanish, after the Madrid bombing, could tell you, so could the French, who have years of experience in this area... I am sure M15 and M16 knew, after years of covertly monitoring militant Islamic activity in London and elsewhere, what they were looking at, who they were watching. Even if you didn't know their names at the time, they could have found out. For God's sake, you only need to research the profile and behaviour to get an idea. Anyone could see it, if they knew where to look. And the security services didn't have to look for a needle in a haystack: they were looking right at them, listening to them. Khan and Tanweer. They had them in their hands.)

What is the profile? What should they have been looking for?

First. A growing, pious interest in religion, regular praying and attendance of mosques which are not the barelwi mosques frequented by the subject's family. Listening to the exhortations of extremist preachers talking of jihad, on CD, on the net. He's distancing himself from his family and old friends, especially his non-Muslim friends, no longer participating in Western-style lesiure activities especially mixed-sex activities (though an interest in sport or cricket may remain). He has new company, new friends, dropping old, uncommitted ones unless they are a part of the gang: he's always hanging about with a close-knit cell or small group of 17-28 year old males.They regularly decry the corrupt West and are politically engaged, idealistic and angry, though nihilistic in outlook; have an interest in watching and distributing 'atrocity' videos and DVDs which show the suffering of Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechyna and other places of conflict. There's absences from work, a lack of interest in a career or future or study. There's talk of defending the Ummah, of feeling the pain of fellow Muslims.

So far, so normal , so'angry young man'; newly-politicised, fired up by watching the news, identifying himself with a global cause of the suffering. But still, so far, not a terrorist. ''So he's pious, these days; it gives him a channel for his youthful idealism, his young man's anger, and it is better that than he's using drugs or hanging about with dirty, bad women and getting into trouble, bringing shame on himself and his family...''

Then come the changes that mark this out as more than youthful anger and idealism:

All the time, now, he is with his 'brothers'. There's an interest in taking part in outdoor bonding activities, white-water-rafting, paint-balling, training hard at the gym , and praying with his close friends. Looks normal? But it isn't, not any more, this is male bonding over all the wrong reasons. There's evidence of paranoia, anger, antisocial behaviour. Casual cruelty, disordered thinking, an inability to care any more about other people, an objectification of those who do not make the grade and who are not in the gang, if you listen, if you talk to him, but he doesn't want to talk. He's behaving like he's joined a cult. (Which he has.) He's right, everyone else is wrong. Whispering phone calls on pay-as-you-go mobiles he doesn't keep for long, hours on the internet, emailing from email cafes: his behaviour is erratic and secretive now, he won't engage much, he's not really 'present' any more.

He's secretly proving his dedication to the 'cause' by taking part in fund-raising, often involving credit card fraud and other low level criminal activity. Then he's saying he's going on to study in a madrassa abroad, usually in Pakistan; fasting, praying. He's returns, and he says he's getting married ( the families of a shahid or martyr are also deemed eligible for a fast-track to the gardens of Paradise in this new warped ideaology, this perversion of Islam). He's different, angry, quieter, but he you can't get through to him anymore. He still prays. But not with us.

Finally, his loyalty proved to the extremists' cause, he's returning to a training camp in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Kashmir; on his return, he's dressing in Western clothes again, shaving off his beard. He's preparing for a mission. He's ready.

(With thanks to a well-respected journalist who has followed Crevice, and who has studied this subject, with whom I discussed radicalisation and the work of the intelligence services at length today.)

Right, so Khan and Tanweer fitted this later pattern. They were consorting with known terrorists, they were going abroad to study, going to training camps to learn how to use explosives and to be further indoctrinated in the Struggle, losing interest in their futures, committing fraud, raising money for jihad. They were taped and filmed talking about jihad. The clues were all there. The security services watched, and they listened, they bugged, they videoed - and for reasons I cannot understand, they let then them go.

Tanweer's 'martyr' speech, released on the anniversary of the 7/7 bombings makes his terrible beliefs and commitment clear. It was all there.

Reading the ISC report, published after the bombs, it seems that the intelligence officers wanted to carry on following them, even though the call was taken that Mohammed Siddique Kahan and Shehzad Tanweer were fraudsters, not terrorists - but the intelligence officers were moved to monitoring other threats. (Like this one.) Since then MI5 and the Counter-Terrorism Command have substantially increased their regional presence - perhaps an admission that things were not as they should have been?

I cannot imagine how hard it must be to work in the intelligence services. I know they tried; I am sure that nobody wanted to fail. But I see a failure, I know what happened, I was right there, when it happened, and it still breaks my heart that it was not stopped.

And then the Director of M15 stands up on the 6th July 2005...

''The director-general of the security service MI5 told senior MPs there was no imminent terrorist threat to London or the rest of the country less than 24 hours before the July 7 suicide bombings.
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller gave the assurance at a private meeting of Labour whips at the Commons on the morning of July 6 2005, the Guardian has learned from a number of those present.
The whips are said to have been confident, on leaving the meeting, that they could brief fellow MPs that the security situation was under control, and are said to have been deeply alarmed by the following day's events.''

That is failure, by any dictionary's definition of the word. So Eliza, the Head of M15 has announced her resignation, and we are supposed to believe that she told Charles Clarke, two and a half years into her job, that she would retire in two years time. (Like Home Secretaries stay in their jobs that long. Like you can see that far into the future.) And the resignation of the Head of M15 was announced quietly, buried on the busiest news day of the year. A few weeks before the news is supposed to break about the alleged links between the July 7 bombers and other, intercepted terror cells planning atrocities. Yeah, right.

Nobody is perfect. Everybody fails. It is only lying, and covering up failure, refusing to admit where things went wrong, and not learning from mistakes, that is unforgiveable.

I go on and on about preserving civil liberties on this blog and elsewhere. I hate using fear to take away ancient rights. I say, again and again, that our riding pillion on the US foreign policy and its bloody war has damaged us, made us less safe. I understand a little; I feel terrible despair when I see people bombed. Whoever they are bombed by, for whatever reason, a bomb is a bomb and blood spilled is a tragedy. I am a white non-Muslim woman, and I am angry. If I were a 20 year old Pakistani British Muslim man, I might well be angrier still. I do not condone the harrassment and criminialisation of communities, the creeping Islamophobia, this newspaper hysteria, this climate of suspicion and fear.

But I know that the only way we can protect ourselves is by good intelligence work. And an ethical social and foreign policy would help, but if we are talking about stopping terror cells, then yes, you have to keep watch on those who are demonstrating all the signs of criminal, mass-murdering extremist jihadi behaviour. Not all Muslims. Just those who disgrace their religion by criminally using it to justify murder. Yes, it is difficult, it takes resources, and time and money. But it has to be done .

Note: I've linked here before, but if you haven't read it, here is the story of Khaled al-Berry. His story gives me hope and helped me to understand.

So, here we are. There will probably be a Crevice appeal after the verdict. There will probably be any number of attempts to stop all the failures being known, even with a new head of M15, even with a new, less-compromised Prime Minister. It's still not good enough. And so I will keep pushing: not because I want people to lose their jobs, not to have a blame-game, not to have catharis - but because I simply do not see, knowing what I know, what the hell else I can do.

The petition, again.

Other voices , Muslim voices, asking for an inquiry too. And see side bar of this blog.

UPDATE: I went on about it again, in today's Mirror who are supporting the campaign for an inquiry.

UPDATE 2: Ooh, thanks, Blairwatch.

New calls for a 7/7 inquiry

M15 Chief told MPs on 6/7/05: no imminent terror threat
Today's Guardian:

The director-general of the security service MI5 told senior MPs there was no imminent terrorist threat to London or the rest of the country less than 24 hours before the July 7 suicide bombings.
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller gave the assurance at a private meeting of Labour whips at the Commons on the morning of July 6 2005, the Guardian has learned from a number of those present.
The whips are said to have been confident, on leaving the meeting, that they could brief fellow MPs that the security situation was under control, and are said to have been deeply alarmed by the following day's events.
Last month Dame Eliza announced that she is to retire in April. That announcement came weeks before details are expected to be made public of an MI5 operation which saw two of the July 7 bombers kept under surveillance, but not arrested.
It is now known that officers had trailed the bombers' leader, Mohammed Siddique Khan, more than a year before the attacks, and had listened as he spoke of his plans for waging jihad. They had also photographed him, yet had not been able to identify him.

We know. And more will come out once the Operation Crevice trial at the Old Bailey ends and the reporting restrictions are off...

However, the disclosure that MI5 had been so completely taken by surprise on July 7 will fuel calls for a public or independent inquiry into the events leading up to the suicide bomb attacks that claimed 52 lives and injured hundreds.
Grahame Russell, whose son Philip, 29, died in the Tavistock Square bus bombing, said: "Unless we have a public inquiry where witnesses can be called and questioned, we will never get the truthful answers about what happened before, during and after July 7 2005."

Too damn right.

We have had a series of leaks, a series of reports, from different bodies, saying different things, at different times. Some of the information we have even contradicts other information. There seems to me to be a desire to avoid blame for individual agencies and individuals. This is not about blame, it is about the nation knowing how safe it is, and having confidence in its leaders, its security services and those charged to protect and defend us and keep us safe and free from fear. It is about saving lives and sparing suffering and learning and acting on all the lessons of the worst terrorist atrocity and the biggest loss of civilian life on UK soil since the Second World War. It is desperately sad that, apparently for political reasons, we have still not been given the independent inquiry that we deserve. But it will come. In time, it will happen.

I am in touch with other survivors and bereaved through the group of us who are campaigning for an inquiry into 7/7 . I am off to do a pre-record for ITN's London Tonight in five minutes.

This never goes away. Sometimes I wonder why I keep fighting. But I believe in what I am doing; I didn't ask to be on that train, I am just an ordinary person, I could be anyone who travels to work on the tube. When the bomb went off, I couldn't do much to help at the time, all I could do was try and keep calm and help to evacuate as instructed, but I can do what I can to help now. I can write. I can talk. I can mobilise, and I can campaign for justice. And I am not alone: there are others at my side.

And over the next few weeks and months, as we approach the Crevice verdict, then the Coroner's reports into the deaths over the summer, I am sure that the public's calls for an inquiry will get louder and louder, and perhaps the next Prime Minister will heed them.

I will write more later: I am off to Russell Square to say what I have been saying for eighteen months all over again.

You can sign the latest petition to the current PM HERE.

UPDATE: 14/1 Observer: ''7/7 ringleader 'was watched since 2003'' The security services is bracing itself for further disclosures over Tube bombing intelligence failures

The Bloggies 2007

It's the Seventh Annual Blog Awards. Nominate away...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Quick! Nominate Your Blog Post of the week on Blogger TV

18 Doughty St will have a discussion tonight from 9pm-10pm called Blogger TV, and I will be on it with other bloggers - Alex from Recess Monkey, James Cleverley, and Ben Sherread.
Iain Dale, hosting, has invited us to discuss issues du jour, including bullying and blogging, (following on from the post I made yesterday).

We'll also be nominating our Blog Posts of the Week, so if you have spotted a blog post that you think should be mentioned, please let me know and send it along in the comments. I am off to have a surf round my blogroll looking for particularly juicy nuggets...

Tim Worstall's Britblog Round-Up as usual provides some gems, including a great piece by NotSaussure who lays into New Labour's education and social policy. This is my front-runner so far.

''...Life isn’t perfect; we live in a fallen world. And by saying that we can perfect it, that we can prevent, if only we try hard enough, people from behaving irresponsibly or anti-socially by state action, we just make things worse.''

I also spotted Netherworld had two good posts on Saddam's execution - here and especially here. You might also want to see Iraqi blogger Riverbend on the subject. Curious Hamster has been writing about the heartbreaking deterioration in Iraq too.

UPDATE: Stumbling & Mumbling defends Ruth Kelly
Paul Linford has a good quiz to see how many of the 7 Deadly Sins you need forgiveness for. My halo isn't too burnished...

(Greed: Very Low, Gluttony: Low, Wrath: Low, Sloth: Low, Envy: Very Low, Lust: Low,
Pride: Low) . Phew.

UPDATE 2: Glen Greenwald lambasts the behaviour of the US Right Wing Blogosphere...( via Blood & Treasure)

''They are nothing more than hyper-partisan hysterics who jump on any innuendo or rumor or whispered suspicion as long as it promotes their rigid ideological views and political loyalties and hatreds. They have a long, shameful and really quite pitiful history...''

Sunday, January 07, 2007

18 Doughty St & more TV to look out for

Iain Dale has asked me to make some more appearances on 18 Doughty St , so I will be on tomorrow at the slightly earlier time of 9pm-10pm on a new programme called Blogger TV. I had better get my nose into the newspapers and swot up on what's been going on ( not much as Parliament is off). I've had a bit of a break from UK politics over Christmas from me, (though US politics have had my engrossed attention. I'm now embarking on Noam Chomsky's Failed States after finishing Bon Woodward's State of Denial.)

I am waiting for the result of an alleged terror plot court case at the Old Bailey which is expected to end in the next month or so,which I have been following as closely as possible through UK and international media. You can expect to see and hear a lot more about this matter when the current trial ends (code-name Operation Crevice). Discussing Crevice details, especially in the wider context of UK terrorism with specific reference to July 7 is not possible at the moment because of reporting restrictions as the trial continues. However, when the trial ends in February/March, things will get very interesting...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Wedding plans

We've been pretty busy. We've booked our honeymoon, the hotel for our wedding night, booked the church ( only it's a bit more than just a church) , booked the reception venue, sorted out the Order of Service, hymns, readings... Mum has bought the champagne for the reception in the Cloisters after the service. We are currently designing the invites with a friend who has offered her services as a graphic designer and artist. We still have to book a restaraunt for our families after the service, book the ceilidh band, a pianist, sort out flowers and music and catering and all the housekeeping stuff and guest info. And get a frock for me, but that will be next month, once I've got the book deadline out the way and lost the festive tum. And there's lots of other stuff to do that escapes me now, but it's not that stressful. I've sung in the choir at so many weddings I could probably do the service from memory. I know lots of brides go completely bonkers before their weddings and get into a frenzy about all sorts of random things like whether the bridesmaid's knickers match the colour of the napkins, and spend hours and hours tying pastel bits of material round sugared almonds in the evenings and making spreadsheets, but I'm not like that. Not yet anyway.

The wedding is in April. It's very exciting. I keep doing small skips and J is grinning as he takes down the Christmas tree.

Right, I'm off to walk to the gym in the rain. January is a no-alcohol month with lots of running and weights and what-have-you; the thought of the wedding is a great motivator, although the remains of Rabbitstrike's stilton from the New Year's Eve celebrations is hard to resist, even without port to accompany it...

Friday, January 05, 2007

It's not like the movies

Terrorism and explosions and wars make damn good drama. Over the Christmas period, I have seen James Bond's Casino Royale, watched the excellent and thoughtful DVD series of Sleeper Cell and am currently working my way through 24, series 5. All thrilling stuff and makes for a hugely entertaining viewing experience and many late nights. Of course, the 'goodies' always win against the 'baddies', though not without some sacrifices along the way. The security services and Government officials, whilst not omniescent have the resources and gadgets and talent they need to stop the plot at the critical moment. We bite our nails and drop our popcorn in fright and then breathe a sigh of relief at the end.

In real life, it isn't like that. The baddies aren't as glamorous, or charismatic, the goodies aren't as well-briefed and resourced, and to use a Rumsfeldism, stuff happens. It is unrealistic to expect life to be like a thriller. But you don't expect it to be like a black farce.

Just how disimilar to a well-crafted TV series or feature film the 'war on terror' is, was revealed in Bob Woodward's State of Denial, about the Bush administration at war, which I devoured over Christmas. The incompetence, lack of planning, the egos and petty squabbles and airy, idealistic ( being charitable) dependence on ideaology rather than intelligence and facts is staggering. And depressing. And absolutely bloody infuriating; at times I wanted to throw the book across the room and howl with rage.

It is also very telling how little Blair and the UK feature in the book about the Bush administration's foreign policy: it is quite clear from reading it that Iraq was always an American war and we as a country have little or no influence over when it started, why it started, how it is fought and what, if any, strategy was to be implented after the invasion. We rode pillion all the way.

State of Denial ( extracts here) is the story of a spectacularly ill-conceived and badly-executed war based on a false grasp of reality. It is the saga of a group of powerful people's arrogant, wilful refusal to listen to advice or pay attention to the lessons of history. It is a story of a clash of ideas, how a reaction to a wicked atrocity led to an unmeasured and ill-considered response that led to a catastrophic chain reaction. By calling their actions a 'war on terror', Bush and his advisers gifted a group of disparate mass-murdering criminals with little in common apart from a vague Islamic jihad ideology with the status of an army worthy of the full might of US firepower. It practically legitimised them.

The strength and rightness of one idea against another idea, tested through the medium of war is a recipe for disaster; ideas can be argued and taught and debated and engaged with and proved wrong, but they cannot be bombed out of existence. Anyone who has read history - anyone who has studied, for example, the history of the early Christian Church should see that persecution and vicious official stamping on an idealogy simply makes it grow faster and spread more widely. The cruel behaviour of those who oppose the idea becomes de facto justification for why the idea is held to be right in the first instance. If 'they' react that strongly to it, it is must be a threat. It must have something in it.

Wars, involving armies, can never simply be about ideas: they are about territory and resources with real blood and treasure spilled. An idea can motivate people to fight, but if I kill you in combat, does that mean my idea is stronger than your idea? No, it just means that I killed you and I was stronger on the day. Both sides say that God and Good is on their side; and both sides lie.

How can you have a war - with an army and a navy and an airforce and bombs and guns - on 'evil'? A war on 'terror'? A war on 'fear'? A war for peace? That is not war, that is oxymoronic sematics and propoganda. But war has come of this phoney 'war on terror', real war, with hundreds of thousands of real people killed and injured and displaced. And the US and the UK is now fighting not a recognisable war conducted along military campaigning lines, but a hydra-headed asymetric war of its own making with different tactics and a different enemy - which is not a sovereign nation or a lawful combatant under the rules of war. An enemy which is not a person but an ideology that can exploit the anger of non-solidiers and wear the cloak of faith or regional politics or both to convince non-solidiers to join a so-called righteous cause. A war where the rules of engagement thus do not apply on one side and disastrously, increasingly do not seem to apply on our own either. You can call this 'war', but it is not war as we know it.

Such a war is unwinnable, because every time our tactics are heavy-handed, or disproportionate, or cruel, we give credibility to the idea that our Idea is no better or worse than their Idea. Both sides talk of Freedom, and Struggle, and Right, and Justice, and God and Good and Evil. Both sides commit atrocities. And the unforgivable confusion about what this war is about and who the war is against and has led to unimaginable human tragedies. American troops may have mistakenly believed they were fighting hardened 'terrorists'; in many cases they were fighting ordinary Iraqis or Afghanis who were infuriated by heavy-handed tactics used against them by an invading army and who became despairing 'militants'. If you label everyone who disagrees with the Iraq invasion as a 'terrorist sympathiser', or an Unbeliever in the Righteous Cause then I am one, and so are millions of other people. How long will the Great Crusade against the Unbelievers last? Until the end of time?

We've had several decades of Bond films now; at no point in any movie did the Government declare a 'war on SPECTRE' and launch an invasion of the Bahamas or wherever the plot for world domination was hatched in Dr. Evil's lair. That would have been a step too far even for the make-believe gung-ho fantasies of the film-makers and their audiences. I cannot believe that the US Government, shamefully followed by Blair, are carrying on in this stupid way. There were so many ways the world could have turned after 9/11. That we are here, five years later makes me shake my head in disbelief.

Bondwoman sent me this excellent article from the New York Review of Books which I recommend on a rainy Saturday.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year

Hello, and hope that your festive break was lovely. I went to Norfolk the night before Christmas Eve with J, and on Christmas Eve morning we had the baptism of my nephew Angus. I sniffled my way through the day with a temperature, so missed midnight mass, and went to bed early. Christmas Day was a family feast, Boxing Day slothful, bloated and lethargic, then J and I returned on the 27th to London. On the 28th we had family visit number 3 ( we had been to see J's mum and step-father earlier) and went to Windsor ( 'Slough', says J) to visit his sister and her family, with J's dad and step-mum who had driven down from the North. More turkey, fortunately we had managed a walk round Windsor park first with J's nephews and so managed not to explode.

Then back to ours, for a New Year feast, with Rabbit Strike, Long Dave, Jo and Michael ( neighbours). Jo and Michael brought 2 dozen oysters, I had a side of smoked salmon from LIDL, then a Polish goose ( also from LIDL) which produced a litre of golden goose fat, King Edwards to roast in it, sausages and bacon from the local butcher made into pigs in blankets, beans and broccoli and gravy made with giblets and bacon and sherry.

Jo and Michael brought a trifle too, ( bless them) and Rabbit Strike brough a variety of interesting cheeses. We all go stuck into the champagne ( £10.99 from LIDL, bargain of the decade) and the party went on into the night. In fact it went on all night - and finished at 10am on January 1st.

Yesterday was thus a very, very quiet day indeed. Even the cat walked round on tip-toes.

I am now embarking on a quiet month of hard work and no alcohol ( except when cooking, in casseroles) to complete the book for the deadline of January 30th. On the stove are 2 big pots simmering: one with the carcass of a chicken in and one with the carcass of the goose, both producing sweet comforting steam. The bones and wings are surrounded by onions and celery, with peppercorns and parsley tucked in around the bird to make a clear golden broth, which I will freeze and make into soup, adding potatoes and carrots, maybe some lentils or pearl barley. And on this we will subside frugally for the next few days, and we will welcome the break from high living. 2007 dawning saw the wild storms blow themselves out, and a gentle sunlight shine on the battered garden. I hope that is a metaphor for the year ahead.

I will write something political later this week, but for now I just wanted to say hello and happy new year to you all.