Saturday, April 30, 2011

A tale of three cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Craig Easdale wrote: "This was a great event, and the behaviour of everyone was good on the whole, up until the police arrived. I feel if the event was shut down more calmly a lot of drama could have been avoided and the police definitely didn't handle it as well as they could have".

So this is not a police state ...

Keep telling yourself that ... you might come to believe it (courtesy Max Farquar).


The ring of servitude

While the crowd in the Mall waved their plastic, printed-in-China flags, it is interesting to note that the royal weddlings acknowledged our real masters, flying their flag rather than that of the province in which they reside - on their illegal number plate. How interesting also that the "UK" under the ring was replaced by "♥U" ... was that addressed to the EU?

Iain Martin puts the tawdry ceremony in perspective. We have a supreme government which specialises in hollowing out the institutions of state, robbing them of power and meaning, but leaving the facade in place.

He goes a little off the rails, stating that: "What was originally a free trade organisation rapidly became an anti-democratic supra-national monster". It was always that, and never intended to be anything else. It is not and never has been a free trade organisation. The choice between that and a customs union was not accidental.

But, writes Martin, the most fervent Europhiles — such as Tony Blair — were very cunning. They realised that to make Britain more European they would have to dismantle steadily the traditional structures of government and erode this country's sense of its own distinctive institutions.

Yet so easily are we taken in by the fluff - and the ceremony without the deeper significance is fluff ... just theatre. But even though the mask slipped as the Mark of Cain embellished the royal plaything, the crowd still roared. They are being offered bread and circuses, while our nation is being stolen from us under our very eyes.

For the "colleagues" who watched yesterday's charade, they must feel it's as easy as stealing candy from babies, especially with our gushing media. You do wonder about those poor, lost souls though ... "royal couple with a common touch" says The Times, underneath its headline telling us that the weddlings have been "whisked away by helicopter". I mean to say, how boringly common is that?


That narrative again

Fourteen riot vans were cruising the Stokes Croft area of Bristol last night – three of them Welsh, containing the finest thugs the principality can supply – the best part of a hundred police. Thus have community relations deteriorated, to the extent that the police only dare go into the area mob-handed, tooled up with sticks and riot gear.

All they are doing, of course, is picking at the sore – an army of occupation imposing their writ through violence and thuggery. The first riot was triggered by them, their intrusive, aggressive and ill-judged policing. The second riot was a protest against the police behaviour in the first. The main players, directly involved in the events say so, and even the Tesco spokesman agrees that it is not about the supermarket.

Yet, despite all this, the brain-dead media can't cope with the idea that, in one of Britain's major cities, we have a police force out of control. Instead of investigating and reporting the situation as it is, they continues to trivialise the events, labelling the disturbances as "Tesco riots".

Classic of the genre is the mind-rotting Sun newspaper, which parades its ignorance and prejudice with: "Cops' new battle with anti-Tesco mob" (above), publishing a series of lurid pictures and even more lurid prose that completely misses the point.

Different only in style rather than accuracy is The Daily Failygraph with its headline parading: "Two charged after police injured in Tesco riot". Continuing the meme, the strap tells us: "Two people have been charged by police after protests against the opening of a new Tesco store turned violent".

Then, in a classic example of why local newspapers are not worth buying, we have two offerings from the Bristol Evening Post. Having studied the videos of the event, read carefully the dozens of eye-witness reports and then pieced together a relatively, coherent narrative, it really is very clear that this was a spontaneous uprising against the police, and that upwards of a thousand or more people were involved. This was not a "small minority" of troublemakers – it was the larger part of the Stokes Croft community.

Yet, first in this piece and then this, the local newspaper attempts to project the falsehood that the disturbance was caused just by a minority, "nothing more than mindless thugs, intent on destroying property and inflicting serious injury".

Inevitably, the meme is picked up by the local MP, Stephen Williams, a Lib-Dim who displays the classic stupidity of the breed, condemned the violence in Cheltenham Road, and describing it as a "bad advert" for the city.

After spending several hours with the police yesterday, to get his indoctrination correct, and speaking to a carefully selected group of residents, the mighty mouth feels that legitimate, peaceful protests against Tesco had been spoilt by a minority determined to make trouble. "This has been hijacked by hard-left, extreme anarchists or anti-capitalists ... These people, I don't know what they are – self-indulgent vandals – probably in a few years' time they will be going on nice middle-class skiing holidays".

At least, when one is confronted with genuine "mindless thugs", there is some sort of remedy, but against "mindless MPs", there is little protection. "The police have to defend themselves, local people and property", the moron dribbles. "I hope it will end peacefully and we can move on".

Highlighting these falsehoods is very far from pedantry. When the media and MPs get it this wrong, we are in very grave danger from a police force which is already dangerously out of control and over which there seems little restraint.

We are now learning of a police operation in London where twenty squatters were arrested ahead of the royal wedding. Police sources said the raids were made as part of investigations into recent outbreaks of disorder in central London, including student and anarchist riots. "These arrests are part of ongoing proactive work to tackle suspected criminality," a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

This is perilously close to the fictional doctrine of having the police arrest us for what we might do, rather than what we have done. By the time this becomes established, the fears that we are lurching into a police state will have come true – by which time, or course, it will be too late.

What stands between us that that state are active, alert MPs and a robust, free media. Yet we no longer seem to have either. Instead, we are in the grip of the narrative. When that takes hold, we are in serious trouble.


Another grand day

Marking our slow but inexorable transition from a free society, we have today the EU's herbal medicines directive coming into force. This is a measure that has been going through the system for ages. It has absolutely no legitimacy and exists only to reinforce the grip of big pharma on the market, excluding a small but important sector of competition – and choice.

I suppose it is significant that today is also the anniversary of Hitler's death (yesterday was the anniversary of his marriage to Eva Braun), marking the final stage of the long process of breaking free from the grip of the Nazi regime which had terrorised Europe.

And while no-one sensible would begin to suggest that we are in any way seeing the dark clouds of a new totalitarian state descend over Europe, it is germane to note the aspirations of a new enlightenment - Churchill's "sunlit uplands" – are eroded daily, as the combination of EU and domestic bureaucracy extends its grip.

We cannot say we are less free than we were in 1945. Britain then was, effectively, in the grip of a dictatorship – with laws more draconian in some ways than ever the Nazis imposed – and it was a long time before the process of liberalisation got under way.

Arguably, it was very far from complete before it was reversed, by our own bureaucrats and then by the torrent of laws coming from the "Common Market", that was to become our supreme government, the European Union.

In 1945, however, we were "free" in the sense that we were self-governing, albeit that we were so broke that the IMF called the shots before very long. But now we are broke again, and not free. We are no longer a self-governing nation. We see it in small things – many products we took for granted, we can no longer buy. Today, that list got longer.

Increasingly, it is not just the small things, and the intrusions daily become more apparent. Yesterday, though, we saw an orgy of celebration in the Mall, with a storm of Union Jacks, an increasingly empty symbol as our government moves to Brussels and ships of the Royal Navy already fly the ring of stars.

So, this is another grand day for us to celebrate, another in the long march towards the loss of our freedoms that our parents and grandparents fought to preserve. We can wave our Chinese-made plastic flags, but the freedom and the aspirations that they represent have long gone.


Getting a result

A Glasgow "street party" to celebrate the royal wedding has been broken up by the polis. But what is so delicious about this jolly little riot is that it was triggered after the organisers took David Cameron at his word and set up a street party without permission of the local gauleiters.

Two teenagers had organised the rave in Glasgow's Kelvingrove Park, using facebook to advertise the event. Over four thousand turned up, many proceeding to get rat-arsed. Rather predictably chaos ensued as the drunken revellers turned violent.

It was then left for the police to intervene, with officers on bicycles attempting to make arrests. Much to their surprise, this attempt went pear-shaped as they were surrounded by other "guests", who offered the police various helpful suggestions.

To entertain the rest of the bystanders, the police then obligingly organised a mounted charge on bottle-throwers, who had now promoted the event to a full-blown riot. As groups of "innocent" revellers caught up in the mayhem applauded the display, hundreds of missiles were thrown at the police, but only three were injured - police, that is ... no missiles were hurt in the making of this riot.

A spokesman for Dave was not contacted but one suspects that, if asked, he might have denied that a drunken bash by a horde of Glaswegians in a public park was what he had in mind when he attacked "pen pushers and busybodies" for thwarting royal wedding celebrations. But he did say: "They have no right to stop you from having fun. I am the Prime Minister and I am telling you if you want to have a street party, you go ahead and have one".

However, many would assert that there is no greater entertainment for the average Glaswegian than for them to get smashed out of their skulls and then indulge in prolonged, gratuitous violence against the police. And unlike the wuzzies in Bristol, this lot managed to smash the windows of at least three police vans.

On the other hand, Strathclyde finest enjoy nothing more than beating up drunken Glaswegians, on which basis, it looks as if everyone did have "fun", just as Dave wanted. This once, taking Cameron's advice has yielded a result. There is no truth to the rumour, though, that Glasgow council is sending the clean-up bill to No. 10.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Herd instinct

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one".

Charles Mackay 1841


Don't learn - can't learn

There was another outbreak of violence in Bristol last night as protesters gathered on Cheltenham Road to stand in peaceful protest against police action in last week's riots. Things turned violent around 1am, with a number of police and protesters being injured by missiles and close-quarters skirmishes, after people took exception to the tactics used by the police and the situation escalated.

Protestor Richard Ayres claimed that mounted police officers rushed down the middle of the street. "We were knocked to the side by them and were then shoved back by riot police with helmets, shields, truncheons and dogs", he said. "I remonstrated with them peacefully, flabbergasted at the sudden turn of events".

Assistant chief constable, however, Rod Hansen claims that officers had acted to stop protestors causing trouble. And therein lies your problem. With leaden, bureaucratic predictability, he declares: "I am satisfied that our tactics were appropriate and proportionate, and feel that the officers involved acted professionally and with great restraint given the threat and personal danger they faced".

I am gradually compiling details of the riot last week, and have very substantially added to the detail already posted. The more one finds out, the more extraordinary an event it appears. Not least, there were far more than the 300 or so protesters claimed. At a very rough estimate, there must have been more than a thousand people on the streets.

What is very evident is that, despite the idiot media and their headlines, and those who are trying to jump on the bandwagon, this was not an anti-Tesco riot. It was an anti-police riot, reacting to the aggressive behaviour of the police and the arrogance, during the riot – which they provoked – and afterwards. This comes over in a Daily Mail report where a spokesman for Tesco says of the current incident: "Last night's violence in Stokes Croft and beyond underlined that this is not an anti-Tesco protest, our store is not even open".

Having behaved so badly last week, any sensible force commander would be acutely sensitive to the local mood. There seems to have been only the dimmest perception of that, by no means enough to have headed off this new demonstration, or any thought of changing tactics. And not recognising their own culpability, the police have not even begun to examine their own performance and thus fail to learn any lessons from it.

Putting police back on the streets, all tooled up with their riot gear on is just asking for trouble – it is insensitive to the point of stupidity, and demonstrates that the police have lost their instinct for consensual policing. They are now part of the problem and, each time they intervene, they do nothing but make the situation worse.

As if to prove the point, with all the sensitivity of an enraged bull elephant, the police were back again this morning, raiding the Telepathic Heights squat in a high profile operation involving about twenty vans and patrol cars, and a helicopter (picture above and below), with the riot gear out again.

Thus, having managed to piss off the community, with aggressive, high-handed tactics, the police response is to repeat them. A police statement says: "The action has been taken as part of our aim to help the wider community return to peace and normality as quickly as possible following the disruption caused by the disorder, and also part of our commitment to identify and arrest those suspected of being involved in the recent disturbances".

These people are stupid beyond the meaning of the word. They have a "don't learn - can't learn" culture. Nothing good will come of it.


Lessons learned

The classic claim from the brain dead and those who have absolutely no familiarity with the complexity of the current legislative code is that "ignorance of the law is no defence".

However, the state of the law, and especially much of that emanating from Brussels, is now such that it is almost impossible to work out what much of it actually means. And rather confirming that situation is a report from the Wall Street Journal which tells us that the EU Commission is under fire from the EU's own ombudsman for misreading its own law.

This occurred last spring when it gave "misleading information to air passengers" during the wholesale grounding of European flights, after the Icelandic volcano had reportedly filled the skies with ash.

European Ombudsman P. Nikiforos Diamandouros said yesterday that the commission not only published incorrect information about compensation for delayed luggage when EU member states closed roughly 80 percent of their airspace last April and May, but also took two weeks to correct the mistakes, despite being informed of them quickly.

This was "unacceptable", said the ombudsman's office, noting that this is the second time in five years the ombudsman has smacked the commission on the wrists for telling air-passengers they're entitled to more compensation from carriers than they are actually due under EU law.

But, in the manner of leaden bureaucracies everywhere, the commission makes its excuses, saying that it had "acted in a state of urgency" when publishing the incorrect information. It apologises for the delay in rectifying this, it says, then telling us that "The Commission has learned lessons" on how to move faster", in recently informing "EU citizens" of vital information.

And this is where these creatures do not even begin to understand how lame their excuses are, and the degree to which their platitudes incite the blackest of hatred. When we foul up, we get harassed, prosecuted, fined, lectured and sometimes imprisoned. Yet when these morons get it wrong – again and again – they get to tell us that they have "learned lessons", without a hair of their pensions being touched.

Why this is so offensive is not difficult to work out. It breaches one of the most fundamental principles of law, the one of equity - fairness if you like. One therefore yearns in these cases to give the commission a lesson it can never forget – one so brutal and permanent that its members are no longer capable of remembering, or anything else. And we like to think that it is only a matter of time before they get their just deserts.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

The sacrificial van

There has been some speculation about the Land Rover Discovery and trailer abandoned by the police during the riot in Bristol last week. Police vehicles being trashed by the crowds is such a feature of recent disturbances that we wondered whether they were being left deliberately as "bait", to give the police meaty charges when they picked up the culprits.

However, some would suggest we need to discard the conspiracy theories. Avon & Somerset Constabulary hierarchy simply do not have the brains to dream up something that complicated. Their procedures are confined to lining up their plods in neat little rows and beating the citizens of Bristol brainless (that, in itself, not always a very difficult undertaking) when they come close enough to hit.

Others might argue that the most likely reason we can discount a Machiavellian plot is because vehicle and trailer were owed by Wiltshire Police. Even if they are thought to be in the race to the bottom with rival forces - their senior officers competing to see who can discard most brain cells, fastest - it is unlikely that they would want to make a gift of this Disco to Avon plods. It turns out that it is a nearly new vehicle and the combined value of the ensemble is estimated at £100,000 (presumably including the goldplated iPlod).

Nevertheless, you might think that leaving an expensive plod-mobile, with a trailer full of kit, unattended in a riot zone, is a tad stupid. That impression might be reinforced when they leave it with no police protection at all, next to a store which has been the target of protesters. You might even argue that in the race to prove themselves even more cretinous than, say, Cressida Dick, Wiltshire plods have won hands down. But that is where you would be completely wrong. Not even they could be that stupid.

Besides, the police themselves would doubtless deny that they are as stupid as they look. Such claims, they would say, are a major slur on the professional reputations of a fine body of men and women. Every one of the 60 plods supplied by Wiltshire to help create this riot were highly trained officers, with salaries and pension rights. They were disciplined, higher beings. And they were working to The Plan devised by highly intelligent superior officers, promoted on merit and further trained in Staff College, their intellects honed to the razor-edged sharpness we saw displayed last week.

Thus, leaving this vehicle unattended in a riot zone was not what you think. It is an example of ultra-professional community policing. As such it clearly demonstrates the value of the huge public investment  made in training police officers. Only thus equipped would they be confident in using such advanced techniques in circumstances such as these.

Shame on you for not recognising superb policing when you see it. It just goes to show how ignorant you all are.


Another fine mess

It was all going to be different under the Tories, wasn't it? All these procurement messes, like the Nimrod, the Eurofighter, the Type 42, the A400-M, the Chinook. They were all Labour cock-ups ... except that they were all initiated by the Tories.

Now that Labour have returned the compliment, and saddled the Tory administration with a seaborne version of the Eurofighter, doubtless the Tories will be complaining equally bitterly about their legacy, the latest development being a new price-hike for the new carriers for the Royal Navy.

This, we learn from diverse sources is to be about £1 billion, just announced by the consortium building the ships, bringing the ship-building costs to £6 billion.

That figure, though, is not likely to be the final asking price. It is expected to escalate to £7 billion before the hulls even get wet. And since only one of the carriers is actually expected to see service, the effective cost of the capability is roughly £2 billion more than the cost of the bigger, more capable Gerald Ford nuclear carrier for the US Navy.

The proximate cause of the current price hike is the decision to fit catapults and arrester gear. That is to accommodate French Navy Rafales, although the fiction is being maintained that we are still considering buying the US F-35. Even without the Kermits though, the costs of the American aircraft are soaring out of control, so buying that kit really is a non-starter. There is also the embarrassing problem of trying to get out of the £400 million contract for three prototypes of an aircraft we do not now want.

This really does underline the modern-day British genius for getting less for more. But, having developed this to a fine art by paying over £1 billion for Type 45 Destroyers which were originally costed at half that price, we should not be at all surprised that the carriers are also going to cost twice as much, for half the originally planned capacity.

Nor is it in the least a surprise that were are cosying up with the Kermits on this. This is something we predicted would happen five years ago, and with Euroslime Dave at the helm, the pace of integration has quickened.

The only consolation here is that, by most recent form, our skills at ballsing-up defence procurement have reached such rarefied heights that, by the time we come to fit out the second carrier (the one that is actually going to be used), the price will have escalated so much, and the technical problems will have magnified so greatly, that it will probably be cancelled anyway.

Do remember, there is no theoretical limit to the number of times our gifted civil servants and politicians can screw up, a fact they seem determined to remind us of at every opportunity. As long as we keep paying them instead of hanging them from the lampposts of Whitehall, this is going to continue. Sooner or later, a decision is going to be unavoidable, purely to ensure our own survival. This cannot go on.


Thank goodness

... for the Huns. At least they have a sense of proportion, and can see how ridiculous this is all becoming. Apparently, there are 10,000 journalists descending on London to cover this charade. There will be more "journalists" writing their crap than reading it, at this rate.

Anyway ... for the happy Huns, a little compensation. I suppose this might do as well. This one might be going too far, though - which would just leave this ... unless this jolly little ditty would do instead.


Maybe it's me?

Not being commercially orientated, we have a little bit of difficulty understanding the logic. But I would have thought that, when 47 percent of your readers tell you they are bored with a particular subject, it might be time to give it a rest.

This is only a local newspaper, but you get the same feeling with knobs on about the national media. Despite that, they plough on regardless with what seems to be a very interesting business model: find out what really pisses off your paying customers and give it to them.

One can only surmise that this is an extremely successful model, as one sees it widely replicated in commerce – especially businesses such as banking and insurance, but it is also widely adopted in public services and politics.

The strange thing is that, despite its increasing adoption by a wide range of bodies, the public services which are most proficient in the application of this business model seem to object to members of the public using it on them. So successful is it, that clearly they don't want to share.

Or maybe it's me ... these things are just too complicated for simple-minded folk to understand.


On a mission?

Police turned up to the Occasional Cinema event in Mina Road Park at about 6.30pm yesterday, with six vans, dogs, a police helicopter hovering overhead and set up a roadblock to stop a public screening of YouTube videos of last Thursday's riots.

Guests at the event said officers "explained" they were shutting the event down because it had been classed as a rave, despite the fact that such events in the past have always taken place peacefully with the organisers clearing up after them.

Are the police on a mission to spark a second riot? It very much seems as if they are.  The likelihood is that they haven't yet realised that they've done anything wrong.


A message from an alternative universe

When it comes to ripping off each others' stories, the blogs are sweet innocents compared with the MSM, who quite routinely copy and paste from their competitors, without so much as a hint of acknowledgement or attribution.

However, one had to permit a wry smile after the Sunday Times piece on 17 April, which lifted the lid on the boys and goils suffering the hardship of four-star hotels on the Adriatic Riviera, as they zapped Gadaffi's finest.

What was interesting there was that none of the other newspapers ripped off the story. It remained very much a Sunday Times special. My guess is that the bulk of the media is so imbued heroic "Our Boys" narrative that the idea of them idling by the luxury swimming pools, at great cost to the taxpayer, did not fit the preferred narrative.

However, what did come out of that story was that the Libya adventure was likely to cost us taxpayers in excess of £1 billion, before taking into account the actual cost of operations.

So horrendous is that figure that one would have thought the media would have been only too quick to run with it – but not a bit of it. The nearest we are now getting is today's Guardian, which has 13th Fox tell the Commons Defence Committee that the cost is "estimated to top £1bn by the summer".

Well, that is sort of in the same league as saying my Council Tax bill will "top £500" – accurate as far as it goes, but not really giving an honest impression of how much money is involved. One can expect at least double that amount, and most likely considerably more, especially as Fox is saying that the commitment is "open-ended".

What we are getting though is spin all the way, as the story is picked up by the Press Association as well, and you can see that the "line" is one of reassurance: the extra cost is to come out of the "Treasury Reserve" rather than the defence budget.

Presumably, we are supposed to say, "that's alright then", as if money in that account grows on trees and hurts the taxpayer less than if it comes under a different budget heading. We are also, one assumes, supposed to be gulled by the wilful underestimate of the cost, so that we can go back to sleep as the Cameron adventure continues to commit vast amounts of money we haven't got, to very little immediate effect, and which is probably going to do more harm than good in the longer-term.

Our problems are, however, that the bulk of MPs support this obscenity and the media is showing about as much guile and intelligence in writing this story as it does with just about everything else.

In truth though, they are all treating us with the usual dose of contempt, as we see from the Metro, where Fox is quoted as saying that the Nato mission was "within the realms" of what had been envisaged under the government's defence review.

That is just so untrue that it would be laughable, but for the fact that the defence secretary has actually trotted it out. But then he told the Committee: "It is very important these issues are discussed but it is more important that we send a clear message we are not going to be limited by pounds, shillings and pence but we have the resolve to see through the mission".

"We are not going to be limited by pounds, shillings and pence?" You do wonder about which planet Fox lives on, but it surely isn't this one.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The babies are out

Fresh from their victory on the streets of Stokes Croft, it seems that Avon and Somerset Police have scored another triumph. Their quest this time was the villain who had drawn a comic Hitler moustache on an election poster for a Tory councillor and pinned it on the village notice board in the tiny Somerset village of Pitcombe, near Wincanton.

Police have stormed through the village carrying out house-to-house inquiries, knocking on the doors of all twenty houses in what has been labelled an operation of "quite stunning overkill". Strangely, even the wuzzies on The Daily Failygraph noticed something amiss, even though they seemed to find nothing particularly wrong with 160 officers under the command of the same force running amok on the streets of Stokes Croft.

The two incidents, in fact, tell you a great deal about the priorities of this once-great newspaper. To the actual "factual" reporting of the Bristol riot, it devoted 85 words, online. This was under the heading: "Bristol riots: 'Police not heavy-handed'", along with a video of the egregious Supt. Wylie. The "Pitcombe overkill" gets 501 words.

The babies have been let out of the nursery and are now running the newspaper.


Bristol Stokes Croft riot - the story so far

On the night of 21/22 April, a riot broke out in the Stokes Croft district of Bristol, centred on the main A38 Cheltenham Road, to the North of the City. Very poorly reported in much of the national and local media - and indeed by the alternative media - we have a range of views, such as this from Press TV and this from Socialist Worker. Other coverage, such as in The Sunday Times, has been extremely inaccurate.

And then there is a report from the august Grocer magazine which looks to be an outtake from The Sunday Times - there are so many errors in it. The Socialist Worker you would, of course, take with a pinch of salt, but the account marries up with narratives from other sources. It does, however, add some further interesting detail, but there is still no single, coherent account as to what happened.

In the absence of any complete narrative, I have used this post as a framework to build as comprehensive a view of the riot as I can, and will continue to build on it over time, in an attempt to make sense of the events. The narrative below is as far as I've got.

There is general agreement that the action started about 9.15 on the evening of Thursday 21 April. Earlier reports suggested that the police arrived to support bailiffs evicting squatters from the property known as "Telepathic Heights" (pictured above).

More recent accounts, and police statements, suggest that this is not true. The police from Avon and Somerset Constabulary, supported by Wiltshire and Welsh police, were conducting a raid on the premises on the basis of "information received". They claim to have been searching for petrol bombs which they believed were being stockpiled for an attack on the newly-opened Tesco Express store, almost opposite the squat, the other side of the four-lane Cheltenham Road (A38) - marked "A" on the map above.

The police "intelligence", according to this site, appears to have stemmed from the private security guard at the Tesco store who had telephoned the police after a 20-year-old former Irish traveller by the name of Joseph Foster had told store staff he had a petrol bomb and had threatened to use it. Foster had recently moved in to the Telepathic Heights squat after being evicted and/or booted out of other local squats. His lifestyle/background is described as chaotic by those who know him. He can barely read or write. During the raid, with three others, the man was arrested. Foster was charged with having possession of a petrol bomb and was remanded on custody.

The other three squatters (pictured below) have been released without charges, and deny any connection with activists campaigning against Tesco, or any intent to use petrol bombs.

Two squatters, Salim Noormohammed and Philip Pezard have degrees in English and photography respectively. Noormohammad and Gavin Houghton are unemployed and Pezard works as a chef, but said he still didn't have enough money to rent a home. They said that none of them imagined squatting after university and all claimed to be busy trying to find jobs rather than mounting a campaign against the supermarket chain. "This thing against Tesco", said Pezard, "it's the last thing on my mind."

This account has ten police vans - including a contingent from the Welsh police - forming a "police line" (singular), outside "Telepathic Heights" and a riot squad entering the building. We get separate reports on this, with an estimate of 30-40 police in riot gear entering.

This narrative has the police sealing off the whole of Stokes Croft to create a "sterile area" (pictured below). At this point the police are not wearing riot gear on the street but, as a crowd gathers, the situation gets more tense. The police call in back-up, reportedly declaring that a "terrorist situation" had developed. The TSG (Tactical Support Group) "troops" take to the streets.

Access and exit were barred to residents and visitors alike. Residents who came out to find out what was going on often found themselves on the wrong side of a police cordon and were prevented from returning to their homes, leaving them to join the swelling crowd.

According to this source, the police pushed everyone fifty yards down the road (south) where a stand-off developed. To chants of "Whose street? Our street!", bins were thrown across the road to stop further police advance. Missiles thrown at their lines. At about 9.30pm (probably slightly later), the police baton charged and injured several demonstrators with strikes to the head.

Many reports have a helicopter overhead at this time (and for most of the riot), its spotlight shining down on the street. Its presence, and the word spread by social networking sites and by mobile phone, attracts onlookers. By 10pm, a crowd of about 100 have gathered.

With the police occupying the streets, the crowd refused to disperse and quickly began to swell as people called up friends. Drinkers in nearby bars also came out and joined the crowd. Running battles developed through the back streets of neighbouring St Pauls. The police repeatedly charged but were outflanked by the crowd who put up more barricades of bins - setting fire to some - and wire fencing from building sites.

Much of the police activity then seems to be focused on pushing people off the main road, and for a short time, it seems to have been relatively tranquil. One local witness reports that about 11.15pm, "we were able to walk through (quickly, holding onto each other's arms) and got into our flat". She continued:
Not long after that, as far as I can tell, was when it became impossible to get through the street, as the police and the protestors became more heavy handed; with batons, bricks being thrown, more glass being smashed and injuries. Back home, we went on Twitter and Facebook and tried to follow what was happening. What was so striking was the utter confusion about what the riot was actually about. One person on Twitter said they were evicting squatters from a proposed Tesco site (I tweeted to say he was about a year late).
The disturbences, however, spread south as far as City Road. There is a running battle on City Road, which penetrates the back streets on the eastern side of the main road, with a barricade and fire on the Brigstocke Road (picture below), just before the junction with Gwyn Street and Hepburn Road.

There are then multiple reports of action at the junction between the Stokes Croft High Street (which becomes Cheltenham Road futher north) and Ashley Road, with people being pushed up Ashley Road (away from the main road) and into the very narrow Picton Street.

Eventually "what seemed like the entire residence of Stokes Croft emerged" and pushed the police back on to Stokes Croft high street. There are then reports of a "deadlock". People "stood around and shared rumours about the reason behind the army of police that had arrived unnanounced and were terrorising the neighbourhood".

Several fires were lit in the streets and the police were pelted with bottles and rubble and at times engaged in hand to hand fighting. By midnight, there were crowds totalling an estimated four hundred, fighting with the police in at least three different locations. There were many hundreds more people near to or on the streets in Stokes Croft. The total number may well have approached 1,000 - with the four-lane Cheltenham Road packed with people north of the Ashley Road junction area.

With the main road mostly cordoned off and obstructed by barricades, we are then told that the police started making arrests and "all hell broke loose". Missiles (and especially bottles from recycling bins) began coming down from Telepathic Heights, which seems to have been reoccupied at some time. Police brought out dogs to clear people from the street, quite a few people got bitten. Meanwhile there are reports of police vans having had their tyres let down.

This report (Infoshop News) has it that the crowd became more and more angry as police refused to give justification for their presence, pushing or hitting anyone who got close to their lines (there are many independent reports of police violence). All it took, goes this narrative, "was for someone to tip over a glass recycling bin". The police line was then pelted by a barrage of bottles, followed by a retreat into St Pauls.

As people came out of their houses to see police marching through their streets, many joined in the fray. A routine of the police charging then retreating under a hail of bottles and bricks started to develop. Bins were set on fire and charged into police lines. Others were used to form makeshift barricades.

As the confrontation developed, the police found themselves centred on the complex junction comprising Ashley Road, Sydenham Road and Nine Tree Hill. With pressure from north and south, they were also being pelted from high up Nine Tree Hill (marked A on the satellite picture immediately above and picture below - Nine Tree Hill is on the left). They were at times visibly shaken.

The police line to the south was thickened and pushed a few yards further south, to below the corner of Nine Tree Hill. It was reinforced by mounted police who stood guard against the crowd from up the hill (pictured below - the Polish shop is on the corner of Nine Tree Hill). Eventually, there must have been near to two hundred riot police.

Here, there is agreement that 1am is the key time. The police having retreated back to Stokes Croft were becoming increasingly hemmed in, to the south by the crowd on the corner of Nine Tree Hill and in the north by a crowd adjacent the Credit Union (pictured below), with crowds also pushing in from Ashley Road. Effectively, the police themselves were being "kettled".

At some point, the police decide to abandon their southernmost line across the main road, anchored on the corner of Nine Tree Hill.  Some time before 2 am, we thus see a line of police vans come up from the City Road direction, attempting to drive north (below).  They no longer have control over their rear.

However, they come up against the crowd and barricades on the north side of the Ashley Road junction, and are for the moment stalled. The vehicles in shot are pelted with stones and bottles from Nine Trees Hill - from which vantage point this picture is taken.

The crowd has now set up a barricade opposite the Bristol Credit Union (pictured above - you are looking south, towards Bristol - the Credit Union building is on the left - see also here) and refuses to yield. In an attempt to relieve the situation, police from higher up the road march down with dogs (below), setting them on the crowd. An angry confrontation ensues.

The dogs fail to clear the crowd which sets up an angry chant: "shame on you!" This leaves the obstruction in place and the police to the south start to fight their way through. The shield-bearers in this group form up in front of the vans and push forward to create as space of a few feet. Th use of the shields is aggressive - they are used as weapons, the police jabbing at people, striking them to force them back. The vans edge forwards, horns blaring, closing the gaps as they are created. The process is then repeated.  Bit by bit, the police line advances.

Eventually, the police reach the Tesco about 200 yards north of their start point (below), into a relatively clear stretch of road. But they do not stop. They continue past it and away from the scene. Thus they leave the store and a Wiltshire Constabulary Land Rover Defender and trailer, unprotected. This is what you see them doing in the opening sequence of the video in this post, and pictured below. The police are running away from the crowd.

Celebrations broke out as the crowd realise they have the streets. Calls of "Smash Tesco!" ring out. Tesco windows are smashed (below) and the abandoned Land Rover Defender is also smashed. The trailer full of riot equipment is looted. The trailer is then detached and moved to the junction of Bath Buldings and Arley Hill, just north of the Tesco store, where it is overturned and used as part of a makeshift barricade.

Just as suddently the police returned, speeding through makeshift barriers and the edge of the crowd. The crowd retreat south down Stokes Croft again. It is claimed that the vans speed straight into the crowd. At least one person is caught behind police lines, unable to get out of Tesco in time. He is said to have taken "a frenzied beating whilst on the floor". Someone else is run over, sustaining an injury to his foot and others are hit by vans.

There are more clashes as police force people back into St Pauls and down Stokes Croft before finding themselves again outmanoeuvred. At that point they again retreat. This time Tesco's windows went all the way through as well as the shutters behind.

Next time it was made sure vans would not be able to manoeuvre in this way as a skip was dragged into the road (above). Tesco was entered a second time and objects being thrown from rooftops made it increasingly difficult for the police, with one being floored as they march down in line, attempting to recover the ground yet again. In all, police report that eight of their number were hospitalised. Nine arrests are made including the four occupants of Telepathic Heights.

One local resident noted the police had "thrown a quarter century of semi-decent community policing down the drain". Another said: "If they [the police] don't calm down, things are getting tense enough on a range of other issues for a new pattern to develop of poor community relations and repeat rioting against a police force which has chosen political sides".

The police provoked this, says Infoshop News: "Turning up in this area of Bristol with such numbers, attacking Telepathic Heights and blatantly using public money to defend the interests of a corporate giant such as Tesco was always going to get a reaction".

Since so much of the publicity turns on the fate of the Tesco store, however, this should be examined in depth. Effectively, what we see is that, around five hours after the start of an ill-considered action, having retreated from an area that had earlier been the exclusion zone, and having provoked the crowd with their aggressive behaviour, the police leave the store to be wrecked.

However, one commenter declared:
This wasn't a protest and the people involved weren't protesters. Most of those involved were either people who'd been out drinking or kids from the local area. The reason the media and police have tried to make it about Tesco is because it's much easier than admitting that the police were attacked for turning up with OTT numbers and pissing everyone off. This was more an anti-police riot than anything else. For a majority taking part this had nothing to do with Tesco or the squat. Most of the people smashing Tesco were those young kids and their reasons were much varied; certainly the promise of free cigarettes was up there but mostly I imagine because smashing windows is a lot of fun.
Something here seriously does not compute. There seem to be good grounds here for a public inquiry to explore what looks to be an egregious failure of policing, where the police provoked a riot and then lost control. If we are not looking at a staggering level of incompetence, I should be very surprised.


Time is not on their side

Not three weeks ago we were recording the mess the French and Italians had got themselves into over North African immigrants. But the situation took another lurch into the abyss yesterday when Italy and France jointly asked the EU Commission to have a look at the Schengen agreement. Berlusconi and Sarkozy want reforms which permit temporary cessation of rights to deal with "exceptional" situations like the flood of Tunisian immigrants.

"We want Schengen to survive, but to survive Schengen must be reformed", Sarkozy says. "We believe in free circulation but we believe in a state of law and a certain number of rules." Berlusconi said no one wanted to scrap the treaty but said "in exceptional circumstances we believe there must be variations".

So, like the good little Europeans that they are – when it suits them – they have dumped the problem in the lap of the Commission. What it might come up with has not yet been revealed but there is talk of demands for fully-enforced deportation agreements with African countries, enabling asylum seekers and illegal immigrants to be returned.

Such ideas have not been easy to enforce in the past, and so to introduce new rules now would require a whole raft of treaties to be unstitched. There is not going to be an easy or even rapid resolution. But, with the Libyan situation deteriorating, time is not on their side. The Commission is going to be hard put to come up with an acceptable deal.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And now for something completely different

"There is no more deadly weapon system in the world than a Russian with two AA-12s. And keep in mind that I'm a professional Russian. Don't try this at home ...!" Awesome!


Setting the agenda

Now that we are seeing the photographs of the tunnel (above), supposedly used to afford the escape of nearly 500 Taliban prisoners, it is getting a little bit difficult to believe in the story we are being told. The sheer practicalities of passing that many people through in the time claimed stretches belief to its limits and beyond.

One suspects now that the tunnel could have been for show, and the bulk of the escapees walked out of the front door. But, by whatever route they secured their freedom, the Christian Science Monitor puts its finger on it. It cites Ahmad Shah Khan Achakzai, a former member of parliament in Kandahar, who says: "It is impossible for the Taliban to get 500 men out of prison without anyone's help. I believe there are some people from the prison or the government who gave the Taliban support … It's now clear to everyone how corrupt the government is".

Given that the whole coalition policy - upon which we rely in order to disengage – is progressively to hand over power to the Afghan government, that rather drives a cart and horse through our plans. And that alone should drive the issue to the top of the front pages and kept it there, while we explore the implications of this development.

However, this news is sliding rapidly down the running order, barely visible in The Daily Telegraph, with relatively neutral reports about "inside help". There is no discussion of the implications for the UK and the withdrawal of our troops, and there is no comments section to the online story.

This, therefore, is turning out to be a perfect example of that poorly understood phenomena known as "agenda setting". We are seeing the downside aspect. The news is of such importance that it cannot be ignored. But it is not one where discussion is encouraged, so it not given any profile. The last thing the media wants is a debate on whether Mr Cameron's plans to pull troops out by 2015 are moonshine.

By contrast, you can see precisely where "engagement" and discussion is encouraged. Attention is being channelled to the "sleb" aspect of super-injunctions, with hand waver Andrew Marred admitting to his sins. The issue of real importance is this respect is the gagging orders imposed at the behest of social services, to conceal the "stolen kids" scandal. But that is "off-agenda", so the meeja passes it by, and distracts us with another sleb soap opera.

The same can be said of the Bristol riot. The substantive issue is a more than usually incompetent police force. But such hard-edged issues are not on the agenda. The meeja is uncomfortable with that idea ... that the police actually caused the riot. So readers are distracted by being invited to share their concerns about supermarkets. Tesco, rather than police incompetence, thus becomes the agenda item.

So it is that the media is far more than an instrument for delivering information, to the extent that we could even assert that such a pedestrian occupation is not even one of their aims. Essentially, the far more important role is to define the agenda, telling their readers what to think. As importantly, this is about steering them away from off-agenda topics that, in their considered view, should be left alone.

If this appears to be veering into conspiracy theory territory, that isn't necessarily our destination. One very common reason why the media sets the agenda is simply because it can. Editors and proprietors take their enjoyment and their sense of achievement from this. It is the exercise of power for the sake of it. You occasionally hear on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme boasts about setting the agenda – it is the "professional" challenge.

Another reason stems from the same wellspring. All media people – as do we all – have a "world view". Their mission in life is to share, so it is unsurprising that they will tend to push us in the direction of that which they think is important, and play down material which does not interest them. And, in a feminised, corporate, left-wing industry, it is unsurprising that the media promotes a feminised, corporate, left-wing view. This is done automatically, without thinking ... which is just as well because so few journalists can actually think.

There are many other reasons - which perhaps we can explore over time. But the main point is that to concede agenda-setting to the media is to concede power. From that stems another crucial point. Although we are schooled to take the lead from the media, we do not have to accept their agenda, their emphasis, their corralling and their constraints. With equal access to the raw material – the actual news – the technology gives us the ability to define our own.

In other words, we no longer have to buy their definitions of what is topical or important. We can pursue our own agenda, defining for ourselves those issues which we believe are important. And in so doing, we make a statement, one that will eventually percolate to the politicians who are still largely slaves to the MSM. But we also weaken them. Those who set the agenda hold the power. We do not need to give them that power.


Towards incompetence

With the media of indifferent quality, often misleading and very often plain wrong, it is necessary to go elsewhere for one's information, and then piece together disparate fragments in an attempt to divine the truth (or its nearest approximation).

On the Bristol riot, one valuable source is this one, a blog from the photographer Jonathan Taphouse, who produced many of the high quality photographs of the event.

His narrative very much lends credence to the "cock-up" version of events. What comes over is that police really did not know what they were doing, were blundering into situations over which they had no control, and made multiple tactical errors.

Armed with this narrative, one can revisit the video which I have posted above, where one sees the police convoy, drive into the frame, in a very dramatic fashion. This is after one pm on the Friday morning, but they then drive past the Tesco store and the stranded police vehicle and trailer, making no attempt to protect it. Having provoked the disorder in the first place, they are pulling out.

Listen to the sound track, 25 seconds in. You hear one of the voices ask: "where the f**k are they going?" Where indeed? Only once they have driven past the Tesco store and disappeared out of shot do people realise that it is unprotected and gravitate to that point.

The police are now out of shot, nowhere to be seen. This is a point appreciated by those watching, from the amused commentary on the video. Only then does the violence against the shop and the police vehicle start. And this is the key moment. Conspiracy? Taphouse seems to indicate police incompetence. That is not difficult to believe, as we get from here:
... please step forward Superintendent Ian Wylie, the architect of Thursday night's "Operation Squatsmasher" or the "Battle of Bristol" as all the whole of the attendant national media now like to call his operation.

Wylie, in his wisdom, decided that the best way to set about arresting four harmless locals living in a squat on Cheltenham Road was to send 160 fully tooled-up riot cops, many from Wales and Wiltshire, into the most politically sensitive location in Bristol on the hottest evening of the year just before pub closing time.

To add to the sense of deranged charade, as Wylie's overarmed, poorly briefed and highly aggressive troops hit the streets of the Stokes Croft area, he blithely told the Evening Post he "had decided to go down [to Stokes Croft] to resolve the issue".

And his resolution? Er, one trashed Tesco and eight of his men injured! And yes, that's the very Tesco store that a huge amount of police resources have gone into protecting over the last week or so and yes, they're injured men that Wylie has a duty of care for. The term "disaster" doesn’t even begin to do justice to Wylie's gung-ho and self-defeating conduct. This is ignorance and stupidity on the grand scale.
One has to admit that the combination of police and media incompetence is formidable, but with reports like this, we are getting there. Bristol Blogger adds:
Who seriously believes you can send a tooled-up force of 160 – clearly with orders to use force indiscriminately when told – into a community and not get a reaction out of that community? Either Wylie is a retard who is unable to think coherently and in logical steps or the Avon & Somerset had quite deliberately decided to go to war with the population of this city. If it's war they wanted, well, they certainly got one on Thursday evening in Stokes Croft.
Oddly, we are told, since gobbing off to the Post on Thursday evening, Wylie has gone to ground and has not been heard of since. The question is whether he has been placed in some sort of a secure unit with a copy of "Public Order Policing for Dummies" to read. That, of course, presupposes that the man's reading skills are sufficiently well-developed.