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Paris Brown. A truly sad tale. Not her twitter ‘rants’ but the Daily Mail’s disgusting attacks.

Paris Brown is a 17 year-old girl. She’s no angel but name me a 17 year-old girl (or boy) who is. She had written some tweets in her time that possibly looking back on she regrets. However I wonder how I’d have been at that age with the ability to leave my thoughts on a website for everyone to easily see. Luckily in a way Twitter, Facebook and social media didn’t really take off until I was well into my 20s and I was old enough (and wise enough) to always think twice before posting anything. I think to myself ‘what would I think if my Mum read this?’ and if I feel as though she’d be disappointed in me then I know it isn’t something I should be writing about publicly. Same goes for this blog.

So this girl wrote something about hash brownies. Big whoop. She says it was a line from Scooby Doo which is actually rather plausible as we all know Shaggy was a stoner. However even if it wasn’t who really gives a rat’s? She wrote about coming home from a party alone and not having anyone to sleep with/shag. Big whoop. A significant number of young people are very sexually active. This wouldn’t mean she wasn’t equipped to do the job she was hired for just because she wishes she had gotten lucky one night. Do the Daily Mail really think their readership believe young people shouldn’t be out enjoying themselves sexually? What horse expletive.

She tweeted about getting drunk. Wow! Stop the freakin’ Presses folks. Young person likes getting ratted and on occasion when they get drunk acts like a twat. Big fucking whoop. Not all young people are as dull and boring as me. I didn’t drink until I was 18 and haven’t drunk since I was 26. In my whole life I can only recall being drunk on three occasions. I am not the norm. However I certainly don’t think a young person drinking is exactly a big issue when it comes to whether she is a good person to do the job for which she was hired. In fact I think the fact she is just like a regular teenager means she is far more of an ideal candidate for this role than I would have been at the same age because she deals with a lot of the issues that I would have had no idea about. Therefore being into alcohol is certainly (in my eyes) an advantage in this instance and most certainly not a negative in any way shape or form.

Now we move on to the tweets she probably regrets. Saying she was glad someone got ‘thumped’ for giving someone else a black eye. However who amongst us having deep down smiled wen someone got their comeuppance? Yeah I thought so. Calling homosexuals fags is probably her worst ‘crime’ but calling immigrants ‘illegals’ and travellers ‘pikeys’ may not be right but it isn’t unusual for young people to talk like that. Do the Daily Mail want to name and shame every young person who uses that language on twitter or does the fact she was appointed into a relatively unknown role give them good cause to tear her down?

The biggest issue for me was the fact the job was set up in the first place. Not really the job per se but the salary and the title. It opened up this poor girl to a political environment and media scrutiny which she didn’t need nor warrant. How about calling it a ‘Youth Liaison Officer’ or something of that ilk? I would bet a fair few quid that if she was appointed as that then this fuss wouldn’t have happened. This should have been some PR and was actually not a terrible idea. Have someone the Police & Crime Commissioner can liaise with about issues facing young people. The youth of today (and my youth, and your youth and everybody’s youth) always complain that the police don’t understand them or listen to them so this should have been a good idea.

Instead the fact she was called the Youth PCC and they made it so public opened up this 17 year-old to unjust and unfair criticism. The Daily Mail should be ashamed of its behaviour but we all know that they won’t be. They essentially hounded a girl from her job (before she’d even taken it up) because they decided she wasn’t the right person based solely on her tweets. They didn’t interview the young lady. They didn’t get to know her and see what she could bring to the position. They just saw one part of her and decided that was enough. Depressingly that sums up the media – and certainly sums up the Daily Mail.

I sure hope she bounces back from this and it will just be a footnote in her life/career. Her tweets were not unlike many others and just because she had a low paying job that was partly funded by the tax payer shouldn’t give the Daily Mail the right to tear her apart. If it does then there are a lot of council workers and civil servants across the country who should be closing down their twitter accounts or making sure they know who can read them and the same goes for Facebook. A role at the tax payers expense does not equate to the right to just crush someone for acting just like anyone else her age.

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Vile product of being a Moustache wearer…

…well it has about as much to do with the story as Mick Philpott being a benefit cheat and on welfare.

The Daily Mail went to town on Philpott today – and justifyingly (apparently that isn’t a word but I think I’ll stick with it) so. However did they concentrate on the fact he masterminded the deaths of six of his own flesh and blood whilst trying to fit someone else up for the crime? No. Did they go after his past and the fact he had been found guilty and served time for attempted murder in his past? No they did not. Then was the story that he wanted all the rest of the money leftover from a fund for the funerals to be given to him in the form of Argos vouchers the A1 lead? No. The fact that he was on welfare was the lead story.

What horse expletive.

The fact he was on welfare was a footnote to the story. This story was about a man who was genuinely vile. There are plenty of murderers about, there are plenty of rapists, there are even plenty of pedophiles but a man to hatch a plot to burn down a house, knowing fully six of his own offspring were inside in the attempts to a) frame his mistress who had left him, b) become a hero (after having rescued them) and c) get a bigger house off the state is starting to outstrip those previous sets of people in terms of being on a different level altogether.

The wife and friend who both went along with and didn’t actively put a halt to his plan aren’t exactly a long way behind him. However the primary motivation seemingly had nothing to do with being on welfare. Yes the prosecution did allege that getting a bigger home was part of his thought process but it certainly was not the primary motivation. This was all about cold blooded revenge in an attempt to get back at a person who dared stand up to him and leave him. Using his own offspring as nothing more than pawns in a scheme so devious that if it was in a film you’d struggle to believe a character could be so cruel.

Still that didn’t stop the Daily Mail from using this tragedy as a pawn itself – in its long standing attack on the benefits system and benefit culture itself. Look there are benefit cheats out there in this country. That is a fact. However the number of benefit cheats pales into insignificance compared to those who use the system correctly and help ensure some level of life for those who need it most. I don’t see the Daily Mail leading on marriage cheats every time a juicy story comes up (actually they probably do) but it hasn’t quite whipped up the storm that benefit cheats do.

If companies paid the correct tax and didn’t use fancy legal loopholes then the money recouped from that would make people laugh at the money illegitimately claimed under the benefits system. We’d say things like, ‘we really cared about that?’ but of course corporation tax and variants there of do not hit home as strongly with middle England compared to people diddling the benefits system. The Daily Mail is talking to a certain section of society – and it isn’t the type of person who likes to be challenge their minds on a subject. They want to be told who they are outraged at and why. Not given the full story.

Philpott, his wife and Mosely will spend either the rest of their lives – or at the very least the majority of it behind bars for what they have done. They are clearly dangerous people and society needs to be protected from them. They are the story and not the Daily Mail but when the newspaper uses such a case as just a lowly pawn to further its own editorial bias then you really do have to despair at them nearly as much.

Mick Philpott is not a product of the welfare system. He is just a vile man. If he was a product of the welfare system then everyone in the welfare system would be like him and I’m pretty darn confident that isn’t the case…

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‘Like it or not this (equal marriage/rights for homosexuals) is this generations Civil Rights issue’

Not my words but the words of ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez on ESPN’s Around The Horn show this afternoon. However it is a really interesting point and topic of debate. They were discussing it as a player of the San Francisco 49ers who had said the following when asked about gay players on the team:

I don’t do the gay guys man, I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah – can’t be – in the locker room man. Nah.”

The team in a carefully worded statement that clearly weren’t the words of the player swiftly followed:

The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel, It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.

This has created quite a stir unsurprisingly. If there is one city in the United States which has a liberal attitude to same sex relationships then San Francisco would be it. However I found Gutierrez’s comment quite fascinating and rather insightful. I suspect they’ll create more of a stir in the blogosphere Stateside over the coming hours and days.

Over here we have the Equal Marriage Bill that was unveiled last week. There will be a second reading of the bill next Tuesday which is expected to pass with relative ease before facing a slightly more tricky fight in the House of Lords. Most people I know are pro equal marriage. My generation in general has far fewer prejudices than older generations. This is in no small part due to the multi-cultural society that we live in and the fact society as a whole is more open and tolerant.

We also have this thing I like to call the interweb. The interweb has opened up a portal where we can read about so many lives. Social media has further opened up that window to worlds we may never have known before. I can go on that Google machine and pretty much find out about any type of people that I so desire. We quickly come to realise that we are deep down the same and hence why being gay or bisexual or transgendered doesn’t have the amount of issues that it did a generation or two ago.

The thing is more still needs to be done. So much more needs to be done. This is why equal marriage is so important. It is another step not just for gay people to get equality but more importantly it takes another barrier down so people don’t see gay and straight people as having any difference. The more we breakdown these barriers then the more people will realise there is no difference.

I hear about the ‘sanctity’ of marriage and I don’t think it’ll surprise regular readers what I think about the sanctity of marriage. What is it one in every three marriages ends in divorce? Yeah there is a tonne of sanctity in that. I’m not a God guy. That is well known and the Church of England exists because Henry VIII wanted a male heir. You could argue about the Church of England tracing back to The Council of Hertford in 673 AD but that is not where I sit. The CoE essentially exists so Henry VIII could marry someone else. Not sure that is a great backbone to a religion myself.

As for whether churches should be forced to marry same-sex couples. Well churches aren’t actually compelled to marry couples of different sexes. If the vicar decides that the two people are not right for whatever reason he or she can decline to marry them in their church. Members of the clergy are not forced to marry anyone that asks to be married there as it stands anyway. Should they be compelled to marry any same-sex couple? No they shouldn’t but the big question is can they turn them down for the sole reason of being a same-sex couple?

I must admit I see both sides to this argument. It must be said that not all members of the clergy would turn down same-sex couples, in fact a good number have no issue with marrying same-sex couples. God loves everyone of his children so they say, there is never a distinction made about their creed, their colour, their race, their gender, their sexuality or anything of the sort. Therefore if he does exist then the teachings dictate that he loves every single one of his children no matter what and therefore would have no issues regarding same-sex marriages. Now some clergy will of course use other teachings – namely Leviticus 18, verse 22 – ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.‘ for a valid reason for not marrying same-sex couples.

Where I struggle is this – who am I (or anyone for that matter) to tell people how to interpret their religious beliefs? On the other hand I strongly believe that everyone should be treated equally. In this situation the two points of view are polar opposites and one has to be bent and which one should? I don’t think I have the right to answer that but as I strongly believe that equality is at the heart of everything we do I think it is clear – when pushed – which side of the fence I come down on.

I am not sure that this is this generations Civil Rights issue but it certainly isn’t the worst analogy ever. The Civil Rights movement was all about equality for one section of society and this movement is all about equality for another section of society. Yes homosexuals aren’t forced to give up their seats on the bus if a straight person wants to sit there but they don’t have access to all the things that heterosexual people do and this is not fair.

To round off (considering this was a US story) I have quote from the United States Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

All men (and women) are created equal and if they do not have the same opportunities in life than the next person then we have gone badly wrong as a race.

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Did you hear the one about the girlfriend who died of cancer but actually didn’t exist?

One story has dominated the American sports industry over the past 24 hours and it is one of the most bizarre stories that I have ever come across. Deadspin yesterday published the following story Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax. The story details how the girlfriend of an American Football player never existed and when he announced to the world that she had died of cancer it was not accurate because…she didn’t exist.

The thing that has stunned the journalism industry isn’t what happened but more how was the story ever allowed to happen? How come no-one picked up on the fact that she didn’t exist? Didn’t anyone do some background research that would have shown up the fact this was a hoax? As many experienced journalists have said today you take people at their word on issues like these but you do background research, you attempt to speak to the girls parents, her friends, you do something to find out other facets of the story. The fact is no-one did this and the story of Te’o and the death of his girlfriend was allowed to manifest itself is something of a black mark on the whole industry.

This girlfriend who apparently died had no obituary ever written about her. Her funeral was published at being held in two different places – one of these places as a town in California that didn’t even exist. Yet no-one picked up on it. On December 26 Te’O went to his university and told them that the story was a hoax perpetrated on him by sick individuals. The truth according to the player was that he had developed an online relationship and had never met this girl.

His version of events are believable but he knew on December 26th that the story was untrue and yet before the National Championship Game ten days ago he was asked on many occasions about his girlfriend and he still didn’t come clean. He still spoke of her – and her death by cancer – freely and with raw emotion. It just doesn’t add up.

Then a few days ago Deadspin got a tip that the story was a hoax and within a few days they were able to join the dots and release the story linked to earlier, which is in itself a fine piece of journalism. The viewpoint of many of the sports journalists are that whilst they didn’t do their jobs properly they are also under immense pressure not only to be right but more importantly to be first in this 24/7 news cycle world that we live in. Being first brings kudos and brings followers on twitter, likes on Facebook and might, views on the internet, eyeballs on the TV and even the odd extra sale of a newspaper. Being right might not be the be all and end all any more and when everyone is wrong it doesn’t seem to matter as much.

Personally I love the longer, thoughtful piece. I was talking to a friend of mine Tony a few weeks ago about the ESPN show 30 for 30 and how we both really appreciated the proper sports documentary. You can tell the time that had gone into the documentary series and I really enjoyed it. A few weeks ago ITV4 showed a documentary on Jose Mourinho and I found that well worth an hour of my time.

Longer, more thoughtful pieces still have a home in my heart but do they still have a place in sports journalism in this day and age? This story makes me think its place in sports journalism is on the very edge and its not looking in, its drifting even further away and that makes me sad.

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Why are schools trying to turn children into robots?

Did you hear about the girl who was put into isolation for having pink tips in her hair? It is a story that is all too common and one that really gets me hot under the collar. It has been a while since I was boarding school buses and going to a compulsory education establishment day in, day out but one thing I do remember is back then I seemed to have a bit more latitude with how I looked. Not that I ever had crazy hair or anything but others did and there wasn’t too much hassle.

I know the old Al Murray saying, ‘Rules is Rules’ but on the flip side what is the role of a school? Is it to educate the young of today and get them ready for the world or is it to educate the young of today and go whatever it takes to get the best exam results possible? I argue the former and part of that is nurturing youngsters individuality and creativity. My old High School is now a College apparently so I had a look at their website and had a look at their aims for students:

Our aims are those of the Island Innovation Trust. We are committed to:

• Ensure all students achieve to their full potential.
• Encourage all students to have strong aspirations for their future.
• Promote health, welfare and safety of all students.
• Develop a learning environment which promotes:
• Independent learning
• High expectations
• Creativity
• Individuality
• Enjoyment
• Practical learning opportunities
• Enterprise

Then I looked at their uniform policy and what students are not allowed to do:

The following items are NOT allowed:

 Denim, leather or suede (or similar looking materials) coats/jackets or multicoloured outdoor clothes
 Shorts, leggings or skinny fit trousers (except PE shorts worn for lessons)
 Canvas leisure shoes, deck shoes or boots
 Trainers, (only to be used in PE)
 Cloth Badges on indoor or outdoor clothes
 Inappropriate makeup
 No jewellery to be worn, except a watch and one earring up to 5mm in each ear.
 No other piercings are allowed.
 Hair must be worn in an appropriate style.
 No extreme styling or designs of hair or eyebrows e.g. lines, intricate patterns. Only hair of one natural colour allowed and no false nails or coloured nail varnish is allowed.

Something didn’t add up. They want to encourage creativity and individuality but look at some of the restrictions students are faced with. Look I am fine with students having a uniform mainly because if students could wear what they wanted it could easily lead to bullying with people looking down on kids who wore non-fashionable clothes etc. but what is wrong with people showing individuality through hair colour?

Also not listed here but hooded tops are not allowed and students wearing them will not be allowed into the school. I mean are we for real? Have we got to the stage where we want to stifle the youth of today to such a dramatic degree? Imagine spending 16 years of your life not being allowed to experiment with your hair or being nurtured to explore your own identity? I know not everyone explores there own identity through hair colour or piercings or whatever but that is a huge part of growing up.

Does having pink dye really change anyone’s learning environment? If a girl has pink tips will the rest of the class spend lessons designing their own hair colour schemes or designs? In the article the school in question doesn’t even allow shaved heads. Carisbrooke College says that hair must be worn in an appropriate style but as a teenager I grew my hair long. Would that be appropriate or not? When I grew my hair was is distracting for other people?

I’d love to see young people encouraged by schools to explore every aspect about who they are because we are all different. School is not just about exam results but about preparing the youth of today for life after compulsory education. Growing up is hard enough without young people having their individuality and creativity straitjacketed.

When I was a lad I didn’t like school uniform. I mean who honestly did? I did see the logic behind it though but a line has to be drawn somewhere to allow young people the chance to express themselves. I hope schools can sort this out as at the moment I see a lot of people being engineered to get good exam results but good exam results doesn’t automatically mean they grow up well and balanced. At some point schools have to understand that exam results are not the be all and end all and that nurturing young people to explore themselves is just as important part of the whole educational process.

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They pre-empted a football game for an Obama talk on guns at a memorial service? Are they are reals?

Damn straight they are buckos.

In case you were unaware we saw a genuine tragedy in the United States last week as a young men went mad in an elementary school killing 27 people including himself and it is 28 when you add that he killed his mother before reaching the school. 20 of those that died were young children.

This is a huge story and it has really made a dent in the psyche of the American citizen but when the tragedy impacts the number one football game of the week then it becomes too much.

Yes last night the networks all opted-out of regular scheduled programming to bring President Obama’s speech at the Newtown Memorial Service. The issue for many was that the speech was just after 8:30 EST and at that time there is the number one weekly sporting event on network TV – the NBC Sunday Night Football telecast. So a few minutes into the game the announcer Al Michaels said they were stepping away from the game to take the President’s speech and NBC opted out. The game did continue on their cable network NBC Sports.

However far too many people thought this wasn’t good enough and took to twitter to complain about the decision to opt-out of the NFL game. Deadspin takes up the story with the quoted titled story – “Take That Nigger Off The TV, We Wanna Watch Football!”: Idiots Respond To NBC Pre-Empting Sunday Night Football.

So many of the tweets are just insane. You have to wonder if these people have a brain in their heads. This is also the reason why I think the likelihood to gun law changes in the US is so unlikely even though to sane observers it seems like the obvious thing that needs to happen. I won’t quote them all but here are a handful of the tweets of anger that the President was talking when there was an NFL game on:

WOOW THEY TOOK OFF SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL!! TO WATCH THIS NIGGER!! OBAMA TALK ABOUT THE SHOOTING NIGGA IDGAF! THE PATROITS PLAYING!!!

Obama can eat shit, trying to make a speech during the football game. Unacceptable

You have got to be fucking kidding me Obama, you stupid motherfucker. It’s football time in America not you to give a speech you fuck!

Obama instead of Football are they nuts? Who cares what the twerp has to say. #@whitehouse #POTUS #NBC

Yes the shooting is sad but Obama is ruining millions of kids lives daily & i want to watch some damn football, fuck you Obama

Just a quick reply to all of these tweets one on one. Someone doesn’t give a fuck about the shooting because the ‘PATROITS’ are playing. Classy and he can’t even spell Patriots. Yeah unacceptable that the President is making a speech during an NFL game. If someone nuked American soil on a Sunday night should the President wait to tell the nation they are at war until after the NFL? Football over lives is a stupid position to take. Lots of people care very deeply about what the President has to say and lastly if you want to watch some damn football then just change the freaking channel dumbass. I have noticed several of the people quoted in that piece have deleted their twitter accounts.

I’m cynical on whether the President has the guts to take on the gun lobby. I hope he does. I really hope he does. He is a second term President and therefore has a bit more freedom but taking on the gun lobby is a different kettle of fish. A friend of mine said last night that the biggest issue isn’t even the NRA but those anarchists who think that they need an easy supply of guns in case they ever need to overthrow the government. Just how scary is that?

Personally the fact no-one even hinted at any gun discussion after the Virginia Tech massacre appals me but it seems that when the people slain are of elementary age people care far more than they do when those gunned down are of university age.

Writing just a couple of weeks ago I wrote Bob Costas uses his Prime Time TV audience to talk gun control laws after NFL murder-suicide. It is something that America as a nation has to look at if they want to stop so many senseless deaths. After 9/11 so many laws were changed after 3,000 people died but nearly one third of a million people have died as a direct result of gun related crime this century in the United States and yet nothing has happened nor even been discussed.

When that poor girl asked Will McAvoy at Northwestern University, ‘what makes America the greatest country in the world?’ the answer certainly had nothing to do their views on guns. Guns alone may not kill people but if people have a free and easy access to a gun then they’ll be more likely to use it to harm another. Gun control is what Americans deserve because they deserve the feeling of being safe but when people say that this episode shows that teachers should in fact be armed it says a lot about how deep the gun culture is in the USA and that is the battle the anti-gun brigade face.

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Bob Costas uses his Prime Time TV audience to talk gun control laws after NFL murder-suicide.

If you have any knowledge of the US Sports scene then you’ll know of Bob Costas. He has been one of the faces and voices of sports broadcasting in the country for over 30 years. Part of his duties is to front NBC’s NFL TV coverage and on Sunday he worked the nationally televised Prime Time game as per usual. Just over 24 hours earlier a Kansas City Chief had killed his wife, driven to the stadium and thanked his coach and the general manager of the team before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide in front of them. Yet the next day the Kansas City Chiefs played their scheduled game.

It was a tragedy that a young two-month old baby girl lost both her parents. That a young woman was slayed in her prime. It is hard to feel any sympathy for the man who committed these crimes but you have to sense that he was deeply troubled. This though isn’t the point. The point is would these two people still be alive today if the second amendment to the US Constitution wasn’t in place.

Now Bob Costas used his privileged position to further his thoughts on this subject following a piece by noted columnist Jason Whitlock. In his piece ‘In KC, it’s no time for a game‘ Whitlock speaks first of all about why the game should have been cancelled but goes on to make the wider point about gun culture. Whitlock is a middle-aged black man and Costas is a older generation white man. Many think this is a racial issue and have slated Costas for his views but he was referencing Whitlock’s work.

To view Costas’ monologue please watch the inserted video below:

Here is the important part of Whitlock’s piece that Costas was referencing:

In the coming days, Belcher’s actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries. Who knows? Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend. What I believe is, if he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.

I personally do not have an issue with either Whitlock writing what he did nor Bob Costas using his position to talk on the subject. A large majority of the American public seem to. A significant proportion of people believe that Costas was ripping on black people as a lot of young black men in America believe that guns are an important part of their culture. So an attack on guns is an affront to them.

I disagree strongly. If Jevon Belcher didn’t own a gun then the likelihood is that two people would not be dead today and a young baby girl would not have been orphaned on Saturday morning. Over here in the UK we see an increasing amount of young people carrying around knifes to protect themselves but of course what we see is the likelihood of you using a knife is vastly increased if you have one on your person. When the adrenaline kicks in we as human beings do not make the best choices. You are more likely to be stabbed if you possess a knife when out and about than if you do not. It is the same with guns. If you don’t have one to hand then you are far less likely to ever use one.

The right to bear arms is an antiquated law but is one that will never change because of deep rooted beliefs. If guns were illegal then a few people with illegal guns would be able to carry out more crimes but with guns being so readily available it means that many, many more people will be shot and die at the hands of someone in a moment of passion or pique of anger. If you don’t have a weapon to hand then you are far less likely to go out and get one after the red mist has dissipated.

This was a terribly sad moment but alas it is all too uncommon. A friend of mine in New York was called up to do jury duty a while back and it was a murder case. He didn’t have to sit on it but I enquired saying that murder is a pretty big crime so it must be a big case and his response was cold saying that ‘it probably wouldn’t even make the papers.’ When a murder isn’t even a crime that makes the newspapers then something is wrong.

I think my view is pretty clear but I just wanted to defend Whitlock (whom I often do not agree with) and certainly Costas who used the largest TV audience of the night to hammer home his thoughts on the issue. Gun control is an issue that no American President will ever tackle because they are too scared to do so. This is a sad state of affairs but would an frank and open national news debate about gun control be a good thing? It sure would but it will never never happen. This is the type of news story I’d want Will McAvoy and his team to take on but I doubt anyone will.

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The NUS are undertaking #demo2012 today but why are the University of Manchester strong-arming societies and what good will it do?

Well folks today is the big day. I’m getting married… psyche! As if. No today is the today the 18-22 generation are going to change not only their own futures but change the world. Yes it is the National Union of Students 2012 Demo as thousands of NUS kids flock into the capital to tell the government of the day that they don’t care about the young generation and they feel they need to change everything in Westminster and bring back the Labour Party who never introduced tuition fees and never proposed a students tax that students would be paying back for the rest of their lives. No the Labour Party would save the students…

There are several issues that I’d like to talk about and the first is the fact a major metropolitan university seemingly tried to strong-arm their student faculty into buying tickets to go to the demo in London. This university was the university of Manchester whose SU sent out an e-mail saying, ‘In order to be sure of Silver or Gold Award, societies will need to send 10 members to buy tickets (£8.50 to London is an absolute steal!) and thus show support for the national student movement.‘. The person in question who sent out this e-mail was Tommy Fish who is Activities & Development Manager. Having done a spot of research his job doesn’t seem to include ‘heavily implying societies should be doing things to ensure their funding for political purposes’ but maybe I just missed it?

Look I’m no legal expert but I’m pretty sure saying that funding would be guaranteed by purchasing so many tickets for this demo is pretty stinky and kinda blackmail-y? Or maybe it is just greasing the wheels but either way it stinks. Flat out stinks.

There is an e-petition about this entitled University of Manchester Students’ Union: Society funding should not be contingent on endorsement of political causes and I’d fully implore you to sign. As the petitioner shows it isn’t about the demo itself but is about whether funding from the Student Union should be dependent on societies being able to buy tickets to the demo and sending a minimum amount of people to something that they may not have a big issue with.

I think that is a disgrace but lets be honest a lot of this is a disgrace. I’m fully down with free speech and if these people want to protest then I have zero issue with that but what I do care about is whether they are spreading lies or untruths with their reasoning for demonstrating. The official Demo 2012 website says that the protest is about Education, Employment and Empowerment. I can understand the first two but the third is a bit bizarre but still lets look at the three issues one by one.

Education is important. They say, ‘The government has placed this under attack from all fronts – by scrapping the EMA, slashing undergraduate teaching funding, increasing tuition fees, introducing draconian restrictions on international students, cutting funding for post-graduate students, hiking fees for adult learners looking to gain basic skills, causing funding chaos in the nations…‘ One issue I have with this…does education start at 16? By the sounds of it according to the NUS it does. Do they not care about the Pupil Premium and ensuring that more people get a better education throughout their first eleven years of compulsory education?

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I’d prefer everyone to get a better education for the first eleven years for free and then have to pay beyond that if the alternative was free education for all after 16 and having an inadequate education system up to 16. If they are the only two options on the table I want to fund compulsory education to the fullest that we can and that is where I stand. Therefore I can’t stand alongside these demonstrators certainly when I look at how Americans have much worse student debt and how it was pretty much a straight choice (in the real world and not in idealistic la la land) of either dumbing down education for making people pay (in the long term – not in the short term) for good after 18 education. I mean seriously they were the options so what would you do?

Moving on to Employment and I can see what they are talking about here. I took two years after university to get a full-time job so I know what it is like. It is a genuinely soul-destroying experience so I do think the government need to find a better way to encourage young persons employment. So yes this is an issue and something that should be talked about more and if the protest just talked about this then I could see good, solid reasoning behind it but alas it isn’t.

Lastly Empowerment. Basically the NUS are saying that the Lib Dems lied and that they want the Lib Dems obliterated so that the Tories can screw them even more after 2015. Wait a minute they actually want Labour to win as Labour will save the day and make higher education free for all. Vive la revolution but of course if the Lib Dems were all kicked to the curb there are more Tory/LD marginals than Labour/LD marginals so if the Lib Dems withered and died in 2015 then Labour would lose. Woes. One line I love from their official website is thus:

Politicians have let education and employment slip off the agenda, but now we have an opportunity to create a movement that empowers us to take back our future.

Education and employment have slipped off of the agenda? Are you freaking kidding me NUS? Are you freaking kidding me? Are you sure this is true or is this pathetic propaganda to fit your narrative and try and justify your demonstration? As a politico I keep a pretty close eye on what is going on and do you know what? I’ve seen employment and the economy pretty high up in what is going on – in fact I think I’d go as far as to say it is the biggest issue out there that the government are tacking.

Also Education might not be top of the pile but it is certainly not being ignored. The Pupil Premium is out there and expect more Pupil Premium news in the next budget. Just because in our 24hour news cycle world you don’t hear about Education every single day it doesn’t mean it is being ignored. If you want people to take you seriously then don’t make stuff up. The NUS are fast becoming ‘the boy who cried wolf’ and they aren’t being listened to or trusted any more. People probably trust Newsnight and The X Factor more than they do the NUS – and that my friends is saying something.

Lastly and least importantly (but still deserving of a mention) is talk about what these people will be chanting tomorrow. Stace talks about it here and you can get a screenshot of the proposed chants here and whilst the fact they need cheat sheets might actually be the biggest issue the chants do nothing to further their cause and are just politically motivated (and in some cases are just flat out lies). They need to decide if they hate David Cameron, Nick Clegg, the Tories or the Lib Dems more. At the moment there is no cohesive argument apart from Labour seem great.

Look I know I was only a teenager at the time but I don’t recall mass NUS protests when The Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 came into force. Yes I recall some dissatisfaction but I don’t recall mass protests. Are we saying that £3k is fine and a Student Tax would be fine as well but a £9k maximum is too far? Or are we saying that Labour’s proposals are more favourable because the NUS are essentially Labour Youth? I would love to know whether the people protesting today are protesting about the fact students should pay anything or about the fact the Tories and the Lib Dems are in power?

If the protests today were just about raising awareness of young persons unemployment then I’d back it but it isn’t. It is about politics. The fact that the university of Manchester’s Student Union are strong-arming their societies is extremely troubling but it doesn’t surprise me. Many large student unions are staffed by people who have never worked out in the real world and still believe in idealistic claptrap. Well I live in the real world and things aren’t perfect. Young unemployment is a real issue boys and girls but kicking out the Lib Dems for making the decisions they did on tuition fees and not being realistic with budgets, finances and even the increase in education spending for compulsory education for the most needy is not.

All this demo will do is give a few people criminal records for being idiots. Give the police a hard day. Make many people feel big and important and do very little (or indeed nothing) to further their cause. Demonstrations are great if something can come of it but are the government going to change course because of this? No. Are people going to change their 2015 General Election vote on the strength of this? No. So what good can it do? Please tell me folks what good can this do?

I await your responses *watches tumbleweed flow through*

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Who appointed Peter Herbert as the ambassador for minorities in football?

Who had heard of Peter Herbert a month or so ago? Anyone? Ok apart from the extremely smart and well-read people. Who apart from them had heard of this man? I thought as much. Well in the past month he has become a bit of a buzz name as he is in all the newspapers and wants to change society for the better. Good on him but changing society for the better is something that needs to be done with a plan or not just a scatter-gun approach and that is where this man is going wrong.

The majority of us first heard about him when he reported referee Mark Clattenberg to the police for using a racial slur against two Chelsea players. He decided it was his job to report said abuse even though he himself didn’t hear it but only had the word of hearsay like the rest of us had. If we all went to the police with allegations after we’d heard someone else say that someone had broken the law then the police would go into meltdown but he is perfectly entitled to report said claims to the police should he want to. I have no issue with that. Well actually I have a huge issue with it but I concede that legally there is no issue with that.

However today the police have decided to close the investigation because no victim has come forward to them and nor have that been able to obtain a shred of evidence. Chelsea Football Club have decided not to share with the police their evidence as they believe the FA are the right party to deal with this case. That is their prerogative but what does Peter Herbert think of this? Does he say ‘fair enough – it is up to those who were allegedly wronged to decide how to proceed’ or does he bleat about a conspiracy to save the skin of the referee?

He chose the latter. ‘It sounds remarkably like a football cover-up’ he said this morning on BBC Radio 5live. ‘It sounds remarkably like the football industry wanted to have this issue swept under the carpet.’ are the next words out of his mouth. Yes the football industry wanted to sweep it under the carpet – that is why Chelsea Football Club went public with the allegations not two hours after they first surfaced despite Chairman Chairman Bruce Buck saying he had agonised long and hard over whether to go public with the allegations but I think that is a crock of shit personally. If I agonised long and hard over an issue I don’t take less than two hours to make up my mind – certainly when it is a fast moving matter with lots of new evidence as he spoke to all the players involved during that time. No Chelsea Football Club certainly wanted it out in the open and they wanted it known that they had accused Mark Clattenberg of using racist language towards two of their players.

So we can pretty much rule of the football club trying to sweep it under the carpet and it is they who have chosen not to cooperate with the police. Remember they did not make a formal police complaint so if no victims or no evidence come to light for the police then they can’t really do anything. This has annoyed Peter Herbert a great deal it must be said.

‘The information we had is that there are ‘no victims’. Well, if there are no victims, what on earth has been referred to the FA in the first place?

‘What on earth are the FA and Chelsea playing at then? Are they having some cosy exchange of statements between themselves and not giving it to the police?

‘We’re going to ask the borough commander for an explanation. Was there any co-operation? Was any evidence given? If none was given by the FA or Chelsea we want to raise that issue with the Minister of Sport.’

‘It really does beggar belief that the primary football authorities in the country do not understand the seriousness of hate crime.’

All of the above was said on BBC Radio 5live this morning and quoted in the article linked to above.

Well there are no victims in a criminal sense because none have come forward. Peter Herbert cannot claim he is a victim because he didn’t hear the alleged exchange between the referee and the player. So only those who heard it – and were offended by it – could be considered victims. Peter Herbert knows this but decided to ignore this as it didn’t fit in with what he wants to happen. He wants a police investigation not because it would get to the bottom of it but because it would give him a stronger platform to get his views across.

The borough commander will write back to Peter Herbert saying lots of nice things but will say something like ‘err…Peter. Sorry to tell you this but Jon Obi Mikel nor Juan Manuel Mata have come to us and made a complaint and we have to unable to get any testimony from anyone involved on the potential victims side so there is kinda no case to answer to. As a barrister I think you probably should know how these things work and stop wasting my time’ or words to that effect.

Hate crime is extremely serious and I’m pretty sure the FA know this. Remember they still charged and found John Terry guilty of using racist language despite a criminal court deciding that he didn’t. The difference between that case and this is Anton Ferdinand – the alleged victim wanted to cooperate with police and Mikel and Mata seemingly do not. Shouldn’t the alleged victims decide whether or not they want to take a matter to the police or should outsiders get to decide how each of us live our lives?

Anyway Herbert isn’t finished. Oh no. He wants Spurs fans to stop using the word ‘Yid’ and has given them a fortnight to comply before he reports every single Spurs fan who uses that term to the police. You think I’m joshing don’t you? Well I’m not. Read all about it in the Mirror. He also wants to set up a football association for just black players. Yeah that won’t fester an ‘us and them’ mentality. Of course it wouldn’t Peter…

I don’t know Peter Herbert from Adam as it were but he comes across as a man with no idea what he is talking about but he sure loves the sound of his own voice. He has decided out of nowhere that the game of football needs sorting out having attended a grand total of four games in his entire life he knows the game inside and out. Now the thing is he does make some pertinent points but they are being drowned out by his attempts at making waves.

It is not his job to decide how two football players deal with alleged racist insults towards them. No-one asked him to get involved and he has just taken it on his own back that he is the man to save the day. Well the thing is he isn’t. These two football players are grown men and can decide how they go forward. He is using a high profile case to get on his soapbox and either make a name for himself or he genuinely thinks it is his place to stick his oar in. Whichever it is he isn’t exactly helping the game – or the two players – by the way he is acting. He is trying to stir up racial tensions and when someone is doing that then personally I always question their motives…

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Will Lord McAlpine sue Sally Bercow and others who named him? If he does it might teach them a lesson

I was so frustrated last week. No not just the fact my first date of the year had been a failure but in the Lord McAlpine story and also the ambushing of the Prime Minister by Phillip Schofield. Now it has been a fair few years since I sat my Journalism Law exam but I remember one or two things and trusty McNae’s isn’t too far away. Namely what I remember is naming someone potentially involved in a criminal investigation when in fact they were not is not really a good thing. In fact it is a really bad thing. Throwing names out there that many people have on the social networks linking them to the paedophile ring in the government is also a really bad thing.

People have the misplaced trust that if 1000s of people name and shame the culprits then the law is on their side. Well that isn’t exactly true. In fact it couldn’t be more wrong. Strength in numbers is a good thing but when you are defaming someone all it means if they have yet another individual they could sue if they wanted to.

The old adage of ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ has been thrown at me regarding this. ‘Look if it wasn’t true then why are so many people talking about it?’ people exclaim. Well another great adage is that in this modern day era a lie is halfway around the world before the truth ever comes out. People believe what they are told by anonymous sources on the internet. If someone sets up a fake ITK account on twitter then people will retweet it and soon the lie becomes so widespread that people believe that it is the truth.

Someone posted the names of several high profile politicians on a group I am a member of saying that these were all the names linked to the paedophile ring according to the internet. It was basically a who’s who of politics over the past three decades. He said that all these people should face a criminal court and should step down as MPs or Lords until the cases were over. I pipped up and said that at this current juncture only one accusation had been made against a politician but that didn’t matter to this person (and several others) as the internet had spoken and the internet is the new judicial system.

What depressed me most though wasn’t the fact that he had said such a stupid thing (and others agreed) but more that his only defence was ‘Hillsborough’ and because there was a cover up in this instance that automatically meant there was a cover up here and that everyone named on the internet had to answer the accusations. I tried to point out that anyone on the internet can accuse another person. If he had been accused by anonymous sources on the internet then what would he do? Would he take it lying down or would he sue the pants off of anyone who spread the lie knowing it wasn’t true? No doubt he’d do the latter.

We live in a dangerous society where lies can be spread quicker than ever before and the lie will always be first and therefore will always live on even after the truth comes out in the minds of some people. Even though the accuser has now backed down in his claims against Lord McAlpine saying that the police told him that the person he identified was Lord McAlpine when it plainly wasn’t – some people will still believe that Lord McAlpine is guilty and there is nothing he can do about it. He cannot change those minds. All he can do is seek restitution against those who spread the lies about him.

There are some (semi) famous people who were dumb enough to name Lord McAlpine including Sally Bercow – who has never come across as the sharpest tool in the box as it were. She has since apologised and says she was irresponsible and mischievousness but does not believe that she did anything libellous. It is an interesting one because she didn’t overtly say ‘Look Lord McAlpine is a paedo’ but she certainly implied – heavily implied that he was the name at the centre of the investigation – which he was. As we now know though all the accusations were false and had she (and others) not named or heavily hinted at his involvement then he would not have been defamed. It would certainly be a landmark case should he sue her and would be extremely interesting to see how it played out as I genuinely don’t know but we need to find out whether just implying guilt on social media is defamatory or not. My guess is that it very well might be…

The thing is though Lord McAlpine was at least linked to the investigation (albeit it turns out falsely) but other names are out there on the internet who are not linked in any way, shape or form at the moment to any investigation around this case. These people have seen people openly tweet about them and even twitter itself may find itself in hot bother with one very senior Conservative MP because when you search for ‘tory paedophile’ or any words to that effect his name came up as one of the ‘suggested searches.’

The sad thing about all this is the investigation is now taking the back seat. Children were abused but that is now not the story. The story is about how the BBC acted and whether Lord McAlpine (and others) should sue – and who they should sue if so. They are legitimate stories because of how things have panned out but it is overshadowing what should be the real story. Hopefully the police can continue their investigation and get to the bottom of what went on but whilst that happens the BBC and potential civil cases will lead the way.

I hope people who were defamed sue – and even if they sue and give all the compensation they get to child abuse charities then some good will have come off it. I just think people need to understand that there is a law of the land and spreading malicious gossip on the internet is generally not considered to be a good thing. I live my life on the basic principle of treat others how I’d like to be treated. Would I like it if people were accusing me of crimes on the internet without having a smidgen of knowledge then would I like it? No I wouldn’t – and nor would any of the people that were doing such to Lord McAlpine and others. If you wouldn’t like it done to you then don’t do it. A good motto for life not just a good motto for not being an idiot and potentially finding yourself facing civil action.

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