Did anyone else just hear the sound of a tightening screw?

The New Yorker – The Senate Does the Right Thing: Late last night, to the amazement of refugee advocates, the Senate approved by unanimous consent an amendment by Senator Kennedy to a defense bill that will make it easier for America’s Iraqi friends to be admitted as refugees to the United States.

If you haven’t done so yet, mention this to your local MP… just in case they don’t feel like looking a little isolated.

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Greetings, comrades

Bloggerheads is back online, but I suspect that most of the action will take place here for a few more days at least.

If you miss the old ‘obsessions’, here’s some local news of (online) poll-rigging and the immediate reaction from Guildford Borough Council.

Also, the fight for freedom in Burma has led to a minor mutiny (swiftly put down) a little closer to home. (And before you start yelling at me, yes, I’m well aware that our present government does draw the line at shooting protestors in the street.)

[Psst! Another Uzbek parallel emerges here.]

UPDATE – Justin has another related affront to democracy here. Heaven forbid that any protest march should come within a mile of Parliament while it’s in session.

Posted in The War on Stupid, Updates | 7 Comments

The Andrew Meyer Tasering incident

BBC – Stun gun used during Kerry debate: University of Florida police used a stun gun on a student taking part in a forum with former presidential candidate John Kerry. Andrew Meyer was questioning Senator Kerry on why he did not contest the results of the 2004 election. University officials said he exceeded his allotted time and became disruptive after his microphone was cut off. Video footage shows police pulling Mr Meyer from the audience and pinning him to the ground before stunning him. The 21-year-old student can be heard screaming for help as the stun gun is administered.

Video footage of the incident is available on YouTube.

The most popular one can be found here:
University of Florida student Tasered at Kerry forum

But a far more complete one can be found here:
UF student Tasered at Kerry forum (new, complete)

I think the use of the Taser was excessive and grossly insensitive given the circumstances. On the latter point; the University police, if they had an interest in public order, should at the very least have considered how the act would have been interpreted, both immediately and in the following days. It was also OTT of them to initially detain Meyer for ‘inciting a riot’.

However, it needs to be pointed out that Andrew Meyer was ‘drive stunned’. This does not amount to a full deployment of a Taser as most people understand it.

I’ll link to the relevant Wikipedia entry here, because the Taser brochure it refers to is quite large and likely to cause browser droop; Some TASER devices, particularly those used by police departments, also have a “Drive Stun” capability, where the taser is held against the target without firing barbs and is intended to cause pain without incapacitating the target. TASER defines “Drive Stun” as “the process of using the EMD weapon as a pain compliance technique. This is done by activating the EMD and placing it against an individual’s body. This can be done without an air cartridge in place or after an air cartridge has been deployed.”

I think it’s important that the limited use of this weapon (in what is charmingly referred to as a ‘pain compliance technique’) be considered in light of Andrew Meyer’s reaction to its application (“OW! OW! OW!” and the instant classic “Don’t Tase me, Bro!”) and the response this has initiated in some quarters because:

Eyewitness report: This is probably the most important piece that the video did not cover. While Senator Kerry was answering a student’s question about Iraq, Meyer rushed to the microphone with cops in tail. No one knew what was going on at that point and I’m sure the cops were looking at the worst case scenario.

He’s already offside, even before he uses the term ‘blow job’ and asks his third and most ridiculous question:

The Register: As you can see, Andrew Meyer, 21, was pretty determined to quiz Kerry on the possible impeachment of President Bush, and indeed, “whether he and Bush were both members of the secret society Skull and Bones at Yale University”, although his impertinence was not actually the cause of his electric exit from the proceedings.

Of course, watching the most popular version of this on YouTube alone, and one might get the impression that the authorities are watching anybody who dares to ask a question very closely and took Meyer down for mentioning a dreaded and all-powerful secret society.

In fact, it seems increasingly likely that this (minus the jolt of electricity) was Meyer’s intention all along:

Washington Post: This was not Meyer’s first escapade as a provocateur, but it may be his most physically punishing. As a freshman his weekly columns for the Alligator, the campus newspaper, regularly prompted debate. “He would take an idea such as a fundraiser for cancer research, and would bash the way the whole event would go down,” wrote Meyer’s friend Brandon Crone in an e-mail, noting that some of Meyer’s articles were rejected for publication because of their incendiary material. Some have speculated that his penchant for attention (his e-mail handle is “famouswriterman”) led him to stage the outburst to draw traffic to his Web site, http://www.theandrewmeyer.com, a mishmash of political commentary, sketch comedy and filmed practical jokes.

WTOPNews: Meyer, a senior telecommunications major from the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Weston, has a Web site featuring several homemade videos. In one, he stands in a street with a sign that says “Harry Dies” after the latest Harry Potter book was released. In another, he acts like a drunk in a bar while trying to pick up a man dressed in drag.

Meyer’s partner in one such ‘funny’ video (which appears to have replaced the Harry Potter one, which has been removed from Meyer’s site for some reason) has since released a comical remix of the arrest footage in an effort to promote the sale of “Don’t Tase Me, Bro” t-shirts.

Further, we also have this:

University of Florida Offense Report: Before I returned to my post I observed Meyer hand a digital hand-held camera to white female he was present with, and it appeared that he instructed her to film his interaction… As the man was escorted down stairs with no cameras in sight, he remained quiet, but once the cameras made their way down stairs he started screaming and yelling again. Some of the comments that the man made were “You can’t kill me.”, “They are giving me to the government.” and “They are going to kill me.” Meyer stated, on the way to the jail, “I am not mad at you guys, you didn’t do anything wrong, you were just trying to do your job.” Meyer was laughing and being lighthearted in the car, his demeanor completely changed once the cameras were not in sight. Meyer did ask, at one point, if the cameras were going to be at the jail….

Just in case you’re not willing to take that at face value…

From 2:30 right here, you can see Andrew Meyer in custody saying: “There are people that know I’m here. You can’t like, kill me…. Oh my god, they’re giving me to the government. They’re giving me to the government. They’re giving me to the government. They’re giving me to the government… Everyone that was here to day please call the police station. Ask them, ask them ‘Where’s the guy that was arrested at the protest?’ Ask them ‘Where’s the guy that was arrested at the John Kerry rally?’ OK? Ask them. Ask them where I am, because they are going to try and kill me. They are going to try and kill me.”

At 03:50, right here, you can see Andrew Meyer in custody saying: “Anybody? Anybody want to follow along, just come with us? And make sure they don’t kill me? Anybody?”

Mark Thomas he is not.

In fact, Teh Interwebs being what it is, you should probably keep a sharp eye out for the first headline or video remix of the event using/referencing this famous advert.

And, despite many people objecting to the use of force in this way, a website and petition in support of Meyer that describes him as “martyr for humanity and freedom of speech” has so far drawn only 8 signatures.

Additionally, it’s reported here that: Thanks to Facebook, we know that about 5,000 students were invited to the protest today. So far, 184 “might show up” and 936 have declined.

All of this will bear watching over the coming days, as will the inevitable bunfight over this new Wikipedia entry.

[Psst! On that last point, I found this on my travels… Wikirage “lists the pages in Wikipedia which are receiving the most edits per unique editor over various periods of time.”]

UPDATE – I went hunting for the ‘Harry Potter spoiler’ video mentioned above, and not only has the embedding code been removed from Andrew Meyer’s website, but the entire video has been removed from YouTube. It was posted using this account (where you can see a duplicated comment posted 18 September 2007 saying “pleaze bring back the harry dies prank”), the URL of the removed file is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-dpvVRBp8s and you can see the stunt/video described here, here, here and, apparently by Meyer himself, here. Would it be unreasonable to suggest that the video was removed because Meyer was concerned about possible PR implications?

UPDATE – Another useful tool found on my travels; Delutube allows you to watch videos that have been deleted from YouTube… not this one, though.

UPDATE – Some related bloggage raising similar points:

Attytood – UPDATED: Meet the future savior of journalism
Gary Bourgeault – Andrew Meyer and the New, Dangerous Media World

And, lest we forget the inappropriate level of force used against this dickhead, this comment from ‘a former Federal law enforcement officer’ under this DailyKos post: The police should have had no part in this situation. Whoever set them on the kid deserves the blame. And the officers who escalated force needlessly deserve to be fired. They are not suitable for their job.

UPDATE – Footage of the resulting protests here and here.

Posted in Teh Interwebs | 7 Comments

The BBC: records (broken and otherwise)

CiF: Sunny Hundal – Liberals: abandon the BBC: The bloggers and much of the press won’t be happy until the BBC reflects their worldview without accepting that the whole picture may lie somewhere in the middle, despite their continual hypocrisy. Not only are they uninterested in balance, they are completely obsessed and convinced that this vast leftwing conspiracy dominates the Beeb… Supporting the corporation or focusing on editorial balance only seems to result in the centre ground shifting further to the right, since they are the only ones complaining. The likes of Iain Dale, Guido Fawkes and Biased BBC are merely following a strategy pioneered by the American loony-right blogs. It’s time the liberal left fought back.

Heh. Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes have also been busy declaring that it’s the left who are suffering from ‘a poverty of ideas’ while they recycle this tired old shit as fresh (and original) thinking.

It’s also fun watching the people who are laying into Sunny at CiF and on his website without actually reading his article first.


Now, to business:

I agree that the BBC should not be the recipient of blind support, and I’d like to think that the I Believe in The BBC page makes that quite clear.

However, I’m not sure that a leftish incarnation of Biased BBC is called for… particularly when there are media outlets and owners that are far more deserving of this level of attention.

That said… today is as good a day as any to bring this off the back-burner for a quick look-see:

I think the BBC should produce and publish written transcripts for all (as opposed to some) key interviews and items from Newsnight and Radio 4’s Today Programme online in order to make the content of these programmes more accessible to those who wish to scrutinise/verify/reference statements and claims made during them.

Easily accessible online versions of these transcripts would allow bloggers to present this information (with a link for context, natch) on their weblogs…. without having to write a complete or partial transcript themselves (as many of us have had to do in the past).

It would also provide the BBC with a more cost-effective way of archiving this material on a long-term basis for the very simple reason that text data is far cheaper to host, and will often make the online viewing of the video version of any given interview or report surplus to requirements*.

(*Except in cases where it could be argued that the delivery of the material is as/more revealing than the material itself.)

Newsnight would make the best pilot project for this, as a passable transcript is already created upon each broadcast for the subtitles.

But I’ll leave it to you lot to see if it goes back on the back-burner; if you think it’s worth pursuing, drop me a line.

Cheers all.

UPDATE (19 Sep) – A nice comment over at Sunny’s website that pretty much nails it. Also, Iain Dale has laid into Sunny here. Persistent chap that I am, I attempted a response and discovered that Iain’s ban on my commenting on his site has been lifted just as quietly and mysteriously as it was issued.

Some emails and comments are coming in in support of the proposed call for the BBC to publish transcripts, but not enough to get me fired up about it.

UPDATE – BSSC – The King of Spin

Posted in Old Media | 10 Comments

Fighting terror by murdering civilians

Independent – Iraq tells US security company to leave after civilian deaths: The Iraqi government has ordered the American private security contractor Blackwater, which provides protection for US officials in the country, to shut down its operations after its guards were accused of killing 10 civilians and injuring 13 others in Baghdad. Employees of the company are alleged to have opened fire indiscriminately after a bomb exploded on Sunday in the Mansour district of the city, packed with people shopping for Ramadan. The Iraqi government’s decision, personally endorsed by the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is the strongest measure taken yet against private security contractors, who have been repeatedly accused of carrying out unprovoked shootings of Iraqi civilians… Private security companies in Iraq have often been accused of being responsible for unprovoked attacks on Iraqis and there is a widely held perception that they are immune from prosecution.

If you need more information on the Aegis matter mentioned later in this article (Aegis were cleared by a US army investigation), you can find it here.

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Jerry Springer: The Opera! to play in Carnegie Hall

Media Watch Watch – Jerry goes Stateside: Would have been more fun if they’d decided to put it on right in the middle of the Bible Belt, but there should nonetheless be a few fireworks from the frothier elements of religion in the good ol’ US of A.

I’m predicting much fun from the fundamentalists.

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John Redwood’s cackhanded approach to comments

A quick blogging quiz for you:

What’s wrong with this picture?

(Apart from the rather obvious fact that he doesn’t actually answer my question.)

Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 4 Comments

More bodies in Basra

Times – Dragged to death for helping the British: A man said to have been an interpreter for the British Army in Basra has been killed by militia gunmen on the very day that his wife learnt she was pregnant with their first child. Nine or ten masked men went to the home of Moayed Ahmed Khalaf in the al-Hayaniah district of Basra and beat him in front of his wife and mother, four sources told The Times. They then dragged him away, telling the frantic women that they would bring him back shortly. Khalaf’s body was found on Al Qa’ed Street later that night. He had been shot multiple times, according to Colonel Ali Manshed, commander of the Shatt-al-Arab police station. A cousin, a close friend and two other interpreters all told The Times that Khalaf, 31, had worked for the British at their Basra airport base. Colonel Manshed said that everyone questioned by the police had said Khalaf was an interpreter, adding: “He was a good man, everyone liked him and there was no other reason to kill him.” However Major Mike Shearer, a spokesman at the airport base, said that the army could find no record of Khalaf having worked for the army.

In other words: “Moayed who?”

You can help to stem the flow of blood by applying pressure here and here.

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Bigoted Brits big it up for the Biased BBC weblog

I remember the good old days when the pathetic Biased BBC blog struggled for oxygen and the best they could hope for was some attention from Michelle Malkin, Instapundit and similar sources of right-wing ‘balance’ in the U.S.

Sadly, those days are gone.

Now there’s a whole range of right-wing websites here in the UK, and though they owe their success to carefully massaged traffic figures, the ongoing use of sock-puppetry and outright fraud, they do have a profile that now allows the Biased BBC weblog to enjoy some local attention:

Biased BBC – It looks like we’ve had a result: The Children’s BBC Newsround 9/11 Guide Why did they do it? page, the one that we’ve been complaining about recently, was changed at 2pm yesterday… Thank you to all of you who took the time to complain to the BBC enough to get their attention and have them reconsider and revise these pages. Thank you also to Guido Fawkes, Iain Dale, Conservative Home, Damian Thompson of The Telegraph and all the other bloggers who linked in support of this effort – it is very much appreciated.

Note the headliners there; the three self-declared rulers of The Interwebs.

Iain Dale’s weblog has been home to the most appalling bias… mostly undeclared. The same can be said of Paul Staines’ grubby ‘gossip’ site. Often, the only defence they provide for this is that this particular brand of bias isn’t costing us anything.

Personally, I beg to differ, but let’s get to the meat of this claim that the BBC is corrupting children the BBC isn’t spoon-feeding right-wing fantasies of Good Vs Evil to children:

The Whiskey Priest – Pissing on their Biased BBC Parade: Now, at first glance, it seems like the Biased BBC crowd are right – this page could be read as laying the blame squarely at America’s door. EXCEPT for one small problem, and the problem happens to be the findings of the non-partisan and distinctly pro-American 9/11 Commission…

You can see Sunny in a futile attempt to draw a sensible response out of the monkey here, when what he really should be shooting for is a hissy dismissal from the organ-grinder, because that’s the best he can expect.

People like Iain Dale and Paul Staines will simply turn their backs on any awkward facts or developments; if you pay attention, on both websites, you can see an ongoing campaign of deception by omission or evasion… and now they want to infect the BBC with it.

As Iain Dale himself might say, they can piss off; they really are first class pricks.

Posted in The Political Weblog Movement | 2 Comments

“Get out or die”

Times – Get out or die, security force chief tells interpreters for British Army: Iraqi interpreters working for the British Army have been advised to leave Basra or be killed. The warning was issued by a leading member of the city’s security forces after militiamen attacked and destroyed the home of one interpreter and narrowly failed to kidnap another. There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that a third had been killed. “All the interpreters have to leave Basra because these militia will never let them rest. They will kill everybody they know [who worked for the British],” Colonel Saleem Agaa Alzabon, who leads Basra’s special forces, said. “The interpreters have to leave. They have no choice.”

They have to leave. Now.

And go where exactly?

More here. Click now.

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