Posted by Tim Ireland at 20 February 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

It’s 4pm. And we’re done.

[This post will get bigger in a bit.]

UPDATE (4:30pm)

Paul Staines (aka ‘Guido Fawkes’) was told to put up or shut up… and he chose the latter option.

Didn’t stop Dizzy from trying to pick a fight, though. Iain Dale had a bit of a go, too… but it was so pathetic an effort it’s barely worth mentioning.

Tch. No self control, these people. Everybody saw the role misleading and personal attacks from right-wing blogs played in this and how Iain Dale completely stalled matters last week with this ‘axe killer’ comment*. For Staines’ sake, they only had to keep their heads down for ONE day.

Oh well.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say was:

1. Thank you.

I’ll make the time to include a linky-list of support posts from during the dispute here later (not a smart idea right now with a shaky database on a busy afternoon):

[OK, here you go. Do let me know if I’ve missed anyone.]

Matt Buck, Justin McKeating, Garry Smith, Jim Bliss, Dave Cole, D-Notice, Septicisle, Political Hack, John Hirst, Sim-O, Tom Watson, Bob Piper, Blairwatch, Back off, man; I’m a scientist, Never Trust a Hippy, Richard Bartholomew, Drink Soaked Popinjays for War, Henry North London, The Yorkshire Ranter, Zinzine, SF Diplomat, Larry Teabag, Francis Sedgemore, Chris Paul, Mike Ion, Freeborn John, Media Watch Watch, Anorak, Bananas in the Falklands, Blood & Treasure, Unity, Our Man in Newcastle, Curly, RickB, Peter Gasston, Hopi Sen, Sunny Hundal, tyger, sbalb, Quinn, Poons.

2. Please bear witness.

You all saw what happened; MessageSpace played nicey-nice and/or ‘no comment’ after Staines set his lawyer onto me. Staines made no mention of this on his website, but when I refused to roll over, I was subjected to a series of increasingly vicious personal attacks from his mates (and a great many of those personal attacks attempted to portray my side of it as a personal attack).

We wouldn’t stand for this kind of bullying and disinformation in old media, so why the hell should we put up with it in new media?

This kind of crap does not work if more than a few bloggers stand up, say they’re not going to stand for it… and bloody well mean it. And that’s the only way to stop this kind of behaviour from spreading so far and fast that it overwhelms us before the next general election.

We have to individually lead by example… and not be afraid to challenge bloggers who present themselves as the leaders of blogging when they set a very poor example.

Otherwise no-one will take any of us seriously, and old media will continue to get away with dismissing personal contributions to the blogosphere while they themselves try to muscle in on the action while following the poorer example themselves. (Take, just for example, the rather self-serving comment moderation policies of most major newspapers.)

Sorry, I’ll get off the mount now.

(ahem)

When the time came to thinking about how cats should be released from bags if such an act were necessary, I thought some drama was called for… and perhaps a bit of music. A script was written for a video. That video won’t be made now, and I can’t share the script with you, but you can enjoy the bitchin’ soundtrack (if it helps, close your eyes and picture a bit of background in two main chapters, each ending with a series of increasingly alarming screengrabs and document scans, with a few soundgrabs to take us through the guitar solo):

Sherbet – Howzat

Cheers all.

[*I’m now sure it was Iain, even though he still refuses to be grown-up enough to confirm or deny it himself: Shane Greer once guested on Iain’s blog. Shane Greer hosts this comment. Case closed. This comment and all the others submitted by ‘Iain Dale’ under it are from our Iain. I look forward to discussing the use of bad language and abuse that he says that he won’t stand for on his own site (while appearing to suggest that I was banned for being sweary/abusive).]








Posted by Tim Ireland at 20 February 2008

Category: Anne Milton

Dr Graham Henderson, husband of Anne Milton MP, was Director of Public Health for the East Surrey PCT until late 2006 (i.e. until the formation of the Surrey mega-PCT, a move his wife opposed, BTW).

While in that position, Dr Graham Henderson was subject to the NHS Code of Conduct. I draw your attention to the following extract from that code:

NHS Code of Conduct – Declaration of Interests
It is a requirement that chairs and all board directors should declare any conflict of interest that arises in the course of conducting NHS business. All NHS organisations maintain a register of member’s interests to avoid any danger of board directors being influenced, or appearing to be influenced, by their private interests in the exercise of their public duties. All board members are therefore expected to declare any personal or business interest which may influence, or may be perceived to influence, their judgement. This should include, as a minimum, personal direct and indirect financial interests, and should normally also include such interests of close family members. Indirect financial interests arise from connections with bodies which have a direct financial interest, or from being a business partner of, or being employed by, a person with such an interest.

So if Dr Graham Henderson was employed in any way that would influence, or may be perceived to influence, his judgement, he should have declared it.

I now draw your attention to this entry from the East Surrey PCT Register of Members’ Interests from July 2006:

East Surrey PCT Register of Members’ Interests (July 2006):

Graham Henderson, Director of Public Health:
Wife is Member of Parliament for Guildford

And now, finally, I draw your attention to this extract from an article about Anne Milton’s expenses:

The Tory shadow minister for health has hired spouse Graham Henderson in each of her first two years in Westminster. Between 2005 and 2006, he earned £6,500 from Ms Milton’s expenses as a researcher while the former nurse was setting up her office. – (Surrey Ad – February 8, 2008)

Oh dear.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Dr Graham Henderson should have declared that period of employment, yes?

Dr Henderson may not be in a position where he can be held accountable for this oversight, but (as David Cameron and Anne Milton have made clear) the Conway matter and its fallout is an issue of public trust… and this does not look good.

[Tch. When people keep me waiting or jerk me around, I get bored and start to poke around. They only have themselves to blame.]








Posted by Tim Ireland at 19 February 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

OK, here we are for the second half. Please keep in mind that it may be much shorter than the first….

1. Paul Staines used the servers of MessageSpace to host copyrighted material that he had no legal right to. I wrote an article about that.

2. Paul Staines then threatened me with litigation under comments on my website. I traced the IP address he used to leave these comments back to the same serviced-office building where MessageSpace was based at the time.

3. Instead of hiring an experienced libel lawyer, Staines used the services of Donal Blaney, a tax lawyer and – co-incidentally – a right-wing blogger with numerous personal, political and/or personal connections to many of the people referenced under #5

4. The correspondence from Blaney threatening litigation and big-heartedly promising not to chase me for damages (just ‘costs’) if I capitulated immediately was challenged, and the last I heard, Blaney was awaiting instructions from his client. That was almost 3 weeks ago (on the 31st of January).

5. I haven’t heard a thing back from either Paul Staines or Donal Blaney since. I have, however, been the subject of several personal attacks at the hands of other right-wing bloggers. Lowlife highlights can be seen here and here, with a full run-down here.

6. The only right-wing blogger who sought to take on the issue itself (while engaging in personal attacks, natch) was Praguetory, who failed to make his case.

7. More recently, I’ve been in touch with Jag Singh, the Chief Information Officer of MessageSpace, who limited his official response to: “We do not comment on rumours or speculation.”

8. As you no doubt already suspect, there was also some unofficial communication (from a number of parties tied to MessageSpace). It appealed to my better nature, making mention of those employees and bloggers who rely on MessageSpace for income.

9. On the 8th of February – almost 2 weeks ago – I sent an email to Jag Singh and Paul Staines, inviting them to review – prior to publication – an article written in response to Staines hiding behind MessageSpace and its employees/users whilst trying to keep this issue as far away from MessageSpace as possible. On paper, Staines appears to be an orbital figure at MessageSpace, but I have paperwork myself that would suggest otherwise. However, to make my case and reveal the illusion of Staines’ distance from that organisation, I would have to release a cat that would never again be allowed to return to the bag. Paul Staines did not even bother to acknowledge receipt of that email.

10. I don’t want to mess with MessageSpace any more than I have to, but I feel they are forcing my hand, especially with the threat of litigation still hanging in the air.

Paul Staines has – via the public threat of litigation – accused me of lying… and I doubt very much if he is going to withdraw the threat as publicly as he made it.

I’m not going to stand for that, but there is a way to resolve the issue without undue damage to MessageSpace and those who rely on it (in whole or in part) for income.

Paul Staines has 24 hours to either pursue litigation in earnest or forfeit.

If he says sweet bugger-all in the next 24 hours, then we’ll all know that it’s over.

Paul won’t be compelled to publish the same kind of apology on his weblog that his lawyer demanded of me, and will be able to continue – in some quarters – to keep playing Mr Tough Guy.

[If you’re at all concerned that Paul Staines won’t see this message (he claims not to read my website) then feel free to forward a copy to guido.fawkes@order-order.com and/or paul.staines@messagespace.co.uk]








Posted by Tim Ireland at 19 February 2008

Category: Anne Milton

After discovering that my Conservative MP Anne Milton had paid her husband £13,000 of taxpayer’s money since coming to office, I sent her a series of questions.

Given what Anne Milton published on her website the day before the article referenced above appeared in our local newspaper, I considered it quite reasonable to expect some answers…. but it wasn’t until after I got in touch with David Cameron that I received the following single answer to all five of the questions submitted:

“I believed it was vital to answer all media enquiries because clarity and openness is crucial to trust and confidence in the democratic process.” – Anne Milton

This exact same answer was sent to ‘Scotch’ (a fellow constituent who contributes to Bloggerheads via comments) who had independently submitted some questions of his own.

So what I’m going to do today is take that answer and see how (or indeed if) it delivers against each question that I submitted….

[Psst! One thing to keep in mind throughout is that Anne Milton has stated that Dr Graham Henderson is no longer an employee, but a volunteer. She told the Surrey Advertiser that; “In the last year, my husband has worked for me and he has not been paid for it.” So this answer might not even relate to any question(s) relating to Dr Graham Henderson, as it could be interpreted as referring to “the staff I employ” (i.e. currently) as opposed to “the staff I have employed” (i.e. historically). Nevertheless, we shall try to press on in the face of this uncertainty and – in good faith – assume that Anne Milton is consistent on this issue. The phrase “the staff I employ” will be taken as an indication of Anne Milton’s past and present stance on employment.]

Q1. Where did Dr Graham Henderson carry out this work you describe? In your parliamentary office, your constituency office, from home…?

A: “I would like to assure you that all the staff I employ work extremely hard to ensure that I give my constituents the best service possible.”

If the question were in any way loaded, it would have presented a fourth possible option; during the tax year for 2005-2006, Dr Graham Henderson was Director of Public Health for the East Surrey PCT, but I did not ask if he did work for his wife’s office from his office.

This is a fair and straightforward question that presents likely options that I would regard to be fair, especially given that Anne Milton clearly stated that she did not even have an office for her first six weeks as MP.

Regardless of the inclusion of these or other options, I asked specifically where the described work by her husband was conducted, and Anne Milton’s answer does not answer this question.

Why?

Q2. What evidence can you show your constituents of the work you claim was done by Dr Graham Henderson?

A: “I would like to assure you that all the staff I employ work extremely hard to ensure that I give my constituents the best service possible.”

Here, we can be as generous as possible regarding Anne Milton’s assurance, and even take it as a given that all work done by Dr Graham Henderson offered constituents “the best service possible”… but I asked what evidence Anne Milton could show of this service to those same constituents, and Anne Milton’s answer does not answer this question.

Why?

Q3. Was the work you claim was done by Dr Graham Henderson directly connected to the Save the Royal Surrey campaign, and – if so – what proof can you show of this?

A: “I would like to assure you that all the staff I employ work extremely hard to ensure that I give my constituents the best service possible.”

Anne Milton’s past statements would appear to associate some of the work done by her husband to the very popular Save the Royal Surrey campaign. I have asked if he worked on that campaign specifically (and what proof she might be able to show us if this is so), but Anne Milton’s answer does not answer this question.

Why?

Q4. You have said that your husband has done some work in the past year for which he has not been paid. What reassurance can you provide that he won’t be paid retrospectively?

A: “I would like to assure you that all the staff I employ work extremely hard to ensure that I give my constituents the best service possible.”

Again, a fair question. Anne Milton stated in an earlier article that she had in the past paid her husband retrospectively for work he had done. She is then quoted in the article referenced above that – in the current tax year – he had done some work that he had not been paid for. My mind added the word ‘yet’ but – to be fair – I asked for clarification.

Also, this is the only question that actually seeks assurance (as opposed to an answer based on facts/evidence) but Anne’s assurance does not rule out retrospective payment, not even for the current tax year alone.

Why?

Q5. Have any other members of your family been employed in this or any other way by your office?

A: “I would like to assure you that all the staff I employ work extremely hard to ensure that I give my constituents the best service possible.”

Yes, and any number of those staff members (past or present) could be members of Anne Milton’s family.

Anne Milton’s answer does not answer this question.

Why?

David Cameron says I’m right to demand more transparency and openness:

“I believe the public are right to demand more transparency and openness when it comes to MPs staff, pay, allowances and expenses…” – David Cameron

This single answer from Anne Milton does not offer transparency or openness. In fact, it’s downright evasive.

Anne Milton says it’s important (and urgent) that she and other MPs work to regain public trust via the use of clarity and openness:

“I believed it was vital to answer all media enquiries because clarity and openness is crucial to trust and confidence in the democratic process… We must regain public trust in not only MPs but in all politicians and if we are to safeguard our democracy, the urgency for this cannot be underestimated.” – Anne Milton

This single answer from Anne Milton does not offer clarity or openness. In fact, it’s so vague an answer (and it took so long to get it) that I’m beginning to think she didn’t really mean any of the above.

In fact, the longer it takes me to get answers to my questions, the further my trust and confidence in Anne Milton – and the democratic process – will be undermined.

David Cameron says I deserve to ask questions. Anne Milton says I deserve answers.

So where are my answers, and why does it seem so very, very hard just to get my MP to acknowledge my questions?








Posted by Tim Ireland at 19 February 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Half-time is over and we’re about to enter the second half… here’s your warm-up exercise:

Via Poons; Twenty-Five Ways To Suppress Truth: The Rules of Disinformation.








Posted by Tim Ireland at 18 February 2008

Category: Photoshopping

4 Color Rebellion – Zounds! We’ve Been Plagiarized!

Via comments I discovered this wonderful blog dedicated to cheeky rip-offs.








Posted by Tim Ireland at 18 February 2008

Category: Teh Interwebs, The Political Weblog Movement

As I noted on Thursday, yes, there was some hostility in the many, many responses to the first and only entry in Max Gogerty’s short-lived travel blog for the Guardian… but reading Andy Pietrasik’s response and this editorial follow-up from Caroline Davies in the sisterly Observer, one might get the impression that there was only hostility aimed only at Max… and with no good reason.

This is a shoddy and pathetic tactic; what you’re seeing here is a bunch of adults putting the spotlight on a teenage boy because they daren’t accept responsibility for their own poor judgement… by pretending that those who are criticising their poor judgement are instead picking on that same teenage boy!

And take a look at this…

Caroline Davies – Hate mail hell of a gap-year blogger (Cyber-bullies who attacked young author are accused of class hatred): Max… was last night alone in India at the beginning of his trip, while his father accused his detractors of class hatred and envy… Some contributors were uneasy over the tone of many comments. One wrote: ‘The amount of hate, envy and hypocrisy that’s been on display here is shocking.’

Let’s take a look at the contributors Caroline uses to justify her ‘accusations of class hatred’ sub-header:

1. Max’s Dad.

2. Some guy called ‘Eleutherios’ who, to date, has only made a single comment on the Guardian website (and just happens to agree 100% with ‘Maxdad’).

I smell a sock-puppet… and I think it stinks that Caroline Davies uses one to support her dishonest argument.

Oh… wait… I think some blind hatred might have sneaked in there. Let me tone it down for you so no-one thinks I’m picking on poor Max Caroline without good reason:

I think it’s a pity that Caroline couldn’t find the time to consider or include this direct response to ‘Eleutherios’ from ‘Fulmerford’ (who, BTW, has contributed to over 40 threads on the Guardian website) in her opinion piece:

Eleutherios, let’s see if you can ‘liberate’ some sense out of this: responding to someone’s comments not with a counter-argument but just by decrying their presumed motivation is a, well, a really shoddy way to debate.

I mean come on! It’s like going: “Smack is bad.” “No it’s not.” “No it is, here’s the reasons.” “Oh you’re just saying that because [you’re] bitter that you don’t take smack.”

Is ‘ad hominem’ just Latin to you?

If you recall, Nadine Dorries played a similar game, by portraying all negative responses to a personal attack of her own as a series of personal attacks.

What ‘Eleutherios’, Andy Pietrasik, Caroline Davies and Paul Gogarty are guilty of is playing the man by pretending that everyone else is playing the man in an effort to stop anyone from looking sideways at the ball.

And in doing so, they put more weight on the shoulders of Max – the boy they’ve strategically cast as a victim and claim to be defending.

Yes, there was a fair degree of trolling and abuse in the original thread. Though the thread was totally out of control by the time I got there, I didn’t regard that abuse to be helpful… but I also think it’s less than helpful when certain parties seek to exploit the abuse that was there, and use it to draw attention away from valid questions and objections.

This defensive play is not designed to protect a teenager… it is designed to protect the reputations of adults who should know better.

Personally, I think it sucks. But I’m obviously a hate-filled lynch-mobbing cyber-bully, so please feel free to ignore me.








Posted by Tim Ireland at 14 February 2008

Category: Teh Interwebs, The Political Weblog Movement

Max, 19, hits the road. Web users, of varied age, hit Max. (via)

Check the comments. It’s his first day out and it’s all over.

UPDATE (18 Feb) – Get your Monday-morning update, people.








Posted by Tim Ireland at 14 February 2008

Category: Teh Interwebs

WJZ Baltimore – Officer Suspended After Appearing In YouTube Video: A 17-year veteran of the Baltimore police force has been suspended with pay pending an internal investigation of his actions involving a 14-year-old skateboarder at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Baltimore Sun – Inner Harbor incident hits Internet: A Baltimore police officer was suspended yesterday after a YouTube video surfaced on the Internet showing him berating and manhandling a teenage skateboarder at the Inner Harbor. On the video, the officer, Salvatore Rivieri, puts the boy in a headlock, pushes him to the ground, questions his upbringing, threatens to “smack” him and repeatedly accuses the youngster of showing disrespect because the youth refers to the officer as “man” and “dude.”

And you can watch the relevant video right here. Dudes.

UPDATE – Hahahahahaha! Check out the last words spoken by the police officer just before the video stops.

[erroneous link snipped]








Posted by Tim Ireland at 14 February 2008

Category: Anne Milton

Please check this post for a short but important update.








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