Thursday, November 29, 2012

Leveson Credibility Zero

John Yates should have handed phone hacking investigation to other officer because of News of the World links, says LevesonMartin Hickman
29 Nov 2012

Police blunders meant that the inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World was not reopened for years, the Leveson Inquiry found.

Between 2006 and 2010 Scotland Yard adopted a “defensive mindset” when it should have been taking accusations of criminal wrongdoing seriously, it said.

In particular Lord Leveson found that Assistant Commissioner John Yates should have stood aside and asked another officer to review the original inquiry because of his friendship with the News of the World's deputy editor, Neil Wallis.

However the report said there was no evidence of corruption among senior officers and ruled out a fear of the News of the World's owners as a factor in the inadequacy of its investigations.

It also said the Met had been right to limit its original investigation in 2006, Operation Caryatid, because of the importance of tackling an upsurge in terrorism The report ruled that the Crown Prosecution Service acted properly in 2006 and later, on the basis of the incomplete evidence supplied to it by the police.

Lord Leveson acknowledged that there was “a concern” that senior police officers had become too close to News International.

However he concluded: "In reality, I am satisfied that I have seen no basis at any stage [to question] the integrity of the police, or that of the senior officers concerned. What is, however, equally clear is that a series of poor decisions, poorly executed, all came together to contribute to the perception that I have recognised.“ Independent

Sunday, November 25, 2012

British Political Cartoons - Martin Rowson


It's odd at times, the happenstance that inspires a touch of creativity, that creativity being a stranger to me of late it must be said. No matter, we take it where we find it.

And what a strange place to find it, in the contradictory words, no surprise you might say, of politician Kenneth Baker, Lord Baker of Dorking to us plebeians. I say contradictory, because Baker, somewhat like myself is quite a fan of political satirist Martin Rowson. Bio

Odd then, that Baker had this to say of Rowson in this recent BBC article:
Nick Clegg have proved more difficult to capture because "they have similar types of looks".

"They haven't got very lived in faces yet. You need to have someone with distinctive features," he says.
Odd, and totally at odds with my own view of Rowson's caricature of red-faced posh boy, master of misjudgement, the ever floundering David Cameron. In fact it was only quite recently that I had this to say on Twitter: For the best lampooning of David Cameron, follow @MartinRowson.

Above: My first introduction to Rowson's Cameron in all his Little Lord Fauntleroy glory.

Who by some strange coincidence, later made an appearance on this blog. Luncheon with the Prime Minister anyone?

Before moving on, let me make clear my goal here, it's not to turn this article into a Rowson wankfest, but there are certain people in this world a fellow relates to, and of course not forgetting the aforementioned creativity.

Then of course, unmentioned as of yet, this post becomes a vehicle for the artwork of not just Rowson, but that produced by myself, where it falls into the political parameters that is the tone for this piece.

But must be said, unlike Rowson, about the only thing I can draw is breath and as such have to employ such modern day wonders as computer software, Paint Shop Pro 8 in order hopefully, to achieve the desired result; satire.

The article in question.

Political cartoons: Britain's revolutionaries
By Kayte Rath

They appear daily in our newspapers and have lampooned prime ministers for generations, but have political cartoons helped Britain avoid some of the political tumult of its European neighbours?

For nearly 400 years, Britain has avoided violent struggles and political revolution.

In 1789, while France was busy overthrowing its royal rulers and unceremoniously chopping off the heads of its aristocrats, Britain shunned their revolutionary zeal, preferring a more sedate pace of change.

And where France led, others followed. In the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries virtually every other state in Europe has experienced at least one forcible overthrow of government.

Historians may have their theories as to why, but so does former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Baker, and it's a rather novel one: Political cartoons.

The peer, who served under Margaret Thatcher as home secretary and chaired the party in her final days as prime minister, has long had an interest in collecting and writing about cartoons and is vice-chairman of the Cartoon Museum in London.

For him, this unique British contribution to the world of art - which Lord Baker credits Britain with "inventing" - has helped stem the frustrations of the British people since it first started nearly 300 years ago.

"I believe that if you can laugh at your rulers, you don't cut off their heads," he says. "Laughter is an escape for those kinds of pent up feelings. It helps make society calmer."
'Defecating, urinating, fornicating'

And because of Britain's lack of censorship laws in the 18th century - the "golden age" of political caricatures according to Lord Baker - this "graphic satire" was able to flourish.

"In Europe, all the other countries had censorship.

"If you criticised the king or queen of France you were sent to the Bastille - in fact if you criticised Louis XIV you got torn about by four horses, which did rather discourage people.

"But there wasn't any censorship here: we laughed at our kings and queens and we laughed at our prime ministers."

Not only has the culture of cartooning helped Britain remain a stable country, it was also the beginning of public engagement in politics, making a connection between prime ministers and the people for the first time.

"Before cameras, radio and TV, it was the only way in which people got to see their politicians," Lord Baker says.

"They would get stuck up in shop windows for everyone to see. It was the first time people actually saw royalty, judges, MPs, aristocracy and the celebrities of the day.

"The cartoons were bought by the middle class as they were the only ones who could afford them, but it was the beginning of real public interest from people in their politicians."

With different attitudes to physical appearances and bodily functions, the early cartoons could be extremely rude.

"In the 18th century they didn't have the same physical hang-ups that we do now - you had people farting, defecating, urinating, vomiting, fornicating - everything. No one escaped.

"George III was shown manuring his own field."

Robert Walpole, generally regarded as the first man to hold the post of prime minister from the 1720s to 1742, was represented by his exposed rear end.

"The first cartoon of Walpole was of his big bare bottom straddling the Treasury.

"You couldn't see his face, but everyone knew who it was because they knew you had to kiss Walpole's bottom if you were to get anywhere. He ran the state by patronage, handing out positions and everybody knew it."

Other politicians have had their own distinctive caricatures, with cartoonists picking one easily identifiable "tab" to let the audience know who is being made fun of.

These can often capture a politician's character better than official portraits do, Lord Baker says.

"Caricatures can say in a flash what it takes 20 column inches or three minutes of TV to say.

"The cartoon has an immediate impact. They are snapshots of a given moment and can characterise people forever."

William Pitt the Younger was shown as a drunkard, Disraeli had "curly Jewish locks", Churchill was easily identified by his fat cigar and for Margaret Thatcher it was her handbag.

More recently, Lord Baker says, John Major was depicted with "naff Marks and Spencer's underpants", after once allegedly being spotted with his pants tucked over his shirt - after this "the pants became everything".

Tony Blair was all about "the teeth and the ears" and Gordon Brown was shown as "being grossly fat".

In the current crop of leaders, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have proved more difficult to capture because "they have similar types of looks".

"They haven't got very lived in faces yet. You need to have someone with distinctive features," he says.

However, this has not been a problem for the Labour's fresh-faced, younger leader Ed Miliband: "He was Wallace and Gromit straight away."

'Cheshire cat' More
Next up, the shorter of three clips featuring our intrepid satirist. A clip which, for reasons obvious, I can only describe as pennies from heaven, and from which I quote.

"The interesting thing about Gin Lane is that in fact it was a piece of journalism. It was inspired by a story about a woman who'd murdered her own daughter in order to sell her clothes to buy gin. . . ."

TateShots - Martin Rowson on Hogarth

. . . . It's been pastiched and stolen by subsequent artists and cartoonists over and over again, including me."

And others dear boy, and others.

"The interesting thing about Gin Lane is that in fact it was a piece of journalism. It was inspired by a story about a woman who'd murdered her own daughter in order to sell her clothes to buy gin. . . ."

Another Rowson cartoon, that later was to turn up in part elsewhere.

But with a change to a somewhat more sheepish face. Goodness knows, like all Pols, he has enough of them.

Martin Rowson - The Power of the Political Cartoon. 30 minutes

Rowson on the old scroat.

The last clip is one I have featured previously in a post, but in order to keep the whole thing on one page links n'all, I shall import the complete thing.

Little Lord Cameron and A brief History of British Satirical Cartooning

When I captured this fifteen minutes of video, I had no intention of posting the thing as something in its own right, rather it was to be used as a compliment to a previous post, "Photoshop Justice" The Rise of the Citizen Satirist.

But for reasons whatever, I stumbled upon this morning a previous post, Hackgate: Taken Into Custardy. Where can be found, a cartoon that caught my eye, of which I said at the time of posting: Chosen not because I found it particularly amusing, but rather for the brilliant depiction of Cameron. To wit, one cartoon.

And to whom do we owe thanks for this brilliant characterisation of Cameron as Little Lord Fauntleroy? None other than Martin Rowson, Guardian cartoonist, talking head and one of the subjects in this brief history of British satire.

Two of Martin Rowson's more contemporary cartoons, the rest of his work can be found here. Of which, I am presently about to have a wander through myself.

Rowson on Hitchens.

And he don't do too shabby a Murdoch either.

Though there are quite literally hundreds of "shopped" photo's I could offer up, I shall post but a few of the more recent ones that tend towards the political, saving of course my big bus and perhaps one other. For the main, most of my previous stuff is archived here.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Divided States of America - Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation

Home truths, via Germany.

Divided States of America

Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation


The United States is frittering away its role as a model for the rest of the world. The political system is plagued by an absurd level of hatred, the economy is stagnating and the infrastructure is falling into a miserable state of disrepair. On this election eve, many Americans are losing faith in their country's future.

The monumental National Mall in Washington, DC, 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) long and around 1,586 feet wide at its broadest point, is a place that showcases the United States of America is in its full glory as a world power. A walk along the magnificent swath of green space, between the white dome of the Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial, a temple erected to honor former president Abraham Lincoln, at its western end, leads past men in bronze and stone, memorials for soldiers and conquerors, and the nearby White House. It's a walk that still creates an imperial impression today.

The Mall is lined with museums and landscaped gardens, in which America is on display as the kind of civil empire that promotes the arts and sciences. There are historic sites, and there are the famous steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King once spoke of his dream, and of the dreams of a country to be a historic force, one that would serve the wellbeing of all of mankind. Put differently, the National Mall is an open-air museum for an America that, in 2012, is mostly a pleasant memory.

After a brilliant century and a terrible decade, the United States, in this important election year, has reached a point in its history when the obvious can no longer be denied: The reality of life in America so greatly contradicts the claim -- albeit one that has always been exaggerated -- to be the "greatest nation on earth," that even the most ardent patriots must be overcome with doubt.

This realization became only too apparent during and after Hurricane Sandy, the monster storm that ravaged America's East Coast last week, its effects made all the more devastating by the fact that its winds were whipping across an already weakened country. The infrastructure in New York, New Jersey and New England was already in trouble long before the storm made landfall near Atlantic City. The power lines in Brooklyn and Queens, on Long Island and in New Jersey, in one of the world's largest metropolitan areas, are not underground, but are still installed along a fragile and confusing above-ground network supported by utility poles, the way they are in developing countries.

No System to Protect Against Storm Surges

Although parts of New York City, especially the island of Manhattan, are only a few meters above sea level, the city still has no extensive system to protect itself against storm surges, despite the fact that the sea level has been rising for years and the number of storms is increasing. In the case of Sandy, the weather forecasts were relatively reliable three or four days prior to its arrival, so that the time could have been used to at least make improvised preparations, which did not happen. The only effective walls of sandbags that were built in the city on a larger scale did not appear around power plants, hospitals or tunnel entrances, but around the skyscraper of the prescient investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Large parts of America's biggest city and millions of people along the East Coast could now be forced to survive for days, possibly even weeks, without electricity, water and heat. Many of the backup generators intended for such emergencies didn't work, so that large hospitals had to be evacuated. On the one hand, these consequences of the storm point to the uncontrollability of nature. On the other hand, they are signs that America is no longer the great, robust global power it once was.

Europeans who make such claims have always been accused of anti-Americanism. But now Americans themselves are joining the chorus of those declaring the country's decline. "I had to catch a train in Washington last week," New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, whose columns are read worldwide, wrote last April. "The paved street in the traffic circle around Union Station was in such poor condition that I felt as though I was on a roller coaster. I traveled on the Amtrak Acela, our sorry excuse for a fast train, on which I had so many dropped calls on my cellphone that you'd have thought I was on a remote desert island, not traveling from Washington to New York City. When I got back to Union Station, the escalator in the parking garage was broken. Maybe you've gotten used to all this and have stopped noticing. I haven't. Our country needs a renewal."

Such everyday observations are coalescing into a new, tarnished image of America. Screenwriter Aaron Sorken, the creator of many legendary television series, has come up with a new, brutal look at America. The 10-part drama, "The Newsroom," tells the story of a cynical news anchor who reinvents himself and vows to do everything right in the future. In the show's brilliant premiere, he is asked at a panel discussion to describe why America is the greatest country in the world. After a few tired jokes, the truth comes gushing out of him. "There's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world," he ways. "We're seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined."

A Land of Limited Opportunities

In the show, the audience reacts with shock, just as a real-life American audience would. But the truth is that America has transformed itself into a land of limited opportunities. In fact, that was the way SPIEGEL referred to the United States in a 1979 cover story, when the US economy had been hard-hit by the oil crisis.

But today's crisis is far more comprehensive, extending to the social, political and spiritual realms. The worst thing about it is that the country still refuses to engage in any debate over the reasons for its decline. It seems as if many Americans today no longer want to talk about how they can strengthen their union. Criticism is seen as a betrayal of America's greatness.

But that notion of greatness leaves much to be desired. Other numbers can be readily added to those rattled off by the protagonist in Sorkin's "The Newsroom," and the results are sobering. For instance, the United States is no longer among the world's top 10 countries when it comes to the state of its infrastructure. In fact, it spends less than Europe to maintain its roads and bridges, tunnels, train stations and airports.

According to the US Federal Highway Administration, one in four of the more than 600,000 bridges in the world's richest country are either "inadequate" or outdated. According to some studies, the United States would have to invest some $225 billion a year between now and 2050 to regain an adequate, modern infrastructure. That's 60 percent more than it invests today.

A Lack of Strength

It isn't hard to predict that this won't happen. The hatred of big government has reached a level in the United States that threatens the country's very existence. Americans everywhere may vow allegiance to the nation and its proud Stars and Stripes, but when it comes time to pay the bills and distribute costs, and when solidarity is needed, all sense of community evaporates.

Then the divides open up between Washington and the rest of the country, between the North and the South, between the East and the West, between cities and rural areas, and between states whose governors often sound as if the country were still embroiled in a civil war.

The country has forgotten the days when former President Franklin D. Roosevelt courageously told his fellow Americans that a collectively supported social welfare system didn't translate into socialism but freedom, a "New Deal" that would strengthen America in the long term. Gone are the days when former President Dwight D. Eisenhower launched bold government programs to cover a country 27 times the size of Germany with a network of interstate highways. Gone are the years when former President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty and enacted federal laws declaring that there could be no second- or third-class citizens, regardless of skin color. And gone is the spirit of renewal after former President John F. Kennedy's visionary promise to send Americans to the moon within a decade, a program that would cost taxpayers billions.

Today America lacks the financial strength, political courage and social will to embark on such large-scale, government-directed programs. The United States has long been drawing down its savings, writes Fareed Zakaria, another American critic of his own country and a respected columnist with Time. "What we see today is an American economy that has boomed because of policies and developments of the 1950s and '60s: the interstate-highway system, massive funding for science and technology, a public-education system that was the envy of the world and generous immigration policies." Go to page two