November 16th, 2007



Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, camies is our newest villager. Get out the bunting, tap that barrel of Old Leatherstocking we've been keeping for a special occasion, and give him a real villages welcome. In a little over a week, the population of the villages has almost doubled.
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    regina spektor
Honey Badger

before de menezes...

The media has been full, in recent days, of the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes and its aftermath (of which more a little later) The police would like us to think that this kind of thing is rare, but I beg to differ.

The story's very simple. Diabetic chap in Leeds is going home on the bus when he has a hypo and falls into a coma. The driver finds him at the end of the trip, on the top deck and slumped over a rucksack. Those were nervous times, just after the 7/7 bombings in London, so the driver calls the police. When the police can't get a response from the chap (because he's in a coma, you see) they taser him. Twice.

Chap comes round in handcuffs and thinks he's been kidnapped.

When it's all sorted out and he's belatedly taken to hospital for treatment, he finally gets a half-hearted explanation that he was tasered because he `looked Egyptian.'

There was a picture of Nicholas Gaubert in the print edition of The Times this morning, but it isn't in the online edition. But take it from me, if he looks Egyptian, so do I. So does everyone. As he points out in the article - and it sounds bizarre to say this, in the circumstances - he was lucky. An ocean and a continent away, Robert Dziekanski was not so lucky.
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    be bop deluxe

jean charles gets his day in court - part two

I never did tell you how this story ends, did I?
You'll recall that, not long after the 7/7 bombings, and in the aftermath of the failed 21/7 bombings in 2005, the Metropolitan police mistook a Brazilian named Jean Charles de Menezes for a suspected suicide bomber, chased him into Stockwell Tube Station, and basically executed him.
You'll also recall that I was rather scathing about the fact that in the aftermath the Met was only charged under Health and Safety legislation for endangering the public. I thought this was a very English way of sweeping everything under the carpet and that the press would pretty much ignore it. And you'll recall that I was wrong. It was a firestorm.

Well, the health and safety case is over now, and the Met did not win. The fine was not as high as it could have been (figures in the millions had been bandied about, although on reflection you can put that down to media hysteria) and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, dug his little heels in and refused to resign. Unlike the editor of Blue Peter when the programme was found to have faked-up a competition to name a new cat for the programme.

Sir Ian had a bumpy few days. Shortly after the trial finished, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (which is, and does, what it says on the tin) published its own report. Once again, the news was not good for the Met or Sir Ian. Once again, Sir Ian's heels dug trenches in the floor as people tried to drag him from the job.
A few days after that, Sir Ian was hauled before the London Assembly, which is the elected body which allegedly runs London, and a bunch of rent-a-quotes seized their moment on television and asked why Sir Ian wouldn't resign. Those trenches in the floor just got deeper. Sir Ian's flat blank refusal to resign, which had at first been deeply annoying, became almost hypnotic.

There was never any prospect of Sir Ian resigning. He was a political appointee of Tony Blair's (no relation) government. Unless it wants to lose face, the government has to support him in order to present a united front in the War Against Terror, and indeed the Home Secretary wheeled herself out several times to do just that.

The heat seems to have died down for the moment, but - and it might just be me - I can't help but think there is a double standard at work here. On the one hand we have BBC executives and producers, whose employees were found to have elided the truth somewhat, taking responsibility and resigning. And on the other hand we have the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, whose employees executed an innocent man, refusing in what I think are rather heroic terms to lay down his job.

The obvious conclusion is that Sir Ian Blair ought to be running the BBC.
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