Saturday, 30 August 2014

Some thoughts on the mass abuse of children in England

We're all roughly familiar with the the horrible story of persistent mass abuse of vulnerable teenage girls and the shameful failure by the police and social services to help the victims of the notorious 'street grooming' gangs that have been operating in towns in England for over a decade.  In Rotherham, according to a serious report into the issue, over 1,400 girls were abused by heartless predators, who compounded their wickedness by terrifying their victims into keeping silent with threats of violence and death, even dousing girls in petrol and pretending to be about to immolate them, and saying they were going to throw them over cliffs.  And when some of these girls or their families still had the courage to complain, they were sneered at and ignored by a police force that did not seem to interested in what seemed to be perceived as the misfortunes of slags and sluts who should not expect to be treated differently and why waste time with them?

It's a ghastly story.

But here are some observations and comments about the matter, which I can't help worrying about, in spite of the near overwhelming revulsion the story provokes.  I feel I have to say that nothing that follows is intended to excuse or exculpate the offenders - both the rapists and the police and social workers and others who failed in their duty.  Nor is it meant to minimise, nor dismiss, the offending that took place.  These brutes molested naive, foolish, weak or helpless girls.  They abused them with unspeakable cruelty and selfish, perverted wickedness.  They deserve to rot in jail forever.

But, first of all, we need to keep a sense of perspective here.  There is no acceptable level of rape, child abuse or sexual crime.  None.  But in the blaring headlines of the newspapers - which are quick to trumpet the number of victims as 1,400 - it is easy to lose sight of the time scale over which these crimes took place.  The report specified the number was a conservative estimate of the number of victims abused between 1997 and 2013; a period of 15 years.

(Again, I must repeat: there is no acceptable level of rape, child abuse or sexual crime.  None.)

That means roughly one hundred offences a year over that period.  That's one hundred too many, for those still not getting it.  But it is important to keep that fact in mind.  There are some people who want us to get carried away, lose perspective and give in to the rage and revulsion, which is why they keep repeating the total, without the time scale.  Keep them both in mind, otherwise we are doing yet another disservice to the victims - a minor on, perhaps, but real for all that - by allowing their suffering and neglect to be used as propaganda.

For what it is worth, I looked to see how many children are in danger of sexual abuse in Britain.  These figures are, of course, very hard to verify, for all the usual reasons surrounding sexual crime and particularly sexual crime against children - the reluctance of victims to speak out, the difficultly in gathering evidence and so on.  The NSPCC advises that 23,000 children were victims of sexual offending in a year.  Obviously, there is a lot we don't know about those 23,000 victims: like how severe the offences were; whether it was a typical year or not; or how many of the offenders were themselves children.  But it does suggest that the offending that is being screamed about in such garish terms by the newspapers and blaring from our televisions is, tragically, just a small part of a massive and terrible war against children by perverts and deviants and paedophiles.

This is important because it is hard - probably impossible - to gauge how much higher than 'average' the offending described in Rotherham is compared to the 'background' rate of offending.  Which isn't to say we shouldn't be incensed about it.  We should always be incensed by paedophiles, child molesters, rapists and sexual offenders.  But it isn't clear that we always are.

Randeep Ramesh, writing in the Guardian, has a go at extrapolating a bigger picture:
This level of abuse appears to make Rotherham the nation's child sex exploitation capital. If the town's experience was replicated across the country, England would have 19,000 children criminally abused by gangs every year. The children's commissioner thinks that at the moment the figure is about 2,000.
Again, there are a multitude of questions raised by this analysis. I think he has simply based it on the population of Rotherham (250,000) and an offending rate of about 100 incidents per year, and then factored in the population of England (about 55 million), which gives you a similar enough figure.

Though interesting, the analysis falls apart as it assumes that the offences attributed to the rapists in Rotherham were the only sexual offences against children reported there - which is, unfortunately, probably not the case. But it is interesting to note that the figure he arrives at isn't too far off the NSPCC figure given earlier. Which might, in turn, suggest the rate offending by these scum in Rotherham is actually similar to the rate of offending by scum in other places.

So, that's one conclusion, if you could call it that.  I don't know what it means, so conclusion is probably entirely the wrong word.  That's one thought - that the offending described in the Jay report might, unfortunately, not be at all atypical or extreme.  That people with similar predilections are committing similar acts against the  seemingly endless number of neglected children who aresuch easy prey for remorseless predators.

Which might prompt us to wonder, why are these crimes so deeply shocking and so very newsworthy?

I don't think we can escape the racial / cultural angle here so we might as well be honest about it.  We have a situation where men of Pakistani / Muslim heritage were deliberately targeting predominantly white and certainly non-Muslim girls.  It is easy to give into the atavistic reaction that this is some sort of cultural war; that they were abusing and degrading these girls because they were white (predominantly) and non-Muslim and thus less than human.  I think it is simpler than that, and they targeted the girls the targeted because they were available.  Men inclined to abuse and degrade girls are not necessarily stupid; they are simply evil.  That doesn't mean they are so foolish as to target vulnerable children within their own community, however, where the risk of being caught is high, and the risk of suffering brutal summary justice even higher.  Why bother, when there is a legion of vulnerable and neglected white girls running wild in the street, so starved of affection and lacking in self esteem or self preservation instincts that they will naively believe the crude advances and empty promises of an exotic stranger in a flash car, proffering tacky gifts?  After all, British society had clearly shown they had little interest in what happened to these girls.  They were raised in neglect, schooled in neglect, and - if they had been given a few more years - would have been left to eke out whatever pitiful existence they could on benefits, through prostitution, petty crime or meagre, insecure work.  It was abundantly clear that Britain did not care for these girls.  The newspapers didn't care, the six o'clock news did not care.  Not until after they had become victims.

So perhaps part of the violence of our reaction, the visceral sickness these crimes make us feel, is the guilty knowledge that decades of selfishness and individualism and neglect of the poorest, the weakest and most vulnerable has contributed to this.  The predators simply picked off the ones that we had decided didn't matter enough to care for and protect.

Whic, I repeat, is not intended to excuse or exculpate the offenders.  Nor is it meant to minimise, nor dismiss, the offending that took place.  These brutes molested naive, foolish, weak or helpless girls.  They abused them with unspeakable cruelty and selfish, perverted wickedness.  They deserve to rot in jail forever.

But there is plenty of blame and guilt to go round.

Which brings us to the other strange phenomenon of the coverage of this case - the way the papers have been quick to blame the failure of the police and social services on 'political correctness' and the fear of being accused of 'racism.'  This is a strange idea indeed.  The British police force is many things, but it is not noted for being overly sensitive to the feelings or needs of minority ethnic individuals or groups.  It's hard to give much credence to that suggestion that same institution which brought you stop and search campaigns that disproportionately targeted black people, which could barely bring itself to investigate the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, and which shot dead Charles de Menezes for the crime of looking a bit foreign, would be very concerned about hurting the feelings of the local Muslim population.

(Though even a moments reflection would lead any sane mind to the conclusion that the local Muslim population would probably approve of sexual offenders in its midst being arrested and tried.  There have not, after all, been mass riots following the breaking up of the multiple rings of sexual offenders.  Guess what - Muslims, like the rest of us, are repelled by child abusers!)

It's far more likely that the police are guilty of misogyny, not over sensitivity to racial sensibility.  When incidents were reported, they were not properly investigated.  The most likely reasons being that the police did not care too much about the misfortunes of a few girls who had been stupid enough to get themselves into trouble with some nasty thugs.  After all, as I pointed out a few paragraphs ago, Britain as a whole had basically shrugged its collective shoulders and decided not to bother too much about these girls.  The negligence of the police was just another example of the negligence they had experienced through out their young lives.

(This is not to condemn all police equally, however - many individuals may have tried to follow up complaints, before being warned off or told not to waste their time or simply been swamped by the number of other cases they had to deal with.  And some forces did take steps - like Operation Engage - to combat street grooming.  And it must be remembered that it is inevitably someone in the police who brings these monsters to justice.  They can feel a bit less guilty than the rest of us.)

Ultimately, however, it comes down to the same problem that investigations into allegations of sexual abuse always face - the reluctance of victims to come forwards, the difficulty in gaining strong testimony and sound evidence.  These are compounded massively when the victims are children.  So it isn't too surprising to me that these offenders were able to continue to offend for years.  Many paedophiles and sexual offenders have benefited from this.  Jimmy Saville being one recent, startling example.  His methodology was strikingly similar to the street grooming gangs being considered here - enticements, abuse and threats to intimidate the victims.  And his offending was carried out over decades.  And when some of his victims dared to complain to the police they were dismissed, because of the same scepticism that so many rape victims have to confront.  And he was allowed to carry on abusing.

Without being a Muslim, or Pakistani, of course.

Or consider this paedophile ring, which operated for three decades.  Again, without featuring Muslims or Pakistanis.

It's outlandish and strange to suggest that fear of being called racist or undue deference to 'political correctness' led to these scum being able to continue to offend when so many other examples can be found of other long lived paedophile and child abuse rings.  It is, simply, how it goes.

So why the strange fixation on the racial aspect, the alleged political correctness and the fear of causing offence?  I think this takes us back to where we started.  This is not about the reporting of facts.  This is news as propaganda.  There is a purpose here, to strengthen those who seek to sow division and strife.  The response of Muslim communities to the revelation of child abusers in their midst has been the same as as that of any other community experiencing a similar discovery - shock, revulsion and guilt.  But that has not satisfied the clamouring voices of the UKIP backing, Labour hating tabloids.  They must have known, the line goes.  It's impossible that they could have been as ignorant of the monsters among them as we are to the monsters that walk our streets.  even though no one ever demands the white British community (of which I am part) apologises or accounts for the depredation of Jimmy Saville, Fred West, the Yorkshire Ripper, or any of the vermin that we somehow too frequently produce, it is demanded of Muslims.

Because hen we are faced with our own guilt in this atrocity - our own shameful neglect of swathes of our population that has been abandoned to perdition - it is easier to blame someone else.  Yes, the predators deserve every iota of blame available to them, but they did not create the situation where so many girls were left vulnerable to them.  They 'merely' took advantage of it.  We allowed ourselves to believe the glib promises of politicians that social services could somehow operate on thin air, without us having to pay for it.

Any when we see the results, a system in collapse and a list of victim that defies comprehension, abused over years with apparently impunity, it is a Hell of a lot easier to blame anyone other than ourselves.  Especially abstract concepts like 'political correctness' or 'anti-racism.'

But repeating comforting lies and shibboleths won't help make us feel better, really.

And it certainly wont help the thousands of children being abused by evil predators right now.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Michelle Boag is clueless and wrong SHOCK!

She's on my radio right now (National Radio's The Panel with Jim Mora), bemoaning our habit of getting involved in foreign problems because (I paraphrase) these people do not want democracy.  This is apropos of Libya.

What she clearly doesn't get is that most Libyans voted for the current Libyan government and the militants are the anti-democratic faction are trying - as happened in Egypt - the will of the people:
The victory, which secures Islamist control over Tripoli, was a culmination of weeks of fighting triggered by elections in July, lost by Islamist parties.  
 Rather than accept the elections result Islamist leaders in Libya accused the new parliament of being dominated by supporters of the former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and have sought to restore the old national congress.
Clear?  The majority voted for sanity.  The losers resisted and went for the gun.  A little bit more bloodily and nastily than the Egyptian coupists, but essentially the same process.

So we aren't talking about countries wich are not ready for democracy but countries where democracy is dearly wanted, and - because it is craved by so many - ferociously resisted by those who see their power and privilege threatened by it.

Boag should keep her witless thoughts inside her head where they can do no harm to others.  But given her links to the anti-democratic National Party - where gross violations of democratic norms are blandly ignored by the smirking public face of rampant capitalism - we shouldn't be too surprised by her disparaging attitude to democracy.  As far as her ilk are concerned, the people of New Zealand aren't ready for it either.  The should be lied to, bullied and harangued into making the 'correct' decision, and whatever happens in pursuit of that end is okay.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Musical Interlude

Look, it's simple.  Take quarter of an hour to look at Bridgitte Bardot and listen to some charming light classical music.

Pam Corkery?

I've just watched the professional 'feisty leftwing red head' swearing and cursing on t'news.  My immediate reaction was, "Is the New Zealand talent pool really so small and shallow that she has to be the face of Internet-Mana's media operation?"

Lord, I'd forgotten she existed.  And didn't think my life was lacking as a result.

A quick check on Wikipedia reveals that after her less than stellar career as a politician, she's made a less than stellar career on talk back and a less than stellar career as a brothel owner.  I kid you not.

I think I remember Pam, years ago on some TV program, gloating about how she got out of the Alliance before it fell apart, referring to it as a 'sinking ship.'

Obviously Laila Harre must have missed that show.

In her book of political memoirs (really - after a term?!) Corkery describes policians as "by and large, far more self-deluding, devious, bloated, insecure, egocentric wankers" - which may well be true but begs the question why she has decided to work in that field again.

Still, being innured to these traits may be a job requirement for working with Kim Dotcom ...

And contemplation of those uncomplimentary terms might prompt one to speculate what words would describe a foul mouthed, publicity seeking, failed brothel owning, talk show hosting, TV studio cluttering, recidivist political wannabe.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Judith! Judith! Judith! Go! Go! Go!

I've not bee posting on the Dirt Politics fiasco simpl because it has been moving too fast for me to keep up up with.

(Unlike John Key, I have read the book.)

But now we have reached a somewhat odd pass where when things should be happening, but they aren't.  I refer, of course, to the sacking or resignation of Judith Collins, who claimed she didn't leak Simon Pleasant's identity to Cameron Slater, and who also claims she didn't leak Browyn Pullar's identity either.

One of these claims we now know is massively untrue, as we've seen the emails where she tells Slater who Simon Pleasants is and what he does for a living.

The other?  Well, she SAYS she didn't tell Slater who Pullar was.  And we'd take her word for it, wouldn't we?  I men, it isn't like she has a history of lying about what she has said or done.  We trust you, Judith.  Totally.  It isn't like you've been exposed as a frequent liar about your influence peddling and abuses of power, or anything.

It is quite strange watching this car crash in slow motion.  And the hapless defences offered by the supposedly media savvy and unfazeable John Key provide no end of amusement.  But the uselessness of the journalists interrogating him is annoying.  They need to challenge him on specifics, shoot down every airy generality he tries to foist on us.  It isn't good enough to hear him getting away with waffle when we're talking about the rank corruption in New Zealand's democracy.  He's in charge of it, and he needs to be held to account by our representatives in the media.

Every time I hear Key bleat, “The left do this too,” I really wish the journalists would challenge him on it:
 “When, Mr Key, have ‘the left’ abused their ministerial position to leak the identity of a public servant to an attack blog, so they can be held up to public abuse and threats? When have ‘the left’ abused the OIA process by alerting people to when information is being released and expediting the process?”
Anyway, Collins has utterly, obviously lied, as she told Key she didn’t leak the name, just the job title (which is a bit like Slater’s attempts to get round name suppression). But it is right there in the email.  While she claims she didn't do it.
Yesterday, Mr Key said he’d asked Ms Collins about the release of the civil servant’s name, identified as Simon Pleasants, and she told him she’d only passed on the job title to the blogger.
Surely, she’s got to go after this? Key can’t let her carry on making him look really stupid.

Come on, Judith.  If Pleasants' name was already linked to the leaking of Bill English's expenses claim, it shouldn't be hard for you to prove that.  Your failure to face up to very credible charges of misconduct makes you look, well, just a bit guilty.  Follow the lead of Britain's Joanthan Aitken!  Take up the trusty sword of truth and the trusty shield of fair play!  Smite the liars and smearers!

Just don't ask what happened to Aitken ...

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Thankfully, Tories are ALWAYS wrong

Back in 2008, 2009 and 2010, were we not assured, absolutely assured, that debt rising above 90% of GDP would send the economy into a deathly death spiral and lead to death?

Indeed, ladies and gentlement, you had better hope the Tories were as wrong to place their faith in Reinheart and Roghoff as they are in everything else, for it appears we are there.

UK Public debt 90.6% of GDP, compared to 67.1% when Labour were ousted amid howls of economic mismanagement and imminent disaster.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Labour Green coalition: more venting + general spleen aimed at the Labour caucus

Another round of atrocious polling for Labour, and another round of desperate, "If we add Labour, the Greens, Mana and NZ First together, we only need a swing of about 4% to FORM THE NEXT GOVERNMENT!!"

It used to be just,  "If we add Labour, the Greens, Mana and NZ First together, we can FORM THE NEXT GOVERNMENT!!"  Indeed, I can recall the days when it seemed possible that it might just be Labour and the Greens needed.

And there were times before that when Labour used to be the largest party in Parliament, I tell you!!

But the drift away from the left has been going on for so long it can not be ignored.  And the more coalitions and esoteric combinations get talked up, the more the support for the left bloc declines, and the more wildly fanciful the proposed ways the left can win power get.

(The idea of actually getting out there with  whole bunch of sane, practical policies that people like, expressed clearly by people who really seem to care and who want to make the country better, seems to elude many.)

This has been going on so long now that it takes a few moments to remember that Labour And The Greens is not actually a political party, but to radically different political parties and there is no certainty the the will form a coalition, even if it is just  monogamous couple, and even less certainty if what is proposed is a polygamous monstrosity featuring Labour, the Greens, IMP and NZ First.  And Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all.  I'm sure t some stage, the Maori Party will be included, and people will suddenly remember that Peter Dunne worked well with Helen Clarke ... It seems there is no limit to the optimism of the left when faced with the direness of the polling numbers.

(The other response is t proclaim the polls are incorrect, not just wrong, but deliberately so and are being produced in order to make National's victory more likely.  I kid you not.)

But let us, for the moment, focus just on the idea of a Green / Labour tie up, as it seems to be the most likely least unlikely way of Labour achieving some sort of victory in September.

It is a possibility, but by no means a certainty.

Lumping the two parties together as if they were one is to make the classic mistake of assuming that the Greens have to go with Labour. They don't. Labour haven’t exactly made it easy for them. Their policies aren’t exactly going to set green hearts racing, and they will not be too willing to make concessions, as they don’t want to be portrayed as ‘beholden to the radical eco-Nazis.’

The Greens might well decide against a coalition with Labour. The voters clearly don’t like it – he more it gets talked about, the smaller both parties’ support gets! Faced with putting an unwieldy coalition of three or four antagonistic parties into government (and getting the opprobrium that would go with it) and ‘constructive opposition’ to a minority National government, they might be better off going with the latter.

Labour have treated the Greens badly over the course of several elections. they might think it is time for a bit of utu.

The Greens want to preserve the Green party.  A short term alliance with a deeply unpopular Labour party and two or three other antagonistic parties is likely to produce a dreadful government that will struggle to achieve anything and will be deeply loathed.  The Lib Dems in Britain have suffered dreadfully for putting in the Conservatives; the Greens would become even more loathed than that if they put in a Labour Party that was polling 25%.

Bear in mind that both parties have seen declining support in recent polls.  The more the Lab-Green coalition gets talked up, the less inclined people are to vote for them.  Labour supporters who want a strong government, left or right, and who reject the flakey kooky enviro-whacky Greens (and there are som of those out there) looking to National, on the (dubious and short sighted) reasoning that they've been in charge for six years, the country hasn't fallen to pieces and at least they are getting things done without having to be beholden to crackpot fringe groups; and Green voters are perhaps feeling disappointed that their party is being treated as a de facto extension of Labour, rather than a distinct entity representing their interests.  After all, there must be reasons why they are voting Green rather than Labour in the first place, and if they feel these needs are not being met an more ...

With all this in mind, the Greens might prefer to hang back and wait until the situation changes and they can form a less demented, two party coalition; or until they actually replace Labour as the main opposition party.  Which no longer seems as fanciful as it once did.

Given that Labour's policies are not massively more pro-environment that National's, the Greens might feel they were not worth supporting -  a harsh lesson to Labour on the reality of the disparate nature of the left these days, and the need to be more accommodating to left wing partners.

After all, Labour have consistently treated the Greens shabbily, and there is no reason for the Greens to think that will change now.  Not just utu, but survival instinct may prompt the Greens to frown, purse their lips and say, "Thanks ... but no thanks" when Labour offers them a chance of a quick grope and snog.

Bottom line is, Labour can not and should not be counting on the Greens to get them across the line.  It's a measure of how shamefully useless they are that this is the case.  A substantial portion of National's vote is soft, made up of centrists who might instinctively vote for Labour, but who have been come inured to National because, bluntly, Labour are not offering them anything worth voting for -  a tired, scheming caucus, out of touch leadership, a vague and muddled policy program.  And this at a time when National have been blessed with the most formidable political operator in New Zealand's recent history, and a caucus scarily intent on winning and holding power.

It's almost as if Labour have decided to sit this one out.  Not Cunliffe - he knows he's only got one shot - but too many of the old crew are sitting back and happy enough to draw their salaries.  And too many of the 'new blood' are reluctant to be associated with what looks like a doomed campaign.  Might be  career limiting move, you know.

Idiots and scum the lot of them.