Saturday, August 25, 2007

Robert Fisk wants 9/11 'truth'

There is a word that has entered the lexicon called 'fisking', as in I fisk, you fisk, oh would that they had not fisked etc. It is defined thus:
fisking: n.

[blogosphere; very common] A point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or (especially) news story. A really stylish fisking is witty, logical, sarcastic and ruthlessly factual; flaming or handwaving is considered poor form. Named after Robert Fisk, a British journalist who was a frequent (and deserving) early target of such treatment.

Now, said Robert Fisk has again demonstrated why his name is doomed to be a pub quiz question a century hence. In an article in today's Independent he spouts all of the tired garbage of the 9/11 'Truth' industry, and even parrots their line that all he is doing is asking questions.

So, he writes:
where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon?
All over the impact site as evidenced by many photographs and eye-witnesses.
Why have the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania) been muzzled?
They haven't, but they are a little tired of being badgered by nutcases and their words being taken out of context.
Why did flight 93's debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field?
It didn't, this was a map reading error where idiots have confused a straight line distance from the road distance, which involves driving around a lake.
If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C – would snap through at the same time?
Because steel loses structural strength as the temperature increases, that is why blacksmiths heat steel before working it. Also, when buildings collapse then they tend to collapse abruptly not in slow motion. The only people who have claimed that the steel beams would have had to have melted are people like, well, Fisk. The engineers who have looked at the problem have determined that the steel supports in the World Trade Centre certainly got hot enough to lose enough strength to fail.
(They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.)
They didn't (NIST estimates 15 to 25 seconds but it is difficult to be precise because of the dust and the fact that many of the cameramen in the best positions to observe were running for their lives).
What about the third tower – the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) – which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it?
What could possibly have struck WTC 7 to damage it enough so that it eventually collapsed? Well, here is a clue:

Building 7 is tall one that is being showered with debris. Having a quarter-mile high building collapsing nearby can be a bit of an issue, and the FDNY pulled all of their men away before the final collapse of building 7 because it was on fire and so badly damaged that they didn't think that it would survive, and they were right. Many of the other buildings surrounding the two World Trade Centre towers were also effectively destroyed by falling debris, but funnily enough we never hear about them from the 'Truth' industry.

Fisk is a joke, and also the main reason why I stopped reading the Independent. I remember the article that finally finished me off. It was on the eve of the Gulf War of 1991, where he was predicting that the allied offensive would be a fiasco on the basis that a truck convoy that he was riding with had got lost. As everyone now knows the allied offensive was actually so successful and one-sided that it was called off after 48 hours because it was less war and more massacre. Funnily enough he said much the same about the US attack on Baghdad in 2003, which was equally successful. In fact, embracing 9/11 'Truth' represents an entirely consistent standard of journalism for Mr. R. Fisk.

Tragedy in Liverpool and a measured Conservative Response

Everyone I have spoken to is quietly appalled at the murder of an 11 year-old boy in Liverpool, apparently by another child. This is a tragedy for the family, and who could not have been moved by the grief and incomprehension of the parents at the loss of their beloved son, but it is also a stark illustration of the country's situation. 'Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime' is exposed as nothing more than a clever soundbite from a politician and a party that have systematically made policy that have demonstrably made things worse. Whether it be undermining the police with paperwork and targets that have nothing to do with the prevention and detection of crime, or signing away our right to deport foreign criminals, or undermining the family with an approach to welfare where it pays for children to be fatherless, Labour speak the language of the law-abiding citizen without believing a word of it. Their reaction is always to make more things illegal, well, shooting a child in the back of the head has pretty much always been illegal. We have 3000 more criminal offences since 1997 and where has it got us?

What is required is certainly more effective policing, but also real action on the causes of crime, be it a skewed welfare system, or the failures on children in care, or any of the multiplicity of government policy that has rendered communities powerless. It is not just about government though, and David Cameron made this point very clear in his recent speech, it is about all of us who have influence in society. That means families promoting respect to their children, local authorities promoting their own communities and the media stopping treating violence as a subject for casual entertainment. This is a measured, adult approach, not the glib spiel of a professional politician where success in measured in opinion poll points, instead of children's lives. Labour is stuck in the centralising top-down world where a piece of paper telling people how to behave means that they will behave in that way. Meanwhile back in the real world there is a demand for small coffins.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Basildon Sporting Villiage Coverage

Some good local coverage for the Sporting Village project yesterday, with even more tonight. As ever, there are differing views and some people are concerned about leisure prices or the potential closure of Markham's Chase Sports Centre. Well, the prices will be affordable and that is that. Markham's Chase would only go when the new centre was operating and the two are close enough for the patrons of one to go to the other. This can be something special and we are determined to succeed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Conservatives pledge to scrap Human Rights Act

The line appears to be that if we didn’t have the Human Rights Act then things wouldn’t change because the UK is a signatory to the UN Convention on Human Rights. This suggests that cases currently litigated in Britain would end up in being decided abroad and taking longer to resolve, so, on balance the Human Rights Act makes no real difference, no harm done, move on. This might be persuasive if you forget the legal practises that sprang into being when the HRA was enacted and dismissed the number of times that it has been quoted since, for example when a con wants hardcore porn in their cell or a police force cannot publish the pictures of dangerous criminals on the run. If lawyers are making money from new stream of lucrative cases and criminals’ rights now count for more than yours or mine then something has changed, and not for the better. Even Jack Straw, the man who brought this pernicious piece of legislation on to the statute book, is claiming that he was misled when he discovered that the government could not deport a foreign murderer because it violated his right to family life, never mind the rights of the family without a father thanks to him.

Now David Cameron has committed the Conservatives to ditching the HRA. It will mean consideration of replacement legislation, and our position with regard to the EU and the Convention, but we do know that whatever the right answer the Human Rights Act isn’t it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Thumbs up for Basildon Sporting Village

Basildon's Conservative administration is faced with a crumbling sporting infrastructure that was designed for the assumptions of the 80s municipal socialism, which more or less held that competitive sport was a bad thing. So, we have small sports centres that are intentionally inadequate for the development of sporting skills to a high level, one swimming pool was actually designed to be just short of 25m to prevent competitive use. Labour Council administrations also failed to spend to maintain the fabric of Basildon's sports centres, pretty much limiting funding to what was required to keep the rain out. Our answer to all of this is to fold a number of small sports centres into one large, world-class facility characterised as a Sporting Village. Let us be clear, the idea is to provide a facility for everything from leisure use all the way up to elite sports and at a price ordinary people can afford. The trouble is that our local Labour party have suggested that we are going to aim it at the David Lloyd crowd and they are really exercised at the option of a third-party running it under contract. So, having created the problem in administration, they vote against the solution in opposition. The good news is that the Labour government doesn't agree with them and they have pledged £5 million to the project, which brings the total available funding up to £25m. So, the Sporting Village will move forward and we will be out to tender shortly, hopefully now with local cross-party support. Basildon is geographically close enough to the site of the London Olympic Stadium for our Sporting Village to be a supporting facility for the games. The challenge now is now to be ready for the run up to 2012.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Labour wants to close A&E units, because longer ambulance journeys are better

You have to be careful with statistics. A few years a factoid was doing the rounds that went something like this 'a policeman will only walk in on two crimes in their entire career, so it is more efficient to have them in central police stations waiting for the public to report crimes'. This was based on a study that was apparently performed by people with no actual knowledge of police work. For example it ignored the deterrence effect of police on the beat, or the fact that obtaining community knowledge and intelligence is pretty difficult sitting on your backside in an office. However, that throw away summary of a piece of flawed research actually framed policing policy for a number of years, until people noticed that the crime rate was going up despite the supposed 'efficiency' of the new system. Now community policing and walking the beat is back in fashion and anything else is considered absurd.

Something similar appears to have been happening with health policy; the idea here being that a smaller number of specialist units would be better that local services. Now, there is some merit in this if you are treating a long-term chronic condition like cancer, unfortunately I know a bit about that subject. The point here is convenience is quickly outweighed by quality of medical treatment when it comes to that sort of disease. However, this is not always the case and the Telegraph summed up the result of some new work thus:
A study has found that the further patients travel in an ambulance to reach hospital the more likely they are to die.
Rain is also wet by the way, but sometimes the bleeding obvious has to be said because otherwise you can get into the situation where people argue that more police on the streets is not a good idea.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Iain Dale breaks a story: Mirror tried to infiltrate CCHQ

Iain Dale has a story that the Daily Mirror tried to put a mole into CCHQ in the form of an undercover journalist. This is pretty reprehensible; a newspaper could make a case for undercover reporting if there was some sort of public interest, but what is the public interest here? Worse than that, how do we know that anything politically useful to the Labour party from the journalists efforts wouldn't have ended up passed to them, regardless of its news value? So, now we have a national newspaper in bed with the government. Do these people think that they have any credibility left? They might as well just change their masthead to Vote Labour.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Conservative Policy on the Green Belt

This was a very welcome statement from Eric Pickles, Shadow Communities Secretary:
"The Green Belt has served England well for the last half century – protecting against urban sprawl and unsustainable development.

“Yet I fear the Green Belt now faces a sustained assault from Labour's army of bulldozers and concrete mixers – with local communities powerless to resist Whitehall’s Soviet-style targets."

We need to build more homes and regenerate rundown communities – yet Green Belt protection must remain. The Green Belt defines and protects urban communities from sprawl.”

Politics at the grass roots, Noak Bridge Parish Council does the business

There is a planning application in Noak Bridge for 20 houses and flats. Noak Bridge is a village between Basildon and Billericay with a Parish Council and they have been doing just what the lowest local authority tier should do for their community; leafleting the immediately affected area and holding a meeting to explain the planning process and determine people's views as evidence for the District Council Planning Committee. It was efficient, responsive and very relevant. It was also based very much on the concept of voluntary public service, as Parish Councillors do not get paid. If you tried to duplicate that service as part of, say, some sort of quango I wonder how much it would cost? Oh, and this sort of democratic representation is one of the things some people think should be done away with. Apparently, it hinders the planning process and matters should be left in the hands of 'experts', who will, no doubt, charge by the hour.