Stephen Gately dies

main_imageI woke up this morning to the terrible news that Stephen Gately has died in his apartment in Majorca, of causes unknown at this stage, although police say there are no suspicious circumstances. Stephen was 33 years old, exactly the same age as me, so to imagine what might have possibly killed him boggles the mind.

I can’t say that I was ever a fan of Boyzone, I’ve never been into boy bands, but I always did have a huge amount of respect for Stephen Gately himself. He came out in 1999 in the The Sun newspaper stating “I’m gay and I’m in love,”. This was a tremendously brave act and established him as a supremely positive role model for young gay people. Many gay stars remain “in the closet” for fear of their sexuality damaging their careers, but Stephen refused to accept that as a risk. Indeed, Louis Walsh, the manager of Boyzone, was unaware of Gately’s sexuality when he selected him for the band and has said that, had he known, he would have thought twice before picking him, citing that “it wasn’t cool then to have a gay guy in a band”.

The postmortem is expected on Tuesday.

It’s a terrible, terrible shame. Rest in peace, Stephen.

Update 17/10/2009: The postmortem returned a verdict of death by natural causes (fluid on the lungs). However, the vile Jan Moir of the Daily Mail disagrees, which has provoked extraordinary outrage. The funeral took place today.


Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi’s controversial release

_45204807_megra226b_ap I am completely torn over the highly contentious decision to release on compassionate grounds Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, otherwise known as the “Lockerbie Bomber”, convicted in 2001 for the murder of 270 people in the Lockerbie terrorist atrocity. al-Megrahi was the only person ever to be brought to justice for the outrage and has always denied any involvement. Whether this is true or not is not important.

The Scottish Justice Minister responsible for the decision faced a terrible dilemma. On one hand he had a reponsibility to uphold Scottish law regarding the release of terminally ill prisoners, regardless of the nature, scale or notoriety of their crimes. On the other hand he was under immense and almost unbearable pressure from the United States and the bereaved families of the victims. The UK government’s position on the matter is at this point unknown but it is widely believed that it will condemn the decision when parliament is recalled.

Of course, at the end of the day, while the United States is entitled to express an opinion on the matter, they had no control nor should they have expected to have any control over what happened to al-Megrahi. This was a crime that was committed on UK soil and so from start to finish had to be dealt with using the UK and Scottish justice systems, regardless of the predominant nationality of the victims. One might also argue that the United States has no right to comment on the situation since it was largely the United States’ foreign policy which created the motivation for the attack in the first place. Just saying, like.

_46240802_tripoli2 The reaction of the Libyan government and public on the arrival of al-Megrahi in Tripoli after his release was absolutely abhorrent, however, regardless of whether or not he is truly guilty of the crimes for which he has been convicted. It was made very clear by both the UK and US governments that it would be inappropriate and very bad for diplomatic relations should Libya allow a “hero’s welcome” to take place, which it did anyway. It was distasteful and wrong and I believe that Colonel al-Gaddafi should and will suffer for it in some way. Indeed, a royal visit to the country is already being reconsidered.

Assuming for a minute that he is guilty, and I have to have enough faith in the UK justice system to believe that he is, I think it highly unlikely and therefore highly unfair that he was the only person brought to justice over an atrocity which quite clearly required the involvement of more than just one person. The investigation into the incident should have been more wide reaching and should have brought more people to justice. For this reason it is valid to argue that al-Megrahi has been made a “scapegoat” for the attack, with the world’s anger and rage focussed solely on him. But this does not mean that somehow the laws of the country in which he was brought to justice and imprisoned did not apply to him. He was entitled to apply for and be granted release from prison on compassionate grounds just like any other prisoner in the UK. If we start making exceptions where do we stop? Where do we draw the line before the rights of prisoners become meaningless?

So I really don’t know what to think, it’s a difficult one. As a citizen of this country I feel I have to stand behind and have faith in its justice system, but at the same time I can appreciate the outrage and grief suffered by the families of the victims over what was the world’s worst terrorist atrocity before 9/11. Certainly, having salt rubbed into their wounds by the rapturous reception he received in Tripoli was both unnecessary and cruel and thoroughly undeserved, regardless of the decision to release him.


Corby families win birth defect legal battle

_46126228_steel_pa The story of the Corby families with children born with birth defects is quite remarkable. It staggers me that the local authority still continues to deny any link between their land reclamation operations and the defects, instead still insisting that all eighteen cases are coincidental. Nature just isn’t that cruel.

Corby Borough Council no doubt had the best of intentions when it rushed to reclaim land for investment following the collapse of the enormous steelworks, on which the town’s economy depended, but this is clearly a case of sheer and inexcusable negligence.

The families have made it clear that it’s not about the money, since no amount of money can compensate for being born with deformed limbs, and it’s this that pisses me off about it most: Corby Borough Council were on the news today whinging about how much of their budget has been sucked up in legal fees with this case (some £5m out of an annual £12m) and how it’s going to impact their council tax payers, etc. when all they needed to do in the first place was to admit that they cocked up, thus avoiding the legal battle in the first place. They could have gone straight to compensation settlements and saved everyone a big shitload of cash.

It’s all about not losing face, at whatever cost, and it’s frankly pathetic. I wish every one of those eighteen families the best of luck with whatever happens from now.


Madoff’s astonishing Ponzi fraud

_45967302_madoff_afp203I’ve been totally amazed by the story of Bernard Madoff‘s astonishing investment scandal that spanned twenty years. It’s an absolutely incredible story of what is the world’s largest ever investor fraud committed by a single person, to the tune of $65bn, a staggering amount of money.

Madoff’s fraud is based on the amazingly simple Ponzi technique. All you have to do is to convince suckers to give you some money with the promise of a guaranteed return, and when that return is made you convince them to re-invest the return rather than withdraw it. Rather than sending money when the investment matures, you simply send a false statement. At some point, obviously, people will want to withdraw their money from the scheme, at which point you do all you can to convince them otherwise. The scheme collapses when more people insist on withdrawing their investments that can be covered by the actual funds, which is what happened to Madoff when the banking crisis kicked off.

How Madoff managed to keep this scam going for so long and grow it so large is absolutely staggering. Nobody else except Madoff have been indicted, but I find it hard to believe that he worked alone on something so big and that lasted so long. All the necessary fake paperwork was generated by an ancient computer system, housed on one floor of Madoff’s offices, never updated of course because to do so would require consultants to come in, risking exposure [source]. Somebody set up those computers in the first place. One also has to wonder if any of the investors questioned as to why the format of their fake paperwork didn’t catch up with the times; I expect they were just blinded by loyalty and trust.

What’s most alarming is that Madoff’s scam wasn’t detected by the authorities, namely the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, who investigated Madoff’s firm no less than eight times but found nothing. This means that either Madoff is the best con-man of all time, or that the SEC is quite spectacularly useless. Both may very well be the case, but regarding the latter, if I was an investor in the United States I would be very worried now about whatever investment scheme I was committed to, especially if it seemed to be doing consistently well for a number of years. You can be sure that Madoff’s isn’t the last.

The Devil acutely points out glaring comparisons between Madoff’s Ponzi fraud and National Insurance, which is essentially a state enforced, compulsory Ponzi scheme. One day it too will collapse. I hope I’m in the ground before it happens.

Madoff has been jailed for 150 years for what is clearly an unimaginably evil crime in every way.


Canoe drama uncovered

H and I watched this amazing documentary on the Canoe Darwins on ITV last night. Previously I had mixed feelings about the whole story, having been close to bankruptcy myself quite recently I tried to see it from their point of view and considered that, although what they did was wrong, they were likely victims of a poorly planned attempt at saving their bacon that got out of control very quickly. However, the documentary has very much changed my mind as it revealed things that you never read in the news.

In particular, it revealed just how much of a selfish monster John Darwin is. He apparently tried to enter into business with a woman in Kansas, and when that didn’t work out he basically terrorised her, threatening to have her and her family killed and stuff, it was awful. Then he moved on to try to buy a catamaran, and when that deal fell through did similar to the owners. Then there was the whole Panama thing of course and they lied to and used as many people as was necessary to do that. This is all, of course, in addition to the fact that he stole the identity of a baby that had been dead for 50 years and lied to his sons, even using them unwittingly in order to get the life insurance money.

The documentary summarised the financial impact of the whole affair, including the life insurance payout, the cost of the sea search and rescue, police time and legal fees, to be around £1m. Now, this really isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things; as they say, a million isn’t what it used to be, so I’m not so worried about that. What I am shocked about is just how many people whose lives they’ve deeply affected in order to pursue their own selfish ends, and the absolute lack of thought and consideration for anyone but themselves. Everyone, ranging from the family of the dead baby, through the coastguard that put their lives on the line to look for him, through to the people involved in the failed business deals, right up to those who suffered the ultimate betrayal – their sons. They used people without even thinking about it, as if they had an automatic right to do so.

Truly shocking. What utter monsters.


Cameron hails ‘end of New Labour’

BBC NEWS | Politics | Cameron hails ‘end of New Labour’ – it was no secret that the worst local election results in 40 years and the election of a Conservative Mayor of London would be quickly followed by the first by-election loss of a Labour seat to the Conservatives in 26 years, a seat that was previously held by a single Labour MP since its creation 25 years ago at that. It doesn’t get more humiliating than that and I think that the only clearer sign that New Labour could possibly be given that their time is up would be a defeat at a general election. I just don’t know what else could possibly happen to let them know how the electorate feel about them in the meantime, everything has surely been done.

Tamsin Dunwoody lead a repulsive campaign against Edward Timpson, claiming that he was a “toff” with a £53m fortune and implied that somehow these things made him unsuitable to be the Member for Crewe and Nantwich, and that somehow an unemployed mother of five would be perfect for the job. Regardless of the fact that it’s Dunwoody that appears in Burke’s Peerage and not Timpson, Dunwoody was the daughter of the previous Member, Gwynneth Dunwoody, who held the seat for 25 years before she died. I’m sorry, but with contacts like that you’re only unemployed if you want to be and if it suits you, and it obviously did in order that she could wage her pathetic class-war against Timpson, whose family built their business from nothing, a business that provides essential services to the public up and down the country, employing local, skilled people in every branch. Why on earth should that be considered by anyone to be a bad thing? It’s nothing more than Labour’s familiar old sour grapes about anyone who’s not happy just being another brick in the wall and has dared to make something of themselves.

New Labour deserved to lose this by-election in every way conceivable, and the Conservatives deserved to win it based on the dirty-tricks campaign alone, although obviously this is not the only reason why they will have won. Good for you, Edward Timpson, and screw you, Tamsin Dunwoody, you sadly typical New Labour hypocrite. You must’ve though that you were just going to inherit that seat off your mother in some kind of grotesque New Labour ascension, not unlike that of Gordon Brown’s last year. How wrong you were.

Of course, Gordon Brown and his sound bite scripted cronies are claiming that the loss of the seat is due to the global economic climate, that people are feeling the pinch and want to send a message to him to steer us through it. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he’s the worst Prime Minister that this country has had for 40 years and that everyone is sick to the back-teeth of New Labour’s endless incompetence, taxation and bullshit. No, perish the fucking thought.

2010 suddenly doesn’t seem that far away. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and not before time.


Manchester gets Glaswegian makeover

Scottish shiteThe whole of Manchester city centre is in a terrible state this morning. Every street is covered in empty cans, beer bottles, plastic glasses, discarded fast food, newspapers and other miscellaneous detritus. It’s absolutely fucking revolting and I am nothing short of appalled at the way that these 150,000 people, who clearly had absolutely no respect for their hosts, have behaved. Frankly, they deserved to lose the game. The debris is everywhere, even the station concourse this morning was covered in beer, puke, chips and what have you, with some still drunken fans wandering around shouting about how “shite” Manchester is, despite treating our police force like hunted prey, wrecking residents’ property and complaining when their expectations weren’t met to their standards.

Tell you what, I’ve got an idea that will keep us all happy. Why don’t you all fuck off back to fucking Glasgow, or wherever it is your crawled out from, where it’s apparently completely acceptable to treat your city like a sub-human pigsty, fucking stay there, and never fucking come back? I’d be game for that, and since you consider Manchester to be so fucking awful, you should be too. I, nor anyone else who lives or works in Manchester I expect, ever want to see the likes of you here ever again and I’d be surprised if any other city felt differently.

Furthermore, whichever organisation made all the profit out of yesterday, be it UEFA, City stadium or Rangers FC, I don’t fucking care, should be made to foot the bill for the cleanup. Why on earth should I have to put up with this when someone else has made a killing out of it? Glasgow should be made to make an official and public apology to Manchester for the way in which its residents have behaved; certainly if 150,000 Mancuncians descended upon Glasgow and left it in that sort of state there would be an outcry, swiftly followed by yet another handout from English taxpayers to clean it up.

I hate football at the best of times, and yesterday has done absolutely nothing to improve my opinion on it. The “beautiful game” and all its “supporters” can fuck right off and fucking stay there.


Brown ‘listening and learning’ as PM

BBC NEWS | Politics | Brown admits ‘mistakes’ over tax – this is totally enraging, our unelected Prime Minister is apparently a trainee:

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has admitted making “mistakes” in abolishing the 10p rate of income tax.

But Mr Brown said he was “listening” and “learning” as prime minister and that problems were “being dealt with”.

No, I’m sorry, I don’t accept this. Gordon Brown is the Prime Fucking Minister of this country, he is supposed to be an expert on these things, he’s supposed to have learnt, not still be learning. Who will take responsibility for his mistakes? There is nobody to supervise him, there is nobody who is supposed to know more than him. When and how is this ongoing, unstoppable incompetence going to end?

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