Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Umbro's (ab)use of Paul Gascoigne

Has anyone seen this Umbro advertisement featuring Paul Gascoigne? Published on YouTube, it is called 'Gazza: Pride and Passion from one of the Faces of England'.

From a footballing perspective, I can understand why Umbro selected Gascoigne to launch their campaign. A gifted footballer, who, in my opinion, was the star of Italia '90, Gascoigne is a sporting icon who personified passion and pride in an England shirt.

Yet from a human perspective, Umbro's use of Gascoigne is less understandable. Italia '90 also illustrated his personal frailties. His reaction to the booking that meant that he would have missed the World Cup Final is there for all to see (below). Understandable in the circumstances?...Maybe.

Add in Gary Lineker's appreciation of Gascoigne's mental fragility at that moment – Lineker says that Gascoigne had “basically lost the plot” - presumably borne of personal experience, and we have a vulnerable human being.

At the time, Gascoigne was synonymous with being the happy go-lucky, cheeky chappy. He was 'Gazza'. He gurned for the cameras. He wore fake breasts. His public identity was borne out of football, manufactured by the media and loved by the public.

Whilst George Best had to contend with similar issues in the public spotlight, the advent of SkySports and 24/7 media coverage meant that Gascoigne was the first modern-day 'celebrity' footballer. With a lack of people around him to provide him with adequate emotional support, it seems that Gascoigne became addicted to 'Gazzamania'.

We know of Gascoigne's difficulties since. His long-term addictions to drink and drugs and his battles with mental illnesses reveal Gascoigne to be in constant need of something to make his life meaningful and worthwhile.

And the something that went a long way to making Gascoigne's life fulfilled is football. It is football that is his biggest addiction; not just the physical act of playing, but what playing meant for his identity and self-esteem that is equally, if not more, important.

As Euro 2012 approaches, Umbro want as many England football fans to go out and buy their new top. Pride and passion, the epitome of Gascoigne in an England shirt is supposed to attract fans, who themselves identify with those traits, into buying the product.

But the 30-second video above is a manipulated edit of a 5-minute “interview” Gascoigne did with Umbro (see below). In this video, Gascoigne laments what he sees as a lack of pride in some of today's England team.

Hold on Umbro, I thought that this was THE selling-point, yet your 'Face' suggests that some England players lack this quality. If pride is something that Gascoigne had but other current England players do not, then why should we then buy into this idea and buy a new England shirt?

So how are Umbro really marketing the new England top?

The evidence suggests that Umbro are selling us 'Gazza'. The advertisement refers to Gascoigne as 'Gazza'. 'Gazza' models the new Umbro top, tongue out for added cheekiness as per his playing days.

In his 5-minute interview with Umbro, Gascoigne talks of his love of learning to play football as a child in a park. After telling us that he drives by this park occasionally, he says “God, I'm going to start crying”, before continuing briefly, and with more tears welling in his eyes, he feels that he has to apologise.

This is the 'Gazza' of Italia '90 all over again. His love of, and need for, football and what it means to Gascoigne and his identity is so deeply ingrained, that his hurt is palpable.

We, the public are partly responsible for wanting to see the 'Gazza' that we helped create. But we need more of 'Gazza' the footballer, whereas 'Gazza' the identity needs us. Gascoigne tried to kick 'Gazza' a few years ago when reinventing himself as G8, but there is little to suggest that he, or we, really took this on board.

Umbro's use of 'Gazza' is that of a dealer providing a fix for a client's addiction. Their advertisement preys upon this addiction by marketing their product through his fragility and vulnerability. I would urge England fans to buy their tops from other manufacturers until such time as Umbro withdraw their 'Gazza' advertisements.

Additionally, according to Rule 4.4 of the Advertising Codes:

Advertisements must not include material that is likely to condone or encourage behaviour that prejudices health and safety.

In my opinion, this advertisement condones exploitative marketing by encouraging Gascoigne's addiction to football and 'Gazza'. If you feel that Umbro's advertisement exploits Gascoigne, you can complain to the Advertising Standards Agency here.

Regardless of how much Umbro paid Gascoigne, given his well-known history of addiction and mental health issues, Umbro have a responsibility to the man, not a right. In this regard, they have failed.

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Monday, 28 May 2012

Murdoch and NewsCorp support an uncapped immigration policy for the UK

Rupert Murdoch (c) World Economic Forum
.as long as it suits them of course. But still.

Researching emails between Fred Michel and Jeremy Hunt's office for my earlier post, I came across the following correspondence entitled 'Immigration cap - meeting' between Michel and Giles Wilkes, special adviser to business secretary, Vince Cable. On 10th October 2010, Michel wrote to Wilkes:

...”I am writing to see if we could meet up to discuss the reform plans on the immigration cap. As you can imagine, it is a policy area which will have a major impact on News Corporation”.

Wilkes responded sympathetically to this request, given the “major impact this might have on News International”. He added that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) were trying to get views on this matter from businesses across the board, so that they could feed them into government policy.

On 12th October, Wilkes told Michel that he could not meet him later that week, but that he was interested in finding out News Internationals thoughts on an immigration cap. Michel responds:

...”I will send you our first thoughts and hope we can be helpful on this debate. We are looking at it from a mobility viewpoint but also ability to hire talents for a global company etc. We also have some relevant expertise in-house on this”.

Correspondence between the pair is rejoined on 21st October, when Michel gave Wilkes a heads-up of the speech that Rupert Murdoch was giving on global mobility at the inaugaral Margaret Thatcher lecture later that night. And then it all went a little off piste, after Wilkes asked Michel, “Out of interest, are his editors in the audience as a rule”? “Cheeky!”, retorted Michel.

Cheeky (c) Johan Larsson
Wilkes apologised, stating that he had no intention of being cheeky, and explained:

But as I am sure you are aware, there is a strong anti-immigration feeling in the UK, and this is seen in some quarters as coming from the popular press. It would be interesting if the same sentiments that RM is expressing in the speech were to be amplified in your highly respected newspapers”.

Fair point, Mr Wilkes. In his speech, Murdoch states:

In short, Britain needs companies robust enough to compete in this global market – whether in finance or pharmaceuticals, transport or telecommunications, retail or entertainment. And we need to attract the brightest talent, regardless of background and ethnicity.

In other words, Britain should be a magnet for the best students and best workers from around the world”.

Was it reported in Murdoch's media? Nothing appears online, so it would appear that Murdoch and NewsCorp preferred to keep this quiet in the UK. Strange. Or is it?

Over the last couple of years, the Murdochs have expanded their operations in India. NewsCorp operate through Star India Pvt Ltd, and they own stakes in a number of other industries in India, including the Tata Group and Harper Collins. For the Murdochs, India represents the future, and the future looks promising.

Coincidentally, Indian citizens need visas to work and study in the UK. Will NewsCorp be sponsoring student applications from their commercial partners to oil the wheels of commerce? Are NewsCorp already thinking ahead in terms of their future workforce – will they insource their future employees? Pure speculation on my part, but NewsCorp is a business that plans ahead strategically when it comes to expansion.

The government is already struggling to curb abuse of student visas. It would seem quite disingenuous then for the UK government to consider what might be best for the likes of NewsCorp.

But there again, who really holds the power when it comes to shaping public opinion and policy? It will be interesting to see what steps the government takes towards meeting their commitment of reducing net immigration.

One last thing. Feel free to circulate this piece more widely so that NewsCorp subscribers (including readers of The Sun, Times etc.) and shareholders are aware of NewsCorp's liberal immigration stance. 

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Leveson Inquiry: Jeremy Hunt's impartiality and NewsCorp's BSkyB bid

Jeremy Hunt (c) Surian Soosay
Following Adam Smith's and Fred Michel's statements at the Leveson Inquiry on Thursday and Friday, media speculation has focused on the impartiality of the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt - I will do my best not to do a Naughtie.

Prior to his quasi-judicial appointment on 22nd December 2010, the media, including the BBCrefer to a memo that Hunt sent to the Prime Minister, David Cameron on 19 November 2010. Hunt was concerned that the UK media “would suffer for years” if the BSKyB deal failed to go through.

Yetthe media have missed other equally telling comments from this memo:

James Murdoch is pretty furious at Vince's referral to Ofcom. He doesn't think that he will get a fair hearing from Ofcom. I am privately concerned about this because NewsCorp are very litigious and we couldend up in the wrong place in terms of media policy”.

Just why would Murdoch not think that he will get a fair hearing from Ofcom? Evidence suggests that he did, and that the deal would have gone through. That Hunt was “privately concerned” about this referral suggests that he shared Murdoch's disquiet. Impartial?

Interestingly, the above is an edited version of an earlier round-up which argues NewsCorp's case as follows:

Those people who are arguing that the Murdochs will have too much influence are in my view confusing the revenues Sky gets (around £8 bn) which are much higher than – say – the BBC's £4 bn with the influence Sky has editorially which is much less because a) most of the channels watched on Sky belong to other people over which it exerts no editorial control; and b) where it does (e.g. Sky news), it has less than 5% market share and is bound by strict rules over political impartiality. (stress as per original draft)

Whilst Hunt decided to omit this information from his final memo, it alerts us to the information that he/his office had to hand. Evidence for the BSkyB bid.

Evidence which came directly from Fred Michel. On 7thOctober 2010, texts between Michel and Hunt reveal that Hunt was happy to receive NewsCorp's briefing on plurality from Michel, which he then emailed to AdamSmith, then Hunt's special adviser.

The Three Amigos/Parties to Unite over BSkyB Bid Call (c) Surian Soosay
Returning from the weekend, Smith emailed Michel with Hunt's view of the arguments for the BskyB takeover, "Jeremy's response to this - “persuasive”. Impartial?

Counsel to the Inquiry, Robert Jay QC, put this to Smith:

...”But aren't these pretty clear indicators of what Mr Hunt's view was, at least on the materials which were being provided as to the quality of the bid, and its desirability”?

To which, Smith replied:

Well, I think it chimes with what he said about he didn't think there was a particular problem, but he wouldn't second guess the regulators. I don't think that is any different meaning”.

Let us remember at this point that Hunt and his department had nothing to do with this particular decision. This still lay with then business secretary, Vince Cable, who was later removed for declaring war on Murdoch.

Why were Hunt, and his office, even in receipt of these particular NewsCorp briefings, let alone reading and commenting on it? Leveson queried Smith on this issue:

What has this got to do with you? I mean, I'm just intrigued to know why you should be involved in this material. This was being dealt with by another department. I can't believe you didn't have more than enough to do. So what has this to do with you”?

Smith replied:

Well, it was a big issue in the media sector and I think Mr Michel had offered to send something through to me and I would always receive anything that anybody wanted to send through to me”.

For Leveson, who failed to follow this up any further, Hunt, and his office, just wanted to know where people stood. Yet this completely neglects the amount of work, as Leveson mentions, that Hunt and his team were putting in to a bid that had nothing to do with them.Especially at a time when Hunt would have been busy reorganising his department following the comprehensive spending review. Is Smith's explanation credibile?

On 16thNovember 2010, Michel texted Hunt, Thanks for the call with James today. Greatly appreciated. Will work with Adam to make sure we can send you helpful arguments”...

Helpful arguments? For whom? About what?

The helpful arguments are relating to the BSkyB bid, aren't they”,asked Robert Jay QC of Fred Michel, who responded, “I don't know. I can't remember.”

Son of a Murdoch (c) Surian Soosay
Anything else it might have been for? Unlikely, given that we know that just a couple of days later Hunt was telling Cameron that Murdoch was furious about Cable referring the bid to Ofcom.

Neither Leveson nor Jay questioned Smith about these “helpful arguments”, despite (Adam) Smith's name appearing in the text. Why not?

What went on before Hunt was appointed quasi-judge and jury illustrates an unhealthily close relationship with NewsCorp. More investigative questioning may have revealed further details, but it may be that Hunt will face more searching questions on Thursday.

Just as importantly, let us not forget that it was Cameron who appointed Hunt. His choices of personnel and champions, from AndyCoulson to EmmaHarrison, have been ill-advised.

Cameron knew that Hunt held meetings with NewsCorp in the U.S. in August 2009. Speculation has mounted that talks of the BSkyB bid first emerged during this trip, but Hunt claims that no such discussions took place“to the best of his recognition” - is that a bit of legalese? Either way, within a week of this visit, The Sun (one of Murdoch's newspapers) had declared its support for Cameron for the 2010 election.

Cameron also knew from Hunt's memo to him of 19th November that he was worried about the prospect of a failed BSkyBbid. Just what questions did Cameron ask of Hunt and his connections, and contact, with NewsCorp before appointing him?

In fact, was it even in Cameron's interests to ask?

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Monday, 14 May 2012

Overburdened (once every forty years)

Salmonella (c) NIAID

The following article  was published on openDemocracy by Steve Tombs and David Whyte under a creative commons licence.
Tacked on at the end of the very first paragraph of yesterday’s Queen’s Speech  was a government promise to "limit state inspection of businesses.” 
Innocuous as it sounds, this phrase contains a promise that profoundly threatens the health and wellbeing of all of us. And yet it passed by virtually unreported, under the radar of all of the major news bulletins.  

We have come to expect – and take for granted - the guarantee that our workplaces, our environment and safety of our food comply to a minimum standard of protection.  And yet, this is not how business representatives or the government see it.  Since the election of the Coalition, we have been subjected to a constant barrage of mythology about those protections being a “burden” on business. Recall that Cameron’s New Years priorities for 2012 were the Olympics, the Queen’s Jubilee, and to “kill off the health and safety culture for good” - to rid British business of an “albatross”  that was “costing them billions of pounds a year”.  
Yesterday’s promise to limit inspections is the latest stage in the Coalition’s promised major shake up of business inspection, following Nick Clegg’s longstanding promise  to question if regulators are still necessary.  All of the apocryphal stories of ‘elf and safety goan mad’ (many of them originating in a mixture of government and Daily Mail populism rather than fact) have had the drip drip effect of creating an illusion that we are “over-regulated”.
Yet when it comes to the most fundamental protections of our health and our lives, the figures simply don’t stack up. Indeed, the figures are so stark that they make us question both the integrity and the sanity of the Coalition.  
Take the main sources of regulatory protection from business activities: workplace health and safety, environmental protection and food safety.  In the past ten years, inspections by the Environment Agency have fallen by 60%. In the Health and Safety Executive annual inspections of businesses by its biggest section have declined by more than 2/3rds.  The average business can now expect a visit less than once every forty years.  
In the same period, food safety inspections by local authorities have fallen by 31%.
he effect on the way that the worst offending businesses are punished for risking our lives has been equally dramatic.  Prosecutions in the Environment Agency have fallen 27% since their peak in 2005; in the past decade years, prosecutions for health and safety offences have halved and prosecutions for food safety and food standards violations have fallen by 33%.
n comparison to other OECD countries, our workplace safety record continues to race to the bottom.  When the Coalition took power, Britain was 20th out of 30 OECD countries rated for safe workplaces, and we are continuing to slip down this league table.

This is hardly a picture of an over-regulated business sector.  It is yet another measure of the Coalition’s ability to look like a rabbit caught in the headlights of this recession.  As part of a craven to business, knee-jerk, attempt to deregulate us out of recession, this proposal threatens irreversible damage to a quickly deteriorating safety net of social protection.
Steve Tombs is Professor of Sociology, Liverpool John Moores University; David Whyte is Reader in Sociology, University of Liverpool.  They are authors of Regulatory Surrender (Institute of Employment Rights  , 2010) 
(c) Steve Tombs & David Whyte

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Rochdale child sex gang and attributing blame

In need of affection and attention? (c) Stew Dean
The Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson wrote the following introduction for her article entitled, 'Asian sex gang: young girls betrayed by our fear of racism':
Nine white men are found guilty of grooming young Asian girls, aged between 13 and 15, whom they picked up on the streets of London. The girls were lured with free fish and chips before being raped or pimped as prostitutes. One Asian girl from a children's home was used for sex by 20 men in one night. Police insist the crimes were not "racially motivated". 
Imagine if that story were true. Would you really believe that race was not a hateful factor in those crimes?...
Yes, I would Allison.

My first thoughts were that this is another case of the powerful seeking to control the vulnerable.

In their more balanced article, 'Child sex grooming, the Asian question, The Independent, have posited that it may be a cultural issue but that the evidence suggesting as much is inconclusive. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre acknowledges this.

Might we otherwise perceive this as being males using their power to control and abuse females? 

Recent evidence suggests that 10% of women have been raped and 35% have been sexually assaulted. Yet females rarely take their attacker to court because of our extremely low conviction rates. Just look at the recent Ched Evans rape case and the abuse that the victim suffered following his guilty verdict. These are symptomatic of the inequalities that women face in the name of security and protection.

Do the crimes committed in Rochdale not reflect these inequalities? Might it be a gender issue rather than a race issue? 

Or might it be the way that we 'treat' our children?

Ella Cockbain and Helen Brayley from the Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science at University College London suggest that affection, attention and excitement are often enough for girls to succumb to their future abusers. Is this what they lack from parents and society at large?

The mainstream media regularly demonise our children as criminals in waiting. On the street, mainly. Which is where the girls in this case were groomed. But why are they on the street?

Over 18s, no hoodies (c) C Ford
UNICEF UK have studied children's happiness in the UK. They found that children miss the love of parents, who, as well as working the longest hours in Europe may also be working more than one job to provide for their children. They also concluded that there are too few leisure facilities available for children. Affection, attention and excitement.

UNICEF UK has called on the UK government to address these problems. I have not read, seen, or heard anything that might suggest that these issues have been resolved. 

What happened to these girls was abhorrent. It may well be a cultural problem, but if we truly want to protect our girls in the future, we should not jump to rash conclusions without a full consideration of other factors. 

Whilst paedophilia is defined differently, in that paedophiles groom pre-pubescent children, the victims are the same; children. On the street or online, grooming is grooming. 

We do not attribute paedophile rings with being white and European. We look beyond such a simplification. We should so in this case. 

Because then we might see that these girls were not solely betrayed by our fear of racism, but also because of a range of other factors.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Bad person

(c) Criminonymous

In this latest piece, Criminonymous posits that any definition of 'crime' is contingent upon time and place. None of us are wholly innocent. Does imprisonment, and its associated sanctions, work?

There are people who break into other people’s homes
People who trespass on private land because they want to roam
A drunken person might steal a phone and a garden gnome
And then there’s couples whose love is a crime and a sin
People whose political views are deemed worthy of prison
People who transgress to achieve an end they were taught was legitimate
What you consider deviant depends on what you see as normal
What you see as bad depends on your experience of sorrow
The norms we adhere to shift like the continents
Our priorities change, but no one keeps on top of it
We all want safety, irrespective of our stance
But the people in the jails are mostly there by chance
We don’t fight crime; we define crime
We respond when we can, but for the majority of offences
There’s no such thing as a plan
That can effectively stem all the illicit demand
We blame cops too for the culture in which they live
Like with any gang culture, recruits may be of a certain creed
But to reintegrate, our forgiveness is what they need
Police are as manipulated as everyone else
All mental health is suspect in and of itself
People are fragile
Liable to influence by their surroundings, like the hopeless in prison
The futile stockpiling of our brothers and sisters
And when they’re out, these erstwhile exiles
No longer fit the profile of a worthwhile punt
They must be imbeciles; their values must be totally different
Can’t reconcile employment with debilitating criminal illness
Forgetting that crimes are committed by almost all of us
What if everyone was charged the first time they tried drugs?
Everyone who shoplifted, downloaded a song, sped or littered?
Caught or not, it’s the overwhelming majority
That’s the sheer insanity of the us-and-them mentality
Our primal hostility masked as higher morality
Assumptions of purity are no more than an illusion
We prescribe division like our laws were the words of a god
And to break them is to trash our religion
But if you put everyone corrupt in jail, who will be left to lock us all in?
It’s a war of attrition that we’re never going to win

(c) Criminonymous

Friday, 4 May 2012

Growth without prosperity

(c) Criminonymous
Leading you into the long weekend, I am delighted to host another piece of political poetry from Criminonymous. If you prefer your "shotgun duels over fossil fuels" on paper as I do, read on.

A never ending focus on these manmade lines
Designed for our safety, but designed to confine
Does any of this actually mean anything?
Does having dual nationality prepare me for more eventualities?
What is beyond our control does not enlighten the person
I’m a no-name global citizen with a purpose
And understandably, while I focus on my love and on my family
I still elevate wider humanity, see
That’s what matters to me
Progress as a process requires harnessing our energy

We’ve had growth without prosperity
And now we have neither
Disappeared in the ether
Take a step back and find Mother Earth needs a breather
You think it’s easy to please her
But her beauty is intrinsically bound to deceive you
Into thinking she’s unlimited, clearly she’s exhibited
The signs that she can take no more of these derivatives
Unlimited subsidies will be beyond prohibited
When people realise all of the damage they cause
A series of flaws
A flaming ball of wreckage like the track at Le Mans

But the problem with the debate is not the intransigence
It’s that so many issues are at the same resonance
Irrespective of anything, oil isn’t infinite
We can’t keep forever increasing our own use of it
Soon so expensive that it will only be available
To tax exiles in St Lucia and those in Monaco
The conflation of climate change with other things we know
Ensures our response to other issues is also slow

But that’s not what is best for me or you
I don’t want to wait until there’s shotgun duels over fossil fuels
Although some would say it’s already started
With ever-more dangerous tools
While a minority monopolise the writing of rules
And my heart goes out to all of those affected who are fatherless
Those in Fallujah, cancerous and powerless
The person in jail who made one mistake last year
The whistleblower executed in oil-rich Nigeria
The millions of families who have been foreclosed illegally
It’s all crime in the way that it speaks to me

Believe me, when you come to pick your battles
Energy and food security alone will be a handful
But we also need political stability
Replace profit maximisation with relaxation and common decency
In the future, we will take back our liberties
You may doubt me, but it’s as simple as that
Everything we’ve lost, we will recover tit-for-tat
My delivery may be poor, but the words still have meaning
Read them back to yourself if you don’t think that you believe me
If global warming is only happening in our minds
Then how come in the Arctic you’ve found new places to mine?

(c) Criminonymous

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Ecocide sentencing event: tar sands

According to Eradicating Ecocide, ecocide is the damage, destruction and loss of ecosystems. At present, nobody is held accountable under international law for the destruction, wilful or not, of the Earth's ecosystems.

Concerned at this continuing degradation, Polly Higgins, a barrister and international environmental lawyer, advocates that the international justice system should hold individuals to account for the damage that they do. A minor amendment to the Rome Statute could see ecocide become the fifth crime against peace.

In September 2011, the UK Supreme Court in London staged a mock trial (embedded above) to assess the viability of ecocide. With eminent barristers, Michael Mansfield QC and Chris Parker QC acting for the Prosecution and Defence respectively, two fictional CEOs were charged with the destruction of wildlife and the surrounding habitat, following an oil spill which could have been averted. A jury found both defendants guilty of crimes against the Earth.

Sentencing of both defendants took place at the end of March. Click on the video below to find out how justice might apply in future cases of ecocide.