Stories of Aleppo

Social media has recently been flooded by stories of atrocities being committed by Syrian and Russian troops in East Aleppo.  It has been reported that Syrian troops have been going from door to door murdering civilians and that women have been committing suicide rather than be raped by Syrian troops.  We have also seen “last message” videos from people purporting to be innocent civilians in besieged East Aleppo.  These stories are being propagated widely and uncritically both in the main stream media and in the social media.

It has always been the case that conflicting reports emerge from war zones but gone are the days, if ever they existed, when journalists could be relied on to verify their sources.  It’s hard to find sources of information in Syria that are reliable.  Until recently, the mainstream media correspondents have been reporting from Lebanon or Turkey and there are only three people I have found who have actually been on the ground in Syria recently: two independent journalists, Vanessa Beeley, who is in Allepo right now and Eva Bartlett, who just came back from there a few weeks ago and a Church of England minister, the Reverend Andrew Ashdown, who has been a frequent visitor to Syria and is also in Aleppo right now. His Facebook page is being constantly updated and it’s worth a visit.

What are we to make then of reports of Syrian troops murdering innocent civilians?  This story has been reported by the United Nations as well as by the media.  Given that there have been no correspondents or NGOs operating on the ground in East Aleppo, one must ask  who their sources are and whether or not they are credible.  It would appear that their sources are “activists”and the now discredited “White Helmets”.  The one thing that we can say about these “activists” with a degree of certainty, since they haven’t already fled East Aleppo, is that they are not pro-Assad activists!  So they are certainly not unbiased sources.

Stories of women committing suicide are being put about by Aljazeera, again hardly an unbiased source as it is owned by Qatar, a country that’s funding jihadists in Syria.  The senior script editor of Aljazeera, incidentally, signally failed to answer a request for a credible independent source for his propaganda on this Facebook thread.

The “final message” videos certainly appeal to the heartstrings but exhibit a degree of polish one would not expect in the circumstances. The makers of these videos include anti-regime activists @Mr.Alhamdo, @Linashamy (English/Syrian), “independent journalist” Bilal Abdul Kareem, who appears to enjoy unfettered access to Islamist groups and a seven year old girl with a remarkable command of English. This video has the details.

Events have overtaken me since I started to write this and convoys are now taking fighters and civilians to the rebel-held town of Khan Touman.  The mainstream media would have us believe that these fighters are democracy loving freedom fighters but it is common knowledge that at least several thousands of them are Jabhat Fateh al-Sham( formerly al-Nusra Front) or other Islamist factions.  One has to wonder how fond they are of democracy when they are happy to fight alongside jihadists.

We have seen dancing in the  streets of Aleppo celebrating the defeat of the rebels – at least those of us who do not rely totally on the mainstream media for information have seen it.  Have we  also been led a merry dance by corporate media with their own or rather America’s agenda or is it just the case that checking your sources is no longer a journalistic requirement?  Whatever the case, it’s very worrying when Members of Parliament are demanding action on the basis of misinformation.   We have been down that road before.



Owen Smith warns against mistaking Jeremy Corbyn’s mass movement for a mass movement

Today our political correspondent, Captain Kiddem, interviewed Owen Smith, about his chances in the Labour leadership election.  Here is the transcript of the Captain’s interview:


C.K.:  Mr Smith, how can you maintain that you are more electable than Jeremy Corbyn, when Mr Corbyn is attracting massive crowds to his rallies all around the country whereas at your own rallies, everyone seems to be on first name terms?  You must also acknowledge that under Mr Corbyn’s leadership, membership has soared to almost 600,000.  Isn’t that an indication of Mr Corbyn’s massive popularity?

O.S: “You mustn’t mistake mass rallies for a mass movement, or massive popularity for people wanting to vote for you.  That’s the old hic haec hoc fallacy.  Real popularity is when people don’t like you at all but still vote for you. ”

C.K.: “So what, in your view would constitute a mass movement?”

OS: “When I’m leader, there will be 12 million members in the Labour Party.”

C.K.: “That’s a twenty-fold increase. Isn’t that a bit unrealistic?”

OS: “Not at all.  In fact when I become Prime Minister, there will be 44 million Labour Party members.”

CK:  “That would be the entire electorate!”

OS: “Yes, that’s right.”

CK: “That sounds a bit like a one party state!”

OS: “Yes, I suppose so but when everybody is a member of my party and votes for me, there won’t really be any need for the other parties, will there?”

CK: “And will you change the title of Prime Minister to ‘Supreme Leader’?”

OS:  “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that but it’s not a bad idea!  It does have a certain ring to it!”


Notes for Angela’s Campaign

My name’s Angela  and I’m ever so ‘umble and working class. My mum was a seamstress.  Her name was “Little Nell”.  My dad was a printer.  His name was Uriah and he was ever so ‘umble too.  I’m a real working class Yorkshire lass and learned  how to say “There’s trouble at t’mill” and how to suck up to the bosses at an early age.  I was the first of my family to wear shoes and to go to University and get away from the riff raff.  I went to Oxford to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics but they made fun of me and bullied me because I am a strong gay woman.  That’s probably why they only gave me a second class degree.  Anyway, my mum was a seamstress and my dad was a printer.  Sorry did I say that already?

I became an MP in 1992, when the local favourite was excluded from the shortlist.  It’s disgusting that Jeremy bullied the NEC into not excluding him from the ballot for the leadership contest!   Jeremy’s a very nice man, but he’s not a leader.  I am because I’m my own woman and strong and did I mention gay?   I wish he would stop sending his followers out to bully me  just because I’m a strong woman and gay and I’m a leader and he’s not.  I cried when he made me resign by not resigning!

When Tony was leader, I was in the government and voted for all the stuff that Tony liked.  Poor Tony has been through the mill (or should I say through t’mill?) and people should stop bullying him just because he caused years of death and destruction in the Middle East.  Anyone can make a mistake!

Labour needs a strong woman like me as leader so that Labour can get back into government and show the working class that we know what’s best for them.  So, join the Labour Party and vote for me as leader because I’m a strong gay woman and my mum was a seamstress and my dad was a printer and I’m ever so working class and ‘umble  and did I mention gay?

Quantitative Easing for the People (apologies to Roddy Doyle)

– Yeh know this Quantive Easing for the people that yer man, Jeremy Corbyn is on about?
– Yeh, what about it?
– Well; we can’t just print money you know!
– No, we can’t but the treasury can, the banks can.
– Yeh, but that would cause inflation and then the price of everything would go up and the value of our savings would go down and that.
– You’ve got savings?
– Naw, but you know what I mean.
– Are you doing a degree in economics or wha?
– Don’t be daft. But I read the papers.
– You don’t believe the shite you read in the papers, do you?
– Nah, of course not. But still, you can’t just print money, can ya?
– What’s Quantive Easing then?
– I dunno, some kind of jiggery-pokery they do to balance the economy, I think.
– What would you say if I told you that Quantitative easing is just that – printing money?
– Wha?
– And then pumping it into the financial sector to keep the markets from collapsing and to protect the dividends of all those rich shareholders.
– Wha?
– And that £375 billion has already gone into Quantitive easing?
– I’d say, fuck that! Quantitive Easing for the people!

James Galway to be denied the Freedom of Belfast

Flute bandHundreds of well known flute players who learnt their trade in the flute bands of Northern Ireland have decried Sir James Galway’s recent remarks on the political situation in Northern Ireland and have signed a petition demanding that Belfast City Council refuse to Grant Sir James the honour of the “Freedom of the City of Belfast”. The Freedom of the City is one of the highest honours that the Council could bestow on a flute player, second only to the honour of being allowed to march through Ardoyne. The petitioners, who are flutists from some of the most prestigious orchestras of the world, including the LSO, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, are particularly upset at the implication of brainwashing made by Sir James.

Mr Bert Wilson, first flute for the well known Portsmouth Sinfonia and spokesperson for the petitioners, said,
“There was no brainwashing. Jimmy Galway is having a laugh. None of us, Jimmy included, would have went on to have the successful careers that we did without the training we got in the Loyalist flute bands – not that you need to know how to march in a symphony orchestra. But James Galway never could have got to the level of Annie’s Song without having had years of practice playing the Sloop John B. He should be grateful to the Loyalists of Ulster for training him up with Protestant values instead of running us down, the Lundy! I blame them Free State boys that he’s hanging out with now for brainwashing him with Republican ideas, the Chieftains I think you call them. I sincerely hope that Loyalists the world over will be deleting Annie’s Song off of their ipods. No Surrender!”

The work of the Portsmouth Sinfonia can be heard here:

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ISIS deny links to ISLAM

I have received the following via the good offices of WickedLeaks. It appears to be a draft of a press release from ISIS.

“Press release from the Caliphate”

Following the gross misrepresentations in the Western press, the ISIS high command would like to make it clear that the Charlie Hebdo operation had nothing whatsoever to do with Islam but was solely a response to US foreign policy. The two fighters shouted “We have avenged the profit” NOT “We have avenged the Prophet (pbuh)”. ISIS is committed to ending United States interference in the middle-east and the protection of all middle-eastern citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs. ISIS is committed to equal opportunities and welcomes recruits from all faiths or no faith! LGBT also welcome! A commitment to defeating the Western imperialist Zionist dogs is the only prerequisite. Own weapons a bonus but not essential. Training given. GSOH not required. Come and join us and see what a friendly bunch we really are!

In order to promote inclusivity, we will be replacing our trade mark slogan of “Allahu akhbar” and invite entries to our New Slogan competition. The prize for the winning entry is seventy-two virgins.

It has also been suggested to us that we cease our practice of beheading infidels as a form of execution (as it may be seen as a “cruel and unusual” form of punishment) and switch to a more humane form like the electric chair or lethal injection as practised in the USA. However, beheadings are frequently practised by our mutual friends, the Saudis and the Americans have no objection to it so why the fuss?

Ireland experiences serious outbreak

Hand-wringingHospital ER departments in Ireland have recently encountered a huge increase in hand injuries caused by what medical experts have described as a major outbreak of hand-wringing. Leading hand surgeon, Richard Sullivan is not optimistic: “We’ve not seen the like of this since the Ryan report when we saw a high incidence of hand-wringing related injuries particularly amongst the clergy. I would go so far as to say that it is the fastest growing work related injury amongst men of the cloth and we could be looking at a major outbreak. We have identified bishops, priests and nuns as the high risk groups but it’s now affecting lay people as well.”

According to the well known social anthropologist, Gunter Schnell,  “Ireland has a long history of hand wringing, usually accompanied by cries of  ‘Ochone’  and  the ancient practice seems to be gaining in popularity, although these days it is more like to be accompanied by SMS messages and ‘Tweets’ of ‘O.M.G.'”.

Fr. Seamus Ó’Kee, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Tuam refused to comment on whether the outbreak had any connection with the recent revelations about the 796 infant bodies allegedly interred in a septic tank at the site of the former Mother and Baby Home run by the Bon Secours order of nuns. He also denied saying, “That would be an ecumenical matter” and went on to say that the best form of relief could be achieved by joining the hands together in prayer.  It is understood that a fund raising campaign has been instigated to raise funds for the  benefit of  sufferers of this debilitating ailment and contributions should be made via your local parish priest.

It is not clear at this stage, whether members of the Dáil Éireann and the Garda Síochána have been affected by hand-wringing injuries or whether they are under doctor’s orders to avoid such injuries by sitting on their hands.

The general public are advised that the only proven means of averting hand-wringing injuries is to keep the hands busy.  Among suggested activities are writing or emailing your T.D. or signing petitions about the issues that are likely to trigger hand-wringing episodes.  Studies show that sitting on your hands has no efficacy beyond the placebo effect and could in fact exacerbate the condition.    Contact with high risk groups is also to be avoided.