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Archives for August 2011

Steve Jobs resigns as Apple boss

Host | 12:31 UK time, Thursday, 25 August 2011

News that Apple boss Steve Jobs is stepping down permanently as chief executive of the technology giant prompted speculation about his health and an outpouring of tributes, analysis and anecdotes.

News website The Daily Beast collated tweets from Apple employees as they reacted to the news. Mike Lee, senior engineer at Apple, was brief and emotional:

I knew this day would come. I didn't expect to cry.

People outside the technology world may be perplexed by the level of feeling around Mr Jobs resignation. But veteran tech writer Walt Mossberg at AllThingsD says it "isn't like the day a typical CEO resigns".

"Steve Jobs's resignation as chief executive officer of Apple is the end of an extraordinary era, not just for Apple, but for the global technology industry in general. Jobs is a historic business figure whose impact was deeply felt far beyond the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, and who was widely emulated at other companies."

Fellow Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniack, quoted in an article on The Next Web, agrees.

"He's probably going to be remembered for the next 100 years as the best business leader of our time"

Om Malik, founder of the GigaOm network of blogs, says in an emotional post that Steve Jobs success was down to him taking the "long view".

"Today, we are living in a world that's about taking short-term decisions: CEOs who pray to at the altar of the devil called quarterly earnings, companies that react to rivals, politicians who are only worried about the coming election cycle and leaders who are in for the near-term gain.
And then there are Steve and Apple: a leader and a company not afraid to take the long view, patiently building the way to the future envisioned for the company. Not afraid to invent the future and to be wrong."

However, many writers note that it has not been an easy ride for Mr Jobs, who was kicked out of the company he founded, only to return in 1996 when the firm was in "dire straits" and close to collapse. The Economist says on his return, Michael Dell, a rival computer-maker, was asked what Mr Jobs should do with the company .

"[He] helpfully suggested that he should shut it down. Mr Jobs ignored that advice. Instead he led the company on to its greatest triumphs. Among them were the creation of the iMac, which revived the firm's ailing computer business, and the development of the iPod, which ended up transforming the music industry."

The article notes that in a company like Apple, "ideas are rarely in short supply". Mr Jobs skill, it says, is "choosing the right ones to focus on at the right time". It's a theme that pervades many tributes, along with Mr Jobs famous attention to detail.

On the popular tech site Techcrunch, Saul Hamsell described Mr Jobs as the "the patron saint of perfectionists".

Google's Vic Gundrota recounts an "urgent" phone message from Mr Jobs left on a Sunday morning whilst Mr Gundrota was in church.

"While it was customary for Steve to call during the week upset about something, it was unusual for him to call me on Sunday and ask me to call his home. I wondered what was so important?
'So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I've already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow' said Steve. 'I've been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I'm not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn't have the right yellow gradient. It's just wrong...'"

John Gruber, writing at Apple-focused blog Daring Fireball, says Mr Jobs has applied the same attention to detail to the company, which he describes as having a "fractal design".

"Zoom out enough and you can see that the same things that define Apple's products apply to Apple as a whole. The company itself is Apple-like. The same thought, care, and painstaking attention to detail that Steve Jobs brought to questions like 'How should a computer work?', 'How should a phone work?', 'How should we buy music and apps in the digital age?' he also brought to the most important question: 'How should a company that creates such things function?'"

The Wall Street Journal collects some of Mr Jobs quotes from over the years, which give some insight into this mindset. In an interview for Playboy in 1985, he is quoted as saying:

"When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You'll know it's there, so you're going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through."

Many commentators now wonder what is next for the firm and whether Mr Jobs' replacement, Tim Cook, can continue the success of the company. Arik Hesseldahl at AllThingsD thinks there is no reason to worry.

"Long credited as the man who brilliantly runs Apple day to day, he's now in charge. And that's an encouraging thought. Formally designated Apple's number two in 2005, he has overseen it during its most exciting and world-changing years. On his first business day as COO, Apple shares closed at $54. Today before the news broke, it closed at nearly seven times that price."

Daily View: Should Nato stay in Libya?

Clare Spencer | 09:43 UK time, Monday, 22 August 2011

Libyan rebels


In the wake of Libyan rebels entering the country's capital Tripoli, commentators discuss whether Nato should stay.

The president of the US's Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass says in the Financial Times that the rebels have little in common besides being against Col Gaddafi, which poses serious questions for Nato:

"Now Nato has to deal with its own success. Some sort of international assistance, and most likely an international force, is likely to be needed for some time to restore and maintain order. Looting must be prevented. Die-hard regime supporters will have to be defeated. Tribal war must be averted. Justice and not revenge need to be the order of the day if Libya is not to come to resemble the civil war of post-Saddam Iraq in the first instance, or the chaos (and terrorism) of Somalia and Yemen down the road."

He goes on to say Barack Obama must go back on his promise that there will be no boots on the ground in Libya.

John Tabin in the American Spectator suggests Europe and US have different interests:

"If the fighting isn't over, that's a problem for Europe, which would bear the brunt of a refugee crisis. It is not a problem for the United States - at least, not a big enough problem to justify a further commitment. President Sarkozy should consider sending in ground troops for peacekeeping and stabilization. President Obama absolutely should not."

General Lord Dannatt warns in the Telegraph that Western intervention could be counter-productive:

"A western presence on the ground in the shape of peacekeepers or aid workers will most likely prove counter productive. A key lesson from Iraq is not only that post intervention support and planning is critical, but who delivers it is vital.
"The elephant in the corner during the Libyan conflict has been the Muslim Brotherhood and other backers of the Islamist agenda. Their presence flashed briefly into the headlines around the assassination of General Younes a month ago but the conflict otherwise has been conspicuous by their absence. The arrival now of western peacekeepers or aid workers in Libya would provide exactly the pretext that enabled al-Qaeda to characterise the Iraqi intervention as a western violation of Islamic space. Thus far western influence has been confined to support from the air and sea with the boots on the ground being filled by Libyan feet."

US Democrat congressman Dennis Kucinich says in the Guardian Western intervention has already been unacceptable:

"Regardless of whether Muammar Gaddafi is ousted in coming days, the war against Libya has seen countless violations of United Nations security council resolutions (UNSCRs) by Nato and UN member states. The funnelling of weapons (now being air-dropped) to Libyan rebels was, from the beginning of the conflict, in clear violation of UNSCR 1970. The use of military force on behalf of the rebels, in an attempt to impose regime change, has undermined international law and damaged the credibility of the United Nations. Countless innocent civilians have been killed, and Nato air strikes continue to place many at great risk.
"So much for the humanitarian-inspired UNSCR 1973 as a means to protect civilians."

In contrast, Max Boot says in Commentary magazine that he wished Nato had done more, sooner and that it will need to be involved in setting up a democracy:

"Qaddafi might have fallen months sooner if President Obama had acted sooner and devoted more resources to the NATO campaign. The fact the fighting has stretched on for more than six months has raised the cost of reconstruction and deepened already existing fissures in Libyan society. That raises the danger it will be hard to stabilize post-Qaddafi Libya.
"This brings us to our second caveat: that, while Qaddafi's fall is a big step forward, it is not the end of the journey. If Libya is to arrive at the destination we would all like to see - if it is to emerge as a liberal, Western-style democracy - much hard work lies ahead. As I have been arguing for awhile, it is vitally important NATO be ready to help stabilize the situation, to prevent Qaddafi's supporters from mounting an insurgency, to keep potent weapons from slipping out of governmental control-in short to ensure Libya does not suffer the fate of Iraq or Afghanistan, which descended into chaos after the collapse of their regimes."

Daily View: Is train fare increase fair?

Clare Spencer | 09:54 UK time, Wednesday, 17 August 2011

train ticket and money


Commentators ask if an 8% average train fare increase is fair.

The Independent's economics editor Sean O'Grady argues commuters can afford the rise and those that can't can move:

"Now, it is true that the cost of living in London has driven many out into the suburbs and beyond, and they will face a painful squeeze. The answer to that is the environmentally and socially desirable aim of allowing people to work from home and to move jobs out of the crowded South-east.
"Eventually, the punitive cost of housing and travel will move people and jobs, and the economy will enter a second stage of its much-needed rebalancing. Realistic fares will speed that moment on."

But train historian Christian Wolmar says in the Times that commuters are a captive market who should be protected:

"Privately, ministers might suggest that they are not in the business of subsidising well-heeled commuters in Woking at the expense of far poorer taxpayers in Workington who don't have access to a good rail network. But that is to make two cardinal errors.
"First, our friends in Woking who work in the city have little alternative to using the train, since the roads are virtually impassable at rush hour and there is no parking space in London. Second, London is the engine of the economy. It needs a decent, affordable transport system, especially as more than 70 per cent of rail journeys start or end in the capital."

In the Guardian Andrew Martin says passengers are bearing the brunt of costs from privatisation:

"By and large we've tried to operate our trains as cheaply as possible, hence railway privatisation - which has made them five times more expensive to operate than in the days of British Rail. The problem is fragmentation. For instance, every minute of delay triggers a paper trail as the train operator seeks compensation from another train operating company or from Network Rail, or Network Rail seeks compensation from... Into every crevice in the system, a lawyer has been inserted."

Director at Campaign for Better Transport, Richard Hebditch, suggests in the blog Left Foot Forward how the rail prices could be kept down:

"Rather than penalising commuters we should be looking to cut the costs of the railway which are 40 per cent higher than equivalent countries. The Government knows the industry's costs are too high and have already identified potential cost savings of up to £1 billion a year in the future - that should allow for investment and lower fares - the savings shouldn't just be clawed back into government coffers."

As this rise pushes up season tickets between Norwich and Liverpool Street to more than £7,000 a year, the local paper Eastern Daily Press finds a familiar statistic:

"Latest overcrowding figures from the Office of Rail Regulation show some 8.4% of passengers have to stand because there aren't enough seats on 35% of trains on the Norwich - Liverpool Street line.
"The percentage bears an uncanny resemblance to the latest fares hike."

Daily View: How do Cameron and Miliband differ on riots?

Clare Spencer | 09:26 UK time, Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Ed Miliband and David Cameron


Commentators compare David Cameron and Ed Miliband's speeches on how to react to riots.

James Forsyth says in the Spectator that the dividing lines between David Cameron and Ed Miliband are becoming clearer:

"Cameron argues that these riots were about culture not poverty, Miliband thinks you can't ignore inequality. Cameron believes that society needs two parent families, Miliband that it is about parental responsibility. Cameron doesn't want an enquiry, Miliband does."

Mary Riddell says in the Telegraphthat the political battle superseded the war on the streets:

"The suspicion that August 2011 marked the first recreational riots has bolstered David Cameron's conviction that a weak and 'demoralised' state has allowed society to rot from the bottom up. Ed Miliband, by contrast, singled out top-down greed and a 'values crisis' underlying community ferment. And so, in competing speeches, the first salvoes were fired in the struggle for the soul and votes of Britain. The decisions made in the next, defining days and weeks will either render society better, safer and more prosperous, or ordain a tailspin of decline."

Anne Perkins says in the Guardian that it was less about the speeches themselves than the underlying contest for how the riots are understood:

"For Cameron, they need to be seen as a question of personal responsibility and personal morality. That way he can repackage the broken society. Moral rearmament pleases his long-standing critics on the right and feeds into his broader programme of welfare and educational reform. It also gives him an opportunity to sharpen the message: that, for example, the welfare state denies moral hazard... Of course, the prime minister has to appear to know what he's doing. Miliband doesn't have that burden. He can afford to sound cautious and to appeal for time, to argue that the underlying causes of riots are much more complex and less open to easy answers. He can afford to call for a commission of inquiry, and he is right to."

Andy McSmith says in the Independent that, in political terms, the strategy adopted by Ed Miliband has more risks:

"A call for understanding - the word Cameron was careful not to utter - was the centrepiece... By taking this line, the Labour leader risks being accused of making excuses for rioting and looting. His answer to the charge is that choosing a 'simplistic' answer to a complex question is 'not strength but an absolute abdication of responsibility.' To buttress his case, he quoted words by a previous opposition leader who believed 'there are connections between circumstances and behaviour' - David Cameron. Even if the Labour leader's strategy fails, Miliband can draw comfort from the fact that at last he is getting a hearing. The debate over the riots features Cameron versus Miliband, not Cameron versus Clegg, or the Tory right. If it works, Miliband will cast himself as the voice of reason who kept calm in a crisis, and will show up David Cameron as a man who said one thing when the going was easy and another in tough times. It is risky strategy, but it may work."

The Financial Times' James Blix says speed of reaction is the main difference between Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband:

"In recent days, Mr Cameron's rhetoric has been relentlessly focused on tough criminal justice responses - be it depriving offenders of benefits, banning teenagers from wearing face masks or hiring a New York super cop to bring America's ways to London streets. But the speed with which all these ideas are being churned out only exposes the prime minister to the claim, made by Ed Miliband, Labour leader, that these are 'knee jerk' responses."

Daily View: David Starkey's comments on race and riots

Clare Spencer | 10:25 UK time, Monday, 15 August 2011

Historian David Starkey's views on the riots have provoked debate online. On Newsnight he said:

"The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become the fashion."

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The two other authors on the Newsnight panel have responded to his comments.
In the Guardian Dreda Say Mitchell calls David Starkey's views random and confused but says "most people will realise this":

"It is, as anyone who's tried it will know, very difficult to argue with crass stupidity. What do you make of someone who thinks using 'Jamaican' slang encourages youth to torch buildings? You may as well argue that speaking with an upper-class accent encourages people to hunt foxes."

Also on the same Newsnight panel, Owen Jones suggests in the New Statesman that David Starkey's comments could provoke dangerous repercussions:

"My fear is that - with an understandable backlash underway - Starkey's comments could prove to be a disastrous turning point. He has put race at the top of the agenda when millions are scared and angry. As some took to the streets in support of Enoch Powell's 'river of blood', there will be whispers across the country 'that Starkey has a point'.
"I did my best to challenge David Starkey in the studio - difficult though that was. At a time of backlash and economic insecurity, we all need to be taking these arguments on in our communities. If we fail, last week's riots could be a dark foreshadow of far worse to come."

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says in the Independent that David Starkey's views are unhelpful:

"We can't afford to be so divided, mistrustful and prejudiced against this group or that. The millions who are revolted by what just happened had better understand that to bring greater national unity we need to hear less from the likes of Starkey and more from wise people like Tariq Jehan, father of one of the dead men in Birmingham who talked so movingly about our collective humanity. But, as they would say on Newsnight and other political programmes, where's the story in that?"

David Starkey also brought up in the interview that Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy was "an archetypical, successful black man" and "if you turned the screen off, so that you were listening to him on radio, you'd think he was white".

Mr Lammy dismissed Mr Starkey's views on Twitter:

Yes, I have now seen what he said. His views are irrelevant - he's a tudor historian talking about contemporary urban unrest.Sat Aug 13 13:51 via Mobile Web Favorite Retweet Reply

In the Telegraph former teacher Katharine Birbalsingh asks: "does Starkey really believe that the only white kids involved in the chaos were wanna-be blacks?":

"David Starkey is a historian after all. He must know of the many riots that have taken place in this country over the years. Northern Ireland has had several. There were the Gordon riots of 1780 in England when white people destroyed property and looted, long before the vast majority of blacks ever set foot on these isles! India was plundered by British soldiers who marched off after every battle with as much stuff as they could carry! 'Whites have become black'? It is simply absurd!"

In David Starkey's defence Toby Young blogs in the Telegraph that David Starkey was not being racist:

"To begin with, Starkey wasn't talking about black culture in general, but, as he was anxious to point out, a 'particular form' of black culture, i.e. 'the violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture' associated with Jamaican gangs and American rap music. Had he been talking about these qualities as if they were synonymous with African-Caribbean culture per se, or condemning that culture in its totality, then he would have been guilty of racism. But he wasn't. He was quite specifically condemning a sub-culture associated with a small minority of people of African-Caribbean heritage. (Admittedly, he could have made this clearer.) Rather than being racist, he was merely trotting out the conventional wisdom of the hour, namely, that gang culture is to blame for the riots."

And in the Daily Mail Tony Sewell defends David Starkey's freedom of speech:

"As a black academic and head of an organisation that encourages young blacks to apply for university, I might be thought of as an obvious candidate to join this swelling chorus of disapproval...
"Yet, for all my dislike of what he said, I feel uneasy about the howling, strident anger that has been unleashed against him. This is partly because I think that, in the current debate about our social malaise, it is wrong to silence any voice through a form of politically correct McCarthyism."

Daily View: Verdicts on MPs' riot debate

Clare Spencer | 09:49 UK time, Friday, 12 August 2011

David Cameron, Ed Miliband


Commentators give their verdicts of yesterday's emergency public order debate in the Parliament.

The Independent's John Rentoul says David Cameron got the tone right:

"He balanced praise for police officers with criticism of their tactics, 'which weren't working'. And he made a proposal - which was so sensible you had to ask why the law had not been changed long ago - that the police should have the power to insist on the removal of face coverings if they have reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing."

He ends with one point which wasn't mentioned:

"Everyone bemoaned the lack of social responsibility and used the word community. But no one pointed out that there was looting during the Second World War."

The Guardian's John Harris wasn't convinced by David Cameron's delivery:

"For sure, Cameron can be admirably eloquent. Very occasionally, he has a Blair-ish talent for rhetoric that can capture the moment. But today, presumably thanks to being plucked from his holiday and thrown into a whirl of Cobra meetings and visits to the Midlands, he was below par. 'Absolutely no excuse ... we will not put up with this in our country... more robust and effective policing ... more discipline ...' These are mostly things than any mainstream politician has to say right now, but they sounded Dalek-esque."

James Kirkup blogs in the Telegraph that David Cameron's focus on morality avoided the crux of the issue:

"In a sense, this is simply picking up an old theme for Mr Cameron. His 'Broken Society' thinking was a major part of his politics in Opposition. However, in office, it appeared to drop down his agenda: the phrase was rarely uttered, and Mr Cameron was often shy of addressing law-and-order issues. A keynote speech on crime and policing - his first as PM - has discussed in No 10 for months now, but still hasn't been delivered."

In the New Statesman Peter McHugh thinks the opposition was non-confrontational:

"With both front benches feeling equally guilty at being out of touch both literally and geographically it was clear that unanimity would be the general way out. Ed Miliband, face untouched by the sun's rays having gone to the West Country for his first break, was Dave's new BF.
"Giving us the first real hearing of his post-nasal voice (jury still out) he echoed everything the Prime Minister said and even sounded reasonable as he asked Dave to look again at the proposed cuts in the police budget."

But The Times' sketch writer Ann Treneman wondered what the Liberal Democrats brought to the debate:

"The public disorder debate disorder wasn't a riot as much as a defy-it (for Labour) and a deny-it (for the Tories). The Lib Dems just sat there, wringing their hands and worrying about how to analyse the phenomenon that is social media. I am not criticising because wittering is not against the law."

Green Room

Post categories:

Mark Kinver | 14:39 UK time, Thursday, 11 August 2011

In this edition of the Green Room, we look at the highs (and lows) of the Met Office as it celebrates its 150th anniversary. And we offer a suggestion of how it is possible to enjoy the sights and sounds of a safari without leaving your front room.

This month, the UK's Met Office is celebrating its sesquicentennial. To mark the occasion, the agency has produced a special webpage.

Drought-hit cornfield, Texas (Image: Reuters)

Among the highlights is a video that charts the Met Office's history - from Fitzroy to Fish.

It has also produced a timeline of some of the historical moments in its 150 years. These include the publication of the first forecast (in the Times) in 1861; the start of the shipping forecast in 1925, and the great storm of 1987.

Admirably, it also refers to one of its less glorious moments - the "barbecue summer" of 2009 that turned out to be a bit of a damp squib, and led to the demise of publicly available seasonal forecasts.

Extreme times

However, people living in parts of the US would give anything for a summer washout. The latest data from the US Drought Monitor show the Mid-South in the grips of an "exceptional" drought.

Writing in the Washington Post's weather blog, Jason Samenow said that official data from Noaa showed how the region was experiencing "blistering heat" that "torched large parts of the country".

While Oklahoma recorded its warmest 4 July on record, the blog also recorded how the nation experienced its most extreme month, meterologically speaking, on record:

"The primary factors which led to such an extreme July were: extreme warm minimum temperatures, extreme wetness in the northern plains and western Great Lakes, extreme warm high temperatures, and extreme drought in the south central U.S. through Gulf Coast."

In Texas, one of the states hardest hit by the drought, the waters of one lake retreated so far that a large piece of debris from the 2003 Columbia shuttle disaster was revealed for the first time.

Sofa safari

Web cams have come along way since the early, narrowband days of grainy images of concrete walls and roads that updated once every minute.

Now, it is possible to have a family safari without having to crouch behind a bush for hours on end, or even having to spend a penny.

One such example of what is on offer on the web is Wild Earth. With cameras at a vast range of locations, you are almost certain to see something.

And if you want to know when you could literally have an elephant in the room, then you can sign up for the site's Twitter feed that will alert you every time something appears in front of the cameras.

Daily View: What should be discussed in the emergency debate on riots?

Clare Spencer | 09:38 UK time, Thursday, 11 August 2011


Ahead of an emergency debate in the Commons, commentators give their suggestions for what politicians should discuss about the riots across England.

Seumas Milne says in the Guardian that politicians should tackle the underlying causes if they care about their long-term political lives. But he predicts they will say in public the riots have no cause beyond "feral wickedness":

"We'll hear a lot more of that when parliament meets - and it's not hard to see why. If these riots have no social or political causes, then clearly no one in authority can be held responsible. What's more, with many people terrified by the mayhem and angry at the failure of the police to halt its spread, it offers the government a chance to get back on the front foot and regain its seriously damaged credibility as a force for social order.
"But it's also a nonsensical position. If this week's eruption is an expression of pure criminality and has nothing to do with police harassment or youth unemployment or rampant inequality or deepening economic crisis, why is it happening now and not a decade ago?"

The Times editorial urges politicians to think big:

"Every politician in the country now has the opportunity to experiment with the sort of radical thinking that, one must hope, drew them into politics in the first place. All of us must learn to scoff less at big ideas, from compulsory domestic National Service to huge infrastructure projects."

In the Telegraph John McTernan wants politicians to show more vision:

"Platitudes are no substitute for analysis any more than condemnation is for a sense of moral purpose. This, I think, is the nub of it: we have a politics which has replaced ideology with pragmatism, and as a result is unable to interpret events, let alone shape them. All we get is commentary."

"Boldness" is also called for by the Daily Mail's Stephen Glover:

"If Mr Cameron really does want to heal our broken society, he will have to embrace more robust - and more specific - policies than we have so far heard from him in relation to his 'Big Society'.
"He must insist that the lack of prison places is no reason to give light sentences to rioters who are found guilty of serious offences. If necessary, temporary prisons can be built. Mr Cameron must also think again about cutting police numbers."

The Independent's editorial warns against a "panicked" promise to increase police numbers:

"Now, of course, is not the time for any politician even to hint of cuts in police numbers; this would be political suicide. Equally, though, it would be wrong for ministers to yield to the clamour for new spending, whether on additional officers or equipment."

Looking at how the opposition should react, the New Statesman's leading article suggests Labour shouldn't concentrate on cuts:

"Labour and the wider left must pay greater attention to those cultural factors - most notably family breakdown - that they have too often downplayed. All of our politicians need to think deeply about how the urban poor have been disenfranchised by globalisation; how our culture has been coarsened and debased by life¬style libertarianism.
"If the Prime Minister still believes in tackling the causes of youth disorder, and not just the symptoms, he must now lead the thoughtful debate that the recent disturbances demand."

Daily View: How should police keep order?

Clare Spencer | 10:36 UK time, Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The recent riots have led commentators to question how police intervention in the years preceeding the riots and what should now change.

Danny Kruger, former adviser to David Cameron and founder of crime prevention charity Only Connect says in the Financial Times more force is needed:

"The only way to stop them - the good kids and the bad - is to frighten them home with the real threat of reciprocal violence. Tim Montgomerie of, the unofficial leader of the Tory grassroots, called on the police to 'baton charge the yobs: without fear of the police there can be no order'. He is right.
"David Cameron, announcing the near-tripling of the police presence on Tuesday, has firmly asserted the primacy of the law. (It is a side issue for now, but this episode confirms the case for elected police chiefs - the police hate political oversight but they derive their authority from it, especially in times of crisis.)"

In The Daily Express Chris Roycroft-Davis sends a message to the home secretary that he thinks she has the total consent of the public to use hoses, baton rounds, dogs, the Army - "whatever it takes":

"Brave police officers have risked their lives, going into inner city war zones with just plastic shields for protection.
"Now they must be allowed to take back the streets, meet violence with violence. If some of the mob get hurt then that's their own fault. Don't expect me to shed tears if a masked youth with a 42in Panasonic in his arms cops a baton round. Society has rights, too, and it's time to exert them. No more hugging hoodies."

Former chairman of the Government's Cobra intelligence group Colonel Richard Kemp says in the Times that the public need to be more forgiving of police in public order situations:

"This institutional nervousness is the consequence of a lack of robust support for the police over many years by political leaders and many sections of the fickle British public. It is reflected at the level of individual officers. I have worked alongside the Metropolitan and City of London police and their coolness under fire, professionalism and sheer courage have never failed to impress me.
"But increasing criticism of their actions in public-order situations, most recently over the handling of the Whitehall student demonstrations, has led in some cases to risk aversion. The police must be accountable for their actions, but violent disorder, in many ways akin to military combat, is often confusing, chaotic and unpredictable. Even in our human- rights-dominated, health-and-safety- obsessed world, police must be allowed sufficient latitude to take risks without a disproportionate fear of prosecution."

The Telegraph's Philip Johnston adds he believes this culture of fear among police allowed the further riots:

"The police, bludgeoned by criticism for the way they handled the Brixton riots 30 years ago and the Stephen Lawrence murder in 1994, have become more like social workers than upholders of law and order. And the places that have really suffered as a result are the most deprived: they have to bear the brunt of the criminality and the fear, squalor and alienation that accompanies it...
"The police lost control of the streets not in Tottenham, last weekend, but many years ago. Arguably, their failure to intervene robustly on Saturday and to let the looters carry on unmolested for hours owed much to the non-confrontational nostrums that have guided the policing of ethnically diverse areas, with disastrous consequences. On this occasion, they let the impression develop that here was a chance to plunder with impunity. Once that had taken a grip across the capital, and elsewhere, it became far more difficult - if not impossible - for the police to regain control."

Zoe Williams says in the Guardian rioters' sense they won't be punished could be misplaced:

"There seems to be another aspect to the impunity - that the people rioting aren't taking seriously the idea it could rebound on them. All the most dramatic shots are of young men in balaclavas or with scarves tied round their faces, because it is such a striking, threatening image. But actually, watching snatches of phone footage and even professional news footage, it was much more alarming how many people made no attempt at all to cover their faces. This could go back to the idea that, with the closure of a number of juvenile facilities and the rhetoric about bringing down prison populations, people just don't believe they'll go to prison any more, at least not for something as petty as a pair of trainers. I feel for them; that may be true on a small scale, but when judges feel public confidence seriously to be at issue, they have it in themselves to be very harsh indeed (I'm thinking of Charlie Gilmour)."

Daily View: What are the reasons for continued rioting?

Clare Spencer | 11:51 UK time, Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Commentators try to find reasons for the violence and looting spreading across England.

Journalist Laurie Penny blogs that the riots are empowering:

"People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything - literally, anything at all."

Mary Riddell says in the Telegraph that the global economic context has to be considered:

"It is no coincidence that the worst violence London has seen in many decades takes place against the backdrop of a global economy poised for freefall...
"Although the epicentre of the immediate economic crisis is the eurozone, successive British governments have colluded in incubating the poverty, the inequality and the inhumanity now exacerbated by financial turmoil.
"Britain's lack of growth is not an economic debating point or a stick with which to beat George Osborne, any more than our deskilled, demotivated, under-educated non-workforce is simply a blot on the national balance sheet. Watch the juvenile wrecking crews on the city streets and weep for all our futures. The 'lost generation' is mustering for war."

In the Guardian Nina Power says structural inequality in the UK cannot be ignored:

"Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness - combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent - have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.
"Images of burning buildings, cars aflame and stripped-out shops may provide spectacular fodder for a restless media, ever hungry for new stories and fresh groups to demonise, but we will understand nothing of these events if we ignore the history and the context in which they occur."

In contrast, on the BBC Radio 4's Today Paul Brant, deputy leader of Liverpool Council, dismisses the idea that there are genuine grievances when discussing the issue with Jerry Blackett, chief executive of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce:

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"This is people who are observing crimes taking place in other parts of the country who decide that they can take advantage of the opportunity to commit copycat crimes themselves, this is nothing short of pure criminality."

On crime researcher at Civitas Nick Cowen suggests seeing others getting away with it can be enough reason for more:

"The proximate causes of disorder can rarely be determined with any degree of certainty. They emerge almost out of nowhere. But they can spread like wild fires once they have been triggered. Cyclically, an outbreak of aggression makes potential offenders realise they are unlikely, as individuals, to get caught while the police are swamped. So they join in the looting and vandalism - thus making yet more potential offenders confident enough to have a go. Frighteningly, given the right context, a riot can almost become its own cause."

Daily View: Comparing Saturday's riot to 1985

Clare Spencer | 09:53 UK time, Monday, 8 August 2011

Tottenham after the 1985 riot

Commentators ask if anything can be learned from comparing Saturday's riots in Tottenham to the nearby Broadwater Farm riot in 1985.

Chairperson of Operation Trident and a board member of London Crimestoppers, Claudia Webbe asks in the Guardian if the root causes of the 1980s uprisings were ever addressed:

"Think back, too, to 1985 and the Broadwater Farm uprising. Are we still talking about an area so fractured, steeped in inequality and disadvantage that a significant minority have no pride in their community and don't want to protect it? Those mindless thugs that destroyed people's businesses and livelihoods clearly had no sense of valuing their own surroundings - unless it was just a mob coming from elsewhere to cause destruction. But you have to ask the questions today: did we address the root causes or just paint over the cracks? Too many in Tottenham still face poverty, unemployment, and overcrowded housing. The haves and have-nots live side by side in London: there are wealthy areas in Haringey, yet the parts destroyed were at the heart of the ordinary community."

But Andrew Gilligan argues in the Telegraph that Tottenham has changed dramatically for the better since 1985:

"Then, the force's racism was unashamed and routine. Now, a single racist remark can end an officer's career. Then, the Met had 180 ethnic minority officers. Now, it has about 3,000. Relations between black people and the force have got better, and conditions in many parts of Tottenham have improved dramatically. In the third quarter of 1985, Broadwater Farm alone had 875 burglaries. In the same quarter of 2010, there were little more than 30 - in its entire ward - and fewer than 10 on the estate itself. Tottenham's unemployment rate is just over half what it was in 1985.
"Far from being a 'murder', the shooting of Mark Duggan does not, on the face of it, even seem comparable to the shooting of Cherry Groce and the death of Cynthia Jarrett. Mr Duggan was known to the police - they were trying to arrest him at the time."

The MP for the constituency David Lammy argues in the Times the relationship with police isn't the same as 1985:

"We still have our problems, but the relationship between the police officers on Broadwater Farm and the young people of the 2011 Farm would have been unrecognisable to their 1985 brothers and sisters.
"This trust has taken years to build, out of the spotlight. It has taken root in meetings and discussions and in the chance conversations when police officers and residents both realise that each is treating the other with respect. As I walked up Tottenham High Road yesterday morning, I spoke with a youth worker who was there in 1985 and was still there in 2011. Looking at the burnt-out wreck of the post office, he simply shook his head: 'This is worse than '85; five, six times worse.'"

Elizabeth Pears says in the Huffington Post that one thing that hasn't changed since she started her career reporting in the area is the anger:

"No matter how many steps the police believe they have taken to rebuild the relationship with the community, police cars still got booed when they drive through Farm, as Broadwater Farm is known. A dislike of the police is embedded in some Tottenham sub-cultures...
"Young people in Tottenham were angry in 1985 and they are still angry now. This is what needs to be addressed. It is young people with whom the powers that be need to reconnect with."

Local resident and English teacher Bansi Kara says in her blog New Stateswoman that she isn't 100% sure about the idea that the riots were part of a collective memory:

"These children don't know anything about Broadwater Farm. They don't even remember the Stephen Lawrence case. Mention 'institutionalised racism' and they look at you blankly. But, regardless of this, the culture of mistrust and suspicion against the police is endemic."

Daily View: Will e-petitions bring in a new era of debate?

Clare Spencer | 09:23 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011

Commentators discuss the government's re-launch of an e-petitions site which promises to debate suggestions that get over 100,000 signatories. So far the site has been dominated by two petitions - one to bring back the death penalty and another to keep the ban.

David Blackburn says in the Spectator when the public is asked for its opinion, the death penalty always rises to the top to no avail:

"If a debate is secured, it will doubtless be heralded as a great victory for people power, transparency etc. I'm not so sure. Perverse though it sounds, capital punishment is an easy debate. MPs will gaze into their navels and ruminate on all manner of philosophical questions and legal quandaries before deciding, by an emphatic margin, against lifting the ban. I usually baulk at making predictions, but I'd put my house, pension and golf clubs on that being the outcome."

The Guardian's Alexander Chancellor asks if the attempt to regain the public's trust by re-establishing the e-petitions site could backfire:

"If the restoration of the death penalty goes to parliament for debate and is then rejected by it (as it is bound to be), will people feel they have got "more power" or will they feel even more let down by their politicians? Instead of responding to the expenses scandal with phoney displays of humility, thereby raising false hopes of people power, MPs should just go straight for a bit and then, over time, re-establish their dignity as the people's independent elected representatives."

On Twitter Keith Edkins points out a problem if the petition to keep the death penalty ban reaches the critical amount of signatories:

If an e-petition to maintain the status quo reaches 100K what can Parliament debate?Fri Aug 05 08:30 via web Favorite Retweet Reply

The Times' Corinne Abrams' favourite petitions call for a ban of trans fats and speed bumps, which she says are over-shadowed:

"It seems a shame that a great idea for direct government looks set to be dominated by this debate.
"Among the calls to bring back hanging, legalise drugs and change motorway rules, there are some creative ideas on the website."

George Eaton at the New Statesman is a little dismayed at the potential of the new scheme:

"It appears that the government has already raised unrealistic expectations of a new era of debate. The backbench committee charged with considering petitions for debate was promised time to stage one a week, but will now be given less than one day a month. All the same, there is a strong chance that Parliament will now debate the death penalty for the first time since 1994, when MPs voted by 383-186 to retain the ban."

The Guardian's In Praise Of column looks at the tight spots the last government was put into from its e-petitions:

"When the last government launched a simple petitions service on the Downing Street website, Westminster mocked the plan. Many of the petitions were frivolous. But they were popular, too. One, arguably, had an effect on policy, frightening ministers away from road pricing. That exposed an obvious dilemma: causes that rally support are not always ones that politicians are keen to endorse."

Director of the smokers' lobby group Forest Simon Clark cries out in his blog "save us from this e-petition mania":

"My worst fears about this Government initiative/gimmick are being realised. All afternoon the e-petition website has carried the message 'Sorry if you're experiencing problems accessing e-petitons. There is currently a much higher level of demand than we expected'.
No doubt every pressure group and activist in the country in busy submitting a petition. Every nutter too. God help us."

Finally, Assistant editor of New Statesman Helen Lewis-Hasteley has a tongue-in-cheek solution:

Can we start an e-petition calling for e-petitions to be scrapped? Thu Aug 04 11:34 via web Favorite Retweet Reply

See Also: Media reaction to the US budget deal

Host | 15:16 UK time, Monday, 1 August 2011

obama3.jpg The US Congress is preparing to vote on an increase to the nation's debt ceiling, one day before the US risks defaulting on its financial obligations. But critics appear cautious in applauding President Barack Obama and Democratic and Republican lawmakers for reaching a deal in the budget talks.

In a hard-hitting piece Paul Krugman of the New York Times says that even if the deal passes Congress, it will have a long-lasting, negative effect on the US economy.

For the deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America's long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.

Mr Krugman says that because the US already has a "deeply depressed economy", the "worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending".

Writing for CBS News, Jonathan Cohn reports that the debt negotiations skip over the most important issue facing Americans.

This agreement would not address our most pressing economic problem: lack of jobs. On the contrary, by reducing deficits starting next year, this deal would do the very opposite of what virtually every mainstream economist now believes we should do: increase consumer demand by pumping more money into the economy.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post says Republicans should be warned that, despite what House Speaker John Boehner has told congressmen, Americans may still see tax increases as a result of the deal.

Boehner is misleading his members to make them think taxes are impossible under this deal. But make no mistake: The Joint Committee could raise taxes in any number of ways. It could close loopholes and cap tax expenditures. It could impose a value-added tax, or even a tax on carbon.

And Reid Epstein of The Daily Beast forecasts that the US may now see Republicans using debt ceiling negotiations as a platform for pushing an array of other economic policies in the future.

The truth is that the GOP has successfully held the debt ceiling hostage to drastic cuts in discretionary spending, without any concession on revenue. If they've done it once, they can do it again. Will an imminent future tax hike be enough to produce support for a balanced revenue-and-spending package in the super-committee? I just cannot see the House [of Representatives] Republicans being that adult.

But the one thing that does seem to have emerged... is that defense spending has proven less sacrosanct than low taxes for the current GOP. We may finally begin to have defense cuts that are somewhat proportionate to the level of collective bankruptcy we are in.

Time magazine's Jay Newton-Small says that despite how far President Barack Obama was willing to bend in negotiations, the deal could make the president appear in a more positive light with conservatives.

The one clear winner from all this seems to be President Obama. If the bill passes, he can now claim the mantle of fiscal conservatism - a surefire defense to ubiquitous Republican accusations of socialism and big government. If the debt ceiling were breached and the economy tanked, he likely would've borne the greatest political price. But by swooping in and making the deal at the last minute, Obama can say he saved the day.

But in an editorial piece,The Chicago Tribune says the compromise between Republicans and Democrats may cause difficulties debating in the upcoming 2012 election.

The long to-and-fro of this process will deprive both parties of attack lines they had been practicing for the 2012 campaign season. Democrats had planned to exploit the proposal from Republican US Rep Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to reshape Medicare. But how can Democrats accuse Republicans of wanting to trim Medicare when their own president proposed cuts to Medicare during the debt ceiling negotiations?

Similarly, Republicans will have a hard time saying Democrats alone wanted to raise taxes now that we all know Boehner at one point agreed in principle to hundreds of billions in revenue hikes.

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