New blog

All new content on my restarted blog is here

Saturday, May 30

Yoof BNP: Billy Br*t

Fantastic parody by Tim Ireland involving a store-bought puppet of a BNP ad talking about the great (white) Brit icons.

Friday, May 29

Another Prop 8 postscript

On his blog, the Guardian's Michael Tomasky asks 'Does Barack Obama believe in gay marriage?'

I know he's officially against it. But I'm asking you -- as a matter of personal belief, like if he were just a highly successful lawyer in Chicago rather than the president of the Yew-nited States -- do you think he'd be for, or on some personal level he won't discuss currently is in fact, a gay marriage supporter?
Here's what I think.

There are some rumours that he'll make a major statement around the Stonewall 40th anniversary. There's a real head of steam grassroots movement getting going and it's only going to get angrier - including with those telling them to be quiet and patient such as the Washington gay lobbyist types who many blame for the Prop 8 loss. He will throw out a bone.

I doubt there's not quiet pressure as well as the Democrats have high profile gay supporters - think what happened when entertainment mogul and major fundraiser David Geffen was snubbed by Bill Clinton and early and very publicly supported Obama - but it would be on gays-in-the-military, Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), not gay marriage.

As Nate Silver points out, the latter will steadily make its way across the country (see this post on the metrics of that). The former has overwhelming support in the country with only some of the military bureaucrats and top brass are, I think, seriously able to delay it for that much longer through keeping Obama's ear, as appears to be the case at the moment.

A more serious issue is the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA, a Bill Clinton legacy), as I'd bet repeal might not even get through the Senate at the moment - remember, Hillary fudged it during the campaign and it's the bluedogs (right leaning democrats) who have the balance of power - and in reality a lot of practical change flows from getting rid of that.

On where his true belief is, who knows. But I do believe that when he first stood for election in Illinois he said he supported gay marriage, so the change of stance tells you a lot. It's all politics.
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Thursday, May 28

Cute animals: Meet exercise dog

Need a training partner? Bonzo's your dog.

Wednesday, May 27

Why gay marriage will (eventually) pass in all US states (even Mississippi)

The decision of California's Supreme Court to reject the challenge to the ban on gay marriage – Proposition 8 – voted on by the people in November 2008, seems to have excited much 'woe is us' comment (as well as rallies in 104 American cities and towns last night).

Alistair Campbell even blogged that:

It left millions across the state and across America in despair wondering when they will get the opportunity to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and of society.

Yesterday’s decision cancelled out much of what San Francisco gay rights campaigner Harvey Milk, the subject of a brilliant recent film – and many others – worked for. It may be years until gay Californians again have the rights already enjoyed by the people of Iowa, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont.
Actually, I suspect Milk would have had more of a sense of proportion and definitely more of a sense of history.

Prop 8 - gay marriage remember, not civil partnerships (that weird 'seperate-but-equal' status which gave Tony Blair a nice liberal shiver) - came within a couple of points of being defeated.

Already activists have vowed to try again ASAP. And they'll get what they want - something Milk probably didn't even dream of - real equality.

It's inevitable because the culture is only going in one direction - pro-equality.

The stats whiz Nate Silver, THE 'go-to' guy when it comes to reading poll results (and other predictive factors), who best predicted the 2008 Presidential race (and who I referenced a lot in my posts about that) says so.

Following the passage of gay marriage in Iowa he built a predictive model whose outcome is that gay marriage will come in every US state by 2024, with half getting there by 2012. He discovered that you can build it on only three variables.
  1. The year in which the amendment was voted upon;
  2. The percentage of adults in 2008 Gallup tracking surveys who said that religion was an important part of their daily lives;
  3. The percentage of white evangelicals in the state.
Its accuracy is such that:
The model predicts, for example, that a marriage ban in California in 2008 would have passed with 52.1 percent of the vote, almost exactly the fraction actually received by Proposition 8.
Because of changes in US society:
Marriage bans are losing ground at a rate of slightly less than 2 points per year.

Below are the dates when the model predicts that each of the 50 states would vote against a marriage ban. Asterisks indicate states which had previously passed amendments to ban gay marriage.

2009 (now)
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
New York

New Jersey




New Mexico
North Dakota*
South Dakota*

West Virginia



North Carolina


South Carolina*



So don't worry, be happy! :]

Postscript: The ruling, as with the original vote, has stirred up a massive grass-roots movement for LGBT civil rights in the United States. Protests happened in 104 American cities the night of the decision and are notable for the engagement of a new generation many thought too interested in partying.

Last night protesters came out in force when Obama came to LA for a Democratic Party fundraiser - led by Lt. Dan Choi, the West Point graduate and Arabic linguist fired for being gay. They see Obama putting off repealing 'don't ask, don't tell'.

One of the things which Obama repeatedly said during the campaign was that in order for him to help make change happen he needed to see a grass-roots movement piling on the pressure.
Anybody who’s been at an LGBT event with me can testify that my message is very explicit -- I don’t think that the gay and lesbian community, the LGBT community, should take its cues from me or some political leader in terms of what they think is right for them. It’s not my place to tell the LGBT community, "Wait your turn." I’m very mindful of Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” where he says to the white clergy, "Don’t tell me to wait for my freedom."

Well, it's happening.

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Tuesday, May 26

How bad floods created great egov web 2.0

At Socitm's Better Connected event 2 June in Brum by far the hit of the day was this presentation:

John Steed from Cheltenham Council talked about how the massive flooding of the town a few years ago gave a kick-start to their social media efforts - and quickly won top level support after a brief hesitation.

They used a free blog service, Flickr and YouTube to keep residents and others informed during the crisis. They couldn't rely on the website alone and this allowed them to help residents help themselves - posting photos of what was happening for example.

John talked about what's been going on since then and they are making some great use of social media, being innovative and implementing some good ideas. Their Flickr content has evolved into a 'go to' place for local photos as local photographers get engaged. Their videos are useful in being visual and showing some beautiful parts of the town.

His talk inspired a lot of people on the day and - as one twitterer noted - why we don't seem to applaud any longer at these sorts of events is a mystery.

Montpellier, Cheltenham, UK

Postscript: Why .gov webbies need professional status

A couple of weeks ago I made the argument 'Why .gov webbies need professional status'.

This is not a new idea, it's been circulating in the UK for a couple of years. Problem is it hasn't actually gone anywhere.

Now the idea has some solidity through the efforts of myself and Socitm.

At Socitm's Better Connected event in Birmingham, 19 May, attended by 120 mainly local government webbies from all over the UK, a meeting was held at the end of conference and was very well attended after a long day.

Myself and Vicky Sergeant from Socitm presented on where the proposals were at. This will be repeated 2 June in London, if you are not attending that event as a delegate you are welcome to join the meeting at ~4pm. Let Socitm know of your intention to attend by emailing

This was Vicky's presentation:

I'm working on adding video :/

I explained how the idea germinated, how I had been discussing widely over a year of so on sustainable models. I explained how the organisation once started would decide its own priorities and what I thought the potential was.

Audience questions were extremely positive and one exchange in particular was amusing. Relating to the old question in egov of where web lives - in ICT or Communications (or customer services) - the thought of being in neither but being its own department was raised. Oh, the radicalism! (More on that concept below).

Anyone can contribute to the discussion about the web professionals group on Communities of Practice.

I also spoke about the inspiring work done by the organised web professionals in US government.

One inspiration, aimed directly at the competition around who 'owns' web in government came from the recent Government Web Manager Conference.

Macon Phillips (the US government’s New Media lead) and Vivek Kundra (the US government’s head CIO) acknowledged the third distinct group of players at the table: web managers. They said they weren't interested in asserting authority or oversight over web managers or suggest that Web Managers should be subject to their oversight. They acknowledged that there are three distinct pieces to this puzzle of online government, and we citizens need all three to fit together seamlessly if we are to be served well.

This was significant because it was clearing the air after behind-the-scenes fights on exact those issues of authority and oversight.

An example which would be very familiar to Whitehall web managers were fights when US web managers wanted to push top tasks – those government services that citizens want most. US 'Public Affairs Offices' instead wanted to promote the agency’s and administration’s message.

The descending peace - and benefit for citizens - is an outcome of US web managers being organised.

The Federal Web Managers Council – and the broader Government Web Manager Forum – has laid out this strategic plan:
“We believe the public should be able to:
  • Accomplish their most top government tasks online quickly and easily
  • Access government content online whenever and however they need it
  • Have direct online interactions with their government
  • Trust government web content to be accurate, timely, easy to understand, and coordinated across agencies
To achieve this vision, we’ve chosen one primary goal on which our community will focus: Improve how the public accomplishes their most top government tasks online.”

Monday, May 25

Report: The Iraqi anti-LGBT pogrom

Photo Bill Wilson Copyright © 2009

The following report - sourced from all media reports, agency, organisation and representative statements concerning the pogrom - is made available for reuse under a Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.


The anti-gay pogrom

Iraqi gays report that their lives are in danger, that they live in continuous fear of people finding out that they are gay.

Gays are being sadistically tortured, mutilated and murdered, some by the method of sticking a special glue (which can only be removed by surgery) up their anuses then forcing diarrhea. This method is being employed not just in Baghdad but in smaller town and cities all over Iraq. Videos of this form of torture are being distributed on mobile cellphones in Iraq. There are reports of hospitals turning away gays with glued anuses.

Attacks against gays have been abundant in Shiite neighborhoods, especially poor regions and remote areas such as the southern provinces and the Hurriya, Sho’la and Sadr neighborhoods in Baghdad.

Although gays could be tried and imprisoned under the Saddam regime Iraqi gays report that "now they kill people like us."

The campaign started in 2004, following the religious decree of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that said gay men and lesbians should be “punished, in fact, killed .. The people should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

Since then Iraqi LGBT has received reports and information of over 600 LGBT people killed.

But Iraqi gays and media reports say that the killings have massively escalated since the end of 2008.

Iraqi LGBT has received reports of 63 killings in the last four months but does not have correspondents or members in large parts of Iraq and believes that the actual number of gays killed since December 2008 is much higher.

Amnesty International says that 25 boys and men were killed in Baghdad this spring "following calls from religious leaders to eradicate homosexuality."

There are reports that religious leaders, both Sunni or Shiite, have used Friday sermons and satellite channels as a platform to incite hatred and violence toward homosexuals.

Reporting about the murders by anal glue of gays in Sadr City in April by Iraqi daily newspapers and many television stations branded gays as 'perverts' and 'terrorists who are undermining the moral fiber of Iraqi youth'.

Posters and leaflets distributed in the Baghdad neighborhoods of al-Shola, al-Hurya and Sadr City contain orders to "cleanse Iraq from the crime of homosexuality."

Lesbians are reported as being burned to death in Kadhimiya, Hurriya Al-Olaa, Hurriya Al-Thaniya, Dolaai and Dabaash.

Baghdad US Embassy workers are reported as saying that the killings are not tribal or familial disputes.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says that homosexuals are a specific group which have been identified as at risk of violence.

State involvement and lack of action

Human Rights Watch says that Iraqi LGBT are vulnerable to attacks from both state and non-state actors.

Mobile phone footage circulating in Baghdad shows uniformed police harassing LGBT. There are reports of police extracting bribes.

Police have been quoted as waging a campaign to "clean up the streets and get the beggars and homosexuals off them.”

Iraqi LGBT has received reports that police and the Ministry of the Interior are behind some of the murders.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) says that despite the legal obligations of the Iraqi government to protect all citizens, crimes committed against LGBT Iraqis and those believed to be homosexual are not properly investigated or prosecuted.

US Vice President Joe Biden is reported to have said 'the Iraqi .. government is either too ineffectual to act, or is afraid of offending the religious zealots who perpetuate the attacks'.

The US State Department, following representations by Rep. Jared Polis and the Council for Global Equality, is investigating reports of trials and executions of LGBT, including for membership of the Iraqi LGBT group, as well as reports of arrests, beatings and rape by Ministry of Interior security forces. Polis says that at least one gay man has been executed by the government for 'membership of a banned organization' and that "gregious human rights violations ... [are] being carried out by Iraqi government officials from the Ministry of the Interior."

Amnesty International has expressed concern at the government’s failure to "publicly condemn the killings." It urged the government to make sure that the killings are "promptly and effectively investigated, and to see that the perpetrators are brought to justice." They also condemned police statements that,"appear to condone or even encourage the targeting of members of the gay community in Baghdad."

The Australian government has questioned the Iraqi Ambassador to Australia and Australia’s Ambassador to Iraq has questioned the Iraqi government over the pogrom.

On April 8, 2009, IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch submitted an urgent appeal to the Special Procedures of the United Nations to ask for an investigation.


Statements by Iraqi LGBT

This letter was written to Los Angeles councillor Bill Rosendahl in response to the passage by Los Angeles City Council of a resolution in opposition to the Iraqi gay pogrom.

I’m a 25 year old graduate student from Baghdad and my name is Ahmad.

I want to thank you very much for caring about me and my problem. Finally, after many desperate years of hopelessness I found a group of people that understand and care about me.

My problem is that I’m a gay, and as a gay man I can’t live a normal life in Iraq because:
  • My life is in danger. I live in continuous fear of people finding out that I’m gay.
  • I can’t express my deepest emotions. I can’t love...I can’t tell those who I care about that I love them... It is like being tortured from inside.
In the past few months I have heard of many cases of violence against gay men, including killing, torturing, and public humiliation of us. The religious vigilantes (known as Maghawer) have kidnapped many men suspected of being gay. No one knows anything about the fate of those gays.

The Maghawer’s most popular method of torture for homosexuals is putting silicon glue on their anus to shot down their digestive system and then force them to take laxative drug to make them suffer.

Every time I walk on the street I wonder what may happen to pen to me today. To protect myself, I have to lie to everyone and pretend that I am a straight person. It is really hard to be a 24/7 liar out of the fear of death…I keep asking myself if this is going to be MY LIFE!!!

I have no one to turn to. Not even other gay men or my family members. Recently I have been blackmailed by men I had sex with in the past. They told me either I have to have sex with them again or they will out me to my family, neighbors and even classmates. I had to choose between scandal and public humiliation and prostitution. But I decided that I can’t have sex with people I don’t love … so I decided to transfer to another college in Northern Iraq.

My family doesn’t know about my homosexuality…if they find out, they will disown me because I will become a disgrace to them. They may even try to kill me to protect their honor. I always have to pretend in front my family that I ‘m “normal”…but like any other straight man, my family wants me to marry a woman … I try to avoid that conversation as much as I can but there is a lot of pressure on me to get married.

I am not happy with myself. I am not proud of who I am.

A while back I went to a psychologist to see if he can treat me. I told him about my problem…he told me that homosexuality has no treatment in Iraq and only experienced doctors in developed countries can give me therapy.

The news made me so depressed that I started thinking of committing suicide. I feel even without vigilantes killing me, I AM ALREADY DEAD FROM INSIDE.

I just want to know what wrong I have done. Do I have a choice to be gay? Do I want to humiliate myself? Do I want to live in constant fear and anxiety? Do I want my family & friends to hate and abandon me if they discover my truth? Do I want myself to be killed on the hand of uneducated people for something I didn’t choose?

I don’t want to make it long for you…but I want to let you know that I have already suffered too much and I don’t have the power to go through more pain and suffering.

And finally I want to thank you for your support and help…

My Regards and Best Wishes to ALL of YOU…

Comment by Hasan given to The Independent

My boyfriend was killed by the police because of his sexuality.

Policemen came to his house, 10 minutes away from mine, put him in a police car, arrested and killed him.

They told his parents it was because of his job. He was working for Iraqi LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender). For six months I didn't go out, I didn't do anything – just grieved for him. He was killed because of who he is.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, we – the gay community – were very optimistic. We thought that we would live in a democracy and felt safe with US troops around. So we started to print leaflets that promoted freedom for gay and lesbian people.

But members of our group started being arrested for it. The leaflets weren't political, they were just spreading gay rights.

We have the right to exist and be who we are, but this offended the government. The leaflets had our email addresses and telephone numbers, so the government and the militias came to find out who was distributing the leaflets.

In 2004, the situation got much worse. People began to be killed in the streets, burnt alive and mutilated for being gay. We were a target for the government and militias. I fled to the UK; I feel very safe here but get emails every day about more killings in Iraq. And the problem is that the UK Government doesn't allow us to stay with refugee status even though Iraq is one of the most dangerous places on earth for homosexuals and a war is being waged by the parts of the Iraqi government on gay people. In the UK, I can't work or study because I've been denied the right to asylum, but my only option is to go back to Iraq, face my family and my community and be killed.

Four members of our organisation have already been deported. I am fighting for my right to stay by re-applying for asylum with the help of Iraqi LGBT. Otherwise, I have no future. On Thursday, we will protest outside the Home Office to highlight the homophobic killings. I wish someone would listen and help us; this has been going on in Iraq for years and no one cares.

Hasan, 26, is gay. He moved to the UK nine months ago from his home in Babel province, south of Baghdad, after receiving death threats. His boyfriend was killed because of his sexuality.

Call for help

My name is [name and address removed], Baghdad, Iraq.

I was detained at my residence December 15, 2008 after midnight, by the Ministry of Interior. During the detention process, they hit me on the head and my rear end to make me confess that I am a member of the Iraqi-LGBT. Later on the Ministry of Interior transferred me to the criminal justice court in al Karkh, and after a short trial I was sentenced to death.

I was sentenced without given the chance to defend myself or to hire an attorney. Two days later I was returned to the same place and was told that the execution will take place in two weeks.

Please pass this message to [my friend] in London. I just wish to tell him not to forget about my mother and siblings, I was their only supporter.

I am all hopeful that Allah will show Iraqis a life with no death sentences. And lastly, I ask you for help. Is there anyone to help me before it is too late?


The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) advises favourable consideration for people belonging to specific groups from these areas which have been identified as at risk, including members of religious and ethnic minorities; Iraqis perceived as opposing armed groups or political factions; Iraqis affiliated with the multinational forces or foreign companies; media workers; UN and non-governmental organization (NGO) workers; human rights activists; and homosexuals.

Improving security prompts UN to revise guidelines for Iraqi asylum claims

What you can do

There are a number of ways in which you can take action.

Support Iraqi LGBT through fund raising and donations

This support is desperately needed and will be put to good use both inside Iraq itself and to support the exiled movement. The group needs £10,000 a month in order to keep its safe houses and other support for beleaguered LGBT inside Iraq going.

You can find out how to do this on the Iraqi LGBT website

Alternatively, in the USA, tax-deductible donations can be made at

Contact your local representative to urge them to ask for your government's pressure on the Iraqi government to take action

In the USA -
You can get contact information for Representatives and Senators on this website
The only statement so far from the State Department is carried in this post

In the UK -
Contact your MP through this website

Suggested letter

The following is a letter for a UK MP which you can adapt for your locality


I write to draw your attention to the pogrom of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people which is currently taking place in Iraq.

Although this has yet to draw much mainstream media attention the reports are truly horrifying and escalating. They have draw the attention of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and US Representatives.

However the UK Foreign Office does not appear to be taking any action.

I refer you to the statement of Bill Rammell [].

The following report covers the pogrom:

I would urge you to ask the Foreign Office why they are not taking stronger action in this matter.



Please take action today!

British jobs for American actors!

This is an absolutely brilliant mock BNP advert - the title refers to how they were found out for using stock photos of Americans for their so-called 'doctor', 'housewife' on the leaflet dropping through everyone's letterboxes.

Click to enlarge.

To Chris Bryant and Ben Bradshaw: STFU

Cross posted from Wardman Wire


Both Ben Bradshaw and Chris Bryant have claimed ‘homophobia’ as a defence for their MP’s expenses claims.

Bryant says he had to ‘flip’ homes due to nasty smears (presumably emanating from the ‘underpants episode) being daubed on his Rhondda constituency home.

Bradshaw thinks the Telegraph is homophobic because it called his partner his “boyfriend”.

Neither of these claims are being accepted by readers of, the LGBT news site where they appear.

Nor should they. The comment which most sums up my feelings being ‘What a pair of fantastic role models for young gay people to look up to - not’.

Bradshaw in particular seems to be resorting to a diversionary tactic which reminds me of ‘is it because I is black?’ Plus he tries to make out that gay MPs in general are being singled out saying “It is very interesting that gay Tory MPs have also been smeared” - because the Telegraph once referred to Nick Herbert’s “boyfriend” rather than using “partner”.

Bradshaw ignores the fact that since his government cow-towed to religious interests and refused to introduce gay marriage (something he has never, to my knowledge, done anything but defend), instead resorting to the sexual apartheid of civil partnerships - literally ‘different but equal’, they also refused to introduce a similar ‘non-religious’ status for heterosexuals - what the hell is his partner’s ‘official’ title? If anything it’s ‘civil partner’!

‘Boyfriend’ is only homophobic if you read it as such. I understand fully that some use it with that intent but you have to see it in context and the rest of the Telegraph piece on Bradshaw isn’t that.

Bryant, defending his ‘double flipping’ and claiming a total of £92,415 in second home expenses since 2004 plus a £77,000 profit made when he moved again, puts it all down to having to ‘escape homophobic thugs who daubed lewd messages’ on his main constituency property.

As readers point out, if he were an actual role model he would have pursued them and made sure the South Wales police did their job - he wouldn’t have been driven out or taken the police’s advice to move.

Can you imagine the reaction to him from the black community if he was black and they were racist messages and he ran away from defending himself?

Plus there’s the small matter - as another commentator points out - that if one of his constituents were subject to homophobic attacks (and they weren’t living in social housing) they’d have to re-house themselves at their own cost.

Now that we have a great number and fair spread of out public figures in the UK - though not enough, think footballers - I think these comments display a bit of maturity in the gay community, like I think has happened in the black community. It’s no longer ‘my gay role model, right or wrong’.