Tuesday, 21 December 2010

ByeBye Humbuggery

Signing off for a few days over the Christmas period. 

‘Tis the Season to be jolly,’ -  as the transport Minister said, through teeth gritted better than the roads. 

Seasons Greetings and a newly minted old country saying:
                                      ‘May your pipes flow
                                       and your cheeks glow,
                                       and road and rail go
                                       - despite the snow.’ E J Thribb
                                       Merry Christmas

Monday, 20 December 2010

Wikileaks and King Charles 1st

Not the first person to spring to mind when considering the daily revelations from Wikileaks. As a letter in today’s Guardian points out, there are similarities in the way the message is massaged by those in power.  
“In 1645, after King Charles I's defeat at the battle of Naseby in the English civil war, his letters were captured by the parliamentary army and published. The 17th-century royal response to these disclosures was similar to the denunciations of WikiLeaks. First, it was said nothing really new of any importance was revealed. Second, that they were an unwarranted intrusion into the privacy of the king. (My emphasis) This defence was ineffective, as the correspondence revealed the king's public posture of agreeing to peace negotiations with parliament was a sham, because he was actively seeking allies abroad to carry on the fight for an absolute monarchy. Today governments talk of the progress in Afghanistan and publicly voice many other opinions that are far from how they think and act. As in 1645, the issue is not one of wrongful disclosure, but of government dishonesty towards the public.” Phillip Hall.
Every time you hear a politician tutting about the leaks, or even worse, a journalist defending the state’s desire to keep its citizens uninformed, remember that none of this is new. 
'Twas ever thus. 

Friday, 17 December 2010

Right To Protest

Johann Hari is one of the few writers in the mainstream media who tells it as it is. This is from today’s Independent.
“So now we know. When our politicians complained over the past few decades, in a low, sad tone, that our young people were “too apathetic” and “disengaged”, it was a lie. A great flaring re-engagement of the young has take place this year. With overwhelmingly peaceful tactics, they are demanding policies that are supported by the majority of the British people – and our rulers are trying to truncheon, kettle and intimidate them back into apathy.
Here’s one example of the intimidation of peaceful protest by the young that is happening all over Britain. Nicky Wishart is a 12-year-old self-described “maths geek” who lives in the heart of David Cameron’s constituency. He was gutted when he found out his youth club was being shut down as part of the cuts: there’s nowhere else to hang out in his village. He was particularly outraged when he discovered online that Cameron had said, before the election, that he was “committed” to keeping youth clubs open. So he did the right thing. He organized a totally peaceful protest on Facebook outside Cameron’s constituency surgery. A few days later, the police arrived at his school. They hauled him out of his lessons, told him the anti-terrorism squad was monitoring him and threatened him with arrest.
The message to Nicky Wishart and his generation is very clear: don’t get any fancy ideas about being an engaged citizen. Go back to your X-Box and X-Factor, and leave politics to the millionaires in charge.
This slow constriction of the right to protest has been happening for decades now. Under New Labour, protesters outside parliament started to have to ask permission and suddenly found themselves prosecuted for “anti-social behaviour.” In 2009, a man who had committed no violence or threats at all died after being attacked by a police officer on the streets of London at a protest - and nobody has ever been punished. Now the Metropolitan Police’s instinctive response to any group of protesters is to surround them and ‘kettle’ – that is, arbitrarily imprison – them for up to ten hours in the freezing cold, with no food, water, or toilets. It doesn’t matter how peaceful you were. You are trapped.
In the past few weeks police officers have been caught responding to a disabled young man with cerebral palsy – who was protesting because his 16 year old brother is now too scared of debt to go to university – by hauling him out of his wheelchair and throwing him to the ground. They even tried to block a severely injured protester in need of brain surgery from being treated at the nearest hospital, on the grounds that police officers were being treated there too and it was ‘upsetting’ to have injured protesters in the same place. Now Sir Paul Stephenson, head of the Met, says a total ban on protests by students is “one of the tactics we will look at.”
These protesters are not defying the will of the British people; they are expressing it. Look at their two great causes: opposing £27,000-a-degree fees for university students, and making the super-rich pay the £120bn they currently avoid in tax. Opponents of top-up fees outnumber supporters by 10 percent, while 77 percent of us support a massive crackdown on the people who live here but do not pay taxes here. This isn’t an attack on democracy, it’s a demand for it. It’s a refusal to be part of the silent majority any more. When politicians are defying the will of the people – and breaking the “solemn pledges” on which they took our votes – protest is necessary.
Of course, it is never justified in a democracy to launch violent attacks on people. Anybody who throws a fire extinguisher off a roof, or throws fire crackers and snooker balls at police officers, should be arrested and charged. It’s morally wrong, and tactically idiotic: it puts people off the protesters’ just cause. That’s why whenever it has happened, the protesters themselves have immediately turned on the violent fringe and made them stop. Yet the government is claiming that to deal with this tiny number of people – a few dozen – it’s necessary to restrict the basic rights to free assembly that have been won over centuries.
In reality, these tactics are provoking more violent protest than they prevent. It’s enraging to turn up to peacefully express your views outside parliament and find yourself suddenly imprisoned by police officers who won’t even let you go to the toilet. It doesn’t cool people down, it makes them burn up. There is an obvious alternative to kettling, and it was the norm in Britain until the Mayday protests of 2001 when the tactic was born. It’s simple: arrest anyone who commits an act of violence, instead of imposing mass imprisonment on everyone present. It’s called good policing.
Today, when I suggest to friends that they come to protest against a policy they passionately think will harm Britain, they have started to say something they never said before: I’m too frightened to go. For example, a group of disabled people I know is terrified by the government’s abolition of the Independent Living Allowance, which makes it possible for them to keep living in their own homes rather than an institution. The Sunday Telegraph quotes a government insider admitting “it is quite possible there will be cases of suicide” as a result. But after seeing how the police threw an obvious fragile and immobilized disabled man onto the street, they are too scared to protest outside Downing Street. They are forced to watch, helpless, while their support is taken away to pay for – as a Financial Times headline put it recently – Cameron and Osborne’s new “tax boost for wealthy heirs.”
There is a cost to this chilling of protest. Every British citizen is the beneficiary of a long line of protesters stretching back through the centuries. Every woman reading this can vote and open her own bank account and choose her own husband and have a career because protesters demanded it. Every worker gets at least £5.93 an hour, and paid holidays, and paid sick leave, because protesters demanded it. Every pensioner gets enough to survive because protesters demand it. What what your life would be like if all those protesters through all those years had been frightened into inactivity? If you block the right to protest, you block the path to progress. You are left instead at the whim of an elite, whose priority is tax cuts for themselves, paid for with spending cuts for the poor.
In Britain, we are not suffering from an excess of civil disobedience. We are suffering from an excess of civil obedience. Our government is pursuing dozens of policies we, the people, know to be immoral – from bombing civilians in Afghanistan to kicking away the ladder that lets hard-working poor children stay on at school. We aren’t wrong when we challenge these injustices. We are wrong when we stay silent. As Oscar Wilde said: “Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.”
Tomorrow, there will be a continuation of some of the most valuable protests in Britain in years. A group of ordinary tax-payers have banded together on Twitter to form an alliance called UKUncut. They are campaigning against the fact that successive governments have allowed the super-rich to legally refuse to pay taxes. They operate on our streets, but pay nothing towards maintaining our society. So UK Uncut is peacefully shutting their shops until they are made to pay. The 99.99 percent of British people who pay our taxes will benefit as this cause swells and succeeds – we will face fewer cuts and a better Britain. It’s an example of a democratic citizenry acting in its own defence.
Now imagine living in a country where this didn’t happen. Imagine a Britain where a cabinet of millionaires could exempt the super-rich from tax while taking away the £30 a week that keeps hard-working poor kids at school – only for the streets to stay silent and supine. If we don’t defend our right to protest, we may well end up living on that cowed and chilly island.” J. Hari Independent 17/12/2010
As my dad’s old commanding officer used to say, “Well said that man.” They  were the generation who fought the Nazi’s for our right to protest. 
                                   "Rise like lions after slumber
                                    In unvanquishable number!
                                    Shake your chains to earth, like dew
                                   Which in sleep had fall'n on you:
                                   Ye are many - they are few."        Shelley's "Mask of Anarchy" 

The list of areas taking action against Greedy Green and Voracious Vodaphone on the 18th December and next week  can be found at www.ukuncut.org.uk/actions 

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Kevin Barron or, They Just Don't Get It Chapter 25

An apologist for toe-rags, Kevin Barron is the Chairman of the Commons Standards and Priviliges Committee. It was that august body who reviewed the C4 Despatches programme broadcast before the General Election. The ex-Ministers caught on camera were promising access to various departments and Ministers in return for sums of cash. He delivered the committees verdict on Richard Caborn, Stephen 'Cab for Hire' Byers and the egregious Hoon. His opening remarks are more than informative - they reveal the depth of the chasm  separating them in their Westminster Bubble from we poor proles on the outside. Thanks to 'They Work For You' and Hansard for the quotes.

"Before I turn to the three former Members who are the subject of the motion, I wish to make a few remarks about the behaviour of the people who duped them. They would no doubt argue that they have served the public interest, but they were also taking advantage of the need of retiring MPs in the run-up to a general election to provide for their future employment. They dangled the bait in front of our former colleagues and unfortunately some of them took it. If that was not entrapment, it was something close to it, and although I do not seek to excuse the conduct of those three former Members, I think the whole House will feel some sympathy for them because of the way they were deceived. My emphases
Aw, bless. Property magnate Hoon was 'entrapped'. What bollocks. Hoon could quite easily have been charged with corruption or something similar. What he did lies on the continuum from 'old Boy Network' to outright bribery and corruption.

"The Committee also found that Geoff Hoon committed a particularly serious breach of the code which, like that of Mr Byers, brought the House and its Members generally into disrepute. As those who have read the Committee's report and the evidence will know, Mr Hoon has not accepted this conclusion.
He argued that the code of conduct should not apply because he was discussing his private life and what he might do after he had left the House. The Committee did not accept that argument. Mr Hoon was a Member of Parliament when he attended the bogus interview, and he talked in the interview about information that he had been given while he was he was a Member of Parliament, so the code applied.
Secondly, Mr Hoon suggested that the meaning of what he had said to the bogus interviewer had been misinterpreted. It seemed to come down to whether he had said "this" or "it", or perhaps neither. Some of us refreshed our memory of what he said by watching a recording of the "Dispatches" programme, and he clearly said "this". Ultimately, however, it is not so much about the exact words that he used as about the impression that he was giving. The Committee concluded that Mr Hoon was giving the clear impression that he could brief paying clients about defence policy on the basis of his inside knowledge. That is, as we said in our report, a particularly serious breach of the code, because it brings the House and its Members into disrepute. Unlike Mr Byers, Mr Hoon has neither accepted that he breached the code nor apologised. The Committee has therefore recommended that Mr Hoon's entitlement to a parliamentary pass should be suspended for five years. Hopefully, the apology will ensue."
Wow! Five years without a pass. Heavy! 
Does the punishment fit the crime? Consider what was said about Caborn.
"We could, as I said earlier, have recommended that Mr Caborn be summoned to the Bar of the House for a formal reprimand. That would have been humiliating for him, and I am not sure that it would have been all that great for the House. The media would have loved it, and the pictures no doubt would have been broadcast around the world, but it would have been a bit like a public flogging, and we did not think that right or appropriate, so we did not go there." 
They really know how to wound these people do! But wait, there is more….
"All that Mr Caborn will lose is his ability to enter the building without going through the visitors' entrance and his access to certain facilities, such as the Strangers Bar. He can still come here as a member of the public. "
Wow and indeed thrice wow. 
If you should ever be so unfortunate as to end up in front of a jury, do your utmost to get these soft sods  onto the panel. Oh, hang about, they only behave like this with what they call their own. 
They would throw the book at you or I.
What a disconnected bunch of stupid, self-serving bubble-dwellers.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Vested Interests

The news today that our blessed MPs still have £14 million of unexplained expenses should surprise no-one. Our ruling elite treat us, the common herd, with disdain and frequently contempt. Having climbed the slippery ladder, most of our leaders jump into bed with non-elected, unaccountable corporations and high financiers. 
Not convinced? Consider the evidence.
Vodaphone is an example of a company who owed £6 billion pounds in unpaid taxes. They struck a deal with the Revenue which means they will pay £1.5 billion - over several years! The net loss to the treasury would fund many, many, students through higher education. 
Vodaphone are not alone. Many companies and wealthy individuals pay very bright accountants to find loophole after loophole to squirrel away vast sums of loot. They enjoy our roads, infrastructure, security and general health and welfare but do not pay their share. They also have the nerve to lecture us about managing our finances!
Bankers Bonuses? There will be token changes but beneath the surface nothing will change. Bankers will continue to take huge gambles knowing they will be bailed out if it all goes tits up.
They are allowed to do this by all of the governments in the Western Democracies. Oh they huff and puff but in reality they do very little. MPs, Cabinet Ministers and their foreign equivalents buy into the status quo. They cosy up to wealth and thereby acquire it themselves. 
Consider that most slimy of individuals, Geoff Hoon. He managed to build a property empire worth several million pounds using tax payers’ money whilst acting as MP for one of the poorest constituencies in the country. Although he stood down at the last election, he was caught in a sting offering to buy access to Ministers and senior officials. Has he been arrested for corruption? Has he hell as like. He received a five-year ban from Parliament. Big Deal. Where is the outrage in the media? Where are the demands that he be locked up? Why was he on the BBC pontificating about defence matters without there being a rider listing his ‘crimes’? 
It gets worse. The John Pilger programme last night exposed the collusion by most of the Western Media with the lies, half-truths and jingoistic guff that poured forth from the Pentagon propaganda machine. Dan Rather, an experienced and respected American journalist said that if the US media had done their job properly, the Iraq War would not have happened. Several eminent journalists admitted to feelings of shame and embarrassment at the way they were hoodwinked or gullible. An ‘Embedded Journalist’ is not worthy of the description ‘independent.’ They are stooges for the machine. And their reports should be treated with at best scepticism and at worst derision.
They lied about the Iraq War. They continue to lie about Afghanistan. At the War Memorial in Staffordshire it is clear that we have been in a state of almost continuous warfare since the end of the 2nd World War. Eisenhower warned as he stepped down from the Presidency in the 50‘s that, “We should beware the arms-industrial complex.” And so it has come to pass that in the name of making vast sums of money for a handful of evil individuals, wars are fought in some of the poorest parts of the world. Brave men and women die in foreign fields to keep the money rolling in. Atrocities are committed in our name - and then promptly covered up, with the collusion of ‘embedded journalists.’
Any sane person would agree with the ‘hearts and minds’ approach publicly vaunted by our forces. However the reality on the ground is very different. Entire villages are blown to smithereens, often by unmanned drones, with many child casualties. Every death spawns many jihadist recruits. At first glance it comes across as shocking incompetence. But it isn’t. This deliberate, willful, approach guarantees years of conflict. And the masters of war rub their hands. 
To break this vested interest cartel across the democracies will not be easy. One country acting alone will be dismissed and undermined. It will take concerted co-operative action across most, if not all, western democracies. Wikileaks is a start. The reaction from the elite gives the game away. It is also revealing to see how toadying journalists react too. The ‘establishment’ do not like the revelations from Wikileaks. It shows them up for what they are. Shallow, nasty, scheming, devious, hypocritical, untrustworthy and dishonourable individuals who patronise their electorate whilst building their private fortunes.
Journalism at its best involves telling truth to power. With a few honourable exceptions it has degenerated into telling lies to the powerless. 
Something has got to change.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Met

Apparently 180 student protesters have been arrested following last weeks demonstration, “None of whom had been arrested before,” said a Met Police spokesman. Now why would all these students, with unblemished records, get so fired up that they get arrested? It couldn’t have anything to do with the way the Met police behave, could it?
Take this example from today’s Independent. “The Metropolitan Police has referred to its internal directorate of professional standards an incident in which officers dragged a protester from his wheelchair and pulled him across a street, after footage of the event emerged online.”(my emphasis)
“Jody McIntyre, 20, who suffers from cerebral palsy, said he was twice pulled out of his wheelchair by the same officer during the protest against the Coalition Government's plan to raise university tuition fees.”
“The video footage came to light after Mr McIntyre appealed for witnesses to the incident, amid further claims that the police used disproportionate force in dealing with peaceful demonstrators last week. It shows an officer pulling Mr McIntyre from his upturned wheelchair and dragging him across a street leading into Parliament Square, provoking anger from other protesters around him. The officer is then himself pulled away by one of his colleagues.”
Add the baton-wielding thugs masquerading as police officers and it is easy to see how normally quiet and peaceful citizens become enraged. 
Will the wheelchair incident receive the same coverage as Chuck n Camilla across the UK’s, never mind world, media? Will the thug who dragged the chap from the chair be punished? Why was he not arrested by his colleagues at the time? If nothing had appeared online there would have been no referral to the ‘directorate of professional standards.’ 
Not arrested then - just a bit more re-training to learn to be more careful. And to make sure there are no cameras around....  What a sick outfit.
The Met is unfit for purpose. From top to bottom. Anyone unconvinced should not only consider recent events but also the so-called investigation into phone hacking by journalists working at the            News of the World. What an apology for an enquiry that was - and then you find out that the chap in charge gets a job with News International as soon as he left the Met. Stinky stinky stinky.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Kettling students and the LibDems

The following article by Simon Szreter is reproduced almost in its entirety from today’s Independent.
“Kettling is illegal elsewhere and it certainly should be here. I speak as someone who was kettled in Parliament Square and Westminster Bridge last Thursday, one of several thousand people held for nine hours at zero degrees without food, water, heat, toilets.”
“The widely reproduced photograph of a youth urinating against the plinth of Winston Churchill's statue during the protest over tuition fees provides a disrespectful image, but kettling represents disrespect on a premeditated, industrial scale: degrading conditions of confinement enforcing the shame of performing one's natural functions in public. Put in the same position, where exactly would the Chief Constable have urinated?”
“The vote to triple tuition fees would have failed if 28 Liberal Democrat MPs had not allowed the scent of power to overwhelm their moral judgement. The fees hike pays for an 80 per cent cut to university teaching budgets – four times the average of other departmental cuts. Not in any manifesto, this is a nakedly ideological decision, not a necessity. It was made by a Cabinet of millionaires whose own children will never have to experience its consequences.”
“Solemn pledges to the electorate to do the opposite – to phase tuition fees out – which won marginal seats for the Liberal Democrats and put them into this Coalition in the first place, mean absolutely nothing, apparently. Indeed, manifestos mean nothing.”
“The Tory strategists believe they have discovered a kind of political alchemy. The "need for cuts" licenses any amount of ideologically satisfying destruction of our public institutions and services, while the need to work in coalition means the manifestos that each party was elected on can now be discarded and ideological policies which would never have got past voters made up on the spot.”
With their perfidious votes for tuition fees, these foolish 28 Liberal Democrat traitors to their own voters have provided the strongest argument I've yet heard against PR and the free-wheeling coalition governments that result. They have spectacularly cut the ground from under the policy which was their only reason and their prize for entering the Coalition. (My emphasis) They are now, politically, a rabble.”
“It has been this new politics of bare-faced lying to the electorate, led by Nick Clegg, which has generated the level of outrage against undemocratic policies which resulted in a volume of protesters arriving in the capital beyond the police's resources to control.”
“What sort of moral example has this set to our young people? Kettling, mounted police and baton charges, and one young person lying in hospital. We are in danger of entering a downward spiral of mutual distrust and disrespect between an ideologically aggressive but politically weak Tory government propped up by the Liberal Democrats, with the police caught fair and square in the middle.”
“This Coalition is founded on deceit and disrespect for the electorate. It must end. We must try again. This time the parties must tell us exactly what their coalition positions are in advance of the vote, in addition to their manifestos for sole rule. And kettling must go.” Simon Szreter is professor of history and public policy at the University of Cambridge
In their desire to achieve electoral reform, the LibDems have seemingly voted for something which makes reform less likely. The Tory toe-rags and Bufton-Tuftons will be delighted. They are as lambs to the Tory slaughter. They get the blame for introducing Tory policies. They are an open goal for Labour to hit again and again. Time to wise up to who they have clambered into bed with. 
Would a minority Tory government have got this policy through?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Wikileaks and Wilkes

“I have lost count of the politicians and opinion formers of an authoritarian bent warning of the dreadful damage done by the WikiLeaks dump of diplomatic cables, and in the very next breath dismissing the content as frivolous tittle-tattle. To seek simultaneous advantage from opposing arguments is not a new gambit, but to be wrong in both is quite an achievement.
Publication of the cables has caused no loss of life; troops are not being mobilised; and the only real diplomatic crisis is merely one of discomfort. The idea that the past two weeks have been a disaster is self-evidently preposterous. Yet the leaks are of unprecedented importance because, at a stroke, they have enlightened the masses about what is being done in their name and have shown the corruption, incompetence – and sometimes wisdom – of our politicians, corporations and diplomats. More significantly, we have been given a snapshot of the world as it is, rather than the edited account agreed upon by diverse elites, whose only common interest is the maintenance of their power and our ignorance.
The world has changed, not simply because governments find they are just as vulnerable to the acquisition, copying and distribution of huge amounts of data as the music, publishing and film businesses were, but because we are unlikely to return to the happy ignorance of the past. Knowing Saudi Arabia has urged the bombing of Iran, that Shell maintains an iron grip on the government of Nigeria, that Pfizer hired investigators to disrupt investigations into drugs trials on children, also in Nigeria, that the Pakistan intelligence service, the ISI, is swinging both ways on the Taliban, that China launched a cyber attack on Google, that North Korean has provided nuclear scientists to Burma, that Russia is a virtual mafia state in which security services and gangsters are joined at the hip – and knowing all this in some detail – means we are far more likely to treat the accounts of events we are given in the future with much greater scepticism.
Never mind the self-serving politicians who waffle on about the need for diplomatic confidentiality when they themselves order the bugging of diplomats and hacking of diplomatic communications. What is astonishing is the number of journalists out there who argue that it is better not to know these things, that the world is safer if the public is kept in ignorance. (My emphasis) In their swooning infatuation with practically any power elite that comes to hand, some writers for the Murdoch press and Telegraph titles argue in essence for the Chinese or Russian models of deceit and obscurantism. They advocate the continued infantilising of the public.
Nothing is new. In 1771, that great lover of liberty, John Wilkes, and a number of printers challenged the law that prohibited the reporting of Parliamentary debates and speeches, kept secret because those in power argued that the information was too sensitive and would disrupt the life of the country if made public. Using the arcane laws of the City of London, Alderman Wilkes arranged for the interception of the Parliamentary messengers sent to arrest the printers who had published debates, and in doing so successfully blocked Parliament. By 1774, a contemporary was able to write: "The debates in both houses have been constantly printed in the London papers." From that moment, the freedom of the press was born.
It took a libertine to prove that information enriched the functioning of British society, a brave maverick who was constantly moving house – and sometimes country – to avoid arrest; whose epic sexual adventures had been used by the authorities as a means of entrapping and imprisoning him. The London mob came out in his favour and, supplemented by shopkeepers and members of the gentry on horseback, finally persuaded the establishment of the time to accept that publication was inevitable. And the kingdom did not fall. Henry Porter, Guardian Online 12/12/2010
Anyone making the connection between 1774 and 2010? 
As Porter adds,
“It is all about power and who has access to information. Nothing more. When those who want society to operate on the basis of the parent-child relationship because it is obviously easier to manage, shut the door and say "not in front of the children", they are usually looking after their interests, not ours.” ibid
That is it in a nutshell, ‘their interests, not ours.’ And as for the lickspittle journalists who perform toadying services for the elite? James Cameron, Paul Foot and Seymour Hersh would be appalled by their forelock tugging sycophancy. 

Saturday, 11 December 2010


As media attention focussed on Chuck and Camilla there was a related deafening silence about the thugs (and their so-called Commanders) in the Met who call themselves ‘riot police’. The truth of their behaviour is seeping out in papers like the Guardian and the Independent. Just a couple of instances: 
“As university lecturers who were kettled for eight hours on Thursday, we are furious that thousands of very young people were trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation almost entirely of the police's making. Despite media reports that peaceful protesters were allowed to leave, many of us were detained and repeatedly misinformed by police about supposed exits that did not exist. As the evening wore on and, inevitably, some violence did break out, visibly distressed students were forced to huddle in corners of Parliament Square, trying to predict how best to avoid a police charge. One young woman asked us if this was how protesting always was and did she need the courage to face riot cops if she wanted to go on a march. It is shameful that this should be a young person's idea about active citizenship in this country.”
“When did we give away the right to protest peacefully and then walk away when we had finished? When did we endorse the police holding our children for hours in freezing weather and preventing our presence, despite them having committed no crime? Why are we accepting that the police can trample on the rights of thousands because of the behaviour of a few?”
Extracts from the Guardian letters page 11/12/2010 
Good questions. What reasonable human being volunteers to serve in the ‘Riot Police?’ Anecdotal evidence suggests those with thuggish tendencies, who like a bit of a ruck and many who would find themselves at home with the Brownshirts. Not convinced? Read on...
“What an appalling failure in a so-called civilised society to see hundreds of riot police along the road from Victoria, readying themselves to "deal with" protesters. I tried to talk to one officer about a proportionate response to the children and young people there, and I was told if it offended me to see kids "get what they deserved", I should go home and put my slippers on.” ibid
What a big brave chap! 
The massive majority of protests and protesters are peaceful. Yet our craven, inept and deeply reprehensible rulers cannot see further than tomorrow’s headlines. 
Who will be the next Blair Peach?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Tax the Rich

As the students gather in a last ditch attempt to change MPs minds, it is sad to relate how little real opposition there is. All three major parties have clambered into bed with high finance and mega corporations. There is a vacuum where an alternative view should be. 
The rich are brilliant at protecting and enhancing their interests. Nowhere can this be seen to better effect than in the good ol’ US of A.
“Just a day after President Barack Obama met with Republican leaders and came out talking of a new era of co-operation, Republican senators united around Mitch McConnell to sign a letter declaring they would pass no legislation without movement on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
That legislation they are willing to scupper includes extending unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans, still suffering the terrible hangover of the Great Recession. The tax cuts the Republicans are really fired up over will benefit only the top 2% of Americans.
To put it even more simply: Republican leaders are happy to go virtually on strike in order to win a tax cut worth billions of dollars for America's most wealthy people (which includes themselves and many of their top campaign donors). At the same time, they are willing to deny help to America's most vulnerable; standing by as once middle-class people lose their homes as their benefits disappear.
The Republicans are fond of using tough language about Obama. They call him an extremist and a socialist and a revolutionary. Well, perhaps some of that tone should be used back at them. This Republican strategy is not about politics. It is about class war: waged by the rich against the poor.” Guardian Online 2/12/2010
Obama agreed to their demands yesterday. In order to help the poor in America, the very wealthiest must be made even wealthier. It is truly appalling. Government by the rich for the rich.
Politicians talk tough about Banker’s bonuses but do very little. Our value system is cock-eyed. All young people should have the opportunity to push their talents to the highest level. The State should fund this investment in our future. 
Tighten up on tax avoidance and evasion, introduce the ‘Robin Hood tax’ on financial transactions and tax the rich. Problem solved.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Wikileaks, Assange and the US

“On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognise that the world's information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.
This challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the first amendment to the constitution [guaranteeing freedom of speech] are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone.”  Hilary Clinton writing earlier this year in Foreign Office Review.
Oh Yeah!
Another case of judge them by their actions and not by their words. It is probably a little bit late for so-called ‘executive action’ but there are other ways of damaging someone's reputation and therefore influence.
It's certainly not ‘conspiracism’ to suspect that the CIA has been at work in fomenting these Swedish accusations. "The moment Julian sought the protection of Swedish media law, the CIA immediately threatened to discontinue intelligence sharing with SEPO, the Swedish Secret Service."
In an article by Julian Assange, written before his arrest today, he wrote, “The US diplomatic cables reveal some startling facts: The US asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos, in violation of international treaties.” 
Britain's Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect "US interests".
“Sweden is a covert member of NATO and US intelligence sharing is kept from parliament.”
“In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said "only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government". The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.” The Australian
Quite clearly the authorities in the UK and Sweden have not yet read ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ trilogy. Having seen the evidence, the initial response from the State Prosecutor in Sweden was to dismiss the allegations as ‘minor.’ Following pressure from several agencies (CIA anyone?) the decision was to issue a warrant for his arrest. 
Even the Daily Mail - yes - the Daily Mail - is not convinced.
“He is responsible for an avalanche of political leaks. Whether he is also guilty of sexual offences remains to be seen. But the more one learns about the case, the allegations simply don't ring true.” Richard Pendlebury, Daily Mail

On the same day that Julian Assange was remanded in custody this little nugget appeared on Guardian Online
The United States is pleased to announce that it will host Unesco's World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from 1-3 May in Washington, DC.”
Ironic? Read the next paragraph from the press release:
“The theme for next year's commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and
innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals' right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.”
Shameless. You really could not make it up.

Monday, 6 December 2010


The LibDems are in a mess of their own making. Watching them twist and turn on the hook of their pre-election pledge to abolish tuition fees has been disturbing and also revealing. Student protests are hurting.  As different factions within the party agonise, there is a fundamental issue to address, namely that of trust. There is a difference between what they said and what they are doing. But are the LibDems unique in this?
Within a few weeks of being elected Andrew Lansley established himself as a Health Minister with a mission. None of his ‘reforming’ zeal was in the Tory Manifesto, “Safe in our hands”, “national treasure, etc etc.” He justifies what he is doing by saying that he mentioned it several times in the years before the election. Maybe he did, but it was not on the radar and it certainly was not in the Tory Manifesto. What we have now is a complete overhaul in the way the Health Service will be run.  
Lansley is the man who showed himself up on ‘Question Time’ when he admitted ‘earning’ what he thought was a perfectly acceptable £30,000 for several hours work in a year, as a non-executive director. He was shocked to find that the vast majority of the audience disagreed. He is in thrall to big business and his ‘reforms’ will open the door to private medicine and the egregious US-led insurance companies. Anyone who thinks this is not likely are advised to look at who he has appointed to advise him on government food policies - McDonalds, Coca Cola and other junk food purveyors. Who said satire was dead?
What is odd is the way Labour are seemingly allowed by the media to have distanced themselves from their recent past. Labour introduced tuition fees - despite there being no mention in their manifesto. Labour were in thrall to big business too, to the detriment of their poorest supporters. Labour lied about the reasons for the Iraq War. Not much trust there. 
One thing Wikileaks can be thanked for is pointing up the difference between what we are told, for example in Afghanistan, and what is actually happening. It also shines a light into some very dark corners such as the Chagos Islanders situation. 
It was revealed this week-end that several MPs have turned their second homes into nice little earners by renting out the property they acquired at taxpayers expense and claiming rent for another. As David Chator awaits sentencing, he can consider himself unlucky. There were many, many more who played the system to massive advantage and who have not been charged. Some of them are now in the government.
And they expect us to trust them. 

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Diego Garcia Disgrace

Listened to Jack Straw pontificating on ‘Any Questions’ about the rights of the people and at the same time claiming the Wikileaks were damaging to good governance. Straw is a fine one to talk about democracy. He used special powers to slip controversial measures through the Privy Council thereby avoiding trouble in Parliament. The issue was a continuance of the displacement of the Chagos Islanders in the 1960’s to make way for a giant US air base (Diego Garcia). The Wikileaks revelations give a glimpse into the Fortescue-Brown world of the FO, who still behave as though we have an empah. 
“The Foreign Office misled parliament over the plight of thousands of islanders who were expelled from their Indian Ocean homeland to make way for a large US military base, according to secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
More than 2,000 islanders – described privately by the Foreign Office as "Man Fridays" – were evicted from the British colony of Diego Garcia in the 1960s and 1970s. The Foreign Office, backed by the US, has fought a long legal battle to prevent them returning home.
The islanders' quest to go back will be decided by a ruling, expected shortly, from the European court of human rights.
New leaked documents show the Foreign Office has privately admitted its latest plan to declare the islands the world's largest marine protection zone will end any chance of them being repatriated.
The admission is at odds with public claims by Foreign Office ministers that the proposed park would have no effect on the islanders' right of return. They have claimed the marine park was a ploy to block their return, claiming it would make it impossible for them to live there as it would ban fishing, their main livelihood.
The disclosure follows years of criticism levelled at Whitehall over the harsh treatment of the islanders, many of whom have lived in poverty in other countries since their deportation.
In the past, National Archive documents have revealed how the Foreign Office consistently lied about the eviction, maintaining the fiction that the islanders had not been permanent residents.
The latest leaked documents are US state department cables recording private meetings between Foreign Office mandarins and their American counterparts.
In May 2009, Colin Roberts, the Foreign Office director of overseas territories, told the Americans Diego Garcia's value in "assuring the security of the US and UK" had been "much more than anyone foresaw" in the 1960s, when the plan to set up the base was hatched.
"We do not regret the removal of the population since removal was necessary for [Diego Garcia] to fulfil its strategic purpose," he added under a passage that the Americans headed "Je ne regrette rien".
Roberts, admitting the government was "under pressure" from the islanders, told the US of the plan to set up the marine park on 55 islands around Diego Garcia, known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). "Roberts stated that, according to [Her Majesty's government's] current thinking on a reserve, there would be 'no human footprints' or 'Man Fridays' on the BIOT uninhabited islands," according to the American account of the meeting. The language echoes that used in 1966 when Denis Greenhill – later the Foreign Office's most senior official – described the inhabitants as "a few Tarzans and Man Fridays".
The leaked documents also record that Roberts "asserted that establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago's former residents".
This private stance differs from the Foreign Office's public line in April when a series of MPs asked Chris Bryant, the then Foreign Office minister, if the marine park ruled out the islanders, known as Chagossians, ever returning home.
Bryant told parliament the proposed park "will not have any direct or indirect effect on the rights or otherwise of Chagossians to return to the islands. These are two entirely separate issues". There is no suggestion that Bryant was aware of the conversation between Roberts and the Americans about Diego Garcia.
Leading conservation groups have supported the marine park plan. Roberts is quoted as telling the Americans that Britain's "environmental lobby is far more powerful than the [islanders'] advocates". Guardian Online 3/12/2010
What is it about power? Why does it turn people into such twats? The hubris revealed in these leaked documents is quite breathtaking. ‘Man Fridays’ and ‘Tarzans.’ Oh how they laughed at the Carlton Club. 
The whole episode gives an insight into the way our rulers operate. Parliamentary scrutiny? Transparency? Fairness, honesty and decency? You must be joking
 No wonder the excremental Straw is not happy at the leaks. They shatter his smooth veneer and expose him and his colleagues for what they are - deeply loathsome human beings.
The Chagos Islanders situation is one of the most shaming episodes in our history. 

Friday, 3 December 2010

What does ‘FA’ stand for?

It is not exactly a secret that FIFA is one of the most rotten and corrupt organisations in the world. At least six members of its Executive Board have been caught with their hands in the till. As one of them admitted in a sting by the Sunday Times, “The only offence is to get caught.” 6 out of 22 have been caught - and a glance at www.transparencyinsport.org will tell you that they are the tip of a large iceberg. The handful of honest men on the FIFA Executive could meet in a cupboard. Why do they collude with their openly corrupt colleagues?
“The decision will come as a bitter blow to the Football Association, which has spent £15m on the bid at a time when it is under financial pressure.” Guardian Online
This is the same FA who paid well over the odds for Wembley, who have done sweet FA to rein in the excesses of the Premiership, who do not support referees when challenged by overpaid arrogant self-serving fools, who prevaricated for many years about opening an academy for talented young footballers and and who have overseen the gradual decline in participation within the game.
Yes, the same FA.
They spent how much? Difficult to accept but true - £15 million!
Imagine if you can Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel and a few of their chums sitting around a lovely big table listening to ‘presentations’ from various grovelling wannabees. Among those wannabees are a Prime Minister, a future king, plus several more rated ‘great and good.’ All leaving their dignity, common sense and honour at the door. Could never happen? It just has!
"We have had four bidders for 2018 and we can have only one winner. Three of the bidding associations must go home saying 'what a pity'. But they must say football is not only by winning but football is also a school of life where you learn to lose. That's not easy," said Blatter, under huge pressure following a series of scandals.” ibid 
Easy for him to say when FIFA win all ways round. Tax exemption? Tick. TV rights to a relative? Tick. Sweeteners to delegates? Tick. Seemingly above the law? Tick. Supine organisations around the world who know the score yet do nothing to change anything? Tick.
England got two votes (£7.5 million each). Bid Leader Anson, ‘It was very surprising, given the promises that were made... the folks who got the best reviews went out early, those with the weakest reports won.’ Doh! What a thicky. These are deeply corrupt, nasty bastards. They will look their grannies in the eye and cross their hearts and hope to die, butter wouldn’t melt etc. 
‘Call Me Dave’ says it is, “desperately sad.” It is for him. What a fiasco to have around your neck. As Portillo said on ‘This Week’ tonight, “the bid team seem to have lost their moral compass.” 
Two votes Cameron. Badly advised or a massive ego? You decide.
£15million  poured down the drain playing a game that was fixed from the start.
Russia - a corrupt nation which has a record of football corruption - to the extent that the result can be posted on the internet in the week before the game - and the result does not change! 
One of the most corrupt organisations selects one of the most corrupt countries. Surprise surprise.
Qatar: barely a million people, 94% sand, but lots of money.....some of which no doubt will end up in certain executives pockets.
So remind me. What does FA stand for? 
Try effing appalling.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Special Relationship and Cluster Bombs

Never has Armando Iannucci’s description of politicians as, “Crap little people, really bad at their jobs, trying not to be found out,” been more true. The revelations coming from Wikileaks show just how much of a disconnect there is between our rulers and us poor plebs. As each day goes by there are fresh nuggets giving the game away. Today’s little gem reveals how Parliament were deceived by Foreign Office officials and the odious David Miliband about cluster bombs.
“According to leaked US embassy dispatches, David Miliband, who was Britain's foreign secretary under Labour, approved the use of a loophole to manoeuvre around the ban and allow the US to keep the munitions on British territory.
Unlike Britain, the US had refused to sign up to an international convention that bans the weapons because of the widespread injury they cause to civilians.
The US military asserted that cluster bombs were "legitimate weapons that provide a vital military capability" and wanted to carry on using British bases regardless of the ban.
Whitehall officials proposed that a specially created loophole to grant the US a free hand should be concealed from parliament in case it "complicated or muddied" the MPs' debate.
Gordon Brown, as prime minister, had swung his political weight in 2008 behind the treaty to ban the use and stockpiling of cluster bombs. Britain therefore signed it, contrary to earlier assurances made by British officials to their US counterparts.
The US had stockpiles of cluster munitions at bases on British soil and intended to keep them, regardless of the treaty. (My emphasis)
When the bill to ratify the treaty was going through parliament this year, the then Labour foreign ministers Glenys Kinnock and Chris Bryant repeatedly proclaimed that US cluster munition arsenals would be removed from British territory by the declared deadline of 2013.
But a different picture emerges from a confidential account of a meeting between UK and US officials in May last year.
It shows that the two governments concocted the "concept" of allowing US forces to store their cluster weapons as "temporary exceptions" and on a "case-by-case" basis for specific military operations.
Foreign Office officials "confirmed that the concept was accepted at highest levels of the government, as that idea had been included in the draft letter from minister [David] Miliband to secretary [of state Hillary] Clinton".
US cluster munitions are permanently stored on ships off the coast of the Diego Garcia airbase in the Indian Ocean, the cables reveal. The base is crucial for US military missions in the Middle East. Diego Garcia, still deemed British territory, has been occupied by the US military since its inhabitants were expelled in the 1960s and 1970s. (My emphasis) The British concept of a "temporary exception" to oblige the US does not appear to be envisaged in the treaty. But the British arranged that "any movement of cluster munitions from ships at Diego Garcia to planes there, temporary transit, or use from British territory ... would require the temporary exception".
Nicholas Pickard, head of the Foreign Office's security policy unit, is quoted as saying: "It would be better for the US government and HMG [the British government] not to reach final agreement on this temporary agreement understanding until after the [treaty] ratification process is completed in parliament, so that they can tell parliamentarians that they have requested the US government to remove its cluster munitions by 2013, without complicating/muddying the debate by having to indicate that this request is open to exceptions." Guardian Online 2/12/2010
So let’s get this straight. A foreign country stores weapons that we have banned on our soil. This is done with the collusion of the Foreign Secretary and Foreign Office Officials. None of this is reported to Parliament. By using the weasel words ‘temporary exceptions’ all this can be kept under wraps. 
It is little wonder the Government has used every legal device to keep the Chagos Islanders from their home (Diego Garcia). It helps them keep up the pretence that we are players on the global stage. It keeps them in with the US like weak kids will be nice to bullies. People suffer so these unprincipled bastards (Blair, Straw, Miliband et al) can strut their stuff around the world.
One aspect of the Wikileaks documents is the way the US regards the rest of the world as their dominion. The ‘Special Relationship’ is a one way street. 
The spineless, gutless, little willied wonders who ruled us colluded with keeping the cluster bomb arrangements secret. 
What else did they collude with?