Friday, 24 September 2010

D Day and Ypres

About to depart on a trip to northern France to see the battlefields, memorials and cemeteries. Will report back anon.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


The Buxton Advertiser has as its front page story the tale of a massive crucifix being cut down. It was cut down as the Pope was due to arrive in the UK. It has been a feature overlooking Buxton for many years. The paper revealed it had been sent a note identical to one found at the scene of the crime. The cutting down has seemingly been done by someone abused as a pupil at a school in Yorkshire (or by someone very close to a victim). 
The note drew attention to the secrecy and cover-up of abuse which has gone on for decades. "This week Humberside Police  announced they are to re-investigate dozens of fresh claims of abuse at the home which was run by the De La Salle Order of Christian Brothers." The paper also revealed that, "A judge has ruled that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesborough, which owned the home, is responsible for compensation claims following the abuse, although the church is appealing against the decision." (my emphasis).
One of the several letters on the subject in the paper talked about 'desecration' and a vicar described it as a 'profanity.' While it is clearly upsetting to have this happen, it can be re-erected in a matter of days. The damage caused by thousands of priests abusing children physically and sexually will take a lifetime to put right. Many will never ever recover. Several victims have taken their own lives. 

The organised, systematic cover up and denial of responsibility by the Catholic church is far, far worse. Why has no Bishop or Archbishop been tried for covering up crimes? Now that is something to get upset about. 
To the outraged of Buxton - get some perspective on this issue.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival

One of the many delights of this festival is the discovery of music and musicians who exist off the usual radar. An event described as showcasing the Jazz of the 1920's and 30's did not really appeal but turned out to be the best concert of the weekend. The Nova Scotia Jazz Band had four excellent musicians who were all experienced in playing together. Comprising Banjo/Guitar, Sax/Clarinet, Bass, sublime Cornet, with lots of good humour and good tunes, made for a very entertaining event. Solos were short, brilliantly played and served the tune with the melody line always clear.

Lagavulin took over the sponsorship of the event this year and made a difference. Plenty of staff on hand at each venue giving out free drams of excellent whisky. Lots of promotion too. It all helped make the ticket price very good value.

Last year was memorable for the brilliant groundbreaking Norwegians. They did divide their audience though - a significant number couldn't stand them! Nothing to match that this year. Zoe Rahman who is a terrific pianist, came out of the solo dominated ensemble events as a real talent. 

Sunday, 19 September 2010


'The Pope will beatify 19th Century theologian Cardinal Newman in an open-air Mass on the final day of his four-day state visit to the UK.' (BBC Online 19/9/10)
 Cardinal Newman was aware that this might happen to him. He did not want his bones to become 'relics.' He left instructions for his coffin to be filled with compost - and it was. His coffin was opened a few years ago in a search for relics and it was empty. Newman had achieved his aim. "His body has been taken into heaven," was the line peddled by the catholic church. No it hasn't. It rotted away - with the help of the compost.
 He did not want to become a saint or even 'blessed' (the first step to sainthood). One of the tests on the path to sainthood is that of the miracle. A Deacon from the US came forward to claim that a prayer to Cardinal Newman cured his chronic backache. A biographer of Newman checked this claim with leading back specialists. They found the idea of this 'cure' being a miracle laughable. 
What would Newman say about the ceremony being held today? He himself admitted that his ego made him most unsuitable for sainthood. So why is it taking place?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival 2010

Fabulous location, out of the ordinary venues, top class performers accompanied by a first class single malt. What's not to like?

Well to this listener, there is too much formulaic performing which relegates the tune to the service of the soloist(s). Trygve Seim and his mates, the Norwegian boundary-breakers, who split the audience into love and loath camps last year, raised the bar. Having seen a quintet and a sextet over two days, it becomes wearying to sit through the same performance pattern. Tune - (rhythm section lays down a groove)- alto sax solo- tenor sax solo- trumpet solo- piano solo - then either bass or drummer has a go - then back to the 'tune.' Judging by the whoops and hollers which break out at the end of each solo, it is clearly a popular formula. After a few listens it wears. Occasionally the solos are reduced and the music benefits.

Play 'Stramash,' a cd written about Islay, by Colin Steele, an exceptional musician, and you will find some gorgeous tunes and melodies. He incorporated some traditional folk elements into the mix. The musicians serve the tune and the result is atmospheric and beguiling. 

Put some of those self-same musicians on a live stage and get seemingly endless 'brilliant improvisations' (according to some)  or masturbatory noodling (according to others).

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Pope's State Visit

The charge sheet is massive.

Cover up of child abuse and victim suppression thereby perverting the course of justice and magnifying problems for victims. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he issued a secret order commanding all sex abuse cases to be kept 'in house' and under wraps.
Promotion of the spreading of AIDS by banning condom use thereby condemning millions of impoverished people to an early death with horrible consequences for the families and communities affected.
Lying about the effectiveness of condoms.
Declaring women priests to be an evil on a par with child abusers.
Declaring the prophet Mohammad to have brought the world only evil and inhuman things. (A bit rich this one, bearing in mind this charge sheet.)
Promoting the beatification of Pope Pius XII - the wartime pope who refused to condemn the Nazis and who is reported to have colluded with the transportation of the Jews.
Re-admitting into the church a formerly excommunicated Bishop, a well publicised Holocaust denier.
Former member of the Nazi Party as a Hitler Youth member.

The case for the defence?
Most young men in Nazi Germany were members of the Hitler Youth. 
He is said to be a 'bit shy.'
Er, that's it.

Best outcome? Arrested as soon as he lands - sent to the International Court in the Hague. Fat chance.
Likeliest outcome? Predominantly apathetic with massive and successful efforts made to keep protesters away.
Legacy? Taxpayers footing the bill. Continued decline in Catholic faith.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Cormac Murphy-O'Connor

The current leader of the Catholic church in Belgium is keen to 'move on' and look to the future, rather than examine the past. This was said in the light of yet more appalling revelations about child abuse carried out by Catholic priests in Belgium. 
As the Belgians begin to come to terms with the extent and depth of their child abuse cases it is instructive to examine the recently retired leader of the Catholic faith in the UK. As a brief biog on Wikipedia has it, "Bishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor found himself subject to public scrutiny regarding a priest in his diocese when he was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. During this time it was brought to his attention that a priest, Michael Hill, was a child sexual abuser.
Instead of reporting Hill to the police, Murphy-O'Connor allowed the crime to be covered up and transferred Hill to Gatwick Airport chapel, where the Cardinal believed he would not be able to molest children. In 1997, Hill was finally convicted as a child molester and jailed for sexually assaulting nine children. After three years in jail, Hill was given another five years for assaulting three other boys."
"In 2000, when O'Connor ascended to the status of Archbishop of Westminster, the case became known to the general public."  It also emerged that Hill had continued to abuse children while at Gatwick. 
Now although he has retired, he has been asked by the Pope to head a team investigating child abuse in Ireland. As the Guardian puts it, "Two official reports have pointed to decades of rape, coercion and sexual attack by predatory clerics whose activities, in the words of one of the reports, were "obsessively" concealed by the church hierarchy." Now O'Connor is on his way as head of the papal team. Get an 'obsessive concealer' to investigate other 'obsessive concealers.' What!? 
When will one of these criminals be charged by the civilian authorities for aiding and abetting criminals or for perverting the course of justice?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Obama - deeds not words

The Obama's administration's decision to challenge a court ruling that would allow torture victims to sue the company who flew them around the world is disgraceful. It says a lot about the actual values of the current administration. 

The appeal court unfortunately succumbed to the 'national security' line peddled once more by agents of the 'land of the free.' 

All of these abuses happened under the odious Bush regime. Obama had the chance to launch a clean slate. But yet again the siren songs and wormtongue machinations of the spooks weave their spell. Justice and transparency fly out of the window. Innocent victims of the policy of 'black' prisons, rendition flights and torture, are denied their day in court. 

This in the country that holds itself up as the hope of the free world, the 'city on the hill', the last bastion of democracy and the 'rule of law.' Hogwash.

The 1791 US Bill of Rights, "prohibits the federal government from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." The Bill of Rights formed the basis of the US Constitution. The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution declares it illegal to use, 'cruel and unusual punishment.'

At the inauguration, an incoming President promises to uphold the Constitution. Obama did not not add a rider, "unless in the interests of national security."

The founding fathers would have been disgusted but not surprised by the Bush regime. 

They would be ashamed at the pusillanimous attitude of President Obama. 

Friday, 10 September 2010

Lifestyle Choices

Silver-spooned slobberychops George Osborne is targeting folks who live on benefits and are classed as 'work-shy.' Sad to relate, it is possible to remember when full employment was an achievable ambition. And then Thatcher came along -  to turn vast swathes of Industrial Britain into a wasteland. And lo! As night follows day - unemployment soared. And remained. And a culture of living off the state was ingrained into sink estate culture. 

Compare and contrast. Simultaneously there was a rapid growth in offshore tax havens, tax avoidance and multinationals using the financial system to reduce their tax bills. For instance, for many years News International made a loss in the UK, but their little office in Lichtenstein made an absolute fortune. And in all that time Murdoch's organs lectured the rest of us about the sorry souls who claimed benefits and who also worked in the black economy. 

So who does slobberychops go for? The soft target of so-called 'benefit scroungers,' which could realise the colossal sum of 5 billion? Or the evasive mendacious mega rich, with their army of slippery accountants who advise them to contribute to whichever party is currently in power and which could realise at least 90 billion for the governments purse?

Well dang my doo dads. Fancy that!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Reform? What bloody reform?

Watching the Parliamentary Channel the other night (someone has to) when the vote was called on the referendum on electoral reform. What a farce. All these old buffers and white middle class suited males milled about for what seemed ages. 

Caroline Lucas (the one Green MP) says the system is 'arcane.' That is polite. It is ineffective, inefficient and downright crap. Over an hour passed to vote on the main issue and a sub-section. What on earth is wrong with having three buttons? In Favour,Against, Abstain. Done in seconds - result announced - next business. 

But no, in the Mother of Parliaments we go down the ritual route. "Lock the Lobby" the Speaker cries. Then like so many lost sheep, the herd of would-be statesman shuffle off to be counted in person by four MPs appointed as 'tellers.' The Lobby is a place where many nefarious activities occur ranging from downright intimidation and coercion to sexual innuendo and groping. It is risible. 

So why does it continue? A combination of party whips, reluctant to lose the power of 'persuasion' and supine MPs hoping for advancement.

We needed reform - we have been offered window dressing. The crap continues.

Root and Branch - nothing but.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Andy Hayman

A pivotal part of the New York Times investigation concerns the relationship between the Met and News International. The role of Coulson is secondary to this yet this aspect has been rarely mentioned by the media - particularly the BBC. 

"Scotland Yard also had a symbiotic relationship with News of the World. The police sometimes built high-profile cases out of the paper's exclusives, and News of the World reciprocated with fawning stories of arrests.
Within days of the raids, several senior detectives said they began feeling internal pressure. One senior investigator said he was approached by Chris Webb, from the department's press office, who was "waving his arms up in the air, saying, 'Wait a minute -- let's talk about this.' " The investigator, who has since left Scotland Yard, added that Webb stressed the department's "long-term relationship with News International." NY Times 5/9/2010
The role of Andy Hayman in limiting the initial investigation to one reporter and one private detective is important too. There was a lot of evidence to suggest that the practice of phone-tapping was widespread (and not just at the News of the World). As the chief investigating officer he would have the power to keep matters under wraps. 
The Guardian reports today, "Hayman stressed that although he oversaw the investigation, another officer was in day-to-day charge. He also denied there was anything improper in his taking work writing for News International newspapers immediately after retiring from the force."
No, Mr Hayman, there was nothing 'improper' but it stinks to high heaven.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Met

It was good to read Nick Davies's detailed, lengthy article in the Guardian today. He went back through the available evidence, to set out why, at best, the Metropolitan Police have been incompetent in investigating the phone hacking scandal. At worst, there are many reasons to suspect that the malign influence of News International 'bought off' the police. It is clear that the Royal reporter and the Private Detective were the scapegoats for a much bigger issue. They were also well rewarded by News International for doing their time and keeping their traps shut. To date well over £2 million has been spent shutting up the disgruntled bugged. And there are more in the pipeline.

Mind you, the sight of so many ex-Ministers lining up to put the boot in is pretty disgusting considering they did bugger-all about it when they had the chance. But they too did not want to upset the digger and his cronies. Now they have lost the election they feel more relaxed about having a go. Gutless unprincipled wonders.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Tony Blair

"Naive, foolish, irresponsible, stupidity, imbecility," so says Tony Blair in of his government's decision to introduce the Freedom of Information Act. Not an off-the-cuff remark but a comment in his book. Says all you need to know about the man and his attitude to us proles. 

There is a discreet little protest taking place. People are being asked to visit their local bookshop, pick up the venal turds self-serving autobiography  - and then replace the tome in the 'Crime' section!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Andy Coulson

There are several very disturbing elements to this tale. An ex-editor friend says that for Coulson to claim that he knew nothing about the phone-tapping is incredible. He would have had to authorise payments to the Private Detective and others. It also does not square with his very aggressive style as an editor chasing celeb scandals to sell his paper. 

Call Me Dave bought into this style when he appointed him to be a surrogate Campbell to his surrogate Blair premiership. This says a great deal about CMD's judgement.

Even more disturbing has been the deep silence in most of the media about this story. That the News International stable have put the interests of their proprietor  (Mr R. Murdoch, aka 'The Dirty Digger') before the interests of the nation is hardly surprising. That other news organisations did so too is less understandable, until the fact that the Digger owns over 40% of the media in this country is taken into account. Good old 'enlightened self-interest' comes into play. Many journalists would not wish to scupper future employment opportunities. There is also a long tradition in Fleet Street of not attacking each other. The BBC are still cowed by the Hutton Report.

So why does this matter? A fair, open and rigorous press is a bastion in a democracy. The first thing that despots do is to control the media. Next, the police are used to enforce illiberal laws. Which brings us to the most serious aspect of this story. The role of the Metropolitan Police.

There are admissions on record that News International have paid members of the Met for information. This has gone on quietly for years. Where this takes on a sinister hue is the strong suspicion that the Diggers staff have leant on the investigating team to do a cursory job, ensuring much sensitive and damaging information remains buried. This is perverting the course of justice. This is a powerful organisation using its clout and muscle to subvert our democratic processes. If successful, it places News International above the Rule of Law.

And it's not even subtle or crafty. The chief investigating officer - one Andy Hayman - left the Met shortly after concluding his non-investigation - and walked into a job as a columnist with………News International.

Pass the sick bag.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Rawnsley vindicated

Remember when his book came out before the election? Remember how the NewLabour attack machine rolled into action pooh-poohing his tales of a dysfunctional bunch of ego maniacs? Chief among them was a certain venal, mendacious and slimy toe-rag, aka Baron (It Beggars Belief) Mandelson. 

Rawnsley stuck to his guns - with good reason. The latest self-serving dose of 'I Did it My Way' comes from one Tony Blair, ex PM and would-be war criminal. It appears that Rawnsley was too soft in his assessment of the follies and foibles of our leadership clan. All of this was well-known to most if not all Labour MPs. It was certainly well known to the inner circle. And what did they do about the raving and uselessness of Brown? 

What an indictment of our system. What an insight into how much further we have to go to improve our democracy and wean it away from the wealthy , the greedy and the stupid. 

Why the hell should we trust any of the buggers? To amend Churchill's pithy phrase a little, "They rat, and then they re-rat."