Friday, 28 January 2011

Control Orders and Control Orders Lite

Before the election both LibDems and the Tories said they would scrap control orders and replace them with something fairer and more effective.
“The long-delayed publication of the Counter-Terrorism Review revealed that instead of replacing the unsafe and unfair control order scheme, the Government is proposing a ‘control order lite’ which is still outside of the criminal justice system – potentially punishing the innocent while the truly dangerous may remain at large in the community.
The new system:
  • will still include electronic tagging and an overnight residence requirement
  • will make it easier for ‘controlees’ to use the internet, but will still place restrictions on which people they can meet and where they can go, including foreign travel bans
  • will limit control orders to two years – although if it is possible to make a new order as soon as the existing one expires, then this constraint will be illusory 
Crucially, the orders will still be initiated by the Home Secretary – and the regime will continue to run outside the criminal justice system of investigation, arrest, charge and conviction.” ‘Liberty’ online
Having listened to Sir Hugh Orde (or should that be ordure?) defending Kettling and even proposing ‘super kettling’ it is clear that citizens in the UK need to maintain constant vigilance to preserve long-held freedoms. 
Chief among these is the right to a fair trial; to know what you have been accused of and what the evidence is. That in a nutshell is the trouble with control orders - lite or otherwise. The subject of the order does not get a day in court, or find out what they are accused of, the nature of the evidence, only that the security services think they are a threat. All very Kafkaesque.
Allow tape transcripts.  Should a Judge feel it strictly necessary, hold cases or parts of the case in camera. This latest mishmash is neither fair or effective and contravenes basic freedoms.
It all harks back to the days of the Court of the Star Chamber when people perceived as threats were tortured and who then implicated other innocents.

Can we trust our security services? As stated here before, ‘Who watches the watchers?’ Can we trust our politicians? 

Thursday, 27 January 2011

What the Papers Say ....

Phone hacking? Isn’t it brilliant what members of the fourth estate have been up to in the name of the mighty ‘public interest?’ And the way they have all piled in to cover the story giving it maximum revs has certainly been an eye opener........
The silence has been deafening in some quarters. Daily Star: nothing, not a word. Daily Express: tucked away well behind the salacious stuff. Daily Mirror: rated about third in their priorities. The Sun ‘wot won it for Cameron’ : nothing. The Record: nothing. Daily Mail: nothing last night but weighed in with NewsCorps denial of further involvement this morning. All the broadsheets, including the Times, covered the story, albeit with different tacks. 
One of the more interesting pieces from an insider stated that all of this nefarious stuff has been outsourced to private eyes - many on the continent - so a firewall exists between the news hound and the hacker. All deniable and all off the record. 
Thanks to the plods willful mishandling of the case from the start all the hacks have had four years to delete their emails and scrub their offices clean. Giant magnet anyone?
Watch out for a fire in the evidence store at the Met.
Telling truth to power is what they are supposed to be about - not who is slagging/shagging who.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

House of Frauds rides again

M’Lord Taylor was found guilty of cheating on his expenses yesterday by a jury of oiks. “The 58-year-old, who was ennobled by the Conservative party, was said to be "devastated" after a seven-man, five-woman jury today convicted him of dishonestly claiming £11,277 in allowances by an 11-1 majority verdict.
The barrister and sometime television presenter had falsely claimed travel and overnight subsistence by telling the Lords members' expenses office that his main residence was in Oxford, when he had only one address in Ealing, west London.
He told jurors at Southwark crown court, London, he was following advice given to him by fellow peers that it was acceptable to nominate a main residence outside the capital and claim the allowances "in lieu of salary". Guardian 26/1/2011
Anyone remember this fine upstanding role model? 'Baroness Uddin should repay £125,349 "to which she was not entitled" - saying claims were "made wrongly and in bad faith" - and be suspended until the end of the current parliamentary session, around Easter 2012.’ BBC Online 18/10/10 
Now this is over 12 times as much as Taylor has been done for. Has she been arrested and charged with fraud? Or is she doing her ‘time’ suspended from the House of Frauds until 2012? 
Chator, Taylor, Uddin and Illsley; are they the tip of a giant iceberg? Or are we coming to the end of the fiddling culture? Anyone who thinks the latter should contemplate the Balls-Cooper combo. They flipped their home three times to gain maximum benefit at our expense. Where are they now? Newly promoted Shadow Chancellor and Shadow Home secretary. Now that is a punishment.
And Osborne and his tax avoiding chums? All gone quiet squire. Many of our so-called betters must be breathing a sigh of relief as these small fry hit the headlines. 
For they, the movers and shapers, continue to get away with it.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Who runs Britain?

A significant shift in the phone hacking story took place on Saturday. A lawyer working for several as yet unnamed celebs stated categorically that it was not just the News of the World engaged in nefarious deeds. Gee Whizz!
No-one still breathing can be surprised that in the tabloid/Mail race to the gutter, the sewer and the cess pit, corners were cut, palms were greased and crimes were committed. 
This theme was continued in the Guardian today, in an article by Jackie Ashley.
"If you think all this stopped some time ago, you have to be bloody joking." She ...(a celeb) was told only last month that there had been yet another attempt to hack into her voice messages. The practice is endemic. Shrewd editors have passed the really dirty stuff "offshore" – to self-employed dirt diggers – but they are happy to buy and publish the results. The list of targets is apparently much wider than the investigations so far have shown, and is unlikely to be kept under wraps for much longer.”
“Here's the problem. Normally, when something goes wrong we would expect it to be uncovered by the media, or MPs or the police. In this case, so many newspapers are implicated that it's naive to expect proper investigation of the story, still less demands for a change in the law. Much of the focus on Coulson was driven by editors who simply wanted the phone-hacking scandal to disappear, and hoped that his scalp would end any further scrutiny. That now seems unlikely.”
“What about MPs? Where is the chorus of outrage from Westminster, where so many members have been targeted? You might expect this to be a huge issue in the Commons, not least because it might be seen as just retribution and revenge for journalists' exposure of MPs' expenses.”
“There are MPs campaigning on this. But the silence from the party leaderships, where the power lies, has been deafening. And the reason is bleakly clear. Look at the reports and see the photos from any of Murdoch's summer parties, where the political class and the News International elite schmooze. There is no crude political favouritism here. At the Orangery in Kensington or the Oxo tower, you find Cameron, Lord Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, both Miliband brothers, Ken Livingstone, Nick Clegg, George Osborne – etc, etc – mingling with the News International chief, his family and his courtiers.” Guardian 24/1/2011
The Independent today relates how James Murdoch, apprentice Master of the Universe, had dinner with the Camerons in the company of Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, just a few days after he took Cable off the case. The line from No.10 rather pathetically was that Brooks was a constituent of Cameron’s in Witney. 
“We need a thorough-going clean up of the rules by which individuals can be spied on and harassed. But who can we turn to? There have been dark mutterings of police collusion and apathy. They have certainly not rushed to inform those who have been targeted. Many politicians feel intimidated, fearful of what the press might do to them if they do raise concerns. I have spoken to several MPs who are suspicious about the way cameras appeared as if by chance – but they will only talk off the record.”
“The answer is that MPs of all parties have to understand this is just as much a question of authority, of "who runs Britain?", as Europe or the dominance of the bankers. We get steamed up about CCTV cameras and the big state, and rightly so. But what about privately sponsored snooping and the Big Hack? If the legislature is intimidated by newspapers, it is not worthy of respect and cannot be relied on to protect anyone else. We seem to be living through a digital age of exposure, much of it driven by the press. Now, perhaps, it's time to shine the light on the one profession that has too often been able to work quietly, in the shadows, without full disclosure or scrutiny – journalism.” (ibid)
It is unlikely that the political class will sort this out without a great deal of external pressure. They have too cosy a relationship with the media barons to take them on. 
It is time to put the Met Police under scrutiny too. Let us have an Inquiry of the most rigorous and searching kind - with participants speaking on oath about their links with News International (and the rest).
It matters.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Blair could not look them in the eyes

The Chilcott Inquiry do not do emotion. Blair’s second helping of clement questioning was carried out in front of bereaved relatives who lost loved ones in his crusade. At the first hint of anger from the watchers, the emotional black hole, aka the chairman, intervened with a rapid 'sshh.' But he couldn’t suppress all the feeling in the room.
Blair was castigated last year by the media for failing to express his regrets for the loss of life. This time was going to be different. 
“This time he wanted to make amends, declaring: "Of course I regret deeply and profoundly the loss of life."
“Instantly, there was a cry of "too late" from the people seated behind him, packed together in a windowless room much smaller than it appears on television – a fact that only added to the intensity of the moment. That sparked a chorus of "too lates", most of them coming from women, bereaved wives and daughters, sisters and mothers. One called out acidly: "You've had a year to think about it."
Blair pressed on, offering his thoughts on lessons to be learned for the future. As he spoke of improved systems for the "transmission" of information to the prime minister, two women stood up and turned their backs in mute protest. After a few seconds, they headed for the door.
And finally, after Chilcot had thanked him for his evidence, the former prime minister got up to leave. As he did, the room burst. "Your lies killed my son," shouted Rose Gentle in a loud, ringing voice, remembering Fusilier Gordon Gentle who was killed in 2004. "I hope you can live with that."
Blair did not look back, nor did he even glance sideways as he brushed past Reg Keys – the father of Lance Corporal Tom Keys – who stood as an anti-war candidate in Blair's Sedgefield constituency in the 2005 general election. "You're a disgrace to your office and to your country," Keys said, all but spitting the words.
Perhaps in anger at Blair's refusal to break his stride, one woman thundered that "He'll never look us in the eye." And then he was gone.” Guardian 22/1/2011
On a big news day, the anger and loathing of those betrayed by Blair ended on the cutting room floor. Shame on Blair and shame on the broadcast media. 

Saturday, 22 January 2011


“There will be plenty of people hoping that Coulson's departure will be an end of the matter, but of course it isn't. There are too many unanswered questions about too many important people, companies and institutions. Confidence in the police has undoubtedly been sapped by the drip-drip escalation of the story, with journalists and lawyers painfully dragging out of the Met the full details of what they know and when they knew it. To many, it has looked as though the police have been playing elaborate games – earnestly searching for "new" evidence, when they know that most of the evidence has been sitting in their own files all along. The police are now running out of road. There are too many questions about their original handling of the case and their behaviour at every subsequent turn of events. Why did they treat recent whistleblowers as suspects rather than witnesses? Why did they fail to inform the vast majority of suspected victims? Why do they continue to be so stubbornly unco-operative in their response to victims' lawyers and to other FoI requests? Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary could well order independent scrutiny of the Met's behaviour, as it did with public order policing. Now that the Crown Prosecution Service has commissioned a full assessment of the case, the time may have come for the Met to stand aside altogether.
And then there is the behaviour of News Corporation. It has an impressive code of governance and array of independent directors – including President José María Aznar, the Georgetown law professor Viet Dinh, Rod Eddington from JP Morgan and Andrew Knight from J Rothschild Capital Management, a former Economist editor. Its website promises "integrity, honesty, forthrightness and fairness" and protection for company whistleblowers so that people can speak out "without fear of retaliation". Its chairman has said the company has a "zero-tolerance" approach to wrongdoing. This is fine-sounding stuff, especially when it comes to offering editorial guarantees or some form of independent board oversight, if only the government would agree to the Sky deal.
But, speaking of oversight, there are some awkward governance questions for the distinguished grandees on News Corp's board. Did they know of, or approve, the "silence money" payments to victims of phone hacking such as Gordon Taylor or Max Clifford? Was it good governance to suppress evidence of criminality by employees with cash payments and by the sealing of court files? As directors, have they ever asked to see those files? Do they know whether their company is currently paying the legal fees of Glenn Mulcaire, the former £100,000 a year private investigator who is even now fighting court orders to reveal the names of the NoW journalists he dealt with? If they are paying Mr Mulcaire's fees, how does this sit with a commitment to uncover the truth of what happened? Are they satisfied that no attempts are currently being made to "dissuade" litigants from pursuing their civil actions?
These governance issues would matter anyway. They matter even more given the attempts by News Corp to persuade the government to wave through approval of the Sky deal, which would make them easily the most dominant UK media company in history. The fact that the prime minister is on such easy social terms with News Corp executives means that transparency is essential. It also suggests that Cameron's lack of judgment over Coulson is even more striking.”  Guardian leader article 22/1/2011
“What this saga reveals is the ominously dominant position of Rupert Murdoch's News International media empire in our national life. An iron triangle consisting of Downing Street, News International (owner of the News of the World) and the Metropolitan Police attempted to rubbish this investigation and tried to sweep wrongdoing under the carpet. Yesterday's resignation must be the start of accountability, not the end.” Independent 22/1/2011
On the Today programme this morning, a lawyer representing several celebrities made it clear that the NoW were not acting alone. The phone hacking culture spread across many more tabloids (and broadsheets?) than revealed so far. 
As the item finished, the journalist giving the report said that not one tabloid had this story on their front page this morning. 

Friday, 21 January 2011

Heir to Blair

As Blair appears before the Chilcott Inquiry to ‘explain gaps’ is it likely that the truth will out? Not if Gus O’Donnell and the vast bulk of the establishment have anything to do with it. Earlier this week the toothless tigers on the Inquiry explained in mandarinesque language that they were not happy; not happy at all. Documents which they felt essential to their inquiry were withheld on grounds of ‘national interest.’
Whose interest? Certainly not ours, the plebs who have watched with horror and shame as the biggest foreign policy disaster in our recent history has unravelled before our eyes. 
Blair, despite claims to the contrary, made a pact with George W to support US action in 2002. Everything was then done to facilitate that decision. 
Parliament could and should have smelt a rat. The Labour Party were split. Blair succeeded in his scheme only with the assistance of Gung-ho Tories performing their usual armchair warrior act. The LibDems opposed and were excoriated for their stance by the majority of the media and their colleagues in the Commons.
Blair has ‘moved on’ despite his appalling legacy and is now a multi-millionaire ‘peace envoy’ for the Middle East. Read that sentence again and weep.
He will continue to misuse language to justify the unjustifiable.  His records, like his expenses, have been filleted to remove potentially incriminating evidence. He will get away with it because the political class do not want the hoi-polloi getting ideas above their station.
Which brings us to ‘Call me Dave’ - a self-confessed admirer of Blair. He displayed a Blairite touch of chutzpah this week. Before the election, Cameron could not have been clearer that the Tories would not touch the NHS. He went so far as to say, “There would be no top down re-organisation of the NHS.” 
When challenged about the radical changes now proposed he replied with barely a flicker, that the re-organisation, “Would be bottom up.”
His master would be proud of him.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

News Values

Listening to the 9-00am bulletin on Radio 4 this morning, it was surprising to say the least to hear the first item being something that has not happened yet! Baroness Warsi, Tory Vice Chairman, was reported as making a speech ‘later today’ and pointing up a couple of issues to be covered. This is not News. It is a trailer. The Baroness may change her mind and delete one or more key points from her address. Once delivered, only then does it become ‘News.’ So why was it lead item on a serious radio station?
Compare and contrast with the deafening silence in the media about a letter leaked to RTE, the Irish broadcasting station, confirming the Vatican’s involvement in the cover-up of child abuse. The men in frocks clearly have friends in very high places....
Private Eye smugly had a ‘Quote of the Week’ in their latest issue which is relevant to this  subject. 
“Whether it is consultancies and directorships for MPs, the revolving door between top state officials, government adviser and business corporations, the regulation racket when it comes to the City, the railways and gas and electricity distribution or the massive corruption in Britain’s financial, armaments, construction and other sectors, Private Eye reports more in in one fortnightly issue than in the rest of Britain’s mass media together.”
Robert Griffiths (general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain), Morning Star, 20/12/2010
Quite a sentence. Accurate and damning. Private Eye get most of their stories from frustrated journalists. Listening to this mornings bulletin, it is easy to understand their frustration.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Lies, damned lies and the Vatican

“A Vatican department advised Ireland's Catholic bishops in 1997 not to report priests suspected of child abuse to the police, a newly revealed letter shows.
Obtained by Irish broadcaster RTE, the letter shows Vatican officials rejected an initiative to begin the "mandatory reporting" of abuse claims.
The proposed policy "gives rise to serious reservations", it says.
The Vatican has persistently said it never instructed bishops to withhold suspicions or evidence of crimes. (My emphasis)
Abuse victims in Ireland and the US said the letter, which RTE said it had received from an Irish bishop, was a "smoking gun" that would serve as important evidence in lawsuits against the Church.” BBC Online 19/1/2011
"The letter is of huge international significance," said Colm O'Gorman, director of the Irish section of Amnesty International. "It shows that the Vatican's intention is to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities. And if that instruction applied here [in Ireland], it applied everywhere." (my emphasis)
Joelle Casteix, a director of the US advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, described it as "the smoking gun we've been looking for." It was certain to be cited by lawyers acting for victims seeking to pin responsibility directly on Rome, not the dioceses.
To this day, the Vatican has not endorsed any of the Irish church's three documents since 1996 on safeguarding children. Irish taxpayers, rather than the church, have paid most of the €1.5bn to more than 14,000 abuse claimants dating back to the 1940s.” Guardian 19/1/2011
That the Vatican has lied will not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed this appalling tale. That these lies helped protect serial paedophiles among their priests is doubly shocking. That these priests then went on to abuse many, many more children shows the depths of depravity sanctioned by the Catholic Church. 
Why anyone gives these so called holy men the time of day is astonishing. Every time one or other of them appear on the media to pontificate about something or other they should be introduced as a representative of a criminal paedophile friendly organisation. 
The evidence of a cover up surely means there must be court cases to follow. Mustn't there?

Monday, 17 January 2011

Police spy story turns nasty

The undercover policeman at the centre of the storm over infiltration of the environmental protest movement today insisted that all his actions had been sanctioned by his superiors and accused senior officers of deliberately suppressing evidence that would have exonerated six activists facing criminal charges.
On Friday, the Independent Police Complaints Commission launched an investigation into allegations that the Nottinghamshire force had withheld material from the CPS and the activists' defence team.
Yesterday, Kennedy revealed that he had covertly recorded two meetings of activists held to discuss the break-in of the power station. "The truth of the matter is that the tapes clearly show that the six defendants who were due to go on trial had not joined any conspiracy," he said. "The tapes I made meant that the police couldn't prove their case. I have no idea why the police withheld these tapes." Guardian 17/1/2011
Mark Kennedy told the Mail on Sunday that the low point of his undercover career came in 2006. During a demonstration at the Drax coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire, he was on the receiving end of a beating from police officers who, he says, were only on the scene because he tipped them off.
"A young petite woman I knew as Cathleen began to crawl through a hole in the fence," Kennedy said. "Then I saw a uniformed officer start to strike her very hard on her legs and lower back with his baton.
"I tried to stand between her and him. I didn't do anything aggressive. That's when I got jumped on by five officers who kicked and beat me. They had batons and pummelled my head. They punched me. One officer repeatedly stamped on my back." (my emphases)
According to Kennedy, he was treated in hospital for a head wound, a broken finger and a prolapsed disc. But when he tried to claim compensation from police for injuries sustained while on duty, he was turned down on the basis that it could jeopardise his cover. "That pissed me off," he said.”  ibid
The delicious irony of the spy getting a serious beating from his erstwhile colleagues diminishes when the full implications of  when the situation is considered further. This smacks of punishment beatings handed out by police in authoritarian states around the world. It has become increasingly commonplace here with little or no accountability. Look at the lack of official reaction to the disgraceful treatment of many student protesters. Lots of reaction to the extinguisher thrower, no response to the many skull crackers and the wheelchair dragger. 
Millions saw the footage of news vendor Ian Tomlinson being pushed to the ground by an aggressive copper. Astonishingly and disturbingly, no legal action was brought against the officer because of a ‘lack of evidence.’  Add the alleged withholding of the tapes proving the innocence of the six activists and all of this becomes extremely serious. 
In a democracy the police serve the citizens. 
Police state: a country in which the government uses police, especially secret police, to exercise strict or repressive control over the population. Bloomsbury English Dictionary

Friday, 14 January 2011

Cameron, Clegg and Cable

 Cameron, Clegg and  Cable
Told us voters they were able
To give the bankers quite a bashing
In fact, they’d get ‘a jolly thrashing’
Cable, Clegg and Cameron
Promised us they had begun
To reign in the nasty bankers
But they lied!  The bloody wankers
Cameron, Cable and Clegg
Instead of action - began to beg!
Please don’t go! Please stay
Gamble our money - we will pay!
And so as times turn really tight
Remember just what sort of fight
Was put up against the greedy
On behalf of the really needy
Don’t be stunned when you learn
Just how much the greedy ‘earn’
Watch out for new recruits at the banker’s table
Bleeding Cameron, bleeding Clegg and fucking Cable

Thursday, 13 January 2011

ACPO, spying coppers and the right to protest

The  impact of the spying copper was a proper jaw dropper. As details have emerged since the weekend, the jaw has stayed firmly dropped. Anyone peddling the story to a Hollywood movie mogul would be told to take the plot away and make it more credible. 
It appears that Kennedy, aka Mark Stone, was not acting alone. So how does this sort of decision to infiltrate campaigning groups take place? Simon Jenkins wrote a very informative - and worrying - article in the Guardian.
“Running Kennedy – let alone his colleagues – cost the taxpayer £250,000 a year, or £1.75m over seven years. Whether tree-hugging and the occasional trespass constituted threats to national security is moot. A gilded sledgehammer was clearly being deployed to crack a few nuts. They were not a serious terrorist threat. The denouement was a costly fiasco. This is what happens when authority has too much money and no one in charge to impose a sense of proportion.
It is significant that Kennedy did not work for any police force. He worked for a murky organisation called the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). With a budget of £5m this operates as a branch of the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU) which, in turn, works alongside the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU). Ask where this stands, and you will be told it reports to the Association of Chief Police Officers' Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee, codenamed Acpo(TAM).
Only those who have tarried in the foggy corridors of the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Metropolitan police can have any notion of the Orwellian extravagance of these places. Agencies, units and groups cruise shark-like round the feet of terrified Home Office ministers. Their staffs, expenses, overtime and accommodation are crammed into London's Scotland Yard and Tintagel House. If challenged, they incant their motto: "We keep you safe."
Kennedy's bosses in the NPOIU work for Acpo, but this is not what it seems. It is not, as its name suggests, the police officers' staff club, nor is it a public body of any sort. It is a private company, incorporated in 1997. It is sub-contracted by Whitehall to operate the police end of the government's counterterrorism and "anti-extremism" strategies. It is thus alongside MI5, but even less accountable.
Acpo was once a liaison group. But, like all bureaucracies, it has grown. It now runs its own police forces under a police chief boss, Sir Hugh Orde, like a British FBI. It trades on its own account, generating revenue by selling data from the police national computer for £70 an item (cost of retrieval, 60p). It owns an estate of 80 flats in central London. While the generous logistical support it offered the greens was doubtless gratis, we do not know if E.ON UK, the operator of Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, paid for security intelligence from Kennedy.
As a private company, Acpo need not accede to Freedom of Information requests and presumably could distribute its profit to its own board. The whole operation is reminiscent of the deals set up by the Pentagon with private firms to run the Iraq and Afghan wars, free of publicity or accountability. There is no more vivid testament to the illiberalism of the Blair regime than these eccentric arrangements. They were all approved by the likes of David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, John Reid and Jacqui Smith.” Simon Jenkins Guardian 12/1/2011
New Labour were an absolute disgrace when civil liberties issues arose. This case spells out just what a bunch of second-raters they were when faced by the security industry. Whether it was the tendency to want to appear tougher than the tories on security issues or whether the security services had some good skeletons to pick at is still open to question. Unfortunately the move to roll back the worst of their excesses by the Coalition seems to have stalled. This case should jolt some sense into them - but do not bank on it.
“It recalled Chesterton's satire on the early Met police special branch, The Man Who Was Thursday, in which all the members of the "supreme anarchist council" turned out to be policemen. So, are the greens all policemen, and if so what is their game?” ibid
Who watches the watchmen?

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Bankers 5 Democracy 0

‘Too big to fail’ they said. ‘It will never happen again’ they said. ‘Outrageous bonuses are a thing of the past’ they said. ‘Failure to support the banks would be catastrophic’ they said.
Well maybe, but what became clear yesterday was just how powerful these greedy gamblers have become. One fifth of the UK’s Gross National Product is created by the financial sector. In the face of hints, subtle and otherwise, our weak-kneed leaders caved in. They are now singing a very different tune.
This leaves us in even more of a mess. The ‘masters of the universe’ have been strengthened and further empowered by the bail-outs. Unelected, unaccountable and seemingly fire-proof. Our current politicians are incapable of reining them in. They threaten to walk away and in this internet-connected age, do their gambling elsewhere. 
The UK cannot act unilaterally against the financiers and multi-national corporate greed machines but it can mobilise other nation states to act in unison. A long shot. The alternative is a two-tier world where the so-called democracies stand by enfeebled, emasculated and virtually powerless, while the plutocrats condescend to distribute their favours to fawning acolytes. 

The effect of the climbdown will be to turn up the political heat in the UK. As cuts bite, as jobs go and as services wither, there will be justifiable rage against those who created the pain but who continue to gain. That rage will be turned on those who promised to curb the excesses but have singularly failed to deliver anything of significance. 

Monday, 10 January 2011

Why the phone-hacking story matters

It is not going away. Every week there is the drip drip drip of further revelations. A leader article in the Observer yesterday summarised the key elements concisely.
“A powerful news organisation pays cash to avert scrutiny of dubious practices. Those practices are inadequately investigated by a police force that is thought to collaborate with the same news organisation. MPs say their inquiries are tempered by fear. The man who presided over the newspaper at the centre of the allegations is now the prime minister's chief media aide.”
Put like that it is clearly not going to go away. The crucial issue is the collusion of the Met in what looks like a cover up. The damage limitation plan: send two stooges to jail - buy their silence and promote the lone maverick version. Thousands of pages of notes are conveniently ignored by the Met. The then editor (Coulson) denies all knowledge yet resigns - and walks into a plum role with Cameron.  Buy off the three who want to take the matter further (at nearly £1 million each). Accuse any doubters of malice or envy and using the phrase of the century - move on! Job done.
But not quite Lord Copper. The fact that the man in charge of the investigation - Andy Hayman - retired from the Met and immediately became a columnist for News International stank to high heaven. They didn’t even wait for a few months, such is the arrogance of the execs involved.
The Met kept refusing requests for information from the many celebs who want to find out what happened to their phones. The judiciary (thankfully) have taken a much stronger line and ordered the release of document after document. And each one shows what the police ignored, willfully or woefully. 
The list of those wanting their day in court grows weekly. While some want a pay-off, others seem more determined to get News International Executives into court. In the witness box - on oath. Squirm, wriggle and hug moments galore! 
Rupert Murdoch knows all this. He wants to gain control of BskyB and this matter is not helping. There could be several execs taking a walk “for the good of the company.” Damage limitation - version 2. 
And as for the Met? Several MPs are not happy. They are not happy at all and there is talk of an independent investigation from another force and/or a judicial review. 
Anyone still in doubt why this matters? Imagine how the Murdoch group would have handled a similar story if it had been the BBC at fault. Or a different political party. 

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Lies, damned lies and Tories

Clegg and his wibbly-wobbly Liberals have, quite rightly, been pilloried for their U-Turn on tuition fees. For thousands of students and many other citizens they stand exposed as lying devious bastards. How convenient for their bed-mates.
Throughout this time, the really, really devious, slippery and deeply untrustworthy bunch of self-serving toe-rags, collectively known as the Tories, have quietly, with the help of a too-friendly media, overturned many more pledges made before the election.
Not convinced? Here is Cameron three days before the election.
"any cabinet minister … who comes to me and says 'Here are my plans' and they involve frontline reductions, they'll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again". (Andrew Marr show)
£81billion in cuts now rain down on frontline services, to the disgraceful sound of Tory cheers in the Commons.
Would VAT rise? A month before the election, Cameron said: "Our plans involve cutting wasteful spending … our plans don't involve an increase in VAT."
Pretty clear eh?
When challenged that the massive re-organisation and preparation for privatisation were not in the Tory Manifesto, health secretary Lansley wriggled  around like a beetle on a pin and talked defensively about ‘mentioning it at a meeting or two.’ 
So that’s alright then.
Want more? How about universal child benefit?  "I wouldn't change child benefit, I wouldn't means test it, I don't think that's a good idea." Cameron, speaking two months before the election.
Or Education Maintenance Allowances? Michael Gove said just before the election, “Ed Balls keeps saying we are committed to scrapping EMA. I have never said this. We won’t.”
There are more. Apart from Polly Toynbee writing in the Guardian, where are the column inches in the mainstream media exposing these lies? Why are these nasty, scheming, devious lying bastards getting away with it? 
Simply remember the Tory cheers when Osborne announced his £81 billion package of cuts. A bunch of well-off toffs, cheering as they inflicted misery on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. 
Meanwhile the bankers roll on and the tax dodging continues.  

Friday, 7 January 2011

England have won the Ashes

Tax dodgers, News of the Screws phone hacking, Bankers Bonuses, MPs Expenses, Pakistan assassination, Wikileaks, terror threat raised............All pale into insignificance against THE story. 
England have beaten Australia 3-1.

In Australia.  

It is England’s first series win in Australia since 1987. 

The last time they played on Aussie soil they were hammered 5-0. And it was a humiliation. Now the boot is well and truly on the other foot.
It was a record breaking series. Several feats stand out. 
The astonishing batting of Alistair Cook. He batted for longer than any other English player - over 36 hours in total, scoring 766 runs in the process.
Every time England won they marmalised the opposition. It is the first time in Australia that a visiting test side has won three test matches by an innings.
England recorded their highest ever score (644) in Australia.
England head for the World Cup buoyed by the words of the departing Paul Collingwood: "This team can go as far as they want to. They're a very, very special side."

Paul Keating, Crocodile Dundee, Yvonne Goolagong, Dame Edna, Kerry Packer, Skippy,  Clive James, Kylie, Rolf Harris, Sir Les Patterson....   
We gave your boys one hell of a beating.”

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Artful Dodger

Rational people realised long ago that the Tory mantra, “We are all in this together,” is so much hogwash. For those unable to read the text on the advert (below), which appeared in several national papers yesterday, it made three key points:

  1. Tax dodging costs the UK £120 billion every year.
  2. George Osborne could do something about this but instead keeps dodging the issue.
  3. Osborne has benefitted to the tune of £1.4 million in tax dodging himself!
A  related article in the Independent made several points. 
“The ad, which ran in several national papers to coincide with the 2.5 per cent rise in VAT, was the work of 38 Degrees, an online protest group that has dedicated itself to causing trouble for the establishment since its formation in 2009.
"There are hundreds of thousands of people in the UK who care about progressive issues who are not connected with traditional political organisations," said David Babbs, its executive director. "They are not apathetic – they want to take action. What we're trying to do is link all those people together."
Since forming in the midst of the MPs' expenses scandal, the group has attempted to replicate the success of organisations such as in the United States, which has successfully managed to channel frustration into a coherent, political pressure group.
38 Degrees was launched with the help of a donation from Gordon Roddick, the widower of the Body Shop founder and political campaigner, Anita Roddick. Since then, it has attracted more than 250,000 members.
In the spirit of handing power back to the people, its decision to target the Chancellor was made after a vote of its members.” Independent 4/1/11
Power to the people? Heaven forfend. How on earth would our political class line their pockets?

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Facebook Values

“Facebook has received a new round of investment that values the social media firm at $50bn (£32.3bn), making it worth more than Time Warner, eBay or Yahoo.
The funds from investment bank Goldman Sachs and its long-time Russian investor Digital Sky Technologies underlines the astonishing growth of the social networking site, started from a Harvard dorm in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg.” Guardian 4/1/11
Not everyone is so enamoured of this phenomenon. Neil Tennant,  Pet Shop Boy, quoted in The Word magazine said, “There’s a sickly strain of fake friendship which goes across the internet, which I find insincere and dislikeable. I’m not on Facebook, but a friend described it as a place where you keep in touch with friends you don’t really want to see, which sums it up rather brilliantly. It’s complete insincerity.”
Happy New Year!