Thursday, 29 September 2011

Tony Blair - Peace Envoy!
Tom Lehrer famously declared satire died the day Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Well there is a current rival for that quote. Ex-PM Tony Blair. 

All the time Blair has been Middle East Peace Envoy he has used the role to feather his already luxuriant nest. As the Channel 4 Dispatches  programme showed he is the richest ex Prime Minister we have. Meanwhile the situation in the Middle East deteriorates. 
Mark Steel, writing in the Independent, made a few trenchant points.
“Tony Blair keeps popping back to annoy us, doesn't he? Every few months, just as you think he's slid into history, he emerges getting paid a million pounds for something, like brokering an arms deal with Josef Fritzl and you realise we'll never be rid of him. At least in the past, leaders did their damage, then disappeared, but he'll never go. It's like finding out the next leader of the UN will be General Franco or that Emperor Hirohito is to be a judge on X Factor.
A Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Monday concerned one of Blair's business dealings, but they needn't have bothered with the investigative bits. It could just have gone "Tony Blair is paid £2m a year by JP Morgan bank," and any reasonable person would shout "Oh you dirty pig, how have you pulled that off?" while the rest of the hour was adverts.
Because you might ask why the bank feels he's worth this salary. It's possible it's because he's really good at banking. He went for an interview and did a test and they said, "We've never met anyone who can count so fast, and you can even multiply. Name your price". Or, if we were to be cynical, it's because he has influence and connections as he was the Prime Minister.
The programme went on to claim that his role with the bank compromised his position as Middle East peace envoy, but in his defence that can't be true, as he's already as compromised as it is possible to be on an account of him being Tony Blair.
This is where his genius has to be acknowledged. You'd think that when someone invaded one part of the Middle East for having weapons that turned out not to exist, then was the most strident leader in Europe in supporting the bombing of Gaza, you'd done all you could to ridicule the post of Middle East peace envoy. But he keeps finding new ways, like praising Mubarak as a force for good, or having six business meetings with Gaddafi.
He's like a stadium rock band that has to make each show even more spectacular. Next he'll float through Mecca on Pink Floyd's inflatable pig, then announce he's making progress on bringing all sides together.
A few people give him the benefit of the doubt. For example one writer in this paper yesterday defended his business dealings, concluding that if he "strives to make his family financially secure, how does that harm us?" Maybe this explains the behaviour of Blair's friends as well. The Gaddafis would sit in bed together saying, "We need another couple of palaces for the kids, to make sure they have a decent opportunity in life. After all, we won't be here forever, and the cost of torture chambers keeps going up."
The Blairs have amassed somewhere between £15m and £50m pounds so far, so it's unclear how much more security they need. Still, there might still be a few countries where they don't have any property, and you wouldn't want to leave open the possibility of one of your family getting stuck in Paraguay without a country estate, so he'd best keep toiling away at JP Morgan, because you've got to put your kids first.
The Blairs will probably scrape by, because every moment seems dedicated to providing this security. They sell Tony's signature, and the opportunity to have a photo taken with him, and this summer when they threw a kids' party they charged 10 quid for every child who came. It must be like Ryanair in their house. They'd offer you a Custard Cream, then charge you 85p plus 10 per cent service.
And this is what matters – more than whether he's broken some official code in his business dealings. Because this was the attitude that drove him when he was Prime Minister, obsessed with being close to money and power, which is why he let the banks run riot, and let Murdoch do whatever he pleased, and went to war with Iraq to stay next to Bush. And that, if we're being picky, you might say did harm us.” Independent 28/9/11

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Bannerman case is a disgrace. 
“A well known student fees activist” has been arrested for hanging a banner berating the LibDems for their fees U-turn outside his flat window in Birmingham while the LibDem Conference was going on. In this land of free speech and democracy he would expect to be ignored or at worst a ticking off. Not in these anti-protest days. He was remanded to Winson Green prison, bail was refused and so he is now in jail awaiting trial - for hanging a banner outside his flat!
What is going on? It is clear that there is a move to crush dissent whether by kettling, clubbing or harassing protesters. Orders have gone out to the plods. But who is pulling the strings? Who is ordering this totally OTT approach to protest? It is so stupid it smacks of our political class circling their wagons to ward off attacks.
Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Clunking Clegg and Moribund Miliband
What is it with our so called leaders? What turns apparently intelligent human beings into walking speak your weight machines? Listening to the ‘highlights’ on Radio 4 it was a reminder of how bad things have become. Clegg’s speech was awful yet was received politely by the Christmas turkeys aka the Liberal Democrats. Miliband’s was also poor, despite a walkthrough last night. A walkthrough! What about his values. What does he believe in? Apart from being in power. 
Remember Kinnock taking on the Militant tendency? Now that was democracy in action. That was leadership, not the anodyne twaddle served up by the Clegg Miliband combo. These stage-managed blandishments reflect badly on the leaders - and also their followers who sit there dutifully clapping at the right time (having been told to) and rise as one (again on cue). Eat your heart out Stalin. No doubt Cameron will do a professional job next week but it will be equally vapid and equally appalling.
As this dreadful conference season grinds by there is the feel of being attacked by a series of dementors. All positivity, life and hope is sucked away. All that remains is a desiccated husk. Each mention on  TV or radio news provokes further despair. The political class who currently rule us lack the passion or belief to inspire, provoke or at the very least inform us that  there are alternatives to the current orthodoxy in which bankers and greed are sacrosanct and the poor take the hit.
The political class, quite bluntly, lack class.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Obama and Palestine
How the mighty are fallen. After all the positivity and delight following Obama’s election and the hope of a more enlightened age in the United States there has been a gradual diminution of hope. Guantanamo? Promised to close - still open. Wars? Thousands of innocent civilians are killed every year in Afghanistan and Pakistan. ‘Hearts and minds’ are blown away by unmanned drone attacks. And he is supposed to be intelligent. The running sore that is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank which is at the root of most Middle East tension continues to be untackled. Israel has many powerful friends in the US. As Robert Fisk explains in the Independent.  
“So locked into Israel has US foreign policy become, so fearful of Israel have almost all its Congressmen and Congresswomen become – to the extent of loving Israel more than America – that America will this week stand out not as the nation that produced Woodrow Wilson and his 14 principles of self-determination, not as the country which fought Nazism and Fascism and Japanese militarism, not as the beacon of freedom which, we are told, its Founding Fathers represented – but as a curmudgeonly, selfish, frightened state whose President, after promising a new affection for the Muslim world, is forced to support an occupying power against a people who only ask for statehood.”
“Should we say "poor old Obama", as I have done in the past? I don't think so. Big on rhetoric, vain, handing out false love in Istanbul and Cairo within months of his election, he will this week prove that his re-election is more important than the future of the Middle East, that his personal ambition to stay in power must take first place over the sufferings of an occupied people. In this context alone, it is bizarre that a man of such supposed high principle should show himself so cowardly. In the new Middle East, in which Arabs are claiming the very same rights and freedoms that Israel and America say they champion, this is a profound tragedy.”
It is time for Obama to hand his peace prize back.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Party Conferences
The annual farce that is the Party Conference season has begun. In the constitutions of most political parties the annual conference figures high in terms of electing party officials and determining policy. Various factions would lobby, argue and make their case. There would be a vote. Sounds democratic. Well not quite. For many years the Tory party have been an exception to this approach. They hold a celebration of right-wing values with their party faithful. Policy decisions are deemed too serious to be left to the herd although plenty of informal discussions take place. Much attention is given to the PR potential of the event with ‘standers’ (standing ovations) being orchestrated and all dissent silenced. All is cosy and rosy in the tory world.
The Blair years renowned for its sofa government, neutered the Labour conference to the point where it is very similar to the Tory conference. Now the Liberal Democrats have gone down the same path. This is their most undemocratic conference ever. For instance, they will not be allowed to vote on the dogs breakfast that is the coalitions proposals for the NHS.
Why do party workers bother? Why spend hours on rainy streets pushing leaflets into letterboxes, addressing envelopes, organising and running fund-raising events just so your thoughts and values can be treated with contempt by the rulers in your party? As the political class has spread its tentacles across all the mainstream parties there has been a correlated loss of democracy. Bright young things leave university, get a job (unpaid) as an intern, become an ‘adviser,’ are then wangled a safe seat, often against the wishes of party activists, become an MP, then junior Minister or shadow Minister all without any experience of what life is like for 99% of the population. But they make policies, often disastrously. They pay heed to what their financial backers tell them (apart from NewLabour and the Unions...) which is why banking reform is three years overdue and still nowhere near.
The annual conference farce is another reminder of how rotten our democracy has become and how much more has to be done to reconnect with the electorate.
It is time for a new party based on democratic principles in which discussion, debate, argument and votes are fundamental.
DNM-O   Do Not Moan - Organise.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The stupidity of Scotland Yard

“The latest threat to press freedom comes not as a result of the crimes of News of the World journalists, but from the foolishness of police officers charged with investigating those crimes. They have reached for the blunderbuss of the Official Secrets Act (1989) in a misguided attempt to obtain access to the sources of the information about the hacking of Milly Dowler obtained by Guardian journalists in their coverage of the scandal.
That coverage has exposed not only the hackers but also the incompetence of the police, and it is no doubt for that reason that Scotland Yard is overzealous in its latest attempt to discover their sources.
But it is doing so in a manner unauthorised by law, which requires protection for journalists' sources for the very good reason that they would dry up if informants promised anonymity were to be exposed and prosecuted.
This was established in the leading case of Bill Goodwin v UK, when a young reporter who courageously refused court orders to disclose his source was vindicated by the European court of human rights, which held that the watchdog role of the media would be imperilled if government agencies were able to force disclosure of sources in order to subject them to reprisals. The spectacle of Sarah Tisdall, the defence department clerk cruelly jailed for revealing the date of the arrival of cruise missiles at Greenham Common, should never be allowed to recur.
The journalists may ..... go to jail for contempt of court. That will be an ironic tribute to the stupidity of Scotland Yard – a police service that fails to investigate criminal hackers but puts in jail the journalists who exposed them.” Geoffrey Robertson QC  Guardian 17/9/11

Friday, 16 September 2011

Phone Hacking, the Guardian and Official Secrecy
“Just over two months ago the Guardian published the story of Milly Dowler's phone – and how it was hacked by a private investigator working for the News of the World after the teenager's abduction and murder. It was a revelation which caused worldwide revulsion and outrage. It led to resignations, parliamentary debates, official inquiries and humble corporate apologies. A newspaper was closed and News Corp's bid to take control of BSkyB was stopped in its tracks by a unanimous vote of parliament. The former Metropolitan police chief Sir Paul Stephenson was gracious enough to praise the Guardian's role in persisting where three police inquiries had failed. The country should be grateful, he said, that this paper ignored his own attempts to warn us off. Only this week the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, described the Guardian's campaign as "investigative journalism of the highest quality".
Incredibly, the Metropolitan police are now trying to find out the source of the Milly Dowler story. To that end they are – quite extraordinarily – using the Official Secrets Act to try and force the Guardian to hand over documents which would betray our sources. Papers served on the newspaper this week demand that, within seven days, our reporters – including Amelia Hill and Nick Davies, who relentlessly covered the phone-hacking story for more than two years – hand over anything that could lead the police to identify who blew the whistle on the Dowler story and others.
It beggars belief that the Metropolitan police – who, for years, declined to lift a finger against News International journalists despite voluminous evidence of criminal behaviour – should now be using the Official Secrets Act to pursue the Guardian, which uncovered the story. The Official Secrets Act is a very powerful sledgehammer and the police have no business using it to try to defeat the defences that journalists would normally rely on to prevent them – or anyone else – from trying to expose confidential sources.” Guardian online 16/9/2011
If this is the work of the new man in charge then it does not bode well. The Met is rotten to the core and is in need of urgent reform. This little sideshow is the last thing the new man wants as he puts his feet under the table. Could this be the action of a person (or group) wanting to drop the new man in it from day one? Any attempt to intimidate a journalist with the international reputation of Nick Davies will surely backfire. It is also quite pathetic that the man who has done so much to keep the story alive when the Met had buried it should be one of those targeted. Amelia Hill has worked closely with Nick Davies so she has been hauled in too. 
This move stinks.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Public Sector Pensions
Listening to the Minister for Chutzpah, Frances Maude MP describing potential public sector strikes as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘out of touch’ with the majority of people in the UK fair took the breath away. 
This is a man of such probity he bought a house 300 yards from where he lived in London, to spite the Parliamentary Fees Office. He already owned several other properties but he felt that the taxpayers should pay for at least one of them. He was not alone. Many of his colleagues did the same.
No way should this creep be allowed anywhere near the nation’s airwaves without a warning to the effect that listening to this odious turd was likely to prove detrimental to the public good. At the very least he should be introduced as someone who utilised ‘the rules’ (created by his parliamentary free-loading colleagues) to further his property empire at our expense. 
Such an introduction would have at least two beneficial effects. Very few listeners would give him or his thoughts the time of day. It would also mean we would hear a lot less from him and his partners in slime. 

A worthwhile outcome.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Baha Mousa and the 'few bad apples'
There were the usual urbane army spokesbods on the media yesterday expressing their concern at how the Baha Mousa Inquiry reflected badly on the army. The ‘few bad apples’ line was trotted out and largely unchallenged. The fact that there are reported to be another 160 cases in the pipeline suggests something more than a few bad apples. It’s a rotten orchard. 
Robert Fisk, in a powerful piece in today’s Independent puts some context to the matter. 
“I had spent years in Belfast, listening to the same kind of arrogant, vicious, indifferent reaction to the Army's brutality. It was always the same. Terrorists. Terrorist propaganda. The extraordinary discipline of British squaddies under enormous pressure, etc, etc, etc. Then – when the game was up and the evidence too fresh and too overwhelming – I used to get what we would today call the "Abu Ghraib response". A "few bad apples". Always a "few bad apples".
Where did all these "bad apples" come from, I used to ask, along with their complacent, complicit officers? I recall the day the Gloucestershire Regiment ran amok in Belfast, smashing all the downstairs windows of a Catholic street just before they returned to Britain. Untrue, of course. Terrorist propaganda. Then a "few bad apples". Was I on the side of the IRA? And so it went on. And on.
It wasn't the brutality that was "systematic". It was the lying that was systematic. In Northern Ireland, among the Americans after Abu Ghraib and Bagram and the black prisons and the renditions. Baha Mousa received 93 wounds. There was an inquiry, I was imperiously told. It was all sub judice.
Even the moment of Baha Mousa's arrest has never been truly investigated. Colonel Daoud Mousa – for Baha's father was a senior police officer, permitted by the British to carry a pistol and wear his blue uniform, hardly the father of a terrorist – actually saw his boy after his arrest, lying under orders on the floor of the hotel in which he worked.
The soldiers had found some weapons – perfectly normal in Basra where almost every household contained guns – but what the British didn't want to talk about just then was that Baha had told his father that several British troops had opened the hotel safe and stuffed currency into their pockets.
That, Colonel Mousa believed, was the real reason he was killed.” Independent 9/9/11
‘It was the lying that was systematic’ is a phrase which undermines the rotten apple argument. There was also the complicity of silence from those who did not agree with the behaviour yet colluded with the crimes by keeping quiet ‘for the good of the regiment.’ 
Systematic? You bet.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Just how bad were New Labour?
As more is known, whether from documents found in Libya or revealed in the copious memoirs pouring off the presses, the depths to which NewLabour sank keep getting lower. Unless and until there is some real blood-letting from the rank and file, they will carry the scars for a generation. Just how bad were the key players?
A: Anthony Blair: proven liar, religious fanatic and probably mad. That he is still given airtime shows how supine our systems are. The man should be in jail.
B: Gordon Brown: summarised as a raging ditherer, Brown was the wrong man in the wrong job. A fact that seems clear to everyone who worked with him. That he was elected unopposed speaks volumes about his colleagues, most of whom would have known about his tantrums, his turning to face the wall in a sulk and his penchant for throwing things round the office. B is also for Bully. Brown was a horrible role model for all those tinpot bosses who think that shouting and abusing staff is the way to get success. He also was very slimy in that he employed people like the appalling McBride to do his dirty work. At our expense. And the egregious Balls was his henchman, hitman and muckspreader. 
C: Civil Liberties. Labour (old and new) have always engaged in a big willy contest with the tories on who can be tougher on ‘national security.’ They proved to be awful. Control Orders, detention without trial and as is now becoming clear, willing collaborators with the yanks and their ‘black’ prisons, rendition and torture. Quite shocking. The relationship with arms dealers with a vested interest in selling weapons of control to dictators is a further concern. They fell a long way from Robin Cook’s ethical foreign policies. No wonder he was sacked. C is also for corruption. Cash for Honours, the revolving door between ministries and the corporate world and; utilising Commons ‘rules’ to develop property empires (e.g. Blair, Hoon, McNulty et al). We expect the tories to be on the take. It is what they do. The fact that NewLabour were as culpable was really dispiriting.
D: Defence. New Labour approached this issue like Civil Liberties (see above) and embroiled the nation in several wars - most of which were unjustifiable. They also had a series of execrable defence ministers, some of whom went to work in the arms trade when they left office. D is also for Dodgy Dossier, mostly copied from the internet and used to justify an illegal war. D is also for David Blunkett who is one of the highest earning MPs reportedly on nearly a million a year. Still a cheapskate with his rail ticket scandal and deeply self-serving.
E: Education. They did spend a lot on rebuilding schools. Unfortunately much of this was off-balance sheet PFI. Lacked a coherent approach, numerous untested initiatives flowed from the many ministers who kept the seat warm, failed to leave their mark. Lots of wheezes but little substance. Reinforced the target culture to the detriment of sound education and learning.
F: Fraud: the abandonment of the Serious Fraud Office’s case against BAE on the orders of Blair is a stain on the country. The Rule of Law? Hardly. F is also for the financial sector which went into meltdown on their watch. Deregulating the financial sector was a disaster. F is also for ‘Freedom of Information’. Blair admitted it was one of his biggest mistakes, a sentiment shared by Straw. Surprise, surprise.
G: Gap between rich and poor. This actually widened under NewLabour - a deeply shaming statistic to many party stalwarts. A source of anger to everyone with a civic conscience. ‘The Spirit Level’ emphasised how much unhappiness is related to inequality. Exemplified by Mandelson and his ‘extremely comfortable with the very rich’ remark.
H: Health. Much money spent but creeping privatisation undermined core values. Again PFI  used to pass the debts onto future generations. Too many ex ministers walked out of government and into private health care providers. H is also for Hoon. One of the worst Ministers ever to serve the people when he wasn’t serving himself. Slimy, slimy, slimy. He was also Minister for Defence at the start of the Iraq war. As Sir William Gage detailed in his report into the death of Baha Mousa, the MOD were appalling. The use of hooding and stress positions which he said were forbidden by the Geneva Conventions and had been explicitly banned by Britain for over 30 years. Despite this, the Ministry of Defence appeared to have “largely forgotten” the ban and subsequent training manuals and rule books left those involved in detention and interrogation unclear about what was and was not allowed.
I: Industry. Investment grants used to shore up marginal seats. The most ridiculous being the contract to build 2 new aircraft carriers (which will have to manage without aircraft). They are being built in part in the constituency of Gordon Brown. At a huge cost. Pork barrel politics at its worst.
J: Justice: A post occupied by the egregious Jack Straw, the thoroughly nasty piece of work who circumvented Parliament to deny the Chagos islanders their rights. A good friend to BAE. Despite appearances he is the heir to Castlereigh.
K: Kitchen Cabinet. Most decisions were made by the chosen few who occupied Blair’s sofa. It was here that the briefing against Ministers was plotted. It was also the place where overtures to the Murdoch media were prepared. This method of government actively undermined Cabinet government, Parliament and in particular policy making in the Labour Party. K is also for Dr Kelly. A reminder that power does not like being challenged. It also exposed Alistair Campbell for the ruthless bastard that he is. An attack dog of the highest order who diminished public life manipulating the truth. A malignant presence at the heart of government.
L: Libya. Having been pariahs for many years they were brought back into the fold to assist in the spurious ‘war on terror.’ Enormous blind eyes were turned to torture and rendition. Mealy mouthed declarations fooled few. Oh and there was the small matter of oil. The sick bag was in demand.
M: MPs. Knowing what they knew about Brown what on earth were they doing shooing him into No. 10? M is also for Miliband - the ex Foreign Secretary who fought tooth and nail to keep details of government complicity with torture and rendition becoming public. Why with such a record was he seen as a safe pair of hands? Thoroughly nasty yet lacking the balls to stand against Brown despite several chances. M is also for Murdoch who pulled all the strings and rewarded Blair by letting him become a godfather. Squirmy, corrupt and rotten.
N: NewLabour. Made the party electable but lost their values in the process. Lost touch with their roots. Too many 'political class' candidates who had never experienced the real world and who spent much of their time plotting against each other. Not missed.
O: Oil. The real reason we went to war.
P: Parliament. Treated with contempt by Blair despite being a consumate performer. Peter Mandelson - a value free zone so long as money and power were involved. Also for Prescott who provided Blair with a veneer of working class connectivity. Another who sold his soul and gained his just desserts in the House of Lords. P is also for Prudence. The much vaunted claim from Brown that we had seen the end of boom and bust collapsed with the sub-prime mortgage debacle.
Q: The Queen, reported to be more than disgruntled at the overstretching of her armed forces and the cosying up to America.
R: Robin Cook. The one who had principles, was sacked for them, and who died far too soon. 
S: Special relationship aka being up Bush’s backside. The Saudi’s - the possibility of one of their multitude of Crown Princes being indicted for bribery was enough for Blair to pull the rug on a Serious Fraud Office investigation. The fact that their human rights record is diabolical was neither here nor there when there were weapons to be sold. S is also for Smith, one of the worst ever Home Secretaries. Seemed to get her principles from the Daily Mail.
T: Tobacco. Set the tone right at the start by kowtowing to Bernie Ecclestone because he had donated (bought influence?) millions to New Labour. He wanted to keep the ciggies on his racing cars. Blair obliged.
U: The Unions who for years bankrolled these unprincipled chancers without ever really holding them to account. Why did they do it? 
V: Values. Having abandoned socialist principles and adopted tory-light ones the party is now in a vacuum. What is it for? V is also for Vaz, implicated in several influence-peddling scandals. Unusually appointed by the then government, rather than by being elected by MPs,  as Chair of the influential Home Affairs committee. Another slimy piece of work. Spends a lot of time with his mirror.
W: Wars. Quite a lot of them. The most fatuous being the specious ‘war on terror’ which gave license to all the right wing holy warriors and who, as a byproduct, sold loads more weapons. And uncounted hundreds of thousands died. They were uncounted - another stain on our record.
X: Ballots. Turnout at General Elections has seriously declined. When it rose from 61% to 65% at the last election there were scenes of chaos as electors were turned away by jobsworths. NewLabour occupied ground previously held by the tories. The Lib Dems have joined in too so there are few idealogical differences between our political rulers. So what is the point of voting when so many constituencies are safe seats? NewLabour promised electoral reform until they won a landslide then they conveniently forgot about the idea until just before they were about to lose!
Y: Yates of the Yard who had the unfortunate task of getting this nest of vipers to testify to wrongdoing in the Cash for Honours scandal. Funnily enough - he failed.
Z: Zimbabwe - a country with another madman for a ruler who does despicable things to his people. Lots of hot air from NewLabour but no action. It couldn’t have anything to do with the lack of oil could it?
Put together like this it is evident they were truly awful. Their biggest sin was to make the tories electable again. They also put back the cause of reasonable, decent people for a generation. 
In short, they were a disgrace.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Rendition and cover up

When Miliband senior made his assertions that the UK did not condone torture or had anything to do with rendition, did he appreciate that a few years down the track events would unfold in Libya revealing a very different tale.

Other papers found in the building suggest MI6 enjoyed a far closer working relationship with Gaddafi's intelligence agencies than has been publicly known, and was involved in a number of US-led operations that also resulted in Islamists being consigned to Gaddafi's prisons.
On Sunday, one of the victims, Abdul Hakim Belhaj – now commander of the anti-Gaddafi militia in Tripoli – demanded an apology from London and Washington and said he was considering suing over his rendition to Tripoli and subsequent torture.
For several years, senior MI5 and MI6 officers have sought to deny that their agencies have been guilty even of complicity in the rendition operations mounted by the US after 9/11, and the subsequent torture of the victims.
The discovery of the papers suggests that on one occasion, at least, the British ran their own "rendition to torture" operation.”(my emphasis)
Guardian 5/9/11

For years Straw, Miliband, Blair and Howells have denied any wrongdoing. Miliband fought tooth and nail to suppress evidence from the courts. Howells poo-poohed any suggestion that MI5 or MI6 would get up to skullduggery. Straw? Well he is Straw, friend of arms dealers and oppressor of the Chagos Islanders on behalf of the Americans. And the reverend Blair? What an advertisement for christianity.

Out of the blue (and out of the wreckage left behind by Gaddaffi) emerge damning documents detailing just how cosy our security services were with the torturers and killers of the Libyan secret police. These arrangements to render people opposed to Gaddaffi were authorised at ministerial level. Even Howells was singing a different tune on the Today programme this morning. He still stuck up for the intelligence services but accepted that the documents raised serious questions.

There will be a massive damage-limitation exercise underway. It must not succeed. These nasty bastards were operating in our name. It is time to name names and send them to jail.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

PFI in the Eye
“PERHAPS MPs on the Treasury select committee thumbed old copies of the Eye as they wrote their report on the private finance initiative. More than seven years ago the late Paul Foot concluded his special PFEye report (Eye 1102): "What is already clear is the awful legacy that PFI has left behind. Is it cheaper for the taxpayer? No it is not..."
As Paul also wrote: “Has it ‘saved’ public spending? Only by skilful manipulation of what a former Labour frontbencher warned would be ‘financial sleight of hand’ and ‘deceit’.” Now parliament has finally caught up with Footie, committee chairman Andrew Tyrie prefacing a forensic demolition with the comments: “PFI means getting something now and paying later… We can’t carry on as we are, expecting the next generation of taxpayers to pick up the tab.”
“PARLIAMENT’s Treasury select committee has done what the Eye has been calling on the National Audit Office to do for many years and finally taken a hard look at the scheme under which successive governments – principally the last Labour government – have foisted billions of pounds of debt on to future generations.
The committee found PFI wanting on every level: it is not value for money and currently costs twice as much to finance as conventional procurement; calculations are fiddled to favour it; government accounting for debt and departmental spending gives a perverse incentive to pursue PFI; and the benefits claimed by a vocal industry – cheaper, more timely construction, etc – are entirely illusory.” 
“Having put his knife into the scheme, Tyrie had emollient words for those who have signed such deals over the years: “PFI means getting something now and paying later. Any Whitehall department could be excused for becoming addicted to that.” No word as to whether chancellors shafting future generations with bone-headed but politically appealing promises should be similarly exculpated. Private Eye 1/9/11
And which Chancellor took the tory idea and ran with it? And who then kept them off the nation’s balance sheet? And who had a reputation for 'prudence'?

Why it was that nice Mr Brown who has been in the news such a lot lately. 

And which Chancellor said that he would curb the use of PFI schemes before the last election and has since reneged on that promise and is following in Mr Brown’s footsteps? 

Why it is that ex Bullingdon toff Mr Osborne. 

Fancy that!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Looters ,Bankers and Councillors - Spot the Difference!
Thanks to Private Eye we learnt the following:
“Those who make the wrong decision, who engage in criminality, must be identified, arrested and punished, and we will make sure that happens.” 11 August. Home Secretary Theresa May outlines her no-nonsense approach to criminal justice.
“The United Kingdom further states that the criminal prosecution of bank employees due to participation in tax offences is highly unlikely.” 23 August. Clause in UK-Swiss tax deal agreed by chancellor George Osborne, proving there’s one set of laws for Britain’s teenage miscreants and another for its bankers.
If only Nicholas Robinson, sentenced to six months in prison for stealing £3-50 worth of mineral water during the recent riots, had been middle class and middle-aged, rather than poor and young. In the same week he was sent to prison, a former Liberal Democrat councillor Chritopher Basson, received a jail sentence from Westminster magistrates of 28 days suspended for a year. His offence was to fraudulently claim £12,000 in incapacity benefits while receiving £26,000 in allowances from Camden council.
 And Justice for all? 

Friday, 2 September 2011

Why we really send troops to war...
As the moving ceremonies at Wooton Bassett come to an end, news emerges of the wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes to get access to Libyan oil. Similar moves were made in Iraq. Afghanistan has some of the largest undeveloped mineral resources (including oil and gas) in the world. Where there is wealth on such a scale there are exploiters who will use any strategy to get their snouts in the trough. Political influence is useful. Political influence at the highest levels is very useful. Another way of putting it is corruption. Read the following from today’s Daily Telegraph and see what you think.
“An oil firm whose chief executive has bankrolled the Conservatives won exclusive rights to trade with Libyan rebels during the conflict, following secret talks involving the British Government. The deal with Vitol was said to have been masterminded by Alan Duncan, the former oil trader turned junior minister, who has close business links to the oil firm and was previously a director of one of its subsidiaries.
Mr Duncan’s private office received funding from the head of Vitol before the general election. Ian Taylor, the company’s chief executive and a friend of Mr Duncan, has given more than £200,000 to the Conservatives.
Vitol is thought to be the only oil firm to have traded with the rebels during the Libyan conflict. Oil industry sources said that other firms including BP, Shell and Glencore had not been approached over the deal. One well-placed source said this was “very surprising” because other companies would have been keen to be involved.
Last night the Coalition was under pressure to disclose details of Mr Duncan’s role in securing the deal, worth about $1billion (£618million). The firm is thought to have supplied fuel and associated products to the rebels and traded oil on their behalf.
The controversial firm has previously been fined for breaching sanctions and paid money to Arkan, the Serbian warlord, allegedly for oil contracts.” 
“Mr Duncan, a minister in the Department for International Development, is reported to have arranged the setting up of a special “Libyan oil cell” which brought together officials from the Cabinet Office and Foreign Office to stop the Gaddafi regime benefiting from its control of oil reserves. The oil cell is said to have been key in paving the way for deals between Vitol and the rebels.”
This is the same Mr Duncan who spoke about his three homes when on ‘Have I Got News For You’ and who paid back £4000 wrongly claimed for gardening expenses. Clearly a man of probity.
There is a real debate to be had about our role in the world. It is sickening to listen to armchair warriors delighting in the way we ‘punch above our weight’ on the world stage. This is a euphemism for getting involved in a series of squalid little wars costing untold thousands of  innocent lives. 
The question of why we need such a large offensive armed force (as opposed to a defensive security service) is never put. When the vast amounts of cash to be gained from collateral activities are considered it is not a surprise. The interests of our political elite and their financial backers are synchronous. Our armed forces are being used to further the ends of a rapacious corporate sector. We have moved on from our imperial past. We now promote corporate imperialism.
Our troops are dying to provide Duncan and his cronies with even more cash.
“Do not mourn - organise!” Joe Hill

Thursday, 1 September 2011

PFI and tax avoidance.
On the same day that 2000 Army and RAF were given their redundancy notices there came a report from the public accounts committee exposing yet more financial skullduggery.
“City investors have made bumper profits from taxpayers by buying up the contracts for schools and hospitals funded through the private finance initiative and taking the proceeds offshore, the public accounts committee warned on Thursday.
"They're milking the PFI system for profit," Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, told the Guardian, accusing Treasury officials of being "dreadfully complacent" about tackling the issue.
Under the PFI, which was created by the Tories but expanded rapidly when Gordon Brown was chancellor, private firms agree to build and run schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure under long-term contracts, typically 30 years.
The arrangement means the Treasury can keep the costs off its balance sheet, but in a highly critical report, the cross-party committee says the PFI became "the only game in town" after 1997, and Whitehall officials failed to ensure the taxpayer was getting value for money. In particular, the committee criticises the Treasury for assuming PFI contractors would pay tax, when many are based in offshore tax havens.” Investors 'using tax havens to cash in on PFI contracts' Guardian 1/9/11
It is time to mobilise a mass movement against these tax dodging freeloaders. They enjoy security and many services in the UK yet pay diddly doo dah. The pathetic pre-emptive moaning from the Bankers ahead of the report into their actions reinforces the need to take action. It is now THREE YEARS since the collapse. 'Action' is promised by 2019! What a farce. What a charade. Cameron and his cronies do not know that we know they are subsidised by bankers and financiers - hence the lack of action. It is scratchy back time again.

We are many - they are few. For a start people can transfer their accounts to the handful of decent banks. For another, whenever Richard Branson or Philip Green or similar sleazeballs appear in public in the UK they should be greeted with howls of outrage for their decision to tax avoid. 
Many people are simmering and feel alienated from our political system. It is nothing new. Jimmy Reid speaking on his election as Glasgow University Vice-Chancellor back in the 1970’s. 
"Alienation is the precise and correctly applied word for describing the major social problem in Britain today … it is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It's the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision making." 
The fightback has begun. Students at Glasgow have just completed a successful 7 month occupation to reverse swingeing cuts to courses and pensions. They can have the last word.
“they will tell you that the decision has already been made, that you can't fight and win. This is because they are scared of you, scared that you'll band together. To borrow a popular chant from the student movement, there are many many more of us than them.”
Glasgow students inspired by the spirit of Red Clydeside, Guardian