Thursday, 31 October 2013

Gove in bed with Murdoch.

The malignancy that is Murdoch has crawled back into the daylight. Just as Voldemort needed his fawning acolytes to do his foul bidding, so does the Dirty Digger. Among the higher echelons of the Tory party there are only too many willing and eager to do the Digger’s bidding. Step forward Michael Gove. 

“Gove responded to the recent one-day strike by teachers by going to Boston on one of his frequent fact-finding trips to learn from US schools policy. The highpoint was the keynote speech he gave to the annual conference of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a ‘reform’ charity founded by Jeb Bush, brother of former US President George ‘Dubya”. The event was funded by Rupert Murdoch’s online education firm, Amplify, a regular supporter of Bush events.

Amplify wants to replace trained teachers with online material supplied by Murdoch’s News Corp; but its computer systems have already failed in some schools. Nevertheless  it is still well connected – not least to Gove. Before the hacking scandal broke, Murdoch and his staff, including Amplify boss Joel Klein, had regular meetings with the education secretary to discuss setting up News International schools in the UK.....

.....Other sponsors of the conference at which Gove spoke included ‘K-12’, a US company that replaces state schools with ‘virtual’ schools, where pupils don’t see teachers but sit at a computer either at home or in a lab. How long before Gove proposes cyber schools in the UK?” Private Eye No. 1352

On a brighter note, the revelations currently pouring out of the Old Bailey may do their bit to remind even Tory scum like Gove, Cameron and Hunt, that brand Murdoch is still a tad too toxic to be seen to close to at present. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

How to make a Balls of Shoesmith

Under the intense scrutiny of the slavering hounds of the tabloid press, Balls did what all bullies do when put under pressure – he caved in. By summarily sacking Sharon Shoesmith without recourse to due process, he achieved the worst of all worlds. Having won her appeal against unfair dismissal, Shoesmith is now entitled to a compensation payment of some hundreds of thousands. Cue massed outrage from the rabid right and various ministers of state who really should know better. 

Despite all his blustering, “it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth” and harrumphing, Balls has only himself to blame. Not that he will. The man who single-handedly is the gift that keeps on giving to the Tory party is not the most sensitive of souls. He was very involved with that slimy ‘smear-meister’ McBride and was at the heart of the nastiness in the feud between Brown and Blair. 

Why is it his fault? Simply because he wanted to look tough when the media outrage was at fever pitch. He could - and should - have waited for due process to take its course. That would have taken a degree more bottle (or even Balls?) It is not difficult to imagine that given a fair hearing Shoesmith would have been sacked ––without any pay-off. 

All those of you who poo-poo ‘due process’ need to remember this is a system that has evolved over many years to do as much as possible to ensure fairness is built into employment practices. A much saner method than rule by witch-hunt. And as Minister of State for Education at the time, Balls should have known better.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Power for the people

Each week another member of the ‘Big Six’ club of power companies announces rises of between 8% and 10%. Anyone saying that these drip-drip-drip announcements are a coincidence needs a reality check. Do they draw lots to see who gets to go first? The first  always cop for the most flak whereas those ‘going’ 5th or sixth are met with resigned shrugs. 

The Tories can huff and puff all they like but the responsibility for this fiasco lies completely within their bailiwick. A country’s power network is a vital element in its infrastructure. It has a strategic significance. Without power, or the capacity to create power, a country is much more vulnerable to economic and political enemies.

Driven by the scent of greed and a dash for cash, Thatcher’s Tories embarked upon a massive privatisation plan. Even their own supporters accused them of ‘selling off the family silver.’ Well they were right and we are reaping the rewards. One of the ‘big 6’ makes great claim on its website that it has a main aim - to increase the amount of dividend it pays to its shareholders year on year. As the profit it made last year was in excess of £1billion this is not inconsiderable. Forget quality of service, reliability, planning ahead, helping the needy and customer service – think about the money.  Add in the massive exec salaries and bonuses and community good is trampled into the mud by corporate greed.

50 years ago the nation had a nationalised electricity network. It was run by experienced engineers who had a strong tradition of service. Above all these engineers strived to ‘keep the lights on.’ They improved the national grid, developed nuclear power stations and made the UK self-sufficient in energy. No £2million bonuses for these men - and they were mainly men.

Of the Big Six, two are owned by massive German companies (NPower and E.On), one is owned by a Spanish company (Scottish Power) and another by a French state-owned company (EDF) who run the nuclear stations. Hinckley Point Nuclear station is to be built by a consortium comprising a Chinese state owned company and EDF. Quite staggering that the Tories deride Ed Miliband as ‘Red Ed’ yet it is the Tories who are pushing billions of public cash into one state and one communist company. 

Red Ed is far too timid. His call for a price-freeze is unrealistic and quite puny. He should set out his stall to re-nationalise the power industry. We are in a crisis which demands strong measures. 

It would also be worthwhile to turn loose independent auditors on these greedy power bastards and trawl through their books looking for evidence of cartels and price-fixing.

Friday, 25 October 2013

35 World Leaders

Hands up all those of you who think there are many, many more world leaders than 35 being bugged. The memo revealing what went on was dated 2006. That was seven years ago. Plenty of time for the spooks to complete their Spookermon set. 

Bush was President. 
His best mate Blair was Prime Minister. 
Brown took over in 2007 and Cameron in 2010. 
It was admitted today by a spook that Cameron had been bugged “but not deliberately.” He had been talking to another world leader who was being bugged so Cameron was recorded indirectly. So that is alright then. 
What about Brown? 
And Blair? That would be truly weird considering how far up Bush’s backside he was. 

Talking of Cameron, it was noticeable just how quiet his arrival at the EU Summit was. The principle representative from ‘Slippery, Slithery and Slidey & Co’ (aka the UK Government), was on very dodgy ground. As he marched steadfastly into the conference he must have been very aware that the one-way street known as the ‘Special Relationship’ was about to bite him on the bum. All that co-operation between GCHQ and NSA. All those precious secrets which have helped our corporations steal a march on their competitors been so vital in the war on terror. So vital in fact, that we cannot possibly disclose anything about it for fear of compromising national security. Harrumph. [Telegraph readers can insert a few more ‘harrumphs’ in here.]

Another significant change with the ‘Merkel Moment’ has been the reference to Snowden as a ‘whistleblower’ by BBC security correspondent, Frank Gardiner. Quite a shift.

GCHQ has even been mentioned too. 

Whatever next? Riffkind admitting to being on GCHQ’s payroll? Straw confessing he was involved in the rendition of innocent people? 

The Daily Heil admitting it was wrong to accuse the Guardian of treason? Naaah, that really is pushing it. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A Merkel Moment

The Guardian ploughed a lone furrow for many months over the phone hacking story. The Murdoch press rubbished the story, as did The Heil and the rest of Fleet Street. Then came the Millie Dowler moment and the world changed. 

Well the same may have just happened again only this time over the Snowden revelations. All this week there have been more releases and damning evidence;-
  • Mexican President and his senior colleagues 
  • 70 million French people having their calls and texts recorded
  • Turkish delegation to G20 bugged

And as usual the news has been released by the Guardian to a deathly hush with odd exceptions. Tonight came the news that Angela Merkel, who by some way is the most eminent politician in Europe, has rung Obama to complain about her mobile phone being bugged.

Is this a Merkel moment? Is History repeating itself. Are the Guardian, despite the worst efforts of swivel-eyed Torys about to be vindicated? 

Well it did make the main item in the 7.00pm news tonight on the BBC.

And that marks a big change. 

The story of spooks bugging their own civilian population has always resonated so much more with the German people. They still retain some memories of the Gestapo and almost half the country have even fresher memories of the Stasi. They know what it means to have all your conversations and actions recorded.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Last night President Obama phoned President Hollande to apologise for the behaviour of his secret services. Le Monde yesterday said that 70 million French phone calls and texts had been recorded in one 30 day period late last year. The former President of Mexico discovered that all of his communications with cabinet colleagues had been recorded too. 
Turkey: GCHQ spied on its Finance Minister and up to 15 others in a Turkish delegation for a G20 meeting. 

Alarm in the States is growing by the day. There are currently 3 bills going before Congress attempting to rein in the surveillance state. One of the Bills is being put forward by a man who was the mainspring behind the now infamous Patriot Act. The New York Times and Washington Post have both run the same or similar stories to The Guardian. No-one from the spooks have visited the paper’s offices and supervised the symbolic destruction of two hard-drives. None of the journalists working at the Washington Post or New York Times have been threatened.

Europe has become similarly exercised. Compare and contrast with the ‘shoot the messenger’ approach carried out on this side of the water. It is as though we live in a parallel universe. Spooksbod after spooksbod have lined up to waffle on about ‘threat to national security.’ We have even had a Tory MP demanding a parliamentary ‘debate’ on the issue. What a farce. On the substantive issue - the recording of billions of phone messages, emails and texts - Big Brother monitoring our behaviour and our thoughts – there is a deathly silence. 

The ‘event’ took place this afternoon and lasted barely half-an- hour. Julian Smith MP,  spooke for over 15 minutes with several interruptions from MPs hostile to his views. 

“It seems highly likely the Guardian has risked our security several times over,” Smith says, to cries of "rubbish" , "nonsense" and "hysterical scaremongering" from other MPs.
He was accused of promoting ‘outright McCarthyism’ by veteran Labour MP David Winnick. David Davis was also unimpressed and repeatedly asked if it was as serious as claimed, why has no-one been charged? Answer came there none.
Junior Minister James Brokenshire (crazy name crazy guy) flanneled on for a further 10 minutes allowing no interruptions to the point where he was accused of behaving ‘like a robot’  and at 5-00pm precisely the ‘debate’ ended. Just the two speakers and a handful of interruptions. Brilliant. 
Mother of all Parliaments? Hardly. 
Shining example of democracy? You are having a laugh ........aren’t you?

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Nuclear madness

So let’s get this straight. The Tory-dominated government who have just privatised (aka ‘sold to their mates’) the Royal Mail, are the same ideologically driven government who are offering mega bucks to a nationalised company. Whoa! Surely not goes the cry round the land. Oh yes they are and in the critical field - in so many different ways - of nuclear power. Our right-wing ideologues are preparing to hand over a significant chunk of our electricity infrastructure to the Chinese Communist Party. Yes. The. Chinese. Communist. Party.

“The deal is still to be signed, but already some extraordinary claims are being made about Hinkley Point in Somerset, which will be the first nuclear plant to be built in the UK since 1995.
Here's chancellor George Osborne's take: "If it wasn't Chinese investment or French investment, it would have to be the British taxpayer. I would rather British taxpayers were spending their money on our schools and hospitals and those things, and let's get the rest of the world investing in our energy."
Put like that, you might assume UK taxpayers have hit the jackpot, that EDF of France and China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) will bear all the financial risks and that energy bills in the UK are bound to fall sometime around 2020 as cheap nuclear energy comes on stream.
Forget it. The UK will be agreeing to buy electricity from Hinkley Point for 35-40 years at £93 per megawatt hour or thereabouts, according to the whisper from Westminster.

That is roughly twice the current market rate for electricity, and far in excess of the £40 per megawatt hour that was airily waved around by the Department of Energy only half a decade ago.
Nuclear power, it seems, can only be bought at a cost roughly equivalent to on-shore wind, complete with its subsidies to landowners. Maybe that is the price that has to be paid for secure low-carbon supplies, but at current energy prices, the first impact of Hinkley Point will be to add to consumers' bills, just as wind does today.
"In the long term," the chancellor continued, new nuclear should lead to "lower and more stable energy bills."
The key phrase there is "long term". The claim rests on the assumption that the costs of other sources of energy will continue to rise and make £93 appear a bargain sometime in the future. That assumption may or may not prove correct – but coming from a government that supposedly thinks fracking will revolutionise the energy market, it's a strange argument to hear.
But is £93 the real cost anyway? The devil will be in the detail of this contract – specifically, in the indexation formula for the strike price. If Hinkley Point's entire output is tied to the rate of inflation for 40 years, we could be staring at a truly astronomical cost by the end of the contract.
"The government surely can't be that dumb," comments one City analyst..... 

......The Department of Energy and Climate Change refuses to comment until the talks are completed, but Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, has a blunt assessment of where negotiating power lies: EDF has the government "over a barrel" and the contract may be an "absolute disaster" for taxpayers.
Strictly speaking, judgment must be reserved until the contract is signed and published. But Osborne's Chinese spin should make us nervous.
How is it meant to be good news that, among all the possible sources of capital to partner EDF at Hinkley Point, we have ended up with a company controlled by the Chinese Communist party? Nils Pratley, Guardian 19/10/13

Then there is the small matter of decommissioning nuclear power stations. Dounreay on the north coast of scotland has cost taxpayers £2.5 billion to date. There are also the contaminated beaches and bays. Massive clean up costs paid for by the taxpayer not the company responsible. 

What will the final cost be for Fukushima?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Royal Mail Robbery

The bunch of crooks running the country have flogged off a national asset to their mates in the City. There is a thin veneer of small shareholders who will be used to provide a fig leaf of respectability. Experience shows that a few years down the line the fat cats will have their grubby little paws all over the profits. Ian Bell, writing in the Herald was singularly unimpressed.

IF someone told you that your house was worth X thousands and offered to take it off your hands, you might be peeved to see the homestead then going for X+50%.

If you discovered that the agent and his friends had been less than frank about X, then divvied up the proceeds, you might be furious.
That would be the sane response. Sanity is not generally the prominent feature, however, when a British government embarks upon a privatisation. Time after time, the same odd little quirk is evident. The price named for shares in a state asset bears only a scant resemblance to the price achieved. Public property is always sold cheap.
In the case of Royal Mail, the Government took the wise and responsible decision to ask a "syndicate of banks" to give advice on pricing. Next, rabid foxes will be invited to comment on the design and protection of chicken coops. The upshot has been, in that overused word, a scandal.
At the time of writing, the share price is still moving upwards. In City parlance, the institutions are piling in to secure public property that was supposedly strike-ridden, antiquated, not fit for modern purposes and not far from death's door. Suddenly, almost overnight, Royal Mail is an extremely attractive investment. It seems those banks miscalculated slightly.
Roughly speaking, they got their sums wrong by around 45% to 50%. Yesterday, shares the Government and its experts had priced at 330p were touching 490p. One way or another, the taxpayer - we, the owners - has probably lost out to the tune of £750m. Business Secretary Vince Cable puts it all down to "speculation" and "froth". Other words spring to mind.
You can believe the Government is inept, or you can believe, like the Communications Workers Union, that this was the idea all along. You can say that the banks simply looked at Royal Mail's £400m-plus adjusted profits for 2013-14 and applied the usual multiplier, thus arriving at 330p. An easy, uncomplicated sum.
To achieve such faith, however, you would first have to imagine that no-one noticed the parcels business. In that regard, Royal Mail has 36% of the entire UK market, a share that is growing as the internet grows. But then, the derided, old-fashioned habit of delivering letters to every corner of the country also brought a 3% increase in revenues, even as volumes fell.
In fact, profits achieved by Royal Mail have increased from £18m in 2010-11 to £403m. The idea that the group had to be rescued by go-getting private enterprise is almost insultingly stupid. In total, the business sold off on the cheap had a £9.3bn turnover last year. It is, or was, growing fast. Whatever Coalition ministers might claim, that was why it had to go. Lame ducks do not attract market frenzies.
Hedge funds and other investors also seem to have spotted a few other things that the banks' experts missed. Royal Mail is a big, very big, property owner. What's more, many of its sites are in prime city-centre locations. "Marketing mail" - junk, to you and me - meanwhile brings in more than £1bn annually. The brand, what with that logo on the stamps, is unbeatable. And the privatised group is promising to pay some very generous dividends.
None of this gave the Government or its advisers pause for thought when they picked a price. They did the fabled "small investors" the usual small favour with the bribe - if the shares could be sold - of a few hundred pounds. The rest of us had to watch while a public service was put in harm's way and then swallow the fact we were being short-changed on the deal. Given the scale of the injury, the insult was suitably big.
In all this, an old argument looms. One of the things driving those frantic investors is the belief that Royal Mail will distribute around £200m in dividends - just for starters - as a private company. That's a fifth of a billion that could be going into improving the business. It will be extracted from an enterprise that had to be privatised, if you believe the Government, precisely because it stood in need of just that kind of investment. But hedge funds do not look at the world in that way.
To maintain the dividend, costs will have to be squeezed, yet again. Workers whose pay and conditions have never been enviable will have to be clobbered, yet again. Services and routes that cannot be justified on the balance sheet will be questioned and picked apart. The cost of parcels and stamps will come under what is called "pressure". There will be a straightforward, unavoidable choice between profit and public service.
Needless to say, a majority of voters were opposed to this sell-off. Most polling put the balance of opinion at three to one against. We now know, furthermore, that we got a very bad deal for a sale we did not want. So Dr Cable and his colleagues might care to explain in whose interests they acted.
It goes without saying that the banks will pick up substantial fees for what has been lousy advice. Investors in those banks, very often the same institutions that have been gobbling up Royal Mail, will benefit in turn. Those intent on making a quick killing in the days and weeks ahead can scarcely lose. The entire affair has been a carve-up, astounding in its audacity.
But we are not supposed to say such things. We are supposed to believe that a stampede for shares is proof of "success". We are supposed to realise that any industrial action by Royal Mail workers has ceased, of all of sudden, to be a threat to the viability of the business. And we are supposed to buy the idea that this public institution will continue as before, universal service obligation and all.
Those of us who have seen these things before will recognise all the hallmarks: Tories and their City friends stripping an asset in the face of public protest. This time around, they have the assistance, with no hint of hesitation, from the Liberal Democrats. But anyone who has been paying attention should know that Labour toyed with versions of this scheme more than once.
The familiar cry that "even Margaret Thatcher didn't go this far", while true, is of no real relevance. The Royal Mail sale might even count as a lesson to those of us liable to invoke the 1980s. Perhaps the Coalition is more determined than right-wing governments of the past. What this privatisation says is that nothing is now sacred or safe if there is a choice between public and private ownership.
Alex Salmond asserts that Royal Mail would be renationalised should the SNP become the government of an independent Scotland. I'm very glad to hear it. Labour is making no such promises, after all. It is also clear, however, that the First Minister's vow has not deterred the City in the slightest. The lesson in that, at least, is familiar. Once lost, these public assets are never regained. Thieves never bother to return stolen goods.” 16/10/13

Since the article was written, shares have continued to climb. They are now trading at £5-00. The Financial Times has the news today that the government were warned by two investment banks that they were selling it off far too cheaply. Even their mates thought it was a rip-off! 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Georgie Porgie

‘Georgie Porgie pudding and pies
Looks really smug while he tells us lies’  

“So Facebook paid zero corporation tax last year by channelling sales through Ireland in another example of an internet company making a mockery of British tax rules. 

Was this what chancellor George Osborne had in mind when he tweeted in April that he was ‘thrilled to welcome’ Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg to Number 11 and that her efforts were ‘good for economy and society.’ 

Thanks to Private Eye for again exposing hypocrisy and bullshit at the heart of our democracy in their latest issue.

In another article P. Eye exposes the ways that Lord Rothermere goes to some length to avoid paying any taxes in the UK. For the uninitiated, the ignorant and the ‘not bothered,’  it may need spelling out that Rothermere owns the Daily Heil - a rag that makes much of its Britishness. And supports the Tories......

P.S. There is also clever little cartoon featuring Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin listening to the sounds emanating from The Hundred Dacre Wood

Thursday, 17 October 2013

David ‘The most open and transparent government ever’ Cameron

                                                              Thanks to Steve Bell for his perception.

The bag of wind masquerading as a Prime minister has been unhappy to learn about the extent of state snooping and he wants to act. He wants the Guardian silenced and hey presto - problem gone. 

So rather than being ‘open’ and ‘transparent’ he wants to put the lid on what our security services are getting up to – in our name and using our money. It is now absolutely clear that our political elite have not got a clue about the scale and impact of what the spooks are up to. The news that Brazil are developing their own internal government communications system should act as a wake-up call. It also shows why Cameron is wrong. The impetus to allow light in will come not only from citizens in the UK but also from overseas pressure. 

We have sleepwalked into a surveilance state with barely a whimper. The shenanigans over ex-Chief Whip Mitchell revealed to our elite what a lot of us already knew. Senior cops were all over the airwaves yesterday talking about integrity and trust. 

Spying on the Lawrence family, 
Undercover cops having babies with women they were monitoring, 
Undercover cops acting as agent provocateurs
Special Branch colluding with the building industry blacklist, 
Unaccountable deaths in custody,..................
......................... says all you need to know about modern policing. 


What trust?

Need more convincing?

National police unit monitors 9,000 'domestic extremists'
Officers familiar with workings of unit indicate that many of campaigners listed on database have no criminal record
A national police unit that uses undercover officers to spy on political groups is currently monitoring almost 9,000 people it has deemed "domestic extremists".
The National Domestic Extremism Unit is using surveillance techniques to monitor campaigners who are listed on the secret database, details of which have been disclosed to the Guardian after a freedom of information request.
A total of 8,931 individuals "have their own record" on a database kept by the unit, for which the Metropolitan police is the lead force. It currently uses surveillance techniques, including undercover police, paid informants and intercepts, against political campaigners from across the spectrum.
Senior officers familiar with the workings of the unit have indicated to the Guardian that many of the campaigners listed on the database have no criminal record.
As as Scotland Yard was battling to contain the fallout over the activities of a former undercover police officer who was asked to dig for "dirt" that would undermine the Stephen Lawrence campaign, evidence emerged that the main witness to his murder was also targeted.” 
Thanks to John_Northants at Guardian online

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Brazil shows the way

Like a Russian Spring, the ground is beginning to move. Thousands of miles away in a country only recently described as ‘near third world status’ there are significant moves being made which will impact not only on the internet, but critically, also undermine and threaten the profits and standing of the vast American software industry. Brazil is among the fastest growing economies on the planet. They were not impressed to find they were being spied on. They told NSA and GCHQ to stop. You would not know this from most of our media who daily chant their mantra, “We do not need to know what we have not been told.” 

“Brazil has confirmed plans to create a secure email service, following revelations of cyber-surveillance techniques used by the US and UK....

...President Rousseff's announcement follows allegations that the NSA hacked state-run oil company Petrobras and intercepted billions of emails and calls to Brazilians.” BBC Online 14/10/13

Brazil will set up an internal communications system with the assistance of GMX, the German internet provider. They will use encryption to reduce the risk from prying. International e-mails will still be at risk but the President has called a summit meeting for 2014 to discuss internet security and to bypass American control.  

Other countries – and major non-American companies – will no doubt follow suit. Spying on Petrobras was financial snooping. It had nothing to do with the spurious ‘war on terror.’ All the time the yanks have been hypocritically talking up the Chinese threat they have been busily snooping away. 

Meanwhile back on this side of the pond there are signs of hope here too. A week ago the chief spook went public with his fears about how much damage the Snowden revelations had done. This was swiftly followed by a series of stooges singing from the same hymn sheet. Sadly this included journalists who weirdly were also engaged in banging on about ‘press freedom.’ However, the other side of the coin is now being put. 

First we have  the ex Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, who was less than impressed by what has been going on:

“Not the least of the inadequacies exposed by fallout from the Snowden revelations has been the sickly character of parliamentary oversight of the security agencies, even after recent reforms. An intelligence and security committee that goes into brief private session, only to emerge blinking into the daylight with protestations of apparent fealty to the security services, is a poor substitute for grown-up scrutiny. Co-option is not a uniquely British problem, but it surely is underlined when, amazingly, the ISC is chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind – once responsible for MI6 as foreign secretary.
He seems badly compromised, and the ISC should never again be led by someone whom the public might perceive as having an axe to grind or an interest to defend.
But worst of all has been the argument, heavily deployed in recent days, including by Sir Malcolm himself, that any more daylight than we currently enjoy simply assists the nation's enemies. Andrew Parker, the new director general of MI5, should be slower to employ this foolish, self-serving rhetoric that naively raises a perfectly legitimate question: how should we ensure that those privileged to be granted special powers to intrude into everything that is private serve a real public interest, rather than the dangerously false god of securitisation for its own sake?.” Guardian 14/10/13 (my emphasis)

He was swiftly followed by Lord Blencathra who had spent some time assessing the security services. 

“Britain's spy agencies may be operating outside the law in the mass internet surveillance programmes uncovered by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to Lord Blencathra, the former Conservative Home Office minister who led a formal inquiry into the data communications bill.
The Tory peer – David Maclean when he was an MP – said he felt "deeply, deeply uneasy" about programmes that allow the security services to examine the internet activities of British citizens without the consent of parliament.
In an interview with the Guardian, Blencathra said that the public had a right to know their internet data might be "lifted" and shared with US intelligence services – and that MPs should either vote to approve the surveillance programmes or put a stop to them.
He also condemned the fact that his committee scrutinising the data communications bill – subsequently killed off by the Liberal Democrats – was never told about GCHQ's existing mass surveillance capabilities. A joint memo from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ made no mention of them, he added.
"Some people were very economical with the actuality. I think we would have regarded this as highly, highly relevant. I personally am annoyed we were not given this information," said Blencathra, who was an ally of Michael Howard and considered on the right of his party.” Guardian 15/10/13

More proof, if any were needed, that our spooks do not tell their political masters what is going on. 

Well fancy that!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Straw slithers out from under his stone

Can you name the most egregious politician in the UK? There are plenty of candidates. Here is one worthy of serious consideration.

Slime forward John Whittaker ‘Jack’ Straw. 

So why him and why now? Is he not yesterday’s man? 

Sadly, slimy Jack keeps popping up in the media going on about ‘security’ and ‘official secrecy.’ His latest offering came yesterday: 
“The Guardian has shown "extraordinary naivety and arrogance" over the publication of articles based on NSA  documents leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former foreign secretary Jack Straw has said.
Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of the Iraq war in 2003, said the Guardian was wrong to assume that it could judge whether details from the files would pose a threat to anyone's security. The Guardian has said that it is taking care not to publish documents that would threaten national security or the security of individuals.
The former foreign secretary told the BBC: "I'm not suggesting for a moment anybody in the Guardian gratuitously wants to risk anybody's life. But what I do think is that their sense of power of having these secrets and excitement – almost adolescent excitement – about these secrets has gone to their head.
"They're blinding themselves about the consequence and also showing an extraordinary naivety and arrogance in implying that they are in a position to judge whether or not particular secrets which they have published are not likely to damage the national interest, and they're not in any position at all to do that." Guardian 11/10/13

Fair comment some might think. But can this be the same slimy Jack who back in April this year was citing ‘official secrets’ as the reason why he could not possibly defend his action to render to Libya two enemies of Gaddafi? It surely can.

Former foreign secretary Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen, a former senior MI6 officer, have said they cannot respond to allegations of conspiracy in the torture of a prominent Libyan dissident, pleading the need to protect official secrets.
They do not deny being involved in rendering Abdel Hakim Belhaj into the hands of Gaddafi’s secret police in 2004 but say they did nothing unlawful.
Their blanket refusal – and that of MI6, MI5, the Foreign Office, and the Home Office – to explain their alleged role in the seizure of Belhaj and his wife in Malaysia and their flight to Libya on a CIA jet is contained in court documents seen by the Guardian.” April 2013

This was apparently all part of the deal to get Gaddafi back into the fold – and at the same time give BP access to all that lovely Libyan oil. What’s a little rendition and torture between friends?

Since April it has all gone quiet. Very quiet. 

Just like the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq War. Remember that? It seems ‘official secrecy’ is proving more than useful in preventing the learned judge from getting access to the necessary cabinet papers thereby preventing him from coming to a clear and transparent judgement about the biggest foreign policy fiasco in the modern era. 
These slimy, mendacious, nasty bastards would rather no-one knew anything about their skullduggery.

Then they can continue to appear on the media with their ‘elder statesman’ persona unchallenged and their self-serving comments demanding their dirty washing stays hidden.

And continue to take their thirty pieces of silver from arms dealers and oil barons.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Daily Heil: servile lackeys for the powerful and world laughing stock

Daily Heil shoots foot 

As the follow up to Leveson rumbles on, it is mind-boggling to hear senior journos at the Heil banging on about ‘press freedom’. Their definition of ‘freedom’ seems to be based on printing whatever their owner or their loony editor tells them to. Enough has been made of the Rothermere family history in this respect to know that this can mean sucking up to tyranny. For them to have a go at a paper which has exposed the all-pervasive nature of surveillance in our lives is absurd. The Torygraph for years has been considered the house journal for the spooks and its recent behaviour confirms that judgement. Then there are the Murdoch rags who once ran one of the great investigative papers in the modern era - the Sunday Times under Harold Evans - and who now operate under very different values.

It is no wonder then that the Snowden leaks have received such poor coverage across our media with such craven lickspittle hypocrites willing to do the establishment’s bidding. Yesterday however, the Heil went one step further with a stinging editorial and a table-chewing column from Stephen Glover about leftie jounalists. They even managed to shoehorn an attack on the Beeb into their rants. The Guardian sent their execrable offerings around the world. Here are some responses. The emphases are mine.

No secret service likes it when its methods are being discussed openly, which is understandable as long as a secret service focuses on its core duties, such as the surveillance of terror suspects. Once a secret service starts behaving like an octopus, though, with its tentacles reaching all across everyone's life and putting whole societies under collective suspicion with everyone falling victim to total surveillance, then the societal contract has been broken. There is no justification for such violation. Yet it is fully justifies that journalists reveal such unlawful state action. This is what the Guardian has done. Nothing else.
To claim that the Guardian had shown "deadly irresponsibility" or that it was "helping the enemies" of the UK has no foundation and is appalling. To publish such claims means to slander those who consistently and carefully fulfill their journalistic duty to society.”
Wolfgang Krach, deputy editor in chief, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Germany

“When a newspaper prints a story, or a series of stories, such as the Snowden case, the first attacks are always aimed at its editors and publishers. State or homeland security reasons are always claimed.

It happened when The New York Times and The Washington Post printed the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War in 1973, and it happened with WikiLeaks. Now, the object of criticism is the Guardian for having printed Edward Snowden's revelations. What is sad, baffling and dangerous is that the attacks now come not only from governments but from other newspapers too. In doing so, they are ignoring their first and utmost obligation. The press must serve the citizens and comply with their right to have access to truthful and relevant informations when it comes to public affairs. Newspapers have many duties. Having to protect governments and the powerful from embarrasing situations is not among them. 

The Guardian's work in the Snowden case is an example of great journalism, the kind that changes history and the kind that citizens need more every day, in a world where the powerful are increasingly trying to hide information from their societies. The real danger is not in the so-called "aid to the enemy" denounced by the hypocrites, but in the actions of governments and state agencies that citizens cannot control. To fight it we need newspapers willing to do their job, rather than those ready to cheer on the self-interested deceptions of the powerful.”
Javier Moreno,
director, El País, Spain

“The Daily Mail apparently has absolute faith in the integrity and competence of its government on national security matters, despite the ample lessons of history. The Mail has a right to be the government's toady. We'll look elsewhere for actual journalism, which we still need”
Dan Gillmor, director, Knight centre for digital media

“I am not surprised by the attacks, considering the level of importance, the magnitude, and the ongoing nature of the leaks. But for journalists to suggest that editors of newspapers, not being experts on security matters, are unfit to make decisions on publishing confidential material and must leave the whole field of surveillance and security to the state to handle as it thinks fit, under an impenetrable veil of secrecy, sounds to me like the worst kind of intellectual philistinism.”
N. Ram, former editor-in-chief, the Hindu

It is with abhorrence that we have read today's editorial in the Daily Mail attacking the Guardian's coverage of Edward Snowden's revelations and accusing its competitor of "aiding Britain's enemies". It effectively amounts to the accusation of treason.

We fully support the Guardian's relentless disclosures of secret services' abuses of power and widespread spying on citizens, domestically as well as abroad. For many months now, the Guardian has been subject to unprecedented pressure by the British government, in order to discourage its reporters and editors from pursuing such stories. We are convinced that, in this case, the national security argument is largely overused; since the revealed massive surveillance of people cannot be justified by the war on terror.”
Piotr Stasinski, deputy editor-in-chief, Gazeta Wyborcza

Hang your head in shame Dacre.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Gove: “working hard to privatise education.....”

                                                                   Thanks to Steve Bell
Shit governance, shit administration and shit values - welcome to the world of Gove. As Sec of State for Education he has done his damnedest to denigrate ‘hardworking teachers’  in the state sector while lauding the loony and the plain daft in his ‘free school’ scheme. A few more chickens have squawked back to the coop recently. A Headteacher for a free school in London has resigned this week. So what the cry goes up - heads resign all the time. Ah well - this one had not been trained as a teacher and was appointed as a head without being a teacher.  47% of free schools have unqualified staff. That bodes well for further down the line

The muslim free school in Derby continues to send shudders through Whitehall. Will Gove the Dogmatic see sense and close it down? Watch this space.

It is when it comes to state schools that Gove really takes the biscuit. As Min of Ed he is supposed to nourish and cherish our young people in schools across the nation. Not Gove. He cares about the 7% in private education and derides the 93% in state education. 

whatever the schools are really like, there is an overriding perception that they are terrible – and this has come straight from Michael Gove. The secretary of state for education has denigrated schools relentlessly, in word and in deed.

In his telling, local authorities know no standard except bog standard. Pupils consigned to their system will be lucky if they come out literate. Improvements in GCSE grades have no meaning, since they are the result of deflation in quality rather than hard work on the part of the students. School architecture is just more highfalutin liberal claptrap, governors are "local worthies seeking a badge of status and the chance to waffle about faddy issues", the national curriculum is a ball and chain, and teachers are part of a leftwing conspiracy. Indeed, dynamism will only be returned to the education system when schools are allowed to employ people without teaching qualifications, which 47% of free schools have duly done.

It is a vision so paranoid and destructive, so superstitious and vitriolic, that if he said it all in one speech you'd think you were listening to a guy in a sandwich board outside a tube station.” Zoe Williams, Guardian 10/10/13

Also for your delectation there is the matter of Gove’s Special Adviser - a certain Dominic Cummings, an alumni from the Malcolm Tucker school of advisers. This is what the Independent had to say about this creep:

“ He quickly gained a reputation as a ruthless and passionate advocate of Mr Gove’s education reforms, crossing swords with those who have criticised the plans, suggesting that journalists scrutinising policy are either lying or insane.” Independent. Who needs values and ideals when numpties like Cummings command such a presence?

What does all this mean? Ever since Jim Callaghan opened up the ‘secret garden’ to political interference things have been going from bad to worse.  

“England is the only country in the developed world where the generation approaching retirement is more literate and numerate than the youngest adults, according to the first skills survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
In a stark assessment of the success and failure of the 720-million-strong adult workforce across the wealthier economies, the economic thinktank warns that in England, adults aged 55 to 65 perform better than 16- to 24-year-olds at foundation levels of literacy and numeracy.
...When the results within age groups are compared across participating countries, older adults in England score higher in literacy and numeracy than the average among their peers, while younger adults show some of the lowest scores for their age group.’ Guardian 8/10/13

There are observers who have put their finger on the issue:

‘It's such a shame that you haven't noticed the start of the decline started with the Tories 1988 Education Act. If you wish to note the start of the serial cock-ups you could check on the first national curriculum (Tory, binned within 2 years), followed by the second Tory national curriculum (binned after a further 2 years), or the third Tory National curriculum (binned after 3 years). These cock-ups each required schools to rewrite loads of in-depth documents (in teachers own time, whilst still doing the "day job").
Now let's think how old the pupils affected by this purely Tory car crash will be now ..... oh yes, less than 20, up to 27. Ring any bells, about a recent report?”The Great Ron Rafferty. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

GCHQ, MI5 and the Media

Earlier this week, disgraced politician and self-confessed liar, Chris Huhne, revealed in the Guardian that the Cabinet were unaware of the extent of GCHQ’s activities. He said the National Security Committee, of which he had been a member, had not discussed the Prism and Tempora programmes. These are run by GCHQ and NSA to hoover up all personal internet communication. Admittedly the source for this revelation does not carry a great deal of credibility but the story has legs. 

Snowden’s leaks exposed the vast operation taking place in our name and paid for by our taxes to ‘monitor’ (spy on) all of us in the name of ‘national security.’ What would the Stasi or the KGB have done with this technology? The absence of comment in the British media has been odd. Author John Lanchester writing in the Guardian thought that our lack of a written constitution was a factor. In the US and Brazil by contrast, there is a culture of ‘rights’ which are enshrined in law. Public outrage and concern has been massive in those countries as it has been across most of Europe, with Germany especially sensitive to the issue. Lanchester argued that we British see issues as ‘wrongs’ and we tend to react to perceived injustices only when we are slapped in the face by them. 

Thanks to the silence, lack of accountability, supine or tainted politicians, and general ignorance, our spooks go blithely on. 

Three months after the revelations emerged, said spooks are fighting back. Using tame journalists and editors of the right-wing press to help, for example this in the Daily Heil.

“A massive cache of  stolen top-secret documents published in The Guardian has handed a ‘gift’ to terrorists, the head of MI5 warned last night.
In a blistering attack, Andrew Parker said the publication of confidential files leaked by US fugitive Edward Snowden had caused huge ‘harm’ to the capability of Britain’s intelligence services.
Security officials say the exposé amounts to a ‘guide book’, advising terrorists on the best way to avoid detection when plotting an atrocity. 
In Whitehall, it is considered to have caused the greatest damage to the Western security apparatus in history. In his first public speech since taking the job earlier this year, Mr Parker said the leaks handed the ‘advantage’ to terrorists and were a ‘gift they need to evade us and strike at will’.Daily Heil 9/10/13

Re-assuringly, not all Dacre’s readers are as barmy as he is. Neither are they as disposed to swallow government guff. 

A well-supported comment in the Heil’s online edition had this to say: 

“Let's be clear. In this country, the Government has become completely detached from the people that it is supposed to represent. The intelligence service has evolved and morphed into a clandestine agency that is concerned and obsessed with fueling a desperate fight with a shadowy "enemy" that it created. It has become an out of control monster in its own right which fuels the paranoia and fears of the hapless citizens in order to maintain its own survival. If the government focused on domestic policy, the issues that really mattered to the average person in the streets, and stopped trying to extend its reach into every nook and cranny of the globe, then I guarantee there would be no "National Security issue" to speak of. Edward Snowden and the Guardian newspaper are not the creators of this scenario, they merely exposed it. Politicians are the real menace to our society. Stop war mongering in our name and get this country back on track at grass roots.” Craig30

Friday, 4 October 2013

Daily Wail Witch Hunt

Daily Wail Witch Hunt

If only. For years, this cesspit of bile and vilification has smeared its nastiness across the nation. The fact that it has such a relatively high readership is a cause for despair. It is a source of amazement that it claims women constitute over half of its readership. Quite astonishing when the vitriol and sexism on its notorious ‘sidebar of shame’ in the online edition is taken into account. Bitchy and catty, it is sarcastic about C-List celebs and wannabees with their ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ and ‘nipple mishaps.’ Gleefully prurient and condemnatory at the same time. 

It is a shorthand tool in judging a new acquaintance. Most readers when challenged make some sort of excuse about ‘liking its sports pages’ or ‘its good for tv coverage’ etc. 

It bullies its staff, its victims, and like Murdoch, has a malign influence on our politicians. It damages decent public discourse.

The way it has handled the hatchet job on Ed Miliband has been revelatory. It has shown a less sure touch. The number of Tory grandees publicly disputing the Wail’s ‘angle’ has been quite heartening. Ralph Miliband was clearly a character and a man of substance. 

“In the 1980s, I took some of my students to a history workshop conference in Oxford. We heard lectures from Ralph Miliband, among others. He analysed and rejoiced in the great British radical tradition, from the Lollards and Levellers, Thomas Paine, Wilberforce and the anti-slavery movement, Shaftesbury and, yes, the trades unions. He talked also of the remarkable British tolerance and readiness to receive immigrants and refugees, like himself. Of course, he was an immigrant, a socialist and a gifted intellectual – all the things despised by the Daily Mail.

I loathe the Mail and its politics because it expresses everything that is foul about the rightwing in this country. That does not mean I am the less patriotic. Quite the reverse. It is because I love my country that I find the Mail unpatriotic, nasty, intolerant and everything that demeans Britain.
Colin Pickthall
Ulverston, Cumbria  
Guardian letters page 3/10/13

Following further revelations about two Sunday Wail journalists attempting to dig up some dirt by inveigling themselves into a private memorial for a Miliband family member, the Sunday Wail editor quickly apologised. No such apology for the original smear article from the Wail or its editor. 

Where’s Dacre?

The editor of the Wail is Paul Dacre. He is accused by Alastair Campbell of being a bully (a bit rich that from Campbell) and a coward. He has sent out minions this week to face the media storm. Of Dacre there is nothing to be seen, yet he is the highest paid editor on Fleet Street, getting nearly £2million a year. Campbell has launched an online petition challenging Dacre to a public debate. 

How about this for a character reference?

Dacre is, all those who have had the misfortune to work for him assure me, just about as loathsome, self-regarding, morally putrid, vengeful and disgusting a man as it possible to be." International Business Times  

Question Time

Wail professional cynic, Quentin Letts, had a sense of humour bypass on last night’s Question Time. He had to sit and listen to his paper being slammed by Mehdi Hassan of the Huffington Post. For anyone who has ever shuddered at the Wail’s values, it is well worth a look. 
There are many clips online. Here is one:

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Faith-Free Schools

If only Tory Ministers followed their own rhetoric. Their mantra is ‘hardworking families’ yet they do not put in the hard yards themselves. Michael ‘Gollum’ Gove is such a minister. His tenure has become a byword for half-baked, ill-thought out ideas and schemes. Launched on a Monday, revised on Wednesday and dropped by Friday is a parody of his ministerial style. But it is only just a parody.

The latest chicken roaring home to roost is the muslim free school in Derby which hit the news this week. They announced themselves some months ago as being moderate and all-embracing but it seems that once the public money was in the bag they revealed their true colours. 

“THE Al-Madinah Muslim School, under fire over ordering female teachers to wear a hijab – an Islamic scarf – regardless of their faith, has refused to answer crucial questions.
And education officials have also stayed tight-lipped over whether it was right to give £1.4 million of public money to the city school.” Derby Telegraph 2/10/13

Girls are reported to be treated as inferior, not allowed to read fiction and to have to sit at the back of the class. Boys are given preferential treatment. Teachers are not allowed to join a union and women staff were forced to wear the hijab and full length clothing even though they may not be of the muslim faith. This is in Derby not Islamabad.

There will be a number of people who say we should not interfere with the way a faith school operates. Others may have regard to a passage in the Koran which has advice for men about how to treat their wives. Being a ‘good husband’ means hitting your wife proportionally - a good muslim man will not go over the top in hitting his wife. So that is all right then. 

No it damn well isn’t. And it is not just muslim schools either. We have got faith academies pushing creationist nonsense - the earth being 10,000 years old, created in a week, Adam and Eve and all the rest of the bollocks. All paid for by our taxes. 

This nonsensical and discriminatory situation is happening in Britain. The home of the Enlightenment and rational thought. With the support and backing of Gove, who is himself a practicing Christian. Using our money to pay these proponents of mumbo jumbo and oppressive beliefs to peddle their dogma to unformed minds. 

The consequences of opening a new Free School in an urban area plays havoc with any concept of planning and invariably takes money from neighbouring schools. It must be particularly galling for hardworking staff (appropriate use - ed)  to not know how much their budget will be and watch much needed funds go to a divisive, non-collaborative, antipathetic faith school.  

Free Schools are yet another ill-thought through bad idea. When they are set up to promote religious difference, discrimination, unfairness and irrational ideas they become far, far worse. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Hard working or hard shirking?

There are proper concerns about the effect of being long-term unemployed. Soul-destroying, alienating, unhealthy and uncivilised, the cumulative effects in a region can be awful. Lack of self-esteem and initiative produces a deadening dispiriting aura. Travel through many semi-abandoned towns with high streets full of pound shops, charity shops, payday loan companies and masses of gambling joints and wonder - how has it come to this?

There are many varieties of long-term unemployment. Thanks to Thatcher laying waste to vast industrial regions in the 80’s, we have generational unemployment where several members of the same family have never worked. There are people in their 50’s deemed surplus to requirements and made redundant who find companies not interested in taking them on. Proud capable people caught by circumstance find themselves labelled as lazy layabouts and worthless. There are also the chronically idle who will work very hard to avoid anything resembling ‘work’. 

The people generically labelled shirkers by silver-spoonfed politicians, themselves members of the Etonocracy, remote and arrogant, find that they are once again used as whipping boys. Iain Duncan Smith (who ‘scrounges’ on his wife’s estate) was at it again yesterday. There is something terribly Victorian about IDS. He knows what is best for the lower orders. And by jingo he will do his damnedest to see that they are ‘dealt with.’ 

His latest wheeze is another triumph for ideology over reason. Across the country the long term unemployed are to report to their local job centre every day and stay there for 7 hours each day. This is weird. Doing what? “Improving their CV” --- oh, right, that will keep them occupied. Think about the implications for job centre staff and the potential for further problems. We treat criminals better. A community service sentence involves putting something back by doing unpaid work in the area. What is to stop the unemployed being given something practical to do for their money and self-esteem? In the past during hard times there were big civic projects created to provide gainful employment. 

No chance with this bunch, who are set on dividing and ruling with plans to turn the gullible onto the unfortunate. The Victorians used a treadmill to keep the destitute and unworthy ‘occupied’. They also cherished workhouses for the poor.  

Watch this space....

Meanwhile, the banking criminals who fiddled the Libor rate continue to get away with it. It would not have anything to do with the the involvement of a former Tory party treasurer would it?