The State You May Not Criticise 72

In the 15 year history of this blog, I have criticised the Human Rights records of states including Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Burma, Cameroon, China, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Libya, the Maldives, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

The only country of which criticism has resulted in substantial legal and political action against me and attempted censorship is Israel. Criticism of Israel also immediately results in heavy suppression of traffic to my site from the corporate gatekeepers of Twitter, Facebook and Google.

Now a group of witch-hunting UK MPs has written to Amazon to complain that Alexa has quoted my blog on Israel.

It is worth looking at precisely what the MPs are complaining of in my case. Let’s look at the exact passage:

“Question: Is Israel guilty of war crimes?
Answer: Here’s something I found on the web: according to www.craigmurray.org.uk, ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and serial human rights abuse, including war crimes, yes, Israel is guilty of these atrocities.”

The website in question includes numerous conspiracy theories.

Now the MP’s of the All Party Group Against Anti-Semitism do not attempt to say what is wrong with this answer. They do not say why it is untrue – in fact, they do not even claim it is untrue. They do not say why it is anti-semitic; presumably, although they do not say as much, they must believe it is anti-semitic for the All Party Parliamentary Group on anti-semitism to be complaining about it. In fact, they ground their objection entirely on an unsubstantiated claim that this website includes conspiracy theories.

I maintain that the answer quoted from my website is self-evidently true and highly capable of proof. It states fact which a large majority of the public would recognise as true. Yet I am told by a journalist from the Times who contacted me, that on the basis of this incoherent letter from self-selecting MP’s, Amazon have blocked Alexa from quoting my website. This is only a tiny example of the removal of access to dissenting opinions – dissenting as in not conforming to the wishes of the political Establishment, although not diverging from objective truth. The trend towards this censorship on the internet is massive.

I am particularly concerned that one of the signatories of the letter is Lisa Cameron, an SNP MP. The statement that “ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and serial human rights abuse, including war crimes, yes, Israel is guilty of these atrocities” is completely in line with longstanding SNP policy on Palestine. Lisa Cameron’s part in having my website blacklisted for an opinion in line with SNP policy is shameful.

But it is not isolated. As I feared, the SNP’s large cohort of MPs at Westminster have become very comfortable there with their life of privilege and large income, and they have been almost entirely captured by Britnat standards and Britnat attitudes. Last week, we had the official party paper on defence policy in which Stewart MacDonald MP and Alyn Smith MP directly jettisoned the party’s long term commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament in favour of “multilateralism” – a long word for no nuclear disarmament ever.

Along exactly the same lines of moving to align with the right wing obsessions of British Nationalism, the SNP’s Stewart Hosie had signed up to the off the wall Russophobic report of Westminster’s Intelligence and Security Committee, a report conditioned by the appalling list of war hawks who were the only ones asked to give evidence.

Land Reform has been reduced to the foundation of a Scottish Land Commission which can put public money towards other funds raised by community groups to buy out great landlords in specific tracts at an assessed “market price”. Yes, the market price. So the great success of the much touted land reform is that it has put £5 million of public money straight into the pocket of the Duke of Buccleuch, for some tiny and insignificant portions of his vast estates, marginal and despoiled moorland he was probably glad to be shot of. The Chair of Buccleuch Estates, Benny Higgins, is also economic adviser to Nicola Sturgeon.

There is much triumphalism at the new “realism” of the Blairite triangulated SNP and its positioning as a “safe” part of the Establishment. How much of the old radicalism of the SNP remains may, in small part, be measured by how many votes I garner in the election for President at the current conference. I fear it may not be a high number.

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The Route to Independence Leads Through Oban 132

Grassroots Oban are hosting me for a zoom talk on the Route to Independence this evening at 7pm. You are welcome to join us, which you can do by registering in advance (ie now) here:

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0kfuqrpzIrGNLlxVYFLb2z2LlxT6Hx_vFf

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. I hope that over half the meeting will be open to questions and contributions and I am very happy for these to be wide-ranging. I must confess I don’t like online meetings and I very much miss actually getting round and meeting people. Hopefully we are not too far now from being able to do that again.

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Militarism and the Populist Playbook 297

Why militarism is such a surefire winner for populists is an interesting question, to which the answer is probably an unpleasant reflection on human nature. Atavism and racism are the easiest way to political success, despite the demonstrably catastrophic consequences.

For an economically dominant power to allocate its resources under the influence of militarism, and then project the resulting capability for extreme violence on less wealthy or organised states, is the time-honoured way for populist politicins to satisfy the atavistic urge they have whipped up, while minimising the catastrophic consequences at home. UK military power is not for “defence” and has never been for “defence” since the formation of the UK. It is for the projection of military power abroad. The destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen are all, in varying degrees, the result of the application of UK military force on weaker states.

These countries were unable to offer any significant military response; the major cost to the UK of destroying them has been the cost of munitions, supply and pay. Costs in British servicemen injured or maimed has been terrible for the individuals concerned but politicians don’t care; indeed our casualties are unrelentingly put to the service of whipping up more jingoism and militarism. British killed and maimed is of course a tiny number compared to the killed or maimed which Britain has inflicted.

There are other costs, of course. Almost all the terrorism in the UK has been blowback terrorism from this destruction abroad. There have also been resultant refugee flows which have disturbed the political equilibrium of all of Europe. But remarkably neo-conservative politicians are able to fashion those consequences into arguments for us to invade and kill still more frequently abroad.

Johnson’s announcement of an extra £16 billion of defence spending will be wildly popular with his electoral base, who love a bit of jingoism. It will be wildly popular with his MPs, because nothing lines the pockets of politicians and their close business associates as reliably as “defence” spending – except for Covid spending, but that giant chance to plunder the public purse will run out soon. In a country that could not afford to feed school children, a country that starves asylum seekers and lets kids drown in the channel rather than take them in, £16 billion extra to blow up other countries is no problem.

It is four times the amount of new money the government pledged yesterday to tackle the actual existential threat of climate change. To be spent instead on tackling a pretend existential threat. The idea that Russia or China wants to invade the UK is an utter nonsense. Neither has any plans to do so, nor has ever had any plans to do so. The UK has not been at war with either Russia or China for 150 years. We are however doing our best to provoke conflict, with billions more going into avowedly offensive cyber capability targeted on Russia and China. You also do not have to be a devotee of Isaac Azimov to understand that the pouring of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into the specific purpose of designing artificial intelligence to kill people is not necessarily a good long term goal. The advantage of these areas of spending for Tories is of course that outcomes are nebulous and thus the scope for super-profits and for corruption is simply enormous.

As I said, militarism is a very successful part of the populist brand. You therefore have this vast waste of money on offensive military capability being hailed by Labour under Sir Keir Starmer, the right wing muppet who leads the UK’s laughingly titled opposition. You also have, not coincidentally, a defence paper published on Tuesday by the SNP which tries to outflank the Tories from the right in extreme Sinophobia and Russophobia and proposes continued operations from Scottish bases post_independence by both US and English armed forces.

With the ousting of the left from Labour and the astonishing rightward gallop of the SNP, there is currently no realistic route to oppose militarism available in the UK’s – or Scotland’s – so called democratic electoral system.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Where are the Praetorian Guard When You Need Them? 122

Here is Boris Johnson writing on devolution in 2001:

OCH aye, it’s the New Jerusalem! It’s a land of milk and honey they’re building up there in Scotland, laddie. They’ll nae be doing with your horrid Anglo-Saxon d e v i l-t a k e-t h e-h i n d m o s t approach. No, they’re just more socialist than us sour-mouthed Sassenachs.

They want to spend on the puir wee students, provided, of course, that they are poor wee Scottish students, not English ones. They want to shame the tightwads in the Treasury by spending on the puir wee Scottish teachers – in fact, they’ve given them a pay rise of 21.5 per cent over the next three years, far more than the English teachers are getting. And now, just to show how much generally nicer they are than the English, they have decided to spend, spend, spend on the puir wee old folks who need someone to help them open a can of beans.

In the teeth of opposition from the Treasury of what is still laughably called the United Kingdom, the Scots have decided to pay for free personal care for the elderly. Yes, that means all of us, folks. Even if we have assets of more than £16,000, we will be entitled not just to free nursing care – changing our dressings, putting our drips in – but to everything connoted by “personal care”.

If we are so lucky as to live in Scotland, it won’t matter that we could well afford to pay for someone to run our baths, or tie our shoes. There’ll be none of that business about reaching for our own wallets. Not in Scotland, Jimmy.

The BBC have been in overdrive spinning away that Boris is actually a great fan of devolution, and we should all apparently understand that naturally he says entirely different things to different audiences. In fact there is no shortage of evidence that Boris Johnson’s expressed view that devolution is a “disaster” is his genuine view. His premiership so far has all been about the extreme centralisation of power not just in Whitehall but in No. 10, of which more later.

The latest Tory ploy to claw back powers from Holyrood to Whitehall has been the Internal Market Bill. It is more notorious for openly and declaredly breaching international law, but the seizure of regulatory authority by (let us be blunt) England across a broad range of economic activity is just as significant. The Tory response has been, aided by a complicit media, simply to deny that what is happening, is happening.

But Boris’ declaration of war on devolution makes that approach more difficult. It also queers the pitch for the Gove strategy to head off Independence by false promises of more powers for Holyrood. This was done famously with “The Vow”, which promised Scotland the strongest federal parliament in the world. Referendum over, the opposite happened. All the signs are that the people of Scotland already are not stupid enough to fall for that trick again, but Boris has made it impossible for the unionists to even try.

If the Tories offer Maxi Maxi Devo-Maxi Maxi Max again, who will now believe them?

I am strongly of the view devolution has run its course. Undoubtedly it brought great benefits to Scotland. Free personal care for the elderly, no university tuition fees, free prescriptions. It also strengthened the sense of national identity and faith in Scottish competence in self-government.

But after a time, the cumulative effect of Tory austerity and spending cuts over years and years erodes services beyond the ability of even the most competent devolved administration to mitigate them. You then fall into the devolution trap, where you become the body that imposes the cuts, and takes the blame for falling standards, which are caused by the Treasury in London. The time comes when gradualism has achieved all that gradualism can, and it is time to break free from the devolution chrysalis and spread the wings of Independence. That time is now.

In his talk to the Northern Tory MP’s, Johnson called them his “Praetorian Guard”. That chimes with me, because I had been fretting about my inability to write anything useful about developments in Westminster politics. These defy ordinary political analysis, and bear more relation to the account of the courts of Roman emperors by Tacitus than anything that ought to happen in a modern western democracy. There were no great questions of public policy that led Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings to resign. There are vital decisions pending on a basic deal with the EU, but that was not the dispute – in fact nobody in No 10 seems to care about that one way or the other. What the great spat was about, was dinner party jostling for personal advantage among people with names like Allegra, Dominic, Carrie and Dido. Various individuals were “in tears” or “felt disrespected”. The good of the people who are being governed features nowhere at all in the insider accounts of what is happening at the top of the UK government.

It is understandable why Johnson thinks of himself as a Roman Emperor; he governs like Nero. The National Audit Office report yesterday listed £10.5 billion worth of contracts for NHS supply awarded without any proper tender. Many of these were to firms with no history of supplying medical equipment, chosen by the personal influence of MPs and Ministers. It is unsurprising there is so much personal jostling for influence, and the Civil Service has been effectively and deliberately barred from its customary role in decision making, when self-enrichment by corruption has become the primary aim of Westminster politicians.

Boris Johnson appears to have forgotten that the most common death met by Roman Emperors was murder by the Praetorian Guard. I could think of five such Imperial deaths – Wikipedia lists 13! Now where are the Praetorian Guard when you really need them?

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Michael Russell, Neo-Liberal

Mike Russell is claiming I have in some way misinterpreted or mis-attributed his detailed advocacy of privatisation of the NHS. I therefore bring you the following published critiques, every one of which has evidently “misunderstood” Mike Russell too. First from Iain MacWhirter in the Scottish Review of Books:

I have to say that Russell’s own ideological adventure rather confirms the need for political parties. Grasping The Thistle – even the revised version – is a blueprint for an essentially neo-conservative political revolution in Scotland. He wants to privatise the state, abolish inheritance tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax and introduce the highly regressive flat-rate income tax, which has been introduced in some Eastern European countries like Estonia.

If Russell were in charge, Scotland would be exposed to something like the “shock therapy” that the Friedmanite ideologues imposed on the Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This would imply, not just a rebalancing of public spending, but the wholesale destruction of the welfare state, taking the clock back to Edwardian Britain before Lloyd George’s People’s Budgets.

I’m not sure the Scottish people are prepared for such a Year Zero. Imagine the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh having to close because it failed to make a profit. What would happen to the patients? Scotland is a relatively egalitarian country with much less income inequality than England. Under the Russell/MacLeod revolution it would become a playground for the super-rich, a plutocratic caste with no interest or connection with the ordinary people. Jock Tamson need not apply.

Grasping The Thistle may be independent thinking, but I’m not entirely sure it is rational thinking. Certainly, these ideas are so far removed from the manifesto of the Scottish National Party that it becomes difficult to know how Russell can remain a member of it. It seems to me that he disagrees with just about everything his own movement stands for: social democracy, Europe, independence, parliamentary democracy, progressive taxation, public services free at the point of need, an oil fund – the list goes on and on.

Here is Rob Brown in Bella Caledonia, who obviously also entirely misunderstood Mike Russell:

After years of deifying social democracy, monkish Mike Russell suddenly saw the light and realised that right-wing heresy had to become the new orthodoxy within the national movement.

He devoted all his spare hours – when not praying for a swift return to that most holy of shrines, Holyrood – to reading the ancient runes with a businessman called Dennis MacLeod. Together this Druidic duo co-authored a tome dissing almost everything the SNP had stood for in its modern incarnation. Even that most sacred and patriotic of mediaeval parchments the Declaration of Arbroath got debunked in the first few pages.

The SNP, Russell and MacLeod jointly pontificated, should banish devilish notions of national independence and instead seek to negotiate a “New Union” with England. Once Westminster conferred its blessing on full fiscal autonomy for Bute House, in return for abolition of the Barnett formula, auld Scotia could then be administered all the shock therapy she so desperately required to be jolted out of her zombie state.

Our semi-independent government could then go on the lion rampage against the undeserving poor, the idle and the feckless. Scotland’s welfare state and taxes would be slashed, with vouchers introduced to marketize provision of schools and hospitals – none of which would be supplied through the NHS, since this would be dismantled in favour of an insurance-based health service.

Here is David Gow also misunderstanding Mike Russell:

Already then, however, other, overtly pro-capitalist strands of thinking were developing, often taking on anti-statist blindly pro-market tones (as in Mike Russell’s Grasping the Thistle).

Michael Keating of the University of Aberdeen even failed to grasp the subtleties of Russells “dialogue” on a neo-liberal approach in an academic paper:

There have been advocates of the liberal market strategy in Scotland. While
out of parliament, Mike Russell (later SNP Cabinet Secretary for Education) and
Dennis MacLeod wrote a book promising exactly that, with a drastic reduction in the
role and size of the state and of public spending and taxes (MacLeod and Russell,
2006). This was widely seen as an effort to out-Thatcher Margaret Thatcher and
seems to have riled the SNP leadership sufficiently for them to have had the text
toned down between proof and publication (Macwhirter, 2006).

Gerry Hassan has rushed to Russell’s aid online now, but strangely enough also had failed to understand Russell did not really mean it:

Pre-2007, there was the well-intentioned work of Kenny MacAskill (2004) alongside Mike Russell’s advocacy of a host of predictable right-wing and neo-liberal platitudes (MacLeod and Russell 2006).

While if Mike Russell is not a neo-liberal, it is unfortunate to find him quoted in another academic book called Neo-Liberalism in Scotland:

In his biography of Thatcher, Hugo Young quotes his subject as
saying, “the Scots invented Thatcherism, long before I was thought of”,
dryly adding that this “was believed to be a reference to Adam Smith, the
economist, and possibly the philosopher David Hume”.12 In her
autobiography Thatcher noted with bemusement the failure of her
“revolution” to win hearts and minds in Scotland, “home of the very same
Scottish Enlightenment which produced Adam Smith, the greatest
exponent of free enterprise economics till Hayek and Friedman”.13 The
more openly pro-market figures in the SNP, like Michael Russell, have a
similar view:
“Adam Smith was the father of modern capitalism and it is high time that
his own people rediscovered his genius, particularly as, in his own land,
that genius is currently tarnished by the half-baked economic models
espoused by most of our political parties.14”

Finally, just to remind you how very bad what Russell and MacLeod wrote about the NHS was:

Take health first of all. We would encourage the private sector to compete with established NHS hospitals, clinics and other services. We would encourage NHS management and staff to buy out existing NHS facilities and services under favourable financial terms and join the private sector. We would require NHS facilities that remained in government ownership to be run at a profit however modest. Those that failed to maintain profitability over a reasonable time frame would be privatised. In each geographic area the government would solicit bids from the area’s medical facilities and GPs for the various services it required for its citizens. Fragmentation of services may well see the redundancy of large general hospitals and their replacement with privately run clinics specialising and competing in particular medical procedures and services, at least in the more populated areas.

One idea that is worth further consideration is the possibility that some provision may be supported by “Payment vouchers” made available free of charge to citizens in order that patients would receive treatment wherever they wished. Citizens who wished to make their own arrangements with medical service suppliers would be free to do so. Armed with their voucher they could shop for the fastest and best service and if they so wished add to the value of the voucher.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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It’s Only Words

UPDATE:

Mike Russell has responded in a tweet that his book is a dialogue between the two authors, implying he did not subscribe to its views on the NHS. Unfortunately, having read the full book, this is demonstrably untrue.

It is certainly true that the Introduction states that not all the ideas are agreed by both the two authors. As the Introduction also notes (p.14), in some places these disagreements are noted in the text. But unfortunately, in the entire section on the NHS, indeed the entire section on privatisation, there is no sign of any disagreement between the authors and certainly there is NO dialogue. No counter-argument is given. In fact the entire text at this juncture is written in the first person plural. The book states:

We would encourage the private sector to compete with established NHS hospitals, clinics and other services. We would encourage NHS management and staff to buy out existing NHS facilities and services under favourable financial terms and join the private sector. We would require NHS facilities that remained in government ownership to be run at a profit.

Here the “We” used at the start of each of those three sentences can only mean the two authors, Dennis MacLeod and Michael Russell. It can mean nothing else in the context of the book. It is not a dialogue. Plainly Mike Russell signed up to these views. If he wishes to say he sincerely recants, I would accept that. But he cannot pretend he did not sign up to it.

I also reject the puerile idea that because the Labour Party criticised him for his views on the NHS, it is wrong for anybody in the SNP to criticise him. As for his outrage at being questioned in this way, this is what democracy looks like. We are in an election. Expect to be scrutinised. Actually, I am just starting.

In the contest for SNP President, you are allowed only 25 words for your electoral statement to voters. Yes, 25 words. Approximately half a tweet. Obviously intellectual debate is not being encouraged. There are no official hustings (though kudos to the SNP trade union group who are trying to organise one).

This is my best shot at 25 words so far:

2014 no gold standard. Biased BBC, the Vow breaking purdah.
Tories will never agree a referendum they know we will win.
We must take Independence.

Grateful for your suggestions.

In the interests of public knowledge I wish to publish, entirely unedited, some of the writings of another candidate for President, Mike Russell. As I showed, when I announced my candidacy I faced a storm of very unpleasant social media criticism from what I might term the Scottish media and political Establishment, which insofar as it was not purely abuse, centred on the “accusation” that I hold non-mainstream opinions. I am proud to affirm that I do indeed.

I therefore thought you ought to know the opinions of Mike Russell, the establishment’s candidate. There is no trick here. The below passage is complete and unedited from his book, Grasping the Thistle (Argyll Publishing 2006), by Dennis MacLeod and Michael Russell. It is jointly authored and the passage I quote is written specifically as “We”, indicating both authors agree (not true of the whole book, as is made clear in it, but plainly applying to this passage of “We” proposals on the NHS).

I am not attacking Michael Russell. I make no comment on his views on NHS Scotland, other than to say mine are very different. I merely publish his views as the large majority of SNP membership have come into politics since 2014 and may be unaware of them. I should say I had no idea Mike Russell held these opinions, and when first told a week ago, I did not believe it until I bought a copy of his book. He is of course perfectly entitled to his view, and an Independent Scotland will include people of all shades of political opinion. Indeed, he may have changed this opinion, perhaps at the first sight of his Scottish Ministerial limousine. While I shall not comment, you may wish to comment below on what you make of his opinion on the NHS. I encourage you to do so.

MIKE RUSSELL, CANDIDATE FOR SNP PRESIDENT, WRITES ON NHS SCOTLAND:

Take health first of all. We would encourage the private sector to compete with established NHS hospitals, clinics and other services. We would encourage NHS management and staff to buy out existing NHS facilities and services under favourable financial terms and join the private sector. We would require NHS facilities that remained in government ownership to be run at a profit however modest. Those that failed to maintain profitability over a reasonable time frame would be privatised. In each geographic area the government would solicit bids from the area’s medical facilities and GPs for the various services it required for its citizens. Fragmentation of services may well see the redundancy of large general hospitals and their replacement with privately run clinics specialising and competing in particular medical procedures and services, at least in the more populated areas.

One idea that is worth further consideration is the possibility that some provision may be supported by “Payment vouchers” made available free of charge to citizens in order that patients would receive treatment wherever they wished. Citizens who wished to make their own arrangements with medical service suppliers would be free to do so. Armed with their voucher they could shop for the fastest and best service and if they so wished add to the value of the voucher.

Now it is pretty well a certainty that Mike Russell will win the SNP Presidency. The voters at Conference are a very controlled base and these days the payroll vote is a very high percentage of conference votes. There is very little chance I shall get over 20% of the vote. I am standing to give those ordinary members who are free to do so, a chance to express their concern at lack of focus on getting Independence and particularly to protest at the acceptance that Westminster has a veto on Independence via the S30 mechanism. There are also deep concerns at the way the party is being run.

I am standing because this is what democracy looks like, as my friend Clark reminded me.

There is also a third candidate, Corri Wilson, a former MP. I spoke to her and she seems a very decent person.

Dennis MacLeod, Russell’s co-author, was a multi-millionaire Canadian mining magnate and highly respected SNP member and party donor. Mike Russell has a record of decades of impeccable service to the party. They were perfectly entitled to publish their personal opinion on the NHS and indeed they were entitled to argue for a ultra right economic policy, as their book does. These opinions of Russell and MacLeod do not represent SNP policy and are most unlikely ever to represent SNP policy. Just as I have published personal opinions which are not SNP policy nor likely to be.

My point is simply this. As people, including paid SNP staff, have pointed to my opinions and said they make me unfit to be SNP President, I am entitled to point to Mike Russell’s opinions so that people may make a fair comparison before they vote. You can characterise it as you wish, but it is a fairly plain left/right choice.

At the moment we are in the nomination phase which lasts until Friday 13th. Then voting takes place at the virtual conference.

Nomination phase: Any SNP member can nominate me. I need 100 nominations to stand. Go to snp.org and login with your membership number. Then go to My Account top right, then next menu Elections, then next menu Nominations. You will find you have to click the nominate button by my name several times until the “remove nomination” button appears. There have been glitches, so if you have already nominated me I would be grateful if you could check the “remove nomination” button still appears. I know people who have rejoined the party in order to nominate, and been able to do so immediately.

For the actual voting you need to be a conference delegate to the virtual conference. I understand almost all branches still have open slots, so contact your branch secretary and say you wish to be a delegate.

This is the first election of any kind I have ever entered where there is no mechanism at all for the candidate to verify nominations or ballots. You are simply given the results of the electronic polling, as passed through the hands of SNP HQ staff – including some of those directly involved trying to fit up Alex Salmond on false charges and send him to jail. I therefore will feel much more confident of avoiding shenanigans if I receive well over the minimum 100 nominations.

UPDATE Mike Russell has responded in the following tweet:

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Trident Must Be Destroyed, Not Given to Westminster

There appears to be a presumption that upon Scottish Independence, the Trident submarine fleet and its incredibly destructive WMD’s must simply be handed over to Westminster by Holyrood. That is wrong in international law; if the weapons remain on the territory of Scotland, a sovereign state, it will be for the Scottish Government to dispose of them as it chooses.

The principle is well-established and there is a directly relevant and recent precedent in the nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the highly mobile tactical nuclear weapons were swiftly taken back to Russia but the Trident comparators, the strategic nuclear weapons with their silos and the Tupolev strategic bomber fleet and its weapons, were destroyed, many inside Ukraine itself, following the Budapest Agreement of 1994 between the US, UK, Russia and Ukraine and separate bilateral agreements between Ukraine and France, and Ukraine and China.


This photo is of a Ukrainian technician dismantling a SS-19 missile at a US government funded facility at Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. [Russia of course breached the Budapest Agreement when it invaded Crimea, but that does not impact on the legal precedent of Ukraine’s right to dispose of the missiles on its territory].

There is no doubt that in international law, independent Scotland will be under no obligation to hand the Trident system over to Westminster. By taking another route, and seeking the dismantling of the Trident system under international auspices while ratifying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, START and its protocols and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Scotland will earn great kudos at the United Nations. Making this intent plain at the time of the Declaration of Independence will help secure for Scotland the developing country votes which Scotland will need at the UN General Assembly, recognition by which is the defining test for a country’s Independence.

Scotland has a moral obligation to the world to destroy nuclear weapons on its territory. It is also the case that it should be a simple matter to mobilise international aid funding for the cost of decommissioning and dismantling the Trident nuclear fleet and its missiles – a process in which China, Russia, the USA, France and Westminster should be invited to participate. In fact, the decommissioning work would take years and would bring an economic boost to Scotland, providing far more work than the simple maintenance and operation of the nuclear fleet ever has.

The United Kingdom is a rogue state. It invaded Iraq in a blatantly illegal war of aggression, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands, displacing millions and setting the economic development of the country back 50 years. It significantly contributed to the similar destruction of Libya. It has brazenly defied the United Nations General Assembly and the International Court of Justice in refusing to decolonise the Chagos Islands. It is passing legislation to grant its soldiers immunity from war crimes charges and its secret service officers and agents immunity for murder and torture. To hand Trident missiles, and the capacity to unleash the destruction of the human race, over to the control of this erratic, declining imperial construct would be grossly irresponsible.

An Independent Scotland must not allow WMD to be operational from its territory for one single minute after Independence. We cannot prevent the UK from moving the Trident system out of Scotland before Independence is finalised – in which case we will at least achieve the system being non-operational for about ten years while a new base is constructed, which will itself be a worthwhile achievement.

We in the SNP have to stop pretending to be anti-Trident while expecting to be complicit in a transition plan to let Westminster keep operating Trident. That is an immoral stance and a grossly hypocritical stance.

You don’t negotiate over WMD. You destroy them.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Internalised Danger

We have got so used to the United States being an extremely violent danger to the rest of the world, that the prospect of it internalising its violence is fascinating as well as horrifying. I am hopeful that it is not however likely.

I have to admit I thought Trump was smarter. I expected him to fight for an election result good enough to give him some leverage, and then at a point about about 36 hours ago start to negotiating with Biden for immunity for his family and himself, no tax investigations, and perhaps some continued government boosting of his business affairs, in return for a concession in the election. One thing we know from Burisma and China is that old Joe Biden loves a bung, so I was expecting comfortable understandings to be reached between two immoral and grasping old men. I thought I possessed a fair store of worldly wisdom, but plainly I underrated how crazy Trump is.

The American political system is plainly broken. The Democrats almost managed to fail to defeat Trump, having yet again managed to ensure that the poor electorate was given the choice of two horribly unattractive candidates. The Electoral College system came within an inch of reimposing Trump against the wishes of a large majority of the popular vote.

I do know all the arguments for the electoral college system, that it gives a counterbalance to the huge populations of the cities and coasts and allows rural states to protect their interests. But what it means in the real world is that the votes of conservative white people have disproportionate effect. If Trump had won due to this system, the strain on the fabric of the American body politic would have been – rather like the strain on the UK from Scots being permanently ruled by English Tories. Californian votes in effect are worth less than other votes because they have to be discounted in electoral college representation, because there are so many Californians. Biden having squeaked it removes the acuity of this sore, but the sore is still there waiting to burst out again in 2024.

Having been wrong about Trump backing out, I am reluctant to predict further. My instincts are that Trump’s gun touting fanatics are blowhards and while I fear there may be a few fatalities and incidents, mostly this is going to fizzle out in a series of dead-end lawsuits. I don’t see widespread rioting by “deplorables”, rather long term nursing of grievance. I have no expectation at all that a Biden administration will carry our any meaningful social and economic reform to improve the lives of those whose feelings of alienation were manipulated so adroitly by Trump.

It is typical of the shallowness of the identity politics which have replaced real attempts at social progress and economic improvement for ordinary people, that we are supposed to be celebrating that Kamala Harris will be Vice President on the grounds of her gender and race, when she is a power hungry right winger of the most hardened kind.

America urgently needs a radical dose of social and economic reform as championed by Bernie Sanders. It needs the Green New Deal, and the world needs a real commitment in Washington to environmentalism. One prediction of which I am very confident is that we are not going to see any genuinely significant action on any of this. None of Trump’s poorer supporters will be changing their political minds due to an improvement in their livelihood and prospects over the next four years.

Of one thing I am sure; I am pleased for those who feel released tonight from a regime rooted in racism, and I hope they are right that Trump will now fade away into irrelevance. But as the social and economic position of middle class Americans continues to deteriorate, one thing will be plain in future. Trump was not the cause of America’s problems, he was only a symptom. The future is not bright.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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Moving Forward

AUOB continues its heroic work in trying to weld together the disparate forces of the Yes movement, including the SNP. It is vital that we do pull together as it will take the entire Yes movement to get us over the line to Indy. AUOB is to be congratulated in securing top level SNP support for a virtual Assembly on 14 November, at which SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford will speak alongside wider movement figures such as Lesley Riddoch, George Kerevan and Robin Mcalpine, plus the more open face of the SNP, Kenny Macaskill. The Assembly on 14 November is an online event, and you can sign up for it here. There have of course been a number of efforts to unite the disparate elements of the Yes movement, but I feel this may turn out to be the most hopeful initiative. Neil Mackay of AUOB in particular is to be commended for his indefatigable behind the scenes work and diplomacy.

Less behind the scenes and more front stage, today we must commend another hero of endless perseverance, Martin Keatings, who yesterday won a key procedural ruling enabling his crowd-funded hearing on the legality of an Independence referendum without S30 permission from Westminster finally to go ahead. The case has been subject to massive obstruction not just from Westminster but from the Scottish government itself. No, that is not a mistype. The “respectable” argument the Scottish Government has deployed is that the petitioners are usurping the power of the Parliament in asking for a ruling on the legality of a referendum which the Parliament has not voted to hold. It is for the Scottish government, not the plebs, to ask if it has the power to hold a referendum without Boris Johnson’s permission.

The catch is, of course, that the Scottish government has no intention of asking the question as the status quo gives a perfect excuse to do nothing on Independence while remaining firmly in power on the backs of Independence supporters.

My own view is that Keatings and his backers in Forward as One are absolutely right to try to try to move the prospects for a referendum forward, and to clear up the legal ambiguity. But I should add that, even if the court rules that in UK domestic law Westminster permission is still needed for Scotland to hold a referendum on Independence, that has no effect on international law and the Scottish people’s absolute right of self-determination.

I suspect if Keatings wins his case, the Tories will immediately move to change the law at Westminster specifically to make referenda on Independence, or on all reserved matters, illegal. But that in itself would precipitate a crisis to which the Scottish Government would be obliged to respond. In short, I continue to see no downside to Keatings’ actions and plenty of upsides.

Finally may I ask any SNP members who have not yet done so to nominate me to stand for party President. You need to go to SNP.org and log in with your membership number. Then go to My Account top right, then elections and then nominations.

It is a two stage process. Those who receive 100 nominations go forward for election. Any party member can nominate but only Conference delegates will be able to vote. To vote you need to contact your branch secretary and say you wish to be a conference delegate (it is an online event). I believe almost all branches have plenty of spare delegate slots available. I understand it is also still possible to join or rejoin online to support me. Many thanks indeed to all those who have done so to date.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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American Presidents

I have hardly blogged on the US Presidential elections for two reasons. Firstly the debate is so polarised that many people are oblivious to rational argument that moves outwith the few favoured memes of each side, and I have more than enough abuse in my life already. Secondly, it is some years since I spent any substantial length of time in the USA, and it is a country I find that I understand less and less. I prefer to blog about things where I bring not just judgement, but an extra store of knowledge.

I am very frequently chided for not posting on a subject; a number of people have approached me asking me to post on Nagorno-Karabakh, and indeed I have been offered money to post here on the subject, an offer I suspect would have turned out to be accompanied by conditions as to what I wrote. I will never accept such offers. I am not a corrupt shill like the highly respectable mainstream media journalists receiving secret UK government cash for propaganda from the Integrity Initiative. But also Nagorno-Karabakh is an ancient and tangled dispute with roots that lie deep in history, with complex modern consequences, and which would require a huge amount of reading before I was ready to take a considered view. It is part of a region of which I do in fact have a very deep knowledge, but on Nagorno-Krabakh not specific enough.

I think it is important not to become an all-purpose pundit who fires off unconsidered views on everything that occurs. Such pundits are two a penny in the mainstream media

On the US election I showed my limitations with a tweet yesterday evening predicting Biden would win fairly comfortably, and Trump would concede with good grace. I was wrong. I think Biden will win, but not comfortably and with margins in the key “rust bucket” states close enough for Trump to have every right to question in court aspects of the United States’ rickety voting practices. I still expect to see President Biden at the end of it all.

I know that many of my readers will be triumphant at the departure of Trump. I can understand that. From the viewpoint of US domestic policy and particularly attitudes to social division, race and immigration, the end of Trump’s cynical manipulation of atavistic instinct among the electorate will be in itself a good thing. This has not been a healthy period in US politics.

But Trump has not been defeated by a Bernie Sanders; he has been defeated by a corrupt political hack backed to the hilt by the large majority of the billionaire owned media, financed out of Wall street and with no intention of pursuing anything other than neo-liberal economic policies. It is also the firm re-establishment of the rule of the security state and the military-industrial complex. Trump’s instinctive isolationism made him an enemy of the security state interest which spent a great deal of time in trying to undermine its President.

With Biden we will return to business as usual, and that means war and invasions. Under Trump we have had no new wars started, even if he continued old ones with little control. Without Trump, I have not the tiniest doubt that Syria would have been bombed back to the Stone Age, exactly like Libya, and millions more people would have been killed. Irrespective of the undoubted damage Trump has caused inside the United States across many fronts, Hillary would have killed a lot more people. Just not Americans.

I pause to note that the terrorist in Vienna had attempted to go as a jihadist to Syria and fight against Assad. If he had not been prevented from doing that, he would have been financed by the Saudis, fed and clothed by the Turks, armed by the CIA, trained by the SAS and given air support by the Israelis. He might even have got to be a TV star posing in a White Helmet, or employment artfully placing chlorine bottles on beds for pictures by Bellingcat. Unfortunately, having been prevented from joining the western sponsored insurgency, he ended up killing Austrians instead of Syrians and now is a “terrorist”, whereas jihadist killers of Syrians are “heroes”. A strange world. The Manchester Arena bomber was of course physically brought in to the UK by the British military after fighting for “our side” in Libya. You do indeed reap what you sow.

I hope that those who consider themselves of the left enjoy their relief when the electoral process finally puts to bed the extraordinary populism of Trumpism, and returns the USA to the smoother control of the regular media and political classes and their billionaire controllers. Because anybody who believes any more than that is happening is a fool. I said that I did not blog about the US elections because of the appalling partisan nature of debate. The truth is the system threw up, again, two truly obnoxious candidates entirely antithetical to the real interests of ordinary people in the USA. Biden will do nothing to tackle the appalling wealth and resource inequality which is the most startling problem the country faces. He will hopefully resolve social tensions in the short term. But the cause of those social tensions is a system of gross exploitation of the middle and working classes which is not sustainable in the long term, and which was the root of the Trump political eruption.

Kamala Harris was of course the most right wing possible Vice-Presidential pick. Her advance into power, despite being entirely rejected in the Democratic primaries, is in itself a huge condemnation of the system. I believe I am right in saying that Harris’s Primary campaign was so disastrous she managed to obtain zero delegates at all to the Democratic National Convention. Zero, None. Absolute bottom of the pile. Rejected by Democratic voters as the candidate in toto. Attempting to confirm this zero delegate fact, I just looked up the Wikipedia page on her primary campaign, which turns out to be the most entirely false, hagiographic and manicured Wikipedia page I have ever seen, on any subject, which is saying a lot. Apparently her Presidential Primary bid was in fact a tour de force of brilliant debating and political strategy, recounted in enormous detail, not an abject failure resulting in no delegates. The extraordinarily dishonest Wikipedia page is not perhaps in itself hugely important, but it is emblematic of the sinister manipulation behind the scenes of Kamala Harris’s rise to power.

Let us put a note in our collective diaries to look again in two years and see whether the USA has entered a period of renewed social progress, or just reinvigorated its position as a violent threat to the world. I am looking forward to the period when Biden’s mainstream cheerleaders have to find something positive to say rather than just respond “But Trump is evil”. I predict most of the responses below will say nothing much more on analysis than “But Trump is evil.” Knock yourselves out.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Defence Fund and Contempt Case Update

I have transferred £10,000 from my defence fund to Mark Hirst’s defence fund, which needs money immediately. If anybody who donated objects, your donation can be refunded if you use the contact button top right to send a message.

This does not mean that my own defence fund has more money than it needs – quite the opposite, as the Crown seems to be continuing its policy of spinning out the case as long as possible, with multiple procedural hearings, to drain our funds and ability to fight. The Crown has still not produced the new argument on how it proposes to prove “jigsaw identification”, which we strongly deny and have produced considerable evidence to disprove. The Crown was ordered at the last procedural hearing to come up with new substantive argument, and we are yet to see this. The Crown’s only tactic to date has been to argue that all of our witnesses and evidence are inadmissible, even most of my own witness statement, and the Crown refuses to produce any of the documentation requested by my defence.

The requested documentation included the messages from Peter Murrell to Sue Ruddick, Chief Operating Officer of the SNP, stating that “it was a good time to be pressurising the police” to take action against Alex Salmond, and another to get the Metropolitan Police to act because “the more fronts he is having to firefight on the better”. Incredibly, even though these messages are now firmly in the public domain, the Crown Office still refuses to release the original documents to my lawyers for use in my defence.

Those messages are the tip of the iceberg. It is some months since I saw them, but others include a message from one of the SNP’s most senior officials in which they explain that the police were saying they did not have sufficient evidence to act on some of the complaints. There then follows a line that had me springing up from my chair when first I read it. It was to the effect that if the police would only specify what evidence they need, then they could get it for them.

My sworn statement, given to the High Court in August, names that official. I am not permitted to tell you the name before the trial.

There is much more of this that I could tell you. Either the Crown Office will release these documents for my defence, or from the witness box I shall recount them (which is the reason they seek to stop me giving evidence). To prove to you that I really do know this material, here is an extract from my twitter direct messages detailing the famous Murrell one, written two months before it was leaked to Kenny Macaskill and given by him to the press.

The trial keeps slipping backwards due to Crown procrastination. I am in the peculiar position of facing a potential jail sentence yet being impatient for them to bring it on. Currently scheduled for 20 and 21 January in the High Court, Edinburgh. Please put it in your diary.

For those asking how can I stand for President of the SNP while exposing this kind of dirty laundry, the answer is very simple. This is a part of why I am standing. This kind of appalling behaviour by party officials has nothing to do with party members, nothing to do with Independence, and we have to stand up to put a stop to it, before it does still more damage to the party. Hushing it up would eventually explode in the face of the Independence campaign.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

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MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Bitcoin: bc1q3sdm60rshynxtvfnkhhqjn83vk3e3nyw78cjx9

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Virtue Signaling Over Corpses

I was sent this lovely anecdote of Sean Connery today by a successful Hollywood screen writer. They said I could publish but did not want to be named.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was involved in a series of movie projects with Sean Connery. He was everything you’d like a Hollywood star to be in person: charismatic, gregarious, intelligent, very focused in meetings, a great raconteur. He’d often remind you of his Scottishness and in case you’re wondering, he was more attractive in real life than he was onscreen.

One day we were in a meeting in his office, discussing whatever was our latest venture. The phone on his desk kept ringing. He’d pick it up, put it back down to end the call, then the phone would start ringing again. Then his mobile phone started to ring and ring and ring. Annoyed, he buzzed the outer office on the intercom.

Sean: What’s going on? I’m in a meeting.
Office person: It’s Tony Blair.
Sean (exasperated sigh): I can’t talk to HIM right now.

Then he looked at us, shaking his head and said ‘Sorry about that.’ And we carried on with our meeting.

He will be missed but when Scotland is independent, he can be in your pantheon.

I have also been deluged with social media postings about Sean Connery’s reported views on slapping women.

Do we have to do this?

What he said is not defensible: but are there really people out there who have never in their life said or done anything wrong? The worst thing I ever did in my life (which was not at all criminal but was wrong) still gives me nightmares of remorse, quite literally. I wake up thinking about it. I hope and believe it is outweighed as a single incident in a life in which I generally tried to do good. But I would not want it dragged up for public gloating when I die.

Every single human has made mistakes. I don’t think there is any reason to believe that Sean Connery was a generally bad man like Jimmy Savile. His first marriage was unhappy but his second was very happy and lasted forty years. Connery was born the same year, into the same class and the same city, as my own father. Ten minutes walk between their homes. My father would have shared Connery’s views on women – some of my father’s views were very worrying. They were the views of a working class man brought up in Edinburgh in the 1930s and 1940s.

I am not a moral relativist. I think that Connery’s view was plain wrong, just as my father talking of people coming “off the banana boat” or “having a touch of the old tarbrush” was plain wrong. But I also know why my father did not understand it was wrong, and why by contrast I did know it was wrong. Part of the reason I knew it was wrong is that my father worked so hard to lift his family out of poverty and enable us to benefit from the great free educational opportunities the state then gave us – opportunities he never had, leaving school at 13. Who was I to sneer at him?

I recognise the vicious circle of destructive macho that led Connery to repeat the claims when challenged. I should say that pretty well all my father’s closest friends were black, he actively helped several refugees and there was an extraordinary gap between his extremely kind and completely colour-blind personal behaviour, and the horrible views he used to state. It was a peculiar kind of defiance or assertion of identity, not something real.

Even today, I wish I understood this better of my father. Likewise Connery: I suspect that by the time he was repeating in the 1980’s his obnoxious views of the 60’s, Connery was doing something similar. He was defending the remembered tropes of his class and community, no longer what he was actually living by. And did not know how to back down.

I like to think that in seventy years time, people will look back at today’s virtue signaling students who are swamping the internet with anti-Connery memes, and be horrified at the completely unacceptable views that today’s students hold in tolerating massive wealth inequality.

I repeat that I found Connery’s view on violence against women absolutely obnoxious. It is a good thing that such views are now beyond the pale. But that a ninety year old man expressed a single obnoxious view in 1969 and 1984 does not invalidate him as a human being. It is not the most important thing about him. We are mourning one of Scotland’s most talented sons, and perhaps the most famous. He did not have to be perfect; nobody does.

It is possible to bury the dead without virtue signaling over their still warm corpse.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Craig Murray for SNP President and Independence in Two Years

The party hierarchy decided members should not be allowed to vote on routes to Independence that do not depend on the permission of Boris Johnson. To give party members a chance to register their concern, I have decided to go forward as a candidate for President. I do so not in the hope of winning (I won’t beat longstanding party servant Mike Russell), but because the ordinary members need to be able to show that they are not happy with the lack of focus on Independence and the closed nature of the party establishment – which two things are related.

Every vote for me is a vote for early Independence and no veto for Boris Johnson. Independence must be obtained within two years. It will not be given, we must take it.

The party appears to have no plan that could deliver Independence before 2026 at the earliest. Instead of conference being allowed to debate Plan B, there will be a “discussion” on “Independence in the Future”. It is plain that for many of the party’s very well paid elected officials and functionaries, that future is some far off optional destination, not an immediate arrival.

Obviously I shall be writing more on this in the next month. My opening shot is here, as an advert in the National newspaper.

My announcement has brought a great deal of twitter vituperation from the pillars of the political class – mainstream media journalists and SNP paid staff and leadership acolytes. Plainly democratic choice is not high on their agenda. Some are absolutely astonished that a candidate not approved by the leadership should have the temerity to stand, and not only that, but actually have the nerve to ask people to vote for them.

Mostly though it is just intellect free vituperation, on quite a wide scale:

That was just the first little period. There are huge amounts more of this stuff, much of it from paid SNP staffers. For those of a morbid mind with plenty of free time, the linkages between SNP staffers and unionist journos on twitter are really quite interesting to trace.

I should point out that I have said nothing in the least critical of Mike Russell or Corri Wilson. This is all entirely unprovoked.

A party where the Chief Executive is married to the leader and has a secret salary kept from members is not a healthy party. Particularly when he is then seeking to pressurise police into taking action against the last leader. This is not good.

I leave you with a last thought. Only rebels from the Establishment have ever won Independence, anywhere. We will never be given Independence, we will have to take it. Who is the most likely to play a useful role in that?

—————————————————–

 
 
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Time to Stand Up and Be Counted

Today, nothing is more important than to say that we will not be silent on the dreadful oppression of the Palestinian people; the daily beatings, killings, humiliations, demolitions, expropriations and destruction of groves that are the concomitant of Israeli illegal occupation.

We will never be browbeaten into silence on the slow genocide of the Palestinian people.

Nobody with any grasp on the location of their right mind believes Jeremy Corbyn to be an anti-Semite. Nobody with any grasp on their right mind believes the Labour Party is now anything but the substitutes’ bench for the Neoconservative team. Under Keir Starmer, the Labour Party has failed to oppose the granting of legal powers to the security services to kill, torture, entrap, forge and fake with impunity. It has failed to oppose the limitation of prosecution of British soldiers for war crimes. The Labour Party now seeks to erase all trace that it might once have been a party that offered an alternative to the right wing security state.

As Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer pressurised Swedish prosecutors who wished to drop the case against Julian Assange, to persist in order that he might be rendered to the USA. He further persuaded them not to interview Julian here, which is standard practice when he was never charged but only wanted for questioning, and which would have reduced Julian’s ordeal by four years.

Starmer received £50,000 in personal donations from lobbyist Sir Trevor Chinn to fund his leadership bid.

It is perfectly plain that Starmer’s aim in suspending Corbyn is to drive the mass membership that Corbyn attracted out of the Labour Party, and make it a reliable arm of the right wing security state. He wants the Labour Party to be financially dependent not on its members, who have annoying principles, but on donors like Chinn.

The media and political elite have attained their aim; there is no longer any point in voting in Westminster elections. A right wing government supporting the neo-con status quo and the ever tightening security state is now firmly guaranteed and cannot be influenced by a Westminster election.

 
 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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The Circle of Amnesiacs

Today was a particularly interesting meeting of the Holyrood Inquiry into the mishandling of the Salmond affair, with two senior civil servants, Judith Mackinnon and Barbara Allison, who both had very convenient and complete failures of memory, about key points which just happened to be the very points on which the committee had previously been lied to.

To take Barbara Allison first, she had been happily on holiday in Mauritius. I am sure it is of great comfort to the ordinary people of Scotland that, as has been clear from this inquiry, the Scottish Government employs an extraordinary plethora of officials, nearly all of them female, in non-jobs with silly titles at salaries that enable them to spend their vacations at the most expensive and exclusive spots on the planet.

Now Ms Allison, Director of Communications, had forgotten that, on the day Alex Salmond won the judicial review case against the Scottish Government, she had immediately texted from Mauritius to Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, and that Leslie Evans had instantly replied “Battle may be lost but not the war.” She denied it had happened under oath to the committee when she gave evidence on 15 September 2020. She only remembered it when the Crown Office subsequently handed over the text – which police Scotland had taken from her own phone – to the Committee. She then was forced to write to the Committee correcting her evidence, which if the text had never been produced, presumably she would never have done.

The remarkable thing is, that Leslie Evans’ message had been famous ever since the Alex Salmond trial. It had featured quite literally scores of times in the media after being mentioned in the evidence at Alex Salmond’s preliminary hearing (where it was among the evidence the defence were banned from using at trial) and after being quoted from the steps of the court room by Alex Salmond after his complete acquittal. It is the subject of this column by Iain Macwhirter, for example, and features in the title. Presumably as part of her job Ms Allison must have followed all this, but none of it jogged her memory that she had received the message. Even when Leslie Evans gave evidence to the Inquiry on 8 September that she had sent the message, that did not remind Ms Allison that she had received the message before she explicitly denied, under oath, receiving it to the committee exactly one week later.

It is plain from the messages that Evans and Allison are close. Civil servants do not normally add kisses to work related texts. We are asked to believe that on 8 September Evans gave evidence on this text message to Allison, and did not mention it to Allison before her own appearance before the committee the following week. That is ludicrous.

But remarkably, the fog of Allison’s memory still has not cleared. Nothing has yet been jogged. The infamous text from Evans is evidently a reply to one from Allison. Evans’ reply begins “Thanks Barbara”. Yet Allison today told the committee, again under oath, that she had no recollection of sending Evans her initial text and no recollection what she had said in it. In fact she testified she had no recollection of the event at all.

Let us dig a bit further into that. Imagine you are in Mauritius on holiday. It is a wonderful place.

You are there on holiday. You are relaxing by the sea in the magnificent scenery and enjoying a drink or a meal. You receive immediate notification of the result of the Salmond civil case judicial review, thousands of miles away. How? It did not make the Mauritian or the international media. Plainly somebody has contacted you to give you the news instantly. Had you organised for that, or had someone thought it so important as to bother you on your holiday?

[As a former senior civil servant myself, I can tell you for certain that an event would have to be considered extremely significant, and requiring indispensable involvement of a particular civil servant, for them to be interrupted when away on a holiday. Plainly, this was not casual.]

Your tropical idyll has been interrupted. You then immediately initiate an exchange of texts with the Permanent Secretary. You now cannot – just eighteen months later – recall any of this happening at all.

I just do not buy it. I do not believe it. I do not accept it. It is my opinion (cf Dugdale vs Campbell libel case) that Barbara Allison gave a very strong impression that she is a liar.

The content of Barbara Allison’s text is of course very important, because of Leslie Evans’ wildly improbable explanation to the committee, that when she said “battle may be lost but not the war”, with reference to the judicial review case against Alex Salmond, the “war” to which she referred was not the war against Alex Salmond, but rather a wider struggle that government should have “equality at the heart of what it does”. In this (frankly unbelievable) context, the missing Barbara Allison text message becomes very important indeed.

Did Allison text that day from Mauritius “God that bastard Salmond won. We have to nail him”, to which Evans replied “Thanks Barbara, the battle may be lost, but not the war”? Or did Allison text from Mauritius “I am in full support of the effort to incorporate equality and women’s rights at the heart of all we do”, to which Evans replied “Thanks Barbara, the battle may be lost, but not the war.” As I hope you see, it makes a major difference which it is.

Unfortunately, of course, Allison has (ahem) forgotten what her text message said. And here is the extraordinary thing – she had deleted that key message before she handed her phone over to the police. Now, she had not deleted her messages with one of the accusers from months earlier. Also she had not deleted the reply from Lesley Evans to her deleted text, nor had she deleted her reply to Lesley Evans’ reply to her missing text. We are left with this:

Text X – deleted
“Thanks Barbara. Battle maybe lost but not the war. Hope you are having lovely and well deserved break. L”
“Thanks Lesley. It is lovely here. My mind and thoughts are with you all there tho. Best wishes B. x ”

Now why did text X get deleted and not the other two? Allison told the committee that she routinely deletes texts to unclutter her phone.

Is that not rather strange? We all know how text messages work – your phone shows you the most recent message in a conversation first. So scrolling back, Allison decided to keep the last two but to delete the third one back? Why that one? Why not the whole exchange? It is very hard to think of any logical explanation for that selection – unless the deleted text happened to say something like “God that bastard won. We have to nail him”, which might be incriminating given the subsequent (ahem) organisation of complainants for the criminal case. But as Allison cannot remember writing or deleting that text message, we may never know.

Except of course, we should know. Police Scotland took the messages from the phone to give to the Crown Office. Unfortunately the interest of Police Scotland was in conspiring with Peter Murrell to fit up Alex Salmond. Had they not been otherwise fixed on a corrupt intent, Police Scotland would have been able to deploy their resources to recover the obviously missing deleted text, either from the iPhone or from the service provider.

Let us leave the unpleasant Ms Allison to stew in her own mendacity, and move on to another unreliable witness with a very poor memory, Judith McKinnon. Now I have to refer here to an earlier witness, civil servant Mr James Hynd, who had evidently been selected to take upon himself the responsibility for having devised a procedure to investigate ex-ministers. He had testified it was entirely his own idea, that he had never discussed it with anybody at all, and that it had first existed in a draft policy he had alone written.

Unfortunately this attempt to sanitise the genesis of the “get Salmond” policy quickly collapsed as documents have slowly been squeezed out of the Scottish government showing that a procedure against ex-ministers had been discussed by civil servants and special advisers before Hynd “first” thought of it, including by Judith McKinnon, who had gone on to coach the initial complainants against Alex Salmond. In fact, Mckinnon had produced a “flowchart” of the new procedure including ex-ministers, dated before Hynd’s document which he claimed was the first time the idea had been thought of. Hynd was another one forced to write to the committee to “clarify” his evidence under oath.

Today McKinnon was pressed on why she had included ex-Ministers in her flowchart before Hynd had thought of it, and McKinnon replied that it had been generally discussed and was generally agreed. Pressed by committee members as to who she had generally discussed it with, and whether this included Leslie Evans or the First Minister’s office, McKinnon replied that – she had forgotten who she discussed it with.

Now there is a shock.

Scotland employs, on very high salaries, a quite fascinating number of women with very poor memories.

The members of the committee were most excited about another point. They questioned both women on the fact that the new procedure which the court had found unlawful and tainted by apparent bias, under which McKinnon could both coach complainants and be the investigating officer, was still in place. There was, huffed Alex Cole Hamilton, the possibility the same mistake could be made again and the taxpayer again lose a great deal of money.

Silly Mr Cole Hamilton. He has not yet understood that the “new procedure” was only ever a single shot, designed to “get” Alex Salmond. There was never any chance it would be used against anybody else. So why bother to amend it now?

Finally and perhaps even more interestingly, today a letter has been released which Alex Salmond wrote to James Hamilton, who is conducting the investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code. This entire letter is well worth reading, but this bit is truly stunning. Alex Salmond points out that Hamilton’s remit was written by Sturgeon’s deputy John Swinney, and he suggests it is a “straw man”, deliberately misdirecting Hamilton to areas where Sturgeon probably did not break the ministerial code.

Salmond instead suggests other areas where Sturgeon did actually break the ministerial code, and asks Hamilton if he is able to investigate them or just carrying out the Swinney defined charade. This is the first direct and public attack by Alex on Nicola since she conspired to have him jailed, and it is extremely significant. I am hopeful it may be the starting point of a change towards a Scottish government that will actually use its popular mandate to act on Independence.

UPDATE I have been informed it wasn’t Mauritius, it was the Maldives. Which is, of course, even more spectacularly exclusive and expensive.

 
 
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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Covid-19 and the Political Utility of Fear

The true mortality rate of covid-19 remains a matter of intense dispute, but it is undoubtedly true that a false public impression was given by the very high percentage of deaths among those who were tested positive, at the time when it was impossible to get tested unless you were seriously ill (or a member of society’s “elite”). When only those in danger of dying could get a test, it was of course not at all surprising that such a high percentage of those who tested positive died. It is astonishing how many articles are published with the entirely fake claim that the mortality rate of Covid-19 is 3.4%, based on that simple methodology. That same methodology will today, now testing is much more widely available to those who feel ill, give you results of under 1%. That is still an overestimate as very few indeed of the symptomless, or of those with mild symptoms, are even now being tested.

The Guardian’s daily graphs of statistics since January 1 illustrate this very nicely. It is of course not in fact the case, as the graphs appear to show, that there are now vastly more cases than there were at the time of peak deaths in the spring. It is simply that testing is much more available. What the graphs do indicate is that, unless mortality rates have very radically declined, cases tested on the same basis they are tested today would have given results last spring of well over 100,000 cases per day. It is also important to note that, even now, a very significant proportion of those with covid-19, especially with mild symptoms, are still not being tested. Quite possibly the majority. So you could very possibly double or treble that figure if you were looking for actual cases rather than tested cases.

I do not believe anybody seriously disputes that there are many millions of people in the general population who had covid and survived it, but were never tested or diagnosed. That can include people who were quite badly ill at home but not tested, but also a great many who had mild or no symptoms. It is worth recalling that in a cruise ship outbreak, when all the passengers had to be compulsorily tested, 84% of those who tested positive had no symptoms.

What is hotly disputed is precisely how many millions there are who have had the disease but never been tested, which given the absence of widespread antibody testing, and inaccuracies in the available antibody tests, is not likely to be plain for some time, as sample sizes and geographical reach of studies published to date have been limited. There is no shortage of sources and you can take your pick. For what it is worth, my own reading leads me to think that this Lancet and BMJ published study, estimating an overall death rate of 0.66%, is not going to be far off correct when, in a few years time, scientific consensus settles on the true figure. I say that with a certain caution. “Respectable” academic estimates of global deaths from Hong Kong flu in 1968 to 70 range from 1 million to 4 million, and I am not sure there is a consensus.

It is impossible to discuss covid-19 in the current state of knowledge without making sweeping assumptions. I am going here to assume that 0.66% mortality rate as broadly correct, which I believe it to be (and if anything pessimistic). I am going to assume that 70% of the population would, without special measures, catch the virus, which is substantially higher than a flu pandemic outbreak, but covid-19 does seem particularly contagious. That would give you about 300,000 total deaths in the United Kingdom, and about a tenth of that in Scotland. That is an awful lot of dead people. It is perfectly plain that, if that is anything near correct, governments cannot be accused of unnecessary panic in their responses to date.

Whether they are the best responses is quite another question.

Because the other thing of which there is no doubt is that covid-19 is an extremely selective killer. The risk of death to children is very small indeed. The risk of death to healthy adults in their prime is also very marginal indeed. In the entire United Kingdom, less than 400 people have died who were under the age of 60 and with no underlying medical conditions. And it is highly probable that many of this very small number did in fact have underlying conditions undiagnosed. Those dying of coronavirus, worldwide, have overwhelmingly been geriatric.

As a Stanford led statistical study of both Europe and the USA concluded

People <65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in the hotbeds of the pandemic and deaths for people <65 years without underlying predisposing conditions are remarkably uncommon. Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly individuals should be considered in managing the pandemic.

The study concludes that for adults of working age the risk of dying of coronavirus is equivalent to the risk of a car accident on a daily commute.

I should, on a personal note, make quite plain that I am the wrong side of this. I am over 60, and I have underlying heart and lung conditions, and I am clinically obese, so I am a prime example of the kind of person least likely to survive.

The hard truth is this. If the economy were allowed to function entirely normally, if people could go about their daily business, there would be no significant increase in risk of death or of life changing illness to the large majority of the population. If you allowed restaurants, offices and factories to be be open completely as normal, the risk of death really would be almost entirely confined to the elderly and the sick. Which must beg the question, can you not protect those groups without closing all those places?

If you were to open up everything as normal, but exclude those aged over 60 who would remain isolated, there would undoubtedly be a widespread outbreak of coronavirus among the adult population, but with few serious health outcomes. The danger lies almost entirely in spread to the elderly and vulnerable. The danger lies in 35 year old Lisa catching the virus. She might pass it on to her children and their friends, with very few serious ill effects. But she may also pass it on to her 70 year old mum, which could be deadly.

We are reaching the stage where the cumulative effect of lockdown and partial lockdown measures is going to inflict catastrophic damage on the economy. Companies could survive a certain period of inactivity, but are coming to the end of their resilience, of their financial reserves, and of effective government support. Unemployment and bankruptcies are set to soar, with all the human misery and indeed of deleterious health outcomes that will entail.

There is no social institution better designed than schools for passing on a virus. The fact that schools are open is an acknowledgement of the fact that there is no significant danger to children from this virus. Nor is there a significant danger to young adults. University students, the vast, vast majority of them, are not going to be more than mildly ill if they catch coronavirus. There is no more health need for universities to be locked down and teaching virtually, than there would be for schools to do the same. It is a nonsense.

The time has come for a change in policy approach that abandons whole population measures, that abandons closing down sectors of the economy, and concentrates on shielding that plainly defined section of the population which is at risk. With this proviso – shielding must be on a voluntary basis. Elderly or vulnerable people who would prefer to live their lives, and accept that there is currently a heightened risk of dying a bit sooner than might otherwise be expected, must be permitted to do so. The elderly in particular should not be forcefully incarcerated if they do not so wish. To isolate an 88 year old and not allow them to see their family, on the grounds their remaining life would be shortened, is not necessarily the best choice for them. It should be their choice.

To some extent this selective shielding already happens. I know of a number of adults who have put themselves into voluntary lockdown because they live with a vulnerable person, and such people should be assisted as far as possible to work from home and function in their isolation. But in general, proper protection of the vulnerable without general population lockdowns and restrictions would require some government resource and some upheaval.

There could be, for example, a category of care homes created under strict isolation where no visitation is allowed and there are extremely strict firewall measures. Others may have less stringent precautions and allow greater visitation and movement; people should have the choice, and be assisted in moving to the right kind of institution for them. This would involve upheaval and resources, but nothing at all compared to the upheaval being caused and resources lost by unnecessary pan-societal restrictions currently in force. Temporary shielded residential institutions should be created for those younger people whose underlying health conditions put them at particular risk, should they wish to enter them. Special individual arrangements can be put in place. Public resource should not be spared to help.

But beyond those precautions to protect those most in danger, our world should return to full on normal. Ordinary healthy working age people should be allowed to make a living again, to interact socially, to visit their families, to gather together, to enjoy the pub or restaurant. They would be doing so in a time of pandemic, and a small proportion of them would get quite ill for a short while, and a larger proportion would get mildly ill . But that is a part of the human condition. The myth that we can escape disease completely and live forever is a nonsense.

Against this are the arguments that “every death is a tragedy” and “one death is too many”. It is of course true that every death is a tragedy. But in fact we accept a risk of death any time we get in a car or cross a road, or indeed buy meat from the butcher. In the USA, there has been an average of 4.5 amusement park ride fatalities a year for the last 20 years; that is an entirely unnecessary social activity with a slightly increased risk of death. Few seriously want amusement parks closed down.

I genuinely am convinced that for non-geriatric people, the risk of death from Covid-19 is, as the Stanford study suggested, about the same as the risk of death from traffic accident on a daily commute. The idea that people should not commute to work because “any death is a tragedy” is plainly a nonsense.

The problem is that it is a truism of politics that fear works in rendering a population docile, obedient or even grateful to its political leaders. The major restrictions on liberty under the excuse of the “war on terror” proved that, when the statistical risk of death by terrorism has always been extraordinarily small to any individual, far less than the risk of traffic accident. All the passenger security checks that make flying a misery, across the entire world, have never caught a single bomb, anywhere.

Populations terrified of covid-19 applaud, in large majority, mass lockdowns of the economy which have little grounding in logic. The way for a politician to be popular is to impose more severe lockdown measures and tell the population they are being saved, even as the economy crumbles. Conversely, to argue against blanket measures is to invite real hostility. The political bonus is in upping the fear levels, not in calming them.

This is very plain in Scotland, where Nicola Sturgeon has achieved huge popularity by appearing more competent and caring in managing the covid-19 crisis than Boris Johnson – which may be the lowest bar ever set as a measure of political performance, but it would be churlish not to say she has cleared it with style and by a substantial margin.

But when all the political gains are on the side of more blanket lockdowns and ramping up the levels of fear, then the chances of measures tailored and targeted specifically on the vulnerable being adopted are receding. There is also the danger that politicians will wish to keep this political atmosphere going as long as possible. Fear is easy to spread. If you make people wear face masks and tell them never to go closer than 2 metres to another person or they may die, you can throw half the population immediately into irrational hostility towards their neighbours. Strangers are not seen as people but as parcels of disease.

In these circumstances, asking ordinary people to worry about political liberty is not fruitful. But the new five tier measures announced by the Scottish government yesterday were worrying in terms of what they seem to indicate about the permanence of restrictions on the, not really under threat, general population. In introducing the new system, Nicola Sturgeon went all BBC on us and invoked the second world war and the wartime spirit, saying we would eventually get through this. That of course was a six year haul.

But what really worried me was the Scottish government’s new five tier system with restrictions nominated not 1 to 5, but 0 to 4. Zero level restrictions includes gatherings being limited to 8 people indoors or 15 people outdoors – which of course would preclude much political activity. When Julian Assange’s father John was visiting us this week I wished to organise a small vigil for Julian in Glasgow, but was unable to do so because of Covid restrictions. Even at zero level under the Scottish government’s new plans, freedom of assembly – an absolutely fundamental right – will still be abolished and much political activity banned. I cannot see any route to normality here; the truth is, of course, that it is very easy to convince most of the population inspired by fear to turn against those interested in political freedom.

What is in a number? When I tweeted about this, a few government loyalists argued against me that numbering 0 to 4 means nothing and the levels of restriction might equally have been numbered 1 to 5. To which I say, that numbering the tiers of restriction 1 to 5 would have been the natural choice, whereas numbering them 0 to 4 is a highly unusual choice. It can only have been chosen to indicate that 0 is the “normal” level and that normality is henceforth not “No restrictions” but normal is “no public gathering”. When the threat of Covid 19 is deemed to be sufficiently receding we will drop to level zero. If it was intended that after level 1, restrictions would be simply set aside, there would be no level zero. The signal being sent is that level zero is the “new normal” and normal is not no restrictions. It is both sinister and unnecessary.

UPDATE I just posted this reply to a comment that this argument amounts to a “conspiracy theory”. It is an important point so I insert my reply here:
But I am not positing any conspiracy at all. I suspect that it is very easy for politicians to convince themselves that by increasing fear and enforcing fierce restriction, they really are protecting people. It is very easy indeed to genuinely convince yourself of the righteousness of a course which both ostensibly protects the public and gives you a massive personal popularity boost.

It is argued that only Tories are worried about the effect on the economy in the face of a public health pandemic. That is the opposite of the truth. Remarkably, the global lockdowns have coincided with an astonishing rate of increase in the wealth of the richest persons on the planet. That is an effect we are shortly going to see greatly amplified. As tens of thousands of small and medium businesses will be forced into bankruptcy by lockdown measures and economic downturn, their assets and their markets will be snapped up by the vehicles of the super-wealthy.

I am not a covid sceptic. But neither do I approve of fear-mongering. The risk to the large majority of the population is very low indeed, and it is wrong that anybody who states that fact is immediately vilified. The effect of fear on the general population, and the ability of politicians to manipulate that fear to advantage, should not be underestimated as a danger to society.

There has been a substantial increase in human life expectancy over my lifetime and a subsequent distancing from death. That this trend should be permanent, in the face of human over-population, resource exhaustion and climate change, is something we have too readily taken for granted. In the longer term, returning to the familiarity with and acceptance of death that characterised our ancestors, is something to which mankind may need to become re-accustomed.

In the short term, if permanent damage to society is not to be done, then the response needs to be less of an attack on the entire socio-economic structure, and more targeted to the protection of the clearly defined groups at real risk. I greatly dislike those occasions when I feel compelled to write truths which I know will be unpopular, particularly where I expect them to arouse unpleasant vilification rather than just disagreement. This is one of those times. But I write this blog in general to say things I believe need to be said. I am very open to disagreement and to discussion, even if robust, if polite. But this is not the blog to which to come for comfort-reading.

 
 
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Magic Novichok

The security services put an extraordinary amount of media priming effort into explaining why the alleged novichok attack on the Skripals had a delayed effect of several hours, and then failed to kill them. Excuses included that it was a cold day which slowed their metabolisms, that the chemical took a long time to penetrate their skins, that the gel containing the novichok inhibited its operation, that it was a deliberately non-fatal dose, that rain had diluted the novichok on the doorknob, that the Skripals were protected by gloves and possibly only came into contact in taking the gloves off, or that nerve agents are not very deadly and easily treated.

You can take your pick as to which of those convincingly explains why the Skripals apparently swanned round Salisbury for four hours after coming into contact with the novichok coated doorknob, well enough to both drink in a pub and eat a good Italian lunch, before both being instantaneously struck down and disabled at precisely the same time so neither could call for help, despite being different sexes, ages and weights. Just as the chief nurse of the British army happened to walk past.

So now let us fast forward to Alexei Navalny. Traces of “novichok” were allegedly found on a water bottle in his hotel room in Tomsk. That appears to eliminate the cold and the gloves. It also makes it possible he ingested some of the “novichok”. I can find no suggestion anywhere it was contained in a gel. So why was this deadly substance not deadly?

There seems no plain allegation of where Navalny came into contact with the “novichok”. Assuming he spent the night in his hotel room, then the very latest he can have come into contact with the deadly nerve agent would be shortly before he left the room, assuming he then subsequently touched the bottle before leaving. This is true whether the bottle was the source or he just touched it with novichok on his hands. After poisoning with this very deadly nerve agent – which Germany claims is “harder” than other examples, he then checked out of the hotel, went to the airport, checked in for his flight, had a cup of tea and boarded the flight, all before being taken ill. This after contact with a chemical weapon allegedly deadlier than this:

Which of course is aside from all the questions as to why the Russians would use again the poison that was ineffective against the Skripals, and why exactly the FSB would not have swept and cleaned up the hotel room after he had left. All that is even before we get to some of the questions I had already asked:

Further we are expected to believe that, the Russian state having poisoned Navalny, the Russian state then allowed the airplane he was traveling in, on a domestic flight, to divert to another airport, and make an emergency landing, so he could be rushed to hospital. If the Russian secret services had poisoned Navalny at the airport before takeoff as alleged, why would they not insist the plane stick to its original flight plan and let him die on the plane? They would have foreseen what would happen to the plane he was on.

Next, we are supposed to believe that the Russian state, having poisoned Navalny, was not able to contrive his death in the intensive care unit of a Russian state hospital. We are supposed to believe that the evil Russian state was able to falsify all his toxicology tests and prevent doctors telling the truth about his poisoning, but the evil Russian state lacked the power to switch off the ventilator for a few minutes or slip something into his drip. In a Russian state hospital.

Next we are supposed to believe that Putin, having poisoned Navalny with novichok, allowed him to be flown to Germany to be saved, making it certain the novichok would be discovered. And that Putin did this because he was worried Merkel was angry, not realising she might be still more angry when she discovered Putin had poisoned him with novichok

There are a whole stream of utterly unbelievable points there, every single one of which you have to believe to go along with the western narrative. Personally I do not buy a single one of them, but then I am a notorious Russophile traitor.

The eagerness of the Western political establishment to accept and amplify nonsensical Russophobia is very worrying. Fear is a powerful political tool, politicians need an enemy, and still more does the military-industrial complex that so successfully siphons off state money. Many fat livings depend on the notion that Russia poses a serious threat to us. The nonsense people are prepared to believe to maintain that fiction give a most unpleasant glimpse into the human psyche.

 
 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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People Need to Reclaim the Internet

No matter how much you dislike Trump, only a fool can fail to see the implications for public access to information of the massive suppression on the internet of the Hunter Biden leaks.

This blog has been suffering a ratcheting of social media suppression for years, which reached its apogee in my coverage of the Julian Assange trial. As I reported on 24 September:

Even my blog has never been so systematically subject to shadowbanning from Twitter and Facebook as now. Normally about 50% of my blog readers arrive from Twitter and 40% from Facebook. During the trial it has been 3% from Twitter and 9% from Facebook. That is a fall from 90% to 12%. In the February hearings Facebook and Twitter were between them sending me over 200,000 readers a day. Now they are between them sending me 3,000 readers a day. To be plain that is very much less than my normal daily traffic from them just in ordinary times. It is the insidious nature of this censorship that is especially sinister – people believe they have successfully shared my articles on Twitter and Facebook, while those corporations hide from them that in fact it went into nobody’s timeline. My own family have not been getting their notifications of my posts on either platform.

It was not just me: everyone reporting the Assange trial on social media suffered the same effect. Wikileaks, which has 5.6 million Twitter followers, were obtaining about the same number of Twitter “impressions” of their tweets (ie number who saw them) as I was. I spoke with several of the major US independent news sites and they all reported the same.

I have written before about the great danger to internet freedom from the fact that a few massively dominant social media corporations – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – have become in effect the “gatekeepers” to internet traffic. In the Assange hearing and Hunter Biden cases we see perhaps the first overt use of that coordinated power to control public information worldwide.

The way the power of the “gatekeepers” is used normally is insidious. It is quite deliberately disguised. “Shadow banning” is a term for a technique which has many variations. The net result is always that the post is not ostensibly banned. Some people see it, so that if the subject of the suppression claims to be banned they look stupid. But it is in fact shown to far, far less people than it would normally be. So even members of my own immediate family find that my posts no longer turn up in their timeline on either Facebook or Twitter. But a few followers, presumably at random, do see them. Generally, though not always, those followers are apparently able to retweet or share, but what they are not told is that their retweet or share is in fact put in to very, very few people’s timelines. The overall audience for the Tweet or Facebook post is cut to as little as 1% of what it might be without suppression. As 90% of the traffic to this blog comes in clicks from these social media posts, the effect is massive.

That was the technique used on the Assange hearing. In normal times, the ratchet on traffic can be screwed down or released a little, from week to week or post to post.

In the Hunter Biden case, social media went still further and without disguise simply banned all mention of the Hunter Biden leaks.

As I reported on September 27 last year:

What I find deeply reprehensible in all the BBC coverage is their failure to report the facts of the case, and their utter lack of curiosity about why Joe Biden’s son Hunter was paid $60,000 a month by Burisma, Ukraine’s largest natural gas producer, as an entirely absent non-executive director, when he had no relevant experience in Ukraine or gas, and very little business experience, having just been dishonorably discharged from the Navy Reserve for use of crack cocaine? Is that question not just a little bit interesting? That may be the thin end of it – in 2014-15 Hunter Biden received US $850,000 from the intermediary company channeling the payments. In reporting on Trump being potentially impeached for asking about it, might you not expect some analysis – or at least mention – of what he was asking about?

That Hunter Biden received so much money from a company he never once visited or did any legitimate work for, located in a country which remarkably at the same time launched into a US sponsored civil war while his father was Vice President, is a question which might reasonably interest people. This is not “fake news”. There is no doubt whatsoever of the facts. There
is also no doubt that, as Vice President of the USA, Joe Biden secured the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating Burisma for corruption.

The story now is that Hunter Biden abandoned a laptop in a repair shop, and the hard drive contained emails between Hunter and Burisma in which he was asked for, and promised, various assistance to the company from the Vice President. This hard drive was passed to the New York Post. What the emails do not include is any incriminating correspondence between Hunter and his father in which Joe Biden agrees to any of this – which speaks to their authenticity, as that would be the key thing to forge. Given that the hard drive also contains intimate photos and video, there does not seem to be any real doubt about its authenticity.

However both Facebook and Twitter slapped an immediate and total ban on all mention of the Hunter Biden emails, claiming doubts as to its authenticity and an astonishing claim that they never link to leaked material or information about leaked material.

Alert readers will note that this policy was not applied to Donald Trump’s tax returns. These were extremely widely publicised throughout social and mainstream media – and quite right too – despite being illegally leaked. Twitter may be attempting to draw a distinction between a “hack” and a “leak”. This is difficult to do – the Clinton and Podesta emails, for example, were leaked but are frequently claimed to have been hacked.

I am astonished by the online comment of people who consider themselves “liberals” who support the social media suppression of the Hunter Biden story, because they want Trump to be defeated. The truth is that those in control of social media censorship are overwhelmingly Atlanticist figures on the Clinton/Blair political spectrum. That embraces the roles of Nick Clegg and Ben Nimmo at Facebook. It explains the protective attitude of Blairite Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales (also a director of Guardian Media Group) toward the Philip Cross operation.

Censorship from the self-satisfied centre of the political establishment is still more dangerous, because more stable, than censorship from the left or right. It seeks rigorously to enforce the “Overton window” on social media. It has a “whatever it takes” attitude to getting Joe Biden into the White House and removing a maverick element from the political stability it so prizes. Its hatred of public knowledge is behind the persecution of Assange.

The Establishment’s problem is that inequalities of wealth are now so extreme in Western society, that the attempted removal of access by the public to radical thinking is not protecting a stable society, but is protecting a society tilting towards structural instability, in which the lack of job security and decent conditions and pay for large swathes of the population contrasts vividly with the spectacularly flourishing fortunes of the ultra billionaires. Our society desperately needs thinking outside the box into which the social media gatekeepers are attempting to confine us.

An early part of that thinking out of the box needs to relate to internet architecture and finding a way that the social media gatekeepers can be bypassed – not by a few activists, but by the bulk of the population. We used to say the internet will always find a work-around, and there are optimists who believe that the kind of censorship we saw over Hunter Biden will lead to a flight to alternative platforms, but I don’t see that happening on the scale required. Regulation to prevent censorship is improbable – governments are much more interested in regulation to impose more censorship.

The development of social media gatekeeping of internet traffic is one of the key socio-political issues of our time. We need the original founders of the internet to get together with figures like Richard Stallman and – vitally – Julian Assange – to find a way we break free from this. Ten years ago I would not have thought it a danger that the internet would become a method of political control, not of political freedom. I now worry it is too late to avert the danger.

 
 
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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Lord Advocate Launches War on Twitter

In what we think is a world first, the Lord Advocate of Scotland is claiming in the contempt of court case against me that I am legally responsible for the content of replies to my tweets.

The claim is founded on an argument that when you tweet, there is a menu which enables you to hide replies. If you do not hide a reply, you are therefore the publisher of that reply. As the Lord Advocate is putting it:

2. That the Twitter account under profile name @CraigMurrayOrg is operated by the Respondent. When the user of such an account publishes a post on Twitter, there is an option for readers to post publicly available comments in relation to each post and to reply to other readers’ comments. Replies to original posts will appear on the timeline of the author of the original post and on the timeline of the author of the reply. The user of the account who published the original cannot delete comments by others but, since November 2019, has the option to hide replies to their original post.

Note this is a very different argument to the accepted principle that if you publish a defamatory or otherwise illegal tweet, you bear a responsibility for people retweeting or passing on the information.

What the Lord Advocate is saying is that you can post a perfectly legal tweet, but you are responsible for any illegal replies. So if you post “Joe’s Fish and Chips are Great”, and somebody replies “But old Joe is a paedophile”, you become the publisher of the reply and liable in law for it (presumably unless you hide it, but that has not been stated in terms). The Lord Advocate is arguing that the reason that this has not previously been the law is that it is a new situation, with the “hide reply” option only being added in November 2019.

The reason this argument is being made is that the Crown is struggling to prove I published anything illegal myself, but believes a reply to one of my tweets is more obviously illegal.

The situation on Twitter is very different to a blog or media website. This website is mine. It is registered to me, I am the publisher and I accept responsibility for its content. Even there, however, the law on comments is much more nuanced than people realise and I am not generally liable for comments unless there was something in the content of my original post that was illegal or encouraged illegality, given that reasonable arrangements for moderation are in place.

But neither you nor I nor any other user is the publisher of Twitter. There is no sensible view in which you are the publisher of replies to your tweets. Twitter is the publisher of tweets and users are responsible for what they tweet.

The Lord Advocate’s approach would have a massive chilling effect on Twitter and fundamentally change its nature. When you tweet there is an option to limit who can reply. People would be loathe to allow replies at all if they were liable in law for what other people might say. Nobody wants to have to be constantly checking replies to their tweets, including to old tweets, in case somebody – who may be somebody you never heard of – tweeted something illegal.

For good or ill, Twitter has become a major medium of social and political debate. That dialogue would be entirely changed if replies are routinely turned off. What troubles me is that, in stretching for a way to convict me, the Lord Advocate appears completely oblivious to the very wide consequences of this argument for free speech. The Lord Advocate is of course not only Scotland’s chief prosecutor, he is also a member of the Scottish Government, appointed by the First Minister.

I cannot help but put this together with the Hate Crime Bill, which was condemned as an attack on free speech by every reputable body you can possibly imagine, and conclude that Scottish Government has no concern whatsoever for the concept of freedom of speech. It simply does not feature in their internal thinking, and is of no concern unless hammered upon them from outside.

The doctrine that Twitter users are the legal publishers of replies to their tweets has massive implications were it to succeed in court. That it should be recklessly resorted to as part of this vindictive attack on me, shows how deep down the rabbit hole we are going.

————————————————————–

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Where Is My Final Assange Report?

Numerous people have contacted me in various ways to ask where is my promised report on the final day of the Assange hearing, to complete the account?

It is difficult to explain this to you. When I was in London it was extremely intense. This was my daily routine. I would attend court at 10am, take 25 to 30 pages of handwritten notes, and leave around 5. In court I was always with Julian’s dad John, and usually for lunch too. After court I would thank supporters outside the courtroom, occasionally do some media and often meet with the Wikileaks crew to discuss developments and tactics. I would then get back to my hotel room, have a bite to eat and go to bed around 6.30pm to 7pm. I would awake between 11pm and midnight, shower and shave, read my notes and do any research needed. About 3am I would start to write. I would finish writing around 8.30am and proofread. Then I would get dressed. About 9.30am I would make any last changes and press publish. Then I would walk to the Old Bailey and start again.

Apart from being exhausting, I was totally immersed in a bubble, and buoyed by the support of others close to Julian, who were also inside that bubble.

But in that courtroom, you were in the presence of evil. With a civilised veneer, a pretence at process, and even displays of bonhommie, the entire destruction of a human being was in process. Julian was being destroyed as a person before my eyes. For the crime of publishing the truth. He had to sit there listening to days of calm discussion as to the incredible torture that would await him in a US supermax prison, deprived of all meaningful human contact for years on end, in solitary in a cell just fifty square feet.

Fifty square feet. Mark that out yourself now. Three paces by two. Of all the terrible things I heard, Warden Baird explaining that the single hour a day allowed out of the cell is alone in another, absolutely identical cell called the “recreation cell” was perhaps the most chilling. That and the foul government “expert” Dr Blackwood describing how Julian might be sufficiently medicated and physically deprived of the means of suicide to keep him alive for years of this.

I encountered evil in Uzbekistan when the mother brought me the photos of her son tortured to death by immersion in boiling liquid. The US government was also implicated in that, through the CIA cooperation with the Uzbek Security Services; it happened just outside the US military base at Karshi-Khanabad. Here was that same evil paraded in the centre of London, under the panoply of Crown justice.

Having left the bubble, my courage keeps failing me to return to the evil and write up the last day. I know that sounds either pathetic or precious. I know the mainstream journalists who revel in portraying me as mentally unstable will delight to mock. But this last few days I can’t even bring myself to look at my notes. I feel physically ill when I try. Of course I will complete the series, but I may need a little time.

 
 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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