Daily archives: April 20, 2009

Iran, Israel and Durban II

Iran and Israel are both guilty of repeated abuse of human rights. In Iran, the jailing of Roxana Saberi for spying is an injustice, and a deliberate slap in the face to genuine overtures from Obama to cool the diplomatic temperature. But it is a comparatively small transgression in Iran, a country which executes gays and radically curtails freedom of speech, the rights of women and numerous other freedoms that should be universal.

Now let us look at Israel. Israel is indeed a country founded on a racist premise and based on massive ethnic cleansing, and where racial discrimination is built in to the legal fabric of the country. That situation is getting worse, not better.


The BBC reports President Ahmadinejad today at the UN anti-racism conference thus:

Mr Ahmadinejad, the only major leader to attend the conference, said Jewish migrants from Europe and the United States had been sent to the Middle East after World War II “in order to establish a racist government in the occupied Palestine”.

He continued, through an interpreter: “And in fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.”


I have not seen a full text and do not know what else he said. But insofar as the above s accurate, I in fact broadly agree with it. The only real point of dispute would be the extent to which people were sent as opposed to just went. But the general argument seems to me factually indisputable. Whether he is the best person to say it, given Iran’s own human rights record, is another question.

So there is hypocrisy from Israel, from Iran, and fom the Western countries including the UK who theatrically walked out of the speech.

There is a fascinating quote from Peter Gooderham, UK Ambassador and our representative at the conference:

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, he said of the Iranian leader’s accusation of Israeli racism: “That is a charge we unreservedly condemn and so we had no hesitation at that point in leaving the conference hall.”

Which is interesting as the FCO used to acknowledge institutionalised racism, enshrined in legislation, as a major problem in Israel. One more New Labour step appears to have been taken down the Zionist road.

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Jacqui Plays the Terror Card – As I Predicted

So Jacqui Smith has played the terror card in a wild bid to save her job. It is extraordinary she can warn us of grave danger and at the same time look so smug about it. She spoke in the House of Commons of a “Suspected bomb plot” despite the absence of certain key elements normally associated with the phrase “bomb plot”.

Like a bomb.

Or a plot.

This was not pointed out to her, because she was faced by a Tory idiot, Chris Grayling, who believes that the Tories can win votes by being even more resolute looking in the face of danger than Jacqui Smith. And watching less porn.

You might expect a real opposition to ask questions like:

“You told us that a serious bomb attack was planned for Easter, ten days ago. Where then is the bomb? Where are the explosives, the detonators? Are they in the same metaphysical space as the Iraqi WMD?

Instead Grayling taunted her that she had not devised a system which will stop terrorists entering the UK, if we do not know they are terrorists yet. You don’t say. The obvious answer to this is to stop anyone at all from entering the UK, and make everybody here already leave. I suggest we start with Chris Grayling.

When we have the Tories and New Labour in this downward spiral of competitive xenophobic populism, I really despair. Chris Grayling had me thinking for a minute he could be worse at the job than Jacqui Smith. That ought not to be possible.

Meantime we have this from the police:

Manchester’s counter-terrorism unit said most of the searches relating to the terror arrests had been completed and material collected was now being assessed.

“As this complex and detailed investigation continues, officers are sifting through the extensive amount of information so far received to assess its relevance to the investigation,” a spokesman said.

That is police speak for “We’ve found bugger all, but under New Labour legislation we can still hold them another fortnight to pressurise confessions or turn one against the others to make stuff up in terurn for getting out, or we can always bring in a paid supergrass from Pakistan again.”

Please note there are definitively no bombs, no explosives, no detonators, no firearms or weapons of any kind. There was no Easter bomb plot. Whether the men were really dangerous extremists is open to grave doubt at present.

After 12 days of detention the police still do not have evidence to charge anybody with anything.


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Our Appalling Public Transport System

One of those days which is totally infuriating. I am blogging to you on a stationary train as I attempt to go to York. The train keeps stopping for long periods because, as the guard keeps saying, “There are three trains in front of us.”

We were due to get the 14.30. However the Central Line was entirely suspended, the District Line had “severe delays” and the Piccadilly Line train we eventually got sat still for a quarter of an hour in Hammesrmith before proceeding at a snail’s pace between long rests. In short, a journey that normally takes about 45 minutes between our home and Kings Cross took 1 hour and 45 minutes, and we just missed our train.

National Express then told me that our tickets had no validity on another train; they could not even be upgraded. I had to buy new ones at on the day prices, which cost me over three hundred pounds. Now their train is getting later and later. I am only escorting somebody and coming straight back. I shall now miss my reserved train back and have to buy another on the day ticket.

Our privatised train services have good rolling stock and track only because it was funded by massive taxpayer subsidies. . Meantime their on the day ticket prices are almost three times the EU average per mile.

I have foreign visitors who are completely bewildered by how bad our public transport is, how incomprehensible the fare schemes are and in general what a rip-off the system is. I fear we get too accepting.

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Evidence of UK Complicity in Torture

I have just sent this email to the clerk to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights:

Mark –

Do we have a venue yet?

I will be assisted by Professor Douwe Korff, Professor of International Law

at London Metropolitan University and an acknowledged authority in this

area. While I was Ambassador in Tashkent he did work on torture there for

both the OSCE and the British government. Members of the committee may wish

to take advantage of Prof Korff’s presence to ask him questions including

about the interpretation of complicity in Article 4 of UNCAT, which concept

is at the heart of my evidence. If the committee do not wish to do this,

Prof Korff is content just to sit with and advise me.

I will also refer to the discussion of the use of torture intelligence on

page 15 of the FCO’s latest annual report on human rights, and to the four

legal memos on CIA torture techniques recently released on the instructions

of President Obama, in the context of the US/UK intelligence sharing

agreement. It may be helpful for members of the committee to have those

documents to hand.

Best wishes,


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Is There A Doctor In The House?

Back in December, I posted on the appalling Sir Michael Wright, that standing rebuke to the very name of judge.


I have been hoping he would haul me up for contempt, so I could use the line of Thomas Muir:

“If it be a crime to be contemptuous of you, then commit me for life, for it will be a crime without end”.

Every day for four months a continuous stream of doctors have come to this blog, straight to my post on Sir Michael Wright. They come here from this url.


Unfortunately, not being a doctor, I can’t get in to see the context of the link. But I am baffled as to how it can remain so prominent on its site that it has sent people streaming here over such a long period. And why are doctors so interested anyway?

If there is a doctor in the house, perhaps they might offer some assistance.

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Amnesty International

There is a story in yesterday’s Sunday Herald about one Scottish Amnesty International activist’s involvement in securing the release of Saidzhakon Zainabitdinov, an Uzbek political prisoner. I have been a guest in Saidzhakon’s home, and he is a good and brave man.


I am a fan of Amnesty International.

I have seen at the sharp end how their simple methodology really can save lives. The arrival on the prison fax machine of letters from abroad about a named prisoner really can save him or her from torture and death. The fear that people are watching, that perhaps one day there is a possibility of retribution, is put into the mind of officials and guards. As the fax reaches a minister’s desk or a letter is opened in his office, all politicians are vain enough to have some concern for their international image.

Every day Amnesty’s members make the world a better place in their old-fashioned, caring way. So I salute Angus McEwan of Sutherland, and thousands more like him.

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The Economy – Worse Than You Think

In the budget this week, Alistair Darling is expected to revise his prediction for the drop in GDP in 2009 from -1.2% to -3.4%. This sustains the Brown/Darling record of appalling predictions.

The CBI think it will be worse, at -3.9%. I think it will be yet worse, at -4.1%.

I spent Sunday with friends at the LSE dusting off my economic modelling skills. I should state the obvious, that the LSE is in no way associated with my predictions (though if they turn out wrong I reserve the right to blame their modelling!) It is also fair to say they found some of my methodology unorthodox, particuarly the need for a steady intake of Margaux to fuel the input assumptions.

I project GDP will fall by -4.1% in 2009 and by -1.8% in 2010. The Treasury is leaking -0.1% as their 2010 projection. Given the financial services sector is in shock and manufacturing output down by over 18% in the first quarter of 2009 year on year, I can only presume they are relying on massive expansion in the capuccino and dry cleaning industries.

I have assumed that Darling’s budget this year and next year will be close to fiscal neutrality, with a nod towards belt tightening. He has absolutely no room for fiscal stimulus and with an election in the next 15 months he can’t be too sensible.

But the fiscal position looks awful. I project a budget deficit of a massive 12.4% of GDP in 2009 rising to 13.3% in 2010. By 2011 our national debt will reach 1980s Italian proportions of 118% of GDP. Compare that to the 40% guideline for membership of the Euro.

That prospect will spark a collapse in the pound before mid-2010 leading to escalating interest rates, forced on the Bank of England as the government struggles to raise more money because the pound is such a bad bet. That will undoubtedly mean they will have to go cap in hand to the IMF within the next 18 months, but still will not be able to avoid those higher interest rates.

Inflation will come back, reaching 4.5% by April 2010 and shooting upwards after that to 7.1% by end 2010 and entering double digits in 2011. That will put an end to further quantitive easing. House prices still have a further 11% to fall before nominal prices start to increase from July 2010, but will still be falling in real terms. Unemployment will peak in March 2011 at 3.02 million.

The problem Darling faces is that he has no room for fiscal stimulus, because all the funds that may reasonably be raised have been wasted on the bottomless pit of Ponzi banking.

Because of the corner into which Darling has painted himself, and on the basis that New Labour have no stomach for radical restructuring of the economy and measures such as bank nationalisation, the only thing that would truly improve the prospect would be a radical budget rebalancing – perhaps a 2% increase in total tax yield combined with a 5% cut in public spending, over a three year period. That would reduce a raft of linked problems including interest rates, inflation, deficit and debt burden. It would accelerate unemployment and make the recession sharper, but would on my projections give something of a J curve effect.

The other thing that would help might be joining the Euro, if we could beg them on bended knee to accept us as a basket case. But the other European countries would be crazy to take us on.

I realise many people find spending cuts unpalatable. But we are in a very bad place. We are there because Brown and Darling failed to regulate casino banking, and then used all our remaining national credit to refund losses to the wealthy gamblers.

The economy is completely screwed – even worse than most forecasters and pundits are telling you, and certainly worse that Darling will admit on Wednesday.

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