Monthly archives: September 2012

Ryder Cup Wonder

Wow that was absolutely fantastic! Really, really wonderful. Poulter is astonishing, that putt from Kaymer was steel-nerved, and great from Paul Lawrie. So many heroes, including a great fight from Peter Hanson who may not have got a point but kept it going.

But the real turning point was yesterday evening, when I ran out of Wadworth’s 6X and switched to the Caol Ila. Then that ran out at 10pm this evening and an 18 year old cask strength Allt A’Bhainne brought it home. Wonderful. The start of the Caol Ila had also won the US Open for Andy Murray, so I shall retire the empty bottle to a place of honour in my study.

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What Cannot Be Forgiven

Thirty thousand orangemen marched in Belfast yesterday to the statue of Sir Edward Carson. He was the vicious lawyer who hounded and destroyed Oscar Wilde for his homosexuality, as well as a thug who openly promoted violence in politics.

The effects of history on today’s politics are fascinating, and dangerous when perceived historical injustice or heroism becomes an obsession, as with the Orangemen. I had not fully grasped the significance of the fact that the largely Scots Oramgemen called their pledge of 100 years ago a Covenant. Which reminds me of another anniversary, next month is 300 years since the birth of Montrose.

The Unionist campaign in the Independence referendum has seen a continuing wooing by New Labour of the Orange Order in Glasgow, which occasionally emerges into the mainstream media. BBC Scotland is completely New Labour controlled and a bastion of pro-Unionist propaganda. I found this tendentious report particularly amusing. Note how is skates round the fact that Matheson was at the Orange Order meeting, instead allowing him to spin on precisely what he had said about relaxing restrictions on Orange parades. Note the total lack of difficult questioning. New Labour even went on to give public money to Orange Order parties for the Jubilee – while peaceful young student protestors I know personally were violently arrested for holding anti-monarchist placards in a park.

New Labour in Scotland have not only reached out to the Orange Order, but decided to adopt neo-con policies and attack the SNP from the right. They are greatly approved by The Daily Telegraph and the Tory think-tank, Policy Exchange. The policy appears to be for New Labour to join the Tories and Lib Dems in blaming the SNP for the strain in public services caused by Tory cuts to the Scottish government’s services.

As a strategy to build a united Unionist coalition it make sense, except it is a coalition entirely of the right. I am not sure New Labour can any longer count on tribal loyalty in Scotland’s cities for their voters to follow this neo-con lurch. Of course, the Orange Order are big on tribal loyalty. Maybe that is why New Labour feel so comfortable with them at the moment.

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Ryder Cup Blues

I am watching anxiously the start of the second day’s play in the Ryder Cup with some relief that Europe are only two points down after what felt like a complete pasting yesterday. I really love the Ryder Cup; annoyingly to watch it (and test cricket) on television requires me to pay a subscription to Murdoch, which is horrible. The greed of sports administrators results in a monopoly on broadcast rights for major sporting events; if governments actually cared about consumers, that would be stopped.

I watched every ball broadcast yesterday, which ridiculously was not every stroke of the competition. Adverts don’t help, nor the times when the US host broadcaster obviously goes into news or a feature There was a long hiatus at the start of the fourballs yesterday. But it was a pretty agonsising eleven hours watch, with Euope on the receiving end from about 3pm onwards..

The extraordinary course set up Love has organised at Medinah, with no real rough, did indeed favour long hitters, but even more did it turn it into a putting competition and on these super-fast greens the Americans were simply brilliant. Colsaerts putting was also unexpectedly incredible, but that was pretty well it for the Europeans in the afternoon. Westwood looked like he couldn’t hole anything, and a key factor was Justin Rose’ putting touch of the morning deserting him also – if Rose had holed all his putts within six feet, the team scores would have been even.

A mistake by Olazabal not to put Poulter out in the afternoon, and a mistake also I think not to play Paul Lawrie this morning – who was playing well under par yesterday despite being initially blown away be Watson and Simpson.

But I think Europe’s well problem yesterday was that I wasn’t drinking. Good Ryder Cup days always involve plenty of beer. So I have bought myself eight pints of Wadworth’s and I expect a good day.

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Not Forgetting the al-Hillis

The mainstream media for the most part has moved on. But there are a few more gleanings to be had, of perhaps the most interesting comes from the Daily Mirror, which labels al-Hilli an extremist on the grounds that he was against the war in Iraq, disapproved of the behaviour of Israel and had doubts over 9/11 – which makes a great deal of the population “extremist”. But the Mirror has the only mainstream mention I can find of the possibility that Mossad carried out the killings. Given Mr al-Hilli’s profession, the fact he is a Shia, the fact he had visited Iran, and the fact that Israel heas been assassinating scientists connected to Iran’s nuclear programme, this has to be a possibility. There are of course other possibilities, but to ignore that one is ludicrous.

Which leads me to the argument of Daily Mail crime reporter, Stephen Wright, that the French police should concentrate on the idea that this was a killing by a random Alpine madman or racist bigot. Perfectly possible, of course, and the anti-Muslim killings in Marseille might be as much a precedent as Mossad killings of scientists. But why the lone madman idea should be the preferred investigation, Mr Wright does not explain. What I did find interesting from a man who has visited many crime scenes are his repeated insinuations that the French authorities are not really trying very hard to find who the killers were, for example:

the crime scene would have been sealed off for a minimum of seven to ten days, to allow detailed forensic searches for DNA, fibres, tyre marks and shoe prints to take place.
Nearby bushes and vegetation would have been searched for any discarded food and cigarette butts left by the killer, not to mention the murder weapon.
But from what I saw at the end of last week, no such searches had taken place and potentially vital evidence could have been missed. House to house inquiries in the local area had yet to be completed and police had not made specific public appeals for information about the crime. No reward had been put up for information about the shootings.
Behind the scenes, what other short cuts have been taken? Have police seized data identifying all mobile phones being used in the vicinity of the murders that day?

The idea that the French authorities – who are quite as capable as any other of solving cases – are not really trying very hard is an interesting one.

Which leads me to this part of a remarkable article from the Daily Telegraph, which if true points us back towards a hit squad and discounts the ides that there was only one gun:

Claims that only one gun was used to kill everybody is likely to be disproved by full ballistics test results which are out in October.
While the 25 spent bullet cartridges found at the scene are all of the same kind, they could in fact have come from a number of weapons of the same make.
This throws up the possibility of a well-equipped, highly-trained gang circling the car and then opening fire.
Both children were left alive by the killers, who had clinically pumped bullets into everybody else, including five into Mr Mollier.
Zainab was found staggering around outside the car by Brett Martin, a British former RAF serviceman who cycled by moments after the attack, but he saw nobody except the schoolgirl.
Her sister, Zeena, was found unscathed and hiding in the car eight hours later.
Both sisters are now back in Britain, and are believed to have been reunited at a secret location near London.

There are of course a number of hit squad options, both governmental and private, which might well involve iraqi or Iranian interests – on both of which the mainstream media have been very happy to speculate while almost unanimously ignoring Israel.

But what interests me is why the Daily Telegraph choose, in the face of all the evidence, to minimise the horrific nature of the attack by stating that “Both children were left alive by the killers”? Zainab was not left alive by design, she was shot in the chest and her skull was stove in, which presumably was a pretty serious attempt to kill a seven year-old child. The other girl might very well have succeeded in hiding from the killers under her mother’s skirts, as she hid from the first rescuers, and then for eight hours from the police.

The Telegraph article claims to be informed by sources close to the investigation. So they believe it was a group of people, and feel motivated to absolve those people from child-killing. Now what could the Daily Telegraph be thinking?

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Confessions of a Secret Europhile

I remain a committed internationalist. For me, nation states are potentially extremely dangerous entities. They have the power to co-erce, brutalise and even lawfully to kill their own citizens. They regulate economic, commercial and societal transactions. They wield such power that contest among internal political leaders for control of that power can erupt into violent civil war. And they control such physical resources that nation states can launch war on each other in order to annex those resources or access their benefits.

Western democracy has, in my view, in general been the happiest form of government in modern society, in controlling the internal use of power through democratic mechanisms and in spreading welfare benefits among its citizens, while allowing the economy to function relatively efficiently.

But there have been three developments to jolt us from the notion that the emergence of western democracy represents a development in an inexorable trend of human progress. The notion of historical “progress” is one in which my generation was brought up implicitly to believe. I for one believed in it consciously and explicitly.

The first and most obvious development is the realisation that, while western democracies have more or less eliminated open violence in their internal political arrangements for control of resources, they are increasingly liable to resort to open warfare to gain control over the benefit of the resources of other nations, particularly as those resources become more scarce and valuable. Anybody who truly believes that it is coincidence that Iraq, Libya and Central Asia are hydrocarbon rich, and the major areas of Western military activity, is wilfully blind. There was nothing new about neo-imperialism and its recent manifestation as liberal interventionism is no more than a rehash of standard imperial propaganda on the spreading of civilised values.

What is new is the destruction of the notion that we Western democracies had got morally better and had moved on from the crude war as resource grab. What is also new is the extraordinary use of modern mass media to propagandise the inhabitants of western democracies into such fear of an alien threat, that the government can withdraw numerous liberties and extend vastly its power for everyday physical coercion – which at the most mundane level dawned on Andrew Mitchell last week. The fact that the public accepted 17,000 members of the armed forces guarding the Olympics from nobody at all, and that the armed forces were mentioned in every single public speech by a British politician or official in the Olympic ceremonies, to wild applause, gives but one example of the extraordinary militarisation of Western societies.

The second development is the galloping increase in the gap between rich and poor, in virtually every developed economy. In the UK the normalisation of the extreme concentration of wealth, and the neutering of the political forces for redistribution, constituted the real achievement of Blairism. The wealth gap between directorial and non-directorial incomes in British society has been growing at approximately ten per cent a year for two decades.

This development has been worsened by an abandonment of regulatory mechanisms that modified capitalism, and particularly the tendency of the financial services sector through oligopoly to take vast rent out of simple commercial transactions for which they should be the mere facilitator, at the same time inventing gambling transactions and other artificial processes of cash multiplication with which to tempt the wealthy and the fundholders within their own industry. The epitome of this transfer of wealth was, after the inevitable bubble disintegration, the payment by the state of huge sums to the financial services industry, using the power of the state to coerce the population through taxes to hand over sums amounting in total to several years income each.

Which leads me to the third adverse development – the concentration of media ownership in the hands of the extremely wealthy, the control by the same interests of the mainstream political parties, and therefore the lack of effective choice before the electorate on issues like the bank bailout, where the media and politicians combine to limit the sphere of public debate that will be carried to present only tiny variations on a single alternative. The same is true, for example, of the war in Afghanistan. Without an effective choice being offered to the electorate between real policy options, the notion of democracy is meaningless. That is where the western democracies now are.

Nation states, therefore, even the best of them, are dangerous entities which employ force against their own and other citizens and can be an active danger to international peace. The regulation of relations between states by international law to reduce conflict is therefore an urgent necessity. Some countries are much more danger than others: Ghana, to take one example, has never invaded anybody while the United Kingdom has at various times invaded or bombed the territory currently occupied by three quarters of the states in the World, while the United States projects deadly physical force overseas by a variety of means on a daily basis. Reining in these rogue states is a major priority.

There exists a body of international law which ad been gaining in respect and conformity in the decades since the Second World War, but both the United States and United Kingdom, and others following the neocon lead, have in recent decades driven a coach and horses right through the fabric of international law, through invasion, extraordinary rendition, torture, detention without trial, indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations, targeted extra-judicial killings by shootings or by drones, murder of journalists in war zones, and so on in a depressing litany.

Fundamental platforms of international law violated by the UK, US and their neo-con allies from the BushBlair period on include: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Nuremberg Principles, The Charter of the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions, and the Hague Convention. Recently the UK was proposing in effect to tear up the Vienna Convention too.

My conclusion is twofold. Firstly that international law needs to be radically strengthened in order to come back into repute. Secondly that the idea of the nation state as the basic unit of political organisation should be radically attacked; that the period of history is past in which the development of the nation state was a force for the good of its citizens and the world community.

I believe that the nation state should be attacked from top and bottom. From the bottom, as societies internationalise the idea of an ethnic basis to state boundaries becomes anachronistic. Advantage should be taken of this trend to deconstruct states from within, breaking them down into a combination of smaller states and/or of powerful autonomous regional polities. We need to see many more states split up, especially among the westen democracies but also very definitely Russia, China, India and states in their orbit.

From the top, and with particular reference to the UK, I view the European Union as an excellenct prototype of the sort of organisation that can attack the sovereignty of national states from above. Nobody dares to say this should happen – when those few Europhiles brave enough to state their beliefs talk of greater integration, they talk of “pooling sovereignty” to disguise from themselves and their listeners the fact that what they really mean is appropriating and destroying national sovereignty – and a damn good thing too.

In the UK, national schadenfruede at the problems of the Euro is almost universal across the political spectrum, which is why I trailed this as my most unpopular post ever. How foolish, British media and politicians gloat, of those silly Europeans to undertake the biggest single economic step in the history of mankind! How wise we were to stay on the sidelines sneering!

The problem of the Euro, as I observed a decade ago and everyone now agrees, is that a currency union is not really feasible without a fiscal union. The answer to that is a fiscal union. Where the European Union has gone wrong is not that it has gone too far in integration, but that it has not gone nearly far enough.

After a period of disastrous free-for-all, what we now have is a de facto fiscal union in the Eurozone in which the German government in effect dictates policy – in this case austerity policy – to everyone else. Democracy is now even more meaningless to the Greeks and Spaniards than it is to the rest of us.

The cause of this is the fundamental weakness of the European Union – its deference to the nation states it should be eliminating. Executive power within the European Union needs to be removed completely from the nation states in the Council of Ministers, or Council of German Orders as it should be better known now.

The executive body of the European Union should rather be dependent on, and largely drawn from, a majority of the European Parliament. That parliament divides along ideological, not nationalistic lines and does provide a much broader range of representation of opinion than most national parliaments.

The existing European Commission would become simply the Civil Service to this new, democratically elected, European Government. The European Commissioners themselves, devoid of administrative responsibilities which would pass to the new parliamentary ministers, might form some kind a second chamber, of a deliberative and revising nature, to the European Parliament. Rather like the US Senate, this would give a balance of due consideration to the interests of smaller nations; it might also encourage the break-up further of over-large “national” units to ensure more second chamber representation.

The question of subsidiarity and the balance of powers between the new democratic European government and national and regional governing bodies, should be the subject for a book not an article. But I would move virtually every power of a nation state either up or down. Fiscal policy, foreign policy and defence should all be exclusively at the European level.

The problems of the European Union multiplied when it adopted the philosophy of variable geometry, of inner and outer cores, of fast track and slow track members. For the single currency and single market to succeed, unity must be much tighter. If the European Union is serious about maintaining Europe’s position in the World against the mergence of China, India and South America it must conform to the logical force behind its existence. In economic terms that means not just the free movement of goods, but the free movement of capital and labour as well. So to be in the European Union should mean being in the Euro and being in Schengen too. The alternative should be to leave; and be treated as an outsider. The EFTA free ride must finish.

I view the European Union as a wonderful thing. It is a cliche to note that in my parents’ lifetime Europeans were fighting against each other in the grimmest war imaginable, and yet now are embarked together on a great political and economic project. The peace of Europe, and the freedom I have to move around Europe, to work study or settle there, is simply wonderful.

Let us make it even better. Let us get rid of those pesky internal borders and immigration countrols and those huge foreign exchange costs that benefit nobody but the bankers. And let is get rid of our God-awful national governments.

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Aiding and Abetting

I continue to do all I can to help Julian Assange in his struggle against the mire of false allegations with which governments are attempting to bring down Wikileaks and get him eventually to perpetual solitary confinement in the USA. I was with Julian again in the Embassy last week, and shall be visiting him there again shortly.

Which begs this question. If, as the government falsely claims, this is purely a case of genuine criminal investigation, with no political overtones, and if Julian Assange really is nothing more than an alleged criminal who has jumped bail, then why am I, and others helping him, not under arrest for aiding and abetting or conspiracy? Plainly the government need to get their narrative straight.

For MI5 and the police, if it makes it any easier, I shall be going on Thursday afternoon, (though I have no doubt you already knew that). You can arrest me then.

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Sorry for the break. I was staying in London in one those seriously grotty hotels around Kings Cross station, so that I could get into the British Library quickly and not miss a second of the – far too restricted – hours its reading rooms are open. I was immersed in Burnes related manuscripts through the day and spending the evenings fitting the raw material into the overall picture (mostly by lying in the bath and thinking very hard, but that might be too much information).

I did however emerge after midnight on Thursday to go down to Ronnie Scott’s and contribute to the pop-up reopening of the Establishment Club, which it is hoped will lead to the Club eventually reoccupying its old premises. Obviously the organisers are setting themselves an impossibly high bar in trying to follow in the footsteps of Peter Cook, though the attempt is not too sacreligeous as it has the support of his widow, Lin.

John Fleming’s review linked above gives a fair account of what I said, which focused particularly on the agenda of the mainstream media in not reporting the real news. The Evening Standard evidently has no sense of irony, as they produced (two thirds of the way down page) a totally tendentious account of my appearance, not reporting anything I said, completely misrepresenting audience reaction and claiming I was attempting to do stand-up comedy.

I suppose I should be grateful to the Standard for this unlooked-for proof of the truth of what I said. But somehow I am not.

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Leave of Absence

I was invited to be on the Murnaghan programme on Sky News this morning – which I always find a great deal more intelligent than the Andrew Marr alternative on the BBC. I declined because I did not want to get up and get a 7.30am train from Ramsgate on a Sunday morning. I had a meeting until 11.30pm last night planning a conference on human rights in Balochistan [I still tend to say Baluchistan], and I have a newly crowned tooth that seems not to want to settle down. But I am still worried by my own lack of energy, which is uncharacteristic. Is this old age?

I also have some serious work to do on my Burnes book, and next week I shall be staying in London to be in the British Library reading room for every second of its opening hours. So there may be a bit of a posting hiatus. I have in mind a short post on an important subject on which I suspect that 99% of my readership – including the regular dissident commenters – will strongly disagree with me.

This is a peculiarly introspective post, perhaps because my tooth is hurting, but I seem to have this curmudgeonly spirit which wishes to react to the huge popularity of this blog by posting something genuinely held but unpopular; a genuine view but one I don’t normally trumpet. The base thought seems to be “You wouldn’t like me if you really knew me”.

Similarly when I wrote Murder in Samarkand I was being hailed as a hero by quite a lot of people for my refusal to go along with the whole neo-con disaster of illegal wars, extraordinary rendition and severe attacks on civil liberties, sacrificing my fast track diplomatic career as a result. My reaction to putative hero worship was to publish in Murder in Samarkand not just the political facts, but an exposure of my own worst and most unpleasant behaviour in my private life.

I am in a very poor position to judge, but I believe the result rather by accident turned out artistically compelling, if you don’t want to read the book you can get a good idea of that by clicking on David Tennant in the top right of this blog and listening to him playing me in David Hare’s radio adaptation.

Anyway, that’s enough musing. You won’t like my next post, whenever it comes. Promise.

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A Bunch of Tits

The BBC believes that Kate Middleton’s tits are a more important story than western diplomats in danger of their lives all over the Middle East. Says it all about today’s BBC, really.

Killing people is not the solution to the World’s problems. Killing diplomats is particularly heinous as they are guests in a country, and are charged with keeping open the lines of peaceful communication between nations. Almost certainly Ambassador Stevens and his staff deplored the making and distribution of hate videos, and absolutely certainly they had nothing to do with it. Nor do the diplomats under seige today in Yemen, Sudan and Egypt.

Oliver Miles, the extremely sensible former British Ambassador to Libya, while deploring attacks on Embassies and their staff, made the obvious point on Sky News yesterday that America’s unflinching support for an expansionist Israel was the root cause of hostile attitudes to the USA acroos the Middle East. His interview was instantly terminated.

Miles’ observation is true, as it is true that direct and killing intervention by the US in Libya and Yemen has caused the situations that are now blowing back – often with US supplied or at least encouraged weaponry. But yet again, none of that justifies the racist attacks on westerners. Just as all Muslims were not responsible for Islamic terrorists, so all westerners are not responsible for the far right purveyors of anti-Muslim hatred.

All decent people must despair at the prospect of yet another cycle of violence. Powerful interests both in the West and in the Middle East are not amongst those decent people.

Of all the signals the West could send out to try to end the horrors wrought by the promoters of the “Clash of civilisations”, the most powerful would be to arraign Bush and Blair for war crimes. This is not a deluded hope of idealists; it is an essential step if the world is ever to heal.

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Context of the Hillsborough Cover-Up

It is plain that Home Office officials had a very good, immediate understanding of the causes of the Hillsborough Disaster. Having spent twelve hours reading through the documents released, and drawing on my experience as a senior civil servant, for me the key document is the briefing for the Home Secretary’s statement to the House of Commons two days after the disaster.

On pages 16 and 17 of this PDF, are some of the the “supplementaries” which civil servants prepare (indexed answers replying to possible follow-up questions which MPs may ask in debate). Here a civil servant has prepared for the Home Secretary answers on whether the Hillsborough Ground complied with the “Guide on Safety at Sports Grounds”. His answers include these:

3. Does the ground comply with the guide?

(A) Entry turnstiles – appears unlikely
(B) Rate of Entry with Route – Not when gate opened, well overloaded
(C) Stewards/Police – Not clear yet whether numbers and dispersal adequate
(D) Entry to Terrace from Route – Need to see plans – Appears there were no control barriers
(E) Radial/Lateral Gangways – Need to see plans – Film indicated that these were not defined or kept clear
(F) Crash Barriers – Engineer’s statement that they were tested and complied for strength
(G) Pitch Perimeter Fence – From film it appears that emergency gates are rather narrow and limited in number

So just two days after the disaster, and one day after Thatcher’s and Hurd’s visit to the site, there was a full understanding of the actual causes of the disaster. There is no mention of hooliganism or crowd violence or alcohol in the Civil Servant’s briefing. But – exactly as the Murdoch media’s campaign of demonisation of the Liverpool fans was getting into full swing – Douglas Hurd has put his pen through all the above list of causes and written “Matters for the Inquiry”. Not to be told to Parliament.

So the government knew the truth, but decided to suppress it while the media vilifaction flew, pending the “Taylor Inquiry” which is unanimously now accepted to have been badly skewed.

Yet Hurd’s meeting with Taylor on 26 April 1989 lifts the lid on how “independent” these “judge-led” inquiries really are, with Hurd telling Taylor not just what the government would like him to say but precisely when it would be helpful to the government for him to say it.

If you read that minute through, you will see that Hurd shows no interest at all in the question of what happened at Hillsborough. This is only mentioned by Taylor, three quarters of the way through the meeting, which is overwhelmingly about Hurd steering Taylor to support the government’s position on compulsory membership cards for football clubs.

Justice for the victims of Hillsborough was plainly nowhere on Hurd’s list of priorities.

Anyone who lived through the Thatcher years will never forget her demonisation of “The enemy within”. My belief is that you cannot understand the government cover-up of Hillsborough without putting it in the context of Thatcher’s successful drive to remodel society on neo-conservative lines by economic deregulation and making the country fit for banker capitalists to become incredibly rich.

There is to me a psychological connection between the terrible, bitter and eminently avoidable confrontation with the miners, the poll tax, and the attitude to Hillsborough of Thatcher, Hurd and Murdoch. Football terraces were nothing if not a display of community solidarity between working people. Furthermore the police were used in paramilitary fashion by Thatcher against the miners and poll tax rioters: of course they would be supported as in the right at Hillsborough.

None of which helps the bereaved, and in many ways yesterday’s assertion that almost half the victims had some potential to be saved given a better police and emergency response must be just awful for them. I cannot fully imagine how they feel, though of course I am pleased that the shadow of official blame has been lifted.

But I also hope strongly that the undoubted evidence of co-ordinated cover-up and massive doctoring of documents helps people come to an understanding that government cannot be trusted. The lies about ticketless Liverpool fans leaping turnstiles reminded me of the lie about Jean Charles De Menezes leaping a turnstile – a lie also propounded by the Police and Murdoch.

Government conspiracies do indeed happen. They happen more often than you think.

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Libyan Blowback

It is a terrible thing if any US diplomats have been killed in Libya, as now appears likely. My condolences to the families of all affected. They add to the thousands of deaths in Libya, and one can only hope that finally some of the proponents of “liberal intervention” will realise that bombing people into democracy is not a viable policy.

But part of the responsibility for these deaths lies with the US and Israeli far right activists who made a film insulting Islam, with precisely the intention of provoking a spiral of violence. There are many interest groups longing to promote a perpetual climate of war and fear; some of them, like these filmmakers, are easier to identify than others.

Be it attacks on US diplomats in Libya or drone strikes on villagers in Yemen, it is all part of the same hateful cycle of violence – from which fortunes have been made in the arms, mercenary and security industries, and which climate of hatred has given cover and unflinching western support for resource grabs by Israeli illegal settlers.

So many people have poisoned what should be a beautiful world. The deaths of US diplomats in Libya get noticed. The evryday deaths of so many others in this manufactured conflict do not.

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Gottfrid Svartholm Warg Charged Again In Sweden

Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm has been deported from Cambodia to Sweden to serve a one year jail sentence for breach of copyright. On arrival he was charged with a further offence; I have received several messages that this new charge relates to his work in hosting Wikileaks, but I have no confirmation at the moment and Svartholm is being held incommunicado. Can anyone confirm or contradict this?

Svartholm had been assured by Swedish authorities that, if he returned back to serve his jail sentence, he would not face further charges; that was broken the moment he arrived back in Sweden. That may well be a pointer for how seriously we can take assurances that the patently false “sexual assault” charges fabricated against Julian Assange are the real motive for the Swedish authorities’ pursuit of him.

EU Commission sources tell me that Sweden paid Cambodia around 50 million euros for Svartholm’s deportation to Sweden (there is no extradition agreement). The money is in government to government aid and targeted on development of democratic institutions and global warming. The Cambodian government is scarcely a democracy, and the idea that the money will, once paid over, in fact be usefully spent in those areas is extremely fanciful. From my own very substantial experience of development aid, 50 million Euros is a very large sum to dedicate to those areas in terms of the overall Swedish development aid budget, and absolutely unprecedented between Sweden and Cambodia. My EU Commission source is adamant that this “aid” payment and Svartholm’s extradition were agreed at the same meeting between Swedish and Cambodian officials a week ago.

The Svartholm case and the dodgy “aid” payment has been very little covered by the mainstream media, because it reveals the extraordinary lengths to which the Swedish authorities are prepared to go, to please the US in bringing down those involved with Wikileaks, and to dissociate themeselves from Sweden’s brief period as the home of internet freedom.

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An Unwise Foray Into Popular Culture

I went with Nadira to see Anna Karenina last night. Sadly Tom Stoppard’s stab at boiling down this great and complex novel to a standard length feature film was brilliant but doomed; it just can’t be done. Enormous emotional depth and complexity was reduced at times to soap opera; while the virtues of Tom Stoppard’s script – and there were many – were consistently undercut by the appalling ego of the Director. Joe Wright seemed to think that directorial tricks were more important than the story, yet his grossly mannered trompe d’oeil had no relevance other than to look smart and detract from Tolstoy.

Yes there were occasions, like the horse race, when you were marvelling at the technical cleverness of setting it up in a theatre; but actually it is a pivotal point in the story when you are meant to be thinking of something more important than Joe Wright’s cleverness. It is pretty plain that Mr Wright has never imagined that anything could be more important.

The absence of naturalism made life very difficult for the actors to inhabit real characters, but I found Jude Law a revelation as Karenin, conveying a sense of helpless emotional autism that made him more sympathetic than I had found the character in the book. By contrast Keira Knightley was hopelessly miscast as Anna. She acted with all the command of emotional subtlety of Bob the Builder. Her degree of unhappiness, morphine addiction or suicidal distraction at any one time was signaled to us by how much frizzy hair was standing on end.

Anyway, save your money. The nachos were better value than the film.

I came home in time to watch the final four sets of Andy Murray winning the US Open. I cannot pretend I was not deeply engaged, indeed on occasions jumping up and running round the kitchen in excitement. The tennis was simply superb. The levels of fitness involved in playing a five hour game at that level are unimaginable. Murray and Djokovic are both players of artistry and guile.

Of course I was super delighted at the success not just of a Scot, but a member of my own Clan. I eventually got to bed thinking how much more I had enjoyed my evening with Andy Murray than with Keira Knightley. Now that’s not a sentence you hear every day…

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Why I am Convinced that Anna Ardin is a Liar

I am slightly updating and reposting this from 2012 because the mainstream media have ensured very few people know the detail of the “case” against Julian Assange in Sweden. The UN Working Group ruled that Assange ought never to have been arrested in the UK in the first place because there is no case, and no genuine investigation. Read this and you will know why.

The other thing not widely understood is there is NO JURY in a rape trial in Sweden and it is a SECRET TRIAL. All of the evidence, all of the witnesses, are heard in secret. No public, no jury, no media. The only public part is the charging and the verdict. There is a judge and two advisers directly appointed by political parties. So you never would get to understand how plainly the case is a stitch-up. Unless you read this.

There are so many inconsistencies in Anna Ardin’s accusation of sexual assault against Julian Assange. But the key question which leaps out at me – and which strangely I have not seen asked anywhere else – is this:

Why did Anna Ardin not warn Sofia Wilen?

On 16 August, Julian Assange had sex with Sofia Wilen. Sofia had become known in the Swedish group around Assange for the shocking pink cashmere sweater she had worn in the front row of Assange’s press conference. Anna Ardin knew Assange was planning to have sex with Sofia Wilen. On 17 August, Ardin texted a friend who was looking for Assange:

“He’s not here. He’s planned to have sex with the cashmere girl every evening, but not made it. Maybe he finally found time yesterday?”

Yet Ardin later testified that just three days earlier, on 13 August, she had been sexually assaulted by Assange; an assault so serious she was willing to try (with great success) to ruin Julian Assange’s entire life. She was also to state that this assault involved enforced unprotected sex and she was concerned about HIV.

If Ardin really believed that on 13 August Assange had forced unprotected sex on her and this could have transmitted HIV, why did she make no attempt to warn Sofia Wilen that Wilen was in danger of her life? And why was Ardin discussing with Assange his desire for sex with Wilen, and texting about it to friends, with no evident disapproval or discouragement?

Ardin had Wilen’s contact details and indeed had organised her registration for the press conference. She could have warned her. But she didn’t.

Let us fit that into a very brief survey of the whole Ardin/Assange relationship. .

11 August: Assange arrives in Stockholm for a press conference organised by a branch of the Social Democratic Party.
Anna Ardin has offered her one bed flat for him to stay in as she will be away.

13 August: Ardin comes back early. She has dinner with Assange and they have consensual sex, on the first day of meeting. Ardin subsequently alleges this turned into assault by surreptitious mutilation of the condom.

14 August: Anna volunteers to act as Julian’s press secretary. She sits next to him on the dais at his press conference. Assange meets Sofia Wilen there.

Anna tweets at 14.00:

‘Julian wants to go to a crayfish party, anyone have a couple of available seats tonight or tomorrow? #fb’

This attempt to find a crayfish party fails, so Ardin organises one herself for him, in a garden outside her flat. Anna and Julian seem good together. One guest hears Anna rib Assange that she thought “you had dumped me” when he got up from bed early that morning. Another offers to Anna that Julian can leave her flat and come stay with them. She replies:
“He can stay with me.”

15 August Still at the crayfish party with Julian, Anna tweets:

‘Sitting outdoors at 02:00 and hardly freezing with the world’s coolest smartest people, it’s amazing! #fb’

Julian and Anna, according to both their police testimonies, sleep again in the same single bed, and continue to do so for the next few days. Assange tells police they continue to have sex; Anna tells police they do not. That evening, Anna and Julian go together to, and leave together from, a dinner with the leadership of the Pirate Party. They again sleep in the same bed.

16 August: Julian goes to have sex with Sofia Wilen: Ardin does not warn her of potential sexual assault.
Another friend offers Anna to take over housing Julian. Anna again refuses.

20 August: After Sofia Wilen contacts her to say she is worried about STD’s including HIV after unprotected sex with Julian, Anna takes her to see Anna’s friend, fellow Social Democrat member, former colleague on the same ballot in a council election, and campaigning feminist police officer, Irmeli Krans. Ardin tells Wilen the police can compel Assange to take an HIV test. Ardin sits in throughout Wilen’s unrecorded – in breach of procedure – police interview. Krans prepares a statement accusing Assange of rape. Wilen refuses to sign it.

21 August Having heard Wilen’s interview and Krans’ statement from it, Ardin makes her own police statement alleging Assange has surreptiously had unprotected sex with her eight days previously.

Some days later: Ardin produces a broken condom to the police as evidence; but a forensic examination finds no traces of Assange’s – or anyone else’s – DNA on it, and indeed it is apparently unused.

No witness has come forward to say that Ardin complained of sexual assault by Assange before Wilen’s Ardin-arranged interview with Krans – and Wilen came forward not to complain of an assault, but enquire about STDs. Wilen refused to sign the statement alleging rape, which was drawn up by Ardin’s friend Krans in Ardin’s presence.

It is therefore plain that one of two things happened:


Ardin was sexually assaulted with unprotected sex, but failed to warn Wilen when she knew Assange was going to see her in hope of sex.

Ardin also continued to host Assange, help him, appear in public and private with him, act as his press secretary, and sleep in the same bed with him, refusing repeated offers to accommodate him elsewhere, all after he assaulted her.


Ardin wanted sex with Assange – from whatever motive.. She “unexpectedly” returned home early after offering him the use of her one bed flat while she was away. By her own admission, she had consensual sex with him, within hours of meeting him.

She discussed with Assange his desire for sex with Wilen, and appears at least not to have been discouraging. Hearing of Wilen’s concern about HIV after unprotected sex, she took Wilen to her campaigning feminist friend, policewoman Irmeli Krans, in order to twist Wilen’s story into a sexual assault – very easy given Sweden’s astonishing “second-wave feminism” rape laws. Wilen refused to sign.

At the police station on 20 August, Wilen texted a friend at 14.25 “did not want to put any charges against JA but the police wanted to get a grip on him.”

At 17.26 she texted that she was “shocked when they arrested JA because I only wanted him to take a test”.

The next evening at 22.22 she texted “it was the police who fabricated the charges”.

Ardin then made up her own story of sexual assault. As so many friends knew she was having sex with Assange, she could not claim non-consensual sex. So she manufactured her story to fit in with Wilen’s concerns by alleging the affair of the torn condom. But the torn condom she produced has no trace of Assange on it. It is impossible to wear a condom and not leave a DNA trace.


I have no difficulty in saying that I firmly believe Ardin to be a liar. For her story to be true involves acceptance of behaviour which is, in the literal sense, incredible.

Ardin’s story is of course incredibly weak, but that does not matter. Firstly, you were never supposed to see all this detail. Rape trials in Sweden are held entirely in secret. There is no jury, and the government appointed judge is flanked by assessors appointed directly by political parties. If Assange goes to Sweden, he will disappear into jail, the trial will be secret, and the next thing you will hear is that he is guilty and a rapist.

Secondly, of course, it does not matter the evidence is so weak, as just to cry rape is to tarnish a man’s reputation forever. Anna Ardin has already succeeded in ruining much of the work and life of Assange. The details of the story being pathetic is unimportant.

By crying rape, politically correct opinion falls in behind the line that it is wrong even to look at the evidence. If you are not allowed to know who the accuser is, how can you find out that she worked with CIA-funded anti-Castro groups in Havana and Miami?

Finally, to those useful idiots who claim that the way to test these matters is in court, I would say of course, you are right, we should trust the state always, fit-ups never happen, and we should absolutely condemn the disgraceful behaviour of those who campaigned for the Birmingham Six.

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The Al-Hilli Conundrum

My post on the shootings in France has brought tens of thousands of people to this site – but not to read my dull contribution. People are coming to read the comments from other readers.

Today’s development of the bomb squad descending on the al-Hilli house does not in itself worry me enormously. You may recall the massive terror scare that was ramped up when some Muslim students in Manchester were found to own a bag of sugar.

In fact we have the opposite phenomenon today, with the spook-fed “security correspondents” on TV lining up to tell us it is probably just everyday household stuff. This deviation from the standard Islamophobic “Muslims = bombs” narrative is so startling it makes me wonder why the “move along, nothing to see here” line is being taken so quickly.

My own security services sources insist that al-Hilli was not a person of current interest to the UK intelligence agencies and was not involved in anything clandestine. I have no reason to disbelieve them. On the other hand, the limited and confusing information in the media is almost entirely from official sources. I find it very strange indeed how little attention has been paid to the murdered French cyclist, and how easily it is presumed he was just a passerby. Surely it is as likely he was the intended victim and the al-Hillis the accidental witnesses?

Please do read the comments on my first entry on the subject to see the debate unfettered by the censorship in the mainstream media. This is perhaps my favourite comment:

From Janesmith101

All comments regarding Sylvain, Al-Hilli and a possible nuclear link are being removed from sites I’ve posted on in The Guardian, Independent and Huffpo UK.

Here was my comment, I added as a point of fact it was completely speculative and an unproven theory in a later comment, also removed.

Sylvain Mollier, the ‘passing’ cyclist, was in fact a nuclear metallurgist who worked for a french nuclear company called Cezus (a subsidiary of Areva). Cezus fabricates and processes zirconium into metal and nuclear grade zircoaloy for nuclear fuel assemblies – it also has other applications in aerospace such as components and ceramics for missiles and satellites. Mr Al-Hilli was also a skilled aerospace engineer, on what looks to be his first camping holiday.

What is the probability that two highly skilled engineers managed be at the same remote place, at the same time, yet still managed to end up dead as a result of what looks to be a military style assasination?

As someone else pointed out in The Independent comments, the deceased were found by a ‘retired’ RAF officer who, we assume, will recieve perpetual anonymity as a witness. If the police are looking for a motive, try an intercepted rendevous by a security service fixated on denying a hostile power illicit nuclear technology.

The Huffington Post UK reports that this wasn’t the family’s first trip to the camp site. An earlier report had asked other camp site visitors whether they had seen the family before and they had replied they hadn’t. If this isn’t wasn’t the first visit by Al-Hilli, it might slightly increase the odds that he knew or had met Mollier before, this being the last in a series of rendevous of a transactional nature. Mollier lived and worked locally.

Again, I’m not sure of the truth of these reports, there is some very sloppy journalism, as there is always seems to be. I’ve read for example Mollier’s company Cevus descirbed as a steel firm something which it is patently not, but perhaps it may have been a detail lost in translation.

An interesting comment summing up some of the strange coincidences, at least, surrounding these murders. My other favourite comment calls me a “macchiavellian shill”.

I have only one thought of my own I want to add at the minute. Al-Hilli was a Shia muslim and had been on pilgrimage to Qoms in Iran. What if it is indeed true that he was in possession of no especial nuclear or defence secrets to pass on to the Iranians, but the Israelis thought that he was? The Israeli programme of assassination of scientists involved in Iran’s nuclear programme is a definite fact. It makes as much sense as anything else at the moment, as a possibility.

I am not saying that is what happened. But the directions in which the mainstream media is being so strenuously pointed by official sources, like the massacre of an entire family over an inheritance, are certainly no more inherently probable. Certainly as we are now told all the shots were from one gun, for the assassin to get each victim in the head with none of them being able to escape, indicates real proficiency with the weapon and a very high level of training.

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A Most Peculiar Triumph

According to the ebuzzing (formerly wikio) rankings, this is the third most influential political blog in the UK – and the fifth most influential blog of any kind. It beats, hands down, the heavily funded ConservativeHome and Labourlist propaganda operations.

Of the two political blogs ahead of it, Guido Fawkes has permanent paid staff, whereas Liberal Conspiracy is a collective of 32 high profile ultra politically correct guardianistas; many of whom are paid by mainstream media.

Yet this blog has total funding of precisely nil and is only me, an ageing and disillusioned man sickened by the growing gap between rich and poor, the domination of mainstream political parties by corporate interests, and the continual promotion of aggressive war.

This blog does everything wrong. There are frequent gaps between posts, sometimes of weeks on end, because I get too depressed at instances of the callous disregard of the powerful for ordinary people.

I do not tweet, except that the start of each blog entry automatically gets tweeted, which someone set up for me.

This is an SNP supporting blog based in Ramsgate, Kent, written by a manic depressive sacked diplomat of eclectic views, whose guiding lights are the deeply unfashionable John Stuart Mill and William Hazlitt, whose favourite book was written by Michael Foot, and who is still metaphorically on his knees begging forgiveness for advising people to put Nick Clegg into government.

This blog, like all the other top blogs, could make substantial money from advertising, but is the only one not to carry advertising because it does not desire money.

It is webhosted for free, and kept running by a team of techies and moderators who do it for free also, not because they support a party or policy line or everything I say, but because they like the blog. It has the most free, well nigh anarchic moderation policy of any major blog. You can say what you like, including being very critical of me. Racism is pretty well the only red line. Opposing voices are very welcome.

I don’t do political correctness.

Even more heretically, this blog succeeds despite the fact the ebuzzing rankings show the majority of its posts are about international relations. Not only is it interested in foreigners, it tends to concentrate on Africa, Central Asia and other places the mainstream media scarcely believe exist. This blog succeeds so well because the mainstream media leaves unmet an active desire for information by very large numbers of people who are not as stupid as they think.

I have been lucky to have led a fascinating and varied life and as a result not only have a large number of high level contacts who would be the envy of any journalist, but am prepared to publish facts that mainstream political discourse finds uncomfortable.

To give just a few examples, this blog made public that Adam Werritty and Liam Fox had eight meetings with Matthew Gould, now British Ambassador to Israel, not the two reported in Gus O’Donnell’s whitewash “report”. At least two included Mossad, and the purpose throughout was to coordinate on the ramping up of official support for an attack on Iran.

This blog made public the deal whereby the US obtained Arab League support for the attack on Libya in return for US support for the Saudi invasion of Bahrain.

This blog revealed Lord Taylor of Blackburn’s role as bagman for New Labour, and for Jack Straw personally, in collecting from the defence industries, and BAE in particular.

This blog revealed the dirty deal between the British government and the Karimov regime to resume arms supplies and military training in return for logistic support for Afghanistan.

You would be surprised by how many people actually embedded in the establishment, including Members of Parliament and very senior mainstream media journalists, have told me they regularly read this blog to see what is really happening. it is an antidote to the model of single propaganda narrative that now characterises mainstream media.

The stratospheric rise of this blog up the industry rankings is not actually caused by a sudden increase in popularity. That popularity has been there for years. But at last it is being measured.

The old wikio rankings measured the number of links from other blogs; in the case of political blogs, only from other political blogs. So clusters of New Labour, Tory and Lib Dem blogs, by constantly linking to each other, could collectively drive themselves up the rankings.

But over 70% of incoming links to this blog are from outside the UK; they did not count for anything at all in the rankings. Nor did the frequent links to this blog from the sites of major newspapers and broadcast companies in the UK and around the globe.

Ebuzzing now has abandoned the old wikio algorithm in favour of a much wider measurement, which draws on more reference sources, including twitter and newspaper sites. The result reflects much more the actual readership and influence of a blog than did the old wikio rankings:

More than 2 million sources are catalogued and analysed. The semantic content ranking is performed automatically. Blog and article popularity are calculated using our algorithm, which takes into account content shares and recommendations on Twitter, Facebook and the primary content exchange platforms.

I think it is hilarious that the huge wedges of cash put by Lord Ashcroft or Unite into the Tory and New War Criminal blogging propaganda arms cannot see off this old chap with his ancient laptop.

The internet remains a great leveller, and that remains reason to hope.

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Edinburgh Festival vs Olympics

19,000 athletes took part in the Olympics and Paralympics. 25,000 artists, performers and speakers participate – every August, in the Edinburgh Festivals. Total audience numbers for all Olympic venues across the UK were 8 million. Total audience numbers for the Edinburgh Festivals, every August, are 4.2 million. Crammed into an area not substantially bigger the the Olympic Park.

Total gross taxpayer subsidy for the Olympics was north of £12 billion. £12,000,000,000. Total gross taxpayer subsidy for the Edinburgh Festivals is south of £3 million. £3,000,000.

The Edinburgh Festivals every year bring a net inflow of 105,000 tourists to the UK who would not otherwise have come. By contrast the Olympics brought a net decrease in the number of tourists visiting the UK, not yet calculated exactly but likely to be around 200,000.

Yet the crazed doom-mongers of the security industry have not yet got hold of the Edinburgh Festival. There are no anti-aircraft missiles on blocks of flats in West Pilton, no frigates lurking in the Firth of Forth, no commandoes in motorised dinghies patrolling the Water of Leith. You can enter the King’s Theatre without a soldier rummaging through the pantie liners in your handbag. You don’t get a full body scan at the Usher Hall. Half the road lanes are not closed off for the use of very, very important bureaucrats. Small shopkeepers are not prosecuted for displaying Festival symbols.

And the fireworks are better. A lot better.

{Edinburgh’s summer festivals include the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe, the Film, Book, Television and Science Festivals. I missed some).

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Regular readers know I love railways and am constantly on the move by train. They also know that I am constantly furious at the mess left by rail privatisation, with the most expensive rail fares in the world, plus massive taxpayer subsidies, leaving huge profits for private shareholders of operating companies on “can’t lose”, taxpayer underwritten deals.

I calculated that my “super off peak return” ticket from Ramsgate to Newark, bought yesterday for £83.70, costs over 20p a mile. I contemplated yesterday afternoon posting about what an incredibly large charge that is for train travel compared to other countries. I was going to invite people to give examples of per mile cost on other tickets in the UK and elsewhere.

I then reflected that few of my long-suffering readers find my railway postings as interesting as I do, and decided not to inflict it on you.

Then this morning I went to catch the 8.37 from Newark, which gets in to London at 10.02. I am on it now. But I was informed that, whereas on South Eastern services from Ramsgate an off-peak service is one which gets into London after 10.00, on East Coast services an off-peak service is one which departs from wherever you catch it after 10.00. So the same train is not an off-peak service at one point in its journey, but becomes off-peak later on.

The first “Off-peak” service from Newark does not get into London until 11.35.

I reluctantly therefore asked to upgrade my “off-peak” ticket so I could get the 8.37. I was told this would cost £94.20!! However, the lady added helpfully, I could just buy a single to London for £74.50 and then use my off-peak ticket from London to Ramsgate.

This I have done. So my return journey from Ramsgate to Newark is costing me just shy of £160. It would be a lot cheaper to drive – in a Chelsea tractor.

You may recall I posted some time ago that when making a journey from Truro to York, the Virgin train from Truro was severely late, causing me to miss my advance purchased train to York. While I had shown my tickets and explained at Kings Cross, I had been told that as Virgin were a separate company, it was nothing to do with East Coast, and I had to buy a new ticket for £180. I applied to Virgin for a refund, who said that as their train had only been 52 minutes late, they owed me nothing and my missing a train from another company was not their business.

That was crazy. Now again, having different operating companies using different definitions of what constitutes “off-peak” coming into London is yet another example of the way the crazed “competition” model, in reality a series of taxpayer-funded private monopolies, works to the massive disadvantage of the consumer.

The railways need to be renationalised, and the modernisation and expansion of the network should be at the centre of economic growth strategy. A full 200mph high speed line to Aberdeen, another to Cardiff and a third to Stranraer for Belfast should be undertaken immediately. Beeching lines should be restored, and new lines to new population centres be a major priority. If the money from quantitve easing was applied to this and to homebuilding, rather than being given to the banking bonus pool as at present, we might actually see some life in our economy.

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