Yearly Archives: 2012


Savile and the Low Hanging Fruit

Talk of “round up the usual suspects”. Gary Glitter and Freddie Starr are not even low-hanging fruit for the Met, they are windfalls.

Jimmy Savile’s behaviour was evidently priapistic, and his predeliction for under-age sex, it is plain, was indulged continually in semi-public situations. The risk or exposure, or the thrill of his own incredible immunity, appear to have been part of the enjoyment.

I do not accept that there were two Jimmy Saviles; that one, the open pervert, only appeared when he was with the conveniently already discredited Gadd and Starr, and the other entirely respectable Savile was the friend of Royalty, senior politicians and public servants and entirely blameless in his behaviour. It seems to me much more intrinsically probable that the mutual indulgence of shared vices was the stuff of his friendships in both groups.

Savile’s elevation into the social elite brought him the immunity from prosecution for sexual exploitation that social elites always appear to enjoy. The “posh” part of Savile’s social circle continues to be protected, while Glitter and Starr will satisfy the public mood for revenge.

I am sure there is a great deal more to know than Glitter and Starr. I fear we shall never be permitted to know it.

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Which Union Does Scotland Want To Be In?

The rabid anti-Europeanism displayed in the recent House of Commons debate on EU funding was a further clarification of a simple political truth. The real choice facing Scotland in 2014 is, “Which union do you wish to be in?”

Scotland can either be independent within the European Union or part of the United Kingdom outside the European Union. In joining the pro-UKIP wing of the Tory Party in the vote, Ed Milliband was, with short term shrewdness, tapping in to a bottomless well of English atavism that I have no doubt, from living there and simple observation of those around me, is leading England inexorably out of the European Union.

UKIP support rises, the Tory xenophobes bray, New Labour joins them because as always it scents the way to money and power. The English have already kept the UK out of Schengen and the Euro, the two most important developments in the history of the EU and both of which it would be great to be in. (On my advice a company here in Ghana is now buying tens of millions of pounds of manufactured equipment from Sweden, switching source from the UK, because the weak Euro gives much better value for money). The UK is already out of some of the most important aspects of the EU, snad the rest will follow.

When did any major English political figure dare to suggest in public that the EU is a good thing? That, incidentally, is a genuine question. Any answers? Neither English politicians nor media care to hide their gloating at the Eurozone’s economic difficulties, and the London media still makes daily predictions of the end of the Euro, despite having been wrong on the subject 1,000 days in a row.

Most amusing is when pundits who don’t actually support the EU themselves leap with glee when they can find a Spaniard wishing to be disobliging about an independent Scotland’s EU status. Said Spaniard is suddenly the ultimate authority on EU law, even though the same pundits deride Spain in every other circumstance.

It won’t be on the ballot paper. But the real question for the Scots is “Which union do you wish to be in?”

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Behind Imran’s Hounding

Pulling Imran Khan off a plane in Canada, and making him miss his Eid fundraising lunch in New York, is pretty crass of the United States, a country that claims its foreign policy is motivated by freedom. The idea that low level US immigration operatives needed clarificiation on Khan’s well-known views on killings by US drones in Pakistan is plainly nonsense. But this wasn’t routine or an error; Khan wasn’t questioned at a desk on arrival in New York, he was pulled off a plane by US operatives in Canada. It was an exercise in humiliation.

But if you look under this event you find some interesting, creepy crawly creatures.

From the Toronto Sun report linked above:

The American Islamic Leadership Coalition from Phoenix, Ariz. wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this week, pressuring her to revoke the U.S. visa granted to Khan because of his sympathetic views towards the Taliban.

The American Islamic Leadership Coalition followed this up with a press release with the notably un-Islamic contact name of Gregg Edgar of Gordon C James Public Relations.

From Wikipedia on Gordon C James:

James grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and moved to Iowa in 1969 where he served several years in the Iowa National Guard. James worked in the real-estate management business in Des Moines, renting space to presidential candidates in town for the caucuses. In 1978, he met and rented space to former President of the United States George H. W. Bush (then Ambassador Bush).[1]
After the 1988 election James worked as Lead Advance Representative at the White House for two years under President George H.W. Bush and Director of Invitations and Ticketing for the 51st Presidential Inaugural Committee.[2] James was also employed as deputy director of events for the 54th and 55th Presidential Inauguration.[3] In 1990 he founded the public relations firm Gordon C. James Public Relations.
In 2004, James was employed by former U.S. Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove to improve U.S. public relations in Iraq during the transition of governments.[4] For more than five months he served as the Director of Advance and Special Events in the Office of Strategic Communications and Director of the Presidential Palace Studio for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, Iraq. While there he advised Ambassador Paul Bremer and was responsible for coordinating the Ambassador’s relations with Western and Pan-Arab media outlets and produced several events including the signing of the Tal (Iraq’s Declaration of Independence) and 100 Days to Sovereignty, the countdown to the transfer of power from the CPA to newly founded Iraqi government.[5]
In 2004 James assisted in several political stops with the Bush-Cheney campaign and in 2005, he was employed as lead advance representative for President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton’s tour of the Tsunami-hit regions of Indonesia.[6]
James has traveled to five continents as a lead advance representative for President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.

There are some Muslims in the American Islamic Leadership Coalition. In Phoenix with Gordon C James is M Zuhdi Jasser, of Syrian origin but for eleven years a medical officer in the US Navy. And the AILC has another interesting Syrian, leader of “The Reform Party of Syria”, Farid Ghadry. The AILC website includes the quote:

“Gossip is he is the next president of Syria”

Ghadry lives in Washington and is the author of such fascinating blog posts as “Israel Builds for Nobel Prizes, Arabs are Suicide Bombers”.

Like the Quilliam Foundation in the UK, doubtless the AILC has hoovered up plenty of public funds for its useful work for the security services. BUt the idea that it genuinely represents a strand in Islamic thinking is ludicrous. It is marvellous what being an establishment shill can do for your media profile though. Zuhdi Jasser addressed his largest mass rally of supporters – highly optimistically estimated by the media as three dozen – in a New York rally in support of NYPD’s controversial surveillance and agent provocateur operations against Muslims. Rather than laughing at it, the tame mainstream media covered it infinitely better than they cover anti-war rallies 1,000 times larger, and portrayed it as a genuine sign of Muslim community support for the surveillance.

Just as none of the mainstream media reporting the current Imran Khan story – most of whon quote the AILC – say anything about who the AILC really are. What do people working in the mainstream media think the purpose of their existence actually is?

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Wholesale Murder of Africans

Of 110 containers of pharmaceuticals entering West Africa searched in a special operation coordinated by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), 84 were found to contain fake pharmaceuticals. 82 million doses of fake medicine were confiscated which included anti-malarial and anti-HIV drugs and antibiotics.

Here in sub-Saharan Africa, over two children die every minute of malaria – which in 98% of cases can be cured with US $6 worth of genuine drugs. A spokesman for the WCO on BBC World Service radio last night said that the number of deaths caused directly by counterfeit medicine in Africa every year was in the hundreds of thousands. He called it “genocide”.

I might not use that word, but it is beyond doubt true that supplying counterfeit drugs to Africa causes more deaths than narcotics, than the wars in Syria, Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East combined, and several hundred times more deaths than terrorism.

The supply of fake life-saving drugs to the world’s poorest people is not only on a far greater scale than terrorism, it is morally just as evil, killing innocent civilian populations, particularly children, on an unimaginable scale of slaughter.

So why does this terrible evil receive virtually no mainstream media exposure? Is it because it happens to Africans, and the media coverage of Africa is so negative and relentlessly concentrated on disaster that it leads to a perception that the natural state of Africans is to die of disease?

It is worth noting that this terrible crime is being committed against Africa from outside – almost none of the fake pharmaceuticals are made in Africa. Here in Ghana I know the good people at the Food and Drugs Administration; they are well organised, well-qualified and well-equipped. But they are fighting a huge tide of fake drugs and organised crime on a massive scale.

In Ghana the fake drugs come overwhelngly from China amd India, and I suspect that is true across the BRICS. This terrible dark side – the WCO estimates that the counterfeit drugs trade yields profits of US$9 billion a year – should be borne in mind when considering the success of the BRICS and their possible counterweight to Western influence in foreign affairs.

India and China have vastly more economic resources and greater government control than the African states whose people are the victims of this evil trade. The word “genocide” used by the WCO spokesman causes you to think in this case, because this is mass killing perpetrated by Asians against Africans. The exporting states must face up to their moral obligation to take responsibility for the quality control of the manufacture of their exports, and in particular for controls at ports to ensure fake drugs are not exported.

The United Nations and the World Health Organisation should take action to ensure that the xporting state has a legal obligation effectively to stop the export of counterfeit drugs, with effective redress for victim states against the exporting state.

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Drone Murder

I had a half-formed post in mind to work on this morning, but then I read Glenn Greewald’s latest and concluded that if you are going to devote ten minutes of your day, nothing I could write would be as profitable as your reading him.

I would only add the obvious fact that Blair had already done to New Labour precisely what Obama has done to the Democrats; and that western “democracy” has lost its meaning because the institutionally entrenched parties offer no actual policy choice to voters, but are all neo-conservative.

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Those Despicable Foreigners

I have travelled this world much more extensively than either Obama or Romney, and I still do. I find everywhere, even in areas of conflict and economic difficulty, the vast majority of people are friendly, even kind, and have very similar aspirations, across cultures, to personal development and emotional fulfilment.

The striking thing about tonight’s US Presidential “foreign policy” debate, is when it did occasionally discuss foreign policy, the world out there was discussed not as a place of vast potential, but as a deeply disturbing place full of foreigners who are, apparently, all evil except the Israelis, who are perfect.

The vast benefits from cooperation and trade with “abroad” were not mentioned once that I noticed (though I confess the thing was so awful my attention wandered occasionally). Europe apparently doesn’t exist, other than Greece which is nothing more than a terrible warning of the dangers of not being right wing enough.

The correct attitude to all these foreigners that God so unfortunately and inexplicably placed on this planet, is apparently to maintain incredibly large armed forces, murder people with drones (they were both very enthusiastic on this one), place sanctions on them and declare them “currency manipulators”. The only surprising note was that both agreed that they could not kill everyone in Iran.

But “We can’t just kill our way out of this mess” was spoken with regret, rather than as an affirmation of the possibilities of cooperation instead. What a grim and joyless world view. Maybe I had better not step out of this hotel into Africa this morning; those Islamists might get me.

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CIA Look to Swamp Correa

About a month ago I asked a former colleague in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office what Hague saw as the endgame in the Julian Assange asylum standoff, and where the room for negotiation lay. My friend was dismissive – the policy was simply to wait for the Presidential election in Ecuador in February. The United States and allies were confident that Correa will lose, and my friend and I having both been senior diplomats for many years we understood what the United States would be doing to ensure that result. With Correa replaced by a pro-USA President, Assange’s asylum will be withdrawn, the Metropolitan Police invited in to the Embassy of Ecuador to remove him, and Assange sent immediately to Sweden from where he could be extradited to the United States to face charges of espionage and aiding terrorism.

I have been struck by the naivety of those who ask why the United States could not simply request Assange’s extradition from the United Kingdom. The answer is simple – the coalition government. Extradition agreements are government to government international treaties, and the decision on their implementation is ultimately political and governmental – that is why it was Teresa May and not a judge who took the final and very different political decisions on Babar Ahmad and Gary Mackinnon.

CIA supporters in the UK have argued vociferously that it would be impossible for Sweden to give Assange the assurance he would not be extradited to the United States, with which he would be prepared to return to Sweden to see off the rather pathetic attempted fit-up there. In fact, as extradition agreements are governmental not judicial instruments, it would be perfectly possible for the Swedish government to give that assurance. Those who argue otherwise, like Gavin Essler and Joan Smith here, are not being truthful – I suspect their very vehemence indicates that they know that.

Most Liberal Democrat MPs are happy to endorse the notion that Assange should be returned to Sweden to face sexual accusations. However even the repeatedly humiliated Lib Dem MPs would revolt at the idea that Assange should be sent to face life imprisonment in solitary confinement in the United States for the work of Wikileaks. That is why the United States has held off requesting extradition from the United Kingdom, to avoid the trouble this would cause Cameron. I am not speculating, there have been direct very senior diplomatic exchanges on this point between Washington and London.

There was confidence that the Correa problem would soon pass, but the State Department has since been shocked by the return of Hugo Chavez. Like Correa, senior US diplomats had convinced themselves – and convinced La Clinton – that Chavez was going to lose. The fury at Chavez’s return has led to a diktat that the same mistake must not be made in Ecuador.

CIA operations inside Ecuador are in any case much less disrupted than in Venezuela. I learn that the US budget, using mostly Pentagon funds, devoted to influencing the Ecuadorean election has, since the Venezuelan result, been almost tripled to US $87 million. This will find its way into opposition campaign coffers and be used to fund, bribe or blackmail media and officials. Expect a number of media scandals and corruption stings against Correa’s government in the next few weeks.

I do not have much background on Ecuadorean politics and I really do not know what Correa’s chances of re-election are. Neither do I know if any of the opposition parties are decent and not in the hands of the USA. But I do know that the USA very much want Correa to lose, were very confident that he was going to lose, and now are not. From their point of view, the danger is that in upping the ante, their efforts will become so obvious they will backfire in a nationalist reaction. My US source however is adamant that the Obama adminstration will not actually use the funds to incite another military coup attempt against Correa. That has apparently been ruled out. Assange being expelled into the arms of the CIA by a newly installed military dictatorship might be a difficult sell even for our appalling mainstream media.

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The Extraordinary Rarity of Whistleblowing

The outpouring of evidence about Jimmy Savile shows that scores of people working in the BBC, Hospitals, childrens’ homes and even the police knew – not had heard gossip, really knew – about Savile’s paedophilia, but did not blow the whistle.

To me this correlates with the fact that scores of people in the FCO, MI6, MI5, Cabinet Office and other government agencies knew about extraordinary rendition, but did not blow – indeed still have have not blown – the whistle.

Savile had come to be seen as a big and peculiarly “Establishment” figure. The extreme rarity of whistleblowing in society is a strange phenomenon it is worth taking a few minutes to consider. Why did none of those now coming forward with their stories – not the victims, but the eye-witnesses – come forward at the time? Fear is probably the main answer, in particular fear of losing your job if you rock the boat. One problem in modern society is that people’s job is too central to their identity – most people when asked who they are, will reply what work they do. It is not just the need to earn money; your social status and personal relationships are often dependent on your position at work. To lose your job, or to become a social pariah within the organisation where you work, is too much for most people to contemplate.

That is why BBC producers who knew about Savile, saw him at it, did not blow the whistle on one of the Corporation’s biggest stars. It is why so few whistleblowers spontaneously come forward who have seen corruption in local government planning departments or defence procurement, to give an example. For most white collar crime there are people who are not directly involved bu see it and keep quiet. There is also the deterrent of self-incrimination – after a time silence becomes complicity.

In my own case of blowing the whistle on the international torture network, I know for certain that many other Ambassadors and diplomats knew just what was happening, most of them didn’t like it, but nobody but me blew the whistle. One Ambassador sent me a cheery “Rather you than me!” Some were actively complicit by being involved in rendition arrangements, others passively by not trying to stop it. This is why the Gibsom Inquiry into Complicity in Torture was shelved – it could not have proceeded without revealing that scores, possibly hundreds, are guilty, many of them still high-ranking civil servants. It was to protect them and the institutions in which they work, rather than to protect the high profile war criminals like Blair, Straw and Campbell, that the Establishment closes ranks. I always knew I would never be allowed to testify before an Inquiry into Complicity in Torture.

Whistleblowers are not just thrown out of their jobs. They almost never find new employment, as the one quality every employer values above any other quality is loyalty to the employer, right or wrong. Nobody wants a “disloyal” employee, whatever their motives. And if your whistleblowing involves the world of war and spying, they will try to set you up on false charges, like me, like Julian Assange, and not just sack you but destroy you.

Whistleblowers are rare because it is a near suicidal vocation, and everyone else is too scared to help. The Savile case teaches us far more important lessons than the prurient detail of a lurid life. Think about it.

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Happy Birthday To Me

I am 54 today! That sounds really old, but I can honestly say that I feel as young and hopeful, and my mind feels as open and agile, as when I was twenty. I undoubtedly know a lot more, but I don’t confuse that with wisdom.

I am in a hotel in Ghana and sad to be apart from family today. I have been taking stock a little this morning and my greatest disappointment is that I have not been able to change things in Uzbekistan, or in Western government’s attitude to Uzbekistan.

1.4 million Uzbek children are today working in regime forced labour in the Uzbek cotton fields. They work at physically very tough labour for twelve hours a day in conditions identical to those in which black slave workers suffered in the Southern United States 200 years ago – indeed several US slaveowners would have scrupled at the wholesale use of children as young as eight in the fields, as is done by the Uzbek government. They sleep in barracks on concrete floors, live on weak vegetable soup and drink dirty water from the irrigation ditches.

Of course it is not only children who are forced into the fields, and the system requires extreme compulsion. On October 6 in Kashkadarya 18 year old Navruz Islamov was beaten to death by police for attempting to leave a cotton field when suffering from sunstroke. There are scores more such instances we do not hear about.

I have never felt so outraged as I did two years ago, when a European Commission official told me that the EU would not act on child labour in Uzbekistan as there was “no official evidence” of the preactice, only “rumour”. This year – with the active connivance of EU nation state diplomats in Tashkent, particularly the German Ambassador -the Uzbek Government for the third successive year refused a request from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to visit Uzbekistan to monitor child labour in the cotton harvest. At the same time, the EU says it will not act without this report from the ILO.

This is also the position of the British Government, which has never made a single comment or statement on child labour in Uzbekistan (except by me while Ambassdaor). Indeed the coalition government has never made any statement on human rights in Uzbekistan at all, having no interest in the fate of its 8,000 political prisoners and ever-lengthening list of tortured and killed by the British “ally”, President Karimov.

Cuba has just announced the abolition of exit visas. Uzbekistan is now one of a tiny number of extreme regimes which still locks its people in, retaining the old Soviet exit visa system. The Cameron/Clegg government refuses to raise this with the Uzbek regime.

Britain and the EU are again selling weapons and providing military and secret service training to the Karimov regime, and the UK, US and other NATO countries are negotiating to “Gift” huge amounts of arms and military materiel to Karimov as they withdraw from Afghanistan. Nobody in the West, and particularly in the Western media, appears to have any interest at all in our collusion with the most repressive and corrupr regime in the world.

I won’t have a really happy birthday until Uzbekistan is free. The good news is that I am confident I will have a lot of happy birthdays in a free Uzbekistan in the future.

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The Tragedy of Malala

There is no doubt Malala Yousufzai is a remarkable girl; and that the bigots responsible for her shooting are appalling. But that is only one aspect of Malala’s multi-faceted tragedy.

Here in Accra I have been watching the re-broadcast of the BBC World TV documentary about her, made two years ago. Here is a very revealing and deeply disturbing excerpt that casts a grim light on young Malala’s fate. She is twelve years old in this exchange:

Malala: “I want to ba a doctor but my father told me you have to be a politician. But I don’t like politics.”
Father: “My daughter can be better than a doctor.”

This was the most interesting part of the entire documentary, and the North American accented presenter completely failed to pick up on it. Poor Malala; her desire for an education was genuine and highly commendable; but she was thrust into the firing line by an ambitious father and an ambitious documentary maker apparently unconcerned by her direct statement that she was being manipulated against her will.

Her father’s political ambitions centre around a party representing Swat’s rapacious feudal landlord class (Alice Albinia’s Empires of the Indus is an excellent and highly readable account for some basic background). The Taliban are an extremely nasty manifestation of ancient hatreds and social structures, but their emergence as a potent force could not have happened without genuine grievances to be exploited; it is hard to think of a more egregious grievance than the feudal landlord system.

Having been shot, Malala is now receiving world class treatment in Birmingham. I most anxiously hope she recovers fully and goes on to a happy and fulfilled life as a doctor. I only wish that more of the children badly injured in the war, including the hundreds of children younger than Malala injured in US drone strikes, received the same level of care and treatment. They don’t. They are left to struggle on and, frequently, die.

Because the truth is that she is not getting this treatment because that is what is done for children shot or blown up in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Plainly that is not the case. She is getting this treatment because she became, and remains, an exploited propaganda symbol. If they really cared about her as a child , they would give the same level of medical care and of publicity to the many, many children injured by “our” side. But we are not to be shown those.

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Why is Sunny Hundal a Neo-Con Lickspittle?

Sunny Hundal is pulling the Nick Cohen trick of claiming that “Lefties” who fail to applaud every action of Bush, Blair, Netanyahu and Obomber are actually supporting Osama Bin Laden’s cause.

The Taliban is an excrescence but it is not a spontaneous outpuring of human evil. Its roots lie in the devastation of Afghanistan by foreign invasion, first by the Soviets and then by the Americans, coupled with the failings of Pakistani society due in very large part to hideously corrupt governments and politically powerful military, aided and abetted by the West. The Taliban is, in short, as much a symptom as a cause of disaster.

Hundal is a sad figure. He asked me to join Liberal Conspiracy when it started, and I refused on the grounds it was going to be a vehicle for New Labour war criminals. It has become precisely that. Hundal’s basic decency has predictably been eroded as he was sucked in by the neo-con establishment. He joined New Labour and the Guardian and is now in the states working for the drone-killer President who has launched a campaign against free speech which has seen the prosecution of more whistleblowers under Obama than under all previous US presidents combined. Hundal recently helped the anti-whistleblower cause further by publishing a fawning “exclusive” interview with the odious Harriet Harman (Of course it’s exclusive – who the fuck other than sell-out Hundal wants to talk to Harman) repeatedly labeling Julian Assange as guilty of rape.

Hundal’s question “Why do lefties keep ignoring the threat of the taliban to Pakistanis” is a stupid slur. “Why is Sunny Hundal a neo-con lickspittle?” is a question worth discussion.

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A Real Treat in Store

But I can tell you that after I am through with the piece on Jennifer I will write a piece on Craig Murray that will make people think that I was very nice to Naomi Wolf. What is important that YOU DO NOT TELL ANYBODY OF THIS AND WHAT IS COMING.

UPDATE – I published this without explanation and caused some confusion. The quote and link above are from an email exchange in which someone called Goran Rudling says he is planning to publish something about me, but it is a secret. I thought it amusing to repost it. I look forward to seeing what Mr Rudling comes up with.

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Gay Marriage and the Joy of Living

I received an email from someone called Kevin accusing me of having refused to state my position on gay marriage. I have never been asked, but am in fact entirely in favour. I think human relationships are essential to human happiness, and I am not in the least concerned about the gender combinations or sexual practices in which people find happiness. Nor am I obsessed with the number two. I have no objection to polyandry or polygamy (or the gay equivalent) either. The key thing is that people enter and leave relationships entirely consensually, once of an age to consent. I do not believe in matters of tax, immigration or any other governmental sphere, any combination of family life should be favored over any other.

My own family life is “conventional” and very happy, but I do not make the mistake of believing one model fits all.

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Thoughts From Madrid

I got back to Ramsgate last night, and I am trying to arrange to fly to Accra tonight. I pause to note down the train of thought that went through my mind as I left Madrid. I should start by saying I have no expertise on Spain at all; having by some strange chance been there less often than to any other EU country!

I was there as a guest of INSEAD, and in consequence living in great luxury at the Villa Real hotel, right next to the Spanish Parliament on the Plaza de las Cortes, and very nice it is too. Watching the politicians, lobbyists and senior businessmen in the expensive bars and restaurants of that area, and the ladies shopping in the designer boutiques off the Calle Mayor, there was no clue at all that Spain was in any kind of economic difficulty.

Except for one – the quite extraordinary police presence everywhere. There were more policemen than tourists in the Plaze de las Cortes, and more policemen around our hotel than around the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. There was an unmistakeable frisson in the air. The elite were living in – a description applied to the late Hapsburg Empire – a nervous splendour.

You did not have to move far from the centre of the city to get a very different picture. A Japanese visitor might get the impression that the Spanish word for shop is “liquidacion”. I knew that a proprty bubble collapse had been a major factor in the Spanish economic crisis, but I was shocked by the extraordinary number of empty homes for sale not only in new developments, but in old established communities. They represent not a loss to building speculators, but repossessed homes of families of the unemployed. The scale of the disaster is stunning to comprehend.

On a visit to friends in Toledo, I found the same thing apparent even right in the heart of the old town, with for sale and to rent signs eveywhere. Almost the entire distance of the motorway between Madrid and Toledo is flanked with vast modern stores and depots selling building supplies, home improvement products and construction equipment. Some were obviously closed down, some you could not tell immediately as you drove past, but certainly customer car parks were completely empty. It was like some strange post-apocalyptic scene; fifty miles of it.

On the positive side, my INSEAD hosts were not only delightful and generous, but were a great deal more open to radical or non-establishment thought than I would expect to find in a similar business-oriented group in the UK. We had a very good discussion. Of course, those of their members who chose to attend to hear me were a self-selecting group, but I was nonetheless impressed with their openness.

Something else nagged at my mind in Spain, I am not sure whether it was set off by my having watched “Pan’s Labyrinth” again recently. In Toledo I was horrified by the Army Museum, a dreadfully ugly concrete structure slapped right on the the Alcazar. If you can imagine encasing the whole North and East of Castle Rock in Edinburgh below the castle in a giant concrete bunker, bristling with vents and conduits, that would give you the idea.

Yesterday was a national holiday in Spain to celebrate Columbus’ “discovery” of America. A military ceremony and parade was the centrepiece. I found myself in the peculiar position of being one of the very very few non-military people allowed to walk in the Plaza de las Cortes, while Spanish families, many of whom had turned up with Spanish flags to wave, were being turned away in their thousands. I imagine there may have been other parts of the city where the public could watch the soldiers march by, but at the centrepiece it was very strictly invitation only, with large stands erected for the military officers and families and doubtless some of those I had seen as clients of the expensive restaurants and shops. Lots of uniforms. These things are a matter of feel – and the police who were turning away the ordinary people who came to support the event (and I saw no evidence of any coming to protest), were turning them away with a definite and highly pronounced air of hostility

Just a few days in Spain, viewed from the Bullingdon side of the metaphorical barricade. But it left me feeling that Spain’s elite sees Spain’s people as the enemy. Watch this space.

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I Vote For Shooting Bankers

Not content with focusing public ire on those social spongers who have the temerity to be unemployed or disabled, government has scored a great populist coup, and caused great rejoicing in the land of the tabloids, by decreeing that it is quite acceptable to kill burglars with machine guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers, tactical nuclear weapons or any of the other items the British householder keeps by them for such an emergency.

But if a burglar were to strip my home of its entire contents, it would not reach a tenth in value of the money that is going to be taken from me in taxation by government for the rest of my life to fund the bank bailouts in which my cash was given to reckless and incompetent bankers to cover their gambling losses.

Not only have they taken all my money, the majority of the money I shall be paying to cover it for the rest of my life, will consist of interest to the bankers because the government borrowed at interest from the bankers the money it then gave gratis to the bankers to bail them out.

And, as doubtless you will have noticed, nothing changed. No reduction in massive salaries and bonuses, no split of casino from high street banking, no transaction tax to deter multiple speculative trades. A million more unemployed, but none of them investment bankers – they have however sacked over a hundred thousand mostly female staff from their high street branches, which were the only sensible and profitable bit of the operation. No bankers in jail, not even for LIBOR fraud. Quantitive Easing, or printed money, is given not for infrastructure projects to produce growth, but given to banks to improve their liquidity. They do not lend it on to companies but pay it to themselves, as bonuses.

Forget burglars. Shoot a banker.

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Outage

Apologies for the outage, which was purely technical and non-sinister and to do with the domain name expiring yesterday, but having to be renewed the Friday before because yesterday was a public holiday in San Francisco. I am dashinng off to Madrid today to give a talk there. Am seething with outrage about Babar Ahmad and at George Osborne; please express some outrage for me on those topics till I get time to do so!!

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Presidential Debate Sends Me to Bed

Am off to bed having seen 30 minutes of the first US Presidential debate. Anyone who wants to watch more of it should seek counselling. In terms of content it is impossible to distinguish what either of them is actually proposing on taxation policy. What comes over to me is the lack of any divergence from a neo-liberal economic model.

But in terms of style and presentation, which I presume this is about, rather to my surprise Romney is coming over the better. He is glib whereas Obama is stuttering a lot; they are both achingly dull, but Obama’s phrases seem curiously disconnected and there are gaps when you can see the gears meshing in his head. Neither of them shows any evidence whatsoever of charisma.

Four years ago Obama was talking with apparent belief about the need for change and inspiring people to follow him. He may even at the time have believed much of what he promised, but given the speed of abandonment of principle in office, I doubt it. Now Obama is just trying to present as a more managerially competent neo-con; a managerially competent neo-con competition is about the only one Romney can actually perform in.

I don’t really care who wins – debate or election.

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Establishment Darkness

I am a guest speaker tomorrow at the NUJ Conference in Newcastle, on the subject of blogging. Never one to appease an audience, I shall give them it straight on my opinions of the collusion between mainstream media and power, and thus those who work within it. I expect to hear a lot about how bloggers are irresponsible, do not check sources etc.

I shall be drawing on some of the content of this talk:

I post this again because nowadays this website has far more readers than when I first posted it, and because it encapsulates my thoughts rather well.

I shall tell the NUJ that the mainstream media remains very constrained in what they publish. The Jimmy Saville affair broke on the internet in a big way a year ago, and yet the mainstream media is only now catching up – and still not making key links, like to Haut de la Garenne.

I receive, constantly, emails from people wishing me to take up various cases on my blog and furnishing information. 95% of the time I do not publish because I am not able to investigate fully (there is just one of me) and I do not know the source: the exclusives on this blog come mostly from my access to well-placed sources I have known for years through my past diplomatic career, and trust.

A notable proportion of the cases brought to me by those I do not know involve alleged paedophile rings. I was sent information about Haut de la Garenne for years, which named a string of senior people alleged to take advantage of organised paedophilia in the care home. Among the judges, politicians and aristocracy, there was indeed the name of Jimmy Saville. I have to admit it was not just that I could not prove any of it, I was actively sceptical about what seemed a random list of names of the famous. We now know for certain that Saville visited the place several times. The whole Haut De La Garenne investigation always seemed to obscure more than it revealed; I do hope it is mow re-opened, and taken away from the local Jersey police.

Another case which caused me great concern was that of Hollie Greig, where the jailing of Robert Green seemed to me vicious and unjustified. But I had earlier refused a request on behalf of the Greig family to involve myself in the case because the allegations made seemed to me incapable of proof without investigative powers and resources of the kind the police have. That the police do not properly deploy those resources where allegations involve the powerful appears to me too often to be too likely. Where the accusation is that the judicial establishment is involved in a paedophile ring, for the same judicial establishment to start jailing campaigners is extraordinary.

But the Alisher Usmanov and Adam Werritty cases will be the main thrust of my talk to the NUJ. In the first, the mainstream media still to this day persist in covering up the criminal past of the convicted blackmailer and Putin cohort who purchased 10% of Facebook and 35% of Arsenal Football Club.

The Werritty case is much more sinister because it goes to the media collusion in burying evidence of the influence of Israel on British politics. The public were told that Werritty was at a small number of meetings where he should not have been. The mainstream media refused to discuss why he was at those meetings or what his participation was actually about – leaving the public to infer he was merely Fox’s lover or in some way they were making money.

Even when I was able to produce undeniable evidence that Fox and Werritty held eight meetings with Matthew Gould, now and during six of those meetings British Ambassador to Israel (and Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary for the first two meetings) the mainstream media refused point blank to publish it. Mossad were present for at least two of those eight meetings. Gus O’Donnell’s report, whcih led to Fox’s resignation, had revealed only two of these eight meetings. This should have been a massive story. The media buried it (with the sole and belated exception of the Independent on Sunday).

No media were prepared to put any investigative resources into what Gould, Werritty and Mossad were doing. I had an impeccable senior source who told me that they were discussing preparing the political ground for an attack on Iran. You would think that, given the Werritty affair caused Fox to resign, that was worth investigating. The media completely blanked it. To this day the fact that Werritty and Fox met Gould eight times has been reported nowhere but one column in the Independent on Sunday.

I think my encounter with the journalistic profession could be quite fun. I shall also be arguing that bloggers should be allowed to join the NUJ; an internal NUJ debate on this is the background to my invitation to speak.

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Victorian Sexuality and Empire

On 6th June 1837, in a letter dated “On the Indus above Mooltan”, Alexander Burnes wrote to Charles Masson in Kabul:

” Mr Trevelyan writes that he is instructed to join me, but I take it he is snug in Calcutta – he travels with four wives! “

The only Trevelyan with whom I can find evidence Burnes was in touch is Sir Charles Trevelyan, who later married Macaulay’s daughter and was famously the author of the great civil service reforms which were the major Victorian step towards meritocracy. My generation all learnt about these reforms at History O-level, not least because we learnt it from the textbooks by Trevelyan’s son and grandson, G.M. and G.O. Trevelyan, which were pretty well compulsory reading in British schools for sixty years.

Burnes definitely was in contact with Charles Trevelyan, who had recommended Mohan Lal to him. Trevelyan definitely lived in Calcutta in 1837. Trevelyan was two years younger than Burnes, and could well have been instructed to join him. I am pretty confident about the identification.

C.E. Trevelyan is one of the great, solid figures of the Victorian establishment. It is fascinating to think of him having four Indian wives. We know from Mohan Lal’s later writings that Burnes, in his camp near Mooltan, was being kept warm at night by some Kashmiri girls (plural) whom he lived with for some years and travelled with him.

I found that Burnes letter in the British library; we get the odd glimpse, but unfortunately there is no way to recover the voices of the women.

Much history has been active censorship. Trevelyan’s boss at the time was Sir Charles Metcalfe, who was a great and good man (he missed out on the permanent post of Governor General of India because when acting in that position for a year he abolished press censorship, annoying the Government). Metcalfe only had one Indian wife, whom unlike Trevelyan he acknowledged – possibly another obstacle to his becoming Governor-General.

There is a fascinating timeline to the setting in of Victorian morality. Burnes’ letter was written a few days before Victoria became Queen. Racism and hypocritical sexual morality became dominant in the ensuing decades – there was remarkably little colour prejudice in the UK before. Thus when three decades later Sir John Kaye came to write a three volume biography of Sir Thomas Metcalfe, he did not mention his marriage at all, or the existence of his children – despite the fact that one of them was then aide-de-camp to the Governor General of India!

On my Burnes biography, I was advised by William Dalrymple that the time to stop researching and to finish writing up is when you stop finding things that make you say “Wow!” Plainly I am not there yet.

UPDATE Thanks to commentators who have pointed out Trevelyan’s callous argument when administering relief during the Irish famine. This was quoted by Daniel below from Trevelyan:

‘The great evil [the Irish famine] with which which we have to contend’, said Trevelyan, ‘is not the physical evil of the famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the [Irish] people’

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Resonance

I hope and pray April Jones is found alive and well. It brought back forgotten memories of cries of “April” in the woods, walking behind a line of adults near Roman Camp, looking for a girl called April Fabb who disappeared from a small village close to me when I was ten. My friends and I were searching the woods for weeks afterwards hoping to find her, and I remember the chill and fear that descended on parents in North Norfolk. I don’t think she was ever found.

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