Yearly Archives: 2014

World Oil Politics

The fall in the oil price is a bad thing in that it makes hydrocarbons more attractive against renewables, although on the timescale that investment decisions in energy production are taken, it would have to be sustained a great deal longer to have a major impact.

Contrary to popular myth, the fall has not been caused by Saudi Arabia cranking up production on behalf of the United States to damage Russia. Hydrocarbon supply has increased, while the increase in demand has been slower than expected. The United States itself has been responsible for a significant part of the production increase, though it is from a number of diverse sources. What Saudi Arabia has not done is play the role of market regulator by cutting back production to stabilise the price.

If you wish to see a target of Saudi inaction, it is the United States, not Russia. The single largest increase in hydrocarbon production in recent years has come through fracking in the United States. Fracking is high cost, and the fracking frenzy in the USA was built on a mound of corporate debt. Nobody would have initiated a fracking investment with oil under $70 a barrel. A few deep sea operations aside, no producers are hurt more than US frackers by the current oil price. The Saudis are enjoying watching the Americans fall on their arse.

As for Russia, I have explained repeatedly that it is a developing country economy dependent on raw commodity export. I am willing to wager that we will find that in 2014 the total GDP of Russia fell below that of Spain. Oil is not the only commodity price that is struggling. Putin has complacently presided over an astonishingly undiversified economy of which the key markers are raw commodity export, very narrow distribution of wealth from that raw commodity export, capital flight of 80% of the profit from that raw commodity export, and a consequent crippling investment shortage. The pretend sanctions “imposed” on Russia are responsible for almost none of the economic pain Russia is now suffering. Russia’s lack of value-adding industrial base and capital incontinence is coming home to roost.

I can’t finish this survey of oil politics without noting the appalling decision of the United Kingdom to open a naval base in Bahrain to service aircraft carriers. This crazed neo-imperial venture by a struggling economy is shameful. An aircraft carrier has no defensive purpose. Its entire rationale is the projection of airpower into foreign countries. That, after the total disaster of Middle East policy in the last decade, the United Kingdom is still seeking to project air power in the Middle East is horrifying. Furthermore, when we are supposedly trying to reach an agreement with Iran on its nuclear programme, it is incredibly provocative to open a major forward western
base almost within eyesight of Iran. Lastly, of course, Bahrain has a brutal dictatorial regime that has been murdering and torturing its majority Shia population for decades, with both open and covert British support. Britain’s callous action is a kick in the teeth for anybody who believes that human rights has a role to play in foreign policy.

The sooner we break up the United Kingdom the better. It really is a force for evil in the world.

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Part of the Union

Labour voters are switching straight to Tory as second preference and Tory straight to Labour in Scottish local government by-elections held under the STV system. These are not opinion polls, they are real elections.

I was shown results and transfer sheets yesterday in the margin of the SNP vetting assessment of potential candidates which I was attending. Unfortunately I did not have a chance to copy down the figures, but the pattern was clear.

For those unfamiliar with single transferable vote, you mark the ballot paper 1,2,3 in the order you prefer the candidates. What is now becoming clear is that Labour voters tend to put the Tories at 2, and Tories put Labour as 2. I have been arguing for years that there are no significant policy differences between Labour and Tory – it is a fake choice. I will never forget at the count in Clackmannan the Labour and Tory councillors and their wives all celebrating together, all looking well-heeled and arrogant and entitled, impossible to tell apart.

That the few remaining Labour voters put the Tories as second preference, instead of the Greens, SNP or Liberal Democrat, shows that the core Labour support base is largely Blairite. Which explains why the ultra-Blairite Jim Murphy, scion of the far right Henry Jackson Society, is set to become Labour Party leader in Scotland. It is also interesting that Tory voters are happy to give second preferences to Labour, recognising that Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Tess Jowell and Harriet Harman – every one a millionaire – are doughty protectors of the rich and the established order.

I haven’t been able to find a website that records local byelection results including the transfers – some results are listed on but only give the final result after all transfers. If anyone can find the data online I would be grateful. I should love to see an analysis from James Kelly on this one.

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You Couldn’t Make It Up

Tony Blair names Henry Kissinger as his role model. Honestly, not kidding. It is of course literally true, as they were both responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands through neo-colonial war. What a pity he forgot to mention it when he stood for leadership of the Labour Party. On the other hand, it is the sort of thing Jim Murphy of the Henry Jackson Society is quite open about, and it doesn’t seem to hurt his career prospects either.

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Why Should We Be Beggars?

There is a great campaign song from the 1890’s, of which the chorus goes

The Land! The Land!
‘Twas God who made the Land
The Land! The Land!
The ground on which we stand
Why should we be beggars
With the Ballot in our hand?
God gave the Land to the People!

That key question – why should we be beggars with the ballot in our hand? – was the fundamental driver of the Yes campaign in the Scottish referendum. The answer is, of course, the beggary remains because our corporate masters are enabled to buy off a small but significant minority of the less poor and then brainwash or terrify enough others through their control of mass communication. But so many people are now wondering how on earth we have beggary in a land of so many billionaires, that the question is refusing to go away.

The song above was the anthem of Henry George’s land movement, and it has resonance today. I found land ownership the most passionate of subjects in the referendum campaign. It was as strongly felt in urban communities of Dundee as in the Highlands. There is an excellent article on the subject by George Monbiot today. It ought to be as important in London as in Scotland. The extreme wealth of the Westminster and other London inherited estates ought not be tolerated in a modern society.

I too applaud the Scottish government’s courage in tackling the issue. I wish, however, they had been a bit more bold. That business rate exemption was ever given to sporting estates, by both Tories and Labour, is an abomination. Of course the rate must be imposed. The truth is, much of the Highlands historically supported a greater population than it does now, and there is much land unused that can produce root crops and cattle. The aid for crofting communities acquiring land is also welcome, but should be backed by firm compulsion.

The proposals to end primogeniture may break up large estates over time, but I confess to being not greatly excited by progress measured in half centuries. The major answer should lie in two well understood taxes: inheritance tax and land value tax. I would favour 20% inheritance tax on all estate value above 500,000, 50% on all value above 1 million and 80% on all value above 5 million, with no exemptions or gifting and beneficial ownership ruthlessly traced.

On Land Value Tax, I am particularly attracted by a residency test. LVT should be quadrupled for non-residents, with residence defined as where you pay your income tax. In an independent Scotland, that would sort out a great deal of the problem pretty fast.

Simply repealing the Inclosure Acts would perhaps have difficult ramifications, where the original beneficiaries’ estates have sold land on to become eventually, for example, individual residential plots. But revisiting the Inclosure Acts is a weapon we should not forego when looking at problems like the Buccleuch or Grosvenor Estates. Though for the major aristocratic estates I would favour straightforward nationalisation.

The Establishment, Conservative, Labour and Liberal, have re-introduced the appalling notion of the “undeserving poor”. It is time for action against the undeserving rich.

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Rusbridger The Worst Editor in the World Part 97

One war criminal writing about another. Nice chums you have, Rusbridger*.

For once there was something worth reading in the Guardian, an article by my friend Coleen Rowley. But the Guardian cut out the most important paragraph in the article. As Coleen put it in an email:

Unfortunately, the paper edited out the politically incorrect paragraph pointing out that the British Parliament committee inquiry totally ignored why Islamic terrorist recruitment is rising exponentially. So an even more important opinion piece needs to be written as to the factor swelling the numbers joining and affiliating with “terrorist” groups. Although the two issues are related as people’s naïve belief in the national security complex’s magical data-mining serves as cover to keep the more important debate from happening. Similar to Helen Thomas’ politically incorrect question: “why do they hate us?” or put more gently: “why can’t our bombs and exceptionalism win hearts and minds?” No longer will anyone in mainstream even ask if the US-NATO-Israel’s reliance on perpetual war, drone assassination and regime changes is working to reduce terrorism. I fear the Guardian would be unlikely to publish such an op-ed but it needs to be attempted nonetheless.

*By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, smasher of hard drives

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Iranian Opportunity

Israel has been an apartheid state for a long time, but its cabinet is now promoting legislation that makes it impossible for even its most ardent supporters to deny that fact. With the cumulative effect of continuing land-grab and intermittent horrific attacks on Gaza, the climate of international public opinion has never been so resolutely opposed to Israel’s actions.

Iran had a tremendous opportunity to make a fundamental shift of the political balance in the Middle East through concessions on its nuclear programme. For Iranian sanctions to end just as Israel determinedly outrages the world, could change the geo-political game significantly. On any objective measure, the economic gains from ending sanctions vastly outweigh any possible economic gains from nuclear energy. I have always argued that nuclear power is a ridiculously complex, dangerous, and extravagantly expensive way to boil water. That is all it actually does, boil water to drive a steam turbine. Iran’s pig-headed insistence that its “right” to this crazed technology is much more important than the economic welfare of its people, is gesture politics of the worst kind.

Iran has undoubtedly improved, but remains a theocratic state with an appalling human rights record, where the persecution of gays is particularly horrifying. There are only two countries in the world with systems of government so appalling as to have seats reserved for clerics in the legislature. One is Iran. The other is the United Kingdom.

I can understand why, under continued neo-con and Israeli threat, retaining the option of developing a nuclear weapon has seemed attractive to Iran. It remains a gross hypocrisy that Israel suffers no sanctions for its large nuclear arsenal, while Iran suffers sanctions for the possibility it might one day start to develop one. Nonetheless I oppose the holding of weapons of mass destruction anywhere, including Iran. The unfortunate fact is that President Rouhani remains subservient to Ayotollah Khameini, and thus a golden opportunity for Iran may be missed.

It is also interesting that the latest round of talks in Vienna did not receive the breathless coverage of earlier rounds, despite their critical importance. There is a curious lethargy in the international community’s approach to the talks. That was for two reasons.

Firstly Obama is now a lame duck President. While impending full Republican control of both houses ought to be a reason to push things through quickly, Obama is wary of expending too much of his tiny remaining store of political capital in yet more conflict with Netanyahu.

The second reason is oil. With oil prices already much fallen, many of the participants are wary of releasing a flood of Iranian oil on to the market by ending sanctions. This especially affected the Russian attitude. In past talks, Russia has played a brilliant hand, with their offers to take effective control of Iranian enrichment technology having stymied an earlier Israeli-stoked Western appetite for conflict. A talks insider told me that this time, while previous offers were not withdrawn, Lavrov was far less prominent and active and no new Russian initiatives were forthcoming. Russia really does not need a further drop in the oil price right now.

I remain hopeful that Iran will realise that there is a huge opportunity here. If Iran tactically backs down on its nuclear programme in the current circumstances, that will not be a defeat for Iran but a defeat for the neo-cons.

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The Odious Smith Commission

From the warm embrace of passionate citizen activism, Scotland’s future passed to the cold hands of hardened political hacks in closeted rooms. It is a physical impossibility that all 14,000 submissions from the public received by mid-October were even read, led alone properly considered. I am willing to bet most were not even opened.

No, this was the very worst kind of deal-making by callous political operatives, where party interests came first, second and last. I do not give a fig for the result. Income tax devolution is of minimal use if other major taxes are set from London and most income still comes from a Westminster “grant”. Revenue from oil and whisky will still be treated in government accounts as “UK” rather than arising in Scotland. It is far short of the quasi Federal powers which No voters were promised and the Lib Dems pretend to believe in.

Actually, I do not give a fig for the Smith Commission. I want to live in a country where the Westminster establishment does not send our children to fight and die in illegal wars, and which does not harbour weapons of mass destruction. I want a country where governance is decided by citizens and not cooked up the way of this sordid, sordid deal.

That is not to say we should not take advantage of any minor opportunities for increasing social fairness in Scotland that may accrue. But given the continued Westminster stranglehold on overall funding levels, they will be minor indeed.

Nor will I disdain the amusement afforded by the total intellectual mess into which the Labour Party has landed itself. If non-Scottish MPs in Westminster cannot vote on Scottish levels of income tax, it would be absolutely wrong for Scottish MPs to vote on English, Welsh or Northern Irish levels of income tax. That is unanswerable, yet the Labour Party cannot bring itself to acknowledge it. This should be fun.

For those wanting a detailed analysis, we have the excellent Stuart Campbell.

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Gordon Brown the Big Feartie

I do not claim any direct link between my declaration in Kirkcaldy that I was seeking nomination as a SNP Westminster candidate and fancied taking on Gordon Brown, and his subsequent decision to let the media know he intends to stand down and not fight! But it is an act of remarkable political cowardice from a man who so spectacularly promised No voters massive devolution of powers to the Scottish parliament. That Brown promise was given more publicity by the mainstream media than any other event in the entire referendum campaign. The fact that Brown never had any locus to deliver what he was promising was bound at some stage to become acutely embarrassing. He now escapes responsibility for the cynical lies of his pledges, by simply running away.

Brown was always a feartie. He was scared to stand against Tony Blair for leader, scared to call a general election early when he could have averted Labour’s electoral disaster. He was even scared to stick to his guns when for once he got something right and called that dreadful woman a bigot.

Brown contributed directly to the crippling poverty of millions by his disastrous deregulation of the City of London and years of giving the bankers everything they desired. Nor must we allow the mainstream media unchallenged to cement the lie that there was no alternative to trillions of pounds in grants and effective subsidies from taxpayers being given direct to the fatcat bankers, which have crippled the public finances for generations. Letting bad banks go bust and bad bankers go on the dole (or hopefully jump) was a far better option. Contrary to the Brown myth, world recession was not averted. It happened, massively. The only thing saved was the multi-million incomes of the people whose greed and stupidity had caused the collapse.

Brown remains the greatest friend the bankers ever had.

Brown and Darling lead a large phalanx of Labour MPs who realise their best career move is to transit to the benches of the House of Lords while the going is good, and start pocketing their 300 pounds a day allowance for doing nothing but hoovering up comfy directorships.

I fear that they will find that Scottish independence is coming sooner than they think and that gig will soon get cut short too.

As for Brown’s devolution promises, frankly I don’t give a damn about the Smith Commission. Holyrood control of income tax is meaningless if most other taxes are set in London. Fiscal autonomy can only work if Scotland is given all its taxes, including those from hydrocarbons and from whisky. That will never happen. Any tax and spend devolution which reserves oil and whisky taxes to the UK Treasury will be perverted by Westminster, to only result in further public spending cuts for Scotland. Besides, if Westminster can still send our children to fight and die in illegal wars, the money is immaterial.

Which brings us back to Gordon Brown. Remember not only did he first deregulate the bankers then give them huge transfers from poor families’ taxes, he backed Blair to the hilt over the invasion of Iraq. Without Brown’s support, Blair could not have done it, and hundreds of thousands would not have died – nor would we have ISIS and linked chaos now.

Brown is an evil man.

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Save the Fatcats

These are the top salaries at the Save the Children fund.

CEO Justin Forsyth £139,950
COO Anabel Hoult £139,950
COO / CFO & Strategic Initiatives Rachel Parr £131,970
Global Programmes Director Fergus Drake £113,300
Fundraising Director Tanya Steele £112,200
Marketing & Comms Director Sue Allchurch £111,920
Policy & Advocacy Director Brendan Cox £106,029
CFO Peter Banks £102,000
HR Director Paul Cutler £100,980

The UK average salary is 26,500.

StC has just given Tony Blair its “Global Legacy” award. What kind of people like Tony Blair? People who earn over 100,000. I am not sure that if you put money in a tin, or bought from their charity shop, you thought you were paying that many fat salaries. There are also gold plated pensions and other benefits. Justin Forsyth, the CEO, of course worked in Tony Blair’s neo-con policy unit.

As I have written before, very few charities are in any sense independent any more. Save the Children Fund gets 176 million pounds – over half its income – in grants from various governments, including over 80 million from the British government. That compares to 106 million in donations from the public. In 2012 over 70 million pounds was spent by Save the Children UK on its own staff costs. This was reduced on paper to 44 million in 2014 by the expedient of transferring some Headquarters staff from Save the Children UK to Save the Children International. I have an uneasy feeling about some of Save the Children’s accounting presentation. Justin Forsyth’s and Annabel Hoult’s salary of 139,950 sounds a lot better than 140,000 doesn’t it? Rachel Parr’s 131,970 sounds less than 132 grand.

Save the Children’s highly paid and very numerous HQ staff work in a swanky office for which they pay a staggering 6.5 million pounds a year lease. Do they really need their HQ in ultra expensive Central London? I suppose all those high earners have to get home to Islington. Their HQ costs more than all their other premises put together, including all their shops.

I wonder how much all of this is known to the 13,000 good-hearted volunteers who work many hours for nothing to support these people.

I give regularly to charity, by standing order. I am sure so do many who read this blog. If you are giving to Save the Children, I do urge you to re-target your charitable giving.

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May hem

Theresa May announced the security services have foiled forty major terrorist plots in the last decade. They also successfully prevented Rotherham FC from winning the Champions League and the sky from turning into plasticine.

We have had, on average, a major “anti-terrorism act” curtailing vital liberties every 20 months in that period, to the point where it is illegal for me to give a talk in Westminster (see last post). We have security theatre of the absurd, everywhere. Air travel is a misery due to the war on toothpaste, but I can carry two litres of extremely flammable duty free 50% spirit on board a plane. At Waverley Station in Edinburgh a taxi can no longer enter due to “terrorism”, but they can drop me outside and I can take my 60 kg of plastic explosive in two suitcases down the elevator.

The disaster of universities today is corporatism and managerialism. It is not an excess of freedom of speech. Academics dare say very little – they spend their entire time wracking their brains as to how to produce research that will attract finance, and thus meet cash targets and not lead to redundancies and departmental closures. Universities see themselves overwhelmingly as businesses, not as self governing academic communities and centres of intellectual inquiry. In Scotland, every University Principal is on over 300,000 a year and every University Secretary on over 200,000. There are no poets or philosophers on University Courts – bean counting is the only discipline deemed relevant to university governance. A tiny number of eccentric academics are devoted to their teaching, but there is no income stream of any kind dependent on teaching quality.

Now Theresa May is going to make doubly sure no student ever hears anything interesting or inspirational, by giving University administrations – who want nothing but a profitable business – a “duty to protect” students from extremist thought. This idea is so illiberal it makes me physically vomit. The net result will be a cumbersome system of vetting for every external speaker, having to submit texts for approval in advance, to be seen by the University administration. The result will be a firm intention to discourage external speakers from appearing at all, in order to avoid the cost of this bureaucracy.

I speak frequently in universities and certainly am not going to submit my talks for pre-vetting (I always speak off the cuff anyway). In fact, if this legislation goes through, I am going to undertake spontaneous guerrilla lectures in universities, just popping up and starting talking, with no prior approval at all. I hope others may join me. We need a flying squad to preserve the very notion of academic intercourse without political constraint.

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Craig Murray, Criminal

Here I am making an illegal speech to an illegal gathering.

I was witness to an extraordinary example of the use of “anti-terrorist” laws to deny democracy. The whole of Parliament Square, College Green and Canning Green were closed off with high Harris fencing, as were other spaces nearby. These were protected by a huge police presence. I counted 37 police vans. All this to counter eighty “Occupy Democracy” protestors wishing to highlight the alienation of the political class from the rest of us. That MPs feel the need to make Westminster look like the Somme 1917, to defend themselves against a few ordinary people, is proof that the concept of “democracy” is now alien to the Westminster system.

Some of this was surreal. There were signs up stating that voice amplification was illegal as was “sleeping equipment”. Just what is sleeping equipment? I have managed to sleep my entire life without such equipment. I just close my eyes and it happens. I didn’t even know you needed equipment to sleep. It is a curious thing that officialdom, when it becomes unreasonable, inevitably resorts to poor use of language. Nobody in normal life speaks of “sleeping equipment”. There is a simple English word, “bedding”. If they mean bedding, why don’t they say so?

The happy band of demonstrators had gathered just outside the entrance to the Supreme Court, in a small unfenced area. I used to sing regularly and seriously. Fortunately this has left me with the ability to speak very loudly at length and still with some modulation. If you consider that video is in an area of very heavy traffic noise and with no (banned) amplification, I hope you are impressed! I started speaking in order to fend off what seemed an imminent move by police to start arresting protestors for breach of the peace. This followed an argument over whether an old sofa and rug constituted “sleeping equipment”. A policeman stated that there were legal rulings that “sleeping equipment” included anything that could be adapted for the purpose of sleeping. I suggested to him that he confiscate my trousers, as these were capable of being rolled up and used as a pillow.

The Police Superintendent had just stated that refusal to give up the sofa constituted behaviour likely to lead to a breach of the peace, when I decided to change the dynamic by giving a talk, which peculiarly led almost all the police to withdraw immediately to about a hundred yards away. If you are interested, you can see something of this, and get a tour of the fencing, from this video by one of the protestors.

I say “if you are interested”, but really you ought to be interested. The fact that in Westminster, people who are obviously very peaceful are not allowed simply to express their political view, ought to worry everybody in the UK very, very deeply. We have slipped away from the fundamental precepts of democracy – freedom of speech and assembly, habeas corpus, freedom from torture. None of those exist any more. Lulled by the mainstream media, most people have not even noticed.

I shall be speaking outside the Scottish Parliament on 29th November, and in Dundee, Perth (and possibly Ayr too if I can work it out) on the 30th. I shall be speaking again in Dundee at the March against Austerity on 6th December.

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The Trident Test

The Rochester By-Election further destroys the intellectual case for the BBC’s decision that only male party leaders who support Trident can debate on TV before the UK general election.

The Greens got five times as many votes as the Lib Dems in Rochester, and are ahead of them in several recent national opinion polls. I do not posit the support of Trident as the criterion for inclusion, in any sense as a joke. Support of Trident stands as a good marker for adhesion to the neo-con establishment consensus. The establishment is simply not prepared for more radical views to be put before the public as a serious choice. UKIP is the chosen right wing vehicle into which disillusion with politicians should be channelled.

The BBC justification for including UKIP is that they have shown a “substantial increase in electoral support”, and the BBC argue that the Greens have not done so. There are two major problems with this argument.

The first is that UKIP’s “massive increase in electoral support” has been massively boosted by a huge amount of publicity given to UKIP for the last two years, especially by the BBC. The BBC is citing the effect of its own propaganda as justification for continuing that propaganda. If the Greens had been given as much publicity as UKIP, the electoral climate would be very different.

The second is that this appears to be a one way argument. If UKIP’s massive increase in electoral support can get them included, surely the Lib Dems total collapse in electoral support should get them excluded? The injustice of including the Lib Dems and not the Greens, when the Greens are beating them not just in opinion polls but in real polls, cannot simply be brushed aside.

We then have the SNP. There is a very real possibility that the SNP will have more MPs than the Lib Dems after the next election. Indeed, one recent opinion poll put them ahead of the Lib Dems in polling across the entire UK, even though all those SNP voters were just in Scotland. For the BBC to push so hard the line that we are “Better Together”, and then exclude the party supported by the plurality of Scots from UK debate, is an irony only the BBC cannot see. That some viewers of a UK debate would have no opportunity to vote SNP, would not remove their very real interest in understanding and questioning the views of what will be a major component of the parliament which governs them.

The Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP have female leaders and are anti-Trident, a symbol of their broad radicalism. All are, to use that crude measure, to the left of the parties which will be included. To be in, you have to be led by an identikit posh male and support Trident. That is the BBC test.

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The Weight of a Death

At least 28 people have been killed in US drone strikes in Afghanistan in November so far. Several of those were involved in tribal fighting against the Afghan government, but at least five were small children and total non-combatants were probably in double figures. These deaths do not go reported at all in western media. Cameron and Miliband both started at Prime Minister’s Questions today by condemning the killings in Jerusalem. No chance they will ever mention the ongoing US murders in Afghanistan, let alone the three Palestinians killed by Israelis lately, including a taxi driver lynched by Israeli illegal settlers.

No amount of “what-aboutery” can distract from the horror of the attacks in the Jerusalem synagogue, and I have no difficulty in condemning those killings unequivocally, too. But the hypocrisy of the Western media and political establishment, in terms of which deaths are important, is breath-taking. The truth is that the causes of these deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and across a swathe of other countries cannot be disentangled from the history of violent western aggression into those countries. But we are urged to forget context, forget cause and indulge in highly selective emotional outrage and indignation.

Some deaths count an awful lot. Some should not be noticed. It is a strange way of looking at the world.

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It Is Racist To Be Worried About Immigration

The wealthy right-winger Yvette Cooper has just been on television intoning Labour’s new mantra “It isn’t racist to be worried about immigration.” This should be challenged robustly at all times. Above all, it is very, very racist for politicians to go around saying “It isn’t racist to be worried about immigration” when they are using it nakedly and cynically to bid for the votes of racists.

I can never recall any by-election that got as much BBC publicity as that in Rochester, not even Hillhead or Warrington. The BBC and media establishment are continuing their massive promotion of UKIP at all times. The Labour Party is responding by pandering to racism. Yvette spoke of the “race to the bottom in the labour market”. The country’s real problem is the race to the bottom in the fascist market.

Promising 1.000 new uniformed border guards as their headline policy initiative is a pretty impressive spurt by Labour in this fascist race.

It shows how sour politics have gone when it takes the Confederation of British Industry to inject some sense from a liberal perspective into the immigration debate. Over 60% of CBI embers say that immigration has benefited their company. Only 3% believe it has hurt their company. Immigration is a tremendous boon to the British economy. Without it we would be deep in recession. Nor is it in the least responsible for the growing wealth gap. The period of highest immigration into the UK coincided with the period when social mobility and social equality were making the most progress.

That people still fall for the old con-trick astonishes me. Don’t blame Britain’s 100 billionaires, multi millionaire bankers or grasping landlords for your poverty – look! blame that foreign-looking poor man over there. He is eating a bit of cheese. He has taken that cheese from the mouths of your children!

It is primal and it is ludicrous, but the appeal to atavism can work and Labour are seeking to profit from it.

The Labour Party’s deliberate conflation of the unrelated questions of corporate, banker and executive rapacity, the exploitation of the workforce, and immigration is deeply, deeply, shameful. There was very little Yvette Cooper said that Nigel Farage would not second. But that, after all, was the purpose of the exercise.

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Scotland’s Constitution

I spoke at the SNP conference fringe on Scotland’s constitution. I don’t claim this was profound but I hope it was interesting.

Independence Live caught me on the way out for the most informal of interviews

Sitting at home in Edinburgh this morning, for the first time for weeks I actually have a few hours when I don’t have to dash off and do something. Hopefully I can de-stress and come up with an interesting blog post.

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Meeting Livestream

The Fringe Meeting at which I am speaking will be livestreamed on Saturday from 12.30 on IndependenceLive.

Meanwhile, Emily has started her own blog.

I had a busy day today moving a lot of stuff to move into my new home in Edinburgh tomorrow. But I must briefly comment on a fascinating opinion poll by IPSOS/Mori tonight, which puts the Tories on 32 and Labour on 29 UK wide – and astonishingly the Lib Dems UK score of 9% only just ahead of the SNP’s UK wide score of 8%, even though the latter is concentrated entirely in Scotland. One reason that SNP figure is so high is that IPSOS MORI weight by certainty to vote, and are predicting a much higher turnout in Scotland than England at the next election.

The scenario leading straight to independence – a Tory/UKIP coalition at Westminster and a crushing SNP victory in Scotland – is looking increasingly probable. One thing I do not rule out at all is a unionist Con/Lab coalition in Westminster after the next general election. There are almost no real policy differences between them, and if coalition becomes the swiftest way to satisfy personal ambition for power and money on both sides (the only thing that drives both parties), I so not think it is in the least improbable. We have seen Lab/Con coalitions against the SNP in Dundee and Stirling Councils, and they were extremely happy together during the referendum campaign. I do not yet see a Lab/Con coalition as the most probable outcome of the next Westminster election. But it is entirely possible.

Speech at 13 mins 30 secs in

Interview at 9 mins 30 secs in.

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More Establishment Hypocrisy

Those suddenly concerned about the European Arrest Warrant in Westminster last night were notably silent when it was used against Julian Assange, with a case that had more holes in it than a condom torn by Anna Ardin, the noted CIA agent.

Not only was the evidence against Assange not tested, the Supreme Court accepted that a Swedish prosecutor with a screaming political agenda was a “judicial authority”, despite her being neither a judge nor a court. That extraordinary ruling was itself dependent on two even more extraordinary false premises, directly stated in Lord Phillip’s judgement.

1) That the French term “autorites judiciaires” has a “wider meaning” than the English term “judicial authorities”. That is simply untrue.

2) That the French language version of the treaty is “authentic and original” and to be preferred to the English version. That is absolutely untrue – the different language versions are explicitly equal. That is a fundamental rule of EU (and UN)treaties, both of which I have personal experience of negotiating.

The bottom line being, if the Establishment wants to get you, it will, irrespective of the letter of the law.

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The Russian Menace Made Simple

There is currently a major propaganda blitz by arms and security industries to convince us was are in a “new cold war”, and therefore should be spending even more ludicrous sums of money on weapons of mass destruction. Here are a few simple facts.

a) Russia is not a great power. Its total GDP is about the same as Spain’s – and Spain is pretty knackered. Russia has even less economic clout as a basis for world domination than the UK.

b) Russia’s economy is not diversified. It is over-dependent on raw commodity production and export. Its distribution of wealth is even worse than ours, although the Tories are doing their best to catch up. We have a totally false popular impression of Russian wealth because a few oligarchs have most of the money – and export it straight to the West. Capital flight is a huge problem for the Russian economy.

c) Russia is no threat to the UK and never has been. Centuries of Russophobia are entirely baseless. The idea of a defensive posture against Russia is ludicrous as there is no threat. Churchill, incidentally, asked Truman to nuke Moscow. A nuclear attack would be the only realistic way Russia could attack the UK – and the only thing that could make that possible are the mad calls for cold war and more weapons currently being heard in the West. None of which is to say it would be militarily sensible to attack Russia, as history shows. But Russia’s aggressive potential is very limited indeed. It will not be long before Poland plus the Baltic states are economically stronger than Russia.

None of this is to say Russia cannot continue to bully those very weak states which neighbour it. I have no time for Putin’s aggressive nationalism. But his position is fundamentally weak and his powerbase very limited. Neither the left nor the right in the UK (and in this comments section) want to hear this. The right constantly exaggerate Russia as a threat to boost their political interests and military funding. The left want desperately to believe in Putin as a strong counter to the West, as indicated by the ludicrous analyses that the Syria conflict was all about Russia’s decrepit and worthless Black Sea Fleet.

How to handle relations with Russia is not quite as much of a conundrum as it sounds, as Putin’s vaulting ambition is severely limited by his economic constraints. He is feeling that severely now, and it is nothing to do with the token and pointless economic sanctions. Russia desperately needs economic and political form – but Putin’s hand is only strengthened by the bellicose nonsense which enables him to appeal to the powerful atavistic strand in modern Russian social culture. I remain of the view that internationally supervised, genuinely fair referenda in Eastern Ukraine should be the way forward. That should include a new and properly conducted referendum in the Crimea, including free campaigns. It should be made plain that there will be a fast track into the EU for the Ukraine at the end of that process, after the secession of any districts that wish to join Russia.

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SNP Conference Perth

I shall be speaking at a fringe meeting on Saturday at the Salutation Hotel at 12.30, chaired by Linda Fabiani, on the need for a written constitution. I am available and willing to speak at any other fringe meetings. I am particularly keen to emphasise the need to be focused on independence and not allow excessive energy to be side-tracked either into fruitless pretend “Devo-Max” proposals or the temptations of self-important managerialism. Obviously I should be happy to speak on defence and disarmament, foreign policy, human rights, higher education, maritime boundaries or any of my other specialist areas also.

To be perfectly honest, I should be especially pleased to be invited to any fringe meetings on Friday as I can’t find any other way to get in!! I move in to my new home in Edinburgh on Thursday, but previously as a non-resident was not eligible to be a delegate.

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