In Safe Hands 898

I am in Tbilisi at the moment, where I spent this early morning drinking tea with some of the 2,000 strong Yazidi community. They see their religion as much more closely descended from Zoroastrianism than appears in most accounts I have read.

I very much enjoyed a visit to Tsinandali which was most useful for gaining a Russian perspective of the Great Game. I don’t have my books with me and am suffering a mental block as to whether it was Connoly, Abbott or Malcolm who visited Tsinandali. I had not realised that Griboyedov was married to a daughter of the house, Nina Chavchavadze. The murder of Griboyedov, Russian Ambassador in Tehran, by a mob rates little more than a footnote in British accounts of the Great Game, even though the British had bribed the religious authority to stir up the riots. What revisionist history there has been, has come from the Iranian side and falsely tried to obscure the fact that the refugees Griboyedov was sheltering were runaway slaves from harems.

This is a neglected recurring theme. When Shuja agreed the treaty already negotiated between Macnaghten and Ranjit Singh, the main stipulation he sought to add was that the British would return to him any runaway slave girls. The immediate motive for the ringleader of the attack on Alexander Burnes was that Burnes had refused to intervene to return a runaway slave girl who had sought the protection of another British officer. My fellow anti-imperialist historians have in general been guilty of emphasising rapaciousness by the British in these incidents and overlooking or excusing the slave status of the girls. Both aspects need to be faced squarely to write honestly the full facts of history. Tellingly, it is generally impossible to recover names of the girls involved.

Griboyedov deserves to be remembered for much more than his murder. An accomplished playwright and poet, he was a friend of Pushkin and had links to the dissident groups who attempted revolution in 1825. His murder left Nina a widow at either 17 or 19 by different accounts, and pregnant. She lost the child on hearing of her husband’s death, and never remarried. It is a tragic story which came alive to me in visiting the family home.

Griboyedov had fought Napoleon in the 1812 campaign, but had helped those Napoleonic adventurers Allard and Ventura evade a British blockade and go into service with Ranjit Singh. Griboyedov’s successor as Russian Ambassador to Tehran, Simonicz, had actually fought on the Napoleonic side against Russia, presumably in the Polish Legion. Nina’s sister was to marry a Murad nephew of Napoleon. The political elites of Europe melded quickly after the convulsion.

With which clumsy segue I shall note that the battle against the entrenched political elites of the UK appears to be going extremely well without me. I cannot express without a welling up of real emotion how happy I am that all I have been saying about the stultifying neo-liberal consensus and exclusion of dissent, and appalling burgeoning wealth gap between rich and poor, has found such massive traction between Jeremy Corbyn in England and the SNP in Scotland. I may have gone AWOL for a few days, but the cause of social justice appears in extremely safe hands.

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898 thoughts on “In Safe Hands

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  • nevermind

    Thanks, you know my name, that explains the massive air explosion after they doused it, Sounds like a logistical problem that lead to the wrong chems being in close proximity.

    what a tragedy, 56 dead and hundreds injured.

    @ Glen

    Janners behaviour looks as if he is in an advanced state of whatever he’s got, easily identified on a full spectrum brain scan, the least one should expect the courts to ask for.
    will it happen?

  • Habbabkuk (la vita e' bella)

    Glenn (to Mr Goss)

    ““All aboard!” is simply not practical, and a limit would have to be imposed at some point – I wonder what you think that point might be.”

    I too would be interested to read Mr Goss’s answer to Glenn’s question.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    John Goss

    Congratulations on your superb ride. Sorry guys, I have been inundated with work before going on leave and haven’t felt in a place to engage – just throw in comments and run. Mary, RobG, thank you for earlier comments – and anyone else I have not picked up on.

    Kind regards,


  • Dave Lawton

    @MJ 4:07 “Oh hang on, forget that”

    Is it not time the Jewish Chronicle answers some questions instead?
    Here is but a few on Israel
    Nuclear Weapons
    Chemical and biological Weapons
    They just seem to love Death and War. I can tell you this, it’s a dead end.

    Anyway what are they trying to do Crucify JC for a second time because he is into peace.
    And all negative attacks he gets you may have noticed he turns the other cheek and it is
    transmuted into positive energy. You don`t get it do you.

  • Mary

    Corbyn wants to scrap Trident. Sellafield (previously known as Windscale pre accidents) exists to provide material for the weapons the submarine carry.

    From a review in the Ecologist of the programme Inside Sellafield made by the BBC.

    ‘However the programme was highly misleading thanks to major omissions, concealing the severity of accidents, and how the UK’s entire ‘civilian’ nuclear programme was subverted into producing military plutonium that fed into the Sellafield bomb factory.

    Enough plutonium for over 30 nuclear bombs leaked out

    For example, Al-Kalilili spent considerable time explain the key role of the £2.85bn Thermal Oxide Reprocessing plant (THORP), opened in 1994, once Sellafield’s ‘jewel in the atomic crown’. But he completely glossed over the severity of the THORP accident that disabled the plant for four years in 2004.

    In May 2005, it was first reported that a serious leak of highly radioactive nuclear fuel dissolved in concentrated nitric acid – enough to half fill an Olympic-size swimming pool – had forced the facility’s closure.

    The highly dangerous mixture, containing about 22 tonnes of uranium and plutonium fuel, in liquid form, with a volume of around 83m3, had leaked through a fractured pipe into a huge stainless steel chamber in the ‘feed clarification cell’.’

    ‘Inside Sellafield’ and military plutonium – the BBC’s nuclear lies of omission
    Dr David Lowry
    12th August 2015

    The programme is on the iPlayer. 60mins

  • RobG

    As a long time btl commentator on the Guardian, I got banned at the start of the year, probably because I was ranting and raving about Fukushima too much, at a time when the Guardian were heavily pushing their ‘keep it in the ground’ BS (in association with the HSBC), and never mentioning that there are three nuclear reactors on the coast of Japan that are in complete and ongoing meltdown, and the Pacific Ocean is not so slowly dying as a result.

    I recently came back under a different guise, purely because of the Corbyn stuff. My rise from the dead/banned seems to have been wasted, because I’ve never seen so many reader’s comments on the Guardian as those that have arisen from the Labour leadership contest.

    There seems to be something quite extraordinary happening.

  • Macky

    Glenn; ““All aboard!” is simply not practical, and a limit would have to be imposed at some point”

    Even an ocean ends at the shore, so yes there will always be a limit to anything, yet to apply an imminent doomsday scenario to the UK seems so premature, as to be scaremongering.

    Here’s an article from 2010 that seeks to counter the “Britain is Full” pov; I would add that it doesn’t even mention two things I read elsewhere some time ago, namely that the huge raise in unwanted teenage pregnancies in recent decades dwarfs by several factors the feared high birthrate of immigrants in the same period, and that barely a tenth of UK land has been urbanized;

  • Ba'al Zevul


    Fuel-air explosions create a local vacuum, as the air is sucked in to the fireball. This creates a characteristic outcome, in which nearby victims’ lungs are collapsed. Withing the blast radius, judging only by what has been shown, the main force of the blast was outwards. The oxidant wasn’t air, if I’m right. Also, building up a huge volume of well mixed air-acetylene (or air-hydrogen if sodium was involved) in close proximity to the flames the firefighters were presumably fighting, would be difficult. My impression from the videos was that the second, colossal explosion was due to high explosive, perhaps touched off by rapid heating by the first, on whose origin even I am reluctant to speculate. The usual suspect in that case would be an ammonium nitrate mixture, routinely used in civilian blasting operations. Agricultural ammonium nitrate is usually stabilised to reduce the chances of it detonating en masse, these days (and to stop the IRA getting jiggy with it, in theory), but Chinese health-and-safety may differ from ours in that respect.

    I’ll stay with the parsimonious solution for the big one: the best way to achieve the effect of 20 tons of HE going off is to detonate 20 tons of HE. That’s what the videos looked like to me.

  • John Goss

    John Spencer-Davis, thank you for the good wishes. You might like this because blood money is only of benefit to those with blood on their hands.

    As they did with apartheid in South Africa participants in the arts are boycotting those who would perpetuate the discrimination in Israel and Palestine. Well done Edinburgh. And well done the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel who brought this to our attention. And well done the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (I met a few on the Big Ride last weekend. Lovely people.)

    “(3) Sir Jeremy Isaacs, ex Chief Executive of Channel Four smeared the campaign to return Israeli Embassy money as “censorship”, a constant of all attacks on cultural boycott campaigns. Isaacs said he was “disgusted “ at this “denial of a film-maker’s right to show her work”. This despite Ken Loach expressing views shared with SPSC:

    To be crystal clear: as a film maker you will receive a warm welcome in Edinburgh. You are not censored or rejected. The opposition was to the Festival’s taking money from the Israeli state.

    Lord Janner of Braunstone, a Labour peer, former chairman of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and now facing a trial for serial rape offences against children, also attacked the boycotters: “By banning the Israeli Embassy from supporting a film-maker the festival is helping to exclude Israelis from British cultural life, something that is clearly unfair.””

    Full article here:

  • Resident Dissident


    “Interesting bit of sophistry there, RD. The previously rejected solutions were, er, rejected. By the Labour Right, in fear at one time of the SDP, and under steadily increasing pressure from hostile vested interests. So they weren’t tried. Their effectiveness wasn’t tested in practice. They’re still potential solutions.”

    There was no deception whatsoever – the solutions proposed in the 1983 manifesto were rejected by the electorate as I have made clear in a number of posts already – they were also later rejected by much of the left and centre left of the Labour Party, only the hard left clung to the same ideas.

  • Tim

    Before losing Craig’s original post entirely, is there not a serious question here about “liberal interventionism”. By taking people “under his protection” wasn’t Griboyedov saying that the Iranian authorities were guilty of abuses which he as an enlightened Christian was intervening to correct? The Tsar’s occupation of Georgia “not seeking to expand our dominions” following the Iranian sack of Tbilisi was part of the same idea (and without it Stalin would never have become leader of the USSR).

  • Ba'al Zevul

    I hope you’re not missing my point, RD, that the proposals were not and have not since, been tried. For whatever reason. Like Christianity and Communism, they remain theoretical.

    China blasts: some support for my opinion here:

    David Leggett, a chemical safety expert based in California, said the acetylene explosion could have detonated the ammonium nitrate.

    The two blasts were about 30 seconds apart, the second much larger than the first.

    “In my mind, the presence of ammonium nitrate makes it easier to explain the level of devastation,” he said
    External Link: Drone footage shows aftermath of Tianjin explosions (YouTube: New China TV)

    Lei Jinde, the deputy propaganda department head of China’s fire department, a part of the Ministry of Public Security, told state-backed news website the first group of firefighters on the scene used water.

    “We knew there was calcium carbide inside but we didn’t know whether it had already exploded,” he said.

    “At that point no one knew, it wasn’t that the firefighters were stupid,” Mr Lei said, adding that it was a large warehouse and they didn’t know the exact location of the calcium carbide.

    Rather strange that they should have wondered if the carbide had already exploded: in the absence of water it is fairly inert to air oxidation, and I can’t find any reference to its ever having exploded when dry.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    …@ RD – the jocularly alleged sophistry was on your part, not Labour’s… 🙂

  • Resident Dissident

    “I hope you’re not missing my point, RD, that the proposals were not and have not since, been tried.”

    I think that centralised direction of the economy a la Corbyn has been tried in many times and places and the results have usually been pretty awful as Benn’s experiments with Concorde and British Leyland demonstrate. I can see no reason why an increase in scale will work, but perhaps you could tell us more about how a National Investment Bank might function to convince us that such an experiment is worthwhile; but the onus is on you and others to put some flesh on this pipe dream if it is to be more than a meaningless slogan. Neither I or the electorate are in the market for a theoretical pig in a poke – which is all that is being offered.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Neither I or the electorate are in the market for a theoretical pig in a poke – which is all that is being offered.

    It’s all that’s ever offered. What you and the electorate (I appreciate the distinction – are you more or less than or in a differnt dimension to the electorate?) actually get is the poke without the pig. At best we get a pork sausage. Meanwhile any party elected, due to the party and electoral systems we have, is in hock to vested interests, and more or less out of touch with you, me, and the electorate.

    Now, do you believe:
    1. The wealth of the country is primarily for the benefit of all its inhabitants
    2. The wealth of the country is primarily for the benefit of some of its inhabitants (define them)
    3. The wealth of the country is primarily for the benefit of whoever can grab it, including foreigners?

    And if you go for 1 or 2 above, do you agree that

    (a) changing the current emphasis is going to be a matter of time and negotiation rather than immediate application of a single, incredibly complicated plan and its ramifications, which the electorate can nevertheless be made instantly to understand?

    (b) that agreement on the basic principle of change, and its preferred direction, is the immediate priority. There must be a unifying principle. The SNP have independence. What has Labour got? “If you elect us, we’ll make stuff better?” – they cant even agree on what’s wrong, when elected they endorse it, and when they lose the Tories come along and make stuff worse than it was before.

    I don’t agree with all of Corbyn’s outline proposals. But I (and a good lump of the electorate) will get behind them because they clearly indicate the only proposals for genuine and useful reform on the market. But relax. He won’t ever be PM, and probably doesn’t even want to be. The markets will see to that, one way or another.

  • Tim

    “The markets” didn’t stop Tsipras being elected, so why should they stop Corbyn. What is painful is the confrontation with reality which takes place when you find that the world is as it is, not as you would like it to be.

  • Resident Dissident


    I don’t believe in either of your alternatives – I believe that wealth should be shared out on basis that recognises both merit and need, but I am also concerned that there is a need to create some wealth in the first place. I also see a need for markets in the efficient allocation of resources and for the State to step in where market mechanisms either cannot or do no work effectively. As well as the weaknesses of the market, I also acknowledge that the State is not able to do everything – and as well as providing a framework for liberty it can also damage liberty as well. I’m afraid this is just a direction of travel rather than an ideology to be followed – in reality progress is made by series of small measures which are explained and accepted through democratic processes. I hope the days of big picture ideological changes – whether put forward by the hard left or hard right – are coming to an end, though this will not stop either of them trying – I suspect more people are rather nearer my realist and gradualist social democratic position than your untried Bennite experiment.

  • Resident Dissident

    “At best we get a pork sausage.”

    Let us not forget that in the Soviet Union experiment where markets were abandoned for state planning that in the end many did not even get that.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Edward Heath allegedly hired multiple rent boys (prostitutes) on a regular basis, according to the convicted pimp who is all over the media. So now suddenly it seems that it’s AOK for an ex-Prime Minister to be hiring hookers, so long as he is not proved to have been a paedophile? Let’s see what emerges from this foetid swamp known as the British Establishment.

  • Resident Dissident


    I didn’t think you would encourage making medical diagnoses one way or the other based upon newspaper reports. I did laugh at the comment accusing Janner of Oscar standard acting – perhaps he was so good because he was not acting?

    And in case anyone thinks otherwise I believe the current trial of the facts is the right thing to do – and have never said otherwise.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Resident Dissident at 10:02am, yes I agree of course.

    If he is demented, a trial of the facts makes sense.

    But one is wary, on account of these previous high profile deeply political cases and the seemingly incompatible things he is said to have done recently while supposedly mentally incapable. In other words, psychiatrists can be hoodwinked; they appear to have been hoodwinked by both Saunders and Pinochet; it is a very grey field, not clear-cut at all.

  • glenn

    Suhayl: “If he is demented, a trial of the facts makes sense. “

    Indeed. And it should make little difference to someone supposedly afflicted by profound dementia, whether they serve their sentence at home or at Broadmoor. They will be punished for their deviancy at their new location to the extent their cognition allows. A rather convenient sliding scale, which fully allows for faking it at one end, to being completely unaware at the other.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    17/08/2015 3:29am

    Glenn, if a trial of facts takes place, there will be no sentence. Janner will be found guilty of nothing. If the jury finds that he committed the acts alleged, the court will order either a hospital order, a supervision order, or an absolute discharge.

    The DPP assumed that an absolute discharge is what the court will order. Personally, I think if Janner is capable of walking around by himself, which I believe he is, there is a (very small) risk to children, so I am not sure that an absolute discharge is appropriate.

    Kind regards,


  • Ba'al Zevul

    I believe that wealth should be shared out on basis that recognises both merit and need,

    I will rant in response. Sorry.

    How about “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” for a start? As a general principle. One to which, if you read what I said, an approach may be made as gradually as you like subject only to the constraints of our mortality. What’s wrong with that, apart from its being a (real-) Socialist tenet?

    Suppose, and there is evidence to support this, the markets’ ideal of economic growth as the sine qua non of human endeavour, is not only unsustainable in the long term, but actually relies on generating inequality. Do you have a plan for defeating this contradiction?

    If you are David Miliband, you think it can be done. You assume globalisation is beneficial to more than the financial industry, it’s a done deal, and nothing can be done about it. Market rules rule, ok. Why? Because the market says so.

    I didn’t vote for the market. Ever. There wasn’t an election covering that.

    But if the option existed, I’d certainly want the market working for me than working for, and having every aspect of my life dictated by, the bloody market, its millefeuilles layers of incompetent, unhelpful and unproductive management, its wheedling insistence that I buy stuff I don’t need and which will be obsolete tomorrow, and its mandatory hourly changes to systems which were once a gleam in an IT salesman’s eye and are now apparently indispensible. Oh, and the mass surveillance.

    To say nothing of the vast insecurity of being part of a ‘flexible’ workforce, unable to afford decent housing and watching socialised health disintegrating as the PFI bills mount.

    Do you work to live, or do you live to work?

  • Resident Dissident

    How about “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” for a start?

    Because that doesn’t address what should happen when there is a surplus over needs – or how people with ability might be incentivised to actually give of their abilities.

    Markets are just a mechanism for allocating resources – and as a mechanism for giving signals as to what people actually want to buy they function rather better than GosPlan or similar. Yes bureaucracy does exist in the private sector but it would be otiose to argue that it doesn’t also exist in state planning structures. And I’m not saying that markets always work or don’t produce their idiocies, which is of course where regulation and the state should come into play – perhaps you should remember that PFI was largely as a result of a poor attempt to replace markets rather than using them effectively.

    What you appear to be arguing is that the choice is between GosPlan and laissez faire – when the reality is that there are lots of choices in between.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I see that the media is full of reports about Malala Yousafzai’s “O Level” results – Straight As. The thing with ‘Malala’ as a symbol is that while she is indeed a positive symbol for Afghan and Pakistani girls in the context of that region’s political situation, she has been adopted by the political leaders of the USA/UK et al and those same people/forces have destroyed Iraq, Libya and Syria and continue to support Jihadist paramilitaries in furtherance of strategic ends. Millions of girls (and boys) in Libya and Syria – two countries with previously very high educational attainment rates – now are dead or have no schools to go to, or are slaves, child soldiers, suicide bombers or are being indoctrinated with clerical fascist ideology – and this is a direct result of US/UK/France et al ‘s actions. So the political leaders of our countries are promoting Malala with entirely cynical motives. I would like to read a front page Time magazine story about a Syrian girl who previously would have gone to university but no longer has the chance to get even a primary education – because of American/British/Saudi actions.

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