Monthly archives: March 2016

Corporate Media Circles Wagons Around Tories

I spoke this morning with a Tory MP who has been commendably active on human rights issues in Central Asia, who wanted to speak to me about an article in the Daily Mail. In general conversation, he said Iain Duncan Smith is “disloyal” and the anti-EU Tories are “knuckle draggers”.

The last three UK opinion polls have all shown the Tory lead vanished to well within the margin of error, despite all the pollsters making substantial adjustments to uprate the Tory vote following the pollsters’ general election debacle. This has horrified the Blairites who were gleefully predicting Labour annihilation in English council elections.

There is a huge amount of polling evidence over decades that shows that the perception that a party is divided causes much damage to that party’s popularity rating. Indeed the perception of division or unity is almost as important as what the actual policies are. The spectacular tumbling of popular Tory support in the UK is therefore entirely expected when the Tories are kicking pieces out of each other over Europe and Osbornomics.

The corporate media, including the BBC, of course know this very well. That is why ever since those opinion polls the bitter Tory internal battles have simply stopped being reported. I have no doubt their political correspondents are having conversations like the one I had with an MP this morning, several times every day. Yet when did you last see one reported? Compare this to the regular reporting of every tittle tattle of anonymous Blairite briefing against Corbyn.

Corporate media blanking of the bitter and vicious Tory internal feuding in process at the moment is a stunning act of censorship.

Self-censorship in corporate interests is still censorship.

The kid-glove treatment given the Tories’ divisions compared to other parties is astonishingly stark, especially by the BBC.

[In Scotland the SNP lead remains serenely untroubled]

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Sajid Javid Deliberately Collapsed British Steel

The Conservative show of dashing home to look after the British steel industry is just smoke and mirrors. Savid Javid was fully aware it was being collapsed by subsidised and dumped Chinese imports, but argued that this cheap Chinese steel was beneficial to the UK economy more generally. Arguing against higher EU tariffs on Chinese steel dumping, Javid stated to MPs only six weeks ago

“The responsibility of government is to look at the overall impact on British industry and jobs,” the Business Secretary said.

“If duties get disproportionate it would have an impact in Britain and elsewhere on consumers of steel. Those businesses tell us it will cost jobs and exports if duties got out of control…

“To go further might in the short term look the right way to go to protect industry but you have to remember in Britain there are also companies that consume steel as part of the production process.”

This is pure Thatcherism. On Javid’s instruction, last year the British diplomatic mission to the EU (UKREP Brussels) was lobbying the EU commission against higher punitive tariffs on Chinese steel than the 13% the UK supported – even though the Commission found that dumped Chinese steel had an effective state subsidy of up to 72%. I have this from a British diplomatic source.

So the apparent flurry of activity now is a blind. This is a situation the government was quite happy to see develop. Of course, the effects are in Wales, Scotland and Northern England. There are no steel mills in Tory constituencies.

The banks received state subsidies to the value of £35,000 from every man, woman and child in the UK. Yet it is unquestionable dogma that not even 0.1% of that can be given to aid manufacturing industry. I can think of no legitimate explanation of this duality.

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Falklands Nonsense

Britain shows utter disregard to the right of self determination of the people of Diego Garcia, yet claims it as inalienable for the Falklanders. Evidently it is a vital universal right, except for rather dusky people.

The corporate media have universally demonstrated their inability to understand any complex situation, in reporting the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf’s determination on Argentina. Here is a quick guide to what really was decided.

Every state is entitled to claim a territorial sea of up to 12 miles, which is treated legally as part of the territory of the country. Every country can also claim an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of up to 200 miles. This is an area where the law of the country does not apply except in relation to its exclusive right to the economic exploitation of the mineral and living resources of the sea and seabed.

It is worth mentioning a few caveats. Obviously where there is another country nearby, boundaries are to be determined either bilaterally or by an international court. There is no right to obstruct innocent passage of marine vessels, although traffic lanes and other safety measures are permissible. Finally only inhabited land can generate an exclusive economic zone. Uninhabited rocks and artificial islands are both specifically excluded by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which is why China’s extravagant claims in the South China Sea are rubbish. China is a party to UNCLOS.

But beyond the 200 mile EEZ states may also claim the right to minerals in the seabed within the limits of the continental shelf. This is where there is a natural submerged projection of the same geological structure as the land, which proceeds out more than 200 miles. As this submerged shelf generally was once dry land, there is a chance it contains hydrocarbons. The UK is possibly the biggest beneficiary of the continental shelf margin provision, with its shelf stretching into the Atlantic (mostly Scotland’s shelf, in fact). It was the UK which led the inclusion of this provision for continental shelf beyond 200 miles.

Incidentally the continental shelf provision does not give rights to the fish above it beyond the 200 mile EEZ.

Past the limit of the continental shelf, there is very little chance of hydrocarbons (though some, by seepage). In this area, known as the deep sea bed, licences for mineral exploitation are to be given by an international authority which will also levy taxes to be used for the general good of mankind. For twenty tears American objection to this provision stalled the entry into force of the whole of UNCLOS. I am proud to say that I played a leading role in negotiating the protocol that resolved this dispute, as a member and sometimes Head of the UK Delegation to the negotiations. But minerals from the deep sea bed (of which manganese was viewed as most viable) remain a future prospect.

Obviously, there needs to be international agreement of where continental shelf limits lay and the deep sea regime starts. The large majority of eligible continental shelf states have submitted their claim to the UN for approval. Argentina was simply following absolutely normal procedure in doing this. The determination of the limit of the continental shelf is a geological question decided purely on scientific grounds. The UN committee has stated that Argentina’s continental shelf extends 350 miles (this will not be uniform; there will be a map).

There is no reason at all to question this. Indeed this gives Argentina a very similar shelf to the UK’s (really Scotland’s) in the Atlantic. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the Falklands.

The Falklands are sat on this continental shelf. The UN simply note the continuing dispute between the UK and Argentina over ownership. But the vast majority of Argentina’s continental shelf is unaffected by the Falklands. Even if the Falklands are viewed as a separate state with full maritime rights, it would not affect more than 5% of Argentina’s continental shelf.

In fact, the UN has simply ruled on where the continental shelf lies, and noted that part of its ownership is disputed. The orgy of UN-bashing in the British corporate media is based on the totally false notion that the UN has stated that Argentina owns the shelf around the Falklands. It has not said that.

Personally I find the British hypocrisy over the Falklands nauseating, particularly when contrasted to the deplorable ethnic cleansing of the Chagossians from their islands to make way for the US military base on Diego Garcia, which the British government refuses to reverse. To make a dispute ever more intractable through militaristic jingoism is not responsible behaviour.

On the centenary of the Easter Rising, it is extraordinary that from Thatcher in the Falklands to Blair in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, to Cameron in Libya and Syria, we should be living through such a resurgence in British Imperialism.

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Thoughts for Easter

We are off to spend a chilly but picturesque Easter at Kyle of Lochalsh. I shall be taking a total break from thinking great thoughts until Tuesday. I shall also again wonder why in my youth chocolate Easter eggs easily came apart into two neat halves, whereas nowadays they are fused and have to be smashed.

If you want to hear me on somewhat more serious subjects, this was my conversation early this week with Michael Greenwell on prospects for Independence, the banality of evil and a few other topics.

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Philip Hammond, the World’s Sleaziest Man and the Ultimate Corrupt and Undemocratic British State

Saudi billionaire Sheikh Walid Juffali is a strong contender for most sleazy man in the world.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Young/REX/Shutterstock (525778e) Walid Juffali and Christina Estrada MO*VIDA SOHO CLUB OPENING, LONDON, BRITAIN - 08 JUN 2005

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Young/REX/Shutterstock (525778e)
Walid Juffali and Christina Estrada

His second wife, Christina Estrada, a Pirelli calendar model, is divorcing him because he married (concurrently) a third wife, a Lebanese supermodel. Divorce in the UK is potentially expensive to billionaires. In September 2014 Juffali therefore acquired diplomatic immunity in the UK by becoming – wait for it – the Ambassador of the Caribbean island of St Lucia to the International Maritime Organisation, a UN agency located next to Lambeth Palace.

As Juffali has no connection to St Lucia or to international maritime affairs, the High Court in London ruled that the appointment was a “transparent subterfuge” and that Juffali does not have diplomatic immunity. This incensed Philip Hammond who argued that the courts have no right to question his “actions under the Royal Prerogative”. He added that the High Court

“erred in concluding that it was necessary (or permissible) for the court to ‘look behind’ the Foreign and Commonwealth Office certificate, which confirmed that [Juffali] had been appointed to the post of permanent representative of St. Lucia to the IMO and to consider whether (he) had taken up the post or exercised any functions in connection with it.”

It is absolutely disgusting that in the UK today a medieval claim that a monarch’s servants’ actions are above the courts, is used to defend a self-evidently corrupt and false arrangement on behalf of a member of the coterie of another corrupt medieval monarchy.

But there is a further important question here. Why on earth did the Foreign and Commonwealth Office grant accreditation to this obviously fake diplomat, and was Hammond involved in that decision?

St Lucia has to submit the name of its new Ambassador to the IMO for agreement by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the process known by its French name as “agrement”. I know the process well.

Officials in the FCO would, undoubtedly, have flagged up this appointment as fake and undesirable. I would rate the chance as less than 1% that an appointment which is so self-evidently a subterfuge to gain diplomatic immunity, would have been approved by the FCO without a direct ministerial instruction.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has intervened to support Juffali by submitting to the Court of Appeal a legal opinion that the Court has no right to question Hammond’s decision to grant immunity.

The Court should reply by insisting that the FCO produce the internal documents in which officials discuss Juffali’s fake appointment and put the question to Ministers, and on what grounds Hammond insisted Juffali be accepted. They should call Hammond as a witness to ask what contact there was between him or others and Juffali to discuss the appointment, and what contact with other Saudi royals and authorities on the subject, including by our Embassy in Saudi Arabia.

In facilitating this obvious subterfuge, Hammond has actually committed a crime. The crime is Malfeasance in Public Office.

If the United Kingdom were a democracy, the Court of Appeal would defy Hammond and the police would be investigating him.

I expect neither of those things to happen in Tory Britain.

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Physically, it is easy to be a terrorist. Killing unarmed people is never frightfully difficult. It is impossible physically to stop terrorism. I commented years ago that the theatre of security at airports just created a new target; the people densely packed queueing for security at airports. It will always be simple to kill individuals, and if you wish to kill a lot of people at once, there are just so many places where people are crowded together. Planes, trains, buses and coaches, metros, ferries and the associated boarding places of all of those. Cinemas, theatres, supermarkets, concerts, bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes, shopping malls, public squares. Lectures, meetings, ceilidhs, churches, mosques, schools, workplaces, tourist attractions. Football matches, firework displays, the boat race, racecourses, carnivals, festivals, beaches, fun fairs, amusement arcades. Commemorations, demonstrations, marches. Cabarets, swimming pools, museums, canteens.

It is impossible physically to prevent all determined terrorist attacks without imposing a level of security which would fundamentally change the very experience of being a human being and the very foundations of human society. The uselessness of it was demonstrated fatuously by Tony Blair sending tanks to Heathrow airport.

But if we cannot physically defend against determined terrorists, what can we do?

Well, the most important thing is, don’t panic. Given how easy it is to kill people physically, the important thing is how extremely difficult it is to do it mentally. In fact terrorism is vanishingly rare. It is so rare there has only been one person killed by terrorists in the mainland United Kingdom in the last decade.

An event like that in Brussels today horrifies and terrifies. But remember, that the same number of people murdered today are killed in Belgium less than every three weeks in traffic accidents, and have been killed at that rate or greater in traffic accidents for over four decades. Over 700 people a year die in traffic accidents in Belgium; twenty times more than have just been killed by terrorists. Of course, the terrorist incident is a big single death toll and more stark because it is a deliberate act of evil. But if you’ve just been mown down by a car, that also is not pretty and you are just as dead.

So panic must be avoided. There is no sense in which the tiny threat of terrorism is a genuine threat to western civilisation – unless we grossly overreact. Old fashioned intelligence work is the best way to counter active intelligence cells. This would be much more effective if it were targeted. The pool of intelligence is far too contaminated with tens of millions of intercepts of harmless people from mass surveillance, and all kinds of dross intelligence fed to us from torture chambers around the world.

Western policy in the Middle East in the last decade has been a grotesque failure by any possible measure. If western states simply stopped inflicting violence and death abroad themselves, it would do much to end the cycle. People are less likely to turn terrorist if they feel they have a worthwhile role in society and something more to live for. It is a truism that alienation of young Muslim men from the societies they live in has motivated several terrorists. That same alienation affects young non-Muslims too, as a generation faces crippling debt, unfulfilling, unprotected and low paid work and an unconsidered life in a society skewed to support the extravagant lifestyles of a tiny minority of the ultra-wealthy. I fear that if society continues the way we are going, political violence of a nihilistic nature will become a more common reaction.

Any response that tries simply to increase physical security and surveillance will entirely miss the point.

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Illustrator/Cartographer Wanted

I need two or three maps drawn to illustrate my life of Alexander Burnes – you know those little maps with hand drawn symbols for mountains, desert, cities etc and dotted lines showing journeys. Obviously it requires reasonable geographic accuracy as well as clarity and, hopefully, beauty. I frequently find that the remarkably accomplished readership of this blog can help in all kinds of extraordinary ways. If you can help please use the contact button at the top.

I am afraid I am not able to offer full commercial pay. I have funded all of the research myself and not received any grant or even advance, so funds are very short. Ideally I would prefer the maps to be hand drawn rather than created with software.

The target for publication is August, though obviously the maps will be needed quite quickly. Having lived with Alexander Burnes for nine years, it seems very strange that there is little for me to do now other than correct proofs. I rather miss him.

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Stephen Crabb’s Alf Garnett Credentials

New Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb is being bigged up by the corporate media – including the Mail, Guardian, Times and Telegraph – as a future Tory leader because, we are told, he is in touch with working class culture. That is true only if you identify working class culture with Alf Garnett.

Crabb is in fact an extreme religious nutter and an anti-gay bigot who has consistently voted against gay marriage and against gay adoption. That is hardly surprising because Crabb entered politics as an intern provided by a fringe evangelical group called CARE – Christian Action Research Education. Despite ghosting around the extreme fringes of British religious life, CARE manages to exercise an entirely disproportionate influence on British politics by providing shiny eyed fanatics free to MPs as interns. Crabb was one such intern, and after becoming an MP himself took CARE interns into his office.

In 2010 CARE organised a London conference called “Sex and the City: Redeeming Sex Today” which focused on the need to “cure” homosexuality. Warning this links to offensive material. Keynote speaker was a religious quack named Joseph Nicolosi. I shall let his own website speak for him.

Crabb’s appointment is a wake-up call to anyone who believes that the kind of influence the religious right exercises in the United States cannot be echoed here. Following Duncan Smith’s admission that the British government supports only sectional interest, the emergence of a figure like Crabb from the nutty evangelical fringes is a major worry.

I did of course last month provide photograph evidence that some evangelical Christians may be having subliminal thoughts about sexuality 🙂


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Nick Cohen’s Hate Speech

Nick Cohen is paid a great deal of money for publishing hate speech, and he has just published his most hate-ridden piece yet. It is hate-ridden because it is about the question of Israel, without including one single word of concern for the plight of the Palestinians or one single mention of Israeli occupations, land grabs, shootings and bombings. Cohen shows massive concern for British Jews whose collective feelings he claims were terribly hurt by the election of Jeremy Corbyn. [No, honestly, he really does say that, read his article.] He shows no concern whatsoever for the Palestinian children who get shot or beaten by occupying Israeli forces every single week.

Cohen is hate-filled also in what he says about Stephen Sizer, the Anglican cleric who campaigns for the rights of Palestinians.

Cohen describes Stephen as “an Anglican cleric who linked to extremist sites that blamed Jews for 9/11, and his defence of an Islamist who recycled the libel that Jews dined on the blood of Christian children from the bottom of a medieval dung heap.”

But as Cohen in fact knows extremely well, the Islamic cleric in question, Raed Saleh, consistently denied saying anything of the kind, and a British court determined that he should not be banned from the UK. This was rather a campaign against Saleh by one of Cohen’s fellow pro-Israeli propagandists.

For Cohen to continue the campaign against Saleh is hate speech. It is deliberate Islamophobia. It is astonishing that he is allowed to do this in corporate media.

The other point he makes against Stephen Sizer is also a deliberate misrepresentation. Cohen says Sizer “linked to extremist sites that blamed Jews for 9/11”. Cohen knows that the article to which Sizer linked was perfectly respectable. Elsewhere on that website there was indeed objectionable material which Sizer had not seen. It is a mistake which every blogger has made, including me, and Stephen has apologised for it.

I know Stephen Sizer and travelled to Baghdad with him a couple of years ago. Stephen does not have a racist bone in his body and for Cohen to claim otherwise is absolutely disgusting hate speech.

Note that Cohen does not name Sizer and Saleh. He calls them an “Anglican cleric” and an “islamist”. This is because Cohen is not only a liar, he is a coward. If he named them he could be sued for libel.

Personally I do not believe Israel should exist. I do not want a two state solution. I see Israel pursuing the same policies as apartheid South Africa, only with more violence, and I view the “two state solution” as a repeat of the Bantustan policy. I wish to see a single state in Palestine where all who currently live there are welcome and all are equal, whatever their religion or race, in a single democratic and secular state.

Nick Cohen will tell you that is anti-Semitism. But then Nick Cohen hates me. He hates anybody who speaks the truth about Israel.

This post was updated more accurately to reflect the tribunal ruling

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Duncan Smith and the Disabled

I am prepared to believe that even Iain Duncan Smith has been genuinely sickened by the attack on the disabled in the budget to give yet more tax breaks for higher earners. He is very typical of the officer class of the senior British regiments and while he is instinctively right wing, there is a linit to the amount of suffering he could see unleashed on the poor, because he does have some sense of basic decency. I grant you things had to go very far before it finally took effect, but it has. It should also be remembered that he is not an old Etonian but a real Scot, born in Edinburgh, and state educated.

When Osborne and Cameron are pushing the attacks on the most in need, and the tax benefits to the rich, to the point that Iain Duncan Smith can no longer stand it, you really have to wonder what has happened to our country. What you have to wonder in particular is why we have a corporate media, including the BBC, so far to the right that it is even to the right of Iain Duncan Smith in the way that it has presented and commented on the Budget.

That is why the corporate media is trying to obscure the issue by claiming Duncan Smith’s resignation is secretly about Europe. This is nonsense because Duncan Smith could have gained far more publicity for anti-European views by openly resigning over them and setting them out. Duncan Smith would have gained infinitely more popularity in the Connservative Party for resigning over Europe than for trying to protect disable people. And certainly there would have been infinitely more support in the corporate media for resigning over Europe; the corporate media cares about the disabled not a fig.

I believe Iain Duncan Smith; and his resignation shows how terribly, terribly far to the right the Tories have moved this government.

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Dictator Bling

Formula 1 is gearing up for a new season. I confess it is one of the very few sports I do not enjoy watching. It seems in so many ways to epitomise the worst excesses of consumption and be associated with the most tasteless displays of wealth and empty-headed celebrity culture. It is just sleazy.

I suppose it is not therefore surprising that possession of a Formula 1 Grand Prix has become de rigeur for every dictator who wants to be socially accepted among the other superyachts. Formula 1 started a new Grand Prix in Bahrain a couple of years ago, where the majority population suffers dreadful suppression, torture and population. This includes the torture of sportsmen, so that even a body as corrupt as FIFA drew the line at the possibility of a Bahraini Prince as President.

In a desperate attempt to find a way to reach still lower, Formula 1 is this year adding the harsh dictatorship of Azerbaijan to its schedule. Azerbaijan has an appalling human rights record and beyond doubt it is getting worse every year. Furthermore, like many economies based almost entirely on oil wealth, it is feeling the pinch at the moment and the consequences of budget cutbacks are falling entirely on the ordinary people, while the lifestyles of their super-rich rulers are immune.

President Aliev has wasted billions on “prestige” projects. Hosting the Eurovision song contest, the European Games and now a Formula 1 Grand Prix. But ordinary people are struggling to get by on incomes which were already at third world standards and whose value has fallen still further with the collapse of the manat. None of which matters to the empty-headed bling merchants of Formula 1.

We should not seek to prevent Formula 1 going to the dictators. We should rather ban it from the democracies.

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Corruption Smells Like Burning Human Flesh

What does the stink of corruption smell like? In Scotland, it smells like burning human flesh.

How close would you like to live to a crematorium? Serious question, and I would ask you to kindly pause for a moment to consider the answer before you read any further. How close would you like your flat or house to be to a crematorium?

In Scotland, the current legal limit is two hundred yards. Most people think that is about right. We know that, because the Scottish Government held a public consultation on this issue and the large majority of respondents replied that 200 yards was about right. Which makes it rather strange that this week the Scottish Parliament will finally pass into law an act reducing the distance to nil. Yes, nil.

I want to make this very plain. It just does not mean that new homes can be built close to crematoria. It means that somebody can build a crematorium right next to existing homes.

The Bill has been working through the committee stages at Holyrood, and at every stage the committee strikes out the abolition of the distance between crematoria and homes. A the next stage the Scottish government simply puts it back. This week the Bill will finally be passed, with the SNP using its majority to override everybody else and insist crematoria should be built right next to homes.

Why? The truth is, Scotland does not have a massive population or a shortage of land – there are plenty of places away from homes where crematoria could be built.

Here lies the extremely ugly truth. Crematoria are profitable private businesses. Private business interests have been investing in new crematoria – through sticking the furnaces into existing buildings – for the last three years, under ministerial assurances that the bill will be passed. There is one in Haddington only thirty yards from homes, and with its exhaust chimneys actually below the level of people’s windows. Planning permission was given on the absolutely extraordinary grounds that the present law does not forbid the construction of crematoria close to homes, only the carrying out of cremations. So they can be built waiting for the developers’ ministerial pals to ram the law through Parliament.

Here is the nub. In what kind of banana republic are businessmen able to spend millions in preparation to carry out an illegal activity, safe in the knowledge that their ministerial chums will change the law for them? What does that say about our democracy and the functioning of Holyrood? What incentive do those ministers have to approve a policy so irrational and unpopular as this one, and keep ramming it through against the opposition of public consultation and the relevant parliamentary committees?

As we move forwards to independence, we are fools if we do not face one fact. Just being independent, or even just throwing off the Labour Party, does not rid us of the culture of corruption which we all know has bedevilled Scottish urban politics for decades. This all seems to me just like witnessing the handling of contracts by Dundee Council in the 1970s.

Sadly, Scotland does not have investigative journalists, only unionist stenographers, which is why you have not heard of this. The government will reply that modern technology makes crematoria emissions safe and clean. I do not care. It is an activity which ought to be secluded, for the dignity of both mourners and local residents. People do not want particles of someone else entering their homes and nostrils, no matter how microscopic or sterile. The Scottish Government’s behaviour in this matter is atrocious.

You simply cannot get more neo-con than the de-regulation of death itself for private profit. There could be no more stark example of the SNP acting against everything it is supposed to stand for. How ministers can do something so shameful, while acting in a manner so arrogant, is quite beyond me. I can think of only one possible reason, and it is not pretty.

At least after Independence we will only have corrupt Holyrood politicians to jail and not Westminster ministers too.

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BBC Moves The Goalposts Again

The BBC have finally dredged a party line to reply to the outcry about the extraordinarily unrepresentative audience for BBC Question Time from Dundee, which included two ex Labour candidates granted questions and an astonishing number of English accents. The BBC’s extraordinary defence is that the selection was predicated on finding a 50-50 balance of remain and leave voters because of the EU referendum.

The BBC reply reads

“Thank you for contacting us about Question Time held in Dundee on 10th March 2016.

We gather some viewers were concerned that the audience was not representative of Dundee and that therefore the discussion was biased.

The programme, as with all editions of Question Time, was open to people from surrounding areas as well as those living in the city where it took place. We do aim for a wide variety of views on different subjects to be heard on Question Time. The audience included SNP, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats, Greens, UKIP and Scottish Socialist Party voters, reflecting political opinion across Scotland. On the question of the EU referendum the audience was balanced with equal numbers of ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ supporters and a fewer number of undecided people. The BBC is obliged to cover the debate around Europe in a balanced and impartial way at this time.

There was plenty of applause for all sides in the debate. Whoever speaks from the Question Time audience is down to the dynamic on the night; who puts their hands up, who claps loudest and so on.

This means that though the audience was balanced; viewers may have felt that those asking questions represented the view of the complete audience. This is not the case, but we appreciate you contacting us with your concern in this matter. ”

The only problem with this explanation is that it is totally different from the approach taken to the Independence referendum debates. There the broadcasters flatly refused to have a 50/50 audience and instead chose the audience according to how Scotland voted at the 2010 Westminster Election. That meant only 19.9% were SNP supporters and audiences were overwhelmingly unionist. Yet the next referendum comes along, and there is a completely different criterion for studio audience selection.

Of course we all know why the BBC does not wish to be consistent and now select by 2015 Westminster election vote… The tendentiousness of the BBC is unlimited.

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Is GCHQ Embedded in Wikipedia?

Once upon a time, being a leader writer for the Times implied Jupiter like vision and magisterial judgement, thundering out opinions that changed events across the globe. Astonishing that now it is done by the empty, bombastic Murdoch lickspittle Oliver Kamm.

On 7 February I published an article calling out Kamm for publishing a blatant and deliberate lie about me. The very next day, 8 February, my Wikipedia page came under obsessive attack from somebody called Philip Cross who made an astonishing 107 changes over the course of the next three days. Many were very minor, but the overall effect was undoubtedly derogatory. He even removed my photo on the extraordinary grounds that it was “not typical” of me. Edits to Wikipedia articles can be seen by clicking the “view history” tab top right. Here is just a sample of the record of “Philip Cross'” obsession with me.

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I don’t look at my own Wikipedia page, but was told about it yesterday. I therefore googled Philip Cross and was amazed to discover that he is allegedly an alias for Oliver Kamm attacking people online. Furthermore that Kamm has employed lawyers to threaten those who claim that he is Philip Cross, and by Kamm’s own account the Metropolitan Police have even warned off Neil Clark from saying Kamm is Cross. The Kamm/Cross affair was discussed on George Galloway’s show on Saturday. It starts 12mins 30s in.

It could of course be an extraordinary coincidence that Philip Cross, who has been named as Oliver Kamm, launched this massive attack on my Wikipedia entry the day after I outed Kamm as a liar on this blog.

But here is another extraordinary coincidence for you. On 6 August 2015 Philip Cross had launched an initial edit attack on my Wikipedia entry, with only about two dozen edits. What was my last blog post before that attack? The revelation that Murdoch lackeys at the Times had tens of thousands of fake twitter followers purchased for them. I have only criticised Murdoch’s Times operation twice in two years, and each one has been followed immediately by attacks on my Wikipedia entry from Philip Cross. I wonder if Mr Kamm’s lawyers would care to explain this?

I am not alone by any means. The magnificent Stephen Sizer has suffered fearful attacks for his stalwart stand against the oppression of Palestinians, at great risk to his livelihood in the new neo-con Welby Church of England. Sizer has been a constant target for Oliver Kamm. On 22 August 2015 Oliver Kamm published an attack on Stephen Sizer in the Jewish Chronicle describing him as “an insanitary crackpot.” Of course, something published in the Jewish Chronicle on 22 August will have been written a couple of days earlier – around 20 August 2015. On 20 August 2015 we find that “Philip Cross” made six edits to Stephen Sizer’s Wikipedia page. These coincidences really do build up, don’t they?

And just in case you are not convinced, in early February 2015 Kamm was launching a series of twitter insults at Stephen Sizer, including Kamm’s remarkable claim that Veterans Today – for which several of my ex-CIA friends write – is an “anti-Semitic website”.

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And lo and behold! Up pops “Philip Cross” on 9 February 2015 making 32 more edits on Sizer’s Wikipedia page.

Now I really do not care whether or not “Philip Cross” is actually Oliver Kamm or whether he is just Oliver Kamm’s bitch. For Oliver Kamm’s lawyers, my address is 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. I should love to see Kamm explain all this in court.

Kamm has for years exhibited an absolute obsession with attacking John Pilger, the great Australian journalist. Just google “Oliver Kamm John Pilger” to see. And who has hundreds of edits on Jon Pilger’s Wikipedia page? Philip Cross. Cross has apparently his own twitter account. Here it is obvious that he shares Kamm’s precise views. Zionism, and accusing pro-Palestinians of anti-Semitism, is the single most dominant element along with attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, Julian Assange and Kamm’s other targets. Cross retweets the Jewish Chronicle, for which Kamm is a columnist, and notably Joan Smith, leading anti-Assange campaigner and former partner of convicted expenses fiddler and Israeli lobbyist Dennis McShane.

I genuinely had no idea that Kamm had an established reputation for years for weird internet trolling. For example he published readers’ reviews on Amazon of 19 of Noam Chomsky’s books, giving every one of them one star. That link is very well worth reading, incidentally. Did you know that Kamm has written that the invasion of Iraq was “the most far-sighted and noble act of British foreign policy since the founding of NATO”?

There are some very serious points to all of this. It is not just personal flim-flam. The first serious point is that it really is the most appalling comment on what Murdoch has done to the Times, that its leader-writer should be such a low creature as Kamm. A man who has not only written that the Iraq invasion was “great”, that Noam Chomsky is an “idiot” and that John Pilger is a “fraud”, but who genuinely appears to hold those views.

The second is a very serious point indeed about Wikipedia. “Philip Cross” is not just anybody who can, like you and me, make edits on Wikipedia. he is a senior editor with special administrative privileges. He uses this access on a continued basis to repeatedly and in enormous detail denigrate any individuals who hold anti-establishment views. Equally sinister, he bigs up and protects the reputation of those who promote the corporate media agenda. “Philip Cross” has not just edited, but according to Wikipedia “predominantly written” the hagiographic entries of

James Harding, Former Editor of the Times, now Head of BBC News
Katherine Viner, Editor of the Guardian
Paul Dacre, Editor of the Daily Mail
Amol Rajan, Editor of the Independent
and numerous other corporate media journalists.

Philip Cross may be Oliver Kamm. Or he may be someone who shares his views closely and echoes them in a synchronised way. Or he may be an identity which cloaks the activities of a group of people. But it is absolutely plain that “Philip Cross” is used systematically to attack the Wikipedia entries of prominent anti-establishment figures, and simultaneously to bolster the image of the corporate media. The purpose of “Philip Cross” is to ensure that an anti-establishment narrative does not take hold on Wikipedia.

The burning question is this. “Philip Cross'” activities and purpose are blindingly obvious. Actions such as the hundred edits to my page and removal of my photo, or the continued war on John Piger’s entry, are completely unjustifiable. Why then does Wikipedia continue to tolerate “Philip Cross” and grant him administrator privileges?

Oliver Kamm briefly held an internet admin account in his won name. It is particularly noteworthy that Kamm was contacted by email on 28 June 2007 at 17.25 in this guise by “slim virgin”, another Wikipedia admin account that has been widely reported to be a security services front. It ostensibly belongs to Canadian Oxbridge graduate Linda Mack, but impossibly high levels of activity (including once editing straight for 26 hours) have led many to conclude that Slim Virgin is a team – she averaged 100 articles a day, seven days a week, for a year! Linda Mack was believed by ABC News to have been acting on behalf of MI5 in monitoring their Lockerbie investigation while working for their London bureau. The admin page on which “slim virgin” contacted Oliver Kamm is specifically about his attacks on Neil Clark, which is where we came in.

There are just far too many coincidences and linkages for any reasonable person to conclude that nothing murky is happening on Wikipedia. We know for certain from the Snowden revelations that the government does carry out internet operations to promote its narrative and to degrade the image and reach of known opponents on the web. I know from personal professional experience that the security services work with trusties in the media. We have plainly uncovered something at the edge of one of these operations here.

UPDATE I have received twitter messages from “Philip Cross” that he is a person, not part of GCHQ, and that his activity on Wikipedia is often sparked by things he has read, including by Oliver Kamm. He also points out that I had blogged that I did not like my photo on Wikipedia (this is true). He states that Oliver Kamm’s influence on his Wikipedia activity is “not as great as it seems”. I have replied to “Philip Cross” asking if he knows Oliver Kamm, and why Kamm has any influence at all on his Wikpedia activity. I shall keep you posted.

FURTHER UPDATE “Philip Cross” has now replied that “occasionally, it is one of OK’s tweets that reminds me. There is no conspiracy here and I am not a paid editor.” No reply to if he knows Oliver Kamm.

Hat-Tips to Node, Clark and Squonk

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On Disappearing People

If you thought things had much changed under Obama, think again. There has been much publicity for the news that US forces have captured an alleged ISIS chemical weapons expert, Suleiman al-Afari. There was considerably less publicity for the news that he is being held in yet another new US black prison detention site. It is situated on the territory of the USA’s Kurdish allies in Irbil, Iraq, but was constructed and is run entirely by the US military. Many detainees have vanished into its gates. Very few, if any, have come out again.

Yet again the US is simply disappearing people into secret prisons on foreign soil. Obama has in effect maintained the Bush doctrine that “enemy combatants” are neither alleged criminals nor soldiers. They do not get the rights of alleged criminals to decent treatment and a fair trial, nor do they get the Geneva Convention rights of soldiers captured during a war. They are non-persons who can simply be pitched into a black hole.

Even if they actually are terrorists, that does not leave them devoid of rights. I would also argue that to treat terrorists other than as common criminals, deserving of formal criminal process, contributes to their glorification and gives them a status they do not deserve. But formal process is essential because we know for certain that they often pick up people who are entirely innocent.

I leave aside the argument that it is the United States which caused the collapse of Iraq and it is with Blair and Bush that the guilt ultimately lies. But I leave it aside with the comment that it is an argument deserving of much weight.

I never quite made up my mind whether Obama was a decent man who was corrupted/bullied into adopting the neo-con agenda, or whether he was a play-acting sociopath all along. I do know that Clinton is a hardened warmonger who positively relishes the notion of “enemies” being killed. She is just a sociopath; she doesn’t bother much with the acting.

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On Being Far Left

I have found myself described as far left, quite often recently. I find this rather puzzling. I would not even describe myself as a socialist. Economically, I wish to see much greater worker share ownership, limitations on extreme pay differentials between management and staff, and strong regulation of casino banking with a far smaller, taxed and regulated derivatives market. I support state ownership of natural monopolies, such as rail, roads, and public utilities. I support state welfare provision and excellent state health and education services. But that is as far as it goes. I do not advocate central planning and in general prefer to keep the state out of commercial activity – which is why I support the EU so strongly in removing barriers to the mobility of all factors of production. I am not a socialist.

This blog is read by many people who have known me since university, some even earlier. I think I am right in saying that my beliefs have not changed in any fundamental way over 40 years. What I outline above was what I believed in 1976. I stand open to confirmation or correction.

Yet in 1976 I was a Liberal, and politically centre or only slightly left of centre. My views were absolutely mainstream and were voiced in mainstream media every day.

While standing still, I now find myself far left as the mainstream political spectrum rushed rightwards past me.

Is this because the Thatcherite revolution, carried on so enthusiastically by Blair and New Labour, proved wildly successful? Is it because deregulation and privatisation has brought prosperity, harmony and an inarguably better society?

No, not at all. The new right wing consensus has been a disaster. It led directly to the great crash of 2008 and the resulting austerity, which will dog us for another two decades at this rate. It led to massive, astonishing inequality of wealth and a society in which it is considered normal for top executives of an organisation to be paid 100 times more than the lowest employee. It led to hedge fund managers owning our politicians, and to Russian mafia owning our football clubs. It led to a world where Save the Children can pay its chief executive £375,000 a year of donation money yet nobody pukes. It led to collapse in manufacturing and to vast areas of blight and hopelessness, to a generation who will never afford a house while buy to let multi millionaires abound, to QE transferring yet more money straight to financial institutions.

The great right wing experiment has been a disaster for the country. Outwith the economic field, we have seen a massive attack on civil liberties, the growth of the 100% surveillance state, and end of respect for international law including the invasion of Iraq and the programme of torture and extraordinary rendition.

Yet although the disastrous failure of Britain’s forty year far right experiment is evident all around us, public opinion continued to move inexorably ever more to the right. It did so because the sheer propaganda power of the corporate media, led by the BBC, pushed it in that direction and had the power to do so. Dissident voices were excluded from the airwaves. The positions I agree with and which I heard regularly on the airwaves forty years ago no longer get airtime, even where they retain majority public support, such as nationalisation of the railways.

Some of my views have become more radical, and they relate to the need to break up the institutions of the right wing state. I believed in Scottish independence forty years ago, but it is much more central to my thinking now. Forty years ago I would have been shocked by the idea that the BBC should be utterly destroyed, but now that seems to me the only sensible approach.

I am not without hope. There is no doubt that the Sanders/SNP/Corbyn phenomenon represents a reaction to the dreadful inequality of society and all the evils which I have described. But I would also argue that this reaction has only been practical because of the new maturity of social media, weakening the grip of corporate media on the popular field of debate and the popular imagination.

Perhaps then, without moving, I became revolutionary just in time.

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Why Immigration Concern Is Racist

Since 1979 UK governments have deliberately and systematically pursued policies which prioritised the speculative financial industries of London and damaged large scale manufacturing. The apotheosis of this policy was the massive transfer of money from everybody in the land to the bankers in 2008 by Gordon Brown.

There are two major results of this forty year policy. The first is that the deliberately engineered manufacturing decline has caused social and economic devastation in the UK outside South East England. The second has been an astonishing accumulation of wealth in a tiny number of hands as income inequality levels have risen to the highest disparity in all of human history, wealth centred in South East England.

This has naturally led to rising discontent among many people in many areas, despite the concentrated use of mass communication media under elite control to spread narratives to contain or divert discontent. But as unrest has continued to threaten control, a particular diversionary narrative has become dominant.

In truth, the cause of mass poverty amidst great wealth is the existence of state structures which direct economic activity to the exclusive benefit of a tiny elite of the ultra-rich. But rather than the ultra-rich who control the state structures, ordinary people are encouraged to blame their own lack of access to resources on immigrants. A false narrative is created whereby the cause of poverty is not the billions and billions monopolised by the ultra-rich, but rather that poor foreigner over there.

This is an argument of stunning intellectual paucity. It depends on a totally false narrative of an economy as a thing of fixed size. In fact, immigration is a massive driver of economic growth. If immigration really made countries poorer, then the United States would be the poorest country in the world and Germany the second poorest. That is plainly untrue. Immigration is not the cause of poverty, quite the reverse. It is only the benefit of millions of energetic new migrants that has prevented deflation in the UK these last few years.

Yet, despite being obvious nonsense, the argument sticks. The ultra-rich succeed in diverting the anger of society at inequality of resources, away from themselves and onto that poor foreigner over there.

And why does this obvious nonsense work? Because it appeals to a deep-rooted, basic, instinct of atavism. Because it appeals to a xenophobia that transcends logic and intelligence. Because it is a simple appeal to racism.

Concern about immigration is racism. A racism deliberately whipped up to divert people from their real enemies.

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Outrageous to Criticise Pharisees, Says Archbishop

The Archbishop of Enterprise Oil, Justin Welby, has explained that it is outrageous to criticise Pharisees who have a natural concern to maintain a very sensitive religious hierarchy. We also need to listen and pay due respect to the view of money-changers who would suffer severe dislocation if arrangements for conducting their legitimate business were to be subject to any violent disruption. It is, he added, perfectly natural and must not be condemned for decent people to be concerned to halt any possible influx of bloody foreigners.

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