Monthly Archives: July 2017


High Court Judges Defy Reason to Protect Tony Blair

There were a number of errors (by me) in this original posting and therefore I have decided to remove it now I have seen the judgement itself. That these errors were in large part caused by erroneous mainstream media reports is a fact, but not an excuse for my being so outraged I rushed in without checking.

In fact, the judgement does accept there is a longstanding crime of waging aggressive war as part of international law, and does not (contrary to the Guardian’s report) argue at all that the international law only came into existence recently.

It argues however that international law is only captured in UK Law when this is done specifically through an Act of Parliament. Indeed the judgement goes so far as to state:

“the clear principle that it is for Parliament to make such conduct criminal under domestic law. Parliament deliberately chose not to do so.”

This surely is problematic. The judgement states that the UK, deliberately, does not follow international law in its domestic law. So the UK is an institutionalised rogue state. Its internal arrangements allow its rulers, its armed forces and other actors to commit international crimes and flout international law with no fear of domestic repercussion as a matter of conscious choice.

It would not be beyond the wit of man to draft domestic legislation making it a crime for those acting in service of the British state to breach international law; it would not be necessary to have separate legislation enacting each piece of international law individually. Separate legislation is however possible and often done – when in the FCO I was often concerned with the enactment of treaty or other international obligations into domestic law, which is generally by secondary legislation.

When Sir Michael Wood, the FCO’s chief legal adviser, told Jack Straw it would be illegal to invade Iraq, Straw replied that there was no court that could try the case. The full significance of that did not really strike me until today. It is no accident; the UK is deliberately set up to be psychopathic entity, its elite breaking international law at will, with no fear of retribution.

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Dr Who

I just had to sit through a whole bloody tennis match to find out about the new Dr Who.

I remember watching the first transformation, from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton, with my sister when I was 8. The transformation itself was the most technically amazing thing then seen on TV, and I remember distinctly our deciding we liked Troughton a lot more, with his cheery trews and little flute. People forget that Hartnell’s Dr Who was himself part of what was scarey about the original series, a rather more alien character than subsequent doctors.

Anyway there are probably few people alive who have watched more Dr Who than I have over 50 years. (There, that’s an unexpected confession about my private life). And I cannot see any problem at all with a female appearing doctor. It is an alien life form, for goodness sake. If it can travel through time, regenerate and always speak English despite being from Gallifrey, it can appear in different humanoid sexual roles.

What Dr Who requires is an excellent character actor, full stop. And the series has been astonishingly, if not uniformly, well served.

But there will only ever be one Tom Baker.

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Mosul – Worse than Srebrenica

Here in South Eastern Turkey I have been watching a great deal of news coverage, on a satellite system showing news channels of many regional countries, of the major massacre of Sunni Muslims in Mosul which is taking place as you read this. The video of a couple of people being thrown off a cliff is something I wish I had not watched; it is on the Independent website here. Human Rights Watch have confirmed the location in Mosul. This video had become so viral on social media that some Western mainstream media felt obliged to note its existence. But I have been watching, on other national channels, TV images still more disturbing. These include images of mass shootings. Most chilling of all have been much less graphically violent pictures, of shambling columns of men –and boys – being marched off. It is fairly plain that these are residents of Mosul rather than ISIL fighters. The images reminded me forcefully of Srebrenica.

Whether the number killed in cold blood will exceed the horror of Srebrenica only time will tell. It is currently too hard, without being there, to discern the truth from the propaganda on all sides. But there is one way in which, morally, this is a much worse outrage for any British citizen than Srebrenica. The Shia troops carrying out the massacre only were able to conquer the Sunni city of Mosul because the British and Americans had not only armed and financed them, but British and American forces were actively fighting alongside them. It is not possible to shrug off the moral responsibility for the massacre we have actively launched.

In Srebrenica the cowardice and bureaucratic blinkers of a group of Dutch officers were shameful. But Mosul is the equivalent of the Dutch having fought alongside the attackers then pretended not to notice anything at all was happening.

There is also another great difference in western culpability. In the Balkan Wars the Serbs were the “enemy” of the West – NATO even bombed them – so justified mainstream media outrage was screamed at us. In Mosul, those perpetrating the massacre are on “our side”, so you will never hear much of it. The deliberate conflation of Sunni tribesmen defending their homes against their traditional enemy, with the separate forces of ISIS, aids this lie.

The greater irony is of course that in Syria the UK and US forces are operating on the opposite side of the same conflict. There the Sunni jihadists, with precisely the same ideology and the same financing as ISIL and before Mosul was cut off sometimes the same physical people, are our allies. There is no distinction of the remotest importance in beliefs, funding or operational methods between the jihadists who were controlling Mosul and those who were controlling Eastern Aleppo.

Yet, despite the glaringly obvious intellectual paucity of the position, the devastation of Mosul by western backed forces was described as a “liberation”, whereas the precisely analogous devastation of Eastern Aleppo by Syrian government forces was described as a… “devastation”.

Still more astonishing, the Western media in co-ordinated fashion played up fears of a massacre in Eastern Aleppo, whereas in fact no massacre took place. In the event, so concerned were the Syrian government (of which I do not generally approve) to refute allegations of intended massacre, they allowed many of the actual jihadists to bus out to Raqqa, where they are fighting again today.

Whereas whilst an actual massacre does take place in Mosul, the Western mainstream media has fallen almost completely silent.

The other interesting silence is from Saudi Arabia, which poses as the defender of Sunni Islam throughout the world, but actually has no interest at all in it, except as a tool for promoting the much more worldly interests of the Saudi elite. It was Saudi fury at the US effectively handing Iraq to Iranian control through its majority Shia population, that caused the USA to change policy to back the Saudi inspired and financed Sunni proxy war throughout the rest of the Arabian peninsula, and especially in Syria. The USA turned a blind eye to the Saudi military invasion of Bahrain to crush its majority Shia uprising, and actively facilitated the devastating aerial attacks on Shia civilian populations in the Yemen. The Saudis have found their grievance over Iraq to be useful leverage on the US.

For the Saudi elite, the money they pumped into ISIS in Iraq was a trifle; Mosul ISIL were pawns to be sacrificed and the Sunni civilian population of Mosul is no more important to them. By the combination of funding the spread of Wahhabi ideology and providing unlimited arms and organisational financing, the Saudis can pop up another Al Qaida, Al Nusra or ISIL more or less anywhere, any time it seems useful. Meantime they are focused on cementing their burgeoning axis of Saudi Arabia/Israel/USA to continue the violent promotion of Saudi regional ambition.

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The Stink Without a Secret

After six solid months of co-ordinated allegation from the mainstream media allied to the leadership of state security institutions, not one single scrap of solid evidence for Trump/Russia election hacking has emerged.

I do not support Donald Trump. I do support truth. There is much about Trump that I dislike intensely. Neither do I support the neo-liberal political establishment in the USA. The latter’s control of the mainstream media, and cunning manipulation of identity politics, seeks to portray the neo-liberal establishment as the heroes of decent values against Trump. Sadly, the idea that the neo-liberal establishment embodies decent values is completely untrue.

Truth disappeared so long ago in this witch-hunt that it is no longer even possible to define what the accusation is. Belief in “Russian hacking” of the US election has been elevated to a generic accusation of undefined wrongdoing, a vague malaise we are told is floating poisonously in the ether, but we are not allowed to analyse. What did the Russians actually do?

The original, base accusation is that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC and Podesta emails and passed them to Wikileaks. (I can assure you that is untrue).

The authenticity of those emails is not in question. What they revealed of cheating by the Democratic establishment in biasing the primaries against Bernie Sanders, led to the forced resignation of Debbie Wasserman Shultz as chair of the Democratic National Committee. They also led to the resignation from CNN of Donna Brazile, who had passed debate questions in advance to Clinton. Those are facts. They actually happened. Let us hold on to those facts, as we surf through lies. There was other nasty Clinton Foundation and cash for access stuff in the emails, but we do not even need to go there for the purpose of this argument.

The original “Russian hacking” allegation was that it was the Russians who nefariously obtained these damning emails and passed them to Wikileaks. The “evidence” for this was twofold. A report from private cyber security firm Crowdstrike claimed that metadata showed that the hackers had left behind clues, including the name of the founder of the Soviet security services. The second piece of evidence was that a blogger named Guccifer2 and a websitecalled DNC Leaks appeared to have access to some of the material around the same time that Wikileaks did, and that Guccifer2 could be Russian.

That is it. To this day, that is the sum total of actual “evidence” of Russian hacking. I won’t say hang on to it as a fact, because it contains no relevant fact. But at least it is some form of definable allegation of something happening, rather than “Russian hacking” being a simple article of faith like the Holy Trinity.

But there are a number of problems that prevent this being fact at all. Nobody has ever been able to refute the evidence of Bill Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA who designed its current surveillance systems. Bill has stated that the capability of the NSA is such, that if the DNC computers had been hacked, the NSA would be able to trace the actual packets of that information as those emails travelled over the internet, and give a precise time, to the second, for the hack. The NSA simply do not have the event – because there wasn’t one. I know Bill personally and am quite certain of his integrity.

As we have been repeatedly told, “17 intelligence agencies” sign up to the “Russian hacking”, yet all these king’s horses and all these king’s men have been unable to produce any evidence whatsoever of the purported “hack”. Largely because they are not in fact trying. Here is another actual fact I wish you to hang on to: The Democrats have refused the intelligence agencies access to their servers to discover what actually happened. I am going to say that again.

The Democrats have refused the intelligence agencies access to their servers to discover what actually happened.

The heads of the intelligence community have said that they regard the report from Crowdstrike – the Clinton aligned private cyber security firm – as adequate. Despite the fact that the Crowdstrike report plainly proves nothing whatsoever and is based entirely on an initial presumption there must have been a hack, as opposed to an internal download.

Not actually examining the obvious evidence has been a key tool in keeping the “Russian hacking” meme going. On 24 May the Guardian reported triumphantly, following the Washington Post, that

“Fox News falsely alleged federal authorities had found thousands of emails between Rich and Wikileaks, when in fact law enforcement officials disputed that Rich’s laptop had even been in possession of, or examined by, the FBI.”

It evidently did not occur to the Guardian as troubling, that those pretending to be investigating the murder of Seth Rich have not looked at his laptop.

There is a very plain pattern here of agencies promoting the notion of a fake “Russian crime”, while failing to take the most basic and obvious initial steps if they were really investigating its existence. I might add to that, there has been no contact with me at all by those supposedly investigating. I could tell them these were leaks not hacks. Wikileaks. The clue is in the name.

So those “17 agencies” are not really investigating but are prepared to endorse weird Crowdstrike claims, like the idea that Russia’s security services are so amateur as to leave fingerprints with the name of their founder. If the Russians fed the material to Wikileaks, why would they also set up a vainglorious persona like Guccifer2 who leaves obvious Russia pointing clues all over the place?

Of course we need to add from the Wikileaks “Vault 7” leak release, information that the CIA specifically deploys technology that leaves behind fake fingerprints of a Russian computer hacking operation.

Crowdstrike have a general anti-Russian attitude. They published a report seeking to allege that the same Russian entities which “had hacked” the DNC were involved in targeting for Russian artillery in the Ukraine. This has been utterly discredited.

Some of the more crazed “Russiagate” allegations have been quietly dropped. The mainstream media are hoping we will all forget their breathless endorsement of the reports of the charlatan Christopher Steele, a former middle ranking MI6 man with very limited contacts that he milked to sell lurid gossip to wealthy and gullible corporations. I confess I rather admire his chutzpah.

Given there is no hacking in the Russian hacking story, the charges have moved wider into a vague miasma of McCarthyite anti-Russian hysteria. Does anyone connected to Trump know any Russians? Do they have business links with Russian finance?

Of course they do. Trump is part of the worldwide oligarch class whose financial interests are woven into a vast worldwide network that enslaves pretty well the rest of us. As are the Clintons and the owners of the mainstream media who are stoking up the anti-Russian hysteria. It is all good for their armaments industry interests, in both Washington and Moscow.

Trump’s judgement is appalling. His sackings or inappropriate directions to people over this subject may damage him.

The old Watergate related wisdom is that it is not the crime that gets you, it is the cover-up. But there is a fundamental difference here. At the centre of Watergate there was an actual burglary. At the centre of Russian hacking there is a void, a hollow, and emptiness, an abyss, a yawning chasm. There is nothing there.

Those who believe that opposition to Trump justifies whipping up anti-Russian hysteria on a massive scale, on the basis of lies, are wrong. I remain positive that the movement Bernie Sanders started will bring a new dawn to America in the next few years. That depends on political campaigning by people on the ground and on social media. Leveraging falsehoods and cold war hysteria through mainstream media in an effort to somehow get Clinton back to power is not a viable alternative. It is a fantasy and even were it practical, I would not want it to succeed.

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Beware Bewildered Blairites

The Guardian/Observer remains the house journal of the Blairites, and while they have temporarily turned down the volume on the Corbyn hate, it is a good place to assess how the right wing forces in Labour are planning to reassert themselves. And the answer is in part that they are clutching at racism like a drowning man clutching at a straw. Andrew Rawnsley, the epitome of the Blairite journalist who exudes overpaid entitlement, quotes with endorsement Gordon Brown protégé Natascha Engel, defeated Labour ex-MP for NE Derbyshire, who states “what we need to do is reconnect with our white working class voters”.

Now ask yourself, what is the purpose of the word “white” in that sentence?

Tom Watson, in a co-ordinated interview in the same edition also much quoted by Rawnsley, does not use the word white. He employs the euphemism “traditional”. He talks of the need to “give greater reassurance to our traditional working class voters.”

But we know exactly what the Labour right mean when they talk about reassuring the “white working class” or the “traditional working class”. They mean that Labour should mimic UKIP and the Tories and pander to popular anti-immigration racism.

Rawnsley reports:

“Deborah Mattinson, the strategy director of Britain Thinks, was involved in her first Labour campaign in 1987. She can’t be dismissed as a Tory stooge. After conducting extensive focus groups with swing voters in six marginal seats, she reports: “There were as many who voted Labour in spite of Corbyn as did because of Corbyn.”
That chimes with the views of the many Labour MPs who are still Corbyn-sceptics. They are keeping their heads down at the moment for fear of being monstered by Momentum activists and targeted for deselection, but their secret view is that the election result was not proof of a resounding endorsement of Corbynism. “Given that no one thought Labour could possibly win, it was a massive protest vote,” says one of their number.”

Mattinson certainly can be, and ought to be, dismissed as a Tory stooge – Britain Thinks is closely connected to right wing entryist group Progress. But all of this speaks to a determination by the right to continue to argue that only right wing policies can win votes. You have to be against immigration, for Trident, for military action abroad, for privatisation, or you can’t win votes.

The truth is that Corbyn got more votes than New Labour ever did, except once in 1997 – and in 1997 Labour fought on a left wing manifesto (which Blair then betrayed). But the re-assertion of the myth of the unelectability of the left is the only weapon in the Blairite arsenal. All of which hinges on a portrayal of the “traditional working class” as Alf Garnett.

It is worth noting – and is a symptom of the Labour right’s hopeless state – that the immigrant knocking plan is at odds with the Chukka single market plan, which entails freedom of movement. It is also extremely peculiar that the sixty MPs who defied the whip to vote for the single market correlate very closely with the MPs who voted to launch bombing and destruction on Syria. You need a warped mind to reconcile those views.

Rather than being grateful for the very well paid job the Labour Party has landed them, Labour MPs remain convinced it is they who are important and they should have a key role in determining party policy. Years of determined Blairite/Progress activity has given them a firm grip on party machinery. Most of the party’s paid staff are very right wing indeed. Jeremy Corbyn, at the moment. is in a much more powerful position within the party than he was six months ago. But the right will be digging relentlessly to undermine him again, starting now. Corbyn and his supporters need now to show a ruthless streak in purging their party structure of the Blairites, asserting membership control of policy and executive power, and of course introducing compulsory deselection and reselection of MPs. Otherwise, I predict this Corbyn phenomenon will be looked back on as a brief spark of hope, soon snuffed out.

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Making Ruth Davidson Jealous

Almost ten years ago, when I was less obscure than I am now, I was at a country house party hosted by Michael Winterbottom at a rented mansion in Norfolk. Other guests included Steve Coogan, Stephen Fry, Rob Brydon – and Gillian Anderson.

It was a very wild party and as a result most people woke up very late. The first two people up and about for breakfast were Gillian Anderson and I. So we sat down together with our breakfast and chatted for quite a while before the next person appeared. She is very bright, and interested in other people and society, as I find so many good actors are.

Unfortunately the next person who appeared was my brother Stuart. Now Gillian Anderson has a very similar height, build and hair to Nadira, who was still asleep upstairs. Entering from a door right behind Gillian, and seeing her sitting opposite me chatting over breakfast, Stuart made the obvious assumption. He made two rapid strides to stand behind her, placed his hands suddenly on her chest, and shouted “Morning! Guess who?”

To her credit Gillian did not become hysterical, but this did take some calming down. The next person to appear was her husband, and I cannot say I liked him at all. He told me he owned NCP car parks and insisted on telling us how many hundreds of millions he was worth. In his terms I was a nobody, and he made that view plain. They seemed a very strange couple – she plainly did not measure people by their bank balance.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my anecdote as much as I enjoyed all that name-dropping. And I do hope it makes Ruth Davidson jealous.

UPDATE

See comment from Sharp Ears below. Apparently he didn’t own NCP but a wheel clamping firm. See my response also.

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If the Banks Had Bust

This is an astonishing truth. Average real wages in the UK today are worth 5% less than they were precisely a decade ago. This chart is from the Office of National Statistics.

I often see wage stagnation referenced in the media. It is only stagnation if your baseline is post bank crash. If your baseline is a decade ago, it is not stagnation but collapse. This is the worst decade for real wages since at least 1814-24, and I would argue this is worse than that. It is also worth noting that sharp recession also was triggered by a reduction in public spending, albeit from much lower levels.

One constant theme from the Labour Party in the election campaign, which gained traction, is that the last Labour government did not overspend. It was the banking crisis which crashed the economy.

Up to a point. The last Labour government did in fact overspend disastrously. But not on public services. Brown and Darling overspent on pumping incredible amounts of public money into bailing out the banks. That is what caused the initial massive inflation of public debt. The huge irony is of course that the interest on the debt is paid to – the same bankers who received the money as a bailout.

It is fashionable for right wingers to argue that the bank bailouts somehow did not really happen, or did not really cost anything. That rewriting of history is gaining much strength in mainstream media narrative. But the National Debt was 36% of GDP in 2007 (and on a downward trend) but leapt to 60% of GDP by 2009. That was the bank bailout.

The bank crash bailout triggered the austerity policies designed to repair the public finances, but which stifled economic growth. The lack of growth allied to neo-liberal deregulation of the labour market, and in particular the massive diminution in the role of unions, have caused the collapse in wages.

The government is fond of claiming that in this period the income gap between the top 10% of earners and the bottom 10% has shrunk slightly. That does appear to be true. But it is not the key figure. The gap between the top 1% of earners and the bottom 99% of earners has more than doubled during this decade. What has happened is that society has returned towards a more Victorian model. One per cent are super rich, everybody else is getting poorer and differentials are slightly shrinking.

It particularly interests me that the income disaster for ordinary people has been worse and more sustained than it was following the financial disaster of the 1930’s.

I opposed the bank bailout at the time, and I am now convinced that I was right. The bad banks should have been allowed to crash.

For the government to give people and companies their cash under the deposit guarantee scheme would have cost the public purse less than 10% of the money spent on the bank bailout.

The property bubble would have collapsed, making property realistically valued in relation to earnings and avoiding the landlord/tenant society we are becoming.

Bad bankers would have lost their jobs and a salutary lesson have been learnt the hard way on banking practices – instead we have had the opposite effect where bankers now believe they can do anything and will always be bailed out. The bailout was a massive perverse incentive.

Crashed banks would have been taken over by other better run banks that had not crashed, or new banks would have arisen. This is how economies progress.

It is possible the immediate recession would have been deeper. Top end London property, Porsche sales, cocaine and lap dancing would all have taken big hits. But there would have followed the kind of strong and sustained recovery with real growth seen in all previous historical financial crashes, instead of this lengthy crippling pain.

There are of course many other factors affecting the economy, which makes it very hard to isolate the effect of the UK banking bailout. But in the same decade Germany, France and Italy have seen growth in real wages. Mistaken continuation of the attack on public spending has of course made the situation much worse. But given the disaster for ordinary people that has ensued and been with us so very long, I think it would be very difficult for anybody to argue that life would be worse had the bank bailout not happened.

It is remarkable to me that this root cause of so many of our woes is almost never referenced n the media nowadays.

New Labour were not only responsible for much of the financial deregulation that made the great crash possible. Policies such as the Public Finance Initiative were simply devices for pouring billions of pounds in public spending straight into the pockets of the bankers. To bail out their city friends with the money of everybody else required no thought from Darling and Brown. Lord Darling has of course been having a little money poured into his personal pocket from the bankers almost ever since. There is a special circle of Hell reserved for Brown and Darling.

Peculiarly, I have never seen the question asked anywhere. But please, knock yourself out with ideas. What do you think would have happened by now if the banks had been allowed to crash?

UPDATE

In response to a comment, I have looked at Icelandic real wage growth in this period. Iceland let banks fail. Of course its economy has different qualities to the UK, but there may nonetheless be some interest in the comparison. In fact, exactly as I postulated above might have happened in the UK, after a sharper initial downturn, real wages in Iceland then recovered extremely healthily, giving very strong overall real wage growth for the whole period.


source: tradingeconomics.com

NB this graph is measuring something different to the above UK graph. The UK graph is measuring the level of wages in constant 2015 real terms. The Iceland grow is measuring the rate of growth in real wages.

While the two economies not being entirely comparable, this cannot prove my thesis, it certainly does support it.

This is a very interesting posting from a blog which shares my belief that it is wrong to view globalisation and neo-liberal deregulation as tied together or part of the same process. Globalisation is good. Deregulation is bad.

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