Monthly Archives: October 2020


Craig Murray for SNP President and Independence in Two Years

The party hierarchy decided members should not be allowed to vote on routes to Independence that do not depend on the permission of Boris Johnson. To give party members a chance to register their concern, I have decided to go forward as a candidate for President. I do so not in the hope of winning (I won’t beat longstanding party servant Mike Russell), but because the ordinary members need to be able to show that they are not happy with the lack of focus on Independence and the closed nature of the party establishment – which two things are related.

Every vote for me is a vote for early Independence and no veto for Boris Johnson. Independence must be obtained within two years. It will not be given, we must take it.

The party appears to have no plan that could deliver Independence before 2026 at the earliest. Instead of conference being allowed to debate Plan B, there will be a “discussion” on “Independence in the Future”. It is plain that for many of the party’s very well paid elected officials and functionaries, that future is some far off optional destination, not an immediate arrival.

Obviously I shall be writing more on this in the next month. My opening shot is here, as an advert in the National newspaper.

My announcement has brought a great deal of twitter vituperation from the pillars of the political class – mainstream media journalists and SNP paid staff and leadership acolytes. Plainly democratic choice is not high on their agenda. Some are absolutely astonished that a candidate not approved by the leadership should have the temerity to stand, and not only that, but actually have the nerve to ask people to vote for them.

Mostly though it is just intellect free vituperation, on quite a wide scale:

That was just the first little period. There are huge amounts more of this stuff, much of it from paid SNP staffers. For those of a morbid mind with plenty of free time, the linkages between SNP staffers and unionist journos on twitter are really quite interesting to trace.

I should point out that I have said nothing in the least critical of Mike Russell or Corri Wilson. This is all entirely unprovoked.

A party where the Chief Executive is married to the leader and has a secret salary kept from members is not a healthy party. Particularly when he is then seeking to pressurise police into taking action against the last leader. This is not good.

I leave you with a last thought. Only rebels from the Establishment have ever won Independence, anywhere. We will never be given Independence, we will have to take it. Who is the most likely to play a useful role in that?

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Time to Stand Up and Be Counted

Today, nothing is more important than to say that we will not be silent on the dreadful oppression of the Palestinian people; the daily beatings, killings, humiliations, demolitions, expropriations and destruction of groves that are the concomitant of Israeli illegal occupation.

We will never be browbeaten into silence on the slow genocide of the Palestinian people.

Nobody with any grasp on the location of their right mind believes Jeremy Corbyn to be an anti-Semite. Nobody with any grasp on their right mind believes the Labour Party is now anything but the substitutes’ bench for the Neoconservative team. Under Keir Starmer, the Labour Party has failed to oppose the granting of legal powers to the security services to kill, torture, entrap, forge and fake with impunity. It has failed to oppose the limitation of prosecution of British soldiers for war crimes. The Labour Party now seeks to erase all trace that it might once have been a party that offered an alternative to the right wing security state.

As Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer pressurised Swedish prosecutors who wished to drop the case against Julian Assange, to persist in order that he might be rendered to the USA. He further persuaded them not to interview Julian here, which is standard practice when he was never charged but only wanted for questioning, and which would have reduced Julian’s ordeal by four years.

Starmer received £50,000 in personal donations from lobbyist Sir Trevor Chinn to fund his leadership bid.

It is perfectly plain that Starmer’s aim in suspending Corbyn is to drive the mass membership that Corbyn attracted out of the Labour Party, and make it a reliable arm of the right wing security state. He wants the Labour Party to be financially dependent not on its members, who have annoying principles, but on donors like Chinn.

The media and political elite have attained their aim; there is no longer any point in voting in Westminster elections. A right wing government supporting the neo-con status quo and the ever tightening security state is now firmly guaranteed and cannot be influenced by a Westminster election.

 
 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The Circle of Amnesiacs

Today was a particularly interesting meeting of the Holyrood Inquiry into the mishandling of the Salmond affair, with two senior civil servants, Judith Mackinnon and Barbara Allison, who both had very convenient and complete failures of memory, about key points which just happened to be the very points on which the committee had previously been lied to.

To take Barbara Allison first, she had been happily on holiday in Mauritius. I am sure it is of great comfort to the ordinary people of Scotland that, as has been clear from this inquiry, the Scottish Government employs an extraordinary plethora of officials, nearly all of them female, in non-jobs with silly titles at salaries that enable them to spend their vacations at the most expensive and exclusive spots on the planet.

Now Ms Allison, Director of Communications, had forgotten that, on the day Alex Salmond won the judicial review case against the Scottish Government, she had immediately texted from Mauritius to Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, and that Leslie Evans had instantly replied “Battle may be lost but not the war.” She denied it had happened under oath to the committee when she gave evidence on 15 September 2020. She only remembered it when the Crown Office subsequently handed over the text – which police Scotland had taken from her own phone – to the Committee. She then was forced to write to the Committee correcting her evidence, which if the text had never been produced, presumably she would never have done.

The remarkable thing is, that Leslie Evans’ message had been famous ever since the Alex Salmond trial. It had featured quite literally scores of times in the media after being mentioned in the evidence at Alex Salmond’s preliminary hearing (where it was among the evidence the defence were banned from using at trial) and after being quoted from the steps of the court room by Alex Salmond after his complete acquittal. It is the subject of this column by Iain Macwhirter, for example, and features in the title. Presumably as part of her job Ms Allison must have followed all this, but none of it jogged her memory that she had received the message. Even when Leslie Evans gave evidence to the Inquiry on 8 September that she had sent the message, that did not remind Ms Allison that she had received the message before she explicitly denied, under oath, receiving it to the committee exactly one week later.

It is plain from the messages that Evans and Allison are close. Civil servants do not normally add kisses to work related texts. We are asked to believe that on 8 September Evans gave evidence on this text message to Allison, and did not mention it to Allison before her own appearance before the committee the following week. That is ludicrous.

But remarkably, the fog of Allison’s memory still has not cleared. Nothing has yet been jogged. The infamous text from Evans is evidently a reply to one from Allison. Evans’ reply begins “Thanks Barbara”. Yet Allison today told the committee, again under oath, that she had no recollection of sending Evans her initial text and no recollection what she had said in it. In fact she testified she had no recollection of the event at all.

Let us dig a bit further into that. Imagine you are in Mauritius on holiday. It is a wonderful place.

You are there on holiday. You are relaxing by the sea in the magnificent scenery and enjoying a drink or a meal. You receive immediate notification of the result of the Salmond civil case judicial review, thousands of miles away. How? It did not make the Mauritian or the international media. Plainly somebody has contacted you to give you the news instantly. Had you organised for that, or had someone thought it so important as to bother you on your holiday?

[As a former senior civil servant myself, I can tell you for certain that an event would have to be considered extremely significant, and requiring indispensable involvement of a particular civil servant, for them to be interrupted when away on a holiday. Plainly, this was not casual.]

Your tropical idyll has been interrupted. You then immediately initiate an exchange of texts with the Permanent Secretary. You now cannot – just eighteen months later – recall any of this happening at all.

I just do not buy it. I do not believe it. I do not accept it. It is my opinion (cf Dugdale vs Campbell libel case) that Barbara Allison gave a very strong impression that she is a liar.

The content of Barbara Allison’s text is of course very important, because of Leslie Evans’ wildly improbable explanation to the committee, that when she said “battle may be lost but not the war”, with reference to the judicial review case against Alex Salmond, the “war” to which she referred was not the war against Alex Salmond, but rather a wider struggle that government should have “equality at the heart of what it does”. In this (frankly unbelievable) context, the missing Barbara Allison text message becomes very important indeed.

Did Allison text that day from Mauritius “God that bastard Salmond won. We have to nail him”, to which Evans replied “Thanks Barbara, the battle may be lost, but not the war”? Or did Allison text from Mauritius “I am in full support of the effort to incorporate equality and women’s rights at the heart of all we do”, to which Evans replied “Thanks Barbara, the battle may be lost, but not the war.” As I hope you see, it makes a major difference which it is.

Unfortunately, of course, Allison has (ahem) forgotten what her text message said. And here is the extraordinary thing – she had deleted that key message before she handed her phone over to the police. Now, she had not deleted her messages with one of the accusers from months earlier. Also she had not deleted the reply from Lesley Evans to her deleted text, nor had she deleted her reply to Lesley Evans’ reply to her missing text. We are left with this:

Text X – deleted
“Thanks Barbara. Battle maybe lost but not the war. Hope you are having lovely and well deserved break. L”
“Thanks Lesley. It is lovely here. My mind and thoughts are with you all there tho. Best wishes B. x ”

Now why did text X get deleted and not the other two? Allison told the committee that she routinely deletes texts to unclutter her phone.

Is that not rather strange? We all know how text messages work – your phone shows you the most recent message in a conversation first. So scrolling back, Allison decided to keep the last two but to delete the third one back? Why that one? Why not the whole exchange? It is very hard to think of any logical explanation for that selection – unless the deleted text happened to say something like “God that bastard won. We have to nail him”, which might be incriminating given the subsequent (ahem) organisation of complainants for the criminal case. But as Allison cannot remember writing or deleting that text message, we may never know.

Except of course, we should know. Police Scotland took the messages from the phone to give to the Crown Office. Unfortunately the interest of Police Scotland was in conspiring with Peter Murrell to fit up Alex Salmond. Had they not been otherwise fixed on a corrupt intent, Police Scotland would have been able to deploy their resources to recover the obviously missing deleted text, either from the iPhone or from the service provider.

Let us leave the unpleasant Ms Allison to stew in her own mendacity, and move on to another unreliable witness with a very poor memory, Judith McKinnon. Now I have to refer here to an earlier witness, civil servant Mr James Hynd, who had evidently been selected to take upon himself the responsibility for having devised a procedure to investigate ex-ministers. He had testified it was entirely his own idea, that he had never discussed it with anybody at all, and that it had first existed in a draft policy he had alone written.

Unfortunately this attempt to sanitise the genesis of the “get Salmond” policy quickly collapsed as documents have slowly been squeezed out of the Scottish government showing that a procedure against ex-ministers had been discussed by civil servants and special advisers before Hynd “first” thought of it, including by Judith McKinnon, who had gone on to coach the initial complainants against Alex Salmond. In fact, Mckinnon had produced a “flowchart” of the new procedure including ex-ministers, dated before Hynd’s document which he claimed was the first time the idea had been thought of. Hynd was another one forced to write to the committee to “clarify” his evidence under oath.

Today McKinnon was pressed on why she had included ex-Ministers in her flowchart before Hynd had thought of it, and McKinnon replied that it had been generally discussed and was generally agreed. Pressed by committee members as to who she had generally discussed it with, and whether this included Leslie Evans or the First Minister’s office, McKinnon replied that – she had forgotten who she discussed it with.

Now there is a shock.

Scotland employs, on very high salaries, a quite fascinating number of women with very poor memories.

The members of the committee were most excited about another point. They questioned both women on the fact that the new procedure which the court had found unlawful and tainted by apparent bias, under which McKinnon could both coach complainants and be the investigating officer, was still in place. There was, huffed Alex Cole Hamilton, the possibility the same mistake could be made again and the taxpayer again lose a great deal of money.

Silly Mr Cole Hamilton. He has not yet understood that the “new procedure” was only ever a single shot, designed to “get” Alex Salmond. There was never any chance it would be used against anybody else. So why bother to amend it now?

Finally and perhaps even more interestingly, today a letter has been released which Alex Salmond wrote to James Hamilton, who is conducting the investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code. This entire letter is well worth reading, but this bit is truly stunning. Alex Salmond points out that Hamilton’s remit was written by Sturgeon’s deputy John Swinney, and he suggests it is a “straw man”, deliberately misdirecting Hamilton to areas where Sturgeon probably did not break the ministerial code.

Salmond instead suggests other areas where Sturgeon did actually break the ministerial code, and asks Hamilton if he is able to investigate them or just carrying out the Swinney defined charade. This is the first direct and public attack by Alex on Nicola since she conspired to have him jailed, and it is extremely significant. I am hopeful it may be the starting point of a change towards a Scottish government that will actually use its popular mandate to act on Independence.

UPDATE I have been informed it wasn’t Mauritius, it was the Maldives. Which is, of course, even more spectacularly exclusive and expensive.

 
 
Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Covid-19 and the Political Utility of Fear

The true mortality rate of covid-19 remains a matter of intense dispute, but it is undoubtedly true that a false public impression was given by the very high percentage of deaths among those who were tested positive, at the time when it was impossible to get tested unless you were seriously ill (or a member of society’s “elite”). When only those in danger of dying could get a test, it was of course not at all surprising that such a high percentage of those who tested positive died. It is astonishing how many articles are published with the entirely fake claim that the mortality rate of Covid-19 is 3.4%, based on that simple methodology. That same methodology will today, now testing is much more widely available to those who feel ill, give you results of under 1%. That is still an overestimate as very few indeed of the symptomless, or of those with mild symptoms, are even now being tested.

The Guardian’s daily graphs of statistics since January 1 illustrate this very nicely. It is of course not in fact the case, as the graphs appear to show, that there are now vastly more cases than there were at the time of peak deaths in the spring. It is simply that testing is much more available. What the graphs do indicate is that, unless mortality rates have very radically declined, cases tested on the same basis they are tested today would have given results last spring of well over 100,000 cases per day. It is also important to note that, even now, a very significant proportion of those with covid-19, especially with mild symptoms, are still not being tested. Quite possibly the majority. So you could very possibly double or treble that figure if you were looking for actual cases rather than tested cases.

I do not believe anybody seriously disputes that there are many millions of people in the general population who had covid and survived it, but were never tested or diagnosed. That can include people who were quite badly ill at home but not tested, but also a great many who had mild or no symptoms. It is worth recalling that in a cruise ship outbreak, when all the passengers had to be compulsorily tested, 84% of those who tested positive had no symptoms.

What is hotly disputed is precisely how many millions there are who have had the disease but never been tested, which given the absence of widespread antibody testing, and inaccuracies in the available antibody tests, is not likely to be plain for some time, as sample sizes and geographical reach of studies published to date have been limited. There is no shortage of sources and you can take your pick. For what it is worth, my own reading leads me to think that this Lancet and BMJ published study, estimating an overall death rate of 0.66%, is not going to be far off correct when, in a few years time, scientific consensus settles on the true figure. I say that with a certain caution. “Respectable” academic estimates of global deaths from Hong Kong flu in 1968 to 70 range from 1 million to 4 million, and I am not sure there is a consensus.

It is impossible to discuss covid-19 in the current state of knowledge without making sweeping assumptions. I am going here to assume that 0.66% mortality rate as broadly correct, which I believe it to be (and if anything pessimistic). I am going to assume that 70% of the population would, without special measures, catch the virus, which is substantially higher than a flu pandemic outbreak, but covid-19 does seem particularly contagious. That would give you about 300,000 total deaths in the United Kingdom, and about a tenth of that in Scotland. That is an awful lot of dead people. It is perfectly plain that, if that is anything near correct, governments cannot be accused of unnecessary panic in their responses to date.

Whether they are the best responses is quite another question.

Because the other thing of which there is no doubt is that covid-19 is an extremely selective killer. The risk of death to children is very small indeed. The risk of death to healthy adults in their prime is also very marginal indeed. In the entire United Kingdom, less than 400 people have died who were under the age of 60 and with no underlying medical conditions. And it is highly probable that many of this very small number did in fact have underlying conditions undiagnosed. Those dying of coronavirus, worldwide, have overwhelmingly been geriatric.

As a Stanford led statistical study of both Europe and the USA concluded

People <65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in the hotbeds of the pandemic and deaths for people <65 years without underlying predisposing conditions are remarkably uncommon. Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly individuals should be considered in managing the pandemic.

The study concludes that for adults of working age the risk of dying of coronavirus is equivalent to the risk of a car accident on a daily commute.

I should, on a personal note, make quite plain that I am the wrong side of this. I am over 60, and I have underlying heart and lung conditions, and I am clinically obese, so I am a prime example of the kind of person least likely to survive.

The hard truth is this. If the economy were allowed to function entirely normally, if people could go about their daily business, there would be no significant increase in risk of death or of life changing illness to the large majority of the population. If you allowed restaurants, offices and factories to be be open completely as normal, the risk of death really would be almost entirely confined to the elderly and the sick. Which must beg the question, can you not protect those groups without closing all those places?

If you were to open up everything as normal, but exclude those aged over 60 who would remain isolated, there would undoubtedly be a widespread outbreak of coronavirus among the adult population, but with few serious health outcomes. The danger lies almost entirely in spread to the elderly and vulnerable. The danger lies in 35 year old Lisa catching the virus. She might pass it on to her children and their friends, with very few serious ill effects. But she may also pass it on to her 70 year old mum, which could be deadly.

We are reaching the stage where the cumulative effect of lockdown and partial lockdown measures is going to inflict catastrophic damage on the economy. Companies could survive a certain period of inactivity, but are coming to the end of their resilience, of their financial reserves, and of effective government support. Unemployment and bankruptcies are set to soar, with all the human misery and indeed of deleterious health outcomes that will entail.

There is no social institution better designed than schools for passing on a virus. The fact that schools are open is an acknowledgement of the fact that there is no significant danger to children from this virus. Nor is there a significant danger to young adults. University students, the vast, vast majority of them, are not going to be more than mildly ill if they catch coronavirus. There is no more health need for universities to be locked down and teaching virtually, than there would be for schools to do the same. It is a nonsense.

The time has come for a change in policy approach that abandons whole population measures, that abandons closing down sectors of the economy, and concentrates on shielding that plainly defined section of the population which is at risk. With this proviso – shielding must be on a voluntary basis. Elderly or vulnerable people who would prefer to live their lives, and accept that there is currently a heightened risk of dying a bit sooner than might otherwise be expected, must be permitted to do so. The elderly in particular should not be forcefully incarcerated if they do not so wish. To isolate an 88 year old and not allow them to see their family, on the grounds their remaining life would be shortened, is not necessarily the best choice for them. It should be their choice.

To some extent this selective shielding already happens. I know of a number of adults who have put themselves into voluntary lockdown because they live with a vulnerable person, and such people should be assisted as far as possible to work from home and function in their isolation. But in general, proper protection of the vulnerable without general population lockdowns and restrictions would require some government resource and some upheaval.

There could be, for example, a category of care homes created under strict isolation where no visitation is allowed and there are extremely strict firewall measures. Others may have less stringent precautions and allow greater visitation and movement; people should have the choice, and be assisted in moving to the right kind of institution for them. This would involve upheaval and resources, but nothing at all compared to the upheaval being caused and resources lost by unnecessary pan-societal restrictions currently in force. Temporary shielded residential institutions should be created for those younger people whose underlying health conditions put them at particular risk, should they wish to enter them. Special individual arrangements can be put in place. Public resource should not be spared to help.

But beyond those precautions to protect those most in danger, our world should return to full on normal. Ordinary healthy working age people should be allowed to make a living again, to interact socially, to visit their families, to gather together, to enjoy the pub or restaurant. They would be doing so in a time of pandemic, and a small proportion of them would get quite ill for a short while, and a larger proportion would get mildly ill . But that is a part of the human condition. The myth that we can escape disease completely and live forever is a nonsense.

Against this are the arguments that “every death is a tragedy” and “one death is too many”. It is of course true that every death is a tragedy. But in fact we accept a risk of death any time we get in a car or cross a road, or indeed buy meat from the butcher. In the USA, there has been an average of 4.5 amusement park ride fatalities a year for the last 20 years; that is an entirely unnecessary social activity with a slightly increased risk of death. Few seriously want amusement parks closed down.

I genuinely am convinced that for non-geriatric people, the risk of death from Covid-19 is, as the Stanford study suggested, about the same as the risk of death from traffic accident on a daily commute. The idea that people should not commute to work because “any death is a tragedy” is plainly a nonsense.

The problem is that it is a truism of politics that fear works in rendering a population docile, obedient or even grateful to its political leaders. The major restrictions on liberty under the excuse of the “war on terror” proved that, when the statistical risk of death by terrorism has always been extraordinarily small to any individual, far less than the risk of traffic accident. All the passenger security checks that make flying a misery, across the entire world, have never caught a single bomb, anywhere.

Populations terrified of covid-19 applaud, in large majority, mass lockdowns of the economy which have little grounding in logic. The way for a politician to be popular is to impose more severe lockdown measures and tell the population they are being saved, even as the economy crumbles. Conversely, to argue against blanket measures is to invite real hostility. The political bonus is in upping the fear levels, not in calming them.

This is very plain in Scotland, where Nicola Sturgeon has achieved huge popularity by appearing more competent and caring in managing the covid-19 crisis than Boris Johnson – which may be the lowest bar ever set as a measure of political performance, but it would be churlish not to say she has cleared it with style and by a substantial margin.

But when all the political gains are on the side of more blanket lockdowns and ramping up the levels of fear, then the chances of measures tailored and targeted specifically on the vulnerable being adopted are receding. There is also the danger that politicians will wish to keep this political atmosphere going as long as possible. Fear is easy to spread. If you make people wear face masks and tell them never to go closer than 2 metres to another person or they may die, you can throw half the population immediately into irrational hostility towards their neighbours. Strangers are not seen as people but as parcels of disease.

In these circumstances, asking ordinary people to worry about political liberty is not fruitful. But the new five tier measures announced by the Scottish government yesterday were worrying in terms of what they seem to indicate about the permanence of restrictions on the, not really under threat, general population. In introducing the new system, Nicola Sturgeon went all BBC on us and invoked the second world war and the wartime spirit, saying we would eventually get through this. That of course was a six year haul.

But what really worried me was the Scottish government’s new five tier system with restrictions nominated not 1 to 5, but 0 to 4. Zero level restrictions includes gatherings being limited to 8 people indoors or 15 people outdoors – which of course would preclude much political activity. When Julian Assange’s father John was visiting us this week I wished to organise a small vigil for Julian in Glasgow, but was unable to do so because of Covid restrictions. Even at zero level under the Scottish government’s new plans, freedom of assembly – an absolutely fundamental right – will still be abolished and much political activity banned. I cannot see any route to normality here; the truth is, of course, that it is very easy to convince most of the population inspired by fear to turn against those interested in political freedom.

What is in a number? When I tweeted about this, a few government loyalists argued against me that numbering 0 to 4 means nothing and the levels of restriction might equally have been numbered 1 to 5. To which I say, that numbering the tiers of restriction 1 to 5 would have been the natural choice, whereas numbering them 0 to 4 is a highly unusual choice. It can only have been chosen to indicate that 0 is the “normal” level and that normality is henceforth not “No restrictions” but normal is “no public gathering”. When the threat of Covid 19 is deemed to be sufficiently receding we will drop to level zero. If it was intended that after level 1, restrictions would be simply set aside, there would be no level zero. The signal being sent is that level zero is the “new normal” and normal is not no restrictions. It is both sinister and unnecessary.

UPDATE I just posted this reply to a comment that this argument amounts to a “conspiracy theory”. It is an important point so I insert my reply here:
But I am not positing any conspiracy at all. I suspect that it is very easy for politicians to convince themselves that by increasing fear and enforcing fierce restriction, they really are protecting people. It is very easy indeed to genuinely convince yourself of the righteousness of a course which both ostensibly protects the public and gives you a massive personal popularity boost.

It is argued that only Tories are worried about the effect on the economy in the face of a public health pandemic. That is the opposite of the truth. Remarkably, the global lockdowns have coincided with an astonishing rate of increase in the wealth of the richest persons on the planet. That is an effect we are shortly going to see greatly amplified. As tens of thousands of small and medium businesses will be forced into bankruptcy by lockdown measures and economic downturn, their assets and their markets will be snapped up by the vehicles of the super-wealthy.

I am not a covid sceptic. But neither do I approve of fear-mongering. The risk to the large majority of the population is very low indeed, and it is wrong that anybody who states that fact is immediately vilified. The effect of fear on the general population, and the ability of politicians to manipulate that fear to advantage, should not be underestimated as a danger to society.

There has been a substantial increase in human life expectancy over my lifetime and a subsequent distancing from death. That this trend should be permanent, in the face of human over-population, resource exhaustion and climate change, is something we have too readily taken for granted. In the longer term, returning to the familiarity with and acceptance of death that characterised our ancestors, is something to which mankind may need to become re-accustomed.

In the short term, if permanent damage to society is not to be done, then the response needs to be less of an attack on the entire socio-economic structure, and more targeted to the protection of the clearly defined groups at real risk. I greatly dislike those occasions when I feel compelled to write truths which I know will be unpopular, particularly where I expect them to arouse unpleasant vilification rather than just disagreement. This is one of those times. But I write this blog in general to say things I believe need to be said. I am very open to disagreement and to discussion, even if robust, if polite. But this is not the blog to which to come for comfort-reading.

 
 
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Magic Novichok

The security services put an extraordinary amount of media priming effort into explaining why the alleged novichok attack on the Skripals had a delayed effect of several hours, and then failed to kill them. Excuses included that it was a cold day which slowed their metabolisms, that the chemical took a long time to penetrate their skins, that the gel containing the novichok inhibited its operation, that it was a deliberately non-fatal dose, that rain had diluted the novichok on the doorknob, that the Skripals were protected by gloves and possibly only came into contact in taking the gloves off, or that nerve agents are not very deadly and easily treated.

You can take your pick as to which of those convincingly explains why the Skripals apparently swanned round Salisbury for four hours after coming into contact with the novichok coated doorknob, well enough to both drink in a pub and eat a good Italian lunch, before both being instantaneously struck down and disabled at precisely the same time so neither could call for help, despite being different sexes, ages and weights. Just as the chief nurse of the British army happened to walk past.

So now let us fast forward to Alexei Navalny. Traces of “novichok” were allegedly found on a water bottle in his hotel room in Tomsk. That appears to eliminate the cold and the gloves. It also makes it possible he ingested some of the “novichok”. I can find no suggestion anywhere it was contained in a gel. So why was this deadly substance not deadly?

There seems no plain allegation of where Navalny came into contact with the “novichok”. Assuming he spent the night in his hotel room, then the very latest he can have come into contact with the deadly nerve agent would be shortly before he left the room, assuming he then subsequently touched the bottle before leaving. This is true whether the bottle was the source or he just touched it with novichok on his hands. After poisoning with this very deadly nerve agent – which Germany claims is “harder” than other examples, he then checked out of the hotel, went to the airport, checked in for his flight, had a cup of tea and boarded the flight, all before being taken ill. This after contact with a chemical weapon allegedly deadlier than this:

Which of course is aside from all the questions as to why the Russians would use again the poison that was ineffective against the Skripals, and why exactly the FSB would not have swept and cleaned up the hotel room after he had left. All that is even before we get to some of the questions I had already asked:

Further we are expected to believe that, the Russian state having poisoned Navalny, the Russian state then allowed the airplane he was traveling in, on a domestic flight, to divert to another airport, and make an emergency landing, so he could be rushed to hospital. If the Russian secret services had poisoned Navalny at the airport before takeoff as alleged, why would they not insist the plane stick to its original flight plan and let him die on the plane? They would have foreseen what would happen to the plane he was on.

Next, we are supposed to believe that the Russian state, having poisoned Navalny, was not able to contrive his death in the intensive care unit of a Russian state hospital. We are supposed to believe that the evil Russian state was able to falsify all his toxicology tests and prevent doctors telling the truth about his poisoning, but the evil Russian state lacked the power to switch off the ventilator for a few minutes or slip something into his drip. In a Russian state hospital.

Next we are supposed to believe that Putin, having poisoned Navalny with novichok, allowed him to be flown to Germany to be saved, making it certain the novichok would be discovered. And that Putin did this because he was worried Merkel was angry, not realising she might be still more angry when she discovered Putin had poisoned him with novichok

There are a whole stream of utterly unbelievable points there, every single one of which you have to believe to go along with the western narrative. Personally I do not buy a single one of them, but then I am a notorious Russophile traitor.

The eagerness of the Western political establishment to accept and amplify nonsensical Russophobia is very worrying. Fear is a powerful political tool, politicians need an enemy, and still more does the military-industrial complex that so successfully siphons off state money. Many fat livings depend on the notion that Russia poses a serious threat to us. The nonsense people are prepared to believe to maintain that fiction give a most unpleasant glimpse into the human psyche.

 
 
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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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People Need to Reclaim the Internet

No matter how much you dislike Trump, only a fool can fail to see the implications for public access to information of the massive suppression on the internet of the Hunter Biden leaks.

This blog has been suffering a ratcheting of social media suppression for years, which reached its apogee in my coverage of the Julian Assange trial. As I reported on 24 September:

Even my blog has never been so systematically subject to shadowbanning from Twitter and Facebook as now. Normally about 50% of my blog readers arrive from Twitter and 40% from Facebook. During the trial it has been 3% from Twitter and 9% from Facebook. That is a fall from 90% to 12%. In the February hearings Facebook and Twitter were between them sending me over 200,000 readers a day. Now they are between them sending me 3,000 readers a day. To be plain that is very much less than my normal daily traffic from them just in ordinary times. It is the insidious nature of this censorship that is especially sinister – people believe they have successfully shared my articles on Twitter and Facebook, while those corporations hide from them that in fact it went into nobody’s timeline. My own family have not been getting their notifications of my posts on either platform.

It was not just me: everyone reporting the Assange trial on social media suffered the same effect. Wikileaks, which has 5.6 million Twitter followers, were obtaining about the same number of Twitter “impressions” of their tweets (ie number who saw them) as I was. I spoke with several of the major US independent news sites and they all reported the same.

I have written before about the great danger to internet freedom from the fact that a few massively dominant social media corporations – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – have become in effect the “gatekeepers” to internet traffic. In the Assange hearing and Hunter Biden cases we see perhaps the first overt use of that coordinated power to control public information worldwide.

The way the power of the “gatekeepers” is used normally is insidious. It is quite deliberately disguised. “Shadow banning” is a term for a technique which has many variations. The net result is always that the post is not ostensibly banned. Some people see it, so that if the subject of the suppression claims to be banned they look stupid. But it is in fact shown to far, far less people than it would normally be. So even members of my own immediate family find that my posts no longer turn up in their timeline on either Facebook or Twitter. But a few followers, presumably at random, do see them. Generally, though not always, those followers are apparently able to retweet or share, but what they are not told is that their retweet or share is in fact put in to very, very few people’s timelines. The overall audience for the Tweet or Facebook post is cut to as little as 1% of what it might be without suppression. As 90% of the traffic to this blog comes in clicks from these social media posts, the effect is massive.

That was the technique used on the Assange hearing. In normal times, the ratchet on traffic can be screwed down or released a little, from week to week or post to post.

In the Hunter Biden case, social media went still further and without disguise simply banned all mention of the Hunter Biden leaks.

As I reported on September 27 last year:

What I find deeply reprehensible in all the BBC coverage is their failure to report the facts of the case, and their utter lack of curiosity about why Joe Biden’s son Hunter was paid $60,000 a month by Burisma, Ukraine’s largest natural gas producer, as an entirely absent non-executive director, when he had no relevant experience in Ukraine or gas, and very little business experience, having just been dishonorably discharged from the Navy Reserve for use of crack cocaine? Is that question not just a little bit interesting? That may be the thin end of it – in 2014-15 Hunter Biden received US $850,000 from the intermediary company channeling the payments. In reporting on Trump being potentially impeached for asking about it, might you not expect some analysis – or at least mention – of what he was asking about?

That Hunter Biden received so much money from a company he never once visited or did any legitimate work for, located in a country which remarkably at the same time launched into a US sponsored civil war while his father was Vice President, is a question which might reasonably interest people. This is not “fake news”. There is no doubt whatsoever of the facts. There
is also no doubt that, as Vice President of the USA, Joe Biden secured the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating Burisma for corruption.

The story now is that Hunter Biden abandoned a laptop in a repair shop, and the hard drive contained emails between Hunter and Burisma in which he was asked for, and promised, various assistance to the company from the Vice President. This hard drive was passed to the New York Post. What the emails do not include is any incriminating correspondence between Hunter and his father in which Joe Biden agrees to any of this – which speaks to their authenticity, as that would be the key thing to forge. Given that the hard drive also contains intimate photos and video, there does not seem to be any real doubt about its authenticity.

However both Facebook and Twitter slapped an immediate and total ban on all mention of the Hunter Biden emails, claiming doubts as to its authenticity and an astonishing claim that they never link to leaked material or information about leaked material.

Alert readers will note that this policy was not applied to Donald Trump’s tax returns. These were extremely widely publicised throughout social and mainstream media – and quite right too – despite being illegally leaked. Twitter may be attempting to draw a distinction between a “hack” and a “leak”. This is difficult to do – the Clinton and Podesta emails, for example, were leaked but are frequently claimed to have been hacked.

I am astonished by the online comment of people who consider themselves “liberals” who support the social media suppression of the Hunter Biden story, because they want Trump to be defeated. The truth is that those in control of social media censorship are overwhelmingly Atlanticist figures on the Clinton/Blair political spectrum. That embraces the roles of Nick Clegg and Ben Nimmo at Facebook. It explains the protective attitude of Blairite Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales (also a director of Guardian Media Group) toward the Philip Cross operation.

Censorship from the self-satisfied centre of the political establishment is still more dangerous, because more stable, than censorship from the left or right. It seeks rigorously to enforce the “Overton window” on social media. It has a “whatever it takes” attitude to getting Joe Biden into the White House and removing a maverick element from the political stability it so prizes. Its hatred of public knowledge is behind the persecution of Assange.

The Establishment’s problem is that inequalities of wealth are now so extreme in Western society, that the attempted removal of access by the public to radical thinking is not protecting a stable society, but is protecting a society tilting towards structural instability, in which the lack of job security and decent conditions and pay for large swathes of the population contrasts vividly with the spectacularly flourishing fortunes of the ultra billionaires. Our society desperately needs thinking outside the box into which the social media gatekeepers are attempting to confine us.

An early part of that thinking out of the box needs to relate to internet architecture and finding a way that the social media gatekeepers can be bypassed – not by a few activists, but by the bulk of the population. We used to say the internet will always find a work-around, and there are optimists who believe that the kind of censorship we saw over Hunter Biden will lead to a flight to alternative platforms, but I don’t see that happening on the scale required. Regulation to prevent censorship is improbable – governments are much more interested in regulation to impose more censorship.

The development of social media gatekeeping of internet traffic is one of the key socio-political issues of our time. We need the original founders of the internet to get together with figures like Richard Stallman and – vitally – Julian Assange – to find a way we break free from this. Ten years ago I would not have thought it a danger that the internet would become a method of political control, not of political freedom. I now worry it is too late to avert the danger.

 
 
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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Lord Advocate Launches War on Twitter

In what we think is a world first, the Lord Advocate of Scotland is claiming in the contempt of court case against me that I am legally responsible for the content of replies to my tweets.

The claim is founded on an argument that when you tweet, there is a menu which enables you to hide replies. If you do not hide a reply, you are therefore the publisher of that reply. As the Lord Advocate is putting it:

2. That the Twitter account under profile name @CraigMurrayOrg is operated by the Respondent. When the user of such an account publishes a post on Twitter, there is an option for readers to post publicly available comments in relation to each post and to reply to other readers’ comments. Replies to original posts will appear on the timeline of the author of the original post and on the timeline of the author of the reply. The user of the account who published the original cannot delete comments by others but, since November 2019, has the option to hide replies to their original post.

Note this is a very different argument to the accepted principle that if you publish a defamatory or otherwise illegal tweet, you bear a responsibility for people retweeting or passing on the information.

What the Lord Advocate is saying is that you can post a perfectly legal tweet, but you are responsible for any illegal replies. So if you post “Joe’s Fish and Chips are Great”, and somebody replies “But old Joe is a paedophile”, you become the publisher of the reply and liable in law for it (presumably unless you hide it, but that has not been stated in terms). The Lord Advocate is arguing that the reason that this has not previously been the law is that it is a new situation, with the “hide reply” option only being added in November 2019.

The reason this argument is being made is that the Crown is struggling to prove I published anything illegal myself, but believes a reply to one of my tweets is more obviously illegal.

The situation on Twitter is very different to a blog or media website. This website is mine. It is registered to me, I am the publisher and I accept responsibility for its content. Even there, however, the law on comments is much more nuanced than people realise and I am not generally liable for comments unless there was something in the content of my original post that was illegal or encouraged illegality, given that reasonable arrangements for moderation are in place.

But neither you nor I nor any other user is the publisher of Twitter. There is no sensible view in which you are the publisher of replies to your tweets. Twitter is the publisher of tweets and users are responsible for what they tweet.

The Lord Advocate’s approach would have a massive chilling effect on Twitter and fundamentally change its nature. When you tweet there is an option to limit who can reply. People would be loathe to allow replies at all if they were liable in law for what other people might say. Nobody wants to have to be constantly checking replies to their tweets, including to old tweets, in case somebody – who may be somebody you never heard of – tweeted something illegal.

For good or ill, Twitter has become a major medium of social and political debate. That dialogue would be entirely changed if replies are routinely turned off. What troubles me is that, in stretching for a way to convict me, the Lord Advocate appears completely oblivious to the very wide consequences of this argument for free speech. The Lord Advocate is of course not only Scotland’s chief prosecutor, he is also a member of the Scottish Government, appointed by the First Minister.

I cannot help but put this together with the Hate Crime Bill, which was condemned as an attack on free speech by every reputable body you can possibly imagine, and conclude that Scottish Government has no concern whatsoever for the concept of freedom of speech. It simply does not feature in their internal thinking, and is of no concern unless hammered upon them from outside.

The doctrine that Twitter users are the legal publishers of replies to their tweets has massive implications were it to succeed in court. That it should be recklessly resorted to as part of this vindictive attack on me, shows how deep down the rabbit hole we are going.

————————————————————–

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Where Is My Final Assange Report?

Numerous people have contacted me in various ways to ask where is my promised report on the final day of the Assange hearing, to complete the account?

It is difficult to explain this to you. When I was in London it was extremely intense. This was my daily routine. I would attend court at 10am, take 25 to 30 pages of handwritten notes, and leave around 5. In court I was always with Julian’s dad John, and usually for lunch too. After court I would thank supporters outside the courtroom, occasionally do some media and often meet with the Wikileaks crew to discuss developments and tactics. I would then get back to my hotel room, have a bite to eat and go to bed around 6.30pm to 7pm. I would awake between 11pm and midnight, shower and shave, read my notes and do any research needed. About 3am I would start to write. I would finish writing around 8.30am and proofread. Then I would get dressed. About 9.30am I would make any last changes and press publish. Then I would walk to the Old Bailey and start again.

Apart from being exhausting, I was totally immersed in a bubble, and buoyed by the support of others close to Julian, who were also inside that bubble.

But in that courtroom, you were in the presence of evil. With a civilised veneer, a pretence at process, and even displays of bonhommie, the entire destruction of a human being was in process. Julian was being destroyed as a person before my eyes. For the crime of publishing the truth. He had to sit there listening to days of calm discussion as to the incredible torture that would await him in a US supermax prison, deprived of all meaningful human contact for years on end, in solitary in a cell just fifty square feet.

Fifty square feet. Mark that out yourself now. Three paces by two. Of all the terrible things I heard, Warden Baird explaining that the single hour a day allowed out of the cell is alone in another, absolutely identical cell called the “recreation cell” was perhaps the most chilling. That and the foul government “expert” Dr Blackwood describing how Julian might be sufficiently medicated and physically deprived of the means of suicide to keep him alive for years of this.

I encountered evil in Uzbekistan when the mother brought me the photos of her son tortured to death by immersion in boiling liquid. The US government was also implicated in that, through the CIA cooperation with the Uzbek Security Services; it happened just outside the US military base at Karshi-Khanabad. Here was that same evil paraded in the centre of London, under the panoply of Crown justice.

Having left the bubble, my courage keeps failing me to return to the evil and write up the last day. I know that sounds either pathetic or precious. I know the mainstream journalists who revel in portraying me as mentally unstable will delight to mock. But this last few days I can’t even bring myself to look at my notes. I feel physically ill when I try. Of course I will complete the series, but I may need a little time.

 
 
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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Either Nicola Sturgeon or Geoff Aberdein is Lying on Oath – and Proving Which Will Be Easy

It is impossible that both Nicola Sturgeon and Geoff Aberdein are tellng the truth about their meeting on 29 March 2018, which both now say discussed allegations against Alex Salmond.

Geoff Aberdein, Alex Salmond’s former Chief of Staff testified under oath in the Salmond trial that he was contacted in mid-March by phone by Nicola Sturgeon’s office to discuss historic allegations against Alex Salmond, and was asked to a meeting with the First Minister on 29 March. Aberdein testified he was so concerned that he arranged a conference call with Kevin Pringle and Duncan Hamilton QC to discuss this.

By contrast, Sturgeon claims in her evidence to the parliamentary inquiry that the meeting happened by accident, that she had no knowledge it would discuss allegations against Alex Salmond, and subsequently she had entirley forgotten about it; forgetting about it especially when replying repeatedly to parliament, over 18 months, to questioning on when she had first heard of allegations.

As has been reported already, four days earlier – 29 March 2018 – I had spoken with
Geoff Aberdein (former Chief of Staff to Alex Salmond) in my office at the Scottish
Parliament.
Mr Aberdein was in Parliament to see a former colleague and while there came to see
me.
I had forgotten that this encounter had taken place until I was reminded of it in, I think,
late January/early February 2019.
For context, I think the meeting took place not long after the weekly session of FMQs
and in the midst of a busy day in which I would have been dealing with a multitude of
other matters.
However, from what I recall, the discussion covered the fact that Alex Salmond wanted
to see me urgently about a serious matter, and I think it did cover the suggestion that
the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature.
Around this time, I had been made aware separately of a request from Mr Aberdein
for me to meet with Alex Salmond.

These two stories are utterly incompatible. Unless we are to believe that Nicola’s office set up a meeting for her without her permission, without telling her the subject, and without subsequently telling her they had set it up. We would also have to believe that Nicola’s private office knew of the allegations for weeks without telling their boss. I can tell you for certain, that is not how the Civil Service works.

The matter is capable of proof. Geoff Aberdein testified he held a conference call with Kevin Pringle and an eminent QC, Duncan Hamilton, ahead of the Sturgeon meeting. Presumably he would have informed Mr Hamilton of the genesis of the meeting to explain why he needed advice. Let the Fabiani inquiry call both Aberdein and Hamilton to give testimony.

It is important to note that if Aberdein is telling the truth – and I was in court when he gave his testimony, which sounded entirely credible – then Nicola Sturgeon’s private office was phoning him about allegations about Salmond weeks before Nicola Sturgeon subsequently claimed to parliament that she first heard anything of all this. Of course, they could have known many months or years before that, but the Aberdein testimony gives us mid-March 2018.

You may, if you wish, choose to believe that Sturgeon’s private office was pursuing these allegations without her knowledge, which must be true if she did not lie to parliament. In which case I have an excellent garden bridge in London to sell you.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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How a Police State Starts

On Saturday a small, socially distanced vigil of 18 people for Julian Assange at Piccadilly Circus was broken up by twice that number of police and one elderly man arrested and taken into custody. The little group of activists have been holding the vigil every week. I had just arrived to thank them and was astonished to see eight police vans and this utterly unnecessary police action. There could not be a clearer example of “Covid legislation” being used to crack down on unrelated, entirely peaceful political dissent.

I was myself questioned by a policeman who asked me where I lived, how long I had been in London and why, what I had been doing at the Assange trial and when I was going back to Edinburgh. (You can see me very briefly at 10mins 30 secs trying to reason with a policeman who was entirely needlessly engaging in macho harassment of a nice older lady).

Later in the evening I had dinner with Kristin Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of Wikileaks. I returned to my hotel about 11pm, did my ablutions and went to bed. Just after midnight I was awoken by an insistent and extremely loud pounding at the door of my room. I got naked out of bed and groped my way to open the door a chink. A man dressed like the hotel staff (black trousers, white shirt) asked me when I was checking out. I replied in the morning, and pointed out the hotel knew I was leaving the next day. Why was he asking in the middle of the night? The man said “I was asked to find out”. I closed the door and went back to bed.

The next morning I complained in the strongest possible terms, the hotel refunded me one night’s accommodation. The duty manager who did this added “It was not our fault” but said they could not tell me any more about why this had happened.

The person at my door had a native English accent. I had been staying in the hotel over four weeks and I think I know all of the customer facing staff – not a single one of them has a native English accent. I had never seen that man before. This was a four star hotel from a major chain. I suspect “do not get sleeping guests out of bed after midnight to ask them what time they are checking out” is pretty high on their staff training list. I cannot help but in my mind put it together with my encounter with the police earlier that day, and their interest in when I was returning to Edinburgh, but there seems no obvious purpose other than harassment.

The hotel incident may just be in the strange but unexplained category. The busting of the Assange vigil earlier is of a piece with the extraordinary blanking of the hearing by corporate media and the suppression of its reporting on social media. These are dangerous times.

I am now safely back home in Edinburgh.

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Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 21

I really do not know how to report Wednesday’s events. Stunning evidence, of extreme quality and interest, was banged out in precis by the lawyers as unnoticed as bags of frozen chips coming off a production line.

The court that had listened to Clair Dobbin spend four hours cross-examining Carey Shenkman on individual phrases of first instance court decisions in tangentially relevant cases, spent four minutes as Noam Chomsky’s brilliant exegesis of the political import of this extradition case was rapidly fired into the court record, without examination, question or placing into the context of the legal arguments about political extradition.

Twenty minutes sufficed for the reading of the “gist” of the astonishing testimony of two witnesses, their identity protected as their lives may be in danger, who stated that the CIA, operating through Sheldon Adelson, planned to kidnap or poison Assange, bugged not only him but his lawyers, and burgled the offices of his Spanish lawyers Baltazar Garzon. This evidence went unchallenged and untested.

The rich and detailed evidence of Patrick Cockburn on Iraq and of Andy Worthington on Afghanistan was, in each case, well worthy of a full day of exposition. I should love at least to have seen both of them in the witness box explaining what to them were the salient points, and adding their personal insights. Instead we got perhaps a sixth of their words read rapidly into the court record. There was much more.

I have noted before, and I hope you have marked my disapproval, that some of the evidence is being edited to remove elements which the US government wish to challenge, and then entered into the court record as uncontested, with just a “gist” read out in court. The witness then does not appear in person. This reduces the process from one of evidence testing in public view to something very different. Wednesday confirmed the acceptance that this “Hearing” is now devolved to an entirely paper exercise. It is in fact no longer a “hearing” at all. You cannot hear a judge reading. Perhaps in future it should be termed not a hearing but an “occasional rustling”, or a “keyboard tapping”. It is an acknowledged, indeed embraced, legal trend in the UK that courts are increasingly paper exercises, as noted by the Supreme Court.

In the past, the general practice was that all the argument and evidence was placed before the court orally, and documents were read out, Lady Hale said.
She added: “The modern practice is quite different. Much more of the argument and evidence is reduced into writing before the hearing takes place. Often, documents are not read out.
“It is difficult, if not impossible, in many cases, especially complicated civil cases, to know what is going on unless you have access to the written material.”

At least twice in the current case, Judge Baraitser has mentioned that the defence gave her three hundred pages of opening argument, and has done so in the context of doubting the need for all this evidence, or at least for lengthy closing arguments which take account of the evidence. She was highly resistant to any exposition by witnesses of their evidence before cross-examination, arguing that their evidence was already in their statements so they did not need to say it. She eventually agreed on a strict limit of just half an hour for witness “orientation”.

However much Lady Hale thinks she is helping by setting down a principle that the documentation must be available, having Patrick Cockburn’s statement online somewhere will never have the impact of him standing in the witness box and expounding on it. What happened on Wednesday was that the whole hearing was collapsed, with both defence and prosecution lawyers hurling hundreds of pages of witness statement at Baraitser’s head, saying: “You look at this. We can get finished tomorrow morning and all have a long weekend to prepare our next cases.”

I was so disappointed by the way the case petered out before my eyes, that the adrenaline which has carried me through must have dried up. Returning to my room at lunchtime for a brief doze, when I tried to get up for the afternoon session I was overcome with dizziness. I eventually managed to walk to the court, despite the world having decided to present itself at a variety of sharp and unusual angles, and everything appearing to be under glaring orange sodium light. The Old Bailey staff – who I should say have been really friendly and helpful to me throughout – very kindly took me up in a lift and through the advocate’s robing room to the public gallery.

I am happy to say that after court two pints of Guinness and a cheese and ham toastie had a substantial restorative effect. Those who have followed these reports will understand how frustrating it was to be deprived of James Lewis asking Noam Chomsky how he can venture an opinion on whether this extradition is politically motivated when he is only a Professor of Linguistics, or whether he has ever published any peer-reviewed articles. To attempt to encapsulate the wealth of information skipped through yesterday is not the work of an evening.

What I shall do for now is give you the eloquent and brief statement by Noam Chomsky on the political nature of Julian Assange’s actions:

I will also give you the breathtaking testimony of “Witness 2”:

A friend last night gave me the cold comfort that I should not worry about the hurried close of these proceedings reducing the public gaze on the evidence and the arguments (and I think there were altogether nine witness statements yesterday), because that public gaze had been extremely limited, as indeed I have been continually explaining. In other words, it makes no difference. I follow that argument, but it goes against some fundamental beliefs and motivations I have about bearing witness, which I shall need to develop further in my own mind.

In the next few days I will try to bring you a synthesis and analysis of all that passed on Wednesday. Now I need to go to court and see the last few dribbles of this case, and exchange last glances of friendship with Julian for some months.

 
 
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