Life


More NHS Awfulness

It s rather humiliating to reveal so much of my personal medical history in order to expose the absolutely dreadful operation of the NHS in Thanet – and this blog is in danger of looking like a medical soap opera sometimes.  But as I continue to try to navigate myself through the system with utter disbelief at how awful it is. I thought I would keep you posted.

Like all the best soap operas, here is an update.  I am still in my 31 week wait to see a cardiologist.  In the meantime, and unrelated, I find I cannot walk for more than a hundred meters without agonising pain.  This turns out to be due to spur of bone growing out from the base of my heel.  On 6 June I went to see the GP to be told this, and also that it would take about 15 weeks to see a consultant.  When I pointed out I could not walk, the GP told me I could walk, it was merely a pain management issue (though I find it hard to believe this much pain can be caused if no damage is being done).

Anyway, I found I had a stark choice between being housebound for months, and opting for private treatment, and shamefacedly I opted for the latter, and asked the doctor for a private referral to the Chaucer Hospital, which he agreed to do.  Apparently in the UK you cannot see a specialist, even privately, without a referral from your General Practitioner.  I struggle to see the benefit in that peculiar restriction.

Having not heard anything for a week, I today contacted the Chaucer Hospital, who checked and said they had received no referral from my GP.  So I contacted my GP’s surgery, who said that the letter of referral had not been sent yet as it was “still working its way through the system” and it was “only a week” since I had seen the GP.  I pointed out that a week was a long time to someone who can hardly walk and is in great pain with a readily treatable condition.  I asked them if they might fax the letter of referral to a fax number the Chaucer Hospital had given me.

It was plain from the long silence that ensued that this was viewed as a grossly impertinent request.  They would have to consult the practice manager.  Finally came the answer – they would not fax the letter, but if I waited 24 hours they would print out a copy which I could collect and fax myself….

Which would be simple if a) I could walk and b) I possessed a fax machine.   On Sunday I have to go off to Africa which is not going to be easy.

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Quite A Mystery

The word “quite” in English is an extraordinary linguistic phenomenon because it has two meanings which are used in precisely the same way, as a qualifying adjective, yet mean precisely the opposite. To say something is “quite interesting” is to mean that it is a fair bit interesting, interesting to a reasonable and acceptable degree. But to say that something is “quite wonderful” is to mean that it is completely wonderful; utterly and without limit, stint or qualification. Quite can be the ultimate superlative or the deadest of qualifiers.

To try to analyse how we know which we mean is a very difficult task. All I can say is that, as a native English speaker, you get a feel for it. A couple of years ago I had a huge row with Nadira when I told her she looked “Quite lovely”. She thought I meant a little bit lovely, lovely up to a point. My efforts to convince her that I meant the word in an opposite meaning to the one she knew, ie perfectly lovely, were not an immediate success.

How did this strange linguistic quirk come about? Do the two meanings of quite come from the same origin, and do you get the same dichotomy in other languages?

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At 16.00 Today I Was

In a meeting with our lawyers to try and finalise our position on contract variations and delay payments to subcontractors. Pretty heavy going. The industry has a rather unpleasant culture of aggressive pursuit of unreasonable claims, with arbitration or court an early rather than a last option. For a naturally cooperative person like me I find this very wearing to deal with. It has been a very full and tiring day all in all.

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At 16.00 Today I Was

Juggling my itinerary for media appearances in Turkey next week to promote the Turkish edition of Murder in Samarkand, to enable me to get back to participate in an event on Saturday 9 April.

I have the Sri Lanka/New Zealand match on in the background. It looked a lot more hopeless for New Zealand at 16.00 than it does now. I still think Sri Lanka will make it, though.

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At 16.00 Today I was…

in a really difficult situation having a testy conversation with a nice Ghanaian who was also in a difficult position.

Now we have completed the gas pipeline we are desperate to get the turbines switched from diesel fo gas. The fuel saving to the Ghana government amounts to US $3,000 an hour. We need the Siemens commissioning engineers to do this, and the Rotring engineers commissioning the gas treatment plant are already here, but stymied now until Siemens arrive. But the Siemens engineers I was expecting last night have been delayed because their passports are still in the Ghana High Commission, who seem to be much slower in issuing the visas than usual.

The Ghanaian government engineers are under a lot of stress and understandably fed up. So are we. It seems the best that can be done is for the High Commission to issue the visas tomorrow, but then the Siemens engineers won’t be able to travel until Wednesday and won’t start work until Thursday. Meanwhile the Rotring engineers have to leave on Wednesday night.

Did my efforts manage to solve or mitigate this? No. I did manage to calm people down and cheer them up a bit. I fear though I shall be doing the same thing at 16.00 tomorrow.

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At 16.00 today I was…

Every now and then I think up a new blog gimmick, then I forget it after a few days. My latest wheeze is to tell you every day what I was doing at 16.00 local time. Why on earth you should care I don’t know, but it will give a series of arbitrary snapshots, and at least at 16.00 I am likely to be reasonably respectable.

At 16.00 today I was at the desk in my Accra bedroom, reading The Extermination of A British Army by Terence Blackburn, taking notes from it, and listening to Death and Transfiguration by Richard Strauss.

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The Uses of Violence

I am not in general fond of violence, but very seldom get het up about political violence against things. As a young man I contributed my small bit to rather a lot of violence done to Torness nuclear power station in the early stages of its construction. But I really do not approve of hurting policemen, or of hijacking peaceful demonstrations and spoiling their effect for those who worked hard in organising them.

If those attacking shops yesterday want to attack a bank headquarters in the City, organising it themselves, using surprise to minimise opposition and violence, doing what damage they can until it reaches the stage where someone might get hurt, then qucikly getting out, good luck to them. But there is no point at all to attacking bank retail branches, and the influential have not frequented the Ritz for half a century. They much prefer the Wolseley just across St James, but the rioters seem to have walked right past it and not given it much attention. They need a social adviser.

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Still at Schiphol

I am becoming quite fond of my little corner of Schiphol airport. I have put up my Christmas cards and a few bits of tinsel. I now have a boarding card for the 0800 to Manchester. This is the sixth boarding card I have had. It is very hard to understand why, time after time, they don’t know a flight is cancelled until some time after it was due to leave and all the passengers have queued at the gate for hours.

Of course, Manchester is a lot further from Ramsgate than Schiphol is, so even if the flight atually goes, this represents rather dubious progress.

Happy New Year everybody.

Remarkably, KLM delivered my lost luggage, including my laptop, at 9.30 pm on New Year’s Eve. At that time a pretty lively party was already in full swing,much improved by the presence of a great many beautiful young women, mostly from Latvia. I am not sure why; my life as ever consists of a bewildering succession of chance encounters with really nice people. I am in the fortunate position of being able to say that Nadira was the most lovely of all, without indulging in dutiful hyperbole.

It was an extremely happy Christmas. Having my mum, both my brothers and all my three chidren together was as great as it was rare.

We have been through the laptop in lost luggage discussion before. The problem is that my shoulders dislocate at the drop of a hat, and I travel without hand luggage to avoid an accident.

2011 is going to be a very important year for me. particularly the first quarter. A number of crucial events are going either to set me up financially for the rest of my life, or result in real distress and failure. At present I have reason to be very optimistic. I am also very absorbed in my life of Alexander Burnes, which I hope will help establish a serious academic reputation.

The Portuguese edition of Murder in Samarkand has sold unexpectedly well in Brazil. The translation of the Turkish edition has just been finished.

I hope to do a Wikileaks retrospective in the next couple of days. Just a quick thought on the case of the poor young gardener in Bristol. Of the Jill Dando case, long before Barry Bulsara’s succesful appeal I blogged that this appeared to be a miscarriage of justice in which the police had fitted up the local weirdo.

Despite not being enamoured of landlords in general, I fear the same dynamic is at work in Bristol, albeit Chris Jefferies is much more intellectually capable than Bulsara. My instinct is that the police have picked up on Jefferies for being camper than a boy scout jamboree and archer than Trajan.

Jefferies’ release on bail has me worried that there was nothing against him other than the “He’s a weird one, guv” instinct of some not very bright cop. The case needs to be closely watched as history shows that the powers of the police to make the evidence fit the suspect are considerable.

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Cold Weather Failures

The good news is that I am at Schiphol airport with a passable internet connection for the first time in three weeks. The bad news is that I am at Schiphol airport a great deal longer than I anticipated. Schiphol is colder than Heathrow and has mpre snow than Heathrow. It is operating normally – except for flights to the UK, of course.

A combination of crazed right wing thinking and crazed left wind thinking, so typical of the UK, is why our airports are rubbish.

The crazed right wing thinking is that our privatised infrastructure operates on the basis of maximising short term income. BAA is a renter of luxury goods retail space and the planes are just an unavoidable inconvenience. Following modern capitalist dogma, it carries no redundancy. It has only enough staff to just run the airport if they are all present and at full stretch. It can’t cope with a percentage not being able to get to work; it has no built in insurance of excess capacity.

BAA invests in only enough cold weather equipment to cope with a mild to normal winter. It has not tied up capital in equipment that may be fully needed only once in every five years. It crosses its fingers and hopes – it has, in effect, no insurance.

It is not of course unique. The philosophy of just in time ordering that transformed cash flows two decades ago, means total collapse if transport is disrupted. You hold no stock, carry no excess of anything.

It is this ideological commitment to short term profit maximisation that makes capitalism an unsafe model for British public infrastructure.

But then there adds to the chaos the left wing rubbish of health and safety culture. A man may not unload bags if there is any ice under his boots. He may slip. All risk must be eliminated and we must live hermetically sealed from our environment.

Weirdly the health and safety bullshit has become a part of corporate culture, an intrinsic part of management speak, trotted out by people who would sell baby parts to turn a buck, but not if there was a danger someone in the workplace would slip on the blood. Health and

safety is a mantra divorced of either morality or common sense.

Now where is that free champagne?

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Still Blacklisted for Broadcast?

What on earth are they so afraid I am going to say?

Today Channel 4 News contacted me to ask me on to discuss wikileaks. I was not over keen to venture out in the snow, so a very nice lady called Leona said they would send a car to Ramsgate as they were “extremely anxious” to have my views as an ex senior diplomat who supported wikileaks.

She has just called back to say they have cancelled as “the running order has changed”. In fact I had made no preparations to go as I knew it would happen. This was approximately the fortieth consecutive time I have been booked by mainstream media then cancelled. In every case they approached me – I do not approach them – and then pull out usually close to the last moment.

I last blogged about this three years ago, when I posted this:

Blacklisted?

The last five times I have been invited on to television current affairs programmes, all within the last four weeks, my appearance has then been cancelled shortly before filming (except in the case of my comments on Newsnight’s piece on the Uzbek cotton industry, where I was called in and filmed, and then edited out).

This has not only been happening on the BBC. For example I received this:

Dear Mr Murray, ITV Sunday Edition – interview request I hope you don’t mind me approaching you out of the blue. I am writing to invite you onto our show, The Sunday Edition on ITV, this Sunday 18 November.

To give you some more background on the show, The Sunday Edition is ITV’s weekly news and review show, presented by journalists Andrew Rawnsley and Andrea Catherwood. We would like to ask you on to talk about aspects of international affairs: picking up from Gordon Brown’s Guildhall speech, what can and should we expect from his foreign policy?; the situation in Pakistan, Iran; and also the current domestic counter-terrorism measures. We would be happy to discuss other areas you wished to cover.

In terms of logistics, the programme is recorded live at 9.25am this Sunday, 4 November, at the ITN studios in Gray’s Inn Road, central London. We would of course of provide transport to and from the studio.

I do hope this is of interest. If you need any more information about the programme, or this request, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,

James Reid

Followed by this:

Dear Craig, Many thanks for agreeing to come on the show this Sunday. Just to confirm the details, we will need to get you there for 8.45, to come on the programme at 9.25. Bekeh, our production co-ordinator will confirm the travel details with you when this is booked.

In the meantime, if you need any more information, please do not hesitate to let me know.

All the best

James

Then suddenly this:

Dear Craig, I hope all is well. I have been unable to get you on the phone this afternoon to let you know we had a change of plan for Sunday regarding the set-up for the programme, and are not going ahead with our planned interview. I wanted to say thank you very much for having agreed to come on, and for taking the time to talk to me on the phone. I apologies for this very late notice, and I hope this does not put you out.

Once again, may thanks for your time on this.

Best regards

James

Here is another example:

Dear Craig, I’m contacting you from the BBC’s Question Time programme where we are currently about to start a new season of programmes. I’m sure you are familiar with the format but just in case, each week five panellists take part in the programme – usually three politicians and two non-politicians. These other two panellists might be authors, artists, entrepreneurs, actors, pop stars or journalists. The idea is that they are non-political figures with an interest in current affairs – recent participants have included soul singer Beverley Knight, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and entrepreneur Martha Lane-Fox. We were wondering whether you would be interested and available at some point in the run to take part as a member of our panel? We have a number of dates coming up and it would be good to see if you are around. For example, we are in Leeds on the 18th October, Oxford on the 25th, Swansea on 1st November, London on the 8th November and Buxton on the 15th November. I hope this might be something that is of interest to you. Please let me know if I can give you any more information. Regards, Tom Gillett

Followed by:

Hi Craig,

Just getting in touch as I’m aware that we’d pencilled you in for this week’s programme.

I’m sorry to have to do this but I don’t think that we’re going to be able to go ahead with the booking this week. It just feels that this week is going to be all about Westminster politics and very little foreign policy which I think would be a waste of your experience. It would be better to book you in on a week where international matters are more prevalent so could you let me know your availability over the next few weeks and hopefully we can slot you in somewhere else.

Again, sorry not to be able to go ahead this week but hopefully we can re-arrange for a convenient date.

Very best,

Tom

No reply has been forthcoming to my emails on potential other dates.

Now obviously, it is not unheard of for current affairs programmes to invite people and then to cancel them. But it is very unusual – contrary to popular myth, television people are not notably more rude than normal. It is indeed so unusual that for it to happen five times in quick succession reaches the point where an underlying cause is definitely more likely than chance. It is worth noting that on all five occasions I did not approach the show; the show approached me. My contribution was discussed and a date agreed.

For Newsnight, I commented that the British government was not telling the truth in denying that they knew of the use of forced child labour in the Uzbek cotton industry, as I had reported it officially four years ago and written a book on the subject which they heavily vetted. On Sunday Edition this Sunday I was intending to query the veracity of the government’s claim that there are 2,000 Islamic terrorists in the UK, and consequently the need for yet more draconian anti-liberty legislation to “protect” us. I was also intending to point out the contradiction between Brown’s professed support for “Internationalism”, and his slavish devotion to an aggressively unilateral US foreign policy.

These are neither unusual nor extreme views, but you almost never hear them on television, and you won’t now be hearing them from me. I wonder why?

Posted by craig on November 17, 2007 5:59 AM in the category Other

End quote

It has happened, again and again, ever since – though with decreasing frequency, as I suppose it has become generally known I am not to be filmed. I don’t normally post about it, because obviously it makes it easy to portray you as paranoid. You will recall that even when I gave shocking formal evidence before the parliamentary human rights committee on UK complicity in torture, or when David Tennant played me in a BBC radio play of my life by David Hare, or when I presented the Sam Adams award to Julian Assange, I was not given a single UK broadcast interview about any of these pretty startling events. I have given literally hundreds of foreign TV interviews throughout this period.

I am convinced that there must be a formal mechanism behind this blacklisting. It is too complete, and kicks in so effectively every time I actually am invited. To edit me out of a lengthy feature on slavery in the Uzbek cotton industry, as Newsnight did, for example, is inexplicable otherwise.

This started in 2007. In 2005 and 2006 I made about 50 TV appearances on UK national television in each year. In the first half of 2007 I made over thirty. Since then, not one, but numerous invitations cancelled at the last minute. Now give me a credible alternative explanation to blacklisting.

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Afghanistan

This wracked body is battling to keep going, with problems still arising from whatever it was that nearly killed me in Tahskent in 2003 (if that sounds mysterious, it is – read Murder in Samarkand). I have spent most of the last week acting as a pincushion for the local hospital.

All of which thoughts of mortality remind me that I need to travel to Afghanistan in January to finish my research for my biography of Alexander Burnes. This is fair notice to anyone in Afghanistan who might want to kill me – which is a pretty broad range.

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Meteors or Meteorites over Kent

I have just seen the most beautiful site. A meteor of the deepest red, a distinct flare with a tail, came over in a great arc, moving very slowly and slightly wobbly, and gradually dwindling away to nothing. Just as it vanished, a second one appeared from the original spot and traced the same arc, like a celestial action replay. Each was visible for around two minutes.

It was breathtaking and beautiful. I don’t care if it was space junk frazzling as it entered the atmosphere, the effect was divine. My plans for November 5 seem a bit pointless now.

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Drowning in Spam

For those who have found it hard to get the site or to post comments, we are under a massive and concerted spambot attack. See this:

Download file

The interesting thing is that this is disguised as commercial spam but it isn’t – there are no real car dealers, fake watch salesmen and loan sharks at the end of the links.

Tim and Wibbler have repeatedly said they will look into a simple Captcha device to eliminate these attacks, but it appears not possible, perhaps due to our rickety old blog platform.

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New Kid on the Blog

No apologies for this 9 day old link. A new blog by somebody who has been one of my closest friends for the last 33 years – and an excellent article on tuition fees. As he says, the rebels are the Lib Dem ministers going against party policy. I see he hasn’t blogged since, so please give him some comments to welcome him to the blogging world!

http://angularangularities.blogspot.com/2010/10/lets-crush-this-tuition-fees-rebellion_12.html

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Rooney’s Gold

Not merely just a bit thick, Wayne Rooney is actually a really nasty piece of work, and his personal milieu is one of gangsters in the literal, criminal sense of the word. It is five years since my friend John Sweeney told me this,and he this year published the well researched Rooney’s Gold. Even after vetting by libel lawyers it is a horribly seedy tale.

Much kudos to Iain Dale for publishing it, after libel lawyers scared off big publishers. I don’t think any Manchester United fans will have bought it – they should now, and be happy the ugly shit is going.

I was very proud at the passion and guts Scotland showed in their 2-3 defeat by Spain – a feeling of pride in the team’s spirit English fans have not known for years. Read Rooney’s Gold and you will see why top flight English foorball will never be linked to noble endeavour again.

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My Bed

My break from blogging continues. I have not been posting in or reading the comments sections. I am told some people have been worried by some posts there purporting to be from me. They are not from me, I am in good health and have not discovered any “bugs” or phone taps – someone is posting nonsense comments in my name.

Anyway here is a photo of my bed, to help explain why I am taking a break.

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And here are some pictures of the rest of the house, which had been illegally converted to bedsits and substantially trashed.

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Here is Ingo working on reinstating an original mable fireplace and open fire. Unfortunately by the time I took one this one the plaster dust had got into my Blackberry as it has got everywhere else.

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We only have a few weeks left to get the house habitable for the family. We work from dawn to dusk. We haven’t got television or the internet or indeed, much of the time, electricity and water. It is simply not practicable to blog sensibly at the moment so I am concentrating purely on the building work until we are past the worst of it.

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A Ramsgate Blog

This blog now comes to you from Ramsgate. Sorry about the hiatus. I flew back from Ghana overnight and that day picked up the keys and entered our new home. Since then I have been ankle deep in plaster dust. There is a lot to do.

I share the outrage over the lack of a prosecution for the manslaughter (at least) of Ian Tomlinson. On torture and extraordinary rendition, and on policy in Afghanistan, I feel events have completely vindicated me and my efforts. But there are times in life when you need to step back for a brief while from a public role and concentrate on your family, and this has been (and still will be for a few days) one of those times.

I really like Ramsgate. It reminds me a lot of Sheringham, where I grew up, Jamie and Emily went to prep schools in Broadstairs and Ramsgate respectively. It was a great port, from which many historic journeys started. You can still hop on a ferry over to Ostend. It feels vibrant compared to most of our larger seaside towns.

There is of course another side. Some time in the last 20 years, whether by drift of events or by conscious policy of Kent County Council or the Home Office (maybe someone can enlighten me), Thanet became a prime place to dump people the state viewed as problems. Asylum seekers – many of them genuine – drug addicts, rehabilitating offenders, problem families, all found themselves put into the crumbling and unwanted seaside guest houses of Thanet. Some people cashed in – our house was illegally and horribly converted into bedsits. The despair and seediness of it all were brilliantly chronicled in the film The Last Resort.

Ramsgate, of course, is not Margate. But if you need a policeman in a hurry out of hours they come from Margate, as we discovered when we came across a middle aged drug addict attempting to throttle his similarly afflicted partner – who was bleeding from a blow to the face – in Ramsgate High Street at 6pm.

Only the second time I have had to call 999 in my life, and I had only been in Ramsgate 24 hours!

Into this extraordinary mix you then disgorge from the newly built high speed rail link a crowd of largely young professional London commuters. I am in a sense one, though I won’t commute. The attraction is that 70 minutes from St Pancras you can pick up a perfectly serviceable three bedroom house with a good garden for £160,000. Or if you are crazy like us you can pick up a rambling 1834 villa with 14 major rooms, all in a state of decay, and a very large garden for £295,000.

The High Speed Rail Link is really impressive as far as Ashford, running on the Eurostar lines allegedly at 140mph. After that it continues on not so much at high speed, as not as slow as a stopping train. Until the high speed link, trains in the 2000’s took 15 minutes longer to reach Ramsgate from London than they did in the 1890’s.

With its refurbished marina, swathe of new restaurants and official council attempt to create a “cafe culture”, Ramsgate becomes a still more interesting social mix. The one really functional bit of our house was an expensive and comprehensive alarm system – I am scared to fart unless the police come hurtling round. The security bars on our neighbour’s house remind me of living in Lagos. Plainly there are social tensions, at least in the minds of the owners of larger houses.

I know that I feel resentment at all the “foreigners” (ie non-Shannocks) who swamped Sheringham. As a child if I walked down Sheringham High Street, not only would I know everyone I saw, literally half of them would be related to my mum. God knows who they all are now. And Sheringham does not have the brash yuppie-ism of the Marina area at Ramsgate and its pretence at being Cannes, for young locals to make fun of.

But so far I have found Ramsgate people entirely welcoming, and there is at least some anecdotal evidence that the local economy is benefiting. Both the tree surgeon and plumber have told us that most of their work at the minute is from commuters who have just moved down from London. The last couple of evenings I ate in a Lithuanian/Russian restaurant named CCCP, and in an Indian/Bengali restaurant named Spice Fusion which was opened by lads from London who moved down the same day as me.

Ramsgate. The fashionable place to live. It must be – the Murrays are here 🙂

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The Ethics of Banning Trolls

With genuine reluctance, I find myself obliged to ban Larry from St Louis from commenting on this blog.

I am extremely happy for people to comment on this blog who disagree with my views. It makes it much more interesting for everybody. I wish more people who disagree would comment.

But Larry has a different agenda. His technique is continually to accuse me of holding opinions which I do not in fact hold, and which he thinks will call my judgement into doubt.

Take this comment posted by Larry at 9.35 am today:

I’ve re-read your post on the Russian spies, and once again you’ve proven to be a complete dumbass.

I predicted Russia claiming (in some minor way) those idiots. You didn’t. You thought it was a conspiracy.

You’ve once again self-indicted.

In fact my view on the Russian spies was the exact opposite of what Larry claims it was. As I posted:

I don’t have any difficulty in believing that the FBI really have discovered a colony of Russian sleeper spies in the United States.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/06/those_russian_s.html#comments

This is not Larry being mistaken – remember he claimed he had just re-read my posting. It is rather indicative of a very deliberate technique he has used scores of times, that of claiming I hold an opinion which he believes will devalue my other arguments in the mind of other readers, when I do not in fact hold that opinion.

He most often – indeed daily – does this with reference to 9/11. He tries to divert almost every thread on to the topic of 9/11 and to insinuate that I am among those who believe that 9/11 was “an inside job”. In fact, I am not of that opinion and never have been.

I have put up with this now for months, but Larry’s activities have become so frenetic and are so counter-productive to informed debate, I am not prepared to put up with it any more. I am also deeply sucpicious of the fact that he is able to spend more time on this blog than me, and to post right around the clock (often as with this one at 9.35am – think about it – what time is that in the US?).

Anyway, sorry Larry, your derailing days are over.

.

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