Hi folks. Comments may be down for a short period. One of the cross beams has gone out askew on the treadle.
The key question is whether new Arab leadership will be more open and democratic that the extremely corrupt long term dictators they replace. Still, that’s no reason to hang on to Sepp Blatter.
I have a brand new shiny blog but can I fly it? I’ll never get over Macho Grande.
Infinite thanks to Tim Ireland for the extraordinary amount of work involved in getting this blog moved over from Movable Type to WordPress. Not to mention cleaning out over 300,000 pieces of spam. Transferring the 57,000 (yes, really that many) remaining genuine comments on to the Intense Debate plugin has been even more onerous and is still not complete. While that process goes on, comments will have to be delayed by moderation. Volunteer moderators from longstanding and trusted associates and contributors are welcome.
Thanks as ever also to Richard Kastelein and expathos for their fearless hosting.
Many of you will be familiar with WordPress; input is welcome on the format, look and working of the new site and which plugins you would particularly want to see.
Events over the last few months has made this blog’s largely international focus, particularly on human rights and the Islamic world as impacted by Western foreign policy, more relevant than ever. So if I can post this, then enough of the admin and let me get down to the real work.
You may have noticed the sudden disappearance of every comment on the site. This is part of the IntenseDebate installation, and perfectly normal. In fact, the IntenseDebate installation is why he had to be so certain that the bulk of comments were imported to WordPress correctly (because they then had to be processed by this provider).
On that note, I am happy to announce that the 9/11 thread was saved, and will re-appear in a complete state along with all other comments in the coming days (there are tens of thousands of comments to import – 56,727 to be exact – and this will take some time).
The site should re-launch shortly with Craig at the helm, and should process any new comments immediately (something I am just about to test before closing this thread). Cheers all.
UPDATE – Test completed, but we are stuck with the default settings of IntenseDebate until the import is complete, and it will take a while to get to know everybody regardless, so all comments will be processed immediately, but very few of them will be published immediately; they will need to be approved first. The system will get easier to use when we can later adjust the settings to ‘trust’ regulars with immediate publication.
Hi folks. Tim here, with a quick notice about the visual changes to the site that cannot have escaped your attention.
The data from the old site has now been cleansed of spam and successfully transmogrified to WordPress format.
The WordPress format is now live site-wide, and all old pages should redirect to the new versions as of now.
This site will be using IntenseDebate to make conversations easier for all concerned, and I know from experience that there will be a significant delay between activating this plug-in and all comments appearing through it. So, if you see any old posts where the comments appear to have disappeared, please do not worry, they will all return in an easier-to-follow format within a few days (or perhaps weeks).
(The only comments lost permanently apart from spam and any replies to spam; roughly 700 casualties from the 1800-comment epic debating 9/11 conspiracy theories. Yes, of course it was an accident. Why are you looking at me like that?)
I hope to open the site to accept new comments from Monday.
UPDATE – Some truncated posts have been spotted. The relevant importing error has been identified and addressed, and a fresh import will take place over the weekend.
UPDATE (Monday 28th) – Thanks to readers who spotted errors (and some remaining spam). A fresh and hopefully final import will be staged today. All but the latest two posts may disappear in hour or so this will take.
Some heavy lifting in progress. Any comments submitted during this manoeuvre may be lost forever in the ether.
Someone has written me a letter about Bilderberg
My own view is that those who get overly worried about rich and powerful people meeting to forward their common interest, need to chill out. Of course they do that. It’s just like Davos with added cachet from the thrill of being “secret”. If it were public, I don’t doubt you would find it’s just as banal.
Everything is not directed by Bilderberg, Freemasons, Illuminati, the Federal Reserve, the Rothschilds, the Prieure of Sion or any other grouping. Do the rich and powerful heavily influence western governments? Of course. Do they cabal in various ways? Of course. Is there a hidden force behind everything, a secret world government? No.
For anybody inclined to be sympathetic to BP over the Gulf oil link, note that its latest capping effort is capturing about 10,000 barrels of oil a day, estimated to be about half of what is leaking.
But note that for months, BP claimed the total leak was only 5,000 barrels a day and roundly abused the very many experts who suggested otherwise – while rebutting any independent monitoring.
So what we now know is that total leakage is about four times what BP were claiming for 90% of the period covered by the disaster so far. Now, either BP don’t know much about oil wells, or they were deliberately lying about the extent of the disaster.
Oil is of course a perfectly natural substance which on occasion gets into the sea through seismic events, erosion or other natural cause. Chemical dispersants – most of which are varieties of detergent – are not natural substances at all. I am sceptical whether spraying the seas with chemical dispersants does not make the situation worse.
As usual, where Craig Murray treads, the rest of Europe follows in time. Of last year’s Eurovision song contest I blogged:
Last night I voted for Azerbaijan because I thought the girl was seriously hot.
Tonight I expect the rest of Europe will catch on.
In the end I voted for Armenia, as having an altogether better class of tottie.
There are serious doubts about the liberal credentials of Obama’s supreme court nominee, Elena Kagan. Some excellent analysis here:
The economic crisis in Greece has many ironies, one of which is that an appalling fiscal mess, left by a very right wing government, is the responsibility of a left wing government to clear up. It is the same Augean task (to stick with Greek cultural heritage) as will face whoever takes over from this very right wing government in the UK.
Being nothing but a lowly party member, I cannot pretend that the Mervyn King scenario had not occurred to me too. I had considered that a Cameron administration, with a tiny majority, propped up by some Northern Irish bigots, would inflict such pain on the majority of our society that, before falling after a few years, they would put the Tories out for a generation at least.
In so doing, they would greatly enhance the cause of Scottish and Welsh independence, and with the Lib Dems the second most popular party and the challenger in the large majority of Tory seats, the Tory demise would sweep in a radical change in more promising circumstances. All that had occurred to me.
But it was of course the Thatcher scenario. She was the least popular Prime Minister ever. But then she engineered into a massively popular war the crass Argentinian invasion of the Falklands , and never looked back. The Tories could pull such a trick again. Accompanying another war, they might crank up still further the appalling reduction of our civil liberties.
On top of which we need to pin down electoral reform now, while there is the best ever chance. PR and a 100% elected House of Lords will transform the political landscape of the UK for ever. Let’s look for an outcome that secures that – it is more important than the pleasant prospect of watching Cameron fall on his arse. So I am out again today campaigning for the Lib Dems. This is the first chance to change the two party system for a generation.
Back to Greece. The European ideal – which at its internationalist core I regard as a good thing – is suffering from overreach. The Eurocracy have always been expansionist, and taken the view that to secure expansion is more important than the detail. Thus Greece and Portugal in particular were admitted to the Euro when everyone knew that it was a fudge, and that their dim relationship with the convergence criteria was based on fake statistics.
The same is true with the accession criteria, which in areas like corruption, transparency and the rule of law Bulgaria and Romania were deemed to meet, when plainly they did not. On human rights, dreadful treatment of their Roma was ignored. All that too will come back to haunt the Eu.
The problem with faking the convergence criteria, and the fundamental flaw in the Euro, is that there is no real mechanism to enforce a broadly similar fiscal policy across the single currency. The system of peer review relies on the (in this case Greek) government’s own falsified statistics, and has few teeth even if it had good information. The result in effect is that individual countries can practice free quantitive easing – just print themselves money. This devalues the money everyone else has in their pocket, as the Eurozone is now noticing rather sharply.
We are already lending Greece more money through the IMF than the amount we would need to give if we were part of the Eurozone rescue package. I do not think these loans will halt the markets, who have identified the fundamental weakness in the Euro’s structure and will go for it mercilessly.
There is much speculation that Europe should boot Greece out of the Euro and we should see a return of the drachma. I think broadly that should happen. But there is an alternative to the return of the drachma – which Greece would simply create far too much of, and would soon have toilet paper status. Greece could be kicked out of the Euro, but still use the Euro as its currency, merely losing the ability to create it, with the government having to raise the money by bonds and import cash physically from another European state. That is on a more institutionalised and thorough scale the way the dollar works in countries with junk economies. Once Greece has really reformed it can rejoin the Euro properly.
Humiliating, but it is actually a very Greek idea. King Croesus’ Lydia was the first state whose currency was so sound it was used internationally. It remains a famously good idea over millennia.
I am in Glasgow, having a very pleasant time, but it would be superhuman of me not to point out that I was right and the closure of UK airspace was indeed a weird fearmongering over-reaction. There is no diminution in ash currently in UK airspace, but its danger to aircraft has now been “reassessed”, and the health and safety morons have had to admit that there is no overwhelming risk..
There is a danger that the stage has been reached when we automatically disbelieve the government when it warns of a great danger. I believe, for example, that climate change is a great danger. Quite a lot of my friends, however, are dubious partly because the government is pushing it.
Consider the really major government scares of the last few years – things which were supposed to result in the death of millions – which proved to be nothing like the threat alleged. SARS, avian flu and swine flu all come instantly to mind. And what about the most ramped threat of all, the War of Terror, said by Tony Blair to be an “existential threat” and by John Reid to be a threat “On the scale of World War 2”.
There is an absolutely clear history of governmental over-exaggeration of threat, but also that governments have no difficulty in finding backing for this fear-mongering from government scientists and both techincal and inter-governmental international bodies. There are always virologists, vulcanologists and security experts willing to go on TV and tell us we are all doomed (oh, and can they get a bigger research grant to combat the threat).
So when the government promotes a big threat, I am conditioned to scepticism, even before British Airways flew a jumbo jet around for hours yesterday with the Chief Exec on board (after similar incident free test flights by other European airlines).
It turns out that the repeatedly quoted occasion when a BA flight lost power in all four engines due to volcanic dust, was a case of flying right through the plume close to the volcano in Indonesia. When you think about it, the fact that you can do something as extreme as that and nobody be hurt, is comforting rather than worrying.
As for widely dispersed ash, I have been wondering how Indonesia and Hawaii and Sicily ever manage flights. Why was there not a massive whole continent air lockdown after the vastly greater ash flown out by Mount St Helens?
As a society we have become risk averse to an unrealistic degree. We seem to spend our lives in a permanent state of cringe. Perhaps the ash really is too dangerous: but I see no reason to automatically believe the government on the subject.
Obama and Medvedev’s signature of an new START treaty is a real achievement and should not be ridiculed. It will significantly reduce the number of nuclear warheads and guidance systems in the world. That is a good thing. Obama’s aspiration for a nuclear weapon free world is also a good thing.
Of course it does not do everything. It does not for example cancel the US project of a forward ballistic defence shield in Europe. It does however make ever more plain that this is an otiose project. I have come to the conclusion that it actually has no purpose at all other than to throw a nice meaty carcass to the US weapons industry lobby.
Nor has Obama tackled or even admitted the problem of Israel’s nuclear weapons. But Obama’s drive for worldwide reduction makes the elephant in the room impossible to ignore. Egypt and Turkey’s insistence on raising the issue has already caused Netanyahu to drop out of Obama’s planned nuclear conference. This further straining of the relationship between the US and Israel is a good thing, and on this issue Israel is self-imposing a pariah state status.
So I take the view that the commentators who ridicule Obama’s START treaty because of the things it did not do, have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. What it does is good, and its ramifications are still better.
I thought that was a pretty stomping article for the Guadian CiF, in response to Matt Seaton’s invitation to me to write for them again. However I don’t quite see how anybody is going to read it. Not only is there no mention of its existence on the Guardian homepage, there is not even any mention of its existence on the comment is free page.
So comment is free, but deeply buried. There is not really any chance of anyone reading it unless they see my link or stumble across it from a search engine.
A while ago a friend asked me why the western media ignored the Naxalite rebellion. I confess I looked at them in some bemusement. They gave me a quick briefing and I went to read more.
Yesterday the Naxalites killed 74 Indian para-military forces in a huge gun battle in Chatisgarrh, bringing to over 200 the number of Indian security forces they have killed this year – before we get into the officials and landlords they have killed. A Muslim suicide bamber killing six Pakistani civilians makes broadcast media on every channel. The Naxalites are fighting a burgeoning civil war in the heart of India, yet totally ignored.
The Naxalites are a rebellion of impoverished castes against landowners, and of indigenous people whose environment is being ruined by mineral mining against the government and big business who make sure they don’t benefit. They characterise themselves as Maoist, and their leadership includes Indian university intellectuals with links to the cult of Bob Avakian in the USA and to the Maoist rebels of Nepal. The Naxalites have real control on the ground of a great deal more territory in India than Karzai and NATO control in Afghanistan.
This low level war has been rumbling on for decades, but has burst into real fire by a decision two years ago by the Indian government to switch policy. From trying to undermine the Naxalites by social policies assuaging the greivances of the poor in the region, they dramatically changed to a policy of wiping out the Naxalites militarily. The cause of the change was India’s economic growth and the urge to speed up multinational company access to mineral resources. So far, it looks like a very stupid decision.
How much of that did you know? I maintain that if the Naxalites were Muslim, they would be on the front page of every paper as a threat to India, and the Americans would be bombing them. But they aren’t, so you will find them hard to track in the mainstream media.
They are however just an extreme example of the fact that the losers in India’s economic miracle are not dependably complacent.
For all those commenters who were shocked by my failure to be very sorry about the murder of Eugene Terre Blanche, here is a photo of him
And here’s a massacre by those nice cuddly white South Africans – less than 1% of whom engaged in any form of protest against this massacre.
I don’t think any more words are needed.
My last, flippant post on the death of Eugene Terre Blanche brought an interesting comment thread, in which not only did we attract some new South African commentators, we started up interesting disagreements along unusual fault lines between regular commentators. So I thought I might probe further with something less flippant.
I am not actually in favour of hacking people to death as a form of political action. But I am unrepentant at failing to be moved by the death of an out and out Nazi, who thrived in apartheid times in a system in which he was able to put his ideas of racial dominance into practice over his staff and black neighbours.
The apartheid regime killed many thousands, and dispossessed, disenfranchised and enslaved millions. Almost all white South Africans were implicated in it and enjoyed its benefits. Never forget that.
Through colonialism, apartheid and neo-colonialism, white people took control of Africa’s best farming land – in areas where white men could survive the climate – and its amazing mineral resources. Throughout Africa white people still reap the great majority of the economic benefit from African oil, gold, diamonds, rutile, bauxite, uranium etc. The backbreaking labour falls to black people and so does the pollution. That benefit that does come to Africans largely falls to tiny corrupt white-educated post-colonial elites.
In South Africa it is still the case that the large majority of the wealth of the nation. the controlling interest in the gold and other mineral resources and much of the best farmland still lies with white people.
There are some white South Africans who had a genuine moral abhorrence of apartheid and yet become unfortunate victims of violence whose root cause lies in massive disparity of wealth. There are however not many white South Africans lining up to shed their wealth meaningfully to black South Africans.
White dominance over African resources has been maintained brutally and often with the use of mercenaries – officered by the British upper classes and with South Africans doing the actual killing.
That is not to excuse corrupt African elites and misgovernment by the Mugabes of this world. But Mugabe being a dreadful old tyrant does not justify the continued white ownership of land stolen by force from the indigenous peoples. Indeed some of the worst white farmers are close to Mugabe, like Prince Harry’s appalling girlfriend’s family.
Even in a country like Kenya, the recent ethnic conflicts can be traced back to colonial land grabs by white farmers dispossessing one tribe into another tribes’ lands.
I cover all of this with vastly more depth and subtlety in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. I do hope those commenting will read it.
For all those nutters who cry “Conspiracy theory” whenever it is stated that the CIA have ever done anything wrong, here is a story from that impeccably conservative source, the Daily Telegraph:
A 50-year mystery over the ‘cursed bread’ of Pont-Saint-Esprit, which left residents suffering hallucinations, has been solved after a writer discovered the US had spiked the bread with LSD as part of an experiment.
Tony Baldry MP has set libel lawyers Olswang on British bloggers who have had the temerity to refer to this extremely interesting article from Sahara Reporters
Olswang state that Baldry has been hired as a QC to defend the truly horrible James Ibori on charges of money laundering. Ibori was Governor of Delta State in Nigeria, scene of appalling environmental devastation, dreadful human rights abuse, and massive corruption from the oil industry. Ibori chose to launder millions of pounds of his looted wealth through London. The Nigerian government refused to extradite him to the UK, but family and associates of his in London face money laundering charges.
There are two important points here. Olswang state that Baldry was not acting as an MP, but as a QC. That would certainly be true if he were on his hind legs arguing to a jury in court (though why any jury might be swayed by Baldry is beyond me).
But to write to a Minister saying that as a matter of policy, it is not in the public interest to prosecute corrupt foreign officials who launder their money through London, particularly Mr Ibori, is quite a different thing. How can the roles of MP and QC be separated in such policy lobbying of a Minister on behalf of a paying client – and remember Mr Ibori was in a position to pay extremely well?
The separation of Baldry’s MP and QC hats in carrying out this special pleading to Ministers is a vulgar fiction. Not to mention the moral vacuity of the argument: “We can’t turn up our noses at money looted from the African people, old boy. Think of the effect on the City.”
This case raises, yet again, serious questions about the compatibility of MPs highly paid outside interests with what is supposed to be their main job, as impartial legislators on behalf of the British people.
Which leads me to my second point. Did Baldry or his companies have any connection with James Ibori before he was hired as his QC? The Sahara Reporters article lists extensive business interests of Baldry in West Africa, including in oil and gas.
The Nigerian Liberty Forum knows that Mr Baldry, who was the Chairman of the House of Commons International Development Select Committee from January 2001 to May 2005, has extensive interests in the extractive industries of several emerging economies especially in West Africa. For example, he is the Chairman of Westminster Oil Limited (a British Virgin Islands registered company involved in the development of oil licences and exploration) and the Deputy Chairman of Woburn Energy plc (a UK AIM listed company specialising in oil exploration and recovery). He is also a director of West African Investments Ltd (a company that invests in “infrastructure and natural resource projects in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in West Africa”) and a shareholder in Target Resources plc (a company involved in gold and diamond mining in Sierra Leone). Mr Baldry is also the Chairman of the Advisory Committee of Curve Capital Ventures Ltd (“a sector neutral investment company that predominantly invests in India; China and Africa and advises companies on strategic growth and global expansion”).
I know of Westminster Oil Ltd, who are particularly dodgy. More revelations will follow.
I have got hold of a copy of Olswang’s threatening letter, amusingly headed “Not for publication”.