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The Empire Strikes Back

If you argue a case strongly on the internet you must expect to receive robust argument back. Plus the odd insult. There has been plenty of both in reaction to my posts about corporate media control of access to the data in the Panama Papers. But I believe it is fair to say that the overwhelming public feeling I have picked up through monitoring online discussion worldwide, is that the full data should be made available online in searchable form so that the public can look through it and form their own conclusions.

I wish to address in a little more depth the arguments which have been raised.

Several people have argued with my reference to “corporate media”, as the consortium includes state organisations such as the BBC. My response to that is that the BBC has become in the last few years a mouthpiece for state propaganda with no effective independence of government, and that the politicians are very much in the pocket of the corporations who fund them. The BBC therefore promotes corporate interests just as much as those outlets directly owned by corporate interests. It is simply a question of direct or indirect control.

The key point is that access to the Panama data has been restricted in accordance with a media order which is decades out of date. It ignores citizen journalism. The only online based platforms given access are the billionaire owned Huffington Post and Craigslist. Nowadays people prefer to find things for themselves.

This ostensibly sympathetic article from Richard Smith illustrates the problem rather well. It is one of trust. Do we trust the – let me use a neutral word – established media to filter the information and decide what we are permitted to see? My answer is no, I do not trust them. I know many mainstream journalists and the vast majority of them are interested in pleasing their paymasters and advancing their careers. Very few and vanishingly less are disinterested promoters of truth.

Nor do I accept that revealing a story about David Cameron’s dead father – a story which had been in the public domain for four years – or securing the resignation of the Prime Minister of Iceland, a tiny state which happens to have taken the most radical action of any against bankers, is sign of balance.

It is a sign of a pretence of balance.

But Richard Smith is entitled to his view and perhaps his naïve trust in corporate media indicates a pleasant and trusting nature. I am often called naïve myself for wanting the world to be a better place. Mr Smith evidently believes it already is.

The only thing I actively dislike in Smith’s article is the contention that I criticised the BBC for not pointing out that the British Virgin Islands were implicated in one document flashed on the screen, obscured, during the BBC Panorama. Actually there were three separate documents about separate transactions, all involving the British Virgin Islands. Those transactions were central to the entire first half of the programme, and for the BBC to hide that it was all happening in the British Virgin Islands was disgraceful.

The BBC of course do not like me and I have been banned from appearing for many years. One of the many thousand people who retweeted my original post on the Panama Papers, subsequently tweeted that he had done so by accident. This brought the magisterial rebuke from Jamie Angus, editor of the BBC Radio Today programme, that accident “is the only acceptable reason for retweeting Craig Murray.” I can understand that Mr Angus does not want people to hear opinions not sanctioned by his employers, but I would be interested to know why he feels it is not “acceptable” to read my pieces. He has since challenged me to mention that the British Virgin Islands were criticised on his radio programme. I am happy to do so, because unlike Mr Angus, I do not believe views other than my own should be suppressed.

I shall not trouble you with the large volume of simply abusive tweets I have received, co-ordinated by the usual two groups – British unionist and pro-Israel lobbyists who for some reason like to troll me. Let us just ignore them.

I should now come to the question of privacy. The Guardian newspaper, along with the BBC the main “owner” of the data in the UK, has made no bones about the fact that most of the data will not be published, and that there are “legitimate reasons” why people have offshore accounts and companies. As the Guardian’s owners operated from tax-dodging overseas accounts for years, they have to say that of course.

There has been surprisingly little discussion of this topic. I do not accept that there is any legitimate reason for owning offshore companies and offshore bank accounts, if you do not have a business genuinely located in and operating from the jurisdiction. Ordinary people do not have accounts in tax havens. The only reason people have accounts and fake companies in tax havens is to avoid tax and other legal jurisdiction. This is not morally acceptable, whether or not our rulers make sure it is legal. I therefore do not accept any privacy argument for keeping the vast bulk of the data from the public.

This argument s absolutely at the heart of the corporate media’s interest in hiding 99.9% of the information – which behind the obfuscation is precisely what they intend to do. This argument needs to be met head on.

The only subject of any interest now in the Panama Papers is whether the data will be fully released on the internet and available to everybody, and not hidden by the corporate media.

We must all campaign to release the data.

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The Wacko Right Nexus

Ted Cruz has not really registered much with the public in the UK. But anybody feeling comforted by his apparently making ground against Donald Trump is in for a shock. Cruz is on the right wing fringes even in the United States – so much so that John McCain called him a “wacko”. He is an avid climate change denier, wishes to increase US military interventions abroad, wants to criminalise abortion and supports control of the internet – he described net neutrality as “Obamacare for the internet”.

It is therefore interesting that the Chairman of Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is one Chad Sweet, who is also a Director of the Quilliam Foundation USA, established by its British counterpart.

The Quilliam Foundation is a group led by people who claim to be former Islamic jihadists who have now reformed. It is the go-to organisation for the BBC and Murdoch’s Sky News whenever Islamic matters, and particularly terrorism, are aired on the media. It is presented, quite falsely, as a neutral and technocratic organisation.

It is in fact deeply sinister. While it has provided a lifestyle of champagne and well-cut silk suits for its “ex-jihadist” directors, it has pandered to right wing Islamophobia in every statement it has ever made. It received millions of pounds of UK government funding, not very well accounted for, and employs “ex” members of MI6. I have it from a very good security source that funding comes from the CIA, and there is certainly an open stream of funding from far right American bodies.

Quilliam were involved by the government as “experts” in drawing up the government’s Prevent strategy, which directly seeks to curtail expression of “radical” opinion in British universities and seeks to place a spy in every classroom. It has led, among scores of such incidents, to the arrest and detention of a Muslim student of security studies for reading a book on terrorism in Nottinghamshire University Library, and the police being sent to an eight year old Muslim child’s home because the teacher heard him use the word terrorism. Only last week the National Union of Teachers took a definitive stand against the Prevent strategy.

There is no doubt the air of anti-Muslim paranoia Prevent inculcates will increase resentment and alienation among young Muslims, which is the opposite of what is sensible. But the corporate media can always call up the “experts” of the Quilliam Foundation when they want the government line to be supported.

The link between Quilliam and Cruz does not surprise me in the least, but is completely contrary to the official image of Quilliam as presented by the media.

Their support for Prevent is of a piece with their contempt for freedom of speech. After I first criticised Quilliam, I received a telephone call from one of their staff attempting to get my personal financial details, including account numbers, by pretending to be making a donation. They also tried to get this blog closed down by attempting legal action against its hosts.

The nexus of far right interests, and their reach, is ever fascinating. I guess we all pray for Bernie Sanders.

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A Chink of Aussie Light

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation shamed the BBC by putting out a Four Corners documentary on the Panama leak that had real balls.

In stark contrast to the BBC, the Australians named and shamed Australia’s biggest company and Australia’s biggest foreign investor. BBC Panorama by contrast found a guy who sold one house in Islington. The Australians also, unlike the BBC who deliberately and knowing hid it, pointed out that the corruption centred on the British Virgin Islands, and even went there. All in all an excellent job.

Four Corners of course has a history of this. Their absolutely excellent documentary Sex, Lies and Julian Assange told vital truths about the concoction of the allegations against Julian Assange, which to this day have been hidden by the BBC and entire British corporate media. I implore anybody who has not yet seen it, to watch it now.

In this dreadful situation where the corporate media have monopoly access to the Mossack Fonseca database, there is going to be a little chink of light here and there, where old fashioned notions of journalistic integrity still cling to life in isolated pockets. But those chinks of light only serve to highlight the abject servitude of outlets like the BBC and Guardian to the official neo-con narrative.

It is absolutely imperative that the entire database is made available to the people, rather than the people being drip-fed by journalistic Gods who make decisions in the interests of their employers, not of the public.

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Disgraceful BBC Panorama Propaganda Hides Grim Truth About Britain

Richard Bilton of the BBC today exposed himself as the most corrupt and bankrupt of state media shills – while pretending to be fronting an expose of corruption. There could not be a more perfect example of the western state and corporate media pretending to reveal the Panama leak data while actually engaging in pure misdirection.

In a BBC Panorama documentary entitled Tax Havens of the Rich and Powerful Exposed, they actually did precisely the opposite. The BBC related at length the stories of the money laundering companies of the Icelandic PM and Putin’s alleged cellist. The impression was definitely given and reinforced that these companies were in Panama.

Richard Bilton deliberately suppressed the information that all the companies involved were in fact not Panamanian but in the corrupt British colony of the British Virgin Islands. At no stage did Bilton even mention the British Virgin Islands.

Company documents were flashed momentarily on screen, in some cases for a split second, and against deliberately unclear backgrounds. There is no chance that 99.9% of viewers would notice they referred to British Virgin Islands companies. But instantly reading a glimpsed document is an essential skill for a career diplomat, and of course I happen to know immediately what BVI or Tortola mean on a document. So I have been back and got screenshots of those brief flashes.

Screenshot (17)

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Is it not truly, truly, astonishing the British Virgin Islands were not even mentioned when the BBC broadcast their “investigation” of these documents?

In deliberately obscuring the key role of the British money-laundering base of British Virgin Islands in these transactions, the BBC have demonstrated precisely why the entire database has to be released to the scrutiny of the people, rather than being filtered by the dubious honesty of state and corporate journalists. The BBC targeting of two very low level British minions at the end of their programme does not alter this.

The BBC could also address why their Pacific Quay HQ in Glasgow is leased for £100 million from a hidden ownership company in the Cayman Islands.

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Corporate Media Gatekeepers Protect Western 1% From Panama Leak 797

Whoever leaked the Mossack Fonseca papers appears motivated by a genuine desire to expose the system that enables the ultra wealthy to hide their massive stashes, often corruptly obtained and all involved in tax avoidance. These Panamanian lawyers hide the wealth of a significant proportion of the 1%, and the massive leak of their documents ought to be a wonderful thing.

Unfortunately the leaker has made the dreadful mistake of turning to the western corporate media to publicise the results. In consequence the first major story, published today by the Guardian, is all about Vladimir Putin and a cellist on the fiddle. As it happens I believe the story and have no doubt Putin is bent.

But why focus on Russia? Russian wealth is only a tiny minority of the money hidden away with the aid of Mossack Fonseca. In fact, it soon becomes obvious that the selective reporting is going to stink.

The Suddeutsche Zeitung, which received the leak, gives a detailed explanation of the methodology the corporate media used to search the files. The main search they have done is for names associated with breaking UN sanctions regimes. The Guardian reports this too and helpfully lists those countries as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Russia and Syria. The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western governmental agenda. There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires – the main customers. And the Guardian is quick to reassure that “much of the leaked material will remain private.”

What do you expect? The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include

Ford Foundation
Carnegie Endowment
Rockefeller Family Fund
W K Kellogg Foundation
Open Society Foundation (Soros)

among many others. Do not expect a genuine expose of western capitalism. The dirty secrets of western corporations will remain unpublished.

Expect hits at Russia, Iran and Syria and some tiny “balancing” western country like Iceland. A superannuated UK peer or two will be sacrificed – someone already with dementia.

The corporate media – the Guardian and BBC in the UK – have exclusive access to the database which you and I cannot see. They are protecting themselves from even seeing western corporations’ sensitive information by only looking at those documents which are brought up by specific searches such as UN sanctions busters. Never forget the Guardian smashed its copies of the Snowden files on the instruction of MI6.

What if they did Mossack Fonseca database searches on the owners of all the corporate media and their companies, and all the editors and senior corporate media journalists? What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on all the most senior people at the BBC? What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on every donor to the Center for Public Integrity and their companies?

What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on every listed company in the western stock exchanges, and on every western millionaire they could trace?

That would be much more interesting. I know Russia and China are corrupt, you don’t have to tell me that. What if you look at things that we might, here in the west, be able to rise up and do something about?

And what if you corporate lapdogs let the people see the actual data?

UPDATE

Hundreds of thousands of people have read this post in the 11 hours since it was published – despite it being overnight here in the UK. There are 235,918 “impressions” on twitter (as twitter calls them) and over 3,700 people have “shared” so far on Facebook, bringing scores of new readers each.

I would remind you that this blog is produced free for the public good and you are welcome to republish or re-use this article or any other material freely anywhere without requesting further permission.

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T20 World Cup

A wonderful final. Terribly sorry for Ben Stokes, but it was still headless bowling of the last over. Many congratulations to Windies, deserved.

I have always been pretty snooty about T20, which lacks the subtlety and complexity that makes cricket such a deeply satisfying sport. But I have come to enjoy T20 for its energy and vibrancy, and the final today was a fitting climax to what has been a riveting tournament. Scotland in the early stages, and the surprising competitiveness of their spin bowling in particular. The Dutch falling improbably short in a run chase then getting knocked out by rain. Shahzad of Afghanistan and their joyful cricket.

It just got better. New Zealand’s spinners defending an improbable total against India. Bangladesh failing astonishingly to score one run off the last three balls against India. Kohli and Root’s classicism. Those are just memories which stand out.

For a time it looked like the depth of England’s batting might have dug them out of their deep hole against Windies in today’s final sufficiently to win. Joe Root’s two wickets in his surprise over were astonishing. But you have to query Morgan’s decision not to bowl Moeen Ali at all in the final, after his two overs against the New Zealand run chase were key to England’s semi final win. And frankly if there was one bowler likely to go for 19 in the last over, it was Ben Stokes. He got two wickets against New Zealand at the death from rank full tosses. After Jordan’s penultimate over I was shouting at the TV “not Ben Stokes, please.” Perhaps my TV does not work, because it seems Ollie Morgan could not hear me.

But still – Brathwaite!

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Read Peter Hitchens, Repentant Thatcherite, Today

Excellent article by Peter Hitchens. Admitting fundamental error takes great courage and is always to be admired.

I have commended Peter Hitchens before. This upsets some of my readers, but I don’t care, which I suppose is what I have in common with Peter Hitchens.

I replied this morning to a comment on my last posting from a gentleman named Andrew, who said we should ditch loss making heavy industry and could live on highly profitable financial services. I am happy to say what struck me immediately was how old-fashioned this sounded. The zeitgeist has moved. We just have to be rid of a legacy government.

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Why a 250% Steel Tariff is Fair

My recent post on Sajid Javid’s deliberate collapse of British Steel was shared on Facebook by over 1,300 people. Tweets far exceed that.

There might therefore be interest in a little more explanation on tariffs and subsidies, and particularly why the United States has slapped an anti-dumping tariff of 256% on Chinese steel.

As I reported, the Chinese state subsidises steel exports up to 72%. That means that steel that cost 100 yuan to make, is sold abroad for 28 yuan. If you apply a 256% tariff to 28 yuan, the resulting cost of that steel is 99 yuan.

Which proves both that the 72% figure my British diplomatic contact gave me is also about what the US authorities are working on, and that 256% is a fair tariff, massive though it may sound.

A 256% tariff is needed to counteract a 72% subsidy.

By contrast, the 13% tariff which is the maximum Sajid Javid instructed UK diplomats in Brussels to accept, would increase the price of 100 yuan worth of steel from 28 yuan to 31.6 yuan, still leaving a 68.4% effective subsidy.

Sajid Javid took the view, and stated it directly, that getting the cheap dumped steel from China was better for the economy than having a British steel industry. Javid told MPs:

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

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

In my view it is a ridiculously short term view to rely on dumped steel effectively to subsidise British steel consumers. But Javid was at least honestly setting out his Thatcherite doctrine.

What is the rankest hypocrisy is for Javid now to pretend to care about the British steel industry when he has been ordering officials for a year to pursue a policy on tariffs he knew would lead its closure.

There are two strands of immediate action which the British government should now take. The first is to bring Tata Steel immediately into public ownership. The second is to consult urgently with the EU Commission and other states on a realistic tariff against dumped Chinese steel. As the UK had been the main opponents to this move, early progress should be possible. The better answer would be to secure a reduction in subsidy by the Chinese government, but an emergency tariff might be needed as an initial move.

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Corporate Media Circles Wagons Around Tories

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

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

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

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

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

Self-censorship in corporate interests is still censorship.

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

[In Scotland the SNP lead remains serenely untroubled]

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Sajid Javid Deliberately Collapsed British Steel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Falklands Nonsense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thoughts for Easter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Terrorism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Illustrator/Cartographer Wanted

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

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

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

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Stephen Crabb’s Alf Garnett Credentials

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

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

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

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

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

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Nick Cohen’s Hate Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This post was updated more accurately to reflect the tribunal ruling

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Duncan Smith and the Disabled

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

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

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

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

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Dictator Bling

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

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

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

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

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

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