Sunday, July 31, 2005
"Half the British Establishment seems to have signed up to the League of Friends of Terrorism.."
Of course, everyone can read Simon Jenkins' article, "Panic in the face of fanatics is making Britain dangerous", for themselves.
All I want to do here is emphasise certain parts of it that seem to be so very important to those of us left aghast by the way the press has either allowed past events to be the gospel according to the Home Office - or else remained pretty silent. (The SUN is far from silent: "We've Got the Bastards!" it bawled on the news of arrests - encouraging by example those instincts that lurk nastily in most of us and that need to be kept reined in by (genuine) education and by civilised behaviour.)
The main points I pick up from Sir Simon Jenkins' article:
"a howling mob has clambered aboard the terrorists’ bandwagon ...roar abuse at all and sundry and cloak prejudice in the dogma of necessity."
"what purpose was served last week by police crying, "They’re still out there and trying to get you"?....Half the British Establishment seems to have signed up to the League of Friends of Terrorism."
"That some London passengers were sadly killed earlier this month does not put the security of the British state at risk..... Britain is not at war just because some Arab says so. No amount of tabloid hysteria — or tabloid government — should make it otherwise"
" Given the resources poured into Britain’s police and security services — more than any other country in Europe — Britons are entitled to ask how this month’s disaster occurred."
" If terrorists want evidence of how easy it is to reduce Britain to a crude police state, they need only study the Stockwell shooting."
"Terrorism’s “useful idiots” have had a field day this past fortnight. They have jumped from “nothing can justify the bombing” (true) to “nothing can explain the bombing” (absurd). They have jumped from “Britain’s war in Iraq is no excuse for killing innocent Londoners” (true) to “Britain’s war in Iraq has nothing to do with the bombing” (palpably absurd). They jump from “we must not be driven to alter our way of life” (true) to demanding that we do just that."
"In 1998 the Blair government signed up to the European convention on human rights. .... I never thought that its most determined foe would be Blair himself. In 2001 he suspended habeas corpus and introduced unlimited detention without trial."
"For Blair to suggest that the London bombs threaten the nation’s life (as opposed to British lives) is plausible only if he accepts the fantasies of the bombers themselves."
"On Tuesday Blair abused the judiciary in terms that would do credit to his friend Vladimir Putin. He implied that he would continue to defy the law lords and the human rights convention on the grounds of national emergency, which he claims the exclusive right to define."
"The government has not even begun to prove that the London bombs resulted from legislative impotence rather than from its own incompetence or some unavoidable evil ....judges....must not let government “cheapen our right to call ourselves a civilised nation."
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
"...this should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who still has a spine (damn few)"
John Gardner is the Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford,
and occasional Visiting Professor at Yale Law School. He has very impressive biographical notes indeed. His article about the Police State concerns the killing of Mr Jean Charles de Menezes, responsibility for that act and the response of the government to "terrorism". The article should be read in full.
Among the legal and ethical points he makes are:
- (1) There is no general legal duty to assist the police or to obey police
instructions. Rice v Connolly  2 QB 414.
(2) There are special police powers to arrest and search. But there is no
special police licence to injure or kill. If they injure or kill, the police
need to rely on the same law as the rest of us.
(3) The law allows those who use force in prevention of crime to use only
necessary and proportionate force. Jack Straw and Sir Ian Blair say that
officers are under great pressure. But this is no excuse. In law, as in
morality, being under extra pressure gives us no extra latitude for error in
judging how much force is proportionate or necessary. R v Clegg  1 A.C. 482.
He writes that the fact that those involved were police officers is irrelevant to the question of whether to prosecute them. It is a basic requirement of the Rule of Law that, when suspected of crimes, officials are subject to the same
policies and procedures as the rest of us.
It is a relief to read an experienced legal and academic voice, pointing out
- "people say: Blame the terrorists, not the police. But blame is not a
zero-sum game. The fact that one is responding to faulty actions doesn't mean one is incapable of being at fault oneself.
We may blame Tony Blair for helping to create the conditions in which bombing appeals to people, without subtracting any blame from the bombers.
We may also blame the bombers for creating the conditions in which the police act under pressure, without subtracting blame from the police if they overreact. Everyone is responsible for their own faulty actions, never mind the contribution of others.
This is the moral position as well as the position in criminal law."
On the proposed new anti-terrorist offences, Professor Gardner writes:
- "The one that has been variously labelled as 'condoning' or 'glorifying' or 'indirectly inciting' terrorism gives cause for concern.
It is already an offence to incite another person to commit an act of terrorism (Terrorism Act 2000 s59).
In which respects, we may wonder, is the scope of this offence to be extended? The word 'indirect' suggests that they mean to catch those who incite the s59 inciter. But under general doctrines of English criminal law it is already an offence to incite the s59 inciter. So one suspects some other extension of the existing offence is being cooked up.
Is the plan to criminalise the mere defence or endorsement of a terrorist act? If so we are in for trouble.
Terrorism in English law is defined to cover all modes of political violence, however trifling."
Professor Gardner asks, "Are academics and commentators no longer to be permitted to defend any political violence? Is Ted Honderich's Violence for Equality, or Peter Singer's Democracy and Disobedience, to be put on the banned books list? The only thing protecting these books at the moment is that, in the eyes of the law, an argued endorsement is not an incitement.
The thought that the government may be thinking of changing this should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who still has a spine (damn few).
Professor Gardner concludes with a quotation from Lord Hoffman
Lord Hoffman in .A v Home Secretary  2 WLR 87: 'The real threat to the life of the nation ... comes not from terrorism but from laws like these.'
"Quite right," comments Professor Gardner, who himself works in London. "Some extra risk of being blown up by fanatics on the way to work is one of the prices we pay for living in a free society. Let's make sure we keep it that way."
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
I live in rural South West France. Visitors here relax within hours of arriving, their shoulders sink, they breathe the warm air, they revel in the colours of the vineyards, and at neatly cultivated fields, estuary flatlands, hilly woodlands and the great empty sky above my house. They wonder at the open faces of people, particularly of the young, who look you in the eye and smile - something that would cause you to do a double-take in most parts of poor, suspicious UK. "This is what we have lost in England," they say. "It's like the 50s! No wonder so many English want to share it."
We do want to - but what we so love is going - and our very presence is a symptom of its passing.
A film was shown, last night, in the next village. It was made by the film-making daughter of a resident, and projected onto a huge screen in the village church. Elsa is an extraordinary girl whom I have known for some time. She decided early last year to organise a cultural festival in the district - and with charm, determination and unlimited chutzpa - beguiled the sceptical local mayors to support it. Her friends brought their paintings, their photographs, their music and their acting.
Her own film was the highlight of the few days for me. She depicted the village of St Ramée over the course of the year; empty roads, beautiful old doorways, winding roads, dusty sunshine and huge sky - but the raison d'etre was to allow the villagers to speak for themselves. The film was entitled "Traces".
The oldest inhabitant; frail and bald and smiling toothlessly under his beret and with the wrinkled papery arms of a very old man, began and ended the film. His eyes gleamed into the camera with humour,with regret and with no trace of self. He spoke of the soil - and what he meant was the warm earth in his fingers and under his care for the past 75 years. "Anyone without land may as well not bother to live..."
He has cultivated the land all his life and it shows in his whole face and body. He has a reality that makes most of us look two-dimensional. He was sitting in the front row of the church to watch the film, beaming.
The one schoolmistress, still with her single plait and greying hair, shows photographs of the last class of children in 1986 before the school closed down. The fastening of the huge shutters on the still recognisable classroom as she leaves after talking to Elsa about how it all used to be, returns the room to shadows.
The young man who cuts the verges with a whining Flymo, smiling shyly in the sunshine of the square and unable to express his feelings about the lost opportunities for the young and how they all leave the village now.
A middle-aged agriculture worker talking proudly of his little grandson and his hopes that he too will be a paysan and go on working the land - "Yes, he has the choice - but I hope he will." The eyes hold anxiety as well as warmth.
Many, many others tell Elsa about the days before television, before supermarkets, before all had to be concentrated into big enterprises, before modernity emptied the streets and everyone had had a cow and a bit of land. The blacksmith in his blue overalls, capable and aware of his skill in mending the tractor's ploughshares, was fourth generation - but the forge is closing.
The grapes that grow outside the village are collected by a deafening, belching and snorting machine. It gobbles leaves, mud, insects and anything else that happens to be around the bunches of grapes. The old man said that he cannot even begin to talk to the others about how they used to work - "with such cleanliness" - at the time of the vindange, "They would not believe me..."
No one pretended that this is progress. The land and the houses and the sunshine and the fields are still there but a centuries-old way of life has changed within the memory of most of the people in the village. If the traces still visible seem to us like the 1950s this is an illusion. The vague foreboding, the sense of an invisible but unstoppable juggernaut crushing them, is just under the gentle expressions of the faces of the people who sit in the church watching -with new eyes, one felt - the huge screen, their landscape, their old houses, their streets and fields, themselves. At the end there was silence and then huge applause. Many grasped the hand of the film maker, Elsa, as they left. Many could not speak. I couldn't.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Things fall apart
Rory Bremner today (Independent) is ferociously and wonderfully outspoken about the Prime Minister. The news that Mr Bremner is to write a weekly column in the New Statesman will increase that magazine's circulation by at least one reader.
Bremner marvels at Blair's ability to "get away with it".
"It's rather like an illusionist, a David Blaine. You know it's a trick, but you want to believe it. He's so self-righteous, so priggish, that I don't find him a particularly attractive character to do. Whereas I enjoy someone like Tony Benn or George Galloway."
They are proper "characters", he says, with real passions.
Real passions.. with the emphasis on real. Blair's blaring sincerity is all marketing. A trick.
....."He has such vast reservoirs of confidence," says Bremner. "I don't know if he stands in front of a mirror saying: 'You are great, you are great, you are great.' But he is a consummate actor and communicator. It's when you look behind the reality that it begins to fall apart."
Yeats' prophetic poem.....
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
....goes on to speak of a terrifiying Second Coming; "... twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle..."
Accelerating centralisation, pushing people into rigid lines not of their own making, is causing much that we hold dear to fall apart. The police have received training in Israel to stop suicide bombers. The technique is shooting the suspect in the head. When Ken Livingstone points out that Britain has practised 'double standards' in its foreign policy by
- '80 years of western intervention in predominantly Arab lands'
In Europe the Rough Beast of an unaccountable, unstoppable European Commission has snatched away local responsibility. The French and Dutch vetoes on the Constitution notwithstanding, the Commission now exercises almost total supranational authority over civil and criminal law, over taxes, over defence policy, fiscal policy, agriculture, fishing, the environment, weights and measures and much else.
Rory Bremner says "For Blair, it's not about politics, it's about marketing" The politicians who strut and fret their hour upon the world stage look ever more strained. They are indeed obsessed by marketing, about covering up, about justification. No wonder Mr Blair spends so much on face powder and make-up. ( It's Enough to Make a PM Blush writes David Cracknell, Political Editor of the Sunday Times). It is all that's left when genuine substance has gone. They may try to justify globalisation by talk of "free trade" - but genuine free trade is surely a removal of regulations preventing commerce between willing buyers and sellers. The centralising regulatory monstrosities of a different world order, overriding national and local common sense and bringing poverty and despair to the developing nations, have nothing to do with free trade or free anything. A cradle of poverty, of impotence, of frustration, of terrorism.
"The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity..." Who is there left to argue that the Centre of global control cannot hold? No Opposition - except for a few brave voices. My solemnity and sense of unease is not helping either, I know, - so thank all the gods for Bremner, Bird and Fortune, their conviction and the weapon of laughter. Falling about may help us in the fight against falling apart.
(Roger emailed later in the day to say that you can read the New Statesman article, "Rory's week - Rory Bremner admires a salesman at work" here )
Sunday, July 24, 2005
the Metropolitan Police Service regrets...
The BBC today, Sunday, reports that the young man was a Brazilian electrician unconnected to the incidents.
Scotland Yard said Mr Menezes, who lived in Brixton, south London, was completely unconnected to the bomb attacks and added: "For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets."
The Brazilian government has expressed its shock at the killing and Brazil's foreign minister Celso Amorim will seek an explanation from foreign secretary Jack Straw in London.
Police have apparently refused to release details about what happened - so once again we are dependent on sometimes contradictory statements in the press.
Sir Ian Blair, Scotland Yard's commissioner, told a news conference on Friday that the man had been directly linked to the attacks the day before. Why did he say so? What else has he said that is unsubstantiated assumption?
The latest, very brief, Scotland Yard statement doesn't say whether the 27-year-old victim, Jean Charles de Menezes, spoke English.
We don't know whether the plainclothes policemen identified themselves as such.
We don't know why the (presumably well-trained) policeman who threw himself down on the victim in the train carriage didn't simply grab his arms instead of shooting five bullets into his head. The ( Sunday Telegraph) suggests that a shoot to kill policy is now in operation. The policeman was only "obeying orders" it seems.
We don't know whether any of the four bombing suspects, whose photographs were released on Friday, have been arrested.
We don't really know much at all. And, as always, when facts are missing, people will make assumptions. Assumptions can be dangerous.
A good friend of mine evidently feels sympathy for the police and thinks that it was one of those situations where not to have acted could have brought about many more deaths; "When you're all hyped up and frightened, of course you will want to shoot - to stop him from detonating his bomb..."
It is a point of view. I feel compassion for the policeman involved - but why was he so hyped up? What evidence had convinced him that the man struggling underneath him really was a mass killer? Evidence- if there was any rather than mere suspicion - was wrong. This was pre-emptive killing - a concept that is gaining more and more acceptability.
I can't get out of my mind the last confused and terrified moments in the life of an innocent Brazilian visitor to London, fleeing for his life from men in plain clothes. His conscience was probably as clear as the average person's - but he ran. In the same situation, what would any of us have done?
There doesn't seem to be much more to say. But there is much to think and feel.
Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, plans to go abroad on a family holiday this week.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
London crosses a once-unthinkable line
Yesterday morning in London, a plains clothes policemen emptied, at point blank range, the contents of his gun into the body of a young Asian suspect who had not stopped when being chased.
An unfortunate witness on the underground train in Stockwell where it happened ,Mark Whitby, told the BBC: "I looked at his face. He looked sort of left and right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit, a cornered fox. He looked absolutely petrified, and then he sort of tripped, but they were hotly pursuing him...he half tripped and was half pushed to the floor, and the policeman nearest to me had the black automatic pistol in his left hand. He held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him."
Even as we feel Mr Whitby's anguish about this, we notice his correction from "rabbit" to "fox" and we notice five shots. Five.
The young man was a suspect. It seems that suspects in Britain who do not stop when challenged can now be shot five times at point blank range. Many may rejoice at this. Perhaps it will make them feel safer to know that with suspects collared on a train by a large number of policemen, five consecutive shots into the body are better than handcuffs.
Alan Cowell of the New York Times, however, wrote this today,
"The moment defined the price London might have to pay to fight back -- even though it remained unclear late Friday who the man was or even whether he had anything to do with the London bombings."
All this raises the same question as that asked by Macduff in Macbeth (2.3.106-107). Is anyone else asking it - or has the asking of such questions become not only irritating but treasonable?
Friday, July 22, 2005
Burying something nasty in the woodshed
" extraordinary propensity to give his own version of events inconsistent with that of his own advisers and officials when it suited his case".
Summing up in the Railtrack liability trial at the High Court, Keith Rowley QC also told Mr Justice Lindsay that Mr Byers "was not a witness of truth..."
Mr Byers is just one of the latest so-called public servant to be exposed as a liar - or rather not exposed since the media become very shy at such times.
However, Simon Jenkins is not "the media". He fearlessly wrote last week:
- "... No reasonable person following the trial could doubt the Treasury wanted Railtrack back in its clutches and schemed with Byers to cheat ...."
Mr Byers can now relax for a bit, if he feels like it. The Railtrack liability trial is over and the judge, Mr Justice Lindsay, has reserved judgement. It is expected that the Court will reconvene in October for judgement to be delivered.
The Downing Street memos show the way that Governments will "fix things around the policy". The list of those in public life from whom one wouldn't buy a postcard let alone a second-hand car grows ever longer. The time we can expect to live in peace without harassment or worse grows ever shorter.
In the 2001 FMD crisis, the "best scientific advice" was also being fixed around the policy.
At first, I simply couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing from the real people involved. Misinformation in 2001 about the nature of the disease, about compensation, about vaccination and about rapid, effective hi-tech diagnosis led to horror. While I was in a state of constant grief and anger, the media, our only hope of redress, kept its mouth shut. Phoenix the calf, about which the media did gush forth, did much to quieten anxiety among the credulous public, for wasn't one little calf safe and well?
Government arrogance, its inability to empathise, Downing Street's wish for a quick fix, its insistence that its policies had scientific justification - all this was creating daily scenes from hell. Literally millions of healthy animals and their young were being stressed and terrified before being slaughtered. Anyone who thinks this doesn't matter had better never come near me. People were made prisoners in their own farms, anyone who stood up for sanity was ridiculed or - far nastier - was curtly told they were jeopardising their neighbours' safety. As Abigail Woods said from the very beginning, it was a "Manufactured Plague". The experts who understood that this was madness were sidelined and the decent vets despaired.
Except for splendid Devon who carried out the first Inquiry, (and who waited in vain for input from DEFRA and whose conclusions were unequivocal), other so-called official FMD inquiries had their teeth quietly extracted; the public slumbered on. They believed that farmers had been greedy or worse.
Those in positions of power who had contributed to the nightmare were promoted, honoured or else gently moved on.
The EU team who came to investigate the UK outbreak would similarly have uncovered nothing of note had it not been for a few "ordinary" individuals. Luckily, there were those who were past caring what officialdom could do further to blight their lives and their careers. They simply spoke from the heart. Even the redoubtable Signora Redondo and many other hard bitten career MEPs were reduced to tears by what they heard at Knowstone, in Wales and in the Forest of Dean. The EU committee left under no illusions about the effect of the UK policies. Several "on-message" New Labour MEPs, trying to undo the damage, found that spluttering self-righteousness had no effect.
There is, four years later, cause for the deepest concern. UK disease Contingency plans still fail to acknowledge the lessons that should have been learned and have not been. Warmwell's comments about the latest Contingency Plan can be read half way down on this page of the website of the FMD & CSF Coordination Action (EU funded project).
There is still no acknowledgement of rapid on-site PCR diagnosis nor, apparently, much understanding of the derogations to help farmers in the EU Directive. There is no independent expert group in the UK. Of what use is an "Expert Group" largely answerable to DEFRA?
Farmers are deeply suspicious of DEFRA and government. They have lost faith in a Ministry that has made their lives drearily complicated and their livelihoods precarious. Like the rest of us, they are tired of the spin, the arrogance and the truly appalling level of ignorance.
But in the matter of zoonoses, farmers are our first line of defence. There really is a risk of serious animal disease going unreported. Farmers have their backs to the wall. No successful efforts are being made to regain their trust and their willing cooperation. Neither draconian penalties nor unreadable Contingency Plans are going to solve this dangerous problem.
Like the Ministers themselves, few farmers would admit to something nasty in the woodshed if there were a chance of quietly burying it.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
I'd like to say that I have confidence in the Prime Minister, his Cabinet, MI5, the Metropolitan police and all the rest who are telling us about evil ideologies and saying that now is not the time for an inquiry but rather for a decision on what legal steps are needed against terror.
I'd like to.
It would indeed be a triumph of officialdom if it could legislate against fear.
Why is it that I feel such unease about the official line taken on the London Bombs? Why is that when Mr Blair and Mr Straw talk about "evil ideologies" I feel the hairs rise on the back of my neck and know that nothing to do with Islam is the cause but rather an instinct, a nose for a bad smell? Am I just a born-again dissenter - or is there really something rather strange going on here when the official line is contradictory and unclear?
Some points raised that question the official line on the London Bombings include:
Early reports said the explosives had been of military origin and that the bombers must have had "someone on the inside who enabled them to get out of the military establishment." Independent Why were the early reports wrong - if they were?
But where is the truth? Were they there or were they not?
On a BBC Radio 5 interview that aired on the evening of the 7th, the host interviewed Peter Power, Managing Director of Visor Consultants said: "At half past nine this morning we were actually running an exercise for a company of over a thousand people in London based on simultaneous bombs going off precisely at the railway stations where it happened this morning, so I still have the hairs on the back of my neck standing up right now." audio The same stations?
Charles Clarke vehemently denied that anyone connected to the bombing was investigated last year by MI5 when M. Sarkozy said last Wednesday in Brussels that this was so. Indeed, Mr Clarke sounded incandescent. But the BBC said otherwise. The Independent today (Wednesday) reports that the Intelligence and Security Committee will question Sir John Scarlett and other intelligence chiefs about ".. the lessons to be learnt." (A phrase we have heard before and one that hardly fills one with confidence.)
The official line has been questioned by the London Mirror and the Independent among others - reports can be seen here.
I'll add to them - or refute them - when I can.
I would much rather not be looking at these questions. But can one really trust the official line? The Jonathan Freedland Guardian article Yes, they did lie to us continues to haunt me.
Dammit. How much more comfortable to pull the covers over one's head.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
No,no, Comrades...what our President really said was that he'd fire anyone guilty of a CRIME
With regard to the Karl Rove leak scandal, President Bush promised to fire anyone with responsibility for the leak of the CIA agent, Valerie Plame's name.
He now says that he would only fire the person if they were shown to be guilty of a crime.
- "....Bush, asked directly in June 2004 if he would dismiss someone who leaked the agent's name, responded: ''Yes." But yesterday, as the drama over Rove's possible involvement escalated, he seemed to subtly alter the standard for ousting the friend and longtime adviser who masterminded his two winning presidential campaigns."
Professor Juan Cole comments satirically:
"You can only imagine the 2006 newspaper headline: "Bush Pledges to Fire anyone Proven Guilty of Genocide."
Meanwhile, following the takeover and destruction that was justified in part by the nonsense Valerie Plame's husband had the temerity to reveal, Iraq looks closer than ever to the bloodiest of civil wars. The innocent - men, women, children, babies - are caught up in horrors that I can't really begin to imagine. It is there at the back of my mind all the time, however. I can't turn away from it entirely. That is why I go on writing - and reading. Hour after hour. If only it did some good...
I read this morning that "Just as Iraqi women were anticipating a new era of democracy and freedom, a wave of intimidation by extremist groups has arisen to crush their hopes."
Women in Iraq are suffering in ways that they were spared even in the days of Saddam Hussein. As this report from
opendemocracy.net shows, "there is silence from world leaders, religious leaders, politicians and the media."
- "....Violent oppression of women is spreading across Iraq, a weapon of mass mental and physical destruction. And yet there is silence from world leaders, religious leaders, politicians and the media.
Insurgents and religious extremists use rape, acid and assassination to force Iraqi women to wear the veil – the symbol of submission, first signal of further repression to come. Many Iraqi women have never worn the scarf. Now, dead bodies of girls and women are found in rivers and on waste ground with a veil tied around the head, as a message...
.... In 1948, Iraq had been one of the first countries in the middle east to have a woman judge; in 1959, Nazila al-Dulaima (of the Iraqi Communist party) became one of the first female government ministers in the Arabian peninsula. Even under Saddam’s regime, women were free to choose whether to wear western-style dress and make-up or the black abaya. Many wore western dress in their jobs for government departments and in schools and universities. Indeed, when the Ba’ath Party took control in 1968, one of its proclaimed goals was equality of men and women."
Monday, July 18, 2005
"doing the terrorists’ job for them"
Much attention has been given to the Chatham House report: "Riding Pillion for Tackling Terrorism is a High-risk Policy" by Frank Gregory, University of Southampton and Paul Wilkinson, University of St Andrews reported in, for example, the Times and the Australian "The Age" today.
I find much more interesting the paper by Bill Durodié of Cranfield University Terrorism and Community Resilience – A UK Perspective, which is the next paper in the same Chatham House report (pdf)
Bill Durodié notices a strange thing about all the counter-terrorist measures put in place in the UK since 2001.
He says that they are merely "technical".
".... These include more surveillance, better intelligence, new
protective clothing for so-called ‘first responders’,
along with gadgets to detect chemical, biological or
radiological agents, concrete blocks and fences around
public buildings, endless checks at airports and
stockpiles of vaccines..."
He rightly points out that in seeking to secure society from the outside, we fail
to engage society from the inside. I have thought for some time that it's all very well to erect great blocks of concrete around the Mother of Parliaments - yet such an act of isolation, together with the endless checks from blank faced officials at the doors (someone next to me once had postcards taken away...), makes many of us feel more cut off than ever from the democracy that nurtured us.
Dr Durodié suggests that we are forgetting to ask questions about what we as a society actually stand for.
My nephew Peter reports that people in the Tube are very much friendlier towards each other at the moment. Having to go on earning a living means they have to make the best of it - and the sense of heightened risk makes people feel closer to each other. This is surely one of the good things to come out of the horror.
Bill Durodié notes:
- ".... pushing people out at such times may appear logical and professional but in actuality is counter-productive and fails to capitalize upon the spontaneous social bonds
and behaviour that emerge in such situations.
My own view is that while Parliament is busily rushing through yet more counter terrorism legislation "to be in place by December", very few now dare to question the effect of what appears to be such widespread nailing up of stable doors. The official UK response to the death of 57 innocent people caught up in the events of last Thursday seems to be taking on a sort of ghastly political correctness. "Don't mention Iraq...."
The Chatham House paper that is getting coverage does "mention Iraq" and has, of course, already been dismissed by John Reid. I hope the legislators read the paper that follows with humility
Bill Durodié concludes:
" the purported solutions – for we have yet to
see whether many of these truly work – can end up
encouraging a sense of social suspicion and mistrust.
We are asked to be ‘alert’ as to the activity of our
neighbours, or those seated opposite us on public
transport. Rather than bringing people together as the
times demand, this serves to push people further apart.
In that sense at least, we truly are ‘doing the terrorists’
job for them’."
July 18 2005 ~
Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, said the concern over China's economic growth as a possible national security threat is a byproduct of the huge budget deficits and trade deficits that are putting the United States at a competitive disadvantage.
"We're at odds with ourselves," said Prestowitz, whose new book, "Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East" details China's surge to power. "We're like a spoiled rich kid who realizes he's drowning in debt and doesn't like it." http://www.menafn.com
July 18 2005 ~
"There was no Iraqi nuclear program, and Rove knew this in summer of 2003 when he outed Valerie Plame." Professor Cole's comment on the Karl Rove/ Valerie Plame case is worth reading in full. This particular jury member is fully convinced that Rove's outing of Joseph Wilson's wife was a deliberate ploy of a worried administration to discredit Ambassador Wilson and shut up the journalists about the false Niger claim.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
How can Mr Clarke have been so wrong and Monsieur Sarkozy so right?
Last Wednesday, Mr Clarke, Mr Sarkozy and other EU justice and home affairs ministers met at an emergency meeting in Brussels to discuss the London bombing. M. Sarkozy said some of the bombers had been "subject to partial arrest" last year.
"I am absolutely staggered he should make that assertion," Mr Clarke was heard to splutter. The BBC microphones recorded his angry retort and a BBC report on Thursday, 14 July, 2005 repeated this:
- The Home Secretary, ".. vehemently denied claims by French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy that some of the suspects had been arrested in 2004 but were freed in a bid to catch a wider network.."
However, it seems clear now that M.Sarkozy was right and that he had indeed been correctly informed.
By whom is not clear.
Is it conceivable that Mr Clarke was not privy to the same information as the French interior minister? According to the BBC news today, Sunday 17 July,
Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, was "subject to a routine assessment by the security service because of an indirect connection to an alleged terror plot.
He was one of hundreds investigated but not considered a risk." See BBC
Did Mr Clarke not know that this was so? Or did he indeed know and preferred not to say because the admission seemed so embarrassing? Or was M. Sarkozy informed by a secret service that chose not to let on to Mr Clarke?
How can it be that the french interior minister knew last Wednesday what our own Home Secretary professed not to know?
I think we should be told.
The case is of massive significance to the integrity of British politics.
Thank all the gods for Sir Simon Jenkins
Here he is today in the Sunday Times on the subject of Stephen Byers. "This is a good week to bury the ministers with a licence to steal"
"..... The High Court has been witness to the biggest and most sensational class action in British history, a suit for "misfeasance" (dishonest abuse of power) brought by 50,000 Railtrack shareholders against Her Majesty's government.
The case is of massive significance to the integrity of British politics. It is the common man against Leviathan, the evidence portraying squirming ministers, bullying officials, money beyond dreams of avarice, chicanery and lies. Laid bare have been the inner workings of Tony Blair's courtier style of government. The Scott inquiry into arms-for-Iraq was small beer in comparison. The case tells us more about Whitehall's view of the world than ever did Hutton. It deserves a Spielberg movie to itself. On Thursday the fall guy in the case, Stephen Byers, finally admitted that he had lied on the central issue: whether or not there was a Treasury conspiracy, Project Ariel, to renationalise the old British Rail infrastructure company, Railtrack. The conspiracy involved denying 250,000 shareholders, despised as "grannies", compensation of some £4 billion. .." Read in full
As one of the very minor shareholders who supported the Class Action, (shareholders were described by Mr Byers as "grannies" not having the nerve to risk their "blouses",) it is with a certain grim satisfaction that I see him finally have to admit that he lied. My father gave me the few shares he had, saying kindly "Don't lose these! There is no way that these will fail you."
Lying is something more than a minor peccadillo. If, to feather my own nest, I say that something is true - knowing that it is untrue - I am denying my own integrity. I'd be showing myself to be as unworthy of respect and trust as a madman who really cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.
Our parents and elders rightly warned us that it was foolish as well as wicked.
When politicians do it - as they do in the way of an arrogant colossus assuming that stamping on the little ants of democracy hardly matters a jot - they are demeaning politics and making everything around them shabby and low. Time and time again we have seen that they think they can get away with it. "Accountability is nowhere. Parliament is nowhere. Were it not for bold shareholders we would know nothing of it..." But the truth will out - even if the tabloids, as Byers' aide, Shriti Vadera hoped, have lost sight of the story.
It is also worrying that the London bombs have so usefully taken the public's attention away from this case. Sir Simon's article must be read in full. He concludes
- "This past week has been a good one to bury an astonishing tale of Whitehall skulduggery told to the High Court. It must not be ignored. The case, which has a while to run, is a classic test of judicial authority over a corrupted executive....."
Strong words. Justified I think.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Public Relations-hungry Bush administration may have interfered with a British and Pakistani investigation of an al-Qaeda plot to bomb London
"John Aravosis at AmericaBlog brings up the awful possibility, based on an ABC report, that the Public Relations-hungry Bush administration may have interfered with a British and Pakistani investigation of an al-Qaeda plot to bomb London that ties into July 7"
The article her refers to has as its headline:Bush admin may be responsible for botching effort to thwart London bombing
At the time of the arrest of Khan in Pakistan, warmwell wrote: (Extract from
warmwell archive )
- "... the Pakistanis could easily have held a press conference to trumpet their new captive. This decision to keep the arrest quiet appears to have been made because Khan had been "flipped," i.e., had become a double agent and continued to have email contact with al-Qaeda members in London."
Oh fatuous day....We see that Mr Blair has been trotting out the "What was September 11 2001 the reprisal for?" argument
again - as if this were an unanswerable rhetorical question and that the planes crashed into the World Trade Center in a gratuitous act of murderous but unfocussed hatred.
Bombs not revenge for Iraq - Blair WMN "...Tony Blair has insisted the London bombings were not motivated by revenge for the invasion of Iraq."
It leaves one reeling.
Professor Cole again
- (Jack Straw) "...seems unaware that according to the September 11 Commission report, al-Qaeda conceived 9/11 in some large part as a punishment on the US for supporting Ariel Sharon's iron fist policies toward the Palestinians. Bin Laden had wanted to move the operation up in response to Sharon's threatening visit to the Temple Mount, and again in response to the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp, which left 4,000 persons homeless. Khalid Shaikh Muhammad argued in each case that the operation just was not ready. As for Straw's contention that September 11 caused the Iraq war, he should be reminded that Paul O'Neil reported that the very first Bush cabinet meeting he attended, in late January 2001, was "all about Iraq" and that the 9/11 Commission found no evidence for operational cooperation between Saddam's Iraq and al-Qaeda..."
And Seumas Milne's It Is an Insult to the Dead to Deny the Link with Iraq is clear:
"...The central goal of the al-Qaida-inspired campaign, as its statements have regularly spelled out, is the withdrawal of US and other western forces from the Arab and Muslim world, an end to support for Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and a halt to support for oil-lubricated despots throughout the region. Those are also goals that unite an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere and give al-Qaida and its allies the chance to recruit and operate - in a way that their extreme religious conservatism or dreams of restoring the medieval caliphate never would. As even Osama bin Laden asked in his US election-timed video: if it was western freedom al-Qaida hated, "Why do we not strike Sweden?" ..."
On the subject of the young cannon fodder who seem to have set the bombs, an emailer who was herself approached in her South African youth to take part in clandestine activity, writes,
- ".... Is it really so strange that, in the current political climate, and in a country where many conventional people feel disaffected and impotent to have their voices listened to - that some vulnerable people can be recruited by the wicked who think that bombs and fear are the only way to effect change?"
Giving an appearance of solidity to pure wind
When, several years ago, I was teaching classes to English schoolchildren on George Orwell and referring back to the frightening events in his own lifetime, I naively congratulated myself on living in an enlightened and truly democratic age.
Now I feel the deepest unease. Opposition is going out of fashion," wrote Jacky Ashley in Thursday's Guardian - and the lack of it is truly frightening, especially after what is - inevitably and sickeningly - being referred to as "7/7".
I hadn't - all those years ago - realised how forward looking were George Orwell's insights about the nature of power and the need of people to believe and trust their rulers even when the evidence of lying and corruption piles up in front of their eyes.
Here is an extract from the blogger Riverbend here about listening to George W Bush's speech on July 1. (River's latest entry tells us that blogger Khalid has been imprisoned. I have written to the Iraqi Embassy and I hope many, many others will too. email@example.com)
- "Why aren’t the Americans setting a timetable for withdrawal? Iraqis are constantly wondering why nothing is being done to accelerate the end of the occupation.
Do the Americans continue to believe such speeches? I couldn’t help but wonder.
“They’ll believe anything.” E. sighed. “No matter what sort of absurdity they are fed, they’ll believe it. Think up the most outrageous lie… They have people who’ll believe it.”
The cousin sat up at this, his interest piqued. “The most outrageous lie? How about that Iraq was amassing aliens from Mareekh [Mars] and training them in the battle art of kung-fu to attack America in 2010!”
“They’d believe it.” E. nodded in the affirmative. “Or that Iraq was developing a mutant breed of rabid, man-eating bunnies to unleash upon the Western world. They’d believe that too.”
slithering into denial
- Was it the "very diversity, that melting pot aspect of London" that Islamist extremists found so offensive that they wanted to kill innocent civilians in Britain's capital, Marr wondered. "No, it's not that," replied Gardner briskly, who is better acquainted with al-Qaida thinking than most. "What they find offensive are the policies of western governments and specifically the presence of western troops in Muslim lands, notably Iraq and Afghanistan."
Iraqi Blogger Jailed
July 16 2005 ~ Iraqi blogger Khalid has been, as Juan Cole puts it, "tossed into jail, apparently for being critical of the Iraqi government on the Web". The arrest was first reported by Riverbend.
Please consider writing in protest. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org" .
July 16 2005 ~ "The uneasy truce inside the Labour Party over the London bombings ended last night as an ex-cabinet minister and left-wing Labour MPs linked the attacks with the war in Iraq.
Left-wing Labour MPs said they would use a conference in London today to pile the pressure on Tony Blair to hasten the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. And Clare Short, the former cabinet minister, said in a television interview to be broadcast tomorrow that she "had no doubt" that the bombings were connected to the Iraqi conflict..
- "Some of the voices that have been coming from the Government that talk as though this is all evil, and that everything we do is fine, when in fact we are implicated in the slaughter of large numbers of civilians in Iraq and supporting a Middle East policy that for the Palestinians creates this sense of double standards - that feeds anger," (Clare Short)
July 16 2005 ~ The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that three British soldiers have been killed by a suspected roadside bomb while serving in Iraq BBC
July 16 2005 ~ US soldiers are charged with assaulting suspected Iraqi insurgents in custody, US officials say. BBC
Friday, July 15, 2005
US torture, UK bomb factory was not using "military"ingredients after all - and was Joseph Wilson telling the exact truth?
July 14-15 2005 ~ Valerie Plame: The Washington Post editorial casts doubt on the honesty of both sides - not to mention the real facts behind the Niger claim. "......Whether Mr. Rove or others behaved in a way that amounted to criminal, malicious or even merely sleazy behavior will turn on what they knew about Ms. Plame's employment. Were they aware she was a covert agent? Did they recklessly fail to consider that before revealing her involvement? How they learned about Ms. Plame also will matter: Did the information come from government sources or outside parties?
It may be that Mr. Rove, or someone else, will turn out to be guilty of deliberately leaking Ms. Plame's identity, knowing that it would blow her cover. Or officials may have conspired to cover up a leak or lied about it under oath. For now, however, it remains to be established that such misconduct occurred...."
July 14-15 2005 ~Valerie Plame/Karl Rove case - "A few paces off the Senate floor, Plame's husband, a former diplomat, criticized Bush's deputy chief of staff and chief political strategist in personal terms. ``I made my bones confronting Saddam Hussein. ... Karl Rove made his bones by dirty political tricks,'' said Joseph Wilson, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq during the first Persian Gulf War. At the news conference hosted by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Wilson said he has been targeted by a ``smear campaign launched from the West Wing of the White House.'' Guardian
July 14-15 2005 ~ A Pentagon investigation has provided the clearest proof yet that the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib which shocked the world was in largely "road-tested" at the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Independent
Leading article: Abu Ghraib was not the exception; it was the rule
"There are some documents whose content is so consistently shocking that the individual details it catalogues start to seem banal. The report by the US military on treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay appears to be a prime example of the genre.
This report, submitted to the US Senate Armed Services Committee, assesses the treatment meted out to detainees at the "facility" that subsequently became known as Camp Delta. It identifies only three instances where US Army policy was breached. And none was considered serious enough for the Army to reprimand the then commandant of the camp, Maj-Gen Geoffrey Miller...."
July 14-15 2005 ~ London Bombing: "I've been told by people close to the investigation that this quantity of explosive that has been recovered at the house in Leeds - some of it is still in there - is in fact acetone peroxide," BBC Newsnight reporter Mark Urban said.
"This is a shocking development in the sense that earlier ideas about commercial or military grade explosive being used in the bombs themselves would therefore seem to be wrong."
July 14-15 2005 ~ Legality of the war
Telegraph "....a debate in the Lords on Thursday to condemn the investigations, which they say are severely undermining morale. They believe that troops are being "hung out to dry" while the Prime Minister has yet to clarify the legality of the war. .." See also Online Journal
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Opposition is going out of fashion
July 12-13 2005 ~ "Opposition is going out of fashion," writes Jacky Ashley in Thursday's Guardian ".....Making any connection between the government's policy on Iraq and terror attacks in Britain, at all, is apparently beyond the pale, in some strange way it is seen as disrespectful to those who died.
......we should be alarmed at the worried, finicky nature of political debate about these matters, the lack of democratic robustness.... If the polite, uncontroversial exchanges after the bombings were a respectful lull then, yes, we should welcome that. If they are the beginning of a new mealy-mouthed, mumbling kind of politics, then we should protest. ..." Read in full
July 12-13 2005 ~ "The details of his life certainly do not point to militancy." Independent on Shahzad Tanweer: 'I cannot begin to explain this. He was proud to be British' ... His mother, Parveen, was in a safe house last night, along with the rest of the family, where she has been "crying uncontrollably"..."
July 12-13 2005 ~ "....If the world shifted on its axis after the tragedy of 9/11, it is because we allowed it to be so. We allowed our governments to make it so. If Britain is changed by what occurred on Thursday, and propelled yet further down that destructive course, it will be similarly so.
Remember, as we pore over those newspaper images of the people who died, and read the anguished detail of how all they have been and all they could have been was extinguished in minutes, in seconds, that they are victims to add to the many more."
from a moving article in WMN that should be read in full.
July 12-13 2005 ~ UK EU presidency aims for Europe-wide biometric ID card
- an article by John Lettice at The Register "...The IDC card has to be read against central and national databases set up to facilitate "exchange of information on issues of common interest". Which could, you might speculate, include many things, and no doubt will."
July 12-13 2005 ~ Independent (sic) ".....Is it time to think the previously unthinkable? One top drawer bank that thinks it might be is HSBC, which breaks ranks in taking the view that the stresses and strains all too apparent within the eurozone may bring about its eventual collapse..."
July 12-13 2005 ~ Informed Comment reports: "Police have videotape of the four young men arriving at King's Cross rail station, wearing huge camper backpacks and seeming relaxed and full of camaraderie. At least three of them died in the explosions. The 19-year-old had gone missing the previous day, and his worried family in Leeds had filed a missing persons report with the police. He appears to have become disoriented and to have missed his chance to enter the subway system, which was closed down when the other three bombs went off. That may be why he took the double decker bus, which is where his bomb went off. Earlier reports mention passengers seeing him fiddle with something in his backpacke. Perhaps his timer had malfunctioned."
July 12-13 2005 ~ Independent : "The former Cabinet minister was the star turn that everyone had been waiting for. Byers, Byers, pants on fire; the man who pulled the rug from under Railtrack. ..."
July 11-13 2005 ~ Railtrack "an unprecedented case, and one which includes evidence from the secret heart of Whitehall". Mr Byers took the stand in the High Court today. BBC
July 11-13 2005 ~ Valerie Plame case : "Nearly two years after stating that any administration official found to have been involved in leaking the name of an undercover C.I.A. officer would be fired...White House refused on Monday to answer any questions.... recent disclosure of evidence... Mr. Rove had, without naming Ms. Plame, told a Time reporter about the same time that Mr. Wilson's wife "works at the agency," ......"New York Times
- ".....the decision for war came first and the evidence was "fixed" to fit - the leaks have kept coming. In the past fortnight, six more documents have surfaced, their authenticity not challenged. One shows that Britain and the US heavily increased bombing raids on Iraq in the summer of 2002 - when London and Washington were still insisting that war was a last resort - even though the Foreign Office's own lawyers had advised that such action was illegal..."
July 11-13 2005 ~ Five West Yorkshire addresses are being searched by police investigating the London bombings. BBC
July 11-13 2005 ~ London bombs: The head of the French Anti-Terrorism Co-ordination Unit, has told Le Monde newspaper that the explosives used in the bombings were of " military origin", which he described as "very worrying". See Independent
July 11-13 2005 ~ Iraq: A majority of Americans, 54%, now says that the Iraq War has made the United States less safe.
It has made Iraq somewhat less safe too.
42 people were killed in clashes or guerrilla attacks on Monday. In a hellish incident, nine building workers died after being arrested and then left in a closed metal container for 14 hours in the burning summer heat. ( SeeBBC)
"They had apparently been caught up in a firefight between US troops and Iraqi gunmen, and were detained after taking an injured colleague to hospital."
Patrick Cockburn, writing from Baghdad, in the Independent reports Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, saying that ." Iraq would descend into "hell" if Britain and the US started to withdraw troops before the end of the year. .... A problem for the present government is that, aside from the foreign ministry, much of its administration does not function. The Americans have an ambivalent attitude towards the Iraqi police and army, emphasising that they must be built up speedily but refusing to give them modern weapons." Professor Juan Cole reports that Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite nationalist group has begun a drive to collect a million signatures on a petition that US troops should withdraw from Iraq.
July 11-13 2005 ~ Bearing down? The FT reports that: "Britain could speed up the introduction of new laws to apprehend and prosecute people preparing to commit terrorist acts in the wake of last week's London bombings, Tony Blair said on Monday..."
July 11-13 2005 ~ Land theft on a massive scale - it is wrong in the first place, wrong morally, and wrong in international law and an insult to the United States in completely departing from the roadmap.. Professor Cole "The Ariel Sharon government in Israel has announced that it will build a huge wall on someone else's land through Jerusalem, cutting off 55,000 Arabs from the city....Worse, it is theft on a stage of sacred space that affects the sentiments of over a billion people. Whether Westerners like it or not, Jerusalem is considered by Muslims their third holiest city, and Israeli theft of the whole thing drives a lot of them up the wall...That is why our press and politicians do us an enormous disservice by not putting the Israeli announcement about the Jerusalem Barrier on the front page." more - and see also BBC".... Palestinians and the United Nations say the barrier causes great hardship to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank, cutting them off from hospitals, schools and jobs. "
July 11-13 2005 ~ The Washington Post reports on the tensions between the virtual army of private security guards in Iraq and the US military.
Professor Cole comments: " Imagine the tensions with the Iraqis!"
Guerrillas launched a new wave of bomb attacks in Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 48 persons and wounding dozens more. AP reports:
July 11-13 2005 ~ ".....The other important difference between the London bombings and 9/11 has been the response of the world of Islam. For months after 9/11, I kept writing that it was sad and disturbing that Muslims were reluctant to condemn the attacks. This time is different. Major Muslim groups in Britain have unambiguously denounced the bombings. Even the so-called fundamentalist organisations have condemned it. The Muslim Association of Britain, a hard-line group with alleged ties to militants in the Middle East, called the bombings "heinous and repulsive" and urged Muslims to help the emergency services and police. "We have faith in Britain and British people that we as a country will not be defeated by this," said its spokesman, Anas Altikriti..." Khaleej Times Online
July 11-13 2005 ~ WMN ".... the cuts will be seen as further evidence of the Navy's decline. Last month the National Audit Office warned that barely half the fleet was ready to go to war because of crippling cuts in the maintenance budget."
July 11-13 2005 ~ "......Neither foreign aid nor foreign investment can right the heavy wrongs of any society. We have to right ourselves and we will never do it if we bow or kow tow or sneakingly admire the swagger and show off of the Big Men." an interesting article for Trinidad and Tobago Righting ourselves by
Martin Daly in the Trinidad Express. See also Matthew Parris on ".... A ruling class of greedy men, sheltered by a popular culture of gawping passivity in the face of political swagger, is suffocating the people of Africa and neither tears nor money nor rock music should be our first response. Rage, not rock, is called for. .."
July 11-13 2005 ~ Police are investigating several incidents, including four arson attacks on mosques, that may have been motivated by revenge. Independent
July 10-13 2005 ~
On a BBC Radio 5 interview that aired on the evening of the 7th, the host interviewed Peter Power, Managing Director of Visor Consultants said: "At half past nine this morning we were actually running an exercise for a company of over a thousand people in London based on simultaneous bombs going off precisely at the railway stations where it happened this morning, so I still have the hairs on the back of my neck standing up right now."
In America on Sept 11 2001 "... the government carried out exercises that were supposedly intended to enable it to counter attempts to carry out such attacks, and was carrying out such an exercise on the very morning of September 11, 2001."
July 10-13 2005 ~ Qinetiq.
"QinetiQ (pronounced ki’ ne tik as in ‘kinetic energy’) is Europe’s largest science and technology solutions company with unrivalled expertise in the defence and security sectors. Founded In July 2001 from the majority of DERA (Defence Evaluation and Research Agency) the laboratories of the UK MOD, QinetiQ employs nearly 10,000 people, including many of the UK's leading scientists and internationally acclaimed experts. Today QinetiQ operates in markets as diverse as health, defence, security, automotive, information technology, aerospace, rail, telecommunications, electronics, space, marine, energy and oil & gas."
July 10-13 2005 ~ The London Central Mosque Trust and the Islamic Cultural Centre stands in solidarity with the nation.
July 10-13 2005 ~ A violent day in Iraq has killed at least 35 people, with sucide bombs in Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk and Fallujah - while in Baghdad a family of nine were murdered by gunmen in their sleep. Channel 4 news
July 10-13 2005 ~ Voters in Luxembourg have approved the European constitution with a majority of 56.52%. BBC
July 10-13 2005 ~ The Sunday Times ".....Blair is right to insist that bombing London serves no purpose beyond inciting anti-Muslim sentiment. Why does he not apply that logic conversely to bombing Iraq? We must hope and pray that Blair, with George Bush in attendance, does not use Thursday as an excuse to kick hell out of another poor country in their “war on terror”.
On the radio yesterday Blair struggled both to assert that the London bombs validated his “war” analysis and yet were not the outcome of his conduct of that war." Simon Jenkins' article must be read in full.
July 10-13 2005 ~ A partial UK troop withdrawal from Iraq. A document, called "Options for Future UK Force Posture in Iraq" and marked Secret: UK Eyes Only has been leaked to the Mail on Sunday. In it, John Reid suggests the UK's 8,500 troops in Iraq could be cut to 3,000, saving around £500m a year.
It also mentions a "strong US military desire" for "significant" troop reduction but said the Pentagon and US commanders in Iraq were divided over the plans. In its report, the BBC says, "BBC political correspondent James Hardy did not believe this document represented a change in policy over Iraq.
"Tony Blair has repeatedly insisted that British forces will stay in Iraq for as long as they're needed.
That policy hasn't changed, but it's clear detailed planning is under way for at least a partial withdrawal."
July 10-13 2005 ~ Police are preparing to reopen parts of Birmingham city centre following the evacuation of to 20,000 people in a security scare. The device that was discovered, a box with wires hanging out and a switch on top, was later found to be harmless. An intelligence warning of a "substantial threat" led to the closure of the Broad Street entertainment district and the Chinese quarter. Details in the Mail on Sunday
July 10-13 2005 ~ "...If the £20 billion we are shelling out for the useless Eurofighter, thanks to Michael Heseltine back in 1986, seems a high price to pay for EU defence integration, we can now see this was only the start of it. What is even more startling is the lengths to which our Government will go to hide it from view. .." As usual, Booker's Notebook tells us what would otherwise remain "hidden from view".
July 9 - 10 2005 ~ "....With Congressman John Conyers holding hearings, the media are finally starting to cover the Downing Street memo..." Read in full
July 9 - 10 2005 ~ ".... China sees its future energy supply in terms of its own national strategic interests. China has U.S. dollars in the bank available to spend, courtesy of its massive trade surplus with the States. And the Chinese can read the charts. They can spend those dollars now while they are worth something (say, $60 for a barrel of oil), versus waiting for inflation to depreciate the value..." Peak Oil news pages quote HoweSt.com
July 9 - 10 2005 ~ "Margaret Beckett, said it was "absolute rubbish" to claim the G8 summit had not signed up to anything new. .." Guardian.
July 9 - 10 2005 ~ John Pilger on the London bombs and on the G8 "....the antithesis of February 15, 2003, when 2 million people brought both
their hearts and brains and anger to the streets of London."
"..... the only reliable warning from British intelligence in
the run-up to the invasion of Iraq was that which predicted a sharp increase
in terrorism “with Britain and Britons a target ".... in 2003, the CIA reported that Iraq “exported
no terrorist threat to his neighbors.
” and that Saddam Hussein was
“implacably hostile to Al-Qaeda.”
July 8 - 10 2005 ~ Channel 4 news update "...49 people ...now confirmed dead. Relatives of the missing are now at London hospitals in search of their loved ones.
....The Commissioner of the Met Police has told me they there's nothing to suggest any of the explosions were the work of suicide bombers, although 'nothing can be ruled out'.
He also said that the timings of the events ruled out the possibility that it could all have been the work of one person."
July 8 - 10 2005 ~ "UK biometric ID card morphs into £30 'passport lite'"
The Register "... Nor does it seem absolutely certain that the UK ID Cards Bill will even make it onto the statute book, never mind actually work/ship. Nevertheless, the total demise of the UK scheme would not of itself turn the clock back. Take the ID scheme out of the equation and we still have the US, the EU and the G8 committed to widespread use of biometric ID..." Read in full
July 7- 10 2005 ~ G8 "...pledges of aid to Africa are regularly made but not honoured, and the continent’s total debt stands at $300 billion.
........Bush... also boasted that he had increased US aid to Africa.
But he did not mention that to qualify, recipients had to adopt democratic reform and a free market economy, protect US investment, lift barriers to US goods, and provide a friendly environment for US policies..." Michael Jansen writes in the Deccan Herald
If the G-8 had tackled Palestine and Iraq there would be no need to spin tales about global warming & Africa.
- "Straw seems unaware that according to the September 11 Commission report, al-Qaeda conceived 9/11 in some large part as a punishment on the US for supporting Ariel Sharon's iron fist policies toward the Palestinians..... As for Straw's contention that September 11 caused the Iraq war, he should be reminded that Paul O'Neil reported that the very first Bush cabinet meeting he attended, in late January 2001, was "all about Iraq" and that the 9/11 Commission found no evidence for operational cooperation between Saddam's Iraq and al-Qaeda....The bombings in London on Thursday underlined what absolute hell Iraqis are living through, who suffer the equivalent every other day."
July 8 - 10 2005 ~ Virtually the entire British media has ignored the deliberations of the World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul, but, quietly and without any strident voices, it has delivered its verdict. It has indicted the US and UK
- "We are here to make concrete records, documents and analysis," says organiser Ayca Cubukcu. "The findings of the WTI are then being taken to the International Criminal Court."
This is being done by a collection of international bar associations, with the Istanbul Bar Association a leading light in the prosecution of the UK government for its part in what the Istanbul lawyers claim is an illegal war.
"We only have the documentation and facility to indict British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the UK foreign secretary," said Kazim Kolcuoglu, president of the Turkish Bar Association. "We'd like to have Bush and Powell in there too, but we can only cite them as witnesses."
Read in full
July 7- 10 2005 ~ Sympathy and concern for those killed and hurt and their families pour in today. Political and media exploitation of the dramatic events is depressing - but the reality of the Dunkirk spirit of the people caught up in what happened yesterday and the brilliantly professional response of the emergency services make one proud of London and its cosmopolitan, resilient people.
July 7- 10 2005 ~ The London Central Mosque Trust & the Islamic Cultural Centre condemns the bombings and sends us this press release.
"...Our thoughts, our prayers and condolences go out to all the victims of this terrible terrorist attack. As citizens and co-workers of this great city, we share the concerns and fears of fellow Londoners. We use the same transport and live and work in the same buildings and any attack is an attack on us all."
July 7- 10 2005 ~ Helen, at EU Referendum blog, puts into words what many of us will be thinking: ".....Ever since 2001 we have been warned in almost hysterical terms on a weekly basis that there will be an attack any minute but when it came, the tale of the boy who cried wolf sprang to mind.... "
July 7- 10 2005 ~ Mr Blair's apparent view that the bombs were "timed to coincide with the G8" and the inevitable "... it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country" shows how little he grasps what most of us in this country hold dear. Do I speak for other readers when I say that we hold dear such things as peace, tolerance, generosity of spirit, accountability for our actions and the sense of proportion that accompanies a genuine English appreciation of irony and of the ridiculous?
The group that has claimed responsibility for the explosions (see Bloomberg) says, it was "a response to the massacres carried out by Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan". Although perpetrated in our name, these horrors have as little to do with what many of us "hold dear" as the miserable attacks on London today have to do with the majority of British Muslims trying to live peacefully in Britain. We can only hope for calm and restraint in the aftermath.
July 7- 10 2005 ~ A round-up of the latest news on the London explosions. "....The U.S. officials who gave the death toll spoke on condition of anonymity because British officials have yet to make the toll public."
July 7- 10 2005 ~ ".....The tribunal is a serious international public inquiry into the invasion and
occupation, the kind governments dare not hold. "We are here," said the
author Arundhati Roy in Istanbul, "to examine a vast spectrum of evidence
[about the war] that has been deliberately marginalised and suppressed - its
legality, the role of international institutions and major corporations in
the occupation; the role of the media, the impact of weapons such as
depleted-uranium munitions, napalm and cluster bombs, the use and
legitimation of torture . . . This tribunal is an attempt to correct the
record: to document the history of the war not from the point of view of the
victors but of the temporarily vanquished." New Statesman
July 7- 10 2005 ~ The latest on Reuters on the London explosions. (France is aghast and is running a special news report on the radio. All ill feeling about the Olympics seems forgotten in its sympathy for the victims of the attacks.) other reports
July 7- 10 2005 ~ Judith Miller (see below) , the New York Times reporter, has been jailed for refusing to reveal her confidential source. See Scotsman
See warmwell pages on the US Government's alleged implication in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent. The publisher of the New York Times has said Miller had acted for the "greater good of our democracy" by "honouring her promise of confidentiality to her sources".
July 7- 10 2005 ~ IndyMedia server seizure last week BBC
".....Kurt Opsahl, staff attorney at the digital rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the police actions were "troubling".
"By seizing the servers, the UK authorities pulled the plug on the entire Bristol website - our modern printing presses - and took down a host of political journalism.
"Every news publisher should be wondering, 'will I be silenced next?'" ..."
July 7 - 10 2005 ~ ID cards Independent "..... As MPs delivered a scathing verdict on other Whitehall computer bungles, the Home Office conceded that the ID card scheme might not happen until 2014 - the previous official target date was 2013.
There are also growing doubts within the IT industry whether the planned date of 2007 for launching the ID database is realistic..."
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ ".. Doing things sober is no way to get things done" ....Louise Casey certainly wants to get things done. She has energy and a sense of humour, but the Civil Service, it seems, are not amused. The secretly made recording says much about this extraordinary 38 year old who reports directly to Mr Blair.
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ An article by George Monbiot: "Africa's New Best Friends" comments drily that
"The US and Britain are putting the multinational corporations
that created poverty in charge of its relief....I began to realize how much trouble we were in when Hilary Benn, the secretary of state for international development, announced that he would be joining the Make Poverty History march on Saturday. What would he be chanting, I wondered? "Down with me and all I stand for"?
........At the Make Poverty History march, the speakers insisted that we are dragging the G8 leaders kicking and screaming towards our demands. It seems to me that the G8 leaders are dragging us dancing and cheering towards theirs."
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ Oil paintng by numbers "....massive realignment of Eurasian powers with China and Russia over the weekend, marching to a new NWO manifesto excluding the US .."
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ ..... Guardian Economic dispatch today: -"...... fiercely competitive forces of what is known as globalisation.
..... The BIS (the Bank for International Settlements in Basel) worries about a "shortsightedness in policy advice" .
...When asked about not signing up to Kyoto, US President George Bush said, "I don't think you can expect any American leader to wreck the economy". Yet in accumulating deficits as if there were no tomorrow, Mr Bush may merely be postponing the day of reckoning - and wreckage."
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ "The vision of a US-controlled internet infrastructure will be anathema to large parts of the world .... a demonstration of the US administration's failure to think globally that it doesn't recognise that there is surprisingly little preventing other parts of the world from creating a second Internet outside of US control..." The Register
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ Radio Netherlands on the G8 "... the price of crude oil...is now expected to join Africa and climate change as one of the main issues under the spotlight.....Prime Minister Blair paid a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia at the weekend, not - as the official explanation would have it - to seek Saudi support for a new G8 initiative for the Gaza Strip, but to ask the world's largest oil producer to keep the price under control, and preferably down.. it's an issue which the G8 cannot avoid: a major oil crisis would bring a halt to economic growth, and the negative impact of such a development would be felt all over the world, including the developing nations of Africa and elsewhere." full
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ Scotsman "Margaret Beckett, Environment Secretary... said nobody was more pro-farming and more aware of the CAP reform package than Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and his Chancellor."
The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh would also have proclaimed himself pro-farming. Human News says, ". .... with advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), McKinsey & Company, the World Bank and other consultants, the then Chief Minister dismantled many of the support mechanisms enjoyed by the farmers at the grassroots level....Indebtedness, insecurity due to crop failures, and increases in the cost of seeds and fertilizers aggravated the situation. In the United States, cotton was subsidized at $12.9 billion during 1999-2000. Farmers in India were pitted against these highly subsidized imports. Indian products were very costly compared to the US products, and they suffered heavy losses in market share.
The high tech government collapsed ....
." Read in full Such economic straits contributed to the nearly 10,000 (sic) Indian farmers suicides in 2004.
July3-6 2005 ~ Znet comment "....The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the WTO (since 1995) comprise the Holy Trinity managing the global economy...As Arundhati Roy, an Indian development expert argues, “Democracy has become the Empire’s euphemism for neo-liberal capitalism.” It’s the new face of neo-colonization for the Third World..." read in full this clear and important article by Gary Olson, Ph.D., chair of the Political Science Department at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. ( Russian joke: What did neoliberalism accomplish in seven years that communism couldn’t do in 70 years? Make communism look good.)
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ "... Chinese analysts are arguing that the US should approve the Unocal deal so that China becomes America's partner in the management of global energy resources. Some analysts have warned that if this approval doesn't come through, China will be forced to expand its business with 'rogue states' such as Iran, Sudan, and Myanmar..." (see Peak Oil news page)
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ "The Chinese ... For them, oil is main issue. .... Russian oil makes Beijing less dependent on America. Judging all the indicators, China is becoming a superpower ..." article in "Russia's first independent newspaper" http://www.kommersant.com (see Peak Oil news page)
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ "Grotesque" extradition law - the Babar Ahmad case. "..... Mr Johnson said it was contrary to UK law that British citizens should be extradited for crimes allegedly committed in the UK.
"To call it poodling is an insult to poodles."
Boris Johnson said extradition rules introduced in 2003 were "grotesque".
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Goodhart QC said Mr Ahmad and other defendants should be put on trial in the UK. ..."
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ Four years ago, the FAO launched an initiative with a distinct focus on livestock: the Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Facility (PPLPF)
"...Technology oriented projects in the livestock sector and related sectors have failed to deliver significant improvements in the livelihoods of the poor.... Positive steps would include:
efficient, fair and equitable access to input and output markets,
improved access to livestock services,
development of grass-root organizations that increase the negotiating power of marginalized groups. "
July 5 - 7 2005 ~ "Len Cook, the Government's chief statistician, has been issued with a summons to produce key documents to the High Court case that is seeking compensation for shareholders in the defunct Railtrack." Independent
For a website concerned about lack of accountability and unethical corner-cutting by government, this story is likely to be important.
July3-6 2005 ~ Still getting away with it.
- "For the preparation of the dossier we had a real concern not to exaggerate the intelligence that we had received. For obvious reasons, it is difficult to reflect the credibility of the information, and we rate the credibility of what we have very highly. I say no more than that." Tony Blair's statement to Parliament on the launch of the government's dossier 24 September 2002.
July3-6 2005 ~ "Today was the day of the G8 counter summit, a day of reflection rather than action, organised by a coalition of unions and campaign groups and speakers ...
.. Robben Island inmate with Nelson Mandela, Dennis Brutus said: "..... The G8 is the source and engine of our suffering, our pain and our oppression. Instead of poverty, it is the G8 we should be making history of." Channel 4.
July3-6 2005 ~ "Some help with development will be useful but before rich countries send us money, they should take time to truly understand us. There is so much corruption here that funds from overseas often go straight into the pockets of politicians. We must find a way to give aid money directly to the small people. Will the people at this concert understand all that?" Independent.
People at the sharp end know that top-down initiatives - even the most well-meaning of them - inevitably fail.
July3-6 2005 ~ Telegraph "....their chief preoccupation is not global warming, but social control; hence the appalling proposal to tie personal carbon quotas to ID cards. This is not about the environment..."
July3-6 2005 ~The Independent's Campaign for Democracy calls on Mr Blair ".....in your final term as Prime Minister, to institute urgent reform of our voting system so that the British people are encouraged to believe that their votes count and that the result of a general election is more representative of their wishes. "
July 3 - 6 2005 ~ Reuters "Throwing money at African governments is not the answer," the brother of South African President Thabo Mbeki wrote.
"Give the money to the people for productive investment," Moeletsi Mbeki said in the Mail on Sunday. "Africans are perfectly capable of improving their own lot."
July 3 - 6 ~ Simon Jenkins ".....Live 8 claims political status, but the politics is totalitarian, using celebrity to mobilise a crowd. The crowd has a noble place in politics, but it is a transient one. Tomorrow it is gone and its punch leaves no bruise. Small wonder Tony Blair is playing Pope Innocent to Bob Geldof’s Francis of Assisi..."
See also Michael Portillo "....As the G8 summit approaches, the government is whipping up public demonstrations (a practice usually confined to authoritarian regimes)."
July 3 - 6 ~ "... You cannot play the terror card and simultaneously promise the scheme will be voluntary and take a decade to roll out. .... reassuring estimate of what the scheme will cost has been demolished by two independent reports .....the public would rather believe Pinocchio than any minister of the crown. ..... Ministers won the vote in the Commons but lost the argument. Their majority understates the degree of discontent on all sides. Labour backbenchers savaged the bill and its authors. The Lords will maul it further. ......
Crime is a scourge in a free society. But when privacy dies, the free society dies with it. .." Michael Portillo writes in the Sunday Times
July 1-3 2005 2005 ~ " The director of the London School of Economics has accused the Home Office of using “bullying and intimidation” in its attempt to suppress a study about identity cards.." Sunday Times
- ".....a series of aggressive telephone calls before the study was published on Monday. “They are stepping over a line that hasn’t been crossed before,” he said. “On the one hand they say it (the ID card) is not an attack on civil liberties, but then, if anyone questions any aspect of it, they abuse you and accuse you.
..... the idea that it is deliberately biased or fabricated seems to me to be fatuous. I am genuinely shocked, surprised and disappointed at the response.”
July 1-3 2005 2005 ~A recent ICM poll found that 43 per cent believe ID cards are a 'bad' or 'very bad' idea. The Home Office, however, maintains that around 17 per cent of adults - up to four million people - oppose the cards. The Observer reports that "....Opponents are preparing to launch a co-ordinated mass application to the Passport Office over the summer. The applicants would be issued with the current non-biometric passports that would, theoretically, be valid for 10 years. The surge in applications would cause a major headache for the office, which has suffered backlogs due to IT failures." See also the No2ID website (new window). It already has a Google rating of 7/10.
July 1-3 2005 2005 ~ It seems that Sarah Sands, the new editor of the Sunday Telegraph, has decided to drop Booker's Notebook column this week, in order to turn the newspaper into a large "souvenir edition" of the G8 Summit and the egregious Live 8 concert. (see comment below)
Letters to the editor about this can go to email@example.com.
or by post to "Letters to the Editor", Telegraph Group Limited, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DT. "Not for publication" complaints and comments should be emailed to:
July 1-3 2005 2005 ~ EU Presidency BBC ".....Shadow Europe minister Graham Brady said: "Their agenda is to increase Britain's contributions to the EU budget and the talk about radical reform to the Common Agricultural Policy really is just that. The document they published yesterday (Thursday) setting out the government's priorities does not mention that radical reform at all. It's all back of an envelope stuff."
July 1-3 2005 2005 ~ EU ref blog "....it is OLAF, whose doings were recorded by Hans-Martin Tillack, (warmwell page here) the German journalist, which set into motion the various arrests, confiscations of material and persecutions by the Belgian police, at the instigation of the anti-fraud office.
So far Mr Tillack’s attempts to get back his documents, to prevent OLAF and the Commission from finding out the names of his sources and to stop various past and present OLAF officials from slandering him have been unsuccessful.
One can’t help looking forward with some anticipation to the final report produced from bunch of … ahem … not entirely accountable officials on another similar bunch..." writes Helen.
July 1-3 2005 2005 ~ John Humphrys "I think it is not just desirable, but absolutely essential that you hold people in power to account for what they say and do. That's our job. It may mean you have to argue with them to develop that holding to account." Several Labour peers evidently dislike this approach. The House of Lords Select Committee on BBC charter renewal (sic) has been grilling Today's John Humphrys. See Telegraph
July 1-3 2005 2005 ~ Another nail in the coffin of a free press....The vengeful and outraged response by a government that did not want questions asked about Iraq was depressing enough in our Gilligan affair - but these two Time reporters actually face gaol sentences for their refusal to reveal sources.
July 1-3 2005 2005 ~ The Bush Administration appeared, in 2003, to have leaked Valerie Plame's identity as an agent to the conservative columnist Robert Novak in 2003 in revenge for her husband Ambassador Joseph Wilson's revelations about Niger and WMD . See Denver Post editorial "Time Inc. abandoned its protection of a confidential source yesterday with its capitulation to an overbearing federal prosecutor.... ."
warmwell's pages on the Valerie Plame affair
Time's editor in Chief, Norman Pearlstine, has rejected a suggestion by the Wall Street Journal that the decision to hand over the reporter's notebooks was influenced by a clash between journalistic standards and the financial concerns of parent company Time Warner Inc. See also Reuters
28/30 June 2005 ~
http://wcco.com/topstories ".... Adam Price asked Blair in the Commons on Wednesday ...
“Is it safe to assume that Sir Richard’s (Dearlove) statement ... that the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy was an accurate assessment of the intentions and actions of the Bush administration?”
Blair said the contents of that memo (here) had already been covered by a high-level independent inquiry into the British government’s case for war in Iraq.
He emphasized that the 2002 meeting was before Britain and the United States sought and secured a resolution from the United Nations Security Council—a path that indicated they were not bent on military action. ..."
28/30 June 2005 ~ A top U.S. Army procurement official said on Monday Halliburton's deals in Iraq were the worst example of contract abuse she had seen Reuters
28/30 June 2005 ~ The EU referendum blog reveals that the MOD is paying Iveco Spa Defence Vehicles Division in Bolzano, Italy the sum of £166 million for 401 British military vehicles. Anne Winterton's parliamentary questions finally revealed, albeit in the usual smudged over language of parliamentary replies, that this was so. But the MOD's announcement back in July 2003 had given a very different impression: "... Any casual reader would gain the impression that this was a British-made vehicle, for the British Army, produced by BAE Systems Land Systems, a British company."
"...what is so remarkable," comments Richard, "is the lengths the MoD has gone to conceal the fact. This is Europeanisation by stealth."
28/30 June 2005 ~ The following blog is worth reading. In 1855, a Telegraph editorial: "... Beacons of hope have arisen in all parts of the kingdom, shedding the light of knowledge upon the aspirations of free-born reflecting men" Those who attempt to reassure us that Parliament and the press have always been much of a muchness while education gets better and better, would do better to ask, with Richard North, "Where did we go wrong?"
28/30 June 2005 ~ ID cards. ".....Twenty Labour MPs defied party whips to join the Tories and LibDems in voting against the scheme following a stormy debate in the Commons.
They included former ministers Clare Short, Glenda Jackson and Kate Hoey.
The Identity Cards Bill secured a second reading by 314 votes to 283, after the Government had its majority cut from 67 to 31..." See Evening Times
28/30 June 2005 ~ Channel 4's Jon Snow is in Uganda "what you feel is how very intimate the industrialised world is to the disequilibrium here in Africa.
I mean, when it came to breakfast in Gulu I looked for some nice medium roasted Ugandan coffee. What did I find? A revolting old tin of Nescafe instant - is it just six multinational companies that effectively control the entire industrialised world coffee consumption?
How ever did we all conjure things to produce a situation in which coffee rich Uganda is unable to put Ugandan coffee on its own table?"
28/30 June 2005 ~ Barrie Williams is "retiring" from the Western Morning News.
He said yesterday: "I have chosen to take early retirement because of a major change of policy and structure within Northcliffe Newspapers..." WMN
He is the third long-serving editor to announce that he is leaving Northcliffe Newspapers in the past fortnight. There is speculation that more editor-in-chiefs will be appointed throughout Northcliffe Newspapers. Experienced editors will have to "report to them".
28/30 June 2005 ~ The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, today said he was "amazed" at the government's decision to continue sending failed asylum seekers back to countries such as Zimbabwe. Guardian
28/30 June 2005 ~ The ID scheme, now described as a "dog's dinner" Independent " A 300-page report by staff at the London School of Economics made fundamental criticisms of the justification, technology and scope of the ID cards scheme. The report warned that it could pose a "far greater risk to the safety and security of UK citizens" than any of the problems it is intended to address..."
28/30 June 2005 ~ "Iraq one year on: A bloody mess" article in the Independent - but the headline says it all "...Most of Iraq is today a bloody no-man's land beset by ruthless insurgents, savage bandit gangs, trigger-happy US patrols and marauding government forces..."
24/27 June 2005 ~ Zimbabwe asylum seekers. Channel 4 news update ".....Whatever you believe, there is something weird about a situation which sees the government condemn a regime on one hand for starving its people and gross human rights abuses, while saying many of the asylum seekers - who fear persecution and claim they will be jailed, tortured or killed if they go back - can indeed be deported. We have bid for the Home Secretary to come on the programme tonight to explain."
24/27 June 2005 ~ ".... Perhaps the simplest explanation for the war is to be found in a little-noted news release from the Exxon Corporation in which it has estimated that in five years cheap available oil production will have peaked in non-OPEC oil sites. ..... to ask the hard, hard question: Would we have gone to war if Iraq possessed the world's second largest reserve of figs, rather than oil?" Very readable and sober article from the attorney Richard Babb in Mississippi - the Daily Journal
24/27 June 2005 ~ Independent "....Twenty-one Labour left-wingers have signed a rebel "reasoned amendment" expressing a series of concerns.
Major unions, including Unison and the Transport and General Workers' Union, have expressed opposition and a poll published yesterday showed strong public resistance to the proposed charge for the cards.
Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, has also entered the row, warning that ID cards risked becoming a "virtual pass law situation in our inner cities"...."
24/27 June 2005 ~ People power.
".... www.downingstreetmemo.com (new window) "... has drawn 700,000 visits since going up May 11 with the goal of prodding U.S. media coverage of the documents. It has sparked political discussion around the country and quickly attracted attention from the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.
It also turned the lives of the Sunnyvale, Calif., couple upside down..." CentreDaily.com
24/27 June 2005 ~ In an attempt to quieten the ID rebels, Charles Clarke is going to say "...that pensioners and people on low incomes would be offered cut-price deals for ID cards at about a third of their £93 unit cost.." See Times
24/27 June 2005 ~ Channel 4 News update: "....Tonight this is where we are: the government does not know how much ID cards will cost, nor do they know how much it will save in reduced fraud, nor do they think it will prevent terrorist attack. But they want everyone to think ID cards are a good idea.
I am left wondering if ID cards are the answer, what is the question?"
24/27 June 2005 ~ "...... There is not the slightest indication from Mr Blair or anyone else of how the EU could be reformed so as to turn it into anything other than what it is. The system of government which already produces half our laws is now more unaccountable than ever. We are subjected to a government which we cannot dismiss or replace, so that to a great degree we now in effect live in a one-party state..." Booker's Notebook this week.
24/27 June 2005 ~ The Sunday papers (below) are full of the unravelling Identity Card fiasco. Simon Jenkins (below) says that MPs could start to cleanse the Augean Stables "... by preventing some £10 billion being blown on ID cards. I bet they funk it."
24/27 June 2005 ~ Simon Jenkins "Labour MPs are ....pure Weimar. They could not recognise a civil liberty if one hit them in the face. ....
The ID cards are stupid government, banana republic government, government that tells the taxpayer to eff off. .... The thing beggars belief.
24/27 June 2005 ~ "Personal details of all 44 million adults living in Britain could be sold to private companies as part of government attempts to arrest spiralling costs for the new national identity card scheme, set to get the go-ahead this week.
The Independent on Sunday can today reveal that ministers have opened talks with private firms to pass on personal details of UK citizens for an initial cost of £750 each..." Independent on Sunday
24/27 June 2005 ~ "....Confidential Home Office findings show that the cost of the cards has already risen from £39 to £110, forcing ministers to consider ways of making savings. They are now suggesting collapsing the ID card into the passport, which UK citizens already pay £42 for, and scrapping the need for costly iris scans and fingerprinting.
Rather than having to provide biometric data such as this, ministers may introduce a cheaper “chip and pin” system .." Sunday Times
24/27 June 2005 ~ Observer " Union blow to ID card scheme
· Key staff could scupper Blair plan
· Home Office prepares for U-turn
'We have won the argument, even if they get their bill,' said (David) Davis. 'It is now accepted that there are serious issues around the cost of this scheme and doubts over the technology.'
24/27 June 2005 ~ "...From the confiscation of nail scissors at airports to the introduction of indefinite detention without trial, fears about terrorism have succeeded in warping many aspects of British life. The Government now insists that tackling terrorists requires the destruction of another cherished British liberty: the right not to have to carry an identity card on your person, available at all times for inspection by the police. .." Sunday Telegraph
24/27 June 2005 ~ ZNet "What's on offer for Africa from the trendy but top-down initiatives called Make Poverty History and Live 8, and even the Johannesburg-based Global Call to Action Against Poverty? We worry that these projects are, like many NGO activities in Africa, unintentionally legitimating the institutions, processes and personalities through which neoliberalism and imperialism do their damage...
.... bottom-up alliances between Africa's progressive social, ecological and labour movements will, we believe, increasingly request the mainstream NGOs to please move out of the way. ."
24/27 June 2005 ~ "....Ian Taylor at the University of St Andrews used the Freedom of Information Act to learn that while Blair was declaiming his desire to "make poverty history", he was secretly cutting the government's Africa desk officers and staff. At the same time, his "Department for International Development" was forcing, by the back door, privatisation of water supply in Ghana for
the benefit of British investors..." John Pilger in the New Statesman. To show that evidence that direct action can work, he advises us to
- ".... look to Bolivia, the poorest country in
Latin America, where an indigenous movement has Blair's and Bush's
corporate friends on the run, and Venezuela, the only country in the world
where oil revenue has been diverted for the benefit of the majority.."
24/27 June 2005 ~ an important Op-Ed article from the New York Times referring to the Downing St Memo "... some of my colleagues insist that we should let bygones be bygones. The question, they say, is what we do now. But they're wrong: it's crucial that those responsible for the war be held to account..."
"...Leading the nation wrongfully into war strikes at the heart of democracy. It would have been an unprecedented abuse of power even if the war hadn't turned into a military and moral quagmire. And we won't be able to get out of that quagmire until we face up to the reality of how we got in....." Read in full
24/27 June 2005 ~ General John Abizaid, the top American commander in the Gulf, has told the US Congress that the Iraqi insurgency has not grown weaker over the past six months, despite a claim by Vice President Dick Cheney that it was in its "last throes". ...his "testimony came at a contentious Senate Armed Services Committee hearing .... Senator Edward Kennedy.....
citing what he called repeated "gross errors and mistakes" in the US military campaign in Iraq, told Rumsfeld: "... Isn't it time for you to resign?" ..."
General John Abizaid told the same Senate committee more foreign fighters were coming into Iraq than six months ago.
The hearings come amid waning public support in the US for the war. BBC
24/27 June 2005 ~ ID cards Independent " A backbench rebellion against identity cards is gathering strength.....
At least 21 Labour MPs are threatening to oppose the legislation in the Commons and others are considering joining the revolt..." read in full
24/27 June 2005 ~ Blunkett got £18,000 payoff (and then came back) Independent on lucrative cabinet farewells
24/27 June 2005 ~ China's state-owned oil outfit, CNOOC (CEO ), has made an unsolicited $18.5 billion bid for Unocal (UCL ), the seventh-largest U.S. oil company. Business week
20/23 June 2005 ~ "....which minister is the best - and most irritating - mouthpiece for team Blair," asks the Independent today. Terrifying.
20/23 June 2005 ~ FIBS. The Downing Street Memo, suggesting that in Washington, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." has been dismissed as a forgery by Rush Limbaugh, on his Radio show in America: ".... it didn't interest me is because it was just another one of these ginned up things by the libs .....The Downing Street memo doesn't say anything, and it may be a fake. It may be a forgery."
Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican Senator who died in 1995 warned:
- "I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny - Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear."
20/23 June 2005 ~ Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has suggested that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) should write off benefits mistakenly paid to families rather than trying to claw them back. Telegraph "David Harker, the chief executive, (Citizens Advice) said: "The scale of official error has been completely unacceptable and the Revenue has failed to live up to its own standards of service and efficiency."
20/23 June 2005 ~ The G8 nations are undermining their commitment to human rights and the world's poor by continuing to sell weapons to brutal regimes, according to a new report published by Amnesty International and Oxfam. Times
20/23 June 2005 ~ "....all this optimism about how an Iraqi civil war won't break out or won't involve the neighbors is naive.
Similar international interventions occurred during the Iran-Iraq War, one of which was marked by Donald Rumsfeld's two visits to Baghdad to make an alliance with Saddam and to assure him it was all right if he gassed the Iranians..." Juan Cole
The Scotsman "The Iraqi minister of justice criticized the US for limiting Iraqi government access to Saddam Hussein. He suspects that there are things that the US does not want Saddam to spill the beans about. He said, "it seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide".
Professor Cole comments: "Donald Rumsfeld was sent to Iraq in 1984 to reassure Saddam that State Department condemnations of him for using chemical weapons were pro forma and that the US nevertheless wanted an alliance with him against Iran. .."
20/23 June 2005 ~
in Afghanistan today "American aircraft bombarded a rebel hideout with missiles and bombs, killing up to 76 .." Guardian
20/23 June 2005 ~ "Leaked documents ....show a cabinet split over plans to put growth and jobs ahead of the environment when the priorities for sustainable development are reviewed by the EU."The Independent
20/23 June 2005 ~ Martin Lewis, the online
Money Saving Expert, is appalled that Debt adverts, especially for secured loans, are appearing on childrens' television channels. This is a campaign against such adverts, which means it's possible many newspapers and broadcasters won't cover it (many of the same people fund them). Thus people power is needed. "The more petition signatories (new window) , the more chance we have of stopping this disgrace," he says.
(When I signed, the petition had been signed 22610 times.)
20/23 June 2005 ~ Tony Blair has said he is a "passionate European" and has been talking about something he calls "European values" See Forbes "...Meanwhile, the leaders of countries such as Luxembourg, Ireland, France and Germany have lined up since the summit to criticise Blair, increasing the danger that his six-month EU presidency will be marked by deadlock."
20/23 June 2005 ~ Iraq withdrawal on the agenda? (Tomdispatch) "Republican Congressman Walter B. Jones (famed for insisting that the Congressional cafeteria re-label French fries as "freedom fries" on its menu).....voted enthusiastically for the Iraq War, but recently changed his mind. Last week, he became one of four congressional sponsors of a resolution calling for a timetable for withdrawal. .... as poll figures indicating fast-sinking support for the war and the President tell us, as edgy monthly casualty figures tell us, as Walter Jones's changed position tells us, as the latest nose-dive in military recruitment figures tells us, as the fact that 35% of Americans, according to a Pew poll, think we are now back in Vietnam tells us, things in Iraq are just getting worse and worse.
...." Read more
20/23 June 2005 ~ 8.8 billion dollars entrusted to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq earlier in 2004 "went missing." They have not been accounted for. The Downing Street Memo is mentioned today on NewsHounds - whose tagline is we watch FOX so you don't have to " Alan Colmes did another hour-long segment on the Downing Street Memo. His guest for the segment was Cindy Sheehan who co-founded Gold Star Families for Peace after losing a son to the war in Iraq...Also mentioned was the Coalition Provisonal Authority's inability to account for 8.8 billion dollars which, according to Colmes, was reported by The New York Times on 1/31/05 and has disappeared off the media radar screen...."
20/23 June 2005 ~ EU. Dr Richard North in the EU Referendum blog comments on Tuesday's Telegraph Leader: "....Neither Mr Blair nor Old King Cole are going to achieve anything of subtance, dear kiddles. Change is not on the agenda. You are overdosing on fantasy."
Dr North is clear, experienced in the ways of what he calls "the Colleagues" and often blessedly funny. Not funny at all was this memorable sentence from a few days ago
- : "..Yes, you can have "reform" of the European Union. You can do all sorts of things with it. You could, for instance, turn it into a progressive, free-market trading group, an association of free, democratic nation states, co-operating with each other for the common good, and you could then "reconnect" it with the people.
There is only one slight problem with that idea though. By the time you have finished, your original creation will no longer be the European Union..."
20/23 June 2005 ~ Rowan Atkinson led a coalition of Britain's most prominent actors and writers to Parliament today in an attempt to force a review of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, which gets its second reading in the Commons tomorrow. He says that it would give religious groups a "weapon of disproportionate power" whose threat would engender a culture of self-censorship among artists. See the Times
20/23 June 2005 ~ John Hilary, Director of Campaigns and Policy at war on Want said, “Behind the UK government’s fine words on poverty lies a harmful free trade agenda that puts big business before development. Until the G8 countries fundamentally change trade policy then the poor are damned to a life of poverty”
See The UK Government and the G8 – part of the problem from War on Want org.
20/23 June 2005 ~ An Australian Green website "... The Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) is working with G8 Alternatives to mobilise support for protests and direct action during the summit. In addition to the July 2 Edinburgh demonstration, these include: a G8 Alternatives Counter Summit on July 3 featuring George Galloway, Bob Crow, Mark Curtis, Susan George, Linsey German, Rosie Kane, George Monbiot, Scott Ritter, Dita Sari, and many others; a blockade of the Faslane nuclear submarine base on July 4; a demonstration at Dungavel refugee detention centre on July 5; and a demonstration at the G8 summit itself at the Gleneagles Hotel on July 6...
....the British authorities have been doing all they can to stymie the protests. In addition to local Scottish forces, 6000 police have been drafted into Scotland from England and Wales, and the June 8 Press and Journal reported that Grampian Police had filmed delegates arriving at a G8 Alternatives meeting at Aberdeen University."
20/23 June 2005 ~ The Downing Street Memo proves how Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations in February 2003 was - with hindsight - a tragic piece of nonsense.
The US columnist, Byron Williams, says
"...Diminishing the importance of the Downing Street memo magnifies the already senseless torture conducted at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, which has served only to make the country less secure....The bipartisan effort that gave the administration the authority to go to war must now take a leadership position by asking tough and uncomfortable questions, even if it means rethinking one's original support.
But I have my doubts.
- ".....the pro-EU chattering classes that dominate government and the BBC have liked to dismiss Euro-scepticism as the last gasp of Little England. Such loose thinking is no longer tenable... disentangling Britain from the European morass is the essential first step towards a truly internationalist perspective for the 21st century...."
"In fact, that is how it has been all along. There may be the "little englanders" in the Eurosceptic ranks but the greater number, in our experience, subscribe to the idea of a "Global Britain". It is time the "little Europeans" moved out of the way and let us through."
20/23 June 2005 ~ Blair Force One in the air again. See Scotsman. The idea for a personal jet for Mr Blair was quietly dropped 2 years ago "amid concerns about public reaction to the estimated £80m bill.
(the Prime Minister's 'efficiency guru', Sir Peter )
Gershon, the businessman behind the government efficiency review that sounded the death knell for 80,000 civil service jobs, has been given the task of investigating an idea that could add hundreds of millions of pounds to the Treasury budget. ..." See also Independent
17/19 June 2005 ~ Momentum is building behind the Downing Street memo.
The Sunday Times reports that a " sharp increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war "to put pressure on the regime" was illegal under international law....the advice was first provided to senior ministers in March 2002. .... Foreign Office advice shows military action to pressurise the regime was “not consistent with” UN law, despite American claims that it was. "
The decision to provoke the Iraqis emerged in leaked minutes of a meeting between Tony Blair and his most senior advisers — the so-called Downing Street memo published by The Sunday Times shortly before the general election.
Democratic congressmen claimed last week the evidence it contains is grounds for impeaching President George Bush. ..." See today's Sunday Times
17/19 June 2005 ~ The BBC reports on the EU recriminations "The summit collapsed after Britain refused to accept a demand by France and some other countries to accept a reduction in its EU rebate..." The Sunday Telegraph opinion column is very readable: "..Mr Blair had the better case: given that the UK is already paying two-and-a-half times as much to Brussels as France, a country of comparable wealth, it was outrageous of Mr Chirac to demand that Britain pay even more, and France less. For a third, Mr Blair has a fresh electoral mandate, while the French and German leaders have the reek of political death on them.
The EU referendum blog comments: " I am not sure that Blair has yet had enough of "Europe". He seems to think he has done quite well at the Council so, from "don’t-care-Blair", we may find he has reinvented himself as a born again European."
And as Christopher Booker remarks today "The death of Europe has been much exaggerated"
17/19 June 2005 ~ Counterpunch rightly points out that little good can come to those at the bottom when decisions are "top-down" rather than bottom-up
- " ..........the construction of a top-down campaign against poverty is both unrealistic and subject to early cooption.
...... 'We are disappointed that Oxfam, one of the NGO leaders on food security, has chosen to undermine the demands of social movements and think tanks in the South ...which have demanded that governments must uphold the rights of all people to food sovereignty and the right to food rather than industry-led export-oriented production ....
17/19 June 2005 ~ US occupation forces have announced today (Saturday) that they have killed 50 people in an ongoing offensive in Al-Anbar province, west of Baghdad. Al Anbar is a largely Sunni Arab province that has been hostile to the presence of US troops in Iraq and the new US-backed central government Agence France-Presse says that "The 1,000-strong Operation Spear is to round up "insurgents and foreign fighters and disrupt insurgent support systems in and around Karabilah" in restive northwestern Al-Anbar province"
17/19 June 2005 ~ Impeachment. "The emotive and charged word "impeachment" was voiced yesterday on Capitol Hill as a clutch of Democratic congressmen, backed by distraught mothers of soldiers slain in Iraq....
...... sufficient grounds to launch an inquiry into whether the President should be impeached for lying to Congress about the justification for the war. .....
"The so-called Downing Street memo, dated 23 July, 2002, only confirms what I always suspected......"......
.......some on Capitol Hill believe an obscure British memo could be the spark that ignites.... anti-Bush wildfire.....
"It reminds me of the little blurb that appeared in the paper that said there was a break-in at the Watergate," said another mother of a slain U.S. soldier." Globe and Mail
17/19 June 2005 ~"The US-Uzbek strategic partnership appears caught in a downward spiral. Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s administration has added "so-called democrats" to its internal enemies list, which has long been dominated by Islamic militants. Such a move indicates that Tashkent could be preparing to make a break with Washington...
Since the Andijan events of May 13, the Uzbek government has pursued a broad campaign to eliminate all forms of dissent......journalists and human rights activists, ...have been targeted for harassment and, in some cases, arrest...."Eurasianet.org
17/19 June 2005 ~ Voting Fraud. In Mile End, an old people's home which closed down two years ago applied for 200 postal votes - Read this email
It also includes a link to the Evening Standard's article about the exclusion zone for peaceful protest: ".. Political protests are to be curbed in a half-mile "exclusion zone" around Parliament, it emerged today.
A map of the zone, drawn up by ministers and slipped out in the Commons, shows that it takes in the whole of Whitehall and the London Eye.
Inside the zone, spontaneous demonstrations, even by a lone protester, will be banned." Read email and article
17/19 June 2005 ~ "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." The Downing Street memo is likely to shed more light than anything else on the preparations Downing Street made to support the Iraq war. Jack Straw, who knew that justification was "thin" proposed giving Saddam an ultimatum to allow in U.N. weapons inspectors, provoking a confrontation that would "help with the legal justification for the use of force."
The White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, was reduced to using the old our focus is not on the past. It's on the future and working to make sure we succeed .... line when asked whether the White House was ever going to respond to a letter from Republican John Conyers (D-Mich.) and signed by 88 of his colleagues asking for information about the memo. See extract
Read the Downing Street Memo in full
17/19 June 2005 ~ Tom Utley in the Telegraph "... if the purpose of Clause 134 of the new Act was only to get rid of Mr Haw, its effect
will be very different. This week, the new Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, exercised to
the full his new power to set an exclusion zone around the Commons. Not content with
forcing Mr Haw out of Parliament Square, he has banned all spontaneous demonstrations within half a mile of the Palace of Westminster.
..... This is not only a mad law, but an extremely bad one.......
I wonder what the young, idealistic Tony Blair would have thought if somebody had told him in his student days, as he strummed his guitar and campaigned against apartheid and the Bomb, that one day he would restrict the freedom of British subjects to demonstrate. ...."
17/19 June 2005 ~ The ever-readable Snowmail on the EU 'summit': "....no-one thinks Europe is yet dead and presumably they will leave the door open to negotiation. But one thing's for sure, they haven't done much in the last two days to connect with the people of Europe who seem to be saying no."
Richard North, in the even more readable EU Referendum blog, comments drily, ".....The "colleagues" are not going to agree. There is no need to agree, and over the next few months the deal will be stitched up au couloirs. We will be told about it afterwards. The rest is theatre." and
- "....Juncker states: "We consider that the constitutional treaty gives the right answers to the many questions that Europeans citizens pose. We therefore consider that the process of ratification must continue. There will be no better treaty, and thus there is no prospect of renegotiation."
One really does wonder whether they are listening to themselves, or are even capable of so doing. On the one hand, Juncker says he wants "dialogue" and then, in the same breath, says there will be "no changes". What is the point of having a dialogue if, at the very start of the process, you have already said that there will be no changes as a result of it?
This is quite simply, a dialogue of the deaf."
13/15 June 2005 ~ "Labour's high command wants changes to party rules aimed at reducing and even eliminating trade union influence over the Government, according to a secret internal document.
The paper warns unions that ministers are reneging on the Warwick agreement on employment rights and that party officials want to ensure future Labour governments will not be forced to make such concessions..." Independent
13/15 June 2005 ~ Telegraph "....If France says it has no hope of reversing its first No vote, the treaty is effectively dead, because it must be ratified by all 25 member states....
France would be asked to make clear at the European Council on Thursday "how they intend to proceed" .........
increasingly bold hints from countries such as Denmark, the Czech Republic and Poland that they had no appetite for holding referendums on the treaty, with in the face of opinion polls predicting a long string of No votes.
an open-ended deadline is a tacit admission that this thing is in serious difficulties. ....."
13/15 June 2005 ~ See EU referendum blog for "....another mess that is being carried over into the British Presidency, while Prime Minister Blair studiously ignores the EU."
13/15 June 2005 ~ George Monbiot Guardian "....Attaching conditions like these to aid is bad enough. It amounts to saying: "We will give you a trickle of money if you give us the crown jewels." Attaching them to debt relief is in a different moral league: "We will stop punching you in the face if you give us the crown jewels." The G8's plan for saving Africa is little better than an extortion racket.
Do you still believe our newly sanctified leaders have earned their haloes? If so, you have swallowed a truckload of nonsense. Yes, they should cancel the debt. But they should cancel it unconditionally." Read in full See also John Pilger, who writes, "aid" and "debt relief" are intended to mask, as Gordon Brown put it, an "obligation" on the poorest countries to "create the conditions for [business] investment"
13/15 June 2005 ~ Times (12 June) "Ireland has shelved plans to introduce biometric chips to passports amid expectations that America will relax demands for their introduction.
The US Department of Homeland Security wanted the chips installed by October in passports of European citizens who can travel to America for short-term visits without a visa. Biometric chips are capable of holding various biographical information on people such as their finger prints, facial dimensions, and even scans of their irises. .. "...There were questions about who exactly would get access to the data. The US does not have as strict data protection laws as we do in Europe. There was potential this could be shared with a wide range of agencies in the states down to local sheriffs and not just used to confirm it was the correct person on the passport
Assessments of the use of biometric chips did not show it had a great role in preventing terrorism as alleged and was open to wide misuse...”
13/15 June 2005 ~ Independent "Plans to introduce identity cards have suffered a serious setback with the publication of a poll which discovered rising public hostility to the scheme.
The number of voters backing the move has slumped from more than 80 per cent to 55 per cent in six months, according to the survey of 1,010 voters by ICM Research released yesterday. The number of opponents has more than doubled to 43 per cent..."
13/15 June 2005 ~ "Polls have shown for some time that 3 - 4 million people across the UK
strongly oppose the Government's plans to introduce ID cards and a National
Identity Register. Were this many of us to refuse to cooperate then the scheme
would be doomed to failure. "I will refuse to register for an ID card and will donate £10 to a legal
defence fund but only if 10,000 other people will also make this same
NO2ID continues to campaign against the introduction of ID cards and the
National Identity Register on all fronts, for more information visit www.no2id.net"
13/15 June 2005 ~Sleeping With The Enemy
In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger reveals that the National Union of Journalists in Britain - his union - is about to announce a "partnership" with the Blair government which, says the deputy general secretary, will promote "the struggle against poverty" and "help the media to tell it like it is." But why, asks Pilger, is the union getting into bed with a government whose manipulations it should be exposing, not collaborating with? Read in full
13/15 June 2005 ~ BBC World Service Interview with George Galloway.
It suggests that the smearing of Mr Galloway has been deliberate and cynical. In spite of aggressive questioning, the Roman Catholic, non-drinking, life-long supporter of true Socialism, calmly explains his views and beliefs. Uncomfortable listening. "The people who have created this problem cannot be its solution..."
13/15 June 2005 ~ Channel 4 news update: "Ethiopia is beginning to yield fascinating insights into the wholesale slaughter of unarmed civilians last week, who were mostly protesting students. We have exclusive footage showing the University in Addis Ababa where it all began where terrified students were rounded up, pleading 'save us, save us'.
Hundreds are missing beyond the 30 or so who are dead and the more than a hundred who are wounded. It's all said to be the handy work of President Meles and so far he does not appear to be sorry about recent events in his country. All in all, we think in excess of 4000 people are still missing after the shooting..."
13/15 June 2005 ~ The Downing Stree Memo. ".....The briefing paper indicated top British officials viewed the Bush administration as inevitably invading Iraq but said "little thought" had been given to "the aftermath and how to shape it," the Post reported, quoting from the eight-page memo.
Blair's staff produced the July 21 memo in preparation for the prime minister's meeting with his national security staff two days later at Downing Street. ..." Reuters
13/15 June 2005 ~ Independent ".....the Prime Minister's inability to gain concessions from his closest ally, following his backing for military action against Iraq, will be seen by some as a sign that Mr Blair does not have the influence he would like."
13/15 June 2005 ~ Times "Leading fraud experts have rejected Tony Blair’s claims that identity cards will help to stem the soaring costs of identity theft.
Dr James Backhouse, a director of the London School of Economics Information Systems Integrity Group, said that identity cards would instead become the new master key for identity fraudsters, who would be able to acquire the cards using stolen documents. An identity theft takes place every four minutes and costs the country an estimated £1.3 billion a year. ..An LSE report into ID cards claimed that running costs of the scheme over ten years could rise to £18 billion. The Identity Cards Bill will receive its second reading in the House of Commons in the next few weeks and could be on the statute book by 2006.
" Read in full
12 June 2005 ~ Hundreds of naked cyclists staged demonstrations in London and Madrid yesterday in protest against the West's dependence on gas-guzzling cars Telegraph "Some bikes carried banners reading "Oil is not a bare necessity but a crude obsession" ..." See also Peak Oil News
12 June 2005 ~ "...on all sides, implementation of the constitution is busily rolling forward, obviously on the assumption that there was no need to wait until the treaty became law. Caught out by the French and Dutch "No" votes, ministers and officials have no recourse but to indulge in hopelessly disingenuous prevarication...When ministers are caught acting illegally in this way, what do we expect them to do? Come clean and admit they have made a mistake? Or just lie about it?
Much easier to take the second course. But whether it is wise to base our system of government on such institutionalised dishonesty is another matter. .." As usual, Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph, points out what most others are either too naive or too sycophantic to say.
12 June 2005 ~ "....like many ministers before him, Mr Darling can pretend that road tolls are simply a British idea. It is this deliberate practice of concealing how many national policies are now dictated by "Europe" which gave rise to the description of the EU as "the elephant in the room": a presence so vast that everyone must pretend it is not there..." Booker's Notebook
5 June 2005 ~ Saturday's Independent on the 1975 referendum on the Common Market "..I asked her 30 years on, had the money come from? "From the European Commission: it was a sort of special dispensation. I don't know how they fixed it, because one didn't ask too much. One just said 'Thank you very much' and got on with organising it."
That fact was not known at time. But it was known that big business in Britain was overwhelmingly pro-European. "When the campaign started, money rolled in," says McAlpine, "yes" campaign treasurer. "The banks and the big industrial companies put in very large sums of money." Read in full - but see also EUreferendum Blog
- "...... In that and many other ways, the campaign was rigged. That could and should have been on the programme but, on balance, there was enough there to demonstrate that, by no means, could the 1975 referendum have been regarded as a fair or accurate reflection of public opinion on such an important matter as staying in the EEC."
comment on the referendum
3 June 2005 ~ UK Referendum. Jack Straw will announce on Monday that the Bill paving the way for the British vote is to be put on hold indefinitely. icwales "...Shadow foreign secretary Liam Fox said, "Europe needs to move in a new direction - one of greater decentralisation and deregulation.
If the Prime Minister tries to implement by the back door any of the measures which he agreed to when he signed the constitution, it is essential that the British people are given their right to speak in a referendum.".."
3 June 2005 ~ EU. Schröder says ratification must go ahead. Other leaders voice doubts. The Guardian outlines 4 possible scenarios: Meltdown
, Muddle Through, Two Europes, or United States of Europe. Read in full
3 June 2005 ~ The Bolivian President, Carlos Mesa, faced with spiralling social upheaval, has signed a decree to allow the population go to the polls on Oct. 16 to elect members for an assembly to rewrite the constitution - with the aim of redistributing power in favor of the poor indigenous majority. Indigenous indian leaders are vehemently opposed to the wish for autonomy of the European-descended elite in the province of Santa Cruz, where most of Bolivia's gas and oil lies. Mesa's decree also allows Bolivians to vote on a referendum about this. See also BBC
2 June 2005 ~ We salute Brian Haw the anti-war campaigner who is marking four years of non-stop protest in Parliament Square. He began his one-man demonstration against sanctions in Iraq on 2 June 2001. Clauses 123 and 124 of the "Serious Organised Crime Bill" deal with protests around the Palace of Westminster and could be invoked to stop groups of people lobbying their MPs. The proposal to create an offence of 'spoiling the visual aspect' appeared specifically to be aimed at removing Mr Haw. His website is www.parliament-square.org.uk
2 June 2005 ~ "Making Justice History".... George Monbiot "Rich Keep the Poor Just Where They Want Them" ".....Tony Blair ....he discovers, to his inestimable regret, that love, compassion and human fellowship won’t after all be possible, as a result of a ruling by the European commission....DfID ... will decide whether to give money to a country by looking “to the IMF to provide an assessment of a country’s macroeconomic position”. It knows full well that the IMF continues to judge countries by the degree to which they embrace privatization and liberalization. Yet again the British government is outsourcing its ethics, using the policy of an international body to make justice history..." An important article. Read in full
2 June 2005 ~ The Dutch rejected the new constitution even more decisively than the French, 62% voting No and just 38% Yes.
Two weeks of uncertainly will now exist before the June 16-17 summit at which EU leaders will wonder what to do next. See Telegraph
2 June 2005 ~ " Iraq's environmental problems - among world's worst - range from a looted nuclear site which needs cleaning up to sabotaged oil pipelines...
"An improvement is almost impossible in these security conditions. Chemicals are seeping into groundwater and the situation is becoming worse and creating additional health problems," said Pekka Haavisto, Iraq task force chairman at the United Nations Environmental Programme.
Lack of spare parts and Iraq's inability to maintain pollution standards during two previous wars and more than a decade of crushing sanctions have damaged the environment, including the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where most of Iraq's sewage flows untreated..." Alert net
2 June 2005 ~ Body Count in Iraq: ~
United States 1,659 ~
Britain 88 ~
Other nations 91
MILITARY Between 4,895 and 6,370 -
CIVILIANS Between 21,940 and 24,897
- but see Alert net for sources
1 June 2005 ~ EU. The Dutch prime minister has urged voters not to be swayed by France's rejection of the EU constitution... We watch with interest. In the dentist's waiting room yesterday, an 82 year old lady who has lived through the Occupation in this part of France all her life, told me how the lives of ordinary people have been changed very much for the worse by the EU, especially in agriculture and fisheries. She rejoiced in the "Non" but was deeply suspicious about how the authorities would respond.
1 June 2005 ~ Sweden has closed a second nuclear reactor, despite concerns about energy sources. See BBC
1 June 2005 ~ "Opponents of a wind farm on the Isle of Skye say they have been subjected to a campaign of criminal damage and intimidation by fellow islanders who stand to make money from the project." Independent
1 June 2005 ~ "Nobody had doubted that Khodorkovsky would be found guilty but many thought he would be given a lighter sentence to minimise damage to Russia's reputation the case has already caused.
When news of the verdict reached his supporters outside the Moscow courtroom they began to rhythmically chant "Disgrace! Disgrace!", waved their flags and whistled and shouted as riot police hemmed them in. Khodorkovsky's lawyers said they intended to appeal against the verdict, first in Russia and perhaps later at the European Court of Human Rights. .." Independent
31 May 2005 ~ Dominique de Villepin has replaced Jean-Pierre Raffarin as prime minister of France following the “no” vote. Many will remember his speech in 2003 supporting France’s opposition to an invasion of Iraq.
Britain takes on the EU presidency from July 1. Robin Cook said resolving the crisis would give the prime minister “the best possible curtain call for himself to make a graceful exit”.
Jack Straw suggested yesterday he would say when he addresses MPs on Monday whether the UK referendum will go ahead
31 May 2005 ~ Missed from the Independent on May 27 "The United States wants Britain's proposed identity cards to have the same microchip and technology as the ones used on American documents.
The aim of getting the same microchip is to ensure compatability in screening terrorist suspects. But it will also mean that information contained in the British cards can be accessed across the Atlantic...this is the latest controversy....
.... problems over the effectiveness of the biometric technology.... verification problems with 30 per cent of those whose fingerprint was taken during an enrolment trial of 10,000 volunteers."
Then on 29 May it emerged the true cost of the scheme could top £18 billion, more than triple the official estimate. ...This could make the average cost of a card as high as £300 to every adult.
31 May 2005 ~July 2nd will be a day of protest against the poverty and war promoted by the G8's policies. Police had raised objections to the event. All these objections have now been dropped and Edinburgh City Council have given permission for the rally to go ahead. Speakers expected include George Galloway, Jeremy Corbyn, Tommy Sheridan, Lindsey German, Kate Hudson, Walden Bello from the Phillipines and Trevor Ngwane from South Africa.
30 May 2005 ~ The US general Richard Myers has criticised as "absolutely irresponsible" an Amnesty International report on Guantanamo Bay. Amnesty described Guantanamo as "the gulag of our time".
30 May 2005 ~ From the EUReferendum.blog "...Throughout its history, the "project" has shown a remarkable ability to recover from what at the time seemed terminal disasters. So, as always, it is worth remembering that it ain't over until the fat lady sings – and she hasn't sung yet."
30 May 2005 ~ Telegraph "... ....The genius of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman was to design a system in which supreme power was wielded by unelected officials, and in which the peoples were presented with a series of faits accomplis. When, in 1992, they got their first No vote in Denmark's referendum on Maastricht, our masters were too set in their ways to consider respecting the result, and so pushed on regardless. They will do the same thing today.
.... if they cancel the scheduled British referendum, if they force the French to vote again, the resulting public anger will be terrible to behold. ...
30 May 2005 ~ Washington Post "Unhappy French voters on Sunday derailed plans to further political and economic integration in Europe, decisively rejecting the proposed European constitution and thumbing their noses at the country's governing elite, which had pleaded for approval of the measure.
The turnout was heavy and the margin of defeat was wide, with about 57 percent rejecting the constitution and about 43 percent voting for it..."
30 May 2005 ~ Even the Guardian...." it is already clear that there is no point in pretending that the process of ratification should go ahead as if nothing had happened."
29/30 May 2005 ~ Times ".....Anne Dalskey, 63, an office worker, was among those who said “no”. “I’m doing it for the young so that they will have a better Europe to live in .."....
Mme Dalskey said that the establishment campaign in favour of the constitution had merely served to reinforce her determination to reject the treaty.
“They asked our opinion and then they told us how we should vote. I don’t like that at all. And then they tell us that if we vote ‘no’, we’ll have another referendum in six months’ time. It’s as though we would have to go on voting until we say ‘yes’. But all these politicians lie to us all the time. They promise things that never arrive.” ...."
29/30 May 2005 ~ The French say "No".. Times "It’s a massive ‘no’, a heavy rejection of the Constitution and a huge humiliation for President Chirac,” said Charles Bremner, Times correspondent in Paris. “It’s also a huge repudiation of the political establishment – all the major parties were in favour of this document.”
29 May 2005 ~ "The government's plans to introduce identity cards were dealt a body blow last night after it emerged the true cost of the scheme could top £18 billion, more than triple the official estimate. ...This could make the average cost of a card as high as £300 to every adult..." Observer
29 May 2005 ~ Observer Leader: "....The surrender of privacy and the cost required by such a scheme might just about be worth the supposed benefits if two conditions are met: we must have confidence in the state to use our data wisely, and we must have faith in the state to make the system work. We have neither." Read in full
29 May 2005 ~ Iraq. A British soldier was killed and four others were injured in an attack on a convoy in southern Iraq today, the Ministry of Defence said. Reuters The mutilated bodies of 10 Iraqi Shia Muslim pilgrims have been found near the Syrian border. BBC
28 May 2005 ~ "Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi agree on helping Africa and tackling climate change in talks in Rome." announces the BBC
Heaven help us all.
Jon Snow commented laconically yesterday: "Mr Blair is with the ubiquitous Berlusconi, whose hair transplant seems to have taken nicely. What good friends they are, but even next to Mr Blair, Mr Berlusconi is very short. "
28 May 2005 ~ Guardian "Clare Short revealed today that she will bring a private member's bill seeking to give parliament a veto over future military action.
At present, the prime minister can invoke powers inherited from the monarch - the "royal prerogative" - to send British forces to war without the approval of the House of Commons. "
28 May 2005 ~ As usual, Matthew Parris in the Times is bang on target with the headlone: "ID cards could be a big step for security. That's just why they're wrong" "..... The Government’s identity cards legislation is a case in point. It is set to be the new Casinos Bill. Launched with broad, shallow support, it will sail into a worsening storm. Enthusiasts will wobble as the details become clearer. Opponents that ministers had never heard of will emerge from the woodwork..." (read in full)
28 May 2005 ~ French and Dutch voters seem set to reject the EU Draft constitution. See Guardian's foreign editorials page
Interest - and actual understanding of the implications of the Constitution - are at a high level here in France.
28 May 2005 ~ Iraq. Pandora's box shows no sign of closing. The Islamic militant group Army of Ansar al-Sunna says it has killed a Japanese hostage Reuters; Two suicide car bombs have exploded outside a joint U.S.-Iraqi military base near the northern town of Sinjar, killing five people and wounding at least 45; Reuters Gunmen have shot dead a former member of Kirkuk's city council, Iraqi police said on Saturday, the latest killing of a local official in a city Reuters
26 May 2005 ~ Goldsmith legal advice issue. Jon Snow ".....we are in the position tonight of having him question the Parliamentary record of his own view on his legal advice.
Naturally we have asked him to talk to us and clarify matters. He has declined."
26 May 2005 ~ Draft Consternation.... The French take part in the referendum on the draft EU Constitution on their "Mothers' Day" - Sunday. All stops are being pulled out to convince them that a YES is required (little girl with shining eyes gazes out of the posters at the golden future) while No is unpatriotic and will lead to mayhem. Rather like Readers Digest offers. Remember Christopher Booker back in 2003?
- " the scale of the proposed power-grab, with the economy, foreign affairs, defence, justice and home affairs all becoming "common policies", with a central role for the European Commission. John Bruton, the former Irish prime minister, waved ...concerns aside, saying this had all been agreed years ago at Maastricht. Mr Hain was reduced to hopeless bluster, claiming that these were only proposals and that the final version would look very different.
Certainly this draft constitution is chilling to read. It lays out starkly just how close we are to becoming the subjects of a "United States of Europe", ruled by a wholly unaccountable government in Brussels. "
26 May 2005 ~ UK ID scheme The Register. ......By intoning the £1.3 billion mantra, however, and loudly repeating that Something Must Be Done about ID theft, the Government is encouraging the public in its erroneous belief that what it thinks of as ID theft will somehow be tackled by ID cards. Charles Clarke, who trotted out (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1072-1409799,00.html ) the number just days after he took over as Home Secretary, is arguably the biggest ID fraud of them all..."
26 May 2005 ~ Guardian ".... recent rumours that Zarqawi suffered a bullet wound to the chest in fighting and is either receiving medical care outside Iraq or dead..."
26 May 2005 ~ The front page of the New York Timestells us that a new presidential directive will soon essentially green-light the future U.S. militarization of space...."cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground, striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon..." Washington Post
26 May 2005 ~ Lord Goldsmith's defence of his advice in the Telegraph "I had to reach a conclusion, having weighed up all the arguments. It could not be slightly lawful: it either was or it wasn't. My conclusion was that it was lawful." Hmmm....and see Jon Snow's comments
25 May 2005 ~ Snowmail is generally spot-on. Tonight on the subject of ID cards: " ....terrorism still stalks the political landscape in pursuit of ID cards, uncosted and unproven in their capacity to deliver any profound improvement in security. Same bill, same place, same time..."
and on Iran "....the Europeans seem to accept that one day Iran will have to be allowed to 'convert' and process for peaceful purposes but they won't say so and that seems to be the backdrop against which other carrots like World Trade Organisation membership are being offered. It's an extraordinary piece of humiliation and pandering in one and the same breath."
and on the story that Mr Blair and others wish would just go away "...the Attorney General is once again unavailable to discuss his legal advice for war on Iraq - as he has been ever since we cracked it during the election. Not here tonight but maybe tomorrow?" (See Goldsmith pages)
25 May 2005 ~ "The FBI on Tuesday asked the U.S. Congress for sweeping new powers to seize business or private records, ranging from medical information to book purchases, to investigate terrorism without first securing approval from a judge. ...proposed new powers, long sought by the FBI, have been added by Republican lawmakers, acting on the wishes of the Bush administration, to the new draft of the USA Patriot Act. ... opponents said other investigations usually culminated in a public trial, whereas terrorism probes would likely remain secret and suspects could be arrested or deported or handed over to other countries without any public action. ...
24 May 2005 ~"The commander of an Iraqi counter-terrorism unit has been assassinated in a further demonstration of the insurgency's penetration of government structures on a day that saw massive loss of life across Iraq. ...." Independent
23/24 May 2005 ~ "Anti-federalists see the constitution as a fast track to a much-feared United States of Europe, in which national sovereignties, long safeguarded by the veto system, will be trampled underfoot. Europe, they argue, already has its own currency, free movement within its borders and a raft of harmonised economic legislation. What is the point of going any further? Except to achieve what Euro-sceptics have always warned was being plotted in Brussels: a single European state..." The Independent's brief look at the Constitution
23/24 May 2005 ~ "...no history of political involvement and was on his way to visit his parents when he was shot in the abdomen....Urinbayev was one of about a half dozen people who said in interviews with The Associated Press that relatives killed May 13 were innocent civilians. Many of those victims were young men, but no family admitted to any tie to the uprising.
Details of those interviews were lost when plainclothes officers confiscated the AP reporter's notebook after physically threatening him.
.... it remains a mystery what happened to many of the other dead. ...Nigara Khidoyatova, head of the Free Peasants party, said workers from her group recorded 745 killed....
" Guardian's AP report on the numbers killed in Uzbekistan
23 May 2005 ~ G8 Summit. Those who smell a rat when they hear Mr Blair say "It would be very odd if people came to protest against this G8, as we're focusing on poverty in Africa and climate change. I don't quite know what they'll be protesting against" may be interested in the article by David Miller at spinwatch.org How to Spin the G8
- "...The coverage is building to a crescendo in the run up to the summit itself. Apart from the routine inaccuracy, exaggeration and hyperbole of this reporting, it should go without saying that the main problem with it is the almost total failure to report the issues (including the war in Iraq, global poverty, climate justice, corporate power and lots more) which will drive thousands of us to protest against the G8.."
23 May 2005 ~ Counterpunch article on the Iraq occupation "The media's misrepresentation of the resistance in Iraq has been a central component to the Bush administrations ideology for occupation........what happened to the illegitimacy of the occupation and the legitimate right to oppose it?" read in full
22 May 2005 ~ "Dr Rod Barton, a former senior weapons inspector in Iraq, has revealed extraordinary details of how Scarlett and a top Ministry of Defence official intervened in a report by the ISG early last year..." See John Scarlett page on warmwell and today's Observer
22 May 2005 ~ Manning Memo Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6 who had recently returned from meeting CIA officials in Washington, was quoted as saying that Bush wanted “to remove Saddam (Hussein) through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD (weapons of mass destruction)”.
Dearlove also noted that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”.
Sunday Times "... the memo raised “troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own administration”.
US administration officials tried to shrug off the letter last week. Scott McClellan, Bush’s spokesman, said the White House saw “no need” to respond to an affair that one newspaper dubbed “memogate”..... “But this thing will not be snuffed out. ” (Read in full)
22 May 2005 ~ EU Constitution: "...The option of simply kicking Britain out would be implausible. It is unlikely to be alone. The Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland and Poland might have shared its scepticism in referendums. This will mean an emphatic halt to a post-war adventure, one now steeped in gigantism, protection and corruption. An association of independent peoples, their political and cultural boundaries marked by the fires of history, has become an empire of the bureaucratic vanities. It will have to stop and think, properly." Simon Jenkins is hoping for a French "Yes" - so that a British "NO" can actually mean something.
22 May 2005 ~"....10 of Blair's new Bills are EU-related). If journalists are troubled by what Anne McElvoy, in the London Evening Standard, called the "juggernaut" of new laws our Government imposes on us, let them first discover how most of these laws are made, and then recognise which "government" is actually imposing them..."
As always, anyone seriously interested in the EU and its effect on all of us should read Booker's Notebook
21 May 2005 ~ Scott Ritter in the Guardian "George Galloway ...stared down the US Senate subcommittee on homeland security and government affairs, and its notoriously partisan chairman Norm Coleman, and blasted as totally unfounded the committee's allegations that he had profited from oil vouchers in exchange for his anti-war stance. He emerged from the hearing victorious. If only more politicians, British and American alike, were able to display such courage .." read in full
21 May 2005 ~ Afghanistan "The Bagram file depicts young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse. The harsh treatment, which has resulted in criminal charges against seven soldiers, went well beyond the two deaths.
In some instances, testimony shows, it was directed or carried out by interrogators to extract information. In others, it was punishment meted out by military police guards.
Sometimes, the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom or cruelty, or both. .." The Guardian. See also New York Times from which the Guardian story has been taken.
21 May 2005 ~ Hundreds of Uzbek refugees have appealed for asylum in Kyrgyzstan, saying they fear for their lives if they return to their country. They have sent a collective letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, begging for protection and urging international pressure on Uzbek President Islam Karimov. Guardian
20 May 2005 ~ Venezuela jittery with fear of counter-revolution and foreign intervention. "Venezuela as a nation is nervous about its future and the oil assets. The activities in the country manifest tension, nervousness and sporadic actions to defend itself against unknown future...."
by Kiran Chaube
20 May 2005 ~ "....massive firepower meant they won any set-piece battle, but it also meant that they accidentally killed so many Iraqi civilians that they were the recruiting sergeants of the resistance. The army denied counting Iraqi civilian dead, which might be helpful in dealing with American public opinion. But Iraqis knew how many of their people were dying....."
Patrick Cockburn in The Independent on May 15
20 May 2005 ~ The Electoral Commission has called for root and branch reform of postal voting. Guardian
20 May 2005 ~Authorities in Uzbekistan have shrugged off calls for inquiry into crackdown on protesters that left hundreds dead.
20 May 2005 ~ US soldiers carried out widespread abuse of detainees at US-run Bagram prison camp in Afghanistan, according to confidential US army report revealed in New York Times.
20 May 2005 ~ Saddam Hussein photos "......The American military statement said that commanders in Iraq were "disappointed at the possibility that someone responsible for the security, welfare and detention of Saddam would take and provide these photos.....We take seriously our responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all detainees," the statement said...." New York Times
18 May 2005 ~ "...There was a change of view between his 13-page advice on March 7 and the short parliamentary answer on March 17. The crucial question is: why did it occur? On the answer to that question hinge the reputations of the attorney general and the prime minister..." updated Goldsmith pages contain the transcript of Professor Philippe Sands' Mishcon Lecture
- "....It is now clear that as early as March 2002 the Prime Minister had committed himself to support President Bush’s military adventure. On the 18th of that month Sir David Manning, Blair’s foreign policy adviser, had written to the Prime
Minister confirming that he had told Condoleeza Rice: “you would not budge in your support for regime change”. The minute of a key meeting chaired by the Prime Minister on 23 July 2002 – published for the first time in full by the Sunday Times two weeks ago - reports the PM as saying: “If the political context were right, people would support regime change.” The document will make it difficult to counter the claim that regime change was the object.
18 May 2005 ~ "all we get is a whitewash and a few bad apples thrown to the dogs..." The Scotsman on the allegations by nine Iraqi men who claim to have been tortured at the hands of British soldiers at an aid camp
"... the men’s evidence had been “swept under the carpet” and that Lord Goldsmith had been “grossly deficient in exercising his provisions, which include supervising the Army Prosecuting Authority”.
18 May 2005 ~ Jonathan Freedland on " the current, contradictory reliance on tyrants to advance the cause of freedom" (Guardian)"..... the heroic Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Tashkent, fell out with his employers: he argued that Britain was "selling its soul" by using information gathered under such heinous circumstances.
Brushing Murray's qualms to one side, London and Washington remained grateful to Karimov. ..." Read in full
18 May 2005 ~ France referendum.Counterpunch
"..... In the discussions on the constitution, at least on the left, there are in general two types of argument: those who refer to the texts, who are for voting "no", and those who refer to Auschwitz and Le Pen, who are for voting "yes". To hear the latter, one would think that rejection of the constitution would lead us into war, if not genocide. ....Switzerland is without doubt the most sovereign country in Europe, but it has never sent its troops abroad, never committed genocide nor started a war..." Read in full
18 May 2005 ~ "....With Bush in Washington, Sharon in Tel Aviv, Wolfowitz at the World Bank and Ratzinger in the Vatican, one might conclude that reactionary forces have got their way worldwide. But with Chavez in Caracas, the "no" which is growing in Paris and the U.S. army bogged down in Iraq, hope may be changing sides ..."Read in full
18 May 2005 ~ Radio Free Europe: "People are still burying their dead in Uzbekistan ....for now it doesn't seem to be affecting Uzbek President Islam Karimov's hold on power. However, some analysts say the crackdown could have consequences in the long run for the authoritarian leader. .."
18 May 2005 ~ A 'Storm of Bullets' in Uzbekistan....
Refugees tell of the brutal crackdown on those protesting the country's authoritarian government. The Washington Post reports - but where is the deafening international outcry?
18 May 2005 ~ "In these challenging times of high oil prices.." says Gordon Brown- the UK economy faces bad times. Independent:
"The Bank (of England) would not hesitate to raise interest rates to fight off a surge in inflation... Economists at HSBC say the economy can no longer rely on the combination of strong household spending and massive government expenditure."
18 May 2005 ~The Queen's Speech turned out to be even more crammed with legislation than anticipated. Independent: "......civil liberties groups accused the Government of resorting to another series of draconian laws.
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: "More tough talk and bad law in a Queen's Speech reveals a chronic lack of respect for our democratic traditions.
"No positive vision of society was ever built upon compulsory identity cards and ever-broader criminal offences. MPs from across the political spectrum should oppose such measures - whether in defence of freedom or social justice."
18 May 2005 ~ "Mr Kennedy warned that when measures such as identity cards and anti-terror laws reached the House of Lords the Government could not rely upon the 60-year-old Salisbury convention, under which the House of Lords does not oppose manifesto pledges, on the grounds that Labour had won such a small share of the vote." Independent
18 May 2005 ~George Galloway "accused Coleman (Senator Norm Coleman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigation) of maligning his name before giving him a chance to defend himself and of using the oil-for-food investigation to hide the failures of U.S. policies in Iraq." Washington Post "Senator, this is the mother of all smoke screens," he said.
17 May 2005 ~ The 5-Minute Briefing: The Uzbek uprising
by Daniel Howden in the Independent - a useful overview.
17 May 2005 ~ Independent "...Ministers calculate that it is best to reintroduce the ID card proposal before potential Labour backbench rebels get a chance to organise and while the Tories are distracted by their leadership contest." An article about the contents of the Queen's Speech and the forty (40) proposed bills. A Bill for at least half the members of the House of Lords to be directly elected is to be postponed.
17 May 2005 ~ George Galloway is in Washington for the U.S. Senate hearing aimed at exposing corruption in the U.N. scheme.
"I come not as the accused but as the accuser.." See Reuters
16 May 2005 ~ Russia. Khodorkovsky has been found "guilty" The Times says, "Many believe the government intended to seize Khodorkovsky's assets all along, as a way for the state to reassert control over Russia's vast energy resources.
The Yukos case has soured the foreign investment climate in Russia.." See also oil news pages on warmwell.
16 May 2005 ~ "The US response is not to cut oil consumption by making major lifestyle changes, and scale back on economic activity, but to use the military to maintain control over oil in the Middle East.
"The long-range plan is for the West to control the Middle East by the military so it can control the price of oil." Richard Heinberg
16 May 2005 ~ "One can now only expect massive arrests and the elimination of those opposing the regime," human rights campaigner Saidzhakhon Zainabitdinov of Uzbek rights group Appeal, told Reuters in Andizhan.
He has estimated troops killed up to 500 people."
Of Karimov, he said,"If he escapes unpunished, this will mean that the world no longer believes general human values."Reuters "..witnesses told Reuters on Sunday that troops used an armoured personnel carrier's (APC) machinegun to fire at a crowd of rebels, protesters and onlookers including women and children outside a school in the this leafy town.
The first to be killed were 10 police who were being held hostage and begged the soldiers not to fire.."
16 May 2005 ~ Uzbekistan - far more than other recent "uprisings" - shows what happens when the people can stand no more. Human values must be defended by proper parliamentary democracy - and we show every day how even in the UK it is being torn down. To retreat into apathy leaves the way open for the powerful and deluded to create the conditions for repression.
16 May 2005 ~ 'Jury trials saved after U-turn on terror laws' says the Times - and adds "... the Home Secretary has failed to persuade the Department of Constitutional Affairs of the need for changes to the traditional justice system to deal with terrorist cases." Read in full
The breakdown of the new Parliament would make it very difficult to get such controversial proposals into law without risking defeat at the hands of backbench Labour MPs.
16 May 2005 ~
"The cabinet has decided to rush through its controversial identity cards legislation...
Ministers privately believe they can overcome any renewed Labour rebellion over the legislation by relying on the backing or abstention of some Tory MPs to get it through its second reading vote within a fortnight.
.....also made it clear that they will use the Parliament Act to force through the House of Lords their equally contentious plans for a new criminal offence of incitement to religious hatred." Guardian (The scheme is to cost at least £3 billion. How many local policemen on the beat would that buy?)
15 May 2005 ~ Uzbekistan www.mercurynews.com
"When the regime gunned down at least 200 protesters in eastern Uzbekistan on Friday, the White House slavishly repeated the government's claim that it was countering Islamist terrorists. The White House press secretary uttered empty words urging ``restraint'' on both the government and protesters -- an amazing idea when heavily armed police and military units fire on crowds of mostly unarmed demonstrators...As the New York Times revealed this month, Uzbekistan has been a key partner in the so-called rendition program, a place for the CIA to stash dozens of prisoners where they can be tortured out of sight. The former British ambassador to Uzbekistan told the Times that during 2003 and early 2004, secret CIA flights ferried in prisoners as frequently as twice a week." read in full
15 May 2005 ~ ".....The portfolio of dread embraces terrorists, muggers, hoodies, teenagers, Labour MPs and Robin Cook. He remarks with sweeping exasperation, “Look, I can’t raise someone’s children for them”, as if that is what the world expects of him. Blair nowadays takes the nanny state for granted. He has duly appointed David Miliband as his minister for respect. .." Simon Jenkins notices that " Thatcher’s third prospectus was virtually identical to Blair’s"
15 May 2005 ~ Sunday Times "....Mr Blair, it seems, does not take long to forget. The country voted 36% Labour, 33% Tory and 23% Liberal Democrat. It takes some strange maths to convert that to 16 new Labour peers but only six for the Tories and five for the Lib Dems. ..As Oliver Heald, shadow constitutional affairs secretary, puts it: “For eight years Mr Blair has sought to marginalise the House of Commons. Now he wants to disable the House of Lords, the only chamber of parliament these days that is able to stand up to him and ensure that government legislation is properly debated and examined.” Read in full
15 May 2005 ~ Iraq. Independent " Much of Iraq is a bloody no man's land. The army has not been able to secure the short highway to the airport, though it is the most important road in the country, linking the US civil headquarters in the Green Zone with its military HQ at Camp Victory. Ironically, the extent of US failure to control Iraq is masked by the fact that it is too dangerous for the foreign media to venture out of central Baghdad.." read in full
15 May 2005 ~ The EU regulations create "... an opening for precisely the "cowboys" Part P was intended to eliminate. It seems many householders must choose between a "competent" electrician who has had to raise his charges to pay for certification, or a "cowboy" who can do it on the cheap..." Booker's Notebook
14 May 2005 ~ "I think that repression is basically the policy of the Uzbek government and this will be quite brutally supressed, I fear," Craig Murray, Britain's former ambassador.." Reuters. Craig Murray also talks of "patently false charges of Islamic extremism". Uzbekistan hosts a key U.S. airbase, it is self-sufficient in energy. It is also among the world's top 10 gold producers. Delayed market reforms and tight state regulation have caused a sharp fall in living standards. Monthly wages are about $30.
14 May 2005 ~ In Uzbekistan, journalists have now been expelled on this second day of rebellion against the government of the despotic President Karimov (which is supported by the US and UK). At least 50 people were reported killed when troops opened fire on a crowd of protesters, after rebels stormed government buildings and freed thousands of prisoners. The Scotsman reports, "Hundreds of angry protesters gathered today at the site of earlier violence in eastern Uzbekistan, placing six bodies on display from among the scores that witnesses said were killed in fighting in the heart of Central Asia"
14 May 2005 ~"....an astonishing U-turn. As the election campaign started, Tony Blair claimed that postal voting was no more prone to fraud than other systems. Now ministers believe that proposals for a Bill, almost entirely devoted to postal voting reform, need to be in place by Tuesday. " The Times
13 May 2005 ~ ID cards "protect, rather than erode, civil liberties"...said Mr Blair in November. The implications of the ID card regime is unlikely to have been spelt out to those who believe this. Today's Independent on the Blair government attitude to rebels: "A Labour source said: "If people step out of line, there will be recriminations." This is rather more in the spirit of the proposed ID card. Read today's Independent
Telegraph Nov 2004 "...People who fail to tell the Government when they move home will face a fine of up to £1,000 when the new ID card is phased in from 2008....... a refusal to register.. carries a £2,500 fine.....anyone found guilty of tampering with a document risking up to 10 years in prison..."
13 May 2005 ~"It doesn't matter how long you repeat a falsehood, it doesn't become other than a falsehood.
The big lie technique of telling a big lie often enough in the hope that people will believe it, is clearly at work here...I will repeat this for the 500th time: I have never seen a barrel of oil, I have never seen a voucher for a barrel of oil, I have never bought one, sold one, traded in one and neither has anyone on my behalf." The attempt to smear George Galloway is a symptom of a deeper illness and we should surely be concerned. Such tactics work - as Kofi Annan, Clare Short, Brian Sedgemore and many others know to their cost. We may not entirely like these people - but why should they be subjected to disgraceful propaganda?
9/10 May 2005 ~ A small plane strayed within three miles of the White House on Wednesday, causing an excited news flash interruption to BBC Radio 4 and the hasty evacuation of the executive mansion and the Capitol.
Military jets were scrambled.
We heard little more once it became evident that
far from being a terrorist attack, the panic was caused by a pilot and student pilot on their way from Pennsylvania to an air show in North Carolina. They were taken into custody - but not charged. Former Homeland Security Chief, Tom Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or 'high' risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled
9/10 May 2005 ~ "...In a 21st-century parliamentary democracy the Prime Minister should not hand out free flats like a mediaeval king rewarding his courtiers.." Times And why, in a 21st-century parliamentary democracy, is there not more outcry against this sort of thing?
9/10 May 2005 ~ Do try to make time to read these letters from Monday's Independent
8 May 2005 ~"... most significantly they can no longer expect to ram through Parliament badly drafted bills at minimal notice, denying the chance of proper scrutiny and preventing the executive from being held to account.." Sir Menzies Campbell's upbeat comment on the election. Observer
8 May 2005 ~ "The paper-boy is facing the final round...
Ukip scuppered the Eurosceptics...
Brussels brings down the last Fortress...
UK looks away as bushmen are robbed of rights..." Booker's Notebook as readable and disturbing as ever.
7 May 2005 ~ "Every campaigner I met respected Mr Howard’s grip and clarity; every campaigner I met acknowledged that he had remotivated the party.
But nobody was honestly able to report that their leader’s name was winning over doubtful voters on the doorstep. ...Lord, how I admire the unsloppiness, the unsentimentality, the starchiness, the understatement of this man. Among the moist eyes, quivering lips and posturing vacuities of the politics of recent years, Mr Howard stands out like a sliver of flint in a melting jelly. ." Matthew Parris (Times) gives credit to Mr Howard - and comments on the future. Highly readable as ever. (read in full)
6 May 2005 ~ "...Mr Galloway, who based his campaign on opposition to the Gulf war, said: "This for Iraq."
Mr Galloway, 50, overturned a 10,057 majority for Ms King at the last election. He polled 15,801 votes to Ms King's 14,978 in a result that will send shockwaves through the Labour Party.
Ms King, 37, was one of Tony Blair's most loyal supporters and backed the war in Iraq..." Independent
6 May 2005 ~ "For the first time, international observers have fanned out across Britain to monitor a general election. To the country’s enduring shame, they will have focused much of their attention on whether postal ballot fraud has left the official outcome open to doubt in some marginal constituencies.." Times
6 May 2005 ~ Simon Jenkins today ".... Labour’s new Jerusalem is a miasma of top-down targetry, refined delivery matrices and executive re-engineering. The Prime Minister frantically pulls the levers of power and cannot understand why nothing responds. For all his years in office, he still does not understand how British government works. If he did he would not treat its procedures with such disdain.." read in full
6 May 2005 ~ "Craig Murray, the former ambassador of Uzbekistan, who stood as an independent, is writing to the Electoral Commission to tell them of widespread reports of vote rigging..."
Tony Melia, 44, the Liberal Democrat candidate, visited Mr Straw in his constituency home last weekend to lodge a complaint that Labour Party councillors were collecting unopened postal ballots.
Mr Straw denied that fraud was widespread.
6 May 2005 ~ "... It's going to be a turbulent parliament, a fascinating, rough ride for everyone. " Guardian comment
6 May 2005 ~ Labour has won a historic third term but with a sharply reduced majority amid Tory and Lib Dem gains. Guardian reports
"....pressure from within the party, and the struggle to avoid repeated defeats in the Commons, may make it difficult for Mr Blair to stay at the helm for long. Few expect him to last beyond 2006, and some believe he will go more quickly.
His departure may turn on whether the French vote for the EU constitution at the end of the month requires Britain to go ahead with its own referendum..." Guardian
6 May 2005 ~ Blair limps back to No 10
Voters give Tony Blair a bloody nose over Iraq war and reduce Labour majority by more than half The Times reports
6 May 2005 ~ Labour's majority is slashed. War protest bites in London. Tories retake key marginals. Big swings help Lib Dems - Independent reports
5 May 2005 ~ A last email received before the polls close ".... As I hovered over the box I thought " This one`s for you Dr. Kelly ! " He lived in our Constituency."
5 May 2005 ~ Four opinion polls confirm a substantial Labour victory. Why? How? If New Labour gets a "substantial victory" it would seem that you can, after all, fool virtually all of the people virtually all of the time. The Washington Post comments: "...some voters were expected to stay at home to register a protest against Blair and Labor, while others have expressed indifference toward a campaign that failed to ignite the public's imagination."
5 May 2005 ~ "China, oil and higher rates will be the big issues during the next parliament ....we can test ASPO's prediction in the next five years. If it turns out to be right and production in 2007 is lower than 2006, the world economy will have to start adapting pretty fast. " Independent
5 May 2005 ~ Another whitewash? Berlusconi has not demanded that the United States apologise for the death of Nicola Calipari in Iraq nor called for the soldiers involved in the killing to be punished. Ms Sgrena has disputed the army’s claim that the vehicle was speeding towards the checkpoint. Times
4 May 2005 ~"... I will vote this time, even though it will be utterly wasted - a donkey with a blue rosette would win in this corner of Surrey. I will vote Lib Dem because when the final tally is made there will be one more anti-Blair vote on the national register. It's not just the war. It's the lies. I wouldn't expect to believe much that I would hear from a Chirac or Berlusconi, but I do expect to believe what a British Prime Minister says. "Gerry McDevitt, West Byfleet, Surrey See Times Comment page
4 May 2005 ~ A suffering country "Around 60 people were killed this morning and scores more were wounded in a suicide bombing in Irbil in Northern Iraq. The target was a Kurdish Party office and police recruitment centre. It's increased fears of rising sectarian tension in Iraq - just a week after the new government was formed: do the majority Sunni population feel they're not properly represented?" Channel 4 News update but see Professor Cole's website for the full story on Iraq
4 May 2005 ~ "....From Brussels,
Luxembourg and Strasbourg, one can only watch in admiration the deft and
determined way Eurocrats talk about, plan and succeed in taking power from
national parliaments in their campaign for the 'construction of
Europe'...The array of EU regulation is bewildering. It governs such matters as working time, ground water standards, food labelling, data protection, animal by-products, employment relations, fire precautions, proceeds from crime, car tax, parental leave and TV advertising. ..."
" Spectator article by Anthony Browne
4 May 2005 ~ "....Labour's manifesto is a Thatcherite classic: adventurism abroad and progressive privatisation at home, moral partiality bolted on to an ever-expanding nanny State. The consensus is well illustrated in the near-identical proposals for public services from Labour and Conservatives. Both have pandered to middle-class insecurity. They have used fear, crime, discipline and control as leitmotifs and promised to curb civil liberty and make the welfare state increasingly optional. Baroness Thatcher may have disappeared to Venice for the duration, but she can look back on this campaign with pride. She destroyed the Social Democrats, she destroyed old Labour and, in stimulating the creation of new Labour, she has all but destroyed the Tories." Simon Jenkins
4 May 2005 ~ "the questions of trust repeatedly raised during these weeks leading up to the general election are so important. It would be a waste of time, for instance, asking oneself whether policy for the National Health Service was sensible if hospital managers, consultants, doctors, nurses and support staff came to assume that ministers could not be relied upon to tell the truth. They would simply stop being frank with government departments and fudge their performance indicators and engage in charade..." Andreas Whittam Smith: Tony Blair has presided over a deceitful government. He must be voted out of office (ndependent portfolio)
2 May 2005 ~ Berlusconi has wriggled out again - thanks to the EU's top court See BBC
2 May 2005 ~ The Times
The Prime Minister.... cannot yet put Middle East conflict behind him
Military sources admitted that contingency planning for an invasion of Iraq had begun in May 2002....
Lord Boyce said: “....We were not in any sense hell-bent on war. The main thing was the diplomatic effort.”
A leaked Foreign and Commonwealth Office briefing paper prepared for the July meeting made clear that Mr Blair told Mr Bush in April 2002 that Britain would support the US militarily to bring about Saddam’s downfall — although, on July 17, the Prime Minister told MPs: “No decisions have yet been made.” Read today's news stories on the leak in full
2 May 2005 ~ Independent
"Iraq war 'will haunt Blair's legacy like Suez'.."
In a further blow , the Chief of Defence Staff at the time of the war, Admiral Sir Michael (now Lord) Boyce, expressed his concerns the war might have been illegal.
Charles Kennedy...: "Tony Blair's authority is seriously undermined by Iraq. Even if he wins a third term, he is now going to be a lame duck prime minister. Iraq will haunt his premiership and his legacy, just as Suez did for Sir Anthony Eden." ..." See also Goldsmith pages
2 May 2005 ~
Tony Blair was accused of "chickening out" after he refused to take questions from a panel of experts during a live commercial radio broadcast yesterday.
The organisers also maintained that the format had been agreed in advance with all three parties..."
2 May 2005 ~ "...Many of the decisions that affect our lives are not in the hands of any elected body whatever. We are ruled by the Child Support Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, the Financial Services Authority and a thousand other quangos stretching right up to Brussels. Industrial tribunals tell us what contracts to sign; regional bureaucracies tell us where to build houses; human rights judges lay down school rules. And above them all broods the unelected European Commission, churning out some 70 per cent of our laws..." Telegraph
2 May 2005 ~ "Asked how many British soldiers have died in Iraq, the Prime Minister replied:
"Well you know the figures for that. It's, um, 70 to 80 people that have died, um."
1 May 2005 ~" ...if British servicemen are put on trial, ministers should be “brought into the frame as well”. Asked if that should include Blair and Goldsmith, he tells The Observer: “Too bloody right.” Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, chief of the defence staff, quoted in the Observer
1 May 2005 ~ Channel 4 news ".....disquiet from some very senior military figures. It all amounts to a compelling case that T Blair had simply agreed with the Americans about regime change around eight months before the war. Then the intelligence community and the government machine generally was hell-bent upon finding an excuse to sell the war in the UK - knowing that regime-change wouldn't do.."
1 May 2005 ~ Mr Blair, confident of victory it seems, is planning a reshuffle which is likely to see both "Mad-Dog Reid" (as Mr Sedgemore put it), and David Blunkett in key rottweiler positions. Jack Straw would appear now to be too prone to criticise over Iraq and may be out in spite of Gordon Brown's support. Byers and Milburn will probably be back
In 1963, John Profumo wrote: "... I have come to realize that, by this deception, I have been guilty of a grave misdemeanour and despite the fact that there is no truth whatever in the other charges, I cannot remain a member of...the House of Commons..."
1 May 2005 ~ Peak Oil news ".....He found "a smoking gun" - no evidence of major new finds beyond a limited "golden triangle" and clear evidence of major fields entering decline...." The Sunday Herald is the latest of the mainstream newspapers to take peak oil very seriously.
1 May 2005 ~ The secret Downing Street memo
SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY to
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002 - Sunday Times
1 May 2005 ~ "Instead of twisting and spinning and dumping on others, he should have just told the truth. .." Simon Jenkins on Friday
1 May 2005 ~ ".....what made him change his mind?
To get close to an answer it’s important to understand the mounting pressures on Tony Blair and his closest aides – among them Goldsmith himself, whose office is a political appointment first and foremost – in the first three months of 2003. .." Tom Shields in the Sunday Herald gives the clearest - and most damning exposition we have read. (read in full)
1 May 2005 ~ "....on that Tuesday in 2002:
The attorney-general was already warning of grave doubts about its legality.
Straw even said the case for war was “thin”. So Blair and his inner circle set about devising a plan to justify invasion. .." Sunday Times
- and see updated Goldsmith pages
1 May 2005 ~ Postal Votes fiasco. "Why, why, why did they do it the difficult (and expensive and likely to go wrong and be challenged) way - surely I am only one among many who can see the obviousness of the simple solution? Or do they not teach arithmetic and mathematics (and economics) any more? Are there no advisers out there?" A mathematician writes. See also ".. European experts in electoral fraud are set to investigate the UK's "flawed" postal ballot system amid fears thousands of votes could be stolen on May 5." Scotsman on Sunday
1 May 2005 ~ US debt "... Four years ago, when President Bush took office, the national debt was at $5.7 trillion, but the nation was running a budget surplus..... Increased government spending coupled with lopsided tax cuts that have largely benefited corporations and the wealthiest few have exploded the national debt, taking us from the projected surplus over 10 years of $5.6 trillion surplus to the $3-trillion deficit we face today, a fiscal collapse of nearly $9 trillion. ..... our national debt is being bought by foreign countries such as Japan and China. I do not believe it in our best long-term interest to be so dependent on China to finance our budget deficits..." www.twincities.com
1 May 2005 ~ “Too many people have abused bankruptcy laws,” Bush said in a press conference (see below) “They’ve walked away from debts even when the had the ability to repay them.”
1 May 2005 ~ "George Bush signed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 into law April 20. The measure further restricts the ability of working people and many in the middle class to get out from under crushing debts. At the same time, the law maintains safeguards for bankruptcy filers who own capital or have enough wealth to shield it in trust funds or expensive properties. .." www.themilitant.com
1 May 2005 ~ "Unless this crisis is fast resolved, it seems scores of British firms will be driven out of business by a classic example of EU red tape lunacy..." Booker's Notebook
30 April 2005 ~ Peak Oil petition: "...The timing of this official launch means it coincides with an outbreak of publicity of this issue brought about by the recent Peak Oil conference on April 25th 2005. The topic has been covered recently in The Guardian, The Independent, The Scotsman and on Radio 4 and awareness and discussion of this topic is also reaching bankers and scientists. However, it is the general public that need to be talking about the problem and the solutions."
29 April 2005 ~ “There should be no thought of military action,” Eisenhower warns Eden, “before the influences of the UN are fully explored . . . Initial military success might be easy, but the eventual price might be far too heavy.” Every peaceful means must be exhausted before a resort to war. The British were rushing to action when there was no evidence that Nasser was using violence to infringe the UN Charter. Surely they should concentrate on “on-the-spot” inspection under UN auspices? American public opinion, Eisenhower wrote, considered that “the UN was formed to prevent this very thing”. .." last friday, Simon Jenkins drew uncanny parallels between Iraq and Suez
29 April 2005 ~ Iraq war advice. Independent "....still no explanation why he changed his mind in the 10 days that elapsed between his two reports....What further discussions took place over those 10 days to produce such an apparently dramatic volte-face? How significant was his meeting on 13 March with Lord Falconer... and Sally Morgan, the Prime Minister's political fixer? " Read in full
29 April 2005 ~ "...Martin Bell said had I thought of standing as independent? The Electoral Reform rep agreed that it is only the floating voters in marginal seats that have votes that really count. - and expounded how this applied." Janet reports on her phone-in slot about proportional representation on Radio 5's "Is Democracy Working?" and sends a link to a useful website: www.makemyvotecount.org.uk/
29 April 2005 ~"... If you want a Labour government, vote Liberal Democrat. If you want a Conservative government, vote Labour. If you want a Liberal Democrat government, vote Tory. Recite that every morning for a week.." Simon Jenkins in the Times (Wednesday) reminds us again that in a hung parliament ".. Liberal Democrats or the Labour Left could veto Mr Blair’s right-wing programme." - but that the tactical voting required is complex: ".those who want to see the Liberal Democrats a force in the land have only one option in all but existing Liberal Democrat seats. They must vote Tory and secure a hung Parliament."
29 April 2005 ~ From Jon Snow's Channel 4 update yesterday "...The US argues - alone - that any country can determine whether there has been a breach,.....That then became the British Government's view!..... Gratifying to hear Patricia Hewitt say at this morning's news conference that the first time she saw the document was on our website last night..."
28 April 2005 ~ Guardian "Mr Blix, who has since retired to Sweden, said his inspectors found no compelling evidence ....
"We reported consistently that we found no weapons of mass destruction and I carried out inspections at sites given to us by US and British intelligence and not found anything."
27/28 April 2005 ~ Families of UK soldiers killed in Iraq are preparing a legal case against Tony Blair following the leak of a document which shows the Attorney General's reservations about the Iraq war. ITV (Goldsmith pages updated)
27/28 April 2005 ~ Mark Steyn in the Telegraph " ... the Tories at the very least owed us a campaign fought on big grand Thatcher-sized themes. This one just feels like a shrivelled local election - which tells you as much as anything about where British politics is really heading."
- The word that grabs is "shrivelled" – sums it all up really. There is no breadth, no vision and there are walls around this campaign, keeping the candidates in check, excluding whole area of public policy from the discourse. No wonder the voters are turnng off."
27/28 April 2005 ~ ".... it'll be due to people like you, and the volunteers who build these sites, to make this an election based on free information and no more spin..."
Their brilliant idea:
TheyWorkForYou.com is a non-partisan, volunteer-run website which aims to make it easy for people to keep tabs on their elected representatives. (opens in new window. "I will deliver a printed copy of my local MP's page on TheyWorkForYou.com to every house in my street but only if 100 other fans of TheyWorkForYou.com will too."
They ask, "If you're up for it, why not sign up now?"
27 April 2005 ~ Channel 4 News has obtained a copy of the summary of the confidential legal advice written by the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith and sent to the Prime Minister on March 7th, two weeks before the war with Iraq. .."The warnings Blair refused to publish." (Goldsmith pages)"...... If we fail to achieve the adoption of a second resolution we would need to consider urgently at that stage the strength of our legal case in the light of circumstances at the time."
27 April 2005 ~ On Channel 4 news tonight: "Lindsey Hilsum is assessing the continuing violence in Iraq, and talking to a British academic who was called in to brief Tony Blair before he ever went to war. He recounts how the PM was warned four months before the war that the whole escapade in Iraq could take a generation to resolve. But - he says - Blair ignored him and the colleagues he worked with. .."
27 April 2005 ~ Where the US goes, we follow?
Secrecy in the Bush Administration ".....a consistent pattern in the Administration’s actions: laws that are designed to promote public access to information have been undermined, while laws that authorize the government to withhold information or to operate in secret have repeatedly been expanded..."
27 April 2005 ~ Italian hostage blasts US report BBC ".... Ms Sgrena, who was hurt in the incident, said the car had not been speeding and that there had been no warning before the troops opened fire.
The US military said it had had no knowledge of the rescue mission, dismissing as "absurd" Ms Sgrena's suggestion that her car was deliberately targeted."
27 April 2005 ~ The claim that Saddam Hussein may have shipped an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction to Syria just weeks before the American-led invasion has been dismissed in a final CIA report that said the search had "been exhausted" without result.
In an addendum to the report he issued last autumn, Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), wrote: "The WMD investigation has gone as far as [is] feasible. After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted." Independent
27 April 2005 ~ Mr Blair's contemptuous reference to Mr Sedgemore as someone voters "have never heard of" must have seemed gratuitously unpleasant and waspish to many, whatever their political position. The Independent reports that "David Hinchliffe, who is standing down as MP for Wakefield, confirmed Mr Sedgemore's statement that a group of backbenchers had discussed quitting the party en masse after the election in an attempt to provoke a leadership crisis for Mr Blair. ..."
26 April 2005 ~ ""I'm renouncing Tony Blair, the Devil, New Labour and all their works. I don't do this lightly. I know that some of my friends will be angry, and that I will be rubbished by the New Labour spin machine. Mad Dog Reid will be set on me." ..."
Today's Independent reports that Brian Sedgemore is defecting to the Lib Dems. See also warmwell's Goldsmith pages
26 April 2005 ~"The stomach-turning lies on Iraq were followed by the attempt to use the politics of fear to drive through Parliament a deeply authoritarian set of law-and-order measures that reminded me of the Star Chamber..." says Brian Sedgemore. Read in full
26 April 2005 ~ Mr Blair's reaction? The Scotsman reports on his press conference this morning : “That’s up to him. That’s his choice. I tell you my choice. This country does have to have tough laws that protect us against terrorism.”
25 April 2005 ~ "The Iraq war was thrust to the top of the election agenda last night after the Attorney General's advice to the Prime Minister over the legality of the conflict was leaked." Independent ".... the Government is also facing a potentially explosive challenge over its refusal to disclose the date on which Mr Blair first sought the Attorney General's advice on the legality of the war. The challenge came from the leading human rights lawyer, Lord Lester QC, who said the date could show that Mr Blair decided to go war much earlier than previously disclosed, possibly after he returned from President Bush's Texas ranch in 2002..." (Goldsmith pages)
24April 2005 ~ Today's Mail on Sunday claims to list six "caveats" that were stripped from a summary of the advice published 10 days later on the eve of a crucial parliamentary debate on the war. The Observer quotes Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram - ".....it raised 'the most serious questions' not only about the legality of the war but Blair's honesty, adding: 'The Attorney General must now come clean on the advice he originally gave and the Prime Minister must explain the caveats which were excluded from the summary.' " (Goldsmith pages in full)
22 April 2005 ~ The High Court has declined to hear a request by John Hemmin for a review of safeguards for mail-in ballots.
John Hemming, the deputy leader of Birmingham city council, argued that the voting system was incompatible with the European Declaration of Human Rights. Telegraph
22 April 2005 ~ "Last Wednesday, in a speech in Geneva, President Barroso reaffirmed his belief that the European Union should be more "transparent" in its dealings with the public. He was giving the speech as a guest of the Latsis Foundation" This piece of quite breathtaking hypocrisy may be seen in context in this week's Booker's Notebook. Anyone who thinks that Europe is in safe hands or that OLAF can be trusted to investigate corruption, may need to read this article.
22 April 2005 ~ The announcement of the new Iraqi government, expected yesterday, has been further delayed, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said. Gulf Daily
22 April 2005 ~ The U.S. Federal budget is in the neighbourhood of $2.5 trillion annually, and will top $3 trillion by 2010. The trouble is, of course, that the US is in debt to the tune of over 7 trillion (CBS). The estimated population of the United States is 295,935,960
so each citizen's share of this debt is $26,313.17.
There are 1,440 seconds in an hour. There are 86,400 seconds in a day. A million seconds tick by in around 11.5 days. A billion seconds tick by in around 31 years. A trillion seconds tick by in a little over 31,000 years.
22 April 2005 ~ UK election. Still no proper discussion of the energy crisis. But John Vidal in the Guardian is taking the peak oil question very seriously indeed. .."Just kiss your lifestyle goodbye.."
"the business of estimating oil reserves is contentious and political. According to Campbell, companies seldom report their true findings for commercial reasons, and governments - which own 90% of the reserves - often lie.....There is no company on the stock exchange that doesn't make a tacit assumption about the availability of energy. It is almost impossible for bankers to accept it. It is so out of their mindset."
."See peak oil pages
22 April 2005 ~ Professor Ian Fells knows more about wind power than most. His letter to the Financial Times "....This is not to say renewable energy should not be pursued. It is a vital, if expensive, source of clean electricity but any notion that it can replace the 20 per cent of clean electricity currently supplied by nuclear power is wishful thinking. Wind power provides less than 0.5 per cent of our electricity, to raise that figure to 5 per cent will be a Herculean task..."
22 April 2005 ~ Alex Fergusson MSP, the Tory spokesman for forestry and agriculture, is one of the people doing rather well out of wind turbines. See extract from Private Eye.
22 April 2005 ~ Email received today from the highly respected Dr Yunes about "..a museum-style exhibition on Islam which will allow visitors to learn about Islam, the religion and it's history in a unique and professional museum-style exhibition which will be a fantastic and eye-catching insight into the Islamic religion, and its rich history" which "aims to create a diverse, educational, fun and professional experience where our visitors will depart feeling it was worthwhile attending."
20 April 2005 ~ The Iraq page tells of the death of 27-year-old Marla Ruzicka - murdered in a car bomb attack on the airport road. The Independent today tells us that she discovered that - Tommy Franks notwithstanding - the US military does indeed keep a tally of the civilian dead. At the time of the Lancet figures, Dr Richard Garfield, professor of nursing at Columbia University, said: "Of course they keep records and of course they pretend they don't. Why is it important to keep the numbers of those killed? Well, why was it important to record the names of those people killed in the World Trade Centre? It would have been inconceivable not to. These people have lives of value."
19 April 2005 ~ Drilling for oil has begun in Sudan's troubled Darfur region after preliminary studies showed there are abundant quantities of oil... See Reuters
19 April 2005 ~ A crisis meeting on postal voting is to be held in Whitehall on Thursday, says the Times today.
"Sam Younger, the chairman of the Electoral Commission, David Monks, the leader of the returning officers, and Adam Crozier, the chief executive of the Royal Mail, have been called to see Alex Allan, the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Constitutional Affairs. ... last Friday the Electoral Commission sent out new emergency guidance to all returning officers to guard against fraud." See warmwell's updated pages on postal voting and fraud.
18 April 2005 ~ The energy crisis appears still to be absent from UK electioneering but Reuters reports today "Blackouts could get more frequent as utilities fail to attract investment ..
72% of utility bosses surveyed said supply security was a major concern...The International Energy Agency has said meeting projected energy needs will require spending of 6.7 trillion pounds on power generation, transmission and distribution, and gas supply networks between now and 2030." (oil news)
18 April 2005 ~A search on the UK parliament page for "peak oil" returns no pages. In Ireland however, they take the concept seriously: Energy Bulletin. net ‘Fuelling the Future’ is a two day conference which will bring together many of the world’s experts on what is known as Peak Oil, and at how the impending energy crisis will affect our lifestyles, our communities and how we design our economy. From this point on, world oil production will no longer be able to keep up with demand, it is in effect the end of the age of cheap oil..."
18 April 2005 ~ "...The Liberal Democrats, who will unveil their plans today for 10,000 more police, said they were unconvinced that ID cards would help tackle crime.
Mark Oaten, the party's home affairs spokesman, said the police commissioner should be wary about stepping into the political debate. "Sir Ian Blair should be very careful on talking about political issues during an election campaign. .." Independent
18 April 2005 ~ David Shayler shows that if Mr Blair had been ‘briefed in detail’ then he included the 45-minutes claim knowing that it only related to ‘battlefield munitions’. If he was only told the true nature of the 45-minute claim after the 18 March 2003 as he now maintains, he clearly was not briefed on the ‘detail’ for the September dossier. Read in full
18 April 2005 ~ An email today says, "I thought you might be interested in the Blair (Ditch) Project ...." The email gives this link to an interesting site about the real possibility of Sedgefield not re-electing Mr Blair. The caricatures alone make a visit worthwhile.
17 April 2005 ~ "There was no ricin and no al-Qaeda recipe.." The Observer appears to be alone in giving the real story of the trial that was supposed to prove that government fear-mongering was justified. " Instead, it has further fed suspicions that the police and CPS are not up to the job of investigating terrorists." The Observer pours some much-needed cold water on the campaigns being waged by both Labour and Tories to frighten the public into accepting authoritarian policies out of a sense of fear. ".. Sanctions get harsher and the borderline grows fainter between fair trials and wild allegation garbed in flimsy intelligence and sanctified as truth.."
says Mary Riddle
17 April 2005 ~ It is interesting to note that while election issues are - as Christopher Booker points out in the Sunday Telegraph today -centering round the same "obsessive little list of issues - schools'n'hos-pitals, crime'n'tax" while they avoid the issues of actual importance for the future of the country, the energy crisis is nonetheless creeping into mainstream journalism. The issue of the energy crisis is also the "big issue" for Phillip Stott of the Times: "Election Room 2005 is filled with elephants hidden behind the flimsiest of political camouflage. For me, the bull elephant is the need for a practical energy policy for Britain."
There is a particularly interesting article in the Sunday Herald today
“Our latest research confirms solidly our view that we cannot see any reasonable circumstances under which new supplies from expected mega oil projects could possibly meet world demand by 2008,” said a spokesman for London-based Odac (the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre)"