Saturday, August 20, 2005

 

London police maintain "shoot-to-kill" policy

Reuters "London's police force has reviewed its controversial "shoot-to-kill" policy and left it largely unchanged despite the killing of a Brazilian mistaken for a would-be suicide bomber, Scotland Yard said on Saturday..."

Oh Great.

"Largely unchanged" presumably means that Sir Ian Blair can go on making lying statements to compliant journalists, "Gold Command" can go on giving the order to shoot to kill random passers-by who have not been identified as even "alleged" terrorists (but who may, perhaps have wrong looking eyes), no warning will be given, people may be held around the arms and torso by one plain clothes officer while another shoots them in the head at point blank range... and all this, to make us feel "safer".

Where, oh where, is the democratic opposition to this utterly unbelievable, frightening nonsense?

In his article for Dissident Voice, Mike Whitney writes, " It always astonishes how quickly the demagogues in Washington and London swing into action when there’s a chance to hack away at personal freedom. They seem to operate on the theory that people will only be safe when the country assumes the same standards of justice as, let’s say, Egypt or Saudi Arabia."

He quotes the Prime Minister of Great Britain on the subject of "terrorism"

I don't much like Mike Whitney's overblown rhetoric about Tony Blair. Yet, as day follows day I am myself more and more aware frustrated by the limitations of language when faced with the actions of these hollow men. He calls him
I too am despairing of seeing anything more than self-serving, high-handed vanity and callousness in the actions of the authoritarians we have allowed to rule our lives. The half-way decent ones such as Mo Mowlam and Robin Cook have gone, leaving behind precious few in whom we can have any trust. Reid? Clarke? Byers? Mandelson? Blunkett? Beckett? Blears? Howard and his ilk? Mere partners in a danse macarbre, choreographed elsewhere.

John Pilger writes in similar vein to Mike Whitney, describing a particularly nasty raid on the Iqra Learning Centre and book store near Leeds. The Iqra Trust is a well-known charity that promotes Islam worldwide as "a peaceful religion which covers every walk of life." Pilger, in his New Statesman article, says:

The raid took place on July 15th in LEEDS - a place I have always associated with people like Alan Bennett, northern decency, Wallace and Gromit, and a particular kind of cosiness. Not with English police smashing in doors. If I hadn't been so aware of similarly blank faced arrivals of slaughter teams, often early in the morning, on the farms of people knowledgeable enough to have protested against the foot and mouth slaughter in 2001 -I would have found this hard to believe.

John Pilger's article begins by raising fears of a black list here that will go far beyond terrorism. Thomas Friedman is the New York Times columnist who wants the US State Department to draw up a blacklist of those who make "wrong" political statements - such as those who believe American actions are the root cause of the current terrorism.
Websites such as warmwell.com, make "wrong" political statements every day. They are written by perfectly ordinary people trying to make sense of an increasingly senseless world. Are we also,(in small letters somewhere at the bottom), soon to find ourselves on a blacklist?

Dammit. I shall quote the quintessentially English John Betjeman - whose poem here would no doubt have landed him on Mr Blair's blacklist too - "Come, friendly bombs..."


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

 

Blown Away

Jonathan Porrit - whom I greatly admire - thinks wind turbines are "compellingly beautiful". Yes indeed. Some that I have seen in France are an elegant, silvery testament to Man's ingenuity. They slice the air with a majestic ruthlessness. An eerie sound surrounds them. They have all the compelling appeal of power.

Giant wind farms are to save the country from global warming. The wild beauty of the windiest parts of our country has a value that cannot be measured. And the country is to be desecrated in the name of green energy.

The Argyll and Bute Regional Council have just taken a decision that has left everyone thunderstruck. They have turned down a planning application for 16 wind-turbines to be erected on the ridge in the Inverliever Forest in Argyll. A probably temporary victory for the protesters.

Like them, that amiable and brilliant scientist Professor James Lovelock is not impressed with the rush to cover Britain with gigantic windmills. His Gaia theory sees the Earth as a single, living organism. He speaks urgently about how dire are the threats facing her. He is one of our very best scientists; kindly, and a true visionary. The turbines he bluntly calls dark satanic mills And what's more So my feeling of foreboding about the destruction of the planet, shared by many others - many, many others - is mixed with a deep scepticism. This is not directed at the dangers which I know to be perfectly real, but at the political urgency of the political targets that are to be met. 1,100 wind farms have already been erected and another 2,000 turbines at least are planned before 2010. In fact, it seems 8000 more would be needed to "meet the targets" to which the government has nailed its colours.

Rather than trying to involve us all in a united effort the political response is to create a Gold Rush involving only those in the know. This is not leadership from public servants. It may save political face - but it won't save the planet.

Undemocratic quick fixes need bribery and threats. In the foot and mouth crisis it was wildly inflated compensation payments made to those who otherwise would complain at the overkill - and a very nasty hidden blackmail to those who did protest anyway. Here, it is massive subsidies to the companies, and a careful PR campaign designed to make protest seem selfish nimbyism. Into its web, the environmental groupies with their decency and desire for activism were soon drawn. When Stephen Timms cried "Go forth and Build Turbines!" like a latter day Moses, the shining eyes of the environmentalists dared anyone to cry "Hang on a Minute!"

David Bellamy did - and has inevitably been condemned and smeared for pointing out the "government’s naive belief that wind farms produce green electricity"

At the end of the film "The Day After Tomorrow" the "Dick Cheney" character, the humbled Vice President who has escaped with a large number of his shaken fellow americans into Mexico, looks into the camera and delivers the film's message: "...for years we operated under the belief that we could go on consuming our planet's natural resources without consequence. We were wrong..."

Yes yes. Of course we are wrong. But it is no use looking to governments to take responsibility for helping us to take responsibility for ourselves.

Global Warming - whatever its causes - is not going to be stopped by wind turbines. Similarly, the global consequences of the depletion of cheap oil are not going to be addressed in public by anyone ruthless and powerful. Peak Oil is starting to get talked about at last. But governments are dodging the issues.

Dr. Robert Hirsch, a Senior Energy Program Advisor at the Science Applications International Corporation, an Energy expert with the best credentials, wrote a calm and measured US government sponsored report. It was described as "unprecedented" in US government circles. Its conclusions pulled no punches. It disappeared from the internet for weeks.

In fact, here is the elusive Hirsch Report (pdf new window. Loads slowly.)
Climate change and Peak Oil. Interlinked problems. No leadership. I have a mental picture of Corporal Jones rushing up and down,crying "Don't panic! Don't panic!" I also have a nasty feeling that we are on our own.

Monday, August 15, 2005

 

Britain has the most draconian terrorism laws in Europe — and much good it has done.

As usual, Simon Jenkins is both highly quotable and sharp as a diamond - an antidote to my own sometimes woolly overview of things.

Here he is in the Sunday Times balancing elegantly between two valid positions. There is the anger that many feel at the groups who squat around in the UK luring young Moslems into acts of mindless violence in the name of "religion" and the feeling that of course they should be sent packing and who cares what happens when they are.

Then, there is the deeply worrying thought that much of the post September 11 political anti-terror shenanigans is flawed and phoney and has done our society a great deal of harm. And, after the July bombing in London, it is getting very much worse.

I have certainly tended to lean towards the second and veered away from the first, my liberal eyes averted. Simon Jenkins, however, looks at all aspects of the question and his article It's Pure Torture for Tony must be read in full. While appreciating the difficulties the government faces, there are still some rapier thrusts here, cutting through the government's muddle and exposing them for what they are:

Read in full http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2088-1734112,00.html

Saturday, August 06, 2005

 

Special Judges, smudging and fudging

When Mr Blair says he is prepared for "a lot of battles" with the courts and that "the rules of the game are changing" I can feel the ground starting to shake.

Perhaps it's just that I am.

The Independent today explains what the new terror laws are, how they are supposed to be implemented, and what critics say about them.

Are Mr Blair and co, after having first helped to create the conditions in which the mindless violence of frustration appeals to people, to be allowed to destroy the fairness and justice for which England has been respected for so long? If what we read is right, the actual bombers are cannon fodder, easily biddable and persuaded that a contempt for human values is justified by the quick fix of terror. Being too biddable is a sign of great weakness. There is no such thing as a quick fix. Both can lead to unforseen disaster.

The new measures can be seen here

In brief, "Special judges" may be appointed to hear cases such as control order applications. New grounds for deportation include "advocating violence in support of beliefs". The government is also looking at a police request to allow detention without charge for up to three months, instead of the current 14 days.

Much of this is to be introduced without legislation and proves that Human Rights legislation can be ripped up within moments when it suits the government.

As with the US and its wish to empty Guantanamo by sending prisoners back to places such as Saudi Arabia, the UK government is to "seek assurances" (on paper) that anyone deported won't be tortured.

All this is another of the Government's quick fixes and is full of possible implications for a very scary future for Britain. Terms like 'glorifying' can't be defined as easily as all that. A few days ago, Professor John Gardner, ( as quoted in previous blog) asked,

Decent judges are unlikely to be happy at the watering down and smudging of legal safeguards - just as Robert Bolt's Thomas More, in A Man for All Seasons, retorted memorably to Roper:

Mr Blair's solution to such worries? Easy. Cut the Gordian Knot of Human Rights. Just as he surrounds himself with biddable career politicians, he can appoint new and biddable judges. Not surprisingly, that other biddable one, the Lord Chancellor, is now to be expected to appoint more "special judges" quickly.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

 

"...we might not go out with a whimper after all.."

George Monbiot writes today in the Guardian about something few of us know about or want to know about - but which looks set to destroy us (unless, of course, bird-flu, global warming and the die-off from Peak Oil get us first).

George Monbiot's headline is The treaty wreckers


Ordinary members of the public are not expected actually to understand much about the "talks" going on about Iran's nuclear capability and North Korea's nuclear capability or the pacts and deals made by the US with both Pakistan and India. Media reports, such as they are, tend never to point out the obvious - that the playground bullies in the nuclear club condemn others for having the weapons they have themselves. If they were responsible instead of bullies, there might be some hope - but there are no prefects and no teachers on patrol. The UN nuclear watchdog, so vocal elsewhere, has no teeth to wonder why Britain is (according to George Monbiot and Robin Cook last week) replacing "our Trident nuclear weapons, without consulting parliament or informing the public."


In America, Mr Bush wants to destroy the non-proliferation treaty too. May's summit in New York was supposed to strengthen it - but John Bolton refused even to allow the other nations to draw up an agenda for discussion.. Monbiot tells us that Mr Bush, yesterday nominated John Bolton to the post of US ambassador to the UN against the wishes of Congress by means of a "recess appointment" - ie he sneaked it in while everyone was on holiday.

He is now free to go ahead with research for a "robust nuclear earth penetrator" (RNEP)- which brings to mind not only one of the final scenes of the hugely enjoyable "The Incredibles" in which the "Underminer" uses a massive drill to wreak havoc upwards into the city- but also its wonderfully shock-haired maniac villain, boasting to an aghast Mr Incredible about his new weapon system, and bellowing, "Who needs super powers? NOW you respect me...because you are afraid."
It is Emperor Caligula and his Oderint dum metuant "let them hate as long as they fear". Monbiot tells us that the RNEP idea was conceived in 1991 as a means of dealing with Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons.
Monbiot also spells out the American double standard.

Orson Wells as the smiling Harry Lime in The Third Man is a prophetic villain. From his vantage point on top of the Riesenrad, the large Ferris wheel, he sees people appearing like ants, and says that insects are the sort of thing one crushes with one's shoe without giving them a moment's thought.
But we aren't living in a film and there's no one left to defeat these Harry Limes who think they are statesmen. Blair seems now completely off his head with power and there is no one able to take him away with his arms encased in a straight white jacket. He is surrounded by sycophants, those who love the smell of power, and those who want a stepping stone to their own status and power. So there is no one to remind him of his own frailty. (Well, Cherie had a go this week, at least but she was derided as "insensitive" by a member of the so-called Opposition, God help us.) It is an Emperor's Court.

We might just as well be living under Caligula. The globe is now being ruled by tyrannical madmen - but like Caligula, who wanted to be worshipped as a god, they profess god-given righteousness and their voices drip with sanctity. And, as George Monbiot reminds us, "Geoff Hoon...announced ...that Britain would be prepared to use small nukes in a pre-emptive strike against a non-nuclear state."

Small "nukes" still make a big bang. Crushing insects for politics. "This is the way the world ends"...said T.S.Eliot, but he was writing before the days of nuclear non-proliferation treaties and the insane proliferation of huge nuclear bombs. The horror of Hiroshima was exactly 60 years ago. Once again, no lessons learned.

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