Sunday, 29 January 2017

Who will Trump ban next?

Following news of Donald Trump's executive order banning muslims from a string of countries from entering the United States - even Americans with dual citizenship and green cards have been caught up in the ban - the famous words of Pastor Martin Niemoller have rarely seemed so pertinent.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Was that Madge i spotted at my doctors surgery?

The Guardian reports "Hundreds of thousands of elderly Britons living in Europe may be forced to return to the UK unless the government guarantees that their healthcare will continue to be reimbursed by the NHS, campaigners for British people settled in Spain and France have warned.The House of Commons Brexit select committee was told on Wednesday that an unintended consequence of Brexit could be a surge in immigration of British migrants both working and retired".

Groups campaigning for the rights of Britons settled in Europe told the committee that many pensioners in countries such as Spain and France would not be able to afford private health insurance if the current system was jettisoned post-Brexit."They may have no alternative but to come back,” said Sue Wilson, one of the founders of the Remain in Spain group.

All these British nationals coming over here from Europe and using our health service - it's disgusting! We need to get out of the EU to stop outrages like this from happening - someone get hold of Nigel Farage pronto and tell him we need another one of those nasty posters he specialises in. Er but hang on a moment - it's because the UK is leaving the EU that hundreds of thousands of mainly elderly British nationals living in EU member states might have to return to live in the UK, with all the extra pressures on the NHS, social services and housing that will bring.

Wonder if they'll let Madge bring her scooter back with her?

Monday, 16 January 2017

The end for blogging in the UK?

It might seem a bit extreme to say that a new piece of legislation could well spell the end of blogging as we know it in the UK but that is exactly what could happen if an amendment to the 2013 Crimes and Court Act (section 40) becomes law. Unfortunately most people will be completely oblivious to this amendment or its serious implications for anybody who writes anything that's seen in public. The authors of the blog Left Foot Forward recently made a compelling case as to why we should all be worried if section 40 becomes law :

"In 2013, Section 40 was snuck into the Crime and Courts Act after just 13 hours of parliamentary debate on a controversial piece of legislation that would fundamentally change the relationship between the press and politicians.For three hundred years, the press has been free from state interference – put simply, if you wanted to print news or opinion on paper you didn’t need to ask the government’s permission to do. All you needed to do was abide by the law of libel (and other laws) and Grub Street could get on with its work unimpeded.

Section 40 fundamentally shifts this relationship. It means for the first time in 300 years, newspapers, blogs and campaigning groups (that is anyone who published ‘news-related materials’) would need to sign up to a state-approved regulator. If you decide not to, the legislation means you would be financially punished.The stick to force those affected to sign up was a big stick indeed: those who don’t join the state-backed regulator will be forced to pay all the costs in a libel case, even if what they published is entirely true and in the public interest.You could expose the Panama Papers and have to pay the entire costs of any tax-dodger who decided to sue you.

Section 40 is flawed legislation that poses many legal, political and human rights problems including:

1. Section 40 chills free speech by making people who publish news, fear the financial clout of the rich and powerful who may wish to suppress information that is in the public interest;

2. Local and regional newspapers who have faced declining budgets in recent years, but who provide a vital check on the power of local authorities and national government will be financially ruined by the impact of this law;

3. It is unclear which organisations are caught by the law as the definition of ‘relevant publishers’ under Section 40 is vague. This means that campaigning organisations could be put off publishing important news on human rights, financial corruption and environmental destruction simply because it is unclear whether they are covered by the law;

4. Even if campaigning organisations were to sign up to the only state-backed regulator MPRESS, they would be bound by an arbitration system that is expensive and not designed for not-for-profit news publishing.For instance, the cost of arbitrating a single claim could be £3,500 if it wins at arbitration plus £3,000 and reasonable £300 per hour lawyers if it doesn’t. These NGOs would be punished by Section 40 even though they were never intended to be covered by this legislation.

5. There are unanswered questions (and pending legal challenges) about the independence of the only state-backed regulator, IMPRESS which is funded through a trust network, ultimately leading to a single rich individual Max Mosley. In the last two years, 89up has been working with the newspaper industry and publishers to understand what the impact of Section 40 would be on smaller publishers, campaign groups and the press.

For all the rhetoric of proponents of Section 40, there are two questions that we believe need exploring; do you think this legislation sets a dangerous international precedent, do you think this legislation is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights?"

The authors then go on to show how the proposed section 40 will impact on anyone in the UK who blogs (and remember it doesnt only apply to those of us who write on political matters. You might blog on something like gardening or bee keeping and this law will still apply to you).

How it will affect blogs?

"Blogs like Left Foot Forward would be caught up by this legislation because it has an editor, multiple authors and publishes news-related materials. If Left Foot Forward decides not to join the state-backed regulator it could be bankrupted by a single vexatious claim against it (LFF would have to pay the entire costs of the case which could be many hundreds of thousands of pounds).

Arguably worse, is if LFF decided to join the regulator. Any enemy of the website (angry UKIP MEPs) could make complaints against the website for any critique that LFF published about them.For any case the regulator takes forward, LFF would pay an arbitration fee of up to £3,500, plus any legal costs that may accrue. Not many cases would need to be taken forward for LFF to feel the pain.Some campaigners are presenting Section 40 as an opportunity to rein in the parts of the media they don’t like. But this is to imagine that the only people who would ever take action against in courts are genuine victims with legitimate grievances.

In truth, the libel courts are often used by greedy bosses, oligarchs and crooks to scare newspapers, blogs and campaigners from uncovering their misdeeds. Section 40 would embolden such people to take even more actions against already straitened publications, safe in the knowledge it wouldn’t cost them a penny.Luckily, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is consulting on Section 40. We believe it should be repealed in order to protect free speech for campaign groups and publications like LFF".

I echo everything the authors at Left Foot Forward say about this proposed piece of terrible and draconian legislation and i would urge everyone reading this to support the campaign to repeal section 40

I would also stress this isn't a left/right issue - the right wing Guido Fawkes blog has been equally vociferous in opposing section 40

Friday, 13 January 2017

Well let's hope it's not another 'dodgy dossier'

Readers might be familiar with the phrase 'dodgy dossier', it was the term coined to describe the dossier written by british intelligence on which the decision to launch the disastrous invasion of Iraq was based - and it included the infamous claim that Iraq had 'weapons of mass destruction'. Nearly a decade and a half on and a report apparently authored by british intelligence (the MI6 operative Christopher Steele) is once again at the center of a massive news story. In this case extraordinary claims that the US president elect Donald Trump is a Russian 'stooge' and that the Russian intelligence services possess compromising material of the controversial Trump. Given then the dubious role of the intelligence services in the Iraq debacle we should i think be cautious before rushing to judge Trump on these latest charges against him.

Funnily enough British intelligence have got form when it comes to accusing politicians of being Russian assets. In the 1970s a group of right wing officers in MI5 were convinced that the Labour prime minister Harold Wilson was working for the KGB - they seriously believed the Russians had poisoned the previous Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell to pave the way for Wilson to replace him and eventually become british prime minister. We now know of course these ludicrous claims were the creation of a group of deranged right wing fantasists in the upper echelons of british society and part of a sustained campaign to sabotage and undermine Wilson's labour governments (with part of this campaign also apparently involving plans to stage a military coup

Course the US republican Trump's politics are a million miles away from those of a british socialist like Harold Wilson. But the motives of the british and american intelligence services in wanting to seriously damage Trump would seem to be clear and i suspect they are anything but altruistic motives. He doesn't back the so called 'rebels' in Syria (some of whom are linked to murderous jihadists like al qaeda and daesh it should be noted) and he has publicly endorsed Russian intervention in that country's civil war. For the hawks in US and British intelligence - and their Saudi allies - used to shaping the middle east along their own lines Trump's stance is tantamount to treason, and they have clearly decided the new man in the white house has to be made to toe the line when it comes to policy in the middle east and towards Putin's Russia.

That means toeing a line which has led to the near disintegration of at least 3 countries in the region - Libya, Iraq and Syria - and which has seen swathes of all 3 countries fall into the terrible clutches of the medieval homicides of daesh. And if Trump doesn't do what every president since Lyndon Johnson has done ie do whatever the US intelligence service tell him to do on the middle east and on Russia then i wouldn't rule out efforts to bring Trump's presidency to a premature end, either by constitutional means such as we saw in the summer of 1974 or unconstitutional means as we saw on November 22nd 1963.

The renowned investigative US journalist Glenn Greenwald is like myself strongly opposed to Trump's politics and it's revealing that he too is deeply skeptical of the claims some in the intelligence community are making The prospect of a Trump presidency genuinely appalls me but i would prefer it those of us opposed to his uniquely divisive and dangerous brand of politics sought to defeat Trump by exposing and challenging his reactionary plans - such as abolishing Barak Obama's affordable healthcare act, building a massive wall on the mexican border and his dinosaur views on climate change - rather than trying to undermine him by relying on on dubious leaks from intelligence agencies trained in the art of deception.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

'Justice' Philippines style?

The more we learn about the shooting of Mohammed Yassar Yaqub by West Yorkshire police last week the murkier this episode becomes. Mr Yaqub died after being shot by armed police at a junction on the M62 just outside Huddersfield. West Yorkshire police have said very little about the incident so far other than to say they were acting on 'information' they had received (by all accounts they had received a tip off from a bradford drug dealer who is a police informant).They have also said that a firearm was recovered from Mr Yaqub's vehicle and confirmed the incident was not 'terrorist related'.

The police officers involved in the incident were in civilian clothing, were travelling in four unmarked police vehicles and had not been wearing body cameras, meaning no relevant CCTV footage of the shooting exists. So we do not know if any attempt was made to stop the vehicle Mr Yaqub was travelling in, if he was presenting a threat at the time of his shooting or if there was any means of apprehending him without shooting him dead on the spot. And while the police have said a weapon was found in the vehicle given there were apparently other people in the vehicle Mohammed Yaqub was travelling in we cant be certain he was holding the gun when he was shot (or if the gun recovered was his even).

The fact the case has been referred to the IPCC (independent police complaints authority) means very little in practice im afraid, as it is now standard procedure for police forces to refer any incidents like this to the IPCC themselves. Past experience has alas shown us any IPCC investigation is unlikely to get to the bottom of this incident or advocate prosecution should any wrong doing by the police force involved be unearthed. The IPCC cleared those involved in the shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham in 2011  - despite the fact it was established he had thrown his gun away when he was shot dead - and it did the same in the disgraceful shooting of the brazilian student jean charles de menezes at stockwell tube station in 2005

Mohammed Yaqub's family and many people in the local community have labelled the shooting a 'planned assassination' and spontaneous protests have taken place in the area Like anyone else i dont pretend to know all the facts surrounding the shooting of Mohammad Yaqub - perhaps more details will emerge in the coming weeks - but i do know that if it's found that his shooting wasn't justified no one will be prosecuted for it and his family certainly wont get anything resembling justice. I'm also aware there's currently lots of speculation online and in sections of the press regarding Mohammed Yassar Yaquban's 'lifestyle' and again i don't know if these allegations are true or not. But whatever the veracity of such claims i thought it was only in places like the Philippines that police were summarily executing people in the streets

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Jack and Gordon - getting away with it 100 years apart.

Not being one for wild parties or the inordinate consumption of alcohol i spent the 'festive season' catching up on some long overdue reading, finally managing to get stuck into Bruce Robinson's vast and meticulously researched tome on the Jack the Ripper murders 'They all love Jack : Busting The Ripper'. A film and TV director by trade - he directed the cult british movie 'Withnail and I' - Bruce Robinson provides compelling evidence that the investigation into the Ripper murders was deliberately compromised by Freemasons in the upper echelons of the Metropolitan Police and Scotland Yard (amazingly some files on the case still remain secret on the insistence of Scotland Yard )

In his book Robinson shows how the savage murders attributed to the so called 'Ripper' bore the hallmarks of masonic rituals. This fact induced considerable panic among the likes of Sir Charles Warren and Sir Robert Anderson, the senior police figures charged with investigating the murders and who both also happened to be senior freemasons. They were terrified the masonic aspects of the murders would become public knowledge and result in a huge public backlash against freemasonry. But in subverting and sabotaging the investigation they not only succeeded in covering up the fact Jack the Ripper was almost certainly one of their own but they helped one of the most infamous serial killers in history escape justice.

And a century after freemasons were perverting the course of justice in Whitechapel members of the same organisation were seemingly helping the peadophile police Inspector Gordon Anglesea evade justice in north wales.The radical journalist Paddy French has shown on the always compelling 'Rebecca' blog how freemasons helped Anglesea evade justice for serious crimes against children for two decades

It wasn't revealed during Gordon Anglesea's 1994 libel case against two newspapers and private eye magazine that there was in fact enough evidence against him to bring criminal charges for child sex offences but that north wales police had declined to act on the evidence they had. But despite winning his libel case and being awarded hefty damages (the judge presiding over the libel case - Sir Maurice Drake - was a freemason) serious allegations of child abuse in north wales refused to go away and the then Welsh secretary William Hague set up a north wales tribunal to look into allegations of historic child sexual abuse in the area (freemasons hit back by planting stories about William Hague's private life in the media).

Anglesea was summoned to appear before the North Wales tribunal - whose findings would be published in 2000 in the shape of the Waterhouse Report - but the tribunal concluded the allegations against him "had not been proved to our satisfaction". But what the report didnt say was that a number of the members of the tribunal investigating the allegations against Anglesea were freemasons themselves - among them the head of the tribunal itself Sir Ronald Gough Waterhouse. Even the tribunal's own leading counsel Gerard Elias QC was a freemason. While quite unbelievably north wales police had failed to hand over a file to the tribunal containing details of an allegation of serious sexual assualt against Anglesea which proved that Anglesea had lied to police when under caution about the incident. Unsurprisingly the Waterhouse report soon earned the tag the 'Whitewash Report' in many quarters.

But the revelations which emerged of historic child sexual abuse following the death of Jimmy Savile in late 2011 led the UK prime minister David Cameron to set up independent inquiries into allegations of historic child abuse. This would include the reopening of investigations into allegations of sexual abuse at north wales children's homes - among them Bryn Estyn - and Gordon Anglesea was arrested in December 2013.

On October 21 2016 a jury at Mold crown court found Gordon Anglesea guilty of historic child sex offences and two weeks later he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Gordon Anglesea passed away at a hospital in warwickshire six weeks into his sentence on December 16th.

Gerard Elias recently stepped down from a 6 year stint as Standards Commissioner for the National Assembly of Wales and was made a CBE in the new year's honours list. Meanwhile it is now being claimed Freemasons helped cover up the Hillsborough disaster

This blog has some interesting information on the continuing influence of freemasons on Welsh life