Category: Political


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Now is not the time for political polemic, tempting though it might have been to look at who has caused the crises across the world, in particular in Syria. It is a tragedy that it should have taken an image of a three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose body was washed up on the Turkish coast to shock the world into caring for the plight of the displaced, distressed and disenfranchised. People aware of the image do not even mention or perhaps know of the fact that he was washed up on the shore along with his five-year-old brother and his mother. Where was the same shock when 71 decomposing bodies were found in a truck near Nickelsdorf last month?

No, now must be the time for action, to look at what can be done to avert this catastrophe before it worsens resulting in a flood of drowned children on beaches around the Mediterranean and beyond. And yet here I sit on an island which is only populated at all because people crossed the sea to get here and what I see is ambivalence, distain and reasons being given as to why this is not our problem.

Today I was at the first “Refugees Welcome” demonstration in England, I am proud of my city for standing up to be counted, similar meetings, demonstrations and marches have already begun in Europe and tangible action has begun there whilst the British politicians prevaricate until they are shamed into action. David Cameron said Britain was full, he did so in front of an empty field. Whilst in Germany Chancellor Merkel has already pledged that Germany will take an unprecedented number of refugees and will taken Syrians from wherever they have entered the EU. I have seen videos of refugees being cheered and clapped on the streets of Germany, little children being given gifts and hugs and a general outpouring of warmth. I am proud of Germany where I once lived and experienced racism myself, yet now it takes the football fans of German clubs and the clubs themselves to show us the example. Bravo Bayern München Refugee Plans und Borussia Dortmund.

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…and Germany is not well-known for its financial profligacy!

Someone articulated the counter argument to the right-wing posturing which will inevitably pervade. It is not about whether we can afford this or that, it is about leadership, it is about saying what it happening is morally wrong and we must find a way to sort this out. When I think how much money we are paying the politicians it seems only fair that indeed they do now need to earn it. If we are saying we are full whilst we have empty houses, empty bedrooms, food being thrown in the bin, blankets in the attic etc. then what we are actually saying is we cannot be bothered or we do not care. If our goal is to find a way then we will not focus on the obstacles we will focus on the endgame and how best we get there, we will solve the problem because it must be solved and impediments will be overcome if there is the will to do it. These refugees are humans, they are fleeing death or a life quite unimaginable to us cosseted in our comfy beds with duck down pillows. These people would be grateful for tents in a park and a 5 year old tin can of baked beans to eat in comparison with their current lot. Are we so heartless as to think we cannot help? And if we do not look to find a way then we merely fuel the business of the people smugglers, already extorting the sort of money from refugees that would pay a months rent for a very comfortable flat in the West just to give passage to Budapest.

These people are not lazy, they are not looking for a free ride, you do not uproot your whole family and leave your home and your possessions behind save for what you can carry unless the circumstances are extreme. Many of us have come to other countries seeking a better life, we have been allowed to live and work, to get education and training. This has enabled us to build a comfortable life with food, entertainment, transport, property and the like, more than we need for basic survival. Yet here we have people for whom basic survival would be a step up the ladder and we can offer our hands.

If you are not touched and cut to the very core by the images you are seeing in the news I question whether you are truly human. Personally I find it hard not to be ashamed that people might even feel they would be abandoned to their fate by people who have so much more than they need. Then I see the fences and the border controls and I know I have every reason to be ashamed.

I heard a speaker say they had been in Calais last month and that they had spoken to refugees camped there who wanted to come to England. The speaker asked the refugees if they could talk to the British people what would they like to say. She said that the most common response was “Mercy.” I struggle to hold back the tears even now.

Song Of The Day ~ Fréro Delavega – Le Chant Des Sirènes

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They Still Haven’t Found What I’m Eligible For (to the tune of U2′ I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For)

I have climbed the highest staircase
I have jumped through the hoops
only to feed myself
only to feed myself
I’ve had to stand, had to crawl
I have filled in all the forms
all the forms
only to feed myself

But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for
But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for

I have kissed workplace arses
felt the loathing in the furtive glances
it burned like ire
with me deep in the mire
I’ve not heard any tongues of angels
but I have held my hand out to devils
it was cold in the night
I was kicked like a dog

But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for
But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for

I don’t believe the day will come
when right-wing bastards would bleed into one
bleed into one
But yes I’m still dreaming
You bought your bonds
Your private planes
You profited handsomely
and caused my shame
oh my shame
You know I can prove it

But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for
But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for

But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for
But they still haven’t found
what I’m eligible for

Song Of The Day ~ U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Craig Murray was a diplomat and worked in a number of embassies, he has over the years published books and articles expounding some of the less savoury things that have gone on in parts of the world where news appears not to filter through to the mainstream.

I have, with his permission, agreed to circulate this, along with many others, so that the numerous attempts to hack his site which have taken place over the last 3 days do not smother what he is saying.  In fact they should be seen only as confirming this is something that is part of the British government’s policy in order to railroad through the “Snooper’s Charter” giving backdoor access to pretty much everything.  

This is not a hoax, this is not about national security as it affects the general public this is about control and who exercises it and how much they wish to do so.  Orwell couldn’t have drafted it all better himself.  But this is not fiction and that should chill anyone interested in liberty and justice.

Five Reasons the MI6 Story is a Lie

by craig on June 14, 2015 10:06 am

The Sunday Times has a story claiming that Snowden’s revelations have caused danger to MI6 and disrupted their operations. Here are five reasons it is a lie.

1) The alleged Downing Street source is quoted directly in italics. Yet the schoolboy mistake is made of confusing officers and agents. MI6 is staffed by officers. Their informants are agents. In real life, James Bond would not be a secret agent. He would be an MI6 officer. Those whose knowledge comes from fiction frequently confuse the two. Nobody really working with the intelligence services would do so, as the Sunday Times source does. The story is a lie.

2) The argument that MI6 officers are at danger of being killed by the Russians or Chinese is a nonsense. No MI6 officer has been killed by the Russians or Chinese for 50 years. The worst that could happen is they would be sent home. Agents’ – generally local people, as opposed to MI6 officers – identities would not be revealed in the Snowden documents. Rule No.1 in both the CIA and MI6 is that agents’ identities are never, ever written down, neither their names nor a description that would allow them to be identified. I once got very, very severely carpeted for adding an agents’ name to my copy of an intelligence report in handwriting, suggesting he was a useless gossip and MI6 should not be wasting their money on bribing him. And that was in post communist Poland, not a high risk situation.

3) MI6 officers work under diplomatic cover 99% of the time. Their alias is as members of the British Embassy, or other diplomatic status mission. A portion are declared to the host country. The truth is that Embassies of different powers very quickly identify who are the spies in other missions. MI6 have huge dossiers on the members of the Russian security services – I have seen and handled them. The Russians have the same. In past mass expulsions, the British government has expelled 20 or 30 spies from the Russian Embassy in London. The Russians retaliated by expelling the same number of British diplomats from Moscow, all of whom were not spies! As a third of our “diplomats” in Russia are spies, this was not coincidence. This was deliberate to send the message that they knew precisely who the spies were, and they did not fear them.

4) This anti Snowden non-story – even the Sunday Times admits there is no evidence anybody has been harmed – is timed precisely to coincide with the government’s new Snooper’s Charter act, enabling the security services to access all our internet activity. Remember that GCHQ already has an archive of 800,000 perfectly innocent British people engaged in sex chats online.

5) The paper publishing the story is owned by Rupert Murdoch. It is sourced to the people who brought you the dossier on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, every single “fact” in which proved to be a fabrication. Why would you believe the liars now?

There you have five reasons the story is a lie.

I was minded to write this following a couple of statements made not so very long ago by senior politicians from the Labour Party in the UK.  I should explain to those outside the UK who do occasionally stop by, that the Labour Party is the one that would at least until the 1990s have been as the party on the left.  It remains to the left of the current Conservative party but it is now a very active proponent of neo-liberal economics rather than anything even remotely Keynesian.  This shift started some time ago and a move toward a more social democratic position as distinct from Socialism was clear from the 1980s but the death of Labour leader John Smith in 1994 allowed the Bilderberg-fuelled neo-liberals to transform the party into something the founders would have felt was an anathema to all the original ideals for which it stood, more akin in fact to the one it was formed to stand against.  A party designed to protect privilege a little less unfairly than its competitor, a party more inclined to throw some crumbs from the table rather than eat the whole meal in front of the impoverished.  It is almost the more contemptible for that.  Almost.

The shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls (no that is actually his name!) is in what one might to an extent think a strong position.  The current incumbent in government is a detached, self-righteous arse and wedded to the austerity agenda wholeheartedly, of course he would be these are all measures that will not affect him just as they will not affect the vast majority of the politicians who are telling us how important these things our for our own prosperity.  And yet the majority of people have never seen the sort of prosperity it is claimed is being protected on their behalf.  What these people see is their pensions being eroded, health service in disarray, house prices going to a level that is beyond even the dreams of the common person let alone the actual reach thereof.  Fuel and overall energy prices rise, petrol prices may have stabilised but that is an inevitable short-term thing and yet people are being talked to as if children again akin to being told that one has to eat one’s greens because think of the starving folk in Africa.  The politicians on the other hand have very often some serious prosperity and can claim lots of expenses from the taxpayer in order to help them enjoy it.  They say it’s hard to live on £67,000 something a great many millions in this country I suspect would like the chance to check on to ensure they agree.

Well Ed Balls has no plans to deviate on the austerity agenda, no what the compassionate man has said is ““Without fiscal discipline and a credible commitment to eliminate the deficit, we cannot achieve the stability we need.”  He does not address the hideous inequalities that are ever growing he does not talk about the redressing of the balance for the most marginalised.  He does talk about the protection of the NHS because of course this is a vote winning strategy for the middle classes, after all he doesn’t expect to need to court the disaffected and poorest, they all live in safe Labour slum seats.

And then there is the Machiavellian figure of Tony Blair, hanging around like an acrid stench in the air foully polluting anything and everything with which it comes into contact.  Blair was the main driving force behind Labour’s switch to a more right-wing stance that which would in say the 1960s have been seen as the ground of the Conservative party, which had itself since the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher moved considerably further to the right.  It wasn’t as if the Conservative lurch had sucked Labour with it, it was more that Labour chose to follow and indeed then to set the agenda for the centre-right to such an extent that it almost forced to Conservatives to continue the trend mollifying those at the more marginal end of the spectrum who might otherwise have been seen as bigots, racists and the overall far-right.

The excuse for Blair’s reforms was to make Labour electable, that something needed to be done to erode the Tories heartland. In my opinion it is likely given the utter disarray and catastrophic unpopularity of the Tory party in 1997 that if Labour had stood on the overt principles of the Communist Manifesto they would still have gained a Parliamentary majority. (Partially because there are plenty of principles within said document that people would not be at all averse to were they not to know whence it came).

Now Blair is coming in like a deposed Tory Prime Minister sticking his oar in and claiming that Ed Miliband, at best centre-left, is too far to the left for Labour to win the next election.  Blair referred to a poll in May 2014 as indicating that it could be an election ‘in which a traditional Left-wing party competes with a traditional Right-wing party, with the traditional result’. Asked if he meant a Tory win, he said: ‘Yes, that’s what happens.’ He denied the political centre ground has shifted as a result of the financial crisis. ‘I see no evidence for that,’ he said. ‘You could argue that it has moved to the Right, not Left.’ 

Errr… if it’s moved to the right doesn’t that mean it’s shifted Tony…?

Lest we forget Blair was also the man who not only led the country into an illegal and unfounded war but claimed it was in effect his religious duty to do so.  Blair and Bush were the prime escalators of the current mess, Bush’s motivation was clearer, he wished to finish Daddy’s work, not a smart reason but a reason nevertheless.  Blair was either a religious zealot or a gullible idiot and much as I intensely detest the man I do not think him the latter at all.  Much has been written as to how much the UK & US knew about the supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Let me just say this, either there would be receipts (and the US used to frequently sell Iraq its arms having set it up in effect to firebreak from Iran) or there would have been factories manufacturing it over a long period of time. I’d imagine that would have been spotted after all they’ve known where Iran’s factories are and they aren’t even making weapons.

Naturally after all his zeal and after the exit of Bush, Cheney and the lucrative rebuilding contracts that were exacted Blair was installed as the Middle East Peace Envoy, a more ironic appointment I would have thought there has not been and I’d go so far as to say it has to rival Henry Kissinger’s Nobel Peace Prize.  So if Tom Lehrer was ever likely to come out of retirement Blair’s arrival would have sealed his silence.

 The difficulty now is we have reached a stage where it appears to be the end of dissent in quite the sense it was before, or is this hyperbole?  Well perhaps a little because what has happened is the mainstreaming of a quelling of descent that has taken place more covertly across the world for many years.  The surveillance, the “security” and “anti-terror” legislation is such that we might have thought it dystopian reality had we had it presented to us 25 years ago

BBC journalist Tim Willcox has apologised for a comment made which was undoubtedly ill-directed and in poor taste and was dismissed by the person to whom it was asked, as was her right.  However why has such a furore as has met Willcox not been dished out to Rupert Murdoch’s amalgam conflating Islam with religious extremism?  Islamaphobia is talked about as a phenomenon and the righteous get very cross and worried about this whilst the mainstream media are allowed to peddle hatred and filth and an absolute perversion of a creed that they get very upset about should it be applied to theirs.  At the same time they whip up furore at the disaffected, the young joining the cause in the Middle East, why they say why do they do it?  Perhaps they have not really looked at the course they the establishment has plotted over the last 25 years.  This is not just about religion it is about the complete disenfranchisement of huge sections of society.  You might say it was ever thus after all “the blacks, the dogs and the Irish” took more than their share of stick in their time but that was ignorance and not deliberate policy.  The muslims are only one, but they are the dangerous one so they make the headlines.  The disabled are another but they aren’t glamorous enough to make the news and besides those that might have generally killed themselves from having been denied the dignity of human life and made to feel like spongers on account of conditions and diseases and the factors they have with which society disables them.  And then there’s just the common or garden poor.  Well, they’ve got food banks now and even Norman Tebbit thinks not all the people using them are scroungers eating junk food anymore.  But he did up to a few days beforehand.

We have an upcoming election and this is once again to be fought on the policies of negativity, ‘if you don’t like what they’ve done then vote us’ or ‘if you don’t want them getting in then vote us again.’  Only no-one really voted for things to be as they are and now there is a new mainstream movement of ‘if you don’t like it you can fuck off back where you came from.’  Parallels with dark periods in the past are easy to make but you know when they are valid when you see how much they chill you as you look at them.  I feel distinctly disquieted.

Yet I see no alternative except in the case perhaps of one party which has less right-leaning credentials. This is the Green Party and it has been all but marginalised from the media coverage whilst the bigoted ‘no room at the inn’ party gets feted for its shaking up of British politics.

So the fact is what we will end up with is a succession of parties with capitalist ideologies and intentions, call them the new right, old right, new left, red tories, blue-rinse, UKIPers it doesn’t matter because the fact is they are all selling the same ticket and it is one which has led to the despicable mess the country is now in, you choice is merely whether that trend to feudalism is a quick one or a slow one.  Tricky isn’t it? It’s like being told you face the Firing Squad in the morning and then being left with a loaded pistol… ‘do the honourable thing old chap!’

I’m afraid I despair sometimes, which may make you wonder why I came back as some harbinger of doom having been buried away for so long.  Well that’s the thing with harbinger’s of doom they don’t tend to come at convenient times.  Sorry about that.

Song Of The Day ~ GoFaster – A Modern Education

Whenever a new form of media comes along the early adopters are often naive about what they can and can’t do and are trusting, some might say complacent, about the consequences of ‘putting themselves out there!’  Of course in the early days there is an element of security through obscurity but trends take off and as the money men come in so all profitable angles become important with advertising is one of the most paramount of all.  In the old days marketers had to position their wares based on a large demographic such as people watching a certain television program or reading a certain newspaper, which often encompassed a wide and diverse set of people.  This also cost a lot of money, both to employ people to come up with the campaign and then in order to put the campaign somewhere, the more prominent the more costly.  However the Internet has revolutionised advertising by making ads more readily available and at far lower cost, in fact you could argue it is the democratisation of advertising, after all you receive ads more targeted to things in which you have already actively or passively expressed an interest.  You can even make ads yourself, or show your approval of ads from others.

Facebook has long since been regarded as something of a corporate battleground, we complained about the ads long ago and then complained about the metadata being used to target or attribute to them we bewailed the obvious snooping angles through this data being kept somewhere who knows where and accessible to who knows whom.  Now the reluctant acceptance of the widespread of data and personal information is almost complete, ‘we may not like it but after all what are we going to do?’  Today if you are not careful not only can you be traced via backdoor means but by the very open actions of your own friends and often you yourself.  What is worse is that you may have put your date of birth, phone number, email address, where you work, where you used to work and where you went to school (often used as a security question).  You may even have befriended your family (Mother’s maiden name very often used as a security question) and/or told people about your pet (name often used as a security question).  In addition to this you may have linked your twitter account, your linkedn account and used your Facebook account to log into all sorts of services. Did you turn off friends tagging you in their pictures or status updates, did you stop people tagging you in pictures that reveal where you were and when or with whom, or worse still where you might be and when?  What is on your public profile, visible to the whole world?  But this entry is not directly about Facebook and your personal security, this is about what you actively do believing you are acting for the right reasons and the consequences that these actions may increasingly have as a result of a new culture in pernicious advertising.

The recent furore surrounding the Emma Watson and 4Chan affair is a high profile case in point.  Long before I knew anything of the matter in origin I had seen innumerable posts decrying the actions of one party, expressing outrage that Emma Watson’s views should have caused such a disgraceful backlash and soundly lambasting the supposed perpetrator who appeared to be acting in some form of both spite and blackmail.  The ‘one party’ attacked was in fact a bulletin board community, thus it is rather like attacking Facebook for a user threatening to do something that isn’t illegal, good luck with that.  Whatever one may think of online communities, bulletin boards, dark internet etc. the fact is that it has hirthto been largely under the radar of the corporates.  This is clearly all about to change.

In order to infiltrate the new potential user base such things offer new strategies must be adopted, new ways to get information out there quickly and build user profiles in order to do so quicker still.  The traditional media remains quite passive in that it requires people specifically going to it and therefore are likely to be stored in the system somewhere already.  The new generation are more savvy and obtain and share their information and pursuits in different ways however some of those more prominent have already started to become more mainstream, the success of sites such as 38 Degrees and Avaaz has already been replicated by many of the international charities in order to harness armchair people power to promote and support their causes, this has shown a method of campaign proliferation that is far more active like a sort of idea crowd-surfing.  What this has shown a great deal of the time is that nothing spreads more like wildfire than moral outrage.  Indeed the speed with which some information goes around it makes Chinese Whispers look like the best way to obtain your news.  The trouble with this is that as with Chinese Whispers it is very difficult to tell what has been conflated/misinterpreted/misheard/reworded where and by whom and even were you to be able to do so by the time you had got to the bottom of it the message would have gone several stages further and your attempts to correct it would no longer be valid because they would not in effect have any relevance to what the message at that point was.  It would be rather like saying that homo erectus would actually have been better off with a tail after all.

The Emma Watson affair has made what would otherwise be a low-level exposure bulletin board very prominent and in a negative light, it remains to be seen what reach this will have for all associated with it but certainly it will be being trawled for information about its users and what they might be up to as we speak.  It has brought forward what appears on the surface to be a fictitious marketing company, this will only further increase speculation and keep public focus that little bit longer than if people were to really find out what or who was behind it all no matter how big or small they might have been.  Finally the only exposure that has actually happened has been that Emma Watson’s speech on feminism and equality has come to greater attention than i otherwise might have done which is a consolation.  Whether this was in any way intended (has everyone assumed automatically it wasn’t?) but it is something upon which to feel all was not entirely negative and assuages some people as to their haste to condemn as they will be able to cast their opinions over the very cause and effect of the whole affair and what it says about us as a society – herewith Exhibit A!

However it is not by any means an isolated example, nor is it the only method of publicising that which might otherwise be seen less favourably or be more obscure.  There are more forces than corporate money men involved.  The Emma Watson affair is my first conscious view of the use of people’s opposition to something to distribute widely but the use of people’s wish to affirm has been around for a while.

There has been a spate of seemingly uncontentious posts by a far-right group in England called Britain First (the clue is somewhat in the name really isn’t it?!) which advocates a number of singularly unpleasant policies and generally seeks to propagate them in an inflammatory manner such as turning up at mosques and holding hostile protests against Islam about which they appear to know very little and declaiming Christianity about which they appear to know only marginally more.  This is not anything especially new for the far-right and were that merely the extent of their action they would be marginalised severely by the fact that much of Britain’s mainstream political parties espouse the sort of nationalism that in the 1970s would have represented that of derided extremists the National Front, then seen as a group of fascist skinheads and thugs.  Fascists no longer wear the same uniform as one another and have blended far more into the mainstream political landscape across Europe as a whole and their appeal is broadening.  What Britain First have either cleverly or inadvertently done is to promulgate their existence with what look like innocuous positive affirmations such as supporting troops abroad, using the poppy symbol synonymous with the Royal British Legion and World War veterans (sad irony to have a fascist, nationalist party use a symbol for those who fought to oppose fascism and nationalism), even down to opposing animal rights abuses.  All the sorts of things that people might say “Who could possibly be against that…?”  Precisely, so why is there the need to share it?  Is it perhaps because to not do so implies you might be or be a supporter of “them [insert demon of the week here].”  Because really the implied suffix of the “Who could be against that...” question is “…unless you are one of them [insert aforementioned demon].”  And it is this that makes people share it in an effort to ensure no-one thinks that they might be one of “them.” (not that I’ve anything against “them” you understand, some of my friends are “them…!”)

One of Britain First’s particularly loathsome but widely-publicised efforts was to commandeer the death of soldier Lee Rigby who was murdered in the street in South East London by religious extremists.  Britain First used this event to their own islamophobic ends until Lee Rigby’s mother, Lyn complained publicly saying that the party did not represent her son’s views in the slightest and that he would and she was appalled by the way his cause had been hijacked.

“Well yet again can anymore heartbreak be thrown at me and my family, so heartbroken tonight. Electoral commission phoned saying that a party in Wales has stood for election in the European parliament named Britain First using Lee’s name to promote their party and some fucker from the commission allowed it to go through but [they] cannot take any action till after the election which is held on my sons anniversary of his murder. Their views are not what Lee believed in and has no support from the family. Their will be a family apology from the electoral commission but cannot be made public till after 22nd of May. Lee’s legacy will live on through Team Lee United Forces and all the good I hope to achieve xxxx”

By this time though the damage had been largely done as the phrase “Remember Lee Rigby” had already been used by Britain First as part of their entry on the Election ballot paper and the party was associated with what would be seen as positive enforcement of British values and memory of a soldier murdered.  No-one remembers the Electoral Commission’s apology, no-one remembers the investigation carried out by the Speaker of the Houses Of Parliament who presides over the Commission, nor whether such an investigation even took place.  They don’t even necessarily remember all the details of the situation but it started the creeping process of ‘normalising’ Britain First so they could claim to be ‘patriots’ which is a common name extreme nationalists use for themselves.

I have heard all too often the defence of “I would never have shared it if I had known who it was really from...” or “I know ‘person x’ and they would never have knowingly passed on something from ‘nasty group y.’” It is worth looking closer at the Britain First posts where very often there remains an undercurrent of racism and bigotry, the troops abroad, the animal rights abuses often being linked to the practice of halal butchery the Lee Rigby campaign and it’s demonising certain parts of the population.

There is the inevitable more blatant fascist post such as the one claiming asylum seekers and illegal immigrants were being given £29,000 in benefits and cutting snippets from the Daily Mail (always a sure sign of bigotry).  Many people will express shock and outrage, especially when it is put in the context of a paragraph stating that a pensioner gets around £6000 a year (a figure which lamentably is near enough correct).  If one stops to question at all then you can pick this argument apart quite easily.  Illegal immigrants get no benefit at all, they are illegal!  The Conservative government benefit cap is £26,000, this is the very maximum amount of money any household can have and that is subject to some fairly draconian methods of assessment so I am yet to come across anyone getting anywhere near that amount.  I have come across a fair few getting £4ooo ps though.  Anyway you get the picture.  Certainly some of the people sharing such posts are bigoted racists, but Britain First has 300,000 likes on its Facebook page are these all racist bigots or are many misguided and duped?

In the past it was just sometimes a question of memes, chain messages, spam that you may be inadvertently passing on, now it is more insidious and perhaps only viral marketing at best.  The other argument commonly used, indeed sometimes with the best intentions and even on occasions with results is the “I didn’t want to take the chance...” gambit.  This in its common form applies to something of abhorrence to people that has some degree of urgency in action required and people think it is better to ensure it is widespread in order to avoid the chance being lost and action (not) occurring.  However if taken to its lowest point it can be that which leads to the point of forwarding those chain emails that say bad luck will befall you if you do not or that some multinational company will pay you in the form of goods/services or hard cash if you tell all your friends about the scheme by sending this email to everyone in your address book.

Caveat Poster, if something seems far-fetched it probably is, if something is asking you to sign up to something think whether or not you would do so in the street.  If someone is asking you to share an opinion they have ask yourself if you’d let them stand up in court on your behalf, check the provenance of sources and one easy way to validate things is to run it through the hoaxkill type sites first, very often you will find that the tortured dog or 82 year old lady or homeless child is either something that never happened, or did so 10 years ago.

The trouble is that the advertisers already have you, because where do you draw the line, do you risk what you see as something bad happening by not reposting, retweeting, sharing, liking, tagging even if you haven’t had the chance to check its validity?  Or do you think that it shouldn’t do any great harm really and if it’s advertisers then they’re all bastards and something should be done about them, scum of the Earth etc. etc…?  Granted whilst it may not be as malign as the supposed inheritance you have from a fictitious relative in Africa but you are passing on something as if you had sneezed and then shaken hands with someone without even wiping.  Think of that next time you open a toilet door as well!

All that Twitter’s Is Not Necessarily Gold!

Song Of The Day ~ The Winners – Freedom

I think it hard to imagine there is anyone with access to global media who does not know of, or probably have a view on, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Many have expressed their opinions whilst the silence from others has spoken volumes in itself.  Interestingly though when certain high profile people have spoken out in favour of the Palestinians they have been leapt upon and had the publicists in apoplexy whilst those of the pro-Zionist lobby seem able to express with relatively minor dissent.  This is very common practice, the Zionist lobby has long since held the power and not been afraid to wield, it it is not that long ago since my union were threatened with legal action by a powerful conglomerate in the US if they were to decide boycott Israeli universities in protest at the conflict.  If they were to decide to mind, not do it, no the censure came at the point where a policy would have been discussed and was to be agreed on. The debate had then to be that in theory were we able to find a method by which we could do so without punitive court costs would we do so, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour.  I suspect in no small part down to the moral outrage people felt at being told what they were or were not allowed to decide on before they’d had a chance to decide it.  Later pro-Zionist blogs came out naming and seeking to shame many of the people speaking in favour of the boycott, common practice has been to cite anti-semitism whenever someone expresses a view that is at odds with the extremely conservative Israeli state.  Anti-semitism has been a brush used for much tarring, often unfairly, in instances such as these but it is a useful way of not listening to any of the arguments propagated, it is the slightly more erudite version of “la la la, I can’t hear you,” I stress the word slightly!

Israel and its Zionist sympathisers principle weapon used with profligacy against the protesters and detractors alike has a chillingly macabre irony  as if somehow the reason for protesting against war crimes and butchery is somehow only related to the fact that it is jews who are carrying them out in this instance.  This is a crassness of such magnitude that perhaps its ability to exist and continue is merely based on a collective consciousness that finds it too incredulous to see on the radar.  In actual fact this method of dismissal causes far more harm to the Jewish community because it makes the actions of the Israeli government synonymous with a much wider and more diversely opinionated people whose link is faith and not political stance.  A way of radicalising that has been used many times before is to use the actions of a distant minority to justify outrages against others more locally, sweeping generalisations etc. The Jews themselves have been the victims of this before and not just once, now however it is a state that is claiming to stand in their name that is doing the very same thing and more of them must, for the sake of their wider community, disassociate from it or risk the continued sweep of outrage pervading countries across the globe and widening the violence as has already been happening.

The argument that Israel has a perfect right to defend itself in the face of the barrage of Hamas attacks is the equivalent of saying that a tank has the right to fire its shell at a child who is pelting it with a pea shooter.  This may sound at first flippant but this is the gulf between the hardware available to the Palestinians as opposed to that available to Israel.  Indeed would anyone dispute the prudence of guerrilla warfare when in the face of a superior armoured force, it would be ironic for the Americans to do so given the nature of their independence as won from Britain by just such a tactic.  Plucky freedom fighters and resistance heroes or insidious terrorists?  Israel has the ability to bombard an entire state the way the Palestinians have the ability to bombard a building, the difference therefore is to count the dead and from which areas they come.  We are not seeing children constantly being pulled out of Israeli buildings, the civilian death toll is almost exclusively on the one side as planes used for carpet bombing are a great deal less discriminatory than RPGs.  We have seen the tunnels used to get into Israeli areas by Palestinian fighters, we have seen, though with less expressed outrage the tanks and fighter jets used to get into Palestinian areas.

Israel claims that more than 2,800 rockets have been fired by Hamas from Gaza into Israel but that most have been intercepted by their “Iron Dome” defence – the Palestinian civilians have no such defence against the Israeli rockets and their air strikes and Gaza is being systematically razed to the ground.  World focus however has turned to the threat of ISIS, another nasty set of Islamic baddies almost conveniently thrust under our noses as if to show us who the real enemy are.  I will not go into the Syria conflict right now, I have given some of my opinions before in 2005, 2012 and there will be another post in due course.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library the death toll on both sides since 2000 numbers 1,327 Israeli dead (11,135 wounded) and 9,515 Palestinian dead (19,011 wounded).  According to NGOs and the UN over 80% of the 1,400 Palestinian casualties in Gaza in 2014 are civilians whilst 56 soldiers and 3 civilians have been killed on the Israeli side this year.  Whenever Israel starts any major offensive it is the Palestinian civilians who bear the brunt of it.

To subject Gaza to such systematic atrocity is also enormously stupid, if indeed one is looking at any form of lasting peace being the endgame.  The demolition of the structure necessary for forming a civilised state means the people in that state have nothing left to lose, they might just as well fight against the oppressor because it is a cause and they have little else left to believe in, or live in.  This is a very easy situation for Hamas to thrive in.  If Israel were to assist the Palestinians in building schools, nurseries, universities, utility distribution it would in turn fuel the moderates and their cause, it would create a new generation who would not have the reason to hate the Israeli state and would see them far more as a country with whom they cooperate even if they do not always agree.  Would it happen overnight, no of course not but then armed conflict isn’t exactly going to come to an end any time soon.  So the question is really one of what are people going to be dying for really isn’t it?

Perhaps a glance at the Irish situation may yield some comparison of how a diplomatic solution, whilst less than perfect, can be managed in a way where people are not dying in huge numbers and the extremists have been driven out of the mainstream and marginalised to the point of almost universal condemnation.  During the 1980s in Britain a ruthless Conservative government who had no intention of listening to its own people met the Irish republican dissidents with soldiers, water cannon, plastic bullets and guard posts everywhere, they also assisted loyalist paramilitaries to carry out sporadic attacks on Republican areas and civilians.  The IRA responded with bombs and guerrilla tactics, many of which were targeted at causing civilians damage but a large majority were phoned in with warnings to the police to avoid casualties.  Irrespective of who you may feel was right in the Irish troubles what is not open to question is that children lost parents and parents lost children on both sides of the sea and political divide.  The violence fuelled those who said you could not negotiate, the British government flatly refused to sit with Sinn Féin and attempt to reach any form of compromise, so people continued to die, including their own.  When governments did seek to meet and negotiate it began to give weight to the arguments of those who said that there was a way that did not involve killing and that it should be investigated.  When it was finally investigated a cautious truce was established, which turned into the wholesale decommissioning of weapons once the Good Friday Agreement had been signed up to by both parties, principally steered by the more moderate parities the SDLP on the Republican side and the UUP on the loyalist.  The dissident republicans and loyalists that remain armed are now marginalised to near extinction, their actions can promote violence and cause harm but they will not have the support of communities any more, they will not be sheltered and protected by communities who feel wrong, aggrieved and let down by the state supposed to look after them.  Do Irish republicans everywhere suddenly feel the matter is solved and that part of Ulster should still be ruled by the British, no, but people are no longer dying for that cause, just arguing vehemently over it in Parliaments, Councils, pubs and clubs.

That it is Israel carrying out these war crimes, for that is surely what they are – no less than Nixon and Kissinger in the Far East, is a hideous irony and not one lost on many people, in fact Israel is perhaps one of the only Western-allied nations where such oppression and perpetrations would be tolerated.  (aside from the oil-producing nations of course, no Arab Spring in Bahrain, no that is not the uprising you are looking for!)  Look at some of the Zionist press and see the rhetoric, the like of which was very evident in certain European countries in the 1930s.  Yes I used that analogy and having seen the justification of violence I use it very specifically because the parallels are extremely similar and therefore a valid comparison, I do not do so purely for effect for it should not need it.

Let us not forget that although the military conflict is taking place between Israel and the Gaza area of the Palestinian territories the Israeli machine acts illegally in the West Bank with settlements, Benjamin Netayahu continues to sanction and sign off more settlements to add to the existing ones, the Gollan Heights is particularly fashionable at the moment.  Whilst Israel bewails the Palestinian’s failure to live up to parts of any agreement so Neyanyahu in June authorised 1,500 new Israeli settlements in the occupied land.  This is nothing less than a creeping putsch designed to so entrench Israeli settlers as to make them more and more difficult to remove and thus the land less likely to be returned.  Under Section of the Geneva Convention “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territory it occupies.” the international community almost in its entirety has condemned Israeli settlements as illegal occupation.  Israel contends that the territories it has occupied since the Six Day War do not constitute part of the Geneva Convention.

Votes in the UN have resulted in on one occasion condemnation by 158 nations out of 166 and then 160 out of 171 the countries voting against either directly or by abstentions are the usual suspects, the Western colonial powers such as the US, unsurprisingly along with their acolytes such as the Marshall Islands and Palau and the odd other country that seeks to curry favour with the giant and, more recently, by stealth the conservative Australian government.  It is difficult to see another situation where the views of the United Nations Security Council, United Nations General Assembly, International Court Of Justice, International Red Cross and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention could be so flagrantly disregarded.  Given that the United States and its allies have used the non-compliance or flouting of a single UN Resolution, such as 1441, as a pretext for war it is interesting (though not surprising) that the international bodies should be cast aside in the case of Israel.

In fact there is evidence that the Israeli people do not agree wholeheartedly with their government’s actions. In 2003 76% of Israelis polled by Dahaf, a leading Israeli public opinion research firm, supported a two state solution and the return of sovereignty of Palestinian areas such as East Jerusalem.  Rather like the Irish situation most of the actual citizens of the country do not sanction slaughter and want to be able to live in peace and without fear, for either side to claim that by bombing it is trying to achieve that is nonsense but this is not a chicken and egg situation this is a position where an imperialist state is capitalising on the last guilt generation to which it has access to exploit in order to expand its borders and maintain its disproportionate influence.  Palestine is simply not large, enough, not equipped enough, not molised enough to constitute anything more than a pretext for Israeli military action.  Were you truly worried about you borders and all the actions why would you continue to be building more and more houses further and further out into “enemy” territory?  Would that not be a singular failure to look after your citizens?

Israel is at present a malignant conquering power, this is not because the people running it are Jews it is because they are arseholes and that trait runs throughout any section of humankind without exception.  It does not have to be so, a peace can be found if all parties truly want it, the Palestinian people have everything to gain by peace and nothing to lose so why would they be the ones truly standing in the way?  When the US wanted to broker peace in Ireland they did not go in merely slagging off one side because there was a desire for peace from the Irish community in the US and all sections of the Irish lobby.  So go do your research and make up your own mind who stands to gain more from the conflict continuing…

Song Of The Day ~ The The – Armageddon Days Are Here Again (the lyrics just as apposite as they were 20 years ago)

I have scanned the polling card on election day many times before and been saddened and sometimes angry at what I have seen that which serves only to greater highlight the democratic deficit.  In turn this fuels the need in my mind to break down some of this over-federalisation in order to put back some actual stake for people and their representatives in the affairs at a level that affects them day to day, rather than a succession of wooly contexts used by populists and demagogues whose wish is only to feather their own nests with a cushy number becoming ever more and more out of touch with those whom they are supposed to represent.

As regards the anti-federalist side of things I suppose I should be careful what I wish for really shouldn’t I?  This election card is awash with those who wish to decentralise from the European superstate and wrest back control of government on a more local level.  So, is this the great coming of Anarchism, is it the workers taking control of the means of production, is it the cohesion of people realising that they need control over what affects them and their families all the time?  No it is not, indeed it is anything but.  This is good old-fashioned racist, xenophobic, nimbyist, ‘I’m alright, Jack’, selfish, protectionist, money-orientated, contemptible BULLSHIT!  Personally I find it morally repugnant, as despicable as offensive and on a grand scale it seems to explain the root of where all the principle global problems emanate but this is not an election manifesto on behalf of the “Let’s Start Looking More At What We Ourselves Can Do Positively For Our Society And Environment And Less About What The Nasty People Who Look/Act/Sound/Appear Different From Us Are Doing: According To Those People Who Don’t Like Them And Make Shit Up To Justify Their Claims Which Are Motivated By Self-serving Greed” Party.  (Doesn’t trip off the tongue really does it?!  I’ve long history of names being too long for forms this is just another example of text-based discrimination where the name I want to put down will not fit in the box in which it is supposed to!)

Every country has benefitted from immigration just as it has given benefit to other countries by emigration, think of it this way how often when you are stuck on a sticky problem does a person with a different way of looking at things bring new impetus just by having an experience different from your own very often having things that are not more complicated just different?  Many hands make light work after all.  A-ha shouts the bigot but too many cooks spoil the broth but you will find there are more cliches about togetherness than there are about individualism and there is good reason for this namely that humans, biologically are not solitary animals, neither do they stay in the one conglomerate block for life again with good biological reasons not to do so.

The human race itself survives on movement in order to properly proliferate, it is in fact a genetic abomination to limit the gene pool because to go down that road to its furthest extent leads to incest.  Therefore by extension the widening of the gene pool creates as diverse a society as possible in doing so utilising every available quality for evolutionary efficiency, which is paramount.  This is not to say that things which are not biologically efficient are per se wrong or not natural, there are many examples across species and genii but there must be a majority of overall biological efficiency or the race is likely to wane rather than prosper.

Let us therefore talk about what is really all behind this, it is a nasty insidious racism and the mood across the Western World right now is one we have encountered before with catastrophic and genocidal consequences.  It is all too easy to think that this is nothing like the 1930s, to have a presumption that society is more civilised now – it won’t surprise many I’m sure to know that this is just what was thought in the 30s too.  Let us not forget that the National Socialist German Workers Party spread its net widely in order to collate votes from left and right, indeed there are many who still think because the word “socialist” was in the Nazis party name that this made them left-wing, but these people are idiots and should be pointed to and laughed at!

To put the cat slightly amongst the pigeons though the 1930s was at least consistent in its racism.  The Fascists shipped out rich and poor in an ethnic cleansing of very specific sections of society, merely stripping all down to the same bare bones, whilst these days if you have money then you may buy yourself immunity or even passage of legitimate immigration (In Britain currently there is no plan to alter the visa that an be obtained if the applicant has £1m to invest).  In these modern days society does not have ‘indulgences’ to absolve you from your wrongdoings in the eyes of the church, it has indulgence by the rich for the rich to absolve themselves from the responsibilities to, or restrictions of society around them.

The British National Party are an objectionable band of oldschool bigoted thugs.  It would be easy to try to dismiss them in this regard and think of them as in the 1970s when they were the National Front and scorned by most in society for whom memories of the blackshirts were all too prevalent.  However the BNP are all too emblematic of the very way this sort of right-wing hegemony has taken hold.  It isn’t so long ago that it was seen as shocking that they even were given a slot on TV for a Party Political Broadcast let alone any genuine exposure on things that mattered. Now it is seen almost as ‘normal’ that a representative is called to comment or even given platform on national debates.

In general though the BNP’s appeal remains anchored around the disenfranchised white working class male, those who before might have been seen to be usually core Labour Party and Trade Union movement supporters.  The Trade Union movement has long since been unfairly discredited on the political stage, seen as self-serving and obdurate, something perhaps people might like to reflect on as they enjoy their weekend! (However in the UK there are still more than 6 million trade union members which represents almost the entire national votes for the Liberal Democrats and more than half that of the total Conservative vote in the election in 2010).  The BNP has picked up the slack in this area in particular amongst the younger generation who do not have the knowledge of trade unionism as a force that their (grand)parents would have, thus its politics have sought to simply blame someone else for the disenfranchisement of its members, something of easy populist appeal.  The BNP still represent something less palatable for the Middle Classes who tend to see the BNP as far more associated with the blunter end of fascism though there were signs of this slowly changing as the BNP increased its vote not just in traditional working class areas.

It is clearly on the back of this trend that we now have the UK Independence Party.  Where the Scottish Nationalists and the Welsh Nationalists are more geared to the left and looking at a degree of social democracy and [hushed tones] the odd flirt with mild Socialism the UK Independence Party are fervently right-wing and far from being a complete anti-federailst party they are more that of separatism and self-interest.  UKIP are headed up by a former stockbroker and their representatives have been causing a great deal of controversy, one of their Members of the European Parliament, Godfrey Bloom, has been especially unpleasant and has made comments such as Britain should not send aid to “bongo bongo land” because the recipients spent the money on “Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it”. He was heard shouting “this room is full of sluts” at a London event about increasing the number of women in politics. In December 2013 a UKIP candidate was suspended over suggestions that compulsory abortion should be considered for foetuses with Down’s syndrome or spina bifid a referring to the termination of babies as part of potential NHS cost-cutting measures. If born these would become “a burden on the state as well as on the family”.

But it is one thing to besmirch the representatives of the party for things they have purported to say but it is quite another to examine the party’s standpoint and those who support it.  Indeed according to a piece of research conducted Dr Matt Wall, lecturer in politics at Swansea University, the broader views outside the Europhobic and anti-immigration tenets of those who say they support UKIP such as taxation and same sex marriage are considerately more disparate, which continues to bolster the notion that the vote is a protest one.   This is precisely the reason UKIP tends to steer away from questions that do not involve anything to do with Johnny Foreigner and his control of, or presence in, the UK.  To engage in these debates would highlight the difference and potentially less palatable policies that many prospective voters may

• TAX: UKIP favours a flat tax – a single combined rate of income tax and national insurance paid by all workers. claiming this would allow people to keep more of the money they have earned. They are yet to decide what rate it would be.  Their claims that this would lead to a smaller state being able to provide for the poorest seem at best shaky since it is also their plan to cut public spending by £77bn
• EDUCATION: UKIP backs selection by ability and would encourage the creation of new grammar schools.

• ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE: UKIP is sceptical about the existence of man-made climate change and would scrap all subsidies for renewable energy.

• LAW AND ORDER: UKIP would double prison places and protect “frontline” policing to enforce “zero tolerance” of crime.

• THE ECONOMY: UKIP is proposing “tens of billions” of tax cuts and had set out £77bn of cuts to public expenditure to deal with the deficit.

• SOCIAL ISSUES: UKIP argues that multiculturalism has “split” British society. It would legislate to allow smoking in pubs, in designated rooms, and hold local referendums on repealing the hunting ban.
On the subject of homosexuality UKIP are particularly outspoken, a UKIP candidate allegedly described gay sex as “disgusting” and said homosexuals were not “normal” on a Ukip online forum another said that being gay Is a ‘Spiritual Disease’. The UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, stated thereafter he would not expel members for voicing “old-fashioned” views about homosexuality.  In fact they went further and the chairman of UKIP’s youth wing, Olly Neville, was sacked after speaking out in favour of gay marriage.

Naturally on the subject of foreigners the party does not hold back A Sunday Mirror investigation in 2013 found the party’s East Midlands chairman, Chris Pain had described illegal immigrants as “sandal-wearing, bomb-making, camel-riding, goat-fucking, rag heads”  UKIP Leader Nigel Farage was caught up in a media story that his right-wing views were seen as extreme whilst he was at Public School, Channel 4 went on to say that Farage was known for marching through a Sussex village singing Hitler Youth songs, an allegation Farage unsurprisingly denied.

If you look at the Office for National Statistics data in fact net migration (immigration minus migration) the figure has remained the same around 200,00 people per year.  Given that the statistics show that nearly 200,000 are either coming to study (170,000) or British nationals returning home (20,000) in fact the net migration is negligible as compared to what many would have you believe.  Furthermore the ‘flood’ of Romanians and Bulgarians predicted when the border controls were changed for citizens of these 2 countries to that of the rest of the EU has simply not happened. The number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK has fallen by 4,000 since employment restrictions were lifted in January, the Office for National Statistics figures show a total of 140,000 employed in the UK between January and March 2014.  David Cameron told MPs the reduction was “notable” i.e. it is written down somewhere and not ‘remarkable’ in that he doesn’t intend to tell anyone!

It is also important to ask why people are coming at all.  Firstly if work is scarce and wages are low in your home country and another country in which you speak the language has opportunities you will certainly consider it, if you have a family that lure will be all the stronger.  If the minimum wage in that country is in fact higher than what you would reasonably expect to get at home then it makes it a more attractive proposition, this is also just as attractive to employers who can save themselves a large some of money employing cheap migrant labour with fewer working rights or conditions.  So who is at fault?

I have seen it said that to dismiss UKIP merely as a protest party or that of an appeal to a very specific middle class racist portion of the electorate would be wrong and indeed I agree, it would, this is not simply a group of trumped up toffs feeling aggrieved that their ability to make money is being infringed upon by bureaucrats, this is a group of racist toffs feeling aggrieved that their ability to make money is being infringed upon by bureaucrats whilst being supported by people with xenophobic or racist tendencies and those who have been informed solely by a rabidly right-wing media, run themselves by groups of racist toffs feeling aggrieved that their ability to make money is being infringed upon by bureaucrats.  The media is very much to blame here, for a long time there has been an anti-Europe campaign in sections of the press and although many of the myths purported about decisions made in Brussels have been debunked they have been so in less public an arena.  This has allowed the media to have long since reinforced their message and if necessary to print an apology and/or addendum on page 27 in the editorial section, that most of those who believe what they are spoon fed by the media won’t read anyway.  There is a BBC page about the “euromyths” here  where things have been reported by the media as attributable to Brussels.  You would be forgiven for thinking that most of this lot looks like a right bunch of old tripe but this is precisely the sort of constant campaigning that leads to a generally accepted viewpoint.  In the examples proven to be false I have still heard people say “yeah well that one might not have been true but look at the others…”

The problem does not finish with UKIP though it is the emergence of a large group of splinter far-right parties that have no counter balance on the Left or even in the Centre.  Some of these such as the English Democrats far from wanting simply the UK on the forefront of the agenda wish to go further and cite England should be the main focus.  (Though these people are often the very embodiment of a restricted gene pool!)  Others such as An Independence from Europe claim to be to the left of UKIP, rather like claiming to be a moderate Attila the Hun!  Liberty GB are another anti-European and it appears human rights, party and the Christian Peoples Alliance do not appear to be very Christian nor much of an alliance.

Again I’m afraid you need look no further than the German electoral position in the Weimar Republic from 1919-1933 where the parallels in political parties, media spin, xenophobia and desire to cut free from rules imposed by external powers are quite chilling.  You have been warned.

Song Of The Day ~ Manic Street Preachers – If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

picture-18

Two years after the Stop in 2005 the Make Poverty History march took place in Edinburgh at the time when the G8 Summit was being held slightly further North at Gleneagles also in Scotland.  I attended and in fact I kept a diary of my time.  In spite of attempts to derail the movement, in spite of smear campaigns by some who claimed they shared our objectives we marched and formed a ring around the city almost all of us dressed in white.  It was a moving experience, a powerful experience.  Why do I bring it up now?  Because like the march in 2003 it united people of differing persuasions both left and right, atheist and religious, young and old who were all there to condemn the mindless slaughter of those disenfranchised in other countries by war, famine, disease and the simple lack of caring of the leaders of the Western World and their banking allies.  This was another example of people standing up for what they felt was right, and that they felt disenfranchised by the mainstream political parties who all seemed hell-bent on standing for the same neo-liberal agenda and policies.

I am still yet to forgive Bob Geldoff for those days and will not do so until he apologises for insinuating that we were the wreckers, the ones being unrealistic or idealist or cynical etc. etc. for claiming that the deals were hollow and in fact the cynicism was on the part of the leaders cashing in on what was clearly a powerful movement of non-violent dissent.  Geldoff effectively admitted we were right 5 years later but showed no remorse or contrition for the people he had slagged off at the time for casting doubt on the sincerity of the world leaders promises.  Furthermore it was he who helped organise concerts on the same day as the great march in Edinburgh and then claimed that it showed how many people wanted to get rid of poverty, it didn’t Bob it showed how many people wanted to see Pink Floyd reunite or be at an event that formed part of popular cultural history.  The ones who wanted to stop poverty were the ones who had to put their principles before their desire to see the Floyd as one for what will probably be the only time.  The fact that the concerts were put on the same day I found crass and offensive, it put into the shadow those who came to do something and reduced the day to a mere rock gig, the at best naive and at worst disgraceful statement that all the people attending were showing their opposition to poverty in Africa was simply not true.  I’m sure the people who attended did not specifically agree with poverty per se but protesting against it was not their primary reason for being there.  It was ours for making the trip to Edinburgh.  Furthermore we were not just protesting about Africa, we were protesting about poverty everywhere from continents far away to that which we see daily around us.  If even half the people in those stadiums (stadia) were to have been part of that ring around Edinburgh too then the message would have been louder still and the concerts can only have diluted the message we carried and the significance of it.  I specifically know of one couple who did get allocated tickets and were agonising about whether to go to Scotland or Wembley, they chose the latter.

The march on Gleneagles itself 4 days later was hampered and sabotaged by the police who tried to use radio news bulletins to claim the march had been called off and then when many still arrive sought to stop coaches and did indeed stop the 2nd wave (who then occupied Princes St. and got kettled and flushed by riot police for their trouble).  They pulled the 1st wave over on 3 occasions making us stand around wondering if all we might be able to protest on was a road junction roundabout.  We were told the “Anarchists had set up roadblocks which had closed off the A9”, what was shown later that I saw was that a piece of tree about 8 feet long and with a circumference around that of a milk saucepan that which barely covered one lane of the carriageway let alone the road. But eventually we got there and we made our voices heard.  It was empowering, exhausting and exhilarating.  We did not go to concerts, we did not stay at home, we came from different parts of the country – as did the police 😉 and we made our views known.

[I was unaware at the time that a sweepstake was being run at work courtesy of a couple of “friends” who were very familiar with the penal code and felt that it was worth speculating on what charge I would be apprehended by the police – smart money apparently was on ‘Affray’ at 8/1, Incitement to Riot at 12/1 and someone had placed an outside bet on Treason at 500/1!  As it was I behaved myself and only nearly got arrested twice – once apparently for being a “f*cking smart arse” when I pointed out that I didn’t need to move back to avoid a “crush at the gates” because the fact that I wasn’t actually in contact with anyone meant I could not be contributing to anything.  The second time was when a police van revved at me as I was crossing a pedestrian crossing.  I made a gesture and the driver made for the door clearly to come and ‘have a word’ but he was pulled back by his passenger and the lights changed.  Money raised from the sweepstake went to Save The Children.]

On my return I was in mid-air when the bombs went off in London on the 7th and the whole family was in pandemonium since no-one knew where the other persons were.  Everything seemed suddenly to be about blitz spirit, everything suddenly became on a war footing again and that put paid to any reasoned debate on peace and diplomacy, “London will go on” we were told, the outrage was tangible and the demonstrations were long forgotten.  But does that make our actions wrong?  Far from it, it means we stood up in a way that was not open to us in the ballot box, against those for whom we had not voted and in a way that ultimately was vindicated when it became clear that the information used to justify the campaign was fabricated, or at best embellished.  People died for that, many people, leaving bereft and destroyed, more than just the buildings that made a number of rich people very much richer through huge outsourced rebuilding contracts, families and communities were irrevocably damaged in a way I suspect those born in this country after the 1940s can scarcely imagine.  People in Syria now will tell you and the blanket media campaign that I see now about the conflict reminds me very much of 10 years ago.

Will the Make Poverty History March and the march on the G8 Summit be better remembered than Live8 – no I’d be somewhat staggered if the former make more than a footnote in the pages of political history journals, since the Stop The War march in 2003 merits little more than that, whilst Live8 is enshrined in popular culture, but when those who attended the concerts look in the mirror I doubt they will have quite the same sense of integrity as those of us who stood up for those who were denied a voice.  And that is something I can tell my children when they ask the question that prompted this, and maintain eye contact whilst I do so.

 Song Of The Day ~ The Mono Polys – Insomnia

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

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London StW 15Feb_2003

There is little of which I am truly proud in terms of my participation in this world, (my children being the principle exception to this) but the fact that I stood up 10 years ago and said “Enough, this has to end now” is something with which I may hold my head a little higher and feel that there was a reason for being here at this time.  For those who say the Stop The War marches in 2003 did not change anything I would say this, ten years on, I still remember them and I know many of the others do and if necessary I and they are prepared to go and speak up again.  I still believe I was right to do so the first time and as my children are older now I can tell them why I did it and why a part of the country’s parliamentary democracy died that day, where a smaller part of the grassroots democracy was truly born.  Did it lead to anything long-lasting – only history can tell that story but it did come at a time when people had been silent and suddenly many found their voice.

StW 2003 was the largest peacetime march in the country’s history, I’m not sure it wasn’t the largest in any time but people have always referred to it as the largest in peacetime.  Even the police figures said well over half a million (which itself was larger than the Countryside Alliance march some weeks before of whom 300-400,000 had marched in 2002 to protest about fox hunting and urban encroachment into rural values).  The BBC put the figure at over a million and generally on these occasions the real figure would be regarded as higher than that. (My figures of the Countryside Alliance march are going on the car bumper stickers the organisers had printed after the event in their claim to be the largest demo at that time.)

To remind people of the context, in the lead up to the march in 2003 the US and UK were already in Afghanistan on a somewhat questionable pretext and their aim was now to go into Iraq. The writing had been on the wall for Saddam Hussein for some time and an aide, I think it was Paul Bremmer, has since told of George W. Bush’s statement for them to get him something, anything that they could use to go and get Saddam on.  He wanted to finish the job started by his Pappy a decade earlier and remove the man the US had formerly propped up for years in the fight against Iran.  The US administration didn’t find anything concrete, and they ought to know since most of the hardware Iraq had would have gone through them, so they invented the WMD fiction and went in anyway.   Many innocents died on the pretext of liberation, the West claiming that they were doing this in the interests of the Iraqi people, presumably the interests the Iraqi people may not have known they had yet.  I saw one interview done by John Simpson, I believe, where he interviewed some Iraqis after Saddam’s forces had been defeated and asked them if they did not now feel that things were better after Saddam.  “George Bush, Saddam, we don’t care we just want peace” was the honest reply.  People will be divided on their opinions as to where Iraq post-Saddam is, in these polarised times many opinions will be made up mostly by the prevailing news channel that gives you all your “facts” but I think few would consider it truly a united or stable country even a decade later.  And as for Afghanistan…!

This may therefore seem like our effects were a futile and hollow gesture meriting record only of the current statistic of greatest size of action of its type.  However a Professor of Chemistry at Cairo University came and spoke at a meeting I attended sometime in late 2003, at the time we were indeed feeling a little deflated since we couldn’t help but start to feel the march had accomplished little of long-standing significance, given US intervention in Iraq anyway, people were dying and we had wanted to stop that happening but it was going on and we were being forced to witness it every night on the news.  Whilst we were able to tell ourselves that if nothing else we had stood up to be counted it was difficult to really convince the detractors that we had done something more than moral actions and plastic sabre-rattling.  The Professor though told us to look on things from a different angle as they had been marching on the same day in the Arab world and our efforts had not been in vain.

We were being given updates that there were 1.5 million on the streets in London, over 1 million in Barcelona, nearly 2 million in Madrid, 500,000 in Berlin, 200,000 in Paris millions in Rome etc.* and it told us that this war was not a Western war, it was not leaders acting with the support of their people but in spite of it.  It broke the glass facia that suggested a polarisation between the peoples of the West and the East.  The myth of a clash of civilisations.”  He went on to say that whilst we might not have stopped the US going into Iraq it was likely that they would not have the mandate or the inclination now to go into Syria which had certainly been mooted at various points both before and after the Iraq invasion.  (I intend to write more on Syria given its current relevance but since it has taken me sol ong to write even the one post this year I will publish this one before moving on).

I wish that all the people who had been on the march could have overheard the Professor and could have felt the strength and the vindication that they had done a good thing, a significant thing.  They would certainly not learn such things from the mainstream media who barely made reference to it at the time and certainly do not now.  It was important, it was genuine grass roots democracy, not just the usual dissenting suspects, not just an attempt to railroad people into a specific dogma, the participants came from too broad a spectrum for that.

What is difficult to refute by the detractors is the enormous global scale on which the march took place, the level of coordination was immense it was a different kind of globalisation and one which encompassed a pan-ideological base.  An unprecedented number of people across the planet mobilised in spite of their governments and gave an unequivocal message that what was happening was wrong.  In terms of the total figures worldwide it will always be impossible to get anywhere near the actual number with any degree of certainty or proof, indeed the ranges I have seen go from 6 million people to 30 million people in around 60 countries.  In Canada over 100,000 took the the streets of Montréal in temperatures of -30 (with wind chill), a group of Scientists from the McMurdo Station stood on the shore of the Ross Sea in Antarctica and a town in New South Wales had a march 2,500 strong which was the size of the town’s own population.

Some cite Canada’s reluctance to send troops to Iraq then as having been a consequence of the strength of feeling across the country, it may well have stopped others, Michael Moore has already pointed out the somewhat ridiculous claim that the coalition was anything more than the United States, a couple of its Western allies and a large amount of dependencies and military bases around the world.  The consequences of the march may in fact be felt for years to come, perhaps into the next decades.  I heard somebody speculate that in the UK almost every work place with more than 100 people in it was likely to have had someone who had attended the march on that weekend and that this meant news would be transferred in the old fashioned way by word of mouth and not a politically motivated sanitisation.   One might wonder whether 10 years later the reluctance of the British Parliament to write a blank cheque of British lives to the illegal action in Syria may stem from the actions of 2003 and aftermath, either by the involvement of some, or the memory of others.  What is clear is that there are cracks in that supposedly impenetrable ‘special relationship.’

Did we stop the action in Iraq happening in 2003 no we did not but I along with millions of others across the globe made it quite clear that this was not in our name, we did not support the action and that betrayal by our governments will sit long in the memory for some of us.  And it is reawakened now.

*The 2004 Guinness Book Of Records listed the march in Rome on the 15th February 2003 as having been attended by around 3 million and was the largest anti-war rally in history.  Wikipedia breakdown of figures by country

Song Of The Day ~ Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Cursed Sleep