Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Private Eye on the Real Reason the Americans Don’t Want Anne Sacoolas Investigated: RAF Croughton is a Spy Base

November 13, 2019

This fortnight’s edition of Private Eye, for 15th – 28th November 2019, has a very interesting article in its ‘In the Back’ pages. Titled ‘RAF Croughton – Base Motives’, this alleges that the real reason Trump and the Americans have been so reluctant to see Anne Sacoolas, the women, who allegedly killed Harry Dunn in a road accident, is married to an American intelligence officer and the base on which they lived was a communications intelligence base run by the CIA and the NSA, with links to Britain GCHQ. The article is worth quoting in full

It is hardly surprising the US is reluctant to see Anne Sacoolas put on trial in a UK court over the death of 19-year-old Harry Dunn in a crash outside “RAF” Croughton given what goes on inside the Northamptonshire base.

Sacoolas left the UK shortly after the August crash, initially claiming “diplomatic immunity” because her husband works at Croughton, described as housing an “annexe of the US embassy”. But that is not the full picture. The base is a major CIA/Pentagon communications centre. It is not staffed by diplomats; Sacoolas’ husband is an intelligence officer. It has satellite and fibre-optic links to US bases around the world and to the UK’s own signals intelligence-gathering and eavesdropping headquarters, GCHQ, in Cheltenham.

From Croughton, with British contrivance, more than 200 US personnel control and monitor US air strikes by drones based in Djibouti on the Red Sea, including attacks on targets in Yemen and Somalia. The base is also the hub of a CIA/ American National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance network, intercepting communications throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. It was from there, for example, that the Americans were found to have tapped into the mobile phones of prominent politicians, including German chancellor Angela Merkel.

The US also describes “RAF” Croughton (under the purely nominal command of a British officer) as the home of its 422nd Air Base Group. But that too, is just another cover, designed to hide its CIA/NSA activities. However, under the 1952 Visiting Forces Act, which covers US bases in Britain, military personnel come under the jurisdiction of the British police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for any action outside their bases.

After Donald Trump’s botched attempt last month to broker a resolution, when Harry Dunn’s family visited Washington seeking justice for their son, it seems the US has now dropped all pretence at “immunity”. The fact that the UK police have been to the US to interview Sacoolas and submitted a file to the CPS would suggest that they may also drop any argument that the 1952 act does not apply to civilian operatives.

Reports in both the UK and US suggest those representing Sacoolas might now be looking to negotiate some kind of plea deal – which might prevent scrutiny in court of what staff do at Croughton. It’s clear that neither the US nor British intelligence agencies would welcome such attention. Not least because the US hopes to expand Croughton and set up a “joint intelligence analysis centre”, a headquarters for all American intelligence communications in Europe and Africa.

BBC Replaces Footage of Boris at Cenotaph with Ceremony from 2016 to Avoid Embarrassing Him?

November 11, 2019

Here’s another reason not to trust the BBC’s news coverage. Boris Johnson’s performance at the Cenotaph yesterday, when he formally laid the wreath to commemorate all those, who lost their lives fighting for this country, was shambolic. Our clown Prime Minister was caught looking around during the Two Minutes’ silence. He then walked out to the monument two earlier, and laid the wreath upside down. This was picked up by Royal Central and the Mail Online yesterday, which both commented on it, according to Zelo Street. But you could be fooled into believing that it didn’t happen by the media coverage. There’s no mention of it on the front pages of the papers. Instead, the rags concentrate on trying to claim that our economy is thriving under BoJob’s wise leadership and there is absolutely no mention of it in the Scum, which is just wall to wall Tory propaganda. Zelo Street comments

The Bozo Cenotaph shambles encapsulates the sheer venality of our free and fearless press. It is airbrushing of reality that would have made the editors of Pravda and Isvestiya blush. And it demonstrates the challenge for Labour in the upcoming General Election.

We have a press desperate to put an inept, philandering, mendacious, bigoted, uncaring clown into Downing Street. Because he’s one of theirs. I’ll just leave that one there.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/press-cenotaph-hypocrisy.html

The comparison with the Soviet manipulation of the news is also appropriate when it comes to our state broadcaster. Mike posted up a piece earlier today about how the Beeb had decided to replace the real footage of BoJob laying the wreath with a clip from 2016. This was discovered very quickly by the good folks on Twitter, who were rightly massively unimpressed and wanted to know why the Beeb had done it. The Corporation tried to wriggle out of it by saying that it was a production error, for which they apologised. This, as our parents used to say, is a likely story. The peeps commenting on the switch weren’t convinced, and neither am I. Simon Maginn, who has put in an official complaint about the Jewish Chronicle’s latest smear of Corbyn being in breach of electoral law, spoke for very many when he said

You’re liars and we know you are. You lie about things big and small, but always to Tories’ advantage.
We don’t believe a word you broadcast, because we have no reason to.
You’re corrupt, rotten and dishonest, and everyone knows that now.
Labour will reform you.
Bring it on.

Others, who didn’t believe it either included the author and scriptwriter Stephen Gallagher, and the ex-Beeb/Sky/Reuters/ PA journo Julian Shea. Evolve Politics stated that it was very unlikely that it could have been a genuine mistake, as the Beeb would have had to look through their archives to find footage from that far back. They also pointed out that the 2016 footage had obviously been substituted, because it included appearances from politicos, who have since left government. Like the former Prime Minister, Tweezer.

One viewer, Gayle Letherby, sent a written complaint to the Beeb. This ran

“I cannot accept that this was a ‘production mistake’ not least because it is clear in the 2016 footage that Theresa May and not Boris Johnson was the Prime Minister. Additionally, it surely takes some ‘skill’ to mix up footage from yesterday with footage from three years ago. I, and I know many others, can only conclude that your intention was to present the PM as more statesmanlike, more respectful, than yesterday’s performance showed him to be.

“Bias.”

Mike comments that he hopes everyone sending complaints to the Beeb like this will also post them to Ofcom, which is still investigating whether the Beeb breached its own rules on impartial coverage. He also watched Politics Live to see if they would cover this story and issue an apology. They didn’t, so he sent them this tweet to the editor, Rob Burl.

@RobBurl I was looking for the apology for BBC Remembrance Day coverage showing images from 2016 rather than yesterday, which someone clearly had to go and find, to use it instead of the shots of @BorisJohnson showing contempt for our veterans. Where is it please?

So far, he has received no reply, and thus concludes

The BBC has outed itself as a propaganda arm of the Conservative Party. Its election coverage – and other news output – should therefore be avoided on the basis of prejudice, and should be reported to Ofcom.

BBC digs out Remembrance Day clip from 2016 to avoid showing up Boris Johnson. What happened to impartiality?

Both Mike and Zelo Street compare this with the outrage the media tried to work up against Corbyn’s appearance at the Cenotaph, when they falsely accused him of wearing a blue coat to the ceremony.

But what makes this very obvious media bias to BoJob and the Tories is the complete lack of care he and they have for the real veterans. The Mirror covered the story of the death of  an 82-year old veteran, who had been evicted from his squat in Manchester along with 12 other ex-squaddies. Mike reports that they were just 13 out of the 13,000 former servicemen and women, who are now living on the streets. Mike points out that almost all of them suffer from PTSD, which often leads to drug and alcohol addiction. They receive no help from the government, which means that the Armed Forces Covenant – that those who serve or have served in the armed forces are treated fairly, which became law in 2011, is a sick joke. He quotes Chris Barwood, of the Salford Armed Forces Veterans Network, who said

 “We are turning our backs on our troops who have taken the Queen’s shilling, sworn the oath of allegiance and offered up their lives to keep us safe and yet in return we do nothing to ensure that they have a roof over their heads and food in their bellies for their remaining years.”

The only help these courageous people receive comes from charities.

Mike concludes

The crowning irony is that most members of the Armed Forces are ardent Conservatives.

I hope they reconsider that position.

Why should they vote for a party that throws them into pointless conflicts, then throws them onto the streets when they get PTSD, and whose leader shows nothing but contempt for those of their comrades who have died defending their country?

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/10/boris-johnsons-contempt-for-the-forces-goes-much-further-than-laying-a-wreath-wrongly/

This problem comes round regularly, whenever the Tories get into government. I remember how, nearly 30 years ago, there were reports of homelessness, unemployment and poverty amongst ex-service personnel during John Major’s government following the first Gulf War. The army was being cut, and so thousands of squaddies were turned out onto the streets with no preparation or support for civilian life. Just as Maggie inflicted drastic cuts on the armed forces after the Falklands War. Spitting Image/Private Eye made a very bitter comment on the cynical use of British servicemen and women in their book Thatcha! The Real Maggie Memoirs, which spoofed the former Prime Minister’s own when they were published. This featured a parody of a boy’s war comic, whose hero is a Falklands veteran. Proud of serving his country until he’s shown the door, the strip ends with him gunning down a bus queue in rage and despair. This was also, obviously, a comment on the mass shootings that were just then appearing across the Atlantic and elsewhere.

I don’t know of any shootings like that, which have been done over here by former servicemen and women. I hope there hasn’t and will never be one.

But the Tories’ treatment of men and women, who have served their country with pride, honour and courage is utterly, utterly disgraceful. And Mike is quite right to ask members of the forces to reconsider their allegiance to a party that treats them so cynically. 

 

Ordinary Jews Speak Out for Labour

November 10, 2019

This morning Mike’s posted an excellent piece about how the Tories’ latest set of anti-Semitism smears have provably zero credibility and are actually scoring own goals against the real party of anti-Semitism, islamophobia, hate and bigotry. Like the Jewish Chronicle’s latest smear was reported to the Sussex police by Simon Maginn, because it contravenes electoral law. As does the claim by Alex Wickham, a former member of the suppurating Guido Fawkes massive, that Labour MP Dan Cardan sang the Beatles’ ‘Hey, Jude’, but made it ‘Hey, Jews’, instead. Cardan didn’t, the story’s two years old, and other hacks, who were on the same coach and heard Cardan singing, deny it ever happened. Even the Tories.

But ordinary people are also taking to the Net to refute the allegations. There’s this tweet from Tory Fibs, for example.

View image on Twitter

Tom London also put a tweet from Ian Fraser, containing a short video from JustJews, in which the very respected Jewish academic and journalist, Geoffrey Alderman responds to the Jewish Chronicle’s allegations. He states that he wishes to allay such fears that voting for Corbyn would be a catastrophe for the Jewish community, and says that he has found that Corbyn has always supported them. He also says that the fact of the matter is that anti-Semitism is found throughout society, and to concentrate only on Labour is to present a very skewed perspective on it.

The video ends with a statement from JustJews themselves stating that they are an alternative to the lamestream media, and asking for support.

Tom London comments

Please retweet this

As a Jew who supports Corbyn, I have felt great anguish and anger at the weaponising of the deeply serious issue of antisemitism by Corbyns political opponents

Corbyn is NOT an antisemite

He is tackling the AS that exists in Labour Party in all good faith.

Jewish Voice for Labour also refuted the allegations

Labour Is A Safe Space For Jews. The proposition that the election of a Corbyn government would result in a widespread exodus of Jews is as risible as it is hyperbolic https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/article/labour-is-a-safe-space-for-jews/ 

And then there’s the massive libel Guardian hack Jonathan Freedland committed when he claimed that Labour was fielding as their candidate for a Birmingham constituency an Asian lawyer, Majid Mahmood, who had been fined £25,000 for anti-Semitic comments. Except that, oops! They weren’t. Freedland had confused the good lawyer with someone of the same name. Both the Groan and Freedland then distanced themselves from the remarks, with Freedland publicly retracting them and taking down the tweet. But the excellent Kerry-Ann Mendoza of The Canary commented.

Jonathan Freedland casually confusing two brown men in efforts to slander a policial opponent as an antisemite.

I won’t be taking lectures on racism *or* responsible journalism from this hate merchant. Neither should you.

This is from the head of the online magazine, that is being targeted by Stop Funding Fake News and Private Eye for supposedly telling everyone fake news. Except they don’t, but SFFN want you to believe they do in order to destroy a Corbyn-led Labour government.

But one person who spread the libel was ultra-pro-Israel rentagob Rachel Riley, who was also forced to retract it and apologise. Shaun Lawson commented

She’s apologised. 😮😮😮

She’s also said – and I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP – “it’s not my intention to spread untruths”. 😂😂😂

I thought they said irony died when Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize? It’s still alive and well on Channel 4 game shows.

And A red sheep made this comment about the panic Dawn Butler apparently caused when she denied the allegations on TV.

Been watching @DawnButlerBrent asked about allegations of antisemitism against Labour on @SkyNews and @BBCNews.
Dawn sets the record straight but when she points out there’s a genuine racist in Number 10 the interviewers go into a panic and talk over her.

Wonder why that is? 🤔

Could be something to do with the way the media – all the media – have been determined to push the anti-Semitism smears, even though some at least must know it’s a lie. And the Beeb’s newsroom is packed with Tories.

But all this shows how desperate the Tories and other smear merchants, like Rachel Riley, are to be pushing stories that are demonstrably wrong, and potentially libelous or which possibly contravene electoral law.

Just as it also shows that ordinary Brits, including Jews, are getting fed up with these lies and are finding new ways and new platforms to refute them.

For more info, see

The wheels have come off the anti-Labour smear machine

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tory-teaboy-sleeper-cell-activates-dead.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/rachel-riley-libels-lawyer.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/jewish-chronicle-labour-own-goal.html

Corbyn Warns of Disastrous Consequences of Tory Election Victory

November 7, 2019

The I newspaper on Tuesday carried a report about what Jeremy Corbyn was expected to say in a speech attacking the Tories’ real plans for the country after Brexit. The article by Nigel Morris, titled ‘Corbyn: Tories plan Thatcherism on steroids’, ran

Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit plans will erode food safety standards to American levels to allow maggots in orange juice and rat hairs in paprika, Jeremy Corbyn will claim to day.

He will accuse the Prime Minister of plotting to unleash “Thatcherism on steroids” by using Brexit as cover for pushing an ideological agenda of selling off the NHS and slashing workers’ rights.

Mr Corbyn will insist Mr Johnson wants to strip away consumer, employment and environmental protections as he negotiates a free trade deal with President Donald Trump.

“Given the chance, they’ll slash food standards to US levels where ‘acceptable levels’ of rat hairs in paprika and maggots in orange juice are allowed and they’ll put chlorinated chicken on our supermarket shelves,” he will say in a speech in Harlow.

“And given the chance, they’ll water down the rules on air pollution and our environment that keep everyone safe. They want a race to the bottom in standards and protections.

“Given the chance, they’ll run down our rights at work, our entitlements to holiday, breaks and leave.”

The Labour leader will also claim that Mr Johnson’s Brexit plans would allow American pharmaceutical companies to bid for NHS contracts at a cost to the taxpayer of £500m a week.

Mr Johnson has denied the health service would be ‘on the table’ in po9st-Brexit trade talks with Donald Trump.

However, Mr Corbyn will say: “What Boris Johnson’s Conservatives want is to hijack Brexit to unleash Thatcherism on steroids.”

He will say that the Conservatives want to take Britain out of the EU because they knew voters would back a return to the politics of the 80s.

“Margaret Thatcher’s attack on the working community of our country left scars that have never healed and communities that have never recovered,” he will say. “The Conservatives know they can’t win support for what they’re planning to do in the Thatcherism. So they’re trying to do it in the name of Brexit instead.”

This is all absolutely true. Thatcher led an attack on Britain’s working people through privatisation, anti-union regulation and her attack on the welfare state. She want to privatise the NHS, but was prevented by a cabinet revolt. And the Tories back then made it very clear that they wanted to destroy the welfare state, because they considered it an obstacle to workers getting jobs. At the same time, they despised and attacked workers’ rights, on the grounds that they’re a burden to employers.

The result of his is massive job insecurity and a highly prejudiced and hostile benefits system that has seen millions of unemployed, poor and disabled people denied the money they need to live on. 250,000 people are kept from starvation only through food banks. 14 million households are in poverty. Millions of workers are trapped in a gig economy, where they don’t know if they’re going to have work tomorrow, and have no rights to basic pay and entitlements.

Some of the blame for this must lie with New Labour. But they were following the agenda set by Thatcher. And while the Tories have said that the NHS is ‘off the table’ in debates with Trump, they held six secret meetings with American negotiators in which it was very much included.

Thatcher is a great, molten idol to the Tories, but they recognise that she is bitterly unpopular in some areas. It was most obviously demonstrated in the parties that broke out in some parts of the country when she died. Her ideological legacy, neoliberalism, has been described as a ‘Zombie economy’ – it’s failed, but it’s still being propped up and kept alive somehow by the political and media establishment. And the Tories are using Brexit to push their attack on workers’ rights. As I’ve said before, the Tories hate the EU not because of the single market, which they actually quite like, but because of the Social Charter which lays down basic rights for European working people. That’s why they want to leave the EU: so they can get rid of this, and really start exploiting people.

Corbyn is telling the truth. Don’t believe the Tories lies. Get them out on December 12!

BBC Denies Political Bias and that Politicians’ Views Are Their Own

November 5, 2019

Ah, the allegations that the Tories are massively biased in favour of the Tories are clearly starting to upset the Beeb. The Corporation’s Director of News, Fran Unsworth, has appeared in the pages of today’s I newspaper for Tuesday, 5th November 2019, denying that the Beeb is biased and saying that allowing politicians to give their views is not platforming them. The I’s article by Richard Vaughan, ‘Political views are not our own, BBC tells viewers’, which reports her comments runs

The BBC news director has been forced to remind audiences that interviewing politicians does not mean the corporation endorses their political opinions.

Fran Unsworth told viewers that “interviewing is not platforming” and said that audiences will have their beliefs challenged as the country prepares for five weeks of generation election campaigning.

Journalists have been regularly booed and jeered at political events by audiences objecting to the line of questioning of a political leader.

Last week, an audience member at the launch of Labour’s election campaign catcalled the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg, blaming her for the party’s failure to win a majority in the 2017 election.

When Ms Kuenssberg pointed out Jeremy Corbyn did not secure enough votes to gain a majority in 2017, an audience member shouted, “No thanks to you, Laura.”

During the Conservatives leadership campaign Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby was subjected to booing by Tory activists for asking Boris Johnson a question.

Ms Unsworth told audiences to expect a range of political opinions to be given air time by the BBC. She reiterated that airing political opinions is not endorsing them, and the BBC will not seek to create a false balance in its general election reporting.

She wrote: “We have one simple priority over the next few weeks – our audiences. They have a wide range of views, and political allegiances, and we are here to serve all of them, wherever they live, whatever they think, and however they choose to vote.

“We do not support ‘false balance’. There are facts and there are judgments to be made. And we will make them where that is appropriate.”

Ms Unsworth has cited Ofcom research indicating that audiences tended to shy away from spaces or programmes in which their opinions will be challenged.

Just who does Unsworth and the Beeb think they’re kidding? 

There is an abundance of evidence that the Beeb is extremely biased against Labour. I’ve blogged before about how the media monitoring units at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff universities found that the Beeb was far more likely to talk to Conservative politicians and spokesmen for the City about politics and the economy than Labour politicians and trade unionists. And Barry and Saville Kushner, the authors of  Who Needs the Cuts? attacking austerity, state that the Beeb and the media generally far prefers talking to Tories and other politicians and economists, who support the wretched Tory policy. They won’t have on trade unionists or politicians that oppose them. When these voices do appear, they are shouted down or rapidly cut short in what they have to say. The Beeb is very definitely platforming the Tories. Only the other day I reblogged a graphic from EL4JC showing just how biased the Tories were in their selection of guests for their news and politics panels. These are mostly Tory, but Centrist politicians are also included more than the Left. To deny that this is not platforming the Tories is ridiculous.

And then there’s the issue of the bias of the interviewers. Like regarding the anti-Semitism smears. In fact, Labour is the party with the least anti-Semites within it, as I’ve said. The witch hunt to root out anti-Semitism isn’t about Jew hatred at all. It’s a cynical ploy by the Blairites to purge the party of Corbyn’s supporters, which they’ve tried to do on risible, trumped up charges. As they’ve done to people like Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni, Marc Wadsworth and Mike. The right-wing Zionists hate Corbyn and his supporters because they criticise Israel for its brutal treatment of the Palestinians. The Tories and the political and media establishment, on the other hand, are simply using the accusations as a useful tool to smear Labour, because they’re really afraid of a government that will overturn Thatcherism and actually help ordinary working people. Which naturally include Jews.

Hence whenever a Labour politician is interviewed, as John McDonnell was on Sunday, there are questions about the anti-Semitism issue. But the Tories have a higher level of anti-Semitism in the ranks, and a vicious strain of Islamophobia. But this is certainly not subjected to the same scrutiny.

And then there’s the insulting treatment they give ordinary Labour politicians, and the stunts they pull for the benefit of the right. Like the mass resignation of Blairite Labour MPs, which was announced on the Andrew Marr show, appears to have been planned with the show’s producer. Fiona Bruce has disgraced Question Time by gaslighting Diane Abbott and falsely claiming that the Leave campaign did not break electoral law. And when she did ask a tough question of a Conservative panelist, she tried to soothe it all over by telling him she was ‘just teasing’. And so on ad nauseam.

Unsworth’s comments about Ofcom don’t cut any ice either. Not when the Beeb has received a massive number of complaints about the flagrant bias of their Panorama documentary about anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Mike’s posted an extensive critique of this journalistic travesty, as have very many other left-wing blogs. And a complaint has been made to Ofcom or the relevant authorities. There’s even a documentary being made and about to be released about the programme’s bias.

Unsworth is, I believe, simply lying through her teeth when she claims that the Beeb is not biased. It is, and provably so. And she insults us by telling us that isn’t. But the fact that she has had to try to defend and rebut the accusations show how they’re biting.

Good. Let’s continue until every last shred of credibility the Beeb has for its news reporting is gone and the Corporation is forced to admit its bias and correct it.

If that’s possible.

‘I’ Article on Leaked Report About Brexit Undermining Workers’ Rights

October 31, 2019

The I carried this article by David  Connett, ‘Brexit ‘jeopardises workers’ rights’, says leaked paper, in its edition for last Monday, 28th October 2019. The article reads

The Government has denied that it is seeking to throw out existing workers’ rights and abandon environment protection after Brexit.

Kwasi Kwarteng, a business minister, dismissed reports that employees’ rights would be slashed after Brexit as ‘way exaggerated’.

It followed a leak of documents handed to government ministers saying that Boris Johnson was willing to consider diverging from EU standards on the environment and workers’ rights despite statements he has made in Parliament to the contrary. The Prime Minister told MPs last week that the UK was committed to “the highest possible standards” on both issues – a stance which helped to secure votes from 19 Labour MPs to support his Brexit bill.

Mr Kwarteng dismissed the report, saying it was completely inaccurate. “I think this is completely mad, actually,” he told the BBC. “You’ve said how we built a coalition – 19 Labour MPs have come with us and voted for a second reading [of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill]. It wouldn’t make any sense at all to dilute workers’ rights in building that coalition to land the Bill. We have said we will be better than our word. We have said our ambition on securing workers’ rights will be stronger than the provision of the Bill.”

According to the report, the leaked document said the way the political declaration – the agreement setting out the aims of the future trade negotiations between the UK and the EU – had drafted workers’ rights and environmental protection commitments left “room for interpretation”.

It reportedly boasts “UK negotiators successfully resisted the inclusion of all UK-wide level playing field rules” in the previous deal agreed by Mrs May’s team, allowing the UK to compete against the EU by possibly watering down rights.

The document, seen by the Financial Times, will fuel Labour’s concerns that workers’ rights and environment rights would be tampered with if the Tories were in power after Brexit.

Jenny Chapman, shadow Brexit minister, said: “These documents confirm our worst fears. Boris Johnson’s Brexit is a blueprint for a deregulated economy, which will see vital rights and protections torn up.

“It is also clear Boris Johnson was misleading Parliament earlier this week. You simply can’t trust a word Boris Johnson says. The Brexit Department initially declined to comment on the leak but later said: “The UK Government has no intention of lowering the standards of workers’ rights or environmental protection after we leave the EU.”

I’m sure that this has already been covered by the many other excellent left-wing blogs, including Mike’s and Another Angry Voice, but this bears repeating. Of course the Tories are going to cut workers’ rights and environmental protection. Their hatred of workers’ rights is one of the fundamental reasons why the Tory right has wanted to leave the EU since the days of Thatcher. I can remember one of them appearing on Wogan back in the 1990s, who explicitly said so. He liked the single market, but hated the Social Charter. That’s the section of EU law providing for workers’ rights and other standards regarding social conditions. They also loathe the green movement with a passion. Remember how Dave Cameron boasted that his would be the Greenest government ever, and put a windmill on the roof of his house to indicate his commitment to it. And then when he won the election, he went back on his word – surprise, surprise! – supported fracking, and that windmill was off his roof. And BoJob is a worse liar than he was.

As for the 19 Labour MPs, who supported him, they were either gullible, as one blog suggested, or active collaborators. The Blairites, it should be remembered, are also fellow worshippers of the cult of Thatcher.

Kwasi Kwarteng and the rest of his revolting party cannot be trusted on this for a minute. It might be Halloween, but to them it’s always April Fools Day, and they see us as the fools. Vote for Corbyn and get them out of office.

17th Century Quaker Statement of Right to Freedom of Religion

October 30, 2019

I found this Quaker declaration of the freedom of religion in Documents of the Christian Church, selected and edited by Henry Bettenson, 2nd edition (Oxford: OUP 1963). It’s taken from The Chief Principles of the Christian Religion, as professed by the people called the Quakers, drawn up by Robert Barclay in 1678, and published in his Apology for the Quakers. Proposition XIV, Concerning the Power of the  Civil Magistrate in Matters purely Religious and Pertaining to Conscience, runs

‘Since God hath assumed to himself the power and dominion of the conscience, who alone can rightly instruct and govern it, therefore it is not lawful for any whatsoever, by virtue of any authority or principality they bear in the government of this world, to force the conscience of others;… provided always, that no man, under the pretence of conscience, prejudice his neighbour in his life or estate; or do anything destructive to, or inconsistent with, human society; in which case the law is for the transgressor, and justice to be administered upon all, without respect of persons.’

(p. 256).

It’s almost incredible to think that this was written in the 17th century, and that nearly 3 1/2 centuries later there are still countries in this world that don’t recognise it. Countries like Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China and Russia. In Saudi Arabia only Wahhabi Islam is permitted, and Shi’a Muslims viciously persecuted. A few years ago they also passed a law declaring that atheism was terrorism even without any violence or threats of violence being made. Russia is far more tolerant of religion than it was under Communism, when it was a persecuting atheist state. But even now, some religions are declared to be illegal. This includes not only extremist sects and beliefs, like Islamism, but also the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I admit they can be a pain when they come knocking on your door sometimes in their zeal to spread their version of Christianity, but a dangerous, radical extremist group? When, and to whom? The Nazis also persecuted them, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular Messiah.

It’s a disgrace that in the 21st century, freedom of religion and conscience still needs defending from persecutors across the world.

Dankula and Mates Make Nuisance Call to Black Pastor

October 27, 2019

Well, Halloween is upon us. This is the time of year, according to folklore, when the dead once again return to Earth, and witches and wizards pore over their cauldrons and spell books casting their magic. For most people, it’s simply an opportunity for a party, where people go dressed as witches, ghouls, demons, vampires and so on. Or else they watch a horror film at the flicks or on DVD. Or go and catch The Rocky Horror Show at the theatre, if it’s playing. Many Christians dislike it, as they are afraid it encourages a real interest in the occult with all its dangers. Some churches put on Light Parties instead. I remember as a child going to Halloween parties, where the only magicians were definitely of the stage variety, and everything was at the suitable level of the traditional folktale and children’s fantasy book. This was long before the occult scares and witch panics of the 1980s and ’90s, and the hysteria over ‘Harry Potter’.

Nevertheless some people do try dabbling with the supernatural. Some of it’s just kids legend tripping. This is the term folklorists use to describe teenagers and young people going to reputedly weird or haunted sites hoping to see something paranormal. Or just wanting to take it as an occasion to have an evening out with booze and their girlfriends. This can have unintended sinister consequences, when the wider community takes the evidence of what they’ve been doing too seriously, and concludes that real, Satanic witchcraft has been going on. This can generate rumours and accusations of child abuse and the torture and sacrifice of animals. When this happens, a full-scale witch hunt erupts with the fear and hatred of its medieval and 17th century predecessors. People can be falsely accused and children separated from their parents and taken into care based on nothing but highly dubious testimony and the righteous beliefs of the witch hunters. The witch panic effectively ended over here with the Fontaine Report in the 1990s that concluded that the multi-generational Satanic groups abusing children haunting the lurid imaginations of the witch hunters didn’t exist. But the people, who pushed the Satanism scare are still about, trying to peddle their views to anyone who will listen, and there’s a real threat it could return.

It’s with this in mind that I came across a video on his channel on YouTube by Mark Meechan, the notorious Count Dankula. He’s the bozo, you remember, who thought it would be jolly japes to train his girlfriend’s pug to make the Nazi salute when he shouted ‘Heil Hitler’ and ‘Gas the Jews’. He was therefore prosecuted and convicted of spreading anti-Semitic hate speech. Dankula’s posted a number of videos of himself trying to defend it as a stupid joke, which should have been allowed under freedom of speech. He was also one of the crew of extreme right-wing internet personalities, including Paul Joseph Watson and Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin, who joined UKIP. This resulted in some of the more liberal members leaving it and the party achieving a mighty 3.3% of the vote at the council elections.

The video I found dated from three years ago, 2016. It was of Dankula’s mates in a forest with a pentagram they had made on the ground out of tree branches. They’d also had some kind of fire, and were scattering the ashes around in order to make their pentagram look even more impressive. One of them also put a candle at one of the figure’s corners. They then phoned up a Black British pastor on a mobile and started swearing at him and trying to trick him with a bogus story about Satanists and human sacrifice.

The pastor was live streaming a Bible study of the Book of Jonah. Dankula’s mates first shouted ‘F**k!’ at him. One of them then put on a fake African accent and pretended to be a man waiting in the forest for Satanists to sacrifice him. The friend then said that there were no Satanists there, and he didn’t think they were going to turn up. But he personally had fought Satan last year on holiday in Spain, when the Devil had taken the form of a lizard. He’d killed the lizard, and roasted it in the ocean. This was accompanied by more swearing and puerile sniggering.

I’m not showing the video here or giving its address because I don’t want to give Dankula the publicity and the views. But it is out there. If you want to see, all you have to do use the search bar on YouTube.

Now Dankula claims not to be racist, and has said that he has Black friends. He may well be right. I also believe that there has been problems with some of the Pentecostal churches, which do promote the belief that witches and a Satanic conspiracy to undermine Christianity and decent society are all too real. It’s perfectly reasonable to criticise the preachers, White or Black, and secular individuals that promote this dangerous nonsense. But there was absolutely none of this here. The video gives no explanation for what they’re doing. It just shows a group of White yobs make a nuisance internet call to a Black pastor and telling a stupid, bogus story about Satanic sacrifice. It just seems to be a case of secular White kids sneering and mocking religious Blacks for their perceived credulity.

This undermines somewhat Dankula’s claim not to be racist. But it’s also an example of some of the pranks others might be making at this time of year. They also might be hoaxing evidence of occult rituals and Satanic practices, simply as a way of winding people up. Be warned, and don’t be taken in.

But whatever your beliefs or lack of them, I hope you have a great time this week. The most horrific thing I can think of is Boris Johnson and Brexit. Don’t have nightmares!

Canadian Space Medic Celebrates International Cooperation in Space

October 27, 2019

As I discussed in an article last week, the I carried several stories about the Asgardia conference in its edition for Wednesday, 16th October 2019. Asgardia is an international organisation dedicated to the colonisation of space, and its establishment as a new, independent nation on the High Frontier. It’s somewhat like the artificial nation created by Laibach and their parent artistic collective, NSK earlier this century. Fans of the group were encouraged to join, receiving a special passport identifying them as citizens of the new state when they did.

The organisation was founded by Igor Raufovich Ashurbekli, the former director of one of the Russian state armament companies. However, Asgardia seems to aim at the peaceful, civilian conquest of space. At the conference Ashurbekli denounced Trump’s intention of establishing a military Space Command, pointing out that this violated the 1967 international treaty against the militarisation of space.

One of the other speakers at the conference was a Canadian medical doctor and astronaut, Dr. Robert Thirsk, who had conducted research in space and hailed space research’s role in bringing people of different, competing nations together in peace. This was reported in an article by Michael Day, ‘Space has to be for everyone’, in the same edition of the newspaper. This ran

As an astronaut who s pent six months on the International Space Station, Canadian medic Dr Robert Thirsk, achieved major medical breakthroughs in zero gravity and survived the thrill of take-off and re-entry. But his greatest satisfaction was working in harmony with colleagues from states that were once Cold War foes.

“I still think that the ISS is a research platform with no earthly peer,” he told Asgardia’s Paving the Road to Living in Space Conference.

“It’s brought together former Cold War enemies to pursue a common vision of extending human capability in space and of inspiring the public to take on some of these tough social problems that we still face today.”

The Asgardia micro-nation, which aims to swell to 150 million citizens within 10 years, is committed to including all nations in the development of space. It’s leaders note that only 20 nations now have space capability.

“At the moment you either have to be a billionaire, friendly with a major space agency or you join Asgardia,” said the space nation’s parliamentary speaker, the former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik. “Space has to be for everyone.”

As a medical researcher, owrking with American, Russian, Japanese and German colleagues on the ISS, Dr Thirsk achieved breakthroughs in protein chemistry that could lead to new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and robotic advances that have helped hundreds of cancer patients.

Britain’s first female astronaut, Dr Helen Sharman, made the same comment back in the 1990s after her historic mission with the Russians to their space station, Mir. The Russian station’s name translates as ‘world’ or ‘peace’ in English. Her mission was intended to be a landmark breakthrough in international space cooperation following Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost campaign and the attempts to end the Cold War.  In an interview following her mission, Dr Sharman drew attention to the positive benefits of space research in fostering peaceful cooperation between countries. Because of this, astronauts were the least racist people.

It’s interesting to see that Lembit Opik is now Asgardia’s parliamentary speaker. It’s fitting. Opik was not only a Lib Dem MP before losing his seat a few years ago, he’s also the grandson of an Estonian astronomer and himself has an intense interest in space. He was one of the many space experts concerned about the threat of world destruction from asteroid strikes. I met him well over a decade ago at an event on ‘Asteroid Armageddon’ at the Cheltenham Festival of science. He was part of a panel of astronomers and representatives of space corporations, who made it very plain that the threat to our world from rogue asteroids is very real. However, Opik’s justified concern was a source of amusement to the press, who naturally dubbed him ‘the minister for asteroids’. He’s clearly moved into space activism after he lost his seat. I don’t know if he’s still a member, but he’s probably better off with Asgardia than with the Lib Dems, who are now transforming themselves into the Europhile wing of the Tory party.

I also found a plea for the peaceful exploration of space as an alternative to war in a book I read on space technology years ago. This stated that space research provided an outlet for the desire for danger, competition and sacrifice without the mass carnage of conflict. This is true, and regardless of what you make of Asgardia, it has helped bring nations together, and its should be open to everyone, of all nations, in the world.

We don’t need Trump’s – or anyone else’s – dangerous and idiotic space command. We need more peaceful cooperation and the opening up of space and its immense resources and opportunities for all humanity.

Head of Asgardia Space Nation Attacks Trump’s Attempt to Set Up Space Force as Threat to Peace

October 25, 2019

One of the other stories that caught my eye last week was an article by Michael Day in the I reporting that the head of the international space nation, Asgardia, Igor Ashurbeyli, had attacked Trump’s decision to set up a military space force. Asgardia is an international organisation devoted to space colonisation. It’s intent on establishing itself as a new, internationally recognised nation out there on the High Frontier. The article in the edition for Wednesday, 16th October 2019, entitled ‘New US Space Command ‘puts the planet at risk”, runs

The billionaire head of the Asgardia “space nation” said that US President Donald Trump has effectively declared war on the 1967 Out Space Treaty, and risks creating a “Wild West” beyond Earth’s orbit.

The international agreement, banning weapons in space, was supposed to form the basis of law to guarantee peace beyond Earth’s orbit. But Igor Raufovich Ashurbeyli, told I that, in announcing a new Pentagon Space Command unit, Mr Trump has effectively torn it up – and put the planet at risk. 

“After the recent US statement that it will not respect international agreements in space, the situation is very worrying,” said Mr Ashurbeyli, the former head of a Russian state-owned defence contractor.

“In fact, the situation is worse than this, given that only 20 states on Earth have any sort of access to our space.”

Ram Jakhu, professor at the Institute of Air and Space Law, at McGill University in Canada, said the “increasing militarisation and weaponisation” in space appeared to be a prelude to serious conflict between superpowers.

“Currently, an intense race to the Moon and asteroids is going on, mainly for exploration and natural resources,” he added.

“There’s potential for geopolitical conflicts.”

Now Ashurbeyli, as the former head of a Russian arms firm, does have an interest, if only psychological, in preventing America establishing a military presence in space. But he’s right. The current treaty outlawing the militarisation of space was put in place partly to prevent the superpowers conducting nuclear tests in the Earth’s atmosphere or outer space. Tests which obviously have the potential for triggering a nuclear holocaust. The legislation has had the effect of preventing certain aspects of space research and new propulsion methods. The journey to Mars and other planets in the solar system could be cut down to a couple of months using nuclear powered rockets, but they’re illegal under the treaty. And while that’s a problem in the colonisation and commercial exploitation of space, I’m happy for it if it keeps the peace. If you want a Science Fictional illustration of the potential of the militarisation of space to create a nuclear war, see Kubrick and Clarke’s 2001. In the book and the film, the superpowers have established nuclear missile platforms in space, and the international situation between the two blocs is on the point of all-out war. The spacecraft you see gliding past before the camera fixes on the spaceplane Orion are these weapon platforms. However, it’s not obvious what they are because Kubrick didn’t want people seeing them and thinking that the movie was going to be another Cold War nuclear farce like Dr. Strangelove. In the book, but not the film, after Bowman’s journey through the stargate and his transformation into the Star Child, the crisis point has been reached and the superpowers launch their weapons. These are destroyed by the  Star Child when he re-enters Earth’s space. There is still the problem of the armed conflict, but the book concludes ‘He would think of something.’ Trump’s space command raises the spectre of such a conflict, but there would be no Star Child to save us from the resulting war.

It’s certainly possible that armed conflict could result through the competition by the space nations for the resources out there. The late NASA space scientist and advocate of space colonisation, Dr. Gerard O’Neill, believed that there could be real space pirates. These would be rogue ships seeking to steal the ores being brought back to Earth from mining the asteroids. I think we’re a few decades away from that, if not centuries, but the possibility is there nonetheless.

There have been a number of SF stories written about a possible war in space fought between the superpowers, including one by John Wyndham, the creator of the triffids. It’s certainly possible that war could break out through different nations establishing colonies on and claiming the same piece of extra-terrestrial real estate. There’s a parallel here to the wars the European nations fought against each other to claim territory in the New World. They attempted to prevent these wars coming home to Europe through an agreement that limited such conflicts to beyond the Line, the imaginary boundary marking off the Americas from the Old World. Conceivably, something like this could be put in place to stop wars on the Moon, Mars or elsewhere, from spreading to Earth itself. But I wouldn’t like to bet on any such treaty being agreed, or even being effective if it was.

I also remember the controversy and panic there was when I was at school during the New Cold War of the 1980s, when Thatcher and Reagan seemed to be spoiling for a fight with the USSR. One wretched element of this was Reagan’s Space Defence Initiative, dubbed ‘Star Wars’. Reagan wanted to place military satellites in orbit as part of its defence programme against the Soviet military threat. Such satellites would have weapons like ‘pop-up’ lasers. The satellites would carry nuclear bombs, which would explode, destroying the satellite. However, the energy from the explosion would be channelled into the lasers they also carried to destroy an incoming Soviet nuclear missiles. But the Russians were also afraid that these satellites would also strike at Earth itself. They had their own, official disarmament magazine, Gonka Vooruzhenie, which I think translates as ‘Disarmament People’. This carried illustrations of the threats to the Russian forces and people from Reagan’s space weapons. Trump’s Space Command threatens a repeat of this same episode from the Cold War. That ended with the USSR collapsing, partly because they couldn’t afford to keep up with American arms expenditure. We cannot depend on a similar outcome this time. 

Ashurbeyli is right. Trump’s decision to militarise the High Frontier threatens us all with nuclear Armageddon once again.