Posts Tagged ‘BAE’

Eisenhower’s Speech Warning about the Military Industry Complex

September 20, 2018

This short video from RT, posted on YouTube, was under the title ‘Speeches that Still Matter’. It’s American president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech of January 17th, 1961, warning America about the threat posed by an unrestrained military-industrial complex.

After a few words about the structure of society at the beginning of the snippet, Eisenhower declares

We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It has become one of the classic speeches in modern American history, and is referred to whenever activists and politicians criticize the military-industrial complex. Because since Eisenhower’s time, it has grown and seized power. The American military machine and armaments industry sponsors American politicians, and generals, senior civil servants and politicians frequently take up positions on the boards of armaments firms after their military or political career has ended. And the American government gives billions, if not trillions to its weapons manufacturers and armed forces.

I’ve read left-wing analyses of this situation which suggest that this is a deliberate policy of the American government to stimulate the economy. It’s a form of Keynsianism, but as the right-wing ideology of free trade and laissez-faire prevents the government from openly stimulating the economy through public works projects and a proper welfare support network that allows the poor enough to purchase the goods and services they need, which will also stimulate production and industrial growth, the only way the government can actually do so is by giving more and more money to the arms industry.

And all those planes, tanks, ships, missiles, guns and bombs have to be used.

The result is endless war in which small countries in the Developing World are invaded and their leaders toppled, their industries and economies plundered and seized by American multinationals, and Fascist dictators or sham democracies are installed instead. All in the name of giving more profits to the military machine. If you want an example, think of the close connections between the Bush family and the massive industrial conglomerate Haliburton.

When Martin Luther King said in one of his speeches that America was the chief exporter of violence in the world today, he had a point. And our government under the Tories and Blair has been no better. Blair lied to us to get the support of the British public for the Iraq invasion. Maggie Thatcher promoted British arms exports, as did Blair, as did Cameron, drooling all over the ‘wonderful kit’ produced in that BAE factory in Lancashire.

And all the while ordinary people have seen services cut and the infrastructure of countries – roads, railways and so on – left to decay by the profiteering firms that should be maintaining and building them. There are cuts to public services and even more attacks on welfare payments, all in the name of ‘austerity’, ‘making work pay’ and the other lies and buzzwords used by the right to justify their impoverishment and victimization of the poor. And this is done to give massive tax cuts to the already bloated rich.

It’s high time this was stopped, the military-industrial complex reigned in, the wars for their profits ended, and the government invested instead in proper economic growth, domestic industries, infrastructure, public services, a proper welfare state and medical care, and giving working people a proper, living wage.

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Vox Political: May Is a Hypocrite and Playground Bully over Terrorist Accusations and Brexit

June 7, 2017

I gather that the Tories are today trying to resurrect the tired old canard that Corbyn supports terrorism, because he, like many other MPs, met and supported talks with members of Sinn Fein in the 1980s. In fact, the Labour leader, like very many of his parliamentary fellows at the time, urged talking to the Irish republicans as a way of finding a peaceful resolution to the Troubles. I also have no doubt that he was, like many other Labour MPs such as Clare Short, also acutely aware of how badly Northern Ireland’s Roman Catholics were discriminated against.

But Mr Corbyn was respected by both sides. He has been praised by both the Irish Times and the Belfast Telegraph for his efforts for the people of the Emerald Isle. And the wife of the Reverend Ian Paisley described him as courteous, polite and ‘a gentleman’.

Which is obviously not the way the wife of one of the provinces most fervent Loyalists would describe a genuine terrorist fanatic.

Labour were vilified not because they wanted to talk to the Nationalists, but because they were open about doing so. At the same time Maggie Thatcher was jumping up and down on her soap boxes screaming abuse at the Labour party as supporters of terrorism, she herself was holding talks in secret with the IRA. One high-ranking republican commander has even written about, describing how strange it was to be saluted by a British squaddie when he visited an army base as part of the talks.

Now to compound the Tories’ hypocrisy, there’s a photo of another person of the right meeting Gerry Adams. Yes, it’s that well-known opponent of global terrorism, Donald Trump.

Mike has the incriminating picture of the two together on his article about it, and writes

The image undermines everything Mrs May has been saying about the terror threat. Her hypocrisy is revealed.

Both Mr Corbyn and Mr Trump had talks with Mr Adams, but she vilifies Corbyn and venerates Trump.

It is clear that she has no principles on this issue – none at all – other than kowtowing to power.

She is nothing more than a playground bully – and a failed one at that.

Mike also observes that while she enjoys bullying and intimidating weaker nations, she will do everything she can to please countries that are stronger, like the US, China and doubtless many others.

The countries she believes are weaker won’t be bullied by her, and so she will fail massively at the Brexit negotiations.

He concludes

She is a hypocrite and a liability to the security of the United Kingdom and she has to go.

On Thursday – if you vote Labour – you can make that happen.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/07/revealed-mays-hypocrisy-over-connections-with-terrorists/

Looking at the photo of Adams and Trump, you could be quite justified in wondering who is the real terrorist fanatic there. Parliamentary papers released about the negotiations between the British and Sinn Fein state that Adams always gave ‘reasonable’ and ‘considered’ replies to the questions his British interlocutors put to him.

Furthermore, after the peace deal was negotiated, he and Ian Paisley became staunch supporters of the deal and close friends. So close they became known as ‘the Chuckle Brothers’. Mr Adams also travelled to Spain in an attempt to negotiate a similar peace between the Basque terrorists, ETA, and Spain.

Trump has done the exact opposite. Despite his noise about combatting terrorism, he has just concluded a massive sale of American arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia. A country, whose Wahhabi absolute monarchs and princes have actively sponsored global Islamist terrorism, backing ISIS, the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

And those arms will be used by the Saudis to butcher innocents, including children, in Yemen, for no other reason than that their victims of Shi’a, another branch of the Muslim faith, whom the Saudis vehemently despise. It wasn’t that long ago that one of the leading Saudi clerics declared that they were ‘enemies of the faith’ and ‘worthy of death’.

And the Saudis have no qualms about threatening Britain with terrorist atrocities when it suits them. When Blair began investigations into corruption between BAE and the Saudis, Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi National Security Council, flew to Britain to tear him off a strip. During his tirade, Bandar threatened Blair was ‘another 7/7’.

The IRA were killers and murderers, but they emerged from legitimate social and historic grievances in Ulster. Bandar threatened Britain with another atrocity purely from pique at the possibility of having his nation’s greed and venality exposed.

The Americans are also funding Islamist terrorists in Syria, as are the Saudis, against the Assad’s secular, Arab nationalist regime. The Ba’ath party there are no angels, but they’re not the absolute monsters they’ve been painted by American propaganda either. And the Islamist terrorists America and the West have funded, armed and trained – al-Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front and even ISIS, have committed horrific atrocities themselves.

And if we are talking about western governments with terrorist connections, we can go back once more to Maggie Thatcher. Under her, the British government gave information to Loyalist paramilitaries, using them as death squads against prominent IRA members and republicans.

She also implanted SAS men within regular army units, who were also used as assassins and death squads, just as she and her friend, Ronald Reagan, were staunch supporters of Pinochet and the real Fascist butchers in South and Central America.

May and Trump offer nothing but hypocrisy, violence and more war.

Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, is a man of peace, who wants to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and who will set up a ministry of peace and disarmament.

He isn’t going to be soft on terrorism. Far from it – he will strengthen our security forces to enable them to combat it. But he will also stop funding and arming the very people behind it.

Don’t be taken in by Tory lies and deceit.

Please, vote for Corbyn tomorrow for a safer, saner, more peaceful world.

Theresa May Reverses Promise to Put Workers on Company Boards

November 22, 2016

Mike yesterday put up a piece about Theresa May dropping her proposal to put employees on company boards. According to the Guardian yesterday, May said

“While it is important that the voices of workers and consumers should be represented, I can categorically tell you that this is not about mandating works councils, or the direct appointment of workers or trade union representatives on boards,” the prime minister told a packed room in central London.

“Some companies may find that these models work best for them – but there are other routes that use existing board structures, complemented or supplemented by advisory councils or panels, to ensure all those with a stake in the company are properly represented. It will be a question of finding the model that works.”

Mike points out that companies are already required to ‘regard the interests of their employees’, according to Labour’s Companies Act of 2006. This, however, doesn’t work, as corporate greed always drowns out the workers’ good sense.

Mike makes the point that her promise back in July to put workers on company boards now seems just a flat-out lie, made to maker her look electable. She never intended to publish plans for it by the end of this year. It shows she cares far less about workers and consumers than she does about the bosses.

Yet another U-turn from Tory Theresa, so now firms won’t have to have workers on their boards

This has all happened before. I can remember back in the 1990s there were similar discussions about work councils being mooted in parts of the press. The Financial Times did a piece on the issue, which reported that about 200 British firms had works councils. Then they asked the Tories about their perspective on them. They got a bland statement that said that they had no objections, but didn’t want to make them compulsory.

Which is pretty much what Theresa May has said here.

In fact, there was never much chance of May actually wanting to put workers on company boards. The Tory party, as I’ve said before, sees itself as the party of business, and as a rule, business hates the idea of worker directors with a passion. In the 1970s there were a couple of experiments with placing the workers in the boardrooms of state industries. One was in the Post Office, the other was in BAe. Both of those experiments were discontinued. In both cases there was considerable resentment of workers involved in management decisions by upper and middle management, although I think this lessened at one level in the case of the Post Office. One business leader, when he was asked for his view of the issue, stated baldly that they tried to do it to his firm, he would move the decisions away from the boardroom. And this is, in fact, one of the problems facing worker-directors. Companies can circumvent the issue of giving power to their workers by making sure that effective decision-making is moved away from their boards.

From a left-wing perspective, there are problems with putting workers in the boardroom. Companies can alter their power structure, so that real decision-making is kept out of their hands. There is also the problem that workers placed there may also become isolated from their fellow employees, and side with management rather than the workforce. Tony Crosland, the founder of the Social Democrat section of the Labour party, believed the difficulties were so great, that he opposed worker-managers, arguing that effective trade unions were a far better way of implementing industrial democracy. He noted that through their very powerful unions, American workers had a very large part in the practical management of their companies, although industrial democracy was never mentioned.

This, however, has all gone, gutted through nearly four decades of Thatcherism, Reaganomics and neoliberal economics. Thatcher and Reagan deliberately gutted the trade unions in order to expand the power of management, and their successors on the nominal left, the Clintons, Obama, Blair and Broon, continued their assault on the unions and workers’ rights. There was never any chance of May seriously putting workers back in the boardroom. It was simply a lie to prop up the façade of ‘caring Conservatism’, as Mike has pointed out.

We desperately need working people to get back their rights at work, and to obtain more power within their companies, both through formal industrial democracy and strong unions, if we are to save people from poor wages, zero hours contracts and poor working conditions. The Tories and Blairites in Labour will fight tooth and nail against this. But in the case of the Tories this week, May’s decision has shown that they cannot be trusted on this issue, just as they can’t be trusted on any other.

ITV Sees Evidence of British Cluster Bombs in Yemen

November 2, 2016

This is another scandal. I found this piece from ITV news posted on YouTube. It’s a report on some of the cluster bombs, that have been dropped in Yemen in Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthis. Cluster bombs are illegal. According to the human rights organisations and the Yemeni authorities interviewed by ITV, these bombs were made over here. The Saudis claim that they were made before the weapons were banned, but ITV states that they look recently made. Here’s the report:

This is disgusting. Cluster bombs are an horrific weapon, and its with very good reason that they’re banned under international law. However, I have absolutely no difficulty in believing that these were made over here. Indeed, they may well have been part of that ‘wonderful kit’ Cameron was praising to the skies when he visited that armaments factory in the north of England to promote British exports. Over the years Private Eye has exposed case after case of the British aerospace and armaments industries – mostly BAE – producing weapons banned under international law, like electrified riot shields. Despite the Eye’s best efforts here, I don’t doubt that they’re still being produced somewhere, and exported to the Gulf.

Cameron was, like Blair and Thatcher and Major before him, very keen at promoting British arms sales, particularly to Saudi Arabia and other nations with a history of brutally suppressing any dissent. In the case of Saudi Arabia, 70 per cent of the Yemenis killed by them are civilians, and the Saudis are actively targeting them in schools, mosques, hospitals and factories. If this report is correct, we have absolutely no business helping this brutal regime kill more innocents with illegal weapons.

Private Eye on Parliamentary Committee Scrutinizing Arms Trade

March 11, 2016

I found this piece in Private Eye for the 15th-28th November 2013 reporting the questioning of representatives of the arms trade by a parliamentary committee in that issue’s ‘Called to Ordure’ column. It’s still relevant now, after nearly three years, because of the way we are still selling arms to brutal, anti-democratic regimes like Saudi Arabia.

Please don’t call them “missiles” or “landmines”, and certainly not “tools of military repression”. They are, according to the arms trade, “goods”, and the foreign regimes that buy them are “the ultimate end users of the goods”.

So heard MPs more than once when Westminster’s arms export controls select committee took evidence from four “defence exporters” (to use another euphemism). Unofficial leader of this genteel quartet was middle-aged Brummie called David Hayes from the Export Group for Aerospace and Defence, a trade lobbying group which uses the acronym Egad. Egad, indeed.

Alongside Hayes: arms-trade consultant Michael Bell; Susan Griffiths from weapons manufacturer MBDA; and Bernadette Peers, from the Strategic Shipping Company, a company name so bland you might believe it was exporting nothing more dangerous than cauliflowers to the Canaries.

MPs noted that government reporting on arms dealers has been reduced, Whitehall’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) now doing only an annual report of statistics instead of the quarterly updates it used to offer. The people from Egad were breezily unconcerned by this, insisting it made no difference. Hayes said there was a “very, very low risk” that less frequent reporting of special arms-sale licences wold be detrimental to transparency.

Three critics of the arms trade also gave evidence. Roy Isbister, from conflict-reduction group Saferworld, said that the reduction in ECO’s reports had come as “a bombshell”. You can say that again, Roy. Several bombshells, really, packed and ready for shipping. Oxfam had sent along one Martin Butcher. With that surname, shouldn’t he have been on the other side of the argument?

Committee chairman Sir John Stanley (Con, Tonbridge & Malling) wondered if the arms dealers were concerned about “extra-territorial” prosecutions, under which a British arms trader may be guilty of wrongdoing if he or she breaks British law while abroad. Bell was most aggrieved by this. “We have reservations of principle!” he declared, this peddler of munitions with a highly-tuned sense of ethics.

Extra-territorial prosecutions meant that a business executive would be “subject to two jurisdictions for the same actions” and that offended Bell’s strong sense of morality. Bell also had “reservations of practice” because “the only people who suffer are the compliant”.

Richard Burden (Lab, Birmingham Northfield) noted that the United States had recently relaxed its arms-trade licence requirements, meaning US weapons manufacturers can now export pretty much willy-nilly to 36 countries where they would previously have faced greater government checks. Hayes argued that with one of these countries being Turkey, “American exporters are at a clear advantage over UK exporters”. Western government might want to beware, because it was hard to know who would be “the ultimate end user of the goods” in an arms deal. Interesting to hear an arms trader make this argument; it is usually heard from the peaceniks.

Bell pointed out that one of the countries covered by the US’s new, looser rules is Argentina. Uh oh. The MPs went a rather greeny-grey tinge. The tension was relieved only when Ann Clwyd’s mobile trilled into life at high volume with a Gangnam-style ringtone. Clwyd (Lab, Cynon Valley) didn’t know how to turn the device off and had to leave the room to take the call. Good to see the arms trade being scrutinised by such tech-savvy legislators.

The meeting was not just about multi-million pound weapon systems. The committee heard about the enthusiastic exporting of machetes, police whips, handcuffs and sjambok-style truncheons to troubled countries, where, presumably, democracy-hungry protestors can draw comfort from being gored, whacked and manacled by “goods” made in Blighty.

Surprise, surprise, the kingdom of GCHQ (and, er, the late News of the World) is also a world-leader in producing “anti-privacy equipment” as Stanley put it. Isbister flourished statistics about how arms licences to the Middle East recently have, er, rocketed and now form half our arms exports. Perhaps it is no wonder the government was so keen to life the arms embargo on Syria and why it has given “priority market” status to Libya, despite that country’s alarming political instability.

Mike Gapes (Lab, Ilford South) had unearthed statistics on gun exports. These included 24,000 assault rifles, 9,000 rifles, 1,000 “super rifles” and 3,000 “sporting guns” to places such as Sri Lanka, the Seychelles and the Maldives. I say, Jeeves: how is the grouse shooting in the Maldives this season?

These guns were exported without much paperwork because they were listed as being required for “anti-piracy” purposes. Gapes suggested that “some of these weapons might be diverted to othe5r purposes than anti-piracy”. Surely not! Sir Malcolm Bruce (Lib Dem, Gordon) said that some 40,000 firearms had been shipped from Britain under the anti-piracy label and wondered if “there is a danger a perfectly genuine concern about piracy could be a cover for getting more weapons” sold to foreign governments.

Oliver Sprague from Amnesty International was worried that such weapons were often sold to countries where there was not much “human rights training”. Human rights training? Perhaps that can become the next growth area for British exports.

With the Middle East now forming over half the market for British arms exports, this explains why David Cameron was so keen to boast about having sold ‘wonderful things’ to Saudi Arabia and places like it in his visit to the BAE plant in Wharton, Lancashire.

Demonstration Tomorrow Against The Security and Policing Trade Show 2016

March 8, 2016

There’s going to be a demonstration tomorrow against a police and security industry trade expo at 5 O’clock in the afternoon. There have already been posters put up across London, showing a woman holding a placard explaining that despite being an elected member of the London Assembly, the police deemed her such a threat that the spied on her for ten years.

Mike over at Vox Political has a piccie of the posters, and quotes the organisers of the demonstration on their reasons for calling it. They state:

“Behind closed doors, the Home Office is hosting a three day shopping spree. Governments, police forces and military delegations from around the world can buy all the necessary equipment to support violent militarised policing, aggressive border controls and oppressive surveillance operations.

“Organised far from London, it provides a “discreet environment” for hundreds of companies who want to “display products which would be too sensitive to show in a more open environment”. Companies such as Serco who make a fat profit from the inhumane detention of thousands of refugees in centres like Yarls Wood; or weapons companies like BAE systems whose business is dependent on human suffering and continuous wars.

“The heavy policing of borders, militarisation of police, increased surveillance of civilians and high military spending do not improve security and they do not make any of us safer. They make the world a more dangerous place and we need to resist all of it.”

(My emphasis).

Mike’s article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/08/want-to-know-why-these-posters-have-started-appearing-theydontmakeussafer/

The organisers have a home page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/712863342183693/

Not being a Londoner, I have no idea who the woman in the photograph is. All I can say is that she looks White, of mature years, and entirely ordinary. Which I believe is the point. She does not look as if she belongs to any suspect ethnic or religious group, though it would be an example of the Met’s racism if they had unfairly spied on a Black or Asian person for the past decade, simply because of their ethnicity; or if it was a gay man or woman.

These are the merchants of death, and the industrial beneficiaries of the massive expansion of the surveillance state and the increasing diminution of the circle of freedom Brits now enjoy. The explanation includes references to Yarls Wood detention centre. That was the place, if I recall correctly, that was hit by riots a few years ago due to the inhuman and brutal treatment the detainees received at the hands of SERCO. I believe one person may even have been killed by a SERCO guard, thus provoking the disturbances.

As for BAE, they were caught several times by Private Eye trying to sell electric batons and riot shields at arms expos to those lovely, entirely democratic countries in the Middle East, with excellent human rights laws like Saudi Arabia. Such weapons are illegal under international law. And if they’re prepared to sell them to the Gulf Arab states, you wonder if they’re also prepared to secretly sell them to the government, especially after they’ve contributed to handsomely to Tory coffers over the years. And Cameron returned the compliment when he visited their factory in Wharton, where he boasted how he had sold ‘wonderful things’ to the bloody despots of the Middle East.

This is the civilian end of the military-industrial complex, and like the military, they don’t promise peace, but more conflict, suffering and bloodshed. And they are a continuing threat to traditional British freedom.

Private Eye from 2009 on Corporate Lobbying at the Tory Party Conference

March 8, 2016

Private Eye printed this piece about the corporate sponsorship of the Tory conference that year in their issue for the 4th – 17th September 2009.

Conference Countdown

David Cameron has warned lobbyists to keep their distance at the Conservatives’ forthcoming party conference in Manchester. With the keys to No. 10 within his grasp, the last thing Dave needs is another cash-for-access scandal. But corporations that want to get close to the PM-in-waiting can always go the think-tank route.

Policy Exchange is the most Cameroonian of these bodies, and its preliminary conference timetable shows how easy it is for business interests to pay for face time with shadow ministers.

Shadow energy minister Charles Hendry will be speaking about “energy security and decarbonisation” courtesy of Oil & Gas UK, the trade body for the North Sea oil firms, alongside the group’s chief executive. As the meeting is being paid for by the oil lobby, energy security will most likely trump global warming, and wind and wave power, like energy saving, will not get much of a look-in.

Shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien will be discussing whether funding for long-term care should be by “individual, state or partnership”. The answer may well be by “partnership” because the meeting is being paid for by Partnership Assurance which specialises in funding elderly care through equity release and insurance schemes and so has a direct interest in less government funding for elderly care.

Fellow shadow health minister Mark Simmonds meanwhile will discuss whether “We need more public health initiatives for the worried well?” The obvious answer would be ‘No we don’t”, but as the meeting is sponsored by Alliance Boots, which would love to be involved in government health initiatives to drum up more business, the answer may well be in the affirmative.

Shadow business minister Mark Prisk is addressing a meeting called “Britain won’t be great if we don’t make anything anymore”, paid for by the arms firm BAE Systems. He will speak alongside BAE’s spin doctor, Bob Keen. BAE’s contribution to Britain’s greatness includes taking huge amounts of the defence budget for military kit marred by cost overruns and late delivery – overpriced and late schemes like the Astute Class Submarine (£1bn over cost, four years late) about which the Tories have been making a fuss.

The British Airports Authority, so close to the current government, is taking no chances with a new administration and so is sponsoring a meeting on “infrastructure” with George Freeman, Cameron’s “A List” candidate for the safe Tory Mid Norfolk seat. BAA’s spin doctor, former spokesman for Tony Blair Tom Kelly, will also address Tory delegates at the meeting.

Shadow culture minister Ed Vaizey meanwhile will be talking about “the future of television ” on a platform funded by BT Vision, alongside the TV-on-the-internet firm’s chief executive. BT Vision of course currently lobbying the government to merge with Channel 4. So no hidden agenda there.

This shows how duplicitous Cameron has always been in trying to deny the corporatist agenda behind the Tory party. He wanted to hide the influence of the lobbyists at this party conference, just as his lobbying bill is supposed to make government more transparent by limiting them at Westminster. In fact, it’s aimed at charity and other political pressure groups and denying them access, and leave the corporate big boys untouched.

And it also shows the very deep connections between his Tories and the corporations seeking to profit from privatisation and government outsourcing.

Hillary Clinton Sold Arms to Saudi War Criminals

February 27, 2016

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece about Cameron’s visit to a BAE aircraft factory in Warton, Lancashire, in which he boasted about selling ‘brilliant things’ to Saudi Arabia. He felt this was a matter of pride. Mike pointed out that in fact it was a disgrace, as these weapons are being used by the Saudis to kill civilians in what the United Nations has described as possible war crimes.

In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski similarly marks out Hillary Clinton for criticism and opprobrium. Clinton, as Secretary of State, approved a $29.4 billion weapons deal to Saudi Arabia, which supplied them with American arms, including warplanes made by Boeing. These have been indiscriminately used by the Saudis in Yemen, to kill civilians as well as military targets. 2,800 civilians have been killed. Among the casualties have been rescue workers and taxi drivers, for example. The places hit have included three hospitals run by Medecins Sans Frontieres, a wedding hall, and a chamber of commerce. The Saudis aren’t targeting just Houthi rebels, but are actively engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Shi’a Muslims.

Clinton pushed very hard for the arms sales, and the reasons weren’t just because the Saudis were America’s allies. Both Boeing and Saudi Arabia made contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and Boeing has also financially supported Hillary’s current presidential campaign. Kulinski states that Hillary’s probably the worst candidate, as she has multiple fronts for corruption. Donors can give directly to her campaign. She also raises money through her Super-PAC. Neither of these are particularly remarkable, as many other politicians have them. Bernie Sanders does not, to his credit, have a Super-PAC. Hillary has got an income through speech-making. He states that Clinton will give a speech to Goldman Sachs telling them they’re oppressed, take $675,000 for doing so, and then, of course, once she gets in the White House, of course she’s going to be returning the favour. She also has another income stream from the Clinton Foundation, which takes not only money from rich corporate donors, but also from other countries and governments around the world. Including what Kulinski describes, entirely justifiably, as ‘the Salafi terror state’.

He makes the point that the Saudis are indeed an Islamic fundamentalist terror state. They are very hard-line, fundamentalist Muslims, who share much of their interpretation of Islam with ISIS. And they have actively funded Islamist terrorism. Private emails leaked from when this deal was finalised in 2011 show Clinton and her supporters hailing the deal as ‘good news’ and ‘not a bad Christmas present’.

Kulinski therefore makes the excellent point that Hillary has no business whatsoever stating that ISIS is the major threat to America, when she has sold arms to Saudi Arabia, itself an oppressive Salafi regime, and which has funded terrorism, including 9/11.

Why I Believe Leaving the EU Will Be Particularly Bad for Bristol, Gloucestershire and Somerset

February 22, 2016

Since David Cameron raised the issue of the EU referendum last week, there’s been a flood of posts about the subject. I’ve blogged about the dangers to British workers and the middle class if we leave Europe, and the human and workers’ rights legislation contained in the EU constitution and treaties. The Lovely Wibbley Wobbley Old Lady has put up her piece explaining the issues involved in Britain leaving the EU, as have a number of others. In this piece I won’t discuss the general issues, just give some of my thought on why it would be disastrous for Bristol, Somerset, Gloucestershire, and areas like them elsewhere in Britain if the country decides to leave.

Firstly, Bristol is a port city. It’s not so much now, after the docks in Bristol have been closed to industry, and the port itself moved to better deep water facilities over in Avonmouth. Nevertheless, a sizable amount of trade goes through port facilities. The EU is Britain’s major trading partner, and my fear is that if Britain leaves Europe, trade will be hit, and the income and jobs generated by that trade will plummet. This will, of course, hit British industry generally, but it’ll also affect the ports as the centres of the import/export trade.

Bristol furthermore has a proud tradition of aerospace research through BAE and Rolls Royce at Filton. Further south in Somerset there is the former Westland helicopter firm, while in the Golden Mile in Gloucestershire there are engineering firms, such as Dowty, that specialise in aircraft instrumentation and control systems. The sheer cost of developing and manufacturing modern high-performance civil and military aircraft means that many of these projects are joint ventures between aviation companies across Europe. Airbus is one of the most obvious examples, as is the Eurofighter. And then, back in the 1970s, there was Concorde, which was a joint project between Britain and France. Hence the name. Parts of the aircraft were built in France, but the wings and a other components were manufactured here in Bristol.

The same is true of space exploration, and the satellites and probes sent up to the High Frontier. Several of these, or parts of them, have also been manufactured by British Aerospace at Filton. I’ve got a feeling the Giotto probe that was sent to investigate Halley’s Comet in 1986 was also partly made in Bristol. Again, like aviation, space travel can be enormously expensive. The costs are literally astronomical. So many of the space projects are joint ventures across Europe, between aerospace firms and contractors in Britain, France and Italy, for example. This was always the case going back to ESRO in the 1950s and ’60s. This was a joint European attempt to create a rocket launcher, involving Britain, France, Italy and Germany. Unfortunately the project collapsed, as the only section of the rocket that actually worked was the British first stage. Nevertheless, the French persevered, and out of its ashes came Ariane, launched from their base in Kourou in French Guyana.

ESA, the European Space Agency, operates under a system of ‘juste retour’. Under this system, the country that supplies the most funding for a particular project, gets most of the contracts to make it. Despite various noises about the importance of space exploration and innovation in science and technology by various administrations over the years, space research by and large has not been well-served by the British government and mandarins at Whitehall. It has a very low priority. Opportunities for British firms to benefit from European space research have been harmed by the British government’s reluctance to spend money in this area. I can remember one of Thatcher’s ministers proudly informing the great British public that they weren’t going to spend money just to put Frenchmen into space. It’s partly because of this attitude that it’s taken so long to put a British astronaut into space with Tim Foale. Those of us of a certain age can remember Helen Sharman’s trip into space with the Russians in the 1980s. This was supposed to be a privately funded joint venture with the Russians. It nearly didn’t happen because the monies that were supposed to come from British capitalism didn’t materialise, and in fact the Soviets took Sharman to the High Frontier largely as a favour.

The aerospace industry in Bristol and the West Country has contracted massively in the past few decades, as the aviation industry throughout Britain has declined along with the rest of our industrial base. I’m very much afraid that if we leave Europe, we will lose out on further commercial aerospace opportunities, and that part of Britain’s scientific, technological and industrial heritage will just die out. We were, for example, invited to take part in the development of Ariane, but the mandarins at Whitehall didn’t want to. Rather than invest in the French rocket, they thought we’d be better off hitching rides with the Americans. The problem with that is that the Americans naturally put their own interests first, and so tended to carry British satellites only when there was a suitable gap in the cargo. It also meant that British satellite launches were limited to the times the Space Shuttle was flying. These were curtailed after the Challenger explosion. If we’d have stuck with the French, we could possibly have had far more success putting our probes into space.

I’m sure there are very many other ways Bristol and the West Country could also be harmed by the decision to leave the EU. It’s just what occurs to me, as someone with an interest in space exploration, from a city that was a centre of the aeroplane, rocket and satellite industries. I also decided to post this, because I know that Bristol’s not unique in its position. There are other working ports and centres of the aerospace industry across the country, that will also suffer if we leave Europe. And so I firmly believe we should remain in.

Not Just Russians: Britain’s Webcam Computer Spies

November 23, 2014

One of the major stories over the past week or so has been that a Russian website is showing hacked images from webcams from around the world, including about 600 or so from Britain. This has naturally caused alarm at the way the potential exists for people’s private computers to be attacked and used to spy on them.

The Russians, however, are not the first or only people to have developed and used such software. In its ‘In the Back’ section for the 22nd August – 4th September issue of this year, Private Eye published a story about the use of similar software developed by a British company. This was being used by the Bahraini government to spy on and persecute dissidents. Here’s the story.

Bahrain Shower

New documents reveal that expensive British spy software – marketed as a means of tracking “paedophiles and terrorists” – has been used by the Bahraini Ministry of the Interior to hack the phones and computers of activists and lawyers.

The software, sold by Gamma Group, a company based out of serviced offices in Winchester, works by sending malware called FinSpy to “target” computers and phones (see Eyes 1368 and 1351). This allows content to be harvested and turns the computer or phone into a mobile spying device by secretly activating the microphone and webcam and intercepting Skype calls.

Gamma Group, which had not applied for an export licence from the UK authorities, denied last year that is product was being used in Bahrain. A spokesman told the Observer: “It appears that during a demonstration one of our products was stolen and has been used elsewhere. I believe a copy of FinSpy was made during a presentation and that copy was modified and then used elsewhere.

However, new documents obtained from the Gamma Group customer support server include logs sent to Gamma, showing a list of Bahraini targets and whether or not all their files had been “archived” – in other words, pinched Gamma says it only sells to government agencies.

Mohammed Al-Tajer, Bahrain’s leading human rights lawyer, has been on the wrong end of Gamma-inspired snooping. Having once defended a group of Shia Muslims accused of throwing a petrol bomb at a police car, and having also published evidence of torture of detainees, shortly before Bahrain’s Arab Spring uprising, in January 2011, he received a recording of himself having sex with his second wife, accompanied by a message telling him to watch his step. The new documents show that, on the same day in January, Gamma spyware was successfully installed on Al-Tajer’s computer, archiving all his files, in contravention of illegal privilege and most likely turning his computer into a mobile spying device.

In April 2011, Al-Tajer was then arrested and held by the Bahraini Ministry of the Interior for four months. Every morning he was made to stand against a wall and was beaten until he fainted. A subsequent report5 into the security services, commissioned by Bahrain’s King Hamad Al-Khalifa and carried out by human rights lawyers and others, found evidence of widespread torture, including “beating; punching; hitting the detainee with rubber hoses (including on the soles of the feet), cables, whips, metal, wooden planks or other objects; electrocution; sleep-deprivation; exposure to extreme temperatures; verbal abuse; threats of rape; and insulting the detainee’s religious sect Shia).” It also found evidence of deaths at the hands of the security forces.

In late 2011, Bahrain thought it had better do something to reform its police forces, bringing in a hired hand from overseas to ensure the force met international codes of practice. It wasn’t long before this new adviser was hailing the “substantial progress” being made, detailing a “new police code of conduct” and “comprehensive programme of training in human rights”, adding: “I am bewildered by the level of criticism aimed at a nation that has acknowledged its mistakes, but has plans in place to put things right.”

This state of bewilderment was presumably nothing new to the adviser, John “Yates of the Yard” Yates (for it was he”, who as Met Police assistant commissioner in London had overseen the Met’s brilliant early phone-hacking investigation and had personally declared that there were only a “handful of victims”. He later resigned when the number approached 4,000.

Even after Yates had begun his reforms in Bahrain, Al-Tajer continued to receive text message threats from anonymous telephone numbers; and in June 2012 the sex recording was finally published on YouTube, as was footage of Al-Tajer eating and praying.

Yates told the Eye he had never heard of Mohammed Al-Tajer (he was only the leading lawyer defending police cases, after all), nor of Gamma Group, and that he had had no operational involvement in police matters, acting solely as a “strategic adviser”.

* The hacker who posted internal Gamma documents on the internet showing how it FinSpy, aka FinFisher, software had been sold to the oppressive regime and used to spy on the Bahrain Independent Commission of Investigation (BICI), which was investigating torture and killings in the country, also revealed that the kit wasn’t quite as effective as Gamma likes to claim.

“After infecting a target’s [computer]the targets [sic] works for few days only then he never comes online and we have to infect him again,” the Bahrainis complained. “We can’t stay bugging and infecting the target every time since it is very sensitive. And we don’t want the target to reach [sic] to know that someone is infecting his PC or spying on him.”

I can’t say that the information that webcams could be hacked came as news to me. I can remember being told by a member of staff in one of Bristol’s computer shops that they had a friend, who was a hacker. This individual used to tap their victim’s webcams, so he could see them through the computer. The staff member, who told me this, didn’t approve of it himself, and really didn’t want anything to do with such activities. Nevertheless, hackers were still doing it.

This is very much the world of 1984, where Big Brother used the televisions in people’s homes to spy on them. In the case of the Russian hackers, despite their protestations that they are doing it to make people aware of the existence and the dangers posed by the software, it looks to me very much like the Russian secret services making veiled threats about their capability for cyberwarfare, espionage, and ability to intimidate foreign nationals in their own homes.

As for Gamma Group and the Bahrain government, Britain has, unfortunately, a long history of supplying arms and spying equipment to oppressive governments around the world, including the Middle East. This includes BAE selling weapons banned under international law, like electronic batons and shields, to places like Saudi Arabia. Gamma Group is merely the latest to join this long and infamous list.

Other foreign companies are no better. Nokia sold software it had developed to allow governments to hack into and monitor private mobile phones to various despotic governments in the Middle East, including Iran.

This does, however, raise the chilling question of whether this software is being used domestically to gather information on people the British and American states consider politically awkward. The Snowden revelations showed the truly massive extent to which both countries’ secret services were monitoring and spying on the phone calls and electronic communications of their citizens. The Coalition has attempted to censor politically inconvenient websites, like Pride’s Purge, using legislation it has attempted to pass under the pretext that this would protect children from internet paedophiles. The police have also been used by UKIP and fracking companies to harass and intimidate Green protestors and documentary film-makers.

How do we know that the Tories and their corporate backers aren’t using this already to track and monitor left-wing groups and individuals they consider subversive?