Thursday, 30 April 2009

Mps' Expenses "vote" Reform

What a show parliament was today; squabbling, finger pointing, accusations, waving a bath plug, just a circus. All for the government to accept Sir George Young's amendment which refers everything to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, yet then go ahead pre-empting the whole inquiry by voting on some measures any way.

The proposals that were voted on were; cutting allowances for outer London MPs, getting MPs to declare full details of outside jobs, making them submit full receipts and changing the way staff are employed. The government won the vote on these proposals, yet it's unclear what will happen if they're not agreed by Sir Kellys' inquiry.

Which is a bit of a mess, Brown could have easily have gained cross party support by talking to the party leaders before making an announcement on YouTube. Or heaven forbid talking to Sir Kelly and agreeing proposals to put in place before July. Why must this be so theatrical, all for what? Brown to be able to claim he cleaned up politics.

Brown can hardly claim that victory today, he just avoided a battle and used Harriet Harman as a human shield. MPs knew they had to vote in favour of these individual proposals, they couldn't be seen doing otherwise. That doesn't equal reform for me, yet it does raise the question of just how bad the expense claims due to be released in July will be, given the frenzy today.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Brown Defeated in Gurkha Vote

MPs voted 267 to 246 in favour of a Lib Dem motion that all Gurkhas be offered an equal right of residence. Brown's defence was that Britain could not afford the £1.4 billion cost of settlement, which seems a little scaremongering given they do have pensions, it's not like they'll sit around watching Trisha all day. The compromise Labour has come up with however, is to speed up the reviewing of applications the deadline being May and bring forward proposals for more reform.

Two significant points to come from this is, firstly David Cameron backed Nick Clegg on the motion. I've said several times on this blog that Lib Dems would make a good opposition party to the Tories. Them teaming up would be a real blow to Labour, I wonder if this was just an one off or if they have bigger plans. Either way it was nice to see Clegg in the spotlight, given the Lib Dems record on standing up for civil liberties, I'm glad they get some recognition.

Secondly the amount of back bench MPs rebelling within Labour is unusual, given they're more a dictatorship than a party. MPs openly rebelling is a very good indicator to the mess Labour is in and quite a blow to Brown's authority. He also has another vote tomorrow on MPs' expenses, which looks just as bad. Particularly with back benches feeling stronger off the back of this. If he loses that one, it's getting into vote of confidence terrain.

Though Brown's biggest mistake was thinking he stood a chance against the fabulous Joanna Lumley, the Avenger was trained by The Royal Ballet no less, hence her powerful high kick or mid section kick in this case.

Porkie Plague - Every Cloud

Torture Parliamentary Committee

Craig Murray* has given evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. He's enforced what we already know, the UK government regularly received intelligence obtained by torture. Both Murray and Philippe Sands who spoke said, the time of which Britain knew about torture is at the heart of whether they were complicit, also brought into question is whether Britain out sourced torture. Murray's statement echoes the information being released in America, disagreement on policy was repressed, and he felt there was "an appetite for false information".

An interesting article by Frank Rich joins the dots of the torture time line, to focus on the British side though. A piece of information to put in context now, is the July 2002 Downing Street Memo, worth noting that July 2002 is the earliest time we know that torture started in America, and "C" is an agent that's briefing Tony Blair:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
The Committee are questioning if there should be a bigger investigation, I think it's clear from just what's in the public domain, it's not a case of "if", but there should be an investigation. There were many lies taking place, and we have a right to know what the truth is.

*H/T Blairwatch

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Petition of Support

There's another petition up on Downing Street's website, this one in support of Brown:
In his own opinion we have never had a better and more competent Prime Minister, and he should have maximum support to continue.
This has been signed by:
  • Gordon's mother
  • george bush
  • Gordon's Rocking Horse
  • Sir Fred Goodwin
  • David Cameron

H/T- Dizzy

Jacqui Smith's Data Cost

For a moment I thought Smith might of back tracked for some "degree" of privacy worries. Having done a little web searching, alas no it's money, she reduces the cost of her database from £12bn to £2bn, by pushing the work and costs over to the service providers. The Independent are reporting phone and internet bills may have to rise to pay for collecting and sorting private information. Effectively if the government don't cover all the costs with our tax, we'll pay for it via our phone bills as well and what's the betting that happens.

We don't just stand to be swindled there though, ID cards are also in the spot light, minsters want to cut the unpopular plans as they look for £9bn spending reductions, ID cards are estimated at £5bn cost. Though Computer Weekly has a very interesting post on the costs to us. £650m worth of contracts have been awarded and producing passports and ID Cards aren't so easily separated. As the government intends to regain their cost via us paying for them. Everyone needing an ID card reduces the cost, as it's shared between the whole population. Scraping ID cards means only passports will be used to regain the expense, as not everyone has a passport it could easy be a £200 plus bill for those that re-new and get one. Yet we still stand to get ID cards technology within our passports, unless they cancel the contract.

At least there's one positive point to this recession, it curbs Smith's ability to create database upon database of information on us. Big sister is still watching though, as she raids our piggy banks.

Monday, 27 April 2009

National Debt Counter

The Coffee House has a horrifying national debt counter, just look at it go and interest rates are at 0.5. It's like the national debt clock in Times Square, they took it down when Clinton was president, yet took it down and added another digit when Bush was.

Thanks Brown.

India Voters Give The One Finger Salute

India's election has an interesting twist, voters will be marked on their middle fingers with indelible ink to show they've voted. The Chief Minister and his wife in the photo above proudly show the way to vote!

Full story.

Two U Turns and New Labour Snubbed

Two U turns and a snub in a day, nice to see Labour are clear and confident in what they're doing.

Brown has dropped his flat rate expense proposal and will only include the safe options that he knows MPs are likely to vote on. Which means his pay off didn't work, and what does that say about the state of New Labour, if MPs won't take a bribe to vote for Brown. Paul Waugh is reporting though that Sir Christopher Kelly is being asked to come up with proposal that looks a lot like Browns.

Jacqui Smith has decided that creating a mega database of information, might be going to far, in doing so she wins the award of "stating the bloody obvious". She's changed the proposal to have service providers retaining the data, every internet user will be given an unique ID code and all their data stored. So essentially if the government don't have it, it's not a privacy issue in her "mind".

Brown was snubbed by the Pakistani president when he cancelled the press conference scheduled between them. Which goes to show that when you point your finger and shout terrorist, it's not very diplomatic. Particularly when it's essential that we work with Pakistani. They do have nuclear weapons and the Taliban 65 miles from them.

Brown Gives MPs £5,000

Brown wants give an one-off payment of up to £5,000, for MPs to maintain their second homes this summer. Of course this has nothing to do with him facing a commons defeat on his "reform" of MPs expenses. It would be ironic indeed with the government stating that:
reform of the expenses system has to begin immediately in an attempt to restore public confidence in MPs.
Let's just hope he spares us a YouTube video explaining his reasons for this.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Is it Possible To Have Some Privacy?

Not content with CCTV, DNA databases, monitoring websites sites, stopping us taking photos/filming the police and ID Cards. New Labour have unveiled plans to monitor every one of our phone calls and emails, creating a mega base.

[sarcasm]I'll be the first to admit there clearly is incredible logic and reasoning behind this. By criminalising an entire country, making everyone prove they're not terrorists we can defeat terrorism. We can certainly sleep safe at night knowing the government will store and keep our data safe and sound, we can trust them not to lose it on a bus or train. Just like we can trust they'll always use terrorism laws in a honest way, for our safety, never to snoop. It's impossible that innocent people will be accused and detained under these laws. Unthinkable that the people given these powers will abuse them. I can't think of a single time that has happened. [/sarcasm]

Polls Getting Browner

From the polls in Scotland, it looks like Labour are going to lose to the SNP. Nothing says thanks for the devolution quite like that.

The pre budget polls are holding at the same level to:

Conservative - 45% N/C
Labour - 27% N/C
Lib Dems - 17 -1

That's a 18 point lead for the Tories, which is just awful for Labour. It begs belief that they're still talking about an election next year. As there's no bounce back from that, it's just free falling without a parachute.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Downing Street Petition for Brown to Resign

There's a petition on the Downing Street website calling for Brown to resign, other blogs Guido, Iain Dale and Raewald have posted about this as well.

You do have to give your postal address to add your name and I know petitions are seen as unless, but they can be a great way of spreading awareness, enough of which will create action. I'm not excepting anything to come of this, yet I'll be letting the government succeed in dissuading me from the democratic process by writing it off as useless and they will have to prise this keyboard from my cold dead hands before that happens.

You can sign here.

Update: It appears an Alasdair Campbell and Anthony "Tony" Charles Lynton Blair have signed.

Obama Torture Memos Tony Blair

Obama releasing the CIA torture memos has been like lighting a fuse. The information being released is staggering in it's implications, torture by the Bush administration had generally been dismissed as "a few bad apples", yet the information now shows the Bush officials set-up "interrogation methods" as early as July 2002. Which is before the memos that reviewed and created their legal frame work. That approval has been linked to Condoleezza Rice, Cheney and Rumsfeld, with a lot of talk of prosecuting how far will they go?

What makes the information particularly relevant is, they created a torture programme from the start. Worst still the torture that started before invading Iraq was being used to get an Iraq - al Qaeda link. They didn't just lie to invade Iraq, but they used torture to enforce that lie, then lied about the torture. They even prosecuted people for what happen at Abu Ghraib prison, when they authorised the abuse, knowing the "few bad apples" were them.

What about the effect here in Britain, can our government really keep saying they just didn't get the memo or not know anything for over 7 years? The memos being released has had it's first effect, Guantánamo torture evidence that was suppressed is being bought into question for release. Secondly the 7 men who were at Guantánamo bay in their case have accused 17 members of MI5 and MI6 of 'collusion in torture, unlawful rendition and unlawful detention'. Their cases are certainly stronger off the back of this.

Yet should the agents be prosecuted? They're accountable to the government, not us. So why isn't the government's investigation pressing ahead to address this, rather than former prisoners and us having to use the courts to get answers, and how far can we go with prosecution? As who were the MI5 and MI6 agents asking the questions for, who moved them to countries that out source torture, and who else needed a reason to invaded Iraq. Tony Blair himself said in his "give war a chance" speech:
I still believe that those who oppress and brutalise their citizens are better put out of power than kept in it.
It is not for our politicians to pick and choose who should get human rights, that's what laws are for, nor is it right for our politicians not to be subject law themselves. Particularly since their actions can not be justified as a consequence of war, they didn't act under fire, they acted in a clear and premeditated way.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Brown's Expense Plan Rejected

Sir Christopher Kelly launched his inquiry into MPs expenses today with a bang:
"There must be reform and it must be done properly. This is not something that should be left to politicians to sort out for themselves. If public confidence is to be restored, there needs to be an independent inquiry by people with no political agenda of their own which can look hard at all the evidence and that is open to anyone who wants to contribute.”(read more)
This is the third strike to Brown's proposals, with Tories and Lib Dems saying they would not support them. If Brown looses the vote next week by rebelling backbench MPs, that will further damage his authority.

Though for a tax payer Sir Kelly's words are very heartening. He looks set to make a clear distinction between salary and expenses, I hope it isn't just hot air.

Morten Morland Cartoon

The Times have some wonderful satirical cartoons up on their website.

Happy St George's Day

Being Shakespeare's birthday and St George's day, tis a very English day. Brown quoted Shakespeare today in honour -"This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England"- Interesting to quote from Richard II, as after both the commoners and the king's noblemen decide that Richard has gone too far. He's made to confess crimes against the state and forfeit his crown. Happy St George's day indeed!

Update: there are some nice celebration photos from around England on the Telegraph.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Easter "Bombers" Released

Budget day is a good day to hide this among the headlines, nine of the twelve men arrested in a "very big" anti-terror operation, will be deported and not changed. There is something really odd about that whole operation, the fact the case is going to be reviewed just enforces this.

Looking at the operation time line raises both eyebrows:
  • Bob Quick shows off his secret documents to photographers, this brings forward operation "pathway" according to Jacqui Smith just a matter hours.
  • Police launch raids across 14 properties in Northwest England, Brown states "We are dealing with a very big terrorist plot. We have been following it for some time."
  • One of the men they arrest is freed straight away, suggesting he was wrongly arrested.
  • All goes quiet for a few days.
  • Then it's reported they will be released without charge and deported.
Though I'm sure everyone would agree using reliable intelligence pre-emptively, is far better than waiting until a terrorist has their finger the detonator. Yet can the word "intelligence" be used in any capacity with regard to this investigation. Turning it into a blaze of publicity, that verges on a witch hunt, just shows why policing and politics shouldn't mix.

Budget 2009 Taxes

Having just attempted to watch the budget I'm glad I didn't have laces on my shoes, gloomy doesn't even begin to describe it. The BBC have a handy over view of the main points.

The headline grabbing 50% tax rise on high earners just seems pointless, people who earn £150,000 generally don't pay PAYE and that amount of taxation will move their money elsewhere, particularly since the government are giving them until April next year to do just that.

Raising tax on fuel, drink and tobacco which is Brown's favourite tax, is where they'll get their money from. Yet fuel going up means everything that's transported will to, so higher food, goods, travel, import and export costs. Which just hit's everyone hard.

I'm glad however to see pensioners being helped with a raise in the basic state pension, and increasing the ISA allowance is a good idea, as why people should be taxed twice on money because they save rather than spend is beyond me. Though everyone won't benefit from this until April next year and with interest rates at 0.5 and ISAs at 2-3% it's a token gesture.

Overall I'm just left feeling really pessimistic, these figures for borrowing and spending just look terrifying, and any scheme a gimmick. I wanted to see a budget that dealt with problems, not political point scoring. Seems however I'm not alone, protesters are gathering at the Treasury to demonstrate against the Budget, including some Labour MPs.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Browns Politicians In Need Appeal

Nice to see such big improvements from Brown on body language, I wasn't worried at all by the slight rocking motion nor the smiling, it really does wonders for perception.

His proposal of addressing MP's expenses does surprisingly have some potentially good points, the full statement can be read on the BBC:
  • No second home allowance or claims for food, furniture and fittings, fuel, mortgage interest, rent or council tax.
  • Flat rate expense payment based on attendance.
  • No second home allowance for those that can commute or live in grace and favour homes.
  • MPs' Staff being employed directly by the House of Commons.
  • Full receipts for claims including under £25.
  • Transparency of MPs' Second Incomes.
It does pose the question though of what's the catch? The main catch is they haven't waited for the Committee on Standards in Public Life to report back, which could move the goal posts. Whether these points do have value though, hinge around what the flat rate payment will be, how many days are included, what the small print is and who will over see these "improvements".

The most important aspect to this reform, is not having expenses made to be an extension of a salary. Both in pocketing money and purchasing things that should be brought by MPs themselves. Otherwise it defeats the point to begin with.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Polictical Compass Test and Result

The website I refer to in my previous post, allows you to take a political standing test, which may be of interest to people. It proved quite a surprising result for me as I didn't think I was that left.

Compared to the results of well known leaders, I'm almost the Gandhi of the web, if he was more of an anarchist!

Brown Damaging the Left

One thing that SmearGate has highlighter, is the damage New Labour have done hasn't been localised to just their party. This has be evident in the attacks on New Labour are often followed by attacks on left philosophy, yet are Labour even lefties, and is the left really to blame?

Being left wing traditionally means either liberal or socialist, yet politics isn't quite that simple due to the "third way". The graph below takes this into account and shows the political position of the main parties over time. Left and right is an economic position, up and down is social. The Political Compass site goes into more details.

click on image to enlarge

New Labours problem becomes quite apparent from looking at the graph. Firstly they've moved into a Tory area while flying the flag of socialism. Secondly the real problem lies not in left or right ideology, but authoritarianism.

Gordon Brown isn't Robin Hood, a large amount of the money he takes is funding projects like ID cards, databases for the NHS/DNA, CCTV and "the war on terror". Just start adding together billions spent and committed, it equals hundreds of billions. They do have the left trait of higher spending, though it isn't because the "left are strong in them", it's because they throw money at problems without thinking what the cause of them are. Essentially it's a token gesture to appease old Labour.

Preconceptions of what political parties stand for aren't helpful in modern politics, like society they've become diversified. However unlike society New Labour didn't develop, they consciously decided to be left, right and centre, to appeal to as many people as they could. Yet it left them with no way to join old and new labour together, effectively becoming a car without a engine. Hence their need to constantly try to fool and control others, those that can start their cars, don't lash out at the passenger.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

First Poll Results - Post Sleaze

Conservative - 43% -1
Labour - 26% -5
Lib Dems - 21 +3

This poll was taken Wednesday and Thursday so includes SmearGate and police assaults backlash, but not Damien Green and police manslaughter charges being raised.

That's quite a drop, but a move from Labour to the Lib Dems, which would reflect left wing core voters like Alice Mahon who said:
“I can no longer be a member of a party that at the leadership level has betrayed many of the values and principles that inspired me as a teenager to join.”
If they keep going at this rate, Labour will become the third party and that's the perfect warning shot that parliament needs. Not only to generate the shock we need to send them for change and accountably, but Lib Dems in opposition would be a good balance against the Tories to govern from. The next poll will be interesting.

Henry VIII Jousting Accident Tyrant

There's an interesting article on the Independent site, about Henry VIII personality changing due to a jousting accident, which turned him from a relativity nice chap as Kings go, into the tyrant remembered by history:
"After the accident he was unconscious for two hours; even five minutes of unconsciousness is considered to be a major trauma today." Henry may have suffered a brain injury, Dr Worsley says. "Damage to the frontal lobe of the brain can perfectly well result in personality change."(read more)
That's quite an interesting theory, I'm reminded of a documentary on the BBC about Walter Freeman who horrifically preformed frontal lobotomies on patients. Howard Dully who was one of the people Freeman performed this on, afterwards found his behaviour became uncontrollable and erratic. Doctors in the documentary said it because the frontal lobes assist in planning, coordinating, controlling and executing behaviour and judgement. It also controls social and sexual behaviour.

So the theory seems sound, just not as exciting as thinking of him as a tyrant though.

A link to an overview of
Howard Dully and Walter Freeman, though I forewarn they do have picture on the page of the lobotomy being preformed, and they explain how he did it.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Ian Tomlinson's Death Internal Bleeding

The second post-mortem examination by Dr Cary, concluded that Ian Tomlinson died of abdominal haemorrhage, this over turns the previous verdict of a "heart attack" and "natural causes". A statement from the City of London coroners court said:
Dr Cary's opinion is that the cause of death was abdominal haemorrhage. The cause of the haemorrhage remains to be ascertained. Dr Cary accepts that there is evidence of coronary atherosclerosis but states that in his opinion its nature and extent is unlikely to have contributed to the cause of death.
The police officer that attacked Mr Tomlinson has been interviewed under caution on suspicion of manslaughter.

I hope Sir Paul Stephenson unlike his predecessor, actually uses this as an opportunely to make the clearly necessary changes to the Met. The death of any innocent person at the hands of our police should never be treated with such disgrace, and certainly not covered up.

The answers and information we get over the next couple of weeks, will show whether the Met has another Ian Blair running it. I hope not, yet it's already not looking good.

Piracy aye! Shiver Me Timbers

Sweden's court has found guilty for breaking copyright law the founders of Pirate Bay, the high-profile file sharing website. We can all rest easy now knowing we won't be seeing any starving and homeless film stars and pop singers.

Never mind that they're still not addressing the reason why people turn to internet piracy. If they charged a fair and reasonable price to begin with, people would buy. It's unrealistic to rip customers off and expect them to embrace it. Their time would be better spent not just suing everyone, but working with the digital download industry, as they can not continue to be elitist in an internet age.

Disclaimer - the views expressed in this post do not mean I endorse or participate in file sharing. That would be like stealing a car or shoplifting, and I wouldn't do that.

Damien Green vs Jacqui Smith

Damien Green has been cleared by Crown Prosecution Service due to "insufficient evidence". Jacqui Smith response was it would have been "irresponsible" for the police not to have taken action.

Actually no, what's "irresponsible" is Jacqui Smith using the police as a political tool, of continuing to waste money due to ineptness and greed. £5m for a five-month police investigation, which discovers information leaked on the government's immigration policy was not secret, did not affect national security or put lives at risk. She might as well have taken the money ripped it up and flushed it down the loo.

Perhaps there's a sliver lining surround this 24ct gold cloud though. Brown will be under more presser to get rid of Smith, protecting her when she has no moral auditory or creditability left, will just epitomise the state of New Labour. If she does lose the Home Secretary post, there is no way she'll be re-elected, keeping her seat is already questionable.

The other aspect to this is, politicians don't tend to like it when things happen to them, so perhaps Damien Green will support David Davies on opposing things like ID Cards, and innocent peoples DNA being taken off the database. Which only helps strengthen that position within the Conservatives.

In short:

Police investigation, £5 million

Bath plug, 88p

Jacqui Smith losing her seat at the election, priceless.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Nurse struck off for whistle-blowing NHS

A nurse who secretly filmed for BBC Panorama to reveal the neglect of elderly patients at the Royal Sussex Hospital, has been struck off for misconduct by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. The panel ruled that Margaret Haywood "followed the behest of the filmmakers... rather than her obligations as a nurse" they went on to say:
Although the conditions on the ward were dreadful, it was not necessary to breach confidentiality to seek to improve them by the method chosen.
Margaret Haywood was a nurse for over 20 years, it was clearly a decision she didn't undertake lightly. She said that she'd expressed her concerns both to her immediate line manager and to her ward manager, but they did nothing. She would have been failing in her duty of care as a nurse, to close her eyes and keep drawing her salary, as the other nurses and managers did at that hospital.

More importantly she wouldn't have had to risk her job if management listened to staff concerns, if this culture of "there are things will don't speak of" didn't run through the NHS. It's completely disgraceful that it's cost Ms Haywood her job, her intentions clearly were for the right reasons. As sadly would conditions at that hospital have improved, without Panorama doing a programme on it.

Brown Says Sorry

I stand corrected the man is capable of using the S word. He just doesn't understand what these words mean:
I am sorry about what happened, I take full responsibility for what happened. That's why the person who was responsible went immediately. (read more)
Is it possible to give a coherent response? It's like a riddle, if someone is responsible for the responsible person that takes responsibility of the response, who is responsible? Solve that one.

Take Courage

For 50 years the slogan “Take Courage” as been used to promote the ale. Yet the brewers new campaign has pushed 3 people to far, complaining that they "believed the poster implied that the beer would give the man confidence to either make negative comments on the woman’s appearance or take advantage of her." The advertising watchdog has banned the posters.

Would the 3 people that complained, in future before assuming everyone has their personal hang ups look up the word "humour".

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Terrorists or Protesters?

114 environmental activists were arrested and charged with "conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass and criminal damage." Police officers raided a school where they were meeting, seizing "specialist equipment". After the protesters were placed in custody, the police went to their homes to seize computer equipment and mobile phone records.

I don't personally support direct criminal action, yet since these protesters were 'pre-emptively arrested', I don't know what form their protest would have taken. The police do have a duty to act when they think lives are threatened, I don't dispute that. I do question however, whether they know the different between a terrorist and protester.

They used intelligence gathering from informants and/or email spying to send, 200 police officers from 3 forces storming into a school, to arrest a group of protesters. Who at their worst, were gong to chain themselves to conveyor belts, do a sit down protest within the grounds or do nothing.

Over the top and heavy-handed springs to mind, which hardly fills anyone with confidence in light of recent events. Yet a sense of uneasy fills me to, as the question of what has triggered this crack down hangs in the air. I do wonder if this plays a part in an answer.

Blair Religion and Politics

There are many articles about Blair faith at the moment, and through the slightly creepy declarations of love for all. I came across a comment he jokingly made at the launch of his new inter-faith foundation course:
I think I kind of got my whole life the wrong way round. I should have started with the conceptual debate first and then gone on to the practice.
I think that's the most truthful thing to have ever escaped from Blair's mouth. Shame it's taken 12 years to realise spin and empty words, don't equate to good policy, policy, policy. *

* sorry I couldn't resit!

New Video Of When Police Attack 2

The policeman without his numbers on display is the second officer to be suspended from the Territorial Support Group which prides itself on:
TSG officers are selected on merit, and much emphasis is placed upon their personal ability, motivation and good communication skills.
Indeed he has much to be proud of, well trained, calm under presser, didn't provoke the crowd, communicated well and a woman beater. Just what we expect from our police service.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Spanish Case Against USA on Torture

The Daily Beast* is reporting that:
Spanish prosecutors will seek criminal charges against Alberto Gonzales and five high-ranking Bush administration officials for sanctioning torture at Guantánamo.
Other US officials incriminated are Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee, Pentagon official Douglas Feith, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.

The Spanish legal system allows criminal complaints to be filed by individual civilians, screened by an investigating magistrate, and then referred to a prosecutor's office for preliminary assessment. After the prosecutors make their recommendation, an ultimate decision on pursuing or not pursuing criminal charges follows. This case is at the prosecutor's stage.

It's worth noting that the case against the US officials does not focus on the suggestion that any of them ordered torture. Rather, it accuses them of creating a framework to protect the people that gave the orders, it's a case against the lawyers. This makes it far more likely to result in pursuing criminal charges and if that happens, leaves the door wide open to other charges and other people being incriminated.

However there is a wild card, the article states that:
The Spanish prosecutors advised the Americans that they would suspend their investigation if at any point the United States were to undertake an investigation of its own into these matters. They pressed to know whether any such investigation was pending. These inquiries met with no answer from the U.S. side.
The Spanish courts can dismiss this case if the US open an investigation, though due to Spanish citizens being held in Guantánamo Bay the court is in a very difficult position not to go forward under Spanish law otherwise. Additionally Baltasar Garzon is involved in the case and he's not a man that will back down, his most high profile case was against Augusto Pinochet.

If criminal charges do come from this, it could really set the cat among the pigeons.

*Hat tip to The Spectators Alex Massie

Monday, 13 April 2009

"SmearGate" Regret - Cost To Brown

Brown has written letters of "regret" to David Cameron and the other Conservative MPs involved in "SmearGate". He of course isn't capable of using the word sorry in any capacity. I don't even think if he tripped and fell onto 'the red button' killing millions he would use the word sorry - "It's regretful this happened" - will be the comment.

There's been much speculation with regard to what "SmearGate" will cost Brown. Looking around the main news sites this story has lost it's traction with the public, only on the Guardian site is it in the top3 most read. It is obviously still holding it's own with political sites and blogs.

For this story alone to have lasting damage it needs to strike a cord with the public at large, not just people who are interested in politics. The details surrounding this story are very political, more so than most people would be interested by. Combined with no tax payers money being lost yet, there isn't really anything to get the burning torches and pitch forks out for.

The Labour party supporters won't be happy with the Tory "nasty" Party parallels it creates. Will it be enough to stop them voting? I'm not so sure, there are still 30% willing to vote Labour after all that has happened so far.

In essence the damage from this will be political, not so much voter based. For the public, Brown burying his head in the sand just reinforced what people have come to expect, Labour voters stand to be the disappointed ones. The main problem it presents though is limiting Labours ability to attack the Tories. Brown can hardly point the finger and call them the "nasty party", while Cameron maintains the moral high ground.

Voluntary Work For Under 19s

Labour have made a manifesto pledge for all under 19s to do 50 hours' compulsory voluntary work. I'm not against the idea of people giving something back to society, but it needs to be for the right reasons. Brown's proposal of a Hitler Youth 'National Youth Service' that:
…would mean young people being expected to contribute at least 50 hours of community service by the time they have reached the age of 19. This will build on the platform provided by citizenship classes as they develop in our schools....
Call me idealistic but isn't school meant to develop the mind not indoctrinate it. One size doesn't fit all, certainly not teenagers, give them opportunities to make a choice to gain work experience in this sector, in addition to other industries, academic and creative studies. Educating kids is far more important and productive, than giving them something to rebel against.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Michael “Piggy“ Martin and 1 in 10

I have to admit that I really dislike the Commons Speaker Michael Martin, but in one of those irrational ways that everything he does irritates.

However it turns out my irritation wasn't so irrational, as he's been caught doing a "Hoon". While living in a grace-and-favour apartment, he claimed a second-home allowance for his constituency home and rented out his actual second home. He has continued to make annual claims of up to £17,166, though he doesn't have a mortgage claiming for basically living costs, bills, decoration and furniture. You would be forgiven for thinking a salary of £141,000 would cover living costs in Glasgow and a home that's allegedly hardly being used. Alas no not to Martins standards, and these standards don't just apply to his home, he's run up bill of £148,657 for just 11 trips aboard between May 2005 and September 2008.

He isn't alone though, 65 other MP's that's 1 in 10, have raised eyebrows by not living within their means and using tax payers money to subsidies buying homes and renting them out. Interestingly 65 is the amount the Conservatives plan to cut from the total number of MPs in Westminster.

Writing these kind of posts is getting really repetitive, to the point that reading them and writing them is becoming an effort. Yet the alternative is we turn a blind eye and I'm not prepared to accept that. There is something so fundamentally wrong, when MPs think it's fine to use tax payers money to subsidies their income and living standards. As every penny they take to line their pocket is robbed from people who actually need and deserve it, from our nurses, fire fighters, schools and hospitals. It's disgraceful, particularly for the Speaker of the House of Commons whose role is to keep order.

Doctor Who – Planet of the Dead

Overall "Planet of the Dead" was like opening a tub of Neapolitan ice-cream only to find someone has just eaten the chocolate, disappointing.

The plot centred around a London Bus being sucked through a worm hole, and ending up on a barren desert planet. With swarming creatures fast approaching, the Doctor and passages must find a way back home. I wasn't so sure on the London Bus having the top deck blown apart, nor were the references to the recession welcomed. I watch Doctor Who for escapism, I don't really want to be reminded of how crap things are at the moment. Also when did Doctor Who become 'The Bill'? How many ex EastEnders actors did the episode need.

There were moments that I really enjoyed, Lee Evans was perfect as a mad professor, yet what let the episode down for me was Russell T Davies writing has become like spot the parody - Lara Croft, Mission Impossible, Pitch Black, Thomas Crown Affair, the Fly! I was just left looking forward to Steven Moffat taking over, the series really needs some unexpected twists, scares and excitement injected back into it.

The preview for the next episode looks just bizarre, killer water? Seriously Mr Davies? Killer water? Or is it Waterman - water boarding all who stand in his way.

Saturday, 11 April 2009


This "SmearGate" story all over the Blogosphere and news, has just left me perplexed. Is the story here that Labour no longer have morals and are delusional, they crossed a line into personal untrue attacks, they used taxpayers money for they own gain. Am I missing something here, as how is that different from what is continuously reported in the papers?

Granted I enjoyed the incredible irony of Derek Draper whining about "how wrong hacking into private email accounts is"- Labour would know all about that wouldn't they.

Perhaps I should be jumping on the bandwagon, anything that makes Brown uncomfortable and shows the Labour party for what it is, can't be bad. Yet I have the nagging thought of, why is this the "thing" to get Labour on when there are far worst stories. There's a party tribal feel to this and maybe that's where I fall short, I'm not party aligned. I'm left just finding it really difficult to relate to, particularly since the emails are posted among the tits, bums and gossip of the News of the World.

BNP EU Elections

Harriet Harman has said that "Labour is facing its biggest threat from the BNP" at the forthcoming EU elections. I was out today at a shopping centre in my local area, the BNP were there handing out leaflets, campaigning and talking to people. Generally where I live votes Conservative, and given the interest the BNP were creating today, I would say that threat doesn't just apply to Labour. Conservatives taking a less Euro-sceptic or not clearly stating their position on the EU, are in danger of pushing people into voting BNP out of protest.

This obsession political parties have with the internet after Obama's success, are missing the point. Yes it's a great way to get information to people, but you're not going to get people to click on a link if you don't generate interest in doing so. That's why Obama's on line campaign was successful, but it wasn't internet based alone. He went out and spoke to people, along with thousands of people phoning and campaigning on his behalf.

If political parties don't go out and talk to people, they're just giving votes to the BNP. People will think at least they're taking an interest in my local area, worries and in me, which is what I saw today.


The Open Rights Group have created a spoof government site Statebook, which puts together information the government currently has, can and wants to hold on us. Seeing the information put together in this way is truly shocking.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Inmates To Get Voting Rights

Though I do find the thought of politicians having to campaign in prisons entertaining. I'm mostly left just bemused by how can it be OK to take away the right of freedom, yet not the right to free election while in prison? Heaven forbidden being a convicted rapist means you miss an opportunity to vote.

This law does underline a growing problem with our legal system. Lady Justice's blindfold is starting to feel like it indicates blindness, not impartial justice. The balance between victim and convict has started to tilt in a way that doesn't seem right, fair or just.

The larger problem is this tug of war between Westminster and Strasbourg. Something will have to give, as it throws such confusion on the issue, who's in charge? What laws do we follow? What laws apply to us? Who makes these laws? This is increasingly becoming an unworkable situation, particularly when people's trust is being eroded.

It would be nice to think that perhaps in being forced into making this law, Labour will consider not just signing anything the EU puts in front of them in future. As I don't hold any hope that they have the backbone needed to stand up to the EU, or attempt the reform so badly needed.

"Tea Bagging" the White House

Conservatives in America have created a protest campaign against the amount of tax payers money Obama is spending. They've themed the campaign around the 'Boston Tea Party', and are calling to "Tea Bag Obama". For those that are in the know with regard to what "Tea Bagging" refers *nudge, nudge wink, wink* this is genius.

The Best Way To Rob A Bank Is?

There is an interesting video that interviews financial regulator William K. Black about banks - The financial industry brought the economy to its knees, but how did they get away with it? - It's focuses on America, but there are some very interesting parallels with the situation in Britain. To forewarn the intro is a bit long-winded but worth waiting out.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Kim Jong Il Re-Elected

Kim Jong Il was unsurprisingly re-elected for a third term as Supreme Leader of North Korea today. I don't think I'm alone when I say congratulations to Kim on all the weight he's lost. I think someone's getting the slimmer of the week award.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Protesters and Police At The G20

I realise there is an argument to say we place high standards on our police, yet it's common sense that if you can't keep a clear head or your temper in check, then you shouldn't be on the front line, incitement is a two way street. There are several videos circling the web of peaceful demonstrators being harassed by the police, and of course the video of Ian Tomlinson. I'm not including the protesters who were obliviously provoking the police and causing damage, as I haven't seen anything yet to show police overreacted to them. Though I can't say the same for the people who were demonstrating peacefully.

The police officer that attacked Mr Tomlinson went out of his way to do it, he wasn't standing behind and gave him a little shove to get him walking quicker, he moved in from the right to attack a man that posed no threat. His actions are completely disgraceful, I'm not a doctor so don't presume to know whether a heart attack can happen from such an act. If it can the officer should face a criminal investigation.

It's the right of police to use reasonable force to protect the public and themselves, but they have to balance that against their responsibility to allow peaceful protest to take place. A lot of the videos I've seen certainly pose the question of if they've got the balance right in general.

That's what concerns me about this, people will no doubt be put off protesting and democracy isn't just about turning up to vote every 4 years. Protesting equals saying this is wrong or I object. Whether it's on the street or web doesn't matter, because the alternative is we get the laws and the government we deserve from our silence.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

My Drive Thru - Music Video

One a lighter note, this is brilliant music video for "My Drive Thru" by Santogold, Julian Casablancas, and N.E.R.D. made for Converse.

Labour Tactics - What Now?

Do Labour have a plan C after the lack of bounce back the G20 and Obama left them with?

Any tactics they have will be really limited by Brown, as he's no showman, winning people over with charm isn't going to happen. Their other limitation is having to defend their record, they can't blame the Tories at this election.

Having control over calling the election is their trump card, unless a vote of confidence undermines that. It's doubtful the Tories will do that while they can sit back and not be in the direct firing line dealing with this recession. Backbenchers could rebel, but New Labour have never been good at that.

A switch of party leaders posses the problem, that if the Tories are leaking the expense claims, then that is a very sneaky move. Since who do they replace Brown with if front bench MP's are all discredited? Back bencher's aren't well known to the public and unless they're a British Obama, they really have their work cut out to win.

Calling an election as late as possible, in the hope of getting the economy back on track seems most likely, his actions so far reinforce this. It also leaves Gordon fighting back within his comfort zone i.e the economy. Though if this is plan C it's not very tactical, people are going to want to know if you have a vision other than a tunnel one.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Torture Cases Increase

I wrote a post on torture a little while ago, and have been following the announced investigation into Britain's role. The more they investigate the more shameful and worrying it gets. I want to be clear about this, as there are straw men arguments that surround these cases.

This is not about Binyam Mohammed, his nationality, guilt, innocence or even if he has legal right to remain in the UK. It's about whether our government has encouraged, participated or been complicit in torture.

Why is that important? The rule of law in this country is like the bottom row of a house of cards, everything else depends upon it. If we start moving these cards it's all going to come crashing down, and it's swaying enough already. Unless we can trust our government to be objective, honest and competent. This law should be set in stone, not left to our governments discretion.

I don't want to end up living in a country that is a bomb damaged waste land, any more than I want to live in a country that is the ideological equivalent of that. Yet how many of our values do we sacrifice out of a fear driven response, where do we draw the line and if we don't draw one, what are we going to be left with?

Sleaze Hoon & Smith Parliament Pigs

Jacqui Smith expenses claims are getting more incredible, the Mail are reporting - a barbecue, toothbrush holder, doormat, patio heater and a flatscreen TV. She says - “I've abided both by the letter of the law and by the spirit of the regulations”. Really? Regulations that state claims should only be for items needed to perform your parliamentary duties. You're having a laugh, kitting out your family home is what a salary is for Smithy.

Geoff Hoon is also in the spot light now, having lived rent free in a grace and favour flat when Defence Secretary, he rented out his main home and then claimed taxpayer's money for his “second home” in his constituency. Effectively he makes a choice to buy two homes and claims for the expense, yet again he's saying it's within the rules. These must be the unspoken rules of parliament, they who make laws can break laws.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

First Poll After G20

Conservative - 41% NC
Labour - 34% +3
Lib Dem - 16 -1

It's not a much of a bounce, given for the last 5 days Brown has saturated the news. UK Polling Anthony Wells points out with regard to Lib Dems and not Conservatives being effected.
My guess is that we are seeing people who would normally be Labour supporters drifting over to abstentions and protest votes when the government are in trouble, and then returning to Labour at times when Brown and Labour are seeming more effective and competent.

First World War Colour Photos

German Prisoners-of-War with a French officer

I came across a WWI photograph that reminded me of a programme I saw about French photographers, who were using colour photography to document the war. When you've been used to seeing the first world war in black and white, it's a strange effect seeing it in colour, immediately it seems less distant.

The photos that stuck me the most were the earlier ones of the French military. Their uniform was a revolutionary red hat and trousers (photo above/below) which made them look like a walking target. The Manchester Guardian describes them at the time.
These soldiers are as conspicuous as claret stains on a new tablecloth.
To give a better idea of just how bad it was, the picture below is a hand coloured German photo, depicting French POW's being transported.

After the unsurprising heavy loss of life on the front lines, their uniforms were changed to the light blue one below.

More photos including some rare non propaganda ones are at The Heritage of the Great War and WWI colour photos sites.

Frenchman in observation Post

IMF To Hand Out Or Not To Hand Out?

There's been a lot of articles both in the media and blogosphere about Britain potentially having to go to the IMF for a hand out. The catalyst has been some minsters trying to change the political ramifications and sigma of doing just that. A senior Cabinet minister said:
"Previously a country would only go if they were in a very bad state. It was a bit like going to accident and emergency to get urgent help. This new facility will not be like that. It is a bit more like getting wellbeing care or even like going to a spa to recuperate." (read more)
Going to a spa? Make it sound like fun then. The contradiction between what Brown says and other MP's/economists say, is becoming increasing like a yo-yo. Which certainly reinforces the growing opinion that we may need the IMF, and at the very least doesn't fill anyone with confidence. Brown has however never been good at clear communication, nor are the Labour party really singing to the same tune right now. This could simply be a by-product of that.

If it's not and Britain's finances are as bad as some economists say. That's a hell of a humble pie Brown will have to eat, given his self important stance and “Iron Chancellor” dreams. Yet swallowing your pride while it's only a handful of MP's jobs on the line, is a lot better than the proposed 3 million unemployed, more mass house repossession and trillions of pounds worth of debt. The British will never forget, if Labour screw us all over for the sake of ego or delusion. Brown's name will be forever uttered with the distaste some speak the name Thatcher.