Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Iran What Are We Going To Do With You?

Perhaps we should, as some suggest, bomb you back to the Stone Age, because if these two stories are anything to go by, that's where you want to be.

Apart from having a nuke that is.

And they bitch in America about the mentally deficient having access guns, they wouldn't be a patch on you lads.

Women at Iranian Nuclear Plant Violate Islamic Dress Code
Myles Collier
Dec 26 2012

Reports from Iran indicate that women working at the country's only nuclear power plant are not adhering to the country's strict Islamic dress code for women, even though they are paid to do so.

The Battle for Equal Rights in the Arab World

The Taliban's recent shooting of a 15-year-old Pakistani girl for speaking out ...

The Iranian Student News Agency (INSA) a quasi-official news organization revealed that a prominent Iranian lawmaker made accusations detailing that Russian women working at the nuclear power plant continually defy the country's Islamic dress code, which states that all women must cover themselves so as only to expose the eyes while in public.

The ISNA reported on Tuesday that Iranian lawyer Mahdi Mousavinejad, a representative of the southern Iranian port of Bushehr where the nuclear plant is located, said that the violation of the dress code by Russian workers had a "corrupting and negative impact" on the people of Bushehr.

Mousavinejad explained that he will take the issue to the Iranian parliament. The lawyer did not reveal how many women were involved or the exact actions that led to his decision.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both have continually stated that they are against Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and have been in close discussions over how to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"The two leaders underscored that they are in full agreement on the shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," the White House previously stated.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta also has taken a hard stand against Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"I think we've made very clear what the policy of the United States is with regards to Iran, and the president has made it clear, I've made it clear that the United States' position is that we will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon," Panetta had previously stated during a press conference at the Pentagon.

"This is not about containment; this is about prevention … and so that has been and remains the policy of the United States," Panetta added. Source

Iran bans aircraft flying during Islamic call to prayer

Dec 26 2012

Iran has issued a ban on airplanes flying inside and out of Iran during azan, the Islamic call to prayer, spokesman of Iranian parliament's cultural commission, Seyyed Ali Taheri said, Fars reported.

Taheri noted that the directive was issued by the Civil Aviation organization of Iran.

The adhan, or azan (as pronounced in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey), is the Islamic call to prayer, recited by the muezzin at prescribed times of the day.

Adhan is called out by the muezzin in the mosque five times a day, traditionally from a minaret, summoning Muslims for mandatory prayers.

According to the directive issued on Nov. 26, the flight is to be suspended for at least half an hour, if the take-off and azan fall to the same time.

Seyyed Ali Tahiri also said that more attention would be given to the females working in the airports, regarding the proper wearing of veil.

Earlier, several lawmakers in Iran's parliament requested the flights falling on azan time to be cancelled, or postponed.

There has been no reaction yet from the Iranian airlines. Source

The video below is featured at: Ahmadinejad: Just Another End Times Religious Nutter?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Royal Babylon: Our Jaundiced Monarchy

Needless to say, I wouldn't have posted a seventy minute documentary had I thought it not worth watching.

This is an investigative poem about the criminal record of the British Monarchy. Heathcote Williams has devised a form of polemical poetry that is unique, no-holds-barred personal and political. It is a great collection of facts that most people are unaware of.

Can we go on bowing and curtsying to people who are just like ourselves? We begin to wish that the Zoo should be abolished.

That the royal family should be given the run of some wider pasturage – a royal Whipsnade. Will the British Empire survive?

Will Buckingham Palace look as solid in 2034 as it does now? Words are dangerous things remember. A Republic might be brought into being by a poem.

The Criminal Record of the British Monarchy
An investigative poem
by Heathcote Williams

“The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.”

In 1840, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon the first self-declared anarchist, defined anarchy in ‘What Is Property’, as “the absence of a master, of a sovereign”.

In the year of the Queen’s Jubilee tourists peered as usual
Through the railings of Buckingham Palace,
But her fairy-tale was fading; the fairy queen’s wings were being clipped
By the Sex Pistols putting monarchy in their sights.

“God save the queen,” they sang, “it’s a fascist regime.”
And the song’s hook-line became a new anthem;
Disturbing to clutches of flag-wavers lining the streets
And horrifying to Middle England and the Daily Mail.

The Sex Pistols proclaimed, “She ain’t no human being,”
And their subversive posters for the record
Placed the band’s salacious name right across the Queen’s lips
And they masked her eyes with two spidery swastikas.

Full poem/transcript

Monday, December 17, 2012

Horror in Newtown and the Realities of Life

Just to echo one point of many in the article, let's leave God out of the equation, because the sooner Americans face up to reality, the more chance they will have of addressing the countless ills that ail that unenviable country.

And a very good place to start is at the beginning. The country was not founded on Christian Judeo principals, it was founded on dispossession and genocide of the native population. Slavery and Robber Barons et al, can wait until another day.

God doesn't bless America, if there were a God, America would be the last country on earth that he would bless.

And another thing, the "let's take America back" (to the good old days!)  brigade. Irrespective of whatever that is supposed to mean, it's not coming back. Nothing is coming back for any of us, Google the 'Arrow of Time' that, unlike your God, is the reality of this world. Update: See videos below.   

Horror in Newtown
The editorial board
17 December 2012

The horrific massacre at a school in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut has sickened the entire country. Twenty-eight people lie dead, including twenty children between the ages of six and seven, who were shot multiple times. Six adults were also killed in Friday’s shooting spree before the gunman, Adam Lanza, took his own life. Earlier that morning, he shot and killed his mother.

The inhumanity of the crime is deeply unsettling. Beyond the individual motivations of the killer, the shooting at Newtown lays bare a brutality that pervades American society.

Friday’s mass killing is the latest in a long series of such incidents. The United States has historically seen repeated outbursts of violence. Yet the past two decades have been unusual, even by American standards. The frequency and scale of mass killings point to an underlying cause.

Among the most significant events have been the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (168 killed, including 19 children); the Columbine, Colorado massacre in 1999 (14 dead); and the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 (34 dead). This year alone has seen massacres at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado (12 dead and 58 injured); a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin (6 dead); a sign business in Minneapolis, Minnesota (6 dead); a spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin (3 dead); and a mall six days ago in Portland, Oregon (3 dead).

The response of the American media and the political establishment to the latest shooting traces a well-worn path. There are the banal declarations of the incomprehensibility and senselessness of “evil.” To the extent any broader response is offered, it is focused on the need for a “national conversation” on gun control and empty promises to do more to address mental health (made by politicians doing their best to slash health care programs to the bone).

The American ruling class has lost the capacity for self-examination. It knows that any serious analysis of the roots of this and other tragedies points back to itself and the society it dominates.

The speech by President Obama at a memorial service in Newtown Sunday night was typical—a combination of stock phrases, play acting and invocations of religion. It would have been better if he said nothing, as he had nothing intelligent to say.

The ceremony was an exercise in religious obscurantism, in which the parents of the murdered children were told not to grieve or lose heart, for their sons and daughters were in heaven.

“God has called them all home,” Obama declared in concluding his speech. Such statements are not only insensitive to the families of those killed, they are insulting to the intelligence of the American people. One can understand a turn to religion as a source of solace by those who experience such unspeakable tragedy. In the hands of the state, however, it is a means of obfuscation to cover up the social and political roots of such events.

If the politicians insist on invoking religion, they would do better to ask themselves how Lincoln might have responded. In describing the carnage of the revolutionary war he led, the sixteenth president said that if God willed that “every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword,” then “the judgments of the Lord are righteous altogether.”

The tragedies of this world (the Civil War), Lincoln insisted, are products of worldly crimes (slavery).

For what deeds are tragedies such as Newtown the reckoning? Far from being incomprehensible, the crime is all too comprehensible. The roots are not hard to trace: a society of unprecedented inequality, a thoroughly backward official political ideology without an ounce of progressive content, and, above all, an incredible level of violence perpetrated by the state, accompanied by the brutalization of society as a whole.

The character of the mass killings bears witness to this connection. Certain features appear with regularity: the use of military-style weapons, assailants (such as Lanza) dressed in combat fatigues, the frequent involvement of former soldiers.

The past two decades have been years of unending war. Born in 1992, the 20-year old Lanza spent most of his life during the “war on terror”—one neocolonial occupation after another, drone attacks, torture, rendition, a relentless assault on democratic rights. He could not have been unaffected by the constant efforts to promote fear and paranoia—the sense that the “enemy” is just around the corner.

Obama himself is the first US president to openly assert the right to assassinate anyone, anywhere, including US citizens. He devotes a significant portion of his time to selecting the targets of drone killings, with the full knowledge that civilians—including women and children—will be killed as a result. By conservative estimates, 3,365 people have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan alone, including 176 children.

The government and the media praise the killings perpetrated by the US military, and soldiers sent to invade and occupy nations are venerated as “heroes.” The Navy Seals and Special Ops forces who do the murderous dirty work of the US military are glorified.

Can one seriously believe this country can inflict violence all over the world and not suffer deadly consequences at home?

In the coming days, more information will emerge shedding light on the specific motives behind this latest mass killing. By all accounts, Lanza was a deeply troubled young man. It would be impossible to commit such a crime otherwise. Yet the individual psychosis and its particular expression is, ultimately, the product of a profound social disease.

You may think it odd that I have added these two clips to a post of this nature, but I can think of no better way of highlighting the structure of the world and the fallibilities of man.

Until we can recognise true reality, the reality devoid of gods, superstition and self interest; self interest being equally harmful as any belief in the supernatural, we will never solve the problems that face us all as a species.

And one of those first realities is, that no person in any civilised society has the need to posses assault weapons of any description for any reason.

The Arrow of Time - Wonders of the Universe

Events always happen in the same order, they never go backwards. We are compelled to travel into the future, and that's because the arrow of time dictates that as each moment passes things change, and once these changes happen, they are never undone.

How a sandcastle reveals the end of all things - Wonders of the Universe
"The second law of Thermodynamics is able to explain why time only runs in one direction." - Brian Cox
Update: Nothing better could endorse my point, said he with a monumental groan.

'Affront to Almighty God'
Right Wing Watch

Friday, December 14, 2012

Do We Have The Right to Pardon Alan Turing? by Martin Robbins

Quite simply , no. This in answer to the question posed in the header. If anything, although far too late and quite obviously futile, we should be on our knees begging the man's forgiveness for destroying his life, and not least, destroying his remarkable intellect. 

That said, given our Nation's Imperial and Colonial history, I think we owe more than just Alan Turing an abject apology.

Apart from Turing's immeasurable contribution to the war effort, his commonly accepted accolade as the father of computer science, I think I can honestly say that he could have been well on the way to cracking digital DNA coding.

Without a doubt, the establishment's treatment of Alan Turing was a most shameful episode in this country's history. 

Do we have the right to pardon Turing?

Stephen Hawking is right to say that Alan Turing deserves to be pardoned, but do we deserve to pardon Alan Turing?
by Martin Robbins
14 Dec 2012

Stephen Hawking and a number of his peers have signed a letter that appears in the Telegraph today, calling for the government to pardon the legendary mathematician and computer scientist, Alan Turing. Turing, a major force in cracking the German naval Enigma code, was charged with gross indecency in 1952 for the crime of committing homosexual acts, ejected from GCHQ and subjected to a hormone 'treatment' – chemical castration – that left him impotent. The father of computer science died two years later aged just 41. Although he received a formal apology from Gordon Brown in 2009, a petition calling for a pardon was denied earlier this year.

"…successive governments seem incapable of forgiving his conviction for the then crime of being a homosexual," the letter argues. "We urge the prime minister to exercise his authority and formally forgive the iconic British hero."

Pardoning Turing is one of those ideas that seem so obviously right it's scarcely worth giving them a second thought. He was a hero and genius whose life was ruined by the state's bigotry and prejudice, and no one in their right mind would suggest that he deserves anything less than a full pardon and a grovelling apology. And yet while I'd like to see it happen, there are at least three questions I can think of that are worth a bit of thought.

The first, and most obvious: why only Turing? Tens of thousands of people were convicted under the same law, dating back to Oscar Wilde and earlier. All of them people were victims of the same injustice, and the scale of that injustice was the same whatever their achievements, whether they happened to be Alan the mathematician or Bill the coal-miner. Addressing this only for those who happened to be public heroes is a shallow, insincere and grossly unfair act that just compounds the problem – pardon all of them, or pardon none, but don't imply through your actions that some are more 'deserving' of 'forgiveness' than others.

Second: why do it at all? It's difficult to see what pardoning Turing would really achieve, for him or for the cause of equality more generally. The man himself won't know much about it: even if heaven existed it's doubtful they would let something as vile and depressing as The News in, and of course if the Christians are right he won't be in heaven anyway. We cannot 'make it up' to him: the damage inflicted on his mind, body and career cannot ever be undone.

On the other hand his legacy is unquestioned, and his reputation as one of the great British heroes is secure. His conviction has entered history as a stain not on his character, but on Britain itself; an important reminder for future generations of what we did, and what we mustn't do again. Perhaps this is unfair on my part, but the conspicuous political act of publicly expunging that stain – as if it would somehow 'undo' the crime – feels uncomfortably like a self-serving gesture, a way of drawing a line under an embarrassing period in our history and moving on as though everything were fixed. The trouble is I'm not entirely convinced we should move on.

Which brings me to my third question: who would pardon him? David Cameron? On behalf of the British government? We live in a country that gives political power to a church riddled with bigotry, where the battle for marriage equality is still being fought, and where homophobic bullying is endemic in our schools. We have entire sections of industry – notably Premier League football – in which no gay man can reveal himself for fear of what might happen. Our dominant political party is riddled with members making homophobic statements, and in Cabinet we have both a chancellor who referred to a gay MP as a "pantomime dame" and a Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice who claimed that it's acceptable for B&Bs to turn away gay couples.

I could run through examples like this all week, but the point is this: I'm not sure that the British government have earned the right to pardon Alan Turing. Not as long as the attitudes that led to his persecution are still very much with us, and entrenched in that very same government.

The language of Hawking et al's letter is remarkably clumsy; its plea that the government should 'forgive' Turing carelessly implying that he did something to be forgiven for. In reality, it is the government who should be seeking forgiveness from Alan Turing, but that of course has been impossible for more than half a century, and no amount of symbolic gestures will change matters. A pardon for Turing and his peers would be welcome, but if politicians are serious about atoning for past sins then they should ask what they can do for homosexuals today. There's no shortage of places for them to start. Gruaniad

In keeping with Robbins' excellent argument above, I thought this comment/afterthought posted by Robbins on his own article, more than apt, more than fitting.

I'll add one other argument here, in case you're not convinced by what I've written. Close your eyes and imagine Cameron - or Osborne or Grayling or really almost any minister - giving a big flashy press conference on Sky News to take credit for pardoning Turing. Now go and wipe the vomit from your chin...

Twitter follow @mjrobbins

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Reagan the Baffled" and Other Gems: Fred Reed on American Politics

I didn't set out to bring you this piece below, but rather a more hard hitting, if not a quite miserable piece by the irrepressible Fred Reed. But for impact and misery I have no taste today. So in keeping with the majority of Fred Reed articles that can be found featured on this blog, I shall stick with the previous formula, Fred Reed doing what he does best, writing with no small amount of humour.

Oh! and cynicism, did I mention the cynicism? it wouldn't be Reed without a helping of that to help any essay along.

Of the original article that I intended to run, I shall leave a taster and a link below, thus allowing me to do here, something that goes against my own blogging ethics, that of running another's article in its entirety.

But at this moment my biggest conundrum is, how I might fit  Reagan the Baffled in the header? It being just one of Reed's little gems in the text. (Easy enough)

Election Remorse

Why the Romnibus Wasn't the Omnibus
by Fred Reed
November 12, 2012

I have been a bad person. I did not vote. I confess it. I would rather be caught in a gay brothel dealing in underage boys than in a voting booth. The two are equally degrading, but voting carries the further implication of low intelligence. Ages ago a Japanese friend told me “We are not too intelested in Amelican national erection.” Me too either.

What was the point? We suffered years of blather from unqualified charlatans who regard the public as ignorant hamsters of low caste, and what do we get? The same unqualified charlatan. We could have done it without an election. Think of the peace and quiet.

This deplorable practice—holding elections, I mean—is thought to be fraught with consequences. For example, I am told that the defeat of Romney signals the end of rule by Angry Old White Men. I hope so. I enjoy living in the Third World, and soon Americans will be able to do so from the comfort of home.

To me Mr. Romney’s candidacy signaled the Republicans’ admirable capacity to do the impossible: find an aspirant even more depressing than Obama. But they managed. It was a triumph of the human spirit. Never underestimate American ingenuity.

How was this result achieved? Mr. Romney asserted that Russia is America’s most perilous adversary, wanted to deal fiercely with China, asserted the nonexistence of Palestinians, pledged his undying troth to Israel (America presumably would be a second wife), wanted to attack Iran, and thinks we need to increase the military budget.

Oh god. Oh god.

Were the Chinese paying him off? If you want to bring the United States down, keep it spending. On anything. On everything. Does nobody understand this?

It is most curious. Conservatives think that Reagan the Baffled won a great victory over the Soviet Onion by spending it into penury. Grrr. Woof. But in the great sweep of things, what he did was to increase military spending. The Russians didn’t matter: The Pentagon quickly found another financial pretext in Terrorism after the budgetary godsend in New York. Subsequent presidents continued the trend. From a Chinese point of view, it is wonderful. They build their economy while we assassinate ours. They don’t need a military. Ours is doing the job for them.

The trick is to keep America’s wars going as long and inconclusively as possible until the land of the free (free lunch, free rent, free everything) ends up selling pencils on street corners. I figure Beijing pays the White House under the table.

So much for Romney. By contrast, with Obama we will have little cause for alarm, other than abolition of the Constitution, currency controls, selective denial of passports to enemies of the administration, uncontrolled inflation, wild federal spending, and a level of surveillance that would frighten a laboratory rat. See? The Democrats are much better. I feel so liberal.

In a decade I figure we will look longingly at North Korea as a model of civil liberties.

Then we have the gender gap. I am told that women favored Obama by a margin of twelve points, while men went for Romney by eight. Here is clear evidence that women do not understand politics. It is too difficult for them. They worry their pretty little heads about trivia like schooling, health care, peace, security, paying the bills, and having a livable country in which to live. No nation can long survive such an agenda. Repeal the Nineteenth Amendment, I say. Should women ever evolve politically, which doesn’t seem likely, they will see the wisdom of killing child goat-herds in Afghanistan, like their sexual betters.

And the geography gap. I have seen Mr. Romney quoted as describing Syria as Iran’s “route to the sea.” This is fascinating. He doesn’t know where Iraq and Turkey are. And what does he think the Persian Gulf is? A ham sandwich? Oh well. There’s always Google Earth.

But the hamstervolk want a hamsterfuehrer who Looks Like America, and if a candidate were discovered to know where his wars were, he would be thought elitist.

We come to the threat of socialism. Mr. Obama, I am told more often than I really think necessary, is a socialist. He is going to make America into Europe, thought to be expiring of socialism, a sort of economic gangrene. The same people also tell me, often with curious orthography, the he is a Marxist, a communist, a Moslem, and an America-hating Christian. This notion is an example of the remarkable versatility of barely existent minds. If the man is a Marxist or communist, these being explicitly atheistic, then he cannot be a Moslem or any kind of Christian. If he is a Christian, then he cannot be a Moslem or a…

But socialism. On the outdated theory that words mean things, I had recourse to the dictionary and found that socialism is “an economic system in which the means of production and distribution belong to the government.” Thus America cannot be socialist, since the means of production belong to the Chinese. Nor can I understand why Europe is regarded as socialist. I have walked the streets of Madrid, Paris, Sevilla, Frankfurt, on and on, and seen no indication that the stores and restaurants belonged to government. Neither, I thought, did Siemens, Dassault, BP, BMW, Mercedes, Santander, Leica and, most importantly, Bass and Guinness.

Europe looks to me like a capitalist economy with good health care and long vacations. I feel deeply threatened by this nightmare, and hope that Congress will impeach Obama before he can impose such a dreadful thing.

The idea that Obama could turn the US into a socialist realm is more interesting psychologically than economically. It suggests depths of giddy retardation that could be plumbed only in a bathysphere. Corporations control the US. They own Congress. Do you really think that the CEO of Lockheed-Martin wants to see the company nationalized and himself put on a federal salary? Oh sure, any day now. In fact, I expect it by nightfall.

Yes, I know. I will get email telling me of the economic collapse of Europe, in stark contrast to America’s booming economy, full employment, staggering trade surplus, and incorruptible government.

Despite all these blessings brought to us by our laudable leadership, I suggest that instead we ought to borrow Angela Merkel, Uri Avnery, or that unpronounceable but indescribably gutsy and intelligent woman who is giving the dictators hives in Burma. Diversity would be our strength.  Fred Reed

As mentioned.

Dulce et Decorum

And May You Get the Chance
by Fred Reed
December 8, 2012

I am a soldier. I am dirt. With Joshua I put the cities of Canaan to the sword while women screamed and tried to protect their babies. I spent long days in Nanjing butchering and butchering civilians because I enjoyed it. For I am a soldier. I am dirt. I fire-bombed Hamburg till the wind-fanned flames left nowhere to hide and the people burned screaming and their fat puddled in the streets. I am a soldier. I am dirt.

On the crumbling walls of Angkor Wat, the Cold Lairs, trees now crawling over the walls, you may see me carved, marching, marching to kill forgotten peoples, it matters not whom. In the sweltering heat of Chichen Itza and the terrible winter of Stalingrad and the flaming paper cities of Japan and on the Death March of the PhilippinesI killed and killed, for I am a soldier. I am dirt. I kill.

In this I glory. I spend my declining years drinking in bars with old soldiers I knew when Breda fell to us and we raped and killed and looted, when we torpedoed the troop ships and left the soldiers in their thousands to drown slowly as their strength gave out. The fierce exultation of watching Atlanta burn, Pearl Harbor, Nagasaki, these I remember lovingly. For I am dirt.

Crush their skulls and eat their faces, we say with remembered bravado. We remember the adventures fondly. They almost had us at Plei Cuy when a 551 arrived with beehive rounds, and that put paid to them, hoo-ah. more

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Leveson's Punch and Judy Show by John Pilger

My favourite laugh-out-loud quote of His Lordship is: "I have seen no basis at any stage for challenging the integrity of the police."

Leveson's Punch and Judy show on the press masks 'hacking' on a scale you can barely imagine

John Pilger
6 December 2012

In the week Lord Leveson published almost a million words about his inquiry into the "culture, practice and ethics" of Britain's corporate press, two illuminating books about media and freedom were also published. Their contrast with the Punch and Judy show staged by Leveson is striking.

Sans Caption

For 36 years, Project Censored, based in California, has documented critically important stories unreported or suppressed by the media most Americans watch or read. This year's report is Censored 2013: Dispatches from the media revolution by Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth (Seven Stories Press). They describe the omissions of "mainstream" journalism as "history in the un-making". Unlike Leveson, their investigation demonstrates the sham of a system claiming to be free. Among their top 25 censored stories are these:

Since 2001, the United States has erected a police state apparatus including a presidential order that allows the US military to detain anyone indefinitely without trial. FBI agents are now responsible for the majority of terrorist plots, with a network of 15,000 spies "encouraging and assisting people to commit crimes". Informants receive cash rewards of up to $100,000.

The bombing of civilian targets in Libya in 2011 was often deliberate and included the main water supply facility that provided water to 70 per cent of the population. In Afghanistan, the murder of 16 unarmed civilians, including children, attributed to one rogue US soldier, was actually committed by "multiple" soldiers, and covered up. In Syria, the US, Britain and France are funding and arming the icon of terrorism, al-Qaida. In Latin America, one US bank has laundered $378bn. in drug money.

In Britain, this world of subjugated news and information is concealed behind a similar façade of a "free" media, which promotes the extremisms of state corruption and war, consumerism and an impoverishment known as "austerity". Leveson devoted his "inquiry" to the preservation of this system. My favourite laugh-out-loud quote of His Lordship is: "I have seen no basis at any stage for challenging the integrity of the police."


Those who have long tired of deconstructing the clichés and deceptions of "news" say: "At least there is the internet now." More John Pilger

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Intelligence Squared Debate: "The Catholic Church is a force for good"

I have upped two segments, those featuring Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens, plus the complete 2009 debate.

If you watch nothing else, do watch Stephen Fry, I thought he came across particularly well.

This post debate report from the Telegraph.

Intelligence Squared debate: Catholics humiliated by Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry 
By Andrew M Brown
October 19th, 2009 
I have just witnessed a rout – tonight’s Intelligence Squared debate. It considered the motion “The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world”. Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry, opposing the motion, comprehensively trounced Archbishop Onaiyekan (of Abuja, Nigeria) and Ann Widdecombe, who spoke for it. The archbishop in particular was hopeless. 
The voting gives a good idea of how it went. Before the debate, for the motion: 678. Against: 1102. Don’t know: 346. This is how it changed after the debate. For: 268. Against: 1876. Don’t know: 34. In other words, after hearing the speakers, the number of people in the audience who opposed the motion increased by 774. My friend Simon, who's a season ticket holder, said it was the most decisive swing against a motion that he could remember. 
The problem (from the Catholic point of view) was that the speakers arguing for the Church as a force for good were hopelessly outclassed by two hugely popular, professional performers. The archbishop had obviously decided that it would work best if he stuck to facts and figures and presented the Church as a sort of vast charitable or “social welfare” organisation. He emphasised how many Catholics there were in the world, and that even included “heads of state”, he said, as if that was a clincher. But he said virtually nothing of a religious or spiritual nature as far as I could tell, and non-Catholics would have been none the wiser about what you might call the transcendent aspects of the Church. Then later when challenged he became painfully hesitant. In the end he mumbled and spluttered and retreated into embarrassing excuses and evasions. He repeatedly got Ann Widdecombe’s name wrong. The hostility of both the audience and his opponents seemed to have discomfited him. 
So it was left to Ann Widdecombe to defend the Church single-handedly. She did well, showed a light touch and took Hitchens to task for exaggerations and so on. But in the end Hitchens and Fry were able to persuade decisively by simply listing one after another the wicked things that have been done in the Church’s name over the centuries. More than anything they focused on the “institutionalisation of the rape and torture and maltreatment of children”. That’s what Hitchens called it – that's pretty much what it was – and Fry returned to it. I don't blame them for harping on about these unspeakable crimes, because there is no answer to them. Then they talked about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. When Zeinab Badawi in the chair asked the archbishop whether Christ himself ever actually said anything about homosexuality, he replied by saying "that's not the point" or words to that effect, and sounded slippery. Blah blah

Stephen Fry dismantles the Roman Catholic Church, from the Intelligence Squared debate.

Christopher Hitchens about the Catholic Church from the Intelligence debate.

Filmed 19 Oct 2009, this is a segment of the intelligence² debate. Title of the debate: "The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world".

Monday, December 03, 2012

Integrity: Such a Funny Word. Leveson Yates

I'm at a loss for who has the lesser, Justice Leveson or the fellow he is trying to whitewash, the disgraced, recently resigned, fled to Bahrain, Murdoch lackey, John Yates?

Met Police ignored "vociferous" phone hacking warnings from own detectives 
Senior detectives have questioned the Metropolitan Police's version of events over phone hacking after claiming that "vociferous" warnings were ignored and that official records are "inaccurate 
By Steven Swinford
02 Dec 2012 
Keith Surtees, an investigating officer with the Metropolitan police's original hacking inquiry, said that in 2009 he repeatedly told John Yates, the then Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, that the phone hacking investigation should be re-opened. 
He said his officers had found evidence that "criminality extended further" than a single journalist and private investigator, but that his warnings were not recorded in official minutes of meetings between senior officers. 
The claims come amid growing concerns that police were let off "far too lightly" by Lord Justice Leveson, who concluded that police conducted themselves with "integrity at all times". 
He said that while poor decisions had been taken, there was no evidence of corruption or that the closeness of senior officers to News International had hampered investigations. 
Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, a former Conservative security adviser, said: "One of the things I find most surprising about the Leveson review is that angle, that part of the story was not tackled in a great deal more depth than it was and I think that the police have been let off far too lightly." 
In a late submission to the Leveson Inquiry, Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Surtees provided detailed information which appears to contradict the Metropolitan police's official account. 
DCS Surtees was one of the lead investigators in the original phone hacking inquiry in 2006, which led to the arrest of a Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, and Clive Goodman, a News of the World journalist, for hacking voicemails of members of the royal household. 
According to an assessment from May 2006, DCS Surtees was concerned that phone hacking extended significantly further and urged senior officers to consider "wider investigation".
In handwritten notes, he later added: "In many [cases] there is simply the name of a celebrity or well known public figure and these develop into sheets detailing home addresses, business addresses, telephone humbers, DDNS, account numbers, passwords, pin numbers and scribblings of private information." 
The Metropolitan Police, however, decided not to investigate further amid fears it would detract from terrorist investigations. 
In July 2009, Assistant Commissioner John Yates spent less than a day reviewing the earlier investigation into phone hacking, before deciding there were no grounds for re-opening the inquiry. 
DCS Surtees said that he repeatedly raised concerns about the decision: "On more than one occasion .. I voiced my concern that the original investigation could and should be re-opened or re-examined and suggested either HMIC [Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary] or another Force should undertake such a task. 
"I explained that the reasons for ending all activity in 2006, including the victim notification strategy, no longer existed in 2009." His claims were corroborated by the statement of another senior officer. 
He said that minutes of the "Gold" group meeting of senior officers, which was attended by Assistant Commissioner Yates, were did not reflect his concerns. "My view is that they are not a wholly complete or accurate reflection of what was discussed," he said. 
A spokesman from the Metropolitan Police declined to comment. 
A friend of Mr Yates said: "He and everyone else all thought it [phone hacking] went wider but there was no evidence that they could use for prosecution. The News of the World were not co-operating and the phone companies no longer held the records. So yes, Keith may have said this but the context is vital." 
Tom Watson, the deputy chairman of the Labour Party, said: "This is a remarkable submission. It shows that there was very strong disagreement over whether there was a case to be answered in 2009. He directly contradicts the account of John Yates and the official record." Telegraph


Previous: John Prescott: ''I just didn't believe him'' - John Yates

Lots more in the sidebar under the John Yates tag.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Police Let Off 'far too lightly' by Leveson Inquiry

Police let off 'far too lightly' by Leveson inquiry

Police were let off "far too lightly" during the Leveson inquiry after failing to re-open the phone hacking inquiry four years ago, a former Home Office minister has said.
By Steven Swinford and Christopher Hope
02 Dec 2012

Lord Justice Leveson insisted in his report that the police conducted themselves with "integrity at all times" during the original phone hacking investigation.

He said that while poor decisions had been taken, there was no evidence of corruption or that the closeness of senior officers to News International had hampered investigations.

Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones told Radio Four’s Any Questions: "One of the things I find most surprising about the Leveson review is that angle, that part of the story was not tackled in a great deal more depth than it was and I think that the police have been let off far too lightly.”

She also said she was opposed to new press laws. She said: "I am concerned by the proposal that was put foward. We don't need the law."

Lord Justice Leveson did criticise John Yates, the former assistant commissioner of Scotland Yard, over his friendship with a News of the World executive.

He said he should have declined to review the original phone-hacking investigation and that it was a matter of "regret" that he did not.

Mr Yates spent less than a day reviewing a 2006 Metropolitan Police investigation into phone hacking, deciding there were no grounds for re-opening the inquiry into material seized from the private detective Glenn Mulcaire.

A subsequent review by another officer in 2010 led to Operation Weeting, the ongoing investigation into phone-hacking which has so far led to more than 20 arrests, with charges against eight people including the former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

The Leveson Inquiry heard that Mr Yates attended football matches with Mr Wallis, went to dinners with him and regarded him as “a good friend”.

Lord Justice Leveson said that when Mr Yates was asked to review Operation Caryatid, the original phone hacking inquiry: “I regret that Assistant Commissioner Yates did not reflect on whether he should be involved in an investigation into the newspaper at which he had friends…he would have been better advised to arrange for a different officer to conduct it.”

He said the “incredibly swift” dismissal in 2009 of a Guardian article suggesting there were 3,000 victims of phone hacking and a “continued defensive mindset” over re-opening the investigation contributed to concerns that the police were “reluctant” to do so because officers had “become too close to News International and its staff”.

Such a perception had been “extremely damaging” to the standing of Scotland Yard.
Other officers also come in for criticism.

Andy Hayman, who was in overall charge of Operation Caryatid during his time as assistant commissioner, was “extremely unwise” to accept hospitality from the News of the World at a time when it was coming under investigation.

Mr Hayman went to dinner with Andy Coulson, then editor of the News of the World, and Neil Wallis the day before Operation Caryatid was formally launched, and this had “fuelled the perception” that a decision to arrest only one News of the World journalist and one private detective was “a specific consequence of that relationship”.

The Inquiry had heard that Dick Fedorcio, the Met’s former head of communications, put Mrs Brooks in touch with an officer at the Met’s stables when she asked for the loan of a retired police horse in 2007.

Lord Justice Leveson said Mr Fedorcio’s help “went beyond what a member of the public could expect in similar circumstances” but did not result in anything “irregular”.

Sir Paul Stephenson, who resigned as commissioner after it emerged he had accepted a free stay at the Champneys health resort while he was recovering from an operation, was portrayed as a victim of circumstance.

Sir Paul came under fire when it emerged that Champneys had been represented by Neil Wallis’s public relations company, Chamy Media, but Lord Justice Leveson accepted that Sir Paul was unaware of any connection between Champneys and Mr Wallis at the time.

Mr Wallis had been employed by the Met as an external PR consultant, but any suggestion that the stay at Champneys was “a reward in kind from Mr Wallis for previous favours” was “simply not borne out” by the facts.

Overall, said Lord Justice Leveson: “There is no evidence to suggest that anyone was influenced either directly or indirectly in the conduct of the [hacking] investigation by any fear or wish for favour from News International.”

In a wider context, “the Inquiry has not unearthed extensive evidence of police corruption nor is there evidence…that significant numbers of police officers lack integrity”. Telegraph