Assange, and why I’m a Left malcontent.

This is maybe not the best title, as I’m in reasonably good company: Tony Benn, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, and Julian Assange’s fellow countryman John Pilger. (I should also mention George Galloway and Craig Murray, although the issue was never going to make this their finest hour! Sunny Hundal points out).

This article is a good summary of the attacks by the common media on Assange and with an important commentary on this and the detail, added. Although anonymous, the details can be verified easily enough.

http://pastehtml.com/view/c8w2fqrin.html

Much of the controversy has been boiled down to: he’s accused of rape, he should go back and face his accusers. Sounds fair enough! But. It does not actually reflect the detail of the case. It especially avoids the context, and glosses over the likelihood of Assange ending up somewhere else for a very long time indeed.

In the intelligence world, if you can’t attack someone’s message then you attack their credibility. Sexual compromising has long been such a tool. Look at the huge range of debate on Assange here. It certainly makes a change from debating the pros and cons of the US military… The latter won’t mind the distraction…

As for the alleged rape, it really does matter if the women concerned are pursuing charges. Not the position, to the best of my knowledge. There are no charges. Rather it’s the state, which had ample time to pursue it previously, and which is still being offered opportunity to pursue its questioning here (something it has done before but declines in this case, for some reason). All this gives ample impetus to Assange to suspect a different fate awaits. Billy Bragg (via Facebook) is wrong to reduce it to avoiding allegations in Sweden. Even Ecuador gets the point!

In Britain, where rape is often poorly dealt with by the police, under-prosecuted and underreported, and where 9 rape crisis centres have closed since 2003 with many more facing that possibility, reinforces the position, widely shared by many who have thought about the subject, that Assange should simply return to face the music. (Update: remarkably, the UK rape conviction rate is 58%, a lot higher than many think).

Our rape statistics remain shocking with 80,000 women suffering rape every year, and with 85% of rapists known to their victims. But, pursuing Assange, in all these particular circumstances, will do nothing for our national rape problem nor the victims. Naomi Wolf has been quite scathing over the apparent zeal that international police have suddenly adopted over these allegations, unknown in her years of working with rape victims. Naomi Klein points out that “Rape is being used in the Assange prosecution in the same way that women’s freedom was used to invade Afghanistan.”

Surely it is unfair of us to judge his guilt in the first place? Many are already calling him a rapist, just from details in the press. Others are calling the case trumped-up, looking at other details. Despite this, the large variety of detail already available implies no real case, as far as I can see. So what do people want? An arrest, a deportation, a trial? Which then collapses?

This means, rather, that this is foremostly and transparently an attempt at a political prosecution, the result of which could mean Assange is locked up for life for doing the world a great public service, spilling the beans on the American miltary.

The facts matter, as does the context, as do the likely consequences of what we support.

Seamus Milne writes more persuasively than I in the Guardian today.

Lindsey German too makes a valuable contribution.

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The Official London Olympics 2012

I could care less, but then I’d have to make some effort.

A faster 100m or ending world hunger?? Ooh, tricky one. Let’s go for a faster 100 metres. Yes, I’m sure there’d be more headlines about that.

And indeed a lot of effort is going into the Olympics – as represented by the £9 billion pounds cost to the taxpayer – minimum, at a time of cuts costing a million jobs. G4S put a lot in clearly too – until they realised they couldn’t find enough people prepared to work for not very much in the country’s most expensive location. So send in the cavalry (as we sack thousands of them too). Still, for the 1200 troops involved, it makes a nicer change than the 1 in 6 chance of being killed or wounded in Afghanistan.

Not to mention the Olympic Nazis cracking down on the slightest independent mention of the games not sanctioned by McCoke-idas, or SAM missiles on council estates. There’s an upgrade they could do without.

As Mark Steel points out: If the Palestinians do that they get screamed at for using civilians as a “human shield”, but we’re doing it to protect the 200 metres backstroke.

And all that with some 700,000 Olympic tickets unsold. Incredible! We should have cancelled it and given it to some capable, non-corrupt country.

£900,000 NHS spend on private ambulances for Olympics

I love the Olympics, but not here, Mark Steel

Circuses, but less bread, Craig Murray

Bread and Circuses, Wiki

The Awful Policies of the Greens

After a Lib Dem councillor recently converted to Green, a former colleague wondered how he could do this given their awful policies!  So maybe it’s worth  spelling out just where the Greens are coming from recently. The environmental credentials go back to the early 70s when they were formed, but hand in hand the Greens have had an ever-evolving social policy based around greater democracy, equality and welfare across public life.

1. In the UK the richest 1% are extraordinarily rich compared to the rest of us.

2. This has happened in a remarkable way since 1979 and Thatcher coming to power. But it HAS NOT been turned around by 13 years of Labour. In fact, year by year, income inequality has worsened.

3. This can and must be rectified. The growth of excessive wealth is literally harmful to the rest of us. It can be reduced by reining in the ways it is made, chiefly by re-regulating finance. Great wealth should also be taxed properly so that all major needs are met across society: health, education, pensions, welfare, benefits where necessary.

4. But, we can’t do any of that without believing it – and having political parties that believe that too! We are very far from that being a mainstream POV. In fact the 3 major parties have sold out to the turbo-capitalism and won’t even re-regulate the banking sector directly responsible for the latest bubble and crash since 2008.

5. However, most people agree with most of these views. We should protect the NHS and keep it public. We should keep pension provision; we should tax great wealth properly. Once we have some traction for more healthy policies on wealth, income, proper taxation, regulating finance, etc, then we will have much greater ease in seeing how we effect the world – in terms of the amount we take from it AND not put back.

6. That’s what “eco” really means. It’s about balance. It’s a really simple concept EXCEPT that we are so out of ANY sort of balance or accountability for what the really greedy among us are doing, that anyone outside the Greens can hardly understand it anymore! We should have balance within our society. And balance with the wider world.

7. Most Greens actually easily understand this – and much more. Our ease with exploitation explains the 16 million deaths a year from hunger and simple diseases. This simply should not be happening in what is still a world of plenty. That huge amounts of human time, energy, money, transportation are simply wasted by so-called “free markets” all rigged through trade agreements dominated by rich countries, is reprehensible.

Further, many simple pleasures we take for granted are produced by child slaves. Eg, chocolate!

8. No wonder, if we are prepared to treat each other so wantonly, even to the extent of full-on wars over oil – no wonder we are even more wanton with other species, destroying the world’s forests, and over-fishing the oceans.

9. The Green Party – alone, it seems – says IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS! Trade can be much more localised at very little loss. Countries should all have the capacity – and actuality – of feeding their populations first. Energy should be more local – within countries – and on a more renewable basis. Cheap communications are just about available to all. Transport easily could be too.

10. Simply, the greatest cancer we suffer is the huge amount, comparatively, that the rich countries take from everywhere else, and, within those societies, the huge amount the 1% just takes – or commands – from everyone, here or abroad.

It’s time to put the balance back. In society. Between countries. Across the world.

Am I bovvered?

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As the Government is about to monitor all emails, websites visited, phone calls and texts, times, dates and to whom, should we care?

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/32400

Why should anyone be bothered? Surely it’s just another excuse for a paranoid government to pay anoraks to sit in disused aircraft hangars sifting through gigabytes of garbage for nuggets of our digital dross.

Perhaps we should put this in context.

Typically, governments ask for these powers years after they’ve been doing it anyway. But it’s not draughty, disused aircraft hangars they use, it’s state of the art facilities like Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, and GCHQ Cheltenham.

It’s even made it into folklore: the “Echelon” of the Bourne series, is very real and the name for the main information system that Menwith runs.

Menwith intercepts pretty much all electronic traffic in the northern hemisphere. In real time. Cheltenham takes the UK specific data and Maryland NSA gets stuff the US flags. All of it is trawled through by dedicated computer systems which make ours look like they’re used to play Tetris.

Any reasons to be concerned?

Leveson

The Leveson Inquiry is into whether any journalists hacked phones or paid police officers for people’s private numbers. Obviously both are illegal. The practice has cost the privacy of the Dowler family, Hugh Grant, and many others. It’s cost a whole newspaper and Rebakah Brooks’ job, with more to come. But it is also against the law to give out someone’s private number without authorisation. Senior police officers and Murdoch journalists continue to be implicated.

The EU Commission wants it

The Data Retention Directive, 2009, requires member states to monitor all communications traffic, information on all emails, phone calls and texts, to whom made, for a year. Those countries that remember state surveillance have rejected the data retention laws. The UK doesn’t. It’s been rejected by Germany, Czech Republic,  Germany, Romania, Cyprus and Hungary. Plus, there are four other countries which won’t even consider data retention in the first place: Sweden, Greece, Ireland and Austria.

So you’re happy with a Stasi Britain?

East Germany had a world famous police force. The Stasi would spy on not just anyone, but everyone. Neighbours were encouraged to spy on each other and report anything of interest no matter how trivial. The Stasi built up huge files on everyone. This legislation allows that to happen here, automatically, on everyone. It’s like having a bug in every living room to be turned on or off at some official whim. Get involved with the wrong person, wrong group, go to the wrong website at the wrong time and you could be in trouble, in jail, in prison, tortured, dead. Who sets the parameters on who is a problem? Terrorists? Unoinists? Climate campers? Students? UK uncut? Occupy? Mass surveillance has had effects on other countries. Imagine Hitler coming to power with this technology. Or what if you were left-leaning during McCarthy America. Or homosexual in Iran?

Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 had a retired guy who called Bush a moron at the gym. A day later, the FBI turned up at his door! Don’t think it will happen here? Why make it easy for them? Oppose it. Privacy and freedom go together.

China and Iran

Blocks access to a very large number of websites in order to control its people. Iran’s government company TCI has a near monopoly on telecoms including web traffic. It’s easy to surveille people. Human rights groups report many cases where these powers have been used against dissidents. A new deal with China has recently given Iran a major upgrade in monitoring technology.

Violates human rights

The right to privacy is a human right. Still happy to make a gift of your privacy to big, unaccountable government? Your family’s? Your friends? The ubiquitous surveillance of every human being is not compatible with fundamental rights. The right to privacy is like being able to sit at home without the police raiding your house! You wouldn’t want a cop peering over your shoulder watching everything you write, wherever, to whoever. They are not allowed to do that, by law. Would you want them to be? The web powers already exist but only with a warrant. Why throw away that safeguard of having a magistrate assess it? Why create a law, whereby whether we agree or not, they can monitor all our calls and emails – just like that? Not long ago similar snooping powers were briefly the right of council officials too. Just who will be able to watch your communications? And why?

It’s not proportional

Registering everybody’s communications, just because some tiny fraction may come in useful in some later criminal investigation, is not proportional. The police are already successful. Crime is dropping in Britain. If you consider our prison population – the highest rate in the EU bar one – we need fewer powers not more! We need a people’s state not a police one.

Hasn’t Britain enough police powers already?

We have the most CCTVs per head in the world. Too many. We have ANPR that can track vehicles on main roads, automatically, spotting cars without insurance. We have any number of creepings along the road to a much more pervasive controlling state – a DNA database, ID cards, etc, will all make their comeback. Police have lots more powers about how to police demonstrations, or whether they can happen at all.

So be bovvered.

Even if you think that you have nothing to hide – doesn’t mean the state won’t think that you have.

Christopher Alder: Quest for Justice

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Janet Alder describing her brother Christopher, his death and the ongoing campaign.

There have been 333 deaths in custody since 1998.

There has been no officer found guilty for 42 years.

On Sunday we held a memorial for a man that Hull police left to die on their station floor.

The vigil was held by Queens Gardens police station, one of many since Christopher Alder’s death on the 1st April, 14 years ago. Supporters gathered on the beautiful day. The press came too and Janet Alder, Chris’s sister, spoke to cameras and reporters reminding them of the story so far.

A coach pulled up in a while at the end of the road. A big, colourful entrance was made by supporters from London marching up the street and chanting “No Justice, No Peace” with drums too.

Speeches were made in the sunshine and everyone was invited to say which organisations and campaigns they represented before people set off on a demonstration around town.

Later, at the Unison building, about 100 people packed the meeting organised by the Hull Trades Council to hear the latest from the campaigners for justice for their loved ones.

Christopher Alder Campaign, Hull Trades Council

It was a stunning meeting. Chris himself died 14 years ago. But there were other people from London, from Manchester, who have lost men to police brutality and they spoke passionately too.

The family of Anthony Grainger shot dead by Manchester police in a supermarket car park. Friends and family of reggae star Smiley Culture (David Emmanuel) stabbed through the heart during a police raid – killing himself – according to police. And speeches for Sean Rigg, 40, who died in Brixton police station, a gifted musician.

In Chris’ case, he had been on a night out. Towards the end of the evening, he had been involved in a fight and he was taken to hospital for treatment. Apparently he became troublesome, possibly due to his head injury. The police were called and arrested him for behaviour likely to breach the peace.

Arriving at the police station, he was carried unconscious from the police van. Mysteriously he had lost his belt, something still unexplained today.

Chris was left with his trousers around his knees, obviously having difficulty breathing, on the police station floor. And eventually died there while police speculated he was feigning illness and made racist comments.

In 2000, at the inquest, the family received a verdict of unlawful killing. During questioning, the five police officers concerned refused to answers on over 150 occasions. Further court actions haven’t moved things further. In this case, the officers concerned were retired due to stress with £50,000 each and a full pension to come. So, neglect, minimum, that led to death, in a situation of statutory duty of care, had no criminal consequences for them.

Not only that – but this year – after 14 years, his body was discovered NOT to have been buried in 2000 when the family held the funeral! Rather, a 77 year old Nigerian woman had been buried in his place, apparently due to a mortuary mix-up! The mortuary staff concerned have moved to Australia and New Zealand, the funeral directors, paid £2200 for hearses and preparing the body(!), have since gone out of business.

It’s a horrific story!

The speeches were very moving today. No country is without its troubles, but the trials these families have gone through, the deaths, cover ups, police lies, media collusion, IPCC investigations refusing to investigate properly or at all, underscore a state where the police can kill someone and get away with it. As one police officer was reported to have said “Nothing will happen to me.”

333 deaths in custody since 1998.

No officer found guilty for 42 years.

United Friends and Family Campaign

Murdoch should go. But not alone.

BREAKING: Rupert Murdoch admits that he regrets hiring David Cameron as Prime Minister.

This recent tweet summed up the News International revelations so far. The role of Murdoch as kingmaker goes back decades. Make that queenmaker too, after Thatcher. There is evidence that Murdoch was effectively running   a private intelligence service even to the extent of actually having a “black ops” section.

The extent of the collusion between media and police and politicians is alarming. Moreso for its apparent everyday-ness. Transparency is clearly strictly for us bottom-feeders! You’d think they all belonged to their own secret society or something…

The scale of elite corruption being uncovered means there will be heads on plates – and not just Rebekah Brooks’.

But we’re not just talking about a few hacked phones. We’re talking about the sort of collusion that led to a war costing over a million lives. We’re talking about the easy relationships between the powerful that led to de-regulation and a banking fiasco bar none, which has cost Britain billions and maybe a million lost jobs this year – and even to the point of sacrificing economies of countries while bankers still get their millions in bonuses.

This must not continue.  A sea change is needed in British politics and in international politics, of which we are a key part. But the people who may lead us there seem few and far between. So who’s going to do it?

The Violent World of Mr. Hopey Changey

Most Greens don’t support most of Obama’s major policies. This is even truer when it comes to foreign policy – ie, pursuing existing and newer wars. The first Green MP, Caroline Lucas, was among 13 UK MPs that voted against the bombing of Libya, the so-called UN sanctioned No Fly Zone. Here John Pilger explains the detail.

The context is a long Western history of ambition for territory and resources. Libya has most of Africa’s oil, for example. But once the decision was made, Gaddafi becomes the ‘new Hitler’ and his actions become despicable, while others’ actions, such as Bahrain, are overlooked.  In Libya’s case, despite the despot, or maybe because of, Libya has one of the highest life expectancies in Africa, a very respectable 78.  As the people ourselves, in apparent democracies, our job is to question and challenge great power not to roll over and parrot its propaganda like so many Uncle Tom’s justifying what in fact is our own oppression too.

John Pilger – Welcome to the Violent World of Mr Hopey Changey.

May 26, 2011 – When Britain lost control of Egypt in 1956, Prime Minister Anthony Eden said he wanted the nationalist president Gamal Abdel Nasser “destroyed … murdered … I don’t give a damn if there’s anarchy and chaos in Egypt”. Those insolent Arabs, Winston Churchill had urged in 1951, should be driven “into the gutter from which they should never have emerged”.

The language of colonialism may have been modified; the spirit and the hypocrisy are unchanged. A new imperial phase is unfolding in direct response to the Arab uprising that began in January and has shocked Washington and Europe, causing an Eden-style panic. The loss of the Egyptian tyrant Mubarak was grievous, though not irretrievable; an American-backed counter-revolution is under way as the military regime in Cairo is seduced with new bribes and power shifting from the street to political groups that did not initiate the revolution. The western aim, as ever, is to stop authentic democracy and reclaim control.

Libya is the immediate opportunity. The Nato attack on Libya, with the UN Security Council assigned to mandate a bogus “no fly zone” to “protect civilians”, is strikingly similar to the final destruction of Yugoslavia in 1999. There was no UN cover for the bombing of Serbia and the “rescue” of Kosovo, yet the propaganda echoes today. Like Slobodan Milosevic, Muammar Gaddafi is a “new Hitler”, plotting “genocide” against his people. There is no evidence of this, as there was no genocide in Kosovo. In Libya there is a tribal civil war; and the armed uprising against Gaddafi has long been appropriated by the Americans, French and British, their planes attacking residential Tripoli with uranium-tipped missiles and the submarine HMS Triumph firing Tomahawk missiles, a repeat of the “shock and awe” in Iraq that left thousands of civilians dead and maimed. As in Iraq, the victims, which include countless incinerated Libyan army conscripts, are media unpeople.

In the “rebel” east, the terrorising and killing of black African immigrants is not news. On 22 May, a rare piece in the Washington Post described the repression, lawlessness and death squads in the “liberated zones” just as visiting EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, declared she had found only “great aspirations” and “leadership qualities”. In demonstrating these qualities, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the “rebel leader” and Gaddafi’s justice minister until February, pledged, “Our friends … will have the best opportunity in future contracts with Libya.” The east holds most of Libya’s oil, the greatest reserves in Africa. In March the rebels, with expert foreign guidance, “transferred” to Benghazi the Libyan Central Bank, a wholly owned state institution. This is unprecedented. Meanwhile, the US and the EU “froze” almost US$100 billion in Libyan funds, “the largest sum ever blocked”, according to official statements. It is the biggest bank robbery in history.

The French elite are enthusiastic robbers and bombers. Nicholas Sarkozy’s imperial design is for a French-dominated Mediterranean Union (UM), which would allow France to “return” to its former colonies in North Africa and profit from privileged investment and cheap labour. Gaddafi described the Sarkozy plan as “an insult” that was “taking us for fools”. The Merkel government in Berlin agreed, fearing its old foe would diminish Germany in the EU, and abstained in the Security Council vote on Libya.

Like the attack on Yugoslavia and the charade of Milosevic’s trial, the International Criminal Court is being used by the US, France and Britain to prosecute Gaddafi while his repeated offers of a ceasefire are ignored. Gaddafi is a Bad Arab. David Cameron’s government and its verbose top general want to eliminate this Bad Arab, like the Obama administration killed a famously Bad Arab in Pakistan recently. The crown prince of Bahrain, on the other hand, is a Good Arab. On 19 May, he was warmly welcomed to Britain by Cameron with a photo-call on the steps of 10 Downing Street. In March, the same crown prince slaughtered unarmed protestors and allowed Saudi forces to crush his country’s democracy movement. The Obama administration has rewarded Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive regimes on earth, with a $US60 billion arms deal, the biggest in US history. The Saudis have the most oil. They are the Best Arabs.

The assault on Libya, a crime under the Nuremberg standard, is Britain’s 46th military “intervention” in the Middle East since 1945. Like its imperial partners, Britain’s goal is to control Africa’s oil. Cameron is not Anthony Eden, but almost. Same school. Same values. In the media-pack, the words colonialism and imperialism are no longer used, so that the cynical and the credulous can celebrate state violence in its more palatable form.

And as “Mr. Hopey Changey” (the name that Ted Rall, the great American cartoonist, gives Barack Obama), is fawned upon by the British elite and launches another insufferable presidential campaign, the Anglo-American reign of terror proceeds in Afghanistan and elsewhere, with the murder of people by unmanned drones – a US/Israel innovation, embraced by Obama. For the record, on a scorecard of imposed misery, from secret trials and prisons and the hounding of whistleblowers and the criminalising of dissent to the incarceration and impoverishment of his own people, mostly black people, Obama is as bad as George W. Bush.

The Palestinians understand all this. As their young people courageously face the violence of Israel’s blood-racism, carrying the keys of their grandparents’ stolen homes, they are not even included in Mr. Hopey Changey’s list of peoples in the Middle East whose liberation is long overdue. What the oppressed need, he said on 19 May, is a dose of “America’s interests [that] are essential to them”. He insults us all.

http://www.johnpilger.com