Microsoft request takedown of… then change their minds out of the goodness of their black hearts…


Well,, one of my favourite repositories of “documents for publication that are prohibited by governments worldwide, in particular material on freedom of expression, privacy, cryptology, dual-use technologies, national security, intelligence, and secret governance”, has had an eventful day. They put online a copy of Microsoft’s “Global Criminal Compliance Handbook – US Domestic Version”, an interesting little booklet that describes exactly what info they collect about their customers for law enforcement; this annoyed Microsoft enough for them to get onto Network Solutions,’s ISP, and have the site knocked off the web!

Somewhat predictably, this quickly became big news on the interwebs. But it doesn’t look like Microsoft predicted that outcome! Someone there must have realised, somewhat belatedly, that it doesn’t look too good to be a nasty bully silencing the voice of freedom. So a Microsoft lawyer got back to Network Solutions and asked for to be reinstated! Here’s the email Microsoft sent to Network Solutions:

X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft Exchange V6.5
Received: from ([]) by nsiva-exchange4.CORPIT.NSI.NET with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.3959); Wed, 24 Feb 2010 22:47:25 -0500
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;
Received: from corpcm3 ( []) by (8.12.10/8.12.10) with ESMTP id o1P3lOsM023759 for ; Wed, 24 Feb 2010 22:47:24 -0500 (EST)
Received: from [] ([] by corpcm3 (envelope-from ) (ecelerity r(31179/31189)) with ESMTP id E2/39-15380-3C2F58B4; Wed, 24 Feb 2010 22:47:15 -0500
Received: (qmail 23471 invoked from network); 25 Feb 2010 03:45:41 -0000
Received: from (HELO ( by with SMTP; 25 Feb 2010 03:45:41 -0000
Received: from ([]) by with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.3959); Wed, 24 Feb 2010 22:46:57 -0500
Content-class: urn:content-classes:message
Subject: Re: Ticket Number 1-452132847
Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2010 22:46:56 -0500
Thread-Topic: Re: Ticket Number 1-452132847
Thread-Index: Acq06IFo420gHHQPThWg1v/l3yM7TAAAjYcAAABtzJAAABl6EAAAmcd6ADcZlUA=
From: “Cox, Evan”
To: “DMCA”
Cc: “internet4[at]”

Dear Ms. Larsen:

I am outside counsel to Microsoft Corporation. I am writing to confirm my telephone message left with your nighttime operator at 7:45 PST this evening to withdraw Microsoft’s takedown request with respect to the file available at which is the subject of the correspondence below.

While Microsoft has a good faith belief that the distribution of the file that was made available at that address infringes Microsoft’s copyrights, it was not Microsoft’s intention that the takedown request result in the disablement of web acess to the entire website on which the file was made available.

Accordingly, on behalf of Microsoft, I am hereby withdrawing the takedown request and asking that Network Solutions restore internet access to http: as soon as possible.

I can be reached at 415-640-5145 if you wish to discuss this request.


Evan Cox
Counsel to Microsoft Corporation

So is back up, even though the Microsoft compliance handbook is still available from there! All that ill-judged takedown request succeeded in doing is getting a shit-load more publicity for the handbook. Publicity that I’m doing my little bit for by posting this. I urge all interested parties to go to the site now and get yourselves a copy of it. There are also copies of compliance handbooks for many other organizations such as Yahoo, Facebook, Myspace, Comcast… and many more. Why not get yourself the full set?

I find it strange that a company as adept at public image as Microsoft can shoot itself in the foot in public so foolishly. Dicks.

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Toyota “sticky accelerator” mystery


By “mystery”, I don’t mean the mystery of what causes the problem. I mean the mystery of Rhonda Smith, the Tennessee woman whose Toyota-made Lexus suddenly zoomed to 100 miles per hour for 6 miles before “God intervened” and slowed the car. She says she “tried everything” – shifting to neutral, trying to throw the car into reverse and hitting the emergency brake. But couldn’t she just have turned the engine off? Or am I missing something here?

Also amusing is the testimony of Toyota boss Akio Toyoda (how come he’s called “Toyoda” not “Toyota”?). In his written testimony to the US Congress he said: “When the cars are damaged, it is as though I am as well.” Somehow, I doubt he really thinks that…

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What they didn’t want you to know: read the secret torture evidence here


I got this from the Guardian:the previously covered-up excerpt from an official document that reveals how much the UK government knew about Binyam Mohamed’s illtreatment at the hands of the CIA.

It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.

v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and “disappearing” were played upon.

vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS [security services] made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.

This, in addition to the revelations in a US court that Mohamed suffered physical and psychological torture including mutilation of the genitals, is a damning indictment of the way the CIA and its allies conduct their so-called “coercive interrogations”. And the UK is just as bad: an MI5 officer known only as “Witness B” knew exactly how Mohamed was being treated when he visited a Pakistani prison to question the man. The Pakistani torturers asked Mohamed questions on behalf of Witness B during interrogations – so while we can’t say that Witness B personally tortured him, it’s certainly true that Mohamed was tortured for the MI5 officer.

Unfortunately, the high court judges who ordered the release of this secret evidence don’t come out of this smelling like roses either. Lord Neuberger, master of the rolls and one of the three judges involved, had originally meant to include in his ruling a scathing criticism of MI5: his draft ruling said that the Security Service had failed to respect human rights, deliberately misled parliament, and had a “culture of suppression” that undermined government assurances about its conduct.” But Jonathan Sumption QC, the government’s head lawyer on the case, privately wrote to the judge asking him to tone down his criticisms (you can read Sumption’s letter here); and shockingly, Neuberger complied!

n his letter, Sumption warned the judges that the criticism of MI5 would be seen by the public as statements by the court that the agency:

• Did not respect human rights.

• Had not renounced participation in “coercive interrogation” techniques.

• Deliberately misled MPs and peers on the intelligence and security committee, who are supposed to scrutinise its work.

• Had a “culture of suppression” in its dealings with Miliband and the court.

That’s as maybe. But so what? Those statements are true, aren’t they? It seems apparent from this case that MI5 don’t respect human rights, they do approve of “coercive interrogation, they did deliberately mislead parliament and the courts… and they’ll do the same again if they’re sure they can get away with it.

But Neuberger and his “learned colleagues” bottled it and gave into Sumption’s request. After all, they’re probably all great mates outside of court and hunt foxes together on the weekends. Probably.

Luckily, some news organisations heard about the last-minute revisions to the judgement and protested to the court. They complained that Neuberger had granted Sumption’s request without giving the other parties a chance to have their say. The judges conceded that it was a little irregular, and so Sumption’s letter was made public: that’s why the Guardian have put it up for everyone to read here (with annotations by Guardian journo Ian Cobain).

It’s a real pity that the high court judges act like trained attack dogs one minute and then like toothless poodles the next. Then again, we should remember these judges are government-appointed and government-paid, and that they are all members of the same back-scratching, trouser leg-rolling gentlemen’s clubs. So we ought to be grateful that the high court occasionally does the right thing.

Thanks, judges! I really appreciate it (you old sods)! :p

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High court orders government to reveal evidence of UK complicity in torture


Senior High Court judges have ordered the UK government to release secret evidence of official complicity in the torture of British resident Binyam Mohamed, who was held in Guantanamo Bay and secret CIA prisons in Morocco and Afghanistan for two years.

Foreign secretary David Miliband has repeatedly claimed that releasing evidence that proves MI5 and MI6 knew about, and were complicit in, torture including genital mutilation would damage British national security. The judges dismissed this claim, ruling that:

“In principle a real risk of serious damage to national security, of whatever degree, should not automatically trump a public interest in open justice which may concern a degree of facilitation by UK officials of interrogation using unlawful techniques which may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

In a recent case in a US court concerning another former Guantanamo inmate, the judge noted that Mohamed’s “trauma lasted for two long years. During that time he was physically and psychologically tortured. His genitals were mutilated … All the while he was forced to inculpate himself and others in various plots to imperil Americans.”

Mohamed was subsequently released without charge, clearly demonstrating that he in fact knew nothing about any terrorist offences.

The British high court judges say there is clear evidence that UK government officials knew what was happening to Mohamed and supported the torture. In the high court last year, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled that it was clear from the evidence “that the relationship of the United Kingdom government to the United States authorities in connection with Binyam Mohamed was far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing”.

I don’t know what you think: but if my government think it’s okay for an innocent man to have his genitals crushed and mutilated, I want to know about it. What’s more, I want the individuals concerned to be punished. British law bans the use of torture for very good reasons: we are supposed to be civilised and to respect the rule of law. No one can be allowed to think they are above the law. Releasing the evidence of this complicity in torture is essential.

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Wikileaks front page is back up :) but the rest of the site is still down :(


I was telling you all just the other day that was offline. Well, the site has been “down” for a while – point your browser at and you’ll see an announcement that they’ve had to take their servers offline due to lack of funds – but a few days ago I went to have a look if they were back, and even the announcement was down! Wikileaks’ front page was just blank! OMG, I thought, have they gone away for ever? Have the evil powers that be actually got rid of them? I was very concerned – Wikileaks provide an excellent service to the world, enabling whistle-blowers and other friends of truth to upload documents that enemies of truth would rather stayed hidden. In the short time since its foundation, Wikileaks has become an indispensible online resource. Its complete disappearance really shook me up!

But it turns out there was no need to worry. At least, no need to worry as much as I did. Because Wikileaks’ front page is back up! Surf there and you’ll find a brief explanation of their current financial difficulties and info on how you can donate cash or technical resources to the cause. Because an operation like theirs doesn’t come for free – there are multiple servers to keep online, and administration and other staff required to verify the authenticity of the documents they wish to leak and to keep the computers purring. To do this takes cash. And since Wikileaks provides its service free of charge, it needs donations.

Come on, peeps, the world will be a poorer place if Wikileaks can’t keep operating. It provides a truly important service. The citizens of Australia and Germany should realise that more than anyone else. Because those two countries are ruled by governments who use filters to censor what their populations can view on the web. Wikileaks got hold of the lists of sites these filters block, and leaked them. And Australia and Germany promptly blocked! These governments claim the filters are there purely to block child pornography and similar material; but their anti-Wikileaks action demonstrates that the so-called “democracies” are also censoring sites on a political basis.

This is something that all lovers of freedom should despise! If so-called “liberal democracies” like Australia and Germany can censor internet sites on a political basis, so can any other country. China is not the only nation with a “great firewall”. We all need to keep an eye on Wikileaks to find out what our authorities are up to… and you can be damned sure that our governments want to stop us from finding out what they’re up to! If Wikileaks is to successfully combat its powerful enemies, it needs resources. Money. And we need to donate that money, unless we want to wake up tomorrow to find that someone has decided what we can and can’t be trusted to know!

Just in case you’re having trouble accessing for any reason, I’ve reproduced below details of some of the ways you can donate to Wikileaks. Note that this info is about just *some* of the ways you can donate financially, technically and legally. There’s more info on the Wikileaks front page, for instance how to donate via PayPal. I couldn’t reproduce Javascript forms etc. I’ve done my best to ensure all the info below is accuarate; but please note I can’t be held responsible for any errors here. Go check if at all possible.

Donate via Cash / Cheque
You can support us by posting cash, cheques or international money grams to one of the following addresses:
All countries
WikiLeaks ICT
BOX 4080, University of Melbourne
Victoria 3052, Australia

USD, EUR, AUD preferred. International cheques are best over $800 to avoid fees. If sending cash, please place it in a non-transparent envelope or a CD case for maximum security.
WikiLeaks ICT
PO Box 8098-00200

Other addresses are available on request from

Donate via Bank Transfer

To contribute via direct wire transfer, please make your donation to one of the following organizations that can accept support on our behalf. Tax deductibility is possible where indicated.

Use our account at the tax-deductible Wau Holland foundation:

Wau Holland Stiftung, Postfach 640236, 10048 Berlin, Germany
Commerzbank Kassel, BLZ: 52040021, KTO: 277281204
(international: IBAN: DE46520400210277281204, BIC: COBADEFF520)
United States
Banking details available on request. Email with the name of your state to be guided through this simple process.
Australia & New Zealand

Use our tax-exempt infrastructure foundation:

WikiLeaks ICT, Australia

Full bank details available on request. Email to be guided through this simple process.
All other countries

Use our account at the non-profit Wau Holland foundation in Europe:

Wau Holland Stiftung, Postfach 640236, 10048 Berlin, Germany
Commerzbank Kassel, BLZ: 52040021, KTO: 277281204
(international: IBAN: DE46520400210277281204, BIC: COBADEFF520)

Other bank accounts are available on request from

Support us technically

Wikileaks is currently overloaded by readers. This is a regular difficulty that can only be resolved by deploying additional resources. If you support our mission, you can help us by integrating new hardware into our project infrastructure or developing software for the project. Become patron of a WikiLeaks server or other parts of our technology, adding more pillars to the stability and balance of the WikiLeaks platform. Servers come trouble-free and legally fortified, software is uniquely challenging.

If you can provide rackspace, power and an uplink, or a dedicated server or storage space, for at least 12 months, or software development work for WikiLeaks, please write to

Support us legally

Individuals or organizations wishing to donate lawyer time write to We provide unique legal challenges in an ongoing fight for global justice and freedom of speech. If you support our mission, join our legal team to help defend those values.

WikiLeaks would like to thank the following 18 steadfast supporters (unordered):

* Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press (RCFP)
* The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE)
* The Associated Press – world wide news agency, based in New York
* Citizen Media Law Project – Harvard university
* The E.W Scripps Company – newspapers, TV, cable TV etc.
* Gannett Co. Inc – the largest publisher of newspapers in the USA, including USA Today
* The Hearst Corporation – media conglomerate which publishes the San Francisco Chronicle
* The Los Angeles Times
* National Newspaper Association (NNA)
* Newspaper Association of America (NAA)
* The Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA)
* The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
* Public Citizen – founded by Ralph Nader together with the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC)
* The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
* The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
* The Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
* Jordan McCorkle, the University of Texas

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Smear campaign succeeds at last: Met top cop Dizaei jailed for “attempting to pervert the course of justice”.


Ali Dizaei (left) and Waad al-Baghdadi

Today at Southwark crown court, London, Commander Ali Dizaei of the Metropolitan Police was sent to prison for 4 years after a jury found him guilty of misconduct in public office and attempting to pervert the course of justice. His alleged crime was false imprisonment and making up a story that he was threatened and assaulted. Dizaei is the most senior officer in recent times to stand trial.

Maybe you’re wondering why I’ve called this a smear campaign when a jury has found him guilty of the crime? Why do I doubt his guilt? Simple: this case bears all the hallmarks of a stitch-up. Dizaei has been an outspoken critic of the Met for a long time, and this court case follows other, failed, attempts to ruin him. And in my view the evidence against him just doesn’t stack up.

The case against him is as follows. In July 2008, Dizaei and his wife were sitting in a car outside Yas, a west end restaurant, talking to the restaurateur, when they were approached by a man named Waad al-Baghdadi. Baghdadi, a website designer, claims that Dizaei owed him £600. Baghdadi, and the prosecution, say that he wanted to talk to Dizaei about this debt. Dizaei didn’t want to discuss the matter, and told Baghdadi to leave the restaurant “or else”. A row broke out and Dizaei abused his position as a police officer to insult, threaten, assault and falsely arrest Baghdadi. Dizaei then invented a reason for the arrest, reporting that Baghdadi threatened him then stabbed him with the mouthpiece of a shisha pipe (a type of hookah). That’s the prosecution case, which the jury believed. Of course Dizaei disputes this: he claimed that Baghdadi did threaten then assault him, and had an injury to his stomach to back this up. His wife agreed, saying she felt “terrorised” by Baghdadi’s threats. And Sohrab Eshragi, the restaurateur and also a friend of Dizaei, also corroborated the commander’s account. Eshragi told the jury that Baghdadi was “a crook basically”, adding: “His history … everybody knows he’s not a good gentleman.” Eshragi said that, far from Dizaei intimidating Baghdadi by ordering him out of the restaurant, he had urged him to ask the web designer to leave because he feared a fight might break out.

The prosecution claimed they had CCTV footage to show that Dizaei was lying. But this footage showed only part of the incident, and it is impossible to verify from it if any threats were issued by either party. A police doctor testified for the prosecution, saying that the wound to Dizaei’s stomach was “probably self-inflicted”. But this was disputed by Dr Nat Cary, one of the country’s leading forensic pathologists who has worked on many high-profile cases including the death of Benazir Bhutto and the case of Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller who died at last year’s G20 protest. Cary said the claim was based on a “fundamentally flawed approach” to forensic medicine. “He [Dizaei] alleges he has been poked with the shisha pipe,” he said. “In my view, that’s consistent [with the injuries].”

In the end it all came down to a question of who the jury believed: a police commander and his wife and a respected restaurateur… or Baghdadi. Surprisingly, they chose to believe Baghdadi.

No doubt you’re wondering why I believe Dizaei. After all, supporting the police isn’t something I’m noted for. And you’re right. I hate bent coppers; in my opinion any police officer found guilty of commiting a crime should be sent to jail for a very long time. But there’s a lot about this case, and about Dizaei in particular, that makes me feel he has been fitted up.

Ali Dizaei is no stranger to controversy. He has always been outspoken on the subject of racism in the Met, and is president of the National Black Police Association. In 1999, it was later revealed, MI5 thought that the Iranian-born officer (he holds dual nationality) was an Iranian spy! They reported these suspicions to the Met, which resulted in a protracted investigation. Some outrageous charges were made at this time – it was claimed for example that he consorted with prostitutes and used illegal drugs, on top of being “a danger to national security” – and he was suspended from 2001 to 2003. Of course there was no basis to any of these outrageous claims, and none of them appeared on the final indictment. Instead he was accused of just one rather minor offence, and in 2003 a jury cleared him unanimously of any wrongdoing.

Back then it was widely believed that he had attracted this trouble because of his connection with the National Black Police Association – no one knew about MI5’s ridiculous suspicions until the Guardian revealed all in 2007 – he worked as a legal advisor for the Association in 2001. And in 2008 this possible motive still existed. In September 2008, when he was suspended for the second time, he was involved in a huge race row that hit the Met. The assistant commissioner, Tarique Ghaffur – the Met’s third most senior officer – sued the force for discrimination and described his boss, the commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, as a racist. For such a high-ranking officer to make such accusations was highly embarrassing, and Dizaei was right in the middle of it – he was both Ghaffur’s main adviser and the president of the National Black Police Association. The Met employed all sorts of dirty tricks against Ghaffur, such as leaking allegations about his private life to the press; and they used similar tactics against Dizaei, a paper at the time claiming that he was a bigamist. It’s certainly not outlandish to suggest this latest development is more of the same.

This is all pretty circumstantial, I know. But it’s pretty believable too. And there’s one more factor, which anyone with any experience of police complaints will agree is very important. It is usually very difficult to make a complaint stick against even a low-ranking officer. If it is a case of your word against the cop’s, the investigators will fall on the officer’s side. If it’s just your word against that of a high-ranking officer and 2 witnesses, you don’t stand a chance. Yet the Independent Police Complaints Commission believed with Baghdadi. What the heck is that all about?

The IPCC chairman, Nick Hardwick, said after the verdict that Dizaei was a “criminal in uniform” who had behaved like a “bully”. But it seems to me that that description might better apply to some of Dizaei’s soon-to-be-ex-colleagues. It took them a while, but in the end they succeeded in getting rid of the pain in the ass. I wonder who they’ll take out next? It’s a relief to know that the police isn’t racist any more, don’t you think?

Note: Earlier I noted that Dizaei is the most senior police officer to have stood trial in the UK in recent times. This is true only because the UK is so weak when it comes to dealing with police forces that are out of control. On 22 July 2005, a Brazilian electrician called Jean-Charles de Menezes was shot to death on a london tube train by armed police directly because of orders given by Sir Ian Blair, then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. The shoot-to-kill policy, called “Operation Kratos” was Blair’s invention. And after the shooting, Blair lied to the public, first suggesting that de Menezes was a terrorist, then claiming that de Menezes had tried to run after the officers identified themselves as police when in fact they had not identified themselves but had opened fire without warning, repeatedly shooting the man in the face when he was on the ground dying. In any democracy worthy of the name, Blair would have stood trial for his crimes. But in the UK, such men are rewarded for their criminality, incompetence and deceit. So yes, Commander Ali Dizaei is the highest-ranking police officer to have stood trial in recent times. He’s also the highest-ranking officer to go to jail for crimer he did not commit.

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Wikileaks STILL offline


OMG what’s going on with Wikileaks? The site has been offline for some time now, apparently because of funding issues. According to

To underline the necessity of financial help, Wikileaks has gone offline until January, 11th. The website currently states:

To concentrate on raising the funds necessary to keep us alive into 2010, we have reluctantly suspended all other operations, until Jan 11.

Find more information on how you can (financially) support and contribute to Wikileaks here…

Well, it’s Feb 6 now – which comes after Jan 11… and Wikileaks is still offline. And there’s no explanation on the front page; there is no front page! All I get now is a blank screen. Which means there is no message explaining how we can donate money to them. WTF is going on?!! Don’t they want our money any more? Have they given up in the face of a hostile capitalism? Have the bad guys won?

If you use’s Wayback Machine to look at’s front page in the past, you’ll see an announcement that begins: “Wikileaks is developing an uncensorable system for untracable mass document leaking and public analysis.” But what’s happened here very clearly demonstrates that Wikileaks is vulnerable to censorship by money and the lack thereof. It looks like for the want of funds, Wikileaks has fallen. Will it get back up? I dunno… But it doesn’t look good. If we don’t know how and where to send donations, we can’t send the money Wikileaks needs so badly. If anyone reading this can tell us where to send donations, please do so either in the Comments for this post or via the contact form.

I hope we haven’t seen the last of Wikileaks. It did a lot to help the cause of free speech and made it pretty safe for whistleblowers to blow their whistles. So come on Wikileaks! I don’t want to tell you to rest in peace.

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Happy Imbolc everyone! Blessed Be!


Monday 1 February 2010

Today is Imbolc, one of the one of the four principal festivals of the Celtic calendar, celebrated among Gaelic peoples, other Celtic cultures, and nowadays by those of us with Wiccan beliefs. It marks the start of Spring – which I find quite amusing, as it snowed last night and right now it is seriously freezing cold outside! There’s an ancient tradition of watching the winter dens of badgers and snakes to see if the creatures venture outside – possibly related to the modern US tradition of “Groundhog Day”.

Imbolc is sacred to the Pagan goddess Brigid the Light Bringer. The early Christian church adopted the holiday as one of their own and renamed it “St Brigit’s Day”. Alexander Carmichael wrote of Brigid:

Bride with her white wand is said to breathe life into the mouth of the dead Winter and to bring him to open his eyes to the tears and the smiles, the sighs and the laughter of Spring. The venom of the cold is said to tremble for its safety on Bride’s Day, and to flee for its life on Patrick’s Day.

I wish all my readers a happy Imbolc! May your Spring be soon, and your year fruitful! Blessed Be!

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You are now entering the United Kingdom: No Smoking!


Monday 1 February 2010

Unbelievable! First the British government banned smoking inside… now they want to ban smoking outside!

To be precise: they want to ban people smoking outside the entrances to public buildings. The health secretary Andy Burnham favours such a ban to prevent non-smokers having to walk through clouds of smoke. This is part of a wider attempt by Burnham to “improve public health”. According to the Guardian:

He will set out four principles where he says intervention is justified: where it protects the health of children, where a person’s choice affects the choices of others, where barriers need to be removed to allow people to behave healthily, and where the environment can be shaped to offer healthier lifestyles.

He wants to cut the number of people in Britain who smoke to 10% of the population. Another move he is considering is banning “distinctive wrapping” from cigarette packets and insisting they are sold in plain brown packets instead. He also wants to ban cigarette vending machines and launch a renewed crackdown on the sale of blackmarket tobacco.

He claims this isn’t “nanny-statism” – but I think this is something worse. It’s a direct attack on individual rights in the same of some vague notion of “the public good”. Okay, he isn’t proposing banning smoking in private premises. Yet. But I can see that coming. He’s already said intervention is justified to protect children’s health. So how long will it be before he bans parents from smoking in their own homes “to protect the children”? He’s already got backing for a ban on smoking in cars containing children from the UK Faculty of Public Health and doctors’ leader Professor Steve Field, who called it “a form of child abuse”. This emotive language is designed to inflame public opinion – after all, who doesn’t want to stop child abuse?

No doubt some of you will say I’m spouting nonsense, that he is not eroding our individual rights. But I don’t see how you can even doubt it. Ten years ago no one would have believed that smoking would be banned in all pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants. Yet here we are. Now he’s pushing the ban a little further; and he’s got sock-puppets like Prof Field saying parents who smoke near their children are as bad as pedophiles. In a few more years, if he gets the publicity campaign right, more people will find themselves agreeing with Field – and of course he’ll get the publicity right, that’s what the Labour government are especially good at. And then he’ll make smoking illegal. Mark my words!

Some of you will say: “So what? Smoking’s a filthy habit. You should give up, for the children’s good if not your own.” Well, when I hear the phrase “for the children”, I want to reach for my ciggies. Leave me alone, health Nazis!

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