UK to escalate its military involvement in Libya… even though they promised not to. Funny, that.

May 23, 2011

So, the UK and France have decided to send helicopter gunships to Libya, apparently to defend civilians from Gaddafi’s forces.   They are sending in the choppers, we’re told, because bombing from high altitude is too inaccurate; which makes me wonder how many Libyan civilians have been killed by their “guardian angels”.

I find it interesting that France is sending French-built Tigers, while the UK will send US-built Apaches.  The defining line between the US and the UK on military matters gets more blurred every day.  When will the British government cede sovereignty to America, and officially announce that Britain is the 51st state?  In his novel 1984, George Orwell called Britain “Airstrip One” and made it part of “Oceania”, which is an analogue of America and its allies (there’s a nice map to illustrate this on Wikipedia).

At the start of all this horror, the British government assured its people that there would be no “mission creep” or “regime change”.  These promises have been proved to be false.  The “No-Fly Zone” was originally meant to stop the Libyan air force from bombing its own people.  NATO aircraft were there to maintain that No-Fly Zone.  But it didn’t take long for NATO to start using its air superiority to attack military targets.  As for the promise that regime change was not on the table: NATO air strikes have repeatedly targeted the homes of Gaddafi and his family.  How is that not regime change?

The stated reason for taking action in Libya was to “protect civilians”.  But what does that really mean?  If I am, say, a Libyan shop-keeper and I get a rifle to protect my home and family, am I a civilian or an armed combatant?  If I shoot at looters, does that designate me as “pro-Gaddafi” and therefore a legitimate target?

Libya is in Africa, and in/near to the Middle East.  It poses no military threat to NATO.  So we should get the hell out of there and let its regional neighbours take the responsibility of  imposing peace.  But of course we won’t, because Libya has oil. The US/UK, and NATO reserve the right to get involved anywhere you might find oil.  Now, I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong for us to protect our economic interests.  But we should be more honest about our intentions.  Remember when Blair and his contempories were beinding over backwards to find a way to “rehabilitate” Libya?  We were perfectly happy to deal with Gaddafi then.  So what’s changed?  Back then, Gaddafi’s people killed his opponents behind closed doors; now they do it in the street.  Is this a valid reason to go to war with him?

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Politics Explained FFS part 1

May 19, 2011

UPDATE: Politics Explained FFS part 2 is here. And part 3 is here.

If you read my blog much, you may have ascertained where my political beliefs are. But I know a number of you are not regular readers, so I’m going to spell out what I think about politics, in an occasional series called Politics Explained FFS. Why the “FFS”? Why not? Gratuitous swearing in initialism form is one of the best things to have come from the internet and SMS. Use it or lose it.

Anyway, I’m going to kick off the series with an explanation of what “democracy” is. Winston Churchill once said:

No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

That’s one of those “it’s funny because it’s true” kind of comments. Except it’s not. Because it’s not true. I may explain that more fully in the future, but for now I shall quote Warren Ellis on what democracy is (well, I’ll quote his comic book character Spider Jerusalem):

from Transmetropolitan #15, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Darick Robertson. Published by Vertigo DC Comics, 1998. © 1998 Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

My main gripe with democracy is that you’ve got to go along with what the “majority” of people want.  No no, let me rephrase that: you have to go along with the decisions made by a bunch of people who got voted into office by some ridiculous election process.  Let’s say I wanna smoke crack.  It isn’t good for me, but neither getting hit by a truck when I’m trying to cross the road.  Most people don’t know me, and couldn’t care less if I get a crack-related medical condition. But a few hundred idiots who’ve never met me, and who are not likely to ever meet me unless I introduce myself before shooting them in the face, don’t want me to smoke crack.  So smoking crack is made illegal, and because I’m a law-abiding idiot I can’t smoke crack. Wut?

I am not opposed to rule by the majority, in principle anyway.  But majority rule does not scale!  Let’s say we’re having a referendum on voting reform.  51% vote Yes, 49% vote No.  So the Yes-voters win.  That’s not too bad in a small community of, let’s say 1000 people.  There were only 490 No-voters.  Not too many people to be pissed off.  But if we scale that up to a voting population of 10 million, we end up with 4,900,000 angry No-voters.  How on earth can anyone say that’s good?!!

I have a possible solution to this problem.  It is radical, but also very simple.  And I’m not gonna tell you about it right now!  Oh no, my cunning plan will be revealed in Politics Explained FFS part 2!!!  Ooh, what a cliff-hanger!  I bet you just can’t wait, eh?  Well, you’ll just have to.  Unless, of course, the stress is all too much for you and you choose to hang yourself in your ex-girlfriend’s closet instead.  That’ll freak her out for sure.  Though probably not as much as when she opens the refridgerator and finds her current boyfriend’s severed head next to the bottle of  Fanta.

So anyway.  To find out how I plan to restructure society and make happy bunnies of us all, check back here next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.  Well, actually that probably isn’t the best way to find out wtf I’m talking about.  Politics Explained FFS is an occasional series.  Which means I might post the next thrilling instalment later today.  Or in a couple of days.  Or maybe never (did you follow my occasional series explaining how to search the internet?  If so, you know what  I mean.  But don’t fret, I will complete that guide to searching one of these days.  In fact, probably pretty soon, as I’ve just had some ass-kicking ideas while writing these last couple of sentences.  And I will finish writing Politics Explained FFS too!!) So don’t give up on me and go look at porn instead.  I am bursting free from my cocoon of unreliability, as a super-reliable butterfly.  Or should that be a chrysalis?  Hmm, I think this would be a good time to STFU…

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Super-injunctions must die!!

May 10, 2011

The twit who tweeted about which wealthy people had taken out super-injunctions to gag the press has certainly stirred up some controversy, even though he (she?) seems to have got some of his facts wrong. For instance he claimed that Jemima Khan had taken out such an injunction to prevent publication of prurient photos of her and Jeremy Clarkson, presenter of the BBC’s TV show Top Gear; but Jemima says it’s not true, and it appears that the twit had been confused because Jemima and her brother Zac Goldsmith (a dickhead who inherited lots of money) got a super-injunction in 2008 to prevent publication of emails from “hacked” accounts.

Goldsmith has taken advantage of the controversy to suggest that Britain needs a proper privacy law to prevent inappropriate disclosure of people’s private lives. But of course he would. The real reason why these super-injunctions are wrong is because they are used to gag the press to a horrendous degree. Anyone who’s rich enough to get such an injunction (and believe me, it’s only the rich who can afford these measures) can not only silence the press, they even prevent the press from reporting that the injunction has been taken out! An example of the extreme effects of super-injunctions is when the oil trading company Trafigura stopped the Guardian newspaper from mentioning in any way a scientific report on Trafigura’s horrendous waste dumping in west Africa.

Of course, rich assholes like Goldsmith say that the Trafigura case is an exception, and that private citizens need to be able to keep their private lives private. Media lawyer Charlotte Harris says the stories subject to super-injunctions were quite often cases of “nasty blackmail”. She said: “You should be allowed to end a relationship with somebody, whether you are married or not, without having that person say ‘right, I’m going to go to the paper, I’m going to destroy your life, I’m going to tell everybody every intimate thing about you’. You should have some protection.”

The way she puts it, it all sounds so reasonable. Everyone’s entitled to a private life, surely? But these super-injunctions go far beyond what is reasonable. For a start, they are only available to the rich. And why do these gagging orders need to ban reporting that a gagging order has been imposed? These injunctions are not about protecting people’s private lives. They are a mechanism to censor the press. The courts allow these super-injunctions when the stories involved are not “in the public interest”. But who decides what is or is not in the public interest? A judge, listening to an expensive lawyer who’s in the same clubs as the judge and who possibly sodomises the judge on a regular basis.

So super-injunctions are wrong. But what will replace them? Should we have a privacy law like Zac Goldsmith suggests? I say no. Britain already has ridiculously stern libel laws. That should be enough for those who feel they need “protecting”. Let the press report their stories: if they are false, the injured party can sue them for libel. And if the stories are true? Well, if they’re true, they’re true, and the press should be free to tell us things that are true. If the individuals involved are ashamed of what they’ve done, that’s an issue they’ll have to sort out with their analysts. If they don’t want us to know about their sins, they shouldn’t sin. Pretty simple really.

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Ian Tomlinson was unlawfully killed by Met cop Harwood – and that’s official!!

May 3, 2011

Today an inquest jury delivered a verdict of “unlawful killing” in the case of Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller who died after being attacked by a Metropolitan Police constable.  And the copper in question is PC Simon Harwood, a member of the Met’s infamous “Territorial Support Group”.

This blog has covered this case a couple of times – like here, and here – but here’s a quick recap.  On 1 April 2009 there was a demonstration in central London where the G20meeting was taking place.  Some demonstrators had gotten a bit rowdy, as had a number of the coppers policing the event, and the “Territorial Support Group” was out on the streets to restore “order”.  At about 7.20pm by the Royal Exchange Building, Ian Tomlinson was making his way home after a day’s work selling newspapers.  There were protesters nearby, and TSG officers, but Tomlinson was categorically not involved in the protests so it’s not at all clear why he attracted the attention of police officers.  But he did\get the attention of PC Simon Harwood.  There is CCTV footage of Mr Tomlinson walking past Harwood and other cops: then, for no apparent reason, Harwood is seen to run up behind Mr Tomlinson and shoved him forcibly in the back. It later transpired that Harwood had hit him with a baton.  Mr Tomlinson fell heavily to the ground and died.  There were a total of 4 postmortems carried out on Mr Tomlinson’s body: the first pathologist, Dr Freddy Patel, found that he died of a heart attack caused by coronary disease; but 3 other pathologists contradicted him, saying the cause of death was internal bleeding in the abdomen.

The Met tried hard to sweep this tragic event under the carpet: first of all he was painted by them as a violent protester; then, when it was made clear that he wasn’t involved in the demonstration, it was suggested that he was injured by protesters, and that he died because protesters prevented the heroic efforts of police officers to render first aid.  But of course, the CCTV footage put the lie to that bunch of crap.

Still the authorities tried to cover up for one of their own: the Met and the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge Harwood with any offence, even though the video and the testimony of witnesses attested to the cop’s vicious attack.  They tried hard to hide the truth; but public outrage finally forced them to hold  a public inquest into Mr Tomlinson’s death.

And that inquest has now found that Ian Tomlinson was unlawfully killed.  The jury declared that Tomlinson was, beyond reasonable doubt, killed by the baton attack and the shove.  Harwood’s attack was “unreasonable”.

The jury went on to say:

“As a result, Mr Tomlinson suffered internal bleeding which led to his collapse within a few minutes and his subsequent death.” The jury decided that at the time of the strike and push Tomlinson was was walking away from the officer and “posed no threat”.

The verdict was “unlawful killing”.  The killer was officer Simon Harwood.    So now Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, is going to have to decide whether or not to charge Harwood with the killing; and his decision last year not to charge Harwood with manslaughter is going to be reviewed.  Maybe, just maybe, the family of Ian Tomlinson will see justice done.

A still from the CCTV footage showing Harwood deliver the fatal blow

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