Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lies, damned lies and statistics

According to a Europol Report, of 498 “Terrorist” attacks in 11 EU member states during 2006, just one (failed) was carried out by a group which could be classed as “Islamist”. That in Germany. The only fatal attack, with the deaths of two people in Madrid, was carried out by ETA, the Basque group, who were responsible for 136 attacks.

Of the 14 member states surveyed, statistics on arrest were available in 13 (the UK does not provide statistics on cases awaiting trial). Of 706 suspects arrested in relation to terrorist offences, 257 were “Islamist”. That bastion of liberté, egalité, fraternité, France, accounted for 342 of these arrests of which 139 were “Islamist” and 188 “Separatist”. (Little reported in the UK, where I write, there were 283 separatist attacks in Corsica during 2006).

The report does not include information on the activities of the security services, nor the role of such as Eliza Manningham-Buller (Director General of MI5 until her retirement last week - April 2007) in emphasising the extent of the terrorist threat. There is no means for public scrutiny of the accuracy of the PR from such security services.

I live in the UK, a land where our liberties of action, association, comment and privacy have been shattered over the past decade, principally in the years following the WTC atrocity. I live in a nation which was the focus for a sustained Irish Terrorist assault. Yet even after the bomb at the Grand Hotel (12th October 1984) which almost assassinated the Prime Minister, the Government saw no cause for such draconian intervention in the lives of its inhabitants during that protracted murderous campaign. That within the boundaries of the Island of Britain. In Ulster, riven by sectarian criminality and terrorism in the names both of a "Republic" and of "Loyalist", the application of the law, of military policing and of clandestine security action was less enlightened. Nevertheless, even in that province, the range and reach of legislation remained less draconian than that which applies nationwide over twenty years later.

I live in a nation which has actively supported US policies of propaganda, mendacity, illegal invasion, war, occupation and grand larceny. This after many years of under-reported military attrition and enforcement of murderous UN sanctions policies on Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I live in a nation which has acted in support of the extension and consolidation of the message of State terror to the world. And whose Government has cynically encouraged and exploited a condition of fear of domestic terrorism to justify its domestically repressive and internationally aggressive policies.

Margaret Thatcher, never at the time thought of as a bastion for liberty, in a speech to the Tory conference at 9.30am, seven hours after the Grand Hotel bomb which came so close to killing her (and led to the deaths of five people) said “....the fact that we are gathered here now — shocked, but composed and determined — is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.”

It is not terrorism, nor the threat of terrorism, which is destroying liberty in this land. It is not terrorism which has so eroded our constitutionally monarchic “democracy”. The creation and exploitation of a condition of fear provides the excuse for an instinctively authoritarian and evidently near-fascist culture of Government to impose its limited vision of humanity upon us all.

I have seen no UK comment on the Europol report.


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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"the exercise of the intellect"

posted by k

I admit it - I'm a vegetarian. So I'm not particularly interested in the "perfect bacon butty".

If any readers want to know how to make one, this is the formula:

N = C + {fb(cm) . fb(tc)} + fb(Ts) + fc . ta


N = force in Newtons required to break the cooked bacon

fb = function of the bacon type

fc = function of the condiment / filling effect

Ts = serving temperature

tc = cooking time

ta = time or duration of application of condiment / filling

cm = cooking method

C = Newtons required to break uncooked bacon

It's been discovered by scientists at Leeds University.

You may think that scientists should have better things to do than spend 1,000 hours testing sandwiches. But they were paid to do this. They had special equipment. The information, which is all over the press today, comes from The Danish Bacon and Meat Council, which paid for the research.

Hiring university research to private companies is government policy. It was praised by Tony Blair in a speech given on 15th February this year. He is pleased that "scientific ingenuity" is being turned into "entrepreneurial business practice." He suggests doing yet more to reward universities who their researchers and facilities to business.

Bacon butties aren't bad news - except for pigs. But giving industries control over research - which routinely includes discretion to release or control results as they wish - can be dangerous. Should the makers of new drugs be able to conceal test results? Should academics be expected to work in the interests of arms manufacturers?

Who are universities for? What should they do? These questions can't be answered without considering who pays the bills.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

"the history of barbarism"

posted by k

Suppose we told the other side of the story. It would go something like this.

"We watched them interfere with shipping. This concerned us. Their leaders were issuing threats. Troop numbers are high in the region. Warships are massing in what they term "military exercises".

"We were careful to avoid casualties. We let them see they were outnumbered and that we were well-armed. No-one was hurt and we took them into custody. Naturally we took away their arms. At first we restrained them. We didn't want anyone to be hurt.

"We had to take precautions to safeguard military secrets. This is normal. We gave the prisoners blindfolds and let them put them on. Our soldiers were armed of course. Soldiers are accustomed to bear arms.

"As is normal, we segregate the sexes in custody. Interrogation followed normal techniques - nothing violent or humiliating . (We are not barbarians.) We interviewed prisoners separately and tried to get at the truth. We cautioned them and pointed out the risk of trial and imprisonment. We are sorry if sometimes guards moved the prisoners a little roughly; it is hard when they do not speak the same language though we tried to have an interpreter ready at all time.

"The prisoners were treated with respect. They were provided with fresh clothing and bedding. They had separate cells. Food and drink were provided. There were blankets to ensure that they were warm. After a few days we improved their conditions. They were allowed to associate with one another.

"When we discovered that the woman was a mother, we allowed her to write home. We invited television cameras to film the prisoners so that their families could see they were well.

"The prisoners confessed. Some of our people called for their trial and execution. We paid no attention to these extremists but showed mercy. Without demanding anything in return, we freed the prisoners and sent them home with gifts.

"Now they complain of their treatment. They may be obeying orders. They are soldiers; they do what their superiors command. They may tell lies for money. But we treated them well. It is your allies who abuse prisoners. We have seen the pictures of Abu Ghraib and we know enough of what happens in Guantanamo.

"Why do you say we are the hostage-takers? Why do you call us the barbarians?"

Seven of the fifteen freed prisoners attended the press conference to condemn their treatment in Iran. They didn't all speak. They had previously thanked President Ahmadinejad and said they were well-treated in Iran.

Now the Ministry of Defence is encouraging the freed prisoners to sell their stories. This sounds like chequebook journalism. Max Clifford sees problems in this. So does Craig Murray. So do I.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

"shameful corridors of time"

posted by k

Forty years ago today, the mainstream media in the United States attacked Dr Martin Luther King for a speech he had given the day before. Time magazine accused him of "demagogic slander". At the Riverside Church in New York, Dr King had called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

His speech, made in relation to the Vietnam war, called on the U.S. government to reconsider its values and alliances. It included this sentence:

"If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight."

More substantial extracts from the speech can be read at Adventus, which also includes links to a full text and an audio version.

Exactly one year after making that speech, Martin Luther King was killed.

(This brief item has been double-posted elsewhere.)

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