Boatbuilding for beginners

This morning as I ran a deep, watery bath and watched the sky darken in preparation for the imminent arrival of yet another Atlantic storm front, the story of Noah returned once again to niggle me.

Followers of this, my bogl, will recall that, prompted by the weeks of endless rain we have experienced in northwestern Europe this winter, I Posted recently an article speculating on the possible geophysical causes of the biblical Fludde. Today, however, I return to the symbolism of the story.

At this distance in time it is of course impossible to argue for or against the existence of a real historical figure called Noah. Even the name seems allegorical, taken from the pages of ancient Sumerian scholarship. So what does Noah represent to us now?

As we know, the ‘sons’ of Noah, who are called Shem, Ham and Japhet, are described in terms of different racial characteristics. I think it’s Shem who is the white one, Ham the black and Japhet the semitic one, without looking it up I can’t really remember.

And at the end of the story God sends a rainbow to neatly tie up the plot with a promise never to try to destroy his Creation again.

Today, people have adopted the rainbow as a symbol of tolerant multiculturalism. I believe there is a direct link with prehistory.

Much of the Old Testament is the story of how Mankind gradually ceased living in a hunter-gatherer society and developed new laws and customs – a social compact – in order for the different tribes to settle in agricultural communities and growing cities, where they had to live alongside one another in mutual respect and co-operation. We haven’t quite managed it yet.

Relict societies of the rain forests until recently hunted not only monkeys and tapirs, they hunted and ate other humans. What we now brand as savagery seems for hundreds of thousands of years to have been innately human behaviour. It evolved long before we were even human, and we have carried it with us: the mark of Cain.

Many of our institutions seem to be designed with a dual purpose. On the one hand, they bring us together in a spirit of shared interest and co-operation. On the other, they define those outside the organisation as Other.

Take religions. They preach love, but tend unfortunately to create hatred. Human nature is not so easily converted to loving one’s neighbour, when you could eat him. The Devil brands the Other as diabolical, the Enemy. Not only to be feared but to actively be hunted and killed. The social compact is still at the stage where we feel the need to apply this principle to the enforcement of rules that attempt to override our basest human instincts. Often, we fail: sometimes in small ways – maybe we kill someone else. At other times in waves of horror, massacre, genocide, that survivors recall afterwards with stunned inadequacy as evil, bestial.

But we know, don’t we, that we are tempting God to wipe us all out again.

Naturally, we fear this inner nature. It is easier to brand a Charles Manson, a Myra Hindley or an Amanda Knox as Other, as the personification of the Devil, rather than to accept and work with the fact that they are only an extension of ourselves, who have chosen or been chosen to act outwith the social compact, challenging convention – perhaps in the most extreme way. They are made into symbols of what we would be, without Noah. They fit our persistent Medieval worldview of humanity as essentially sinful.

And today we have developed new, perhaps safer ways of hunting and eating one another. Sport. Business. Politics. The celebrity culture. Marriage…

At the root of the social compact is the Flood, the idea that the survival of the species is not guaranteed, and that co-operative, docile behaviour – universal Love – is the only alternative to extinction.

The Ark, therefore, is the one basket in which all of Humanity’s eggs are kept. In the chaos and threat of the Flood is the one hope of survival of everything that we know and depend on: reason, constructive co-operation, planetary stewardship, domestic economy – family.

I have wondered sometimes if the Internet – or rather, the Worldwide Web that is carried over the Internet – is not some kind of Ark?

It seems a curious historical fact that the Internet was born out of the Cold War and the need to ensure a means of communication that could survive a nuclear holocaust. It has become both the widest possible expression of the social compact – something that unites literally every corner of humanity  – the ‘global village’ – and a digital basket, into which are being collected all the data we have concerning everything we know and think, everything we are and have possibly been.

The Worldwide Web is becoming a blueprint for the reconstruction of the planet. Is it accidental that it has arrived at this stage in our history, when we have the technological capacity to end it all in a few days?

Unlike you, I grew to the age you are now in the shadow of the Bomb. I spent much of my childhood billeted on my grandparents, who lived only two miles from Britain’s second most important nuclear target, RAF Bomber Command, Uxbridge. It was where my grandfather was stationed and where, many nights, I huddled under the bedclothes in terror as the planes thundered overhead, imagining the annihilation of my still small world. I recall the words of J Robert Oppenheimer, creator of the Bomb, quoting Hindu scripture: Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

With the Hindus, I am sure that the past and the future come together in an endless loop. The story of Noah and the Ark is the ancient history of our future. It tells us that mutual co-operation is the only sure means of survival: failing which, buy shares in gopher wood.

Postscriptum

A man called Noah has, I promise you, just sent me an email about a guitar I’ve been trying to sell for the past 16 months. The knottiness of stringiness, indeed.

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Sucks boo to you, wealthy aliens of London town

I like to pat myself on the head every now and then, when my bogl (that I write from the seclusion of my garden shed, aka The Little House on the Prairie, with little reference to the world outside – the prairie being a strip of grass I made, 10 feet x five) starts to conform to the reality curve.

As a news editor sometime back in the 1900s, I prided myself on my ability to spot breaking stories, and it seems I have not lost the knack yet. For my recent Post on the subject of the extraordinary increase in property values making London almost a separate country from the rest of the UK (Dec 9th: Two Different Worlds) is now the subject of hot debate in the politico-economic clamoursphere!

Anyway, I thought I would try to find some data to see if the inflation in house prices in London is in fact more the result of inflation of the currency – the purchasing power of money – as it is of inflation in wages and prices, or inflation of the egos of property owning Londoners. And this is what I found.

In 1971, President Nixon detached the value of the US dollar from gold, ending the postwar Bretton Woods consensus at a stroke.

‘Financial Sense’ blogger Mike Hewitt with Krassimir Petrov, PhD., February 23, 2009, writes:

This was done likely to prevent the complete loss of the U.S. gold reserves. In turn, other currencies began to float against the U.S. dollar. Since that historic moment, for nearly 38 years all currencies in the world have not been backed by any tangible asset. It is an unprecedented monetary experiment that extends to the entire world and involves every living person.

And, according to Hewitt, between 1971 and 2008 the amount of money in circulation in the British economy increased from 9 billion pounds to 51 billion; while the purchasing power of the pound fell by an equivalent factor, 51 billion in 2008 being equivalent to 9 billion in 1971 (clever graph!).

The chart visually shows the near-perfect inverse relationship between the amount of money in circulation and its purchasing power. It reflects the simple relationship that prices increase approximately proportionately to money supply.

So, as a student in 1970 I was renting a room in King’s Road, Chelsea, London, for £4 a week. That year, having argued once too often with my flatmates over the washing-up, I moved across the river to Putney, where I rented a two-bedroomed flat for £12 a week. Just before Christmas 2013, I visited some people around the corner from where I had lived in Chelsea, and learned from a property website that the average rent in their street is just under £5,000 a week for a 4-bedroomed terrace house, e.g. about £1,200 a week per beautifully decorated room. From £6 to £1,200 in 45 years is an increase easily calculated as 200 times, or 2,000 per cent, representing price inflation of 45% (rounded up) per annum.

Inflation in Britain in the 1970s notoriously rose to a peak of about 15% per annum, but has since fallen considerably and is now about 2.4% per annum. According to Dr Petrov’s graph, the actual increase in the money supply, with its corresponding decrease in purchasing power, over the period is about 500%, or 11% per annum. So property in London’s SW3 district has inflated by about 25% above that figure, year-on-year. In other words, the money invested is not being backed, in the main, by any ‘tangible asset’ (to use Mr Hewitt’s definition).

This seems to represent rather poor value for the wealthy and boastful inhabitants of the nation’s very own alien planet, nicht war? For, they seem to be investing around three times as much in a depreciating paper currency linked to nothing of any value, as in actual bricks and mortar.

– Uncle Bogler

For those interested, the link to ‘Financial Sense’ is http://www.financialsensearchive.com/fsu/editorials/dollardaze/2009/0223.html

The immigration debate

A short thought…

It occurs to me that the countries with the most complex histories of immigration settlement and the widest degree of ethnic diversity are the most politically and socially stable, comparing favourably with countries where relatively few ethnically and culturally distinct communities coexist in mutual suspicion and hostility.

– Uncle Bogler

The rain, it raineth

North American readers who can melt their frozen eyeballs long enough to read this, muh bogl, may sneer, but here in jolly old Britain we’ve not been having a great time either this Winter.

Of course, it rains – does Sherlock Holmes inhale London fog with his crack pipe? – but not like this. Not forever.

I’m told by the weathermen that there is a twisty ribbon of swirling, high-altitude wind called the Jetstream, that circles the North Pole as if round a Christmas pudding, at speeds of up to 300 mph. They have kindly shown me diagrams, so it must be true.

Anywhere to the north of the Jetstream is very, very cold. Anywhere to the south are anticyclones of low-pressure spinning-out from the equatorial Atlantic, that pick up warm water and dump it over the nearest landmass. That’s us, folks.

This winter, the Jetstream turned rogue. Over the USA, it dipped down as far as the Florida keys and everyone froze to death on lakes of steam. A blaze at an old folks’ home in Canada graphically illustrated the problem, when water from the firefighters’ hoses instantly froze over the building, creating a terrifying mausoleum of ice. While somewhere in China, it was cold enough for an army of sculptors to chip an actual sparkly city out of ice, palaces and buildings and roads, chilly bars and brothels, that tourists can go marvel at.

Correspondingly, the Jetstream hung around to the far north of northwestern Europe and we got the warm Atlantic douche instead. The British Isles have been battered for months by a seemingly unending series of low-pressure systems, generating hurricane-force wind gusts, damaging tidal surges and many inches of rain. Parts of the country flooded five weeks ago are still under water, that doesn’t get time to soak away before the next depression blows in.

Okay, it’s not the Philippines, or Haiti. We’ll live. And one benefit, it’s been preternaturally warm, just as the gas companies stuffed up their prices, expecting another lucrative cold winter, haha. Fuck ’em.

Walking with Hunzi beside our swollen river today, as another light shower crashed over us, it set me thinking. Could the Bible story of Noah have actually happened? Is it possible you could get forty days and nights of continuous heavy rain, maybe as a one-in-ten-thousand-year event?

Well, looking at the river, I’ve seen it higher. It would have to come up another five feet to match the flood we had in June 2012. That was after two days and a night of rain falling on dry ground, and a cock-up (rather, a cock-open) at the barrage. This time the rain has come in pulses, just giving time between for the water to soak in, or run away. The river, the flood defences, have coped.

So let’s assume. About ten thousand years ago, round about the end of the last ice age, something went wrong with the weather. There were plenty of people around, but not many survived. Only those that went to high ground. Those that did survive told a terrible tale of a mighty flood, that drowned nearly every living thing.

For six thousand years their descendants sat around the fire, endlessly retelling the story of the Great Flood, and the one family that survived with their livestock, microbes and all. Eventually, somebody living in Iraq who had learned a newfangled way of storing information wrote it down, just as he had heard it as a kid, heavily embellished with millennia-old storyteller stardust, but true at heart. Endlessly retweeted, the tale ended up in the Bible. So it must be true.

What might have gone wrong? I’m always happy to speculate unscientifically on any subject, as my army of Followers well knows. So let’s kick around a few scenarios.

Big Rain. Not very likely, as rainwater/river basin floods are quite shallow and don’t affect sea level. Yes, annual ‘fertile basin’ floods are important for farming and form the basis of much mythology. I don’t believe there’s a connection: this is not a river story. Even after forty days and nights – forty being a random number just meaning ‘lots’ – you’re never going to get a global inundation kilometres deep.

Besides, what weather system known today could cause it to rain continuously everywhere for that length of time?

Answer: a geological event causing massive transpiration AND sea level rise together. Asteroid impact? It would have to be on water, not on land – we can see the evidence of those. But in the deep ocean… heroic quantities of energy transfer, tsunamis a mile high circling the globe several times, superheated steam thrown skyward, falling for weeks as rain? And no visible crater. Or… Thor’s Hammer: violent airbursts of showers of hundreds of water-bearing comets, spiralling out of the Oort clouds? Or… supervolcano. Nine km-wide magma chamber fractures deep beneath Siberia, allows ingress of vast quantity of water from neighbouring underground aquifers the size of the Mediterranean, superheating steam blows lid… Result, torrents of rain worldwide.

Could something like that have happened within human memory? We’ve been here around a million years, using language for maybe 100,000 years… telling tales around the fire for what, 40,000 years? A long time for nothing cataclysmic to report. A long slow-news day.

It’s said that the Cumbre Viejo volcano on Las Palmas in the Canary Islands may be on the point of shedding a sidewall of rock 12 km long by two thousand metres high, that will slide rapidly into the sea, displacing billions of tonnes of water (what happens to the fish? I wonder). Lab tests and analysis of evidence of big waves caused by collapsing glaciers suggest this will cause a tsunami 1.5 km deep, that will cross the Atlantic at 500 mph and in under six hours rear-up over the continental shelf to inundate the entire east coast of the USA, up to 100 miles inland, with major coastal flooding as far north as the British Isles and southwards to Argentina, worldwide ripples. So…

By the end of the last ice age, there was a cap of ice covering the entire northern hemisphere as far south as Bristol, up to 3 km thick (radar measurements show that the Antarctic ice cap is 4.5 km thick in places. Imagine looking up at that thing, grinding its molars!).  Why did it mostly disappear, retreating northwards so quickly – a period of less than two thousand years? One theory is gradual warming – the planet warmed up (Has the Antarctic ice-sheet survived because the land beneath stayed cold, while the Arctic ice mainly covered a warming ocean?). Another is sudden warming: again, caused by some geological event.

Either way, imagine vast lakes of meltwater forming behind an ice barrier a mile high. The warming icewall breaks along a 100 km front and slides into the north Pacific, meltwater pouring forth… Bye bye, megafauna of the tundra. Hello, Great Lakes. And, while on the subject of tsunamis, planetary near-miss? There are several suspects in the solar system, moons of Mars and so on, captured objects whose orbits could have taken them right by Earth, with huge gravitational effects on the oceans, slopping around like a cup of tea. (Have to credit Immanuel Velikovsky with that one.)

Any such events might lie behind the much-told tale, in which our hero – we’ll call him Noah – saves his family and all the animals from destruction by building a boat, that lands with a bump on a mountaintop and, as the water recedes comes down to restart the human race. (Luckily he saved the doves.)

Of course, there are other imaginable narratives that don’t involve a real flood, or not one that big. One I have heard, is that the story was invented to explain the inexplicable – unusual bones lying around, of long-extinct animal giants. It might not be too far from the truth. But this isn’t a long-ago monsters story, anymore than it’s a river story… above all, it’s a story about human hitory. And there are parallel tales told in many cultures. Right out of Sci-fi, would be the idea of a space ark – that the disaster happened on another planet, that humans arrived on Earth as survivors, carrying with them the biological materials, the DNA, to reconstruct… Nah, maybe not go there.

There is so much tantalising evidence, so many intriguing specifics in the story, that I can’t personally believe that at some long-ago but still remembered point, we didn’t have to press the Reboot button after a cataclysm. For years as a child, I dreamed of huge waves, that I was climbing higher and higher until I reached a pinnacle and saw bearing down, one last, even higher, wave. To this day, I cannot visit the sea without wondering what is keeping it in.

Oh look, it’s raining again. Swell. Time to feed the animals.

Postscriptum

Once again, themindbogler prefigures events with uncanny prescience! This morning’s edition of Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time programe on BBC Radio 4 was devoted to a scholarly debate on Catastrophism, three days after the Post above first appeared on this, muh bogl! I missed most of it, unfortunately, owing to a  fearsome meteor strike on my kitchen. I’ll catch the repeat.

The Tipping Point: What do we mean by ‘The Third World War’ and how will we recognise it when it starts?

What will define the term ‘Third World War’?

I think, only the terms First, and Second World War. Both are numerical conventions, assuming as they do that there were clear start and end points to the events so named, and a single, defining characteristic to the years between. ‘Third World War’ is a crudely ordinal description that thus may be applied retrospectively to a similar type of conflict now or in future. Is such a conflict even possible in the modern era?

We had the main events, so to speak, of the 20th century, two ‘world wars’, and so another major international conflict would possibly define the term Third World War today. But how, in advance of the main event, and without foreknowledge of how it is to develop, given the changing nature of warfare, are we to recognise that it has actually begun?

Large parts of the world were not directly involved in the first and second world wars, or were so peripheral to it that they could not be counted as combatants. So they were not in the fullest sense ‘world’ wars, albeit that they occupied a number of theatres and led to enormous casualties. They were, to use an analogy borrowed from geology, catastrophic events: the sudden, massive ruptures of geopolitical tectonic plates, releasing the stored energy of hundreds of years of slow crepitation.

And some historians would argue that, while there were clear starting-blocks in both, neither conflict was ever so sufficiently resolved as to have an endpoint; especially in relation to the so-called Cold War. This continued for decades after the Second World War as a face-off between the victorious powers – although it can be suggested that such a condition suited the political and economic interests of both sides and empowered what Eisenhower called the ‘military-industrial complex’ of many nations and was thus an invented, rather than a real, conflict.

Embedded in the Cold War were a few ‘hot’ wars: Korea, Vietnam, Aden, the Malaysian insurgency, Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, the war between the Nationalists and the Maoists in China. There were minor wars whose roots lay in the previous major conflicts: Israel/Palestine and India/Pakistan, to name but two. Many such conflicts remain unresolved to this day, and occasionally flare up. So it is hard to say that either the First or the Second World War has definitively ended.

But given that we have these ideas of major, quasi-global conflicts that can be put into an envelope of time, historically speaking, then any ‘Third World War’ would to future historians, if any survive, have had to have had a fairly well defined starting point, and (hopefully) a settled outcome. At the moment, no such defined points can be said to exist, and so there is no ‘Third World War’ to speak of.

In truth, however, the unresolved nature of those past conflicts, many dating back to the early corporatist expansions of the 17th century, is creating an extraordinary period of instability today. If we can describe anything as a ‘world war’, short of an all-out mobilisation of great powers aligned in mutually opposed hostile blocs, leading probably to a globally devastating nuclear exchange, then it must surely be a world in which social unrest combined with complex political alliances appears to be getting out of hand, just as it did in 1914. Brushfires are raging, situational conflicts in many countries are on the verge of turning into all-out warfare: which I define as any conflict between armies and affecting civilian populations across national borders.

The multipartite conflict now raging in Syria, for instance, has snowballed into a pitiless free-for-all as a result of the intransigence of the al-Assad family, a secular, self-imposed dynasty, in the face of demands originally from a mass movement of unarmed, nonviolent citizens determined to obtain a more just and democratic society. It can be argued that such movements are in part the product of economic inequality, in which even the middle-class now feels increasingly dispossessed, where states have failed to grant their citizens a sense of empowerment. Once Assad’s snipers began firing on peaceful demonstrators, and his secret torture chambers started to fill up with university students, insurrection became inevitable: there was no-one with the necessary clarity of vision or purpose to stop it.

For in Assad, we saw only the contradiction that here was an apparently charming, diffident, Western-educated, secularist Islamic leader, a professional man from a minority caste, who was behaving in a very unWestern, unliberal, unacceptably violent way, slaughtering his own people without compunction* ; while to support the fragmented moderate Islamic opposition groups loosely arrayed against him would clearly be to let in the Devil of Saudi-sponsored, Sunni jihad in the spectre of al-Quaeda militias and the like. How to intervene, in a post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan, post-Libya climate of war-weary opposition among the voters at home?

Meanwhile, in the Security Council of the UN, Russian and Chinese diplomats, aligned with Iran and with an interest in maintaining Syria as a client state, were obdurately opposed to any military invention against Assad by the US, allied with the former administrative powers of Britain and France; whose furtive Sykes-Picot accord of 1916 had created the faultlines in the first place. A detailed examination of the complex matrix of rival loyalties in Syria would take a book; ultimately, it was too much for anyone outside the conflict to build a credible policy framework for ending the carnage.

Indeed, the countries most affected by these so-called ‘Arab Spring’ movements have been former protectorates whose postwar boundaries were artificially defined by colonial administrators caught up in the rush to decolonise. Their immediate postcolonial regimes were artificially imposed and subsequently manipulated by the major powers, to settle traditional inter-tribal rivalries and to support the development of regional economies, in the names of ‘liberal democracy’, and ‘freedom’, to help fuel corporate expansionism as the economic drivers of their own domestic consumer cultures were seen to be waning.

Before Damascus and Homs, similar ‘Arab Spring’ movements had been erupting all over the Middle East, that had their roots in earlier mass public protests, so-called ‘velvet revolutions’, in places like the Ukraine and, earlier still, East Germany and Czechoslovakia. These were essentially anti-governmental protests, rather than revolutionary class-based or religious schisms; a sort of disaffected middle-class anarchy, you might ally them with the Tea Party movement in the USA, although the soccer-moms of middle America are more heavily armed!

In sum, the ‘velvet revolutions’ are protests of mainly the rapidly increasing numbers of the newly educated middle class, finding their voice and wishing to demonstrate their newfound maturity and independence of mind in the face of narrow, ideologically dated, paternalistic governance; opposed to egregious corruption and foreign clientism, threatened by medieval theocracy and feeling disempowered.

Three factors ensure the failure of such mass movements:

  • The lack of a cohesive, focussed ideology and recognisable leadership
  • The intransigence of the Old Order, its willingness to resort to violence to remain in power (and the willingness of the major powers to sell arms to them indiscriminately)
  • Contemporaneously, the growing economic and military weakness of, and divisions among, the former ‘policing’ world powers.

Lastly, we have to take into account perhaps the most troubling factor of all: the rise of Islamic jihad. This is affecting many countries where inter-tribal or social factionalism has created or exposed faultlines capable of exploitation by terrorist groups and insurgent militias dedicated to the violent overthrow of decadent Western capitalism and the global imposition in the 21st century of a crude fundamentalist version of religious law, customs and practices derived from a 7th-century text. (Off the record, were it not for the latter tendency, they might paradoxically find greater support among those opposed to the global, corporatist agenda.)

The following is a rundown, incomplete, compiled at random and off the top of my head, of current zones of actual or potential armed conflict. It is a shocking list, as there are now more countries in or on the verge of conflict than at the start of either of the two previous world wars, complicated by all the factors listed above. There is little hope of resolution coming from the underfunded, irresolute UN or – the former world’s policeman – Obama’s USA, itself currently in traction as a result of the bitter division between rightwing Republicans and moderate centrists.

There are some chinks of light – the useful mediation of Ethiopia in the Darfur conflict is one. But by and large, it is a depressing list of failure, vacillation and random, chaotic violence, particularly against civilians, in which it is hard to detect any longer, even the cynical, manipulative hand of the Western intelligence services.

Syria – and hence, neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Israel. Civil war developed following state repression of popular protests, has drawn in rival jihadist militias. Atrocities on all sides, a standoff at the UN between the US and Russia/China, 10 million displaced persons, two million-plus out-of-state refugees, 130 thousand dead, cities reduced to rubble and the total abandonment of civil order make resolution unlikely despite ‘peace talks’ currently limping forward unexpectedly with minor concessions and much mistrust (and no Iranian delegates) in Montreux.

Lebanon – re-emergence of the chronic instability and fractures in the unhealed faultlines remaining from the civil wars of the 1970s and 80s. Massive population pressures caused by Syrian refugees. Continuing Iranian-sponsored terrorism, involvement of homegrown Hezbollah movement (anti-Israel) in the Syrian conflict.

Iran – continuing suppression of political opponents of the regime. Mass executions. Conciliatory approach over nuclear weapons issue to the West by new president Hassan Rouhani countered by Supreme Leader Khameini and the Revolutionary Guard. Threat of Israeli preventative strike and cyber warfare remains. Continued involvement of Iran pursuing pro-Shi’ite proxy war in Syria threatens conflict with Saudi Arabia supporting Sunni insurgents.

Iraq – Increasing instability and terrorist militia activity in south and cetral regions as weak and corrupt al-Malaki government fails to include Sunni majority in post-invasion restoration of civil institutions, thus paving the way for al-Quaeda-backed insurgency. Continued failure to restore broken infrastructure. Civil war imminent.

Afghanistan – withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014 and weakness of army and police threatens to leave corrupt and unstable Karzai government vulnerable to return of Taleban in the south, warlords in the north. Continuing problems with clandestine, semi-official Pakistani support for jihadists in the border regions. Civil war a real possibility.

Pakistan – politically extremely unstable. Deep social divisions and intolerance of others. Secularists and modernisers vs traditionalists leading to support for Islamic fundamentalism in tribal areas on Afhan border. Potential for military takeover. Nuclear power. Continuing unresolved dispute with India over Kashmir with occasional flare-ups on the border.

India– rise of Hindu nationalism and hostility to Muslim Pakistan. Deep social and religious divisions leading to frequent localised massacres. Maoist ‘Naxalite’ insurgency affecting Andra Pradesh and wide areas of the country, many civilian deaths. The unresolved Kashmir question. Possibly unsustainable economic growth.

Turkey – initially a peace broker in the Syrian conflict, now threatened by its own internal divisions. Mass popular movement against increasingly hardline premier Erdogan. Rise of harder-line Islamist movement led by US-exiled Fetullah Gulen creating a ‘third force’ in the so-far nonviolent (other than for excessive use of police force) conflict. Some respite in the long-ongoing Kurdish nationalist insurgency but conflict with PKK as yet unresolved. Pressures of massive Syrian refugee population. Threat of jihadist insurgency from across the Syrian border. Threat of direct military involvement in Syrian conflict in response to border incursions and shelling. Cyprus question unresolved.

Egypt – Arab Spring uprising, largely nonviolent, brought down the authoritarian Mubharak regime but subsequent elections inadvertenly brought Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi to power, owing to lack of credible opposition leadership. New protests in 2013 led to intervention by Army leaders promising fresh elections, now looking as though the only candidates will be Army placemen. Morsi on trial, Brotherhood leadership in gaol acting as lightning rod for armed jihadi insurgents in Sinai. Increasing terrorist attacks on urban communities. Overpopulation, resource depletion.

North Africa – many unresolved postcolonial issues from Western Sahara through Algeria to Libya and Tunisia, Sudan; Islamist insurgencies in southern parts, tribal rivalries, gangster militias exploiting local power vacuums and failure of new governments as yet to build credible democratic institutions and restore civil society in the wake of Western-backed regime change operations in support of incoherent ‘Arab Spring’ manifestations; oil, water, energy supply shortages.

Central Africa/Southern Sahel – Islamist insurgencies across many countries compounding renewed tribal conflicts over land and resources in Southern Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali, northern Nigeria, northern Uganda and other regions. Longstanding conflicts in Congo, Somalia, Eritrea etc. continue to rumble on. Increasing Chinese economic influence and unwillingness of Western powers (other than France) to engage. Weakness of pan-African institutions. Arms trade, diamonds, resource wars…

China – growing Islamist insurgency in western provinces, rebellious Uighurs. Continued suppression of Tibetan nationalist movement. Armed intervention threatened against Japan over centuries-old disputed ownership of eight uninhabited Senkaku (Daoyou) islands in the South China Sea reopening unhealed wounds dating from Japanese occupation of Manchuria during WW2. Some resurgence of Japanese nationalism and rhetorical gestures getting out of hand. Resource shortages threatening and economic expansion slowing. Corruption and human rights abuses, growing popular anger at slow pace of reform. Cyber espionage aimed against western countries.

Korea – no progress after 60 years in still-unresolved war between North and South. Increasingly strident and bizarre rhetoric from new Northern president Kim Jong-un; recent history of military confrontations, sinking of South Korean warship, cross-border shelling; flagrant breaches of non-nuclear accords, testing of devices and  long-range launch vehicles; violent suppression of supposed dissidence within the ruling elite; economic impoverishment of the majority, labour camps, etc. all creating impression of dangerous instability of the regime. Cyber warfare being aggressively waged against hostile countries (that’s most of us!).

Thailand – pro-democracy, anti-government corruption protests turning violent. Continued ethnic and religious tensions in neighbouring Burma, Laos.

Ukraine – increasingly violent confrontations between protesters seeking closer ties with European Union and the authoritarian president Viktor Yanukovitch compounded with a deep ideological faultine emerging between the pro-European western and the post-industrial former pro-Soviet eastern halves of the country. Over-reliance on Russian energy supply, faltering economy. Potential for Russian intervention in support of Yanukovitch regime after the Sochi Olympic games finish at the end of February.

Indonesia – having achieved a measure of democratic freedom and stability after the CIA-supported coups and counter-coups and the massacres and endemic corruption of the 1970s and 80s, moderately Islamic Indonesia faces an increasing internal threat from jihadist groups, some possibly affiliated to al-Quaeda, and continuing separatist aspirations of larger island territories.

Russia – continuing terrorist insurgency by Islamist groups in the Caucasian republics threatening disruption of the Sochi Olymic games. Increasing militancy over ownership of Arctic resources with potential for conflict with Norway, Denmark, Canada, USA. Unresolved issues with Georgia over sovereignty of South Ossetia. Russian stranglehold on gas supplies to western European countries a possible lever for blackmail. Some manifestations of popular opposition to autocratic Putin regime, corruption and organised crime. Cyber crime and warfare being conducted actively in support of various global objectives.

Northern Ireland – resurgence of sectarian tensions in West Belfast, principally owing to economic recession. The old faultline re-emerging, as characterised by the refusal of political leaders to agree even on the display of symbolic flags. Increasing acts of random violence by dissident Republicans opposed to the Good Friday accord. Failure of political leaders to include the traditional Protestant working-class in post-accord settlements. Failure to meet Republican aspirations.

And finally, there are the macro-factors affecting all the conflicts mentioned: climate change, ‘Peak Oil’, water and other resource shortages, mass migration from South to North and the weakness of institutions such as the UN, the African Union, the ASEAN countries and the EU, which threatens to fragment under pressure from a disillusioned majority of citizens of its member states.

Have I left anyone out? Almost certainly – especially South America, where all seems relatively quiet! (Although Marxist insurgency, corruption, vast social inequality and drugs wars are endemic.)** So here’s another definition of a ‘Third World War’, my definition – a series of small wars simultaneously enveloping most of the countries formerly known collectively as the ‘Third World’, that threatens to realign the major powers once again.

Could 2014 be a rerun of 1914? Probably not, but will the world get to 2020 in one piece? It seems less likely by the day.

– Uncle Bogler

*Note: the suspicion has to be, doesn’t it, that the policy of ruthless suppression originated not with President Bashar, but with his psychotic brother Maher, head of the Secret Service?

** Oops, no, sorry. Economic recession in Argentina spurs upsurge of militaristic anti-British rhetoric over ownership of Las Malvinas islands. Increasing popular unrest in Venezuela following the death of Chavez.

Postscriptum

To what extent are population pressures playing a part in the current trend of mass popular unrest and the breakdown of civil order? It seems odd that so much of this activity seems to have concided with the widespread announcement of the arrival of the world’s ‘Seven billionth citizen’… A visit to Wikipedia and its account of Professor John D Calhoun’s famous 1960s experiments with rat populations gives pause for thought!

Prophylaxis 2 – The Report

You know, this prophylaxis business gets more interesting by the day.

It’s been raining continually (notice: I did not write ‘continuously’, which would be poor word choice) here since the beginning of October. It has been preternaturally (because I like the word: ‘sempiternally’ is a good word too) warm all winter so far, but, oh God has it been wet.

Wet, wet, wet.

And, when it wasn’t raining, or maybe when it was, the Irish sea has been slopping around like tea in a wobbly cup, sloshing over the town in waves and demolishing the promenade. Because it’s also been seriously blowy.

So it’s only taken three and a half months of the equivalent of a month’s rain falling in every 24 hours for me to get round to putting my foot down, soggily, so to speak, and ordering my impossibly frugal self to go and buy a bloody raincoat, preferably one of the kind that doesn’t absorb water.

Because, dear Followers, I have been falling somewhat short in the wardrobe department of late. To ward off the rain, I had only a waxed country-type coat with no wax on; another jacket in brushed cotton whose seams have been coming unstitched since the day I first wore it out of the shop, and a smart black leather jacket you don’t want to take out in the rain.

I was getting soaked and tired of having to put my wet jackets in the tumble-dryer whenever I got home and listen to the zip fasteners clattering round and round noisily for an hour and a half.

So, to avoid further descriptive flimflam, I popped in to Cheap Charlie’s store in town yesterday evening after work (yes, I have work. But only until the end of next week) and bought an absolutely guaranteed waterproof nylon coat and wore it out for the first time to walk the dog on my half-day off today, and you know what?

Right, the sun’s been shining all morning.

Do y0u sometimes think that all this might be just a dream, that you’re making it up as you go along?

I know I do.

Police shootings: lawful, or just awful?

How far should policing go, to keep law-abiding citizens safe on the streets?

Should it, for instance, be regarded as acceptable that any armed-response police officer can kill at will? Of course not: he or she has to have due cause to believe that their own or another person’s life is in imminent danger from a suspect, or receive a direct order from a superior officer, before they are allowed to open fire. It is a principle of British justice that you are innocent until proven guilty, and I’m proud to say we abolished the death penalty for murder in 1965. (You also have a right to a fair trial by a jury of your peers, whatever heinous crime you are accused of.)

So, why would a police officer deliberately ‘execute’ an unarmed suspect in public? It’s illogical. It would be murder. There’s no reason.

Surely, then, it must automatically follow that when a well-trained armed-response officer does open fire, and kills a suspect, it is because they genuinely believed that there was an imminent danger to themselves and others. This is possibly why, despite a number of high-profile cases in which perfectly innocent people have been shot and sometimes killed by the police, no UK police firearms officer has ever been convicted of unlawfully killing a suspect. In every case, the jury has given the police marksman the benefit of the doubt, presumably as it is difficult to prove that someone with a duty to protect the public did not have a valid reason for carrying out an action with such drastic consequences for a person’s life.

In the case of Mark Duggan, an inquest jury has produced a controversial verdict. Here is a young man, allegedly acting as a courier for a nasty and violent criminal gang. An informant tells the police that Duggan is about to collect a gun and deliver it to the gang. Armed police set up a trap and stop a minicab. Duggan gets out as instructed and puts his hands in the air – according to the one witness who actually saw the incident clearly – and is immediately shot twice and dies at the scene. The police put out contradictory statements: Duggan was carrying a gun, wrapped in a sock (the witness says Duggan had a mobile phone in his hand). Duggan fired and wounded an officer (actually, the officer was hit by a ricochet from a shot fired from a police gun). And the police do not bother to inform Duggan’s family until they hear about it on the news. Five days of riots, arson, looting and further deaths ensue.

But there is a mystery: after Duggan has been shot, no-one can find his alleged gun until one turns up later in the grass verge, 20 feet away from the shooting. How did it get there?

Press reports the following day – we name the Daily Telegraph, a notorious right-wing source – claimed that Duggan, a ‘well-known gangster’, was armed, had opened fire first, and that a police officer’s life had been saved only because the bullet had struck his radio. It was a big, fat lie. Why do the police do this, make up stories to throw-off any possible line of enquiry in the media that might create doubt in the public mind? Can juries that are eventually constituted to decide on these cases really be impartial after being fed a load of panic-laden Scotland Yard PR guff? Well, it doesn’t matter, because in these cases, juries almost invariably move to acquit.

By a majority of 9 to 1, then, the 10-man jury finds that Duggan has in all probability thrown the gun 0ut of the window as the car is stopped and the police close in. Therefore he was unarmed at the time he was killed. This would technically make the killing unlawful; or, at the least, lead to an open verdict. So, instead, by 8-2, they decide that the police ‘lawfully’ killed him; in other words, their verdict is that the firearms officer had genuine cause to believe Duggan was armed and about to fire a gun witnesses said he did not have on his person at the time and that could not be found until some time after the event, at a considerable distance from the body.

In the heat of the moment, it is not an implausible explanation that the officer simply made a mistake. There was no gun, Duggan was surrendering, not about to fire; the reason he was being stopped was that the police had been forewarned he would be armed, so the simple act of raising his hands to surrender, with a black object – his phone – in one hand, could literally have ‘triggered’ an instinctive response in the officer to open fire.

This calls into question somewhat, the meaning of the key word in all of this: ‘lawful’. Because it seems to be self-defining: if there is reason to believe he is threatened, it is ‘lawful’ for the officer to shoot the suspect. If not, then not. So, it is entirely up to the officer him- or herself, supported by the often suspiciously collaborative testimony of his or her colleagues, to decide what is lawful – after the event.

American Followers will probably be amused that this is even an issue in funny old Britain. In America, police shoot and kill 1,600 suspects a year, not one every eighteen months.

So it’s not a problem confined to the UK. In 2012, for instance, police in Houston, Texas, called to the scene of an altercation, shot and killed Brian Claunch, a bipolar double-amputee in a wheelchair, when he brandished a ballpoint pen ‘aggressively’ after being refused a drink and a sandwich at 3 a.m. by his apartment-block supervisor. In California, 13-year-old child Andy Lopez was shot and killed by Santa Rosa police, who fired seven times after he failed to drop his weapon on command – a toy rifle. (Note: an almost exactly similar event occurred in November, 2014 in Cleveland, the dead child, Tamir Rice, in this case being only 12. This however took place against a nationwide wave of protests over incidents in which, specifically, three other young black men had been killed by white police investigating relatively minor offences, and Grand Juries had exonerated the officers without further consequence.)

Instinctive reactions, misperceived threats, reverting mindlessly to training… But I should like to explore a different explanation, that of ‘prior expectation’.

The Lopez killing took place just a day after a schoolteacher had been shot dead by a 12-year-old pupil at a school in Nevada. It was widely reported on the news. Children can be lethal too, you don’t need to be an adult to pull a trigger. And Lopez was Hispanic. He may have looked older, we don’t know. His English might not have been good enough to understand what was being shouted at him. We shall never know.

Father-of-two, Duggan was mixed-race, visibly a ‘black’ man. He was a known associate, if not a full member, of a criminal gang of black men. Any police officer would naturally be predisposed to anticipate that he might react violently on arrest and – being informed about the alleged gun – have already imagined a scenario in which he might have to open fire in self-defence. Although, it has to be said, he had no record of violence or possession of firearms.

Sportsmen and women are taught by psychologists to visualise every stage of their forthcoming event, so as to actualise their hoped-for victory mentally in advance of competing. The officer would have been on a hair-trigger alert and the shooting carried out while he was perhaps not fully in control of his own responses, but enacting a scene that was already played-out in his mind. Any gesture Duggan made would have been misinterpreted as a threat.

Just as, in the killing of the innocent Brazilian electrician Jean-Charles de Menezes in 2005, here was a darkish-skinned man carrying a backpack on the underground, so an entire team of anti-terrorism police assumed he must be a Middle Eastern terrorist involved with an earlier bomb outrage in London, and could therefore lawfully have seven bullets fired into his head at point-blank range in front of horrified passengers while other plain-clothes police were sitting on him in a desperate attempt to prevent him from triggering the bomb he was not in fact carrying. Subsequently, the police concocted a tissue of lies about what had happened; even inventing false rape allegations. The inquest jury returned an open verdict, one stop on the line away from unlawful killing; so no action, and the head of the unit responsible, Cressida Dick, was promoted to the rank of Commander.

These things don’t help.

Scottish father-of-three Henry Stanley was killed in North London in 1999 by police who, on hearing from an informant who thought he had overheard a man in a pub speaking with an ‘Irish’ accent, assumed that the wooden leg Stanley was carrying in a plastic bag to take home to fix a broken table must be a weapon; and that, being audibly Irish, he must be an IRA operative on active service and would obviously therefore be toting a rifle in public. He was not given a chance to explain otherwise, but despite the clearly prejudgemental nature of the armed police response, and an open inquest verdict, no policeman ever stood trial for Stanley’s killing.

Acting again on intelligence, in 1988 Operation Flavius was designed to intercept an apparently genuine IRA attack on British forces in Gibraltar. A plain-clothes unit of the SAS opened fire on the dockside without warning, and killed three IRA members on ‘active service’, one a woman, claiming later that one of them had made a sudden move towards a bag they assumed contained the detonator that would explode a car that turned out not to have a bomb in it after all (it was a dummy run). None of the terrorists was armed at the time; witnesses said they were surrendering. Verdict: lawful killing.

In 1983, armed police in an inner-London street opened fire on a Mini car at traffic lights, hitting 26-year-old film editor, Stephen Waldorf, eight times. He somehow survived. The assumption had been that he was an escaped prisoner, David Martin, who had absconded while on trial for the attempted murder of a police officer. The only reason they thought Waldorf was Martin was because the woman in the car with Waldorf resembled Martin’s girlfriend.  Two policemen were tried, and acquitted. But why had they shot at an innocent driver who was not even pointing a gun at them? Was it because he was believed to be an attempted ‘police-killer’, the worst kind of criminal the police can imagine?

In July 2012, an unnamed man was shot and wounded by armed police in the town of Knaphill, in Surrey. He was carrying a BB gun – a low-velocity, sublethal air weapon capable of firing ball-bearings – however it seems the reason he was shot was because he boasted to police that he had planted a bomb in the block of flats where he was living. The bomb squad was called, but found nothing. Residents had complained for months of drunken behaviour and rough sleepers. The suspect, who survived, was just a drunken, delusional idiot, no real threat to anyone. There are times when split-second decisions need to be made. It’s just that with hindsight, they’re not always the right ones.

And in 2010, alcoholic barrister Mark Saunders, drunk and depressed, fired a shotgun aimlessly out of the window of his London flat, breaking a window opposite, and was killed by five of the eleven bullets fired by police marksmen called to the scene. The police later claimed they had fired in self-defence, although Saunders could not effectively have injured anyone wearing a flak jacket with a shotgun at that range and the police had previously refused to allow his wife to enter the house and talk him down. Some witnesses described him as cheerful and calm that day, others that he was deranged and raving; while a taxi driver testified that Saunders had told him he felt that he was going to die. Lawful killing, although not under the Mental Health Act.

In all these cases, there was a prior assumption on the part of the police for possibly unconnected reasons that not only must the suspect be the guilty party, but that they would also be armed and dangerous, that they presented an immediate threat and there was no possible alternative than to deploy with live ammunition and to shoot to kill. In fact, it seems to have been the heightened prejudice – the ‘prior expectation’ – of the police units that led to the lethal reactions of armed response officers in situations where there was no credible, immediate threat to life.

It is also the case that the police feel they belong in a special category, as they themselves may become targets for random killings. Notorious cases include the 1966 murder of three policemen in London at the instigation of Harry Roberts, a career criminal with a grudge (Note: Roberts, 78, was finally released in December 2014 after serving 42 years. The Police Federation described the parole board’s decision as an insult); and the six-hour shooting spree in Northumberland in 2010 involving the deranged taxi driver Raoul Moat, during which he fired a shotgun at close range and blinded PC David Rathband, who later took his own life.  Then in 2012, came the deliberate murder by a smalltime Manchester hoodlum, Dale Cregan, of police officers Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, at whom he threw a hand-grenade when (unarmed) they responded to a false 999 call he had got a friend to make. Immediately afterwards, he walked into a police station and turned himself in. Facing a long-tariff sentence for another two murders, he had just wanted to take a couple of coppers with him. Few people, I suspect, would have cared if he had been shot.

It may be an exaggeration therefore to call incidents of police shootings deliberate ‘executions’, as Mark Duggan’s family did when the curious verdict was read out; but they were, with hindsight, possibly avoidable misjudgements in situations of prior expectation, overreactions for which there seems to have been little or no consequence for the officers responsible. And it seems at least probable that the psychopathology of such incidents reflects a self-defensive presumption on the part of police that they themselves are the intended targets.

It is true that armed officers respond to three incidents a day in the UK, and manage to kill the wrong person relatively rarely – we should perhaps pass over the case of the blind man who was tasered (twice) because the officer thought his white stick was a Samurai sword; and the case of Sgt Smellie, the 6’7″ Special Patrol Group officer who batoned a 5’2″ disabled woman after she threw an empty orange-juice carton at him during a demonstration, and the judge ruled he had acted lawfully in self-defence. But yes, the police do a difficult and sometimes dangerous job, and mistakes are made. The problem is, they are so rarely admitted to.

The case of Ian Tomlinson brought the self-defensive tactics of police ‘conspiring’ to protect their own into sharp relief. During a demonstration outside a G8 meeting in London in 2009, the middle-aged newspaper seller was trying to  pass through an area where the police had deliberately confined a number of demonstrators for several hours, a controversial tactic known as ‘kettling’. As he passed some SPG police, CCTV shows him making a remark to one of them, PC Simon Harwood, an officer with a prior record of violence, who batoned him on the legs, then violently shoved him in the back. Tomlinson, an alcoholic man with a heart condition, collapsed to the ground, where he died from what was later found to be a ruptured liver.

The police promptly issued a number of statements trying to claim that Tomlinson had provoked the attack, while the first postmortem by a police pathologist reported that Tomlinson had simply collapsed and died of a heart attack. However, the incident had been recorded on video by an American bank worker and a newspaper campaign led to a second, independent postmortem that forced the Independent Police Complaints Commission to reopen the case. Despite an inquest verdict of unlawful killing, Harwood was later acquitted of a charge of manslaughter and dismissed from the force.

If ‘lessons’ are to be ‘learned’ – if ever – then the police ought perhaps to look at both the training of firearms officers, which perhaps overstresses the urgency to shoot first and ask questions later (I am irresistably reminded of the Monty Python sketch, where the self-defence class instructor commands the terrified pupil to: ‘Now, come at me with that banana!’ – of course, it is a little more serious than that); and at the need perhaps to mediate between the backroom controllers and the frontline officers so that the latter go into situations unprejudiced by prior ‘intelligence’ of a dubious kind (I am no expert).

There are also questions of why the inquiries into such incidents may take years to come to their inevitable, anodyne conclusions, since no British judge or jury ever seems willing to disbelieve the word of a policeman; why the police seldom if ever volunteer information after the event that might lead the press, public and politicians to conclude that there had been misjudgements and mistakes; why the supposedly Independent Police Complaints Commission often appears on the surface to be colluding with this process; and why the police are allowed to investigate themselves before successive, expensive independent judicial inquiries have to be set up to get at a more objective version of the truth?

It can be argued that we are asking our police to do an ever more complex, intrusive and ultimately impossible job. Funding cuts and pay freezes, too, have played their part in creating resentment and an embattled mentality. For that reason, we need greater transparency and honesty when things go wrong, as they inevitably will. The public are more willing to forgive an honest and speedy admission of error, than a concocted narrative of lies and evasions that can only result in a damaging loss of confidence when the truth finally emerges. But as the criminal law moves the police ever further into the murky realm of intent, ultimately of criminalising  ‘bad attitude’ – anticipating, as opposed to solving, crimes – the possibility of fatal error is ever-increasing.

Postscriptum

As I re-read this Post in April, 2014, astonishing revelations are emerging of apparently deep-seated criminality in the Metropolitan Police force during the 1990s. Thousands of documents relating to long-term anti-corruption investigations are said to have been ‘accidentally’ shredded before the enquiries were completed. The police response has been to claim that the shredding was deliberate, as the data had already been transferred to computer files. Unfortunately, the files had then been lost in an ‘accidental’ computer malfunction!

If a criminal suspect put up a defence like that, they would not be believed. At best it reveals incredible ineptitude. Worse was to follow, however. Some documents were not lost, it seems, and this month ‘found’ their way to the media. They suggest that investigating officers involved in a case where a manager was forced to rob his employer’s safe after his wife and daughter were snatched, had then decided it was such a good wheeze, that they conspired to carry out the same kidnapping on the same family themselves at some future date – until their plot was discovered!

This story has emerged in the wake of ongoing revelations, now the subject of yet another enquiry, that undercover police in the Met infiltrated a group of supporters close to the family of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager murdered in an unprovoked attack by white racists at a South London bus stop in 1993, in order to spy on their campaign to force the police to improve the quality of their lackadaisical investigation. At one stage, the police had attempted to suggest that it was a gangland killing, for which the Lawrence family were somehow responsible. A report by Lord MacPherson concluded that the Met was ‘institutionally racist’. It has subsequently been suggested that a senior officer in the pay of the gangster father of one of the alleged killers, a corrupt relationship (denied, obviously) could have been responsible for the deliberate bungling of the investigation, that meant it was twenty years before any convictions were obtained.

Together with emerging evidence that South Yorkshire police may have deliberately concocted a cover-up on a massive scale in order to exonerate themselves of any suggestion that their mistakes may have led to the deaths of 96 football supporters in a stampede at the Hillsborough ground in Sheffield in 1989, (and the emerging evidence of widespread police inertia in the face of numerous complaints of organised sexual exploitation of female minors) it is surely impossible now for anyone to have faith that our police are not at least to some extent a state-within-a-state, entirely a law unto themselves.

Such revelations piling one upon another are a growing tragedy for those who believe in the rule of law, among whom there must, surely, still be a fair number of police officers who must feel desperately let down by all this?

Post-postscriptum

It is 29 January, 2015, and a report disguised under the anodyne title: ‘Digital communications’ has emerged, three weeks after the event, from the Home Office, admitting that a computer disc containing the transcripts of three judicial enquiries into some of the events reported above, including the names of protected witnesses, have been ‘lost in the post’.

A junior civil servant has been suspended pending enquiries. Tsk, tsk. (Surely we are not still using discs, without backup? Was this a floppy disk, or a CD? Surely we have encoded electronic transfer protocols rendering it unnecessary to rely on a 63p stamp? And surely what is put on disc remains on the hard-drive? No?)

Perhaps the officers tasked with looking for the slipped disc might find it hidden under the same rug as the unofficial Dickens report on orgies involving the abuse of children in care and possible sexual murders carried-on by ‘senior Tory politicians and members of the security establishment’ in the 1970s? Something we may never find, now that former Home Secretary Leon Brittan has conveniently died.

– UB

Post-Post-Postscriptum

This story will run and run, I fear.

In the wake of riots in the USA over further excusable murders of black men and women by apparently unaccountable white police officers who have been said officially to be ‘out of control’, we hear now that the ‘Independent’ Police Complaints Commission in the UK has decided there is no case to answer with regard to the so-called ‘Battle of Orgreave’ – an incident that took place 28 years ago at the height of a national strike by miners, when (at the instigation of Mrs Thatcher, who may have illegally diverted public funds to buy the operation) several hundred pickets were lured into a field and attacked by over a thousand foot- and mounted-police.

The IPCC line is that it was all so long ago, it would be impossible to charge anyone. A curious argument, since the police are currently involved in several large-scale enquiries into what were often fairly minor cases of sexual indiscretions in the 1960s and 70s, and the IPCC has no hesitation in prosecuting those to the hilt. In fact, at least four officers are still serving; while, once again, it is South Yorkshire police force that is involved; notorious for their cover-up of their own possible culpability in the Hillsborough football stadium disaster.

The IPCC also argues that, as none of the 95 miners arrested was ultimately convicted of charges of riotous assembly (carrying possible 20-year sentences), basically the fact that senior police officers concocted a load of bollocks (also known as conspiring to pervert the course of justice) against the miners is not of serious importance. This totally ignores the point that the cases were dismissed precisely because the police evidence was so blatantly corrupt that even policemen who were there at the time are complaining that their subsequent attempts to bring the truth to the attention of the authorities were overruled.

Yet we are to trust politicians to sanction mass surveillance activities, which will almost certainly be Home Secretary Theresa May’s version of implementing David Anderson QC’s new report recommending judicial oversight. Apparently, the police are also now seeking powers to examine ‘weblogs’. Oh dear….

Hi, fellas. Kettle’s on.