“…speaking to human rights group Justice on Tuesday, Max Hill QC (HM Independent Inspector of Terrorist Legislation) warned against a “knee-jerk” reaction and said there was a distinct difference between extremism and terrorism. “Whilst we can all agree that there should be nowhere for real terrorists to hide, we should also agree that legislating in the name of terrorism when the targeted activity is not actually terrorism would be quite wrong,” he said*
“We do not, and should not criminalise thought without action or preparation for action.”
“That contrasted significantly with remarks from Foreign Office minister Rory Stewart, who said that “in almost every case” British IS fighters should be killed” – BBC News report, 25 Oct.
Belmarsh, here I come
Aberystwyth University in Wales runs a well respected International Politics department, offering a variety of courses in political and military history and strategy. I know that, because my son went there to do war-gaming and situation-room exercises, emerging with a BSc Econ. and going on to do his Master’s in Strategy, ensuring that if we require someone to mastermind the next World War, apart that is from the murderous Colonel Stewart, a youthful-seeming High Tory from the Borders with a curiously shaped head, there is a suitably qualified candidate with his hand in the air. (He’s a bit of an expert on the equipment, disposition and tactics of the Russian army, actually.)
Our son has been fascinated with all things military and strategic since he was about three years old. Sadly, much to our relief he failed to make it into Sandhurst owing to being asthmatic. At the age of five, he designed and made himself out of shirt-stiffening card and sticky tape, a complete and well-fitting suit of Roman armor. I am still throwing out plastic soldiers, jam-jars full of 0.22 bullet cases (empty) from the rifle club, Dorling Kindersley encyclopedias of Medieval Weaponry, Ladybird histories of King Alfred, no longer playable shoot ’em ‘up games, videos about Stalingrad and a small but eclectic collection of Nepalese Kukris that have cluttered up the house for years. Hands up, there’s an air rifle on top of the wardrobe (legally… we hope).
I’ve often joked that if the police ever found the cache under my bed, several large boxes of his student books on military history, organization, weaponry – the derring-do and fitness methods of the SAS – The Sniper’s Manual – and researched my browsing history, finding that on the basis of books I ordered on request while the lad was still too young to have his own account, for months Amazon subsequently flagged-up various recommendations for me, including The Anarchists’ Cookbook (full publication) – a book I hasten to assert neither of us has ever ordered – I might as well turn myself in now.
Yes, I am a dangerous revolutionary, armed with many books I can throw at the authorities. (Only joking. Bit of bantz there….)
But it always seemed to me that were I to be accused of plotting the overthrow of the State on the basis of the ample evidence cluttering my little house, my son’s academic standing and requirement to plough through reams of research for his essays and dissertations would be my fallback defense.
Besides, the Anarchists’ Cookbook was just a merry prank, wasn’t it? A ’60s hippy lark, to go with Oz Magazine, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, On The Road, Rolling Stone Magazine and Trout Fishing in America as publications reflective of the zeitgeist, as we used to say.
Apparently, you can’t look at it like that anymore, as the authorities have entirely lost both their sense of proportion and their sense of humour. Also their knowledge of literary history, by the looks of it. Terrorism is as terrorism does, as they say. My tiny voice pointing out that you can find all kinds of shit online without the need to purchase the book is unlikely to make a dent in the implacable face of State security. Books is evidence.
See, I’ve just had one of those Omigod! moments, when I read on the BBC News website that:
“Birmingham Crown Court heard Joshua Walker, 27, from Bristol, told police he had “forgotten” about the partial copy of The Anarchist Cookbook (found under his bed during a search). He claimed he had printed it off for a strategy war-gaming session while at the University of Aberystwyth.
“Mr Walker denies a charge relating to possessing terrorist information. The jury was told the manual contained instructions on making plastic explosives, hand grenades, pipe bombs and detonators.”
Ha ha, silly jury. The Cookbook is not a real terror manual, lolz, it was published as a joke by some bored students in a squat, four decades before 9/11. And it’s in general publication – it’s not illegal yet to own a book. Don’t you see?
You do surely see?
Now we’re in trouble.
Better burn your copy of War and Peace.
*Mr Hill is quite sensibly in favour of scrapping anti-terror laws, on the grounds that perfectly adequate legislation already exists for dealing with the problem. The BogPo has indeed commented before on the dangers of intelligent and rational experts making sensible recommendations that send politicians screaming to their selection committees.
A report in today’s Daily Express reflects on Britain’s unpreparedness for World War Three breaking out at short notice.
To the Editor
I read that the Royal United Services Institute fears that the UK would have only 5 hours – the time difference between London and Washington – to prepare for World War Three in the event of a nuclear attack by North Korea. This seems unlikely as the UK’s main nuclear strike force, Trident is actually under US control, in realtime communication. Retaliation would be instantaneous.
In any case, North Korea does not have the capacity to wage war against the USA, let alone Britain. It has at best 30 nuclear devices still at testing stage, and probably a smaller number of workable delivery ICBMs: the US has over 4 thousand operational nukes ‘locked and loaded’, and President Trump has called for the arsenal to be increased by 1,000%; while injecting another $64 billion dollars a year into his already bloated military.
North Korea has roughly the same number of men under arms, a million. They are well-drilled for fancy parades but poorly equipped and underfed, owing to years of drought and sanctions, while the officer corps is corrupt and lacks combat experience. They have no navy, or long-distance air-cover – hence no means of invading any country by sea, let alone one 4,000 miles across the Pacific. The main worry is the line of thousands of artillery pieces along the DMZ, that could obliterate the South Korean capital, Seoul, just 30 miles away, within hours.
North Korea does not yet have a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead as far as New York, as your report suggests. Their main capability therefore is probably in cyber warfare.
Kim Jong-un is not a ‘crackpot’, he is a western-educated man, extremely calculating and rational in his strategy – which is, essentially, for his family to hang on to power and for himself not to go the way of a Saddam or Gadaffi through regime change by the West. He also needs a negotiating bargain-chip if he is going to get sanctions eased. He has no intention of nuking America first, he knows it would be suicide. His alarming threats are for domestic consumption; while he clearly enjoys winding-up Donald Trump.
It is all ‘willy-waggling’.
By your definition Mr Trump is also a ‘crackpot’, probably more so*; indeed, many of his fanatical supporters are religious crazies longing for him to bring about the ‘End of Days’ and the Second Coming of Christ; as well as ‘chaos capitalists’ – billionaire businessmen who believe they will thrive in a less secure world.
Mr Trump has already threatened to ‘destroy’ a nation of 40 million impoverished peasants because he is too thin-skinned to survive being ridiculed by Kim for much longer. He forgets (if he ever knew) that the US killed up to 3 million North Korean civilians in a brutal saturation bombing campaign during the Korean War (1950-53) and that such talk is not taken lightly in Pyongyang.
The worry is that many American psychiatrists and now a handful of Congressmen publicly agree, Trump is not calculating and rational, he is impulsive and lacks self-control and could do something stupid at any moment; starting a war which the UK might happily blunder into as a relief from the agonizing Brexit negotiations, but which could rapidly turn nuclear if the Chinese and the Russians decided to intervene on behalf of their old proxy in the peninsula.
Perhaps that should have been the basis of your story?
*I am enjoying reading ‘Trump is F*ing Crazy’, the new book by the veteran journalist, Keith Olbermann.
A BBC report says the Foreign Office in London was extremely concerned that because of the time difference, Downing Street would have no advance warning of any of Trump’s decisions that could impact Britain and recommended the setting-up of a special department to monitor the Executive Orders that poured out of the Oval Office in his early days (when Steve Bannon was the de facto president), at times of the night here when people were asleep.
Of particular concern was the travel ban on citizens of seven named Muslim countries, as it was feared it would affect business travellers and families with dual-citizenship. FO officials had tried to contact the State Department to get clarification, but no-one was available to speak to us… that was shortly after Theresa May had rushed to Washington to be sure to be the first ‘world leader’ to pay court to the deranged old monster, who offered us a great big trade deal (and then without warning slapped a 300% tariff on US sales of Bombardier C-Series commercial aircraft, whose wings are made in Britain, to protect Boeing), so you’d think they would have known who we were….
So much for the Special Relationship.
He still doesn’t have a clue
Tomorrow (28 Oct) is the 60th anniversary of the BBC’s flagship radio news programme, Today. In the lead-up to the celebration, Today presenters have been interviewing lots of people and asking what has changed in Britain over the past 60 years.
One of the things that has changed about the Today programme in recent times is, to my mind, the almost complete lack of actual news reporting. The show is now drizzled with author interviews – Sarah Montague had a go at John Grisham yesterday and almost completely failed to ask him anything about the book, concentrating instead on his views about the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally – he’s from there – news from two months ago, and his views about Trump, which he was naturally somewhat reticent about.
There are also many more ‘soft’ items on music and the arts to fill the spaces, and science stuff no-one on the show seems qualified to talk about; while political interviews continue to flatter the Brexit diehards and run on for 20 minutes. This morning’s show carried a number of items that I seem to have heard yesterday, while stories about, for instance, the perils of antibiotics resistance have been knocking around for years and I don’t suppose people still really need lengthy explainers.
They’re particularly pisspoor, as Private Eye would put it, on US politics. Scales from my eyes were rattling on the breakfast table catching up with last night’s Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC as just the first two stories she covered were totally contradictory to the BBC’s floppy take on them.
Firstly, the Beeb had interviewed two old Americans excitedly about the much-trumpeted release of the Kennedy papers, without once mentioning that the papers weren’t released – Trump had announced that they would be, as if it was his prerogative, in fact the release date was set by law 25 years ago and the White House forgot to order it done, so that they’ve had to push the date forward to next April, pretending it’s to allow the CIA time to work out which are the least embarrassing bits (they’ve only had 25 years) and late yesterday evening a small quantity of the archive with heavy (and illegal) redactions was rushed out. None of that would have been apparent to Today’s ageing listeners.
Then, Today reported that Trump had declared a national emergency to combat the crisis of opioid drug addiction in the USA, resulting from the overprescription of painkillers, that is killing thousands of people every year. Maddow however probed the story a little more journalistically, recalling that Trump had in fact declared a ‘national emergency’ back in August, but was merely indulging in rodomontade – he simply does not get that the words ‘state of emergency’ when uttered by a real President actually have legal force, as he is so ignorant of his administrative duties, responsibilities and powers. In the event, nothing was done because no orders were given to do anything.
Yesterday, Trump re-declared it a ‘medical emergency’, thus obviating the necessity to allocate any funding to whatever program his officials are scampering to cobble together as a result of this latest example of his impromptu bullshit.
Both stories, and the mediaballs around Trump actually going to Dallas and doing a bit of carefully controlled glad-handing for the cameras to celebrate the last-minute ‘release’ of a few papers with heavy redactions concerning the investigations into the Kennedy shooting, are clearly being driven by his PR people to try to create some kind of positive coverage around the President being decisive and rational, to counter the recent criticisms by Congressmen Flake and Corker that he is completely doolalli and should be carted off with his arms folded before he kills us all.
In fact they have simply revealed that after nine months in office, he still doesn’t have a clue.
GW: Keeping an eye on the world’s weird weather, so you don’t have to
Hawaii: 24 Oct. a severe storm generated by the Pacific 5,000-mile ‘atmospheric river’ event causes local flooding and knocks out power across the whole of the main island of Maui. More storms forecast.
Japan: is counting the cost after Typhoon Lan made landfall on the 23rd at Shizuoka, south of Tokyo as a Cat 2 storm. Three dead, floods and landslides destroyed up to 500 homes. “A man died when his home was hit by a landslide, while two people were in comas due to their injuries while about 90 people had lighter injuries, Japanese media said.”
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Saola is strengthening to Cat 1 over the Japanese islands but is forecast to swing back out to sea, sparing the mainland. And up in the Aleutian Islands, the remnant low pressure area of Typhoon Lan moving northwards is reported from satellite data to be raising waves of up to 58 feet in height across a 1,000-mile-wide front.
India: more than 200 villages flooded out in Odisha province. Three days of intense rainfall causes rivers to overflow. Thousands of acres of crops destroyed.
Thailand: overflowing dams cause more flooding around Bangkok as months of heavy rains continue without respite. Floodwater said to be turning ‘putrid’.
USA: Michigan, a low-pressure ‘weather bomb’ emerges from a passing storm (‘bombogenesis’) to whip up 25-ft waves on Lake Superior, causing coastal damage. Boone, North Carolina was underwater on the 23rd as over 6-in of rain fell. Duluth, Minnesota experiences record October snowfall.
- The California heatwave continued into Tuesday bringing 100 deg. F.-plus temperatures, 2 deg. F. above any previous records for the time of year. “Santa Ana winds kept the temperatures amazingly warm throughout Monday night. In Orange County, the city of Fullerton soared to 107°F on Monday” – hotter even than Death Valley has ever been this late in October. Ventura County sweltered in 90 deg. overnight. Unusually warm temperatures are being recorded over most of the USA. New England had a +6 deg. C. temperature anomaly throughout October and the famous ‘fall’ when the “Autumn leaves turn to red and gold” hasn’t happened.
- Until today, when a rapid drop in temperature from the 70s F. to the 40s F. is forecast across most of the northeast US as the jetstream plunges loopily southwards. However , a weather system forming off the coast is threatening Maine and New Hampshire with up to 6″ of rain on Sunday: “Some locations in the Northeast may well set all-time records for their heaviest calendar-day rainfall total during any October. There’s also a chance that barometric pressure will dip to all-time lows for October at one or more points across New England…” With 100 mph-plus winds up into New Brunswick.
- Meanwhile, a report on New York city’s response to 2012’s Hurricane Sandy reveals that some 500 people are still not back in their homes five years later.
Greenland: high temperature anomalies reported in the past few days; although temperatures have plunged to as low as 14 deg. F. (18 deg. below freezing) in the north, in the south temperatures have been up to 20 deg. C. above normal for the time of year.
- CryoSat-2 may have been overestimating the thickness of Arctic ice by up to 25%, according to new research by the University of Calgary, owing to growing surface salinity. 2017 sea ice extent was only the eighth lowest recorded so sceptics may sneer but extent is not the same as volume…
Caribbean: “Showers and thunderstorms continue to bubble around a large area of disturbed weather in the Western Caribbean. Designated as Invest 93L, the system had a broad center located on Tuesday morning just off the east coast of Nicaragua.” Some models are predicting a hurricane could form as sea temperature is 30 deg. C. “A much more likely scenario than classic hurricane development is that moisture and energy from 93L will shoot north-northeastward and help contribute to very heavy rains in Florida on Saturday and in the Northeast U.S. from Sunday into Monday.”
Puerto Rico: a month after Hurricane Maria, 80% of the island is still without power. It’s being reported that the contract to restore power to three million householders on the island has been awarded to a major donor to the Trump re-election campaign. Whitefish Energy has only two fulltime employees and is having to hire subcontractors. Of course there is no hint of corruption. The death toll from and since the h:urricane is believed to be around 450.
Nicaragua: ‘Invest 92-L’, a large potential tropical storm is lurking off the eastern Pacific coast, bearing a lot of rain. Sandwiched between tropical lows 92-L and 93-L off either coast, Central America has experienced severe weather effects, with 5 known dead (including 4 miners drowned in a mine) and 2 missing. Many thousands have been flooded out or evacuated.
Ecuador: centre of the capital, Quito, brought to a standstill on 26 Oct. by an icefall that creates flash flooding and rivers of ice flowing through the streets.
Colombia: city of Timbiqui inundated.
El Salvador: city of Usulutan hit by flash flooding after powerful storm. Another on the way: “Life-threatening flash floods and mudslides are a distinct threat from slow-moving TS Selma, despite its weakness and small size. As it approaches the higher terrain of El Salvador and Guatemala, widespread rains of 3 – 6” are expected, with local totals of 10” or more possible.”
Honduras: Atlantic coastal communities and capital Tegucigalpa flood after heavy rain. Major flooding too in neighbouring Guatemala.
Brazil: News emerges of a massive red dust storm that engulfed the city of Campo Verde on the 16th.
Argentina: community of Formosa pounded on the 26th with a violent storm and hailstones the size of tennis balls. Thousands of cars and buldings damaged. But… parts of Cordoba city experienced a horrifying 1.5 m (4’9″)-deep accumulation of hailstones in only 15 minutes.
Australia: as US Environment Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt declares ‘the war on coal is over!’ and scraps Obama’s Clean Air Plan, a new University of Melbourne study reports that the present contribution mostly from burning coal will bring about 1.3 metres of sea-level rise by 2050 as the Antarctic is melting faster than anyone thought.
A violent storm brought surface flooding to parts of Queensland state on Thursday, with lots of lightning and hailstones ‘the size of golfballs’, as they say, causing damage to properties. “About 15,000 homes lost power and 70,000 lightning strikes were recorded across the state’s south-east region.”
Italy: more big wildfires break out in the north around Bussoleno between 21 and 25 October.
Bulgaria: “At least” 3 people died after a storm dumped 60mm of rain in an hour, triggering flooding (Oct 24/25) in the province of Burgas, south east Bulgaria. The provincial government announced a state of emergency.
Greece: Mediterranean island of Crete experiences flash flooding after Storm Daedalus brings torrential rain – big storm surge.
Corsica: more wildfires break out on the island. 2,000 acres burned around Balagne. Strong winds fan the flames. While October has been a record warm month in Europe, it is likely to go out in a blast of cold weather descending from the Arctic.
Weather.com/ BBC News/ ‘Mary Greeley’/ Weather Underground/ TYT/ The Guardian/ Weather.com/ Climate and Extreme Weather News #76./ ABC News/ Reuters/ Euronews/ Floodlist/ MrMBB333
The End: A Weekly Update
Bali: 180 thousand people are still sitting out an evacuation a month after experts predicted the sacred Mount Agung volcano was about to blow at any moment. The volcano experienced 209 earthquakes on Tuesday and a deep M6.7 60 miles away resulted today in a shallower M5.2 that shook the island. The quake was predicted accurately three days ago by ‘Dutchsinse’ – Michael Janich – a US-based earthquake forecaster. The US Geological Service says predicting the location and size of earthquakes is impossible, and despite his 80% or better record, continues to try to muzzle him.
USA: “The length of the US winter is shortening, with the first frost of the year arriving more than one month later than it did 100 years ago, according to more than a century of measurements from weather stations nationwide. The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to data from 700 weather stations across the US going back to 1895″ (NOAA)
Korea: “US defence secretary Jim Mattis has said the threat of nuclear missile attack by North Korea is accelerating. In remarks in Seoul with South Korean defence minister Song Young-moo at his side, Mattis accused the North of illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear programs – and vowed to defeat any attack. America, he said, ‘would never accept a nuclear North Korea’.”
World: The Royal United Services Institute says Britain would have five hours to prepare if the US goes to war against North Korea, which would, in their view, likely start a global conflict.
Dutchsinse/ Daily Express/ Guardian