Quote of the Week:
“I blame the charlatans who peddled the falsehoods that [Brexit] would be easy. I wouldn’t trust them to run my bath, let alone the country.” – Former Commons speaker, Lady Boothroyd.
“Armed with a laptop, Assange represented a threat to Trump’s claim that Mueller exonerated him.”
Assange: a conundrum emerges
So, after seven years skulking in the basement of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange, the Great White Worm, has finally been dragged from his lair, looking – it must be said – more like a defrocked Santa Claus; the hospitality of his adopted country ultimately exhausted.
I have never liked anything I have ever seen or read about the man. Like “Tommy Robinson”, Assange, a self-promoting narcissist who was originally wanted in Sweden on suspicion of sexual assault, has made an art form out of turning the legitimate interest of the authorities into a political cause of whining self-martyrdom to please his elderly teenage fanbase.
No-one forced him to go into self-imposed exile, and he’d probably have got off the rape charge, which looked pretty flimsy from here as the woman had twice that night already given consent, or maybe served six months at most in an agreeable Swedish facility.
He has gained many followers who like to flirt with anarchy, but he is not a saint. He is not an avatar for our times, a beacon of free speech in a world dark with surveillance and repression. He is a simple fugitive from justice, who has collaborated with nasty people who wish to impose their own, probably worse forms of repression on us.
People are saying that from being bailed on a Swedish warrant under virtual house arrest with an ankle-tag, to the years of holding court to populist politicians while exiled in the embassy, charged with breaching his bail conditions, he has suffered enough. Suffered enough self-induced misery, which he alleviated by spying on his hosts, trysts with Pamela Anderson and plotting with a hostile state.
To pretend, as his witless American supporters do, that the British authorities were keeping him trapped there to ensure his silence is just absurd. His voluntary self-exile gave him as big a platform as he could have wanted; although, since the arrival of a new rightwing President in Ecuador, his internet access has been restricted.
While some of the things his group of hackers, WikiLeaks, has done have been valuable in exposing serious abuses of State surveillance and US military power, celebrating the exciting naughtiness of publishing highly classified files, it has been the whistleblowers who have suffered harsh reprisals, exile and imprisonment, not Robin Hood Assange and his Merry Men.
It’s not a game.
Let’s remind ourselves, in addition to the alleged offences, which he denies, he (allegedly) colluded with Russian military security in the hacking and release of tens of thousands of confidential files stolen from the Democratic National Committee, with the effect of helping Trump and the Republicans to game the 2016 election. Many Russians have been indicted in absentio for it.
Did he think he was buying a ticket to freedom by helping Trump? Well, that didn’t work out too well: the big fat liar, Trump, who is said to have mentioned WikiLeaks approvingly on more than 140 occasions during his election campaign, even declaring his “love” for them, is now denying he had ever heard of them, anyway not much.
And that leads us to the most intriguing aspect of the story. The timing.
It’s Trump’s personally appointed Attorney-General, Barr, the legal sock-puppet for hire, doing his worst to stall and redact and cover-up the damning evidence that is almost certainly in the Mueller report of the GRU’s activities on behalf of Candidate Trump, who will preside over Assange’s extradition. The only point at issue has been, to what extent was Trump criminally aware of those activities?
And is he terrified that WikiLeaks could have gotten hold of a copy of Mueller, or might be able to obtain one, to add to the weight of evidence against Trump – evidence that is so far not quite conclusive enough to bring charges? With a bowdlerized version of the report due for release any minute, might that explain the timing of the arrest?
The US extradition request lists only a charge of conspiring to hack the US Army files leaked by Bradley, now Chelsea, Manning – who is back in gaol for refusing to testify against Assange to a Grand Jury, silly girl. You owe him nothing. Assange’s alleged criminality extended only to advising her on creating a password for caching the files – his role in publishing them is probably protected by the First Amendment.
And it’s her re-imprisonment last month that may have led to Assange’s arrest, via pressure applied on Ecuador by the State Department, and Britain’s role as desperate wannabe trading partner after Brexit..
Is that minor conspiracy to whistleblow in a public-interest matter really sufficient grounds to go to all these lengths to grab him? And why now, after all this time? Is it really just that the Ecuadorian embassy staff were fed up with his cat crapping everywhere?
Yet Trump is on public record – video – as boasting of how much he loves Wikileaks for exposing the Podesta/DNC emails that he says – the FBI disagrees – prove his opponent was a criminal security risk. Thus he sets up a potentially self-incriminating defense case that is at odds with the alleged breach of national security and the minor offence of aiding and abetting.
Armed with a laptop, Assange at large represents a threat to Trump’s claim that Mueller has exonerated him.
Assange could possibly turn evidence connecting to Trump against Roger Stone, George Papadopoulos and other members of the Trump election campaign team – Nigel Farage too – who are believed to have directly “colluded” with him in London, and thence with the GRU team in St Petersburg in their efforts to produce “dirt” on Clinton.
If Barr tries to suppress or redact passages of Mueller that directly refer to Stone’s meetings in London with Assange, Assange can stand up in open court and give that testimony himself, much to the embarrassment of the Trump camp.
There is no conflict of interest, however. Trump is perfectly capable of holding to whichever of two contrary positions will benefit him more. Right now, incarcerating Assange in a federal penitentiary for 5 years (assuming the Americans don’t cheat and file more charges once he is in custody) or even holding him incommunicado in a military facility is probably the better option to get himself re-elected. Evidence can be suppressed on security grounds, hearings held behind closed doors.
Assange has no guaranteed stay-out-of-gaol card.
Ironically, it was the Kremlin-sponsored RT TV – its Ruptly news subsidiary – that seems to have had several days’ advance warning of the raid on the embassy, and which was the only agency present on the doorstep to get the scoop when burly policemen dragged a curiously elderly looking and white-bearded Assange out, blinking and protesting loudly in the unaccustomed London sunlight.
Russians. You sometimes wonder how that happens.
Meanwhile in Moscow… Last month a flurry of speculation surrounded a Kremlin-imposed temporary switchoff in Russia of the entire internet, said to have been a trial run of technology introduced to ringfence the country’s vital communications in the event of a concerted cyber attack.
Just now, the Duma has voted by a Putin-sized majority to permanently introduce the “Chinese ringfence” as it’s been dubbed, from 1 November – entirely concidentally, the next date by which Theresa May or her successor has to have wrapped up Britain’s departure from the EU, or hopefully opted back in; not that we’ll ever recover face after this fiasco.
While the Kremlin is arguing that it’s a much needed defensive measure – clearly, they don’t like it up ’em, to quote Corporal Jones – opposition politicians and critics are pointing out that it’s potentially the ultimate form of censorship. Not just shutting down Facebook, but switching off the whole darn’ thing.
Now, wouldn’t that be blissykins?
In Sod we Trust
The sheer incompetence of this Tory maladministration is what ought to doom them to decades in the political wilderness.
If it doesn’t, then perhaps the inability of ministers to put any of their egregious clusterfucks right with a sincere apology and an appropriate action certainly has to.
Having ruined the lives of thousands of legal migrant workers from the Caribbean and their families, many of them here since the 1940s, by misunderstanding their immigration status and issuing deportation letters or worse, effectively cutting them off from vital services, interning people and even having to bring them back from wherever they’d wrongly been deported to, the not-fit-for-purpose Home Office has had to agree to pay a minimum £200 million in compensation.
As if that were not enough, in the process of organizing who gets what, the email addresses and details of 500 claimants have somehow accidentally been released into the public domain. The Guardian writes:
“In a written ministerial statement, (Immigration Minister Caroline) Nokes said: “Regrettably, in promoting the scheme via email to interested parties, an administrative error was made, which has meant data protection requirements have not been met, for which the Home Office apologises unreservedly.”
So on top of the £200 million compensation – it will probably be more than twice that as the scheme is being extended to long-settled migrants from other parts of the world, including the EU, whose lives have also been messed up over the same paperwork, or lack of it – more “administrative error” – the Home Office is going to have to stump up a large fine to the Data Protection Registrar.
Money, as Mrs May tartly observed, does not grow on trees.
No, it comes out of our pockets.
As did the £33 million the Department for Transport is having to fork out in compensation to P&O Ferries for omitting to tell them they were asking relevant companies to tender for an increased supply of ferry services to and from France in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.
And the £14 million they have had to pay to get out of their contract with the famous ferry company they hired, the one with no ferries.
And the rest of the £4 billion contingency planning funds needed because of the Exit Brexit department’s futile two-year-long foot-dragging exercise, that could have gone to the NHS, or to Social Services, or to the Police, or to Education, or to mitigating local authority cuts… and the £39 billion St. Theresa’s martyrdom “Deal” has left us exposed to, in outstanding debts to the EU – in addition to whatever it has cost us to stay in the EU all this time while our dearly bought power and influence in Europe have drained away…
And the additional £1.5 billion in the Northern Ireland funding budget, that went to buy the votes of just 10 boneheaded, bowler-hatted Ulster Unionist MPs to try to shore up the disaster of Mrs May’s and Lynton Crosby’s 2017 hung election. MPs – the DUP – who have since been consistently refusing to vote for the government on Mrs May’s Brexit deal.
All public money, wasted.
Another 200,000 children fell below the absolute poverty line last year. Twice that number are expected to join them this year. Homelessness is increasing. Schools are having to fund clothing and food banks for their pupils and beg parents for money to buy books, paper and pens – and even teachers.
The NHS is short 45 thousand GPs and the medical establishment has warned that the service can never catch up the numbers now, at the current rate of training and overseas recruitment – it’s too late. And thanks to the abolition of bursaries for undergraduate trainees, another “austerity” measure, over 100 thousand more nurses are needed, a figure the Health Secretary disputes.
And now, after spending £1.5 billion on panic No Deal measures, including the recruitment of thousands of additional, temporary contract Civil Servants to put the country on a war footing, the Government has backed off and fired them all again.
What the hell is going on?
This is the Tory party that, come election time, will be telling us again all about their invincible reputation for fiscal responsibility and how the Opposition Labour Party bankrupted the country.
Twelve years ago. (And they didn’t. Bankers bankrupted the country. Please remember that!) Through sheer ineptitude, care-lessness, as their support base dwindles the arrogant Tories have cost the country a fortune.
And we’ve had enough. We’re mad as hell. Polly Toynbee writes:
“Once, the pied pipers of Brexit played tunes of hope and optimism with fantasies of buccaneering freedom, but none of that is left; not in Westminster or anywhere else. The fairy dust blew away, and now all that’s left is the dark, backward-looking nativism that underpinned it.”
A nativism that is finding expression in Nigel Farage’s new “Brexit”, the party of All the Deplorables.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, is paid $1 a year.
GW: And Bolsonaro to you too
Brazil: “At least 10 people have been killed by flash floods and landslides in Rio de Janeiro after a storm brought strong winds and massive amounts of rain. The city declared a state of crisis late on Monday, 08 April. Flash flooding turned some streets into raging rivers, downed trees and swept away cars. Roadblocks remain in various parts of the city, due to flooding and falling trees. Traffic and public transport have been severely affected. Thousands were left without electricity after power lines were damaged.” (Floodlist) And at least 3 more people have drowned in floods that hit the northeast of the country.
Ghana: “Heavy rain over the last few days has caused flooding and destruction in parts of Ghana, including the capital Accra” – where 5 deaths were confirmed after flash flooding late on Sunday 07 April. Heavy pre-monsoonal rain also affected other areas of the country, floods displacing hundreds and destroying homes. (From Floodlist) This, while the UN is again warning of increasingly severe drought conditions affecting food supplies in the northeast and Horn of Africa regions.
USA: Look, something is definitely wrong. Yet another winter storm is dumping a foot of snow over the northern midwestern states. “Blizzard warnings have been issued for parts of six states as Winter Storm Wesley takes aim at those regions with heavy snow and high winds, contributing to dangerous travel conditions and shutting down highways. Wesley could flirt with all-time April low-pressure records in parts of the Plains”, according to The Weather Channel. Severe thunderstorms are also predicted ahead of the snowline. “Thundersnow was reported early Wednesday in parts of South Dakota.” How many is that this winter? It seems never-ending. Almost a new ice-age….
Iran: “The north-east province of Golestan received 70% of its average annual rainfall within one day, but the worst effects have since been felt in the south-west where further rain is due to arrive.” Tens of thousands of residents of the southwestern city of Ahvaz were ordered to evacuate as floodwater lapped the suburbs. “Dams are presently at 95% capacity, renewing fears of flooding. Snowmelt from the mountain regions has also contributed to rapidly rising water levels.” (Guardian World Weatherwatch/Middle East Eye).
India: Sweltering heat has gripped parts of India in the past week, with temperatures regularly exceeding 40C (104F) in the north-west and central states, though the heat has also shifted northward in recent days. High temperatures combined with moisture and instability owing to the nearby “western disturbance” also triggered thunderstorms and dust storms across Jammu and Kashmir (Guardian World Weatherwatch).
Meanwhile on the hurricanes/cyclones/typhoons front, nada. Niente. Nothing. It’s all gone deathly quiet out there. And a lovely sunny day here in Boglington, bit of a cool sea breeze but I’ve got 18.4C in the front garden.
Oh, and it’s been snowing in Spain.
Yellowstone: Quakes still swarming at the Lake, M5.0 Eq. recorded at Hebgen Lake on the edge of the park, biggest in years (USGS downgraded to M4.4). Quakes crossed the plate, showed up again on the East coast. Spectograms showing magma movement and gas release “not working” again. Steamboat geyser erupts for the 12th time this year (record 32 set in 2018). (Greeley/Ferruaio blogs.)