Anthem for Doomed Democracy

The British Government, in the person of our current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has taken steps to radically reduce the time and space available for the UK Parliament to act in line with its function to attempt to make it impossible for the UK to crash out of the European Union without some kind of deal, a so-called “Hard Brexit”.

There are those that would argue that the number of procedural days lost through this extended prorogation of Parliament is only four or five, and that is hardly something to get in a tizzie about, but the bald truth is that the House was increasingly likely to vote down the conference season recess in favour of emergency business with regard to Brexit, and Johnson’s request to the Queen has essentially removed Parliament’s agency to put the country before partisan podium bashing.

In other words, Johnson has used Parliamentary procedure in a way that it has never been used in living memory, in order to subvert the sovereignty of Parliament, a concept that was fundamental to the tissue of lies from the Leave campaign only three short years ago.

I like many other people am incensed by his willingness to depart from convention and fair play to further his grubby little agenda of setting the country on fire in order to egregiously increase the wealth of his cronies and paymasters. These are the true “grey men”. They will use their already vast wealth to successfully bet against the UK in the coming months. They will bet against our currency and our industry, profiting to an unimaginable extent from the misery of the working poor and the undefended as our country’s economy goes into free fall as we plummet from the cliff edge of the Hard Brexit that no one seems to believe can now be avoided.

Truly the 28th of August 2019 will go down in history as an analogue to the burning of the Reichstag, as the moment when democracy was wrenched from the heart of the people and replaced with the stark, cold reality that those who believe themselves to be our betters will tell us how our country will be run.

Here are some photographs from the spontaneous demonstration outside the Palace of Westminster and Downing Street on the evening after the announcement came through.


On Encryption…

GBZXA BGCHS REHAV DDZFP HQFXF QKKCN YBNVH GIUIZ JFQTU AVKUZ GFINX RKLVA CYKHC MLIVP VCLCU HYDQE JOZJL KCASL UHKNH OABKN

If I gave you the key you could decrypt the above message with a deck of playing cards.

Ecrypted communications are not something that governments can defeat by banning WhatsApp and Apple Messages and Threema and Telegram and BBMessenger to name but a few…

If you would like the key, please let me know via a secure channel of your choosing and I will use the same channel to return it to you.

If you would like to be able to exchange emails with me in a genuinely secure fashion, please consider OpenPGP:

OS X
Linux
Windows
iOS
Android

Here is my public GPG key – you will need to send me your public key for me to be able to decrypt any messages you send to me that are encrypted. I also have a Threema and Telegram account, both of which count as “secure enough” seeing as this only a test message, in the end:

—–BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK—–
Comment: GPGTools – http://gpgtools.org

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If wishing made it so…

I need to find a way to make the ideas in this video a reality for some of the awesome people I have worked with and do work with now.

There really can be profit and balance, growth and humanity – there is no need to work “every hour that God sends”, there is just a need to work hard while we are at work, and then not when we are not…


The BBC and Me and We…

Watching from afar as the recently minted 2015 Conservative Goverment (sans Lib-Dem safety valve) starts yet another ideological assault on a beloved institution, I find myself bewildered as to how they think they are ever going to receive popular support for their nefarious game, and yet it would appear they can spin it nonetheless.

Of course the BBC has her detractors, one could hardly claim the first “B” for British if there was not some portion of the population ready to whinge bitterly about the death spiral of moral, intellectual, artistic or political standards that are ruining Aunty. Let us not even dwell upon the thoughtless idiots who complain about the licence fee whilst failing to recognise that in return for less than fifty pence a day they are taking delivery of a unique public service broadcaster that is the envy of the World, when almost nothing else British, apart from luxury housing in London, is envied by anyone, anywhere. More than that, the elderly and the vulnerable in society are given a licence (currently) so that they may at least be informed, educated and entertained as the Tories slowly strangle the life out of them in every other way in the name of the neo-liberal conspiracy.

But hold on, didn’t “Our David” get in on the backs of the Radio Four audience, or at least the largest chunk of them? What’s that David, your base are devotees of the most diverse, innovative and familiar sound of Middle England? Hmmm, I do not entirely believe that they are going to be ok with you taking away Gardeners’ Question Time and Just a Minute. Perhaps the policy machine deep in the blackened heart of Conserative Party Central Office is hooked up to a Sky Dish and is mindlessly forwarding its real master’s agenda? Any comment Mr. Murdoch?

Now I know what you are thinking… You are smiling to yourself and thinking that your correspondent has form, not only as a dreadful Pinko Liberal, but also as a former employee of the BBC herself! Yes, I believe in the BBC and so much so that I worked for less than market rate in my field on three separate occasions to be a part of the organisation that has given us everything from Newsnight to Strictly, Last Night of the Proms to Eastenders and far more besides. In my last tour of duty I ran the engineering team that looked after the websites for The BBC World Service, a finer ambassador for the country of my birth would be hard to name if you ask me, but by working for World Service I got a flavour of the funding gap and it is not something that anyone ought to allow to grow at all, in any direction.

Consider, if you will, a possible future. Ten years from now the BBC is no longer funded by the Licence Fee or the UK Government in any capacity. There is a small income stream from fanatical supporters who buy a subscription to the organisation, a bit like the memberships offered by public sector, not-for-profit radio stations dotted around the USA. Aside from that, in true Tory style, the vast majority of the BBC’s radically reduced budget comes from corporate sponsorship; “The Archers, brought to you by Monsanto, shaping the World through innovation.” or “BBC News at Ten, brought to you by HSBC, The World’s Local Bank”, and while news programming is uninterrupted, entertainment shows are peppered with adverts every twelve to fifteen minutes. BBC Two is a distant memory, Radio Four barely has any original programming, but thank goodness for the Archive, and there are no black, disabled or gay people anywhere to be seen or even heard on the airwaves, lest the advertisers grow restless.

Sound like a legacy that you want to give our country, let alone the World? Do you want to explain to your children or nephews and nieces how there used to be unrivalled factual progammes about the fabric of the Universe on BBC Television, but now there are four different variants of Strictly Come Dancing crossed with The Voice and the worst excesses of Tabloid Television, because that is what Nestlé are hoping for when it comes to reaching the largest number of undiscerning purchasers for their new breakfast cereal, made from real African children.

There are those that say that the measure of a society can be made simply by examining the place that the Arts occupy in its culture and zeitgeist. What does it say about British Society that we are apparently okay with the Government of the day eyeing up the greatest and most respected guardian of the Arts anywhere in the World as a juicy privatisation plum, ripe for the plucking, perfect to sate their misguided, twisted appetite for austerity, as long as its the kind of austerity that hurts lefties and intellectuals and poor people and anyone who likes unbiased news coverage. There are no Tory Culture Vultures who are going to suffer if their party guts the BBC, they will gorge themselves on expensive tickets to the Opera at Covent Garden – now sponsored by Halliburton once the Arts Council has finally been given the old heave-ho with the follow through after punting the BBC into the tall grass – and congratulate themselves that they are supporting the cultural life of the country whilst consigning Radio Three and BBC Four to the fire.

What can we do? A Million marched against the Second Gulf War and not even a dent was made; we barely moved the needle. Please don’t think that there are a Million ready to march for Aunty Beeb, they are all so complacent; “The Beeb’s always been there and it always will be, it’s as British as afternoon tea, cricket and the Changing of the Guard. What are all these bloody adverts? I thought that Countryfile was on the Beeb!”.

We need to voice our displeasure, and keep on chanting over and over the refrain:

“Hands off our Beloved BBC!” (Feel free to add “You Tory Scum”, if you so choose; who am I to prescribe)

every time that the subject comes up. Write to your MP, write to your MP’s wife or husband, write to every party activist of every stripe you can get contact details for, and tell them that the very last British Institution, after the NHS, that should ever be mentioned in the same breath as the word privatisation is the BBC.

Not only that, write to the BBC Trust, the Director General, and anyone you can get contact details for at the BBC voicing your full-throated support for the BBC remaining publicly and adequately funded, impartial, non-commercial and OURS!

People often trot out the plattitude that politicians work for us, which of course they do, but for every whinging git that thinks The News Quiz is somehow evidence that the BBC is a nest of Communist vipers waiting to envenom society at a moment’s notice and that it should be burned to the ground for the common good, there are twenty, thirty, fifty, nay a hundred quiet, unheard voices that adore the BBC in their own personal, special and fabulous way. Whether it is The Goon Show or The Sky at Night, there is a good bet that there is something on the BBC that you love with all your heart that simply would not exist without the Charter, without the Licence Fee and without the Corporation’s unique raison d’être; to Inform, Educate and Entertain(*). Bear that in mind that it is not just something that you love, it is also yours, ours and utterly unique in the entire World.

Please, please, please do not let Cameron and his merry band of axe-men destroy something so utterly wonderful in all of its imperfect striving to be worthy of our love – you will so definitely miss her when she is gone.


Syria, and the idea of the Doctrine of Humanitarian Intervention

The World is holding its breath, and for now that seems to be all that we can do.

Western leaders have made much of their outrage at the alleged use of chemical weapons in Damascus last week, I say alleged because no one is prepared to say that it is undoubted, and even then there will be those that deny it, and so as ever truth is in the mind of the beholder. Meanwhile, China and Russia have made their voices heard, loudly warning against any form of military intervention and more than suggesting that any contravention of their veto will at least be met by wholehearted and material support of the Assad regime in the face of such intervention, if not their actual entry into the theatre of war.

For decades there have been theoretical discussions about the Levantine Crescent’s potential to become the crucible for the Third World War, and yet recent history has seemed to allay those fears. Nonetheless, the sabre rattling on both sides and the high-pitched keening of the World’s media do seem to suggest that one ought to consider at least the possibility that Syria may be the straw that will break the camel’s back.

The Western position is easy to swallow and yet hard to digest. Moral outrage at the use of chemical weapons seems to be providing the pretext for what our inglorious leaders are going to sell to us as justification for military intervention along purely humanitarian lines, but is there truly a basis for belief in this idea, the Unicorn of International Politics, the Doctrine of Humanitarian Intervention?

If one were to define this elusive concept, I imagine that the definition would read something like this:

“It is our belief, as the United Nations, that there is justification for military intervention in the affairs of sovereign states, when the plight of the innocent civilians is threatened beyond doubt, all other avenues of redress have been attempted and exhausted without success and the sole reward for intervention would be the protection from harm of the innocent.”

It is pretty difficult to argue with this on a moral basis – all of us are likely to think that it is acceptable to employ violence to prevent more harm once reason and bargaining have failed – so why am I questioning the sales pitch? Put simply, there is greater vested interest in choosing to intervene than simple moral principle.

  1. First and foremost the UN cannot allow contravention of the worldwide ban on the use of chemical and biological weapons to pass unpunished – it would confirm its status as a paper tiger, once and for all.
  2. The growing tide of concern amongst Western intelligence communities and the wider public consciousness that radical organisations, such as Al Quaeda, are fighting cheek by jowl with the Syrian rebels means that the endgame of the rebellion managing to win would logically mean the realisation of a large risk that radicals may be in a position to access chemical weapons stock-piled by the Assad regime, along with any other materiel that might pose an equally terrifying set of possibilities.
  3. Syria continues to represent a crucial strategic choke-point in the Levant, and this abuse of chemical weapons represents the perfect pretext upon which to mount an intervention designed to ensure that the West will, in all likelihood, control the outcome of the civil war and be in a position, despite the countless lessons of history, to engineer Syria’s immediate future politically, in line with its own political and foreign policy agenda.

There is no way in which the Western leaders who are currently quivering with outrage in public are not considering these angles, and perhaps other more subtle ones that have not as yet occurred to me, but the above alone constitutes a basis for rejecting that intervention in Syria could truly fall under only the umbrella of a Doctrine of Humanitarian Intervention.

So, what is left?

Well for one thing, even with the fact that the Humanitarian and / or Moral imperatives may be coloured by self-interest, it is hard to deny that there are strong reasons for getting involved, and that leads to wider and more dangerous questions.

A good deal of media commentary seems to be espousing the likelihood of a series of “stand-off” attacks designed to provide a proportional yet meaningful response to last weeks alleged chemical attack, but what do tomahawk and smart-bomb attacks on key military installations really amount to? Are they not just “the price of doing business”? Do they not serve a more complex agenda for Assad if what he hopes to gain by crossing Obama’s red line is to force Russia and China to step into the ring on his side, thereby giving him the muscle he needs to defeat the rebels quickly before the Western powers get boots on the ground? More than that, if you are experiencing moral outrage and a desire to punish, why would anyone stop at just a slap in the face? If the Assad regime is responsible and the West is truly outraged, then surely the idea of giving Assad a spanking and then patting one another on the back at a job well done is ludicrous?

For the sake of form I would like to point out that I am not in favour of any intervention, but only because I see intervention in Syria as the road to unfettered escalation and that risk is not balanced by the rewards, even the unspoken self-serving rewards that go far beyond a claiming of the high moral ground.

What I would say is that if the West is to intervene then it is high time we acknowledged the fact that this is serious job of “wet work” and the only intervention that is likely to serve both pubic satisfaction and achieve the strategic wins to go along with the moral victory, hollow though it may be, is to go “all in”. Not only should the Western powers deploy ground forces to the area, they should do so in staggering scale. Those ground troops should have the broadest definition of the rules of engagement, that reads along the lines of “anyone holding a weapon that is not a part of the Allied force is an enemy combatant and may be fired upon unless they offer an unconditional surrender”, and they should be supported by overwhelming air power, continued tactical attacks and an unswerving rejection of the notion that there will be an end in sight. If we are going to attempt to intervene militarily we should, from the get go, make sure that we win, and that we are clear in our acceptance of loss of life as an inevitability for our forces, other military powers in the theatre of war and the innocent. Anything less is a lie. Anything less is waste of time and effort and money and blood. If we are so sure that we know better than another sovereign state, then there is no other option than to play to win.

Will the public, in the West or anywhere else for that matter, have the stomach for an honest to goodness war? If the warnings coming from the East turn into action will Obama, Cameron and Hollande relish the judgement of history as they become the men who began the Third World War? Will our children’s children go on guided tours of the glass forests in the Levant when all of that sand has been turned to glass by what will no doubt be spun as an unfortunate slip in the checks and balances on the command and control of Russian nuclear weapons, or perhaps Allied ones, or Chinese ones, or Israeli ones?

I realise that it is a worst case scenario, but how can we even be considering a course of action that will set into motion the kind of international brinksmanship the like of which we have not seen for seventy years?

Do not misunderstand me, I weep for the Syrian people – the last two years have been a long season in Hell for all of them, combatant and civilian alike – but when has the lesson of history taught us that military intervention is anything other than the rockier of roads? Could we not bring our massive economic and logistical might to bear to flood Syria with medical aid, doctors and core humanitarian supplies? Could we not all chip in to pay Turkey back for not only the half a million refugees that they have already given shelter to, but to offer them recompense for any number of others that wish to escape? Is there not mileage in continuing to allow for the possibility that like wild fires, sometimes civil war is a tragic necessity, and that we would be better served by building a fire break than pouring petrol on the situation?

There will be time enough to bring Assad and his generals, or the leaders of the rebellion come to that, before the proper authorities (in the Hague no doubt) to answer for their crimes against humanity, if they don’t kill each other first. When the dust settles there will be plenty of opportunity for the International community to exert its influence over the new incumbent to surrender the remaining chemical weapons for confiscation and destruction, assuming of course that they are not used up in the interval.

Whatever happens, my fondest hope is that the West might stop and count to ten and take a breath, and if then there is still an unshakeable desire to wage war I do not want to hear about moral imperatives or “just war”. I want our leaders to be honest about the calculations that will have brought us to that pass and the breadth and depth of all the reasons for deciding to kill a lot of people and then, only then turn their faces to the cameras and speak the truth about the choices that have been made.

I would not want to be David Cameron, François Hollande or worse still Barack Obama* this week – they are prisoners of the moment, no matter how much they might tell themselves that they are the leaders of the (free) World, and to be so caught between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea must feel like little more than fate’s cruel joke. Whatever they decide, assuming we are not all speaking Chinese in three to five years’ time, history will be the only reliable indication of their legacy.

(*I say “worse still” on the basis that it has been my observation that as a nation, the US has tended to be more warlike in recent years than France or the UK, but that may be a slanted perception, and so I expect that he is feeling even greater pressure to throw down with Assad than the others.)


The Day Margaret Thatcher Died…

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Right, I’ve thought about it…

I didn’t like Margaret Thatcher, at least within the context that I was able to make a judgement on liking or disliking her, and that is to say in terms of her politics and the manner in which she conducted herself as Prime Minister.

That she made history as the first woman to ever hold the post is to be remembered and respected; it’s hard to understand how we do not have far more visible and accomplished women in British politics given the massive impact she had upon the zeitgeist while she was running our country.

I make no apology for having enjoyed, immensely, her fall from power – that is a part of “the show that never ends” and even though one might say she took it with good grace, I was cheering along with all the others as she was driven away from Number 10, and it was all the sweeter for the tears that were visibly about to erupt from her eyes.

Am I happy today? No. Today an elderly woman who was unwell passed away, leaving her family to grieve. I cannot begin to imagine how horrid it must be to be her child or grandchild and see otherwise lovely normal people cheering and planning parties to “celebrate” the passing of their Mum or their Granny. If she had truly been a dictator, with no mandate from the electorate, or if she had truly presided over illegal actions, or if indeed the record of history could show that she did anything but that which she believed to be right within the confines of the system she was put in charge of by the people, then that judgement should have come through the courts during or after her time as P.M., not posthumously as portion of the populace dance on her grave. Certainly history will judge her; if you’ve not run a country I am of the opinion that the day of her death is not the time to criticise – should have got it in while she was still alive, or at least wait a decent interval and stick to the facts.

Above all it’s hard not to concede that if passions run this high across the spectrum about someone, then they were not coasting through life or choosing the path of least resistance. For all her faults, as I see them at any rate, you couldn’t call her a coward or a milk-sop or frankly anyone’s bitch. It’s not that hard to respect someone while disliking them and disagreeing with them, when you get right down to it.

So, no party for me, no crowing or jubilation; let’s just do our best to remember that when our Mum’s die we’d probably rather no one threw a party either.

To be clear, I don’t like her now, even now she’s dead – just in case any of you were wondering…


Open Letter to the Curator of svbtle.com

Hi,

I really liked your website.

Then you let Milo, this “Walter Mitty”, hate-filled, bitter, over-weening, irredeemably arrogant, fraction-of-a-human-being post on it.

His writing makes me sad, and not just because of the subject matter.

I fear that one can quite easily detect that he did not complete either of his degree courses, despite his continued insistence on parading his having attended both Manchester and Cambridge Universities. It is worth noting that having attended is almost completely meaningless if one did not actually attain a degree.

To drop out of one degree course might be seen as misfortune, but to drop out of two is nothing but carelessness. To continue to attempt to dine-out on one’s attendance when it has become public knowledge that one did not complete either course is nothing short of pathetic.

His dropping out twice is self-confirmed here:

Forbes Profile on Milo Yiannopolous from 2012

and yet he continues to use terms like “Cambridge educated” when writing about himself.

With regard to notes that I might give on his writing, you might want to point out to him, in your capacity as curator / editor on your site, that;

“Rampant hordes unsatisfied by apology, by careers ruined or by the sustained public humiliation and dark thoughts of suicide their profitless crusades inflict now demand to bathe in seas of blood, biting and scratching like wild animals until there is nothing left besides bones and the blubbering, quivering, tragic mess of someone who once dared to venture an opinion under the masthead of a national newspaper or prominent magazine.”

might, just possibly need to be at least two and possibly three sentences. Full stops are not a mark of weakness. Overly long sentences are almost always a mark of trying too hard to appear erudite.

Not only that, but:

“…dark thoughts of suicide their profitless crusades inflict now demand…”

probably ought to read:

“…dark thoughts of suicide, which their profitless crusades inflict, now demand…”

but what would I know..? Oh hold on, yes I actually hold a degree in English Literature, a degree that actually had a creative writing component. Yes, I probably would know.

I am unwilling to apply the red pen to the entire piece, but frankly your site deserves a better quality of writing.

Shame really, your website is a good idea, but I just cannot take it seriously any longer. Since allowing this tripe to appear amongst the pages of svbtle.com you have seriously diminished its overall quality.

By equating Milo Yiannopoulos with the description “great people” you have made a laughing stock out of your editorial vision.

You might want to read the following articles and think again about allowing his writing to grace your site:

Charles Arthur in the Guardian

@PME2013 on Milo Yiannopolous and Hatred of the Self

Tim Fenton, politics blogger, on Milo…

Max Dunbar, blogger, on the evils of unpaid labour & The Kernel

Kind Regards,

Oliver

P.S. I will be posting this email to my blog(s) as a public record of this communication. Forgive me, but Milo has a reputation for making wild claims about non-public correspondence etc. and I would far rather that this missive be a part of the public domain, so that there can be no confusion.


@maleghast


Thoughts on absolutism and how it threatens rational discourse…

I’ve been having a week filled with thoughts like this:

“Must not kill!”

I wonder if you are all assuming that I have been having these thoughts about Akin and Galloway?

You would be right, I have been, but I have been having them about other people as well, less visible people who are in my not even remotely humble opinion doing more harm than good to the cause(s) they seem to be keen to champion.

I am talking about the people, regardless of their views, who are adopting blindly absolutist positions about a variety of issues, at the expense of rational discourse.

So, some ground rules before I become the target of all of this bile…

1. I have been in the past and am still very clear on this issue – rape is a despicable and heinous crime to commit in ANY case. There can be no justification for it, ever, and there can be no doubt on this matter.

2. All people, regardless of gender or sexuality, should feel free to allege that they have been raped, and that allegation should be treated with seriousness. Not only that, but all those who make allegations of rape should be offered the compassion and support of our society, rather than automatically become the target of blame and / or mistrust.

3. Any sexual act visited upon any other individual without consent is rape; the moral and ethical implications aside, it’s just hateful to suggest that some circumstances might ‘allow’ rape in some way.

4. Consent cannot be given when someone is asleep, intoxicated beyond being capable, under-age, mentally incompetent, or otherwise impeded from making an informed and actual decision to consent.

5. Consent is not implied if it has been given before.

6. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, for any reason.

Having said all of that, these standards should also hold true:

1. No one should ever be compelled to make an allegation of rape.

2. Notwithstanding that ad hominem attacks and unacceptable insinuations about the sexuality, sexual practices and / or sex-life of the individual making allegations are completely inappropriate and unforgivable, it should be possible for anyone to call into question those allegations in the face of any matter that is uncontested within the public domain without being immediately lambasted as a “rape denier” or “rape apologist”. That is to say, it must be possible to question an individual allegation of rape without being seen to mistrust or question all allegations of rape. (In a similar vein to the idea that being critical of Israel in one specific case, or even several, should not immediately open one to being accused of being anti-semitic.).

Okay, is all of that clear?

Right then, here’s my thoughts on two issues:

#1 Craig Murray and the naming of Anna Ardin

Craig Murray is a well credentialed man, clearly a thinker and unapologetic in his support of Julian Assange (much clearer and more in support of Mr. Assange than I, if truth be told).

Last night on Newsnight (20th August 2012) he used the name of one of the women who has made allegations of sexual misconduct against Julian Assange in Sweden, a woman called Anna Ardin. As a result the twitterverse and the blogosphere has erupted in an explosion of righteous anger that anyone, especially when appearing on the BBC, would have the temerity to reveal the name of someone who has made an allegation of rape and / or sexual misconduct.

The problem is that Anna Ardin’s name has been in the Public Domain for around two years! Her name was ‘revealed’ in the New York Times (the issue that was published on the 25th of August 2010), thus:

Anna Ardin, 31, has told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that the complaints were “not orchestrated by the Pentagon” but prompted by “a man who has a twisted attitude toward women and a problem taking no for an answer.”

I sense that there is a more pertinent reason for the outrage that has been flying around on the Internet than the stated one… Craig Murray is firmly in the camp of calling the allegations levelled at Julian Assange into question. Essentially he has repeatedly espoused a belief that the allegations are trumped up and that Assange is being set up in some way or another. I get the undeniable sense that he is being styled as a rape-denier / rape-apologist for asking reasonable questions about the case(s) at hand and stating his opinion to be that based on the issues he has raised he feels that there is adequate room to allege in return that Anna Ardin is not being completely honest. Whilst directing you, dear reader, to point #2 of my first list above, I would also point you to point #2 of my second list. Just because anyone calls into question the merits of a specific case, does not immediately mean that they are suggesting that all allegations of rape are unfounded, or that the behaviour alleged is somehow acceptable. Very few issues in life are as black and white as that, and as a keen exponent of the idea that specifics are important and that nuance is where truth can really be found I am alarmed by the way in which this issue is being discussed, and this otherwise (apparently) decent and reasonable man is being characterised as a hater of women and an enabler of rapists (please note the plural here).

My general feeling, in fact, is that like almost everyone else in the World, Craig Murray would very much like Mr. Assange to face the allegations against him in order for the appropriate due process to follow. Such an outcome would pay proper respect to the rights of both the alleged victim(s) and Mr. Assange and would provide a framework from which a just outcome could emerge. The problem for Mr. Murray, and myself I should add, is that the whole thing stinks and while I in no way consider rape acceptable (see #1 in first list above), there are serious irregularities in the way that the allegations were brought, serious irregularities in the way that they have been pursued by the Swedish authorities and disturbing bias in the way that they have been reported. Adding those points to the fact that Sweden has “form” for circumventing the European Convention on Human Rights, and apparently (although I continue to be frustrated in my attempts to confirm this) has an entirely legal framework at its disposal that would allow Sweden to make a non-judiciary (i.e. government led) adjudication that Julian Assange should be surrendered to the United States and I think that anyone who wants to question the circumstances of these allegations should be allowed to, without immediately being branded a “rape-apologist”. In all things context matters, and no one is one thing and one thing alone based on their reaction to a specific case or story. Nuance and complexity are not bad things.

I, for one, am deeply troubled by the fact that the other woman, Sophia Wilen (who is named by other sources below) about whom the allegations against Assange relate, refused to give any further testimony or sign her statement when told that Assange was going to be pursued on charges of rape. She went to the Police to find out whether or not Assange could be compelled to submit to an STD test if he refused to have one voluntarily; how does anyone draw a line between that question and rape, especially when the woman asking the question refuses to put her name to the rape allegation?

Once again, to ensure that there is clarity, if both women are prepared to swear under oath that he raped them, and then the evidence shown to a jury persuades that jury that he is guilty of rape, then 1. he is a rapist and 2. he deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law, but until those things have happened no one gets to call him a rapist without the word “alleged” coming first. That does not make me a rape-apologist, rape-denier or rape-enabler; it makes me someone who demands that no matter the emotional impact of a crime, due process must be followed and that must have meaning.

Of course all allegations of rape should be taken seriously, but it’s not destructive to that goal to ensure that allegations have merit, or to question those making such allegations, within the boundaries of decency, to ensure that the mere fact of how abhorrent the offence is does not blind the authorities and the public to the possibility of false allegations.

In an effort to forward the cause of detached and reasoned consideration of the specifics of this situation I commend you, dear reader, to the following sources of information (as a starting point at least):

Craig Murray’s own thoughts on his lambasting, including an excerpt of the transcript of a recent documentary on the story from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s documentary / investigative programme on Julian Assange and the allegations against him.

An interesting, though old, article on the broadly un-discussed possibilities with regard to how Sweden might circumvent “extradition” as a legal construct and thereby deliver Julian Assange to the US authorities.

Finally an article by Naomi Woolf, a staunch campaigner for the rights of rape victims (hardly a rape-apologist)

#2 George Galloway and the definition of rape…

George Galloway is not an affable buffoon.

George Galloway is a smart, sly politician who knows what he is doing.

George Galloway’s pronouncements about the definition of rape represent a wholly unacceptable perspective on the issue and boil down to the perpetuation of a gross lie about sex. That lie is “Men have a right to sex.”. No one has a right to sex, we earn the sex we get, and part of that process is respecting the people we have sex with, in particular respecting them enough to not assume that we can just “do” them whenever we feel like it, just because they were ok with it last time. Clearly everyone’s experience of this is a little different (for example there are people who willingly indulge in the kind of BDSM edge-play that ‘simulates’ non-consensual acts, usually by pre-negotiating the extent and form of those acts), but in the end it is every individual’s right to withdraw their consent to anything at any time, and anyone who does not respect that suspension of consent is a rapist, plain and simple.

I am unsurprised that George Galloway is being pilloried for his remarks. He deserves it; his remarks were completely indefensible, and utterly, utterly wrong.

Are we all clear about that?

#3 Todd Akin and “Legitimate Rape”

Todd Akin said some very, very stupid things about rape.

In the world that we live in, everyone has a duty to condemn the mindless spoutings of people that say things that are so utterly unacceptable, and so in that spirit:

Todd Akin, the things that you have said, which seem to suggest that you believe there are ‘kinds’ or ‘levels’ of rape are completely unacceptable. You should apologise to all people everywhere for the gross offence you have caused not only to all the people who have suffered rape, but also all of those people who care about those victims.

Ok, now that I’ve got all of that off my chest, it’s back to the Unit Tests…


Julian Assange, Asylum and all that…

Right, let’s be clear.

If Julian Assange is determined to be a rapist by a court of law under the auspices of due process, then once that has come to pass I will having nothing left for him but contempt. Rape is a horrific affront to humanity and anyone who perpetrates it is to be despised.

Until the above comes to pass he is a man ACCUSED of rape (and sexual assault), and as such deserves all due protections and due process under the law as anyone else would.

Therefore I think that two things are pretty important:

1. Public figures in particular (Louise Mensch I’m looking at you here) and everyone else in general need to take a long hard look at their rhetoric and choices and accept the fact that as yet Julian Assange is an ALLEGED rapist, not actually a rapist.

Allow me to re-iterate, I am in no way an apologist for rape or rapists, but I do believe in the ideas of due process, innocence until guilt is determined under the burden of proof and the idea that only the courts get to brand anyone with any label as loaded and serious as “rapist”.

2. IF it is true (and I am having serious difficulty verifying this, hence the “IF”) that were Julian Assange to be successfully extradited to Sweden (to face the charges that I completely agree he should face), that there is a real likelihood that the Swedish authorities could re-extradite him to the US to face charges of Espionage (which carry the death penalty), then the government of Ecuador has struck a blow for justice and due process today.

There is no doubt in my mind that regardless of whether or not Mr. Assange has indeed committed unspeakable crimes against two women in Sweden, the pressure being brought to bear on our government, here in the UK, the Swedish government and now the Ecuadorian government has little in actual fact to do with those alleged crimes and a lot more to do with the American government wanting to get their hands on him. If the players cared about the charges he faces in Sweden they would have long ago stipulated that he would not be extradited to the US, or allowed him to be tried in the UK (or other essentially neutral country) on the facts of the case. I would like to believe that the charges he faces in Sweden are considered more serious by all people and entities than any charges arising from his activities with Wikileaks (I know that I consider them more serious), but I fear that this is unlikely to be the case.

Until it is a matter of public record that the Swedish government make guarantees that Julian Assange will not be removed from Sweden under duress / the auspices of extradition (i.e. under the cover of apparent legality) to the US, and that he will face a fair and transparent trial in Sweden, under all due process of the Swedish judicial system with regard to the charges levelled against him there, then there can be no doubt that any government, UK or Ecuadorian, that delivers him to Sweden either directly or indirectly has served no justice at all.

One day soon this will all come to a head – when it does I hope that my country can hold its head high on the issue, though I fear the worst.


What it feels like to be abroad on today of all days…

Well, at the moment I am not in the UK, and for the first time in my memory I am completely torn about the fact that I am not __in__ my country in the aftermath of this General Election; often in the past I would rather have been out of the country in these circumstances. In 1997 I was unhappy, in 2002 I was still unhappy and even in 2005 I was deeply unhappy; now I am completely depressed. Ever since I have paid attention to party politics in the UK I have believed staunchly in two things; that I am a Liberal and that the electoral system in the UK is simply unfair. As I write this my party of choice is currently confirmed to have received 22.9% of the popular vote which would equate to 148 seats rounded down in the current count of 650 seats in the Commons. How is that fair? Nearly one quarter of my fellow Britons agree with me, that the Liberal Democrats represent our feelings about economic, social, domestic and international policy and yet less that one tenth of the UK population will be represented by a Liberal politician.

This is not fair, and while I realise that I run the risk of sounding like a four year old who has been denied an ice cream, I nonetheless want to say that it is not willful or unreasonable to want my democracy to __actually__ represent me and my beliefs and politics.