September 24, 2005

I'm moving from here.

I'm changing blog hosts. For those sophisticated visitors who call in here my new address is here You see it's only a click away. And it's much easier if you bookmark the new page! All the posts, though regrettably not the comments have moved with me. Cheers t

September 20, 2005

Now There's a Thing!

"Britain's most senior police officer is to face an official investigation into whether he told the truth about the shooting dead of an innocent man who was mistaken for a terrorist, the Guardian has learned.. ( Read on)


I understand from mediawatchwatch that Christian Voice are girding up their loins for a wonderful battle with the BBC and Avalon- the company producing JS:TO. They have instucted m'learned friends to draft the proceedings in a blasphemy case. Why couldn't idiots like CV wander into my office, when I was in practise, to throw their money away?

Good Start Charles!

I wouldn’t mind collecting a pound each time, when addressing magistrates, I mentioned the futility of sending a young lad into custody for a short period. Leaving aside the cost of “warehousing”, magistrates seemed quite unable to grasp that during a period of incarceration under two years the prison service would be unable, in accordance with their mission statement to “help them lead law-abiding and useful lives in custody and after release”. The offender was 99% certain to join the group of 50% - 75% if he was under 17- who would be returning into custody within a couple of years. They seemed to be oblivious of the cost. During a rather more bold mitigation, I even invited the bench to consider whether, if they were using their own money, they would fritter it away in such a cavalier manner!

In 1992, there was a leader in the Guardian containing this: -

While in prison, one third lose their home, two thirds lose their job, over a fifth face increased financial problems and two fifths lose contact with their families. Is it any wonder that they turn to further crimes? David Waddington, a former hardline Conservative home secretary, concluded in office that prison was an expensive way of making bad people worse. In fact, it is more complicated than that. One problem is poor basic skills. Some 50% of prisoners have a lower level of reading skills than an 11-year-old, 65% lower numeracy skills, and 80% lower writing skills. Their mental health is a further problem with 70% suffering from at least two disorders. A similar proportion suffer from drug misuse of whom 80% have never had any contact with drug treatment services. These deep-rooted problems are not just a challenge to the Home Office but to education, housing and health too. In his forward to the report, the prime minister emphasises the need to "redouble efforts to rehabilitate prisoners back into society". Part of this rehabilitation will require a change in the political climate. It means reinforcing the importance of community programmes, as earlier home secretaries sought to do. Under the proposed custody-plus sentence, offenders on short-term (under 12 months) sentence would spend up to three months in prison and the rest under supervision in community programmes. Used properly, this would allow prisons and probation to tackle fundamental problems and even more crucially improve the rehabilitation rate.”

The leader writer was commenting on a report “Reducing Offending by Ex Prisoners” from the Prime Minister’s Social Exclusion Unit which I mentioned in December 2004

In fact, Tony Blair got it right in his forward to the paper:

People who have been in prison account for one in five of all crimes. Nearly three in five prisoners are re-convicted within two years of leaving prison. Offending by ex-prisoners costs society at least £11 billion a year. This all tells us we are failing to capitalise on the opportunity prison provides to stop people offending for good.”

Those who read this blog see that much criticism has been heaped on Charles Clarke. But in Clarke we have a Home Secretary who just may be prepared to face down the tabloid press. He perhaps realises-there’s enough research in the Home Office-that the present penal system is not only too expensive it simply just does not work. So what’s new?

When he spoke yesterday to the Prison Reform Trust he said:

As we consider the practical steps intended to equip offenders with the means to avoid reoffending we also need to remember the vital role of family, friends and community. I believe that we sometimes fail to give enough emphasis to the powerful impact of supportive relationships to prisoners – to realise that offenders often care deeply about letting down those closest to them, and want to show that they can change, but somehow just never get there. An offender is much less likely to re-offend if he feels part of a family and community, from which he receives support as well as owes obligations. For that reason, I think that we need to do our very best to ensure that offenders retain ties with family and friends, particularly whilst in prison. I feel that it should be a priority, where possible, for families to visit prisoners and that we should do more to proactively encourage the maintenance of family and friend ties in our prisons and as part of our probation support.”

It’s a good start Charles.

September 18, 2005

Springfield Park Allotment!

Last year Anne put her name on the list for a local allotment. This afternoon the telephone rang and the warden of the local park told her that her name had reached the top of the list. At the end of this month Anne and I will be tenants of this wonderful allotment. It's about 25 metres by 7. It covers an area from the red and white dahlia to the blue container. Half of the plot looks wonderfully fertile, though the other half needs some cultivation. I hope to post progress reports. The before and after!

Bet on Iraq

Of all the barmy sites attempting to get their fingers into your back pocket this one takes the biscuit.

So, if anyone is still cash rich after this year’s hols, why not have a go at specualting on the Iraqi Dinar. After all, as the site tells us

"Might a free Iraq thrive?

Above and beyond the vast oil reserve, agriculture, and highly educated population, there is now liberty in Iraq. We believe that where liberty is sown, prosperity blooms. We understand that liberty is always challenged. It's challenged regularly in our own country. Why should a fledgling democracy, on the heels of a 30-year dictatorial rule, be immune? We simply trust that the seed of freedom, implanted more than a year ago with the fall of Saddam's regime, has germinated in the hearts of the majority of the Iraqi people. We see this as a wondrous thing, with tremendous possibilities."

Of course, I’m not offering any financial advice- I’m not qualified- but as a balance look at this from Juan Cole’s “Informed Comment”

An observer in Iraq writes to me:

"The situation has deteriorated in Baghdad dramatically today. Five neighborhoods (hay) in Baghdad are controlled by insurgents, and they are Amiraya, Ghazilya, Shurta, Yarmouk and Doura. It is very bad. My guys there report that cars have come into these neighborhoods and blocked off the streets. Masked gunmen with AKs and other weapons are roaming these areas, announcing that people should stay home. One of my drivers in Amiraya reports that his neighborhood is shut down totally, and even those who need food or provisions are warned not to go out. The government will respond feebly. It will go into a contested neighborhood, and then just like Fallujah, Ramadi, Tel Afar, the insurgents will flee to take over another area on another day. Bit by bit they are taking over the main parts of Baghdad. The only place we are sure they cannot control is Sadr City, unless of course they want to take on Jaish Mahdy [Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army], and that would be bloody. A few minutes ago Jaafari came on television to tell everyone in Baghdad to stay home. Can't wait for his next bold move. There are flyers in public areas of Baghdad warning people not to gather in large numbers because they will thereby become targets. I am trying to get a copy of the flyer. Notwithstanding Al-Hayat's claim that Zarqawi and the Sunni resistance are not together, my street listeners claim otherwise. My folks are convinced that the two groups, broadly defined, are together, "100 percent" is the claim of certainty. It is hard to get a handle on this because people in Baghdad tend to lump all resistance groups, except for Zarqawi, into one large category. More and more of even the most patriotic intelligentsia are departing. The situation is dire, and those with escape valves are using them. [Some organizations are] sending more of [their] staff to Arbil and Sulamaniyah and out of Baghdad. Until about March this year, [some] thought that there was a chance of returning to Baghdad. It is remarkable how incapable this government is. Its only success is that it exists at all."

September 15, 2005


Is there a link between today’s publication of the Terrorism Bill and the detention of seven Algerians the Home Secretary wants to deport as “not being conducive to the public good? In April, four Algerians were cleared in the Ricin Plot and the CPS did not proceed against another four.

The Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, used his powers under the 1971 Immigration Act to detain and hopefully deport the eight. He could have used those powers any day between April and September. It’s incredible to believe in those five months the Security Services have added much to the evidence they must have obtained about these characters before their trial.

Hitchens Metamorphosis

Anybody who watched ex-Trot Christopher Hitchens on Newsnight last week must have wondered what the hell is his booze of choice.

“Gorgeous” George Galloway, during his “debate” with Hitchens in New York last night referred to the popinjay, mixing lepidoptera with gastropoda. But it looked to have been good fun for all that!

"What you have witnessed is something unique in natural history - the first ever metamorphosis of a butterfly back into a slug, I do not know what it was," he said. "I do not know if it was Vanity Fair or the lucrative contracts you have landed since. Maybe it was the whiskey. Somehow, you decided in 2002/3 to take a line that was in complete opposition to the line you used to take. Were you wrong in ‘91 or are you wrong now?"

September 14, 2005

Extraordinary Rendition- the reality

As with the rights of those accused of criminal offences, most people don’t worry too much about the CIA carting terror suspects around the globe, dropping them off at various states who are prepared to torture them- torture by proxy or Extraordinary Rendition.

Surely, the United States cannot get up to such shenanigans with Her Majesty’s government as a more that willing conspirator? Tony Blair is encouraging the judiciary to order the deportation asylum seekers to countries where torture is endemic and the criminal justice system is not suffused by the concept of human rights. “Human Rights”- another phrase people don’t care much about. Or is this all part of Blair’s rebalancing of our criminal justice system that "still asks first and foremost, how do we protect the accused from potential transgressions of the state or the police?" Back to rendition- for many, it’s easy to deny Extraordinary Rendition exists. After all most of the “evidence” comes from those who have, or allege to have been, tortured at the behest of the CIA. We are told they are terror suspects. The “evidence” cannot be trusted. So those of us who are concerned about torture and protecting the rights of those accused of terrorist offences must doff their caps to- The Committee on International Human Rights of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York And The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, New York University School of Law for a wonderful paperTORTURE BY PROXY:INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC LAW APPLICABLE TO“EXTRAORDINARY RENDITIONS It’s now no use denying the existence of renditions. This is from the section “Off the Record- The United States involved in renditions to justice”

According to an unnamed senior U.S. intelligence official there have been “a lot of rendition activities” since September 11, 2001: “We are doing a number of them, and they have been very productive.” Similarly, in an interview with the Washington Post, an unnamed U.S. diplomat acknowledged that “[after September 11, [renditions] have been occurring all the time…. It allows us to get information from terrorists in a way we can’t do on U.S. soil.”

According to another unnamed official, “[t]he temptation is to have these folks in other hands because they have different standards. “Someone might be able to get information we can’t from detainees,” said another. Another unnamed official who has been involved in rendering captives into foreign hands explained his understanding of the purpose of Extraordinary Renditions: “We don’t kick the [expletive] out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them.” Newsweek reported that at a classified briefing for senators not longafter September 11, 2001, then CIA Director George Tenet was asked whether Washington was planning to seek the transfer of suspected Al Qaeda detainees from governments known for their brutality. “Congressional sources” told Newsweek “that Tenet suggested it might be better sometimes for such suspects to remain in the hands of foreign authorities, who might be able to use more aggressive interrogation methods.” Most recently, on October 13, 2004, the Israeli newspaper HaAretz reported that the CIA runs a top-secret interrogation facility in Jordan, where at least 11 detainees who are considered Al Qaeda’s most senior cadre are being held. HaAretz relied on “international intelligence sources” who, according to the newspaper, “are considered experts in surveillance and analysis of Al-Qaida and are involved in interrogating the detainees.” HaAretz reported that detention of Al Qaeda suspects outside the United States “enables CIA interrogators to apply interrogation methods that are banned by U.S. law, and to do so in a country where cooperation with the United States is particularly close, thereby reducing the danger of leaks.”

At last a couple of our MP’s are taking note. Sir Menzies Campbell, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman has asked some pertinent questions of the UK government’s involvement. The Guardian has well-researched pieces here and here. One of the authors, Stephen Grey has ploughed a pretty lone furrow on this subject for many months. His website contains much stomach-churning stuff. And by the way the illustration is a Gulfstream V operated by Premier Executive Transport Services, a CIA front company. Its tail number is N379P and it may be landing at an airfield near you!

September 12, 2005

September 07, 2005

Comrade Charles

Reading what Tony Blair and Charles Clarke said today, they both now realise that the Chahal decision is binding upon the English courts. They will be unable to deport the “Belmarsh 10” to Algeria and Jordan. Rightly, the courts will have no truck with these memorandums of understanding in which the receiving state promises not to torture or ill-treat those the UK government deports. Our Home Secretary said today

"The key legal question will be the extent to which the memorandum of understanding and the particular assurances given in relation to individuals are respected by the British courts as being genuine I believe they should be. That is the right way to go. It cannot be right that government-to-government agreements are not respected."

That “key legal question” was answered by the European Court of Human Rights in the Chahal and Soering cases. Indeed, in the Chalal case the ECtHR did so in unambiguous tones:

“Article 3 enshrines one of the most fundamental values of democratic society... The Court is well aware of the immense difficulties faced by States in modern times in protecting their communities from terrorist violence. However, even in these circumstances, the Convention prohibits in absolute terms torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, irrespective of the victim's conduct. Unlike most of the substantive clauses of the Convention and of Protocols Nos. 1 and 4, Article 3 makes no provision for exceptions and no derogation from it is permissible under Article 15 even in the event of a public emergency threatening the life of the nation.”

The best way out of this dilemma would be to get out of our obligations under the European Convention altogether. But I suspect this would be a step too far-just- even for this illiberal government

They cannot derogate from Article 3- the one causing their problem- so they are left with amending the Human Rights Act, leaving the Convention intact. Such an amendment, they hope, would prevent the UK courts from applying European Court jurisprudence, from Chahal, to these cases, leaving any appellant to go off to the European Court in Strasbourg for their remedy. A case the UK is bound to loose when it comes into collision with the European Court’s judges. In the meantime, the deportee is sent to Algeria, Jordan or wherever, using some form of administrative order.

Is anyone surprised that when Charles Clarke was at Cambridge he was Chairman of the University Stalinist SocSoc? Hat tip to Peter H for that nugget!

September 05, 2005

Katrina's Eye

Eye of Hurricane Katrina seen from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft. Image taken on August 28, 2005, before the storm made landfall.

Katrina Bloggers

Katrina is yet another example of when bloggers come into their own. Crikey, they even managed to get Condi Rice away from her shopping at Feragamos in New York! This moving account from a New Orleans resident, now in Austin TX, recalling the time one of the levees broke, posted by Ray in Austin TX "…..we got to talking and they pointed to their friend and said, "This is our refugee."

I said to him, "From New Orleans? I grew up in Algiers!"

He says, "Algiers? You're dry, bra!"

"What neighborhood you from?"




And I hugged him, and he hugged back, hard, and then he didn't want to let go, and I almost started to tear up, and we just stood there in the middle of the bar, two grown men, total strangers, hugging each other like lost brothers.

His name was Jonathan; he lived on Spencer Avenue, 600 yards from the Hammond breach. I asked him when the breach happened, because everybody is still saying on the news it broke Tuesday, but I blogged about it Monday afternoon here, and I know I was hearing rumors about it before that. He said, "Tuesday is bullshit, bra. Nine AM Monday morning, there was this huge BOOM and instantly five feet of water in my house, violent rolling water, and rising fast." He ran upstairs and was trying to save his vinyl collection, stacking it on his bed, til he passed out and woke up five hours later.When he was rescued, he could hear neighbors all around, in their attics, knocking knocking knocking trying to get somebody's attention. The firefighters who pulled him out said three things, "Are you over 18? Are you healthy? Do you have military experience?" He said yes, yes, yes, and they handed him an axe and said "you're hereby deputized" and he spent the rest of the day chopping through people's roofs and pulling them from their attics."

September 04, 2005

Stuff Happens!

I’m warming to Maureen Dowd. This is the first couple of papagraphs from an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times.

"Stuff happens.

And when you combine limited government with incompetent government, lethal stuff happens.

America is once more plunged into a snake pit of anarchy, death, looting, raping, marauding thugs, suffering innocents, a shattered infrastructure, a gutted police force, insufficient troop levels and criminally negligent government planning. But this time it's happening in America". Now read on. Not registered wtih NYT go to Bugmenot and paste the URL.

September 03, 2005

Vacation is Over!

Michael Moore writes an open letter to the Fratboy. "No, Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened to Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh! Race has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with this!" -Read on.

Anti-yob/Asbo Corner

Hat tip to chromatius for this comment on the latest anti-yob/asbo nonsense.

Hardly needs me to point out the statist madness of this shit - pre-emptive judicial and police assaults on families because some teacher or social worker thinks a child is 'likely' to be a 'nuisance', 'antisocial'?-more Louise Casey And guess who's in charge- the Yob-czar?And who said in July this year?

"I suppose you can't binge drink anymore because lots of people have said you can't do it. I don't know who bloody made that up, it's nonsense."