Showing posts from February, 2014


On Monday, the day after the closing ceremony at the Sochi games the defendants in the so called Bolotnaya Case will be sentenced. The trial in Moscow represents a modern day Russian show trial. The defendants had all protested against Putin’s return to the Kremlin on 6 May 2012 in Bolotnaya Square. They were met with brutal police violence and were all charged with riot. You can read more about the trial here,
Though receiving considerable publicity the case is only one of many such trials representing Putin’s ongoing clampdown on freedoms of assembly, association and expression.
In the run up to the games Putin sought to soften western criticism by releasing members of Pussy Riot and the Greenpeace activists and by adopting his best Mr Reasonable tone.
Now as the last Olympic competitors clear passport control Russian opponents of Putin have good reason to be afraid.[1] As Putin …


George Orwell came to believe that an objective account of events in Barcelona in May 1937 had become impossible.
‘IT will never be possible to get a completely accurate and unbiased account of the Barcelona fighting, because the necessary records do not exist. Future historians will have nothing to go upon except a mass of accusations and party propaganda. I myself have little data beyond what I saw with my own eyes and what I have learned from other eyewitnesses whom I believe to be reliable. I can, however, contradict some of the more flagrant lies and help to get the affair into some kind of perspective.’[1]
As misinformation, inadvertent or deliberate, propaganda, self serving spin and outright lies pour out of Ukraine I have often thought about Orwell’s Barcelona experiences. Sitting in the safety and security of a London apartment, far removed from events in Ukraine I cannot hope to fully understand the finer nuances of the struggle.[2] In such circumstances one must rely on gut i…


In my recent piece The Banality of Paradise I made the assumption that Christianity had inherited the idea of Heaven from Judaism. I have since received correspondence from a friend pointing out that this is inaccurate.
In the interests of preventing the further dissemination of inaccurate beliefs I quote the relevant section of her correspondence in full.  

'In essence, mainstream Judaism does believe in some sort of life after death, but is vague on the details. For example, the funeral service includes the words, 'So and so, who has gone to his/her eternal home'. What is missing from Judaism is the idea that this life is a prelude to the next one, and also really of reward or punishment in the next life. It's been said that Judaism is a religion of the living, and because of the vagueness about what happens after death, you are encouraged to live as if this is all there is. Having said this (and always in Judaism there's more than one answer) there is the belief i…


The revelation that Tony Blair was advising Rebecca Brooks just a week after the revelation that the News of The World, [NoW], had hacked into the telephone of murdered schoolgirl Minnie Dowler is surprising only in so far as it is unsurprising. He viewed his actions, I believe, as sticking by his friends. Though as they say with friends like these who needs enemies? At the height of the NoW scandal and in the midst of the stinking corruption being revealed at News International in general and NoW in particular, he advised Brookes to:-
‘Form an independent unit that has an outside junior counsel, Ken Macdonald, a great and good type, a serious forensic criminal barrister, internal counsel, proper fact-checkers, etc in it. Get them to investigate me and others and publish a Hutton-style report. Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept your shortcomings and new solutions and process and part two when any trials are over.
Going o…

WORDS AND THEIR MEANINGS 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

George Orwell is justifiably renowned for his defence of the English language against a steady onslaught of mischievous euphemism, political corruption and manipulation. It is to Orwell to whom I owe my sensitivity to the use of language in general and the meaning of words in particular. It’s always worth keeping an eye out for words being gradually prised away from their meaning. Currently the word unprecedented is slowly being transformed to mean unexpected, unforeseen or just of considerable scale. Thus on Friday I heard a politician declare “we have not seen floods like this for over 250 years, they are completely unprecedented.” This is pure nonsense, the sentence of someone who has stopped thinking when he speaks; he cites a precedent, albeit over 250 years ago, then states that the events described are without precedent. We know what he means, as I say, unforeseen and of considerable scale, (though of course whilst the latter part of this formula might be true, the former is no…


I want you to imagine the following scenarios.

  1)BBC Business Correspondent interviewing leading Trade Union official: “Well Mr Smith it seems you have increased your membership by 20% since last year, have successfully negotiated improved working conditions for your staff by threatening industrial action, and ensured extra payments for working unsocial hours. To what do you attribute your success?
2)BBC Business Correspondent interviewing leading businessman: “So despite the fact that over 80% of your staff are paid the minimum wage, you are awarding yourself a bonus payment of over two million pounds, on top of your already generous salary package. Additionally your company has been heavily criticised for the fact that it pays virtually no corporation tax. How do you justify yourself to your workforce and the hard working taxpayers of this country?
Not very realistic is it. Yet if you reverse the scenarios and replace the trade unionist with the businessman in scenario 1 you get an e…


I have just read an extremely comprehensive account of the events of 9/11.* It contains of course an account of the mindset of those who flew the planes into the World Trade Centre; one aspect of this mindset being the expectation of immediate entry into paradise. What struck me most about the images the hijackers had in their mind was there extraordinary banality. One hijacker muses on being able to lie on a river bank flowing with honey. Honey, I mean what’s that all about? Honey is very pleasant on toast or stirred into porridge but I am not sure of the value of a whole river of the sticky substance. This made me interested in other aspects of the Muslim view of paradise.
To start off, you need to understand what the rewards in Jannah (Paradise) are. The Quran says that those who do get into Paradise will be rewarded with blessings that eclipse anything on earth; unlimited food of your choice, riches, and wishes come true. Things considered sinful on Earth such as wine will be all…


Saudi Arabia was the elephant in the room on 9/11

The flying of passenger laden airliners by religiously inspired fanatics into the TwinTowers in Manhattan is one of those iconic events. Like the sinking of the Titanic, the shooting of President Kennedy and the car crash that Killed Diana Princess of Wales, the images are etched into the modern psyche.[1]

All these events have generated a seemingly endless supply of conspiracy theories, none however on the scale of 9/11. Every fruitcake, loony tune, tin foil hat wearing screwball, as well as many who should know better, has their own take on the events of that Tuesday in September. I do not intend to repeat them here, anyone who has an internet connection can familiarise themselves with them. Though it says much of the age we live in that even the most absurd of these ideas have astonishingly gained traction, though the problem with debating such idea…


Well Nick Clegg has surprised me, as indeed have the Lib Dems as a whole, in demonstrating more backbone than I expected and have provided full backing to Maajid Nawaz, (see below):
“However, the Liberal Democrats are a party of respect, tolerance and individual liberty. We fundamentally believe in freedom of expression in an open, liberal and free society and therefore strongly defend Maajid’s right to express his views.[1]
This uncharacteristically robust response undoubtedly owes much to the vigorous campaign waged by Chris Moos and others in support of Maajid. Is it too much to hope for that we have reached a turning point in these matters and enough people are now willing to stand up and call the bluff of these religious and cultural bullies? If we have reached such a point the last people to catch up will be the senior management of the BBC who continue to offer the most abject surrender to these theocratic fanatics.
As we approach the 100th year mark since the outbreak of World…