Archive for October, 2009

Beware of the “domestic extremist”

October 28, 2009

According to a recent report in The Guardian the term “domestic extremism” is now very much in vogue with police forces the length and breadth  of this great land of ours. To control demonstrations, forces have decided that at least some demonstrators are “domestic extremists”. As part of their fight against these  “extremists”, the forces are keeping the personal details and photographs of a substantial number of people on secret police databases.

It appears that as there is no official or legal definition of the term, the police have a guess at what they think it means. Some senior officers describe domestic extremists as individuals or groups

“that carry out criminal acts of direct action in furtherance of a campaign. These people and activities usually seek to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but attempt to do so outside of the normal democratic process.”

The police, although they will not, for security reasons no doubt, allow anybody access to their lists, claim that the majority of demonstrators are not considered extremists.

In today’s edition of The Guardian comment from Richard Hering, who with many others named in the paper’s report, whose activities were obviously considered to be “outside of the normal democratic process”

 Good to see my picture on the front page of the Guardian. Thanks for your excellent report on this. I think I was on the card because I was arrested at the previous year’s DSEi arms trade. It was what we call an accountable action: I made the argument in court that I was preventing a greater crime, in that they were selling illegal weapons at the site. I don’t know where they got the picture of me from but they were taking a lot of pictures at the protest.

“I think the spotter card is an issue for civil liberties because, clearly, you have people who have committed no crime who are on lists of ‘troublemakers’. One of the problems with policing is that is its highly political nature, in that there is a lot of collision with the targets of peaceful protest. We now have police advising companies like nPower on how to take out injunctions to stop protesters. Should they really be doing that?

“The problem with this kind of policing is that it makes it look like a battle between protesters and the police, rather than protesters and their target – in this case the DSEi arms fair.”

This is a page form one so-called “spotter cards” that are issued by police to identify individuals they consider to be “domestic extremists” because they have appeared at a number of demonstrations.



Tony Blair on trial.

October 27, 2009

In today’s edition of The Guardian the columnist Gary Monbiot puts forward the  crazy plan of backing Tony Blair for the EU presidency in the hope that somebody who can prosecute him for “the crime of aggression”

 Blair has the distinction, which is a source of national pride in some quarters, of being one of the two greatest living mass murderers on earth. That he commissioned a crime of aggression – waging an unprovoked war, described by the Nuremberg tribunal as “the supreme international crime” – looks incontestable. ….. This crime has caused the death – depending on whose estimate you believe – of between 100,000 and one million people. As there was no legal justification, these people were murdered. But no one has been brought to justice.

If Blair were elected president, he would, argues Monbiot, would have little control over his appointments, and everyone would know when he was coming.” This would mean that he could leave himself open to prosecution by countries which have incorporated into their laws the “crime of aggression”

It’s just possible that an investigating magistrate, like Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who issued a warrant for the arrest of General Pinochet, would set the police on him. But our best chance of putting pressure on reluctant authorities lies in a citizen’s arrest. To stimulate this process, I will put up the first £100 of a bounty (to which, if he gets the job, I will ask readers to subscribe), payable to the first person to attempt a non-violent arrest of President Blair. It shouldn’t be hard to raise several thousand pounds. I will help set up a network of national arrest committees, exchanging information and preparing for the great man’s visits. President Blair would have no hiding place: we will be with him wherever he goes.

Sorry Gary, this is one dream I can’t see coming true.

Guardian gagged by Commons.

October 13, 2009

A most worrying report appears in today’s edition of The Guardian

The Guardian has been prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds which appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.

Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.

I imagine that we are supposed to take it on trust that this unprecedented step has been taken for good reasons. I’m far from certain that I do, but then that’s me.

Join the army and see the classroom.

October 8, 2009

The announcement, at yesterday’s Tory Party conference, by schools spokesman, Michael Grove, that his party, if elected, intended develop a Troops to Teachers programme which would see military professionals becoming teachers draws some caustic comments  from Simon Hoggart in his sketch for today’s edition of The Guardian.

Grove’s avowed intention, which Hoggart considers to be one example of one of  the “stark staring bonkers”  ideas the party can come up with from time to time,  is  “to get the professionals in the army who know how to train young men and women into the classroom where they can provide not just discipline, but inspiration and leadership.”

In other words, he wants to send the army into our schools. Men and women in battledress dashing down the corridors, yelling “cover!” as they race to secure the playground! And he announced it without any preliminaries, or indeed any explanation, as if it were something perfectly obvious to everyone, an ambition the whole country could unite behind, like healthier school dinners and better facilities for sport.

What on earth did he have in mind? Just a single NCO per classroom?

“Jordan Blenkinsop, you’re a horrible little girl. What are you?”

“A horrible little girl, sarn’t!”

And what did he mean by “providing discipline”? “Now then, what I have ‘ere in my hand is an SA80 standard issue rifle. If I don’t get a bit of hush, you’re going to be looking down the wrong end of it, and I hope you bleeding well catch my drift, you shower.”

Will there be military classes too? Laying down ground fire? Landmine dispersal? How to conduct a field amputation with a Stanley knife from the art room? None of these matters was addressed. And how will it change those recruitment ads they run on the television? “Could you fly a £15m jet aircraft at twice the speed of sound? Could you drive a Centurion 2 battle tank into the heart of the action? Could you cope with 9C in the last period on Friday afternoon?”

Republican’s spite…

October 6, 2009

In a recent article for The New York Times article, reprinted in today’s edition of the Guardian the Nobel Prizewinning economist Paul Krugman agues that the “guiding principle of one of our nation’s two great political parties” – the Republican party –  “is spite, pure and simple”.

 There was what President Obama likes to call a teachable moment last week, when the International Olympic Committee rejected Chicago’s bid to be host of the 2016 summer games.

“Cheers erupted” at the headquarters of the conservative Weekly Standard, according to a blogpost by a member of the magazine’s staff, with the headline “Obama loses! Obama loses!”. Rush Limbaugh declared himself “gleeful”. “World Rejects Obama,” gloated the Drudge Report. And so on……………..

If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they’re against it whether or not it’s good for America.

To be sure, while celebrating America’s rebuff by the Olympic committee was puerile, it didn’t do any real harm. But the same principle of spite has determined Republican positions on more serious matters, with potentially serious consequences in particular, in the debate over healthcare reform.

Now, it’s understandable that many Republicans oppose Democratic plans to extend insurance coverage just as most Democrats opposed President Bush’s attempt to convert social security into a sort of giant 401(k). The two parties do, after all, have different philosophies about the appropriate role of government.

But the tactics of the two parties have been different. In 2005, when Democrats campaigned against social security privatisation, their arguments were consistent with their underlying ideology: they argued that replacing guaranteed benefits with private accounts would expose retirees to too much risk.

The Republican campaign against healthcare reform, by contrast, has shown no such consistency. For the main line of attack is the claim based mainly on lies about death panels and so on that reform will undermine Medicare. And this line of attack is utterly at odds both with the party’s traditions and with what conservatives claim to believe…………………

It’s difficult to read much more of this without asking onself whether or not there can be grown-up political debate in a country like this.

The Blaze of Obscuity by Clive James

October 1, 2009

This self-explanatory email has just arrived from from those very nice people at Amazon.


Greetings from,

As someone who has purchased or rated books by Clive James, you might like to know that The Blaze of Obscurity: The TV Years will be released on 2 October 2009.  You can pre-order yours for just £12.59 (30% off the RRP) by following the link below.

The Blaze of Obscurity: The TV Years The Blaze of Obscurity: The TV Years
Clive James

RRP: £17.99
Price: £12.59
You Save: £5.40 (30%)

Release Date: 2 October 2009



Seán Cannon at Coventry Central Library

October 1, 2009

Make for Music at your Library

Saturday 17 October.

Seán Cannon

Seán Cannon

Robbie, Hank, Elvis and me – by Seán Cannon

Seán, who began his singing career in pubs and clubs of Coventry during the late sixties and became internationally recognised as a member of The Dubliners, will be answering questions about, among other things, his long career, and his love of the songs of Robert Burns, Hank Williams, and the young Elvis Presley. He may also sing a song or two that he’s not recorded.

Events take place at the Central Library, Smithford Way, Coventry, CV1 1FY.

All events are Free and start at 11.00am.

Limited places – booking advisable

To book please phone 024 7683 2314


Click below for: 

Seán Cannon @ Coventry Central Library pdf

The Dubliners  featuring Seán Cannon – The Newry Highway Man (Album Thirty Years A’Greying RTE CD 157-302, 157-301/Castle Communications ESD CD 423 1992)