Monday, December 28, 2015

Equanimity about Equity of Inequality


I am moved by the angst of a well-known British right-of-center writer to share my thoughts about inequality as we move towards the New Year. Yes, it’s three o’clock in the morning. And the new biological timetable that attends my current ill health has decided, once again, that my thoughts flow best when everyone else is asleep.

Along with my few ailments, maybe it’s advancing years that make me more settled, or perhaps more blunt, about the whole subject of inequality. Supporters of Donald Trump say he is rational. Detractors say he is a rich whack-job. Take your pick. So. By the numbers.

People are not born equal. We can have a whole metaphysical discussion about this. Which I’ll avoid for now. But, the bottom line is we are not all born with the same gifts. Or the same amount of ‘em.

The only thing that is equal to all of us is the need for us to eat. And pretty much right there are the two factors that have dominated political economy since the time sapiens decided it was better to hit someone with the club, rather than dragging it behind him.

We need to eat. We need to find a way to do it. Some of us use physical strength. Others our developing brains. Some hunt. Some grow. Some just take from others. From this point on, further discussion is really about the finer points.

The finest point being that, as our brains have evolved, not all brains equally by the way, another natural phenomenon, not one we can blame on the 1%, many of us have developed a countervailing influence over the natural order of things – the notion of justice.

So it is that some of us decided that it wasn’t always just that Harry with the club got best pickings of the body carcass. So, we ganged up and stopped him. Or we thought up clever ways of trapping Harry. Or taking sides with him. Or designing stealth drone clubs to attack him when he wasn’t looking. And so on.

Blah, blah, blah. Fast forward a few thousand years. To the end of the cold war. And the advance of globalization. And the points made by Matthew d’Ancona in the article linked to earlier.

It’s really not all that complicated. There is no such thing as freedom. That disappeared the moment Harry hit someone. And that someone retaliated by joining with his fellows to take Harry’s club away. After that, all was legislation and regulation. The balance in society between those with individual strength and those with strength in numbers.

And that has pretty much defined the evolution of the seemingly separate political strands of right-wing individualism and left-wing collectivism. Which definitions are themselves somewhat ironic. Since, certainly in modern times, that right-wing individualism appears to support global corporatism, while the left-wing collectivism has the ambition of protecting less advantaged individuals.

Anyways, my point is, there is no overarching right or wrong. It’s all a question of balance. People are different. They do different things. They give value to different things. They see things differently.

Ambitious people want to get rich. That involves other people. Using them as digits. As units. Whether it is as labor. As a market. As buyers. Whatever. So long as the others get something out of it, they’re happy to go along. Until they feel ripped off. Then, they react. When they get sufficiently upset, they organize, they find strength. And maybe, they get to take the club away from Harry again. Or, they just move way, and do their own thing somewhere else.

And the history of political economy, relative inequality, the supremacy of right or left, individual or collective, at any given moment, is all about where the pendulum is at that point in history. Is Harry in the ascendant? Or those organizing against him?

There is no end of history. No final destination. No ultimate moment. It is all a question of where the pendulum is. No more. No less.

So. Why the long essay about all of this so early in the morning? Hmm. ‘Cos I’m off work awaiting further tests. ‘Cos I’ll have to return to work at some point. And I’m none too happy with my place of work at the moment. And Matt’s article got me thinking about why. And why it is that the unhappiness is causing so much angst. When I’m trying to make my life about magic not angst.

And I realized (not this morning; it’s been building for a while) that, well, different people see things different ways. Because we are different.

Forget the notion of co-operation (you do all know by now that I work in a co-operative food retailer, right?). The fact is, the same human impulses are at work in my co-operative as anywhere else.

There are those with ambition, who do the planning and the overlording. There are those of us who put up with it, so long as we benefit. And there are those of us who do not benefit so much, and we organize and push back.

Those at the top present all sorts of rationale to underpin why the big picture says we need to do x and y in order to ‘succeed.’ While we at the bottom of the pile retort that this ‘success’ looks great on paper, but it still leaves us with sore limbs and a miserable-looking pay raise.

And the epiphany for me, these past few weeks, as I’ve found myself not in the immediate emotional thick of it all, is that, as with most of human endeavor, we are all right. Because we are all attempting to gain different things from the same big picture.

Those at the top want pretty graphs with the lines going up. Those in the middle also want the lines to go up, so that they will be left alone. And that requires that they lay it on those of us below. Who want to be left alone, and to be paid more.

Of course, there is no way we can all be happy. In equal amounts. At the same time. Sometimes the folks at the top win. Sometimes those of us lower down the ladder get our payback. It’s a constant to and fro. And it all ends up being a matter of balance. Over time.

So. What am I saying? None of it matters? Heck no. Well, if you want to be the hermit, on top of the mountain, communing only with the universe. And I’ve thought of that. But I missed Wham. Unless you go for that, then no. Care. Argue. Fight. Rationalize. Every day. Never give in. Keep moving that bloody pendulum. But. Do it all with a pinch of salt.

We are none of us re-inventing the wheel. We’re none of us treading new paths. It’s all been done before. It will never change. We will always be different. Always unequal. Always striving to gain advantage.

Spend each day. Every moment of your life. Believing passionately in what you believe. So long as. At the end of each of those days. You have the good sense to step back and chuckle. We are who we are. We will always be that way. It is a never-ending circle. Enjoy it. Believe it. Honor it. But, don’t let it overwhelm you. Don't let it define you. That’s all.

Life is absurd and purposeful, all at the same time


No. I'm not dying. I'm just having an existential moment. As I prepare for Christmas, with a weather forecast telling me that North Carolina is going to be in the seventies for the next week.

It's taken me some 59 years (not sure if I beat Albert Camus or Leo Tolstoy). But I now realize that the lesson of life. It's true meaning. Is that life is absurd.

Yet, that realization leaves no explanation for the existence of my consciousness. Yours too. Unless, the further step of understanding is that we can only give that consciousness, our lives, true meaning if we use the realization of absurdity as the platform to give ourselves purpose.

In which regard, Norman Mailer is right as well.

Look. Of course life is absurd. How can it be other than absurd to imagine that our incredibly fragile bodies can possibly represent any kind of sustainable or effective vessel for the equally incredible consciousness that possesses it?

It is impossible that some grand series of universal accidents created this ridiculous collection of vulnerable cells, to house an intelligence that has me in awe each and every day I wake up.

This isn't going to be a discussion about creationism, or evolution, or intelligent whatever. It is a post about absurdity. And the first absurdity is ever to make plans on the basis other than that our vibrant consciousness is always hostage to a body that is likely to collapse at any moment.

So. Don't make plans? No. Make 'em up the wazoo. Otherwise, what's the point in being alive? But don't take them too seriously. And don't make them ridiculously extensive. Because, fragility of the body aside, and the next absurdity, why do we think that the eighty to ninety odd years we spend on this planet is really going to make any difference?

We had a Kennedy. Got shot. We had a Clinton. Got undone by a Bush. Who got undone by an Obama. Who most likely will get undone by a Trump. Or a Cruz. Which is worse?

Hitler was terrible. Stalin likely worse. Pol Pot the pits. Yet, they are gone. And yet, we have a Putin and fascism on the rise in the western world.

We had a Mother Teresa. And yet, we still have poverty in India. Alongside the Porsches and Lamborghini's. We still have some 50 million below the poverty line in the US. Yet, we have more billionaires than ever.

We elect Jeremy Corbyn leader of the Labour Party. In the absurd belief he will become Prime Minister. We have absurd expectations of Bernie Sanders. In the almost certain and realistic belief he will never be President.

Too many of us have too many regrets. When we know we could not have done differently. Instead of enjoying the moments that were good, and shrugging at the rest.

And that is the only reaction to the absurdity of life. To shrug.

I have no clue, no-one truly does, about purpose. Why create, evolve, cook, lego-build a consciousness that can produce a Mona Lisa, an Empire State Building, a community garden, a homeless shelter from scratch, if that whatever allows it only to live for eighty years, to leave little lasting legacy, no memory of a before, and no idea of the after?

Maybe the answer is in the question. Maybe the answer is so that we, a few of us, over time, maybe more of us, can realize that life, material consciousness, is not the be all and end all, that there is more, that this life is truly absurd, we are supposed to 'get' that, so that we are able constantly to laugh at it, to chuckle, while doing what we can, before the next, as consequence of a continuous 'before'.

And that what we can do is to eschew the arrogance that says we can change the eternal, the universal, and truly to focus on what is around us. To realize the absurdity of thinking we can control anything. Except what we think and do. Without thinking we can affect the consequences. While, at the same time, always being conscious that we are responsible for the consequences of what we do and say. Dreaming, believing, planning, and believing once more. All the while understanding that we have no control over what will actually happen. While believing (again) that it will happen as we wish.

Truly, truly, truly understanding that the biggest obstacle to joyfully accepting the absurdity of life is fear. The fear that we will not be taken seriously. Who cares? The fear that we will not have enough. Who cares? The fear that what we have will be taken away. Says who?

I never began to have any effect with my advocacy (not to mention my music or my writing), whether Weaver Street, or police, whatever, until I stepped back, and placed it in the context of absurdity, fear and personal experience.

Of course WSM is absurd. It is a concept based upon individuals truly believing that, by putting aside their personal fears, and committing to the collective conscious, that collective conscious, democratically expressed, free of fear, will actually take care of all the personal fears.

How absurd for us to believe that we could get the simple lesson that we conquer fear by simply not being afraid? Instead, we never get past the reality that the collective is no more that the collection of all the unaltered individual fears.

Why on earth do ISIS truly believe that they can overcome the unified fear of the remainder of the nations on earth? Because of their own fears.

Why do small-minded people persist in believing that restricting the freedom of individuals will ever lead to other than violent response? Fear.

So. There it is. Geoff's lesson of the day. Overcome fear to understand absurdity. Embrace absurdity with a chuckle, in order to understand purpose. Restrict purpose to making impact on what is around you. In a benign fashion. Always with the understanding that the purpose is not design or destination, it is the journey, the faith, the good works and the chuckle last thing at night.

Which is not to say we minimize purpose. Far from it. We energize it with faith. Not religious faith. Faith in people. Faith in ourselves. Faith in the concept that opening our eyes to the immediate, the possible and the realistic allows for the collective to be achieved by the combination of the many realities.

For universal ambition is an arrogance that serves only the self. Helping those around us, understanding the power of our immediate limitations, is the means truly to serve those we know, ourselves and life purpose. That is the lesson of life. That is the power of life. It's magic. Along with a good chuckle.

I believe in St. Peter. Not the guy in the white robe. But some sort of higher power, collective enlightenment, continuing universal consciousness. Some sort of meter that will affect what happens next. But I like St. Peter.

And I look forward to saying to St. Peter. Sorry, mate. I ain't Barack, or Bill, or Steve, or Dave, or Angela. I did nothing big. Nothing lasting. No legacy. Not even a footnote. I'm the guy who laughed. Who realized it was all a cosmic joke. And spent a few years trying to help a co-worker not to cry. Gave a bike to an unknown little girl. Wrote a song that made people laugh. Got to the bottom of a twenty-seven mystery. And sold 270 books to the only folks who cared. And yet. I feel good. And don't give a toss what you think. What's next?

Only to hear him say. Huh. Barack and the rest are back in kindergarten. Big Fella wants to see you. Or some such. Yup. Time for one of the purple ones ...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The US/UK Middle Class Is Dead


The [Manchester/London] Guardian writes about the disappearance of the US and UK middle class. I see it more simply than they do.

Beginning with the Industrial Revolution, the rich in the US and the UK needed a middle class to provide them with middle management to run their industries.

The payoff was that middle management, unable to earn enough to buy the goodies necessary to ape their rich masters, were granted private and public subsidy by the rich, in order to allow the middle class to afford some facsimile of rich life.

Both the US and the UK are now in post-industrial mode. Emerging and developing countries provide the industry the world needs. What industry remains in the US and the UK no longer needs so many middle managers. Technology has seen to that.

In the meantime, the rich in the US and the UK have switched their money-making ambitions from US and UK industry to speculation and other countries. Further reason to abandon the middle class, who no longer provide either a market or a labor source for US and UK rich folk.

No need for US or UK middle managers = no need for middle class = no need for all the subsidies, both private and public, which the rich made available to the middle class, to keep them happy.

The rich now use a whole new under-rich class to provide them with the services they need: stock market advice, computer services, pilots, whatever. Middle management have been demoted to working class. Or even worse, just left to rot.

The former middle class don't like it. They don't like being lumped with the workers. They don't like being left behind. They don't like their jobs being outsourced. Their unions castrated. Their private perks and public benefits dissipated.

They take it out on anyone different, who is an easy target for blame: immigrants, refugees, gays, minorities. They blame anyone and everyone else. And they are prime fodder for Trump, Farage and Le Pen.

I wrote about all of this at greater length just before the Second Inauguration of President Obama, back in 2013.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Citizen Design of Policing (US) - Update


On an aside. And because I know you want to know. The medical problems persist. More tests today. Sigh. But the brain is still working. And I wanted to get this up.

I had earlier heard from Carrboro, NC Alderman Damon Seils that the Third Carrboro Community Forum on Policing had been postponed until December. I have now heard that it is being further postponed, while the Carrboro Police hold a number of smaller neighborhood forums, in an attempt to make contact directly with neighborhoods with which they feel it is most necessary to be making progress.

The Carrboro Police Chief reported to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen on this and other matters at their meeting on November 24. You can read and view here (agenda item near the bottom of the list; 'Update on Policing in Carrboro').

In the meantime, I attended the pilot one-day Citizen's Police Academy on Saturday, October 24, which was extraordinarily useful. I would recommend it to all who are truly interested in improving the relationship between police and citizens.

All in all, where I am at the moment, with respect to my own learning curve, the issues being addressed, what is still happening in the country, where I am is that I am of the opinion that this matter is way more complex than originally I thought. Plus, I have no certainty what exactly are my own plans this next year.

So. I thought I would get my thoughts down in writing and share them. I have done this by producing a little document, which you can read for free on the Lulu publishing platform.

Let me know if you have difficulty reading that document for free, which you do by reading the Preview. I was having a little difficulty myself. But I did eventually work out how to do it!

Essentially, I am now taking the view that improving the relationship between police and citizens (not so much in Carrboro, where we can experiment, but certainly nationally, where matters are toxic) boils down to changing police training.

The problem with police/citizen interaction is not so much the occasional bad apple, as it is the whole approach taught in police training. One of command presence, demanding commands be followed, and then escalating police response when commands are not complied with - not when threat is necessarily present, but when commands are not complied with.

If we are to de-escalate interaction, and reduce the possibility of misunderstanding and over-reaction, I think we need completely to redesign training and to make provision for the necessary extra personnel, equipment and resources required in support.

What I express in more detail in my document is whether or not I feel that we can actually address that process all on our own in Carrboro.

If I am still available, it is certainly my intention to address the issues I raise in my document when the Third General Community Forum is held. If not, it may well be for others who feel the same way to take this forward. Good luck to us all!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

US Thanksgiving Values, Them and Us


I wrote an off-the-cuff commentary yesterday on Facebook, attached to an article asking why so many Americans vote Republican, apparently against their own economic interests. Got me thinking even more, just a few days away from Thanksgiving.

I'm not sure how it happened. But, in a nutshell, at the moment, US voters are faced with this choice. And it ain't always as simple as my pocket, my race, my gender.

Democrats have become a party of fringe issues and what is perceived as failure. Admit you are an outcast, somehow different to the mainstream, an economic failure, demand you need help, join us, and we'll help you, make you a client voter for life.

Well blimey. We're the land of the American Dream. Martin Luther King's Dream. Two days away from the celebration that reminds us (native Americans aside, just for one moment) that we carved ourselves a new existence in this land of plenty, with nothing but our bare hands. Who wants to get on by having to admit that we need a handout to do it?

So, what do the Republicans offer? Crap designed as candy. Hey, you don't have to admit to failure to be one of us. You're the chosen. You're special. You want better? We'll lift you up.

Well, so far, so ... hmm ... ok. But then comes the wicked punch. Bit by bit, the element of hard work, responsibility, sharing, team work, and so on, bit by bit that is subsumed by envy and misplaced acquisitiveness.

It's not that you want better. You are better. It's not that you want to be lifted up. We'll get you there by lifting over. Lifting around. Bypassing those who do not deserve. For we, you are chosen above all else.

Think about it. Middle America is essentially offered a choice between parties both of which offer envy as a platform and greed as the solution.

Don't like your lot? Well, you shouldn't. That's because the rich have it all. Vote for us, and we'll bleed 'em (Democrats).

Don't like your lot? Well, you shouldn't. That's because the slacker across the road, the gays, the immigrants and foreigners have it all. Vote for us, and we'll get it back for ya (Republicans).

So. Why do folks then end up ever so slightly going for the party that isn't thinking of bleeding the rich? Because, deep down, too many of us secretly yearn to be rich too. That's why we watch reality shows. Why we affect the costumes of the rich. Why we watch The Apprentice. And why too many of us think that The Trump should be President.

And so. This Thanksgiving. God help us all ...


Monday, November 16, 2015

Profiling

 
I'm going to make these following comments very carefully. Tread, very carefully. I abhor violence. Of all kind. I detest bias. Of any kind. But. I also dislike bullying. Which is using the most tentative term I can find.

When I was the son of an American family, born and raised in the UK, in the late Fifties and early Sixties, there was strong feeling against Americans in Europe.

This was a leftover from the Second World War. And also the product of the fact that, after that War, the country which most helped Europe to find its feet economically was also the US.

Gratitude finds expression in many strange ways. And I grew used to seeing graffiti inviting Yanks To Go Home.

When I first moved to the US in 1989, I began in Rhode Island. Where they loved me. Until they discovered I was looking for work. I then experienced my own form of bias.

I'm not pretending for one moment that my life was in danger because of profiling. But I do know about profiling.

Which is where I come to the tread softly part. When I engage with those of my friends whom I would describe as anarchist, and they make generalized comments about police violence, there is no hesitation on their part in profiling anyone wearing a blue uniform and holding a gun.

I don't have a problem with that. There are too many folks in blue uniforms with guns killing unarmed civilians in the US at the moment. But, rather than joining the chorus of those aimlessly profiling every blue uniform, I say, ok, let's find a way to stop blue uniforms killing unarmed civilians.

In much the same fashion, as much as I feel for those folks who feel targeted because of the few of their religion, race, nationality, occupation, whatever, who misbehave (another gentle term), I am not going to spend my time joining the chorus of those who choose to spend their time decrying anger (of course anger is wrong), rather than finding time to come up with solutions as to how to stop the few misbehaving.

There is misbehavior which some see as being the common experience of a few belonging to the same religion, race, gender, occupation, whatever. We do not sensibly find solutions to that misbehavior by blinding ourselves to the commonality of the experience.

If you choose to call that profiling. So be it. But, at the same time as you may castigate me for that, please be prepared to offer solution and comfort to those who are scared. For one without the other may feel appropriate. But it achieves nothing.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hugh John Simmonds, CBE: April 20, 1948 - November 15, 1988


More so than at any time since I first learned cursive writing (1962), the world we live in is shaped by violent conflict. And whatever impulses may be driving the desire for armed confrontation, its expression is fueled by arms sales.

Which brings me to the annual anniversary of the still unresolved and mysterious death of the man who is the subject of my recently-published book, Maggies’s Hammer, and the dichotomy at the heart of that book and its promotion.

I will this coming Friday conclude two and a half months of initial international radio interviews talking to all and sundry about my book, its subject matter and why it helps ordinary folk and experts alike better to understand just what the heck is going on in the world today.

But, here’s the thing. My primary angle, beyond attempting to find out why my good friend, mentor and Margaret Thatcher’s favorite speechwriter ended up dead in a peaceful woodland glade, thirty miles west of the British Parliament, is to expose the rampant and high-level corruption associated with the arms industry in the UK, and the UK’s special covert military arrangements with the US. And explain how they feed so much of today’s geopolitical agenda. Everything from the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Africa, to last Friday’s appalling tragedy in Paris.

And yet, while I am engaged on what some might see as this noble mission, the man at the heart of my investigations was, in fact, actively seeking to make money from that which I now seek to expose. The first of so many dichotomies that have become acutely visible to me in the course of some 30-40 radio interviews.

I want truth. And yet so many of those to whom I speak engage in lies. That’s what spies do. My aim is simple – find out what happened, so that Hugh’s family may know. Yet too many of my informants play with me, as if I am a part of their game. And I have to try to sort out the chaff from reality. My interviewers genuinely feel for my ambition. Yet, they constantly seek to move my commentary into areas that, frankly, have nothing to do with my book. As a consequence of which, I feel myself ever so gently, on occasion, losing sight of the essential narrative. While worrying that what I see as my primary need (the opening of the relevant government files in the UK) becomes less likely the more I speak on radio programs that might affect my credibility.

Dichotomies abundant.

But, there is one constant which never changes. As awkward and as outrĂ© as it might seem in an age of yes she did, no he didn’t, instant ADD social media gratification. In 1989, I held the hands of an eleven year old girl. Whose face was vacant, her eyes haunted. And promised that I would find out why her father had died, without explanation for her. I will fulfill that promise.

And so, today, a few days after the western world engaged in its annual ritual of remembering those who died on our behalf. In military conflicts around the world. Conflicts they and we had no hand in designing. As we attempt to absorb the horror of one of those conflicts acting out in what we had assumed were our safe neighborhoods. As, hopefully, we might once again want to reconsider the importance to our economic way of life of arms sales. And the toxic influence they have on our body politic through associated arms kickbacks. I remember that twenty-seven years ago, on this day, my best friend died in the service of his Prime Minister. A fact which, as we remember so much else, very few will feel constrained to remember. Something I genuinely believe, now that my book has so very kindly been published by Kris Millegan, a man who has yet even to meet me, something I believe may finally change in this coming year.

RIP Hugh. Love to Janet, Karen, Juliet, Tanya and Paul.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris: The Facts of Life, Death and Terror


 
The Mayor of New York says that we are all moved by the events in Paris. Of course we are. There is absolutely no feeling more intense, lonely and unsettling than the mind-numbing terror of knowing that you are unsafe as you go about your normal life.

And that is the point. A horrible and uncomfortable point, made all the more unpalatable because it is raised at a moment when all we feel we should be doing is sharing the pain of those who have lost loved ones, or who wait anxiously to know whether the ones they cherish are the ones who survived. Intact.

There is no such thing as collateral damage. There never was. There never will be. Those who seek political ends through violence know that the quickest route to success lies through scaring or appalling ordinary citizens. All people of terror. Whether the organizations of terror are state-sponsored or unaffiliated.

"The atom bomb was no 'great decision.' It was merely another powerful weapon in the arsenal of righteousness." - Harry S Truman.

"Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always." - Statement from the IRA after Brighton Bombing, 1984.

The US dropped the only two atom bombs ever used against civilians because the US believed the bombs would end the war against Japan. The Germans destroyed Coventry. The British leveled Dresden. The IRA almost wiped out the then British Government on British soil in 1984. When all else fails, those who prize violence as the means to the end know that the surest way to achieve goals is to frighten ordinary people.

Paris was not a miscalculation. It was the latest example of the modus operandum of the sickening art of war.

I feel for all Parisians today. But I also find time to feel for the hundreds of thousands of non-combatant civilians killed in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Africa and the Ukraine. To mention but a few.

But while I feel, I will also say that the answer is not eye-for-eye retribution, nor overwhelming intrusion into the lives of ordinary folks, adding insult to injury.

The answer is for all citizens to demand of those who wield authority, be it recognized government, or the militia manning the roadblock at the end of the street. To demand of them that, if they truly believe they seek justice on our behalf, then they do so without resorting to violence.

For as long as there is violence, as long as we condone it. And we condone it when we do nothing to stop it, when we pretend we know nothing about it, when we delude ourselves into thinking that an arms industry is about jobs, not about peddling death. As long as you and I condone violence in our name, then there will be civilian casualties. Because they are the most effective. Whether we care to face up to that fact, or not.

‪#‎StandWithParis‬ ‪#‎PrayforParis‬

Monday, October 12, 2015

Columbus Day


Columbus Day. An excellent moment to remind ourselves that nation-building, invasion, occupation, racial and social cleansing, the obliteration of homelands at the end of a gun, these are not concepts that were invented in the 21st Century.

Neither was the reaction of: well, I’m ok, so who cares? Nor its alter ego: I’m not ok, please find me someone to blame.

What is new is the ADD, remote control, virtual reality notion that if we switch onto Facebook, post a rant (like this one) and photoshop a meme, we have made a contribution to justice. No we haven’t. Grow up.

You only make change when, well, you make change. Which generally involves a lot of hard work. Away from the cameras. And away from people ready to hit the Like button.

We are none of us self-sufficient islands. Whether or not we choose to notice or believe it, we are dependent on other people. And more likely than not, somewhere down the chain, there is injustice supporting our chosen way of life. If we have a beating heart, we should find that injustice and fight it.

Injustice in our company, fight it. Injustice next door, fight it. On our street, fight it. In our community, fight it. In our country, our state, our nation, the world, fight it. Not on Facebook. But where it will actually make a difference. Never stop fighting. While the injustice exists. Never get complacent. Never mistake ranting for effective campaigning. And never, ever just walk away.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

*UPDATE* 3rd Carrboro Community Forum on Policing


Just heard from Carrboro, NC Alderman Damon Seils, via Carrboro Police Chief Horton, that the third Carrboro Community Forum on Policing will, in fact, on this occasion, be held in the OWASA community room. Beginning at 7.00pm, on Wednesday, October 28th. See you there!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

How To Piss Off An Israeli Intelligence Officer ...


I'm not always the brightest bulb on the Christmas Tree. But I get there in the end. Even if it takes me 27 years.

Those of you who have read my book (Maggie's Hammer), will know that there is an intimate connection between Ari Ben-Menashe, his book (Profits of War - just reprinted by my publisher, courtesy of my intro) and my book. Indeed, it is why I made contact with Ari in the first place.

It was back in 1992. I was trying to make some sense of what it was my friend, Hugh Simmonds CBE, had been involved in. What arms dealing, with which country, on behalf of whom?

I found myself in Atlanta, Georgia in 1992. Working with my brother. But, as co-incidence would have it (or was it co-incidence (?) - another book, for another time). There was a major court case coming to a head in Atlanta. Concerning the illegal provision of loans by a bank called BNL to US and UK companies attempting to sell arms to Iraq in contravention of a UN arms embargo.

So, my attention was on Iraq. Ari first published his book that year. I bought it, as I had bought hundreds of others, hoping to find some set of circumstances that might fit Hugh's activities and death.

In his book, Ari described how, among many other adventures, while Counter-Terrorism Adviser to Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, he had been tasked by Shamir, in about 1986, with stopping the illegal trade in arms being engaged in by the West (primarily Great Britain) with Iraq.

As part of this task, Ari detailed an Israeli operation to send assassins into Europe in November of 1988, to take out the primary protagonists in this illegal trade of arms with Iraq.

I wrote to Ari, out of the blue, asking him if he knew Hugh. Amazingly enough, he called me 24 hours later to say that he had Hugh's name on a list of people of interest. According to that list, Hugh had been arranging a deal to sell GEC (UK) engines to Iraq, in order to extend the range of their SCUD-B missiles. An extension which would have put Israel in range. And Hugh had died as a result of being on that list.

I met with Ari twice, and spoke with him on and off between 1993 and 1996. I liked him. I like rogues. He was very generous with his time and his information. He was good company. And I'm happy that my publisher has agreed to reprint his book.

All of this within certain boundaries. My British Intelligence source once told me, 'once a boy scout, always a boy scout.' Ari is a controversial figure. But, he is alive. Which means he is a former nothing. And is likely being used by the Israelis to undertake stuff they can't be openly associated with.

I have never been clear why Ari spoke, and still speaks, with me. He could simply have ignored me. Did he want to know what I knew? Was I useful to him? Was I being fed false information, to deflect? If so, whom and from what?

All I know is that he did speak with me. And, bless him, he lied on occasions. And I have had, and still have, to sort out the truth from the chaff.

For the period 1993-1995, Ari's line was, Hugh is a name on a list. 'We' are interested in him because we now believe that he was a primary component in the pipeline of arms to Iraq, and the flow of illegal arms kickbacks to senior politicians within Great Britain, both Labour and Conservative, and including the Thatcher family.

It follows as night follow days that, if indeed Ari is correct, and Hugh was that important component, then the Israelis would have liked to have known about Hugh in the Eighties, because Shamir had tasked Ari with stopping the pipeline of arms to Iraq.

I met Ari for the second time in Montreal, in 1995. In a small hotel room. Eight storeys up. I know. I counted. It was at this meeting that I told Ari that he was lying. Cf. Counting storeys.

Ari went silent, and very frosty. Frosty looks from Israeli Intelligence officers are right up there at the top of the list of Tums moments. 'Why would you say that?' Because you keep pretending Hugh is a name on a list. You can't know what you keep telling me you know unless you knew Hugh.

Pause.

Got from 1-6 counting storeys before Ari spoke again. 'Yes,' he said with a smile, 'but he wasn't using that name.'

Bathroom break.

The last time I spoke with Ari was in 1996, after Hugh's British Intelligence partner, Reggie von Zugbach de Sugg (I am honestly making up none of this), told me that Hugh had been trained to kill.

I had a fairly blunt conversation with Ari. In which he denied that the Israelis had taken out Hugh ('we wouldn't take out someone like that'), and merely posited that Hugh had got into such a tangle with so many different agencies that he was going to have 'to go' sooner or later. In some fashion.

For years, that is where I left it. Until these past two weeks. I told you. My brain is not always the fastest.

At the beginning of this year, Ari very kindly agreed to put an up-to-date quote on the back of my book. Confirming that Hugh had been part of the team that had laundered proceeds back from illegal arms deals with Iraq in the Eighties.

At the end of August, I began my series of interviews with radio programs around the US. It was during one of those that a penny finally dropped.

Ari was tasked with stopping the Iraq arms pipeline. He knew Hugh. He knew what Hugh was doing. He told me. In glorious detail. SCUD-B missiles. Israel. Hugh wasn't a name on a list. He was a living human being. Right in front of Ari.

If Ari didn't take steps to stop what Hugh was doing, it begs the question, why didn't he?

The team of Israeli assassins was sent to Europe in November of 1988. Hugh died on November 15, 1988.

My publisher wants Ari and I to appear on a radio show together. I'm game.

I'm not angry. 27 years is too long to stay angry. But not too long to remain determined. The soul-destroying eyes of an 11 year old girl, desperately trying to understand why her father has left her alone, will do that to a person's determination.

And I am now determined to ask Ari if the Israelis were responsible for halting Hugh's activities, and if that 'halting' included his death. Live. On air. For the world to hear.

If he refuses the interview, I will write him an open letter.

If he refuses to answer, then I will write formally to the Israeli and British Prime Ministers.

I have always known that there was something deep and mysterious at the heart of Hugh's death, which did not make sense. Even more dark and mysterious than illegal arms deals, slush funds, kickbacks to senior politicians, and strange covert arrangements between the US and the UK.

What if the Israeli's took out someone they did not realize was close to Margaret Thatcher? Did not realize was a senior British Intelligence officer? Did not realize was an MI6 contract assassin? And did not realize would make front page news?

Actually, more to the point, even if it sounds banal, what if the Israelis took out a rising British politician, without knowing it?

And what if both countries decided it was simply too embarrassing to acknowledge?

Now, would that meet the criterion of uber-dark and mysterious? Would that be something so extraordinarily career-destroying (i.e. its cover-up) that two British Prime Ministers would go to unbelievable lengths (unbelievable, but true, and in Maggie's Hammer) to avoid even discussing the name, Hugh Simmonds?

Now, I only mention all of this because I have done so in my past two radio interviews. And it occurs to me that maybe I should let a few folks know.

And yes. I will be checking under my car the next few days ...

[Oh. By the by (or, BTB), I attach a link to an article stating that Russia is not bombing ISIS, only because I want a note of the article somewhere!]

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How To Land An Intelligence Officer ...

 
Once upon a time. There was a guy who turned up dead in the woods. Didn't add up. Blah, blah. Maggie's Hammer. Israeli Intelligence source. But, with a twist.

Ari Ben-Menashe (said Israeli Intelligence source - pic above) pursued the line for the longest time that my mate was a name on a list. Until. I pointed out that he (Ari) couldn't possibly know what he knew unless he'd known my mate, done business with him. And. Maybe more. If you know what I mean. Cf. turning up dead in the woods.

Well, fast forward. And I still do not have an answer to the inherent contradiction. So. I appear on radio interviews. And highlight the contradiction. As in, Ari knows more than he is saying.

And.

Ari calls me last night.

Oops.

Sigh. You gotta do what you gotta do to get to the truth. And if that includes baiting an intelligence officer, well, I've done it before. Cf. "Europe is not a safe place for you to be."

Sent out a round-robin this morning. To everyone. Ari. Our joint publisher and publicist. Oh yes. As part of this merry-go-round, I introduced Ari to my publisher, who is now reprinting his book. What is that book? Hey! Traitors!!

I know, I know, you couldn't make this stuff up.

Anyhoo's. Round-robined everyone. And said. I love you all to death. But I'm still looking for the truth. This isn't Oprah air kiss time. I will continue to underline dichotomies. In the hopes of getting folks to tell the truth. Whoever they may be. Wherever. And if that is on a radio interview, where Ari and I are appearing jointly. Then, so be it. I will ask him to cough up the whole story. On air. Live.

Um. That's the update. And now, I go make coffees at my co-op. Talk about contrast ...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Timely and Topical Relevance of 'Maggie's Hammer'


The radio interviews in which I have been engaged this past month or so, promoting my book Maggie's Hammer, have produced almost an epilogue's worth of information detailing the continuing and increasing relevance of the allegations in that book. In no particular order:

Caroline Flint, MP for Brighton Pavilion, addresses the UK Parliament on the obvious connection between Britain's huge sale of hi-tech weaponry to the Middle East (and the fact that many of such sales are covertly on behalf of the US government - my addition, not Caroline's), and the fact that the resulting devastation in Syria and Iraq is the cause of the thousands of refugees landing on the doorsteps of Europe and the US.

This while London hosts the largest arms fair in the world (DSEI). Some 30,000 attendees. Not including representatives for oversight organizations, such as Amnesty International. which have, for the very first time, been excluded. Possibly due to allegations that the technology on offer includes equipment for undertaking torture more effectively.

I have repeated ad nauseam that I really do not like labels like 'military-industrial complex,' 'British elite,' 'New World Order,' especially 'conspiracy theory.'

But. When one in every five people employed in the UK works directly or indirectly in association with its arms industry, such that the socialist trade union movement supports the arms industry, because it provides so many jobs for its members, when the UK government still pimps out its military and intelligence services to undertake clandestine arms sales and special military operations on behalf of the US government, so that the latter may avoid Congressional oversight (and more of that in a moment), then, while avoiding the suggestion that the UK and the US wish to foment war around the globe, is it safe to say that this US-UK arrangement is hardly one that promotes peace?

Is it also fair to posit that, if British politicians are, as my book claims, still receiving millions of pounds in arms kickbacks, there is little political incentive to halt the toxic influence of the UK arms trade or the curious military and intelligence relationship between the US and the UK? Especially when the body responsible for UK Parliamentary oversight of intelligence activity is about to be chaired by someone intricately associated with distributing the kickback largesse?

I mentioned continuing operations by the UK in support of covert US foreign policy. First, a quick example of how the events of the Eighties carried forward and still affect us today. Back in the Eighties, one of the most important geopolitical issues was the huge war between Iran and Iraq, 1980-1988. Both countries were embargoed by the UN from being supplied with military technology with an offensive capability. Which was merely a green light for the West to proceed with supplying them with the same.

Ah ha. You go. Know about this. Iran-Contra? Wrong. Oliver North was a distraction. Deliberately set up to deflect attention from the real trade. North sold $1 billion of utterly useless missiles to Iran (useless because they all carried the imprint of the Israeli Defence Forces). The real pipeline in arms funneled some $80 billion in arms to Iran and some $60 billion in arms to Iraq. A huge amount of it through London.

This technology included nuclear, chemical and biological capability. Which contributed and still contributes to Iran's desire to have its own nuclear capability.

We'll get a little tendentious here. We have Gulf War I in 1991. Consequently, efforts are made to coerce Saddam Hussein into getting rid of his NCB capability. The same one that the West had sold to him. Those efforts fail, when the UN Inspectors are thrown out in 1998. This was the ostensible reason for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 (Gulf War II), led by a left-wing British Prime Minister and a right-wing US President (a coupling which surprised many, but which won't surprise you when you read my book, and understand that Blair was blackmailed by said US President and the British military-industrial complex; you know, that label I hate to mention - and I'l be coming back to that, too). Oops. Apparently no WMD. Apparently, Saddam voluntarily removed every last scrap of said WMD before 2003, and then dared the West to devastate his country and kill him in any event. Iraqi Army disbanded. Iraqi generals need to pay mortgages. Set up ISIS. Lo and behold, they 'discover' non-existent chemical weapons in Iraq. Are now a threat to the world. And the US and the UK have reason for a new war in the Middle East.

Pause, while I replenish my strength with a bowl of Conspiracy Theory Special K.

Just a few weeks ago, Seymour Hersh, a well known US investigative journalist (who features in my book) wrote an article suggesting that the British were arming al Nusra (the not-ISIS opposition group in Syria), on behalf of the US, because such arming might not have gained Congressional approval. A week later, it was reported that the UK had begun its own drone attack program, targeting non-US Westerners, again on behalf of the US, again because the US government would have been unlikley to gain Congressional approval.

In my book, I state that, as a consequence of the UK agreeing in the Eighties to become the outsourcing surrogate of choice for the US government's covert foreign policy, be it to engage in arms sales the US couldn't, or to undertake US-desired special operations that would not pass Congressional muster, London became a money-generating layby for all these US military and intelligence undertakings. As a result of that development, the City of London, ever eager to make money, jumped in on the act, and transformed itself into a global trading exchange for all manner of global covert, as well as the financial overt.

In his book Gomorrah, author Roberto Saviano supports this contention with his own research suggesting that London is now the money-laundering center of the world. Whether for drugs, terrorism, intelligence agencies, whatever. The combination of City expertise with global finance, lax regulation, few exchange controls and political openness makes the City of London the place to undertake any clandestine business transaction. Want a mercenary army, a coup d-etat, a ship for drugs, an assassination, an offshore haven? London is your destination.

Have a good look at the headlines. The banks getting fined for nefarious financial activity are British. HSBC. Barclays. What was going on in the Eighties was mere foretaste for what has now become entrenched. While protest groups focus on the overt demonstration of globalism, the covert element has become focused in London.

Which has us deep in the land of those labels I say I hate so much. So. Let's lighten the atmosphere by underlining the fact that it is no longer only the 'lunatic fringe' using such labels.

The new left-wing leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, apparently and happily believes in the New World Order, the 9/11 'conspiracy' and the con that was the Iraq invasion of 2003.

A well-respected journalist for the London Guardian newspaper, Seamus Milne, writes of unelected peers of the 'British elite,' and a military-industrial complex of senior military and intelligence officials seeking inappropriately to influence Britain's elected leaders.

By the by, while we're on the subject of lurid headlines, the widely reported spat between Lord Ashcroft and David Cameron had nothing to do with donations, government office or pigs. Ashcroft was angry that Cameron denied him access to any share of the $300 million a year in continuing kickbacks from British arms sales. And for more on that, you're just going to have to read the book. So there.

Now, let's end this update with an historical flavor. Just to add gravamen. Here's a question. If British and American political and spiritual leaders talk of Christians under threat in the Middle East, and an Oxford University professor of the history of the Crusades publishes a book talking of Pope Urban II planning the First Crusade in 1095 in order to liberate co-religionists in Jerusalem, does it mean that I'm no longer firmly placed on the 'lunatic fringe' when I write that some in the Middle East see continued Western military involvement in the Middle East as the Last Crusade?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

#PigGate, Misunderstanding About British Elite


I have now read two articles seeking to explain #PigGate in terms of the British Establishment punishing British Prime Minister, David Cameron, both of which essays totally misunderstand what truly concerns the so-called British elite, and the way it works.

First, let's get it quite clear, David Cameron is at the very heart of British elitism. Long established pedigree. Related to royalty. Banking. Eton. Oxford. Empire. And it is this very foundation which militates against the rationale presented by authors who obviously have never actually been anywhere near anything resembling a gathering of this establishment elite.

By the stages. The British establishment in particular is a moving feast. It survives because it adapts. It survives not because it demands loyalty by the imposition of embarrassing initiation rituals. It continues to run all that is important because those who belong and wish to belong voluntarily adhere to its exclusivity.

For sure, there are the schools which train (Britain's venerable and sometimes ancient network of boarding schools), colleges which refine (Oxford and Cambridge), clubs which distinguish (those Grecian palaces which line the finer streets near the most exclusive club of all, Parliament). But even that is but trapping.

As is title, land, postal address, dress code and social class relating to one's birth. The single driving imperative of the British elite is that there is a small group of self-appointed snobs who believe that they are the best, that they should rule. By whatever means is relevant to the day. Again, adapting to the circumstances of the moment.

If we are a nation governed by royalty, then as courtiers. And study history. Some of the most influential courtiers were not of noble birth. This is the genius of the British elite. It is nowhere near as static as outsiders perceive. It refreshes itself by absorbing the best of the best of each new generation.

And not always the best. Merely the most popular. Or the most prevalent. Charles II created an entire network of aristocracy based on the progeny of his coupling with comely wenches from the East End of London.

The British establishment of each generation surveys. Recognizes. Chooses. Flatters. Seduces. Absorbs. And bends new initiates to its will. Again, not through some complex hazing ritual. But by a subtle process of those on the inside accepting that the new entrant voluntarily understands the attitudes, the airs, the graces, the noblesse oblige of those on the inside.

And here's the rub. If you have not a clue what I'm talking about. The subtleties of language, bearing, demeanour necessary for membership, then you're not one of them. It's as simple as that. And if you're not one of them, you seek to rationalize your exclusion, your misunderstanding in terms of visible rituals involving the heads of dead pigs.

Let's talk examples. Mick Jagger. Now Sir Mick. Watches cricket with a former Prime Minister. Only bloke allowed to wear jeans in the lobby of hotel of choice for Britain's elite - Brown's. Why Mick? Because the Empire is gone. Last of it that was worth anything was 'given away' in the Sixties. At which point the elite began to rule the world, not through government, but through culture. Enter Sir Mick, Sir Paul and Sir Elton.

Forget their genesis. They know enough about the manners and mores of the British upper class to know the codes to which to adhere. And this is the part it is truly difficult for outsiders to grasp. This elite is not naturally venal. Look, for sure, its young do daft things. So do the young of all classes. For sure, they behave horribly to those who are not a part of them. As does any gang in South Central. Any gathering of mean girls in the lowliest neighborhood of any large city worldwide. It ain't about class; it's about exclusivity. Self-appointed, self-generating separateness.

But. It only succeeds if it observes, changes, and wields influence through nudge. Again, for sure, there are those who want power and are less than selfless in manipulation. But, the British establishment wouldn't survive and attract if it was driven solely by selfish ambition. The British elite believes in charity and public service every bit as much as any member of the Kennedy clan.

It is the nature of the courtship which defines the habits of the British establishment in each generation. So, back to Jagger, and now throw in Beckham (both of them). The latter could not be more egalitarian. Yet. They have become favorites of the Queen. Why? Because they are favorites of the people.

And how does the courtship unfold? The Beckhams are stroked. The accent of the ruling classes bends to the flat vowels of South London. The Beckhams are honored. The Queen sends her best wishes before the World Cup. The Beckhams learn courtesy, deference, polish and noblesse. Royalty delights in episodes of the EastEnders.

Authors of the articles, such as the two I have read, prefer dark initiation rituals, deep in the bowels of the Tower of London. The reality is nudge, and suggestion, hint and giggle.

Which doesn't make the existence of this elite any less obnoxious, undemocratic and potentially insidious. But it seeks to debunk the misunderstanding currently being generated.

Ok. So, what does this have to do with Ashcroft and Cameron? It isn't that Ashcroft was an outsider. Belize-born. Of British parents. Not the usual educative path. Made his money brutally. None of this would exclude him. Provided he played the game. And the game is one of studied indifference. Not unlike the game-playing the Cardinals go through when electing a Pope. It is generally accepted that the successful Papal candidate is the one who does the least (visibly) to seek the position.

All those who have tried to buy their way into the tight circles of the British elite have failed, precisely because they have tried to buy their way in. Think Rowland. Fayed. Maxwell. And now Ashcroft.

If they had persevered. Quietly. Doing good works. Flattering. But without a trace of self-consciousness. They would have been seduced. But they hammered with demands. Trying to leverage citizenship, title and Cabinet position.

This appalls the truly British elite. And appalling is the ultimate grounds for rejection. Cameron did not appall because of a pig's head. Youthful indiscretion, don't you now? Ashcroft appalled because he was rude. Demanding. Mean. Pretentious. Self-aggrandizing. He had no understanding that the essence of British elitism is a self-aware gentility, borne of the absolute certainty that the world revolves around you, so certain that it needs no expression nor overbearing demonstration. It matters not that you are on the front page of every GQ. If it is accompanied by a gentle self-effacement, then you are a gent. And you are one of us.

Indeed, you are close to receiving a passing grade in this introductory class to British elitism if you 'get' that David Beckham is 'one of us.' Victoria never will be. And she is only 'accepted,' because David has sufficient establishment largesse to spare. Coat-tails, don't you know?

Ashcroft is not and never will be a member of the British elite. He is rough. He is parvenu. He grates. He does not seamlessly adapt. He smarms with greasy unctuousness. He now knows this. After decades of trying too hard. He now knows that he will never be accepted.

Now, we can argue whether the final straw was not being given a Cabinet position by classic insider Dave. Or whether Ashcroft felt slighted because the new insider boys on the block were excluding the Thatcher outsiders from the goodies flowing from the huge arms kickbacks associated with Britain's massive arms industry.

Doesn't matter. Although it helps sales of my book to promote the latter. The essential point is that what underpins Ashcroft's huge investment in a book seeking to trash the current Prime Minister is not exclusion from position or profit, but anger at being rejected by a club he so desperately wanted to join.

And this is where so many of those pretending authoritatively to write about Ashcroft's reason for his book totally miss the point. Ashcroft is not punishing Dave on behalf of the establishment. He is punishing the establishment itself. The establishment love Dave. Don't care a toss what he did in his youth. Dave hasn't betrayed them. Ashcroft has.

I suspect that Ashcroft will leave the shores of Great Britain some time in the next 18 months. To return either to Belize or to Miami. Where money and power do still buy attention. I suspect his book serves no purpose other than as one last almighty great bird flip at the British establishment. In the almost certain knowledge that it will seal Ashcroft's exclusion from insidership.

Not because of any deadly revelation. And this is where Ashcroft betrays his continuing misunderstanding of the nature of the British elite. And, indeed, its very acceptance by so many ordinary Brits (the same ones who devour Downton Abbey). The elite and their admirers don't give a toss about pigs. Their disdain is reserved for the oaf who would seek advancement by using the knowledge to blackmail or to punish. So not done, old boy.

And therein lies a final irony. Perhaps, an unwitting irony. Deep in his heart, I think Ashcroft knows that this final act is outre. That it defines him. And why he will always be 'one of them.' I suspect that, in some deep, dark corner of his repressed inferiority complex, Ashcroft knows what it takes to be British establishment. And he has chosen to prefer an elitism based on the exercise of raw power, rather than one requiring gentle submission to a more genteel, while no less omnipresent and overarching, authority.

And that same misunderstanding continues to be betrayed by some who write about it. Which is where I began ...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Michael Ashcroft -v- David Cameron


So. The question on everyone's lips this morning in the UK. No, not what did the Prime Minister actually do with the dead pig? Rather, why has Lord Ashcroft gone to war on David Cameron?

The answer has nothing to do with Ashcroft's self-serving whine in the Daily Mail. The truth is this.

In the Eighties, people very close to Margaret Thatcher, at her instruction, became involved in nefarious activities, the details of which are covered in my own book, Maggie's Hammer.

Those activities included, but were not limited to, profiteering from illicit arms deals. One of the characters involved in those activities, but deeply hidden until now, was Michael Ashcroft, who was, at the time, a close friend of Denis Thatcher, the then Prime Minister's husband.

I have a source who has told me that, upon Mrs Thatcher's ouster as Leader of the Conservative Party, Sir James Goldsmith initiated a secret plan to take over the Conservative Party, using the ill-gotten gains of the aforementioned arms activities.

When Goldsmith died in 1997, I am told, Ashcroft took over as caretaker of the plan. Since then, Ashcroft has exerted considerable influence within the Conservative Party, based not least on his access to very considerable funds.

It is my information that Ashcroft turned against his Prime Minister when that same Prime Minister, after the General Election of 2010, made it one of his primary ambitions to thwart what he saw as the toxic influence of Ashcroft and 'his' money on the British body politic generally, and the Conservative Party specifically.

Hence, Ashcroft's new book.

Which is not to say that Conservative Party interest in arms sales has waned. But that will have to be the subject of a different Daily Mail story ...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

3rd Carrboro, NC Community Forum On Policing


The third Carrboro, NC Community Forum on Policing will be held on Wednesday, October 28. I am assuming it will be at the Carrboro Town Hall, beginning at 7.00pm, as were the previous two. So, get out your calendars, contact your managers to get the time to attend.

Just to remind you what the Forums are about, and what I am hoping to achieve with my advocacy of Citizen Design of Policing, here is a link.

I wrote to Carrboro Alderman Damon Seils as follows:

“Many thanks, Damon. Again, I’ll give a little nudge to you, to give a little nudge to others to get it set, say, at least a month before, so that NAACP and others can do the best/have enough time to organize the young and at risk (young families) to arrange schedules, babysitters, whatever, so as to be able to attend.

I’m thinking about attendance. I’m sure you have, but maybe again, talk with the likes of el Futuro, NAACP, to see what it is that keeps Hispanics, young, blacks from wanting to attend. Maybe not this time, maybe in the future, maybe we should be taking these meetings into neighborhoods? Rotate. The various apartment complexes have community rooms. El Futuro? Churches they attend. Places they feel safe. And this next one maybe even further down the road. Exploring the possibility that the police attend in civvies. Less them, more us? Just thoughts.”

Damon responded favorably. But it is now up to all of us to do what we can to encourage those who feel most uncomfortable with policing to feel comfortable about coming to this meeting, or to find ways in which they would be comfortable discussing their discomfort. Which is one of the most awkward-sounding sentences I’ve ever composed! But you know what I mean.

Spread the word. See you all on the 28th!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why Margaret Thatcher On US $10 Bill?


Why would #JebBush suggest in the CNN #GOPDebate this past Wednesday that former British Prime Minister, #Margaret Thatcher, be on the US $10 Bill?

Maybe it is because, better than most, he understands the crucial role the UK has played these past 30 years in giving effect to clandestine US foreign policy?

A role which began when Margaret Thatcher was in office. And when Jeb's dad was US Vice President.

A role which has continued since then, most notably under Jeb's brother, when the UK was the senior partner with the US in the War on Terror and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

My book, Maggies's Hammer, sets out the details of this role, and how I discovered that my best friend, senior MI6 officer and MT's favorite speechwriter, Hugh Simmonds CBE, was a primary member of the secret team set up by Thatcher, whose task it was to provide essential and often deadly security support to the joint US-UK covert activities of the Eighties. Activities which my book alleges have been occurring ever since.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Arms Bribes, Hitmen, Refugees, 9/11


Fourteen years. So much has happened. So much upon which to reflect.

Did we respond correctly? Did we over-react? In the UK, we have yet another Inquiry (the Chilcot Inquiry), dragging on interminably, likely to spread a whole new swathe of blame on politicians we grew to distrust a long time ago. Does anyone care? Is the Labour Party about to elect a complete outsider as its new Leader because it cares that its politics got way out of touch? Or is the Party about to get even further out of touch? Who exactly is the 'ordinary person' any more? Do they even bother to speak up or vote? At the national, state, town or co-op level?

The body politic in Washington, a body we folks are pretty sure is out of touch with everyone, except possibly the aliens I have been told in and around innumerable book interviews in the past two weeks are the ones actually controlling our planet. That body politic is today, while remembering 9/11, overjoyed with itself for having drawn a new red line with a different country in the Middle East, in its efforts to impose will in a region of the world it has no business imposing its will. A red line which all are privately agreed is little more than a green light for more war further down the road.

War which is privately welcomed in some circles. For war is the very best showcase for the devastating weaponry so many of the world's so-called advanced economies like to sell wherever they can (cf. the DSEI London Arms Fair, taking place next week - the largest arms fair in the world, 30,000 arms dealers). And often to both sides.

As my book, Maggie's Hammer, makes clear, how can one expect politicians to oppose war, when their industry is dependent on it for exports, and the politicians themselves may derive benefit from arms bribes?

Furthermore, how can one specifically expect government in the UK to oppose meddling in hot spots around the world (cf. the UK's newly unveiled drone attack program), when that meddling is bought and paid for by the US government, to allow the latter to avoid Congressional oversight (you actually think Mr and Mrs White Van - the UK equivalent of NASCAR man - want their government to be pursuing its own drone attack program?).

Heaven forbid I ever talk about the military-industrial complex. I am a sagely idealistic cynic. I believe what I see, what I hear, what I can prove through sensible questioning of a subject first-hand (the essence of my investigative style in the book). I don't believe in conspiracy theories. If I saw it, it was real. Not a theory. If it makes sense, and reality evidences it, then it is sensible rationale. Not theory.

But, with arms bribes, and the unholy agreement between the UK and the US, for the former to do the latter's dirty work around the world (most recently evidenced in Syria, with the arming of the al-Nusra Front and the aforementioned drone attacks), let's just say there is pressure for armed conflict to happen.

Also, when one creates that pressure, and war follows, and that war is obliterating due to the devastating nature of the new weaponry now on offer, you not only create the hordes of refugees now gathering at the doors to Europe, you also convince a few angry people that maybe those exporting war need a taste of what it is like to have war imposed upon them. That is what happened on 9/11. And it is clear to me that, fourteen years later, we have learned absolutely nothing.

And so. Today. I remember. I grieve for those lost. On that day and in the response since. I hurt for those still wounded or traumatized. I honor the first responders everywhere, who put the lives of others ahead of their own. I salute the men and women who choose a job I would not perform, and try to keep us safe at night. And I abhor the soul-less politicians, who continue to make policy that makes war, and who then send the sons and daughters of those less fortunate to fight those wars, often for no reason other than their own greed.

Through it all, I remain the idealistic cynic. I continue to write. To advocate. To lighten with my music. Believing that it will all have been worth it, if I can but change the mind of one person. If I am permitted to make the life of one other person a little easier.


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Maggie's Hammer: Hiding The Arms Bribes?


Just when I think I'm over-reaching. Reality smacks me out of my conspiracy theorist stupor.

Reports today are that former Tory UK Minister of Defence, Liam Fox, will not be getting the top job on the UK Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (the body which monitors Britain's intelligence activity). In fact, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, ain't even going to appoint him to the Committee, let alone lobby for him to be its Chair. The money is on Alan Duncan to get the job.

Who bloody cares?

Where to start? When Cameron made his government appointments, after his surprise election victory in May, I wrote that it was clear that, with his promotion of certain specific individuals to a number of positions crucial to the British arms sales effort, Cameron was all set to crank up the arms kickback pipeline, now that he was free of scrutiny from his former LibDem coalition government partners.

Thing of it is, even with the LibDems gone, you still gotta do something about that pesky Parliamentary oversight. So, get some 'friends' on the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Interestingly enough, even though it is obvious that Fox was snubbed because he's not a Cameron besty, all three of the Tory names being bandied about as possible new members of the Intelligence and Security Committee have links to the dirty side of arms sales, or Beaconsfield (the home town of both me and Hugh Simmonds, CBE, the subject of my book on UK arms bribes - maggieshammer.com), or both.

Dominic Grieve is the immediate past Attorney General, in which capacity it is difficult to believe that he did not know that government arms sales are accompanied by illegal industry and political bribes. Grieve is also the Member of Parliament for Beaconsfield, which, along with being the political playground for Hugh and me, was also home to the Conservative Constituency Association of which one of the Vice Presidents (along with Hugh) was Peter Smith, at the time (1980's) a senior partner with Coopers & Lybrand, with whom he was the managing accountant responsible for the annual audit of the Conservative Party's accounts, during the period when Hugh was allegedly helping to set up up the pipeline to channel arms sales kickbacks to senior politicians within the Conservative Party. Handy, eh? Long sentence, eh?

Liam had his own connections to Beaconsfield. As all good Tory Scots with serious political ambitions, Liam fought his first parliamentary campaign in a safe Scottish Labour seat. Having thus paid his dues to a hopeless cause, he emigrated south, landing up in Beaconsfield, where he set up practice as a GP, while in his twenties - also in the 80's. And promptly became family physician to the Simmonds family. Indeed, the record shows that the GP who signed Hugh's death certificate was none other than the aforementioned later-to-be UK Minister of Defence. In which capacity, he would have overseen dicky arms deals with dicky arms kickbacks. Handy, eh?

And then we come to Alan Duncan. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Alan was Jonathan Aitken's successor as secret bagman to senior Saudi princes, managing the UK end of their receiving dollops of kickbacks from the billions of pounds in arms deals that Saudi Arabia did with the UK after the 80's and up to the present day.

With this background in mind, in 2010, and notwithstanding the presence of the LibDems in coalition government, Cameron made Duncan Minister of State in the Department for International Development, where he was nominally responsible for financially vetting foreign countries for their suitability to receive British aid largesse. What was not generally known was that the vetting process was also the template used to determine said countries' suitability to receive help under the UK Export Credit Guarantee Program, vis-a-vis said countries purchasing UK arms. As in, you get aid if you buy weapons. Good place for Alan to be. He knew about the seedy side of arms sales financials already. Knew how to keep his mouth shut. And was now ideally placed to negotiate the all-important kickback regime. Libel? Who said that?

Fast forward to nominations to the Intelligence and Security Committee. Now, since we're about to notch up the old arms kickback process a gear or two, who can we trust not to be too diligent in oversight? Oh. I know. What about that nice lawyer from Beaconsfield, who has way too many skeletons in his backyard to be yapping too much. And let's have as Chair that excellent fella we all know down the club as Mr. Kickback himself.

And so. The Merry Go Round. Keeps going around ...

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Refugees Welcome, Not Arms Dealers


British Prime Minister David Cameron has now said the UK will welcome 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 (#refugeeswelcome #refugeecrisis #SyrianRefugees #SyrianCrisis).

Yet, in early September (next week), the British government will be welcoming 30,000 arms dealers to London (#DSEIArmsFair).

I am currently engaged in a Twitter campaign in the UK, in support of my book (maggieshammer.com), which claims that my close friend, #HughSimmondsCBE, helped to set up the money-laundering pipeline which allows British politicians to receive massive amounts of arms kickbacks - from an account with the Bank of England totaling some $300 million a year.

I see the connection between arms sales (the UK ranks as the world's #5 arms exporter) and the current refugee crisis. The UK did not invent war. But it does invent and sell the devastating weaponry which lays waste to those countries in Africa and the Middle East which buy the weapons, and from which most of the refugees at the moment emanate.

One can hardly expect our politicians to do much to stop arms sales, when economies are so dependent on arms sales and politicians so dependent on their kickbacks.

So. Pitch-time. If you haven't done so already. Buy my book. Find out what is going on in your country. And start pestering your politicians to stop the kickbacks. And maybe find a better outlet for our industrial endeavors.

#CAAT #LondonCAAT #StopTheArmsFair #StopDSEI #OccupyLondon #OccupyDSEI #CAATuk


Sunday, September 06, 2015

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Maggie's Hammer: Arms Sales, Arms Bribes, Wars, Refugee Crisis



The radio interviews continue. This week, I also begin my pre-planned Twitter campaign in the UK to raise awareness of the book's contents in the run-up to the various national political conferences which are held each year in early October.

The headlines in the UK are currently overwhelmed by the refugee crisis, as thousands flee the wars in Africa and the Middle East, to find some semblance of hope in Europe.

I am still hopelessly quill pen. 140 characters almost defeats me. But, since my book is essentially about arms bribes going to senior politicians in the UK. As I sit here in the comfort of my air-conditioned apartment in the US. Horrified by the pictures of death and distress the other side of the world. I find 140 characters more than enough space to send my message:

"Arms bribes to British politicians. maggieshammer.com. Arms sales, arms bribes, wars, refugee crisis. #RefugeesWelcome #RefugeesNotMigrants #StopGreed"

[Well. Maybe more than 140. I tailor. My thanks to my sister Maggi for really driving this point home. She will forever be a better humanitarian than me.]