Friday, 27 February 2015

Green homes for £60,000? No £135,000 is the going price Natalie.

BRAIN FADE was Natalie Bennett's own term for her extraordinary and embarrassing dithering when interviewed by the BBC this week. She could not produce the most basic facts or figures to support her Green Party's far-left manifesto.

Jamie Streets and his family, evicted

The Greens advocate de-criminalising membership of ISIS and other militant terrorist organisations who cut peoples' heads off, because any other policy would be "discrimination" which in their politically-correct eyes is always the ultimate wickedness.
I believe in discrimination. Making valid distinctions between better and worse, right and wrong, moral and immoral, safe and unsafe, feasible and unfeasible, up and down, left and right, alive and dead, sense and nonsense, is what we need to go through life. Thank God for discrimination!
Greens also believe in abolishing all national boundaries and allowing unlimited immigration. If the entire half billion population of  the EU, or the entire seven billion population of the world, arrived here tomorrow, this would be no problem according to the Greens. They think they can house them all by building half a million new homes somewhere in England at a cost of £60,000 each. (What happened to the agenda about preserving our countryside and environment? Er, well that got swallowed up by political correctness.)
Even if that was an accurate figure, the total cost would surely be £30 billion. Multiply 
60,000 x one million then halve it. Ms Bennett, whose strong point is not arithmetic, estimated two billion.
     This week Oxford's Labour City Council announced that it is spending £48 million on new social housing, This will provide a grand total of only 354 homes.... which means they will cost £135,593.22 each to build. Shame they didn't ask the Greens, who think it's possible to put them up at less than HALF the cost.
      I wonder who will live in them - will it be war veterans like Jamie Streets, who together with his family was nearly evicted from his temporary accommodation by Falmouth council in Cornwall last month?  I doubt it. Jamie who was in the Household Cavalry, served in action in Kosovo and then in Afghanistan at huge personal risk. He then developed a brain tumour, quite possibly as a side-effect, and was made redundant in mid-career. This meant that he could no longer pay the rent on his flat, so he gave notice and his wife, Charmaine, together with their four children, turned to Falmouth council for help. They were told they had made themselves "voluntarily" homeless, so could only get temporary accommodation and would have been thrown out on the streets if their friends had not launched a Facebook and Twitter campaign on their behalf.
      If jumping on the bandwagon was an Olympic category, our LibLabCon politicians would certainly be in line for a gold medal, at least during the pre-election period. (They are not so athletic in the other four and three-quarter years of their term.) Hints were dropped and strings were pulled so that the Streets family is not, for the time being, having to sleep on the streets. But other homeless veterans are doing just that, while families from anywhere else in the world get priority.
      Let's face it, there is absolutely NO hope of improving this situation or giving British people fair access to housing while any of the old political parties are in power. As for Ms Bennett and her Greens, they deserve to be classified as a comedy act, not a political party.…/11814927.__48m_deal_for_354_…/

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Let's Save the Dead - says Stephen Fry

The fate of Asia Bibi, condemned to death in Pakistan for being a Christian, is still undecided. Her husband has gone to the UN to plead for intervention with the government of Pakistan which has the power to intervene and issue a pardon or rescind the death penalty.

This is not just a case of intervening in a foreign country, even for a human rights issue. Over 100,000 Pakistani Christians have signed a petition to spare Mrs Bibi's life. Amnesty International has upheld the justice of her case. And she remains day after day on death row, her children suffering anguish.
     Christians in Pakistan are a despised underclass, limited to jobs like street sweeping because nobody will employ them in any other capacity. They live in filthy squalor and their children have little hope of anything better, being forced to leave school early and start work.
     They belong to a class who are somehow exempt from "human rights" and the same can be said for the migrant workers who are building the new World Cup football stadium in Qatar. 

migrant qatar

They are effectively slave labour, living in male-only labour-camps where conditions are crowded, filthy, insanitary, and squalid, pay is minimal, and they cannot leave the country because their passports have been confiscated. Personally I think the World Cup in Qatar should be boycotted by everybody in protest about this.
      But how much attention does this get from our media? Scarcely any at all. Celebrities and showbiz luvvies such as Stephen Fry are far more concerned with crusading for the DEAD than helping the living. Yes, believe it or not, while millions of people suffer injustice and slavery around the world, Stephen Fry is busy pestering everybody, even the royal family, to sign a petition for a pardon for DEAD homosexuals who were convicted under the UK indecency laws abolished in 1967. In his dark and crazy mind, a dead homosexual matters far more than a living heterosexual. 
       Let's take a look at some of the other people we could be campaigning for. In Iran a young man named Saman Naseem has been held in prison for three years on charges of political sedition, and condemned to death despite the fact that he was only seventeen when the supposed offence took place. It is feared that he was hanged a few days ago, and did Stephen Fry take any steps to help him? No. Even George Galloway spoke out against the inhumanity of his sentence, but Stephen was busy campaigning for the DEAD, and drawing the disastrously-named Benedict Cumberbatch along in his wake, motivated no doubt by a desire to publicize his latest film, The Turing Shroud. 
  Just put this in perspective. In Saudi Arabia this week an unnamed man has been sentenced to death for apostasy i.e. leaving Islam. He tore up the Koran and will be beheaded like so many others found guilty of blasphemy or heresy there every year. But as he is neither homosexual nor dead already, Stephen Fry can't be bothered about him.
  If Fry really doesn't like human beings all that much, as it would seem, why doesn't he campaign to save animals? He could take up the cause of the stranded whales  (whom he so strongly resembles), and whose environment in New Zealand is being damaged by seismic testing.

Or he could crusade on behalf of the Narwhals in the Canadian Arctic, whose environment is being invaded and blighted by oil companies in Baffin Bay. Their tests cause explosions 100,000 times louder than a jet engine... which can  even lead to death.
    But Stephen Fry, celebrity cocaine addict and actor who once deserted a West End production in the middle of its run to have a breakdown, is deaf to all that, because the narwhals are not homosexual and they have the decided disadvantage in his eyes, of still being, in the short term anyway, ALIVE. A dead homosexual matters far, far more and is virtually sacred according to his hopelessly deranged world-view.
   The people he is campaigning for include the likes of Tom Driberg, the homosexual Labour MP who was many times caught by the police soliciting boys in the the gents' toilets near Westminster, and taking advantage of the rent-boy services so ably organised by the Kray twins.
       I hope these celebrated pederasts write to thank Stephen Fry for his concern, and tell him he has made the world a better place.

Michael Davidson, The World, The Flesh and Myself (London: Arthur Barker, 1962)
Norman Douglas, Fountains in the Sand. (rpt Macmillan, 1957 )

Monday, 23 February 2015

What is the Point of Lent?

Saint John Chrysostom wrote "And so I desire to fix three precepts in your mind so that you may accomplish them during the fast: (1) to speak ill of no one, (2) to hold no one for an enemy, and (3) to expel from your mouth altogether the evil habit of swearing." 
   Wouldn't it be marvellous if everyone gave up swearing for Lent? Even on TV  - on the internet  - when using their mobiles in caf├ęs -and on crowded buses and trains? 

  It is a curious fact that the words Lent and lentil, which look as if they might be related etymologically, are not. Not in any way at all. It would be perfectly logical for the useful vegetable which has long been a fasting food, to give its name to the season. But Lent comes from an Old English word meaning Spring, the time when days lengthen. And lentil comes from the Latin lens, lentis, or to be exact from its diminutive lenticula. The word has no connection with Lent, only with the optical lens, so named because it is flat on one side and round on the other. 
  Not all Christians observe Lent, although it has been part of the Christian calendar for two millennia. The idea was to emulate Christ's forty days of hunger in the wilderness. In the Middle Ages, the churches made Lent a time of very strict abstinence. Rome decreed that meat, fish and fowl were all banned throughout Lent, along with dairy products, sugar, honey, wine, mead, music, dancing, having connubial relations and decorating the house with flowers. The rich ignored the bans on fish and most other things but there were huge fines if you were caught eating meat during Lent  - equivalent to a labourer's wage for three months. Many Elizabethan housewives laboured to grind almonds to make a substitute for milk during Lent. One thing they couldn't ban was ale, as the water was, in the main, undrinkable, so a tankard of home brew would console you for such a fearsome degree of abstinence
   In Ethiopia, the strictest form of the Lenten fast was imposed : nothing but bread, water and salt. In Russia, traditional Lenten foods include tolokno a dish of baked oats; rye bread; beetroot soup; and pickled mushrooms. Perhaps with a bit of vodka? In Greece the Lenten diet would feature bean soup, boiled spinach and stuffed vine leaves. In Spain a favourite dish was chick-pea and pimento stew. The moral of that is...if you live in Russia, move to Spain.
   At the Reformation the bolder Protestants discarded Lent as just another vestige of superstitious idolatry. Calvin condemned it and said it was unnecessary. But in a lesser form, it has lingered on, because we feel instinctively that periods of moderation and sobriety are part of a balanced life. Nowadays, we may be more inclined to call it self-discipline, de-tox, or just a weight-reduction diet, but we know it is wisdom not always to indulge. And also, don't forget, that when you stop going without, and start indulging again, you will do so with renewed relish. 

Friday, 13 February 2015

How the Internet is Manipulated paid government agents

Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

I knew this was going on as I have been one of those targeted  -  busy bees set up a complete fake website attributed to me at one time as well as circulating highly inaccurate allegations, misquotations, contacting my work, targeting my family, and hacking into my e-mail and my Facebook pages. Why? Because they are paid to do just that. On a global scale.
With thanks to Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden


One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based onfour classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.”

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we’re publishing today:

Other tactics aimed at individuals are listed here, under the revealing title “discredit a target”:

Then there are the tactics used to destroy companies the agency targets:

GCHQ describes the purpose of JTRIG in starkly clear terms: “using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world,” including “information ops (influence or disruption).”

Critically, the “targets” for this deceit and reputation-destruction extend far beyond the customary roster of normal spycraft: hostile nations and their leaders, military agencies, and intelligence services. In fact, the discussion of many of these techniques occurs in the context of using them in lieu of “traditional law enforcement” against people suspected (but not charged or convicted) of ordinary crimes or, more broadly still, “hacktivism”, meaning those who use online protest activity for political ends.

The title page of one of these documents reflects the agency’s own awareness that it is “pushing the boundaries” by using “cyber offensive” techniques against people who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security threats, and indeed, centrally involves law enforcement agents who investigate ordinary crimes:

No matter your views on Anonymous, “hacktivists” or garden-variety criminals, it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want – who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes – with these sorts of online, deception-based tactics of reputation destruction and disruption. There is a strong argument to make, as Jay Leiderman demonstrated in the Guardian in the context of the Paypal 14 hacktivist persecution, that the “denial of service” tactics used by hacktivists result in (at most) trivial damage (far less than the cyber-warfare tactics favored by the US and UK) and are far more akin to the type of political protest protected by the First Amendment.

The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions.”

Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government. Ironically, the very same Sunstein was recently named by Obama to serve as a member of the NSA review panel created by the White House, one that – while disputing key NSA claims – proceeded to propose many cosmetic reforms to the agency’s powers (most of which were ignored by the President who appointed them).

But these GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls “false flag operations” and emails to people’s families and friends. Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?

Then there is the use of psychology and other social sciences to not only understand, but shape and control, how online activism and discourse unfolds. Today’s newly published document touts the work of GCHQ’s “Human Science Operations Cell,” devoted to “online human intelligence” and “strategic influence and disruption”:

Under the title “Online Covert Action”, the document details a variety of means to engage in “influence and info ops” as well as “disruption and computer net attack,” while dissecting how human beings can be manipulated using “leaders,” “trust,” “obedience” and “compliance”:

The documents lay out theories of how humans interact with one another, particularly online, and then attempt to identify ways to influence the outcomes – or “game” it:

We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in “false flag operations” where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ’s mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

As usual, they ignored those questions and opted instead to send their vague and nonresponsive boilerplate: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

These agencies’ refusal to “comment on intelligence matters” – meaning: talk at all about anything and everything they do – is precisely why whistleblowing is so urgent, the journalism that supports it so clearly in the public interest, and the increasingly unhinged attacks by these agencies so easy to understand. Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.
Whatever else is true, no government should be able to engage in these tactics: what justification is there for having government agencies target people – who have been charged with no crime – for reputation-destruction, infiltrate online political communities, and develop techniques for manipulating online discourse? But to allow those actions with no public knowledge or accountability is particularly unjustifiable.

Documents referenced in this article:
The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations

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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Save the Coliseum - with One Day's EU Contribution

One of the areas that has been hardest hit by cuts in public funding is the Arts Council. And one of the main victims of Arts Council budget-slashing has been English National Opera.

ENO at the Coliseum may have all sorts of problems, within its own management team, and it has been said to suffer from a "poor business model". But what a tragedy it would be to lose it. 
And look at the figures. The entire budget of the Arts Council for England is only £270 million. Under the present government's "austerity" it has been shrunk from a previous £350 million, and eked out with Lottery funding to reduce the Treasury's contribution. And that £270 million has to be shared out between 670 organisations.
Possibly some of them are not terribly worthy -  I have not checked out all of the 670 individually -   but surely most of them are. And English National Opera must be among those. 
Just consider that we pay £55 million per day in contributions to the European Union. The annual budget of the Arts Council is only equal to about five days' contributions to the EU, and the subsidy paid to ENO is less than one day's worth. Much less. It creates jobs, without a doubt. It improves our international relations. And it keeps loafers off the streets and out of the bars. In the 2013/14 financial year ENO was blamed for losing £2.2 million  - which would only pay for about one hour's membership of the EU.  I would rather spend that money on giving ENO another chance than on MEPs' bogus fact-finding trips to places with sunny climates and luxury hotels.

Why should some art get public funding? Because if it does not, only a tiny percentage of the population can enjoy those intense, extravagant high-art forms, opera and ballet, which are so difficult and expensive to produce. Yes, millions can enjoy them through stereo radio, recordings or TV or, nowadays, by means of live relay into cinemas  - all of which should be encouraged  - but without the live performances, there would be nothing to record or to relay. Live performance is how artists, singers and dancers build up a career and a reputation. A great capital city is hardly a civilised place without some serious opera, and serious theatre going on. And surely a city the size of London, with millions of inhabitants, needs more than one opera house.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

No Success for Save Stansfeld Campaign

It seems that the deadline has passed for the community group, who wanted to save Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre in Headington from being sold off, to come forward with a viable scheme.

Gallery picture

The stakeholders had six months to find generous patrons, investors or an "angel" as theatrical folk term it, to help them put forward a plan to save the centre for field study. Basically somebody needs to buy it, and the City Council simply does not care. It has cold-shouldered this entire business. If the City Council ran its financial affairs more efficiently surely it should have a contingency fund to provide £375,000 in case of unusual need  - but it doesn't.
           Listed in the City Council's budget statement we find such items as "International Exch - Other 47,452 - 47,452" indicating that they  have spent £47,452 this year on some sort of International Exchange event. Presumably a town-twinning jaunt.They have also spent £112,697 on other unspecified events, and a sum of £30,496 on "social inclusion" whatever that means, It also lists a sum of £429,262 spent on "Positive Futures". The latter defines itself as a "Youth Ambition Programme for Oxford City".  If  that does not seem very specific, the other webpages I can find connected with it are all equally vague, It seems that Positive Futures is a scheme that requires channelling money at young people of unspecified age to carry out activities that are also unspecified:-

i)                    Up to 14 sessions each week to be delivered through the City Council’s Positive Futures Team focused on those areas of greatest need and lowest relative provision where there is currently no viable alternative provider;

ii)                  An £50k being made available to support by grants open access sessions delivered by other suitable providers for the remainder of this year;

iii)                The remainder of funding for 2012/13 to be retained in a Youth Ambition Fund available to support bids to externalfunders to provide positive activities for young people in the Council’s priority areas and other areas of relative deprivation;

         iv)           Request that the Direct of Community Services produces a strategy for the development of the Council’s Youth Ambition Programme with appropriate objectives and targets;

If you add up all of those, the total far exceeds £375,000, So why can't Oxford City Council with its budget of tens of millions, find the modest sum it would take to save Stansfeld?
      The more I think about it, a Field Study Centre would be a very sensible thing for idle teenagers of "greatest need and lowest relative provision" to use for their leisure, general education and growth in environmental awareness.
      But nobody else sees it that way ,so this precious 17 acres of wilderness will soon have to go.