Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Probably the most over-quoted phrase in the entire English history of lawyers, legal stratagems, Security spooks and snoops is the term; ‘who watches the watchers?’

In Great Britain’s legal systems, which vary in details between the four Nations of our Isles, we have built up a trust, almost a standard, which states, in no uncertain terms, that if a person is accused of any crime, he is entitled to a fair hearing, in a properly-constituted court, either by a Magistrate or by a Judge. He is supposed to be represented by a lawyer, paid by Legal Aid if he or she has not enough funds to obtain such representation privately, and ALL discussions between the accused and legal representatives are, and always have been, privileged. That means that if ANY news, discussions, hints, gossip, interpretations,ANYTHING concerning the discussions between the lawyer or solicitor and the person they are representing, is barred from the prosecution.

 

Or so we have been led to believe.

So, after the revelations concerning the oversight and deliberate leaking of Defence discussions to the Security Service and M.I.5, the new caution given to all criminals, of whatever standing, nationality of gravity of crime will have been modified:-

“You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
The person cautioned is then asked “Do you understand?

You are also advised that recordings may be taken of everything that you say, copies of everything that is written may be made, and all may be given to the Crown Prosecution Service, The Security Services, and interested Parties to aid them in the charges brought against you!

 

by George, I think he’s got it!

When people discuss George Monbiot, when they speak to criticise the man’s works, or beliefs, or indeed his very right to share the oxygen with anyone else, some get very passionate indeed. He has the ability to provoke comment by simply blowing his nose, never mind writing an essay or an op-ed piece for his employer, The Guardian. I, along with many others, dislike his arrogance in his assumption that only he is right; and therefore everyone else is either misinformed, or just plain wrong.

But even George occasionally gets, at least in my own opinion, certain things right. such as his varied and wide criticisms of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is an Intercontinental attempt at writing a Trade arrangement between the EU and the USA. The rights and wrongs of this cosy little deal are many and varied, and I see little benefit for ordinary people on either side of the Atlantic from this huge and intrinsically convoluted deal, but George has placed his digit on one very important device, inserted by huge commercial interests, to vary the usual manner in which decisions are challenged within this Treaty. He asks, as do I, why bring in Arbitration, where three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament; when, up to now, our Courts have been up to that challenge?

Let’s hear it for the Team, guys!

As many already know, I have zero interest, and less knowledge, in all forms of sports; considering them on a par with, as a lifelong interest, watching paint dry. The tribal chants of the fans, which title of course stems from the more literary translation of fanatics, at British football games, are echoed around American football arenas, vastly different of course to its British namesake. The similar chants and songs of Rugby aficionados echo whether in New Zealand or Wales. Whether the sport is athletics, or curling, ski-ing or horse-racing, the fan(atics) will surge to their chosen meeting, or game, or whatever; often at huge expense, to watch their heroes perform, or not; as the case may be. It does not really matter to the supporters that, in many if not most of the various sporting endeavours, the clubs are owned, and are indeed operated, as big, lucrative businesses, and those same supporters’ needs and wishes are usually subservient to the bottom line; which is that of profit.

The County Council which allegedly serves the City where  I live is a good example of how the cash is thrown around, with over Six Million-odd pounds thrown at the County Cricket Club just because they are really nice guys!

It is profit which determines how much cash is spent upon players, of whatever sport is being discussed, and the players, and their talent, are just another calculation in the rush to gain a better place in the league, or the competition, or indeed whatever. The players are meat on the hoof to the financiers, nothing more, and nothing less. They are paid, sometimes, obscene amounts of money, but if a ligament goes, or a bone fractures once too often, they can be, and usually are, discarded like yesterday’s newspapers. The players are charged by the coaches and managers to go beyond their physical and mental limits to achieve the slogans of ‘be the best’, and ‘we will win’, but a story which has just emerged gives a deeper, darker side to the old chants from the terraces.

The Basketball and Football teams at UNC-Chapel Hill has achieved great glory for that University, in a time span spread over literally nearly two decades, but the leading players, many of them talented African-American students, were given a virtual free ride through enrolment into an African-American Studies Department with zero oversight, accountability or interest in the academic well-being of its students. As long as they performed on the boards, as long as they ‘won’ for the team and the University, they got a virtual free ride, with lies marked up as study, and non-existent examinations given full credit.

However, one group did know plenty about the scheme and actively tried to protect and preserve it. Paid counselors in the school’s Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) were tasked with doing whatever it took to keep Tar Heel athletes eligible, especially those in “revenue” sports like football and basketball. To that end, these counselors not only “steered” athletes to the AFAM department and did homework for them, but they regularly alerted Crowder and Nyang’oro about the grades that each student-athlete required in order to “remain academically or athletically eligible.”

But the worst part is when those gifted athletes left the University where they had been lied to for years, and probably a phoney degree which could not possibly stand against the truth that they had no decent education at all, what future could they look forward to, apart from a tale of how many times they had Won for the Team’

Sports and Sportsmen, don’t make me laugh!

Do you remember?

Where were you, or rather were you even alive, on the day Kennedy was shot? I was  home on leave from Merchant Navy service, seated on a bus travelling back to my home, when a mate of mine spotted me, sat down and told me of the news. It seems to me that this one question, tells us more about how the world, and the people, have altered perceptions, and changed viewpoints than any other political event in the last one hundred tears.

Imagine, if the Internet, and citizen bloggers, and 24/7 news cycles, had existed on that sunny day when John Kennedy sat down in that motorcade which slowly wound its way through downtown Dallas.

It is indeed, more likely than not that LBJ would have been seated in that limousine, as the word, and fact, of Kennedy’s many flaws would have already driven him from office; either through resignation, or impeachment. Can you even imagine of the furore which would erupt if the news cycle was able to grab and run with stories of the American President having multiple sexual liaisons whilst his wife was in the White House caring for their youngest child? Can you even contemplate the size of the headlines when the assassination attempts on Castro were uncovered? Or the plots to overthrow the South Vietnamese President? Can you imagine the blog pages when Monroe serenaded Kennedy in public? All those huge problems would have been uncovered within hours of happening, because today, no-one gets away with much, except maybe bogus asylum-seekers and killers in Britain, and of course the SinnFeinIRA murderers in Stormont.

Camelot was always a straw building, and Kennedy was not even a very good politician, never mind President. He was a reluctant convert to the civil rights movement, and just about the only thing he got right was to stand firm against Kruschev over Cuba and the missiles, and even then Kennedy benefited from the spy Oleg Penkovsky’s advice on Soviet intentions. A pity that Penkovsky was later arrested and burnt alive after being betrayed by an American KGB mole.

So where indeed were you on the day that Kennedy was shot? Does it matter if there was a conspiracy? Why did Jack Ruby gun Lee Harvey down? Who indeed was on that Grassy Knoll? Who, if indeed anyone, really cares?

Letter to an Editor

I wrote a small screed to our local newspaper concerning a proposed Development Plan for our whole County, and I thought I might reproduce it here. As I may have mentioned before, I have taken a deep and critical interest in local politics recently, so, as this Plan is so important, I thought I might stir up some effluent.:- (Note; the words in Red are quoted straight from the Plan).

To the Editors,

I am writing to advise your readers of a book that they simply must read. They won’t have to buy it, because it is free to those who wish access, either online, as a download, or as a normal printed book. It is a work of non-fiction, but there is, by this observer’s thinking, a great deal of both fiction and wishful thinking in this book of 301 pages. It has a really zingy title, well chosen for both brevity and accuracy; namely… The County Durham Plan (Pre-Submission Draft Local Plan). See what I mean? The words roll off your tongue like treacle spread over honey! It is a great pity that the contents don’t live up to the title, as there is planning, but not the type which most of us would accept as the result of neutral thought and open discussion. No, this document, which purports to be the Plan under which this whole County, along with all its residents, will be steered towards a happier, more productive and informed existence than they do at present; is in fact the worst sort of Socialist thinking in terms of the old-style attitude of ‘We know what is best, so shut up, pay your taxes, and we’ll let you know when its finished!’

Allow me to expand and explain. The book states, in great detail, The Plan as it purports to lay out the master-plan for regeneration, re-industrialisation and re-vitalisation of the County in which we live. I was not expecting to read a funny book, but there are pages which will generate laughter in the reader, but the laughter will not be of a humorous nature; but instead will be acid, sarcastic and derisory. The excerpts which will generate the laughter are entitled ‘Vision’, and explain, in great and glorious detail, how we shall all be living, some twenty years down the timeline, in a ‘Workers Paradise’, reminiscent of the Stalinist billboards which featured strong, muscular, chisel-featured  men and beautiful women, gazing forth into a rising sun, as they set forth to build that same ‘Paradise’.

We are told that Durham City’s traders and businesses will flourish, aided by the newly-built “relief roads”which will remove excess ‘through’ traffic from its overburdened main roads. Tourists will “flock’ to see the Cathedral and the ‘sensitively optimised heritage and cultural attractions’, whilst staying in the newly-provided ‘quality accommodation’. Major new ‘communities’ will have developed to the North, East and South of the City proper, and the inhabitants of those ‘new communities’ will all be leading fruitful lives in harmony with everyone else. To the East of Durham City, Seaham Harbour is lauded as a new generator for wealth and activity, with most of the new wealth coming from the ‘Marina and Harbour’, the only one in County Durham, and the visionary Centre for Creative Excellence. Peterlee is not forgotten, as the Plan states that it will have a ‘vibrant’ regionally important employment base and new rail access via the new rail station at Horden.

For the South of the County, the planners wax lyrical with the ‘strong success’ of Aycliffe Park and Amazon Park, and Hitachi shall be the home of train manufacturing in the UK. Bishop Auckland has not been forgotten, as it is described as having a consolidated retail centre and well-supports the ‘visitor experience’, what ever that may be. Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor will no doubt be encouraged to learn they will have viable housing strategies, and Crook will still be the ‘gateway’ to the Durham Dales. The West of the County, Barnard Castle, Stanhope and Wolsingham will be delighted to learn that accessibility will have been improved, and broadband access will bring creative and service industries flocking to their environment.

All this will be achieved through ‘Sustainable Development’ and a ‘Spatial Approach’ (no, I don’t know what that means either!); but a big hint is in the choice, by these same Planners, of where and how the major new ‘Communities’ will be sited and built, and then bought by the future occupants of these ‘sustainably built’ and ‘spatially planned’ houses and estates.

The  Durham City Green Belt is proposed, under this Plan, to be de-registered and then raped, in three major areas. To the North of Durham City, a huge new development north of the Arnison Centre, a second huge estate complex surrounding  Sniperley to the North East, and a third, smaller housing development South of  Sherburn Road. The two afore-mentioned ‘relief roads’ shall funnel the extra traffic generated by the occupants of the new developments, mostly riding on public transport and fewer in those nasty, evil private cars, away from the main thoroughfares and trunk roads of Durham City proper, and all in this new-found ‘Garden of Eden’ will be so, so happy!

But the twist in this Planners’ plot comes along when the Plan reveals how all of this will be paid for. Because the bill will be immense! All the industrial parks, the new ‘relief roads’, access roads, sewerage, power lines and cables will have to be provided, but not by the County Council; because the Council doesn’t have any extra taxpayers’ cash of its own. Or does it? No, it will all be paid for by the Community Infrastructure Levy, which is just another name for yet another ‘Stealth Tax’ which states that every house, every shop, store or supermarket, every development within the list will have to shell out huge sums of money to fund these huge bills, and the end users of the houses would have to realise that the inflated prices being asked for these ‘sustainably and spatially’-built homes would be paying, through the veritable nose, for the privilege of living in one of these so-called ‘vibrant’ communities. Just to give you some idea of the range of charges under this Community Levy, the proposed Levy charges for new homes within the Green Belt land would be around £250.00 per square metre, for large retailers (supermarkets) the Levy would be around £400.00 per square metre, and for student accommodation the charge would be £50.00 per square metre. So if Tesco wanted to build another ‘Extra’ around the same size as the Dragonville site, they would have to shell out, on top of all the other building costs, 40,000 * £400.00, or some £16 million quid! The Council really want to attract new investment into County Durham!

So, in winding up this small diatribe, I would end with one piece of advice, and one comment. The advice is simple, grab yourself a long, cool gaze at this bureaucratic wet dream, and then make your objections, if any occur to you, known to the Council, either on the web-site, or by letter.

The comment is the truth that we, as a community, get exactly the Local Government we deserve. An Exhibition on the Plan were held at Framwellgate Moor on the afternoon and evening of Wednesday 23rd, and the room was thronged with interested people. A similar exhibition was held at the Laurel Avenue community centre in Gliesgate on the 24th, the  following Thursday, and only two people, one of whom was myself, signed in by 7 p.m.

Regards

Mike Cunningham

……..and now questions from the Public.

My political beliefs were shaped, as most of the ‘thinking’ British minority were, by a combination of my parents’ thoughts and beliefs, our own lives and lifestyles when young, my education, both in terms of formal education and the harder terms of life in the real world, as well as exposure to that same wider world. My maternal grandparents were forced to flee from their Northern Ireland home by sectarian bigotry in the early 1920’s; my father was literally shunned by his own Northern Irish farming neighbours because he volunteered to serve in the British Army on the day after War was declared in 1939. My Dad was living in England, and as he said to my own Mother, ‘what sort of a man would not join up to serve and help a Country which had given him a job?’. He was automatically deferred from conscription by virtue of his birth in Northern Ireland, but would not countenance claiming that invulnerability! My father’s politics were Labour to the core, and he just could not understand how any son of his could favour any politics but his own brand, but at least he paid me the rare courtesy of stating that I had thought long and hard about the party and politics which I supported, and while he differed totally from my own beliefs, he recognised that we were alike in some measure.

My politics are right wing, as some, but not all the writers are who post on David’s blogsite espouse, and my own political heroes are well-known. Names such as Margaret Thatcher, Enoch Powell come to mind, as well as a (well-known to some) philosopher, political and economist theorist and Nobel Prize winner called Friedrich Hayek. His writings are dry and dusty, no Tom Clancy here, but  a definitive set of thoughts laid down which, if followed, might lead to a revival of responsible capitalism which would drown, forever, the sluggish gloop of a Socialism espoused and in fact demanded by the likes of Ed Milliband, truly a worthy successor to his Marxist father Ralph.  I have seen the true face of Socialism, and the Communist’s Workers’ Paradise in action, and it was not a pretty sight. Four times we berthed in Constanta, Romania, and every time, we saw the truly downtrodden in action, with the dock-workers treated akin to slave labour, and the only perks going to the privileged few.

I have taken a renewed interest in local politics recently, and after studying in grim and exhaustive detail a series of Council Minutes, Annual Reports and multitudinous documents all filled to bursting point with Diversity, and Equality, and everything short of the old Stalinist five-year-plans; I have unearthed, through my previous knowledge of how business is actually run and written-up, a couple of really doozy questions concerning literally millions of pounds-worth of waste and bad judgement during the bad management of our own local Council, naturally enough Labour-dominated because we still live, despite the passage of many decades, in the old-style ‘Rotten Borough’ where seats are handed down to the chosen few, and votes are weighed, not counted!

So, as I stated, I will ask my questions, and hopefully hear a satisfactory reply or two from either an Executive Officer or a Council Cabinet member, but I am not allowed to ask a further question on that subject, or to debate anything at all, because we might have ‘Democracy’, but not that much.