Friday, 23 June 2017

Petition For Sun Qian

Sun Qian is a Canadian citizen who has been detained for months without any proper legal charge by the Chinese Communist authorities, solely because she practices the meditation and exercise discipline "Falun Gong". Whilst chained up and helpless, guards have sprayed pepper spray directly into her face, and then covered her face to maximize absorption of the irritant by the skin, mouth and particularly eyes. She was then not allowed to change her clothing for ten days, which meant that she was exposed to the irritant for all that time. The response of Canadian government officials has been to suggest that they should proceed "very quietly" which appears to be a euphemism for doing absolutely nothing.

Please sign the petition to shame the Canadian government into looking after one of its citizens.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Overwhelming Fire In Portugal

While headlines in Britain have been dominated by the Grenfell Tower fire, the situation in Portugal is at least as bad. In this instance, the fire is believed to have been started by lightning, but in many other similar fires in Southern Europe, Australia and California, forest fires have been started by property developers to illegally clear land, and have gone far, far out of control. Where this happens, it needs to be punished with exceptional severity, and it must be recognized that this type of arson is done for profit, and the culprits and their associates must be subject to asset seizure, exactly as if they were drugs dealers.

In terms of death toll, this is the worst forest fire in Southern Europe for some time, and the impact will be particularly bad in Portugal, where the national population is fairly small.

We are still at the beginning of summer: there will be more fires before autumn. There already are quite a lot of firefighting aircraft available in the region, particularly if the French are in a position to lend theirs, and these are useful, especially for moderating a fast-moving fire. But the death toll in such emergencies seems to come from villages and towns being surrounded and overwhelmed, and, especially, the fire catching up with fleeing residents on the highways. There needs to be a form of fire-fighting with "combat persistence" to defend pockets of habitation and avenues of escape.

There might well be room for even more amphibious water bomber aircraft, and for all-terrain vehicles able to get fire-fighting equipment to even inaccessible hotspots, but what is also needed is some sort of monster fire-fighting equipment that can make use of recently improved highways into villages and towns, to deliver water and fire-retardants for long enough to keep people alive until the fire passes.

After many years of infrastructure spending by the European Union, it is reasonable to expect highways and bridges leading to any significant settlement, to be able to take lorries of the normal maximum weight of forty-four tons. Tanker fire-engines should be built, right up to this weight, and equipped with high pressure jets, remote-controllable from within the cab, which should also have high quality air filters and standby oxygen to protect the crew. These vehicles should normally be filled with a solution of ammonium phosphate fire-retardant in water (plain water in a pinch), and their mission should be to damp down corridors along the highways, to keep the fire back so that residents can escape and fresh fire-fighting resources can be deployed. It would be straight-forward enough to also equip these machines to produce local mists of water or phosphate solution in "self-defence" if the fire gets close. Where suitable perimeter roads exist (and they could always be built especially for this purpose) the heavy fire-fighting equipment would be able to lay down a fire barrier around vulnerable towns and villages. There simply has to be a means of protecting refuges and the avenues of escape.

Update: 19/6/2017 The most recent news images from the scene (much too upsetting to embed on the blog), show burnt-out cars and body bags on what should be a decent single-carriageway trunk road, capable of taking standard 44 ton lorries. But the burnt-out trees come right up to the edge of the road. This is not acceptable for an evacuation route in a high fire-risk area. There has to be some sort of treeless verge. This would still require a last-minute spray with ammonium phosphate to make it into a firebreak, but at least it would be possible to spray such a break quickly from a vehicle trundling along the road, without encroaching trees creating dry and fire-retardant-free areas through which the fire could reach the road.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Grenfell Tower and Helicopter Rescue From Burning Buildings

Readers who have already read this post once: please scroll down for the updates, especially that for 25/6/2017.

Firstly, the fire at Grenfell Tower in London seems to have progressed extremely rapidly, and proved impossible to fight. Just like several recent fires in high rise buildings in Dubai. In the case of buildings in Dubai (there has been more than one catastrophic fire) the culprit is plastic exterior cladding, intended to insulate the building. (Often as a design afterthought.) Grenfell Tower, reportedly, had similar cladding installed last year. The only difference being that in Dubai the insulation is primarily there against the desert heat and in London it's there against the winter cold. In both cases there is a layer of material stuck onto the outside of the steel and concrete structure, covering the whole building.

The fire containment strategy for tall buildings is compartmentalization, where each flat and floor in the building acts like an independent cell, and there are regular fire doors and other precautions in stairwells, and both stairwells and lift shafts are kept as free of burnable materials as possible. The fire fighting strategy, the only one possible, is to tackle the fire from the inside, with fire-fighting mains built into the structure and always ready to be used by teams of firefighters who enter the building via stairwells. In 2005, this strategy led to a couple of posthumous George Medals for firefighters after a fire in a block of flats in Stevenage, largely because the fire-fighting mains had been compromised by vandalism, so the firefighters were unable to create a mist of water to dampen any flashback before opening a door to rescue the occupants of a flat. (Medawar doesn't believe that anyone was ever caught and punished for that.) Fighting from the inside remains the only possible strategy above the tenth floor, however. In Stevenage, there was no burnable material on the outside of the pre-cast concrete wall panels, so the fire, lethal as it was, remained confined to a relatively small part of the building. The fire containment strategy, in that case, worked as well as could be expected with compromised fire-fighting measures.

Obviously in Dubai, and equally obviously at Grenfell Tower, fire was able to spread through the exterior cladding, which meant the fire by-passed the original design's compartmentalization, engulfing the greater part of the building in a very short while, and it was also impossible to fight such a fire from the inside, and it couldn't be fought from the outside above the tenth floor. Sticking things to the outside of high rise buildings must be banned, until such time as every component of the cladding, including the glue, is completely fireproof and there is no air gap between the cladding and the wall, that could channel flames coming out of a window on one floor into a window on the floor above. (In Stevenage, heat from flames coming out of a window on one floor, broke the glass in the window above and the fire was able to jump floors. That happened because the fire couldn't be fought, because of vandalism.)

The official advice (from 999 operators), that residents were to stay inside their flats, was lethal at Grenfell Tower, because it was only valid in a fire like the one in Stevenage, where the fire was reasonably compartmentalized. With burning cladding all over the building filling flats with toxic smoke, people who obeyed the official advice seem to have died in droves. A refrain common to many survivors is that the fire alarms were not sounding, and that is something that also needs to be investigated, with criminal charges being brought as appropriate.

There are a number of firms offering cladding and even structural panels, made out of compressed, recycled plastic packaging. This is supposed to be "green". These firms need to go into receivership as promptly as possible: these products fatally undermine any attempt to make buildings naturally fire-resistant.

Secondly, bystanders saw harrowing evidence that people were alive and on the roof of Grenfell Tower during the blaze, but nothing could be done to rescue them as the roof was too high for fire brigade hydraulic platforms to reach. As with the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City, readers are going to wonder why they couldn't be winched off by helicopter.

Any attempt to do this with the helicopters available to the emergency services during the fire at Grenfell Tower, would have failed. Police and Air Ambulance helicopters are too small to hover accurately in turbulent air above a fire, and military transport helicopters, such as the Merlin and Chinook, are too big and the powerful downdraft from their rotors would have blown bits off the unstable burning structure, to the considerable hazard of fire-fighters and even neighbouring buildings.

The only helicopter in British service that's the right sort of size and has proven acceptable flight characteristics in the vicinity of a fire, is the Bell 412 "Griffin" models that are used (apparently leased?) by the MoD for twin engine training, forest patrol and, with 84 Squadron on Cyprus, for rescue and fire fighting using underslung fire buckets. The Bell 412 is the only UK service type certificated to carry out firefighting duty. (84 Squadron has never been based in the UK in its entire history, and has always been somewhere hot and mostly dry. Hence the Squadron badge, which represents a scorpion.)

The Bell 412 Griffon (with an "o" not an "i") used by the Canadian Armed Forces has acquired a terrible reputation, because it was purchased, as a political gimmick, as a sort of universal helicopter to replace everything from light battlefield observation machines to heavy transports such as the Chinook. This means it is struggling to carry out several missions it is quite unsuited for, and it is also struggling to carry these missions out in Afghanistan, in very hot and high conditions that make any helicopter struggle. It fails in the observation helicopter role, because for that you need the smallest and least obtrusive machine possible, that can disappear behind buildings or trees if shot at.

British forces have always used the Griffin for tasks it was designed to do (it can do most things required of the mid-sized utility helicopters it is the archetypal example of) and there are no really serious gripes.

The Griffin, as it currently stands, isn't going to be enough, though. To stay in the smoke column for long enough to winch people off a roof (and landing on a roof of unknown strength is out of the question) not only will there need to be a really robust breathing system available for the crew and any casualties, but all members of the crew, including the winch-operator and winchman, will need synthetic vision equipment, based on millimetre waves and not infra-red, as is the case with most available (unclassified) equipment. If they cannot see, they cannot do any good.

There are infra-red based synthetic vision systems designed for pilots, but they won't work in the sort of thick black smoke we saw at Grenfell Tower. (And from some burning ships in the Falklands War, when Wessex and Sea King helicopters desperately tried to blow life-rafts away from burning oil on the water with their rotors.) 

There have been research projects to develop passive millimetre wave synthetic vision equipment for military helicopter pilots, because there are often fires on the battlefield (bright flickering flames can jam infrared sensors) and it is desirable to screen helicopter evacuations with artificial smoke to prevent accurate sniping. Any usable products, however, remain classified, assuming they do exist.

The breathing system for casualties could be a chemical cartridge-based mask, like an airliner emergency oxygen mask, albeit with eye protection because of smoke. This could last twenty minutes to half an hour, which should be enough to get them out of the smoke and on the ground. Fresh masks and cartridges could be made available on the ground wherever it was planned to disembark the casualties. But the whole crew, who might make repeated trips into the smoke, would need something with a longer duration, and a mask that was integrated with the necessary synthetic vision equipment. 

Computer flight controls giving some measure of automated gust alleviation would probably be essential, too. 

It could be done, though. But it would need to be done with great deliberation, the right equipment (some of which may have to be invented or adapted from classified military kit) and there would have to be an adequate ongoing training budget for the considerable skills involved.

Footnote: (For those on Twitter who think it's "suspicious" that Grenfell Tower didn't fall down the way the World Trade Centre did.)

The original design of Grenfell Tower has many shortcomings, especially the fact that there is only one stairwell in the central core, but actually falling down is not one of them. Grenfell Tower was built after the Ronan Point disaster, when one of the previous generation of high rise tower blocks did indeed partially collapse after what was, in truth, quite a small gas explosion that didn't even seriously harm the elderly lady who was in the midst of it. There were fatalities in the subsequent collapse, though.

The public inquiry found both that Ronan Point had been improperly assembled, and that the "Large Panel System" buildings in general were not strong enough to resist even small explosions, or even strong winds, or fires. Due to intense public hostility, most LPS buildings in the UK had been demolished by around 1986, which was jolly fortunate because the hurricane of October 1987 would have been a severe test of their structural integrity, even with the reinforcement that was mandated after the public inquiry. A handful remain (with gas mains!), in one of the more psychotically-run London boroughs. Ronan Point (22 stories high) was constructed entirely from large prefabricated concrete panels, which were bolted together on site to form the structure. This was a Danish system and, as it turned out, not very good. At Ronan Point, many of the panels were badly manufactured and didn't fit. The workforce charged with erecting the building, hadn't really been trained in the system -they were used to working with bricks and timber- and they saw no reason why they shouldn't apply force and bend the connecting steel to make the panels fit. This led to a structure that was constantly under load in directions that hadn't been anticipated when the reinforcing steel in the concrete panels was designed, and it wasn't stiff enough in the directions it needed to be stiff in. Once the gas explosion had moved ill-fitted panels outward, a whole corner of the building just unzipped at the joins.

Grenfell Tower was built in the seventies, using both better quality control and workforce training, and an inherently stronger basic design. It is still largely made of (better) prefabricated parts, but in the middle of the prefab structure is a very strong reinforced concrete core, that is shuttered and poured on site, the shuttering being moved up a floor at a time, a couple of floors ahead of the prefabricated structure, until the core is tall enough. The lift shaft and stairwell are in the core, because that's expected to survive most things. Until the advent of the World Trade Centre Twin Towers, most seventies/eighties-era high rise buildings were constructed in this fashion, although there was often more than one separate stairwell and lift shaft in the central core. One drawback is that in an evacuation, people are still in the middle of the building when they reach the ground floor. They are not home and dry, especially if burning aftermarket cladding is cascading down the outside of the building.

The bigger commercial drawback was that, the larger such a building got, the more lift shafts and stairwells were needed in the central core, and the central core gradually displaced the rentable accommodation that the building was meant to provide. One solution was to simply provide less access than strictly needed, as at Grenfell Tower and several similar buildings in London. The solution adopted for the World Trade Centre, was to dispense with the concrete central core entirely and build a bolted steel exoskeleton instead.

(NB: The buildings of London's Canary Wharf are cellular steel structures, like a modern version of the Empire State building, without all the hot riveting and hand-fitted stone exterior, and after a huge IRA bomb attack which blew all the windows right through several buildings, they were all repairable and repaired. The Empire State took a collision with a four-engined bomber aircraft in its stride, in the nineteen forties.)

The exoskeleton of the World Trade Centre was carrying much more concentrated loads that any one part of the cellular Empire State or the bombed Canary Wharf buildings, and the bolted joints only needed to get weaker, for the structure to fail. Regardless of all the conspiracy theories about covertly-planted thermite charges and so on, the bolted joints in the exoskeleton were in danger of failing as soon as their temperature got much over about three hundred and fifty degrees centigrade, because steel softens at a fraction of the temperature required to actually melt it. Once one floor failed, it fell under gravity and hit another, also weakened, floor below it, and that floor failed as well. After that, the falling material was heavy enough and (increasingly) energetic enough to break the supporting joints in the exoskeleton even where there was no heat damage. This cascade was a bit like Ronan Point, but over the whole floor area and not just a corner.

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, was a low-rise, layered concrete deck building of the simplest and cheapest kind, with a slick and expensive-looking facade put on it. Layered concrete deck buildings have almost no resistance to lateral forces, and Timothy McVeigh's bomb had been designed to apply as much blast as possible to that glassy facade, in the apparent hope of blowing the facade through the building and producing mass casualties in the Federal Building, with a minimum of casualties in the non-Federal buildings nearby. What he expected, was pretty similar to what actually happened at Canary Wharf. Because of the layered deck construction, though, what happened in Oklahoma City was that the building collapsed along the entire frontage facing the bomb, leaving only the back half of the building still standing. Had the building been built to California's minimum standards for earthquake resistance, for example, it probably wouldn't have fallen down. But the number of casualties from the facade being blown through the building might have been nearly as high. Layered concrete deck buildings are probably a bad idea, anywhere, unless something significant is done to improve their resistance to lateral shocks. There are lots of cheap, layered concrete deck car park buildings in the UK, and although the maximum earthquake strength usually experienced in the UK is only about 3.7 on the Richter scale, this is probably enough to bring a typical multi-storey car park down if the epicentre is nearby.

Update: 18/6/2017. The type of flammable cladding used on Grenfell Tower, was probably already illegal in the UK at the time it was applied. See link. This means that most of the "grave-robbing for votes" condemnation of Theresa May, launched by Labour and the Socialist Workers Party, is misdirected. The local council and property management company are still on the hook, though. As should Tony Blair and Gordon Brown be, who between them introduced two tranches of guidelines, in 1999 and 2010, which effectively meant that local councils had to introduce energy-saving measures at all costs, and which gave them no allowable mechanism for not fitting cladding etc. if they believed it to be dangerous, which is why councils, by and large, didn't ask. The guidelines say that the landlord of a building should check that the materials are fireproof and consult the fire-brigade, but they certainly do not say that not being safe is an acceptable excuse for not fitting the "green" cladding to meet emissions targets. So, you were supposed to "consult the fire brigade" but if they said "God, no!!!" you had to say "sorry, the guidelines say we have to do it anyway!"

The idea behind Blair and Brown's actions was to give local councils no choice except to do what their mate, Al Gore, wanted, and "no choice" is precisely what the councils ended up with. (It would be interesting to know the shareholder history of the company which made the plastic cladding, too.)

All control-freaks are dangerous, but pig-ignorant control-freaks who never bother to think anything through, are very dangerous indeed.

And cladding of this type will never be safe, even if the flammable plastic is piously excluded, because the concrete panels it is fitted to are almost always ribbed to make them stiffer and also nicer to look at, and this means that there will always be a narrow air gap behind the cladding, which will channel flames to windows above. So Andrew Marr's emotional outburst about tearing all the cladding off and replacing it is profoundly stupid: the only sane option is to tear the cladding off and not replace it. These buildings have to be left largely as they were designed, or they risk being orders of magnitude less safe than they were as built.

Update 20/6/17  For those who've been searching for the type of plastic used on the Grenfell Tower cladding, it was reportedly polyethylene (presumably fibres: very flammable) in the actual insulation filling. But there are also two skins involved, of aluminium composite material (ACM), and this probably involves an epoxy-based reinforced plastic, which will be where the toxic fumes and black smoke comes from. Clear polyethylene actually burns fairly cleanly (Medawar remembers burning it in O'level chemistry), but assuming this is recycled in order to be "green" there will be plasticisers and multiple pigments involved.

The cladding is to blame for the fire not being contained in a single flat, because the fire-brigade had just finished extinguishing the flames in the flat where the fire started, when colleagues outside noticed that the first signs of fire in the cladding. If the cladding hadn't been there, the fire would have been contained in the one flat: bad for the tenant, but survivable for everyone. This also shows that the basic fire mains at Grenfell Tower must have been in working order, which wasn't the case at Harrow Court in Stevenage in 2005. One letter-writer to the Daily Mail (sorry, no link as they don't put reader's letters online) said that in his work as a building manager he had attended numerous unattended chip-pan fires in (unclad) tower blocks, and the fires were always confined to the flat where they started. His experience probably didn't include many of the older (sixties) LPS towers, then, because ill-fitting concrete panels mean that there are gaps at the joins of nearly all the supposedly fireproof cells in those.

There is no need for the government to wait for the report from a new public inquiry before getting rid of the remaining LPS towers: there was an inquiry into these in 1968 and it concluded that they would fall down in the case of either: a small explosion; fire; a strong enough wind. Getting rid of the LPS towers immediately would actually make it easier for the government to manage the demand on resources than if they wait, because then they will be having to manage the disposal of the LPS blocks at the same time as rectification work to hundreds of the newer (better built) towers with concrete cores that make them (perhaps) worth salvaging. Experts are still talking of things that can be done to make the 1970s towers safe: they are not talking of ANY solution with regard to the older LPS towers except prompt demolition, which most responsible local authorities had carried out by 1986. The remaining LPS blocks have been retained for another three decades in the face of a consensus that they are unsafe and that there is no rectification work available that would actually succeed in making them safe. 

Update 25/6/2017 So far, sixty of the six hundred UK tower blocks known to the government as having exterior cladding, have failed fire safety tests performed on samples of the cladding. That means that all of the ones tested so far, have failed. However, since local councils were told, by the government, to test the buildings they were most worried about, first, it is inevitable that to begin with, we would see a one hundred percent fail rate. The revealing thing will be: how far into the six hundred towers do we get, before we start to see cladding samples passing the flammability test? The official belief is that cladding panels with polyethylene filling will be flammable and those with rock wool filling will not be. But there are skins of aluminium composite material, which may well burn, there are glues, there are paints. It is probable that most of the cyanide encountered at the Grenfell Tower fire, actually came from the cladding panel skins and not the polyethylene filling. Medawar, in his youth, burned pure polyethylene in a school laboratory and there was almost no smoke and certainly no cyanide. There has to be nitrogen in the hydrocarbon fuel molecule before decomposition gives you cyanide, chemical formula CN. There are plenty of plastics that contain nitrogen: polyethylene is not one of them.

And flammability tests, performed on samples removed from the buildings in question, reveal nothing about the flame channel effect, whereby even a totally non-flammable panel can cause a fire to jump from one floor to the floor above, when the air gap between the original (almost invariably ribbed) concrete wall panel and the after-market cladding panel, acts as a chimney, channeling and accelerating flames coming out of one window to heat and break the glass in a window above.

A panel that tests as non-flammable in a laboratory, can still spread a fire up a building and effectively by-pass the original building design's fire containment strategy.

Friday, 5 May 2017

English Losing Its Importance? Really?

This is a link to an article about Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, which describes how he told Italian reporters that English was losing its importance, and then proceeded to make a speech in French. The Italian journalists present, all people with jobs, laughed politely, but for an awful lot of young people in Italy and, even more especially, Spain, there is no hope of employment in their home country for the foreseeable future. Nothing that their governments or the European Commission are willing to do, is going to help the situation.

Things aren't really that much better in France, and the favourite to win Sunday's Presidential Elections, Mr Macron, has made it clear that he favours "reform" of the European Union, solely in the direction of intensifying the very factors leading to high youth unemployment in most Eurozone countries except Germany and Holland.

For victims of Spain's 50% youth unemployment, the only two viable options are: learning German and going to work in Germany as a migrant (competing for minimum wage jobs with the millions of migrants that Mrs Merkel is importing from outside the EU) or learning English and seeking work in the United Kingdom, something which may become very difficult to do if Mr Juncker persists in his attempts to extract ransom payments from the British taxpayer and the Spanish government similarly persists in trying to blackmail the United Kingdom over Gibraltar. Learning French and seeking work in France would be an act of desperation, similar in nature to throwing oneself in front of an approaching train.

The situation for Italy's unemployed youth is a little bit better, in that their government is not engaged in deliberate, systematic attempts to offend not only the British government, but the British people. Italian jobseekers in the UK are more likely to get a sympathetic hearing than Spanish ones. There also exist several opposition parties determined to get Italy out of the Eurozone, which, frankly, is the only way to free the Italian (or Spanish) economies up, so that they may once more create sufficient jobs for the young. In Spain, there appears to be a political consensus for staying in the Eurozone, even if that means that half the country's youth must become exiles or accept that they will never hold paid employment in their lifetimes. 

Those zealots who fondly believe that the United Kingdom will (or should) rush back into the European Union at any price (and that price would include joining the Eurozone at a minimum, something that many of them actually want), are ignoring the fact that Eurozone membership for the United Kingdom would ensure that British youth would also have no hope of jobs in their lifetimes. The Eurozone acts as a system of sacrificial economies around the core German economy, which are then loaded down with all the economic problems that the Eurozone allows Germany to discard. It has no other intended purpose: those commonly advanced by advocates are just cosmetics. 

As long as learning English opens up the prospect of a new life in the United States, Canada or Australia as well as the United Kingdom, it will remain the most attractive option for those who are being so foully betrayed by Europe's political consensus.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

French Presidential Election: First Round

It appears, from the exit polls at least, as if Emmanuel Macron has won the first round of the French Presidential Election. This will be hailed by the European political elite as a victory for "moderate" politics, because his main rival is the "Rightist" (with a decidedly left wing economic policy) Marine Le Pen. Before anyone goes dancing in the streets to celebrate a victory for moderate commonsense politics, it is necessary to point out that Mr Macron is sufficiently anglophobic to win a presidential election in Argentina, never mind France. If Mr Macron is a moderate, then North Korea is a cradle of democracy.

Supreme Irony: Tony Blair and the Blank Cheque

This is a link to an article informing a very weary British public that Mr Tony Blair sees it as his opportunity aka "duty" to return to frontline politics in order to deny Theresa May a "blank cheque" in the Brexit negotiations. This from a man who, ever since he left public office, has been consistently behaving as if he had a blank cheque as far as public money and the trappings of power are concerned.

The Parliamentary Petition to deny Mr Blair all access to public funds, created by Steve Goodwin, has had its deadline brought forward, from the 28th of August to the 3rd of May. Any UK readers who feel they've had as much of Mr Blair as they can reasonably be expected to take, should sign the petition as soon as possible. If enough publicity for the petition can be generated, the threshold of one hundred thousand signatures can still be achieved despite the unfairly narrowed deadline.

PS: If anyone wonders why Medawar is concerned to prevent Tony Blair regaining, and immediately abusing, power, then they should read the second article ever published on this blog, and especially what it says about pathological liars.

Update: 25/4/2017  This is a link to a Daily Telegraph article suggesting that the "Open Britain" campaign is really all about getting Blairites back into Parliament.

Update: 8/5/2017  The Parliamentary Petition has ended as of the 3rd of May. There is now, belatedly, a note admitting that the petition was ended early "because of the general election" but there's no reason why it couldn't have been run on for the new parliament to deal with after June the 8th (it was due to end on the 28th of August). There has been no official response to the petition, either, despite the site promising that all petitions that reach ten thousand signatures will get a formal response from government. Once again, Blair gets away with it. This sort of thing is what gave rise to the country saying "the Devil looks after his own."

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Pressing Need to Deny Tony Blair Access to Public Funds

This is a link to Steve Goodwin's petition to deny Tony Blair access to public funds. In the next few days, the petition will pass the ten thousand signature threshold, which warrants a formal response from government, and that is an achievement. However, many more signatures are required, before the 28th of August 2017, to reach the one hundred thousand signature threshold needed to trigger a debate in Parliament. We need to reach this second, more difficult, target, because the initial, reflex government response is quite likely to be dismissive and unsatisfactory. In order to do so, it is necessary to offer a wider justification for denying Mr Blair access to public money than was possible for Mr Goodwin to expound within the format limits of the UK Government and Parliament website. Mr Goodwin chose to concentrate on two main issues: Mr Blair's "blurring of the line" (in fact, a gaping chasm) between the public interest and his own personal business interests, and Mr Blair's recent attempts to divide the nation and sow the seeds of lasting enmity over Brexit. These are valid and pressing reasons, of course, but they are not the only ones. Here are some of the others:

False legitimacy: like every other conman, Tony Blair cultivates every scrap of apparent legitimacy and prestige he can scrape up. He makes money from foreign leaders and businessmen, especially the unsavoury ones, by convincing them that he still has authority and power in the United Kingdom and can influence opinion, policy and even legislation in their favour. Every pound he is paid from the public purse seems to yield ten pounds for him in terms of his ability to get money from Central Asian dictators. This in turn fuels his ambitions to make a comeback as a "world leader" by fulfilling some kind of supranational role invented especially for him. Tony Blair is not a benefit claimant, dependent on the state for his daily bread. In Central Asia, people only get money from the state if they are in the dictator's circle of friends, so everything Blair is given makes it look, to his clients, as if he is still on the inside as far as UK policy making is concerned. The simple solution is to give him nothing.

Trappings of Power: See above. Also, Tony Blair has recently specifically demanded that he be granted certain status symbols by the UK Government, which would make it look as if he were still in power in the UK. Especially his demand that not only should the car he uses whilst abroad have UK diplomatic number plates, so should all the cars in his entourage. This would enable him and his "Homies" to roar through foreign capitals in convoy, bearing plates that would indicate to any reasonable citizen of that country that he was acting with the full authority of Her Majesty's Government. Assuming that at the same time he would likely be on his way to meet the leaders of a discredited regime, ruling by force and terror, then the sight of Blair playing "world leader" would raise up many new enemies of Britain. The Prime Minister, Mrs May, has refused this particular demand, but Blair is likely to keep on repeating the demand until he gets his way.  It is not in the national interest to let Mr Blair bestride the world as a PR man turned Emperor.

Police Protection: Tony Blair's arrogance and his addiction to armed protection appears to corrupt the officers assigned to his detail. Neighbours of the Blairs in Connaught Square angrily reported being denied access to their own homes by gun-toting police when the Blairs moved into their home there (one of seven that they now own), which seems to have been chosen specifically for its resemblance to 10 Downing Street. Although the precise number of officers assigned to protect the Blairs and their extensive property assets is an official secret, it is clear from what's in the public domain that there are several times as many officers looking after Blair as are needed to look after another former Prime Minister, Sir John Major. Medawar has relatives living near John Major's house and nobody around there has been bullied or offended by his very discreet protection detail. Nobody has yet complained about hordes of gun toting police around David Cameron, either. Yet again, the armed police protection is used by Blair to impress foreign leaders with his supposed ongoing political relevance. It helps him to convince the gullible that he is still "speaking for Britain." Blair's protection should be reduced to the levels which suffice for others who have served in the same office, and greater discipline should be imposed on those who protect Blair, to remind them that their primary duty remains to protect the public. If the Blairs want to own a property empire as a speculative investment, they should pay for private security firms to guard the investment properties. Publicly-funded policemen should not do the job!

Fairness: Other former ministers are not granted public money and the labour of senior civil servants to help and advise them with pet personal projects, however "worthy" they purport to be: why should Blair be granted special privileges?

Update: 13/4/2017: The petition has now passed the ten thousand vote threshold. Will post link to the government response when it's published.

Update 23/4/2017: The petition has now been waiting for an official government response for 11 days. Even allowing for the Easter holiday, this is a bit too long. The deadline for the petition to reach 100,000 votes has also been moved, from the 28th of August, to the 3rd of May. It seems that someone in Downing Street, probably the unelected Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, is using the announcement of an early General Election to protect Mr Blair from any awkwardness. Precisely the sort of abuse of power that Mr Blair practiced for so long whilst in office.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Worrying Case of Cyber Stalking

This is a link to a BBC article about an instance of cyberstalking, where the perp sent a writer with epilepsy an animated tweet with flashing lights in it, causing the writer to have a seizure.

Friday, 17 March 2017

"Domestic Terrorism" in Central Texas

This is a link to a post by a blogger living in Fredericksburg, Central Texas (something of a stalking hotspot, to put it mildly.) Her daughter was subjected to severe harassment and intimidation and an attempt was made to run her off an Interstate slip-road by two SUVs. 

Thus far, local law enforcement has not responded, at all, to the complaint.

The young lady's definition of this form of organised stalking as "domestic terrorism" may seem extreme, but the definition of "terrorist" is one who uses or threatens violence for political ends, and what happened is well within that definition. The "political end" in this instance appears to be absolute control of development and zoning policy in the Fredericksburg area, by a group of medical professionals acting as property developers. They also have links to cross border drugs gangs and appear to be active in diverting prescription opiates to the recreational drugs market. The property development does seem inseparable from the drugs, and may represent large scale money laundering.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Tony Blair: The Worst Choice That Trump Could Possibly Make

 Image copyright (c) AP

According to the Mail on Sunday, Tony Blair has attended a secret meeting at the White House as part of a determined drive, employing numerous contacts, to persuade President Trump to make him America's Peace Envoy in the Middle East. He was previously the UN's Peace Envoy in the Middle East, where he accomplished nothing except a certain amount of shameless self-enrichment: luxury suites at the King David Hotel; that sort of thing.

President Trump believes, passionately, in nation states negotiating the best deal for themselves and each other, and he is bitterly opposed to anti-democratic multi-national economic or political structures. Blair STILL sees himself as the anointed leader of a European superstate, and is part of a campaign to sabotage Brexit (Trump has made much of supporting Brexit), to which end he is working with Nick Clegg and Lord Mandelson, neither of whom believes in the sort of values that Trump's supporters do. They are natural, albeit unreliable, allies of Hillary Clinton.

Apart from posing as a "Peace Envoy" Blair has spent most of his time since he gave up on holding elected office, as a glorified PR consultant to some of the world's most notorious dictators, regimes and businessmen, which has also been Lord Mandelson's chosen line of work. They will always be found to be pursuing the same sort of goals by the same sort of means. Both of them have amassed large (and secret) fortunes in a short period of years by putting a positive spin on dictatorship and torture for their brutal clients. They have also forged friendships with some of the most ruthless mass killers on the planet.

No matter which period of Blair's life you chose to examine: schooldays; his time as a lawyer; the struggle to rise up through the Labour Party ranks to the post of leader; his time in Downing Street; his time as PR consultant to the world's genocidal maniacs -there will always be at least one former close acquaintance willing to describe Blair as a pathological liar. Blair was known at school (Fettes College) as "Milly Liar" and those who knew him well back then don't appear to see any change in him as he is today.

Well, what happens if Blair is allowed to use a "Peace Envoy" post as a springboard to the European President job that he actually wants?

With Blair, the truth will be the first casualty.

In Europe, individual freedoms and civil rights will be extinguished in favour of a twisted concept of "human rights" which denies people the right to express their own opinions or even defend themselves or their beliefs against attack. 

In the world as a whole, the Superstate of Europe will manipulate and machinate relentlessly until it controls all international discourse, and effectively "leads" and then "controls" the world.

With Blair, the truth will be the first casualty; truth tellers the second.

Update 07/03/2017: Blair now claims that although the meetings took place, "he wasn't seeking a job, just offering advice." Assuming that this claim is true, and with Blair you cannot be certain of that, the idea of Blair "back seat driving" US policy on the Middle East is not a reassuring one.

Update 11/03/2017: UK readers might be interested in a parliamentary petition to stop Tony Blair getting ANY money from public funds. (PS: This is getting near the 10,000 signatures needed for a formal response from the government. PPS: Just 51 signatures to go. Then there might be enough publicity to reach the next milestone of 100,000 signatures for a debate in parliament, which would be fun.) 13/4/2017: 10,000 signatures now achieved!

Update 12/03/2017: Blair was (typically) lying when he claimed that he wasn't touting for a job when he attended a three hour meeting in the White House. He was touting for a job. He did this behind the back of the UK government.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Proposed UK Official Secrets Legislation

New proposals for Official Secrets legislation in the UK not only make the law more severe, they seek to broaden the definition of "Official Secret" to include almost any information that might embarrass the government. It is no longer a question of information that might be useful to an enemy, but anything that might affect foreign policy, and so on.

The new laws will be more severe because the maximum penalty will be a fourteen year jail term, which is a far more severe sentence than has been passed in an official secrets case for many years, and because it is going to be an offence to have information, whereas at present the offence is to communicate or attempt/conspire to communicate such information.

This is being seen as primarily an attack on The Guardian newspaper, which often runs stories based on leaked Ministry of Defence information. But, in practice, and like David Cameron's Royal Charter making the fascist-owned "Impress" militia the official press regulator, it can be used against any newspaper doing what newspapers normally do, which is gather information. Impress is seen as an attack on the Daily Mail, this official secrets legislation is being seen as an attack on the Guardian, but in reality both are part of the same attack on press freedom in general. All journalists gather information, and they have no way of knowing till they have gathered it, whether it is sensitive or not. Under the new laws, they will already have committed an offence that will earn them fourteen years in jail! 

There is to be no public interest defence, so no matter how bad or even criminal the government conduct that is revealed by a leaked piece of information, possession of that piece of information will be a crime. It also means, for example, that anyone who has accessed Wikileaks online, or has kept a newspaper cutting about Wikileaks, could be prosecuted for possessing an Official Secret, whereas previously they would be committing a crime only if they communicated something hitherto unnoticed from Wikileaks (ie: not already in the public domain) that actually affected UK national security.

This is a major piece of legislation that was drafted before Theresa May became Prime Minister, and may be seen as part of David Cameron's petulant campaign against the press, which started in earnest when he failed to get Lord Rothermere to sack the editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, during the campaign for the Brexit referendum.

It should be obvious to everyone that it is futile and wrong to campaign to protect the freedom of the left wing press to the exclusion of freedom for the right wing press or vice versa. Freedom of the press has to be protected unconditionally.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Impress and the New Blackshirts

In a couple of weeks, with a Parliamentary recess for Christmas reducing the risk of awkward questions being asked, the Culture Secretary will decide whether or not to "activate" Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. Activation will mean that any newspaper that fails to sign up to the privately owned, state approved press regulator "Impress" will have to pay the legal costs of anyone who sues that newspaper for libel, even if the newspaper wins the libel case in court. In other words, the newspaper will automatically lose (in financial terms) every libel case, no matter how undeserving, that is bought against it.

The vast majority of British newspapers, national and local, want nothing to do with a state regulator. Impress isn't a body owned by the state, however: the state merely "approves" it. Impress is funded and thereby owned by the Formula One Tycoon Max Mosley, son of Oswald Mosley, the one time leader of the British Union of Fascists, who was imprisoned during World War Two for his Nazi sympathies. The then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was persuaded by cabinet colleagues not to have Mosley senior prosecuted for treason, which could (and arguably should) have led to his hanging. When the war ended, the freed Oswald Mosley went back to his Jew baiting habits and continued business as usual as leader of the BUF. As a young man, Max Mosley attended BUF rallies in Jewish areas of London and was arrested for assaulting people for being Jewish. Oswald Mosley was very wealthy and was able to pull strings to get Max released into his custody, avoiding prosecution and probable jail for assault and affray. Impress is a tool crafted by a man with a history of using his fists to express his (racist) opinions.

In a democracy, members of an official regulator are normally expected to be impartial, but Max Mosley's Impress is stuffed with people who openly express a hatred of the press in general or even specific newspapers, such as the Daily Mail. (Which coincidentally campaigned with some success to bring the racist killers of Stephen Lawrence to justice.) Oswald Mosley had the Blackshirts, Max Mosley has the code committee of Impress. These people are there to destroy newspapers, pure and simple. They are the now elderly Max Mosley's fists.

Some people will foolishly support Impress because they hate the Daily Mail (or the Telegraph, Sun etc.) and hope that Impress will destroy it. Impress will almost certainly oblige, given the chance, but it won't stop there. As a fascist, Mosley has as much reason to hate The Guardian as he does The Mail and The Guardian is probably more vulnerable financially than The Mail. Extreme left wing communitarian organisations such as Common Purpose will support Impress because there are parts of the socialist agenda which national socialists share. They do not share The Guardian's centre left agenda!

In particular it should be noted by all, that Section 40 is not designed to destroy only pro Brexit newspapers like the Daily Mail: it is designed to destroy newspapers in general, including pro Remain ones like The Guardian and The Financial Times. 

Update: 19/5/2017
The Conservative Manifesto for the Election on the 8th of June 2017, promises the repeal of section 40. Mrs May's administration had repeatedly declined to actually implement section 40, which was agreed to by her predecessor, David Cameron, in an absolutely shameless sellout to an openly fascist pressure group.