Thursday, 29 September 2016

US terrified of breaching of State Immunity convention

Obama's failed veto of a bill that will make changes to the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and allow legal action for non-commercial matters in US courts against the Saudi government was founded in self-interest, not from sympathetic concern with the KSA. With oil supplies no longer dependent on the KSA and gulf states, the US is no longer committed to backing the KSA - and indeed this is the root of the thaw in relations with Shia Iran.

State Immunity (wrongly termed Sovereign immunity by several papers today - Sovereign immunity refers to the immunity of the state from legal action by its own citizens) is highly complex and the subject of both UN and European conventions. The UK is a signatory with several other European states to the 1972 European Convention on State Immunity - not including Italy. Legal action by Italian citizens seeking damages from Germany for war actions was blocked by the International Court. 

The thing about State Immunity is that it protects the unofficial acts of nations and their citizens much given to meddling in the affairs of other States, and has little effect on States that keep themselves to themselves. So just as the KSA becomes legally liable in damages for the actions of its sheikhs in funding and sponsoring Sunni terrorism, so the US becomes liable for the actions of Blackwater, Air America and other quasi detached parts of the US global policeman role. Or the US imperialist warmonger role. Take your pick. It also, through the actions of the CIA and other covert State agencies, puts the US directly in the dock, for example for damages for unlawful rendition, torture, economic sabotage and so on. 

Switzerland has little to fear from the ending of State immunity conventions. The UK is somewhere between the US and Switzerland. 

All of this would be irrelevant except that at a time of global investment, a successful lawsuit gives a right to seize the assets of the defendant nation in the country of action for the actions of those deemed vicarious servants or agents. Thus Saudi assets in the US can be seized if the suit of the 9/11 plaintiffs succeeds. Or US assets in the UK can be seized if a suit by British claimants succeeds. 

The effect will be a fire blanket on global State investment - by sovereign wealth funds and the like. In allowing action against the KSA - well deserved, I have no doubt - Congress has opened a can of worms with which the world would rather not deal at this juncture.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The EU - An OK club for the lesser breeds beyond the Pale

I must take my hat off to Boris this morning. With the brief announcement that the UK would assist however it could in getting Turkey's EU membership agreed, he has at one stroke caused rage and apoplexy in Brussels and Berlin, has Herr Verhofstadt spitting quinoa, and raised the UK in the eyes of Turks living and working throughout the EU.

The unspoken subtext of his comment is firstly that the UK doesn't care because we will be secure behind the Channel, but mainly that the EU is an OK club for the lesser breeds beyond the Pale, but not really the thing for a great nation such as ours. 

Now go on, Boris, and suggest that Syria also be considered for membership ..  

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Poor people and cyclists killing the oceans

I love it when my instincts triumph over popular marketing. For years during which we were beseiged with margarine advertising and whorish doctors telling us to eschew butter and olive oil in favour of a factory-made ersatz wartime ration, I ignored them all. Now margarine, we're told, is the new asbestos. 

And so with clothing. Not only have I ever declined to wear anthing with anyone else's name, escutcheon or initials on the outside of the garment, I have obstinately stuck to wool, cotton, leather, silk and linen as clothing materials. The exception is polycotton 'blue collar' workwear which I import from the US firm Dickies, which is incredibly well made and long-lived. 

Again, I've been vindicated. Artificial fibres such as Nylon, Lycra, Acrylic, Polyester, Nylon, Spandex, Rayon and Terylene and other oil-based polymers release microfibres in enormous numbers into the rivers and sea every time they're washed. These indestructible microfibres accumulate in marine species, and are slowly killing many fish and marine creatures. 

However, educating people to eschew man-made fibres manufactured by the global corporate chemical oligopolies in favour of natural fibres that can be made on a domestic scale if necessary really won't have much mileage. The people who fund research want more man-made products from their huge belching factories, not fewer. 

So what's the result? 

Well, they find some gullible and credulous newspaper such as the Guardian to print an article blaming the marine pollution on washing machines that don't filter the microfibres, rather than man-made fibres themselves. The way is then open for the EU to ban washing machines that don't filter out the 700,000 harmful microfibres per synthetics wash, and for washing machine manufacturers worldwide to cash in on compulsory new, more expensive, more complex and shorter-lived next-generation washing machines. 

Sometimes you have to admire their chutzpah

Postscript - Whatever happened to the 'polluter pays' principal? Should we not be charging massive cleanup costs to BASF, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, AkzoNobel and the like? 

EU to distribute €350m of €30 a month cash cards in Turkey

The story is carried in Kronen Zeitung that the EU will be distributing €350m of pre-loaded bank cards, each with a monthly credit of €30, to all the migrants currently held in Turkey. 

I have a prediction. Within a week of month one, a quarter will have a zero balance, some 5% of card holders will hold 20% of the distributed aid and Turkish tarts will be complaining that the market has been undermined with payments by EUcard. By month two the people smugglers will carry mobile card readers and will start collecting their fees through surrendered cards; 20 cards per smuggled migrant cashed each month for a year will bring in €7,200. Then the migrants will start killing eachother for EUcards. 

Hey ho.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Willie Peter

There were several emotional comparisons between Aleppo and Dresden in yesterday's papers. Of course, if Churchill and Sir Arthur Harris had ordered the 'terror' bombing of German cities after 1949 they could have been prosecuted as war criminals, and likewise had the Germans shot 330 Italian hostages at the Adeantine caves after 1949, this, too would have been a war crime. As it is, both actions were within the terms of the Geneva convention when they happened, and thus free of criminal blame.

The use of White Phosphorus, WP or Willie Peter in US vernacular, was defended by US General Peter Pace in 2005; "(WP is) a legitimate tool of the military, used to illuminate targets and create smokescreens. It is not a chemical weapon. It is an incendiary". WP has been used by the US most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also by the KSA, Israel and by the Ukrainians. Now, it is alleged, it is being used by Assad against ISIS and the insurgent rebels in Aleppo. 

Given our biggest ally's reliance on White Phosphorus munitions, it is perhaps a little disingenuous of the UK ambassador to to the UN to condemn its use in the Syrian civil war. No doubt the FCO instructed him to bluster and whine and the poor man was just doing as instructed.   

As ever, the military of both sides are just doing what the military of the world always has to do. Those really responsible for the prolonged death and suffering are the heartless Saudi, Turkish, US and European powers who fund and arm the continued killing with their support of ISIS, Al Queda and other Sunni insurgents against the Syrian government.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Tomorrow, Kevin Smith can return to being a nobody

There is really no doubt about the result, and after tomorrow Kevin Smith, who has challenged Corbyn for the Labour leadership, can return to being an unknown nobody. 

The Labour party, however, is not the organisation it was a year ago. Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph provides a pretty good account of what's been going on. What I've not yet seen in print is anyone analysing the political asymmetry of a Tory party with clear public support but probably barely 100k members left and a Labour movement with 600k members but little widespread support. But this will have consequences, no doubt. 

The Libdems are now just a pungent smear on the green benches; broke, with fewer members, they were gambling on getting Tax funding based on their 2010 vote share, an establishment fix strongly pursued by both Hayden Phillips and Christopher Kelly. That's now dead in the water thank goodness and the LibDems are stuffed.   

Changes ahead - and changes mean opportunities to overturn even more old-establishment inanities, cause Polly to froth at the mouth, and reclaim our realm.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Dave's 70,000 imaginary friends exposed

Poor Cameron. No sooner has he left office than all his closest chums have been turfed out, his chum-friendly policies have been reversed and now a series of Commons committees are publishing reports criticising his record

The latest, from the Defence committee, catalogues Dave's massive fails over Syria. First, it challenged him to identify the 70,000 chums he claimed to have in Syria. The poor chap from the MoD left to answer for him whilst he enjoys a fourth Summer holiday was flummoxed. Perhaps the figure was a little high. And there must be moderate rebels, mustn't there? Stands to reason. No, we don't know who any of them are. 

The Committee was also critical of the RAF's air campaign, Operation Overwhelming Victory. Air Vice Marshal Crispin Undercarriage stated that our three aircraft in theatre has done 'splendidly', having been in flying condition at least 50% of the time, and only 37 similar aircraft in the UK that had been cannibalised for parts were now unflyable. We have attacked 26 targets in the past year, and scored the highest number of hits against man-propelled biwheeled attack vehicles (MAPBAVS), using our unique Very Small Missiles that cost only half a mill a pop. He disclosed that our three pilots were managed by just six Air Commodores and AVMs and a staff of seventy in the UK and praised the efficiency of the operation. It would have been better, he admitted, had we been able to co-ordinate with friendly forces on the ground, but the Prime Minister had declined to identify any of his 70,000 chums on security grounds. 

A spokesperson for the ex Prime Minister declined to address specific points, saying "Mr Cameron is very busy right now with a Strawberry Mivvie. We'll get back to you."

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The limits of State 'warnings'?

There was absolutely nothing surprising in the facts as they emerged that the NYC terrorist bomber turned out to be an Afghan Islamist. The only cause of mild wonder was why the MSM didn't feel confident about calling it earlier - social media was straight on the button. 

No, the real story for me was the government alert sent to all owners of iPhones. Using the phones' location settings, alerts were sent to every iPhone in the NY area, presumably causing some surprise to Apple mobile owners who hadn't twigged that the gub'ment can address them directly. Presumably they can refine the phone locations down to New Jersey, or Manhatten, or even to just 5th Avenue; "Take shelter - poor black rioters approaching". Apple have included an option to turn the alerts off, but will that switch always be there? EU owners of iPhones will not be reassured that EU phones have the same alerts-receiving capacity, but no option to turn them off. Juncker is probably squirming in excitement. 

This isn't tinfoil hat territory. I'm perfectly happy with the danger warning sirens here in the valley, which scared the life out of me the first time I heard them tested (every Saturday at noon). It's also useful to know the code - three 5 second blasts to call the volunteer fire brigade out. If nothing else, everyone puts on their trousers in the middle of the night and goes outside to see whose barn is on fire. It's a sort of community event. 

And I remember rather fondly the public safety films that were broadcast last thing at night on the TV at 11pm, just before the closing-down rendition of the national anthem. "What to do if you catch fire" was one of my favourites; "Lay down, roll over and put it out" was the answer, which I have always remembered, though in almost six decades I've never actually caught fire. 

But the government sending me geo-focused alerts on my mobile? Maybe it's just age, but that's almost as creepy as having Islamist killers in our midst.