Bureaucracy – a Portuguese tragedy

December 29, 2016

Everyone who lives here will have a horror story about bureaucracy.  Wherever you look, there is a problem and, although It’s easy to make jokes about it, ultimately, it is a tragedy for the Portuguese people.   The average salary here is 984£.  In Spain, it is 1718€, almost double.  Yet, costs are the same.  Result: stagnation, poverty, corruption, economic depression, poor social security and a collapsing health service.  The result is Portugal’s largest export; its qualified young people.

The Portuguese are no less intelligent than the Spanish and they certainly work as hard; I know quite a few people who do two jobs to make ends meet.  So, why the massive disparity in salaries?  One of the reasons is that when Spain ceased to be a fascist dictatorship, it radically overhauled its attitude to the way it did things and looked to the northern Europe model.  This meant sweeping away 40 years of top-down autocracy and replacing it with a system that works for the people.  In Portugal, most of that still remains.

Examples are everywhere; the fact that every small town needs a notary (there are no notaries in northern Europe – they’re not needed).  The fact that those same towns have special offices where citizens can pay someone to do the paper trail for them (also unknown in northern Europe).  The fact that you cannot run a business without employing an accountant.  Here’s an interesting statistic that I am told is true: Lagos Câmara (population 31,000) has the same number of employees as Hamburg (population 1.7 million).  That says it all for me.

In my experience, bureaucracies feed off themselves.  They get to a certain size then become like a clockwork orange, sitting there, making a noise but doing nothing.  In northern Europe, when you need to start a paper trail, the process is made easy for you. The requirements are clear.  You meet the requirements, you get the result.  Here, every official seems to have a mission to obstruct as far as possible.  There are good signs however; the growing numbers of Balcões Unicos and Lojas da Cidadão are revolutionary and work really well.  It’s start, but there’s a long way to go.

I’ve noticed that bureaucrats don’t trust anyone, making the assumption that everyone is dishonest.  The idea of self-declaration of tax (as done in UK) just wouldn’t work here.  One of the reasons for the crippling bureaucracy is this mistrust.  My message is this; make it easier and most people will be honest.  Bureaucracy creates corruption but bureaucracy is more damaging than corruption.  Bureaucracy affects everyone but not everyone is corrupt.  The perverse fact is that bureaucracy actually encourages corruption because it is sometimes easier to bribe than to fight.  Therefore, if bureaucracy is reduced, corruption would naturally reduce.  Result.

Some of these bureaucrats may feel that they’re just doing their job and that if the system was simpler, they’d lose their jobs.  So, job security is an issue but, and here is my main point, If the systems were simplified it would lead quickly to greater economic growth, less unemployment, increasing salaries and increased tax revenues.  If it was easier to start a company, to take an idea to production, to be an entrepreneur, to provide a service, to get a licence for anything, economic growth would be a natural result as the economy is released from the prison of state bureaucracy.  Who knows; we may even reach the point where the people could afford to use their own motorways.

Everyone can see the problem yet no one does anything.  That is the Portuguese tragedy, the lack of empowerment felt by the people. Well, wake up and smell the roses!  Brexit and Trump have shown that elsewhere in the world the people are starting to realise that the system isn’t working for them.   So, what’s the solution?  Simple, actually.  It’s a second bloodless Revoluçâo dos Cravos, it will cost nothing, it will reduce government spending, it will increase salaries and standards of living and it can be done right now.  It doesn’t need a change in the law, it doesn’t need a government edict.  It can be done by anyone.  Sounds like magic, doesn’t it?  How?  Well, it’s not rocket science.

OK, First.  There is a government Ombudsman, the Provedor da Justiça (http://www.provedor-jus.pt).  He is there specifically to handle complaints of bureaucratic maladministration.  If everyone who is affected by this wrote to him, he would soon get the message.  It just takes a letter.  He is well connected.  He has powerful friends.  The second is that every person administering a bureaucratic process must take action themselves.  It means going up the chain and trying to simplify things.  Every manager needs to add this to their objectives.

So, it requires every person in the country to act. Those affected by bureaucracy need to complain.  Those who can do something about it must do so.  I think that covers pretty well everyone in the country.  Most people don’t want a fight, but the last time the people stood together was in 1974 and the government backed down; there was no fight.  There needs to be public ridicule of the worst excesses; maybe a weekly piece in The Portugal News to keep the issue in the public eye.  I don’t think they’ll be short of material.

Don’t wait for the politicians to take action; they won’t.  The people themselves need to act.  Don’t wait for someone else to do it.  Do it yourself.  You can do it and it’s your right.

Within a couple of years, you will see the seeds starting to grow.  It will cost nothing.  Everyone will benefit.  Everyone can do it.  It just takes the will.  Do it now.


A few thoughts on Brexit

December 1, 2016

Now that the dust has settled and we can see the magnitude of the self-imposed calamity that the British public has chosen for itself, it’s time to collect my thoughts and raise a few issues that interest me.

The Brexiteers were predominantly telling half-truths or lies and the public believed them.  The Remainers were predominantly telling the truth but it was dubbed ‘Project Fear’ and the public didn’t believe them.  The Sun told people how to vote and the Sun is always right.  The people (and I know plenty of them) voted Brexit for all the wrong reasons; immigration brought out the nastier side of a prejudiced nation (xenophobia is not far below the surface of most EU states) and was at the forefront of people’s minds.  The issues should have been rooted in the economy; the vote was a decision to leave the world’s largest and most prosperous free trade block and must go down in history as one of the most stupid decisions made by any population, ever.  It was a decision to commit national commercial suicide.  Not one of the promises made by the Brexiteers will come to pass.  Not one.

I agree that Europe is far from perfect and that the idea of a common currency without fiscal union of some sort was badly judged.  However, the problems could have been sorted out from within rather than storming out of the room.  Immigration is a red herring; I don’t know a single person in UK who even knows an immigrant let alone been disadvantaged by them.  It was a fake issue playing to the emotions of xenophobes, whipped up by the Sun, Daily Mail and Express.  My message to them is that the UK they yearn for probably never existed and will certainly never come back.  What they have voted for is a progressive economic decline, increased costs of energy and imports, further undermanning of the NHS and farming, increased inflation and increasing unemployment.  What they have lost is to be part of the great European project that has kept Europe at peace for the longest period in the past two millennia.

I am still staggered by the gullibility of the UK public who believe the web of half-truths and selective facts presented to them by the mainstream media, most of which is right-wing propaganda, the Murdoch press being the greatest culprit.  Murdoch is an ex-Australian now American billionaire who controls an international news empire that feeds propaganda to a gullible public world-wide who are too busy earning a living to find out the truth.  He dominates the UK press and yet no one thinks it’s in any way strange.  Unbelievable!  Yet, all the information is out there due to social media and the digital revolution; all you need is the time and interest to dig it out.   Witness the failure of the press to predict the outcomes of Brexit or the US election and I see some glimmer of hope.  People are starting to question the stance taken by most of the press.  They are realising that the press is talking to itself, not to them.

So, we’ve seen what we, The People, can do.  Fed up with political correctness and being fed a load of lies by the press, The People have spoken.  Should we rejoice?  No.  Absolutely not.  If the referendum wa run again tomorrow, the decision would be different.  However, that is not going to happen.  The result is a lurch towards the right in political parties and that has to be bad for everyone.  History repeats itself.  The Great Depression led to the rise of Fascism and World War II.  The crash of 2008 was actually worse than in the 1930s and was the greatest theft in the history of mankind.  With the exception of a few Icelandic bankers, no one has been brought to book.  That, coupled with a US foreign policy that is determined to sow the seeds of discord and violence around the world and you have where we are today, poverty in Africa, war in the Middle East and, of course, the refugee crisis.  This has all led to an increase in right-wing sentiments, if not outright fascism, and it is led from the US and fanned by the press.  It has resulted in the most powerful nation on earth voting in….oh, let’s not go there.  I just hope that history doesn’t repeat itself too precisely.

There is a famous Chinese curse: ‘May you live in interesting times’.  I think 2017 will be an interesting time.

Depressed?  You should be.


Trump? Why Trump?

November 9, 2016

Trump.  Why Trump?  Why Brexit?  The answer is complex but I think that what we are seeing is a reaction to the realities of globalisation.  We, the people of the prosperous West, are told that we have continuous economic growth, that we are getting more and more prosperous with time.  I’ve lived long enough to know that that is total bollocks.  IT IS NOT TRUE.  Young people of today cannot afford to buy a house, mums and dads both work to make ends meet and graduates are crippled by debt.  To pay for things the banks simply print more paper money, not backed by gold or anything.  Paper.  Add to that the obscenity of zero-hour contracts and anyone with half a brain can see that the bollocks that is being fed to us by the TV & papers is little more than propaganda.  The emperor is actually wearing no clothes.  Then there is the reality of modern capitalism where half the world is dying of obesity, the other half don’t even have clean drinking water because capitalism is ultimately polarising and encourages the growing disparity between rich and poor.  The difference between now and a couple of decades ago is that we have social media and the internet.  Anyone can find out anything, given the time and the ability to discern the diamonds amongst the crap.

Just a word about democracy.  It is an illusion.  There was a time when choosing a government meant real choice but, these days, our lives are determined far more by what the big capitalist players decide to do than anything else.  Our lives are far more affected by decisions made in the boardrooms of companies like Microsoft, GSK, BP & Monsanto and we didn’t vote for them.  They have economies bigger than many countries.  Like it or lump it.  Globalisation wins, you see?

Globalisation is the ultimate expression of capitalism.  Capitalism sounds like a great idea when everyone is growing rich but it’s Darwinian evolution; the survival of the fittest; the losers go to the wall and only the richest survive.  Think Sir Phillip Green.  Shame about the 10,000 workers who lost their jobs or the 20,000 pensioners who lose their pensions.  Still, that’s capitalism for you.  Tough luck…but, If you’re on the winning side you get to buy a £100m yacht.  In the end, capitalism will eat itself but, here’s the rub, it will destroy the planet in the process.

Immigration.  Just a quick word.  Most immigrants are not fleeing war zones; they’re fleeing poverty and hopelessness.  They see the rich getting richer and they want a bit of it.  I’d be with them if I’d been born in Eritrea.  Don’t blame them for our greed; if we had been a bit fairer in the past, they might have futures in their own countries.  Do you think so-called Islamic State would be so aggressive if they had…jobs…or…were allowed to own their own countries… without a military occupation by the leaders of the free world? Ah, but they have the misfortune to be in countries floating on oil.  And Uncle Sam wants control of that…thank you very much, Mohammed.

So, whether we know it or not, the voters are reacting to the reality of advanced industrial capitalism; seeing their jobs go abroad, seeing uncontrolled immigration and everything else that we see now which they didn’t see a few decades ago.  They are existentialists; they believe what’s happening to them, not what they are being told is happening to them.  Their politicians feed them a load of bollocks and expect them to believe it.  Have you seen the appalling DHL ‘global trade’ ads on Sky News?  Jeezus….talk about condescending garbage.  Watch them and be sick.

History is packed with lessons that we should learn from.  Translate many of Donald Trump’s speeches into German and they could have come from the mouth of Adolf Hitler.  But the best lesson that might apply is that of France in 1789.  Remember that an entire ruling class was ‘eliminated’ by people who had nothing on their side except numbers.  I think we are seeing the early signs of another revolution; one where the rich industrialists and bankers are the enemy.  Bring out the guillotines!  Liberté, égalité, fraternité!  Yaaayy!  Nice idea, huh?

Oh, haven’t I read about that before?  Yes, I think it was…just give me a minute…that chap…oh, you know how it is when you get older…name’s on the tip of my tongue…yes…Marx, wasn’t it?

 


Antisemitism in Labour or a manufactured crisis? http://www.jewishsocialist.org.uk/news/item/statement-on-labours-problem-with-antisemitism-from-the-jewish-socialists-g

May 2, 2016

I have been massively irritated by the recent supposed Labour ‘antisemitism’ crisis.  I am staggered by the gullibility of the public that they can accept this manufactured issue and cannot see it as a transparent attempt to undermine Labour in advance of this week’s elections.  I refer you to this from the Jewish Socialist’s Group to which I am in complete agreement:

Antisemitism exists and must be exposed and fought against in the same way as other forms of racism by all who are concerned with combating racism and fascism.

Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews.

Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy out of bounds.

Accusations of antisemitism are currently being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party with claims that Labour has a “problem” of antisemitism. This is despite Corbyn’s longstanding record of actively opposing fascism and all forms of racism, and being a firm a supporter of the rights of refugees and of human rights globally.

A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism.

The accusations do not refer to antisemitic actions but usually to comments, often made on social media, long before Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership. Those making the charges now, did not see fit to bring them up at the time, under previous Labour leaders, but are using them now, just before mayoral and local elections, when they believe they can inflict most damage on the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The attack is coming from four main sources, who share agendas: to undermine Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour; to defend Israeli government policy from attack, however unjust, racist and harmful towards the Palestinian people; and to discredit those who make legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy or Zionism as a political ideology. As anti-racist and anti-fascist Jews who are also campaigning for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, we entirely reject these cynical agendas that are being expressed by:

• The Conservative Party

• Conservative-supporting media in Britain and pro-Zionist Israeli media sources

• Right-wing and pro-Zionist elements claiming to speak on behalf of the Jewish community

• Opponents of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour party.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group recognises that ordinary Jewish people are rightly concerned and fearful about instances of antisemitism. We share their concerns and a have a proud and consistent record of challenging and campaigning against antisemitism. But we will not support those making false accusations for cynical political motives, including the Conservative Party, who are running a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan, and whose leader David Cameron has referred to desperate refugees, as “a swarm” and “a bunch of migrants”. The Conservative Party demonstrated their contempt for Lord Dubs, a Jewish refugee from Nazism, when they voted down en masse an amendment a few days ago to allow 3,000 child refugees into Britain while Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, gave total support to Lord Dubs and his amendment.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group sees the current fearmongering about antisemitism in the Labour Party for what it is – a conscious and concerted effort by right-wing political forces to undermine the growing support among Jews and non-Jews alike for the Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a measure of the desperation of his opponents.

We stand against antisemitism, against racism and fascism and in support of refugees. We stand for free speech and open debate on Israel, Palestine and Zionism.


The rebirth of Socialism; the Jeremy Corbyn factor

September 13, 2015

But first, a brief history of capitalism.

Capitalism is the motor for the industrialised US-dominated planet we live on. Although the Romans were capitalists, modern capitalism was started by the British with the industrial revolution.  It was then  adopted by the nascent America (who did it more rapaciously) and has now been embraced by China.  All hail.  But let’s look at what capitalism really is; it is the ultimate expression of Darwinist ‘survival of the most adaptable’.  Darwin showed that species evolve through natural selection and competition, red in tooth and claw, and capitalism is this law of the jungle wearing a suit and tie.  But is evolved, civilised mankind naturally competitive or naturally cooperative?  Darwin noted that certain species naturally cooperate when it suits the entire species. Even lions cooperate within their prides. So, is humankind cooperative or competitve?  Both, of course.  However, the competitive aspects can be seen as crude and primitive whereas cooperation fits in well with our higher aspirations.  If you were walking past a burning house and a geriatric neighbour told you that there was a child in there, would you go inside to try and save him?  A child you don’t know?  Most people would not hesitate. Yes, we are cooperative if we would risk our own life to save the life of a stranger.

Capitalism works through competition but, over time, this is polarising because it rewards greed.  The weaker go to the wall and ultimately you could envisage, for example, only two car companies in the world whereas originally there were hundreds (we already have that in aviation, Airbus and Boeing).  Similarly all industry would become polarised in this way.  The polarisation isn’t limited to industry because capitalism ultimately results in a massive imbalance of wealth, food, water and resources, so we have half the world who are dying of obesity and the other half are starving and don’t even have clean water .  The majority of the world’s wealth is in the hands of less than a hundred individuals.  So that’s capitalism and you might think it’s good if you are on the right side.  However, remember that it is based on continuing unlimited economic growth and the rape of the world’s resources which are limited.  Capitalism will continue to polarise but, and this is important, it will destroy the planet in the process.  It is a statement of the obvious to observe that we only have one of those.

Continued unlimited economic growth.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, that’s what we have but are you feeling richer than ten years ago?  Will your chidren have the same ability to buy their own home as you did?  Are you working less than you did ten years ago?  Has technology made your life easier?  Has your leisuretime increased?  Do your children communicate with you?  Are you optimistic of an easy pension-funded retirement?  Do parents have enough time to bring up their children or must they both work to make ends meet?  Do you trust your bank manager to look after your money honestly?  Do you trust your politicians?  Do you have confidence in your health-care system? In other words, is a modern, western capitalist society working for you?

I suspect that the answer to some or all of these questions will be in the negative and the reason is that capitalism requires that We, The People, provide more wealth for the wealthy minority; the poor get poorer, the rich get richer. Since the 2008 economic collapse, it has become clear that rampant capitalism is creaking at the seams and cannot be sustained indefinitely.  Actually, it was also clear in the 1930s and that led to fascism and a world war in which 70m people died.  So, what is the alternative?  Well, actually….it’s probably a form of Socialism.  I don’t mean a Soviet-style command ecoomy, but one that recognises that unlimited growth cannot continue, that there’s nothing wrong with workers owning the means of production, that the state should provide free education and health care.  It’s not revolutionary.  However, whenever any country has tried to do that, it has either been undermined from outside (Cuba, Chile, most of Central America) or has morphed into a system which is indistinguishable from fascism (Soviet Union, North Korea etc).  Top-down government has ceased to work. Bottom-up organisation is the key to the future to allow We, The People, to organise Society in a way that suits us, not the minority who already own most of the world.

And that’s why Jeremy Corbyn is such a breath of fresh air.  He is a conviction politicial and, aside from his views on the UK Monarchy, everything he says pretty well agrees with my way of thinking and I wonder whether the time is right for a return of Socialist values.  The alternative has, I think, been shown to be unsustainable.  I’m not talking about a revolution (that’s not British, don’t you know) but an evolution and I’ll vote for that process.  That has to be done by the young to create a society that they want and one of the most encouraging things about the Corbyn factor is that he has energised the minds of progressive youngsters and got them involved in the political process again.  That’s got to be the future.  I just hope that he can sustain his good intentions in the face of the opposition from his own side.  I think the country might be persuaded to get behind him.  I’m there already.


The truth about #Julianassange: http://johnpilger.com/articles/assange-the-untold-story-of-an-epic-struggle-for-justice

August 2, 2015

This from John Pilger’s website.  I am certain that it is the truth and that the world is a sadde rplace than I thought….

The siege of Knightsbridge is both an emblem of gross injustice and a gruelling farce. For three years, a police cordon around the Ecuadorean embassy in London has served no purpose other than to flaunt the power of the state. It has cost £12 million. The quarry is an Australian charged with no crime, a refugee whose only security is the room given him by a brave South American country. His “crime” is to have initiated a wave of truth-telling in an era of lies, cynicism and war.

The persecution of Julian Assange is about to flare again as it enters a dangerous stage. From August 20, three quarters of the Swedish prosecutor’s case against Assange regarding sexual misconduct in 2010 will disappear as the statute of limitations expires. At the same time Washington’s obsession with Assange and WikiLeaks has intensified. Indeed, it is vindictive American power that offers the greatest threat – as Chelsea Manning and those still held in Guantanamo can attest.

The Americans are pursuing Assange because WikiLeaks exposed their epic crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of tens of thousands of civilians, which they covered up, and their contempt for sovereignty and international law, as demonstrated vividly in their leaked diplomatic cables. WikiLeaks continues to expose criminal activity by the US, having just published top secret US intercepts – US spies’ reports detailing private phone calls of the presidents of France and Germany, and other senior officials, relating to internal European political and economic affairs.

None of this is illegal under the US Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”. In 2012, the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama boasted on its website that he had prosecuted more whistleblowers in his first term than all other US presidents combined. Before Chelsea Manning had even received a trial, Obama had pronounced the whistleblower guilty. He was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison, having been tortured during his long pre-trial detention.

Few doubt that should the US get their hands on Assange, a similar fate awaits him. Threats of the capture and assassination of Assange became the currency of the political extremes in the US following Vice-President Joe Biden’s preposterous slur that the WikiLeaks founder was a “cyber-terrorist”. Those doubting the degree of ruthlessness Assange can expect should remember the forcing down of the Bolivian president’s plane in 2013 – wrongly believed to be carrying Edward Snowden.

According to documents released by Snowden, Assange is on a “Manhunt target list”. Washington’s bid to get him, say Australian diplomatic cables, is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. In Alexandria, Virginia, a secret grand jury has spent five years attempting to contrive a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted. This is not easy. The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects publishers, journalists and whistleblowers.

Faced with this constitutional hurdle, the US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The Espionage Act has life in prison and death penalty provisions.

Assange’s ability to defend himself in this Kafkaesque world has been handicapped by the US declaring his case a state secret. In March, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rosthstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. Such is the “justice” of a kangaroo court.

The supporting act in this grim farce is Sweden, played by the Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny. Until recently, Ny refused to comply with a routine European procedure routine that required her to travel to London to question Assange and so advance the case. For four and a half years, Ny has never properly explained why she has refused to come to London, just as the Swedish authorities have never explained why they refuse to give Assange a guarantee that they will not extradite him on to the US under a secret arrangement agreed between Stockholm and Washington. In December 2010, The Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the US.

Contrary to its 1960s reputation as a liberal bastion, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA “renditions” – including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and in WikiLeaks cables. In the summer of 2010, Assange had flown to Sweden to talk about WikiLeaks revelations of the war in Afghanistan – in which Sweden had forces under US command.

“Documents released by WikiLeaks since Assange moved to England,” wrote Al Burke, editor of the online Nordic News Network, an authority on the multiple twists and dangers facing Assange, “clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is every reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights.”

Why hasn’t the Swedish prosecutor resolved the Assange case? Many in the legal community in Sweden believe her behaviour inexplicable. Once implacably hostile to Assange, the Swedish press has published headlines such as: “Go to London, for God’s sake.”

Why hasn’t she? More to the point, why won’t she allow the Swedish court access to hundreds of SMS messages that the police extracted from the phone of one of the two women involved in the misconduct allegations? Why won’t she hand them over to Assange’s Swedish lawyers? She says she is not legally required to do so until a formal charge is laid and she has questioned him. Then, why doesn’t she question him? And if she did question him, the conditions she would demand of him and his lawyers – that they could not challenge her – would make injustice a near certainty.

On a point of law, the Swedish Supreme Court has decided Ny can continue to obstruct on the vital issue of the SMS messages. This will now go to the European Court of Human Rights. What Ny fears is that the SMS messages will destroy her case against Assange. One of the messages makes clear that one of the women did not want any charges brought against Assange, “but the police were keen on getting a hold on him”. She was “shocked” when they arrested him because she only “wanted him to take [an HIV] test”. She “did not want to accuse JA of anything” and “it was the police who made up the charges”. (In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been “railroaded by police and others around her”.)

Neither woman claimed she had been raped. Indeed, both have denied they were raped and one of them has since tweeted, “I have not been raped.” That they were manipulated by police and their wishes ignored is evident – whatever their lawyers might say now. Certainly, they are victims of a saga which blights the reputation of Sweden itself.

For Assange, his only trial has been trial by media. On August 20, 2010, the Swedish police opened a “rape investigation” and immediately – and unlawfully – told the Stockholm tabloids that there was a warrant for Assange’s arrest for the “rape of two women”. This was the news that went round the world.

In Washington, a smiling US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that the arrest “sounds like good news to me”. Twitter accounts associated with the Pentagon described Assange as a “rapist” and a “fugitive”.

Less than 24 hours later, the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, took over the investigation. She wasted no time in cancelling the arrest warrant, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” Four days later, she dismissed the rape investigation altogether, saying, “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.” The file was closed.

Enter Claes Borgstrom, a high profile politician in the Social Democratic Party then standing as a candidate in Sweden’s imminent general election. Within days of the chief prosecutor’s dismissal of the case, Borgstrom, a lawyer, announced to the media that he was representing the two women and had sought a different prosecutor in the city of Gothenberg. This was Marianne Ny, whom Borgstrom knew well, personally and politically.

On 30 August, Assange attended a police station in Stockholm voluntarily and answered all the questions put to him. He understood that was the end of the matter. Two days later, Ny announced she was re-opening the case. Borgstrom was asked by a Swedish reporter why the case was proceeding when it had already been dismissed, citing one of the women as saying she had not been raped. He replied, “Ah, but she is not a lawyer.” Assange’s Australian barrister, James Catlin, responded, “This is a laughing stock… it’s as if they make it up as they go along.”

On the day Marianne Ny reactivated the case, the head of Sweden’s military intelligence service – which has the acronym MUST — publicly denounced WikiLeaks in an article entitled “WikiLeaks [is] a threat to our soldiers.” Assange was warned that the Swedish intelligence service, SAPO, had been told by its US counterparts that US-Sweden intelligence-sharing arrangements would be “cut off” if Sweden sheltered him.

For five weeks, Assange waited in Sweden for the new investigation to take its course. The Guardian was then on the brink of publishing the Iraq “War Logs”, based on WikiLeaks’ disclosures, which Assange was to oversee. His lawyer in Stockholm asked Ny if she had any objection to his leaving the country. She said he was free to leave.

Inexplicably, as soon as he left Sweden – at the height of media and public interest in the WikiLeaks disclosures – Ny issued a European Arrest Warrant and an Interpol “red alert” normally used for terrorists and dangerous criminals. Put out in five languages around the world, it ensured a media frenzy.

Assange attended a police station in London, was arrested and spent ten days in Wandsworth Prison, in solitary confinement. Released on £340,000 bail, he was electronically tagged, required to report to police daily and placed under virtual house arrest while his case began its long journey to the Supreme Court. He still had not been charged with any offence. His lawyers repeated his offer to be questioned by Ny in London, pointing out that she had given him permission to leave Sweden. They suggested a special facility at Scotland Yard commonly used for that purpose. She refused.

Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape wrote: “The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will. [Assange] has made it clear he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step in their investigation? What are they afraid of?”

This question remained unanswered as Ny deployed the European Arrest Warrant, a draconian and now discredited  product of the “war on terror” supposedly designed to catch terrorists and organised criminals. The EAW had abolished the obligation on a petitioning state to provide any evidence of a crime. More than a thousand EAWs are issued each month; only a few have anything to do with potential “terror” charges. Most are issued for trivial offences, such as overdue bank charges and fines. Many of those extradited face months in prison without charge. There have been a number of shocking miscarriages of justice, of which British judges have been highly critical.

The Assange case finally reached the UK Supreme Court in May 2012. In a judgement that upheld the EAW – whose rigid demands had left the courts almost no room for manoeuvre – the judges found that European prosecutors could issue extradition warrants in the UK without any judicial oversight, even though Parliament intended otherwise. They made clear that Parliament had been “misled” by the Blair government. The court was split, 5-2, and consequently found against Assange.

However, the Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, made one mistake. He applied the Vienna Convention on treaty interpretation, allowing for state practice to override the letter of the law. As Assange’s barrister, Dinah Rose QC, pointed out, this did not apply to the EAW.

The Supreme Court only recognised this crucial error when it dealt with another appeal against the EAW in November 2013. The Assange decision had been wrong, but it was too late to go back. With extradition imminent, the Swedish prosecutor told Assange’s lawyers that Assange, once in Sweden, would be immediately placed in one of Sweden’s infamous remand prisons.

Assange’s choice was stark: extradition to a country that had refused to say whether or not it would send him on to the US, or to seek what seemed his last opportunity for refuge and safety. Supported by most of Latin America, the courageous government of Ecuador granted him refugee status on the basis of documented evidence and legal advice that he faced the prospect of cruel and unusual punishment in the US; that this threat violated his basic human rights; and that his own government in Australia had abandoned him and colluded with Washington. The Labor government of prime minister Julia Gillard had even threatened to take away his passport.

Gareth Peirce, the renowned human rights lawyer who represents Assange in London, wrote to the then Australian foreign minister, Kevin Rudd: “Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions… it is very hard to attempt to preserve for him any presumption of innocence. Mr. Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and that his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged.”

It was not until she contacted the Australian High Commission in London that Peirce received a response, which answered none of the pressing points she raised. In a meeting I attended with her, the Australian Consul-General, Ken Pascoe, made the astonishing claim that he knew “only what I read in the newspapers” about the details of the case.

Meanwhile, the prospect of a grotesque miscarriage of justice was drowned in a vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. Deeply personal, petty, vicious and inhuman attacks were aimed at a man not charged with any crime yet subjected to treatment not even meted out to a defendant facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife. That the US threat to Assange was a threat to all journalists, to freedom of speech, was lost in the sordid and the ambitious.

Books were published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the back of WikiLeaks and an assumption that attacking Assange was fair game and he was too poor to sue. People have made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive. The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, called the WikiLeaks disclosures, which his newspaper published, “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years”. It became part of his marketing plan to raise the newspaper’s cover price.

With not a penny going to Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also revealed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables. With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.

The injustice meted out to Assange is one of the reasons Parliament reformed the Extradition Act to prevent the misuse of the EAW. The draconian catch-all used against him could not happen now; charges would have to be brought and “questioning” would be insufficient grounds for extradition. “His case has been won lock, stock and barrel,” Gareth Peirce told me, “these changes in the law mean that the UK now recognises as correct everything that was argued in his case. Yet he does not benefit.” In other words, the change in the UK law in 2014 mean that Assange would have won his case and he would not have been forced to take refuge.

Ecuador’s decision to protect Assange in 2012 bloomed into a major international affair. Even though the granting of asylum is a humanitarian act, and the power to do so is enjoyed by all states under international law, both Sweden and the United Kingdom refused to recognize the legitimacy of Ecuador’s decision. Ignoring international law, the Cameron government refused to grant Assange safe passage to Ecuador. Instead, Ecuador’s embassy was placed under siege and its government abused with a series of ultimatums. When William Hague’s Foreign Office threatened to violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, warning that it would remove the diplomatic inviolability of the embassy and send the police in to get Assange, outrage across the world forced the government to back down. During one night, police appeared at the windows of the embassy in an obvious attempt to intimidate Assange and his protectors.

Since then, Julian Assange has been confined to a small room under Ecuador’s protection, without sunlight or space to exercise, surrounded by police under orders to arrest him on sight. For three years, Ecuador has made clear to the Swedish prosecutor that Assange is available to be questioned in the London embassy, and for three years she has remained intransigent. In the same period Sweden has questioned forty-four people in the UK in connection with police investigations. Her role, and that of the Swedish state, is demonstrably political; and for Ny, facing retirement in two years, she must “win”.

In despair, Assange has challenged the arrest warrant in the Swedish courts. His lawyers have cited rulings by the European Court of Human Rights that he has been under arbitrary, indefinite detention and that he had been a virtual prisoner for longer than any actual prison sentence he might face. The Court of Appeal judge agreed with Assange’s lawyers: the prosecutor had indeed breached her duty by keeping the case suspended for years. Another judge issued a rebuke to the prosecutor. And yet she defied the court.

Last December, Assange took his case to the Swedish Supreme Court, which ordered Marianne Ny’s boss – the Prosecutor General of Sweden Anders Perklev – to explain. The next day, Ny announced, without explanation, that she had changed her mind and would now question Assange in London.

In his submission to the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General made some important concessions: he argued that the coercion of Assange had been “intrusive” and that that the period in the embassy has been a “great strain” on him. He even conceded that if the matter had ever come to prosecution, trial, conviction and serving a sentence in Sweden, Julian Assange would have left Sweden long ago.

In a split decision, one Supreme Court judge argued that the arrest warrant should have been revoked. The majority of the judges ruled that, since the prosecutor had now said she would go to London, Assange’s arguments had become “moot”. But the Court ruled that it would have found against the prosecutor if she had not suddenly changed her mind. Justice by caprice. Writing in the Swedish press, a former Swedish prosecutor, Rolf Hillegren, accused Ny of losing all impartiality. He described her personal investment in the case as”abnormal” and demanded that she be replaced.

Having said she would go to London in June, Ny did not go, but sent a deputy, knowing that the questioning would not be legal under these circumstances, especially as Sweden had not bothered to get Ecuador’s approval for the meeting. At the same time, her office tipped off the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen, which sent its London correspondent to wait outside Ecuador’s embassy for “news”. The news was that Ny was cancelling the appointment and blaming Ecuador for the confusion and by implication an “uncooperative” Assange – when the opposite was true.

As the statute of limitations date approaches – 20 August 2015 – another chapter in this hideous story will doubtless unfold, with Marianne Ny pulling yet another rabbit out of her hat and the commissars and prosecutors in Washington the beneficiaries. Perhaps none of this is surprising. In 2008, a war on WikiLeaks and on Julian Assange was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch”. It described a detailed plan to destroy the feeling of “trust” which is WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such a rare source of truth-telling was the aim, smear the method. While this scandal continues the very notion of justice is diminished, along with the reputation of Sweden, and the shadow of America’s menace touches us all.

For important additional information, click on the following links:

http://justice4assange.com/extraditing-assange.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/assange-could-face-espionage-trial-in-us-2154107.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ImXe_EQhUI

https://justice4assange.com/Timeline.html

http://pdfserver.amlaw.com/nlj/wikileaks_doj_05192014.pdf

https://wikileaks.org/59-International-Organizations.html

https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1202703/doj-letter-re-wikileaks-6-19-14.pdf

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/jul/23/julian-assange-ecuador-and-sweden-in-tense-standoff-over-interview?CMP=twt_gu

http://assangeinsweden.com/2015/03/17/the-prosecutor-in-the-assange-case-should-be-replaced

https://justice4assange.com/Prosecutor-cancels-Assange-meeting.html


Just when you thought Islamic State #ISIS #ISIL #IS was an evil, Shi’ite invention: 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document: West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime”

July 18, 2015

See http://levantreport.com/2015/05/19/2012-defense-intelligence-agency-document-west-will-facilitate-rise-of-islamic-state-in-order-to-isolate-the-syrian-regime/

On Monday, May 18, the conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch published a selection of formerly classified documents obtained from the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department through a federal lawsuit.

While initial mainstream media reporting is focused on the White House’s handling of the Benghazi consulate attack, a much “bigger picture” admission and confirmation is contained in one of the Defense Intelligence Agency documents circulated in 2012: that an ‘Islamic State’ is desired in Eastern Syria to effect the West’s policies in the region.

Astoundingly, the newly declassified report states that for “THE WEST, GULF COUNTRIES, AND TURKEY [WHO] SUPPORT THE [SYRIAN] OPPOSITION… THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME…”.

The DIA report, formerly classified “SECRET//NOFORN” and dated August 12, 2012, was circulated widely among various government agencies, including CENTCOM, the CIA, FBI, DHS, NGA, State Dept., and many others.

The document shows that as early as 2012, U.S. intelligence predicted the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), but instead of clearly delineating the group as an enemy, the report envisions the terror group as a U.S. strategic asset.

While a number of analysts and journalists have documented long ago the role of western intelligence agencies in the formation and training of the armed opposition in Syria, this is the highest level internal U.S. intelligence confirmation of the theory that western governments fundamentally see ISIS as their own tool for regime change in Syria. The document matter-of-factly states just that scenario.

Forensic evidence, video evidence, as well as recent admissions of high-level officials involved (see former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford’s admissions here and here), have since proven the State Department and CIA’s material support of ISIS terrorists on the Syrian battlefield going back to at least 2012 and 2013 (for a clear example of “forensic evidence”: see UK-based Conflict Armament Research’s report which traced the origins of Croatian anti-tank rockets recovered from ISIS fighters back to a Saudi/CIA joint program via identifiable serial numbers).

The newly released DIA report makes the following summary points concerning “ISI” (in 2012 “Islamic State in Iraq,”) and the soon to emerge ISIS:

  • Al-Qaeda drives the opposition in Syria
  • The West identifies with the opposition
  • The establishment of a nascent Islamic State became a reality only with the rise of the Syrian insurgency (there is no mention of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq as a catalyst for Islamic State’s rise, which is the contention of innumerable politicians and pundits; see section 4.D. below)
  • The establishment of a “Salafist Principality” in Eastern Syria is “exactly” what the external powers  supporting the opposition want (identified as “the West, Gulf Countries, and Turkey”) in order to weaken the Assad government
  • “Safe havens” are suggested in areas conquered by Islamic insurgents along the lines of the Libyan model (which translates to so-called no-fly zones as a first act of ‘humanitarian war’; see 7.B.)
  • Iraq is identified with “Shia expansion” (8.C)
  • A Sunni “Islamic State” could be devastating to “unifying Iraq” and could lead to “the renewing facilitation of terrorist elements from all over the Arab world entering into Iraqi Arena.” (see last non-redacted line in full PDF view.)

_____________________________________________

The following is excerpted from the seven page DIA declassified report (bold-facing is my own):

R 050839Z AUG 12

THE GENERAL SITUATION:

A. INTERNALLY, EVENTS ARE TAKING A CLEAR SECTARIAN DIRECTION.

B. THE SALAFIST [sic], THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA.

C. THE WEST, GULF COUNTRIES, AND TURKEY SUPPORT THE OPPOSITION; WHILE RUSSIA, CHINA AND IRAN SUPPORT THE REGIME.

3. (C) Al QAEDA – IRAQ (AQI):… B. AQI SUPPORTED THE SYRIAN OPPOSITION FROM THE BEGINNING, BOTH IDEOLOGICALLY AND THROUGH THE MEDIA

4.D. THERE WAS A REGRESSION OF AQI IN THE WESTERN PROVINCES OF IRAQ DURING THE YEARS OF 2009 AND 2010; HOWEVER, AFTER THE RISE OF THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA, THE RELIGIOUS AND TRIBAL POWERS IN THE REGIONS BEGAN TO SYMPATHIZE WITH THE SECTARIAN UPRISING. THIS (SYMPATHY) APPEARED IN FRIDAY PRAYER SERMONS, WHICH CALLED FOR VOLUNTEERS TO SUPPORT THE SUNNI’S [sic] IN SYRIA.

7. (C) THE FUTURE ASSUMPTIONS OF THE CRISIS:

A. THE REGIME WILL SURVIVE AND HAVE CONTROL OVER SYRIAN TERRITORY.

B. DEVELOPMENT OF THE CURRENT EVENTS INTO PROXY WAR: …OPPOSITION FORCES ARE TRYING TO CONTROL THE EASTERN AREAS (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), ADJACENT TO THE WESTERN IRAQI PROVINCES (MOSUL AND ANBAR), IN ADDITION TO NEIGHBORING TURKISH BORDERS. WESTERN COUNTRIES, THE GULF STATES AND TURKEY ARE SUPPORTING THESE EFFORTS. THIS HYPOTHESIS IS MOST LIKELY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DATA FROM RECENT EVENTS, WHICH WILL HELP PREPARE SAFE HAVENS UNDER INTERNATIONAL SHELTERING, SIMILAR TO WHAT TRANSPIRED IN LIBYA WHEN BENGHAZI WAS CHOSEN AS THE COMMAND CENTER OF THE TEMPORARY GOVERNMENT.

8.C. IF THE SITUATION UNRAVELS THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME, WHICH IS CONSIDERED THE STRATEGIC DEPTH OF THE SHIA EXPANSION (IRAQ AND IRAN)

8.D.1. …ISI COULD ALSO DECLARE AN ISLAMIC STATE THROUGH ITS UNION WITH OTHER TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA, WHICH WILL CREATE GRAVE DANGER IN REGARDS TO UNIFYING IRAQ AND THE PROTECTION OF ITS TERRITORY.