Margaret Thatcher Dies

Margaret Thatcher died today and the interwebs are full of electropinions about  her.  Some people even celebrate her death and, in the process, diminish themselves.  If we cheer the passing of this old woman, are we any different from those who high-five each other every time an American drone takes out a village in Afghanistan, or every time an Israeli jet bombs an apartment block full of terrorist children?  Are we any different from those Islamists who cheer in the streets when some suicide bomber murders the western infidels?

No high-fiving for me.  I won’t be celebrating someone’s death  but I won’t be celebrating her life either.

Margaret Thatcher

I think her ideology was vile.  I think she waged war on her own people, creating a legacy of economic destruction that will endure for centuries.  I think she dismantled hard-won social cohesion in order to consolidate the position of the wealthy.

Thatcher’s handling of the hunger strikes in the North and the events that led to them was ham-fisted, arrogant and downright ignorant.

She  went to war with Argentina  for no other reason than to win an election.  She sank the Belgrano with the loss of hundreds of lives in order to gain a political advantage.  She sent troops to the south Atlantic to die and to be maimed in order to win an election.  She befriended the murderous dictator, Pinochet, and made common cause with Ronald Reagan, as his operatives worked to destabilise governments right across the globe.

Margaret Thatcher came closer to establishing a police state than any British prime minister in modern times.  Aided and supported by the vilest gutter press in western Europe, she sent legions of armed and mounted gendarmes up north to beat the miners into submission, polarising Britain in a way it has never recovered from.

These days, every time an old warmonger dies you’re expected to have an opinion but I’m struggling to care whether Margaret Thatcher is dead or alive, never mind have a view on it.  Perhaps the best thing is to offer this opinion from a year ago, when I cared slightly more — though not much.

When the new pound coin came out, years ago, someone said it should be called  a Thatcher, because it was hard, brassy and thought it was a sovereign.  That’s probably the best assessment I heard of her, then or now.


Billy Bragg has put it well.

This is not a time for celebration. The death of Margaret Thatcher is nothing more than a salient reminder of how Britain got into the mess that we are in today. Of why ordinary working people are no longer able to earn enough from one job to support a family; of why there is a shortage of decent affordable housing; of why domestic growth is driven by credit, not by real incomes; of why tax-payers are forced to top up wages; of why a spiteful government seeks to penalise the poor for having an extra bedroom; of why Rupert Murdoch became so powerful; of why cynicism and greed became the hallmarks of our society.

Raising a glass to the death of an infirm old lady changes none of this. The only real antidote to cynicism is activism. Don’t celebrate – organise!


Favourites Murder Politics

Finucane Report — Truth at Last or Just Another Cover-Up?

Pat Finucane was 39 years old when two loyalist killers broke down his door with a sledgehammer in February 1989 and shot him twice in front of his children before shooting him a further twelve times in the head as he lay on the floor.  He was a lawyer who defended people accused of crimes, as lawyers do, and he was good at his job.  He was murdered because the security forces didn’t like that.

They recruited  the killers, they supplied the weapon and they hid the evidence.  The State killed Pat Finucane and then buried the evidence.

Pat Finucane

On the face of it, the de Silva report seems pretty hard-hitting.  It certainly goes into Finucane’s murder in considerable detail and doesn’t shirk from pointing the finger at the police, the army and the various organs of state that colluded in his killing.  And yet, it manages to omit certain vital facts and makes no attempt to establish if anyone in government knew of the threat to defence lawyers in Northern Ireland.

As it turns out, Finucane wasn’t the only lawyer targetted by the loyalists with assistance from the RUC Special Branch, MI5 and the army.  Ed Moloney, former Northern editor of the Sunday Tribune,  has contradicted one of de Silva’s  most important findings, that the British government first discovered  RUC officers had incited the murder when they were told about it the next day by the Irish ambassador.

This is plainly untrue.

Two months before Pat Finucane’s murder, Moloney met Tommy Lyttle, the west Belfast commander of the UDA.  Lyttle informed him that RUC officers were openly suggesting to loyalists that they should kill lawyers instead of ordinary Catholics, and that three individuals were specifically named: Pat Finucane, Oliver Kelly and Paddy McGrory.  Ironically, Finucane had represented both loyalists and republicans in court, and perhaps this was why Lyttle chose to tell Moloney what was going on.

Moloney tipped off McGrory, who contacted Charlie Haughey.  Haughey passed the information to the Northern Ireland Office who seem to have done nothing, because the threat was duly acted on two months later with Pat Finucane’s murder.  But of course, it’s also inconceivable that this information would not have found its way to Downing Street.  Hardly a month after Moloney had lunch with Lyttle, minister Douglas Hogg stood up in Parliament and complained about lawyers who were, in his view unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA.

That statement beggars belief.  It goes completely contrary to the concept of  an accused person being innocent until found guilty, but it goes beyond that again.  If the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran had suggested such a thing, there would have been outrage.  Hogg and his colleagues would have been trumpeting the virtues of western democracy by contrast with the totalitarian barbarity of the Iranians, and yet, in a European parliament, here we had the spectacle of a government minister denouncing officers of the court for carrying out their properly-constituted duties.

Hogg made his comments on foot of a confidential briefing from the RUC – a briefing that can now be seen for what it was: the preamble to murder, and even though Jack Hermon, the RUC chief constable, was enraged at Hogg for breaching confidentiality, his anger is perhaps being misconstrued.  Hogg, in his pomposity and hubris, inadvertently blew the whistle on Hermon and on the special branch of which he was master, exposing the sort of thinking that permeated the RUC.  Even worse, from Hermon’s point of view, Hogg in his stupidity lifted the lid on the reality of the North.  There was no such thing as democracy.  After all, if lawyers can be spoken of in such terms for defending people against criminal charges, and if those same lawyers can later be shot dead, then there’s only one way to describe such a state of affairs.  It’s a police state.

The context is important.  Less than a year earlier, the SAS shot dead three IRA members in Gibraltar.  At their funeral, loyalist Michael Stone attacked the mourners with guns and hand grenades, killing three and wounding  many more.  Three days later, at the funeral of one of those killed in Milltown, two British soldiers in plain clothes accidentally drove in among the mourners and were immediately taken for loyalist attackers.  In a scene of appalling violence  witnessed by the whole world on television, the two were pulled from their car, beaten, stripped and shot dead.

Four years earlier, the IRA had set off a bomb in the Grand Hotel in Brighton where the Conservative party was holding its annual conference.  The bomb killed five people and injured many more.  Though Margaret Thatcher escaped injury, it was now personal.

Thatcher was no great believer in democracy when it could be avoided.  She had few qualms about sending the mounted police to beat the coal miners off the streets when they marched to defend their livelihoods, and showed no hesitation in launching a war to defend the ridiculous Falkland Islands when she detected that a bout of nationalistic jingoism would boost her re-election chances in 1982.  It  mattered nothing to Thatcher that so many men on both sides would lose their lives as long as the Tories retained power.

So why on earth would such a woman, who was happy to throw away English lives for political advantage, be too worried about one troublesome Paddy?

De Silva sees no “overarching” government involvement in the collusion between the police, the intelligence services and the army in subverting democracy, such as it might have been in the North at that time, but perhaps that’s because he wasn’t briefed to look in the right places for such information.  I have no doubt that he’s a decent and honourable man, and what’s more, I don’t doubt David Cameron’s sincerity when he apologises for this outrage, jjust as he was sincere in apologising for Bloody Sunday.  He has done more than most British PMs in that regard.

But I can’t help thinking that this report is a gambit: giving something away to gain something bigger.

Denning might have been in his dotage when he articulated the appalling vista judgement, but decrepit though he was, he still had his bony old finger on the establishment pulse and I suspect the de Silva report is simply a concession by the British government in order to avoid a truly appalling vista.  It looks like the lower levels have been jettisoned to avoid asking the real question: Did Downing Street decide to murder troublesome lawyers?

The implications of that are so enormous that Cameron may be willing to sacrifice any amount of traditional Conservative ground rather than face the consequences.




De Silva Report


Crime Policing Society

Hillsborough Report

Where will the South Yorkshire Police turn to now?

Where will Kelvin MacKenzie slither?  What new lies will he spin to save his hypocritical hide?

What, if anything, is going through Margaret Thatcher’s addled brain, as confirmation emerges that ninety-six people died needlessly at Hillsborough on the 15th April 1989?

It was wartime of a sort and atrocities happen in all wars.  Half-way through the Tories’ war on ordinary British people, it could hardly come as a surprise that their police forces would look on the disaster taking place before their very eyes and read it as just another example of the underclass misbehaving.  After all, for a full decade, since the Conservatives came to power, these police had been indoctrinated into believing that the people were their enemy, even though, ironically, the rank-and-file officers came from precisely the same background as those who died behind the fence while they held the paramedics back and refused to unlock the barriers.

That’s what happens when you create a secret brotherhood.  Those who are admitted quickly turn their backs on those they left behind.

It’s no accident that the South Yorkshire Police are at the heart of this tragedy.  This is the very same force that, barely five years earlier, trampled miners into the ground using mounted police, crushing all resistance, under the orders of Margaret Thatcher.  There was a culture in this force of detesting everything and everyone defined by Thatcher and her cabinet as the enemy.

Who can forget the images of Thatcher standing on the terraces at Hillsborough, surrounded by her generals, like Wellington after Waterloo?  She didn’t need to issue any orders.  The lie machine was primed and working away obediently, thanks to the likes of Kelvin MacKenzie, editor of the Sun and a fervent Tory supporter.  MacKenzie, an overbearing South-London thug with a long history of printing lies in the papers he edited, cared little for anything, even newspaper sales, as long as he had the freedom to massage his own very questionable ego.  A man without ethical standards, he was the ultimate Thatcher brat, an uneducated lowlife who bullied his way into Murdoch’s media empire and spent the rest of his career intimidating every colleague he worked with.

An ill-mannered boor who, by his own admission wasn’t able to write properly, MacKenzie epitomised Thatcher’s kind of journalist.  This, after all, was the man who wrote the headline Gotcha! when over 300 Argentinean sailors died in the sinking of the Belgrano.   It came as no surprise that it was his rag, the Sun, that came up with the most despicable headline, The Truth — above a story that consisted entirely of lies about the Liverpool supporters.

It has taken MacKenzie 23 years to issue an apology, and even then, his words seek to deflect from his own actions:  I too was totally misled.  More lies from a thug and a bully.

But of course, it wasn’t only the Sun that fabricated lies.  As Thatcher stalked the terraces of Hillsborough, pretending to be shocked, the South Yorkshire constabulary were busy rewriting 116 of the 164 contemporaneous police reports to deflect blame from themselves and to create the impression that the Liverpool supporters were a drunken, unruly mob, which they were not.  They trawled  the databases for criminal records among the dead.

Anything to drag up mud on the victims.

The coroner asked for alcohol reports on the bodies of the children who died.  This is the same coroner who refused to hear evidence about anything that happened after 3:15 pm, on the grounds that by then everyone was dead.  Today, we know that he was completely wrong and that at least 41 victims had the potential to survive, but were allowed to die nonetheless.

Why did the coroner make such an extraordinary ruling?

Anything to hide the truth.

Fabrication of reports on such a large scale was not an easy thing to achieve, regardless of how much practice they might have had inventing charges against miners and other striking workers.  It required collusion among hundreds of police, from the bottom to the top, with the specific intention of frustrating any inquiry and hiding the facts.  This deception was perpetrated not by rank-and-file police, but by senior officers working alongside lawyers.  All now stand to face investigation as the South Yorkshire police refer themselves to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The families of the victims were heartened by David Cameron’s full public apology and credit is due to him for it, but they had to go through many sham inquiries and cover-ups before they finally achieved some measure of justice, much of it under Labour, though in 2009 that government did eventually set up the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which finally unearthed the truth.

Everyone involved in the disaster was somehow dehumanised in the eyes of other people.  The police didn’t see dying teenagers and children, only drunken Scousers.  The government didn’t see a major UK city as a community of real people who had suffered an appalling and unjustifiable loss, only a place full of potential rioters.  The gutter press didn’t see anyone as human — not even themselves.

That whole British decade now blurs into a melange of disasters, cock-ups, ideological insanity and cynicism.  It began with a war in the South Atlantic to get Thatcher re-elected, went on with a war to crush working people demanding fair treatment as employees, was punctuated with the horror of the Bradford fire and ended with Hillsborough.  It was a time when police felt comfortable fabricating evidence in support of a political tendency.  Think Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and Annie Maguire.

Anyone who didn’t fit the Establishment profile was considered a suitable target, when such a culture of impunity prevailed.

It would be interesting to know how many beat coppers from the Hillsborough era are now sporting knighthoods and how many might have to hand them back.



Bock Quoted Out Of Context. Result!

At last!  I thought it was never going to happen, but finally, someone has deliberately quoted me out of context for political purposes.

That completes the set for me.

I’ve been called a fascist, a racist, an apologist for illegal immigrants, a thug, a pacifist, a misogynist, a feminist, a homophobe, a homosexual, a bigot and a PC liberal.  But until now, I’ve never been called Left WIng, and until now I don’t believe my words have ever been deliberately distorted to serve somebody’s political agenda.

I just happened to stumble across a website today, written by a character called Mark Humphrys, who deserves a Junior Cert Applied in tabloid-style distortion.

Let me explain the background.

A while back there were rumours that Margaret Thatcher was at death’s door, and last January I wrote a piece in which I said that I thought she was guilty of war crimes.   I pointed out that many old war criminals had been indicted despite their age and infirmity.  During that post, I referred to Elvis Costello’s song, Tramp The Dirt Down in which he said many hate-filled things about Thatcher.

Now, although I’ve been a lifelong fan of Elvis, I don’t like that song, and I said so in the post.

As a human being with family young and old, I find it distasteful that people might direct such invective against a defenseless old lady.

And later:

As a human being, I very much hope that Elvis Costello doesn’t follow through on his threat and tramp the dirt down on Thatcher’s grave.    That would diminish him, much though I understand his anger and contempt.   When Thatcher finally dies, and it can’t be long now, the dignified and appropriate response would be to ignore her passing.

How did Mark Humphrys choose to portray this?


Bock the Robber, 3 Jan 2012, praises a song wishing to see Margaret Thatcher dead in the grave: “I understand his anger and contempt.”   OK, target metaphors in elections are evil. Singing about jumping on someone’s grave is good. Got it.

Now, if that doesn’t make Mark Humphrys a lying, deceitful, dishonest, cynical hypocrite, I don’t know what would.  However, what it really means is that nothing Mark Humphrys writes can be taken seriously since he shows no respect for facts.  This is particularly disappointing for a man who claims to be a scientist.  The absence of rigour is dispiriting and would certainly not inspire confidence.

Oddly enough, even though I never heard of him before today, Mark Humphrys and I share common ground on quite a few issues.  We’re both atheists. We’re both pro-science, pro-reason, pro-free speech, and pro-liberal democracy.  What a pity Mark’s definition of pro-reason includes wilfully misinterpreting what other people say.

Apart from the Thatcher distortion, Humphrys describes me as anti-Israeli, which of course I am not.  I’m certainly opposed to many actions of the Israeli government and their armed forces, as are many Israeli citizens, but the extreme Right never let the facts get in the way of a good slur.  I take it as a compliment that the likes of Mark Humphrys would misquote me, because that means I pissed him off enough to make him take the trouble, and that can only be a good thing.

The disgraceful tactic of putting words in people’s mouths is the lowest form of argument and it’s a shame on Mark Humphrys that he might sink to such thuggery.  It’s about time dishonesty met a little resistance.

Here’s a screen-shot.





Politics war

Margaret Thatcher — The Iron Lady

I don’t know if Elvis Costello’s views about Margaret Thatcher have mellowed at all since he wrote Tramp The Dirt Down, but I doubt it.

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down

Thatcher is an old woman now and lost to dementia.  There are those who say that an elderly person should be entitled to live out their days in some degree of dignity and peace, which is a view I have some sympathy for.  As a human being with family young and old, I find it distasteful that people might direct such invective against a defenseless old lady.

And yet, my sense of distaste is bullshit.

Why?  Because our respect for old age has never prevented society from tracking down and arresting elderly people  of every stripe and hue, right across the globe.  We’re still searching for Nazi murderers.  In twenty years’ time we’ll still be seeking out Serb and Croat killers.  We arrested and tried ancient Khmer Rouge leaders.

Age is not a defence against justice, and Margaret Thatcher has been responsible for inflicting more than her share of misery on people both at home and abroad. The sinking of the Belgrano is often quoted as an example of a war crime, though I have reservations about that.  However, there’s a difference between a crime and a transgression against ethics and morals.  323 people, men and boys, lost their lives when the nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror sank the Belgrano outside the British-declared exclusion zone around the Falklands / Malvinas on the 2nd May 1982.

It’s true that Argentina’s Galtieri was a posturing buffoon, but it’s also true that the Falkland Islands were no more British than Tierra del Fuego.  Apart from the garrison of long-forgotten sheep-herders under the leadership of the ludicrous Rex Hunt, nobody cared about the Falkland Islands and nobody in the UK had ever heard of them.  I doubt very much if Thatcher had ever heard of them, though they do have strategic importance in the sense that they provide a base for the immensely-wealthy New Zealand Company, and a jumping-off point in the event that Britain should ever need to compete for Antarctic mineral resources.

That was one reason for the expedition to the South Atlantic.  Money.  Or more specifically, Denis Thatcher’s money.  The other reason was the impending election, and the fact that the Tories were not looking good in the polls despite the best efforts of Saatchi and Saatchi.  Having defeated Labour in 1979, capturing the popular sentiment of xenophobia and paranoia, Thatcher’s government had inflicted on the British people the heartless economic doctrines of Milton Friedman, leading Denis Healey to accuse them of sado-monetarism.

The British public was hurting and a new election loomed in 2003.  The Tories were in trouble, until General Galtieri invaded his Malvinas and Thatcher must have fallen to her knees in thanks.  What better way to unite the nation than a war?  And what matter if a dozen or a hundred working-class young British men might die?  Not to mention thousands of Argentineans.

The main thing was to get the party of the privileged elite re-elected on a wave of jingoism and that’s exactly what happened.

For this alone, Thatcher should be accused of war crimes.  For using the deaths of young men as an election tool, Margaret Thatcher needs to be indicted even if she is a demented old woman.  After all, the Iron Lady wasn’t always so defenceless.

Ask the coal miners what they think of Margaret Thatcher when, in ensuing years, they were beaten off the streets by mounted police, when their families had to survive on handouts because Thatcher changed the welfare laws to starve them into submission and when they were forced to submit to the will of those whom the Tory party represented.  The super-wealthy.  The miners’ strike was rightly seen as a class war, but the ridiculous thing about it was that other working people were successfully turned against the miners by the red-top Tory tabloids, whose readers were more interested in Page Three tits and back-page football results than in asking hard questions.

And those questions might have been along the following lines: after the miners, who will they come for next?

Idiots.  Britain is not short of such people, delighted to stand up for those Thatcher represented and too stupid to realise where the real danger lay.  Tony Blair was later to capitalise on this stupidity by rebranding his party as New Labour, which of course meant Old Tory.

Thatcher represents privilege of a sort that cares nothing for the common man or woman, and yet her political triumph was in persuading these very same people to vote for her, the fools.

As a human being, I very much hope that Elvis Costello doesn’t follow through on his threat and tramp the dirt down on Thatcher’s grave.    That would diminish him, much though I understand his anger and contempt.   When Thatcher finally dies, and it can’t be long now, the dignified and appropriate response would be to ignore her passing.



British General Election

Since they’re having a general election in Britain, I thought it might be a good idea to summarise the main points for Irish readers unfamiliar with the nuances of British politics.

All three main parties agree on one thing.  They’re not going to mention the savage cuts coming in the next budget after the election, or the fact that these cuts will have to be made by whatever party is in government.

Nobody has any policies, though at one time, it was only the Liberal Democrats who took this approach, and it worked very well for them.   By having no policies whatsoever, they secured a safe future for kaftan weavers, holistic healers and sustainable greenfly-repellent producers.  Lib-Dems, as they’re called, are very, very sincere and well-meaning people, who believe in general niceness and all-round good-eggery.  Most of them are the children of famous novelists and all Liberal Democrats live in the London borough of Camden where they sell high-quality second-hand clothes from eco-boutiques.

Their current leader, Nick Clegg, speaks 138 languages and has nineteen grandmothers, all of whom are White Russian countesses.  He’s eleven feet tall and has been voted the World’s Most Impossibly Handsome Politician.  Clegg believes passionately in a fair and just society, guided by principles of general niceness and fair play, with sustainable dinner parties and organic charades.  He has great respect for idiots.

Former prominent  Lib-Dem leaders include

The Tories have had many policies over the years, all of which involve shooting foreigners.  Tory leaders are raging alcoholics, and all have attended expensive boarding schools where they were repeatedly buggered throughout their formative years. All Tories live in homes which either have the word Hall in their names or else Acacia Avenue.   Tories are also known as Conservatives and the full name of their party is the Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but it is considered bad form to mention the lunatic fringe hicks on whose support they depend.  The main Conservative policies today include keeping out Johnny Foreigner, keeping the yobs in their place and invading places with oil.   They are somewhat to the left of the two main Irish parties.

Their current leader, David Cameron, is a descendant of an ancient Scottish clan, whose main policies involve riding a bicycle while drunk.   He believes that only old Etonians are fit to run Britain, and that Asians are really rather decent chaps when you get to know them.  He was formed in 2003 when a  laboratory transporter experiment accidentally beamed Tony Blair’s mind into a passing Rolls-Royce.

Former prominent Tory leaders include a man who conducted an orchestra, a circus tightrope walker, a demented alcoholic warmonger and Margaret Thatcher, who believed money-supply controlled rainfall.

The Labour Party used to represent the labouring classes until workers and Argentineans were finally eradicated by Margaret Thatcher in the early eighties.  In 1994, Labour’s new leader, Tony Blair, realised that nobody in Britain was working, and therefore rebranded the party as New Labour, which is another name for Conservative.  The main New Labour policies today are identical to the policies of the Tory party, but with added kaftan-weaving and aduki beans.

Their current leader, Gordon Brown, is the miserable son of a Scottish clergyman.   He served as Chancellor in Tony Blair’s conservative government, and has no policies of his own, but believes that all old women are demented bigots.  He has a PhD in history, but no discernible personality.  Gordon Brown is thoroughly sick of the whole thing and will probably step down as Labour leader after the election.

The British electoral system is a straight first-past-the-post race.

This means that most people are never represented by an MP who shares their political views.

In 2010, however, due to brown-rice shortages and a fall in the world demand for kaftans, the Lib-Dem supporters have become more militant, with the result that Nick Clegg is being listened to.  This is the first time in history that anyone has ever listened to the Lib-Dems and it could bring about the unthinkable: a British coalition government.

But the big question is this: who will Nick play footsie with?

If he decides to throw in his lot with the Tories, the new government will look pretty much like this one, with about equal amounts of kaftan-weaving and brown rice.  But if the Lib-Dems and Labour get it on, we could see a huge spike in alternative therapies, reiki, homeopathy and general, all-round, right-on niceness.

So, when did you first start feeling this way?


Politics war World

Margaret Thatcher In Hospital

When I heard that Mrs Thatcher was taken into hospital, I remembered a song by Elvis Costello.

Perhaps it won’t be long before Elvis has to decide: will he stand on her grave as he said he would? Will he tramp the dirt down?