Sunday, 22 February 2009

Diana Watch

The good news is that I have got my early carrots in at the allotment but I have also planted a small asparagus bed and some salad items under a cloche. I know that deep down you are interested. What was interesting yesterday was the Middle-Classifaction of the allotments. You can see it happening and it can be measured by the amount of wood being used there, mostly in the form of raised beds. They’re expansive you know. I know. Allotments have been in the news this week anyway as the National Trust, the preservation fascists, are going to give over enough land to create 1000 new allotments. This is a lovely gesture but it won’t go anyway to help to 100,000 people who are on the various waiting lists around the country for council allotments. I am also worried about the terms and conditions that the NT will place on its allotments as it is known for it’s self important stance on what should be saved and what is to be valued, will they only let people grow vegetables from a pre-approved list of “heritage” crops?
You may remember that last week we talked about the Co-op banning certain chemicals that may or may not affect bees, well this week there has been a call for more research into the decline of bees. The call was for a rather measly £6 million. It more sound like a lot but when you compare to the estimated £250 billion that bees bring to the economy then it really isn’t that much. 1/3 of all the food you eat has been pollinated by bees and would not exist if it wasn’t for them so support your bees. One of the best ways to do this is to plant a range a flowers in your garden that bloom from early spring to autumn so that they have food all year round. There is a good list here. One of the theories as to the failing of so many hives is because of the growing of single food crops, i.e. hives in orchards or near crops such as oil seed rape, which supply a massive amount of food for a very limited time so the bees gorge themselves but have a limited number of hours that they can fly in a lifetime. If they work super hard in spring collecting all the nectar that they can they will then die earlier in the season and there will be no one to feed the colony and do the fantastic and informative bee dance. There are other reasons for hive collapse which include a mite that spreads through hives that carries a virus, bubonic plague for bees if you like. In years to come bees will write nursery rhymes about it. As you can tell I love bees, especially bumble bees, but not as much as I love chickens. Significant others friend Mandy has just been told that she can keep chickens in her garden by her landlord. I am so jealous.

Away from my nature boy persona, although the beard is coming along nicely. There has been a couple of interesting terrorism related stories this week. The UN has been helping the Palestinians clear up Gaza after the disproportional attack by Israel and they have a very large pile of unexploded ordinance which includes some white phosphors shells. Now, as we have discussed before, it is illegal under international law to use these weapons so my question is where is the investigation? Where is the international condemnation? Where is the rest of the world? The proof is there or at least it was until Hamas stole most of the evidence from the UN. Brilliant! Way to shoot yourself in the foot with illegal weaponry there Hamas. You try and help these people with their just cause and they do stupid things like that. Do you want peace?
Dame Steela Rimington, the former head of MI5 and now novelist, has accused the government of exploiting the fear of terrorism and trying to restrict civil liberties. She made the claims in an interview with a Spanish newspaper where she also accused the US of torture. She said "It would be better that the government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism - that we live in fear and under a police state," she told the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.
Dame Stella, who left MI5 in 1996, has previously been critical of the government's policies, including its attempts to extend pre-charge detention for terror suspects to 42 days and the controversial plan to introduce ID cards.
If former Spooks are against your plans because of there civil liberties implications then you are definitely getting it wrong. Let’s be honest MI5 and Liberty are not your usual bedfellows.
Dame Stella's comments come as a study is published by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) that accuses the US and the UK of undermining the framework of international law.
Former Irish president Mary Robinson, the president of the ICJ said: "Seven years after 9/11 it is time to take stock and to repeal abusive laws and policies enacted in recent years.
"Human rights and international humanitarian law provide a strong and flexible framework to address terrorist threats."
Let’s list those recent problems with state invasions of our privacy and civil liberty crushing again shall we,
1, Government plans for a giant database to record the times, dates and recipients of all emails and text messages sent and phone calls made in the UK.
2, The growth of Britain's DNA database - it is now the world's largest, per head of population, with samples from some 4m people.
3,The use by councils of laws designed to track criminals and terrorists to spy on ordinary citizens. In one case a family was watched to see if they were really living in a school catchment area.
4,The spread of CCTV cameras. Britain now reportedly has some 4m, the highest density in Western Europe.
5,Proposals for "secret inquests," excluding relatives, juries and the media, which the government says would prevent intelligence details leaking out.

My favourite story of the week involves Abu Qatada, Islamic scrabble must be so much easier, no U after a Q, who was once described, by a Judge I think, as Osama Bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe (bet he wishes he had copyrighted that phrase) has been told by the Law Lords that he will be deported back to Jordan following his conviction. This is not my favourite story. The bit I like was in a separate development when the European Court of Human Rights told the Government that they owed Abu Qatada £2,500 compensation for illegal detention after they locked him up in Belmarsh prison with no charge. This was declared illegal by the same Law Lords at the time. 11 others are also owed a little bit of cash. I enjoyed the story for 2 reasons, 1, the fact that it really, really angered the Daily Mail and Express. I could imagine the faces of their readers getting more and more red as they read the story over their cooked, artery hardening, breakfast. I wonder if there was a rise in hospital admissions with chest pains across middle England that morning? We can only hope. And 2, the European Court has shown that EVERYONE, this includes you and me, is entailed to fair treatment and trial at the hands of the state. Yes, this man seems to be an Evil-doer but that doesn’t mean that the State can treat him just as they want. This is not an abstract argument; it is completely relevant to you and me. Our Government felt that it could treat these men as it wished because they expressed a view contrary to that of the state and they felt that they could get away with it, still do, because these people are non-white. If nice 5 series BMW drivers were arrested and imprisoned, indefinitely, with no charge, there would be outrage, mostly from those newspapers that specialise in outrage, about it but they weren’t. They were members of this decade’s demonised group. It’s not racist to incite hatred against Muslims because some of them are white and the Government does it anyway but it is illegal for them to do it against us. It’s a special kind of level playing field.
Whilst I’m ranting about human rights, Hilary Clinton is a disgrace. She is in China at the moment to meet leaders of that countries Government and, because of its strange form of communism, their business leaders, who happen to be the same people. Whilst at a press conference she said, when asked about human rights in China or the lack if them, that she wouldn’t be talking about anything that might cause “friction” between the 2 governments. Instead she would concentrate on Trade and Global Climate Change. Whilst I approve of raising Climate Change and pollution with China, saying that trade was more important than Human Rights is inexcusable. On one hand the new US government close Guantanimo and then on the other hand, fuck the workers of China, keep their wages and conditions low so that we can buy cheap shit that we don’t really want or need but an advert tells us we do. Good to know that Capitalism isn’t dead.

Some awards to cheer us up a bit now,

The Award for Sporting Success of the Week,

This does not go to the English cricket team who seem incapable of winning despite a massive lead following their second innings declaration. No this goes to Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke who have become the first British woman to win gold at the Bobsleigh World Championships.

The Award for Surprise of the Week,

This is slightly uncomfortable for me as I find myself agreeing with Harrods owner Mohammad al-Fayed, that’s the surprise by the way. He was accused of sexual assault despite the fact that he could be seen on Sky Sports 1 at a Fulham game at the time of the alleged incident. The investigation was dropped this week, for obvious reasons, and in an interview he wondered if it would be possible for the accused of such a crime could have the same rights to anonymity as the accuser. He claims that he only found out about the claim when he read about it on the front of a newspaper. Does this strike you as fair?

The Award for Hypocritical Bastard of the Week (well any week to be honest),

There is a runner up for this award and it is Bono. He and the rest of U2 have moved their money to Holland so that they pay less tax on it than they would if it was in Ireland where they would have to pay a massive 12.5%. And he feels that he can lecture us. The winner, however, is Bob Geldolf. It turns out that he is a non-dom. He pays no taxes in this country. He has registered his first 2 homes in the British Virgin Islands (a tax haven), yet he still feels that he can tell our Government how to spend its tax revenues. That’s our money that we have paid in taxes.

I watched the film Cloverfield last night. My god, that was dull. Who would have thought that a film with so many explosions and running about and shouting could be so boring? 30 seconds of monster and then it eats the bloke with the camera. The only thing I wanted to know was which make of video camera was being used by the characters to film the running and shouting because the battery life was very good. It seemed to last about 24hrs without needing to be recharged. Remarkable. Hope you all have a good week.

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