Monday, 2 March 2015

Labour-run Oxford is the New Rotherham - Andrew Smith defends useless social services

Serious case review slams police failure in serial abuse of Oxford girls

by Sandra Laville for the Guardian Sunday 1 March 2015

Some of the 300 victims, mostly girls in care, were exploited for more than eight years despite repeated calls for help to authorities. 
"In Oxford the grooming, sexual torture and trafficking took place in the Cowley area of the city, in churchyards, parks, a guesthouse and empty flats procured for the purpose of drugging the girls and handing them around to be gang raped and brutalised."
The numbers are likely to be an underestimate.

Thames Valley police are criticised in the report for failing to act on repeated calls for help.

More than 300 young people have been groomed and sexually exploited by gangs of men in Oxfordshire in the past 15 years, a damning report into the failures of police and social services to stop years of sexual torture, trafficking and rape will reveal, the Guardian has learned.

The victims, mostly girls, come predominantly from the city of Oxford, increasing concerns that the grooming and exploitation of vulnerable young people by groups of older men is not confined to the inner cities. One senior investigative source said: “If you think you haven’t got a problem in your city or town, you are just not looking for it.”

If you think you haven’t got a problem in your city or town, you are just not looking for it, said a Senior investigator

Police and social services in Oxfordshire will be heavily criticised for not doing enough to stop years of violent abuse and enslavement of six young girls, aged 11-15, by a gang of men. Such was the nature of the abuse, suffered for more than eight years by the girls, it was likened to torture. All of the victims had a background in care.

A serious case review by the Oxfordshire safeguarding children’s board, to be published on Tuesday, will condemn Thames Valley police for not believing the young girls, for treating them as if they had chosen to adopt the lifestyle, and for failing to act on repeated calls for help.

Oxfordshire social services – which had responsibility for the girls’ safety – will be equally damned for knowing they were being groomed and for failing to protect them despite compelling evidence they were in danger. One social worker told a trial that nine out of 10 of those responsible for the girls was aware of what was going on.

The serious case review has put a figure on the numbers exploited to give an idea of the scale of the problem. The report will say more than 300 young people have been subjected to grooming and abuse between 1999 and 2014 in Oxfordshire alone.

The attempt to quantify the scale of abuse mirrors the work of the Jay report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, which said 1,400 young people had been subjected to grooming and abuse between 1999 and 2013.

An insider said the report was “brutal” in its condemnation of Thames Valley police and Oxfordshire social services.

Weeks before the publication of the serious case review, the chief executive of Oxfordshire county council, Joanna Simons, announced she would be stepping down in the summer, a move questioned by the Oxford East MP Andrew Smith, who said he was “concerned at the decision and how it had been taken”. [That's the Andrew Smith whose election manifesto says he's "on your side". On your side if you're a grooming gang or useless social services bureaucrat. ]

The council said she would not be replaced and the authority was reorganising its management structure. In a joint message with the council in January, Simons said that in order to protect frontline services, the authority would be making changes to its top team which would involve the departure of the chief executive.

The case echoes the child exploitation scandals in Rotherham, Rochdale and Derby involving gangs of men of Asian background targeting white girls in care. In Oxford, however, the grooming, sexual torture and trafficking took place on the streets of the Cowley area of the city, in churchyards, parks, a guesthouse and empty flats procured for the purpose of drugging the girls and handing them around to be gang raped and brutalised.

A 12-year-old victim was branded by the men and, when she fell pregnant, subjected to a backstreet abortion in a house in Reading. Over six years, she was repeatedly raped by groups of men in what she described as “torture sex”.

Key findings in the serious case review will expose how police officers and social workers did not listen to the girls when they spoke of the abuse they were suffering, did not believe them and dismissed them.

The girls and some of their abusers crossed the police and social services radar multiple times. In 2006 alone, the police received four complaints from the young girls about the men, with their accounts corroborated in some cases. One victim reported the abuse twice to police in 2006. She told officers: “They are doing it to other girls, little girls with their school uniforms on.”

There were thousands of contacts between both agencies and the girls and they were reported missing at least 450 times. One victim, known as Girl C, has spoken of how her foster mother reported her missing 80 times.

The number of young people identified by the report – more than 300 – as victims of child sexual exploitation in the last 15 years is considered a robust figure because the girls have all been spoken to by police or social services.

But the numbers are likely to be an underestimate. Figures from Thames Valley police reveal that 220 of the 2,000 child abuse cases reported across the force in 13 months from July 2013 to August 2014 involved child sexual exploitation.

Nearly 700 children and young people suspected of being at risk of exploitation have been referred to new specialist police and social services units in Thames Valley between November 2012 and November 2014; 250 in Berkshire, 237 in Buckinghamshire and 206 in Oxfordshire.

It was not until 2011 when DCI Simon Morton trawled through missing persons reports, health records and social services data that Thames Valley police began to link the girls’ repeated patterns of going missing, returning and going missing again with the activities of the men – some of whom were known to police for drug crimes.

After a groundbreaking two-year investigation, Operation Bullfinch, seven men – including two sets of brothers – were convicted at the Old Bailey in May 2013 of 43 offences, which included trafficking, forcing girls into prostitution, procuring an illegal abortion, rape and physical violence.

Brothers Akhtar and Anjum Dogar, Bassam and Mohammed Karrar, Kamar Jamil, Zeeshan Ahmed and Assad Hussain, who were all from Oxford, were given sentences ranging from a minimum of seven to 20 years in prison.

>>English Democrats say : Had enough yet? Time to break the mould and stop voting for the old parties. Re-train the police and social services: at the moment they are not fit for purpose.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Channel 4 talking Rubbish as Usual

It seems the Greens are not the only people who cannot count, or do simple arithmetic. The Channel 4 news team is just as bad  - or can it be that they are run by Greens? On the 7pm news on February 24th, Channel 4's Cathy Newman announced that "two women per week are murdered by their partners" in the UK. 
       The source for this allegation was a piece of research called the "femicide census" carried out by the Women's Aid organisation. They have published a list of the names of 694 women who are believed to have been killed by men during a four-year period 2009-2013. They then go on to say that in 46% of these cases, the killers or presumed killers were either the partner or a former partner of the victim. This is not gold-standard academic research and they give no details at all about where they got their names and figures or how they defined their categories. In many cases they are treating disappearances as murder, and suspects as convicted. In fact their data is woolly in the extreme. 

       Their chief executive, Polly Neate, then misrepresented their statistics by saying to the Telegraph newspaper, “On average two women per week are killed by a partner or ex-partner [in the UK]." She took the entire list of all murder victims and confused it with the 46% of cases in which the killer was, allegedly, the partner or ex-partner of that woman.It seems that to be Chief Executive Officer of a publicly-funded organisation you don't need GCSE Maths - or anything near it. Looking at her CV online she appears to be a typical common-purpose- type-leftie-social worker whose hair is as fuzzy as her ideas. 
   And Channel 4 did a lousy job, reporting Polly Neate's error at face value, uninvestigated, as "two women per week are murdered by their partners". They have refused to acknowledge or retract their error. 
         As soon as her statement was reported in the Independent newspaper, wild rumours began to circulate globally on Twitter and Facebook, to the effect that "half of British women are murdered by their partners". People with an utter contempt for Britain and Western civilisation were peddling this claim with glee. It has gone viral.
         Let's look at the real figures. This country has an official murder rate of 1 in 100,000 people. Pakistan has 7.7, Zimbabwe has 10.6 and the Congo has 28.3. The Honduras has 90.4 which is astounding. In other words, if you live in the Honduras you are ninety times more likely to be murdered than if you live in the UK. Brazil has 25, Columbia 30 and Venezuela 33. So in world terms, the UK is a remarkably peaceful, law-abiding nation.
In 2011, the total number of murders in the UK was 653. That works out at roughly twelve per week, that is, there are six male victims for each female. 
       That is far above the global ratio accepted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which tells us that worldwide, 78.7% of homicide victims are male, i.e. four for every female. So not only is Britain an extremely safe country to live in, it is particularly safe for women to live in. If you do get murdered, you are more likely to be murdered by a burglar than by your partner. To get a true perspective on this issue, we need to take a panoramic view and admit that when murders take place, victims of either sex are often killed by a close family member.
           Women's Aid is not the only organisation circulating false, sensational and misleading figures about homicide. On Facebook, which is of course saturated with leftie propaganda, t
he list below is being circulated by millions of credulous and simple-minded people. It purports to prove that transvestites are being murdered by normal people just because they are transvestites.

An industrious friend of mine googled every one of them. Not one is being investigated as a hate crime, despite the hopes of the LGBT before a suspect was arrested in each case. All the murders were either committed by partners in messy relationships (in two cases the suspects awaiting trial are women), or resulted from involvement in crime. It was a possible drug-related killing in one case, and in another a shooting by police after a stolen car containing one of the victims was driven at police, In one case the murder was committed by dad during an argument about money, In the case of Lamia Beard the suspect is not yet known but the police aren't treating it as a hate crime, and the first on the list - Lamar Edwards - isn't a 'trans woman' at all but a 'gay man' and police have said very emphatically that there are no grounds for treating it as a hate crime.
      In other words, both of these stories are examples of how the left-wing twists or invents facts and figures to support a narrative of victimhood. So Ms Neate and Channel 4 are not the only ones telling fibs, but I still think that both of them should issue a public apology and retraction for their wildly unbalanced and inaccurate report.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Green homes for £60,000? No £135,000 is the going price Natalie.

BRAIN FADE was Natalie Bennett's own term for her extraordinary and embarrassing dithering when interviewed by the BBC this week. She could not produce the most basic facts or figures to support her Green Party's far-left manifesto.

Jamie Streets and his family, evicted

The Greens advocate de-criminalising membership of ISIS and other militant terrorist organisations who cut peoples' heads off, because any other policy would be "discrimination" which in their politically-correct eyes is always the ultimate wickedness.
I believe in discrimination. Making valid distinctions between better and worse, right and wrong, moral and immoral, safe and unsafe, feasible and unfeasible, up and down, left and right, alive and dead, sense and nonsense, is what we need to go through life. Thank God for discrimination!
Greens also believe in abolishing all national boundaries and allowing unlimited immigration. If the entire half billion population of  the EU, or the entire seven billion population of the world, arrived here tomorrow, this would be no problem according to the Greens. They think they can house them all by building half a million new homes somewhere in England at a cost of £60,000 each. (What happened to the agenda about preserving our countryside and environment? Er, well that got swallowed up by political correctness.)
Even if that was an accurate figure, the total cost would surely be £30 billion. Multiply 
60,000 x one million then halve it. Ms Bennett, whose strong point is not arithmetic, estimated two billion.
     This week Oxford's Labour City Council announced that it is spending £48 million on new social housing, This will provide a grand total of only 354 homes.... which means they will cost £135,593.22 each to build. Shame they didn't ask the Greens, who think it's possible to put them up at less than HALF the cost.
      I wonder who will live in them - will it be war veterans like Jamie Streets, who together with his family was nearly evicted from his temporary accommodation by Falmouth council in Cornwall last month?  I doubt it. Jamie who was in the Household Cavalry, served in action in Kosovo and then in Afghanistan at huge personal risk. He then developed a brain tumour, quite possibly as a side-effect, and was made redundant in mid-career. This meant that he could no longer pay the rent on his flat, so he gave notice and his wife, Charmaine, together with their four children, turned to Falmouth council for help. They were told they had made themselves "voluntarily" homeless, so could only get temporary accommodation and would have been thrown out on the streets if their friends had not launched a Facebook and Twitter campaign on their behalf.
      If jumping on the bandwagon was an Olympic category, our LibLabCon politicians would certainly be in line for a gold medal, at least during the pre-election period. (They are not so athletic in the other four and three-quarter years of their term.) Hints were dropped and strings were pulled so that the Streets family is not, for the time being, having to sleep on the streets. But other homeless veterans are doing just that, while families from anywhere else in the world get priority.
      Let's face it, there is absolutely NO hope of improving this situation or giving British people fair access to housing while any of the old political parties are in power. As for Ms Bennett and her Greens, they deserve to be classified as a comedy act, not a political party.…/11814927.__48m_deal_for_354_…/

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Let's Save the Dead - says Stephen Fry

The fate of Asia Bibi, condemned to death in Pakistan for being a Christian, is still undecided. Her husband has gone to the UN to plead for intervention with the government of Pakistan which has the power to intervene and issue a pardon or rescind the death penalty.

This is not just a case of intervening in a foreign country, even for a human rights issue. Over 100,000 Pakistani Christians have signed a petition to spare Mrs Bibi's life. Amnesty International has upheld the justice of her case. And she remains day after day on death row, her children suffering anguish.
     Christians in Pakistan are a despised underclass, limited to jobs like street sweeping because nobody will employ them in any other capacity. They live in filthy squalor and their children have little hope of anything better, being forced to leave school early and start work.
     They belong to a class who are somehow exempt from "human rights" and the same can be said for the migrant workers who are building the new World Cup football stadium in Qatar. 

migrant qatar

They are effectively slave labour, living in male-only labour-camps where conditions are crowded, filthy, insanitary, and squalid, pay is minimal, and they cannot leave the country because their passports have been confiscated. Personally I think the World Cup in Qatar should be boycotted by everybody in protest about this.
      But how much attention does this get from our media? Scarcely any at all. Celebrities and showbiz luvvies such as Stephen Fry are far more concerned with crusading for the DEAD than helping the living. Yes, believe it or not, while millions of people suffer injustice and slavery around the world, Stephen Fry is busy pestering everybody, even the royal family, to sign a petition for a pardon for DEAD homosexuals who were convicted under the UK indecency laws abolished in 1967. In his dark and crazy mind, a dead homosexual matters far more than a living heterosexual. 
       Let's take a look at some of the other people we could be campaigning for. In Iran a young man named Saman Naseem has been held in prison for three years on charges of political sedition, and condemned to death despite the fact that he was only seventeen when the supposed offence took place. It is feared that he was hanged a few days ago, and did Stephen Fry take any steps to help him? No. Even George Galloway spoke out against the inhumanity of his sentence, but Stephen was busy campaigning for the DEAD, and drawing the disastrously-named Benedict Cumberbatch along in his wake, motivated no doubt by a desire to publicize his latest film, The Turing Shroud. 
  Just put this in perspective. In Saudi Arabia this week an unnamed man has been sentenced to death for apostasy i.e. leaving Islam. He tore up the Koran and will be beheaded like so many others found guilty of blasphemy or heresy there every year. But as he is neither homosexual nor dead already, Stephen Fry can't be bothered about him.
  If Fry really doesn't like human beings all that much, as it would seem, why doesn't he campaign to save animals? He could take up the cause of the stranded whales  (whom he so strongly resembles), and whose environment in New Zealand is being damaged by seismic testing.

Or he could crusade on behalf of the Narwhals in the Canadian Arctic, whose environment is being invaded and blighted by oil companies in Baffin Bay. Their tests cause explosions 100,000 times louder than a jet engine... which can  even lead to death.
    But Stephen Fry, celebrity cocaine addict and actor who once deserted a West End production in the middle of its run to have a breakdown, is deaf to all that, because the narwhals are not homosexual and they have the decided disadvantage in his eyes, of still being, in the short term anyway, ALIVE. A dead homosexual matters far, far more and is virtually sacred according to his hopelessly deranged world-view.
   The people he is campaigning for include the likes of Michael Davidson (1897-1976) the pederast author who had two convictions for indecency. A friend of W.H. Auden and Peter Righton, his autobiography The World, The Flesh and Myself begins with the line ‘This is the life story of a lover of boys’, and goes on to confess frankly exactly what he did with underage boys all over the continent. It has now been re-issued in the series “Gay Modern Classics”. Another victim of the laws Fry is protesting about, fifty years after their abolition, was Norman Douglas(1867-1962), author of South Wind and Fountains in the Sand; exiled to escape prosecution he cruised Italy and Tunisia in pursuit of boys and never made any secret of it, even to his women friends such as Elizabeth David.
       I hope these celebrated pederasts write to thank Stephen Fry for his concern, and tell him he has made the world a better place.

Michael Davidson, The World, The Flesh and Myself (London: Arthur Barker, 1962)
Norman Douglas, Fountains in the Sand. (rpt Macmillan, 1957 )

Monday, 23 February 2015

What is the Point of Lent?

Saint John Chrysostom wrote "And so I desire to fix three precepts in your mind so that you may accomplish them during the fast: (1) to speak ill of no one, (2) to hold no one for an enemy, and (3) to expel from your mouth altogether the evil habit of swearing." 
   Wouldn't it be marvellous if everyone gave up swearing for Lent? Even on TV  - on the internet  - when using their mobiles in caf├ęs -and on crowded buses and trains? 

  It is a curious fact that the words Lent and lentil, which look as if they might be related etymologically, are not. Not in any way at all. It would be perfectly logical for the useful vegetable which has long been a fasting food, to give its name to the season. But Lent comes from an Old English word meaning Spring, the time when days lengthen. And lentil comes from the Latin lens, lentis, or to be exact from its diminutive lenticula. The word has no connection with Lent, only with the optical lens, so named because it is flat on one side and round on the other. 
  Not all Christians observe Lent, although it has been part of the Christian calendar for two millennia. The idea was to emulate Christ's forty days of hunger in the wilderness. In the Middle Ages, the churches made Lent a time of very strict abstinence. Rome decreed that meat, fish and fowl were all banned throughout Lent, along with dairy products, sugar, honey, wine, mead, music, dancing, having connubial relations and decorating the house with flowers. The rich ignored the bans on fish and most other things but there were huge fines if you were caught eating meat during Lent  - equivalent to a labourer's wage for three months. Many Elizabethan housewives laboured to grind almonds to make a substitute for milk during Lent. One thing they couldn't ban was ale, as the water was, in the main, undrinkable, so a tankard of home brew would console you for such a fearsome degree of abstinence
   In Ethiopia, the strictest form of the Lenten fast was imposed : nothing but bread, water and salt. In Russia, traditional Lenten foods include tolokno a dish of baked oats; rye bread; beetroot soup; and pickled mushrooms. Perhaps with a bit of vodka? In Greece the Lenten diet would feature bean soup, boiled spinach and stuffed vine leaves. In Spain a favourite dish was chick-pea and pimento stew. The moral of that is...if you live in Russia, move to Spain.
   At the Reformation the bolder Protestants discarded Lent as just another vestige of superstitious idolatry. Calvin condemned it and said it was unnecessary. But in a lesser form, it has lingered on, because we feel instinctively that periods of moderation and sobriety are part of a balanced life. Nowadays, we may be more inclined to call it self-discipline, de-tox, or just a weight-reduction diet, but we know it is wisdom not always to indulge. And also, don't forget, that when you stop going without, and start indulging again, you will do so with renewed relish. 

Friday, 13 February 2015

How the Internet is Manipulated paid government agents

Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

I knew this was going on as I have been one of those targeted  -  busy bees set up a complete fake website attributed to me at one time as well as circulating highly inaccurate allegations, misquotations, contacting my work, targeting my family, and hacking into my e-mail and my Facebook pages. Why? Because they are paid to do just that. On a global scale.
With thanks to Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden


One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based onfour classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.”

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we’re publishing today:

Other tactics aimed at individuals are listed here, under the revealing title “discredit a target”:

Then there are the tactics used to destroy companies the agency targets:

GCHQ describes the purpose of JTRIG in starkly clear terms: “using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world,” including “information ops (influence or disruption).”

Critically, the “targets” for this deceit and reputation-destruction extend far beyond the customary roster of normal spycraft: hostile nations and their leaders, military agencies, and intelligence services. In fact, the discussion of many of these techniques occurs in the context of using them in lieu of “traditional law enforcement” against people suspected (but not charged or convicted) of ordinary crimes or, more broadly still, “hacktivism”, meaning those who use online protest activity for political ends.

The title page of one of these documents reflects the agency’s own awareness that it is “pushing the boundaries” by using “cyber offensive” techniques against people who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security threats, and indeed, centrally involves law enforcement agents who investigate ordinary crimes:

No matter your views on Anonymous, “hacktivists” or garden-variety criminals, it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want – who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes – with these sorts of online, deception-based tactics of reputation destruction and disruption. There is a strong argument to make, as Jay Leiderman demonstrated in the Guardian in the context of the Paypal 14 hacktivist persecution, that the “denial of service” tactics used by hacktivists result in (at most) trivial damage (far less than the cyber-warfare tactics favored by the US and UK) and are far more akin to the type of political protest protected by the First Amendment.

The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions.”

Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government. Ironically, the very same Sunstein was recently named by Obama to serve as a member of the NSA review panel created by the White House, one that – while disputing key NSA claims – proceeded to propose many cosmetic reforms to the agency’s powers (most of which were ignored by the President who appointed them).

But these GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls “false flag operations” and emails to people’s families and friends. Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?

Then there is the use of psychology and other social sciences to not only understand, but shape and control, how online activism and discourse unfolds. Today’s newly published document touts the work of GCHQ’s “Human Science Operations Cell,” devoted to “online human intelligence” and “strategic influence and disruption”:

Under the title “Online Covert Action”, the document details a variety of means to engage in “influence and info ops” as well as “disruption and computer net attack,” while dissecting how human beings can be manipulated using “leaders,” “trust,” “obedience” and “compliance”:

The documents lay out theories of how humans interact with one another, particularly online, and then attempt to identify ways to influence the outcomes – or “game” it:

We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in “false flag operations” where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ’s mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

As usual, they ignored those questions and opted instead to send their vague and nonresponsive boilerplate: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

These agencies’ refusal to “comment on intelligence matters” – meaning: talk at all about anything and everything they do – is precisely why whistleblowing is so urgent, the journalism that supports it so clearly in the public interest, and the increasingly unhinged attacks by these agencies so easy to understand. Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.
Whatever else is true, no government should be able to engage in these tactics: what justification is there for having government agencies target people – who have been charged with no crime – for reputation-destruction, infiltrate online political communities, and develop techniques for manipulating online discourse? But to allow those actions with no public knowledge or accountability is particularly unjustifiable.

Documents referenced in this article:
The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations

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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Save the Coliseum - with One Day's EU Contribution

One of the areas that has been hardest hit by cuts in public funding is the Arts Council. And one of the main victims of Arts Council budget-slashing has been English National Opera.

ENO at the Coliseum may have all sorts of problems, within its own management team, and it has been said to suffer from a "poor business model". But what a tragedy it would be to lose it. 
And look at the figures. The entire budget of the Arts Council for England is only £270 million. Under the present government's "austerity" it has been shrunk from a previous £350 million, and eked out with Lottery funding to reduce the Treasury's contribution. And that £270 million has to be shared out between 670 organisations.
Possibly some of them are not terribly worthy -  I have not checked out all of the 670 individually -   but surely most of them are. And English National Opera must be among those. 
Just consider that we pay £55 million per day in contributions to the European Union. The annual budget of the Arts Council is only equal to about five days' contributions to the EU, and the subsidy paid to ENO is less than one day's worth. Much less. It creates jobs, without a doubt. It improves our international relations. And it keeps loafers off the streets and out of the bars. In the 2013/14 financial year ENO was blamed for losing £2.2 million  - which would only pay for about one hour's membership of the EU.  I would rather spend that money on giving ENO another chance than on MEPs' bogus fact-finding trips to places with sunny climates and luxury hotels.

Why should some art get public funding? Because if it does not, only a tiny percentage of the population can enjoy those intense, extravagant high-art forms, opera and ballet, which are so difficult and expensive to produce. Yes, millions can enjoy them through stereo radio, recordings or TV or, nowadays, by means of live relay into cinemas  - all of which should be encouraged  - but without the live performances, there would be nothing to record or to relay. Live performance is how artists, singers and dancers build up a career and a reputation. A great capital city is hardly a civilised place without some serious opera, and serious theatre going on. And surely a city the size of London, with millions of inhabitants, needs more than one opera house.