Archive for the ‘corruption’ Category

Jamie Kenny watches the Lebanese elections and asks if the Saudis could spend so much money on British politics. The answer is simple: they already have.

Consider the original Al-Yamamah contract, and the famous National Audit Office report that was shown to two MPs and then buried for good. We’re still not trusted to see it. Consider all the many, many people around the 1980s Conservative Party involved with them – Aitken, Archer, Hart, Calil, Thicky Mork himself. Consider the whole complex of turds that was the arms-to-Iraq affair.

Then consider the BAE Systems case and, of course, Anthony Bailey, the lobbyist who integrated the Labour Party’s finances, the City Academies program, Prince Charles, BAE, and the Saudis in one dubious political kebab.

And look at this; Aitken clearly still wants to be an MP.

I may even receive some relief from the tabloids. Under the act it is ­defamatory to report a spent conviction if done maliciously. I shall not be ­rushing to instruct Messrs Sue Grabbit and Runne for breaches of this law, not least because I so often speak and write from the perspective of an ex-offender. Yet I hope that fair editors will think about their obligations under the act towards all ex-offenders before ­regurgitating, pejorative labels such as “disgraced ex-jailbird”.

How dare you threaten us, you old bastard.

Well, Blears and Smith were good, but Geoff Hoon walking the plank? Klasse. Apparently there is talk of making him a European commissioner again; God knows why. Alan Sugar is some sort of minister and a peer of the realm. Peter Mandelson is turning into Michael Heseltine before our boggling eyes. Better get some cardio training in, Pete. Were you still lucid for Hoon, or had you already decided the only objective reality was the one inside your own head? It’s Ballardian time.

The Guardian’s reporting on this, which has been outstanding, managed to use the word “dymanic” in today’s offering, which puts it better than I could.

It’s at times like this that old-fashioned lobby reporting comes into its own; I suppose it’s nice to know they are there. As usual, though, the quality of any given political story in the Grauniad is proportional to the percentage written by Allegra Stratton as opposed to Michael “the most disgusting journalist in Britain” White or Patrick “Unseasonably Mild” Wintour.

A question, though. Tessa Jowell is Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office as of last night. Really? Blears bites the dust for using taxpayers’ money to speculate in property while avoiding capital-gains tax; has everyone forgotten that Jowell did much the same, but with the crucial distinction that she used money paid to her husband as a bribe by the mafia, in the person of Silvio Berlusconi. I believe I was first on this story in December 2005; I’m going to be the last off it.

Because, to resounding silence in the UK, David Mills was convicted by the Italian courts a couple of months ago of corruptly accepting the money from il cavaliere. This is Italy, so it is unlikely he will be punished in any way. Yes, she suddenly discovered irreparable cracks in their marriage, rather in the way that the RAF suddenly discovered them in the Nimrod MR2s, and kicked him out of the door. But I am not aware that she renounced any of the profit involved.

For shits and giggles, compare these statements: BBC News, 04/03/2006:

“They hope that over time their relationship can be restored, but, given the current circumstances, they have agreed a period of separation.”

The Guardian, 17/02/2009:

“This is a terrible blow to David and, although we are separated, I have never doubted his innocence.”

How’s that coming on?

A further question. In all the excitement, and all the mortgages, I don’t think we ever clarified whether the property in question was declared as a first or second home to the Parliamentary fees office, and whether any capital gains tax in respect of it was paid.

Obviously, this is just the woman I’d pick to oversee a succession of gigantic public construction contracts as Olympics Minister, and the intelligence establishment as SoS for the Cabinet Office. If I’d just been playing the Withnail & I drinking game. Here I am! indeed.

The times change; children don’t respect their parents, and everyone’s writing a book. However, the forces of interest don’t change, and one place you find them pure is the defence procurement economy. Consider this story. The first thing you’ll note is that it’s kinda plausible, if you’re the kind of person who reads this blog. Giving a contract for helicopters to Italy in return for their cooperation in beating up the Iraq story is the sort of thing George Bush would have done.

The second thing you’ll note, I hope, is that it doesn’t offer any actual link between the two facts. They are just placed close by. On the same basis we ought to be wondering why France invaded Iraq – they were offered a contract for jet tankers. But the new target audience are waiting for horrors about the Bush years, and there are plenty; this is how you convince without lying.

Drill into the text. There are fossils in there which tell us about the history of this stuff; the key to the past lies in the present, as Lyall said. We have the idea that the EH-101 is too heavy to take off – this is 2002-ish Europhobia. Note the implication of European unmanliness, lack of Hard, to say nothing of the raging projection. EH-101s, Merlins, fly daily with maximum loads in hot’n’high Afghanistan and off the decks of frigates in the winter North Atlantic; we even started a new Naval air squadron to go to Afghanistan. Then we have the appeal to uniforms; the pilots! None are quoted, but the Warrior Ethos is invoked. Beyond that, there are vague implications that Finmeccanica (or Westlands as some call it) does business with teh China. Unclean!

Beyond that, all we need to know is encapsulated by the demand that Obama give the job to “the proper supplier, Sikorsky”. Ah, the proper supplier. Clearly, what we are dealing with here is vendor bullshit in a high form – carefully tailored to the concerns of the new government. When We are the masters now, you have to expect that they’ll come up with a new set of lies.

It’s also interesting that Italy is the happy hunting ground of War on Terror drivel, where anything is possible; first of all, the complaisant secret service that facilitated Ledeen’s meetings, then the handy source of interesting documents, later still a provider of reliable carabinieri – they held the Nasiriyah bridges on the first night of the first Shia Rising, unlike all the other flexible friends – and a source of canny disinfo against the same people who are now being offered canny disinfo by the same people who handed out the last lot.

After all, why would SISMI care about a medium-sized light industrial plant in Yeovil? Nobody speaks for them.

This is wrong;

Gitmo will be closed. Binyam Mohammed will be returned to Britain, or put on trial in the USA. Either way the details of his treatment, and that of all the other inmates, will become public. What are Foggy Bottom and the CIA playing at? Get it over with

Consider this BBC story. The interesting thing here is that Miliband’s position requires him to argue two mutually impossible things at once; first, he can’t possibly let evidence of Mohammed’s torture appear in court, for fear of terrible retaliation from the United States, second, that the United States has not threatened such a thing.

The two are mutually dependent, because if the first one was allowed to stand on its own, who would imagine that good relations with the United States were anything worth having? Therefore, it’s necessary for the protection of the self-regard of the political classes that the US threat be both unambiguous and invisible. It is like the chapter in The Art of Coarse Rugby about fields with bulls in them; eventually they conclude that the ideal scenario is a field next to the rugby ground with a large sign in it, reading BEWARE OF THE BULL, but no bull.

That way, if you need to play for time, you can hoof the ball into the field and count on your opponents’ fear of the bull to waste time – but should you find yourself a couple of points down as time runs out, you can always declare that the bull was taken away years ago and just get on with it. Similarly, no evidence was ever provided of Saudi threats back when this legal dodge – the BAE gambit as I call it – was invented.

Providing evidence of the threats would spoil it. If the government had to admit it was being bullied into covering up for appalling torture or spectacular financial corruption, this would alter certain political facts. But that is not all. The beauty of the BAE gambit is that it’s so flexible; because the evidence of the risk is itself secret, it can be invoked whenever required. I said this at the time, and now they’re doing it. If they had to demonstrate the threat, this would spoil its effectiveness.

I see no reason to think that the Government is lying now about the Americans’ position. In fact, it’s very likely that the Obama administration has not contacted them; for example, here’s the new CIA director explicitly stating that he considers torture and refoulement to states that practice it illegal. Here are his own words:

On January 22, 2009, the President issued an executive order directing all U.S. agencies to use Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions as the baseline for the treatment and interrogation of persons detained in any armed conflict. The executive order also states that agencies must notify the International Committee of the Red Cross of such detainees and provide the Red Cross with access to them. The intelligence community must follow the executive order.

With respect to renditions, the intelligence community must comply with U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, including Article 3 prohibiting the rendition of a person to a country where it is more likely than not he will be subjected to torture.

Here’s the relevant paragraph in the executive order:

Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441; the Federal assault statute, 18 U.S.C. 113; the Federal maiming statute, 18 U.S.C. 114; the Federal “stalking” statute, 18 U.S.C. 2261A; articles 93, 124, 128, and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. 893, 924, 928, and 934; section 1003 of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. 2000dd; section 6(c) of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Public Law 109 366; the Geneva Conventions; and the Convention Against Torture. Nothing in this order shall be construed to diminish any rights that any individual may have under these or other laws and treaties.”

No torture; no handover to states that torture. So it would be surprising if they were to do so. And, indeed, Miliband explicitly says that no approach to the new administration has been made.

However, the Government has chosen to regard not being explicitly told to stop as equivalent to a reiteration of the threats (whose existence it denies, lest we forget) issued by the Bush administration in 2007. It has done this because it suits the Government’s interests. For once, William Hague is right – they should simply ask the Americans to state whether or not the non-threat is still not-in force.

Of course they will not, because it suits them to be able to kick the ball over the BEWARE OF THE BULL sign whenever they think fit. As Scott Horton points out, there are a lot of people about who desperately want a new US administration to be guilty, because it detracts from their own guilt.

This really is getting strange. The Tories look worryingly convinced of the wisdom of a plan to build a gigantic airport in the North Sea, split between two separate islands, because you never need to change the runway a plane is going to depart from…right? At the same time, the Government is considering a gigantic tidal power scheme in the Bristol Channel. It’s like French engineering civil servants seized control in a bloodless coup.

In fact it’s not; they would at least think they were being rational, but surely not even the promoters of this weird rush to create Big Dumb Objects all over the shop can believe this.

On the one hand, you’ve got the Tories, who are trying to convince themselves that they can find £40 billion, before inevitable cost overruns, to create a operationally crippled airport 53 miles from central London and only 101 miles from the nearest point of Dutch territory, dependent for land transport on spare capacity on the CTRL and on the 6 (I think) Crossrail and 2 LTS train paths an hour slated for the Southend/Shoeburyness route, and for road access on pure handwaving.

BorisWatch deserves some kind of medal for their reporting here; they successfully derived the actual location of the project by following Boris’s boat trip in real time on ShipAIS, a ship-tracking ham radio site, and then prepared a handy Google Map, which is where I got the measurements from.

How often, I wonder, would Borisport be fogged in? Even with CATIIIA/B autoland it’s a serious constraint, and enough of it will stop ground operations even if you can still get in. And then there’s all those heat-seeking gulls to worry about; they hunt in packs! The air traffic control issues are pretty gnarly, too – departures conflicting with arrivals into LHR, LCY and LGW.

Further, they want to be seen as “green” whilst also creating another Heathrow-and-a-half. But why? What is it with this obsession with airports in the Thames estuary? As always, the key to the present lies in the past. Here’s the Hansard transcript of the debate on the Maplin Development Bill back in 1973. Three things come to mind – first of all, weren’t MPs great back then? Of course, there is the usual parish pumpery, Bufton Tuftonism and tiresome faff, but there’s also a lot of well-informed intelligent debate, and in the end the government lost!

Second, all the problems are still the same. This is because they are mostly what the Soviet general staff called the permanently-operating factors – terrain, human terrain, infrastructure. Third, there’s a fascinating bit of the social history of ideas here. We join the debate with Douglas Jay MP on his feet, following up an excellent showing (or shoeing) from Tony Crosland…

Mr. Jay: What was the pressure exerted on the Roskill Commission to omit Stansted from its short list? The Times told us on 4th March 1969 that its inclusion would have been “emotive”. At the same date the Financial Times said that its omission was “diplomatic”. The British Airports Authority and the Board of Trade assumed that it was bound to be on the short list. The British Airports Authority was even told that it need not ask the commission to put it on because it was certain to be included. Yet it was omitted, and the commission’s work was handicapped from the start. 700 Thus handicapped, in my opinion the Roskill Commission did its very best. Faced with the resulting choice between Foulness and a South Midlands site for which there is a good deal to be said, it came down decisively against Foulness and in favour of Cublington.

Then we had another curious alliance between landed interests in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire opposed to Cublington and commercial interests anxious to develop Foulness—

Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping): Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the point about Stansted, in fairness to my predecessor in this House I ought to say that he was one of those opposed to the Stansted project. I would never think of him as being in the pockets of wealthy landowners or any set of that kind. It happens that I disagree with him on this issue as on many others, but it is right to be fair to him. Incidentally, I have a house on the approach to Stansted too.

Mr. Jay: I never suggested that. I was recalling what happened. According to The Times of 5th April 1971, the group resisting Cublington spent £50,000 “to persuade the Roskill Commission that the airport should be built at Foulness and not at Cublington”—” not just that it should not be built at Cublington but that it should be built at Foulness.

After the Roskill Commission’s report, this group spent a great deal more, and the same article in The Times said that the pro-Foulness propaganda groups together spent “at least £700,000” to convince the public and Parliament that Foulness was the right solution.

At this point Sir John Howard enters the argument. According to the article in The Times that I have quoted, he was head of a civil engineering firm and, incidentally, a former chairman of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations, though no doubt that is irrelevant. He happened to live near Thurleigh in Bedfordshire and he founded the Thames Estuary Development Company to promote the Maplin project. The Times says that Sir John “first lighted on Foulness during the fight against Stansted, in which he was closely involved.”

He “lighted” on Foulness as it were by chance. His consortium, backed also by RTZ, John Mowlem and Shell, spent more than £500,000 in supporting the Foulness case. Much of the driving force in all this thus came not from people impressed with the merits of Foulness but from those who wanted to keep the airport away from other sites.

Here I return to the speech of the hon. Member for Southend, East. What was the opinion of more than 150,000 people living in the Southend area about this? That is for them and their representatives to say, and I am sure that we shall hear the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine)—

Sir Bernard Braine: I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be accurate. There are 310,000 people living in the three constituencies bounded by the Thames and the Crouch who are affected by this proposal.

Mr. Jay: I always believe in understatements because they strengthen one’s case. The hon. Gentleman has strengthened my case further. What were the opinions of those 300,000 persons—far more than live within 20 miles round Stansted, perhaps three times as many? I am sure that the hon. Member for Southend, East will not question this as a fact. But I understand that with the support of the leader of the Southend Corporation the corporation took a share in Sir John Howard’s consortium, and the town clerk of Southend, according to The Times, became a director of it. Whether that was the best way of handling these matters, I have no doubt that all those concerned thought that they were acting in the best interests of Southend.

Sir S. McAdden: The right hon. Gentleman asked what were the opinions of the people of Southend. They were never consulted. This was a decision of the council to invest £100,000 of the ratepayers’ money in Tedco. The council thought that it would make £6 million. Instead, it has lost the lot.

Mr. Jay: It is what I have always suspected to be the truth. I stated it rather diffidently, but the hon Member for Southend, East has confirmed it. From the point of view of this House, the opinion of the Roskill Commission on Maplin is worth a good deal more than 702 that of this consortium formed in the way that I have described.

I am afraid that what emerges from the story is that both the selection of Maplin and the omission of Stansted have been influenced far too much by the money spent on the commercial publicity and far too little by serious consideration of the public interest.

I see Tebbit was already as much of an arse as he later became, too. Permanently operating factors in the human terrain.

More seriously, I’m fascinated by the fact that the whole idea of Maplin/Foulness/Sheppey/Marinair/Borisport pushed by three different Conservative administrations originates with a gaggle of Tory squires trying to win a planning row in some completely different bit of the country. I wonder if Sir John Howard ever seriously meant it? Or did it just get out of hand? The Tories always will be the party of the Landed Interest, just as when their first response to the great crash of 2008 was to look for handouts to their property-shark contingent; another permanently operating factor.

Meanwhile, over the wall, the Government has aimed squarely for a soggy compromise. My own views on Heathrow expansion are heterodox and unpopular. Here goes: I don’t particularly mind if aviation makes up 29% of the 2050 CO2 target, so long as we get there. Nobody sets out to emit CO2 – it’s waste, and when did you last hear of someone saying “Thank God our widget production line produces so many widget flakes we have to dispose of”? Converting stuff into more valuable stuff is what it’s all about, and any production of valueless stuff makes us poorer.

I’m with James Hansen on this one – it’s the coal-fired power stations, stupid, and the buildings. If we can’t fix the cars and buildings and power generation, it doesn’t matter a fucking jot what we do about aviation. Because, after all, buildings are easy, power and cars are getting easier, aeroplanes are hard. We’re not far now; look at this hub-drive electric motor project at Michelin. Solar and wind are now the leading sources of new electrical power.

And, if there must be expansion, it ought to be at an existing airport because of the ATC issues. And if we’re going to be expanding an existing airport, well, it may as well be the one the airlines want to use. Further, it’s good to maintain the various conventions that limit activity at Heathrow – I was surprised to see that mixed-mode operation accounted for almost a third of the expected capacity increase. And yes, I did hold this view when I lived there.

And if we’re doing this, we ought also to do other things, like building a north-south high-speed rail route and better public transport in general – saving oil and CO2 emissions for things that we can’t yet substitute. Like insisting on change to the European ATC system, which could save 10% or more of the air fuel requirement without pouring concrete or sacrificing anything at all. Like air-source heat pumps and insulation, or…well, enter your favourite project here.

Unfortunately, the government has no credibility on this. Neither does it have any credibility on the eventual target for movements at LHR anyway – they always burst the target, which isn’t included in an act of parliament and therefore is pretty meaningless. And their efforts to balance the Heathrow decisions are crap – a high speed rail “hub” at LHR? On a line from where to where? Great Western electrification is good, but this sounds like a piece of recreational investment that might seriously harm the prospects of building a proper LGV network.

And the responsible minister is Geoff. Fucking. Hoon. Of all people. Aren’t you in jail? Aren’t you dead yet? (I suppose that does not die which can eternal lie.) And so, I conclude, I’d better oppose it anyway. It’s the only way to be safe.

Meanwhile, across the way, the Tories want to “examine” high speed rail. Woo. More talk. And, ah, build a forty billion quid airport in the sea, whilst keeping Heathrow open as well (good luck with the 70-odd mile transfer!). As someone said:

Our government is pitiful, whoever you vote for.

They surely can’t mean this; back in 1969, the Foulness scheme was a political manoeuvre, a Straussian statement. I suspect its resurrection is something similar.

What are they trying to hide? Is this an effort to kibosh offshore wind development? Are Dave from PR, Gideon and Boris climate change deniers? Or what?

This week we’ve had the Piccadilly bunglebombers’ convictions, but more importantly the first conviction for “directing terrorism”. This was the case in which the suspect’s fingernails were torn out by the Pakistani intelligence service; he claims, and I see no reason whatsoever to doubt this, that he was questioned between bouts of torture by British officials. But this isn’t what worries me.

It’s that the poison is seeping into the courts. This particular one was willing not only to accept that, as the case didn’t strictly rest on information from Pakistan, the torture was inadmissible, it was willing to determine this in secret and issue a ruling which is itself secret, before proceeding to a trial by jury. The secret ruling was of course secret from the jury. I really cannot imagine how this is meant to amount to a fair trial. And then there is the de Menezes inquest, where the coroner simply decided that no verdict that implied the police did anything wrong was acceptable.

In the bunglebombers’ case, meanwhile, we had the astonishing conviction of a man for “withholding information” where the information in question was an e-mail message in an account which the Crown accepted had not been accessed since some time before the message arrived. You can now become a terrorist by not checking your e-mail frequently enough.

And I really have no idea how we would go about reversing this. After the long and successful fight over detentions under ATCSA2001, and the partially successful one over control orders, it seems that this is as nothing to the broader deterioration. As someone said in a quite different context,

Someone asked for onbeforeunload, so I started fixing it. Then I found that there was some rot in the drywall. So I took down the drywall. Then I found a rat infestation. So I killed all the rats. Then I found that the reason for the rot was a slow leak in the plumbing. So I tried fixing the plumbing, but it turned out the whole building used lead pipes. So I had to redo all the plumbing. But then I found that the town’s water system wasn’t quite compatible with modern plumbing techniques, and I had to dig up the entire town. And that’s basically it.

One thing that specifically worries me is that the judiciary’s record of opposing the security state in some super-high profile cases conflicts with its opposing, Huttonite tendency of doing quite outrageous things rather than face the prospect of State agents lying. Everyone remembers some of these cases; the risk is that they serve as an institutional alibi.

This is no theoretical question, either. All the data shows that we’re heading for an inconclusive election (or rather, one which actually represents the distribution of opinion in the electorate). You can be certain that there will be no help from the Tories on this score. But what terms can the Liberals insist on that would actually achieve something? What legislation could be repealed that would have a clear signalling effect? I’m not optimistic; I fear that if they were to make anything worth arguing for part of the price for coalition or toleration, there would simply be a Labservative government, a “grand coalition of the I’m all right, Jacks” as the Germans say. A club for the self-protection of the parties who corrupted our institutions to this extent in the first place.

Packer vs. Kilcullen in the New Yorker. Here’s the key paragraph:

Police are another main issue. We have built the Afghan police into a less well-armed, less well-trained version of the Army and launched them into operations against the insurgents. Meanwhile, nobody is doing the job of actual policing—rule of law, keeping the population safe from all comers (including friendly fire and coalition operations), providing justice and dispute resolution, and civil and criminal law enforcement. As a consequence, the Taliban have stepped into this gap; they currently run thirteen law courts across the south, and ninety-five per cent of the work of these courts is civil law, property disputes, criminal matters, water and grazing disuptes, inheritances etc.—basic governance things that the police and judiciary ought to be doing, but instead they’re out in the countryside chasing bad guys. Where governance does exist, it is seen as corrupt or exploitative, in many cases, whereas the people remember the Taliban as cruel but not as corrupt.

Beyond that, I was struck by how much the Gesamteindruck of the whole thing reminded me of the sort of thing John Vann was saying in 1969 or thereabouts – it’s still possible, really it is, and we can probably find a reduction in the number of troops at the same time by realigning completely around a classical counterinsurgency strategy. Kilcullen is hardly optimistic, but he’s still desperately committed. (I think I’ve mentioned before that A Bright Shining Lie was this blog’s secret sauce right back to 2003, when Donald Rumsfeld was still denying there were insurgents in Iraq.)

Now, consider this story; first of all, the Indian navy was being lionised for giving a pirate vessel the good old sturm und drang off Somalia and chastening the eurosexual NATO-weenies. It was like 2006 and the Ethiopian army all over again. However, it was only a few hours before it turned out that the Indians had sunk a Thai trawler which they apparently mistook for a pirate mothership – effectively, they saw a funny looking fisherman and just executed 14 people. Now, it’s very true that foreign trawlers are a big part of the problem. Perhaps the international naval patrol could do something about it, if it can find the ships whilst also dealing with pirates.

But this is no way to do anything; I’ve pointed out before that the recent history of Islamist movements shows that given the choice, people will choose law in general over lawlessness.

Given the choice of what is marketed as order without law, but which as always turns out to be chaos, and some sort of legal order, the people pick the latter.

We’re still offering them the Behemoth; we’re on the wrong side of history, supporting the pirates, Viktor Bout, and a world of bent coppers. The upshot, as Arif Rafiq observes in an instant classic post, is that Pakistan is being turned into Iraq.

I grinned at this comment at the Stiftung:

“Joan Walsh, are you telling me, really telling me here, now, on TV, that because Charlie Black worked with this Savimbi guy, this so-called Reagan ‘freedom fighter’ in Africa who is alleged to have been a cannibal, are you really telling me that this means Team McCain eats people???? Are you making that allegation here tonite ?! I am asking you directly. That Team McCain are cannibals. Is this guilt by association? Yes or no !!”

Joan Walsh: “Chris, no one wants to do that. Not at all. We are just saying that this relationship between Savimbi and the McCain campaign needs to be investigated. We need all the facts. What exactly was the relationship with this notorious Savimbi character. There is a lot there that should concern the American people. We need to know it all so the American people can decide.”

Well, ha ha. But then it happened. Via Making Light, this brainblitzing turdspurt:

Bree Keyton told the tribal “Christians” you are NOT Christian if you practice “tribalism” where they do voodoo to conjure up a goddess spirit or a “genie” and then come to church on Sunday to worship Jesus! What she discovered there is apparent in most churches around the world; namely, mixture in the church. Some renounced their devilish practices of blood covenant by killing sheep, goats, humans to be inducted into the tribe or to get a wife or to get revenge.

She said the current president of Kenya is a Christian. However, Obama’s cousin Odinga ran aganist him and said he rigged the election and stirred up the masses to rape woman and boys, kill and burn and torture Christians, etc. until Obama contacted Condeleeza Rice and she granted Obama the right to contact Odinga and other ruling elders and he “convinced” them to stop terrorizing the Christians. Bree Keyton said the current Christian President was forced by our government (!) to “create” an office for Odinga (to make “peace”) so he was made the Prime Minister (!) to make peace between the Christians and Odinga’s Muslim religion!

Long pig; it’s this year’s Ibogaine. Relatedly, I was just reading back over some of the Pierre Falcone posts, and it struck me that McCain’s public image has come a long way since I blithely remarked that Falcone had been a fool to offer him money. True, I was thinking of relative rather than absolute integrity – I said Falcone should have offered Tom DeLay the cash, and got a far better deal in terms of value for his bribe dollar.

Perhaps McCain should try a different West African warlord; Charles Taylor knew a good campaign slogan when he saw one. He could help him mend fences with the crucial evangelical vote, thanks to his links to Pat Robertson. And eating UN personnel would probably go down well with the base.

So, if World President Brown was to ask me what to do about the headless Viktor Bout empire, and the operators like it, what would I say?

Here’s what I’d do: Let’s draw up a big list of dodgy airlines. Better, let’s use rules; ex-Soviet aircraft, or old 737s, based in the UAE, registration in certain West African, Balkan, or Central Asian states, routes mostly to Middle Eastern and African destinations, and (especially) aircraft bought from or sold to other airlines in the list. We could implement it in software quite easily, at least to provide a filtered list for humans to review.

And then, whenever they land anywhere with trustworthy civil authorities, let’s invoke the long-standing right of any landside state under the Chicago Convention to do an immediate safety inspection, a ramp check as they say in the trade. Naturally, quite apart from crawling over the plane with feeler gauges, that will involve checking all the documents; the manifest, the tech log, the ops manual, the QRH, the pilots’ licences and log books, the air waybills for everything on the manifest, the aircraft registration documents… And, of course, whilst we’re at it there’s no reason why Customs and Immigration shouldn’t search the hold.

If anything is out of order, we’ll ground the plane; if anything is really bad, we’ll seize it; if anything is outright criminal…yes. It may sound a bit hopeful, but consider some of the blog’s back pages. We’ve seen UN-11007 hurtle off the runway in Riyan, officially full of fish but they burned all too well; the An-12 was registered in Kazakhstan to Air Bas, operating from Sharjah, but was working under yet a third and unknown AOC, that of “RPK” – a company which doesn’t seem to exist. In Sudan, an Ilyushin-76 crashed working for Jet Line International, registered to Aerocom, on lease to East-West Cargo. One of the old Irbis Il-18s was grounded in Pakistan after a terrifying flight, several times overloaded with passengers, during which one of the pilots passed out with hypoxia.

It seems to be a defining condition of arms traffickers in the air that the aircraft make sense from one angle, usually that of the UAE authorities; as soon as you look at the details the whole picture dissolves. Here’s another example:

During a ramp check in Beirut, it was discovered that the aircraft’s operating documentation was split among all these firms; the insurance policy applied to a different plane, the tech log was from Ariana, the MEL (the list of the minimum equipment required for safe operation) was the American Airlines one, later replaced by a Swazi one that hadn’t been approved by the Swazi authorities. These institutional flaws complemented a long list of physical ones. None of this should be surprising; UTA’s chief pilot wasn’t qualified on the B727 and neither was anyone else there. The tech manager was trained on the Lockheed Tristar and DC8, and the strong impression is given that literally no management structure for 727 operations existed…

So, I’m delighted to see this report from SIPRI, always sound on the issue right back to the 90s, which suggests exactly that. You can get it here. Of course, being a bunch of Swedes or at least in Sweden, they’re a lot more serious than me – they’ve got studies an stuff and tables and data. But don’t take my word for it. Read the whole thing

Now, the same people are trying to get a change in European Union regs through the European Parliament to make this job easier. You might want to tell your MEP about it, especially if they’re a member of ALDE – the European Liberals.

Update: Here’s a specific talking point.

Lobby for, and support amendments and mechanisms by the relevant EU actors: European Commission DGs, the European Council, the European Parliament and concerned member states “to formulate and implement effective measures using existing EU instruments and regulations that will further reduce the number of air cargo and maritime companies involved in destabilising or illicit small arms shipments to Africa”.

Pakistan Policy Blog speaks sense:

Zardari’s attempt to present himself as a savior belies the reality and the way most in Pakistan and even the United States see him. Billionaire Zardari is part of Pakistan’s feuding oligarchy, not a revolutionary against it.

The sad fact is that most Pakistanis have been hostage to this sadistic version of Bill Murray’s Groundhog’s Day for 60 years. There will be no messiahs in Pakistan. Pakistanis need the rule of law — neither Baitullah Mehsud’s law, nor Farooq Naik’s law — and a system with real checks, balances, and accountability to free them from their malaise.

Read the whole thing; I mean the whole blog, if you’ve got time. I suppose it couldn’t last; the position since the formation of the PPP-PML(N) government was just too good. The government had genuine public support, civil society had given The Tyrant a beating, both the Punjabis and Sindhis were represented, and no bugger voted for the Taliban tribute bands.

Now it’s back to normal service; a weak, unpopular, corrupt civilian president without support from half the country. I confidently predict there’ll be a coup in three or so years. What is genuinely depressing is the role of Zalmay Khalilzad – whether officially or pseudo-unofficially – in egging Mr 10 Per Cent on. The Americans seem to think that Pakistan is a 1970s rightwing military dictatorship, by nature. Says Mr. Douglas State:

Sweating with indignation, as of course they have every right to be, the great majority of the public would go communist tomorrow – and then, what? So, you see, we have to support General Caudillo. I agree he’s unattractive, but, you can’t do everything…

But they won’t – even the NWFP recorded about 15% of votes for the various Taliban tribute bands. They don’t trust the Americans. So what? I don’t. After all, they got new F-16s from the US, to replace the ones they didn’t get the parts for the time before that; they got a couple of spanking new GSM networks from dealing with Norwegian and UAE interests, respectively.

They need exactly the opposite of this kind of government, and this kind of ethic. It’s especially painful that, despite all the “freedom agenda” bollocks, the people who defied the tyrant precisely to defend the rule of law are being sold out. We’re on the wrong side of history, again.

This, meanwhile, is purely irresponsible, unless the game is to bring about a new military government. The upshot is that the Pakistanis turn off the MSR via Karachi; now, their interests and the other side are aligned.