Arrest of Julian Assange

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No dignity allowed for people who publish the truth about state lies

The arrest of Julian Assange

Scotland is still immature when it comes to foreign policy, or at least the SNP is. Their silence over the arrest and detention of Wikileaks CEO and journalist, Julian Assange, is disquieting. Dragging him out of his sanctuary is an outrage. He is being silenced because he knows too much.

An attack on press freedom

We witness an attack on press freedom, on democracy, in Assange’s case a man who told us our governments are lying bastards, mired in illegal wars, squandering our taxes on vast arrays of armaments to help acquire foreign territory, to line their political pockets.

Almost as soon as he was thrown into a G4S truck the smearing began. Ecuador’s interior minister, Maria Paula Romo, described staff tolerating poor behaviour from the 47-year-old, including “putting faeces on the walls”. But his lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, disputed the allegations when she appeared on Sky’s Sophy Ridge political show.

“I think the first thing to say is Ecuador has been making some pretty outrageous allegations over the past few days to justify what was an unlawful and extraordinary act in allowing British police to come inside an embassy.

The politics of the case with respect with Ecuador’s change of government with Lenin Moreno coming to power and ever since then inside the embassy it’s become more and more difficult to the point where Human Rights Watch said was akin to solitary confinement. He’s had a very difficult time – it’s not been easy.

And to suggest that someone would chose to remain in there without legitimate concerns about US extradition, which is exactly what was proven this week, I think people can’t really understand what it would be like to live in a room like that for a very long time.”

Petty patter

Some two-bit obscure court judge in England calls Assange a narcissist. Who the hell is he to defame the man’s integrity? He’s a journalist who did us all a tremendous favour at great risk to himself. I thought whistle-blowers were to be venerated, protected by law?

Assange has not yet charged with anything. Not even in Sweden were charges laid down. But guess what – he had two women pop-up from nowhere in Sweden to say he’s a rapist. That sounds familiar. The sex smear always lingers. (He has been willing to answer Swedish police questions, and invited them to London, an invitation never accepted.) It’s a wonder he’s not been called an anti-Semite. That’s a good lie to stifle dissent.

The women in his life

Of the women, Anna Ardin, the most vociferous of Assange’s accusers – made three charges. The other, Sophia Wilen, made only one charge and refused to say more. Ardin is politically active, reputed to have connections with Sweden’s nascent spy agencies.

Last year, the left-wing online magazine Counterpunch hinted that she could be a spy, especially considering her connections with anti-Cuban factions and the Cuban emigre community in Miami that is fanatically opposed to former president Fidel Castro. ”Anna Ardin … is often described by the media as a ‘leftist’,” wrote Israel Shamir and Paul Bennett. ”She has ties to the US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups.” In fact, she has ties to Israeli dark forces.

For my part, I’d rather not speculate on spy or not a spy. State agencies make it near impossible to prove spying, until the individual in question is dead. Ardin is, indeed, a political activist but the theory that Ardin may be an active spy or an amateur could obscure a more simple proposition: that she is a spurned lover who has seized the chance to go after a man who has made himself the No.1 enemy of the US. Evidence?

In January this year, well before WikiLeaks began dumping US diplomatic cables on the web and long before she had ever met Assange, Ardin published a manual on how to ”systematically take revenge” on ”someone who cheated or who dumped you. “Do a brainstorm of appropriate measures for the category of revenge you’re after … You can sabotage your victim’s current relationship, such as getting his new partner to be unfaithful or ensure that he gets a madman after him.”

The women withdrew their accusations – they made verbal charges, not as the west’s press egregously misrepresent, official charges. However, the US sees a way of imprisoning a whistle-blower who placed a spotlight on criminal activities.

The Pilger view

Eminent Australian investigative journalist, John Pilger, had some interesting facts to tell us. Pilger has a long illustrious record of speaking out loud having unearthed criminal activities by governments, including his own.

“Imagine Tony Blair dragged from his multi-million pound Georgian home in Connaught Square, London, in handcuffs, for onward dispatch to the dock in The Hague. By the standard of Nuremberg, Blair’s “paramount crime” is the deaths of a million Iraqis. Assange’s crime is journalism: holding the rapacious to account, exposing their lies and empowering people all over the world with truth.

The shocking arrest of Assange carries a warning for all who, as Oscar Wilde wrote, “sow the seeds of discontent [without which] there would be no advance towards civilisation”. The warning is explicit towards journalists. What happened to the founder and editor of WikiLeaks can happen to you on a newspaper, you in a TV studio, you on radio, you running a podcast.

Assange’s principal media tormentor, the Guardian, a collaborator with the secret state, displayed its nervousness this week with an editorial that scaled new weasel heights. The Guardian has exploited the work of Assange and WikiLeaks in what its previous editor called “the greatest scoop of the last 30 years”. The paper creamed off WikiLeaks’ revelations and claimed the accolades and riches that came with them.

With not a penny going to Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, turned on their source, abused him and disclosed the secret password Assange had given the paper in confidence, designed to protect a digital file containing leaked US embassy cables.”

The arrest amounts to nothing less than a coordinated crackdown on a journalist and activist: and this is part of the authoritarian shift that is taking place world-wide – from the US to Turkey, from Hungary to Brazil, and now from Ecuador to… the UK.

The submissive public void

They will chuck him in choky so they can get on with their illegal, clandestine nasty wee wars killing women and children and devastating agrarian and urban communities. Chelsea Manning, another whistle-blower is already incarcerated – a political prisoner.

The US government bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information is a dangerous path for a democracy to take. If we don’t protest, if we shrug our shoulder and say, ‘terrible, and now what’s on television?” we allow it to happen to others. We become the submissive void of public concern.

What does our SNP say about Assange? Good riddance to bad rubbish, stop this outrage, or does it stay silent? Perhaps readers can point me to an official SNP statement, or a comment from an SNP MP that is officially endorsed. I can’t find anything.

And that is very sad and troubling.

(A shorter version of this essay first appeared in an article on the SNP’s foreign policies)

 

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Posted in Scottish Politics | 6 Comments

Car News: Best Car of 2018

A weekly look at all that sucks in the automotive industry and some good bits

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This stick-on muddle could only be a Toyota Prius converted to a taxi cab

A friend on Twitter asked my advice recently about the best car to suit her special needs, and three rambunctious kids in the back. In taking a look at alternatives I discovered a survey among private car owners asking what they like the most about their car and what they disliked. Parts of the questionnaire were scientific analysis, parts of the answers anecdotal. The car that came out top by a long chalk was the Toyota Prius.

The Toyota Prius has been one of Toyota’s best sellers ever since it was introduced. It’s a hybrid, half-petrol, half-electric. Instead of a gas bill of £100, you pay £50. Handsome, elegant, highly desirable it is not. I find the new version the Prius 4, severely ugly, and there seems no reason why it was designed in homage to the oddly angular.

I found it frustrating to drive because you cannot see the bonnet line and therefore cannot judge where its nose is, a handicap when parking between cars. However, the interior is very spacious, boot too, and it drives well, and, practical and parsimonious on fuel it is to a high degree.

Stand anywhere in central London and you’ll see an average of thirty pass by in a five minute period, almost all Uber taxis. That means a lot of Prius taxis burning fuel because the untrained driver has no idea where the passenger’s destination lies.

Yes, I know most have an iPhone glued to the windscreen blocking their sight-lines, but you can smell the driver’s lack of confidence. Also, Uber’s profits are not distributed in the UK. They go into back pockets in off-shore accounts. (Revenue in 2018, $11.27 billion USD.) Anyhow, what is so good about the vehicle that it garners so much praise?

Here’s the skinny from the research boffins:

“The hybrid hatch has a wide range of talents. Take running costs. While the Prius is not as cheap to run as a pure-electric car, owners tell us it offers savings elsewhere, such as with insurance (which can be relatively expensive for EVs). You also heap praise on the servicing costs, and our accumulated data places the car a strong third for fuel consumption.

Interestingly, the Prius gains similarly high individual marks for the three elements that make up our engine and gearbox category, suggesting it’s as smooth as it is fast and quiet, and Toyota has refined its hybrid tech impressively. Owners also award high scores for the car’s safety features. 

It’s not all good news; you tell us that the sat-nav could be better and the controls could be more user-friendly, and drivers would also like Toyota to tone down the styling inside and out, it seems. But the ratings are not disastrous; certainly not enough to knock the Prius off the top spot. Factor in a smooth ride, an enjoyable driving experience, excellent reliability and impressive levels of perceived quality, and Toyota’s hybrid is clearly a thoroughly deserving winner.”

So there you have it. The Prius is a private driver’s best friend, better than the ubiquitous VW Golf, at least until full-electric cars become cheaper and charging points appear on every lampost. They start around the £23,000 mark new.

Two things to add: 14% of the cars go wrong, usually an electric glitch, but they are stowed oot wi’ good safety features.

Oh, for the nosey, the Lexus IS came in second.

GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS

Police Scotland’s ‘Crappy’ Cars

A Tory member of the Scottish parliament who shall remain nameless because he is personality-less claimed the vehicles of Police Scotland are in such a bad state 349 broke down last year … out of 14,000. That pretty well one a day. He did not say which vehicles or in what way they breakdown, flat tyre, flat battery, burst into flames, ran out of petrol, idiot flatfoot put diesel into the petrol tank, station forgot to put in petrol, poor servicing, driver error, ad infinitum. And how many broke down enroute to an accident or on a car chase? What I noted was, he got his information from the head of the Scottish Police Federation, a man notable for his public outbursts. Calum Steele, general secretary is a man of many clunky outbursts. Here is what he actually said: “The only surprise is that the figures are so low. The condition of much of the police vehicle fleet is nothing short of a disgrace, breakdowns are commonplace and officers routinely highlight that more vehicles are off the road than on it.” Wait – only a few breakdowns yet that constitutes many? Is Steele a member of the same party as the alarmist Tory MSP? Jist askin’.

Intolerant Cyclists

No matter how nice are cyclists we still hate them. Yesterday, waiting in a line of traffic at the lights, to turn left I wanted into the inside lane. The lane was free, only parked cars at the kerb to worry about. I nosed into the free lane barely a foot and at 2mph, only to see a cyclist doing his ‘I-can-go-any-which-way-I-want’ routine. He suddenly appeared in my blind side. We both stopped moving forward. No one was hurt, we were both being correctly cautious, but I got a bollocking for ‘not looking where I was going’. Dear Cyclist, neither of us had right of way by entitlement, but neither do you have the freedom to weave in, out and around vehicles because you’re on a cycle. And while I’m at it – take a bus. It will be safer.

New York Car Show

Not much to report on this year’s spring show in Noo Yoik, not many goodies, not many jaw-dropping innovative cars. In fact, none at all. You get lots of fanfares in the car press – always desperate for new material – and then it fizzles out stateside. Americans are fairly conservative when it comes to car design. For interesting new concepts the smart turn to Japanese car shows. I’ll concentrate on two developments. Ye olde worlde English creaking Morgan Motor Company, bought over by an Italian group, is to expand its factories – they have 10 acres of land unused – expand their car range, and produce new, more modern models. Three cheers for that. Expect one to be fully electric. The second is Hyundai’s luxury brand, Genesis. They revealed plans to enter the city car market with the ‘Mint’ concept. (Did they drop ‘Spear’?) Yes, Mint is its name. The all-electric car was dreamt up by the brand’s European, US and Korean design studios and, although no powertrain details have been released, it’s claimed the Mint can cover 200 miles on a single charge. I’ve seen the car and the unusual shape give it road presence, a must if you want to sell cars in any number, so let’s hope it makes a reappearance as a production model. How innovative it is must wait for more information.

Happy motoring!

 

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Posted in Transportation | 3 Comments

Sleeping With the Enemy

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German statue to free speech and whistle-blowers – the extra chair is for anybody to use

I have no idea why Scotland is rescuing England from its self. I think it startling to see the elected representatives of our ‘poverty-stricken nation – England’s colonial description, not mine – wasting time fighting a small section of the fascist Tory Party, the 1922 Committee, and telling England the obvious, Brexit is a Deathstar.

Sending MPs to Westminster in the hope English politicians will grant Scotland liberty and the right to exercise free will is like feeding a crocodile with Tunnocks Caramel Wafers in the hope of weaning it off meat.

The gift that never keeps coming

Does the SNP think the English will be so enormously relieved for our help they will grant us our independence as a reward if we are instrumental in England staying in the European Union? Are the Irish running about, like feverish athletes in training, advising the British Government how best to ‘thwart the will of the English people”? From bitter experience, the Irish know how corrupt the British state is and how rotten is its ethos.

The majority of English wish to be rid of the EU. That is their right. Some have put up a plausible set of reasons to govern themselves without accepting the consensus of 27 European states. Why are we telling them NOT to govern themselves whilst demanding that we govern ourselves, and we make our own choices?

Creeping fascism

Yes, UKIP’s ideology is unpalatable, akin to Mussolini and Franco’s outpourings, as is much of the cruel policies of a far-right Tory party losing some of its MPs faster than a balding man his hair. Let them do what they want to do, but we must use our energies to block their xenophobia and their racism from enveloping Scotland and convincing the easily swayed the solution to Scotland’s ills is to send foreign folk home– and damn! – there’s a lot of us easily swayed who think our colonial masters are Greek sages.

What Sturgeon should be announcing, over and above warm platitudes about Europeans and the like being welcome here, is warning the Home Office we will protect any person threatened with repatriation, including police protection.

People in Scotland are supposed to be protected from summary eviction and immediate homelessness under mainstream Scots housing law, but already we learn refugees are getting locked out of their homes. We say one thing, we do another.

Confront the runts of fascism here and now, not clear a path for them to do their dirty work because some sod in Westminster got a Bill passed to stop anybody interfering with their plans.

This struggle, this revolution, isn’t about our politicians keeping their conscience clean – “oh, you can’t blame us, we said the rights things” – it’s about us protecting what we value most and the innocent among us! Action not words!

Leaving England

English alarmed at what they see and hear, talk of packing their bags, Grapes of Wrath fashion, and emigrating to Scotland for “a better life and environment” for their family … and free education, health service, prescriptions and so on, and so forth.

Those are the people who need to understand they must vote for the one party that stands for full democratic rights – the SNP, the one to protect the rights they are here to enjoy. No point in traipsing up here only to vote Tory, Labour, or god forbid, UKIP.

Forget convincing the elderly to vote Yes, people who remember the aftermath of the war years and rationing. They probably still have a press (cupboard), some where in their house crammed full of old paper bags and newspapers, ready to use for the next shortages of war. They won’t alter their mindset unless warned Brexit means their medicines will disappear. Let them live the rest of their curmudgeonly lives in peace. A lot probably deserve it. Allow their grandchildren to do the convincing on our behalf.

The English patient

Our English brothers and sisters are the people we should concentrate upon for the next plebiscite. There are over 350,000 English domiciled in Scotland.

Very few voted Yes for the reinstatement of an independent Scotland. Terrific if some, such as the ‘English for Indy’ group wish to exercise their consicence by supporting civil rights, but those who find it difficult to shake off their ‘Britishness’, their patriotism to their home country, county, or shire, need encouraged to show what I call, enlightened self-interest.

300,000 thousand people switching from No to Yes is the difference between living under the boot of a fascist transformed England or a liberal, progressive Scotland. Keep in mind, many – and that’s not a guess – will have voted to dump the EU. Convincing them a free Scotland in some sort of relationship with the EU will be doubly difficult. They need reminded we are welcomed by the EU, but have yet to state what we want from the EU.

The Irish are incandescent about the mess this abysmally-handled Brexit process is making of the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland and the difficult recovery of the economy, while the rest of the EU looks on with a justifiable degree of schadenfreude. And few are thinking about a holiday in Europe while stories of lengthy queues in airport ‘Alien’ lines filter home. We, meanwhile insult Ireland by rushing to the aid of England’s self-harm.

Where are we now?

Homelessness is rife. Queues at food banks are growing ever longer. The Scottish NHS is wondering how it can possibly cope once all the immigrants, whose dedication and hard work make its existence possible, are refused work permits in Scotland.

Young people have no idea whether or not they’ll be able to study abroad, or if they choose to work in Scotland they will ever afford the deposit for a house. Rentism is rampant, now supplanting the middle-classes. Small businesses don’t know if they’re going to be able to open their doors come Brexit’s finality, and big businesses are preparing to up sticks for countries where the lunatics aren’t running the asylum.

In the Brexit universe I hear the SNP at Holyrood mimicing the utterances of Tory and Labour at Westminster. Nicola Sturgeon sounds more of an Anglophile every day, less of the leader of independence: caught cheek to cheek with one of Scotland’s most virulent anti-independence mongers, Alastair Campbell, war criminal and Tony Blair’s former press officer; Putin is a bad boy; Russia is the evil empire again; Gibraltar is British; Israel is correct to retaliate against Palestinian protest; shame Salmond’s show airs on Russian Television; Venezuela is in need of regime change; ad nauseam – have we no mind of our own?

The answer to all these problems, according to our elected representatives, is to save England from itself. England is paralysed and polarised, but there exist enough good people there to sort it out over time. If we keep sleeping with England’s discredited politicos we can’t complain when we contract a dose of the English pox.

Jurassic Park

The dinosaurs of ideologies are in power everywhere. I do not want to hear my government emulating them. I feel bad enough defending Salmond and Swinney over approving a chunk of Scotland given to mafia thug Trump to screw around.

Anybody in the USA could have told the SNP Trump is a liar and a crook, a man not to be trusted, his word wholly unreliable, and yet our SNP went sleepwalking into Union Jack McConnell’s trap and handed Trump a strip of Aberdeenshire coastline that never wanted for a line of millionaire houses stuck on its panorama.

At least Nicola Sturgeon let Trump have it with both barrels, interesting to see if she will keep that attitude in place.

 Attack our enemies, not alienate our supporters

I feel bad about offering an analysis of what’s going wrong with the SNP,  but by hell, the SNP had better wise up fast. We have the key to remove ourselves from this dark place.

I do not ask for a second independence referendum tomorrow. I ask for our government to stop getting distracted by inane, wee heel nippers at First Minister’s question time, and to go on the attack, an assault currently missing against the British state.

Be merceless calling out British carpetbaggers, the mendacious press, and venal London politicians. Keep the pressure up, be relentless. Those miscreants ought to be reeling from our vituperative onslaught. They’ll never accede to independence talks thinking we are terribly fair people.

Let the people know what rights we are losing in the face of creeping fascism. Stop seeking out photo opportunities with minority groups as if the happiness of the majority is already intact. It feels like the last days of the British Empire with Scotland desperately keen to see it survive. Is the SNP blind?

Brexit has laid bare the British political class, a bag of squirming, slimy leeches. To paraphrase Amazon’s billionaire Jeff Bezos, Brexit rolled over the log and we saw what crawled out.

David Cameron’s calamitous EU referendum exposes an English exceptionalism verging on mass delusion. English imperialism ruled the world by brutality. When it comes to governing its own people it knows only the same methods to engineer consent.

In the name of sanity, liberty and freedom- let England go! Let us concentrate on convincing the people of Scotland to protect this nation now and forever, to be a guiding light to other nations, incuding England, and seek solidarity with international friends.

I know my destiny. It is not a child for England to command or to kick around.

FURTHER READING:

 

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Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum, Scottish Politics | 42 Comments

Car News: EU Cares About Brits

A weekly guide to all that sucks in the automotive industry and some good bits

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That heading is absolutely true, but you’d never know it if you listened to the effluent mouthed by the likes of Boris Johnson, or a Tory or a Holyrood  wretcher.

Kicking the bad boys

The European commission has charged BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen with colluding to limit the introduction of clean emissions technology, in the preliminary findings of an antitrust investigation. [European Press release] The European Union, that disgusting  bunch of bureacrats, according to English imperialists, are determine to clean up our air. How dare they! I really like choking on noxious gasses as I do my shopping a Lidls. I regard poor air that kills millions of us early as a freedom we Brits enjoy.

The car manufacturers have 10 weeks to respond and could face fines of billions of euros – up to 10% of their global annual turnover – if their explanations are rejected. Ouch! Now, there’s a thing worth pointing up. George Osborne, our one-time Etonian chancellor, he of the infamous tyranny, “walk away from the UK and you walk away from the pound” gave our corrupt and venal banks twelve years to clean up their act. Twelve years! – enough time to hide their ill-gotten gains, keep their bonuses, and retire with an OBE for services to offshore tax havens.

Anyhow, for readers with short memories, the European Commission has already jumped all over a similar cartel case in 2014 against MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF group. That one ended with €2.93 billion (£2.53bn) of penalties being levied.

And there’s more!

If you think emmissions are the only car maker transgressions, think again!

The Commission has carried out a series of major investigations into cartels in the automotive parts sector. So far, the Commission has fined suppliers of automotive bearings, wire harnesses in cars, flexible foam used (inter alia) in car seats, (it caught fire if using heating elements for cold Scottish mornings), parking heaters in cars and trucks, alternators and starters, air conditioning and engine cooling systems, lighting systems, occupant safety systems to certain Japanese and European car manufacturers, braking systems and spark plugs.

So, dear Brexiteers, you can rest easy in you beds. Each time you buy a British made car it’ll be crammed to the gunnels with life threatening faults and bits that breakdown just the right side of your warranty to benefit the manufacturer, all untouched by those interfereing Brussels beaurocrats.

Sticking it to them

Here is what the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said:

“Companies can cooperate in many ways to improve the quality of their products. However, EU competition rules do not allow them to collude on exactly the opposite: not to improve their products, not to compete on quality. Daimler, VW and BMW broke EU competition rules. As a result, European consumers may have been denied the opportunity to buy cars with the best available technology.”

The EU announcement follows raids on the auto manufacturers in July 2017 after allegations in Der Spiegel newspaper that they had met in secret working groups in the 1990s to coordinate a response to diesel emissions limits. (Daimler unexpectedly revealed it had claimed whistleblower status to avoid any fines. I doubt they’ll get off with that one.)

European Union caring about Brits

Between 2006 and 2014, the commission suspects that the “circle of five” carmakers – including VW’s Audi and Porsche divisions – colluded to limit, delay or avoid the introduction of selective catalytic reduction systems (SCRs) and “Otto” particle filters. The SCR systems are used to reduce toxic diesel emissions of nitrogen dioxide, which were responsible for the premature deaths of more than 14,000 Britons in 2012, according to the EU’s environment agency.

Soon as we are out of the EU all that caring sharing nonsense is tossed out the window, or the rear hatch, if you drive a five door car.

Unions have a go

William Todts, the executive director of the European Federation of Transport and Environment, had a go at the Mighty Five cartel:

“It would be indefensible if the German car industry colluded to fit useless emissions controls, as the allegations indicate. That would mean Europeans were breathing poisonous air that should have been avoided. The EU must fine colluding companies but it mustn’t stop there. We need to clean up the 43 million dirty diesels that are on our streets today.”

So there you have it. There’s no getting away from the fact the car makers are a bunch of damn crooks. The commission acknowledges the fact that cooperation between manufacturers on technical issues is widespread in the global automotive industry. No wonder their television advertising makes no mention of what they put into the cars we buy, or rather, what they leave out.

And Top Gear’s trio of laddites share in the blame when Clarkson decided nobody wants to know what goes into making a car, only how fast it can accelerate. Aye, that’ll be right.

GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS

Lower insurance premiums

Cheaper than usual insurance? No! But yes. Reforms to whiplash insurance payouts to stamp out bogus claims have helped to push down car insurance premiums by an average of a £100 in the past three months, according to the price comparison site Comparethemarket.com. I noticed this when renewing my insurance last month. I thought they had made a mistake because there was no increase on the renewal document. Whiplash claims – that scam where drivers are not hurt but an ambulance chaser of a solicitor will get you £5,000 compensation for being a liar – cost the motor insurance industry £2 billion a year, largely responsible for the outrageous insurance premiums. Anyhow, that scam is no longer an easy payday. The legislation, which has received royal assent, will not come into force until April 2020 but as I discovered insurers have already started to reduce premiums in anticipation of lower payouts.

600 mile batteries

Every month some hole-in-the-wall outfit makes claims for their new electric concept vehicle, or gadget, and then they disappear from sight. But advances in battery storage are  making headway. A new first-of-its-kind rechargeable battery will give electric cars a range of more than 600 miles on a single charge. Innolith AG – a company that specialises in inorganic battery technology – is developing what it claims will be the world’s first 1,000Wh/kg (watt-hour per kilogram) rechargeable battery, allowing electric cars to travel for up to 1,000km (621 miles) before having to recharge. Not only does the high density battery have the potential to all but eliminate range anxiety, but it will also reduce the costs associated with battery production because of the fact it doesn’t require the use of what Innolith calls “exotic and expensive materials”. Another advantage is that, “while traditional electric car batteries use a flammable organic electrolyte, the Innolith Energy Battery will utilise a non-flammable inorganic electrolyte”, therefore reducing the risk of the vehicle catching fire. The battery is currently being developed at Innolith’s laboratory in Germany, you know, that country our English friends love to hate. Innolith will initially launch the battery to market via a pilot production scheme in Germany, after which licensing arrangements will be made with vehicle manufacturers. Hip hip hooray! I’ll keep watch on developments for readers.

Space age Brechin

I had a glorious drive from Edinburgh to the ancient city of Brechin yesterday to meet and talk with (with not ‘at’) the Yes cavalry of that fine district. A fine bunch of radicals to meet anywhere. There I shook hands with some iconic Internet names fighting for the cause of self-governance, Malky and Paula, his emblematic image a well-worn pork pie hat, Malky, a tough wee terrier, being but two, and good company they were. (I think I depressed them saying the next referendum might not be won – but wiser to dampen expectation to raise determination.) Two things impressed me on the sunny journey, the pleasure I experienced driving over the three ‘sails’ of the Queens Crossing bridge – a beautiful, elegant structure Scotland paid for with our own money. And when waiting in the green near the venue centre of Brechin I saw a chap driving around for an hour in his shiny new orange motorbike vehicle, one of those contraptions that has one wheel at the front, two seats, one behind the other, and leans over at alarming angles when cornering. He had his space age toy and he was determined to enjoy it.

Happy motoring, readers.

 

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Posted in Transportation | Leave a comment

The Great British Power Grab

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“Scotland has one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.” D. Mundell

Feckless ‘Fluffy’ Mundell, tartan rug to British fascists, forgot to mention what is given in loan is taken back with interest. The Tory regime, elected by few in England, assisted by a conniving Labour Party, like a thief pretending to look the other way, ignores Scotland to rob Scotland – they are taking back control of our political systems. We are not ignored, we’re systematically robbed while wasting energy wailing we’re cold shouldered, as if that comes as a surprise.

Scottish MPs at Westminster is a token gesture 

Equals? The Union is sold to us, Mafia style, as protection from the vagaries of foreign incursion and economic recession, yet Scotland is invaded regularly by Whitehall stealth and impoverished by Westminster’s economic agenda.

There’s a carpetbagger in almost every major Scottish institution loyal to the south side mob keeping watch for signs of rebellion. Want a job there? Do as you’re told. Conform and no one will trouble you, is one big fat lie.

England’s got commitments, you gotta pay up. Times is tough, prices high. Seen da cost of pasta? Our percentage just got bigger. Needs be. Capice?

Retaking Scotland’s powers. 

Now we face what amounts to a wholesale power grab, a continuation of the greatest heist in human history, theft of Scotland’s North Sea Oil, effectively enfeebling Scotland from functioning as a nation, now, and a nation state later, if ever independent. Full stop.

Look at Item 95 on the List below, ‘Public sector procurement’ – three words that spell out the end of Scotland’s National Health Service, our valued assets sold off by Westminster.

By holding all democratic power over institutions and mechanisms, England increases its hand if and when we sit at the negotiating table to demand full reinstatement of civil rights. They aim to take back what we fought for over 300 years. We always have had to fight for what is ours. We were never given it as a right.

English politicians are working on the last stages of extreme neo-liberal economics –  gathering wealth into the hands of the few, and taking back control of Scotland. And they mean to do it with a vengeance.

Europe without wars

When you read the list below – if you can stomach reading beyond a dozen items – you get a queasy feeling. Are our elected representatives on a path of appeasement? To be fair, the SNP are warning us things will go from bad to worse, but warning us is the easy part! We can all stand and complain, getting reparation is the goal.

English sentiment does not want to be part of Europe. The SNP will never alter that mentality. By a policy of assisting English nationalism to retain power the SNP is helping to give sustenance to English fascism and colonial ambition.

Scotland must remain part of the EU. Look at the evidence why this is a crucial necessity for it isn’t only an economic urge. England, by the hand of the vain, narrow-minded Chamberlain, Mr Peace In Our Time, allowed Hitler to realise his full ambitions at a point when England, together with France, had an opportunity to stop his aggression. They hesitated. They did not trust each other.

Chamberlain gave Hitler free reign, discounting warnings about Hitler’s character and aims even after his most stalwart allies showed him what Hitler’s generals were planning. The mutual distrust between France and England was there then, and by god it is here now. England opened the door to Hitler, and the rest of us suffered the dire consequences. That poppy you buy has lost all meaning.

We are at a dangerous place we were before, in 1939. Racist demagogues such as Bill Cash, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage and the thoroughly obnoxious Tommy Robinson, rise to the surface, given a platform by Britain’s state broadcaster. They are everywhere imitating Oswald Mosley and Enoch Powell.

Who remember that the British Fascist Party changed its name? It went from the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists in 1936, to the British Union. Whoa – ‘union’, how eerily familiar.

Global economic conditions being what they are, and the consequent convulsions of democratic systems allowing voice to fascist groups, England like Hitler’s Germany, is falling into brutal racism, minorities used as scapegoats as cover for government policies to place wealth in the hands of the few. Governments always have a decoy to take our attention off what they are really doing.

English politicians are translating loss of empire into regaining lost territory – Scotland is one such gain. They even talk of Ireland rejoining the United Kingdom. Don’t laugh, they are serious.

Any attempt to appease English imperialism is disastrous for us all. A free Scotland becomes the antidote to English stupidity and vanity. And believe me, Ireland will be happy to support us in that endeavour.

The list, and nothing but the list

Here is a list of known powers to be removed from Scotland, post-Brexit, and it isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. In my view, those in red are of primary significance.

  1. Agricultural Support
  2. Agriculture – Fertiliser Regulations
  3. Agriculture – GMO Marketing & Cultivation
  4. Agriculture – Organic Farming
  5. Agriculture – Zootech
  6. Animal Health and Traceability
  7. Animal Welfare
  8. Aviation Noise Management at Airports
  9. Blood Safety and Quality
  10. Carbon Capture & Storage
  11. Chemicals regulation (including pesticides)
  12. Civil judicial co-operation – jurisdiction and recognition & enforcement of judgments in civil & commercial matters (plus B1 rules and EU conventions)
  13. Civil judicial co-operation – jurisdiction and recognition & enforcement of judgments instruments in family law (including BIIa, Maintenance and civil protection orders)
  14. Civil judicial cooperation on service of documents and taking of evidence
  15. Criminal offences minimum standards measures – Combating Child Sexual Exploitation Directive.
  16. Control of major accident hazards
  17. Cross border mediation
  18. Data sharing – (EU fingerprint database (EuroDac)
  19. Data sharing – European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS)
  20. Data sharing – False and Authentic Documents Online (FADO)
  21. Data sharing – passenger name records
  22. Data sharing – Prüm framework
  23. Data sharing – Schengen Information System (SIS II)
  24. Efficiency in energy use
  25. Elements of Reciprocal Healthcare
  26. Elements of the Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive
  27. Elements of Tobacco Regulation
  28. Energy Performance of Buildings Directive
  29. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive
  30. Environmental law concerning energy planning consents
  31. Environmental law on offshore oil & gas installations within territorial waters
  32. Environmental quality – Air Quality
  33. Environmental quality – Chemicals
  34. Environmental quality – Flood Risk Management
  35. Environmental quality – International timber trade (EUTR and FLEGT)
  36. Environmental quality – Marine environment
  37. Environmental quality – Natural Environment and Biodiversity
  38. Environmental quality – Ozone depleting substances and F-gases
  39. Environmental quality – Pesticides
  40. Environmental quality – Spatial Data Infrastructure Standards
  41. Environmental quality – Waste Packaging & Product Regulations
  42. Environmental quality – Waste Producer Responsibility Regulations
  43. Environmental quality – Water Quality
  44. Environmental quality – Water Resources
  45. Environmental quality – Biodiversity – access, benefit sharing of genetic resources
  46. Equal Treatment Legislation
  47. EU agencies – EU-LISA – technological support to make European nations safer
  48. EU agencies – Eurojust – judicial coordination and cooperation between nations
  49. EU agencies – Europol – agency against serious international crime and terrorism
  50. EU Social Security Coordination
  51. Fisheries Management & Support
  52. Food and Feed Law
  53. Food Compositional Standards
  54. Food Geographical Indications (Protected Food Names)
  55. Food Labelling
  56. Forestry (domestic)
  57. Free movement of healthcare (the right for EEA citizens to have their elective procedure in another member state)
  58. Genetically modified micro-organisms contained use
  59. Good laboratory practice
  60. Harbours
  61. Hazardous Substances Planning
  62. Heat metering and billing information
  63. High Efficiency Co-generation
  64. Implementation of EU Emissions Trading System
  65. Ionising radiation 66. Land use
  66. Late payment (commercial transactions)
  67. Legal aid in cross-border cases
  68. Legal aid in cross-border cases
  69. Migrant Access to benefits
  70. Minimum standards -housing & care: regulation of the use of animals
  71. Minimum standards legislation – child sexual exploitation
  72. Minimum standards legislation – cyber-crime
  73. Minimum standards legislation – football disorder
  74. Minimum standards legislation – human trafficking
  75. Mutual recognition of professional qualifications
  76. Mutual recognition of criminal court judgments measures & cross border cooperation – European Protection Order, Prisoner Transfer Framework Directive, European Supervision Directive, Compensation to Crime Victims Directive
  77. Nutrition health claims, composition and labelling
  78. Onshore hydrocarbons licensing
  79. Organs
  80. Plant Health, Seeds and Propagating Material
  81. Practical cooperation in law enforcement – Asset Recovery Offices
  82. Practical cooperation in law enforcement – European Investigation Order
  83. Practical cooperation in law enforcement – Joint Action on Organised Crime
  84. Practical cooperation in law enforcement – Joint investigation teams
  85. Practical cooperation in law enforcement – mutual legal assistance
  86. Practical cooperation in law enforcement – recognition of asset freezing orders
  87. Practical cooperation in law enforcement – recognition of confiscation orders
  88. Practical cooperation in law enforcement – Schengen Article 40
  89. Practical cooperation in law enforcement – Swedish initiative
  90. Practical cooperation in law enforcement – European judicial network
  91. Practical cooperation in law enforcement – implementation of Euro Arrest Warrant
  92. Procedural rights (criminal cases) – minimum standards measures
  93. Provision of legal services
  94. Provision in the 1995 Data Protection Directive that allows for more than one supervisory authority in each member state
  95. Public sector procurement
  96. Public health (serious cross-border threats to health)
  97. Radioactive Source Notifications – Trans-frontier shipments
  98. Radioactive waste treatment and disposal
  99. Rail franchising rules
  100. Rail markets and operator licensing
  101. Recognition of insolvency proceedings in EU Member States
  102. Renewable Energy Directive
  103. Rules on applicable law in civil & commercial cross border claims
  104. Sentencing – taking convictions into account
  105. State Aid
  106. Statistics
  107. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive
  108. Tissues and cells
  109. Fast-track procedures for civil & commercial uncontested debts, small claims
  110. Victims rights measures (criminal cases)
  111. Voting rights and candidacy rules for EU citizens in local government elections

Now what?

If Nicola Sturgeon is reluctant to lead from the front lest she weakens the dignity of her role as First Minister, let the SNP appoint an independence tsar, someone with oratory skills briefed to do the job – daily. All I hear is prevarication, all I see is inertia, the moment disappearing.

Bar a few of our MPs at Westminster, the SNP is simply not aggressive enough, not stirring determination enough to beat the fascists and the empire loyalists.

Top of the list of thefts is the artificially delayed right to hold a binding second referendum on self-governance, propelled by the will of the people, their government’s mandate, a wish to remain citizens of the world. The strategy is breathtakingly simple: delay all calls for a vote until it becomes lost and outdated by events.

Powers removed, the far-right of the British state plans to turn the Scottish Parliament into a church social, a place to exchange pleasantries over home-baked scones and tea, SNP children in pushchairs hugging lucky white heather no threat to the day’s chatter.

Calm your restlessness. Being Scottish is reduced to the symbolic, the safe.

FURTHER READING: 

Powers retained by Westminster under the Scotland Act of 1998 found here: https://wp.me/p4fd9j-bX2

 

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Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Car News: Cloning Cars

Your weekly guide to all that sucks in the automotive industry, plus some good bits

389

Is it my eyes, or is that licence plate blurry?

Ever wondered why television shows blur the registration plates of cars appearing in reality shows? Two reasons: it could be the vehicle belongs to the celebrity in the scene broadcast and understandably they don’t wish followed by fans or fanatics. More likely, if a car is parked in a street scene, the plate is unfocused to avoid the car being cloned. The car’s identity is hidden deliberately to avoid the registration number stolen.

Cloning is gathering adherents in the closed world of the auto thievery set. A few years back there were just over a 1,000 cars cloned, last year there was closer to 5,000 cloned. Scotland is not immune, as I illustrate shortly.

How car cloning works

A cloned car is a vehicle that has been given a new identity.  The worry is what a cloned car can be used for: involved in an accident, a hit and run, a robbery. An unfortunate owner faces the stress of proving their innocence and demonstrating they’re not responsible for the illegal actions in question, a case of guilty until proven innocent.

Criminals find an exact match of a car they have stolen – same make, model and colour – and copy the identity of the legitimate vehicle. That’s achieved by stealing your car plates from the car, or they can get your plates made for their similar model by bribery, or a plate stamper who has the basic equipment in his shed – for a fat fee, of course.

They need false number plates to make the vehicle they have stolen appear legal. If they can be bothered to go further – the car for export, for example, they may also use a duplicate or stolen V5C logbook, the official owner document issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). That covers them for unwanted inspections by a prospective buyer, or the police or customs. If hard-nosed professionals they might also change the vehicle’s identification number (VIN), the vehicle’s unique fingerprint, normally on the driver’s side at the corner of the dashboard at the windscreen.

With such sophisticated techniques used by fraudsters, it means that even if the buyer runs an online background check on the car, then the details may appear to be in order. To make matter worse, cloning is under-reported because victims will usually be unaware their plate has been cloned.

A true example

Here’s an example of how cloning can  cause as a lot of grief.

An East Kilbride motorist who fell victim to car cloning, is calling for a change in the law to crack down on the crime. James McLaughlin told the East Kilbride News he was “shocked” when he received a £90 fine for driving down a bus lane in Glasgow earlier this year. He was nowhere near the city centre on the night in question, but in bed at home in Calderwood after enjoying a few beers watching the Scottish Cup final.

A photo of his car, a grey Ford Mondeo, and license plate number, were clearly visible on the fines letter issued by Glasgow City Council. After failing to pay the fixed penalty on time, James was been driven to despair hit with surcharges taking the fine to £120.

“I knew this wasn’t my car. “This was actually Scottish Cup final day and at that time I was tucked up in bed after consuming a fair amount of alcohol. I was in no fit state to walk to Cathedral Street never mind drive down it. Then I remembered, about six weeks before I noticed a woman taking photos of cars in the car park outside my flat. I called the police to report it but by the time they arrived she was gone. I’ve seen this type of thing on TV programmes like Police Interceptors where people are cloning cars using their license plate numbers to carry out crimes and I realised I had been the victim of car cloning. I emailed the council who said I didn’t have enough evidence so I went to the police and got an incident report number to cancel the fine but I want to make other drivers aware of this. Vulnerable older people could be targeted, get a ticket and fork out the money not realising it wasn’t actually them driving.”

What to do to avoid car cloning

 When buying a second-hand car, use established dealers or make sure you visit a private seller’s own home. Never do the deal in laybys or car parks.
 If a car is being sold at well below its true market value, be very suspicious.
 Make sure you compare the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) with the V5C logbook and other supporting documentation.
 Never share any pictures of your V5C logbook online, and don’t give out the 11 or 12-digit Document Reference Number contained on the V5C.
 If you receive a parking or speeding ticket – or any other penalty notice – and you believe that your car has been cloned, contact the issuing authority, the police and the DVLA at once, and document everything you tell them in writing.

GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS

Lanarkshire idle anger

Can’t remember where, but about a year ago I read South Lanarkshire Council plan to fine drivers who leave their engine running. The council was planning some sort of anti-idle campaign. Does any reader know if they actually got as far as implementing the campaign, and did it succeed in its goals? A good number of cars have a stop-start  facility installed. (I find them annoying). Stop at the traffic lights and the engine switches off, hit the gas pedal and the engine starts up again. I’m sure it can’t do an engine much good over a long period, but there it is. Anyhow, I’d like to hear of the ‘Idle Anger’ campaign surely aimed at those sitting a long time. Did it happen?

Parallel lines

Thin rubber cables, two laid in parallel about two feet apart, are appearing across our city roads, courtesy of our Highways Departments. I assume they are counting traffic numbers in a given street at a given point, but are they checking speed levels? They aren’t “computer” cables in the conventional sense, they are traffic sensors. They use two so that they know what kind of vehicle it is, based upon the time difference between when the wheel crosses which sensor. The cables are hollow tubes that use the air pressure within them, compressed by a passing car tyre, to record the wheel passing over them. They can tell the direction by which is contacted first. I’ve got into my head they are also sneaky speed calculators, there for volume and speedsters. Correct?

Self-drive robotic vehicles

So far, I remain to be convinced of the benefits of self-driving cars. Reverse parking by AI computer might be a boon to those with back or neck pain who find it difficult to look behind them as easily as an owl might, or are spatially challenged, but experiments to have cars drive down a motorway while we are asleep (I exaggerate only a little), creep me out. The joy of driving a car is taking command, making split second decisions, all good to keep the intellect in trim. We are sitting, sedentary, but the windscreen is an interactive television screen in which you must participate.  If you have an accident in one, who is to blame, the computer or the driver? Others are struck by the same dilemma, the growth of AI intelligence. Moral Crumple Zones: Cautionary Tales in Human-Robot Interaction, is a fascinating academic paper by Madeleine Clare Elish, an anthropologist who works at the Data & Society institute in New York. If you’ve time, Google it and have a glance. Meanwhile, I’ll drive, thanks.

 

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Posted in Transportation | 11 Comments

Taking Umbrage

389

Kezia Dugdale (Labour), David ‘Fluffy’ Mundell (Tory), Stuart Campbell (Not SNP)

At what stage does fair comment cross the line to defamation? What constitutes deliberate, malicious, concentrated attack on an individual’s integrity and honesty, carried out to such an extent it imperils or degrades that individual’s reputation? The verdict in this case is stated at the end of the essay report.

Wings versus Dugdale

The court case of Stuart Campbell, editor of the pro-independence website Wings Over Scotland, suing Kezia Dugdale, the former leader of the Scottish branch of the Labour party, is small potatoes in the annals of political cause célèbre. The Dreyfus Case it is not, nor is it a check on a British cabinet minster’s honesty requiring five upstanding judges to settle the issue. This is a civil matter requiring one judge, a sheriff. If the case has any significance it lies in the novelty of a new wave blogger establishing legal precedent. 

I attended all three days of the case in Edinburgh’s plush Sheriff Court, keen to judge matters at first hand. Another reason for my attentive attendance was, I am a casualty of the collective malignancy dished out by Labour party hacks and their puppet master the GMB union, regrettably endorsed by dim SNP officials. (I am being kind to the SNP.)

Sticks and stones

The case has little interest for the wider public beyond the sideshow of how politics can so easily resort to smear and innuendo to stifle a strong voice, a trait well remunerated, one might add, by the unsuspecting taxpayer.

In epitome, the case is Dugdale, a gay politician, called Campbell a homophobe. In court Campbell was described as a vile person, Dugdale, indirectly as stupid. Accusation and counter-accusation was the order of the day.

‘Gay’ has long been used to denote a homosexual person, thus robbing the language of a good word for light-hearted happiness. Political correctness being what it is, which is mostly cant and clap-trap, everybody is outraged as a matter of daily therapy. It is a national pastime overtaking jogging for non-productive exercise. We take umbrage at the slightest resentment. A passing sleight is condemned as blatantly offensive, or abuse.

The parameters of fair comment

The US of A brought the law to bear on trolling and harassment in the digital age. A New York harpy, hiding behind a pseudonym, defamed a catwalk model so unceasingly by Internet that, tracked down by the model’s gumshoe, and sued by the model, the court found the reputation of the model sufficiently damaged to fine the woman making the unwarranted accusations and have her pay damages. Other successful cases and claims have followed, most recently a black woman against white supremacists.

The case of Wings v Dugdale is different in that an openly gay politician feels homophobia  should be ‘called out’ whenever it appears, her exegesis that Campbell used a gay man’s sexuality as a joke. The American case is similar in that Campbell argues the defamation is intended to reduce his influence as a political commentator.

The accusation of homophobia rests on one short Twitter tweet Campbell made, his remark swamped by howls of condemnation from the pious and the malicious, the pundit and the pure at heart, raising the question when is harsh criticism character assassination?

Trial by tweet

Strangely, no evidence was produced to show Campbell had suffered damage to his reputation. His counsel did not argue loss of face, income, prestige, or career prospects. If anything, Dugdale’s accusation raised his public profile attracting readers to his website.

Campbell averred he was where he was because he felt angry and distressed at being maligned, ‘horrified and appalled’ as he put it. He and his counsel argued Campbell champions gay rights, and indeed he has “praised the US whistle-blower Chelsea Manning as a hero”, which when one thinks about it, is not quite the same thing. Manning is a man who wishes to be treated as if a woman.

Dugdale was also horrified and appalled. Her counsel argued she had every right to say what she said about Campbell in her Daily Record column and elsewhere. It was fair comment, her belief of his homophobia an honestly held view, a defence she returned to time and time again.

Asked by Campbell to withdraw the accusation, she refused, and so found herself in court facing Sheriff Nigel Ross, a possible £25,000 damages and the pursuer’s legal expenses. 

Tweet of tweets

To the specific: the tweet was aimed at the Tory secretary of state’s son, Oliver Mundell, whom Campbell felt a very poor public speaker. Here is what it wrote verbatim:

“Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner”.

To the uninitiated in Wingsonian barbs, that remark is not really funny or witty. The second part of the sentence, the punchline, doesn’t quite connect with the first part if unfamiliar with Mundell’s sexual orientation, or his son’s inability to deliver a speech. It leaves the non-informed reader puzzled by the comment.

Ambiguity does not in itself constitute guilt. That should be obvious to all, and I’ve argued this till Saltire blue in the face with my own legal adviser. Ambiguity should constitute abstruseness and nothing more. But one’s enemies are always frantic to determine calumny. What the sheriff has to calculate is, does it lead the casual observer to assume it is a homophobic comment, that there is no other interpretation, no doubt existing, and therefore the reader is justified in condemning it? If he leans to that view, Campbell is in trouble, but only if he finds evidence that Campbell is a homophobe.

In other words, a person can think a remark homophobic, but that does not mean the speaker of it is a homophobe.  In that situation we are faced with insult versus evidence.

Campbell maintains the gibe is aimed at Oliver Mundell’s inadequacy to enunciate, not at his father’s long suppressed sexuality. As I’ve tried to demonstrate, that is not obvious on first reading. Nevertheless, the leap from a political poke in the eye to alleged all-out hate speech underpins the entire case.

Ambiguity and contradictions abound in the sphere of defamation: detestation expressed at Scotland’s legitimate political ambitions is not considered offensive, nor categorising Scots as lazy, alcoholics, or “subsidy junkies”. Those epithets are all acceptable to the British press and politician, not in the least racist commentary, for no one has challenged them in a court of law to prove them otherwise.

Background to the fairground

Mundell Senior came out as gay in 2016, saying it was “one of the most difficult things” he has ever done, although he ought to have added, it was the most difficult thing next to his job as secretary of state, for which the record shows him to be wholly unqualified.

Writing in her Daily Record column a few days later, Dugdale said she was “shocked and appalled to see a pro-independence blogger’s homophobic tweets”. (She used the plural.) The emphasis appears to be on pro-independence, rather than on Campbell.

Acting for Dugdale, the gist of QC Roddy Dunlop’s counter-argument was: Campbell’s tweet “targets a gay man in order to deride his son”.

I cannot see how it targets Mundell Senior, only that it uses his sexuality to make a rather leaden point about his son. The tweet is emblematic of the Wings Over Scotland site; while its editor can recognise a good joke when somebody coins one, sophisticated humour is not his forte. Scorn is the predominant attitude. 

The grillings

Placed under intense interrogation, there’s was no doubting Campbell’s ability to give clear, robust answers while under the cosh. He often matched counsel’s cross-examination with a series of strong ripostes. Told his written language is often peppered with profanities and abuse, he did not bat an eyelid. ‘Abuse’ he preferred to call “being rude”. Sheriff Ross intervened to ask what distinction Campbell drew between being rude and being abusive. Campbell answered, abuse is attacking people “without provocation”. “So one is discerning and the other isn’t?” the sheriff asked. “Yes”, replied Campbell. M’Lord will have the last word on that matter.

Dugdale struggled to develop her argument under cross-examination. She stuck rigidly to circular justification. She believed Campbell’s remark homophobic and that was that. She caused amusement when she said she did not know who George Takei was, the gay actor (and activist) of Star Trek fame, or the sexual orientation of Trump’s father, ignorance quite refreshing, it seemed to me. Whenever caught out on a factual howler she excused the faux pas by believing it correct at the time she uttered it. They cannot be lies, she said in so many words, if they are honest error.

Campbell’s advocate, QC Craig Sandison, claimed Dugdale launched her defamatory attack because she had been “tormented” by Campbell’s constant articles deriding her honesty. He went on, “To accuse someone of homophobia puts a stain on a person’s character and lowers them in society’s eyes”, adding without a blush, “He is not a polite man, he doesn’t restrain himself in setting forth his views. He is not circumspect”.

The same but different

As I listened to the protagonists I was struck by Dugdale’s naivety and her chronic inability to express intelligence, yet taken by her calm demeanour in court; she stands to lose a lot if Campbell wins his action, including her bank account.

On the other hand, I was surprised by Campbell’s lack of charisma, his visage of the veritable Troglodyte. I did admire his intensity and his studied reasoning, though some will find his pugnacious persona unrelenting. If he and Dugdale share anything, it is a remoteness, and a belief they are right, come what may.

Witness for Dugdale, David Mundell, declined to appear, duly excused by Sheriff Ross.

Campbell’s counsel called two witnesses. The first was Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, a charity fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, a group that has defined homophobia to save us the trouble of thinking for ourselves. The second was Paul Kavanagh, the author of couthy, (cosy and comfortable), popular pro-independence articles under the pseudonym Wee Ginger Dug. Both are gay men who look like bank managers and talk in a matter-of-fact way about their chosen paths.

Macfarlane considered Campbell guilty of homophobia. Kavanagh thought him innocent. In essence, Kavanagh’s argument was, being gay attunes one to anti-gay sentiment, better able to judge than the rest of us, an obvious truism but a poor line of reasoning. It follows, only a Jewish person can detect anti-Jewish hatred, and an African-American a racial slur, definitions self-evidently preposterous.

Now what?

Where does this leave the case and its outcome? Having read this far the reader will be disappointed to know I have not the slightest idea. It is impossible to say.

There are any number of permutations the presiding Sheriff could adopt. The question is whether the imputation – that Campbell is a “homophobe” – is true in general. ‘In general’ is the key phrase. Then again, there is something called ‘fair comment’.

The Sheriff will make his ruling in a few weeks. Scottish law is hazy on what constitutes hard and fast defamation as it emerges on the Internet, an area in legal flux, research ongoing, as it is in English law, an area on which the diligent advocates found themselves trawling extensively for precedent.

All I can say is, Campbell and Dugdale are public figures, people in the political arena used to wearing a skin as thick as a rhinoceros, and both are human, prey to hurt. The only thing they should fear is being ignored.

And in conclusion, M’Lord

To be frank, (if you catch my drift) were I gay I’d object to being introduced as a gay writer as much as I would a heterosexual writer. The terms gay, lesbian, what-have-you, seem redundant, meaningless categories. Why adopt a label? Human sexuality is a complicated thing. Surely we should judge a person by their acts of kindness and their integrity, not their sexual orientation?

Wondering why in a modern court of law, one laudably devoid of the worst of legal jargon, advocates and sheriffs insist on wearing 17th century perukes (wigs), and listening to the summations, an old, currently fashionable phrase came to mind…..

… if only Dugdale’s father had not met her mother….. and then I remembered he is a very strong supporter of Scotland’s independence. Nothing is plain black or white these days.

VERDICT:

As my perceptions of the case led me to reason, the verdict received on Wednesday 17 April, 2019, is a 50-50 judgement. Stuart Campbell is not a homophobe, but Kezia Dugdale’s accusation is fair comment. No damages awarded.

‘The sheriff found that “Ms Dugdale could [not] explain why the tweet was homophobic” by any known definition of the term, yet found her belief that it was to be fair on the grounds that she took an “impressionistic” approach to the meanings of words.’ 

Of Campbell’s original tweet Sheriff Ross added that, “The tweet was not motivated by homophobia and did not contain homophobic comments.” Sheriff Ross also agreed that “Campbell had demonstrated by his conduct over many years that he supports equality for homosexual people”.

Outcome: a pyrrhic victory for Campbell. For the opponents of civil rights and reason, the outcome is carry on, smearmongers! All is safe.

 

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Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum, Scottish Politics | 25 Comments