Crude Awakening plans to block oil refineries

So who are they? Part of the international Climate Action Justice network, but the group currently blocking the Coryton refinery are probably just an affiliated bunch.

Crude Awakening Coryton DemoThis idea is nothing new – people have been organising high-profile protests against oil dependency for some time. But what is “oil dependency”? Basically, it’s the tendency of politicians to favour the oil industry against all common sense.

One obvious example of this is the motor industry, which enjoys protected status in order to furnish votes. Look what happened when the economy crashed in 2008 – subsidies to the motor industry to “protect jobs”. If Gordon Brown and friends were simply interested in finding employment for redundant motor industry workers they’d have spent the money on building something useful, like cycle lanes or wind turbines. But no – bail out the motor industry as people like cars, and hope no one notices how hypocritical this sounds from a New Labour twittering on about the environment while using it as an excuse to raise taxes.

Other high-profile groups involved in this kind of thing are Plane Stupid and Climate Camp , although this lot are clearly more confrontational about it. If you want the other extreme there’s the World Naked Bike Ride. These are all groups who have woken up to what “Oil Dependency” really means – pollution, congestion, war, greenhouse gasses and political dodgy dealing to secure supply. Would certain countries get away with what they’re doing if they didn’t the off-button the oil supply?

As yet, however, none of these are a political force to be reckoned with. Blocking an oil refinery will get the issue in the news, if they handle things properly, but will David Cameron sit up and take notice?

So good luck to Terri Orchard and her merry bunch (not all-women as reported in the press). From what I understand, Coryton is only the first refinery on the list, and they’re planning to cover a lot more if they can. If this proves correct, I’ll be glad I ride a bike.

Why and how to hack a mobile phone

Anyone outraged that News of the Screws journalists have been “hacking” in to mobile ‘phones needs to get a grip on reality. They’re investigative tabloid journalists; what do you expect them to be doing?

To call it “hacking” is grossly overstating the case anyway – what they did required no technical knowledge other that that available in any playground in the country. All you need to do to retrieve people’s voice mail messages is dial their number, and when you get through to voice mail, enter the PIN. Most people leave the PIN as the system default.

You might argue that this is a gross breach of privacy and so forth. But it’s no more so than camping out on someone’s doorstep to see who goes in and out, following them, or tricking them into telling you something they wouldn’t if they knew your were a journalist.

New Labour was very keen to suppress the traditional liberties of the population in general and passed various dodgy laws to protect the lives of the guilty from prying journalists. In 2000, listening to other people’s voice mail was made a specific offence. “And quite right too!”. Wrong! It’s just another example of those in power making it difficult for us to check up on what they’re doing. We have (or had) a free press with a tradition of snooping on politicians, criminals and anyone else they wanted to using whatever means, as long as it was “In the public interest”.

Journalists are also out to sell papers, so the “public interest” defence is often strained to its limit, or broken. However, it should remain as a defence in a court of law and people should be able to argue their case there. It should be all about intent. But New Labour had other ideas.

People are uneasy about voice mail because it’s technological, so lets look at another example.

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Suppose a journalist was camped outside someone’s house, noting down who came in and out. Another invasion of privacy, but right or wrong?

Well that depends – if it’s some innocent person then the journalist will probably end up throwing the notes away, so no harm done. If someone uses information collected in this way in the pursuance of a crime (e.g. Blackmail), that’s another matter, but journalists don’t do that.

Now supposing the journalist is investigating a suspected terrorist, and checking up to see who they’re associating with – or even a politician associating with a known crook. Clearly this information in the public interest.

It’s all about intent.

You could argue that investigations of this nature shouldn’t be carried out by private individuals but should be left to the security forces. That argument doesn’t bear scrutiny for more than a couple of seconds. The public needs the right to snoop as well as the government agents – anything else is known as a ‘police state’

As to the current difficulties – anyone who knows anything about the press will tell you that these and many other tricks are employed as a matter of course, although journalists won’t make a big noise about using them. It’s conceivable that an editor like Andy Coulson would neither know nor care exactly what his investigation teams were doing to come up with the information; you don’t ask. It’s also inconceivable that only the hacks on the News of the World had thought of it. Sources need protection.

It’s clearly a political stunt by old new Labour. Could they be upset that the press, including Mr Coulson’s old rag, turned against them? They used to be friends with the News of the World. At the time of the original scandal, it appears that the first politician to call Andy Coulson to commiserate with him about having to resign was none other than Gordon Brown. Apparently he went on to suggest that someone with his talent would soon find another job where he could make himself useful. (Source: Nick Clegg at today’s PMQs).

No Justice for Ian Tomlinson

The CPS isn’t going to prosecute anyone over the death of Mr Tomlinson at the G20 protests following an unprovoked attack by a police officer (Simon Harwood). They say that he was definitely assaulted, but they can’t prove the link between the assault and his subsequent death. “There is no reasonable chance of a conviction” because of this. Two pathologists though he was killed because the injuries lead to a heart attack, one thought it was a heart attack that might have been from natural causes.

Actual Bodily Harm was also ruled out because, apparently, there’s dispute as to whether the internal injuries caused by fall lead to his death, and the appropriate charge would then be manslaughter – and you can’t have both.

Common assault (from the baton attack), which caused a less serious injury, can’t be pursued because the six month time limit has expired.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (Kier Starmer QC), Steven O’Doherty and Tim Owen QC are responsible for this decision. Kier Starmer (named after Keir Hardie) is, of course, closely associated with the Labour party and the previous government (appointed in 2008) .

This is a disgrace. There’s nothing more to say.

Gary McKinnon who has Asperger’s syndrome

The Home Secretary (Alan Johnson) has just answered an emergency question in the commons as to why he’s declined to block the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the USA for ‘hacking’ (whatever that means). He said that the medical evidence didn’t amount to enough, he’d admitted he was guilty, and besides, he hasn’t got any discretionary powers in the matter.

In some ways, I agree with him. McKinnon may very well have done what he’s been accused of; and as far as Asperger’s Syndrome goes – do me a favour!

Gary McKinnon
Gary McKinnon
He was diagnosed with this condition last year by Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen from Cambridge University. It’s a psychological illness, right? Well actually there are many who’d doubt that. He certainly seems to be the authority on the subject, based on the number of papers published and TV appearances – acceptable to academia and pop culture. He’s the country’s foremost expert on the condition. But is it an illness?

A few years back Prof. Baron-Cohen devised the A.Q. test, a series of 50 self-assessment questions for those wondering if they have the condition. Apparently the general population scores 28%. I score 76%. Do I have a mental illness? I don’t think so; in fact it’s often said that half the scientists in the world would score highly on the assessment too. Us nerds might be different, but so are gay people. Try telling them they’re ill! If you want to know more, just Google the subject.

Gary McKinnon is also, apparently, upset and depressed. Who wouldn’t be in his circumstances?

It might be worth reminding ourselves what he’s actually done (according to Alan Johnson):

He accessed US government computers looking for UFO evidence while smoking dope (as one does), and in the processes has damaged their operation. According to the Americans (and Mr Johnson) he knocked out all the military computers in Washington for 24-hours.

Apparently this was done by using perl to look for blank passwords, a technique a find entirely credible. That’s right – McKinnon is a script kiddie. He claims he was caught when using Windows Remote Desktop while the real user was still on the machine, which also fits.

Now for this he deserves to be prosecuted, the same as the morons who were prosecuted for criminal damage while attempting to thieve hereabouts. The difference is that Harrow magistrates decided just to give them a good ticking off after they’d made up some sob story about turning their life around. McKinnon’s treatment is on the other extreme.

Unfortunately for him, there’s an obvious political element. The American military has lost (more) credibility and they want someone, preferably foreign, to divert attention. They can’t catch Bin Laden, so he’ll have to do. Anyone in the data security game knows that any serious cyber-criminals will be able to cover their tracks, so IF serious deliberate damage was done and IF they traced it back to this script kiddie then the one thing you can be pretty sure of is that he wasn’t behind it. Either that, or all the computers in Washington were in such a fragile state that they’d fall over if you sneezed.

In spite of the Home Secretary’s assurances about the extradition arrangements between here and the USA being reciprocal, many will suspect that this case results from the special Labour-Bush relationship – the one where Bush asked and Blair gave.

If Alan Johnson is right, and he really does have no discretion to stop this charade, the real question David Burrowes (McKinnon’s MP) should have followed his answer with was “Why not?”

Helen Goodman – Labour’s most sexist minister

Amidst the hysterical hand-wringing over the MP’s expenses scandal there’s still plenty to be dug from the deep vein of genuine stupidity that is our government. To be clear, these are appointed by the prime minister to run the country, and are presumably the best New Labour has to offer.

The latest is Work and Pensions minister Helen Goodman (salary £96K per year). She’s attacked the new rules on expenses, claiming that the ban on funding domestic cleaning staff will prevent her and other women from becoming MPs, and is therefore sexist. Her stated assumption is that only women do domestic chores and therefore the ban on cleaners will affect women MPs disproportionately. If her’s isn’t a sexist attitude I don’t know what is.

She was appointed in June this year, and has yet to be sacked. In fact Gordon Brown and her colleagues don’t seem to have reacted at all to her utterances on the matter.

Her expenses fraud history, as revealed by the Daily Telegraph, involved claiming for some hotel receipts that pre-dated her election as an MP. On top of which there was £500 for a holiday cottage, which she maintained was necessary for her work. Her constituents in Bishop Auckland will, presumably, vote for anything with a red rosette stuck on it.