Mike Vickers' Blog

April 15, 2019

The Strange Case of Julian Assange

Filed under: Assange, Europe, Jeremy Corbyn, Patrick Cockburn, Politics, Social, USA — derryvickers @ 2:15 pm

Assange had pleaded political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the last seven years.

He was eventually expelled last Thursday and arrested by the Met.

Since then many have come to his defence and an equal number have attacked him because

Julian Assange is wanted on two counts:

  1. Hacking and Leaking US military information principally on its war in Iraq
  2. Accused of rape in Sweden

You can read more about Hacking and Leaking in

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/julian-assange-wikileaks-chelsea-manning-war-democracy-a8867816.html

Cockburn believes that leaking / whistleblowing is essential in this increasingly authoritarian world and finishes his article with:

Assange is likely to pay a higher price than Ellsberg for his exposure of government secrets. The Pentagon Papers were published when the media was becoming freer across the world while now it is on the retreat as authoritarian governments replace democratic ones and democratic governments become more authoritarian.

The fate of Assange will be a good guide as to how far we are going down this road and the degree to which freedom of expression is threatened in Britain at a time of deepening political crisis.’

In his and Jeremy Corbyn’s view the UK Government should reject any US request to expatriate Assange to the US.

But to the Rape Charge, so far one case has been closed but the other is still open and the Swedish Government has yet to request expatriation. If the Swedish Government does ask for Assange to be repatriated to stand trial then the UK Government would find it difficult to refused, we are currently still part of the EU with Sweden.

Dani Garavelli in the Scotsman on Sunday:

https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/dani-garavelli-assange-apologists-make-light-rape-case-1-4906997

‘Labour backbenchers, including Diana Johnson, Stephen Kinnock, Stephanie Peacock and Stella Creasy, signed an open letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid seeking assurances that every assistance would be offered to Sweden should it make an extradition request.

Garavelli noted that:

‘In the end though, as so often, it was Emily Thornberry who nailed it. “Why weren’t the Swedish authorities told in advance of Assange’s ejection from the Ecuadorian Embassy as the US clearly was? Our priority should be the alleged two victims of sexual violence in Sweden and not a ruse to get him extradited to the US as a whistleblower,” she wrote.

And that sums up the main difference between the two potential charges: A clear court case as to whether Assange did or did not rape two ladies in contrast to the undoubted leak of US extremely dubious human rights violation in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At present of course Assange is in UK custody and the UK government will have to decide whether to expedite Assange to Sweden if asked, or to the US. In my view the UK should expedite to Sweden, but I don’t know if the UK Government can successfully seek a clause in the agreement to so could prevent Assange there after being expedited to the US.

Just to finish for the time being; it looks clear that the Ecuadorian Embassy was pleased to get rid of their visitor after seven years

‘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,” [Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer] said’

https://www.scotsman.com/news/assange-s-lawyer-claims-ecuador-made-smears-to-justify-arrest-1-4907277

Post Script:  I have now read a similar view to my collection above. See

https://labourlist.org/2019/04/labours-response-to-the-arrest-of-julian-assange-doesnt-cut-it/

April 1, 2019

No April Fools Day – the State of UK Politics

Filed under: Brexit, Ian Birrell, Journalism, Politics, Westminster — derryvickers @ 8:16 am

Ian Birrell says it so much better than I in my blog of yesterday.

“This is one more sign of the stupidity of holding that divisive Brexit ballot in 2016. Voters can only watch in horror at the failure of a dismal Prime Minister, a deadlocked Parliament and an outdated political system.”

And for good measure

“Or consider the terrifying fact that Boris Johnson, a poundshop Trump whose ambition is only matched by his deviousness and ineptitude, is favourite to become the next Tory prime minister.”

“Yet we must cling to hope. So look at Slovakia, where a liberal lawyer who had never before run for office has just been elected as its first female president by promising to restore decency to politics in the face of corruption and crass populism.

Newly elected Slovakia’s President elect Zuzana Caputova. (Photo by VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP) “Maybe we thought that justice and fairness in politics were signs of weakness”, said Zuzana Caputová after victory in a campaign that eschewed personal attacks on rivals.

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/opinion/dominic-grieve-conservative-party-hard-right/

March 24, 2019

Hannah Arendt – Thinking without a Bannister

Filed under: Europe, Hannah Arendt, Journalism, Politics, Writing — derryvickers @ 9:05 pm

Hannah Arendt Post Truth pioneer – Thinking without a Bannister

New Statesman 22-28 March 2010 by Lyndsey Stonebridge

https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2019/03/hannah-arendt-resurgence-philosophy-relevance

The Article starts with:

“It is true that Arendt loved the public space of politics for the robust clarity it gave to the business of living together. It is also true that she argued for a political republic based on common interest. These are both reasons why we should be reading her today. But her commitment to plurality is not an invitation to nationalism. Arendt wanted politics dragged into the light so that we might see each other for what we are. But that didn’t mean we had to accept what was evidently ruinous to politics itself, merely that we had to acknowledge that what we find most repellent actually exists – and then resist it.

And if there is one thing we have learned over the past two years it is that our political reality is not what we thought it was and still less what we would like it to be. Because the times she lived in were also dark, violent and unpredictable, and because she was smart, diligent and hardworking, Arendt was good at thinking quickly and accurately about the politically and morally unprecedented. She distrusted easy analogies, thought historical precedents were a poor way of grasping the unexpected, and practised instead what she called “thinking without a bannister””

 

A couple more quotes from the Article:

“Even before the full horror of the death camps became clear, Arendt had spotted that the world “found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human”. It still doesn’t.

This wasn’t just because people had become unempathetic and nasty due to mass propaganda, but was also a consequence of the organisation of the world into nation states. When a person is driven away from one country, she argued, he is expelled from all countries, “which means he is actually expelled from humanity”.”

“It happened again to the Palestinians in 1948. On Israel, Arendt was troubled but again clear-sighted. Like “virtually all other events of the 20th century,” she wrote, “the solution of the Jewish question merely produced a new category of refugees, the Arabs, thereby increasing the number of stateless and rightless by another 700,000 to 800,000 people.””

“The AfD is not wrong to say that power becomes dangerous at the point where there seems to be no public accountability any more. But it is precisely at such moments, Arendt teaches, that we most need to think politically, to resist populism: “When everybody is swept away unthinkingly by what everybody else does and believes in, those who think are drawn out of hiding because… [thinking] becomes a kind of action.””

And the article finishes with

“We cannot guess what she would think of our politics now, and she wouldn’t have respected us for trying. Think for yourself, she would have said. But Arendt left us with an important message: expect and prepare for the worst, but think and act for something better. The impossible is always possible.”

March 16, 2019

The worry of Social Media – Should Social Media Companies be forced to act

Filed under: Communications, Jo Cox, Journalism, Politics, Social Media — derryvickers @ 8:30 pm

From the Editor of “I”

Act againt Social Media companies.

“The problem is wider than this disgusting video: it is not hard to find far-right propanganda spreading violent ideologies notably on YouTube and there is little political pressure to remove it.”

Just perhaps Sajid Javid will act?
“Internet companies who allow the distribution of banned content “should be prepared to face the full force of the law”, Sajid Javid has said, as he called on people to stop watching and sharing the livestream broadcast by a gunman””

March 4, 2019

Stephen Jay Gould – a great loss as a humanist and science writer

Filed under: Journalism, NOMA, Politics, Stephen Jay Gould, World Class, Writing — derryvickers @ 7:29 pm

Cleaning the bookcase out, I came across my collection of Natural History books by Stephen Jay Gould; some 20 in all. The first one I bought was perhaps his first ‘Ever Since Darwin’ at a small book shop in Santa Barbara, a lovely town with glorious Bougainvillea. It was a Sunday and I had a Sunday break from a conference in LA.

So who was Stephen Jay Gould; he died on 22 May 2002

From the obituary in Nature

“Palaeontologist and public face of evolutionary biology

Stephen Jay Gould, the world’s most renowned palaeontologist, died in New York on 20 May [2002]. His death robs the fields of palaeontology and evolution of one of their most provocative thinkers, and millions of readers of an entertaining and astonishingly productive commentator on biology.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/417706a

This describes him to me from his books completely. To me, he was the ultimate Humanist. He believed and publicized Darwin’s evolution and through his books (collections of essays over 20 years) the wonders of evolution are described, not as the progression of evolutary steps to man as the greatest, but as evolution by natural selection at all levels, unlike Dawkins solely through genes and Conway Morris as God directed. He saw evolution as moving forward in jumps, Punctuated Equilibrium, which if I look back in recorded history, is how civilisation has moved forward from Aristotle; he also invented ‘exaptation’, making use of features already there for one purpose to use for something different, he examples birds developed feathers to keep warm before they adapted feathers to fly. He was not popular with his colleagues, who followed Darwin precisely that evolution was gradual over many thousands / millions of years. He had numerous confrontations with Dawkins. He also battled with creationists who pumped out that Whites were superior to Blacks have in bigger brains; Gould successfully refuted this.

But Stephen Jay Gould is dead for almost 18 years and unfortunately, to me, he is gone from the bookshelves, replaced by Dawkins (thought even he is no longer so prevalent).

He was in his lifetime ‘canonised’ by the US Congress as one of America’s living legends.

Unsurprisingly he was not a Christian but he did come forward with NOMA, Non-Overlapping Magisteria

From Wiki
‘Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view that was advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion each represent different areas of inquiry, fact vs. values, so there is a difference between the “nets”[1] over which they have “a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority,” and the two domains do not overlap.[2]

I personally have difficulty in getting my head round NOMA but never the less it is one way forward in a very difficult area.

Stephen Jay Gould was, for me, a great and erudite writer and a formidable loss to mankind at this time. He will retain a prominent place on my bookshelf,

January 24, 2015

Nous Sommes Charlie – a Riddoch pod of two weeks past

Filed under: economics, Journalism, Lesley Riddoch, Politics, Scottish Independence, World Class — derryvickers @ 11:18 am

The pod can be found at:

http://www.lesleyriddoch.com/2015/01/no.html

Far too late to get anything on the web site so just a few thoughts.

The West is fighting militant Islam but this is nothing compared to what is being fought out between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

Yes we all take more note of what is going on around us and ignore, other than from a newsworthy point of view, as to what is going on in Africa.

And we in the West are far from squeaky clean – drones in Afghanistan – torture in Iraq.

No mention of the massacre in Norway by Breivik (BTW what has happened to him?) and how the Norwegian government has coped.

I am not a believer in total free speech in religion – the Pope is reported to have said (and of course he is not independent in this matter) that one should be careful of unlimited freedom in religious matters. Politicians are fair game but religion is not – it is far too sensitive and always has been and it ain’t going to change soon.

Sorry I did not listen to anymore of the pod except the comments on Jim Murphy and the interminable battle between Labour and SNP – just ignore the economy it is not newsworthy enough. As to the oil price – it will go but how quickly is anyone’s guess – the growth of economy in the West is far to sluggish – but that raises a separate question – why is the only measure of prosperity in a western capitalist society the rate of growth – and that takes us back to Charlie and Lesley’s point that Charlie is next door and what about the poor in India and Africa – don’t they deserve of a slice of the cake to catch up even if we stagnate a little. Incidentally we were skiing in the French Alps last week at Courchevel and while we were in a modestly priced chalet, the town is full of shops Chanel, Dior etc along with Estate Agents and up market ski shops and the prices were out of this world.

And I got to thinking – we here in the West are said to live in the Capitialist society. Increasingly this is getting further from the truth; we are increasingly living in a totalitarian society, only that the tyrants are now the global corporates rather than the national tyrants.

December 10, 2013

Mandela

Filed under: Communications, In Our Time, Journalism, USA, World Class — derryvickers @ 10:18 pm

From the high flying oratory of Obama that brings tears to my eyes

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/10/barack-obama-nelson-mandela-memorial-service

To the arch cynicism of Simon Jenkins and I can’t repress a chuckle

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/10/mandela-coverage-banality-of-goodness

And finally to the cold reality of Okwonga

http://www.okwonga.com/?p=869

What a day!

And all thanks to one man: Mandela

August 17, 2013

Scotland’s Population – no need to increase

Filed under: economics, Journalism, Scotland — derryvickers @ 8:22 pm

Three interesting articles in the last few days of the Scotsman

  1. On Thursday Michael Kelly why the future doesn’t belong to Glasgow. Glasgow is no longer the vibrant city that it was in the 19th century.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/michael-kelly-why-glasgow-doesn-t-own-the-future-1-3045746

  1. Today Alf Young has an article Time for push on population front .  He bemoans that Scotland’s population is growing much less than the rest of the UK. Like so many others he equates population growth to economic growth.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/alf-young-time-for-push-on-population-front-1-3050252

  1. In contrast on Friday the Scotsman: Boom time for  Scottish islands. Understandably Shetland is doing better than the other islands, however it is good to see that the Western Isles are also growing significantly.

What do I make all these articles. It is not surprising Glasgow is not keeping up with the rest of the World  indeed it would be surprising if it were. After all it is no longer industrial heart of Britain indeed it is not even industrial heart of Scotland; shipbuilding and building railway engines have long since moved away. Further Glasgow’s need for steel has also gone. Taking Alf Young’s dictum if economic growth decreases then population will decrease. There should be nothing surprising in this. What is gratifying is that the population of the Western Isles is growing this can only be a healthy sign.

All we now need is an electric interconnector between Western Isles and the mainland.  And given good broadband we could foresee an even greater increase in that islands population.  Also in Friday’s Scotsman is a little article about the GP moving to Jura from Yorkshire and loving it.

What’s Scotland should be looking for is a better distribution of its population and if the population does decrease there should be no stigma in this.

December 16, 2012

RIP Newtown

Filed under: Journalism, Personal, USA — derryvickers @ 9:35 am

A short news clip from Johnny Diamond of BBC Radio 4 at Newtown drags me out of my lethargy.
An unspeakable tragedy that took no more than a few minutes to happen
A Town now overrun by hundreds of journalists, TV cameras and satellite transmitters.
The ashes being interminably raked over seeking some clue, dragging some comment out of some bewildered local
Where have we come in this instant Now featured on A Point of View by Will Self just a few minutes earlier
Why can’t we let these Towns Folk rest in peace with their grief.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/pov

April 22, 2011

Journalism in an Age of Disclosure

Filed under: Journalism — derryvickers @ 10:12 am

I attended the David Hume Lecture on Journalism in the Age of Disclosure: News, the Media and an Open Society on 20 April.  The main speaker was Blair Jenkins (currently advising the Carnegie Trust) with a supporting panel of Atholl Duncan (Head of News & Current Affairs BBC Scotland), Iain MacWhirter (Scottish Digital Networks) and Philip Schlesinger (Director of Cultural Policy Research, University of Glasgow) and Jeremy Peat (Director David Hume Institute) in the Chair.

During BJ’s introduction I wrote down a number of words: ethical, reliable, fair, trusted, mediated, transparent.

He illustrated recent failure in transparency and unreliability in Journalists to challenge the basis of the Iraq war and to look critically at the bullish state of the US economy prior to the Financial Crisis.  He felt that Journalists had been too ready to cosy up to politicians and big business

In contrast he felt that the Journalists on the Telegraph had been more responsible in ferreting out MPs expenses and had treated all parties equally.  He was less sure about the sting the Paper perpetrated on a LibDem MP surgery if only because they didn’t sting a Tory surgery. In the general discussion later, all (I think) supported the outing of Vince Cable’s criticism of New International in its attempt to take over B Sky B if only because Cable gave his view unprompted.

BJ recognised a continuing conflict between commercialism and ethics.  This is not helped by the worsening economic situation in the newspaper business with journalists under chronic overload doing more for less.  He wondered whether news  reporting should be funded by philanthropic / charitable organisations to ensure ‘un-bias’; this was challenged later by one panellist who reminded us that a number of news philanthropic sources in the US were funded by undeclared pressure groups.  BJ considered competition essential and welcomed the idea of a Scottish Independent Broadcaster.

In summary he reiterated the need for Journalists to be accountable, to disclose and ask the right questions; Journalists need to better connect to their consumers.

AD believed that accountability is essential.  He considered that the BBC was now doing better at Investigative Journalism.  He recognised that the news media now have to compete with Twitter and other Social Media.  He believes that the Licence fee and Not For Profit remain the key to good Journalism.

IMcW quoted HL Mencken’s ‘Dog and Lamppost where the politicians are the lampposts.  He too bemoaned the lack of a diverse Scottish Press.  He considered the Internet as ignored as a news source.  He welcomed the Australian Newspaper of the Air (I can’t find it on the web but did find The Australian which looks good but in the same way as The Guardian on-line is a potted version of The Guardian). He considered the US ahead of the pack through editorial leadership, recovering from a degraded media, with 10,000 journalists laid off

ProfPS also listed the qualities of a Good Journalist : virtuous, educated, freelance, ethical, providing good stories.  He considered Journalists had lost trust and this would not easily be repaired.  He too saw the need for Public Support thought a Licence fee.  Public money should be ‘creditable and credible’

From the floor Iain MacDonald considered that demand for Journalism is falling through disgust with business and the failure of politics.  Consumers were getting what they wanted free on-line.  There was praise for Reporting Scotland but no one could see real value in Local TV and at best this would be restricted to Glasgow, Edinburgh and perhaps Central Scotland.  ‘Citizen Journalists’ could have a role in reporting local events.  BJ in reply to a question felt that Journalism / the Media needs to become multilayered with consumers being able to ‘drill down’ to the underlying facts behind the story should they wish; the underlying facts being provided by professionals in the particular field.  A comment close to my heart was made by the German Consul General to Scotland who complained that when  BBC Journalists went to Germany to report on the elections they had to ask the candidates to speak English; AD had to agree but stressed that the BBC World Service was significantly better equipped in that it relies on local nationals for its material.

JP in summing up focused on Lack of Resources, warned against the joke of students undertaking ‘Media Studies’, bemoaned that Scotland has only two of the four national newspapers left, humility matters and there needs to be a revival in Public Interest.

For my part I felt there was too little on role of the Internet as a Media purveyor and what impact that will have on journalism.  For good or bad one only has to think of the role of social media in Egypt to see its power for ‘instant reporting’.  Also the Internet is ideal for providing the consumer with the ability to drill down as suggested by BJ – just look at Wikipedia to see the possibilities.  There was some discussion on ‘out sourcing’;  the Scotsman does a lot but again the Internet should be ideal for providing access to well written pieces.  What one wants is an overarching editorial framework and there should be no reason why the existing news media cannot take on this role.

Finally on a lighter note; in looking up quotes by HL Mencken I find

‘A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier’.

I realise that my thgoughts are in conflict with a previous blog on the need to think before publishing but as always life is a balance!

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