Of States and Secrets

Studying Law when weighty questions are being asked in Scotland on (mostly misunderstood) matters of equality, human rights and the uncodified UK constitution is fascinating enough. Recently, I’ve also been preparing for legal action, quoting the Vento bands, setting damages for Injury to Feelings, down the phone to the ACAS mediator as my former employer seems to be running scared of the public humiliation of yet another Employment Tribunal case, preferring to settle out of court.

Fascinating though the 15th edition of Smith & Wood’s Employment Law is (I’d read about half of its 829 pages a few days after it was posted to me) it’s Stanton & Prescott’s 3rd edition of Public Law that’s more pertinent to the recent failed attempt by Holyrood to modify legislation passed by Westminster. I’ve observed previously the difference between the gracious restraint of legal discourse and uninformed party political rants on the (il)legality of the GRR Bill.

Brain whirling, I took time off my studies to watch J. Edgar, the Warner Bros biopic of the Hoover who headed the FBI for around half of the last century (not the previous and unrelated US president associated with the New Deal). Subtly directed by Clint Eastwood, its understated masculine gaze, verging at times on film noir, was enough to have critics calling it ‘controversial’ on release in 2011.

11 years on, One Nation Under Blackmail, Whitney Webb’s damning dossier of US politics, detailing and evidencing the ‘sordid union between Intelligence and Organised Crime that gave rise to Jeffrey Epstein’, is far less coy about Hoover’s rumoured homosexuality and transvestism.

Where Eastwood hints, with scenes of the devoted son so distraught by his mother’s death that he dons her clothes in front of the mirror, and of a touching and tragically frustrated bromance between Hoover and his second in command and longtime companion, Webb (ch. 2 & 4) quotes eyewitnesses to the scandal of this infamous inquisitor and blackmailer frequenting the blue suite of New York’s Plaza Hotel, known as ‘Mary’, in wig and dress, pleasuring Tolson and having sex with ‘blond boys’ and with Senator Joe McCarthy’s righthand man in his persecution of suspected communists and homosexuals.

J. Edgar is a difficult film to watch, its portrayal of the public derring do of his ‘G Men’ busting mobsters and his private stoic restraint in matters of the heart undermined by the evidence of Hoover’s hypocrisy hiding in plain sight: that he was soft on crime and unconcerned about being seen in flagrante as he was simultaneously being blackmailed to go easy on organised crime and blackmailing anyone who could publicise his sexual predilections.

Two decades before It’s Time, the Scottish Government-sponsored Equality Network’s moving 2013 video campaign for equal marriage (featuring several of my old friends) there was a scandal involving senior members of the justiciary being blackmailed by the pimps of rent boys. With associated concern over the autonomy of their judicial deliberations.

It seems to me that a secret of a public figure, however well-known, does not help a nation. It festers and starts a canker at the heart of public life. Catalyst for either compensatory action or reaction, it can lead to extreme decision-making in a state of schizophrenic politics where the truth is shouted in silence.

At the height of the US ‘Red Scare’, reticence about disclosure of sexuality would be understandable. Now, certainly in any liberal democracy, being so candid might be uncomfortable or even embarrassing if the game of Let’s Pretend has been played for some time (Hoover never married but the convenient strategy of the homosexual ‘beard’ is well-known) however the health of the body politic may depend on it. For the sake of the people, and government policy, a responsible state official may decide that it’s time.

Rusty padlock covered in cobwebs on a wooden gate

Thanks to George Hodan for releasing his image Padlock into the Public Domain.

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5 Ways to Kill the Bill – GRR in Scotland

This is a short, reader-friendly summary of legal possibilities available to the women of Scotland and their allies in the UK following the passage of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament, on Thursday 22nd December 2022. For more legal details, please follow acknowledged experts such as the rebel leader Joanna Cherry KC (SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, King’s Counsel and Feminist), the Edinburgh-based policy analysis collective Murray, Blackburn & Mackenzie, and Michael Foran (Lecturer in Public Law at the University of Glasgow). In the Wimbledon of recent legal arguments, these are top umpires. I’m not even qualified to be the ball boy.

Firstly, to assume no legal knowledge at all, the GRR is a Bill that, although passed by Holyrood, has not yet received Royal Assent. No, that’s not a technicality, not in this case – more on that later. So it doesn’t come into force (it affects nothing) until the day after that happens – if it does. That means that people can’t already start acting as if the GRR is law. It’s not. At the moment it’s still a proposed law. (I’m not using legal jargon here.)

The relationship between Holyrood and Westminister is complicated. It really doesn’t matter what your opinion of that relationship is; what matters here is the legal reality. If you’re used to politicians spouting off their opinions and party policy all the time, the restrained language of cool logic of legal experts can strike you as odd. It’s also quite refreshing. Joanna Cherry is a feminist and Scottish Nationalist; Murray, Blackburn & Mackenzie are certainly feminist but I have no idea if they’re nationalist or unionist; exactly where Michael Foran stands personally in this debate I can’t tell for sure. That’s quite normal in legal circles.

Bills passed by devolved legislatures (Scottish Parliament, Welsh Senedd, Northern Irish Assembly) have to stay within the powers that they are legally allowed to exercise. This is quite normal. Holyrood can’t pass a law outlawing kangaroos in South Australia, for example. That’s literally, and clearly, none of its business. Neither could it, for the same reason but closer to home, decide that all schoolkids in Kent will get free ice-cream. However, it’s also not free to decide everything and anything in terms of Scotland. Why? It’s our parliament, our country, why can’t we do whatever we want? That’s because there isn’t a straight line of succession between the ancient Scottish Parliament, which closed in 1707, and this new one that opened in 1999. In the meantime, Holyrood went to Westminster – and only some of it made it back over the border. This brings us to the first way to kill the bill:

  • Outwith legislative competence – some matters are reserved to the Westminster parliament and Equality (most aspects) is one of them. Employment is another. (You can find the full official list of reserved and devolved matters HERE.) That’s why the recent judgment (legal spelling) of Scotland’s highest court, the Court of Session, delivered by Lady Dorrian on that matter, in the petition of For Women Scotland, is so important. What that means is that any attempt by a devolved legislature to interfere with legislation that’s the business of the UK parliament will be smacked down. This Bill could be challenged immediately, by the Lord Advocate, for example, or it might be challenged in a Scottish court. The difference between those who make laws and those who interpret them is that the latter are legal experts. I’m not being nasty. Politicians don’t tend to have legal training and even those who do may, for some reason, choose to ignore tensions between legislation and legality.

The second way may strike residents in other parts of the UK as very odd:

  • Incompatible with Convention rights – what this refers to is the peculiarly Scottish situation that, despite Brexit, Holyrood legislation still has to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This is quite similar to the more famous UDHR (Universal Declaration). So there could be a challenge under Article 9: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion; or, more imaginatively, under Article 6:

3. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following
minimum rights:
(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he
understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the
accusation against him;

A woman could perhaps make the case that she doesn’t understand the language or the nature and cause of the accusation (of ‘misgendering’, for example) levelled against her. Repeating, “I don’t understand that, what does that mean?” to all occasions of the charge might be very interesting legally. And, putting the onus on the prosecution to explain, in language that she does understand, possibly an effective defence. If the Scottish Court Service is faced with the prospect of hordes of bemused women clogging up the Sheriff Courts while frantic court clerks phone round for academic doctors with a speciality in the metaphysics of transgender (I think I’m the only one, certainly in Scotland) then the pushback might be enough to find this legislation so incompatible and therefore illegal. The third way is more probable and has already been foreseen:

  • Section 35 order – this refers to the power (indeed the duty) of the Secretary of State for Scotland, according to the Scotland Act 1998, to stop the Bill being submitted for Royal Assent:

35 Power to intervene in certain cases.

(1) If a Bill contains provisions—

(b) which make modifications of the law as it applies to reserved matters and which the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have an adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters,

he may make an order prohibiting the Presiding Officer from submitting the Bill for Royal Assent.

Which brings us to the fourth way: King Charles could decide not to sign it. Extraordinary as that action would be, the timing is interesting. The Heir Apparent is not yet crowned and in September 2022, after the Proclamation in Edinburgh, he swore a solemn oath before the Accession Council in London to uphold certain specific religious rights:

I, Charles III, by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of my other realms and territories, King, Defender of the Faith, do faithfully promise and swear that I should inviolably maintain and preserve the settlement of the true Protestant religion as established by the laws made in Scotland in prosecution of the Claim of Right and particularly by an act intituled an act for securing the Protestant religion and Presbyterian church government and by the acts passed in the Parliament of both kingdoms for union of the two kingdoms, together with the government, worship, discipline, rights and privileges, of the Church of Scotland.

Now, unlike the Free Kirks and the Free Presbyterians, the Church of Scotland is pretty woke, in terms of homosexuality (and I’m proud to say I played a small part in that endeavour to change hearts and minds), however the extent of rage about male rapists (there isn’t any other kind in law) in the Scottish female prison estate may have caused some worthy kirk sessions to consider that ‘inclusion’ isn’t quite as fluffy bunnies as it’s chalked up to be. So there could possibly be a challenge on religious grounds: there is a specific religious duty to protect the vulnerable, and this mercy extends to those in prison, so it could be argued that this legal change by the state, that threatens incarcerated women with rape, a religious injustice that cries out to God, unsettles ‘the true Protestant religion’. That’s not legal logic; it’s the language of symbolism. Charles depends on his Scottish subjects recognising that he has fulfilled that oath. If not, he is not lawfully our monarch and may be deposed. A particularly fiery and authoritative preacher might make the point. The last way is linked: the power of the people:

  • Sovereignty of the People of Scotland – on 26th January 2012, Nicola Sturgeon MSP (then) led a debate in Holyrood on the Claim of Right with the motion:

‘That the Parliament acknowledges the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs and declares and pledges that in all its actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount.’

If the Scottish people demonstrate, en masse (it might take a general strike of women) that in the recent actions and deliberations of the Scottish Parliament their interests have not been paramount then, by the Claim of Right that was approved by the Scottish Parliament, in the following amended form, then they may force that Parliament to think again:

The Presiding Officer: The result of the division is: For 102, Against 14, Abstentions 0.
Motion, as amended, agreed to,
That the Parliament acknowledges the sovereign right of
the Scottish people to determine the form of government
best suited to their needs and declares and pledges that in
all its actions and deliberations their interests shall be
paramount, and asserts the right of the Scottish people to
make a clear, unambiguous and decisive choice on the
future of Scotland.

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image A Very Angry Woman into the Public Domain.

Why I Love Whitney Webb’s Work

At the time of writing, there are 59 reviews on Amazon UK for Whitley Webb’s long-awaited dossier One Nation Under Blackmail (vol. 1) with an overall rating of 4.5 stars. Some of the comments seem to misunderstand what Whitney is trying to do: provide evidence for a thesis which is breathtaking in its implications. The subtitle lays it bare:

“The sordid union between Intelligence and Organised Crime that gave rise to Jeffrey Epstein”

It’s true that there are lot of names, dates and connections. Acronyms abound; each is explained at first but it’s a book so it’s fairly easy to flip back to the first occurrence if you get mixed up between BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commercial International, CCC (Commercial Credit Corporation) and CDC (Control Data Corporation) for example. There’s also an extensive index where they are written out in full. The obvious reason why Whitney is providing all this detailed evidence is that her meticulous and extensively referenced research cannot therefore be dismissed as mere fiction. That said, I can see lots of fiction writers rubbing their hands with glee and coming up with saucy scenes like the following:

Stubbing out his pungent Egyptian cigarette in the jadeite ashtray, Roy gave one last lascivious look at the exhausted naked young man chained to the radiator and exited the penthouse suite. Housekeeping would take care of him. Fun could wait – but Air Force One would not.

this was not written by Whitney!!!

I can see a whole new bestselling genre blending The Da Vinci Code, The Godfather, Tales of the City and 50 Shades of Grey. More seriously, Whitney’s work is a gift to investigative journalists and legal professionals wishing to focus on a particular event, person or crime out of this worldwide web. I must say that I was surprised, at first, that a book purporting to deal with a late 20th-century scandal would start its exposé in 1942. As I read on, I understood.

We react with horror at the news that our presumed democracy is under threat. We rejoice when heroes uncover the full facts of what we assume to be isolated incidents. Who doesn’t love Hoffman and Redford in All the President’s Men. What is more disturbing is to realise that Watergate, the Iran-Contra’s and the Profumo affair are not, in fact, isolated incidents. There are not even anomalous in the otherwise smooth operation of domestic and worldwide democracy. All that marks out these particular scandals is that they made the news. In other words, this is business as usual.

Why that insight is important is because there are three mechanisms preventing the public from realising the extent of the international organised crime and government intelligence network. The first is the control of the media by the kingpins. Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell feature heavily in these pages but it is a mistake to associate particular types of crimes and misdemeanours with any particular person. The point is that this kind of thing goes on, has gone on for a very long time, and will go on unchecked unless there is decisive intervention – and that the arrest or death of any particular criminal (inside or outside of any recognised mob or government agency) does not affect this network greatly. The foot soldiers of this army of saboteurs of the rule of law are sown by dragon’s teeth: where one falls, another springs up in his place.

The second mechanism is denial. Always to be relied on. The reason why Whitney provides such meticulous detail is that the de facto existence of this network can no longer be denied. While Nixon was making speeches about defending American democracy, while Reagan was supposedly warring against cancer, while the Clintons promised (with the backing of Fleetwood Mac) that yesterday’s gone, all this sordid corruption was taking place – and the evidence in this book supports the theory that they knew about it.

The last, and most insidious mechanism is that, in order to fully comprehend the state of affairs (in some cases, quite literally) that Whitney has revealed, it is necessary to undergo a painful and profound paradigm change. Most people would rather not face the fact that we do not live in a democracy. We never have. We live in a society ruled by brigands. A key difference between the modern day peasant and his mediaeval counterpart is that the latter was aware of the true nature of power. However there is another difference. This one is to our advantage. Nowadays we have a system of law which, still, supports our rights – if only we know how to use it. Yes of course there is corruption in the legal system and there is corruption in the legislatures but the one thing that the darkness fears is the light – and the best defence that we the people can employ is to expose these people and their nefarious practices in the light of day.

When I talk about the clear evidence of patent fraud, the proven scientific malpractice, the massive kickbacks,[1] methodological anomalies and widespread censorship of experts in the AIDS debate, people find it all very hard to believe. The same is true for the climate debate. Right now, in 2022, finally, there is some hope that the public have begun to see through the lucrative multinational narrative of the Covid pandemic that benefited only the pharmaceutical industry and big data. When we finally admit to ourselves that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then we will no longer be surprised by the evidence of such widespread corruption.

“They wouldn’t do that!” is the pious thought of every subservient citizen unwilling to face the criminal corruption of their own government. In One Nation Under Blackmail, Whitney Webb has shown conclusively that they would do that, that they have been doing that, and that they will go doing the same.

Unless we stop them.

Front cover of One Nation Under Blackmail Vol. 1 showing three besuited White men and dark clouds over the US Capitol

[1] Detailed in Chicago Tribune writer John Crewdson’s (2003) Science Fictions: A Scientific Mystery, a Massive Cover-up and the Dark Legacy of Robert Gallo.

A Season in Hell

I don’t blame you for booing and applauding the various actors in the Parliamentary panto currently being staged in the UK. I’ve blogged about the deadly consequences of distraction and missing the point already, and the leader of the Freedom Alliance party has reiterated that point: which particular World Economic Forum puppet is in power doesn’t matter—it’s the same hands pulling the strings.

In that Freedom Alliance video, Jonathan Tilt speaks out against the criminal WEF agenda of digital slavery and for the FA manifesto of peace, freedom and the rule of law. The vision he shares is one of small, decentralised, government with minimal interference in the lives of individuals and the democratic decisions of local communities. He also strongly upholds equality and inclusion—well aware that these buzzwords have been misused.

Pantomimes follow a script and, although some ad-libs are expected, they’re very formulaic. There’s the man playing the Dame, the couple of clowns playing the Dafties, the young woman playing the Principle Boy singing duets with the young woman playing the Principle Girl, the older man as the Villain, and of course there’s everybody else playing the Villagers.

The scenes are also generic. Most pantos include some version of the following: Happy Village Life; Mysterious Stranger with an Offer; Kidnapped; Finding Courage; Journey to the Villain’s Lair; Slapstick…and right before the Finale there’s Community Singing.

This scene is usually performed in front of the closed curtains to give the stage crew time to set the stage for the Finale and for some principles to change costume. It involves the actors splitting themselves and the audience into two factions for a sing-off. In any good panto, the actors will start singing merrily, then halt, then complain to the audience that they’re not joining in. This unfair complaint will hopefully prompt some child to shout back that they don’t know the words. (If this doesn’t happen the adults, in the know after years of panto-going, will do this and if the audience is too posh to shout things out then the Prompt will.) At this point, the actors will stand amazed at this lack of provision by the theatre company (that they’re part of) and start to stir up the audience by getting them to repeatedly shout BRING OUT THE WORDS!!!

To the children in the audience, this seems like the pantomime characters solving a problem—especially as the words are then trundled out or lowered onstage. However all this is part of the cheerful fakery of the performance. In pantomime that’s fine. It’s all good fun and nobody gets hurt. If you know what’s going on, you pretend you don’t. The kids love it, and so do the adults. I go every year, whether I’m onstage or not.

Political pantomime has all of these characteristics: it’s distracting, it’s entertaining and it’s fake. However it’s not played out in a theatre. When it’s performed in Parliament or on TV it’s bad enough but the real danger is when it takes the form of promenade theatre—in other words it hits the streets. With massive audience participation.

Stop and think: did the doors open political pantomime of the invasion of the Capitol building in Washington DC on 6th January last year further in any way the aims of the protestors? The media may have focussed on the magnificent manly torso and horned helmet of one of the participants but people died in that incident and the outcome was to discredit the protest—despite the clear evidence that it was a set up.

Now in the UK, a Twitter account only set up in January 2022 named @PoIitics4You is demanding a mass protest in front of Parliament on 5th November:

Poster: Remember the 5th of November. Demand a General Election Now, etc.

At the bottom of the poster are these words:

Vote and be heard – MET Police are notified

So an anonymous citizen sets up an account in January of this year, and waits till July to start expressing opinions (before that it’s only public information and retweets of news stories) which are pro-Covid narrative, anti-Brexit, anti-Tory, pro-Monarchy and, from September, calling for a General Election. In October the account starts tagging the Met Police. At the moment the account has 5K followers.

Here’s my question: why does an account apparently set up by a rather obsessive and opinionated individual wait 6 months before expressing those opinions then, having claimed a vaguely crowd-pleasing identity, wait a further 3 months to call for a mass protest—encouraging others to keep notifying the police?

The 6th January protest at the US Capitol was clearly staged and was subsequently used to justify repression of anti-lockdown protest and social media dissent. This proposed protest is attempting to exploit the sympathy in the freedom movement for the repressed citizens portrayed in the film V for Vendetta yet the organiser is unknown, the pattern of posting odd and the immediate involvement of the police suspect.

For all the reasons that Jonathan Tilt has explained, in consideration of the repression after the protest at the Capitol and of the general Problem-Reaction-Solution dynamic that Spiro Skouras often warns us of, I advise anyone truly committed to freedom to stay indoors on Guy Fawkes’ Night and soothe their pets—there are already too many firecrackers going off on the 5th November—otherwise this political theatre vendetta will only result in a season in Hell.

“V for Vendetta” Guy Fawkes mask in monochrome on black background

Thanks to Piotr Siedlecki for releasing his image Guy Fawkes mask into the Public Domain.

Blue Murder

There’s a word used in Brazil to describe the convenient chaos that thieves and muggers create to distract their victims: confusão. Right now in the UK—distracted by the scuffles, reshuffles and broadcast outrage emanating from the ‘mother of Parliaments’ (a phrase only lacking in colonial hubris in the American street sense)—who is paying attention to the blue NHS envelopes sliding through letterboxes in households where every adult is glued to their phone, computer or TV?

Are you?

Inside, the anonymous and impersonal sender invites the unsuspecting citizen to receive “a winter flu and Covid vaccination”—in full knowledge that Pfizer have recently (at last) acknowledged that there is no evidence supporting the claim that their particular pharmaceutical venom reduces transmission.

Readers of this blog may know that I started questioning the official Covid narrative back in March 2020, based on the investigations of the late and dearly missed David Crowe. Since then, we’ve had all the evils of disaster capitalism: the crony contracts, the suppression of civil liberties, the sabotage of small and medium businesses, the planned demolition of the economy. And we’ve had the deaths.

I won’t keep you long from the updates. Everyone wants to know which new World Economic Forum agent will be in 10 Downing Street next week. Even though it will make no difference.

Meanwhile, if you are able, gently but firmly share your knowledge of the widespread harms occasioned by those foolish enough to trust in the professional responsibility of an industry dedicated only to profit, not people.

I won’t tell you to stop watching the Parliamentary pantomime. I will ask you to stop the blue murder.

Blue NHS envelope

I Love the Law!

Silhouette of woman brandishing sword and holding scales

The phrase is from Psalm 119–and it’s not one I ever thought I’d agree with. Decades ago I volunteered at a youth centre and we used to play The Raft Game. Not the popular video game but the pragmatic, utilitarian thought experiment that’s the ethical equivalent of Musical Chairs – with no music and a succession of democratically agreed murders. Week in, week out, as supplies dwindled among the shipwrecked survivors crowded onto a rope-tied bundle of balsa wood, first in the water was the lawyer.

Why? Because we all agreed that they were useless parasites whose only purpose was to trick you. I’m not saying that some of them are not. (That’s the double negative version of some of them may well be.) I just understand now that trickiness is not really what the law is for.

Recent events, among them joining and standing for election on behalf of a political party, have changed my perspective. During Lockdown—most of which was illegal, and the rest just downright dangerous—the law was our best friend and, surprisingly, it still is.

Wielding my rights as a citizen, I empowered people to shop and study unmasked, accessing goods and services without let or hindrance. I got a Russell Group university to update its door policy, forced a (former?) spy to stop using her public platform to doxx me, saved the professional career of a promising young artist—who’d been banned even from his degree course Zoom classes for not wearing a mask – and generally got abusers to back off, [£√©≤] off, and get back in their box because I could prove they were breaking the law.

In this endeavour, I’ve been greatly helped in various ways. Firstly by paying attention to those compulsory HR courses that most professionals have to do these days when employed by any kind of company. Phrases like “anticipatory duty” may sound tedious but try flinging it in some lanky teen’s face next time they try to ask why you’re not wearing wear a mask at the door of a hardware store or a polling station, along with “you’re breaking 3 Acts of Parliament, 3!”, without breaking stride. It works like magic. Cos Pimpled Pete doesn’t know the law, and you do.

Secondly, by listening to friends. So many ordinary people have legal know-how. Tune in! Yes, I advise you to check what they tell you but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the law it’s that it belongs to us. All of us. Not just the legal professionals.

Thirdly, by studying it at university. Don’t panic, you don’t need to do the LLB course, there are free online courses too, from the Open University. At the moment, I’m working my way through the OU course 12 Introductory Steps to Law and I produced the PDF below as a mnemonic (memory aid). It’s English law, and I have some questions about these categories of Public/ Private; Civil/ Criminal Law:

  1. Where does Equity fit into this scheme?
  2. What’s the relationship with Customary and Tribal Law? (I’m thinking of the Nollywood legal drama Castle & Castle, the Plaints of Welsh Law familiar to the readers of the mediaeval monk detective Cadfael, and also of Irish Brehon Law)
  3. I often read, elsewhere, that the English system is based on Common Law whereas the Scots is Civil. The OU courses specify that in Scotland we in fact have a mixed system, and that there is some fruitful cross-fertilisation both sides the Tweed. I don’t think that use of the term civil is the same as this one. Here I think it refers to law that isn’t about criminal matters but there I think it described a system of law.
  4. My intuition, and it’s only that, is that the difference between Scots and English law is that the former tends to be deductive whereas the latter tends to be inductive. In other words (despite Arthur Conan Doyle using the term to mean the opposite) the English system is all about evidence and working back from there towards theoretical positions whereas the Scots system starts with legal theory and attempts to apply that to particular cases. I could be quite wrong. What do you think?

I think I’ve got more studying to do and I intend to blog about my legal studies journey. (If that doesn’t diminish my followers nothing will!) I’ll open the comments on this post—I don’t usually do that as I have enough to answer on social media but I’m taking a break to get some writing done. So if you have answers to my questions please comment.

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Lady Justice Silhouette into the Public Domain.

Pitchforks and Politicians

Reading about a certain case that’s all over the tabloids, I had a sense of déjà vu. Politician preys on hapless youth. Basically. Instantly our sympathies are for the latter. Of course! We’re not monsters. I mean, for someone to do that to someone like that in a situation such as that, I mean! As a keen gardener, I obviously know one end of a pitchfork from the other and, on reading such blood boiling accounts, Arya’s advice to her sister about swords, as the army of the dead approach, does tend to spring to mind.

I happened upon Lawburrows, the delightful and enlightening legal podcast series by the Glasgow Caledonian lecturer known on Twitter as @PeatWorrier, and was struck by a phrase dryly spoken in the intro music:

The law is reason free from passion. (Aristotle, Politics)

διόπερ ἄνευ ὀρέξεως νοῦς ὁ νόμος ἐστίν. (Αριστοτέλης, Πολιτικά)

1297α, 32-37

Politics, certainly as presented in the tabloid press, is often the opposite. All hot air and no cool logic—and never so much as when moral outrage is concerned. I suggest therefore, after a certain amount of justified gesticulating at the newspaper and perhaps uttering some well-chosen expletives in the interest of lowering one’s blood pressure (and reassuring whoever may happen to be present that We can’t let Them away with This Sort of Thing) that we put down our pitchforks and put on our thinking caps.

Break it down like a cryptic crossword clue:

  • Politician—what party? What’s going on there? Is this Councillor/ MSP/ MP considered an asset or a liability in the party’s present ideological economy? What’s happened to others of their ilk? Is there a pattern?
  • Preys—what words and actions are being considered reprehensible and by whom? In another context (such as being welcome or assumed to be so) would the same words or actions be necessarily even remarkable?
  • Hapless—what is the probable agency of this press designated victim? What institutional, instrumental or reputational power does this person possess? Has he or she played this role on another occasion? If so, has anyone (including the complainer) taken any steps to avoid reoccurrence of such a situation?
  • Youth—at this age, what does the law allow this person to do? Has he or she reached majority? What does the same party/ paper argue that people of the same age, or younger, should be trusted to decide to do?

I know I’m on thin ice here. It’s safer to clap and boo with the rest of the audience. But having written and directed a pantomime and acted in several (being a villager in the Chorus is still acting) I’m very familiar with scripts and stage-management.

Mens rea is the noun phrase that someone, sometime, will say in every single legal eagle drama that you watch. Google’s Oxford Languages dictionary gives this definition and example of use:

/ˌmɛnz ˈriːə

the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused.

“a mistaken belief in consent meant that the defendant lacked mens rea

It’s not a crime to be mistaken. It’s what happens after that mistaken interpretation is corrected that counts. That’s the legal, and moral, distinction that’s ignored by the tabloid press—and perhaps, under certain circumstances, by party politics.

Another quote I happened upon this week is more famous but people tend to quote the modern poetic inspirational version rather than the full Latin proverb:

“To err is human, to forgive divine.”

(Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism)

“Errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum.”

“To err is human; to persist (in error) is diabolical.”

(Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the Younger)

And that goes as much for parties, the press and the general public as it does for politicians.

Cartoon image of bearded young White man pointing over his shoulder to a large out-of-focus newspaper.

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image News into the Public Domain.

Points of Light

The good news today that the unfounded charge against a brave Scotswoman (for the crime of defending female safe space and children’s bodily integrity) has been dropped, is very welcome. Tempered as it is with the bad news that another brave woman in England has experienced so much harassment (in the same struggle) that she has resigned her academic post.

In the past year, I’ve been successful in reminding an ancient Scottish institute of higher learning of 3 Acts of Parliament that together guarantee access—without let or hindrance—to staff, students and guests, masked or unmasked. Yes, I was victimised for it, but I stood my ground. Together with a brave young man, who suffered institutional pressure and a week’s ban from classes (even online!) I was successful in the same endeavour with an amalgamated college in the same city. Just recently I had to take a very strong line with an outdoor activities education centre and remind them that the Nuremberg Code opposes coercion of medical procedures, including testing.

Today I watched a musical YouTube video about the 1960’s US Civil Rights Sit Down Demand, a jarring juxtaposition of jaunty music, photos and video footage of brave young Black men and women being beaten up and arrested for the crime of trying to have a coffee at a racially-segregated lunch counter. It struck me that most of my fellow White people would imagine that we’d have been shoulder-to-shoulder with the Black protesters. I doubt that very much.

My doubt is based on present-day realities. Another brave woman, Whitney Webb, currently living under South American fascism, has been meticulously publicising the nefarious material and personal links of the pharmaceutical industry to Silicon Valley and the military industrial complex, since the first reports of that racist origin story (now officially discredited) about that wet market in Wuhan. Anyone who was paying attention at that time could smell the fraud.

My first blogpost on Covid-1984 (as Spiro Skouras names it) was in early March 2020 and publicised medical experts warning against Covid exceptionalism. Since then I’ve written 42 more on that topic. The latest on the crossover between the peaked (mostly still asleep) and the awoken (mostly already peaked). Spiro, like many independent journalists investigating the official, lucrative, narrative, has been banned from various platforms and suffered financial repercussions. Meanwhile establishment rags like the Guardian (well-named if you’re a reader of Plato) are funded to the hilt by the same “philanthropic” foundation that funds the BBC, Reuters, the WHO and all the “fact checkers”.

Still, otherwise intelligent and well-intentioned people, despite the obvious doublethink (vaccines that don’t immunise, failed pharma companies suddenly performing medical and financial miracles, deaths soaring after vaccination, the coffins following the needles as they steadily prick down the age groups) do not want to see the connections. Even mentioning “4th Industrial Revolution” last year was conspiracy theory; this year it’s supposedly our only salvation from ecocide.

White liberal people conveniently ignore the fact that it wasn’t just a few Redneck misfits who were racist; it was the vast majority of respectable White church-going pillars of the establishment. Secular racism had the backing of a racist reading of the Bible and a racist pseudoscience of phrenology. The Civil Rights movement was considered by these self-satisfied people to be against God and against Nature. The same people who tut at footage of Black people being kicked in the head in coffee shops would gladly lock up their friends and relatives who are unvaccinated and throw away the key.

But still there are points of light. Despite the ignorance, the daily cringing fear (of who or what, exactly?) that causes people to muzzle up with unhygienic cloth masks before going into shops, despite the inertia and lethargy in the face of 5G towers and cancer, jabs and strokes, DNRs and Midazolam, some people are making a difference.

There’s a scene at the end of HP and the Half-Blood Prince that, depending on your mood, you might find either mawkish or moving. In the face of tragedy and looming menace, one woman, and then another and then another, followed by the rest, including the men, hold up their faintly illuminated wands. Combined, the glow dispels the skull and serpent of the Dark Mark above.

Our elders are dead. Our youth are dying. The next generation, if it is ever born, is already cursed. This isn’t “like Thalidomide”. This is, already, the new Thalidomide. All the safeguards laid down to protect mothers, to protect the life in their womb, were skipped. For money. Money and power. And from this weekend in Glasgow, disaster will wear a new mask, a green one, and will hiss and whisper in the language of depopulation as the only hope…for the global elite who are already arranging our replacement.

Hold up your hand. Let your light, feeble as it may seem to you, shine. Let our points of light merge. That glow will defeat the darkness.

Starry storm clouds

Thanks to Andrea Stöckel for releasing her image Starry Storm Clouds into the Public Domain.

Dirty Doxxing

I had a sadistic “line manager” in a (supposedly) charitable organisation I worked for who was infamous for using the line “can I just have a wee word?” as an opportunity to intimidate and bully staff, paid and volunteer.

As a very nice Anglican bishop once explained to me, having a “chat” about work with someone when you’re in a position of power over them runs the risk of what he called assumed authority. So the intention of the person in authority is irrelevant: the power differential means the employee will feel coerced.

This doesn’t mean that informal conversations shouldn’t take place (said sadistic line manager was very much opposed to any, apart from her own) but that the person with the institutional power needs to make sure that their exercise of it is appropriate, i.e. respectful of human/ employee rights as well as transparent and accountable.

Charitable organisations in particular, as well as the “caring” professions, are not known for respecting boundaries. When religion or ideology is involved, this lack of respect can be justified for the greater or individual good – rather than being identified as abuse. “Wee chats” that take place verbally, unwitnessed or with unexpected and previously unannounced attendance of another authority figure (“I’ve asked Amanda to sit in, I’m sure you won’t mind”), can either be off the record, unlike emails which leave a trail of evidence an industrial tribunal can work with, or written up afterwards with a certain slant prejudicial to the employee.

There’s a lot of this going on at the moment due to unscrupulous use of doxxing: a personal data connecting strategy predating the internet. It’s unscrupulous when used not to bring covert crime/ injustice to light (see the Watergate film, All The President’s Men, for a laudable use) but rather to shut down opposing opinion by embarrassing/ harassing someone at their home or place of work or via their friends or family.

For anyone invited by a line manager to have “a wee chat” about their posts on social media, for example, it can be tempting to just comply. After all, who doesn’t enjoy speaking about themselves and justifying their actions? However, by doing so, you are setting a dangerous precedent. Instead you can answer, politely but firmly, with these points:

  • Surveillance of employee social media posts made from non-corporate accounts which do not both name the employee and the company is usually not provided for in legislation/ company regulations. (In other words, it’s probably illegal and exceeding the line manager’s remit.)
  • Dignity at Work company policy (there are various names) protects staff from malicious complaint/ doxxing and can result in line managers who further such malice being found in dereliction of Duty of Care and/ or guilty of harassment/ discrimination/ victimisation of the employee.
  • Complainers who attempt a did-you-know-your-employee-said-this-on-social-media? strategy can be firstly advised that social media platforms have procedures for reporting posts. So it’s not clear why anyone else should get involved in a parallel process which involves the allocation of staff time and may prejudice collegiality considerably.

The bottom line: if someone on social media is breaking platform community conditions of use, by all means report them (on that platform); if a post is de iure criminal, report them to the police. If it’s none of the above but you find it offensive, and feel that the platform guidelines are not stringent enough, then consider the effect on freedom of speech/ expression if those were more stringent and, if you’re still convinced they need to be, lobby for a specific change. If none of the above apply and you just can’t cope with anyone expressing an opinion contrary to the one you currently hold, perhaps social media isn’t for you. Until you grow up.

Thanks to John Hain for releasing his image Bullying into the Public Domain.

Black & White; Left & Right

I’ve previously praised Dear White People but now I want to address the contentious issue of Critical Race Theory which seems to underlie the film and series. The present inspiration is twofold: bitter words about bodily words with a friend for whom I have deep affection, and the 2020 Equality & Diversity lecture by Prof. Kendall Thomas for the Oxford University Faculty of Law.

The past and continuing inspiration is, as usual with me and ethical controversy, the late Dr Robert M. Pirsig, about whose work I wrote my doctoral thesis. CRT has become a huge ideological issue in the USA and, of course, the opposing positions tend to follow party political lines. What’s interesting for me is that, listening to opposing speakers, both sets seem utterly convinced of being right and (apart from some glaring misrepresentation of socio-political reality) both can be quite convincing. Having now alienated most readers, let me explain why.

Firstly, arguments that are intractable are often so because:

1) people are arguing about different things

2) people are arguing about the same thing but in different contexts

An example of 1) is abortion. The main reason why this is intractable is that each side of the argument is consistent with an opposing view on pregnancy: baby or blood clot, basically. A huge step forward is therefore to say: “I don’t agree with your understanding of biological reality but I can see how your stance seems reasonable to you, with that understanding”.

An example of both 1) and 2) is transgender. Because not only is one person thinking about a post-op (top & bottom) m-f transsexual and the other a male serial rapist and occasional crossdresser but the one is imagining the first popping on a blouse in M&S and the other imagining the second naked, erect and threatening in a women’s locker room, shelter or prison.

Both confounders can come into play in any argument over race. “White people” can variously refer to the young metrosexual hipster whose only experience of an all-White space is his immediate family when no visitors are round, or to Mrs Old Money who keeps a gun handy and can’t decide which ethnic group upsets her the most when they come treading the White sands of her favourite New Englander island. Similarly, “Black people” can refer to anyone from President to a prisoner on Death Row.

But, thinking about both my new inspirations for writing, together, I realised that it’s 2) that’s the real problem – and I have to turn to Pirsig to explain why. (His explanation involves metaphysics or the nature of nature but you can just think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, if you prefer.)

Pirsig says that there isn’t just one level of ethical conflict, there are are 4. Only 2 concern us here. These are:

B) Social vs Intellectual morality

A) Biological vs Social morality

I’ve written them as A) under B) because it is. These three levels of wellbeing/ reality (Pirsig calls them “static quality”) form a hierarchy like this:

Intellectual

Social

Biological

So you can see that the two zones of overlap (with potential for harmony and clash) are also one above the other, with the lower both supporting and undermining the upper. The important point is that each upper level is moral, from its own perspective, but is transcended by the one above.

The skinny:

– perhaps the reason why White Republicans (and their Black allies) quoting Rev Dr MLK arguing for a colourblind America seem racist to Black Democrats (and their White allies) is that they appear to take no account of the lived reality of especially young Black men being harassed, to despair or death, by the police and other institutional forces.

– perhaps the reason why Black Democrats (and their White allies) quoting Rev Dr MLK arguing for a just America seem racist to White Republicans (and their Black allies) is that they appear to take no account of the fond wishes of especially wealthy old White people that everyone should just get along in the Home of the Brave and God Bless America!

I’m not being fair, I know. Putting it more philosophically, one ethical clash is all about rejecting biological values in favour of social values. If this is the struggle Black people see themselves as involved in then it’s about the control and appropriation of Black bodies by White people and the effort for them not to be seen and valued solely as bodies but as social personalities supporting justice.

The other, transcending but being undermined by that, is all about rejecting social values in favour of intellectual values. If this is the struggle White people see themselves as involved in then it’s about the control and appropriation of social groups by ideology and the effort for them not to be seen and valued solely as demographics but as intellectual beings supporting equality.

Now. Caveat! All of us are engaged in all of these clashes all of the time, directly or indirectly, consciously or not. If White people tend to be more concerned about control of their minds than their bodies it’s because they don’t experience the latter as intensely as Black people do. Even in something as basic as Stop and Search. I’m White and middle aged. This has never happened to me. For some young Black men, it’s a daily occurrence.

In this hierarchy of needs (which it also is) we tend to focus on our greatest need and when that is fulfilled we transcend it. So if Black people just want to be able to walk to the shops and back without being shot or arrested, it makes sense that they’ll tend to focus on institutional racism and defunding the police. Conversely, if White people just want to walk to the shops and back without finding it boarded up and the streets full of rioters, it makes sense that they’ll tend to focus on national unity and the rule of law.

So one side is also focussing on the way things should be, but they’re not, while the other focuses on the way things are, but shouldn’t be.

The answer is for both sides to stop automatically assuming that the other is racist/ reactionary/ Marxist revolutionaries and to attempt to acknowledge the coherence of their worldview with their lived experience.

Meanwhile, everyone would perhaps benefit from taking the trouble to educate themselves about the content of CRT (including those opposing and promoting it) and to realise that it is possible that answering YES or NO to the question “Is America racist?” could indicate a desire that:

little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

MLK