History lesson – WMD

This is an object lesson in how to get WMD. Don’t worry, you won’t get in trouble or anything. Well, this chap didn’t.
Public records, released under FOI for a 2006 BBC TV Newsnight programme and discussed in a New Statesman article, showed how the ~1960 Israeli government managed to get its hands on nuclear weapons materials.
The BBC reported that the programme has shown “Secret sale of UK plutonium to Israel “ Secret indeed. Even secret from government ministers and quite probably the sitting Prime Ministers, and over the objections of Defence Intelligence, the MOD and – sometimes – the Foreign Office.
The New Statesman has the fullest account. Read it.

Kelly and his colleagues .. (i.e. the Defence Intelligence staff who mounted a pretty spirited attempt to uncover what was going on and try to block it) .. however, found their views were being challenged. Chief of the challengers was Michael Israel Michaels .. who was a senior official at the science ministry under Lord Hailsham during the Macmillan government, and went on to serve at the technology ministry under Benn. He was also Britain’s representative at the IAEA.(my emphasis) quotation is from New Statesman

Mr Michaels was in fact so keen on the idea of supplying Israel with bomb-making materials that he just carried on doing it, even after Tony Benn became Energy Secretary. Michaels just didn’t think to bother ministers with the knowledge.

Mr Benn told the programme that civil servants in his department kept the deals secret from him and his predecessor, Frank Cousins.
He had always suspected that civil servants were doing deals behind his back, but he never thought they would sell plutonium to Israel. He told Newsnight: “I’m not only surprised, I’m shocked. It never occurred to me they would authorise something so totally against the policy of the government. (From the BBC)

“Michaels lied to me, I learned by bitter experience that the nuclear industry lied to me again and again.” He thought Wilson may not have known that Britain was helping Israel to get the bomb. (From the Guardian)

Astonishingly, Michaels had the effrontery to complain to the BBC Trust about the programme, rather than to give disbelieving thanks that he hadn’t been arrested for treason.
From the Trusts’s ruling on his complaint about Newsnight

Summary of the finding
The complaints concerned an investigation carried out by Newsnight, and presented by Michael Crick, that looked into the British government’s involvement in assisting Israel with its development of nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s. The item was based on recently released government papers suggesting that Michael Michaels, a senior civil servant and the British government’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency, had acted with dual loyalties when he had ensured the supply of plutonium and other radioactive materials to Israel without the knowledge of the Minister responsible, and possibly without the Prime Minister’s knowledge.
Both complainants felt that the inclusion and repetition of Mr Michaels’ middle name (Israel) was unnecessary and, therefore, anti-Semitic.
They also objected to the suggestion that he had dual loyalties, which they felt implied disloyalty……..
The Committee concluded as follows:
The use of Mr Michaels’ middle name did not breach the guidelines on harm and offence.
It was satisfied that there was no intention to endorse a stereotype, and it was not anti-Semitic. In general, the use of the name had been as a form of shorthand to highlight Mr Michaels’ association with Israel.
With regard to “dual loyalties”, the Committee was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence put forward to suggest that Mr Michaels might indeed have had dual loyalties in his dealings with Israel. However, the Committee concluded that this was not the same as suggesting that Mr Michaels had been disloyal.
The Committee also felt that the report had raised the possibility that the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, might have known about the shipment to Israel. The item therefore did not breach guidelines on impartiality…
The Committee did not uphold the complaints.

Making up numbers for fun and profit

Why buy ads when you can blag respected media organizations into publicising your company for free, as long as you can raise some public controversy (622 comments on this)?

An online entrepreneur says that poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses. Charles Duncombe says an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.(from the BBC website)

Whereas achieving a gratuitous link on the BBC site can presumably double them….

The Confederation of British Industry weighed in with this ludicrous claim, based on a survey they did.

James Fothergill, the CBI’s head of education and skills, said: “Our recent research shows that 42% of employers are not satisfied with the basic reading and writing skills of school and college leavers and almost half have had to invest in remedial training to get their staff’s skills up to scratch.(from the BBC)

The first part (42%) may be accurate. Complaining about young people’s spelling is like complaining about the weather. Everyone over 25 does it and probably always has. But I am intrigued by the claim that “almost half” have paid for remedial English classes. That implies that 2% of bosses who don’t have a problem with young workers’ literacy have been paying for extra lessons.

To address these weaknesses, 44 per cent of employers have had to invest in remedial training for school and college leavers.(from HR_Inform report on the CBI survey)

Bosses are “investing” so money must be changing hands. ( This suggests that there must be a massive Remedial English industry. Intriguing. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a private training company advertising these courses.

Avid googling throws up a few remedial English courses but these all turn out to be courses in teaching Remedial English. Or they are courses in Remedial English for non-English speakers.

Education cuts have probably made it impossible to find a free public sector course. So, teachers of basic English and Maths – who’ve found themselves out of a job as our adult education colleges disappear – should set themselves up as Remedial English and Maths trainers and offer their services to the CBI. Who apparently know where there is a massive hidden cache of employers who are happy to pay for their skills…

Make your excuses and leave

The UK is daily seeing revelations of levels of institutional corruption that would have raised eyebrows in Amin’s Uganda. News International seem to have gone for full-scale subversion of any British institution they can get their hands on.

There’s an embarrassment of revelation riches. Scandals are spilling out at a rate that reminds you of the way that a convicted criminal might ask for hundreds of offences to be taken into consideration when he knows he’s going to jail anyway.
As a random instance: The Sun targeting Gordon Brown’s family. Including getting access to his disabled child’s medical records. And even having to invite the buggers to the funeral.
Hacking Brown was not even a well kept secret. It should have been the subject of a court case.

An unexpected ruling by a judge six years ago effectively covered up the chance to publicly expose evidence of the illegal targeting of Gordon Brown, which had been unearthed by a startled team of provincial detectives.
Operation Reproof, by Plymouth police, revealed the first of what became many systematic attempts to gain illegal confidential information on the prime minister and his family, but their findings were suppressed.
The Guardian has now been able to document the facts.
Files buried in police archives detail the discovery of an extraordinary nationwide network of private investigators, whom a corrupt local police officer was feeding with information filched from the police national computer (PNC) (from the Guardian)

Unlike Plymouth Police, the Metropolitan Police were allegedly so entangled in NI’s web of corruption and blackmail that they couldn’t do anything except contribute to the cover-ups.

(Even where NI misbehaviour involved a police detective, Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook, a Crimewatch presenter targetted for daring to investigate the murder of a NI-employed private detective, whose partners – also NI-employed private detectives were suspects. )

You can’t really blame them when it seemed that every member of the British establishment was either cowed or complicit (or, more likely, both.)

Thus, it’s been left to people like comedian Steve Coogan and actor Hugh Grant to mount almost the only serious challenges to the evil empire.

I am pleased to see that the BSkyB bid finally looks unlikely to go through unchallenged. The Murdoch machine has almost brought the BBC to its knees in pursuit of its tv ambitions, so – blameless as Sky channels might be, in terms of hacking dead teenager’s phones – I’d like to see it fail.

Also, it’s nice to see that News Corp investors are finally questioning the company, although it seems a mite hypocritical for institutional investors to insist that Murdoch must have known what his papers were doing. Can investors really have been unaware of the nature of the business they were investing in? If so, I suggest sending them 412 scam letters immediately, because they have money to invest and are naive enough to believe anything.

Ever since Margaret Thatcher signed some Faustian deal with Murdoch, British society has been paying the price. Maybe, as Harriet Harman implied in an interview this week, all UK political parties should get together and ask News Corp “Can we have our country back, please?”

Machines of Loving Grace

Another work of genius by Adam Curtis was on BBC last night. In the UK, Episode 1 will be on the BBC’s i-player, In any case, it will probably be repeated a few times before the next episode (Monday, 30th. )

Amazingly thought-provoking. It fills your mind with images and ideas. I would certainly disagree with some of his arguments. (I can’t believe that Ayn Rand was really a major influence on the development of Silicon Valley individualism, no matter how many techy people called their kids Rand, for example. ) The programme is so engaging that I found myself arguing political/social/ecological points with the tv screen.

Curtis presents masterly transparent propaganda. Propaganda in the purest sense – spreading ideas, trying to make people change their minds. Transparent because he is explicit about what he is saying and communicates in a form that makes it explicit that he is spreading ideas. With blinding creative skill. He wants to make the viewer think creatively and recognise and question other propoganda.

Even if you’re not in the UK, you can read an interview with Adam Curtis and watch an intro clip on the Register.

The Register interview actually makes his point of view a lot clearer than the first episode. (But watching the programme is a pure joy. The interview is no substitute)

Challenging Utopian theories about the web:

I was suspicious of it because I hadn’t noticed power had disappeared. The real bastions of power are as they were, and are more concentrated. So I decided to trace those ideas back to their source. It leads you back to an absolutely fascinating area, which you can loosely call cybernetics, and also information theory.(from the Register)

He has a blog on the BBC. This is a source of major treats, such as “A is for Atom” which has an old documentary he made which dealt with the design of reactor at Fukushima Daiich. Or Rupert Murdoch – a portrait of Satan

Great minds thinking alike

This may be a unique event, this blog and the Archbishop of Canterbury (oh, all right then, and millions of other people) speak with one voice. The idea that UK Christians are being persecuted is silly.

Rowan Williams (C of E Archbishop) expressed this so well that it bears repeating:

.. told a congregation at Canterbury Cathedral that “wooden-headed bureaucratic silliness” combined with a “well-meaning and completely misplaced anxiety about giving offence to non-Christians” should not be mistaken for persecution. (in the Guardian)(

Easter persecution show

“Are Christians Being Persecuted?” on BBC1 tonight posed that ludicrous question. The description on the BBC site started with a contentious intro:

For years now, some town halls have been renaming their Christmas Lights as Winter Lights festivals. More and more Christians are ending up in court, defending themselves against what they see as victimisation for not being allowed to wear a cross to work or to pray for a patient.

It’s doubtful if “Winter Lights Festivals” are anything except an urban myth. But, anything is possible. Rebranding things on a random basis has somehow become compulsory in Britain. (For instance, the Department for Trade and Industry is on its third renaming in as many years. No one suggests that this means that Business is being persecuted.)

Ah ha, the programme has actually found a council that called its Christmas decorations “Winter Lights” one year (not “some town halls” and not “for years” then.) The council has now again rebranded the light switching-on procedure, as “Christmas in Autumn” or something.

Wny is the name given to street lights even remotely newsworthy?

Because of the media that feels no shame in trying to stir up controversy about nothing, maybe.

Or because of the activities of a tiny fringe group of extremists who are being quite successful in rebranding “Christianity” – redefining their religion in terms of items of jewelry and acts of bigotry. (At the same time, bringing into the UK fundy beliefs – like Intelligent Design – that mainstream UK Christians still laugh at.)

This was a truly annoying programme. It gave yet more credibility to the extreme wing of Christians, accepting their self-definition, so confusing the boundaries between them and the mainstream churches.

Although no member of the mainstream churches seems to have got into any dispute over wearing crosses, etc., any act of overzealous-personnel-management-madness directed against these people now gets seen as representing an attack on Christianity as a whole.

If you could bear to sit through the whole dull 60 minutes, the programme finally concluded that UK Christians aren’t actually being persecuted …… well, at least not compared to Christians in the Sudan. That almost defines “damning with faint praise.”

Simon Singh gets result

Simon Singh has won his libel appeal against a case brought by the British Chiropractic Association.

Take pleasure in the instance of the right thing being done but the case cost the defence £200,000.

So just to be on the safe side, not having £200k to spend on legal protection, I want it on record that this blog will never “question claims made by companies or organisations “……..

That leaves us with loads to blog about. Erm.

To start with, all alternative medicine works. Oh yes, the Rapture is imminent. ID cards are a brilliant idea that the UK population is crying out for, except of course the bad people who have something to hide. Political correctness has indeed gone mad. etc

Well, that should guarantee our future.