my faithful hound
displays that ease
of being in the moment –
and lips aligned
into a smile
suggesting ecstasy –
as in a state of bliss –
yet fills me
brim full of envy
as health concerns
and turmoil of emotions
have long since
15 february 2017
If this was a movie we would laugh out loud, from Airplane to Catch-22. But this is real-life news, not even fake news (see link below). A temporary ban on travel leads to a temporary halt to the ban, which leads to a demand for a temporary stay against the temporary halt. Meanwhile, airlines and officials are said to be confused about what they should do.
Hail to the Chief.
The Rt. Rev. James Jones, the former Bishop of Liverpool, has been given a knighthood. He chaired the Hillsborough Inquiry panel which finally got to the truth about the Hillsborough disaster. So we owe him and the panel a great debt of gratitude.
But a knighthood? He will go to Buckingham Palace to be hit on the shoulder by Her Majesty whose governments over – what was it? – 29 years resisted all calls for justice for the victims and their families, and whose police lied and covered up the truth all that time. None of that is unusual, of course – we all remember the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, etc., etc.
Don’t accept this tatty award, change your mind, James. The only thanks you need are the thanks from the victims and their families. And you’ve got that beyond measure. And from the rest of us, who weep over the injustices built into our system. As an ex-bishop you presumably believe that “the powers that be are ordained by God … For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad” (Romans 13:1, 3). But when the powers that be go bad, you should resist them. You certainly shouldn’t accept their rewards. Change your mind – or, in more biblical language, repent.
In any case, what’s this Empire you want to become a knight of?
The government may make new British citizens swear an oath of allegiance to “British values”. In my Christian youth we used to argue about whether it was right to swear an oath, even in court. Jesus had said that we shouldn’t and that anything more than just Yes or No “comes from evil”. I think it was because he rejected the assumption that everyone was a lying bastard unless they swore otherwise under some kind of threat from on high.
In later years, when I went to refugees’ citizenship ceremonies, I discovered that they were required to swear allegiance to “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and all her successors”. I realised then that I could never have become a naturalised citizen if I’d had to even just declare such allegiance, never mind swear it. Tony Benn famously found a way round it. Faced with the necessity of swearing allegiance to said Queen and said descendants at the opening of each Parliament, he read out the form of words – but prefaced them with his own: “I, Tony Benn, under protest, and in order to serve my constituents, do swear … ”
But I don’t suppose the new oath makers will put up with any ploys of that kind when they’re registering oaths from today’s new citizens as they swear blind that they are totally committed not only to Her Majesty (even if her governments did try to bomb their home countries to buggery), but to cricket, or knitting, or Manchester United or anything else that they already subscribe to. I saw one list of British values that included “family values”. Unfortunately, our government’s own allegiance to the “right to family life” found in Article 8 of the Human Rights Act is more than doubtful. If you don’t believe that, you’ve never tried to assist already-naturalised citizens to negotiate the obstacles deliberately put in their way to thwart their attempts to reunite their families on good old British soil.
Oaths? I’ll give you oaths.
The government has plans for us. If it thinks a pilot scheme in Peterborough, Stamford and St George’s Hospital in Tooting is successful it may be rolled out across the country, and coming to a health centre near you.
Will that be good? No.
If the scheme gets the go-ahead, we won’t just have to show our passports when we go abroad and come back. We’ll have to show them before we go into hospital for operations. No passport, no operation; no ID, no treatment. Go home and wait to die.
The Guardian explains: “Patients could be told to bring two forms of identification including a passport to hospital to prove they are eligible for free treatment under new rules to stop so-called health tourism.”
Well, apparently, “the government paid out £674m to other European countries for the treatment of Britons abroad, but received only £49m in return for the NHS treatment of European citizens.”
Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health (the Department’s “Sir Humphrey”) explained his thinking to the Commons Public Accounts Committee today and told MPs that the results so far are encouraging:
“Individual trusts like Peterborough are doing that and it is making a big difference – they are saying please come with two forms of identity, your passport and your address, and they use that to check whether people are eligible.”
He realised that such a practice might be criticised but then confirmed that, like Credit, it would be Universal: “It is quite a controversial thing to do, to say to the entire population you’ve got to prove your identity.”
No decision has yet been made, of course. It’s not clear whether Chris just blurted out this information under pressure from the committee (some members of these committees can be quite pushy once they’ve got the bit between their teeth) or whether he was floating the idea to test the water.
Well, I’ll tell you what I intend to do. If the scheme comes in, and I’m asked for my passport, I will refuse to produce it, or any other proof of my identity. And I’ll see what they do. That’ll be me testing the water, like Chris.
Listen, I’m 74, and, so far, healthy. A nurse at my medical centre, explaining why they stop automatic over-60s medical checks at 74 (I’m due for my last one) said, “Well, the checks are preventative – but when you reach about 90 there’s not much we can prevent!” Point taken, although that still makes 74 a bit early, but I’ll let that pass. However, at some point or other I’m likely to need some of the “passport-required-before-access” treatment they’re talking about. But I was born half a dozen years before Nye Bevan’s great struggle with the doctors to create the NHS, free at the point of use, no questions asked, no passports required, and I started benefiting from it immediately. I’m buggered if I’m going to provide ID to get hospital treatment at this late stage. It’s against my principles.
So is the suggestion by “a source close to the Health Secretary”, Jeremy Hunt: the scheme “might only be applied in areas with shifting populations and large influxes of immigrants.”
That’s called racism, Secretary of State. But what more can we expect?
Here’s the Guardian article:
Theresa May is, apparently, on a “charm offensive” towards Donald Trump. What that means can only be guessed at. But President-elect Trump won’t be displeased with the decision of Theresa’s Home Secretary in the case of Lauri Love.
As The Guardian reports today, Lauri is accused of “stealing large amounts of data from US government agencies such as the Federal Reserve, the army, the Department of Defense, Nasa and the FBI in a spate of online attacks in 2012 and 2013.” He hacked, so it is said, into all those websites. And the US government wants him extradited to stand trial in America.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that America prosecutes people who penetrate their secret parts, although I have to confess I wish I was clever enough to do it myself. And Lauri “is accused of causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage”. I’m not sure how that could be true, but if it is you can see how it would make them cross.
The problem, though, is that Lauri is not only a clever man, he’s also a very unwell man. He suffers from Asberger’s syndrome, and he suffers from depression and eczema. If he is extradited, his lawyers say, he could face up to 99 years in prison. It is argued that the process of extradition, trial in a foreign country and the prospect of a long prison sentence would have a detrimental effect on his mental health and could lead to suicide. The danger of this is undoubtedly increased by the fact that he could face proceedings, not just once, but in three different US jurisdictions.
What’s the alternative? He could be tried here, be allowed bail, and have the support of his close family and support network.
On 16 September Lauri lost his legal challenge against extradition. District judge Nina Tempia said that, while she agreed that he had mental health problems and physical problems, he could be cared for by the “medical facilities in the United States prison estate”, and that they were adequate for the task. One possible problem with that, of course, is that he might be dead before he got to the medical facilities or they got to him.
However, Home Secretary Amber Rudd had the humanitarian solution to this problem in her own hands. She could block the extradition. She even had an example to follow. In 2012, Theresa May, who was then Home Secretary, blocked the extradition of Gary McKinnon, who was also charged with hacking into American secrets, and who also suffered from Asberger’s syndrome. At that time, Joshua Rozenberg explained in The Guardian that Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention “says that no one shall be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” He argued that she had little choice but to block the extradition. Today, Theresa May’s own Home Secretary did the opposite: Amber Rudd signed an order for the extradition of Lauri Love. There was no sign of Article 3. She did this in spite of the following appeal to her from Lauri’s solicitor, Karen Todner:
“We … urge you to recognise that this is a case where the risk to Mr Love’s life arising from extradition is so great that it would be entirely justified for you to make your own representations to your US counterpart to withdraw the extradition request because a domestic prosecution in England would permit justice to be done and remove the severe risk to Mr Love’s life.”
Do I think this was part of Theresa’s charm offensive towards Trump? Not really. I do think it’s a sign of the harsher world we live in and the clear move to the Right we are seeing on both sides of the Atlantic. We need to find a way to stop it getting worse.
Lauri has 14 days to lodge an appeal. Let’s hope he wins.
Here’s the Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/nov/14/amber-rudd-approves-lauri-love-extradition-to-us-on-hacking-charges?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=199726&subid=12991040&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2