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Showing posts with label BP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BP. Show all posts

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Shereen Show - sports writers give their views on the Megrahi Release

cynicalHighlander, a correspondent (see comments on my last blog on Portillo) called my attention to a radio show that I had not come across before - Shereen on BBC Radio Scotland - and its treatment of the Megrahi release issue yesterday, Sunday  13th February.

(I don’t listen to radio politics as much as I should, and I remind myself that Scottish radio has almost certainly a much bigger influence on the political thinking of the Scottish voter than I give it credit for, especially because of a highly significant media audience, those who listen in the car, an audience of which I am no longer a part.)

My first reaction was delight that Shereen Nanjiani, a broadcaster who I always liked in her long career stint (from 1987) as news anchor on STV and the first Asian/Scottish presenter in Scotland, was back. I hadn’t realised that she had re-invented herself as a radio talk show host in 2006. (I met her fleetingly in 1990 in the foyer when I was running a negotiating skills course for STV in Glasgow in 1990, but she most certainly won’t remember me.)

Unfortunately, this show in Sunday 13th was a deeply disappointing introduction to Shereen for me.

Shereen is no media airhead female selected for eye-candy reasons: she graduated from Glasgow University with an MA in Philosophy, and her long news anchor experience has left her with a wide experience of the Scottish political scene and beyond.

Her guests on Sunday’s show included three people who had something to say about the Megrahi release affair, reactivated by the Wikileaks disclosures about the UK and Libya and David Cameron’s bandwagon-jumping to discredit the Labour Party nationally. They were a peculiar mix -

Sarah Oates is Professor of Political Communications at Glasgow University, a graduate of Yale and Emory (Atlanta) universities, specialising in the study of media and democracy - a highly relevant heavyweight by any standards, and well-equipped to offer a considered view on the complex web of geo-politics that the Megrahi Affair is embedded in. But she didn’t …

Bill Leckie is a Scottish sport journalist and broadcaster who writes for The Sun. As a non-sporting person, my only knowledge of him, apart from this programme, is that he seems to excite the ire of Celtic in the Wild West of Scotland over allegations of bigotry in the game and beyond, and a sturdy response that he made to Kelvin MacKenzie’s attack on Scotland from an English nationalist standpoint. This rather contrived little spat had the feel of a gimmick to sell newspapers to me, however, I rejoice in Kelvin MacKenzie, who is exactly the kind of strident English nationalist who brings Scottish independence that bit closer every time he opens his mouth. And I fully support his wish to see an independent England again without all this British rubbish.

Bill Leckie, in his juxtaposed reply to Kelvin, Sun staff argue for UK break-up expresses the following admirable sentiments -

So here's the bottom line. We either make a fresh start as a proper, united land or admit it's over, air-kiss and go our own separate ways. There's nothing to be gained in us continually moaning that England treats us like the poo on their shoe. There's no point in the English giving themselves coronaries because we get free eye tests and bus passes.  Now that Scotland has a nationalist government, it's time we let the voters decide our destiny once and for all.

One might hope from that quote that Bill Leckie might have something useful and objective to say about the Megrahi affair. One would have been wrong …

The third guest in the discussion was Tom English, an Irishman working in Scotland as a sports journalist for Scotland on Sunday, and Scottish Sports Feature writer of the Year. (Tom English is doubtless bored rigid by jokey reference to his surname, and might well adopt the tactic of Lee Bum Suk - the Foreign Minister of Korea until his death in the  Rangoon bombing in 1983, and a distinguished UN diplomat, who used to introduce himself at conference by saying “My name is Lee Bum Suk. Please laugh now, then we can move on to serious business.”)

Exactly what a sports journalist’s views were supposed to contribute to the Megrahi discussion I am not certain, but there he was anyway.

What did we actually get from this odd mix?

Shereen Nanjiani gave a brief introduction, then played Cameron’s comment on the UK Labour Government’s involvement “facilitation of an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish Government”, itself a simplistic distortion of what actually happened without regard to the critical time frame. This was followed by an emotional quote from Stephanie Bernstein, an American relative of a Lockerbie victim, understandably hostile to the UK government’s position.

Shereen could  have quoted Dr. Jim Swire as a balancing view, but she didn’t. Instead, she followed with an Alex Salmond broadcast quote, in which the First Minister made the critical time distinction - that Megrahi was actually released a year later - a distinction that, however, doesn’t fit well with the shabby consensus between Cameron, the unionist press and the Labour Party, that the Scottish government was somehow complicit in the UK government’s double dealing and hypocrisy. Shereen could have had a representative of the Scottish government on her panel of guests - but she didn’t …

I suppose that up to that point, some kind of balance was maintained by Shereen and the programme’s production team. But then the discussion and the motley guests -

Prof. Sarah Oates, an American, jumped straight in with both feet.  “I mean, the more and more you hear about this story, the less and less likely it seems that this was a just a disinterested release due to humanitarian concerns.

The more and more I play that remark, Prof. Oates, the less and less likely it seems to me that this was a disinterested assessment of a complex political situation from an American academic, but more a superficial assessment - an opinion rather than a considered academic analysis, and one that has been formed without looking closely enough at the timescales, the documents, the complex nature of devolved government, the Scottish legal system and the fraught relationship between the Scottish Nationalist Government and the Unionist Labour Government of the UK at that time. But I could be wrong, Professor Oates …

Bill Leckie, sport journalist in the tabloid Sun newspaper, jewel of the News International, part of the Murdoch empire that includes the appalling Fox News in America, illegal buggers of everyone’s phone from Princes to commoners, currently the subject of multiple criminal investigations by the Metropolitan Police, has an opinion too, despite his apparent sympathies for Scottish nationalist aspirations in his Kelvin MacKenzie rebuttal.

A “bugbear”  of his, Bill Leckie confidently asserts, is that he never has believed that it was about compassionate release - “I have written from day one that I didn’t think it was anything to do with compassionate release - I’ve always thought it was business.”

This carefully formed opinion was obviously the product of deep journalistic research and reflection while on the terracing, fending off the outrageous attacks of Celtic supporters over chanting from the fans, and engaging in contrived spats with Kelvin MacKenzie.

Leckie then goes on to a quite contemptible attack on Kenny MacAskill’s integrity in his speech in August 2009 explaining and defending his decision to release Megrahi. Leckie then predictably repeats the distorted interpretation of the Justice Minister’s remark about a ‘higher power’ as suggesting that Megrahi would be judged by the Almighty, rather than what it patently was, a qualifying statement that his life span would be determined by a higher power, not by the medical forecast.

Tom English was then invited by Shereen to offer an opinion, from his deep sports expertise, on whether this was a compassionate release or not. Drawing on deep reserves of sporting journalistic experience and analysis, he reveals that he used to believe it, but no longer does, because “this week has absolutely changed my opinion.” He now believes that political expedience and not compassion drove the Scottish governments distinction.

He then goes on to accuse Alex Salmond of hypocrisy, quoting Sir Augustine Thomas "Gus" O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary for the lying, expedient Brown Labour government and now for the appalling ConLib coalition, that “the SNP were open to negotiations in the release of Megrahi.” He parrots the UK line that the Scottish Government was linking the issue of the Megrahi release to legislation on prisoner compensation on slopping out.

In so doing, Tom English unwittingly repeats and gives credence to a British Government lie - a blatant distortion and conflation of events, timescales and facts which a sports journalist, however distinguished in his field, has clearly not examined in any detail.

A Southern Irishman, even a sports journalist, should have a least some passing acquaintance with British government lies in the bloody history of his native land. The only excuse I can offer for Tom English is that, in his well-founded distaste for the UK and BP machinations over Libya and Megrahi, he has swallowed whole and entire the desperate attempts of a failing UK political culture to embroil the Scottish Government in their shameful realpolitik and deep hypocrisy.

In so doing, he and the other guests casually, and without a shred of evidence, or even apparently any real consideration of the evidence that exists, have impugned the integrity of two leading members of the Government of Scotland - the First Minister, Alex Salmond and the Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill.

Shereen Nanjiani and her producer have failed to provide a balanced debate on a critical issue to the future of Scotland - and the UK - when a Holyrood election is imminent.

In so doing, they have also done a disservice to the Lockerbie dead and to their living, grieving relatives, who want above all, closure and justice based on the rule of law and objective facts, not on the glib and superficial opinions of sports journalists.


Thursday, 30 September 2010

More Megrahi nonsense from Menendez

Nobody came to Senator Menendez's kangaroo court in the US - a publicity stunt masquerading as a Congressional enquiry - so he had to make things up. His representative who came to Scotland - and failed to take notes at a meeting with Scottish Government officials - has total recall of a load of nonsense.

Fortunately our government officials did take notes. Of course, Holyrood's ****hole in residence, Richard Baker, predictably aligned himself with the US and Menendez. Perhaps he should have consulted his new boss, Ed Miliband, who if he has any sense will rapidly distance himself and the Labour Party from the Deal in the Desert/BP conspiracy theory - Jack Straw certainly did.


Sunday, 29 August 2010

Megrahi’s life expectancy

The controversy rumbles on, fuelled in significant part by indignation (in reality, secret delight) that Megrahi has not died within the three month prognosis.

The arguments that follow from this fact, from the critics of the Scottish Justice Minister’s decision, usually include one or more of the following statements -

1. This proves the medical evidence was flawed.

It doesn’t – what it demonstrates is that offering a prognosis of death from a terminal illness is not an exact science, as abundant examples from medical statistics demonstrate. A rudimentary knowledge of statistics and probability show that forecasts based on probability include percentage confidence levels and confidence limits. In other words, doctors don’t have crystal balls, even though some of their critics have wooden heads and hearts of stone – they offer the best forecast they can, based on the evidence they have and their best clinical judgement.

2. This proves that Kenny MacAskill was selective in the medical evidence he chose to act on, in pursuit of some unknown political agenda of his own – or the Scottish Government’s - to release Megrahi.

This is patently nonsense. Kenny MacAskill took the decision in the full knowledge that, if he released Megrahi, he would be subjected to a wave of hostility that could well be electorally damaging to the Scottish Government and the Scottish National Party and to relationships with some sectors of American political and public opinion. The First Minister was fully aware of these implications and of the price that would have to be paid for a legal and principled stand, but rightly allowed his Justice Minister to do his job, free from interference or political pressure.

3. The decision was a dirty deal cooked up with the Scottish Government by Jack Straw, BP, Tony Blair and the Libyan Government after their abortive attempt to secure release under the PTA (Prisoner Transfer Agreement).

The idea that the SNP Government, Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill would be part of such a deal is nothing short of risible to anyone with even the most superficial understanding of the relationship between the Scottish Government and the UK Labour Government, especially with these particular representatives of it.

Not even the promise of immediate independence for Scotland, the refund of all stolen oil revenues,  full restitution for the havoc wreaked in Scotland by Thatcher and the Blair/Brown/Mandelson gang, and a full apology to William Wallace would have bought such a deal.

4. The decision was taken because the Justice Minister secretly knows that Megrahi was innocent of the Lockerbie bombing, and is defending the Scottish Justice system, the Scottish police and the shadowy US interests who perverted the course of justice.

Kenny MacAskill has indeed said that he took the decision in the belief that Megrahi was guilty – he could not have done otherwise and remained Scottish Justice Minister. If he ever entertained such doubts, he could have, should have and would have thrown his considerable authority behind calls for an enquiry into the Megrahi conviction. He certainly would not have chosen such a ludicrous and risky route to righting a judicial wrong and overturning an unsafe conviction.

(For the record, I believe that Megrahi did not act alone, and that the US bought, and may thus have compromised evidence advanced at the trial. I believe on balance that Megrahi was guilty, but allow for some possibility that he is innocent.)

However, it would appear that the only solution that might satisfy some of the more extreme critics of compassionate release based on medical prognostications of death in terminal illness would run as follows -

The dying man must sign a document saying that, if he does not die within three calendar months of the medical judgement and subsequent release, he will either return voluntarily to be executed by the releasing authority or alternatively have all medical care withdrawn. The doctors who made the initial prognosis should be struck off the medical register and the law officer who ordered the compassionate release should publicly resign in disgrace, wearing a sack and scattering ashes over his head, with full media coverage.

Any leading cleric who supported the release decision should be reduced to the lowest rank of their denomination and sent to a remote, and ideally dangerous and unhealthy part of the world.  All who contested the release decision in the UK should be given a lifetime subscription to the Daily Mail. The leading opponent of the decision in the UK should be given a life peerage (Lord X of Vengeful) and the leading opponent in the US should be given a position as a Fox News presenter, thus ensuring that he or she will be a Republican Presidential candidate for the next election.

Provisions such as the above would provide conclusive proof that the United Kingdom and the USA were still Christian countries, and that their Christian/Judaic values were still intact.

 

PORTIA:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd - it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice ---

William Shakespeare - The Merchant of Venice

Friday, 23 July 2010

Bob Crow, RMT, talks hard sense on Megrahi Release on Question Time

My respect for Bob Crow grows by the week, and I find I have much more in common with this man than most of the Scots who comprise the opposition in Holyrood. He is one of the very few Question Time panellists on whom I can rely to say the things I wish the panellists would say – even when I don’t agree with them – rather than the obfuscations, evasions and establishment cant that often characterises the usual contributions.

Among the select few who do say what has to be said, in addition to Bob Crow, I include George Galloway, Ken Clarke, Shami Chakrabarti and Salma Yaqoob, not to mention Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.

Bob Crow is the kind of Englishman I would like to see in government once England rediscovers itself as a great nation after it abandons its faded dreams of Empire, i.e. after Scotland secures its independence, closely followed by Wales and Northern Ireland.

I was most struck by the point he made when asked if Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill would present themselves in response to the ‘invitation’, i.e. peremptory summons to appear before a Senate Committee and account for their decision to release Megrahi.

I quote Bob Crow -

But however, I want to say this --- the American Government has got some cheek to talk about some of the things that has happened over here, when it has got itself involved illegal wars all over the world, dropped chemical on people, tortured people and the scenario in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba – and five Cubans languish in jail in America at this moment in time who went to America to tell the American government – previous government, I would accept – about terrorist attacks that was taking place. So, there’s to be a fair playing field, let’s just not talk about Lockerbie, let’s talk about what America does throughout the world as well.”

The Hartlepool audience greeted this with enthusiastic and prolonged applause, and so did I from my sofa. This – the authentic voice of the people - used to be the voice of the people and the People’s Party before New Labour and the deadly trio of Blair, Brown and Mandelson got their hands around its throat.

But why lament? We have the authentic voice of the Scottish people in government in Holyrood at the moment, and I hope that the people recognise it and reinforce it by returning a Scottish Nationalist Government with an increased majority in May 2011.