Thursday, February 11, 2010

Layer 243 . . . A Quiet Night in the Village

There's ice on the pond opposite the Village Store, where business is still brisk as it's only 10.00pm. Outside, on the pavement, next to the curb, there's a guy in a sweater, holding a cordless electric drill. He's just standing there, breathing in the cold air - not going anywhere, not doing anything - just holding his drill.

A police Astra comes revving down the road from the roundabout, lights flashing, siren on . . .  swings right at the junction and disappears.

Further on, 30 yards down the road, the cops have created a bay in the bus lane using cones and flashing blue lights. At the far end of it stands a BMW copmobile, a white estate with its back door open, showing all kinds of cop gear in the back. 20 yards further on from that stands an anonymous white van, whose presence is explained by two open flaps above its back doors, with two cop video cameras looking out - down past the road beyond the BMW and its cop pen. No doubt the telephoto lens are focused way back up the road at the traffic approaching the pen - checking number plates for the wanted, the illegal, the bad and the ugly. A car approaches . . . tiny red lights blink next to the cameras, an instant check is made, a message comes back from the central computer, and the car is waved into the bay.

Another 20 yards and there's a rasta corner shop in what, years ago, used to be a local bank. A door is open. Inside, the shelves are sparsely stocked, several bredrin are chatting loudly, and raucous laughter reverberates through the door.

Across the road stand the Turkish Coffee Shop and the Turkish minimarket. No-one ever seems to go in or out of the coffee shop, and the grocery never closes.

Another 20 yards and a BMW Flashmobile Dopedealer Coupe stands with its engine idling, its driver grooving to some cool sounds, with his buddy inside the Nigerian takeaway, scoring some food.

2 more minutes down the street and a small gaggle of drinkers and smokers is hanging around outside the corner bar. Inside it's busy - all the seats taken, including the bar stools. You weave your way through to the back room where there's jazz going down - a drummer driving, a bass guitar funking, a rhythm guitar swinging, and a sax grooving. It's a nice, tight sound - nothing outstanding, but not too loud, so people can chat or listen.


What's the word on the street tonight?

Nelson Mandela's 1990 release is being celebrated. 20 years of freedom already. He's still getting around at 92.
Alexander McQueen seems to have committed suicide.
"Rebel MP" Hoon will retire at the next election.
A woman who put poison in her lover's curry is given 23 years.
Bill Clinton's been taken to hospital with chest pains.
Our Master of the Rolls has said that the Binyam Mohamed case shows MI5 to be devious, dishonest and complicit in torture. By implication, so is our government. Our Foreign Secretary has been going round the TV studios giving a very passable imitation of Blair in full-on brazen smarmy liar mode.

MI5 faced an unprecedented and damaging crisis tonight after one of the country's most senior judges found that the Security Service had failed to respect human rights, deliberately misled parliament, and had a "culture of suppression" that undermined government assurances about its conduct.

The condemnation, by Lord Neuberger, the master of the rolls, was drafted shortly before the foreign secretary, David Miliband, lost his long legal battle to suppress a seven-paragraph court document showing that MI5 officers were involved in the ill-treatment of a British resident, Binyam Mohamed.

Amid mounting calls for an independent inquiry into the affair, three of the country's most senior judges – Lord Judge, the lord chief justice, Sir Anthony May, president of the Queen's Bench Division, and Lord Neuberger – disclosed evidence of MI5's complicity in Mohamed's torture and unlawful interrogation by the US.

So severe were Neuberger's criticisms of MI5 that the government's leading lawyer in the case, Jonathan Sumption QC, privately wrote to the court asking him to reconsider his draft judgment before it was handed down.

The judges agreed but Sumption's letter, which refers to Neuberger's original comments, was made public after lawyers for Mohamed and media organisations, including the Guardian, intervened.

They argued that Neuberger had privately agreed with Sumption to remove his fierce criticisms without giving then the chance to contest the move.

In his letter, Sumption warned the judges that the criticism of MI5 would be seen by the public as statements by the court that the agency:

• Did not respect human rights.

• Had not renounced participation in "coercive interrogation" techniques.

• Deliberately misled MPs and peers on the intelligence and security committee, who are supposed to scrutinise its work.

• Had a "culture of suppression" in its dealings with Miliband and the court.

Sumption described Neuberger's observations in his draft judgment as "an exceptionally damaging criticism of the good faith of the Security Service as a whole".

This devastating verdict upon a secret intelligence agency – contained in the original paragraph 168 of the Master of the Rolls's judgment – was drastically watered down in the published judgment, though Lord Neuberger later admitted he may have been "over hasty" in submitting to Mr Sumption's critique of his original words. The court should now agree to the publication of the original paragraph so that the public can judge the three versions of it now in circulation. Parliament cannot claim to exercise effective oversight of MI5 if (as one of our most senior judges apparently believed) it has been "deliberately misled". This is a desperately serious state of affairs, whatever spin Mr Miliband puts on it.


Further to comments in recent Oxzen postings about the poor getting even poorer over the past 10 - 20 years we heard today that in South Africa (and for sure elsewhere) the number of people living on a dollar a day has doubled in a decade.


Our housing minister, John Healey, is in deep shit for telling the BBC that, for some people, having their home repossessed "can be the best option".

Earlier, figures showed repossessions in the UK had reached a 14-year high.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said 46,000 homes were repossessed in 2009, the highest number since 1995.

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