civil liberties

Time For A Review

k1Recently the Scottish Government have suggested they aren’t particularly interested in speeding up a review of the Offensive Behaviour Bill, but I think some of the following information might make people want to see a review before 2015, when the review is due to come up.

These statistics were obtained from the Scottish Government by Siobhan McMahon MSP and were stated in an interview by  Jeanette Findlay from the Celtic Trust and Fans Against Criminilisation. You can find the original recording here, starting from about 66 minutes.

The first question put was…

“What projects have been funded to tackle sectarianism in each of the last two years?”

This was asked to get an idea of what educational projects were underway. The answer gave some rather surprising facts about where the money was going.

In short, according to Findlay and McMahon (via ScotGov)…

  • A large amount of the funding for anti-sectarianism educational projects, in fact more than half of it, went to the FOCUS (Football Coordination Unit for Scotland) group of the police.
  • In 2011-12 this group received 75% of the funding
  • In 2012-13 they received 32% of the funding
  • They received 1.82 million in total
  • This unit consists of no more than 10 people

Furthermore, this group are there to police an act which at no point mentions sectarianism, but rather mentions “Offensive Behaviour”.

Findlay went on to say…

“One of the things that FAC (Fans Against Criminilisation) has always said is “in whose interest is this?”. The only people in whose interest this act now remains is the police service of Scotland because this is funding which is separate from their core budget. They have a core budget which is getting squeezed so  they need to find other nice tempting budgets that they can get into, and they seem to be swallowing up the bulk of this budget.

A second question was put…

“How many people have been convicted under the Offensive Behaviour Act?”

  • 64 people were prosecuted and of those, 54 were convicted  under the part of the act which is about offensive behaviour at football between 1st March 2012 and 31st December 2012
  • Before taking into account the costs of the lawyers, the court system etc, that works out as £33,703 per conviction.
  • There were 4 people prosecuted under the part of the act which is about threatening communications and one person was convicted under that.
  • Of Celtic supporters, who have been involved in the major protests against the bill and rightly or wrongly feel somewhat more persecuted by it, no one who has pleaded “not guilty” (and therefore gone to trial) has actually been convicted.

BHKhiunCMAIqRK9.jpg largeFindlay also said that another question will be asked about whether these people could have been convicted under existing section 74 offences (such as Breach of the peace, religious aggravation).


  • If you look at 2011-12 the last full year of Section 74 stats, only 8% of all religious aggravated offences took place at football grounds.
  • Therefore, only 8% of offences but then 75% and then 32% of the budgets for anti-sectarian projects are directed towards the policing of football. That makes 50% of the budget for 8% of the offences.
  • More than 10,000 letters have been sent to MSPs raising concerns about the bill. That was in turn discussed in the Justice Committee meeting of the Parliament of the 23rd April.

It’s time to bring forward the review of this.

Finally, she suggested people should be putting in Freedom of Information Requests.



My podcasting colleague has informed me that, contrary to the impression I got from a recent interview on the subject of bringing forward the review, the law cannot be reviewed formally at any given time, although an informal review can obviously be done at any time.

Further, the requirement to report is built into the act itself and the law would need to be amended to speed up any review.

That said, given the car crash nature of the law, they should just get on with it.

Silencing The Redundant

I think I only follow one footballer on Twitter and he is an ex-Celtic player so this isn’t anything that is likely to affect me too much but I am always uneasy about headlines like this…

Premier League issues social networking guidance for players

The Premier League has drawn up guidelines for players about how to use social media. 

They offer advice on the endorsement of brands, goods and services and also warn players not to reveal confidential information about team matters.

I don’t like things like this because even though they say “guidelines” and not “rules” or “laws”, it still seems that people are being told what they can and cannot say. Transgressors of the guidelines are likely to be punished.

Although I personally might not want to follow too many players (though I do follow a lot of fan media) that is beside the point.  These guidelines are still a little whittling away of free speech at the margins, and the fact it is done so publicly normalises the little loss too.

I am sure there have been “guidelines” given to olympic athletes about what they can and cannot say as well.


In honour of Liz Lochhead receiving the new post of The Scots Makar (poet laureate of Scotland) I thought I would turn my hand to a bit of poetry.

It is of course a joke. It is also an update of an update of an original. The original is this link. The first update by the renowned Half Man Half Biscuit is below my version…


They came for the astrologers, but I wasn’t an astrologer so I did nothing

They came for the bungee jumpers, but I wasn’t a bungee jumper so I did nothing

They came for the sports agents, but I wasn’t a sports agent so I did nothing

They came for the Charles Manson fans, but I wasn’t a Charles Manson fan so I did nothing

They came for the reflexologists, but I wasn’t a reflexologist so I did nothing

They came for the TV chefs, but I wasn’t a TV chef so I did nothing


They came for the Jonas Brothers, I laughed


They came for the astrology enthusiasts, but I wasn’t an astrology enthusiast so I did nothing

They came for Justin Bieber and I think I’m right in saying I applauded

They came for the biblical literalists, but I wasn’t a biblical literalist so I did nothing

They came for Paris Hilton, I said “she’s over there, behind the wardrobe”


Turn a blind eye, sometimes it’s best to

Turn a blind eye, sometimes it’s best to

Turn a blind eye, sometimes it’s best to

Turn a blind eye, sometimes it’s best to

Turn a blind eye, sometimes it’s best to

Turn a blind eye, sometimes it’s best to

Turn a blind eye, sometimes it’s best to

Turn a blind eye, sometimes it’s best to



I have always thought that on a British [or any other country for that matter] ballot paper the option ‘None of the above‘ should exist.

Several countries have it and there are a number of different procedures should ‘none of the above’ actually win the election.

In the UK there is a registered political party [NOTA = none of the….] who want to put the option on the ballot but it is prohibited to call a party “None of the Above”.

The reason this would be good is that it would eliminate, at least partially, the ridiculous “if you don’t vote you have no right to complain” argument.

With ‘none of the above’ as an option you can say that you want to vote but not for anything on offer.

In fact, in some countries voting is compulsory and they don’t have a none of the above option. They are forced to vote for someone they may not want to. In that case democratic freedom becomes a sort of democratic tyranny even though that sounds somewhat oxymoronic.

It also might help stop politicians talking about how bad the public are for disengaging with politics. If we could all vote for none of the above we could say in a strong way that we in fact are interested in helping change things for the better… it’s  just that we don’t think you are.



The songs in the making of this review were…

Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, K. 622 – Mozart
Concerto in A ‘per eco in lontano’ – Vivaldi
Totally wired – The fall
Please be cruel – the Inspiral Carpets
I’m Free – The Who [I don’t really like that one but I was concentrating]
Fall – Devandra Banhart
Exit music for a film -Radiohead
This Charming Man -The Smiths
O’Sullivans March – The Chieftains
Il Gorilla – Fabrizio De Andre
Mars, the bringer of war – Gustav Holst
What makes you cry? – The Proclaimers
Your children aren’t special – Bill Hicks
From Fairy Ring Champion to False Pegasus – The Dials
How Long (Betcha’ Got A Chick On The Side) – The Pointer Sisters

NO INNOCENT BYSTANDERS (Riding Shotgun in the Land of Denial) – by Mickey Z

ADDITIONAL ASIDE NUMBER 1 – One can be ‘overwhelmed’ or ‘underwhelmed’ but have you have ever heard of anyone actually being ‘whelmed’? I think I remember something PG Wodehouse said about that, but I might be wrong. You can look it up, I’m busy.

I have been struggling what to say in reviewing this book.

For a start it is the first book that said it has a section inspired by me, usually people don’t tell me they were inspired by me. They say something like ‘Shut up’ or ‘Ok, you are right but you don’t have to be such a prick about it’.

So I was struggling but then I remembered watching the author on youtube and being somewhat amused at when he asked a crowd of supposed radicals to join with him and take a ‘non-conformist pledge’ or ‘non-conformist oath of allegiance’ or something like that. It seemed like a fair few of the audience fell for it.

Then it suddenly became clear to me. For the purposes of this review I have to be contrary.

Therefore, in the true spirit of revolt, I am reviewing the vegan, martial-arts expert, teetotal [I didn’t check that one], avid New Yorker author while I have been drinking, alone, in a house in the country, and have just eaten some very nice fish.

Q.Why am I doing this?

A. Because the style of the book is so strange that rather than explain it, I have just decided to ape it in this review.

This house in the country has a problem with mosquitoes. I have killed somewhere in the region of 14 of them today. In turn, somewhere in the region of 50 of them fed royally off me last night. I know that because when I killed them my blood sort of spurted out of them. There were no cows, sheep or assorted other large mammals around, so it must have been mine. At this particular moment with all my skin itching and more of the bastards buzzing around my ears waiting for a fresh meal I don’t have too much sympathy for the massacred. And I know I am getting it again tonight.

Of course, the traditional ways of dealing with the mozzies in ancient [a highly subjective term] times would have been covering yourself in mud or something if you happened to be out and about, or sitting by the fire if you were sitting still.

Both of those are things that won’t happen in our current society, or are at least highly unusual, and frowned upon.

So are a lot of the things that Mickey Z said in this book.

Like the mosquitoes I massacred, thousands of people are massacred every day – and to most people it means nothing. Unlike the mosquitoes I massacred, most of those people did nothing to me or to you. We are actually ingenious at finding ways to ignore that fact. Mickey Z  in this book has found an ingenious way to confront our collective disingenuity.

So I agree with the thrust of the book but what sparked this spirit of revolt in me against the flow of the book was Mozart. You see, he came on the random thing on my music player. I will make a list about that later, then I will put it somewhere in the review. I know some people on the left that would abuse me for bourgeois mentality or some such drivel, for just having Mozart’s music.

I don’t think Mickey Z would. I also think he would probably abuse some of the idiots that think like that, in a funny way of course. Just as none of the mosquitoes in my room are safe, there are no sacred cows on the left or right in this book. Maybe that is why he talks about killing Michael Moore and saving Condoleeza Rice.

Mickey Z Sez – Once upon a time I was eating lunch in a Virginia beach diner with a bunch of friends when we heard a deafening roar.

“What was that?” I bellowed.

Our waitress smiled and proudly replied: “That’s an F-14… the sound of freedom.”


In our almost entirely commoditised world we think we can have everything immediately. The supermarket is always open, the tap can always be turned on. This book manages to give a sense of the immediacy of some the problems we are currently facing. The author brings our problems home by mixing some simple yet brutal statistics with looking at every day behaviour in the light of those statistics.

A story with a fat little boy eating a big mac in the back of an SUV is a few pages away from the fact that some rivers are now full of Prozac. A story about looking at breasts in a gym is near a story about someone being beaten to death in Guantanamo Bay. The effect is like flicking channels on a TV that is happily free from corporate propaganda. The information imparted is brutal but I would still much rather watch this kind of TV.

ADDITIONAL ASIDE NUMBER 2 – A lot of Scottish people take pride that John Logie Baird, a Scotsman, invented the TV. Personally, I think we should start apologizing…I’ll start… sorry world!

Also, Henry Rollins is between Carl Sagan and Adolf Eichmann, which I imagine is not a place he ever thought he would find himself.

As well as a sense of immediacy there is something like a sense of ‘finity’. Is ‘finity’ even a word? ‘Finiteness’ is, but spell check doesn’t seem to think ‘finity’ is, nor does, which is funny because we all know ‘infinity’ is a word. ‘Finity’ is probably a word we should start using given the current state of things.

Michael Greenwell sez – You can overfeed all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time but you can’t overfeed all of the people all of the time.

ADDITIONAL ASIDE NUMBER 3 – There are a few words like that…only negatives, no positive example. Have a think about it.

Even the title of the book should make you think. And yet, I imagine that there will be a few people who will read this book and still not connect it to themselves. So removed from physical reality have many people become that you could write a book called “-Insert Name Here ……………….. – It is all your fault” and some people wouldn’t get it.

Harold Pinter Sez – To maintain…power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.

I think this book could help a few people get the interest back, particularly the kind of people that would take a non-conformist pledge.

Mickey Z sez – I believe all this talk about “preserving our way of life” gets to the heart of the matter. “Our” way of life is precisely the issue.

I suggest you read it.

ADDITIONAL ASIDE  NUMBER 4 – The thing I did that inspired a section of the book was a film I made a few years ago about animal extinctions. You can watch it on youtube or if you prefer you can download a much higher quality copy.


I think he has called this just about right. I mentioned a few of these things in previous posts but he has put it together well here…


Not since Marco Polo has anyone traveled so far up China’s Silk Road with such amoral élan. But there was Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, knight of the court of King Leopold’s Belgium, three-time Olympian in the grand sport of yachting – standing astride Beijing at the close of the 2008 Olympic games. In front of a stunning 90,000 at the Games’ closing ceremony, he said, “Tonight, we come to the end of sixteen glorious days which we will cherish forever. Through these games, the world learned more about China, and China learned more about the world.”

But what did the world really learn? From NBC’s ratings-rich coverage alone, not all that much. We learned that China is remarkably beautiful, Michael Phelps can really swim and Usain Bolt is truly quite fast. Oh, and there are pandas there. some of whom died in the Sichuan earthquake. We can’t forget about the pandas.

As the Washington Post’s veteran columnist Thomas Boswell wrote in his last missive from Beijing:

“In all my decades at The Post, this is the first event I’ve covered at which I was certain that the main point of the exercise was to co-opt the Western media, including NBC, with a splendidly pretty, sparsely attended, completely controlled sports event inside a quasi-military compound. We had little alternative but to be a conduit for happy-Olympics, progressive-China propaganda. I suspect it worked.”

I applaud Boswell for his honesty, but it is hard to not have contempt for the aside that “we had little alternative” but to dance the infomercial shuffle.

Boswell and the press made a choice the moment they stepped on China’s soil.

They chose not to seek out the near two million people evicted from their homes to make way for Olympic facilities.

They chose not to report on the Chinese citizens who tried to register to enter the cordoned off “protest zones” only to find themselves in police custody. (A shout out here to all who will find themselves shortly in similar “protest zones” in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul.)

They chose not to report on the Tibetan citizens removed from their service jobs by state law for the duration of the games.

They chose not to ask what $42 billion, the price tag of the games, could have meant to earthquake ravaged Sichuan.

They chose to not point out the bizarre hypocrisy of seeing Michael Phelps–with full media fanfare–taking a group of Chinese children to their first meal at McDonalds. (Even though Phelps famously eats 12,000 calories a day during training, I can’t imagine much of it comes from Mickey D’s.)

They chose not to report on the foreign nationals who as of this writing, are still being held in Chinese prisons for daring to protest. (According to the Associated Press, the US Embassy pleaded with China to free protesters, gently suggested, that China could stand to show “greater tolerance and openness.”)

They chose not to ask why George W. Bush was the first US president to attend the Olympics on foreign soil, and why the State Department last April took China off its list of nations that commit human rights violations.

They chose not to ask whether it was a conflict of interest for General Electric to both own NBC and be one of the primary sponsors of the games as well as the supplier of much of the games’ electronic security apparatus, including 300,000 close circuit cameras. All indications are that these cameras will most likely remain in place once the world has turned its attention elsewhere.

They chose not to ask and re-ask the question of why the games were in Beijing in the first place, considering that Rogge and Beijing organizing committee head Liu Qi both promised that the Olympics would come alongside significant improvements in human rights.

As Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch said:

“The reality is that the Chinese government’s hosting of the games has been a catalyst for abuses, leading to massive forced evictions, a surge in the arrest, detention and harassment of critics, repeated violations of media freedom, and increased political repression. Not a single world leader who attended the games or members of the IOC seized the opportunity to challenge the Chinese government’s behavior in any meaningful way.”

The legacy of these games will be in no short order: China’s dominance, in winning more gold medals than the US; the aquatic dominance of Phelps; and the blistering triumph of Bolt and the Jamaican sprinters. But we should also remember the ravaging of a country, sacrificed at the altar of commercialism and “market penetration.” And we should recall a mainstream press, derelict in its duty, telling us they had “little alternative” but to turn this shandeh into a globalization infomercial.

Liu Qi called the Olympics “a grand celebration of sport, of peace and friendship.” Not quite. Instead it was a powerful demonstration of the way the elephants of the east and west can link trunks and happily trample the suffering grass.
England, you’re next. And you thought the blitzkrieg was rough.

First published at

[Dave Zirin is the author of  the forthcoming “A People’s History of Sports in the United States” (The New Press) Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at]


Something very strange happened to me last friday. I happened to be in England and I was watching the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics with about 30 Chinese people who were on holiday.

Now that was strange enough as it was – watching Beijing from England with a load of Chinese people – but then a Scottish bagpipe band started playing from the pitch in Beijing and I suddenly realised I had temporarily wandered into some bizarre parallel universe without noticing it.

However, as Naomi Klein points out in her latest article, the people of China won’t be wandering anywhere without someone noticing any time soon. So as that is what some of the people in power want this olympics to be about, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome China to rest of the world, you can join us in CCTV and complete and total surveillance. Do you feel better for it?

The Olympics: Unveiling Police State 2.0 – Naomi Klein

So far, the Olympics have been an open invitation to China-bash, a bottomless excuse for Western journalists to go after the Commies on everything from internet censorship to Darfur. Through all the nasty news stories, however, the Chinese government has seemed amazingly unperturbed. That’s because it is betting on this: when the opening ceremonies begin friday, you will instantly forget all that unpleasantness as your brain is zapped by the cultural/athletic/political extravaganza that is the Beijing Olympics.

Like it or not, you are about to be awed by China’s sheer awesomeness.

The games have been billed as China’s “coming out party” to the world. They are far more significant than that. These Olympics are the coming out party for a disturbingly efficient way of organizing society, one that China has perfected over the past three decades, and is finally ready to show off. It is a potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarianism communism — central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance — harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism. Some call it “authoritarian capitalism,” others “market Stalinism,” personally I prefer “McCommunism.”

The Beijing Olympics are themselves the perfect expression of this hybrid system. Through extraordinary feats of authoritarian governing, the Chinese state has built stunning new stadiums, highways and railways — all in record time. It has razed whole neighborhoods, lined the streets with trees and flowers and, thanks to an “anti-spitting” campaign, cleaned the sidewalks of saliva. The Communist Party of China even tried to turn the muddy skies blue by ordering heavy industry to cease production for a month — a sort of government-mandated general strike.

As for those Chinese citizens who might go off-message during the games — Tibetan activists, human right campaigners, malcontent bloggers — hundreds have been thrown in jail in recent months. Anyone still harboring protest plans will no doubt be caught on one of Beijing’s 300,000 surveillance cameras and promptly nabbed by a security officer; there are reportedly 100,000 of them on Olympics duty.

The goal of all this central planning and spying is not to celebrate the glories of Communism, regardless of what China’s governing party calls itself. It is to create the ultimate consumer cocoon for Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cell phones, McDonald’s happy meals, Tsingtao beer, and UPS delivery — to name just a few of the official Olympic sponsors. But the hottest new market of all is the surveillance itself. Unlike the police states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, China has built a Police State 2.0, an entirely for-profit affair that is the latest frontier for the global Disaster Capitalism Complex.

Chinese corporations financed by U.S. hedge funds, as well as some of American’s most powerful corporations — Cisco, General Electric, Honeywell, Google — have been working hand in glove with the Chinese government to make this moment possible: networking the closed circuit cameras that peer from every other lamp pole, building the “Great Firewall” that allows for remote internet monitoring, and designing those self-censoring search engines.

By next year, the Chinese internal security market is set to be worth $33-billion. Several of the larger Chinese players in the field have recently taken their stocks public on U.S. exchanges, hoping to cash in the fact that, in volatile times, security and defense stocks are seen as the safe bets. China Information Security Technology, for instance, is now listed on the NASDAQ and China Security and Surveillance is on the NYSE. A small clique of U.S. hedge funds has been floating these ventures, investing more than $150-million in the past two years. The returns have been striking. Between October 2006 and October 2007, China Security and Surveillance’s stock went up 306 percent.

Much of the Chinese government’s lavish spending on cameras and other surveillance gear has taken place under the banner of “Olympic Security.” But how much is really needed to secure a sporting event? The price tag has been put at a staggering $12-billion — to put that in perspective, Salt Lake City, which hosted the Winter Olympics just five months after September 11, spent $315 million to secure the games. Athens spent around $1.5-billion in 2004. Many human rights groups have pointed out that China’s security upgrade is reaching far beyond Beijing: there are now 660 designated “safe cities” across the country, municipalities that have been singled out to receive new surveillance cameras and other spy gear. And of course all the equipment purchased in the name of Olympics safety — iris scanners, “anti-riot robots” and facial recognition software — will stay in China after the games are long gone, free to be directed at striking workers and rural protestors.

What the Olympics have provided for Western firms is a palatable cover story for this chilling venture. Ever since the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, U.S. companies have been barred from selling police equipment and technology to China, since lawmakers feared it would be directed, once again, at peaceful demonstrators. That law has been completely disregarded in the lead up to the Olympics, when, in the name of safety for athletes and VIPs (including George W. Bush), no new toy has been denied the Chinese state.

There is a bitter irony here. When Beijing was awarded the games seven years ago, the theory was that international scrutiny would force China’s government to grant more rights and freedom to its people. Instead, the Olympics have opened up a backdoor for the regime to massively upgrade its systems of population control and repression. And remember when Western companies used to claim that by doing business in China, they were actually spreading freedom and democracy? We are now seeing the reverse: investment in surveillance and censorship gear is helping Beijing to actively repress a new generation of activists before it has the chance to network into a mass movement.

The numbers on this trend are frightening. In April 2007, officials from 13 provinces held a meeting to report back on how their new security measures were performing. In the province of Jiangsu, which, according to the South China Morning Post, was using “artificial intelligence to extend and improve the existing monitoring system” the number of protests and riots “dropped by 44 per cent last year.” In the province of Zhejiang, where new electronic surveillance systems had been installed, they were down 30 per cent. In Shaanxi, “mass incidents” — code for protests — were down by 27 per cent in a year. Dong Lei, the province’s deputy party chief, gave part of the credit to a huge investment in security cameras across the province. “We aim to achieve all day and all-weather monitoring capability,” he told the gathering.

Activists in China now find themselves under intense pressure, unable to function even at the limited levels they were able to a year ago. Internet cafes are filled with surveillance cameras, and surfing is carefully watched. At the offices of a labor rights group in Hong Kong, I met the well-known Chinese dissident Jun Tao. He had just fled the mainland in the face of persistent police harassment. After decades of fighting for democracy and human rights, he said the new surveillance technologies had made it “impossible to continue to function in China.”

It’s easy to see the dangers of a high tech surveillance state in far off China, since the consequences for people like Jun are so severe. It’s harder to see the dangers when these same technologies creep into every day life closer to home-networked cameras on U.S. city streets, “fast lane” biometric cards at airports, dragnet surveillance of email and phone calls. But for the global homeland security sector, China is more than a market; it is also a showroom. In Beijing, where state power is absolute and civil liberties non-existent, American-made surveillance technologies can be taken to absolute limits.

The first test begins today: Can China, despite the enormous unrest boiling under the surface, put on a “harmonious” Olympics? If the answer is yes, like so much else that is made in China, Police State 2.0 will be ready for export.

This article first appeared on the Huffington Post.


I am expecting to see more policies like this one coming from the Tories soon enough..

The Conservatives are bringing forward tough new proposals on work schemes for jobless young people.

Anyone under 21 unemployed for three months would be sent to a specialist employer for an intensive programme of work-related activity.

It seems that some people are so terrified of younger people that they must have them entirely forced off the streets.

The shadow Work and Pensions secretary says…

“But we all know that on a typical working day, you can see young people hanging around in town centres in almost every part of this country,” he claimed.

This is obviously highly upsetting, much better to have them in factories making pointless products or in supermarkets shoving trolleys around. Even better, why not give them a gun and send them off somewhere to kill for jesus.

As I said in another article, it is no wonder the older generation are afraid of the younger one because once the younger one realises that the older generations have systematically destroyed the planet in order to have things like heated towel rails, singing christmas trees and laser-guided scissors they will probably very angry, unless of course they drug them all up with ritalin and prozac first.

I would be pretty pissed off too.