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Poison in the Air

Who said this?

Scientists are an interesting bunch. More than willing to ascribe whatever properties fit the government’s ever more implausible stories, in exchange for an MSM appearance fee, 5 minutes of fame and the fond hope of a research grant.

It could have been any of us, but it wasn’t. It was Craig Murray, British ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan, and he was talking about the latest Salisbury poisonings.

(Yes, I know they were taken ill in Amesbury, but they visited the Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury just before being taken ill.)

I don’t think this tells us anything new about the Skripal affair, at least not yet. Maybe two people picked up something they shouldn’t have in a park, or maybe the British government (or whoever it is that is running the country) decided that it’s absolutely necessary to rerun the story of how bad a person Putin is before he invites Theresa May to Russia for the football.

It tells us quite a bit about the media though, and Craig Murray puts us to shame when it comes to castigating the BBC and the Guardian, whose journalist Steven Morris receives his award for lying neo-con media whore of the week.

And that’s the other link with the climate change story. Once a news organisation decides to lie systematically about one big story, there’s nothing to stop them doing the same thing about any and all stories. I’ve followed closely the evolution of the Guardian’s climate reporting over the past twelve years or so, from being a reasonably sane news source with a lefty, greeny, eco-conscious bias into being a cesspool of onanism run by thugs and idiots. (There. I wasn’t going to let a mere ex-Ambassador steal my title of chief kicker-in the-Graun.) Whoever it was who used to allow Bjorn Lomborg space on the Guardian’s environment pages isn’t doing it any more. Whoever used to allow the Graun to publish critical articles about our secret services won’t be doing it while Putin continues to spray Novichok over our green and pleasant land. The Guardian’s once broad spectrum of journalists and commenters have been united by Trump, Brexit and Novichok into a braying herd of brainwashed blimps.

There’s one interesting unanswered question being occasionally raised over the increasingly insane, incredible attempts to maintain the current anti-Russian hysteria. Why is it the British who leading the effort to promote Putin as evil incarnate?

I suspect the answer lies in Brexit. There’s an evident truth which even the staunchly pro-Brexit media hesitate to announce, which is that the European Union is out to punish Britain. We know what they did to Greece, and the UK is ten times more important than Greece, and must therefore be punished ten times harder, even at the expense of the EU itself. Michel Barnier’s negotiating position can be summed up in one sentence, which translates roughly: “Call that a hard Brexit? We haven’t started yet.”

Britain has little to offer Europe in its defense, except Defense itself. The argument is that Europe needs Britain, its efficient armed services and its ridiculous nuclear deterrent, to defend it from the East. Therefore Britain needs an enemy to the East. (The USA has enemies to the East, West, North and South, so they can be forgiven for being less concentrated on the danger from Russia.) So Putin is bad, badder even than the Poles and the Estonians think he is. Hence such desperate measures as the Skripal case.

We’re protected from the danger of an Orwellian state only partly by democracy, but more efficiently (in the short term) by independent media and officials and experts who are free to say what they know. In the Skripal case, hospital authorities, police forces, eye-witnesses, some experts, and above all bloggers, have told what they know and kept the search for truth alive, (though not in the mainstream media of course.) Craig Murray, in the remark quoted above, has dared to criticise scientists, who are rarely suspected of the kind of fallibility regularly attributed to journalists or politicians. When the Skripal story unravels this could rebound on the climate story.

73 thoughts on “Poison in the Air

  1. Novichok A234 is, verifiably, extremely volatile and will degrade quickly into its by-products. The explanation for why the Skripals didn’t become ill straight away was at least plausible, i.e. the poison had supposedly been held in suspension in a gel and entered the bloodstream via absorption through the skin. The explanation for why they didn’t die from exposure to the world’s most deadliest nerve agent in military grade concentration is rather less plausible; the damp weather degraded the sample on the door handle such that, rather than receiving a minute lethal dose, they received a really, really, really minute non-lethal dose. Putin’s finest obviously forgot that it often rains in England in early March and they used a water soluble gel instead of a water resistant one. But hey, it hasn’t rained for weeks now and the sun has been blazing down, so the Novichoks those assassins left lying around after their aborted attempt to dispatch the Skripals exactly four months ago must have been fine and dandy, lurking, in sleepy Salisbury, just waiting for two ‘down and out heroin addicts’ to come across it and get hammered on some REALLY heavy stuff – two days before May’s Brexit betrayal becomes public knowledge, and when her government is literally hanging by a thread.

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  2. You may wish to focus on the announced Trump-Putin meeting, which the Permanent State is trying to undermine. There’s also a chance this is being done by the Ukrainian Chocolate King Mafia, they don’t want any sort of an agreement over the mess in Eastern Ukraine which doesn’t involve their full victory.

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  3. I’ve just finished reading Anne Applebaum’s excellent book “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine”. Even though I have alreadyread a lot about the appalling things that happened in the USSR, especially (but far from exclusively) under Stalin, I was appalled by the cold-blooded quasi-genocide and the lies and cover-ups that followed, all with the connivance of OGPU (subsequently the KGB, now the FSB). The default option with these people seems to be to lie about anything and everything, and the bigger and more blatant the lie the better it seems to be in their minds.

    That apparently being the case, then maybe the obvious explanation actually is the explanation – i.e. the FSB poisoned the Skripals, and the residue of the poison has now poisoned 2 innocent people. I’m not saying this IS the explanation (after all, none of us knows what happened) just that it’s far from improbable.

    I would even go so far as to say that with the KGB/FSB delight in taking the p*ss and lying outrageously, it’s even possible that this is a new and deliberate poisoning of 2 innocent people on the basis that they can apparently argue convincingly that they have no interest in resurrecting this story during the World Cup currently ongoing in Russia, but the UK Government does have such an interest, so it must be the UK government that’s behind it – except that in fact it’s the Russians behind it, playing a tortuous and ruthless game of deceit.

    But who knows?

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  4. Mark Hodgson, the Putin government isnt communist. I used to live in Russia, and some of my work required that i be informed about sensitive matters. The reports I saw said Putin emerged as the elite’s choice because the US under Clinton and UK under Blair felt that Russia was weak and they could proceed to encroach on its borders and put it in an untenable position. In other words, in spite of Yeltsin’s very friendly attitude, the deep state wasn’t satisfied. What really convinced the Russians to switch into a very defensive posture was the bombing of Yugoslavia in March-June 1999, this was seen as a USA betrayal they would never forget.

    This bs about use of nerve agents is most likely an Ukranian Mafia hit, or possibly the Uk and USA are involved in false flag pseudo attempts. I say pseudo because nobody has died. And if the Russians want to get to somebody they can do it without leaving an incriminating trace. So this is most likely baloney to stop Trump from meeting Putin.

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  5. Fernando, you might be correct, or you might not. Putin might not be Communist, but he is ex-KGB.

    As for “if the Russians want to get to somebody they can do it without leaving an incriminating trace,” that may or may not be the case. Have you read Luke Harding’s book “A Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko “? In it he demonstrates, convincingly to me at least, that the agents sent to kill Litvinenko were borderline incompetent, taking several attempts before succeeding, and leaving a very obvious trail behind them.

    But, as I say, who among us knows? I don’t.

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  6. Mark
    The official story is that the Russians did it, thus proving what bounders they are.

    The alternative thesis is that someone else, probably the British intelligence services, did it in order to demonstrate what bounders the Russians are, thus disrupting Putin’s re-election, the World Cup, and any possible rapprochement with Trump and/or Merkel.

    Your comment raises the possibility that the Russians may indeed be behind it, betting on the result which has in fact occurred, with a significant part of the blogosphere pointing out the absurdity of the official version, thus sowing doubt and discord and thus furthering the downfall of the Euro-American hegemony.

    I admit I had considered such a possibility. After all, a corollary of the sceptic position is that the Russians are much cleverer than our own leaders, an impression confirmed every time I read an official Russian communiqué (not very often) and also by my favorite French intellectual Emmanuel Todd, who has been invited several times to dine with the Russian ambassador to Paris (must be a Trump link there somewhere. Has anyone told Mueller?) and who claims that Russian diplomats are way ahead of us in savoir faire, realpolitik, and any other foreign expression you care to mention.

    The only problem with your thesis is that once you start this game of mirrors, there’s no reason to stop anywhere, as any fule who read le Carré kno. I try to imagine the head of the FSB proposing this to Putin:

    FSB Head: Let’s murder this totally useless traitor Skripal at his luxury home in England. That’ll show the West we mean business.
    Putin: What, just before my re-election and the World Cup? While I’m involved in delicate negotiations with Trump?
    FSB: Precisely. A section of the British commentariat won’t believe a word of it and will launch a counter theory on the internet which will divide public opinion. The worse it appears for you, the more they’ll contest the official version.
    Putin: Right-o. If you say so. Just make sure the agents responsible are on a plane to Moscow within twenty four hours. And if it should prove necessary to do a follow up assassination to cover our tracks, make sure that our agents in the Amesbury Fire Brigade send seven fire engines to the site to cover our tracks.

    I’ve been reading about Stalin’s Russia too, in the memoirs of the curious anarchist Victor Serge who remained a faithful servant of the Bolshevik régime into the period of Stalin’s bloody reign. Apparently the corpses of bolshevik officials sent into the Ukraine (translation: the frontier) were found with their genitals in their mouths and their gutted stomachs stuffed with the corn which they had been sent – in vain – to reclaim for the starving inhabitants of other parts of the Bolshevik republic. What would it take for you or me to launch a policy of repression resulting in the deaths of millions?

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  7. MARK HODGSON
    My previous comment was a reply to your comment of 05 Jul 18 at 7:18 pm. On your comment at
    05 Jul 18 at 8:15 pm, see Ben Pile’s comments about Luke Harding at
    https://cliscep.com/2018/04/27/syria-and-conspiracy-theories/
    I am so often in agreement with Fernando that it’s beginning to worry me.

    Your conclusion: “who among us knows? I don’t.” is identical to that of Simon Jenkins at the Guardian, the last of the old brigade of the “once broad spectrum of journalists and commenters” I mentioned in the article. But we commenters can dare go further than Jenkins. Browse the official media, keeping dates and sources in mind. Browse the many excellent comments at Craig Murray’s, MoonofAlabama and Blogmire, and make up your mind.

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  8. Geoff,

    I have a completely open mind on this topic, and will take a look at the links you offer up. Meanwhile, on RT’s website the opening paragraph on their report of the latest novichok incident is this:

    “A new poisoning incident on UK soil has given British politicians a perfect reason for launching another McCarthian witch hunt on dissent. One MP already targeted RT and was called out for limiting free speech”.

    One MP’s noises off hardly makes for a McCarthian witch hunt, but when was truth ever allowed to get in the way in Russia?

    The article itself, by the way, is headed “Amesbury poisoning incident fuels another wave of anti-Russian hysteria”

    https://www.rt.com/uk/431847-uk-rt-propaganda-free-speech/

    By the way, I’ve visited Russia (I was there when they invaded Georgia last time round) and found the Russian people I met to be helpful, kind and thoroughly decent. Interestingly, the ones I spoke to in a bar, when Russian TV started to report on the Georgian business, didn’t seem to be very happy about what their Government was doing.

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  9. This is why telling someone, “may you live in interesting times”, is actually a curse.

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  10. Thanks for this thread Geoff. The punishment beating of the UK for daring to vote Brexit I find plausible but for me there’s a cockup aspect of May the submarine-remainer becoming Tory leader without a real fight and the spineless ineptitude that followed. (People forget Thatcher did a lot of preparation before confronting Scargill – backing down the year before. Whether the aims are right or wrong, that’s how history is changed.) It’s good to see the main options on Salisbury mark 2 being aired in comments. My ignorance is bigger than all of yours and I won’t abide any scepticism on that. The doubt about scientists from Murray is indeed suggestive. Climate as gateway drug – translating perhaps as “how much can we manipulate science now that we’ve got away with it there?” – has also been strongly with me in the debate on radical trans activism, where a disdain for objective scientific reality is never far from the surface. But of course with a new target area we (or at least I) gain new allies, so Graham Linehan, comic writer behind Father Ted, who’s a passionate user of Denier for the likes of you and me, suddenly becomes a friend, and called a transphobe, in the new arena. (He even returned my thanks in a tweet a week or two ago.) I retweeted the first of these Linehan comments today, after the surreal attack on singer Alison Moyer in the last 48 hours:

    Priorities are always hard, especially when we suspect some news items are deliberate distraction – which is the way I instinctively feel about Amesbury, rightly or wrongly. It’s surely going to be hard to keep the Putin/Russia demonisation going after the World Cup. (The history of the terror-famine in the Ukraine notwithstanding, thanks Mark.) That is for me of primary importance, as is the related matter of viable peace in Syria. I don’t think there’s much I can do on Brexit. The government has asked for feedback on self-ID for trans people (the consultation starting this Tuesday) and has clearly been backing off from its initial very radical stance. That feels like a battle which not decided. The departure of Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA in the US may or may not be a big deal. Again, who knows. Trump wrote warmly of what he’s been trying to do. How much is that worth? We’ll have to see.

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  11. JAIME JESSOP
    05 Jul 18 at 12:17 pm

    Great link Jaime. Amazing how so many people are coming up with the same thoughts, simply because the government story is so full of holes.

    I love the typo at MoonofAlabama:

    “Proton Down” Are there problems at CERN now? Russians again?

    Interestingly, Macron has broken ranks and is to travel to Russia to support his team in the World Cup Semi Final, (as seen on TV, France 24)

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  12. Curiouser and curiouser. Just what are the chances of there being a pair of Russian tourists visiting Salisbury cathedral on the same day that two other Russian people are poisoned by a Russian nerve agent also in Salisbury and this being pure coincidence? Oh, and by the way, that Salisbury Cathedral visit needed a dummy run the day before. Also, having seen the wonders of Salisbury Cathedral, the pair felt an immediate calling of the Motherland and they left from Heathrow to Moscow. Stranger still, traces of the same nerve agent are reported to have been found in the hotel room where the Russian pair stayed in London.
    All is innocent coincidence and/or evil British maskirovka.
    Who knew that Salisbury was such an attraction in Russia?

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  13. They’re big into old spies, tall tales and novichok… sorry I mean old clocks and tall spires and novel rock circles. Duh! So easy to mix those things up in translation.

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  14. Another very curious facet is the explanation for the Russian pair cutting short their first visit to Salisbury to only an hour, not visiting the cathedral that day that they had come all the way from Russia to visit and necessitating a further visit the following day. There was too much slush. Too much SLUSH, for RUSSIANS!! Gosh, has russian manhood gone flabby? They’re not really a good advertisement for their sports nutritional product!

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  15. One of them is supposed to be a Siberian. Perhaps they have snow phobia? It probably explains why they have no photos. They couldn’t stand looking at it, even through the camera. Chionophobia.

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  16. When they read that British kids wouldn’t know what snow is, they thought they’d be safe to visit. They were so distressed the first day that they got lost and then flad back to the safety of London as soon as they could. But they really, really wanted to see Salisbury so they bravely went back.

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  17. Tiny, Chionophobia; you’re ‘0avin a larf aren’t you? Anyway it was slush they didn’t like, not snow. Come up with a phobia for that, cleverclogs!

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  18. Mysochionophobia – fear of dirty snow? Aquachionophobia – fear of wet snow? Mysoaquachionophobia – fear of dirty wet snow?

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  19. I’m only Google smart. LOL. However, the only chapter of the mysoaquachionophobic society just happens to be based in Salisbury, a few streets along from the Skripal’s home. The two Russians planned to meet up with the society but the members wouldn’t open the door with so much slush on the ground.

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  20. About as believable as the story they pushed during their interview wherein their cathedralibusiphillia was exposed.

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  21. If the suspects were suffering from mysoaquachionophobia maybe they could have taken refuge in a building or a few hours, near to the railway station, with toilets and a cafe? It is also has a medieval clock, and a 123 metre high spire and has world famous Gothic architecture. To see that Gothic architecture up close they could have taken the tower tour. From 68 metres up the tower one can also have fantastic views of the City, and even as far as Old Sarum? Having done the tour a few years ago I had to overcome my mild acrophobia. Here is a snapshot of what Borishov and Petrov missed.

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  22. Given that you cannot be far from a CCTV camera anywhere in Britain (or is that a rat?) there should many records of fear on the faces of the suspects, yet there is no indication of mysoaquachionophobia, but lots supporting their claim of cathedralibusiphilia. Look at them striding the streets of Salisbury, smizing and anticipating the delights of seeing a cathedral without onion domes. This smacks of a deliberate attempt by the rabid British intelligence service to manipulate the evidence.

    The Russian Defense Ministry has purchased quantities of sports nutrients so explaining the telephone number in the Passport File. This is SO obvious.

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  23. Thanks mbc, I appreciate a fine bit of medieval architecture. I don’t suffer from a fear of heights but a fear of falling off, over or down. Fortunately the digital camera and all those people with a desire to document their lives means that I can visit the ancient architectural gems without having to get on a plane, a train and an aimless wander round the wrong part of a city to learn what I need for my research. I bet those poor innocent Russians wish they’d just Googled Salisbury.

    AK, I think you have explained it all. The defence team (should there ever be a trial) will no doubt call upon your learned self to identify the characteristics of cathedralibusiphilia. It was no doubt the heady excitement that made them walk in the wrong direction, despite the spire being so prominent and pointy.

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  24. Shame upon you Tiny, mocking those poor Russian tourists for their Agyrophobia (which led to their direction problems) and their Aichmophobia that they were desperately trying to overcome. Of course when they arrived their extreme Coimetrophobia kicked in, causing them to immediately return to Mother Russia.

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  25. A phobia is an irrational fear. I think that their fear of pointy things and grave yards might become very real in Mother Russia and so not be a phobia at all, more of a premonition.

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  26. Nick Newman (Sunday Times) has a photograph of Putin at the Russian War Games staring down binoculars and ordering “send in a platoon of cathedral-loving tourists”.

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  27. The daftness of the Russians’ explanation has made everyone forget the daftness of the official British explanation. It’s as if they’re competing in some Monty Python scriptwriting competition.

    “When I were a spy we used to destroy any evidence – I mean objects – which a poison victim may have come in contact with, including his house, his favourite pizzeria, his car, his pets and his home.”
    “That’s nothing comrade. When I were a spy – not that I ever were – we used to wade through knee-high slush just to get a glimpse of England’s highest spy, I mean spire.

    I try and follow the story at Blogmire and Moon of Alabama, with its tens of thousands of high quality comments. I assumed from the beginning that half the commenters would be MI5/6 bots muddying the waters. Maybe they are, but I’m blowed if I know which half.

    Meanwhile Britain has kidnapped a Russian citizen, and no-one knows whether she’s alive or dead. And no M.P., no journalist, and no lawyer to my knowledge has peeped a word. Saddam Hussein used to do that, but he had a parliament with an opposition who made themselves heard.

    And yesterday the Guardian reported that two diners in a Salisbury pizzeria (reported by some witnesses to be Russian) had become ill “with “Novichok-like symptoms.” What symptoms would they be? The main symptom of Novichok poisoning is still officially falling down dead immediately if you come in contact with a single drop, or dying slowly over a period of days if you spray yourself with it.

    I’m looking forward to Lewandowsky’s next paper on conspiracy theorising. It’s due out the week after some journalist, M.P. or lawyer dares ask a question.

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  28. When you think that everyone is lying, then maybe Lewandowsky will lead us to the truth. Although I strongly suspect that he will be on a path in another dimension where poison is detected in particles too small to kill humans and where poison smeared on a doorknob hours after the inhabitants left for the day is able to strike them down after dinner and, although volatile, retains its effectiveness in a not hermetically sealed bottle for long enough to kill a drug addict rummaging in a skip for perfume. Surely Lew can make sense of it

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  29. There is an interesting article in the Washington Post analyzing Russia Today’s coverage of the Skirpal affair. In particular it looks at most liked comments of the coverage of the alleged poisoners Petrov and Boshirov on RT’s Youtube Channel. On the coverage of the British evidence, the top 100 comments were almost all anti-British.

    To understand how audiences were reacting to RT’s reporting, we analyzed the top 100 most-liked comments on two specific videos discussing the Skripal case. On one video, 73 percent of the comments suggested there was a conspiracy at work, with claims such as “it is more likely the CIA poisoned them to place blame on Russia.” Some 44 percent of comments were critical of Britain and its allies, and 27 percent noted inconsistencies in British claims. Only four of the comments were critical of Russia, Putin or RT’s claims.

    ….

    But this week’s interview with the suspects marked a dramatic change — the top 100 most-liked comments included many from viewers who felt the interview was ridiculous and that the suspects’ stories were implausible. Fully 74 percent were critical of the claims presented by the suspects.

    What has happened is that people with highly partisan views were exposed to the utter emptiness of their own sides case. It clearly demonstrates why I believe that in controversial subjects one must allow the presentation of both sides on equal terms. Ridiculous claims will not be supported.
    In climate, Lewandowsky and acolytes have been forging a campaign to create prejudice against opponents – the exact opposite of what Criminal Courts have been trying to achieve for decades. Now the campaign has switched to not letting any contrary view be heard, or even suggesting any alarmist substantiate their shallow opinions by any objective standard.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/09/15/how-badly-did-russias-interview-with-the-skripal-poisoning-suspects-backfire/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d1fb9c7932c4

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  30. MANINABARREL

    Lewandowsky will lead us to the truth … on a path in another dimension where poison is detected in particles too small to kill humans.

    That’s already been done, in the hotel room where two swabs revealed Novichok in harmless quantities, and follow up swabs revealed none at all. Craig Murray has pointed out that quantities too small to be dangerous are too small to be identified as Novichok. Not finding Novichok with a second swab is not the same thing as finding there was not Novichok. Why hasn’t the hotel been consigned to landfill, together with the train they took to Salisbury?

    I thought of Lewandowsky when I detected in myself several of the symptoms of conspiracy ideation identified by Lewandowsky, (“nihilistic skepticism,” “must be wrong” or “self-sealing” and “unreflexive counterfactual thinking”) when reading the account of Laurelov and Hardin. We all do it, but most of us are sensible enough to admit it when our reasoning is influenced by emotional bias. Only tenured professors and journalists in the serious press are stupid enough to argue “I must be right. I’ve been peer-reviewed / published in the Guardian/Times/Telegraph.”

    Lewandowsky’s Wikipaedia entry is interesting. It gives pride of place to the Moon Hoax paper and the retracted Recursive Fury,” but no mention of his only known work in book form, a collection of articles he co-edited on the use of torture by the US government in Iraq. Maybe he’s playing it down because, like Sergei, he’s longing to go back “home” – to Oklahoma.

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  31. I have to admit that I am puzzled by a poison gas that is deadly but only kills 50 % of its targets plus a drug addict trawling a skip a few months later. And then it is found in a hotel room used by 2 men and 2 prostitutes without leaving any corpses.

    Is Escher illustrating these episodes ? They seem redolent of silent film serials – “the inexplicable crimes, the masked villains, the false declarations of motives….

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  32. In case anyone is not aware of the wonderful Feillade serial films about Fantomas, here is a literary reference
    Fantômas (French: [fɑ̃tomas]) is a fictional character created by French writers Marcel Allain (1885–1969) and Pierre Souvestre (1874–1914).

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  33. “I try and follow the story at Blogmire and Moon of Alabama” Well that shows.

    “Meanwhile Britain has kidnapped a Russian citizen, and no-one knows whether she’s alive or dead.”

    Geoff, you’ve wandered off the path of crediblity and I find that you’re giving Dr Lew a run for his money. Are you talking about Yulia? Anyone logical would assume the woman didn’t want to be found by the Russians and had accepted help to vanish. But no matter who you’re talking about are you seriously wondering if our services and/or government have bumped her off? Really? A government that delays for years sending Abu Hamza to the US in case they were mean to him? A government harassing British soldiers over the Troubles? The one that can’t send home or refuse entry to countless criminals? That ruthless, cold blooded British government that would abandon a perfume bottle with Novichok poison in a public park and pollute a city with a deadly toxin? Bollocks!

    You’re prepared to take the word of some random guy that “quantities too small to be dangerous are too small to be identified as Novichok.” And he’s seen the forensic evidence has he? He’s sure what the government has and hasn’t got, even though much of it still hasn’t been releassed to the public? He has inside knowledge of Russian research on new ways to kill people and there categorically isn’t a new type of Novichok and/or a new way to deliver it?

    Just the admission by the Russians that these are the guys in the CCTV and their ludicrous interviews and missing past should rubbish most of what has been said in defence of Russia. I’m sure that photos will be sourced for the guys to ‘prove’ they went to Salisbury’s highlights but fabricating them is taking a little longer than they’d hoped. They’ll have a long wait for first snow. Putin has smirked his denials from the start. He wasn’t irritated that someone had sullied Mother Russia’s name. I’m sure that they’re pretend that they were there for a gay meet up and if they’d gone to Brighton, it might have had some credibility.

    Russia had the means, the motive, the opportunity, past form and a leader callous enough to order it.

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  34. What are the odds of another pair of Russian tourists falling ill in Salisbury? If this were a film script it would be rejected as being totally implausible. Is it just circumstantial that Porton Down is nearby?

    Bet whoever recommended to Putin that a public interview of the cathedralibusiphilic duo was a good idea will soon be experiencing a surfeit of slush when counting ticks on reindeer private parts.

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  35. TINY CO2
    I didn’t suggest that our services and/or government have bumped Yulia off, though I don’t see why they wouldn’t, given how careless they’ve been with the lives of others involved. According to the official story, Sergei had Novichok on his hands when he gave bread to some boys in the park to feed the ducks, and nobody bothered to contact the boys’ families. But then to believe that, you’ve got to believe that the Russian secret service would try and bump off an ex-agent using a method recommended in its own handbook telling agents how to bump people off. (“Sticky doorhandle? Reminds me of something…” mused Sergei…)

    Your statement that I’m “prepared to take the word of some random guy..” doesn’t stand up either. The big dose gathered from the door handle was only identified officially as “Novichok or some similar nerve agent.” So the dose swabbed from the hotel room, too small to be harmful, can hardly have been identified any more precisely. Insecticide? Who cares? Certainly not the police, since, when they didn’t find anymore Novichok, they naturally deduced there wasn’t any more Novichock.

    No sensible person doubts that the presence of the two Russians was linked to the attack on the Skripa ls. There’s even a shot of one of them shading his eyes as he looks down the road that the Skripal car probably took just about at that time. You can imagine what he’s thinking. “We’ve plastered the doorknob good and proper. Pity to take the first train back to London. Let’s hang around under this video camera, see if we can see his car coming..”

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  36. By some strange coincidence, I was in Salisbury precisely one week before the Skripals were taken ill. Nothing I have read about the affair makes any sense, especially when Mrs May says it. But I am am taken by the strange absence of any involvement of supernatural influences from Ted Heath’s former residence. Maybe his spirit could tell us what happened if only Doris Stokes were available.

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  37. Geoff. I would imagine there’s a vast difference between the amounts of a suspected poison/nerve agent of unknown type needed to identify it from a myriad of other possibilities and the quantity that is needed merely to confirm the possible presence of a previously suspected substance. Furthermore, if the hotel room was entirely wiped clean in order to obtain this minute amount, there would be nowhere else to go and the room could be declared Novichok-free.
    I do feel that persons unwilling to accept the British story are bending over backwards to concoct their own maskirovka to throw doubt upon Russian culpability. Why? This might be a case for the mighty Lew.

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  38. What you are engaging in Geoff is Brit bashing. Despite the weird events being almost certainly down to the Russians, you’re nit picking the details from our side. Stuff that the authorities can’t necessarily tell us. I expect the left to endlessly second guess our side and while close scrutiny is important, I’m fed up of every little rat getting the benefit of the doubt before our own side on everything from AGW to the IRA. America is teeming with people who hate their own country and who will ignore any amount of abuse from the outside because it reinforces their belief that their country is totally evil. They don’t even let changes in government interrupt their paranoia. It’s from that ilk that those sites you’ve been visiting draw their audience. They watch the movies and think it’s all real. Well sure, no government is perfect, far from it but stripped to the bone I’d support the West over Russia any time. Not least because Russia is bitterly jealous of Western success.

    I’ve said before that the reason climate sceptics get no help from Russia is because they’re busy helping the Greens. They’re friends of the SNP and yes, even Brexit. Anything they think will damage the UK. I want out of the EU because they fit too well with the Russians, not because the Russians want to drive a wedge between us.

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  39. MIAB “especially when Mrs May says it”

    Theresa May is an inhibited, inept, worrier, Christian. She’s dubbed the Maybot because she’s awkward and out of her delpth, not because she’s a battle hardened sociopath. She lies because she thinks it’s best and because smoother talkers than her have convinced her to take the easiest path wih the EU. Her fault is in being unable to stand up to the EU, not ruthlessly killing her opposition. So while you’re free to despise her, she makes a pathetic enemy compared to Putin.

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  40. Tiny: — I’ve said before that the reason climate sceptics get no help from Russia is because they’re busy helping the Greens. —

    Here’s my own bit of Brit- (and EU-) bashing. In this case, debunking NATO claims that Russia was behind anti-fracking panic.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/dont-blame-russia-for-the-anti-fracking-panic/15241#.W6EgHqZKhaQ

    Meanwhile, anyone who believes that greens are backed by anti-Western money to any significant degree ought to check out this article and the database it refers to.

    https://dailycaller.com/2018/09/17/big-green-inc-environmentalists/

    Rupert Darwall’s account of UK diplomats, urged on by David King, trying to twist the arms of Russian officials into buying the climate agenda would also be important data with which to test Tiny’s hypothesis.

    Greens need no Russian backing. They have no need of it. Putin is such a genius that he has persuaded Western governments and billionaires to back the anti-fracking greens.

    That’s one reason why I find the Russaphobic fantasies of online commenters, and the defence establishment equally implausible.

    I do not care what spies get up to. Including killing each other. Until, that is, they start meddling. The Russiaphobia that is now the explanation for everything, from Trump, Brexit, clearly has deeper origins than mere media hysteria from the likes of Carole Codswallop and Louise Munch. No less of a fantasist (or credulous moron) was the author of the piss tape dossier, Christopher Steele, a ‘former’ British ‘intelligence’ officer.

    I do ‘Brit-bashing’ because they’re the morons in closest proximity.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Yep, seeing holes in evidence, wanting better quality evidence, and not accepting “security”, or complexity as reasons to suspend judgement, to instead to defer to authority… These are the sure signs of a conspiracy theory.

    Shame you’re off. Good luck. Watch out for Ruskies.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Geoff and Ben

    Please consider, as I suggested (much) earlier on this thread that the obvious explanation might just be the correct one.

    It seems to me that Putin’s putting up the 2 alleged murderers for a farcical interview is his way of saying that they did it, that he knows we know they did it, but he really couldn’t care less. What can we do about it in reality? He can smirk and stick two fingers up at us and he won’t face any fresh consequences.

    Perhaps my current reading (“All the Kremlin’s Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin” by Mikhail Zygar) influences my thinking too much, but my view is that Russia under Putin is a rogue state and that if you’re sufficiently important and you oppose or embarrass him, you’re likely to wind up dead, wherever you live.

    Tiny’s comments are rational and thoughtful. I hope she returns – her sceptical common sense and insights are too valuable to be lost to this site.

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  43. Mark, what you ask us to consider is speculation.

    I haven’t read Zygar. I did have the misfortune to read some of Luke Harding’s book on Russia and Trump (a family member got it for Xmas, and I had nothing to do for a few hours). It is batshit, as is very much discussion of Russia. There’s a lot of it about.

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  44. TINYCO2
    It’s not Brit-bashing and it’”s not nit-picking to point out that the British account makes no sense. Forget the London hotel room if you like. (That’s one of the advantages of scepticism, as Lewandowsky and Cook have pointed out. We can change the subject any time we like. Isn’t rational argument unfair!)

    I expect the left to endlessly second guess our side and while close scrutiny is important, I’m fed up of every little rat getting the benefit of the doubt before our own side on everything from AGW to the IRA.

    That’s an interesting comparison. The day after Bloody Sunday I wrote a letter to a Trotskyist paper saying what I thought of my country. They published it as the main article on page three, together with my name and address, the clever things. A few years later I was nearly blown up by an IRA bomb. Like Professor Lewandowsky, I don’t find it difficult to distance my personal feelings from my search for the truth, and I wonder why others have such trouble. Lewandowsky seems to share the general opinion among cognitive psychologists that it’s some kind of hardwired universal trait shared by everone (except cognitive psychologists.) I disagree. I’m with Kant and Huckleberry Finn on this one.

    The IRA tried to murder someone who was in the same place as I was. Some IRA people (or their sympathisers or lawyers) were murdered by the British authorities. These two facts can happily cohabit, like the fact that the planet is warming and the world is a better place than it was a few decades ago. Like the fact that Putin is not a very nice person and that the British secret services can do naughty things.

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  45. MARK HODGSON (18 Sep 18 at 7:07 pm)

    ..my view is that Russia under Putin is a rogue state and that if you’re sufficiently important and you oppose or embarrass him, you’re likely to wind up dead, wherever you live.

    That may be true. But before Putin Russia was ruled by an alcoholic puppet installed by the US. Don’t believe me. Believe Time magazine’s headline story circa 1996. Life expectancy under Yeltsin slumped. If you use the logic of the Washington University scientists who estimate the number of deaths due to the recent hurricane in Puerto Rico, or the WHO experts with respect to deaths due to global warming, then Bill Clinton is a bigger mass murderer than Stalin.

    Can we agree that Russians may have good reasons to vote for Putin? Can we agree that the official British position that a drop of Novichok will kill you within minutes, and that the phial of Novichok found lurking in a charity bin three months after the event was capable of killing 4000 people is not compatible with the fact that Dawn Sturgess fell ill and eventually died several hours after spraying herself with the stuff? Can we agree that Theresa May lied when she told Parliament that only Russia could have manufactured the stuff, and that it is scandalous that no M.P. or mainstream journalist dares challenge her on this lie?

    Can we agree that the disappearance of the Skripals throws habeas corpus and several centuries of hard won legal rights in the bin like a discarded perfume bottle?

    I think Tiny CO2’s goodbye was addressed to Ben Pile, who can be an aggressive bugger when it takes him. The thing I’m proudest of about this site is that we can disagree passionately when we want to.

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  46. This discussion may seem abstruse to those who haven’t been following the Skripal story closely. Among the more sensible theories aired in the tens of thousands of comments at Blogmire, Moon of Alabama and Craig Murray’s is the one that Skripal wrote, or at least contributed to, the Steele dossier (Skripal’s minder Pablo Miller is a cofounder of Steele’s fake dossier factory, a fact that the mainstream media are banned from revealing.) Poisoning him with some nasty opiate was a way of warning him off revealing that the Steele dossier was phony, and that the CIA and FBI have been involved in some heavily treasonable activity. Or maybe he’s been working for Moscow all this time, passing back the stuff he’s gathered on his frequent visits to Czecki and Estonia, and the cordoning off of Salisbury parks was to enable the police to comb the area for hidden electronic thingies he was supposed to pass to Moscow. The two Russian Gothicspirophiles have certainly distracted attention from whoever the FCB sent to Salisbury to do whatever it was they were sent to do.

    BENPILE (18 Sep 18 at 4:27 pm)

    I do not care what spies get up to. Including killing each other. Until, that is, they start meddling.

    But meddling is what spies do. It’s what they’re for. Everyone knows that. The contemporary confusion comes about because all sorts of other people are now meddling too, (journalists, experts, think tank operatives..) thus muddying the waters.

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  47. I am sure that research has been done on our preference for neat solutions over messy, ambiguous ones but I can’t be bothered to look for it. Compared with the assassins who carried out bizarre but efficient crimes, such as the Bulgarians with poisoned umbrellas who got Markov, or getting Litvinenko by poisoning his tea with polonium, the Skripal affair lacks that Golden Age detective story rightness. Killing someone by smearing poison on the front door handle! It could have been meant for anyone. And, if the story were written by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, or come to think of it, even Lee Childs,the target would not have been the Skripals but the postman or the person who puts Domino pizza menus through your letterbox…

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  48. Was Julia’s purchase of a travel ticket to visit her father, the trigger for the Russians to kill two potentially noisy birds with one stone on foreign soil? They could have targeted Skripal alone, at any time. Putin’s intended travel plans were of no significance

    Skripal living near Porton Down is a red herring, unless UK secret squirrels needed him nearby on a regular basis, which seems unlikely.

    A perfume bottle could be taken on to a plane as hold, or cabin luggage. Drug addicts will rummage through bins looking for food and anything that may be traded for drugs.

    Russians/KGB are quite happy for people to know that you do not cross the KGB without consequences. The RT interview was their way of showing they DO CARE that people SHOULD know.

    If Julia was an intended target (probable) it was either because she was thought to know too much, or because it was part of the warning to loved-ones of other dissidents, or both.

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  49. Geoff

    “Can we agree that Russians may have good reasons to vote for Putin?”

    Yes, or at least that they have reasons to vote for him; whether I would agree that they are GOOD reasons is an open question.

    “Can we agree that the official British position that a drop of Novichok will kill you within minutes, and that the phial of Novichok found lurking in a charity bin three months after the event was capable of killing 4000 people is not compatible with the fact that Dawn Sturgess fell ill and eventually died several hours after spraying herself with the stuff?”

    No; I simply don’t know enough about it. I will agree that it is deeply perplexing.

    “Can we agree that Theresa May lied when she told Parliament that only Russia could have manufactured the stuff, and that it is scandalous that no M.P. or mainstream journalist dares challenge her on this lie?”

    No. I’m not a scientist, and even if I was, I haven’t seen the detailed analysis of the poison in question.

    “Can we agree that the disappearance of the Skripals throws habeas corpus and several centuries of hard won legal rights in the bin like a discarded perfume bottle?”

    No. On the contrary, this is the bit of your argument with which I have the biggest problem. The Skripals are probably terrified of the Russians and are probably happy to have been spirited away to a safe house. If we’re interfering with their freedom, and if the Russians didn’t poison them, why did we spend some much money, via lavish health care, on nursing them back to health? Habeas corpus is alive and well. Yulia’s cousin, the probable Putin puppet, made some noise about the disappearance of her cousin and uncle. She hasn’t brought a habeas corpus action, but under UK law she would almost certainly have locus standi to do so, and with Putin’s money behind her, she could certainly afford to do so. And yet she hasn’t. For me, the obvious conclusion is because she knows her family are scared, and they don’t want to be found. Habeas corpus is alive and well, in the UK, if not in Russia.

    My problem with your scepticism regarding this story, is that although the UK might wish to rubbish Russia under Putin, this is a quite extraordinary way to go about it. And what do we have to gain from it? I’m quite happy to believe that our spooks engage in dirty tricks, as no doubt do the spooks of all countries. But this activity makes no sense from a UK point of view. On the other hand, it makes a lot of sense from the point of view of a rogue Russian state telling the rest of the world that it will act with impunity whenever and wherever it wants, and telling it’s citizens that they had better not get on the wrong side of Putin.

    Cui bono?

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  50. Geoff —But meddling is what spies do. It’s what they’re for.

    Indeed. I should have said that I don’t care when they follow each other about, killing each other.

    To your question about why Russians vote for Putin, and Marks uncertainty about whether or not there the reasons are ‘good’, some old articles on the assassination of Litvinenko are instructive.

    Putin emerged from the drunken corruption of Yeltsin’s last years, at the birth of the millennium, trying to reassert the rule of law in Russia. Putin’s regime is seen as a harsh and often unjust one. He angered global investors by rescinding privatisations and vigorously pursuing tax. Putin’s clash with Khordokovsky of Yukos, the holder of Russia’s privatised oil reserves, cost the latter $27 billion and nine years in a Siberian labour camp. But Putin still struggles against less overt forces. Repression is normal, but still there is no rule of law – Forbes editor Paul Klebnikov was shot dead in Moscow in July 2004. Andrey Kozlov, the protégé of Vladimir Putin and deputy chairman of Russia’s Central Bank, was shot dead in September 2006 while pursuing money-laundering bankers, and journalist Anna Politkovsksya was shot in her Moscow hallway a few weeks later. What dominates Russia’s domestic politics and colours its foreign relations is the struggle for power between the forces of crime and often clumsily wielded law. And some elements of these forces of crime or ‘rogue elements’ are operating from abroad where they not only fight the regime but often each other.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/3434#.W6IPwaZKhaQ

    The speculation about Russia that Mark reflects forgets that Russia is a nascent democracy, that was first destroyed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that people were again ruined by shock treatment, making the possibilities for law, and democracy extremely limited.

    Jeff Sachs’ (now a climate super guru) has tried to write himself out of the appalling treatment of the Russian people in the 1990s. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting account.

    I traveled to Moscow about a half-dozen times during 1993 to meet with Federov and to lead the MFU. I tried, and failed, to get the World Bank to focus on the growing social crisis, especially health. It was quite obvious that there was a critical shortage of drugs, medical equipment, and other basic health needs, and that this would spill over into a public health crisis. Indeed, various epidemics (diphtheria, multi-drug resistant TB) broke out, without any Western attention or help. The World Bank did not deliver a loan to relieve the growing crisis. I met with the head of the “health mission,” but discovered that the World Bank planned to take its time to get help to Russia, since there was apparently a need for the Bank to study the situation for some years first. In the meantime, the MFU staff of young Russian and Western economists continued to churn out detailed and highly competent analyses of Russian inflation, monetary and budget policy, and structural issues relating especially to international trade, but to little avail. Federov’s hold on power and influence in the Chernomyrdin Government was tenuous. Federov very rarely saw or spoke with Yeltsin, who was even further removed from economic policy, and I had no chance during the entire year to speak directly with President Yeltsin. All my advice in 1993 went through the Finance Minister.

    http://jeffsachs.org/2012/03/what-i-did-in-russia/

    It seems bizarre to forget Russia’s very recent history in trying to understand Putin, his popularity and his policies. The implication seems to be that Russians should have appointed some nice, gay-friendly, west-facing, liberal social democrat, who would be part of the ‘international community’, when, barely 20 years ago, the country was in chaos, gangsters ruled, then Oligarchs, and the west had turned its back. Putin has done much to change that situation for Russians, but has faced resistance from outside, as well as in.

    Again, speaking ten years ago about the Litvinenko assasination, the same authors,

    Ramping up the Cold War hysteria in Britain is the public relations svengali Tim Bell. The magic he worked for Margaret Thatcher is now at the service of Boris Berezovsky, the expatriate Russian oligarch. It was Bell who circulated the photograph of Litvinenko on his deathbed. Berezovsky is one of many expatriate Russians who enriched themselves in the privatisation of Russia’s state-owned businesses. Today he presents himself as a political exile, seeking to overthrow Putin. Yet only six years ago Berezovsky helped finance Putin’s presidential campaign, as he did Boris Yeltsin’s before him.

    Much is made of Russia’s magic PR — ‘hypernormalisation’ and the suchlike. But this view is cockeyed if it forgets British PR firms role in global affairs. Bell Pottinger collapsed more recently after it emerged that,

    Bell Pottinger was accused of stirring up anger about “white monopoly capital” in South Africa. Material including a video interview with Ajay Gupta, which had never been publicly circulated, was leaked onto South African media.

    Bell Pottinger was accused of inciting racial tension, and operating fake Twitter accounts to mount racially driven campaigns.

    In 2016, it emerged that

    Bell Pottinger created propaganda videos in Iraq on behalf of the US Government in a contract worth more than half a billion dollars over several years, according to revelations unearthed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

    https://www.prweek.com/article/1410858/bell-pottinger-spotlight-creating-propaganda-videos-us-military-iraq

    Fake news. Bots. Magic PR firms. If they were Russians, meddling in foreign governments, there would be calls for war. But it was a PR firm close the UK and US establishment. It made the casus belli, at home and abroad. For oligarchs and against them.

    But motive… What does “the UK” get out of it, Mark wonders. Well, one part of the answer is ‘who knows?’. Second-guessing the motivations of the UK’s security and strategic planners has long been fruitless, but even harder to read since sexed-up dodgy dossiers and ’45-minutes’ claims. I find it hard to take at face value it has been about ‘bringing peace to the Middle East’ or ‘making the world a safer place’.

    Another reason is that its institutions get to reinvent the Cold War. And that’s a blessing for them. Because the Cold War was their raison d’etre. It means that the likes of Peter Mandelson get to continue hanging out on Russian Oligarchs’ yachts. It means their grands projets keep rolling on. It means the ‘international order’ continues, unencumbered by democratic expression or a new balance of power. Listen to any unelected ‘crat speak about Brexit or global climate agreements, for instance, and you will hear him speak about Britain ‘punching above its weight’, or its place in the ‘international community’. Because that is where some parts of “the UK” is invested. But not all of us.

    There are a lot of crooks out there, and they’re not all Russian.

    One speculation is that the details of Christopher Steele’s pissgate dossier which was commissioned by the US democrat campaign was invented by Skripal. According to that hypothesis, Steele worked closely with Skripal’s handler. And it being so obviously BS had caused embarrassment to those who were behind it. That UK and US security agencies, and wider political establishments, are troubled by Trump, and have sought to undermine him is hardly a secret.

    Habeas corpus is alive and well, in the UK, if not in Russia.

    It is really?

    The War on Terror, again, was the basis for the rolling back of habeas corpus, and a number of other legal principles that were inconvenient to New Labour’s agenda. And IIRC, HC does not apply to foreigners, anyhow. Blair’s claim was that ‘We must put safety before liberty’, but his authoritarian agenda was clear before the War on Terror — it included the restriction on the right to trial by Jury. Detentions without trials, trials without juries, and indeed the invention of crimes without legislation.

    The first thing that should be done when trying to understand foreign policy is to look at the domestic context. To put it Bluntly, if the War on Terror didn’t exist, Blair would have had to invent it.

    “Cui bono?”

    Anything you can say about Russia, you can say about the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

  51. Ben: “And IIRC, HC does not apply to foreigners, anyhow.”

    I don’t think you do recall correctly, unless the law has changed recently without my spotting it (possible, I admit!):

    “The right to apply for habeas corpus was not dependent on nationality but on presence within the dominions of the Crown. Such presence was held to give rise to a duty of allegiance, and that gave rise to a mutual right to protection by the Crown. Thus the writ was available to enemies, even to alien enemies. In 1697, Daniel DuCastre and Francis LaPierre, Frenchmen whose country was then at war with England, after 18 months’ imprisonment as ‘alien enemies and spies’, were bailed and later discharged. In 1798, Joseph Silvy and Peter Fretus, Portuguese sailors, were impressed into the Royal Navy ‘against their wills’ when the merchant ship on which they served was berthed in Port Royal, Jamaica. An affidavit was sworn on their behalf by a London interpreter and they obtained relief without resistance by the Admiralty. It was understood that their alien status, far from barring their claim to relief, provided the very ground for their discharge. When, in an immigration case in 1984 (R v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex p Khawaja), Lord Scarman confronted the question whether habeas corpus protection was limited to British nationals, he was able to rely on centuries of precedent in answering with an emphatic ‘no’.”

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n19/tom-bingham/this-in-no-wise-omit

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  52. MH — I don’t think you do recall correctly, unless the law has changed recently without my spotting it (possible, I admit!):

    I think you’re right, and I was typing in haste. However, what I was getting at is that (also IIRC) it was easier for the then gov to get the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2001 through, allowing foreigners to be detained indefinitely without trial than for that to be extended to British citizens/subjects. The broader point is that recent governments have been very keen on rolling back longstanding legal principles and civil freedoms and rights, Blair in particular. I would be *very* concerned for HC, if it isn’t already in its death throes.

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  53. Ben: “The broader point is that recent governments have been very keen on rolling back longstanding legal principles and civil freedoms and rights, Blair in particular.”

    On that we CAN agree. On the other issues, I think we will have to agree to differ .

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  54. MARK HODGSON (19 Sep 18 at 8:14 am)
    On the two points where you disagree because of lack of scientific knowledge, my position is similar to that on dangerous global warming. I’m not an expert either, but when I see the experts incapable of constructing a careful rational argument precisely where it’s needed, I know that the problem is not my lack of expertise. I don’t need to know about the chemistry of Novichok or what was in the perfume bottle to know that the official story is incoherent. In the two cases, if the official story is true, then the authorities could render it coherent and convincing by releasing information they have and I haven’t. They don’t, so I deduce that it isn’t.

    On habeas Corpus, your argument is based on what you think is going on in the minds of the Skripals. Since we don’t know what they know (including where they were and what the did on the day they were poisoned) we have no way of knowing what’s in their minds. They could tell us of course, couldn’t they? Or can they? I don’t necessarily believe that MI5 has executed them and dissolved their bodies at Porton Down. But the government could dispel my lingering doubts if they wanted to, but they won’t. That’s what I mean, in my confused un-lawyer-like way, about the disappearance of Habeas Corpus.

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  55. Geoff, I’m capable of being a conspiracy theorist. I still suspect that Thatcher had the Belgrano sunk, not because it was an active threat, but because she wanted what every hugely unpopular leader wants to bolster their flagging fortunes – a “short victorious war”. As a principle, cui bono supports that theory, or at least could support it, if one is so inclined.

    I’m just not convinced the same holds true for your speculation about the Skripals and Novichok. EVEN IF the Skripals were poisoned by UK spooks (which I consider fantastical). the odds are the Skripals think they were poisoned by Russian spooks, and have begged to be placed in a safe house with new identities and their locations to remain undisclosed. I very much doubt that they have been kidnapped, and very much doubt that they want to be found by the Russians.

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  56. Talking of conspiracy theories, I don’t think anyone has mentioned the NATO angle. The continued need for NATO is slightly unclear given the changes in the balance of power in 1991. But like all bureaucratic organisations it remains. It even benefited from the accession of Montenegro last year. I believe it is also building a new headquarters.

    Trump rattled the cage by asking pointed questions of whether the EU was going to live up to its spending commitments. The heightened sense of Russophobia discussed by Ben Pile is interesting from this perspective. Take a look at this NATO declaration
    https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_156624.htm?selectedLocale=en

    It firmly reiterates the idea of NATO as a purely defensive arrangement while using vaguely threatening language about Russia, almost as if they are stoking anti-Russian feeling. It is oddly reminiscent of the way that Hitler justified taking over the Sudeten land because he was fearful for the safety of the ethnic Germans living there. It looks like a way of justifying their continued existence.

    Isn’t it convenient that these “nerve gas” attacks happened? Isn’t it convenient that they can be so “convincingly” pinned on the Russians?

    The balance of probabilities suggests that Russians were behind them. The involvement of the Russian state is not quite so clear cut. It might for example be gangsters trying to get in with Putin; it could be Ukrainians or Crimeans attempting to stir things against Putin. The fact that it is so obviously being used by NATO to bolster the case for its existence, along with all that guff about Syria – as if the US and Anglo-French rocket attacks were self-defence – shows that sabre-rattling is going on.

    Two passages in particular concern me:

    “Russia’s aggressive actions, including the threat and use of force to attain political goals, challenge the Alliance and are undermining Euro-Atlantic security and the rules-based international order. Instability and continuing crises across the Middle East and North Africa are fuelling terrorism. They also contribute to irregular migration and human trafficking. The ongoing crisis in Syria has a direct effect on the stability of the region and the security of the Alliance as a whole”

    This seems to be blaming Russia for quite a lot of anomalous events.

    “We reiterate our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, Georgia, and the Republic of Moldova within their internationally recognised borders. In accordance with its international commitments, we call on Russia to withdraw the forces it has stationed in all three countries without their consent”

    Is that in NATO’s remit? All 3 of those countries are some distance from the North Atlantic

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  57. I don’t believe NATO’s purpose is to defend the salty kingdom of the North Atlantic, regardless of its name. Nor was Warsaw the bastion that had to be preserved at all costs. Distance from the Atlantic is of little consequence. How many Russian speakers inhabit your territories is significantly more important, as are old political maps held in Kremlin vaults.

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  58. Beth
    But, but, but; Maigret is an agent of the EU, and thus suspect in the Halls of Westminster.

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  59. Mark. I seem to recall that it was well reported (if not well established) that Ms Skripal repeatedly refused to see Russian Embassy officials and did this in front of media cameras. This seems rather peculiar behaviour for persons being held against their will immediately after being treated in British hospital. Long gone are the days when Russians remained silent because they expected the same negative repercussions as they would have received back in Soviet Russia.

    As to who was acting for whom, or who was double or plural crossing, and therefore the motives, opportunities and motives of their enemies are confused and without clarity. All is speculation. The antics of the slushophobic duo are equally obtuse. Is it really believable that two, such as them, were entrusted with a nerve agent? Is it smoke and shattered mirrors?

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  60. Beth. Maigret was already a commissaire back in the 1920s, so if he were a lone sleuth he, almost certainly, is a dead loan sleuth by now.

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  61. The Telegraph and an organisation called Bellingcat say they have identified one of the suspects.

    “The real identity of one of the wanted men in the nerve agent attack – named by counter-terrorism police as Ruslan Boshirov – can be disclosed as Colonel Anatoliy Vladimirovich Chepiga.”

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  62. Vinnie
    I’ll take your word for it…

    Paul
    The Bellingcat article is most extraordinary. Their journalists apparently spent hundreds of hours trawling through obscure sources:

    Initially we attempted reverse image-search via several online engines, but no matches were found[ …] Having tried these initial avenues of pursuit, Bellingcat and the Insider approached the search deductively. On the assumption that the two suspects were GRU officers with a focus on West European covert operations […] and knowing their approximate age, we contacted former Russian military officers to inquire what specialized schools would have provided appropriate training. One of the sources we contacted suggested […] the Far Eastern Military Command Academy. The graduation years for the two were estimated between 2001 and 2003. We browsed through multiple (incomplete) yearbook photos and reunion galleries of the classes of 2001-2003 but did not find exact matches for either of the suspects. […] While testing the hypothesis that the unnamed person at right-most end of the photo might be “Boshirov,” we searched online for references to “DVOKU”[…] This search landed us at the above-referenced Volunteer Union website[…] Online searches in both Google and via two Russian search engines found no images, or social media presence, related to a Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, or to anyone by that name with a military connection. […] Subsequently, the research team scoured leaked Russian databases for references to Anatoliy Chepiga. […]

    and so on and on, all to confirm what we knew already (because Theresa May has told us;) that they were Russian military spies.

    What Bellingcat hasn’t told us, because they haven’t spent hundreds of hours wondering about it, is why and how they managed to rewrap their Russian-made perfume bottle back in its cellophane wrapper (without leaving fingerprints) somewhere on their ramble through suburban Salisbury, made a detour to the town centre to drop it in a bin where it would remain unnoticed for three months, then delayed their departure for London by doing some window shopping under the eye of security cameras. That is souninteresting to the Bellingcat and the Telegraph.

    Of course the two Russians were up to something nefarious, probably involving Skripal (but it would be nice to know how many Russian mini-oligarchs are resident in Salisbury, all in need of discreet courier servicing from the homeland.)

    As I follow the development of the conspiracy theories at Blogmire and Craig Murray’s, I can’t help wondering what Lewandowsky is making of it all. I offer my acceptance of the evidence that bad Russians were up to something in Salisbury to the good professor as yet another characteristic of Conspiracy Theorising. We could call it Meeting Reality Half Way.

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  63. “I don’t believe NATO’s purpose is to defend the salty kingdom of the North Atlantic, regardless of its name.”

    This is what NATO has to say on the topic:

    “Article 6 1
    For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:

    on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France 2, on the territory of Turkey or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
    on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.”

    So the area extends to Turkey, the Mediterranean and Algeria or anywhere the allies had troops in Europe in 1949. I guess Ukraine and Moldova might qualify by being in Europe but I am not sure if any NATO member had forces stationed there. Georgia is obviously out of scope, isn’t it?

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