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Current location: Scotland
Member since: Mon Sep 7, 2009, 12:57 AM
Number of posts: 5,975

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May's Article 50 letter in full (Trigger Warning)

On 23 June last year, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. As I have said before, that decision was no rejection of the values we share as fellow Europeans. Nor was it an attempt to do harm to the European Union or any of the remaining member states. On the contrary, the United Kingdom wants the European Union to succeed and prosper. Instead, the referendum was a vote to restore, as we see it, our national self-determination. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe – and we want to remain committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent.

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom Parliament confirmed the result of the referendum by voting with clear and convincing majorities in both of its Houses for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The Bill was passed by Parliament on 13 March and it received Royal Assent from Her Majesty The Queen and became an Act of Parliament on 16 March.

Today, therefore, I am writing to give effect to the democratic decision of the people of the United Kingdom. I hereby notify the European Council in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union. In addition, in accordance with the same Article 50(2) as applied by Article 106a of the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, I hereby notify the European Council of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Atomic Energy Community. References in this letter to the European Union should therefore be taken to include a reference to the European Atomic Energy Community.

This letter sets out the approach of Her Majesty’s Government to the discussions we will have about the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union and about the deep and special partnership we hope to enjoy – as your closest friend and neighbour – with the European Union once we leave. We believe that these objectives are in the interests not only of the United Kingdom but of the European Union and the wider world too.


T_i_B's already answered with some of what I would have said.

The Mail is owned by the 4th Viscount Rothermere, an old-money billionaire registered as non-domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. Possibly more significant is the stance of its editor, Paul Dacre, an arch-eurosceptic who's a millionaire because he makes about £1.5 million a year from his post (he also relies on European agricultural subsidies to support his numerous major landholdings in the UK, but that's just one of the ironies in the whole situation).

Murdoch owns the Sun, Sun on Sunday, The Times and The Sunday Times, and part-owns the Press Association.

The Express is owned by porn millionaire Richard Desmond, who runs a really trashy tabloid and is as rabid a supporter of Brexit (and UKIP) as you'll find.

The Telegraph is owned by the weird reclusive twins the Barclay brothers, who're very rightwing, and split their time between Monaco and the private island of Brecqhou, just off the small Channel Island of Sark. They deny being tax exiles, and have claimed they live abroad for "health reasons".

Of the rest of the media, the BBC's supposed impartiality has been stretched over the years. It would be unfair to label it "Eurosceptic", but it's given loads of airtime to Nigel Farage and the crackpot ideas he spouts, out of all proportion to UKIP's political support in the country. The other broadcast media have played a similar role.

The problem's been that the EU's been a handy scapegoat/distraction for all sorts of UK national ills over the years in just about all the media - lots of stupid myths have gained currency, from the infamous (non-existent) edict on the acceptable degree of straightness of bananas downward. That's one way our current Foreign Secretary (roughly equivalent to the US Secretary of State) Boris Johnson made his name when he was a journalist supposedly covering the EU. This was what an ex-colleague of his, Martin Fletcher, wrote when Johnson was on the Remain side (before he opportunistically turned coat because he saw that - and being on the heroically losing Leave side, as was expected at the time - as his best chance of becoming Prime Minister):

Johnson, sacked by The Times in 1988 for fabricating a quote, made his mark in Brussels not through fair and balanced reporting, but through extreme euro-scepticism. He seized every chance to mock or denigrate the EU, filing stories that were undoubtedly colourful but also grotesquely exaggerated or completely untrue.

The Telegraph loved it. So did the Tory Right. Johnson later confessed: 'Everything I wrote from Brussels, I found was sort of chucking these rocks over the garden wall and I listened to this amazing crash from the greenhouse next door over in England as everything I wrote from Brussels was having this amazing, explosive effect on the Tory party, and it really gave me this I suppose rather weird sense of power.'

Johnson’s reports also had an amazing, explosive effect on the rest of Fleet Street. They were much more fun than the usual dry and rather complex Brussels fare. News editors on other papers, particularly but not exclusively the tabloids, started pressing their own correspondents to match them. By the time I arrived in Brussels editors only wanted stories about faceless Brussels eurocrats imposing absurd rules on Britain, or scheming Europeans ganging up on us, or British prime ministers fighting plucky rearguard actions against a hostile continent.

Much of Fleet Street seemed unable to view the EU through any other prism. It was the only narrative it was interested in. Stories that did not bash Brussels, stories that acknowledged the EU’s many achievements, stories that recognised that Britain had many natural allies in Europe and often won important arguments, almost invariably ended up on the spike.


I've seen other reports that his colleagues in the European press lobby saw Johnson as a total buffoon, and competed with each other to feed him crazy (fictitious) scoops, which he duly reported without bothering to check, and then became firm urban myths.

European elections traditionally don't have great turnout in the UK, which opened the door to the likes of UKIP to build a power base of sorts there - one (along with a major source of funding, some of which it's currently facing major lawsuits about) it will lose on Brexit, which is another irony.

In the face of all this, a facile case for Leave wasn't hard to make, and the positive case (even realistically guarded - the EU's not perfect, of course) struggled to gain traction.

Couple that with the fact that it's evident that a lot of the Leave vote in certain areas was driven by anti-Establishment sentiments, plus there was little expectation that Leave would win, and the stage was set for a classic protest vote.

The last nail in the coffin was the stupidly simple-minded framing of the ballot paper and no setting of a threshold proportion of the vote for enactment (it was supposedly only an advisory referendum, though to scare voters with the importance of their vote, Cameron included a statement on the paper that the government would go along with whatever was decided). People could tick a bald Leave or Remain, that's it.

That's left it open for politicians on the Leave side to claim a mandate for whatever they want ("The people have spoken", including a hard Brexit (i.e. no trade deals with the EU, a complete severing), whereas the Leave pundits all along scoffed publicly at any idea that the UK would leave the Single Market and called it scaremongering.

And here we are.

Ukip's only MP Douglas Carswell quits party

Ukip’s only member of parliament, Douglas Carswell, has quit the party, announcing on his website that he will become an independent MP.


“I will not be switching parties, nor crossing the floor to the Conservatives, so do not need to call a byelection, as I did when switching from the Conservatives to Ukip. I will simply be the member of parliament for Clacton, sitting as an independent.”

In a sign of the deep divisions within the party, however, Carswell immediately faced calls from the Ukip donor Arron Banks to trigger a byelection so the businessman could stand against him.

Andy Wigmore, a spokesman for Banks, said: “The net has been closing in. There is a Ukip national executive committee meeting on Monday and he [Carswell] knew he was for the chop, so jumped. He should call a byelection and Arron will stand against him.”


"This is the most failed first 100 days of any president."

Hey, Donny's finally got a YUUGE achievement to his name. Beautiful achievement. Historic. Greatest achievement ever.

President Trump faces his hardest truth: He was wrong


Trump did not merely allege that former president Barack Obama ordered surveillance on Trump Tower, of course. He asserted it as fact, and then reasserted it, and then insisted that forthcoming evidence would prove him right.


Questions about Russia have hung over Trump for months, but the president always has dismissed them as “fake news.” That became much harder Monday after the FBI director proclaimed the Russia probe to be anything but fake.

“There’s a smell of treason in the air,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said. “Imagine if J. Edgar Hoover or any other FBI director would have testified against a sitting president? It would have been a mind-
boggling event.”

Brinkley, who has published biographies of such presidents as Gerald Ford, Franklin Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt, said of Trump’s start, “This is the most failed first 100 days of any president.”



UK to trigger article 50 on 29 March, but faces delay on start of talks

Theresa May has informed the European council that she will trigger article 50 on Wednesday 29 March, but European sources have made clear that Britain could be forced to wait until June to embark on formal talks.


The president of the European council, Donald Tusk, responded quickly to say that he would distribute his response to the British government within 48 hours of next Wednesday. But sources made clear that it would take “four to six weeks” for the other 27 countries in the EU to reach consensus and start the more formal process.


The prime minister’s chosen date shortens an already tight timeframe in which the British government hopes to both agree on the terms of withdrawal, including its financial liabilities, and successfully negotiate a “comprehensive free trade deal” with the EU.

The EU had hoped to offer a substantive political response to Britain at a summit pencilled in for the 6-7 April, but the notification date announced by Downing Street does not now make that possible, EU sources said.


Well, she's off to a flying start before she even pulls the trigger.

British banks handled vast sums of laundered Russian money

Source: The Guardian

Britain’s high street banks processed nearly $740m from a vast money-laundering operation run by Russian criminals with links to the Russian government and the KGB, the Guardian can reveal.

HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Barclays and Coutts are among 17 banks based in the UK, or with branches here, that are facing questions over what they knew about the international scheme and why they did not turn away suspicious money transfers.

Documents seen by the Guardian show that at least $20bn appears to have been moved out of Russia during a four-year period between 2010 and 2014. The true figure could be $80bn, detectives believe.

One senior figure involved in the inquiry said the money from Russia was “obviously either stolen or with criminal origin”.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/20/british-banks-handled-vast-sums-of-laundered-russian-money

It'd probably be worth more without the atrocious paintjob.

A light fisking:

the double-cutaway “lightweight and relatively balanced” guitar

"Relatively" is the key word here. If you bung a pound weight on the tailpiece, it'll hang straight.

was made in 1961 by Decca


Instruments previously produced in Japan during the 1960s.

The Decca trademark is a brand name used by U.S. importers Decca Records. Used electric solidbody models are typically found priced between $100 and $200.


IOW, they were cheap imported guitars mass-produced by Teisco before Japan got good at this stuff, available from the likes of Sears Roebuck by mail order, suitable for beginners who didn't live near a music store and had nobody to give them better advice, sold by a company trying to cash in on the Decca record label brand.

with a tobacco sunburst finish,

Once upon a time it had a tobacco sunburst finish. Those days are now firmly behind it, unless you like looking at its unmarred back.

maple neck and rosewood fingerboard

We won't mention the body wood because youdonwannaknow.

It has one pickup that is described as “age-appropriate” and gives off a “rockabilly tone,"

It was a cheap and nasty pickup even when new, and age hasn't been at all kind to it.

with knobs for volume and tone control

If you get fed up trying to get guitar sounds out of it, you can use it to scratch, yo.

there’s some wear on the 20 frets, they are considered to still be in excellent condition

It's a beater.

The electronics are functioning

If you plug it into an amp, it makes a noise.

but the guitar needs to be set up

The action is an inch high at the 12th fret. It has to be, otherwise it buzzes like a sitar.

If you're going to buy it, plan on hanging it on your wall. Describing it as "a guitar" is like describing a decorative cheese slicer as "a harp."

But hey, it's for a good cause.

The major source for Trump's UK wiretap claims was Larry Johnson!


John Podhoretz ✔ @jpodhoretz

Oh my God. The reappearance of Larry Johnson.

In case you're lucky enough not to know who Larry (C.) Johnson is, he has a few claims to fame.

He didn't complete his PhD dissertation, instead going to work as a "community organizer" in Latin America in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He then got Orrin Hatch to recommend him for a job at the CIA, which he joined in 1985, serving as an analyst on the Caribbean, then moved to the State Department Office of Counterterrorism in 1989, where he worked until 1993, when he went freelance, setting up BERG Associates.

I know about him because he was a rabid opponent of Obama during the 2008 election, turning his No Quarter blog into a revolting cesspool where any old racist clatrap and absurd conspiracy theory was tolerated, if not encouraged by the frontpagers.

His finest moment was championing "The Whitey Tape" (as mentioned in the tweet above), a mythical video of Michelle Obama supposedly making racially charged comments during a speech - a video which he kept insisting for months that shadowy "sources" told him was just about to be released, and when it was, would scupper Obama's chances of election even if he defeated Hillary Clinton in the primary race. The video has never appeared.

He's a member of the inaptly named Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, which pops up from time to time, most recently dismissing the Russian election hacking allegations as "baseless" and demanding "proof".

He nowadays appears as a regular pundit on Russia Today.

Johnson told Fox News's Judge Napolitano that GCHQ had been tapping Trump, and Trump believes everything he reads and sees on TV as long as it's from one of his pet RW sources.

Needless to say, this revelation is not going down well among some of our favorite intelligence pundits and their associates:


John Schindler ✔ @20committee

Larry Johnson is a flake and fabricator who regularly appears on RT. Way to go, "judge" -- and POTUS!
cc @FoxNews http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4326152/UK-spying-Trump-source-invented-Michelle-Obama-hoax.html


John Schindler ✔ @20committee

.@FoxNews Kremlin Larry is also the idiot who told everyone that terrorism was an imaginary threat -- 2 months before 9/11http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/10/opinion/the-declining-terrorist-threat.html

John Schindler ✔ @20committee

.@FoxNews Kremlin Larry is RT's go-to guy for crackpot conspiracy theories about the IC and USG, here's one example of MANY:


Jeff B/DDHQ‏ ✔ @EsotericCD

Jeff B/DDHQ Retweeted John Podhoretz

I am just utterly fucking appalled that this famously insane person was Napolitano's source, which led to an international incident.

BuzzFeed: Why Is Donald Trump So Obsessed With Surveillance? (Spoiler: He does it himself.)

President Donald Trump has rattled the political and national security establishment by doubling down on his accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the presidential campaign. So far, no evidence has emerged to support his claim.

But telephone eavesdropping and video surveillance have indeed long taken place at Trump properties — it’s just that they were conducted by Trump’s own team.

At his private club at Mar-a Lago, as BuzzFeed News revealed last June, Trump listened in on employee phone calls using a special switchboard that was installed in his bedroom and was connected to every phone line in the estate. The Trump Organization employs a “director of surveillance,” Matt Calamari, son of Trump’s longtime bodyguard. Inside Trump’s house near Washington, DC, where guests would sometimes stay, an extensive video surveillance system was monitored by Trump security personnel in New York. A surveillance company said that in public areas of the Trump National Doral resort, it installed video cameras to blend in with the décor by looking like smoke detectors.

None of the surveillance appears to be illegal, though some employees found it disconcerting. At Mar-a-Lago, one former employee told BuzzFeed News of an incident when a staff member was on the phone with a club member. During the phone call, Trump called the staff member on another line to weigh in on the very issue that was being discussed. “There is no other way you could know what that conversation was about unless you were eavesdropping,” this source said. At the Trump National Golf Club, where Trump has a home about a 45-minute drive from the White House, two former employees said the surveillance cameras were monitored so intently that workers would occasionally get called by security in New York if they were in an unexpected place.


And so the propaganda war starts for real.

With all due respect to Giles Tremlett, that reads like a bunch of slanted hooey from the title on (despite the weird backtracking in the last two paragraphs, saying that "If they are patient, and wait for Brexit before leaving the UK, they will have a far better chance of a quick return to the EU. Unlike other applicants, Scotland’s laws already meet all the necessary requirements. And Spain would gain very little from making life difficult for a country that became legally independent outside the EU," so maybe the sub-editor has to take the lion's share of the blame for giving it the stupid and unfounded title "Why Spain will block any attempt by Scotland to join the EU", and could as well have been written a year or more ago.

We have a succession of Spanish politicians going on the record over the last year or two, and even this last week or two, reiterating again and again that they see no parallel between the situation of Scotland and that of Catalonia, and that once Scotland attained independence, all bets would be off. Here's a recent example:

Spanish MEP from ruling party: We won't veto Scotland's EU membership

SPAIN would not block a bid by Scotland to rejoin the EU, according to a senior MEP from the country’s ruling party.

Esteban Gonzalez Pons from Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party said the Catalonian situation was “very different” to that in Scotland, and indicated concerns over the possible breakaway of the province from Spain would not be an obstacle if a newly independent Scotland wanted to join the EU.

Anti-independence campaigners in Scotland have frequently suggested Rajoy and his party would block Scotland if it tried to apply for membership of the EU after a successful independence vote because to do so would be to encourage Catalan separatists.

But in an interview for the BBC Pons said: “If Scotland wants to come back [into the EU] they have to begin the procedure as would any other country.” Asked if Spain would veto a Scottish application, Pons said: “No. If they are thinking about Scotland the Catalonian situation is very different to the Scottish situation.”


If you read Spanish, here's El Mundo:


And if that's not enough, here's a UK TV clip:


Pilar Fernandez @pilaraymara

#TheSpanishVetoMyth debunked #ScotlandinEurope #Brexit #indyref2 🙂

Tremlett's also plain wrong, or deliberately misleading, on a number of other issues, like:

Foreign minister Alfonso Dastis has been crystal clear about what would happen if Scotland left the UK before Brexit. “If by mutual agreement and by virtue of constitutional change Scotland ended up being independent, our thesis is that it could not stay inside the European Union,” he said this week. “It would have to join the queue, meet the requirements, go through the recognised negotiating system and the end result will be whatever those negotiations produce.”

That's not a "no", not a threat of veto, it's a banality. There is no "queue" in the sense of "first applied, first acceded". It's a question of compliance with the requirements for membership, and we have senior EU politicians on the record this last week, saying that if Scotland gained independence and applied for entry, it could be a quick and easy negotiation because (as Tremlett concedes above) it's already legally in compliance with the main aquis strictures:


Gareth Quinn @GarethBQuinn

Elmar Brok MEP, Chair of European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs: "Easy negotiations" if Indy Scotland wanted to join EU #ScotRef

I won't bother picking over the other myths in this article as it's not worth it, but the measure of it and the writer can be seen by its parroting of the lazy myth that Scotland would have to "join the euro". Tell that to Sweden, which acceded in 1994, doesn't use the euro, and has no plans to do so (or indeed Croatia, a more recent entrant that hasn't adopted the euro). The Maastricht Treaty says that signatory states should join the eurozone once they meet the necessary conditions, but it sets out no timescale whatsoever for doing so, and no penalties for not doing so.
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