Monday, 25 October 2010

Crashing the petition

[This is the heading over a post today by Caustic Logic on his blog The Lockerbie Divide. It reads in part:]

Conspiracy theories naturally arise among many commentators [RB: referring to commentators here, on this blog], naturally I think given the duplicitous handling of this case from the beginning. Others have voiced a more generous interpretation. For example, Robert Forrester (as "Quincey Riddle") said somewhere in there, three days ago, when people were starting to voice suspicions:

JFM deals in verifiable facts only. The facts concerning the current difficulties on the Scottish Parliament Petitions Site are at present:
1 The site crashed in the early hours of 21/10/10.
2 BT is still working on a solution.
[...] Speaking personally, I do not hold with the contention that those whom JFM is confronting on the Lockerbie/Zeist case are attempting to sabotage the petition. There are far more effective methods of dealing with us, also including the tried and tested 'just-ignore-them' tactic. To do something as blatant as this would simply present JFM with yet another weapon to use against them.

That's a darn good point, and considering the known issues with the occoasional ill-managed government site, and how inundated as this one was by signers and viewers, something along these lines should be the obvious default conclusion. But the days dragged on without a fix and, by number, the comments espousing the paranoiac view are predominating. (...)

Forrester continued, helping put this in perspective:

Once the petition comes down on the 28/10/10, we will be able to assess any impact this breakdown may have had. However, given that the JFM petition went online on the 8/10/10 and was around the 1,500 mark at the time of the crash, there are good grounds for concluding that it had already broken existing records for the number of signees over time. [...] the average number of signees per day has been around a steady 100 plus. [...] the phenomenal response to the petition has already made a very significant point, and one which cannot easily be ignored, even if the site remains down right up to the 28/10/10. [...] I believe in sporting circles that could be described as something of 'a result'. (...)

Let's do what we can to keep the word out there for a few more days, encourage e-mail submissions unless/until the petition is restored. And then come Thursday it'll be time to move on to the next things as we wait and see. Any evil plot that may lurk here has already failed (unless it's very clever and will unfurl itself in our midst later on...).

[How to sign by SMS is explained here and how to sign by e-mail here.]


  1. According to 'The Lockerbie Divide': "Conspiracy theories naturally arise among many commentators, naturally I think given the duplicitous handling of this [Megrahi] case from the beginning."

    According to 'Wikipedia': "A conspiracy theory is a term that originally was a neutral descriptor for any claim of civil, criminal, or political conspiracy. However, it has become largely pejorative and used almost exclusively to refer to any fringe theory which explains a historical or current event as the result of a secret plot."

    According to 'Justice for Megrahi': Its main objective is to campaign to have the 'Lockerbie bomber' Mr al-Megrahi’s conviction quashed.

    Therefore, by definition, all JfM supporters and all signatories of the JfM e-petition must be 'conspiracy theorists'.

    Quod Erat Demonstrandum?


  2. I take the neutrl definition of the term and call myself a conspiracy theorist. So it wasn't meant as an insult.

    On JFM being CTists by default, I don't think necessarily. We're after a wrongful conviction achieved however - by accident, willful intent, full-frame-up, or some murky middle between these options. I think it's silly to explain such a thing without any conscious conspiracy in there somewhere, and personally I take a very conspiratorial view of the investigation and something akin to it with the trial and conviction.

    The petition .. maybe. Luckily we've achieved the goals we have even despite this and I don't feel I need to dig in and and decide and fight and so on.

  3. The problem is it's what the meaning is now. But language is always evolving. Although the word has negative connotations at the moment and is used by the Establishment and their lackeys to demean, I've noticed a change.

    In many cases conspiracy theorists have far more factual evidence to support their stance than their decriers. What they don't have though is access to the law courts etc to test their arguments, or if they do have access, judges tow the line of the Establishment as does the media.

    I think people who doubted the existence of WMD in Iraq were initially derided.

    Also there's another factor that comes into play here and that is first hand experience of corruption in the justice system and the kind of illegal activities government agencies get up to. So surely logic can form a basis for a strong argument.

  4. Newsnight Scotland didn't mention that the e-petition is presently unavailable :( on tonight's piece.

  5. How did that start? I came in after the first couple of minutes. What is Ian Hamilton calling for?

  6. He's calling for papers relating to the Lord's comments (made after the conviction) to be made public - I think the piece said. Looks like they thought it was an unsafe verdict too - despite being the one's that made the decision.

  7. What, the actual trial judges thought they themselves had made an unsafe decision? In spite of all that "no reasonable doubt" stuff?

    I remember Prof. Black saying the judges were split, with one wanting two convictions and one wanting two acquittals, and it was all a compromise because a split decision wouldn't have done under the circumstances. I don't remember the details though.

    I also remember him saying the appeal judges wanted to order a retrial, but were told they couldn't. Their comments during the appeal hearing are so at odds with their eventual judgement it makes you think they were in a parallel universe.

    Maybe Prof Black will repeat as much of the gossip as is allowed in the public domain?

  8. That's what it sounded like to me. Did they make comments prior to his first appeal, that are normally confidential?

  9. It should appear on iPlayer later, and we can listen carefully to what was inferred by Ian Hamilton. It did sound like new stuff.

  10. I got a nice email from the web master at the Scottish Parliament today - to an email I sent him on Saturday. Apologising, he also says that BIT and BT are still working on the issue, and the Public Committee’s clerk is in contact with them, but he is unsure right now what the specific problem is, other than it is an external issue.

  11. Maybe they're just guarding their arses

  12. iPlayer has last night's Newsnight Scotland uploaded now. It seems clear, as I said last night after viewing the programme, that the original trial judges may have 'commented' that the verdict be quashed (although this is not made clear which sets of judges made the comments, trial or first appeal - however Steven Raeburn seems to confirm it is the trial judges who made the comments). Looks like these comments were made in confidence to the first appeal judges and Ian Hamilton wants them made available to support the calls for an inquiry.

  13. As I understand it, having now watched the Newsnight Scotland segment, Ian Hamilton is calling for the trial judges' report to the Criminal Appeal Court in the second (abandoned) appeal to be released. It was being tentatively suggested that material that has emerged since the trial might have led the trial judges (or some of them) to doubt the safety of the conviction.

    There was also an oblique reference to the rumour current within Scottish legal circles that one of the Zeist judges had wanted to acquit both accused, but compromised with the other two and agreed to convict one of them (Megrahi) so that the court's verdict would be unanimous.

    It should be noted that the Scottish (especially Edinburgh) legal profession is a hotbed of rumour and speculation, some of it pretty wild.

  14. ...Scottish (especially Edinburgh) legal profession is a hotbed of rumour and speculation...
    I'll bet you know lots of good stuff. Is the rumour true, for example, that Tommy Sheridan will be invited to 'take silk' and become a QC, after his performance in the current perjury trial at the High Court in Glasgow?

  15. Rather interesting side-discussion here. I won't be watching the show, but these documents are news to me and something I'd like t hear more about.

    Ruth: Thanks for the thoughts. To be honest I intended a little ambiguity and gentle ribbing in the use of "conspiracy theory." But mostly I do admire the tendency, when it's well honed anyway.

    I've found the JREF experience informative vis-a-vis the Megrahi case. Rolfe can attest - a forum usually dedicated to rationalism and "debunking conspiracy theories" has utterly failed to shut us down. Drive-by "duh-dunkings," bland statements of opinion that we must be wrong somehow, that it's not worth talking about - and not even very many of even those. An easy majority of casual commentators supports the weakness of the case and/or the obviousness of a frame-up.

    The latest thread has been the first one about Megrahi that directly confronts this issue of his guilt to be allowed outside the "conspiracy theories" section. People can say that doesn't prove anything, but for those of us who were there, it really is reflective of where things will go so long as fearless rationalism is given its fair but rigorous hearing.

    Real world, different story...

  16. I have just watched newsnight, having read all the above, and agree with RB's analysis. Isabel Fraser referred at the start to a report from the "judges in the first appeal" but that must have been a slip of the tongue. The trial judges' report to the first appeal is referred to in that judgement and clearly didn't add anything to what they had said in the trial judgement. Logically that means that Ian Hamilton QC was referring to the trial judges' report to the judges in the second appeal. That also figures if we guess that this report would have almost certainly included comments on the new matters that had come to light. Those comments could be dynamite.

  17. It even takes two additional legal minds to make a determination on what was reported by a first legal mind and commented on by a second legal mind to make it clear to the rest of us non-legal minds. Shshh! Lawyers!

  18. Caustic Logic: (I must read the latest JREF material) But, who let it out the CT section?
    The definition of conspiracy theorist debate, started by Patrick Haseldine, is a bit like arguing the meaning of the word 'gay' - my dad thinks it means happy, I think it means homosexual, and my son thinks it means lame. We are all making sense, unless we're in the company of a happy lame homosexual - and then all four of us are confused. No one likes the current label conspiracy theorist (because it is akin to being called a train spotter - a derogatory UK term) but if you are proposing that Megrahi's trial was rigged in some way or a miscarriage of justice happened because the judges were not disinterested in the outcome...then you are definitely proposing a theory about a conspiracy despite it not being as bizarre as regular CTs. (As Patrick demonstrated, and concluded in Latin)
    To verify, or falsify, the theory, is going to take some doing since the ones who conspired, or did not conspire, are apparently reluctant to become involved. Maybe, as the Cardinal suggests today, at least a review of the legal bit would give some closure. [I looked out the window from the Dallas sixth floor book depository, and couldn’t help but wonder if the JFK conspiracy will ever be resolved in my lifetime – ‘same feeling exists on this conspiracy, me thinks.]

  19. IMHO, the best book on the JFK conspiracy is Contract on America: The Mafia Murder of John F. Kennedy by my Facebook friend David E. Scheim.

    On Wikipedia, I am categorised as a conspiracy theorist because I maintain not only that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted but that Iran and apartheid South Africa actually targeted Bernt Carlsson on Pan Am Flight 103.

    To paraphrase actor and writer David Benson (another Facebook friend): "We are all conspiracy theorists now!"

  20. blogiston (and BTW good work finding out something interesting about the petition site):
    (I must read the latest JREF material) But, who let it out the CT section?
    It's good stuff. A member starts a thread wherever they like, but if a moderator disagrees, they'll move it. I think it's a different attitude that's got them deciding the issue is a relevant current issue.

    It's a reasonable forum, so I figured that was inevitable. But for good measure, we are limiting talk of deliberate frame ups and CTs of what did happen, and just focusing on how silly it is for people to believe the evidence supports the verdict. The only taker at the moment agrees it doesn't, but presumes there is other secret evidence that proves Megrahi really did do it. Boggles the mind, truly.

    Rest of post, good stuff. Sorry, if it's not about trains, I can't think of much to say... :)