Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Kamm book review saga- one year on

It is exactly one year ago today, that my review of the book 'Anti-Totalitarianism', by Oliver Kamm appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

Little did I know when I filed my copy, that writing a critical review of Kamm's book, would subject me to a year-long campaign of vilification and character assassination.

An email, written under an alias and cced to Kamm, was sent to one of my commissioning editors, repeating malicious libels which Kamm made on his blog, just one day after my review appeared. Kamm's webblog entry was written not just for the benefit of his readers, but also to newspaper editors who employ me.

Faced with what any impartial observer would agree was a malicious campaign to jeopardise my career, I had no option but to take legal action, and brought a case for defamation against Kamm in the County Court in April. But as the defendant (Kamm) did not give his consent to the case being heard there, the court dismissed the action. The only reason why I did not bring a High Court action at the time was financial: unlike Kamm, I am not the founder of a Jermyn Street-based financial services company which started with $1bn of assets.

Kamm and his supporters have continued to hound me.

My wikipedia entry has repeatedly been altered by supporters of Kamm, to give a misleading version of our dispute. They also seem obsessed to include in my entry the information that I am a 'teacher of A Level-retakes' as if that would invalidate my opinions on the Iraq war or any other issues. As it happens, I have not taught 'A Level retakes' for a few years now, but the very fact that people are prepared to spend Christmas Day altering my wikipedia entry to say that I have, demonstrates just how fanatical - and desperate- they are.

I wrote earlier in the month on how a certain ' George Courtenay' wrote a malicious email to the editor of the Australian drawing his attention to untrue and libellous allegations Kamm had made about me on my website. I sent an email to ' George Courtenay', asking if he could provide a postal address or telephone number, to prove he was who he claimed to be. I have yet to recieve a reply. In addition to "George Courtenay", there is also a mysterious personage called "Admiral Cheddar", who spent the evening of the 25th December altering not only my wikipedia entry, but also that of David Cromwell from the organisation Media Lens. In both case, the alterations included references to Oliver Kamm. A few days earlier Kamm had posted on Cromwell on his blog.

What sort of person would spend the evening of 25th December altering the wikipedia entries of Neil Clark and David Cornwell?

Kamm, through his pursuit of Noam Chomsky, has, as I think most impartial observers would agree, shown himself to be something of an obsessive. His mysterious, anonymous supporters seem to take great pride in following his example.

But despite his attempts to jeopardise my livelihood, I bear Oliver Kamm no ill will. The emotion I feel towards Kamm is not hate, but sorrow- that such an intelligent person (anyone who lists Carol Reed's wonderful 'The Third Man' as their favourite film can't be classified as stupid), would invest so much time and energy in trying to sabotage the career of a fellow journalist.

The end of a year is however, a good time to let bygones be bygones. I know Kamm and myself will never see eye-to-eye on Iraq or the Balkans, but I hope that exactly one year after our dispute began, we can finally bring this 'tawdry affair' to an end. I do not seek a grovelling apology, merely a simple posting by Kamm on his blog to say that he was wrong to make the unsubstantiated and libellous allegations against me which he did (namely that I did not read his book and that I deliberately misled my editor over one of my sources) and that he does not approve of people, using aliases, emailing my commissioning editors and repeating the untrue and libellous allegations.

The ball is firmly in Oliver Kamm's court. I very much hope that he decides to ends this dispute exactly 365 days after it started. But if, as I unfortunately suspect, he and and his supporters decide to carry on their vendetta in 2007, they should be aware that I will use any means, within the law, to defend myself and my reputation.

A very Happy and peaceful New Year to each and everyone of you.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Empire Strikes Back, (with blood of course)

Saddam Hussein, the former President of Iraq was hanged today at 3am GMT. The news comes as no surprise, as Saddam's execution was inevitable from the day he was captured, three years ago. He simply knew far too much to be allowed to live. But even more importantly from the point of view of The Empire, Saddam's death- and that of Slobodan Milosevic earlier this year, is intended as a warning. The message could not be clearer: stand in the way of our plans for global hegemony, and you till will either die at the end of a rope or from an induced heart attack in your prison cell. The message is intended for all those who obstruct the neo-conservative project, particularly, the current leadership of Iran and Syria, but also other 'troublesome' leaders who don't toe the line, such as Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Alexsander Lukashenko in Belarus.
In acting in this way, the U.S .Empire is no different to any others. Throughout history, empire builders, be they Roman, British, Spanish, Ottoman, Russian or German, have shown little mercy to those who had the temerity to stand up to them. The only surprise is that there are those who think Pax Americana is any different.

Meanwhile, on the day that their former leader was executed, here's news of a poll in Iraq which says that 90% of the country's population believe that life was better before the invasion- i.e under Saddam. No wonder they were so desperate to hang him.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006: A Vintage Year

Here are my end-of-year reflections from today's Morning Star.

For supporters of peace, socialism and democracy, 2006 will go down as a vintage year.

The most powerful empire the world has ever seen has had its deceitful and unlawful aggression against Iraq rewarded with an abject and humiliating defeat and the neo-conservative project, which envisaged the colonisation of the entire Middle East, is in ruins. In Latin America, the democratic revival has gathered further momentum, with progressive governments elected in Nicaragua and Ecuador, and Hugo Chavez recording a resounding success in the Venezuelan elections earlier this month. In continental Europe, we witnessed the fall of the corrupt pro-war administration of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy; the return to power of the staunchly anti-war President Alexsander Lukashenko in Belarus and a growing backlash against neo-liberalism in the former socialist countries in the east.

And in Britain, as Tony Benn has said in these pages, widespread and deepening dissatisfaction with the status quo means that public opinion- on a whole range of issues from re-nationalisation of the railways to a radical re-alignment of our foreign policy- is well to the left of what is nominally a Labour government. All over the world, wherever one looks, people are rejecting the socially destructive neo-liberal policies which the US and Britain- and undemocratic bodies such as the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF and the European Commission have sought to impose on unwilling populaces.

Be they commuters in Oxfordshire forming an action committee to protest about the decision of the profiteering railway company First Great Western to cut back the number of fast trains to London each morning from seven to four, or anti-government demonstrators in Hungary protesting against the austerity measures imposed by a government led by a multi-millionaire who lied to his people, the message is the same. We- the majority- are sick to death of a political and economic system which puts a ‘For Sale’ sign on every human value and which can offer us only more wars, strife and social division.

Just consider the strength of public reaction to the £8.5bn worth of bonuses recently awarded to the partners of Goldman Sachs. This letter, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph, is I believe, typical of how most ordinary people in Britain feel about the insatiable greed being shown by the ‘leaders’ of modern global capitalism:

“ Your report about the record bonuses being handed out to the suits at Goldman Sachs is a dreadful indictment of 21st century priorities in a first world country. Just what have the recipients of such obscene rewards added to the good of mankind by way of productivity? Will their efforts cure one sick person, teach one child something useful, prevent a single serious crime, put out a fire, deal with an accident or protect members of the public from terrorists? What example is this to ordinary folk who for so much less reward make real contributions to humanity? How many of these City workers will be doubly rewarded in the New Years Honours List for their 'contributions to the financial sector?’ Such excesses have often been the preludes to revolution. Perhaps it could happen again. It might be no bad thing”.

When readers of Britain’s most conservative, and pro-establishment newspaper are saying that revolution ‘might be no bad thing’ we know just how radicalised public opinion has become. The avaricious global capitalists who call the shots in our economic and political order know that they are in trouble. In the same way that they decided that their interests could best be served under the guise of a nominally Labour government in 1997, the money men are now keen on another cosmetic change at the top in both the U.S. and Britain. Waiting in the wings to replace the shop-soiled Bush and Blair, the war criminals whose sell-by dates have long gone, are Hilary Clinton and Gordon Brown. Both will be presented to the public as more ‘progressive’ alternatives to their predecessors. Both will talk of their concern for the poor and the need to take action on climate change. But no one should be should be fooled. Hilary Clinton is a pro-big business, pro-war hawk, who not only supported the Iraq war but played a key role in the earlier equally unlawful and deceitful US-led aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999. And anyone who hopes for better things from Gordon ‘PFI’ Brown- a man whose enthusiasm for privatisation equals the most ardent Thatcherite- is na├»ve to say the least.

What is needed is not a cosmetic change in which one set of neo-liberal puppets is replaced by another- but a comprehensive overhaul of the whole system to take political power away from the wallet- where it currently resides- and back to the ballet box. People in Britain cannot understand why neither the government nor the official opposition has any plans to take the railways back into public ownership, even though opinion polls routinely show 75% to be in favour. Millions are also perplexed to why the government continues to follow a disastrous and deeply unpopular foreign policy, and why, with the super-rich getting even richer, it does not even consider the reintroduction of a new top rate of income tax. The answer to all these questions is of course, that the New Labour Government serves not the interests of the people, but those of global capital.

The evidence of 2006 is that more and more people across the world are waking up to the reality that true democracy is unattainable under a neo-liberal economic order.

The challenge of 2007 is to continue, with renewed strength and optimism- the popular democratic offensive.

The Worst Article of the Year Award Winner

Well, he certainly left it late, but the Independent 's Adrian Hamilton has made a stunning, last-gasp effort to win this blog's inaugural 'Worst Article of the Year' Award.

Hamilton purports to be something of an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, but it's clear from his article today, in which he feebly tries to draw comparisons between Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, that he knows next to nothing about the former Yugoslavia. He refers to Milosevic as a ' dictator', conveniently overlooking the fact that Slobbo won repeated democratic election victories and governed a country in which over 20 opposition parties and a thriving, well-financed, independent media freely operated. Even Harry's Placer Adam Lebor, (who can hardly be described as being pro-Milosevic), conceded in his biography of the late Yugoslav President that it was inaccurate to call Slobbo a 'dictator'.

Hamilton also claims that Milosevic ruled by fear and 'the word of the informant' and in addition to being 'responsible' for war on his neighbours, oppressed his own people. Once again, absolutely none of this is true. Milosevic governed constitutionally, within the rule of law and oppressed no one, least of all the many ethnic groups who lived in the rump Yugoslavia.

Finally, Hamilton makes the charge that Milosevic cheated justice at the Hague, by passing away from natural causes. It's a charge that no impartial observer who followed proceedings at the Hague could possibly make. Milosevic's death was hugely convenient for the prosecution, who after four years had failed to produce any compelling evidence linking him to the crimes he was charged with. You don't have to take my word for this, just read the trial transcripts and make your own mind up.

Hamilton also makes a snide comment about Milosevic's lack of popularity. Well, Adrian, if as many people turn up to your funeral as turned up for Slobbo's on a freezing cold day in March, all I can say is that you'll be very lucky, old bean.

To find so many inaccuracies in an article in the Independent is not too surprising (just think of the usual tripe served up by Johann Hari). But Hamilton is not just any old Independent journalist- he is also the comment editor of the paper. For a person in such a position to be so ill-informed about a period of recent European history is truly shocking. Hamilton can be contacted at, in case any readers should like to ask him where he obtained the factual information for his article.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gazprom only cares about profits

One of the most regular charges levelled against Vladimir Putin is that under his leadership, Russia is using gas as a political weapon. Last year's spat between Gazprom, the Russian state gas company, and the new, pro-western government in Ukraine over increased prices, was put forward as evidence to back up the thesis. But I wonder what those who make the claim say now that Gazprom is involved in another pricing dispute, this time with the government of Belarus, hitherto a loyal friend of Moscow. Gazprom has threated to turn off the gas to Belarus unless the government there signs up to a deal which would involve Belarus surrendering 50% of the ownership of its pipelines.
If Russia really was pursuing its strategic interests via gas supplies, it would not be seeking to alienate its strongest ally in Europe. The truth of the matter is that Gazprom is not pursuing long-term Russian strategic interests, but is interested in only one thing: making as much money as it possibly can. It's ironic, that this giant state-owned company is criticised in the west for acting exactly like a privatised, western utility company would.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The neo-con/radical Islam alliance

One of the biggest deceits about the neo-conservative movement is that it is implacably hostile to militant Islam. Neo-conservatives championed the radical Islamic cause in Afghanistan in the 70s and 80s, in the Balkans in the 90s and continue to champion it in Chechnya today.

What the neo-con empire builders hate most of all is not radical Islamists, but secularists, socialists, and those who believe in progressive, uniting ideologies such as pan-Arabism, pan-Slavism or Bolivarianism. Further proof of this can be seen in the neo-conservatives' obsession, throughout the 1990s, with toppling the secular, Ba'athist regime in Iraq.

If the Richard Perles and Paul Wolfowitzes of this world had been genuinely concerned with stopping the spread of militant Islam after 9-11, the last country in the Middle East they would have attacked was Ba'athist Iraq, whose government had no links with al'Qaida. The correct policy in 2002, as I argued in the Spectator at the time, was not to attack Iraq, but instead to initiate a new policy of engagement:

By restoring diplomatic links with Baghdad, Britain would be acknowledging at long last the key role that Ba'athist governments have to play in Middle East security as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism. Like it or not, the most likely alternative to the secular regimes of Assad in Syria and Saddam in Iraq would be militant Islamic ones. For all its lack of 'Western freedoms', Iraq has had for the last 20 years a practising Christian as its deputy prime minister. In no other Islamic country in the region has a non-- Muslim risen to such prominence. If Lady Thatcher sincerely believes militant Islam to be the 'new Bolshevism', then she has chosen a rather strange target in Iraq.

Iraq was indeed a 'a rather strange target' if containing the spread of radical Islam was the aim. But of course it never was. For the Iraqi people, the last three years have been a nightmare. For Christians in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, the situation, as the Archbishop of Canterbury highlighted yesterday, is particularly bleak. In the place of one stable, secular state in which Christians were accorded protection and freedom of conscience, Iraq has been transformed into an inferno of religious and ethnic hatred. And the lives of millions of ordinary people around the world have been put in increased danger- as the bomb attacks on Madrid, Casablanca, Bali and London testify.

Friday, December 22, 2006

What the neo-cons are planning this Christmas

Christmas. A time of peace and goodwill to all men. But not if you're a neo-con. Having already caused untold human misery by their deceitful and illegal assault on Iraq, the warmongers are, it seems, planning further unlawful aggression, this time against the people of Iran.

In 1999, it was the turn of Yugoslavia. In 2001, Afghanistan. Two years later Iraq. And now Iran. Each time, the leaders of the countries concerned were portrayed by means of ferocious propaganda as the biggest threats to world peace since Adolf Hitler. But we know now that it was not Slobodan Milosevic, Mullah Omar or Saddam Hussein who posed the biggest problem, but the serial war-mongers who threatened them.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas. But for neo-conservatives and their war-mongering 'liberal' allies, I can only wish unto you the misery and fear you have brought to millions of innocent people.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

When Christmas still sparkled

Families may not have had satellite television, computer games or DVD players- but was Christmas actually more fun in 1956 than it is today? Here's my piece on how we celebrated Christmas fifty years ago, from today's Daily Mail.

British troops forced to withdraw after a disastrous military intervention in the Middle East. Cabinet colleagues manoeuvring to replace a tarnished, lame duck Prime Minister. A large influx of migrants from Eastern Europe. In football, Manchester United blazing a trail at the top of the league, with Charlton struggling at the bottom. David Attenborough appearing on our television screens.

At first sight, things don’t seem to have changed much since the Christmas of 1956. But despite the familiar headlines, don’t be fooled. Britain was a very different country fifty years ago, as is reflected in the personal memories of those who can remember what life was like back then.

For a start, the ‘Christmas break’ for most people in the 1950s meant just two days holiday: the 25th and 26th December, and a return to the office or factory the day after. In 1956 however, the fact that Christmas Day fell on a Tuesday, meant that many workplaces closed down the preceding Friday, giving workers the rare luxury of a five day break. Newspapers recorded an “exceptionally heavy rush at main line railway stations” on the Friday and Saturday evenings- with 75,000 passengers leaving Euston alone to spend Christmas with their families and relations. For the vast majority of Britons going abroad was not an option. It wasn’t just a lack of time and the stronger family ties which existed, but the fact that in those pre-package holiday, budget airline days, foreign travel was still a luxury. Just 17,000 people travelled to the Continent on Southern Region boat-train routes on the four days up to Christmas Eve 1956; compare that with the estimated 2.3m people expected to leave Britain this Christmas.

Travellers in 1956 not only had to contend with the heavy snowfalls which swept across the country, but with petrol rationing, which had been reintroduced on 17th December, as a consequence of the Suez conflict. Under the scheme announced by the government, normal car users were allowed 200 miles a month in petrol, with businesses an extra 100 miles. Other special groups such as doctors and midwives were exempt all together. The introduction of rationing led to a sharp rise in the price of petrol, to six shillings a gallon, which taking account of average wages, would be the equivalent of paying £4.50 today. But while rationing was an inconvenience, its impact in 1956 was nothing to what it would be like now. Fifty years ago, less than one in five Britons owned a car: the majority of people still relied on public transport. Indeed, petrol rationing provided rich comic material for the leading comedians of the day, including Tony Hancock, whose weekly radio show ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ was un-missable fare for millions.

In “The Stolen Petrol”, Sid James and his friends decide to start siphoning off fuel from cars and lorries and set the unsuspecting Hancock up as a garage proprietor selling stolen petrol. All goes well until one of Sid’s gang hijacks a beer tanker by mistake, with hilarious consequences. For South Wales housewives in Christmas 1956, the main concern wasn’t the lack of petrol, but lack of turkeys. Record demand meant that those who had failed to put in an advance order with their local butchers went home disappointed and had to make do with chicken instead. “We’ve never known a year like it” remarked one Swansea butcher.

Fifty years ago, only 8% of households in Britain owned a refrigerator, meaning that shopping for food had to be done as close to the big day as possible. The Christmas turkey was usually kept on a cold marble slab in the larder, with milk bottles kept in a bucket of water. “Before fridges, the big worry was that it would be a mild Christmas” remembers Joan Galeney. “Fortunately in 1956 it wasn’t, so the turkey stayed nice and cold.” Joan also remembers the bread queues which-like the queues for turkeys- were a traditional part of Christmas Eve shopping. “You had to get out very early to make sure you got everything you needed. There were no supermarkets and it involved going to a lot of different shops”. There was some good news for shoppers in 1956: the BBC reported that flowers, fruit and vegetables were all cheaper than a year earlier.

The Arctic weather, as well as causing disruption to travel, hit the Christmas sporting programme of hard, with many football matches and horse-race meetings abandoned. In the 1950s, football league fixtures were played on Christmas Day- with return matches held a day later: imagine the outcry from players and managers if such a programme were reintroduced today! Whether it was from tiredness, or a excess of Christmas pudding, there were some remarkable scores. Fulham beat Blackburn 7-2 at home on Boxing Day, having lost 2-0 a day earlier. And an even more dramatic turnaround occurred in the west country, where Bristol Rovers avenged a 7-2 defeat at the hands of Bury on Christmas Day with a 6-0 home win 24 hours later. The biggest crowd was at Old Trafford, where 28,600 saw league leaders Manchester United defeat Cardiff 3-1. United’s “Busby Babes” earned rave reviews for their skilful, attacking football. Who could have known, when reading the news on Christmas Eve of a fateful crash at Munich airport which killed 26 people, that just over a year later, the best team in English football would meet a similar fate?

While the weather played havoc with sport the heavy snowfalls provided a great opportunity for some outdoor fun for children. Peter Wilby, a writer, remembers going tobogganing on the hill near a local pub and getting into “fearful trouble” when he arrived home for being one hour late for Christmas lunch. Seventy-three year old C.P Bryant from East Sheen took part in an even cooler activity that day: swimming in the Serpentine. Bryant, who had competed in the annual 100 yards ‘Christmas morning handicap’ every year since 1902, was given a 17 seconds start by his rivals and duly came home the winner. He certainly didn’t lack for fitness, for in addition to his swim he cycled six miles from his home to Hyde Park and then pedalled back there afterwards.

For most people however, Christmas morning in the 1950s meant only one thing; going to church. Although regular church attendance had already dropped to below 10% by the early 1950s, attending a Christmas service was still de rigeur for most families. “90% of our village would go” recalls art dealer Sir Rupert Mackeson, who was brought up in rural Kent. “Everyone would dress up in their smartest clothes, with the ladies all wearing hats. Even if they owned a car, families would always walk together to church”. Afterwards, it was a walk back home for Christmas dinner and another festive tradition: listening to the Royal Christmas message.

A year earlier, the Queen’s Christmas broadcast had been televised (in sound only) for the very first time. In 1956, The Queen’s address, recorded live from her study at Sandringham, was preceded by a message from The Duke of Edinburgh, broadcast from the Royal Yacht Britannia in the South Pacific. The Queen used her address to appeal on behalf of the 22,000 refugees from the Hungarian uprising who were spending their first Christmas in Britain.

Television, which plays such a big part in Christmases today, was still in its infancy in 1956. ITV had only started broadcasting a year earlier and there was only one BBC channel. It’s fascinating to peruse the listings. On the BBC on Christmas Day 1956, The Queen’s Message was followed by a recording of the ‘Variety Theatre of China’, ‘Grand Circus from Paris’ and ‘Puss in Boots’, narrated by Johnny Morris. After an episode of The Lone Ranger, came Max Wall in “The Ice Crackers” and Act 2 of The Marriage of Figaro from Germany. Then at 7.45pm, the main event. Fifty years ago, it was not soap operas, ‘reality television’ or Hollywood blockbusters which received top billing, but variety shows which could be enjoyed by all the family. “Pantomania”, written by Eric Sykes and broadcast live from the Prince of Wales Theatre, was described as a ‘fusion between a music hall and a Christmas Party’. It was fronted by the band leader Billy ‘Wakey Wakey’ Cotton and featured as its star attraction the ventriloquist Peter Brough and his puppet ‘Archie Andrews’, a phenomenally popular act in Fifties Britain. Other names on the bill included comedians Frankie Howerd, Spike Milligan, Hattie Jacques and Eric Sykes, newsreader Sylvia Peters, harmonica player Ronald Chesney, the Marquis family of comical chimpanzees and a youthful David Attenborough and Les Rayner & Betty, whose acrobatics in the opinion of one critic “deserved a more generous position and showing.”

For the millions without a television in 1956, there was no shortage of other entertainment on Christmas Day, home-made or otherwise. “A feature of Christmases in the mid 1950s was that a group of children would tour the neighbourhood on Xmas day and came into our house, with others singing Christmas carols.” Peter Wilby recalls. Family games, in particular charades, were also very popular, as was playing cards or board games such as Monopoly and Scrabble, which was first launched in Britain in 1953. “Christmases back then were much more of a family event” remembers Joan Galeney. “We all played together and everyone would join in.” Going to the pantomime was an integral part of the festive fun. Stars appearing in panto in London in 1956 included Arthur Askey in Humpty Dumpty at the Golders Green Hippodrome, Janette Scott in Peter Pan at The Scala and Shirley Eaton in Cinderella at the Chiswick Empire. The Wonderful Lamp at the London Palladium, starring Norman Wisdom as Aladdin, was billed as the year‘s ‘top festive entertainment’ but the critics weren‘t overly impressed. “This is the most charmingly spectacular pantomime that London has seen in some years” wrote one. “It pays the price in a sad deficiency in humour.” Perhaps Buckingham Palace had had advance warning, for the Queen took Prince Charles (then aged 8) and Princess Anne (aged 6) not to the Palladium, but to The Palace Theatre to see Dick Whittington.

Christmas presents fifty years ago were also very different to what people will be buying and receiving today. In 1956, records were very much in vogue, whether long playing versions of film soundtracks like The King and I, the year’s most popular film, or smaller 45s, which were becoming increasingly popular with the introduction of the weekly pop charts a year earlier. Number One at Christmas 1956 was ‘Just Singing in the Rain’ by the American singer Johnny Ray, though competing versions of ‘Singing the Blues’ by Guy Mitchell and the ‘British Elvis’, the young, up and coming Bermondsey-born rock n’roll star Tommy Steele, were also doing a brisk trade.

Looking back at Christmas 1956, it is clear that Britain stood on the cusp of its transformation to a modern consumer society. Despite the temporary imposition of petrol rationing, the age of post-war austerity was at an end and a new age of affluence had begun. Over the next half-century people’s were transformed by steadily rising living standards and new technological innovations. Families may not have had satellite television, computer games or DVD players- but was Christmas really any less fun than it is today?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Henry Ford 'democrats' strike again

I have long argued that when neo-conservatives talk of 'democracy', what they really mean is Henry Ford democracy- ie the right of a country to elect whatever government it likes so long as it's one that
Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz et al approve of. If the people do have the temerity to vote the 'wrong way', then the neo-con response is simple. Either call the country 'undemocratic"- like they do Belarus, or did to Yugoslavia in the 1990s, or else put enormous pressure on the country in question to hold 'fresh elections', so the result they didn't like can be reversed. The latter is what's happened this week in Palestine, as the U.S. backed Mahmoud Abbas has called new elections, even though, as President he has no constitutional right to do so. What's at issue here is not whether on not one supports the policies of Hamas, the elected governing party in Palestine, but whether we accept the right of the people in Palestine to elect a Hamas government. True democrats, and I count myself among their number, do. False democrats- ie neo cons, clearly do not.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

America's finest detective returns!

Great news for UK based fans of classic television detective series. Every day this week, starting at 12.10pm tomorrow (Monday), BBC2 is showing episodes of the 1975 NBC series "Ellery Queen" starring Jim Hutton and David Wayne.
"Ellery Queen" had it all: great acting, terrific scripts and fast-moving, exciting plots. For lovers of good old- fashioned 'fair play' mysteries it doesn't get any better. Tomorrow's episode "The Adventure of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party" is an absolute gem. A little knowledge of the works of Lewis Carroll may help the viewer solve the mystery- but I'll give you no more clues! Don't miss it, whatever you do!

The Power of Nightmares

Remember August's great liquid bombing plot?
Seems like it could have been as real a threat as Iraqi WMD.......

Friday, December 15, 2006

How we know the war lobby lied

As Tony Benn once said, never be ahead of your time and never be proved right- for your enemies will never forgive you. I have long argued that the American and British governments knew full well that Saddam's Iraq posed no threat and was not in possession of WMD. Here's a link to a piece of mine from the Australian in February 2004. Even as late as then, to accuse the British and American governments of deliberately deceiving the public was a controversial position to take. The standard official line- parroted by the likes of Melanie Phillips and a whole host of other pro-war commentators, was that although no WMD had been found in Iraq, Bush and Blair had still acted in a sincere belief that Iraq did possess such weapons.
The line I took was unequivocal: Bush, Blair and Howard lied. As did Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Jack Straw, Dick Cheney, Geoff Hoon and everyone else who planned the illegal invasion.
From today's Independent here's news of the real conspiracy, the diplomat's report suppressed by the government that exposes the truth about the case for war in Iraq. To many the disclosures will come as a shock. But not to those who read the comment pages of The Australian on 5th February 2004.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A World Exclusive!

Nine years after the tragic event, The First Post has revealed the astonishing, awful truth about the death of Princess Di.

A most disturbing thought.......

I almost choked on my Coco-Pops reading this headline in the print version of Daily Telegraph this morning:

'There's a secret Pollard in all of us'
by Liz Hunt

"Can anyone be Pollarded? Do we all have a Pollard gene? "

Then I discovered she wasn't talking about him, but a character from Little Britain. Phew!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Crackers or Turkeys?

Once Christmas Day TV meant opera, circuses and variety shows. Now, its soap operas, blockbuster films and spin-offs. So are we better off?
Here's my piece from today's Daily Express.

Christmas Turkey, described as ‘a demonstration of turkey carving by B.J. Hulbert’ doesn’t sound like the sort of programme for which you would rush to set your video. But the 15-minute programme, broadcast just after 3pm on 25th December, 1936 holds a unique place in the annals of television history, as it was the first television programme ever broadcast on Christmas Day, not just in Britain, but anywhere in the world. In those pioneering days, television had a tiny audience of only 400 households in the London area. On that first television Christmas, the BBC was off the air from 4pm to 9pm, before it returned with carol-singing and
A Seasonal Tour through the Empire. Closedown was at 10pm.

The Christmas television schedules of the 70 years since B.J. Hulbert first carved his turkey, provides us with a fascinating insight into how much society has changed. The mainstay of Christmas night TV in the Fifties- and, indeed, right up until the early 1970s, was variety shows. Television’s Christmas Party featured stars such as Terry-Thomas, Norman Wisdom and Max Bygraves.
In 1958, it was renamed Christmas Night with the Stars and continued its run with comperes such as David Nixon and Eamonn Andrews.

Billy Smart’s Circus made its first appearance on the BBC on Christmas Day 1957 and, for the next twenty years, made the slot following the Queen’s Speech its own, with audiences- unthinkable today- of up to 22 million people. A year later, the BBC began showing a film after the main variety show. Nowadays, we are accustomed to seeing a modern Hollywood blockbuster with such gems as Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, a film made over twenty years earlier. It wasn’t until 1978, when the BBC broadcast The Sound of Music, previously unseen on our TV screens that the competition between BBC and ITV as to whose film could gain the highest Christmas Day ratings began.

By 1960, over 10m Britons owned a TV and programming expanded accordingly. The BBC pantomime began and The Black and White Minstrel Show ran until 1973. Then came the comedy pairing who would dominate festive viewing for the next decade: Morecambe and Wise. Eric and Ernie’s 1971 special, starring Shirley Bassey, Glenda Jackson and Andre Previn, remains a classic: who can forget Previn complaining that Eric is playing all the wrong notes of Grieg‘s Piano Concerto? Eric, holding Previn by his lapels, replies: "I am playing all the right notes... but not necessarily in the right order."

The Morecambe and Wise shows represented the zenith of the shared television experience with more than 28m people tuning in to watch their 1977 special. Andrew Collins, TV critic and author of bestseller Where Did It All Go Right? About his Seventies childhood, says: “Schedulers are still aware that families need something to unite over at Christmas, but I doubt they get excited about gathering to watch the latest Harry Potter film in the way I used to about watching the Mike Yarwood Specials - everyone on the planet has already seen the film on satellite TV or DVD.”

Soap operas and special Christmas editions of sitcoms began to dominate in the Eighties and in 1986, the first Christmas Day episode of East Enders was watched by 30m. Only Fools and Horses made its Christmas debut in 1983 and Del Boy and Rodney went on to become festive regulars from 1991 to 2003. Its creator John Sullivan says: “There was a time when the schedules were packed with family-friendly shows. Perhaps, now that the average family owns more than one computer to keep the kids entertained, there is less of a need to cater for us all at once.”

The birth of Sky and the dawn of the multi-channel age, has transformed our viewing.
The schedules of decades past paint a picture of a society that was not only more homogenised, but also gentler. The humour of Ken Dodd, Harry Worth and Tommy Cooper was devoid of cruelty, something we can’t say about contemporary series such as Little Britain and The Catherine Tate Show. Swearing and obscenity was strictly off limits and up to the mid 1970s, it’s hard to find a single show that wouldn’t have been suitable for all the family. Now they all feel like the ghost of Christmas past.

How to solve Britain's drug problem

" We cannot take 6,000 drugs dealers out on to a piece of waste ground and shoot them in the back of the head", opines Simon Heffer, in today's Daily Telegraph.
Maybe not. But we could put them on trial, and if found guilty, send them off to the gallows. If we are serious about eliminating the evil of drugs from the land, nothing else will do.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Nice 'work' if you can get it

Nice to know there's a few people who won't be worried about the higher fuel bills this winter.....
Perhaps now they might be able to pay their cleaners.

Wanted: A Nineteen Forties Party

I wrote last year of the need for a 'Nineteen Forties Party' which would endeavour to turn the clock back to the gentler times before Woy Jenkins and Baroness Thatcher had wreaked their social havoc. A time when there was genuine solidarity in Britain and words such as 'glassing' and 'mugging' and 'gang-rape' had yet to enter our vocabulary. We've got more than enough 'modernisers' in politics today, be they of the Notting Hill or Millbank variety- what we really want are 'anti-modernisers', who will reintroduce capital and corporal punishment, renationalise the railways and other public utilities and ban the sale of violent computer games and misanthrophic rap music. And most importantly of all, keep 'market forces' out of areas of our lives in which they have no business to be.
It seems that Richard Morrison of The Times is of similar mind.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another murderous weekend in modern Britain

Another weekend in Britain, and more grisly murders. Five prostitutes killed in Ipswich, the victims of a serial killer- and a man kicked to death by yobs on his way home on Saturday night in Henley. I wonder what level of violent crime we need to endure before opponents of the death penalty finally concede that its abolition in 1965 was a terrible mistake? And before those so-called 'liberals' who oppose a ban of violent videos, rap music and computer games- concede that they are in the wrong too.

Global capital's favourite dictator

Neo-liberals are wont to claim that a "free market", privatised economy is the best guarantor of indiviudal freedom. Perhaps the Cafe Hayek/Samizdata/Adam Smith Institute crowd could explain that to relatives of the 3,000 Chileans who were killed or 'disappeared' under the brutal, murderous rule of General Augusto Pinochet, who died yesterday aged 91.

Here's an excellent piece on Pinochet from Marisol Grandon, whose father was among those persecuted by Baroness Thatcher's great friend.
And Daniel Finkelstein of The Times has a great post on why right-wing apologists for Pinochet, like Baroness Thatcher should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"The war is over" and other neo-con clap-trap

Three years ago this weekend, Saddam Hussein was captured by US forces in Iraq. Do you remember the news headlines in the pro-war media the following day? Neo-con hacks told us that as Saddam had been "orchestrating" the insurgency, "the war is over" (The Times' columnist Tim Hames used those actual words).
Are these people ever right about anything?
Here's a piece I wrote for The Australian newspaper (published 17th December 2003), on why the triumphalism of the war-mongers was misplaced.

It didn't take long for the capture of Saddam to be hailed as a great triumph by coalition leaders and the pro-war lobby. The news we are told, will be a powerful boost for President Bush's re-election prospects, and will increase public support for the hard-line positions of both John Howard and Tony Blair. In the short-term this may well be true. But if we look beyond the next few weeks, there are strong grounds for believing that lastweekend's dramatic developments will only add to the coalition's problems.

Firstly, the unpalatable fact for those crowing most loudly over Saddam's capture, is that the worst of the crimes the former dictator is likely to becharged with, took place at a time when he was enthusiastically sponsored bythe West. If Saddam does receive an 'fair and open trial', as both President Bush and the Iraqi Governing Council have promised, it will surely reveal just how much support, both moral and material, the Iraqi dictator received from Washington and its allies during his murderous heydays of the 1980s. Details of how the U.S. encouraged Saddam to attack Iran in 1980 and start awar which would cost a million lives, and how the US Defence Envoy Donald Rumsfeld flew to Baghdad in December 1983, not only to assure Saddam of continued US support in the Iranian war, but also to tout the case of a specific American co-operation for building a new pipeline in his country. And most embarrassingly for the present government of Israel, details of howRumsfeld carried on his 1983 visit a letter from the then Israeli PM Itzak Shamir offering to sell arms to a man whose capture Israel now regards as great news 'for the democratic world and for the fight for freedom and justice'.

Gerard Henderson, claims that 'without intervention an appalling regime would still be in power'- conveniently overlooking the fact that without theassistance of the CIA, the 'appalling regime' would never have come to powerin the first place.

Secondly, it is clear that from his hidey-hole in the ground near a deserted farmhouse, the haggard-looking Methuselah we saw paraded on our television sets at the weekend was not, as was claimed on repeated occasions this year, co-ordinating the Iraqi resistance to the US-led occupation. Tim Hames, a columnist on the London Times believes that after the weekend's developments 'the war is over'. But with Saddam under lock and key, and the prospect of a return to his dictatorship gone for good, the non Ba'athist section of the Iraqi resistance is sure to become even more emboldened and we are likely to see an escalation, and not a reduction, of hostilities on coalition targets. The bombing of police stations in Baghdad after Saddam's capture is yet more evidence to back up the conclusion of a recent C.I.A. report that 'the resistance is broad, strong and getting stronger'.

Globally, of course, the main terrorist threat to the U.S. and its allies was never posed by the secularist Iraqi dictator and his government, but by the religious fanatics of al Qa'eda, whose global operations will be unaffected by Saddam's seizure. Saddam may have been a domestic tyrant, but aside from his payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, the man denounced by Osama bin Laden as a 'socialist infidel' had no connection to international terrorist networks and his violence was strictly not for export.

Thirdly, we must remind ourselves, that in spite of this week's headlines, the war against Iraq was not fought in order to capture Saddam Hussein. As late as last February, John Howard and Tony Blair were both still insisting that if Saddam 'came clean' on his WMD programme, there would be no need forwar, and that regime change although desirable, was not a casus belli. Now, it appears, that, lo and behold, the war WAS about the Iraqi leader after all.

Despite the triumphalism of the last few days, Saddam's capture in no way diminishes the arguments against war, as Gerard Henderson and others contend. On the contrary, the case against war, strong enough in March, grows more compelling with each passing day. The coalition may have Saddam (hardly a Herculean achievement considering the $25m bounty on his head) butthere is still not a scrap of credible evidence that Iraq possessed the WMDs that, in John Howard's words were 'capable of causing death and destruction on a mammoth scale'. That Saddam Hussein was a brutal and ruthless dictator is not in doubt. That he posed a threat to our security which justified an illegal, $100bn war that has killed thousands and made the world an even more dangerous place than it was before- most certainly is.

COPYRIGHT: Neil Clark/The Australian 2003

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The best Prime Minister Britain never had

Here's a wonderful podcast interview with Tony Benn, the best Prime Minister Britain never had, from the Guardian. Listen to it and then ask yourself: is there anyone else in public life with Benn's intelligence, integrity and sense of historical perspective?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Spot the Superstar

“It’s amazing. A horse of his age with the soft ground against him and he has doddled up. What do you say?

The words of trainer Enda Bolger after Spot Thedifference today landed an incredible SIXTH win over Cheltenham's Cross Country course. Out of all his wins, this was the most remarkable, because he not only had to deal with the heavy ground, which he hates, but he had to concede weight to all his rivals.
The epithet 'superstar' is much overused in sport, but there is no surely exaggeration when the term is applied to Spot Thedifference.

The Great Gas Rip-Off

Average household gas bills in Britain are up 43% on a year ago.
But the retail price of gas- i.e. what the gas companies pay for it- is down 80% from its high point in March.
Perhaps our very clever friends at the Adam Smith Institute or Samizdata could explain to us lesser, unenlightened souls how privatisation and transforming publicly owned companies into greedy, profit-obsessed plcs, has benefited the consumer?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why we all love Audrey Hepburn

Here's my appreciation, from today's First Post, of the late actress and fashion icon whose famous black Givenchy dress was sold for over £700,000 at auction yesterday.
I don't normally post pictures on this blog, but I think for Ms Hepburn we can make an exception!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Save the Green Belt: Burn this report

It's good news for multinational supermarket chains and those perverse souls who can't wait until the entire country is concreted over- but bad news for local democracy, nature and the everyday quality of life.
There's only one place for this report. On the fire.

Should the left really be on this bandwagon?

Here's a longer version of my piece on the neo-conservatives' anti-Russian strategy from the Morning Star.

From a socialist perspective there are certainly plenty of grounds for criticising the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. He’s introduced a flat-rate income tax, which greatly benefits the wealthy, and plans the partial marketisation of Russia’s education and health systems. And while some of Russia’s notorious oligarchs, who made their fortunes from fleecing public funds in the 1990s under Yeltsin have been bought to justice, others remain free to flaunt their ill-gotten gains, in a country where the gap between rich and poor is chasmic.

Even so, those on the left who have been enthusiastically joining in in the current wave of Putin-bashing sweeping the western media, ought to consider whose cause they are serving. For it is beyond doubt that the driving force behind the campaign to portray the Russian President as a sinister totalitarian despot, have been Washington’s neo-conservatives.

Even before the recent unexplained deaths of journalist Anna Politskaya and former secret service man Alexander Litvinenko, hawks in the U.S. were doing all they could to discredit the Russian government. In 2003, Bruce P.Jackson, Director of the ‘Project for a New American Century’ and a key figure in several other neo-con pressure groups, talked of the way Putin’s re-nationalisation of energy companies threatened the West’s ‘democratic objectives- and claimed Putin had established a ‘de facto Cold War administration’. Jackson’s prognosis was simple: a new ‘soft-war’ against the Kremlin, a call echoed by many other leading neo-conservatives. The neo- cons are gunning for Putin not because of concern over alleged anti-democratic practices, but because the current Russian regime stands in the way of their plans for global hegemony. Their imperialistic strategy was recorded in the infamous ‘Wolfowitz memorandum’ a secret Pentagon document, leaked to the New York Times in 1992, which targeted Russia as the biggest future threat to US geo-strategic ambitions. The memorandum, authored by the then under-secretary for defence Paul Wolfowitz, considered by many to be the architect of the Iraq war, projected a U.S.-Russian confrontation over NATO expansion.

For neo-cons the great crime of Vladimir Putin is that he has proved to be a far more assertive Russian leader than his alcoholic predecessor. Putin not only held his ground on Iraq, openly making fun of American and British claims that Iraq possessed WMD, but also opposes Washington’s aspirations for enforced ‘regime change’ in Syria and Iran. He has also supported, to Washington’s chagrin, Venezuela’s bid for a place on the UN Security council.

As part of their anti-Putin strategy, the neo-cons have shown they are prepared to make some interesting alliances. The pro-separatist ‘American Committee for Peace in Chechnya’ (ACPC), claims to be "the only private, non-governmental organization in North America exclusively dedicated to promoting the peaceful resolution of the Russo-Chechen war.’ But its list of members makes interesting reading. Hard-core neo cons Richard Perle, William Kristol, Eliot Cohen, Michael Ledeen and Bruce P Jackson, not usually associated with ’promoting the peaceful resolution’ of international conflicts, are all members. “Although ACPC notes its concern about human rights violations by Russia, the committee appears to be more concerned with advancing U.S. geopolitics in this region with respect to Russia and secondarily with China”, concludes the progressive and highly respected International Relations Center.

The neo-cons have also been willing to champion the cause of some of Russia’s most notorious oligarchs in furtherance of their anti-Putin campaign. After the arrest of the billionaire businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky for tax evasion in 2003, Richard Perle called for Russia's expulsion from the G8, its exclusion from any post-war Iraq oil contracts, and accused it of collusion with Iran's nuclear power programme. The arrest of Khodorkovsky also brought condemnation from no less a person than the US President himself. Just imagine the hiatus if President Putin had commented on the arrest of a U.S. tax dodger by the federal authorities.

In the unrelenting pro-Khodorkovsky, anti-Putin propaganda we were subjected to back in 2003, much was made of the oligarchs' role in building Russian "democracy" - as opposed to the crude attempts of Putin to shunt his country back to the days of Peter the Great. But the "democracy" that oligarchs like Khodorkovsky- and his British based counterpart Boris Berezkovsky, a business partner of George W. Bush’s brother, stand for, is the "democracy" of an elite of billionaire businessmen to buy themselves not just political power, but immunity from the laws of the land. It’s this plutocratic model of ‘democracy’- not the democracy in which decision making power rests with ordinary people, that Washington’s neo-conservatives favour.

The recent unexplained deaths of Anna Politskaya and Alexander Litvinenko, have only provided further impetus to their long-standing - and well-financed campaign- to smear the Kremlin.

In the absence of any evidence to suggest President Putin’s involvement, socialists and progressives should be wary at jumping on a bandwagon orchestrated by the very people who bought death and destruction to the streets of Baghdad and whose aim is to unleash similar unlawful aggression against the populations of Syria and Iran.

Monday, December 04, 2006

This is what democracy looks like

Hugo Chavez has been relected by a wide margin in Venezuela. Place your bets on which will be the first pro-Empire journalist/blogger to claim the vote was 'undemocratic'.

In Bed with Russophobes

Here's my article from today's Guardian. on why progressives ought to be very wary of jumping on the current anti-Putin bandwagon.

The Litvinenko murder is being used by neocons in their campaign against Putin's national revival.
Monday December 4, 2006
The Guardian

Three weeks on, we are still no closer to knowing who was responsible for the death of the former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko. The use of polonium 210 as a murder weapon could point in entirely opposite directions. It might suggest that the killing was carried out on behalf of the Russian security service as a public warning to others who might think of betraying it. But it could also be read as an attempt by President Putin's rich and powerful enemies to discredit the Russian government internationally. Whatever the truth, it has been seized upon across Europe and the US to fuel a growing anti-Russian campaign.

There are certainly grounds for criticising the Russian government from a progressive perspective. Putin has introduced a flat-rate income tax, which greatly benefits the wealthy, and plans the partial marketisation of Russia's education and health systems. He has pursued a bloody campaign of repression in Chechnya. And while some of Russia's oligarchs have been bought to justice, others remain free to flaunt their dubiously acquired wealth, in a country where the gap between rich and poor has become chasmic.
Even so, those on the centre-left who have joined the current wave of Putin-bashing ought to consider whose cause they are serving. Long before the deaths of Litvinenko and the campaigning journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Russophobes in the US and their allies in Britain were doing all they could to discredit Putin's administration. These rightwing hawks are gunning for Putin not because of concern for human rights but because an independent Russia stands in the way of their plans for global hegemony. The neoconservative grand strategy was recorded in the leaked Wolfowitz memorandum, a secret 1990s Pentagon document that targeted Russia as the biggest future threat to US geostrategic ambitions and projected a US-Russian confrontation over Nato expansion.

Even though Putin has acquiesced in the expansion of American influence in former Soviet republics, the limited steps the Russian president has taken to defend his country's interests have proved too much for Washington's empire builders. In 2003, Bruce P Jackson, the director of the Project for a New American Century, wrote that Putin's partial renationalisation of energy companies threatened the west's "democratic objectives" - and claimed Putin had established a "de facto cold war administration". Jackson's prognosis was simple: a new "soft war" against the Kremlin, a call to arms that has been enthusiastically followed in both the US and Britain.

Every measure Putin has taken has been portrayed by the Russophobes as the work of a sinister totalitarian. Gazprom's decision to start charging Ukraine the going rate for its gas last winter was presented as a threat to the future of western Europe. And while western interference in elections in Ukraine, Georgia and other ex-Soviet republics has been justified on grounds of spreading democracy, any Russian involvement in the affairs of its neighbours has been spun as an attempt to recreate the "evil empire". As part of their strategy, Washington's hawks have been busy promoting Chechen separatism in furtherance of their anti-Putin campaign, as well as championing some of Russia's most notorious oligarchs.

In the absence of genuine evidence of Russian state involvement in the killings of Litvinenko and Politkovskaya, we should be wary about jumping on a bandwagon orchestrated by the people who bought death and destruction to the streets of Baghdad, and whose aim is to neuter any counterweight to the most powerful empire ever seen.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The birth of a new racing Star

Well, what did you make of Kauto Star's performance at Sandown yesterday?

Paul Nicholls' sublimely gifted chaser is the first horse for a long time to be rated in the 170s over 2m, 2m4f and 3m. But the big question is: will he prove equally impressive over 3m2f at Cheltenham in March?
There has been no shortage of cracking horses who, while looking world beaters up to 3m, never got up the Cheltenham hill: One Man and Florida Pearl to name but two. Against that, the late Desert Orchid not only
excelled at much shorter distances, but also won a Gold Cup, and an Irish National over 3m5f!
While it's hard to see anything beating Kauto Star in the King George at Kempton later this month, I still have my doubts about him landing the Gold Cup, especially at the short-prices now on offer. How about you?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A supporter of "freedom" and "democracy" writes

Isn't it interesting that the loudest supporters of wars to spread "freedom" and "democracy" abroad are so keen on silencing any opinions which differ from their own!
Here's a letter which was sent in to The First Post.







Colonel David W Moon (USMC-R) Ceo, The Studies and Observations Group, Chattanooga, TN

Here's another supporter of "freedom" and "democracy":
It seems the irony of a columnist for a magazine called ‘Democratiya’ deleting so many comments is entirely lost on this twerp:

Two deaths. Cuo Bono?

Who killed Pierre Gemayel and Alexander Litvinenko?

While we still don't know who was responsible, one thing is already clear - that neo-conservatives have been very quick to use both tragic events to their own advantage.

For the neo-conservatives, the greatest prize of all is to capture Russia's enormous mineral wealth and turn that potentially powerful rival into a vassal state. Through their strong links with the oligarchs, they came close to achieving their aim during the Yeltsin years. But to their consternation, Vladimir Putin has reasserted Russia's national independence and refused to play ball over a series of issues. For standing up for his country's interests, he has been subject to a tirade of abuse by the well-oiled neo-conservative propaganda machine.

Another important, long-standing, goal of the neo-conservatives is regime change in Syria.
President Assad's regime in Damascus has to go, not because of its poor human rights record (Saudi Arabia's is certainly no better, Turkmenistan's and Zimbabwe's certainly far worse), or because it supports Islamic fundamentalism-( it doesn't- and an al-qa'ida plot to blow up the US Embassy in Damascus earlier this year was thwarted by the Syrian authorities), but because of Syria's championing of the Palestinian cause.

We may never find out who was behind the deaths of Pierre Gemayel and Alexander Litvienko.

But we do know who has benefited most.

UPDATE: Martin Kelly, who has done such a terrific job writing about the Litvinenko case, has found that his main blog has been wiped. Martin's latest posts can be found here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Baron and the Billionaire

Many thanks to regular reader Bob Taylor for sending in this excellent piece on the Litvinenko affair by the American journalist Chris Floyd.