Sunday, November 30, 2008

'Free market' fanatics call for Welsh water privatisation

You couldn’t make it up. You would have thought that after the disaster of railway privatisation the free market loons of The Adam Smith Institute, who came up with the whole barmy idea in the first place, would have done the honourable thing and left public life for good. But no, they’re still at it. The battiest think tank in the world wants to see the publicly-owned Glas Cymru- the company which owns Welsh Water subjected to the “disciplines of private sector ownership”. And we all know that that will mean: profits for the few, but much higher bills for householders.

In his brilliant post 'English Water, anyone', Charlie Marks writes:

Though Glas Cymru may not be perfect, it looks a damn sight better than what we have in England! We are being told that the only way to lower our bills is to have the profiteering water companies competing with each other. We have this with our gas and electricity suppliers - but do our bills come down? No, they compete with each other to squeeze as much money out of customers!

Privatisation has been a disaster. Public assets sold off at knock-down prices to the friends and sponsors of the governing party (Tories, now New Labour). Prices have been allowed to skyrocket -natural monopolies are milked for profit by colluding suppliers in gas, electricity, and railways. Rather than seeing greater private investment in our railways, more public money is invested in rail than ever before!

The likes of the Adam Smith Institute can try all they like to convince the public of the benefits of handing public resources over to big businesses. Their nonsense is only heeded by those politicians hoping to get cushy non-jobs in business after they leave office.

We need to return the privatised utilities to public ownership and democratic control, with the involvement of workers and consumers in the process of management.

Surveys of public opinion have never found a clear majority in favour of privatisation - and with the credit crunch being perceived as resulting deregulation and demutualisation, more and more people will begin to see the necessity of reversing the neoliberal era.

Privatisation of water and sewage services did not take place in Scotland or Northern Ireland. Scottish Water is owned by the Scottish government and both the incumbent nationalist party and the opposition Labour Party are committed to the company remaining in the public sector. The Scottish Tories are for privatisation, but are at pains to point out they don’t want what has happened in England! Northern Ireland Water priovides water and sewage services in the six counties; like Scottish Water it is still part of the public sector.

So, there’s Northern Ireland Water, Scottish Water, Welsh Water - how about English Water?

You can read Charlie’s article in full at the Campaign for Public Ownership’s website and at his own excellent pro-public ownership blog.

Meanwhile, I see that the Adam Smith Institute have got a new book coming out entitled 'Privatisation-Regaining the Momentum'. That's sure to be a best-seller this Christmas, isn't it?

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Weekly Fromm: To Have or To Be?

Continuing our series focusing on the work of the great German social philosopher and psychoanalyst Dr Erich Fromm, arguably the most prescient thinker of the 20th century.

Above you can watch the great man talking about the having and being modes, from a 1970s BBC interview with Robert Robinson.

It's extremely interesting, particularly when Dr Fromm turns to knowledge as a form of having- and the type of professor who knows everything but who tells us nothing.

What comes over in this interview and indeed in all his interviews is Fromm’s fundamental modesty.

He says that the points he makes are not new and have been said more powerfully and more beautifully by others.

But personally, I don’t know of a single writer who has made the case for a mode of existence based on being and not having- more powerfully- or more beautifully than Erich Fromm.


Wally of the Week: Andrew Lansley

Is there anything more nauseating than someone who is immune from the effects of the economic downturn saying how the recession might be good news?

Here's Conservative Health Spokesman Andrew Lansley (pictured above):
"On many counts, recessions can be good for us. People tend to smoke less, drink less alcohol, eat less rich food and spend more time at home with their families."

Don't you just love the 'us'?

As a superannuated member of Britain’s political elite, you can be sure the recession will not be impacting on Mr Lansley.

Meanwhile Richard Kay reports:

David Cameron is set to defy the credit crunch by going to a lavish black-tie party -only weeks after he instructed Tory chiefs not be seen drinking champagne at a reception.
Most of the Conservative high command is likely to be at multi-millionaire hedge fund tycoon Michael Hintze's 55th birthday bash later this week - but they are under orders to keep details secret.
Although his investment fund has had £200 million wiped off its value in recent weeks, Hintze, one of the Tories' most prominent backers, is understood to be determined to push the boat out.

As I've said before many times before, the big divide in Britain today is not between Labour and Conservative, but between the political elite and the rest of us.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Bonnie and Clyde of Terror: Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof (2)

Here's the second and concluding part of my article on The Baader-Meinhof gang from The Daily Express. You can read Part One here.

Above you can watch a trailer for Uli Edel's new film 'Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex', which is currently on general release.

Though the violence shocked most Germans, a 1971 opinion poll found one in five under the age of 30 expressed a “certain sympathy” for the gang’s members, while one in ten Northern Germans said they would willingly shelter Red Army Faction members for a night.

By now the authorities were desperate to break up the gang. In June 1972, German police burst into the apartment of a young Scottish businessman and shot him dead, even though no evidence could be later produced to link him to the gang. It was in the same month, however, that Baader was arrested after a lengthy shoot-out in Frankfurt along with Meinhof who was betrayed to the police by Fritz Rodewald, a teacher in whose house she had been staying.

In 1974 Meinhof was given an eight-year jail sentence. Eighteen months later, aged 41, she was found dead, hanging from a rope made from a towel in her prison cell. The official version was suicide: Meinhof was depressed after not hearing from her children on Mother’s Day. Yet her supporters maintain she was killed by the authorities. More than 4,000 people attended her funeral. A neurologist who conducted the autopsy on Meinhof noticed changes to her brain caused by an earlier operation for a brain tumour-leading to claims that her transformation from aspiring writer to terrorist may have been caused by a mental illness.

Gang members, trying to force the authorities to release Andreas Baader from jail kidnapped German industrialist Hanns-Martin Scheyler, a former SS officer. At the same time in October 1977, a Palestinian group with links to Baader-Meinhof hijacked a Lufthansa plane and its 91 passengers, demanding the release of Baader- and 10 other gang members. After a six-day siege, German special forces boarded the plane and killed the hijackers.

Seeing his chance of freedom gone, Baader, now 34, and two associates took part in a suicide pact. Again, that is the official version: surviving gang member Irmgard Moller claimed that, like Meinhof, Baader and his colleagues were victims of ‘extra-judicial killings‘.

Even with two of its key members dead, the Red Army Faction was still far from finished. The gang reacted to the death of their founder, by murdering their hostage on the same day. "After 43 days, we have ended Hanns-Martin Schleyer's miserable and corrupt existence. The fight has only just begun.” a letter from the gang to a French newspaper announced.

Over the next thirteen years, the Red Army Faction continued their campaign of violence- targeting businessmen, bankers, US military figures and politicians.
Then in April 1998, after five years without carrying out any operations, the gang officially announced their dissolution. In an official letter the group announced:

"Almost 28 years ago, on 14 May 1970, the RAF arose in a campaign of liberation. Today we end this project. The urban guerrilla in the shape of the RAF is now history."

A decade later though, with the release of the new film, Germany’s most notorious- and controversial terror group- and its two charismatic founders- is once again in the limelight.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

If we really had a 'Socialist' government in Britain.....

It's been quite hilarious reading the completely OTT response of various media commentators to the incredibly timid economic measures announced by the British government yesterday.

The government said that they would raise the top rate of income tax to 45% on income over £150,000 in 2010- hardly a revolutionary measure considering that most other countries in Europe have a top rate of tax for high earners (often cutting in at a much lower rate than the one proposed by Alistair Darling) but apparently it means that 'socialism' has returned to Britain and we are back to the 1970s.

If only!

If we really did have a Socialist government in Britain here's some of the things they'd be doing:

* Renationalising public transport, the energy companies, utilities and Britain's infrastructure.

*Reintroducing a staunchly progressive income tax system.

* Abolishing VAT on fuel altogether.

* Abolishing prescription charges in England.

* Reintroducing free dental care on the NHS.

* Pulling Britain out of the EU, NATO, and the World Trade Organisation.

* Pulling British troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan (funny isn't it, that despite the billions of pounds of public money this would save, the opposition Conservatives, who are calling for government cuts, never even mention this particular economy?)

* Introducing free personal care for the elderly.

* Re-establishing the link between pensions and average earnings, not in 2012 as the government has promised, but now.

* Establishing the very important principle that not a penny of taxpayers money should be given to a private company without the taxpayer acquiring equity in that company.

* Making all 'short-selling' illegal- not just of bank shares.

* Closing the loopholes which mean that billionaires whose money is largely made in Britain, pay little, or no tax whatsoever.

When we do get a government doing all or most of those things, then I think we can accurately call it 'socialist'. In the meantime we can only smile at the attempts to portray Gordon Brown (above) as the George Lansbury of the 21st century.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dutch advance socialist case against large-scale immigration

This article of mine appears in The First Post

Anyone who argues that, as a political force, socialism is dead, ought to visit the Netherlands. The Socialist Party of the Netherlands (SP) is the fastest growing political group in the country.

They won 25 seats in the last general election - an increase of 16 seats - and made huge gains in last year's local elections. They are now the third largest party in Holland in terms of members and could well replace the Dutch Labour Party as the main alternative to the Christian Democrats.

Why are they so successful? I would suggest that it is because they are a socialist party that actually has socialist policies. They oppose the privatisation of public services, advocate higher taxes on the very wealthy and have condemned the "the culture of greed" caused by "a capitalism based on inflated bonuses and easy money". They oppose war and Nato and the nascent European superstate. They were the only left-wing Dutch party in Parliament to oppose the new EU Constitution in the 2005 referendum.

Of course the fact that they have one of the most charismatic - and photogenic - of all of European political leaders in the 41-year-old epidemiologist Agnes Kant (pictured above) does them no harm.

Part of its popularity with the voters lies in one particular policy which differentiates it from British or other European parties of the left: they oppose large scale immigration. The SP see the 'free movement of labour' as part of the neoliberal globalist package - something which benefits big business but not ordinary people. Their opposition to immigration is not based on racism - as tends to be the case with the BNP and other far-right parties in Europe - but on their socialist ideology.

A recent publication by the SP asserted that labour migration in the EU was making "more acute the contrasts between rich and poor and competition between different groups of workers within the EU". Instead of lauding the free movement of labour as other parties on the left do, the SP calls for policies "to make migration unnecessary" and for the EU funds to be used to enable poorer regions of the continent to be self-supporting.

The SP's opposition to large-scale immigration is not a recent development. In the 1980s, the party's booklet Gastarbeid en Kapitaal (Migrant Labour and Capital), denounced the migration of foreign workers into the Netherlands as a capitalist ploy to drive down wages and destroy working class solidarity.

This is a far cry from the traditional position of the British left - which despite overwhelming evidence that large-scale immigration does reduce wages - still clings to an the ideology of open borders. In doing so, they are not only complying with the wishes of big business, who for obvious reasons welcome the influx of large numbers of people from low-wage economies onto their labour market; they are also espousing a policy which is unpopular with large swathes of the electorate and which is likely to become even more unpopular as unemployment grows.

The success of the Socialist Party of the Netherlands shows that there are lots of votes to be won by an unequivocally left-wing party which has the courage and sense to oppose large-scale immigration on non-racist, anti-capitalist grounds.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Barack Obama's Great Betrayal of his Anti-war supporters?

Barack Obama's signature issue in the primaries was his "good judgment" to oppose the Iraq war. He invoked this more than any other qualification in his early battles with Hillary Clinton. She may have experience, he'd charge, but she lacked the wisdom to oppose the war. Indeed, the whole Democratic establishment was somehow corrupt or out of touch for not opposing the war, according to the Obamaphiles. So now Barack Obama is going to appoint Hillary Clinton to be the chief architect of his foreign policy. Moreover, he picked Joe Biden to be his running mate and "partner" in the White House explicitly because of his foreign policy experience and judgment. But wait: Joe Biden, too, supported the war. Meanwhile, at Defense, it looks like he will keep George W. Bush's man, Robert Gates.......surely keeping Bush's SecDef is not exactly what the anti-war Dems had in mind as "change we can believe in." Heck, Joe Lieberman's sitting pretty and he endorsed McCain. It will be interesting to see how long Obama's charisma can paper over reality.

opines neo-con commentator Jonah Goldberg in The NRO.

Is Barack Obama in the process of betraying his anti-war supporters?

Today's Sunday Telegraph , in a piece entitled "Obama accused of selling out on Iraq by picking hawks to run his foreign policy team" quotes Chris Bowers of the blog who complains:

"That is, over all, a centre-right foreign policy team. I feel incredibly frustrated. Progressives are being entirely left out of Obama's major appointments so far."

Meanwhile, Markos Moulitsas, founder of the anti-war Daily Kos site, warns that Democrats risk sounding "tone deaf" to the views of "the American electorate that voted in overwhelming numbers for change from the discredited Bush policies."

I've put a question mark on the heading of this blog post, because of course we're still to see what Obama's foreign policy will be like in practice.

But as far as his early appointments are concerned, it's hardly a promising start, is it?

(many thanks to Stuart Reid for alerting me to the Goldberg piece).

The Premiership suddenly becomes interesting

Well, can anyone remember a weekend when not only did none of the Big Four win, but none of them even scored a goal? I certainly can't.

Long-standing readers will know my views on the Premiership, and how top flight football has become mind-numbingly predictable since its introduction. But the2008-9 season is shaping up to be rather interesting. We've had the incredible rise of Hull City (whose manager Phil Brown is pictured above) and the surprisingly good showing of Stoke City. The demise of Arsenal. The fall- and rise- of Tottenham. Robinho working his magic at Man City. And a league table where only a handful of points separate half the division.

Of course, its odds on that 'normal service' will soon be resumed. But in the meantime lets enjoy the unpredictability while it lasts!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Weekly Fromm: Erich Fromm on the marketing orientation

Introducing a regular new feature on this blog: The Weekly Fromm.

The feature will focus on the work of the great German social philosopher and psychoanalyst Dr Erich Fromm, arguably the most prescient writer of the 20th century.

Fromm has influenced my political thought more than any other writer: if I was allowed just three words of advice for anyone interested in trying to improve the society we live in, I would say 'Read Erich Fromm'. Sadly, it seems all too few people in Britain today do read Erich Fromm, and if we are going to rescue our disintegrating society, that's something that needs to change.

To kick off the series, above is the first part of Fromm's 1958 television interview with Mike Wallace. In it he talks, among other topics, about the marketing orientation.

Modern capitalism Fromm argued, produces a neurotic character type: "the marketing character", who "adapts to the market economy by becoming detached from authentic emotions, truth and conviction".

For the marketing character "everything is transformed into a commodity, not only things, but the person himself, his physical energy, his skills, his knowledge, his opinions, his feelings, even his smiles".

(For a perfect example of a "marketing character", we only need to think of a recent inhabitant of No 10 Downing Street).

The marketing character is deeply insincere, and modern capitalism ensures that we have marketing characters in abundance.

HAT TIP for the You Tube clip- to the Editors at Media Lens.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Bonnie and Clyde of Terror: Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof

This article of mine appears in the Daily Express. It's quite a long one, so I'm posting it in two parts. Part Two to follow shortly.

He was the handsome school drop out- a car thief who loved violence and causing mayhem. She was the pretty middle-class girl, the university-educated daughter of an renowned art historian, who gave up a career in journalism- and her belief in pacifism- to join what she called the ‘resistance’ against international capitalism. Together, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof (pictured above)- of the notorious Baader-Meinhof gang, waged a war of terror which included bombings, kidnappings, and politically-motivated assassinations.

Thirty years on from their deaths, a new German film, The Baader-Meinhof Complex is reigniting the controversies surrounding the couple- known as the Bonnie and Clyde of Seventies terrorism- and dividing the country as much as the gang‘s activities did in the 1970s. The film has been accused of glamorising the violence of the Baader-Meinhof gang and portraying the pair as heroes. “The Baader Meinhof Complex is the worst-case scenario - it would not be possible to top its hero worship." is the opinion of Meinhof’s daughter Bettina Röhl. The film has also angered relatives of victims of Baader-Meinhof’s terrorist acts. "It is cruel that little consideration has been shown towards the family members. We feel we're playing the victim all over again” says Michael Buback, whose father was murdered by the gang in 1977. Meanwhile the widow of one of the gang's victims, banker Jürgen Ponto -whose murder is graphically portrayed in the film, has handed back her Federal Cross of Merit, Germany's highest civilian honour, to the German government in protest.

But while the film will shock many- there are Germans for whom Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, despite their acts of violence, are regarded in a more favourable light: as two young idealists taking on power and privilege in an attempt to build a better society.

The genesis of the Baader-Meinhof campaign of terror begins in the student disturbances at German universities in the late 1960s. The fatal shooting, by the German police of student Benno Ohnesorg who was protesting against the visit of the Shah of Iran to Berlin and the attempted assassination of the student activist Rudy Dutschke in April 1968 had a radicalising effect on both Baader and Meinhof, who was then working as a journalist for a left-wing magazine. Shocked by the attack, Meinhof wrote: “Protest is when I say this does not please me. Resistance is when I ensure what does not please me occurs no more”. From now on, both Baader and Meinhof were to pursue more violent means to achieve their political goals. "If one sets a car on fire, that is a criminal offence. If one sets hundreds of cars on fire, that is political action” Meinhof wrote.

In the spring of 1968, Baader, together with his girlfriend, Gudrun Ensslin had set fire to two department stores in Frankfurt as a protest against the Vietnam War. They were both arrested and sent to jail and it was in covering the story that Ulrike Meinhof first met the man with whom she was to forge her infamous alliance.
The gang was launched in dramatic fashion in May 1970. The imprisoned Baader was allowed to study at the library of a research institute outside the prison, without handcuffs. Meinhof (still working as a journalist) and two other “garishly dressed” girls were allowed to join him, and aided in his escape by opening a door to admit a masked man who fired shots that wounded the 64-year-old librarian. Baader, the three women and the masked man fled through a window. The Baader-Meinhof gang was born.

Both Baader and Meinhof were now outlaws- Baader and the three women involved were accused of attempted murder and a 10,000DM reward was offered for Meinhof's capture. For the next two years, Meinhof enthusiastically threw herself into the gang’s ‘resistance’ campaign.

Baader and Meinhof certainly made an odd couple. With his penchant for dark sunglasses, skin-tight velvet trousers and black leather jackets, the dandyish Baader modelled himself on the Hollywood actor Marlon Brando. Having failed at a succession of jobs, he had worked as a male model, supplementing his income by stealing cars, before deciding to devote himself to revolutionary politics. Meinhof, a shy, attractive woman with long brown hair had studied sociology and philosophy at university. She was a deep-thinking intellectual who smoked incessantly and was prone to depression. So committed was she to what she called the ‘anti-imperialist’ struggle that she even arranged for her two young daughters to be sent to Jordan to be raised as Palestinian fighters.

In September 1970, the Baader Meinhof gang (officially styling itself the ‘Red Army'- and later ‘Red Army Faction’), carried out three bank robberies simultaneously, netting over 200,000 DM in the process.

Bader-Meinhof’s most audacious bank robbery came in February 1972, when the gang, dressed in full carnival-mask regalia, raided the Bavarian Mortgage and Exchange Bank, netting DM 285,000. Meanwhile, their campaign of violence was stepped up. The gang placed three bombs in the US Army headquarters at Frankfurt, destroying the officers mess and killing a Vietnam war veteran. In May 1972, they bombed the Augsburg police headquarters and blew up the car lot of the Munich Criminal Investigation Unit. That same month, a car bomb was placed in the car of the judge who had signed most of the Baader-Meinhof arrest warrants- the judge‘s wife, who was in the car when it exploded was severely injured. Also in May 1972, the gang parked two cars containing bombs in the barracks of the US Army Supreme European Command in Heidelberg. When the bombs exploded they killed three American soldiers: a communique from the gang said the attack were a "response to the American bombings in Vietnam"

Smearing Hugo Chavez- the Red 'dictator'

In today's Daily Telegraph, a certain 'Vanessa Neumann', puts the boot in big time on Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's Red 'dictator'- you know the 'dictator' who keeps winning free elections and has a penchant for holding referendums (unlike the wonderfully democratic British government).

I'd never heard of Vanessa Neumann before, so I did some research.
Here's Nation Master.Com:

Vanessa Neumann Donnelly (born on 1974 in Caracas, Venezuela) Vanessa Neumann Donnelly is a Venezuelan well-known socialite, entrepeneur and occasional model. The heiress of Hans Neumann (who died in 2001), a Venezuelan millionaire, entrepreneur and former owner of Corporacion Industrial Montana. Vanessa grew up in the wealthy eastern side of Caracas practicing ballet and enjoying the Venezuelan high-society life.

So there we have it. A wealthy Venezuelan heiress- who naturally is going to be hostile to the redistributive socialist policies of the Chavez government- writes an opinion piece for a British national newspaper attacking her country's government-and the newspaper in question doesn't think that information regarding her background is worth revealing to its readers.

You can read more on Ms Neumann, and her marriage into a Tory dynasty here.

UPDATE: Some of the anti-Chavez comments on the Daily Telegraph website are truly disgusting and say so much about the anti-democratic mindset of those who oppose him. More than one commenter has called for Chavez to be killed:

he is murderous to the Venezuelans who don't support him...An inexpensive bullet would solve this problem.

Why do people allow this thieving socialist animal to live?
Posted by Charles on November 19, 2008 6:39 PM

Chavez deserves to die for supporting FARC...If he wins, I will blow his head off.
Posted by Andre on November 19, 2008 5:49 PM

Stupid little runts support scum like Chavez, Brown, and Obama becuase they are parasites...You want to steal from me? I will beat you down before I allow you to steal my property.

Posted by Lisa on November 19, 2008 5:06 PM

Aren't 'Charles', 'Andre' and 'Lisa' such charming individuals?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Switzerland v Israel : Swiss attack on Israeli policy escalates Cold War

This article of mine appears in The First Post.

In an attack which shocked Tel Aviv by the harshness of its tone, Switzerland has accused Israel of wantonly destroying Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem and near Ramallah in violation of the Geneva Convention's rules on military occupation.

It's arguably the strongest condemnation of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians to come from any western European country since Charles de Gaulle famously attacked the "oppression, repression and expulsions" of Palestinians by Israel over 40 years ago. And it's come from a country that's not exactly famous for making strong condemnations.

The statement last Thursday from the Swiss Foreign Ministry said that Switzerland - the guardian of the Geneva Convention - regards the "recent incidents", under which scores of Palestinian homes have been destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, as "violations of international humanitarian law" and claimed there was "no military need to justify the destruction of these houses". In addition, the Swiss called east Jerusalem an "integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory" - a statement sure to inflame hard-line Zionists who regard the entire city as belonging to Israel.

The Swiss attack on Israeli actions might surprise some, but it is only the latest incident in a rising 'cold war' between the Alpine republic and the Jewish state. Earlier this year, Israel summoned Swiss Ambassador Walter Haffner to its Foreign Ministry offices in Jerusalem to protest against Switzerland's signing of a multi-billion dollar energy deal with Iran.

So incensed were Zionists when Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey wore a headscarf and was pictured smiling and joking with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, that the Anti-Defamation League placed a series of advertisements in various national newspapers - including Swiss ones - which claimed that Switzerland's energy deal with Iran made Switzerland the "world's newest sponsor of terrorism". Calmy-Rey reacted angrily to Israel's criticism, saying that Switzerland was "an independent country that has its own strategic interests to defend".

It's possible to trace the deterioration of Swiss-Israeli relations to 1998, when Israel was compelled to write a formal letter of apology to Switzerland after five Mossad agents were caught trying to install surveillance equipment in an apartment in Berne in order to bug a Swiss citizen whom Mossad believed was linked to Hezbollah.

In the intervening period Switzerland has become an increasingly vocal champion of the Palestinian cause. As the Middle East conflict escalated, the country even halted all arms sales and military co-operation with Israel for three years in 2002. Earlier this year, Switzerland was among the 30 countries who voted in support of the UN Human Rights Council resolution that condemned Israel for "grave violations of the human and humanitarian rights of the Palestinian civilians living in Gaza".

It wasn't always like this. The Swiss-Israeli war of words is ironic given the fact that the world's very first Zionist congress was held in Basle in 1897 - and that 15 of the first 22 Zionist Congresses were held in Switzerland.

The Swiss condemnation of Israel today may be dismissed by some as having little global importance, but there are good reasons why Israel ought to be concerned. As guarantor of the Geneva Convention, Switzerland has the power to call meetings of the treaty's signatories if it finds problems with its implementation - something which would be very embarrassing for Israel.

And while it's one thing for Israel to be condemned by countries with a poor human rights record such as Cuba and Saudi Arabia - it's quite another for it to be criticised by a country whose record is beyond reproach. The fact that Switzerland - the home of the Red Cross - has not been involved in a military conflict for 200 years, gives the country a moral authority that many others lack.

Switzerland's independent line on Middle East issues also shows the advantage of maintaining national sovereignty in an age where most countries in Europe have surrendered important decision making powers to the EU. While other countries in Europe have been cajoled, under US and British influence, to moderate their criticisms of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and to agree to swingeing sanctions on Iran - non-EU Switzerland is free to make its own decisions and to say what it thinks about Israeli actions.

It helps, too, that Switzerland is rich enough to follow its own path, without fear of retribution. On this issue, Israel has come up against a state which truly is beholden to nobody.

The Iraq War: "A Serious Violation of International Law"

The Guardian reports:

One of Britain's most authoritative judicial figures last night delivered a blistering attack on the invasion of Iraq, describing it as a serious violation of international law, and accusing Britain and the US of acting like a "world vigilante".

Lord Bingham, in his first major speech since retiring as the senior law lord, rejected the then attorney general's defence of the 2003 invasion as fundamentally flawed.

Contradicting head-on Lord Goldsmith's advice that the invasion was lawful, Bingham stated: "It was not plain that Iraq had failed to comply in a manner justifying resort to force and there were no strong factual grounds or hard evidence to show that it had." Adding his weight to the body of international legal opinion opposed to the invasion, Bingham said that to argue, as the British government had done, that Britain and the US could unilaterally decide that Iraq had broken UN resolutions "passes belief".

Addressing the British Institute of International and Comparative Law last night, Bingham said: "If I am right that the invasion of Iraq by the US, the UK, and some other states was unauthorised by the security council there was, of course, a serious violation of international law and the rule of law.

Of course Lord Bingham is right. The Iraq war was blatantly illegal, as I have always maintained. But it's not good enough, five years on, to merely state that the war was unlawful.

We need to make sure that the perpetrators of the war- namely George W. Bush and Tony Bliar- a man who is millions of pounds richer because of the conflict-and the neocon men and women who planned it, are bought to justice. The Nuremburg judgements held that to launch a war of aggression is the 'supreme international crime'- and it is obscene that five years on, those responsible for this outrageous crime- which has led to the deaths of up to 1m people, are still at liberty.

Furthermore, it's also important too that those journalists and writers, who propagandised for an attack on Iraq- in contravention of international law- are also are held accountable for their actions. The trial of Julius Streicher after WW2 sets the precedent.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How Barack can show some courage

"Have any of you ever seen a picture of Mr Obama, a heavy smoker, with a cigarette in his mouth? No, nor have I. Why is that?"

asks my friend Peter Hitchens in his weekly column.

Well, Peter, just for you, there's a picture of Obama smoking above, but it's true that he hasn't been pictured smoking for a long while. Is he intimidated by the anti-smoking fanatics who will denounce him as a man not fit to be President if he is seen to light up in public? (thank goodness they weren't around in the days of FDR and Winston Churchill, otherwise the Allies would never have won the Second World War).

There's been a lot of talk recently about whether Obama has courage, and he can show that he does by following the example of Maggie Gyllenhaal, this blog's choice for President in 2012 and light up live on prime-time tv.

But there's a second even more important thing he can do to show us all that he's courageous. And that's to resist the growing pressure- being asserted by certain powerful interest groups- to appoint the neocon's favourite Democrat Hillary the Hawk as Secretary of State. People voted for Obama because they wanted a clean break with the aggressive, pro-war policies of the past. Appointing a woman who played such a key role in the illegal NATO aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999, who supported the equally unlawful Iraq war, and who has threatened to "obliterate" Iran, would be a betrayal of all those ordinary Americans who wanted something different.

Don't do it, Barack.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sir David Manning: War Profiteer

"Wars, conflict- it's all business"- sighs Monsieur Verdoux, the eponymous anti-hero in Charlie Chaplin's classic film. This report from today's Mail on Sunday hardly disproves the thesis.

The man who acted as go-between for Tony Blair and George Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War has been given a senior post worth an estimated £50,000 a year with U.S.-owned arms company Lockheed.

Sir David Manning (pictured above, on left, next to George Bush), Britain's former ambassador in Washington has also joined a shadowy UK intelligence firm set up by former spies.

Sir David was Mr Blair's foreign affairs and defence adviser. He stepped down as the UK's envoy in Washington two years ago.

He played a key role in planning the Iraq War, and secret memos published after the conflict revealed how he knew Mr Blair had promised to go to war with Mr Bush a year before the conflict.

Sir David has become a non-executive director of Lockheed's subsidiary, Lockheed UK. He will also act as personal adviser to the firm's chief executive, Ian Stopps.
A company spokesman said: 'He has joined because of his distinguished career and experience in diplomacy as well as in government.'

Lockheed is one of the most powerful defence firms in the world. It is proud of its role in the Iraq War and published an 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' brochure that described how its 'stealthy F-117 Nighthawk opened the Allied operation with a strike aimed at Saddam Hussein's leadership'.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Prince Charles at 60

The heir to the British throne (pictured above) is 60 today. Here's my piece from The Australian, first published in 2005, on why a King Charles III would be preferable to a more politicised Head of State. Do you agree?

Prince Charles: Victim of Slight Royal Treatment

George Orwell got it only half right. It’s not just some animals that are more equal than others. It’s royalty too- as last week’s events surely demonstrate. Royal 1 visits Australia: goes yacht racing with her husband, attends glitzy balls in designer outfits and is fawned over by even the most hard-core republicans. Royal 2 visits Australia: goes to see victims of the Bali bombings, addresses indigenous issues and is lambasted in Parliament for wasting tax-payers money.

Of course, there are important differences between Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and the heir to the British- and Australian throne. As the Sydney Morning Herald so succintly put it, one is young and beautiful and the other is not. Then there is the small matter of nationality. ‘Australia loves this uber couple because they are young, gorgeous and 50% locally made’ says Emma Toms of Fred and Mazz. Chazz, one the other hand, may have visited Australia ten times and spent two terms at Geelong Grammar, but is - and always will be a Pom.

But even allowing for the above, it still seems to me that Prince Charles has been given an unnecessarily rough ride- not only in Australia- but back in Britain too.
I write not as a die-hard supporter of hereditary monarchy, but as an unreconstructed leftist and staunch believer in meritocracy. But if we are to have a constitutional monarchy- and on consideration of all the other options, it still seems the least worst- then it is difficult to imagine a man more suited to the task than the 56 year old in a double-breasted suit who has been touring this past week.

For a start, unusually in this age of spin and counterfuge, insincerity and mock concern- Charles is a man of profound integrity. ‘Prince Charles cannot but tell the truth. I have never met anyone in public life who is quite like him in that sense’ is the verdict of his biographer, Jonathan Dimbleby. It takes courage to admit to committing adultery in a television documentary and when someone with such a track record for honesty says that he only did so when his marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down’, he must surely be given the benefit of any doubt.

Then there is the intelligent contribution Prince Charles has made to matters of national and international concern. While his critics seek to portray him as an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy, hopelessly out of step with the spirit of the times, Charles’ line on many issues is far more progressive than that held by many so-called leftists. He was the first British royal to question the suitability of the monarch of a multi-racial, multi-faith country ( to say nothing of the Head of the Commonwealth)- to be the ’Defender of the Faith’ and not ‘the Faiths’. He has consistently championed the cause of alternative medicine and of a holistic approach to health. He has made speech after speech warning of the dangers of deforestation and global warming and has spoken out against the disastrous effect large scale capitalism has on both the environment and the social cohesion of communities. And the man who many dismiss as the epitome of privilege, has through his own Princes Trust and countless other charitable projects, helped thousands of disadvantaged people to achieve their goals in life.

On issues where Prince Charles has taken a more ‘traditional’ line, he has arguably not been behind the times, but paradoxically ahead of them. It’s the proponents of modernist and post-modern architecture and of 1960s teaching methods whose theories now appear hopelessly dated: Charles’ attacks on them -regarded as blasphemy when first made in the 1980s -now appear to most sane individuals as the voice of sheer common sense.

Prince Charles’ ingrained scepticism -and his understanding that so many of the great issues of the day are not black and white, but grey- is a huge plus point in an age where once again it is the cocksure and the Manichaeans who are calling the shots. Charles’ scepticism extends not only to modern architecture, trendy teaching theories and what he calls ‘militant humanism’, but also to the war in Iraq, about which he is reported to have had grave misgivings.

Then there are Charles’ other qualities to consider. As all those who met him this past week, will no doubt testify, he is a man of rare charm and wit. From his good-humoured reaction to being offered witchetty grubs and honey ants at Alice Springs to his quip to Vietnam veteran Gary Johnston that there was ‘no bloody room’ at his forthcoming wedding- the Goon Show-loving Royal Prince surely can’t be accused of lacking a sense of humour.

All in all, when you consider that Prince Charles has had to overcome the twin handicaps of a British public school education (to say nothing of two terms at Geelong Grammar) and a father for whom any display of affection is regarded as a crime on a par with murder- then the future King's well-roundedness is even more remarkable.

Should the fact that Charles is clearly a ‘bloody good bloke’ alter our view of the monarchy in general? In theory it shouldn’t- but as we’ve seen from the past week- the identity of the royal in question undoubtedly has an impact on the way the institution is regarded. And I for one would rather have a Head of State who combines integrity, humour and scepticism in equal measure, than a politicised President who would probably be lacking in all three.

UPDATE: You can see me talking about Prince Charles- and whether he is too old to become King, on this Sky News report here:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Russian 'aggression' that never was

Thank goodness, they might be thinking at the US State Department and the British Foreign Office, for the financial crisis. Were it not for the ever-blacker news about the Western world's economy, another scandal would be vying for the headlines – and one where the blame would be easier to apportion. It concerns our two countries' relations with Russia and the truth about this summer's Georgia-Russia war.

It's now clear that Georgia started the war in South Ossetia. Why did US and British accounts give the impression that Russia was the guilty party, and Georgia a brave little democracy that big bad Russia wanted to snuff out?

asks Mary Dejevsky in the Independent.

Well not all 'US and British accounts' gave that impression; this blog told it as it was- and so too did our good friend The Exile, who deserves the Orwell Prize for blogging for his round the clock posts on the conflict this summer

How were we so sure that Georgia and not Russia was the aggressor?

Well, I can't speak for The Exile, but for me it was an easy one. The neocons said Russia was the aggressor and as I’ve said before on many occasions-we always know when neocons are lying: they open their mouths or start typing on a keyboard.

Dejevksy then asks:

So why were British and US officials so cagey about acknowledging, or perhaps even believing, what had really happened? Why did the Conservative leader, David Cameron, rush to Tbilisi to support Georgia as the unquestioned victim? And why – except to trump Mr Cameron – did the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, give a tub-thumping speech in Kiev shortly afterwards that perpetuated the impression (without actually using the words) that the war was all about Moscow's supposed ambition to reconstitute its empire.

That’s another easy one to answer. Cameron and Miliband are both members of Britain's neocon/neoliberal ruling junta. Baiting the Russian bear- and cheerleading for ‘plucky little Georgia', the neocons favourite ex-Soviet republic- is a compulsory part of their shtick.

But what about the non-neocon commentators who still parroted the ‘Russian aggression/plucky little Georgia’ claptrap. Why didn’t they understand better what was going on, as the Exile, blogging thousands of miles away from the action in Mexico, did?

For the answer to that one, we need to turn to a great American writer. As Upton Sinclair wrote: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on him not understanding it".

Hat-tip for the Mary Devesky article: Charlie Marks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Let's Keep Iraq out of Remembrance Day

I was watching the Remembrance Day commemorations on television today with my father, who served in the army, when I heard something that neither of us much liked. The presenter Alistair Stewart said that while Remembrance Day was originally about remembering those who died in The Great War, and then World War Two, it's now about remembering other conflicts in which British forces were involved, including Iraq.

If that is indeed the case, then it's wrong.

Remembrance Day should only be about the two World Wars.

In neither the First, nor the Second World War, was Britain the aggressor. In Iraq, it was (alongside the US). While in the Second World War, Britain's role in helping to defeat Nazi aggression, was an honourable one, in Iraq it was not. A largely defenceless country, which posed Britain no threat, was attacked on the basis of a colossal lie. The Iraq war, together with the earlier, equally unlawful- and equally deceitful aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999, was a dark moment in Britain's history. It was a shameful episode, and those who planned and orchestrated it should, if there was any justice in this world, be behind bars. The Nuremburg judgement after all, held that the greatest of all crimes was to launch a war of aggression.

So let's wear our poppies today and remember those brave soldiers who gave their lives in two world wars. But let's make sure that any attempts to 'normalise' the Iraq war and put it on a par with World War Two are resisted.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wally of the Week: 'Philip Cross'

What do you call someone who spends hours and hours maliciously editing the wikipedia page of a journalist he doesn’t like (including at Christmas) and then sends the journalist in question six aggressive, abusive emails in a short period of time on one Saturday afternoon and then twelve the following night?

Well he goes by the moniker of ‘philip cross’ and he doesn’t like me very much at all (although he does seem to like a certain former hedge fund manager called Oliver Kamm very much).

'Philip' is also a very big fan of Henry Jacksonsite MP Denis McShane as you can see from his editing of McShane's wikipedia page. He's even edited the page of McShane's former wife, the late Carol Barnes. In fact so incensed was 'Philip' when I referred to McShane by his original name 'Denis Matyjaszek' that he darted over to my wikipedia page to insert the maiden name of my wife, failing to see the difference between a woman who takes her husband's surname on marriage, with a careerist politician who hypocritically berates the British for not being 'pro-European' enough, while changing his original Polish surname.

You can read some of 'philip cross’ contributions in the comments section of this thread: the idea that neocon columnists might become rarer in newspapers in the year ahead due to readers having had enough of reading their lies, really seemed to inflame him.

'philip cross' didn’t much like being called a ’sad little idiot’ and a ’sad little fxxxxx’ by other commenters so he took out his frustration by returning to my wikipedia page last night to make another edit. (strange how some people get their kicks, isn't it?)

That’s despite having already been warned by a senior wikipedia editor to stay clear of my page.

Actually, 'wally' is far too polite a term for ‘philip cross‘. ‘Pathological obsessive’ is far more accurate. Despite the warnings he's received 'philip' simply can't leave me alone. But as you’ll see from his other edits- this particular pathological obsessive is- however cranky he appears - following a very clear political agenda.

You can read more on philip cross' extraordinary obsessions here and here.

Market Madness Hits Hungary

This article of mine appears in The Morning Star.

If voting changed anything they’d abolish it, the old maxim goes.

If anyone doubts the truth of it, just visit Hungary.

Earlier this year the Hungarian people heavily rejected, in a national referendum, three key elements of the neo-liberal government's "reform" programme: the imposition of hospital and doctor's visit fees and the imposition of higher education tuition fees.

Hungary’s ruling elite were furious.

Janos Koka, of the fanatically neoliberal ‘Free Democrats’(SZDSZ), a party whose embrace of unbridled capitalism makes Thatcher’s Tory party look like social democrats, reacted by asserting that he would “like to assure the international money and capital markets that the government upholds its commitment to reforms and a strict and tight budget,"- in other words that the people‘s democratic will, as expressed in the referendum, counted for nothing.

After leaving the government in early summer after a row over the budget, the decidedly anti-democratic ‘Free Democrats’ spent the next few months calling for a ‘government of experts’ to be appointed in Hungary. We know the sort of ‘experts’ they had in mind- ‘free market’ ideologues like the notorious Dr Lajos Bokros, from the George Soros-funded Central European University- a man who supports the introduction of compulsory private health insurance and who has questioned "the subjective right to receive a pension".

The SZDSZ has now dropped its call for a ‘government of experts’, because they have got something even better.

Last month, Hungary applied for- and received a $25bn ‘rescue package’ from the IMF, World Bank and European Union. The collapse of the Hungarian economy is of course a shocking indictment of the hardline neoliberal policies that the ruling MSZP/SZDSZ coalition have been following over the past six years, policies that have been lauded by foreign capital and their political emissaries. But while Hungary’s bail-out is undoubtedly a national embarrassment, for the country’s ruling elite it has served a definite anti-democratic purpose.

It is widely accepted that the size of the rescue package- which dwarfs that of neighbouring Ukraine- far exceeds the amount the country needs. But by signing up to the deal- and to the strings attached- the Hungarian government is effectively stymieing the opposition’s plans to plot a different economic path when it comes to power in the election of May 2010. It's clear that the government intends to use the ‘rescue package’ as a excuse to carry out the ‘reforms’ and the swingeing cuts in public spending it always wanted to implement- and to end any political debate as to whether the ‘reforms’ and cuts should be imposed or not.

A classic example is the abolition of the totemic 13th month salary for public sector workers, paid at Christmas each year. “We did not need to cut the payments to get the IMF’s help. We did it to send a clear message to investors that the government is ready to make cuts.“ admitted government spokesman David Daroczi.

The rescue package gives the government the excuse to rush through the privatisation of those assets which in remain in public ownership. Late last month the SZDSZ/MSZP faction on Budapest council voted to sell of the city’s gas company. The national grid is also to be flogged off; bus and postal privatisation is in the offing too.

The rescue package also gives the government the opportunity to hammer the final nail into the coffin of the country’s chronically underfunded state health service. In its new budget, the government has proposed cuts of HUF35bn for the Health Insurance Fund- cuts which have been described as ‘fatal’ by the opposition. The country’s long-suffering pensioners, already facing massive hikes in their fuel bills this winter, are also in the neoliberals’ firing line- with a freeze on their annual bonus and the elimination of the annual bonus for early retirees.

It matters little that all these extremist policies are opposed by the vast majority of the public.

The reforms are described as ‘apolitical’- measures that simply have to be passed.

Interestingly though there is one item of government expenditure that the Hungarian government- and their Free Democrat allies do not support cutting back. After NATO’s two day conference in Budapest last month, Defence Minister Imre Szekeres said that Hungary would increase spending by 7% next year and by 0.2% of GDP annually over the next five years. The country that can’t afford toilet paper for patients in state hospitals, does it seem, have money to send Hungarians to take part in imperial adventures at the behest of Uncle Sam in Afghanistan.

What recent events in Hungary demonstrate is that democracy is inconsistent with neo-liberalism. The only democracy modern turbo capitalism allows is of the ‘Henry Ford’ variety- namely that the people can vote for any polices they like- so long as they are the ‘approved’ neoliberal ones which put the needs of capital- before people.

So even if people vote in their millions, as they did in Hungary in March against extremist neoliberal solutions, the elite finds ways of subverting their wishes.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bombed Because of an Adjective

Former Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini recently admitted that NATO aggression against Serbia (March 24 — June 10, 1999) had nothing to do with the alleged humanitarian concerns — NATO bombed Serbia for three months because the United States and Britain wanted to have a military base on its territory.

Dini said Serbian officials would have signed the ultimatum issued by the West at the conference in Rambouillet, if it had excluded only one word.

- The problem was only one adjective. It would have been sufficient for Serbia if the document excluded the word "military" and left only the "international presence" in Kosovo, but the U.S. insisted on NATO getting an opportunity to enter the province - Dini explained.

You can read more on this story over at Svetlana’s brilliant new anti-war website De(Construct).net

Next time you read a commentator in the MSM talk about NATO’s ‘humanitarian’ intervention in Kosovo, just email them the link.

It’s time to set the ‘official’ record straight.

POINT OF CLARIFICATION: The country which NATO illegally bombed in 1999 was of course called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and not Serbia, which did not exist as a sovereign state at that time. But I've kept 'Serbia' in the account above because it was the word used by the Lamberto Dini.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Biggest Bank Heist Ever

With every passing day of economic woe, the scale of the heist just perpetrated against America's taxpayers by the country's largest banks becomes more apparent.

In the shadow of the presidential election, the nine biggest banks were given $125bn of taxpayer money with the understanding they would send this fresh capital coursing into the economy in the form of loans.

Unfortunately, the US government forgot to get the lending requirement in writing.

Instead, the banks are sitting on the money, earning interest and mulling mergers and acquisitions and replenishing bonus pools for their employees.

writes Philip Delves Broughton in today's First Post.

If you are an American taxpayer, (and I know that around 25% of this blog's readership is US-based), I'm afraid you've been the victims of what Delves Broughton rightly calls the biggest bank heist ever.

The biggest bank robbers don't wear stripey jerseys, black masks and carry bags marked 'Swag'; they wear suits and hobnob with the political elite.

Or, as Berthold Brecht so memorably put it: "What is robbing a bank compared to founding a bank?"

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

An Obama landslide- and Janet Daley gets it wrong yet again

"Obama will not win the presidency: America will have been made to feel sufficiently good about itself simply by his nomination and the way it responds to him as a candidate not to feel the need to put him in the White House. America will decide that in such dangerous times, it must choose the wise older leader, the war hero, the statesman who talks about foreign policy and national security with real authority."
Janet Daley, Daily Telegraph, January 2008

"For what it is worth, I think it will be a close presidential race with the favourite, Obama, winning by a squeak."
Janet Daley, Daily Telegraph, November 2008.

Well, I hope you took my advice and headed down your local bookies to bet on an Obama landslide. If Daley, the world's worst pundit, said that Obama would win by a squeak, we knew for sure he'd win at a canter.

'The scale of Obama's victory exceeded Democratic expectations' reports The Guardian as the man Ms Daley assured us "will not win the Presidency" recorded the most emphatic win in a US Presidential election for two decades.

It's great to see the uber neocon McCain/Palin combo suffer such a heavy defeat. The American people have delivered a damning verdict on the past eight years- and disastrous neoconservative/neoliberal policies pursued by Bush and Cheney.

But while public opinion in America (and Britain too for that matter) has undoubtedly shifted to the left, neocon/neoliberal voices are (scandalously) still disproportionately represented in both countries mainstream media. Expect that to change over the next couple of years: people will simply stop reading columnists- and the newspapers they write for, if they consistently tell them things that they know not to be true (such as 'unregulated free market capitalism is good for everyone'; 'Barack Obama is a hard-line socialist' and 'soft' on terror, or that Russian and Iran pose 'a grave threat' to the west).

With their ridiculous attacks on Obama and bellicose pro-war rhetoric, uber neocon writers like Janet Daley, William Kristol and Melanie Phillips are totally out of step with the new spirit of the age. They've been proved wrong on virtually everything they've written about over the past ten years and their moment has well and truly passed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Mary Treadwell and the 2008 US Presidential Election

I know he's not a 'socialist', as Simon Heffer ludicrously claims. I know that his plans for extending health care are not as comprehensive as they should be. And I know that he's not the Messiah.

But nevertheless, it has to be Obama.

And the reason why? Well, as American divorcee Mary Treadwell (played so memorably by the late Vivien Leigh) says in the clip above from that wonderful, wonderful, film Ship of Fools, "in life if you can't get what you want, you'd better damn well settle for what you can get".

I'd like to see an unequivocally and unapologetically socialist, anti-war US President, someone who would give Americans the same universal state health care system that we enjoy here in Britain. A President who would pull US troops out of both Iraq and Afghanistan and announce that the US would henceforth only act in full accordance with international law.

But we can't get that at present so we need to settle for what we can get.

And that's Barack Obama. And what is Barack Obama's main attraction? Simply that he isn't John McCain. Make no mistake, a McCain presidency would be a nightmare.

Scott McConnell, the leading US paleo-conservative, explains why:

John McCain wants to bring them(the neocons) back, in triumph, on horseback.

Unlike Bush, McCain is a neocon true believer; Wilsonian bellicosity has visceral appeal for him. A McCain victory would mean, in short order, an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Joshua Muravchik, a candid and well-connected neoconservative whom I’ve known for 25 years, affirmed this unequivocally at a Nixon Center debate last month. Iran is now the principal neoconservative obsession—as it is for Israel’s hawks, who ludicrously paint Tehran as Nazi Berlin. McCain jokes about bombing Iran, but the consequences would not be amusing. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs, has warned that an Israeli strike would put American forces in Iraq at grave risk. If America bombs, the consequences would be worse. As Secretary of Defense Gates warned a group of senators recently, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.”

That’s not all. Top McCain advisers like Robert Kagan seek to reignite a Cold War with Russia: Kagan recently told a Washington audience he wouldn’t want to live in a world in which Russia had a preponderance of influence over Georgia. Elliott Abrams, son-in-law of Norman “World War IV” Podhoretz, is reportedly in line to head McCain’s National Security Council. As a Bush appointee, he’s worked at stymieing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Expect a McCain administration to back the Netanyahu policy of turning the West Bank into isolated bantustans instead of a Palestinian state.

For these reasons, I’m voting for Obama. While he doesn’t inspire me, he does impress. His two-year campaign has been disciplined and intelligent…..If elected, he will inherit an office burdened with massive financial and foreign-policy problems. Unlike John McCain, he won’t try to bomb his way out of the mess.

Well, we don't know for sure that Obama won't 'try to bomb his way out of the mess'.
But he's certainly less likely to do so than John 'Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran' McCain and for that reason alone he has to get the nod.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Janet Daley: Winner of the Silliest Anti-Obama Article of the Year Award

Not content with writing the most repulsive anti-Obama smear piece back in the summer, when she penned the lines:

"His problem is not so much that he is an African-American in the modern political sense of being a black American. It is that he is an African-American in the literal sense of being half African and only half American."

the Daily Telegraph's uber neocon columnist has now submitted an article so silly it even makes 'Mad' Mel Phillips' offerings on Obama look relatively sane (and that is saying a hell of a lot).

Daley has spent the entire year throwing all the usual neocon insults at Obama- ie he's soft on 'terror', he's a luxury the 'free world' cannot afford etc etc; now she's turning her attention to the damage Comrade Barack would do the US economy with his terrible plans to 'spread the wealth'.

"There is another facet of Obama taxation with even more serious consequences for the US. In order to pay for his tax cut for 95 per cent of the population (half of whom do not pay income tax and whose "cut" would be in the form of a cash rebate), President Obama and his Democratic Congress would raise the US rate of corporation tax - already the second highest in the world - from 15 to 20 per cent. They also plan to punish through taxation companies that employ people overseas rather than "creating American jobs".

Wow, how revolutionary! How Marxist! Raising corporation tax to 20%! Using the taxation system to encouraging firms to employ people in America and not in Indonesian sweat shops! What a catastrophe that would be for ordinary American people!

As to what will happen in tomorrow's election, Daley predicts:

For what it is worth, I think it will be a close presidential race with the favourite, Obama, winning by a squeak

It's rather different to what she was predicting earlier this year:

Obama will not win the presidency: America will have been made to feel sufficiently good about itself simply by his nomination and the way it responds to him as a candidate not to feel the need to put him in the White House.
The popular, if not the electoral college, vote will be close but America will decide that in such dangerous times, it must choose the wise older leader, the war hero, the statesman who talks about foreign policy and national security with real authority.

Then again, predictions are not really Ms Daley's strong point.

This is after all the same journalist who labelled the moral case against the Iraq war to be "at best naive, at worst idiotic" and who believed (please, no sniggering at the back), the existence of WMDs to have been established by Blair's dossier.

Now, having told us emphatically that 'Obama will not win the Presidency', Daley thinks he'll win 'by a squeak'.

You know what that means, folks.

Get down your local bookies and put a bet on an Obama landslide.

NEWS FLASH: Janet Daley's Daily Telegraph colleague Simon Heffer has made a last-gasp attempt to grab the 'Silliest Anti-Obama article of the Year Award' with this ridiculous offering.
Heffer writes:
He has been branded a socialist by Sarah Palin and, because it was Sarah Palin doing the branding, the term was ridiculed by media here who are almost clinically biased against the Republicans. However, when one examines Mr Obama's rhetoric about "spreading the wealth", and looks at spending promises made in the past 21 months, socialism is a fair term. He plans, or at least has promised, expensive projects - such as healthcare reforms.

As questionnaire says in the comments to this post, it really doesn't take much to be labelled a 'Marxist' these days. Or a 'socialist' either, as far as Daley & Heffer are concerned.

Where everything has a price, and nothing a value

The late, great Dr Erich Fromm (above) lambasted the way that in ultra-materialistic capitalist societies we talk of how much human brings are 'worth' in monetary terms.

I wonder what Fromm would have made of this truly disgusting report in the Daily Telegraph on the new world motor racing champion Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton will be bigger than David Beckham, says Max Clifford

Lewis Hamilton will very soon be bigger than David Beckham, public relations experts predicted as the racing driver sealed the 2008 Formula One World Championship in Brazil.

He is currently thought to be worth around £15 million, according to Auto Trader's Motoring Rich List - less than half that of fellow British F1 driver Jenson Button.

Mr Clifford said: "He is going to be bigger than David Beckham, because he is only 23 and motor racing is even more lucrative than football.

"If you were to chose a sport from a purely financial point of view, motor racing would have to be number one."

He continued: "Lewis Hamilton is young, he is obviously talented and he is a good looking fellow, so you have a perfect recipe for sponsorship."

Becoming world champion would transform him into a household name in Britain and around the world, he said.

"We don't have many world champions, so the media here will become even more crazy about him that they already are," he said.

"That will just add to his worth."

Many congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on winning the World Championship. But wouldn't it be nice, if instead of talking about how many millions of pounds he is now 'worth', we simply lauded his achievement?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Isn't Privatisation wonderful!

After this latest fiasco is there anyone (apart from the loonies at the Adam Smith Institute), still willing to argue that the increased involvement of the private sector in the business of government has led to greater efficiency?

As I wrote in the First Post back in August, after the latest loss of confidential data by a private contractor:

It is logical to assume that the more outside agencies that handle government data, the greater the likelihood of it getting lost. But logic, it seems, goes out of the window where Britain's political elite and their blind attachment to neo-liberal dogma is concerned.

If like me, you feel that 'enough is enough' and that it's time to call a halt to Britain's disastrous twenty-nine year obsession with privatisation, then there's a newly formed pressure group just for you.