Friday, March 31, 2006

Obama is Electric!

There's a great piece of video on Crooks and Liars (click here and when re-directed click where it says Real Audio in the update section) where U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has gone to Connecticut ostensibly to bolster Joe Lieberman's senate bid.

The crowd, at one point turned hostile towards Lieberman - no doubt for his support for the Iraq war and other right wing views he holds - and Obama, sensing the change in the room, suddenly changed tack: "I know some in the party have differences with Joe. I'm going to go ahead and say it - it's the elephant in the room - and Joe and I don't agree on everything. But what I know is that Joe Lieberman is a man with a good heart, with a keen intellect, who cares about the working families of America. I am absolutely certain Connecticut is going to have the good sense to send Joe Lieberman back to the U.S. Senate so he can continue to serve on our behalf."

And in a nano second - he had done it. The room erupted into applause. I actually felt goosebumps rise on my arms. Not since Clinton have I seen a guy with that feel for where an audience is, and where you need to move them to.

And, more importantly, the intellectual and emotional ability to - effortlessly - take them there.

Even Fox are, grudgingly, acknowledging him as possibly the first ever black President of the USA. Which must mean he's good. And dear God, is this guy good!

Click above and see for yourself.

The GOP's Stake in Checking the President

During the Watergate hearings, then-Senator Howard Baker, a Republican, showed tremendous courage, and a deep sense of Congress's duty to hold President Nixon accountable, when he asked that now-famous question: "What did the President know and when did he know it?" Baker was one of a handful of Republicans during the scandal who stood up to their party, and to the President. Today, as the President admits, even flaunts, his program to wiretap Americans on American soil without the warrants required by law, we need more courageous Republicans to stand up and check the President's power grab.

When the President breaks the law, he must be held accountable, and that is why I have introduced a resolution to censure the President for his actions. Yet, as we face a President who thinks he is above the law, most Republicans are willing to cede enormous power to the executive branch. Their actions are not just short-sighted, they are a departure from one of the Republican Party's defining goals: limiting government power.

Amen to that, I say.

Click on title to read full statement.

A Self-fulfilling Prophecy

I take some comfort from the fact that I am not the only person on the planet to find the US's intentions towards Iran worrying. As I argued here, I think Bush is heading down a path that he has not fully thought out when he calls for sanctions against the Iranian regime.

Mohamed ElBaradei has recently come to a similar conclusion. "Sanctions are a bad idea. We are not facing an imminent threat," ElBaradei said during an address to students at the Qatar Foundation, in which he also said he sees a "Middle East that is in a really dangerous situation."

The US are having difficulty achieving international consensus on what should happen if (I say when) the Iranians predictably refuse to comply with US/UN demands.

Yesterday, Condi held a meeting to discuss what happens if the Iranians refuse to comply.

At the meeting in Berlin, Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, said sanctions could not be used “to solve” the Iranian nuclear dispute, adding that the IAEA had yet to provide “decisive evidence” that Iran was developing the capability to make nuclear weapons.

And as I predicted here, the Chinese are joining the Russians in opposing sanctions.

Dai Bingguo, Chinese vice-foreign minister, cautioned against further steps that could lead to “new turmoil” in the Middle East. Both US and UK officials stressed that international unity on the next steps must be reached within the 30-day period.

The danger, as far as I can see, is what the Americans will do once they realise that they have led themselves down a cul-de-sac.

They have embarked on a course of "action" that is bound to end in stalemate. There is no international consensus on the "immediacy" of a threat that is still a decade away.

But as I reported here, the US led by John Bolton, do not look like backing down.

When Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently stated, “It looks so déjà vu”, he was drawing on the obvious comparisons between the current situation regarding Iran and the American pig headedness that led to the recent conflict with Iraq.

Bolton, when asked about Lavrov’s comment replied, “If that is déjà vu, then so be it, but that is the course we are on in an effort to get Iran to reverse its decision to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Lavrov also called the U.S. push for a showdown over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

And that is my worry. When the US hit the inevitable brick wall they are heading towards, people like Bolton will pretend they have "exhausted all options".

Will they, at that point, back off? Pigs will fly.

Insulating Bush

Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Just when you think things can't get any worse for the Bushites, other than a possible indictment for Rove, up pops this.

Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address -- that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon -- might not be true, according to government records and interviews.

As the 2004 election loomed, the White House was determined to keep the wraps on a potentially damaging memo about Iraq.

Hadley was particularly concerned that the public might learn of a classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002. The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."

Anyone following the Plamegate scandal will immediately recognise that we have now established motive.

I bet Fitzgerald sat up in bed when he read this.

Click on title for full story.

The Democrats: Missing in Action

This article asks a few questions that have been spinning around my head of late. Basically, where are the Democrats? Why are they sitting around impotently whilst Bush rips up the Constitution? Why are they ignoring Fiengold's calls for Bush to be censored? Where is their voice? Why aren't we hearing them?

“Last month ... President Bush signed into law a bill that never passed the house.” In effect, this demotes the Congress of the United States from a law-making to an “advisory” body.

Meanwhile, the Congress, the courts, the media, the Democratic Party, and public acquiesce in silence.

We’ve not fully descended to totalitarianism. Dissent, however muted, is still tolerated. (But don’t you dare protest within sight or earshot of “Our Leader”).

Those of us who continue to criticize the regime have not yet been charged with “thought-crime,” and sent to “re-education camps.” Not yet.

So the task before us is not to protect our democracy; it’s too late for that. Our task is to restore our democracy, to re-institute the government we once had, “deriving [its] just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Click on title for full story.

Britain's casualties of Iraq war total 6,700, MoD says

Almost 6,700 Britons have needed hospital treatment in Iraq since the invasion three years ago - almost as many as the total number of British troops still stationed there. About 4,000 were sufficiently injured or ill to be sent home to Britain.

The figures include soldiers and civilians injured in accidents or taken ill, or who have suffered psychological problems, as well as those injured in fighting. They were posted on the Ministry of Defence website yesterday, on the day that MPs dispersed for their Easter break, after months of criticism directed at the Government for refusing to give details about the "forgotten" British casualties.

Even now the MoD admits that some British casualties may have been overlooked, particularly during the invasion itself, "when the tempo of operations meant that some minor injuries may not have been reported in the heat of the action". They also said that they cannot keep a central record of all casualties because it might breach "patient confidentiality".

This defies belief. The premise that the government cannot keep a central record because of "patient confidentiality" treats us with contempt. It implies that we are stupid enough to accept such garbage.

The notion that the people who want to introduce identification cards, which will track our every movement, are suddenly now concerned about "our confidentiality" is risible.

And, having finally agreed to publish the figures, the House disbands for Easter; making any questioning of their actions impossible.

Democracy in action. No wonder we are keen to export it all over the Middle East.

How could any people be expected to live without this level of accountability?

Click on title for full story.

New Orleans May Lack Full Protection

George W Bush appears to be backing away from his promise to rebuild the city of New Orleans to be "bigger and better".

The Bush administration said yesterday that the cost of rebuilding New Orleans's levees to federal standards has nearly tripled to $10 billion and that there may not be enough money to fully protect the entire region.

Donald E. Powell, the administration's rebuilding coordinator, said some areas may be left without the protection of levees strong enough to meet requirements of the national flood insurance program. Those areas probably would face enormous obstacles in attracting home buyers and investors willing to build there.

The news represents a shift for the administration; President Bush had pledged in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina to rebuild New Orleans "higher and better." Now, some areas may lose out as they compete for levee protection. Powell's announcement, in a conference call with reporters, prompted denunciations from state and local officials who said the federal government is reneging on promises to rebuild the entire region.

"This monumental miscalculation is an outrage," said Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). "This means that, just two months before hurricane season, the Corps of Engineers informs us they cannot ensure even the minimum safety of southeastern Louisiana. This is totally unacceptable."

Why am I not remotely surprised to find that this administration has, once again, made a public promise that it is not prepared to keep?

Leaving aside the wiretapping of American civlians and the illegality of the Iraq war, the treatment of the people of New Orleans by this administration is enough to prove that they are unfit to hold the highest office in the land.

The fact that such news does not cause widespread unrest is a further indication of how low public expectations are when it comes to expecting this administration to deliver what it has promised.

Click title for full story.

P.S. And why does the Washington Post lead with the headline, "Levee Repair Costs Triple" rather than the more relevant subtitle "New Orleans May Lack Full Protection"? Spinning for the Bushites?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dangerous Times, Dangerous People.

It's hard to work out or quantify what exactly John Bolton has achieved in his epic struggle to have Iran censured at the UN.

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously approved a statement calling on Iran to fully suspend all uranium-enrichment activities.

The full 15-member Security Council backed the text by consensus late on March 29, after several weeks of negotiations among the council's five permanent, veto-holding members -- Russia, the United States, China, France, and Britain.

On the surface this sounds quite impressive, but if you look beneath, you have to honestly ask yourself what has actually changed.

Certainly not the ambivalence of Iran to any UN censure.

Iran's UN Ambassador Javad Zarif said his government would respond to the Security Council statement, but he warned that "Iran is a country that is allergic to pressure and to threats and intimidation".

"Iran is committed to non-proliferation and Iran does not want to produce nuclear weapons", he said, but "Iran insists on its right to have access to nuclear technology for explicitly peaceful purposes. We will not abandon that claim to our legitimate right."

So the next logical step for the US would be to seek to have Iran sanctioned, but all the signs are that Russia and China would immediately veto any measure of that sort.

So the real question is what will the US do next if Iran do, indeed, continue with nuclear proliferation and China and Russia balk at sanctions.

I have long thought that, despite the noises coming from the Bush administration, that military action - with the US occupying Iraq - is an absolute non-starter, although with the current raft of lunatics in charge anything remains possible.

As I have argued here, I think the US is taking a huge risk pursuing Iran, whilst still occupying Iraq, and as I've argued here, we are open to the charge of hypocrisy.

The Bushites are storming along a path and it's becoming evident that, besides having no idea where this path is leading us all, they actually have no plan in motion for what to do when their enthusiastic mission meets inevitable resistance.

At that point, it's going to become evident that Bush has no plan B. And the swaggering little man in the White House will not know how to back off.

The real danger here is that Bush, through his lack of an overall strategy, may end up leading us to war through the back door.

These are dangerous times, and we are being led by dangerous people.

Abramoff Is Sentenced to Five years

Jack Abramoff, the once-powerful Washington lobbyist whose downfall has propelled a far-reaching congressional corruption investigation, was sentenced Wednesday to five years and 10 months in prison for his role in the fraudulent purchase of a fleet of casino cruise boats.

U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck sentenced Abramoff, 47, and his former partner Adam Kidan, 41, to the shortest possible prison terms under sentencing guidelines after prosecutors affirmed that both men have been aiding the ongoing investigations and had expressed remorse.

Abramoff's attorneys said he has reviewed "thousands of documents" in the inquiry, which could reach members of Congress, congressional staff members and employees of federal agencies, including the Interior Department.

Sleaze continues to swirl around the ankles of this administration, with a possible Karl Rove indictment still to come.

Read the Washington Post's report by clicking on title.

Housing Cuts for the Poor, Tax Cuts for the Rich

President Bush's 2007 budget that was released last month includes significant cuts in housing assistance. The new budget for the Housing Choice Voucher Program underfunds 70 percent of the state and municipal housing agencies that oversee the program, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Although the Republican Congress has debated the cuts affecting the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), it appears unlikely that Mr. Bush's cuts will be opposed. Ironically, Congress is also considering yet another tax cut for the wealthy.

The voucher program is the country's largest low-income housing program. It provides poor households with vouchers they can use to rent housing in the private sector. Since 2004 voucher assistance for over 100,000 families have been cut because HUD doesn't allocate the vouchers based on current needs. Mr. Bush's 2007 budget relies on the same funding formula that has caused the shortages in the past few years.

Under the administration's formula, every housing agency's funding level is based on the dollar amount it was eligible to receive the previous year. The level is adjusted by an inflation factor determined by HUD based on data that is two-years old. But this formula doesn't consider the actual number of vouchers the agency distributed the previous year or changes in local voucher costs. As a result, many agencies are left with inadequate funds to continue all of the vouchers currently being used.

Click on title for full story.

The President Is Not Smiling

The President is cratering. Reality is intensifying, every day it seems. I imagine the Oval Office briefing where Card and the President bring Bolten up to speed on the latest upsets:

Last Saturday, a news leak revealed that Vladimir Putin, Bush's pal in Moscow,
tipped off Saddam Hussein on the invasion plans three years ago. Probably leaked by Pentagon troublemaker--tell Rummy to seek and destroy.

Sunday, the Russian candidate wins the election in the Ukraine. Our guy finishes third. Ask Condi for update. Do we drop "Orange Revolution" from our democracy speeches? Call Vlad, concede gracefully. You got Ukraine; we got Iraq. Can this friendship be saved?

Also Sunday, American troops attack the Sadr militia at a Bagdad mosque, kill an 80-year-old Shiite imam, among others. Bush asks: Does this put us still deeper in the doo-doo--that so-called civil war? We kill Sunnis to stop them from killing Shiites, then we gotta kill some Shiites to stop them from killing Sunnis. Democracy is hard, the President says, we've known that all along.

Click on title to read full article.

Exiled islanders set for emotional return to their homeland

There is an interesting story in today's Independent concerning the fight by former residents of Diego Garcia to be allowed to return to their homeland, which the British have leased to the US as a military base for the past 40 years.

Many ex-residents are to be allowed to visit their indigenous land in a trip sponsored by the British government, at a cost of £400,000, although they will not be allowed to spend a night on their former home.

Various excuses have been given as to why they should not be allowed to permanently return, from mosquito infestation to poor weather, but no concrete reason has ever been given as to why the islanders and the US base could not co-exist.

There is one paragraph in the article which made me sit up, and may possibly provide the reason for their permanent exclusion.

The US military has used the island base as a hub for the "war on terror" and is reported to have taken "high value" suspects there for interrogation.

Are we perhaps looking at a new Guantanamo?

Click on title to read article.

Clamour grows for Blair to reveal when he will stand down as PM

Tony Blair is under mounting pressure to spell out his timetable for his departure as Prime Minister, amid growing speculation about his future.

The febrile atmosphere at Westminster was fuelled when a cabinet minister's aide urged Mr Blair to hand over to Gordon Brown rapidly. Ashok Kumar, parliamentary private secretary to the International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, said: "If Mr Blair is concerned with securing a lasting and memorable legacy for Britain then I can think of no better way than to allow a smooth and rapid succession for Mr Brown." Writing in The Northern Echo, the Labour MP said the "loans for peerages" scandal had "not helped" efforts to rebuild trust in politicians. Mr Kumar stuck to his guns last night and denied that he faced a reprimand or the sack.

Click on title for full story.

The New Israel: Plans to redraw border on West Bank

Ehud Olmert, having won less seats than expected in the Israeli elections, today begins the task of finding partners for his Kadima party in order to carry out his election promise to redefine the borders of the Israeli state unilaterally.

And even though his mandate is not as large as was predicted, the collapse of the Likud vote, and the relative buoyancy of the Labour vote, represents a significant swing to the left in Israeli society.

The arguments of Benjamin Netanyahu, that Israel needs to hold on to large swathes of the West Bank, have been thoroughly rejected by the electorate, to such a degree that the very future of the Likud Party must now be in doubt.

These are encouraging signs for anyone who hopes for eventual peace in the region.

However, the fact that Israel plans to redefine her borders unilaterally, remains a possible thorn in the side of any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

We can take slight comfort from the fact that some hope exists and there is indication of possible movement on both sides.

Mr Peretz has repeatedly made it clear that he wants to see negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas and that unilateral measures should only be taken as a last resort. Ismail Haniyeh, the new Hamas Palestinian Prime Minister said after his Cabinet was sworn in by Mr Abbas in Gaza yesterday that " whatever Mr Abbas presents to the people as a result of the negotiations serves our interests, then we will also redefine our position."

Read the Independent's report by clicking the title.

Tories warned: "come clean" on loans or face court action

David Cameron's continual refusal to "come clean" over the suspected £24 million in loans given to his party by unnamed doners has led the Electoral Commission to threaten to go to court to force him to show whatever it is he is trying to hide.

Mr Cameron and the Tory party have been avoiding declaring certain donors to their party by claiming that certain donations are "loans" and, as such, are not subject to declaration under the current parliamentary rules.

The Electoral Commission wants to check -

· the interest rates, to check whether they were preferential compared with those offered by banks.

· details of security offered by the party for the loans.

· the repayment period for any of the loans to see if they are under normal commercial terms.

· arrangements for the loans to be converted into donations.

If any of these loans are found to have been given especially favourable treatment to the borrower, then they will be deemed donations and the doners named.

Click on title for full story.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Flexible John Bolton

"We have been incredibly flexible. Incredibly flexible. I probably have never been more flexible," John Bolton said.

How refreshing to see a neo-con come face to face with reality, rather than be allowed to indulge in the empty rhetoric that Bush and his gang normally spout at us.

And what brought about this sudden embracing of "flexibility?"

Well, it comes down to finding out that there's a big Russian guy and a wee Chinese man standing behind you with their middle fingers up your ass! That always brings much welcomed clarity of thought to even the most muddled Republican mind.

But to see Bolton, of all people, forced to embrace the structural reality of life at the UN was a moment to savour.

In a 1994 speech at the liberal World Federalist Association, Bolton declared that "there is no such thing as the United Nations." To underscore his point, he said: "If the UN secretary building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."

However, Bolton - who is seeking to bring Iran's nuclear misdemeanors before the Security Council - now finds both Russia and China threatening to veto any resolution that might allow the use of sanctions against Iran further down the road.

In a desperate attempt to have the Council agree to any kind of resolution, Bolton is now prepared to allow the deletion of all demands from the resolution, and has settled on previous resolutions being referred to only by their number.

By being forced to accommodate the opinions of others, Mr Bolton is learning that there is, indeed, such a thing as the United Nations.

Viva la Change!

Read the story here.

Remembering the Iraq War's Pollyanna pundits

Weeks after the invasion of Iraq began, Fox News Channel host Brit Hume delivered a scathing speech critiquing the media's supposedly pessimistic assessment of the Iraq War. "The majority of the American media who were in a position to comment upon the progress of the war in the early going, and even after that, got it wrong," Hume complained in the April 2003 speech (Richmond Times Dispatch, 4/25/04). "They didn't get it just a little wrong. They got it completely wrong.

"Hume was perhaps correct--but almost entirely in the opposite sense. Days or weeks into the war, commentators and reporters made premature declarations of victory, offered predictions about lasting political effects and called on the critics of the war to apologize. Three years later, the Iraq War grinds on at the cost of at least tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Around the same time as Hume's speech, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas declared (4/16/03): "All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent. Otherwise, they will return to us in another situation where their expertise will be acknowledged, or taken for granted, but their credibility will be lacking."

Gathered here are some of the most notable media comments from the early days of the Iraq War.

Click title to reminisce. To marvel at just how stupid and self congratulatory right wingers were.

Imperial Overreach is Accelerating the Global Decline of America

The disastrous foreign policies of the US have left it more isolated than ever, and China is standing by to take over by Martin Jacques

"Our power, then, has the grave liability of rendering our theories about the world immune from failure. But by becoming deaf to easily discerned warning signs, we may ignore long-term costs that result from our actions and dismiss reverses that should lead to a re-examination of our goals and means."

These are the words of Henry Hyde, chairman of the House international relations committee and a Republican congressman, in a recent speech. Hyde argues that such is the overweening power of the US that it may not hear or recognize the signals when its policy goes badly wrong, a thinly veiled reference to Iraq. He then takes issue with the idea that the US can export democracy around the world as deeply misguided and potentially dangerous. He argues: "A broad and energetic promotion of democracy in other countries that will not enjoy our long-term and guiding presence may equate not to peace and stability but to revolution ... There is no evidence that we or anyone can guide from afar revolutions we have set in motion. We can more easily destabilize friends and others and give life to chaos and to avowed enemies than ensure outcomes in service of our interests and security."

It is clear that the US occupation of Iraq has been a disaster from almost every angle one can think of, most of all for the Iraqi people, not least for American foreign policy. The unpicking of the imperial logic that led to it has already commenced: Hyde's speech is an example, and so is Francis Fukuyama's new book After the Neocons, a merciless critique of Bush's foreign policy and the school of thought that lay behind it. The war was a delayed product of the end of the cold war and the triumphalist mentality that imbued the neocons and eventually seduced the US. But triumphalism is a dangerous brew, more suited to intoxication than hard-headed analysis. And so it has proved. The US still has to reap the whirlwind for its stunning feat of imperial overreach.

Click on title to read article.

Bush Risks Alienating Shias

The Bush administration has finally given up any pretence that it believes in democracy by writing to the Iraqi government demanding the removal of Ibrahim al-Jaafari the Iraqi prime minister.

This latest move now puts the Bush administration on a collision course with Iraq's Shia population, who account for 60% of Iraqis.

Already at war with Iraq's Sunnis, the move is puzzling to say the least.

Mr Jaafari remains the chosen Shia leader and retains the support of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the Hawza (the religious hierarchy) as well as by the Iranians.

Quite what the Americans hope to gain from this is, to me, unclear.

One thing is certain though. As we witnessed in Palestine, democracy doesn't always throw up leaders of the political persuasion that the Bush administration would like.

The test for Bush is whether he will accept democratic results that he does not favour, or whether he will oppose them.

To oppose them, which appears from this to be his chosen path, is to undermine all his empty rhetoric about why his army is in the Middle East in the first place.

Related Articles:

Americans' call for removal of Iraqi PM threatens rift with Shias

Coverage From The New York Times

Bush Fiddles As Rome Burns

Bush has, finally, succumbed to the inevitable and let a member of his staff go. Andrew Card has become the man to fall on his sword as Bush eventually gave in to calls from Republicans that the administration, in the wake of disasters such as Katrina and the ongoing Iraq war, needed an input of fresh blood.

The whole thing carries the whiff of "too little too late", as there is no fresh blood to replace Card, who's role will be filled by the administration's budget director, Josh Bolten.

This spectacular lack of inititive and imagination has become indicitive of the second Bush administration, a group of people who seem to have replaced traditional American administration priorities, such an intellect, with arrogance and posturing.

With Bush's popularity in the polls almost in freefall, it's very hard not to see this as an admission of defeat - rather than as the staking of a new claim to legitimacy.

For Bush to have done the latter would have required him to go against all of the instincts that have served him so badly. He would have had to replace his love of loyalty with a more rational appreciation of reality.

He would have had to ask himself why his poll numbers are falling at such a disturbing rate. Any honest review of this situation would lead him to one word. IRAQ.

And the man overseeing his Iraq policy, the man that even arch Republicans are now calling for to be fired, is Donald Rumsfeld.

It would take great courage, and even the hint of an admission of defeat, for Bush to replace such a senior figure at this critical juncture.

The fact that he could not bring himself to do so, defines Bush's presidency.

All swagger and no sense.

In this latest act of rearranging the tables as the Titanic sinks, Bush confirms himself as a modern Nero, fiddling as Rome burns.

Related Articles:

White House chief-of-staff quits as Bush's approval ratings dive

Fresh Blood? From The Nation.

The Soon-To-Be-Forgotten Andrew Card

Kadima Wins Israel's Elections

The ruling Kadima party won yesterday's general election in Israel, according to exit polls, but with fewer seats than the acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, wanted in order for him to claim a mandate for his plan to impose Israel's final borders.

The election proved disastrous for the once dominant Likud party, driven into fourth place by Labour and the rise of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu which advocates removing Arabs from Israel.

According to exit polls last night, Kadima won up to 32 seats in the 120-seat parliament. Labour has about 21, Yisrael Beiteinu 14 and Likud 12. The balance of seats is mostly held by religious and nationalist parties. The turnout, at 63%, was the lowest in Israel's history.

Mr Olmert's likely coalition partners are Labour and two smaller parties. He may also turn to the Pensioners party, which has never before held seats in parliament but is estimated to have won eight in an apparent protest vote.

The election was widely regarded as a referendum on Mr Olmert's commitment, backed by Labour and the left, to unilaterally withdraw from large parts of the West Bank, to remove tens of thousands of Jewish settlers while retaining the main settlement blocks, and to carve out a border using the West Bank barrier. Likud, led by Binyamin Netanyahu, and other parties on the right argued that pulling out of Palestinian territory would be a victory for terrorism.
In his victory speech, Mr Olmert said he would press ahead with his plan to separate from the Palestinians.

"In the near future we will bring about the shaping of the final borders of the state, guaranteeing a Jewish democratic state," he said.

The acting prime minister said he wanted to negotiate frontiers with the Palestinians only on condition they recognise Israel and end violence.

Despite the fact that the Palestnians have elected Hamas; the wish, within Israel, to define her international borders is the best chance for peace in the region since 1967.

I only hope that Olmert includes the Palestinians in any future negotiatons, backs away from unilaterism, and seizes the moment.

Click on title for full story.

Related Articles:

Israelis have at last endorsed the gradual return of a stolen inheritance

The Lonesome Death Of Rachel Corrie: Hear Billy Bragg's Song Here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Access Denied!

"Press Office," chirped the Defense Department voice on the phone.

"Yes, good morning. My name is Bill Fisher. I write for TruthOut. I have a couple of questions about the Biscuit Program. Would you be able to help me?"

"What are Biscuits?" said a confused voice.

"They are military shorthand for Behavioral Science Consultation Teams," said I.

"Let me connect you with the person who knows about that program," said the helpful voice.


Then came an answering machine. "This is Jane Doe (I am not using her real name because I might get her in trouble). Please leave your name and phone number and the nature of your question, and I'll call you back," said the disembodied voice mail message.

I did, adding that I wanted to file a story today. Then I waited. And waited. And waited some more. From midday Friday until 7 p.m. Monday.

Altogether, I called three times, each time being referred either to a different person (who was away from his/her desk), or to another automated voice mailbox, where I left the same message.

The questions I never got to ask anyone at the DOD were:

"I'd like to know whether BISCUIT units are working at Abu Ghraib and Bagram and other US-controlled detention centers as well as at Guant¡namo," and "Some folks who are in the medical and other health-provider fields have been critical of the BISCUITS at Guant¡namo Bay, saying they have been using doctors and nurses and psychologists to help the interrogators get information out of the detainees, and advising about how best to keep people alive who are on hunger strike there."

Now, if my name happened to be Bob Woodward or Jane Mayer or Sy Hirsch or Walter Pincus or Jim Risen, I suppose I could have called a "high level official close to the Bush administration," who might speak, "on condition of anonymity."

But I wanted to discover whether a plain vanilla working-stiff journalist - and taxpayer - could actually get some information on a sensitive subject from a famously secretive government.

I guess I got my answer. The silence was deafening.

This is why blogs are so important, this is why we all do what we do. We cannot live in a world where the government only talk to people who will report the news in the way that they would like - or risk being cut out of the government's loop.

Even Bush recently admitted the importance of blogging, by calling on all Republicans to blog. Granted he did so because, at this point in time, even the right wing press are finding it hard to explain his incompetence; but the point still holds.

We cannot accept, as truth, facts which are handed down with conditions attached.

The truth is the truth.

There are no riders on the contract.

There is a phenomenal responsibility, on all of us, to accept that the internet is the greatest advancement of freedom the world has experienced since the discovery of the printing press.

With one major difference. We are all now publishers.

We MUST make that count.

Fitzgerald Will Seek New White House Indictments

Well, well, well.

There's a possiblity that Karl Rove might not have been spared Fitzgerald's indictment after all.

Attorneys and government officials who have remained close to the probe saying that a grand jury will likely return an indictment against one or two senior Bush administration officials.

These sources work or worked at the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council. Some of these sources are attorneys close to the case. They requested anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly about the details of the investigation.

In lengthy interviews over the weekend and on Monday, they said that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has started to prepare the paperwork to present to the grand jury seeking an indictment against White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove or National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

Click on the title for the full story.

White House Chief of Staff Card Resigns

President Bush announced the resignation of White House chief of staff Andy Card on Wednesday and replaced him with budget director Joshua Bolten, saying "the next three years will demand much of those who serve our country."

"We have a global war to fight and win," Bush said. "I'm honored to have served with Andy Card. I have great confidence in my next White House chief of staff." "I'm deeply honored now by the opportunity to succeed Andy Card as White House chief of staff," Bolton said. "I said succeed Andy Card, not replace him, because he cannot be replaced."

However, Joshua Bolton hardly got off to a great start saying to Bush, "I've watched as you have kept your oath to preserve and protect the Constitution."

Sorry?! Is this the same President that said, “Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, it’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

Not that Bush was being any more honest himself. Talking of how hard working his staff are Bush said, We've dealt with war.

That'll be the war that's still ongoing with no victory in sight?

We've dealt with recession.

Yep, managed to land the US in one.

We've dealt with scandal.

Ha ha ha. He's too much.

We've dealt with Katrina.

The guy should do standup. He's simply too funny. Too detached from reality. If leaving the citizens of New Orleans stranded for five days without access to food and water, with no ability to bury their dead, is Bush's idea of how that situation should have been dealt with, he should resign.

Bombing Civilians is Not Only Immoral, it's Ineffective

No one knows how many civilians have died violently in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. The most careful assessment, by the website Iraq Body Count, estimates at least 36,000. The true figure could be three times higher. The uncertainty is explained by General Tommy Franks' now-notorious remark, "We don't do body counts."

Three interesting facts nevertheless help shape a sense of the possibilities. One is that the US forces insist that they use precision techniques to minimise "collateral damage". The second is that the coalition recently and controversially admitted using phosphorus weapons in its attack on Falluja. The third is that one of the US marine air wings operating in Iraq announced in a press release in November 2005 that since the invasion began it had dropped more than half a million tons of explosives on Iraq.

Click on title for full article.

Baldwin Bitch Slaps Hannity

Sean Hannity called in to a radio show that Alec Baldwin was appearing on and an extraordinary exchange took place. Hannity attempts to accuse Baldwin of being afraid to appear on his show. Baldwin replies, "I wouldn't dream of coming on your program, Sean Hannity. I'm here with Brian. I'm here with a really talented broadcaster."

In the most surreal section Hannity, not really a lightweight himself, starts attacking Baldwin's weight problem. What this has to do with someone's political beliefs is anyone's guess. Hannity simply loses it.

It's very funny exchange.

The excellent Crooks and Liars carry it on their website. Click on the title to be taken there.

The Price of "The Special Relationship" is revealed! It's £8.

The phrase is thought to have been first coined by Winston Churchill who said, "Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organization will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples ...a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States.

But, whatever it’s origins, it is a relationship that no British Prime Minister has ever dared to break.

The greatest example of it was the love fest that existed between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. He called her "the best man in England." She once said he was "the second most important man in my life."

Indeed, such is the need to preserve the special relationship in the minds of British politicians, that Blair became widely known as Bush’s poodle throughout the UK, when he decided to back the US President's disputed claim that Saddam Hussein might be harbouring Weapons of Mass Destruction and helped him to launch, what many in Britain believe, was an illegal war against Iraq.

Indeed, the disgust over the war led to the resignations of several of Blair’s ministers, most notably Robin Cook the Leader of the House of Commons and Clare Short his International Development Secretary.

Cook summed up the feelings of many in the Labour Party when he stated, "Only a year ago, we and the United States were part of a coalition against terrorism that was wider and more diverse than I would ever have imagined possible.

History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition.

The US can afford to go it alone, but Britain is not a superpower.

Our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules.

Yet tonight the international partnerships most important to us are weakened: the European Union is divided; the Security Council is in stalemate.

Those are heavy casualties of a war in which a shot has yet to be fired."

Blair accepted these heavy political losses as a price worth paying in order to preserve the special relationship that had saved the continent of Europe from the scourge of Nazism.

Many of us doubted the wisdom of his actions, but few could have doubted his sincere belief that the special relationship must be preserved at all costs.

And now, despite the enormous efforts of UK politicians of all political persuasions to maintain that relationship, a hole has appeared in the dam.

It was bound to happen eventually. For the special relationship was always a one way street, a sort of uneven love affair, in which Britain adored and the US accepted Britain’s adoration.

The caution of all British Prime Ministers when approaching her more powerful ally was the fear that one day we would make a demand too far, request a favour too many, name a price that the world’s sole hyper power was unwilling to pay.

Sadly the UK has, unwittingly, stumbled into that arena; we have named that price: and it is a price at which the richest country in the history of the world has balked.

It is £8.

This is the cost that all commuters in London pay in order to enter London’s Congestion Zone. But to the US Embassy, it is a charge too far. The US embassy is arguing that the congestion charge is a tax and as such should not apply to diplomats, whom it says are exempt. But the Mayor of London, Mr Ken Livingstone, contends that the charge is a payment for a service as it is aimed at reducing traffic, and should therefore be paid.

Such is the degree of rancour that has exploded between the two country's that Mayor Livingston launched an attack on the US Ambassador yesterday, accusing him of being a "chiselling little crook".

He said: "This is clearly a political decision. When British troops are putting their lives on the line for American foreign policy it would be quite nice if they paid the congestion charge."

Sadly, whilst acknowledging the heavy cost in human casualties paid by the British military in supporting the war in Iraq, there are some costs that even the new empire cannot afford to pay.


Monday, March 27, 2006

A Patriot Speaks Out.

People like Joseph W DuRocher give me faith that the America we used to look up to still beats in the hearts of some of it's citizens.

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As a young man I was honored to serve our nation as a commissioned officer and helicopter pilot in theU. S. Navy. Before me in WWII, my father defended the country spending two years in the Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Hornet (CV-14). We were patriots sworn "to protect and defend".

Today I conclude that you have dishonored our service and the Constitution and principles of our oath. My dad was buried with full military honors so I cannot act for him. But for myself, I return enclosed the symbols of my years of service: the shoulder boards of my rank and my Naval Aviator's wings.

Until your administration, I believed it was inconceivable that the United States would ever initiate an aggressive and preemptive war against a country that posed no threat to us. Until your administration, I thought it was impossible for our nation to take hundreds of persons into custody without provable charges of any kind, and to "disappear" them into holes like Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram. Until your administration, in my wildest legal fantasy I could not imagine a U.S. Attorney General seeking to justify torture or a President first stating his intent to veto an anti-torture law, and then adding a "signing statement" that he intends to ignore such law as he sees fit. I do not want these things done in my name.

As a citizen, a patriot, a parent and grandparent, a lawyer and law teacher I am left with such a feeling of loss and helplessness. I think of myself as a good American and I ask myself what can I do when I see the face of evil? Illegal and immoral war, torture and confinement for life without trial have never been part of our Constitutional tradition. But my vote has become meaningless because I live in a safe district drawn by your political party. My congressman is unresponsive to my concerns because his time is filled with lobbyists' largess. Protests are limited to your "free speech zones", out of sight of the parade. Even speaking openly is to risk being labeled un-American, pro-terrorist or anti-troops. And I am a disciplined pacifist, so any violent act is out of the question.

Nevertheless, to remain silent is to let you think I approve or support your actions. I do not. So, I am saddened to give up my wings and bars. They were hard won and my parents and wife were as proud as I was when I earned them over forty years ago. But I hate the torture and death you have caused more than I value their symbolism. Giving them up makes me cry for my beloved country.

Joseph W. DuRocher

Baker’s Latest Assignment; tell Bush we lost

The cracks and fissures are finally beginning to appear in Fortress Bush. The AP is reporting that Congress quietly appointed an "Iraq Study Group" headed by James A. Baker to "assess the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq and political and economic developments in the troubled country". In other words, Baker has been picked to tell Bush that the war is over; we lost.

The group was voted into being with little fanfare to spare the White House any unnecessary embarrassment, but the message is clear; the adults are finally stepping in. The war has been so appallingly mismanaged that jittery American elites are forcing themselves back into the policy-making apparatus.

The group is led by Bush-family friend and consigliore, James Baker who helped the president squeak-by in election 2000 by convincing the Supreme Court that his client (George Bush) would suffer "irreparable harm" if the legally cast Florida ballots were counted.

Now, Baker has returned, leading a team of disgruntled government big-wigs and policy-wonks to see if they can extricate the recalcitrant executive from his Babylon folly. The move illustrates the widening chasm between American elites and the White House over the bungled handling of the war.

It's tempting to see this as the beginning of the end of the Iraq nightmare, but Bush hasn't listened to anyone for the past six years, what makes anyone think he's going to start now?

Click on title for full story.

Bush and Ahmadinejad - Spot The Difference.

I continue to find it almost impossible to find any great substantive difference between the certainty of purpose displayed by George W. Bush and that of the regimes he is supposedly appalled by.

In today's Washington Post it has been reported that, "In remarks that set off a domestic firestorm, a senior cleric close to the new president suggested in January that Iranian voters were largely irrelevant because the government requires only the approval of God."

This is obviously not the viewpoint of a rational man. However, I don't find this very different from Bush making the claim, "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job."

Or his assertion that God told him to invade Iraq.

So whilst Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's opinion that the electorate are "irrelevant" is, rightly, seen as the ramblings of an extremist; those same ramblings put him nearer to Bush's mindset than Bush would like us to believe. After all, Bush is a man famous for not reading opinion polls, the best guide available to the thoughts of the American electorate.

Now, the fact that Bush believes that God guides his actions, gives him a certainty of purpose; a belief that he is always on the side of right and good. Indeed, for many of his supporters, this is part of his attraction. He has played to the Republican Christian base more than any President before him.

So what's the difference between him and Ahmadinejad? To be totally honest, I can't see any.

Bush Was Set on Path to War, Memo by British Adviser Says

In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.

But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister
Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.

"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.

"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."

Proof, were any more proof needed, that they were lying to us when they were proclaiming they had not made any firm decision to invade. The article contains one new startling piece of information.

Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.

Previously we had thought that Bush was alone in this assesment. It now appears that Blair was every bit as misguided as his American counterpart.

Click title for full story.

Massive protest in LA over anti-immigration proposals

Los Angeles witnessed the biggest public protest in its history over the weekend as hundreds of thousands of peaceful demonstrators of all races thronged the downtown streets to demand justice and legal recognition for the country's 12 million undocumented immigrant workers.

The march, which far exceeded organisers' expectations and easily dwarfed anything seen during the civil rights movement or the Vietnam War, was a stunning slap in the face for the country's vocal anti-immigrant lobby and set the stage for what is likely to be an electric debate in the Senate this week on what may emerge as the main issue in November's mid-term elections.

With anti-Americanism sweeping the globe, stories like this restore our faith in the American people, whilst we remain appalled by their government.

It's so reassuring to see that the people of that great land have lost none of their love of the underdog.

Nor have they forgotten the words enscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Click on title for full story.

Imagine, If You Will...

Now we all know that the Bushites have been on a campaign this week to make Iraq a presentational problem rather than a problem of their own making. Their take on things is that if the media were more "even handed" and reported the good news as well as the bad, we would all have a "more balanced view" on what is going on over there.

I'm going to print now a short report from Reuters on events yesterday in Iraq.

Authorities found 30 bodies, most of them beheaded, on the main road of a village near Baquba, just north of Baghdad. Police said many of the victims had also been shot.

Now I'm going to ask you, in your imagination, to transpose the location of that story to New York. Imagine that some type of gang warfare was resulting in 30 people turning up in Manhatten beheaded and shot.

Can you seriously accept the Bush regimes argument that this needn't be the lead story?

It's ludicrous. Proof, were any more proof needed, that they're simply playing shoot the messenger.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Campaign says Harris won't turn to inheritance

It now turns out that Katherine Harris is not going to use her $10 million inheritance from her dead father to pursue her campaign in Florida.

Campaign spokeswoman Morgan Dobbs said Thursday that Harris will sell her existing assets rather than rely on money from her father, a bank executive who died in January.

I did think it was one of the most insane things I've ever heard an aspiring politician say. Why spend that amount of money to become a senator? The pay checks not that good is it?

However, now that her flirtation with ego-enforced-bankruptcy has passed, I feel the car crash TV element of this tale has disappeared.

My life is a little emptier for that.

Click on title for full story

No One’s Laughing at This Deja Vu All over Again

It's insane. The very idea that the US, whilst still bogged down in Iraq, could even consider an attack on Iran is an active act of madness.

And yet, I keep coming across articles predicting that the US has, indeed, launched herself on this course.

This is the latest I've come across. Click on the title to read the whole thing.

I think it was Yogi Bera, the New York Yankees own “Mrs. Malaprop,” who made famous the line, “Here we go, it’s deja vu all over again.” Everybody laughed then.

President George Bush looks as if he’s about to make the line common parlance again. Only this time people aren’t laughing.

What may be the buildup to an attack on Iran, the new breeding ground of terrorists according to the U.S. lexicon of evil nations, appears to be in high gear. It’s a ritual now of recognizable parts:

First we have a nuclear standoff -- which this time may be real for a change -- given the fear generated in the Middle East as well as in the States as a result of our last unsubstantiated “preemptive strike.”

Then, we have the declaration of the new, but now theologized and therefore holy, “doctrine of pre-emptive war.” Meaning that if we decide that another country has something that is dangerous to us, they have it and we will respond accordingly.

Then we have the parade of sabers and spears, of bombs and bombers. This, of course, is designed to intimidate the rest of the world and embolden the United States itself. I mean, if nobody can beat us, what difference does it make whether we’re right or wrong again. We’ll win anyway.

Then we have the swashbuckling speeches of a president already defeated in one war and attempting, perhaps, to distract from that debacle by creating another one.

The only question now is whether or not the public, the Congress, the world will risk another frightening U.S. fiasco in the name of freedom. Whose freedom, we’re never told. To what end, no one knows. With what success, given our present record, is anyone’s guess.

The problem is that this time we are being asked not only to be afraid but also to be nonsensical, absurd, fatuous, inane.

Why Do We Censor Ourselves?

It's weird.

When posting here I always like to find a picture that illustrates the story. That puts it in perspective, either by being humerous about the point I'm discussing, or to add a simple dramatic image that sums up the point I'm making.

I've just posted a story about the killing of innocent Iraqi civilians and I've balked at using the most graphic imagery. I've settled on a picture of an American soldier rather than the more obvious picture of a slaughtered Iraqi.

Anyone who looks through Googles picture library will know the other options that were available to me.

Why do we censor ourselves?

I know, on one level, it's because I don't want to feel that I'm being disrespectful to the person who's death has been caught on camera.

However, there's another part of me that believes that these right wing morons, who gleefully clap like cheerleaders and encourage this kind of barbarity, should be forced to look at the actual consequences of their actions.

We should see war, not as some tiny blob that occurs on a green screen, but as the human calamity that it is, where the cost is huge and bloody.

And yet... I find I simply can't do it.

There is no picture to illustrate this post.

Did American Marines murder 23 Iraqi civilians?

US military investigators are examining allegations that Marines shot unarmed Iraqis, then claimed they were "enemy fighters", The Independent on Sunday has learned. In the same incident, eyewitnesses say, one man bled to death over a period of hours as soldiers ignored his pleas for help.

American military officials in Iraq have already admitted that 15 civilians who died in the incident in the western town of Haditha last November were killed by Marines, and not by a roadside bomb, as had previously been claimed. The only victim of the remotely triggered bomb, it is now conceded, was a 20-year-old Marine, Lance-Corporal Miguel Terrazas, from El Paso, Texas.

An inquiry has been launched by the US Navy's Criminal Investigation Service after the military was presented with evidence that the 15 civilians, including seven women and three children still in their nightclothes, had been killed in their homes in the wake of the bombing. If it is proved that they died in a rampage by the Marines, and not as a result of "collateral damage", it would rank as the worst case of deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians by US armed forces since the invasion three years ago.

Just when you think the news from Iraq couldn't get any worse, we come across "the worst case of deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians" since the occupation began.

Now I'm sure the Bushites would rather people concentrate on the positives in Iraq, rather than "aiding al Qaeda" (as Bush recently claimed reporting the truth would do) but when you start Guinness Book of Records attempts at the slaughtering of innocent civilians, it's bound to rate a mention.

Peter Daou, when questioned by MSNBC news about Bush's request that the press give a "more balanced" view of the Iraq situation, gave a great quote that he thinks might be from Walter Kronkite. "We are not in the business of covering cats that are not stuck in trees."

Amen to that, I say.

Click on title for full article.

Tories mired in funding row as new backer is revealed

David Cameron's honeymoon period with the British public appears to be well and truly over. The most recent Tory leader, who was anxious to reveal the new, kinder face of fascism has run into trouble over what initially appeared to be a problem for the Labour Party.

It was revealed last week, as I reported here, that the Labour Party had received some £14 million in "loans". This was a rather sleazy arrangement as, under current government guidelines, only donations to political parties have to be declared. Loans, apparently, slip under the net.

However, it now turns out the Tories have been "lent" approximately double the amount that's been given to the Labour Party. And, more worrying for Cameron, some of it appears to come from overseas.

Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, has written to Cameron calling on him to name all the lenders. It is illegal for parties to receive donations from foreign individuals ineligible to vote here and, while there is no law stopping foreigners lending, if the loans were given on a non-commercial or preferential basis they could be classed as donations.

Now, I'm sure they're going to argue that donations from overseas are outlawed but that the law mentions nothing about "loans from overseas", and it may help them to wriggle off this particular hook. But it's pedantic nitpicking.

The whole thing stinks.

Click on title for full story.


This story has just got even worse for Cameron. The Times are reporting that:

THE Tories under David Cameron have accepted £100,000 from the wife of a foreign arms dealer barred from making political donations in Britain.

Wafic Said, a Syrian-born Saudi, and his British wife Rosemary are accused of exploiting a loophole in the rules to fund the Tories, who are under increasing pressure to reveal their financial backers.

Click here for that story.