Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama to 82 year old, "Will you be my running mate?"

'It was as if we had just landed on the Moon': the first faltering steps into the outside world

I am sure most people are by now aware of the story of Josef Fritzl, the man who kept his own daughter in a dungeon for 24 years and repeatedly raped her producing seven children.

It's too horrendous to even discuss. However, what has interested me is how his children, who have been kept from daylight all of their lives, have reacted to their sudden freedom.

The Independent today carries a report from the policemen who were there at the time of their release.

Leopold Etz, the head of Lower Austria's murder commission, was the first officer to set eyes on the frightened, ashen-faced Fritzl boys, Stefan, 18, and Felix, five, who had spent their whole lives underground. "They both looked terrified and were terribly pale," he said. "The two boys were taken upstairs from the underground bunker and appeared overawed by the daylight they had never experienced before.

"The real world was completely alien to them," Mr Etz said, "Later on that evening, we had to drive them to hospital. We had to drive very slowly with them because they cringed at every car light and every bump. It was as if we had just landed on the Moon," he added.

The boys were said to be able to communicate quite well in German, although their use of language and speech was far from normal. "They did not speak much in the bunker," said Dr Berthold Kepplinger, the director of the clinic where they are being cared for.

"Most of the speech they heard came from a television that was on in the cellar most of the time," he added. Both were said to be at risk from vitamin D deficiency resulting from lack of sunlight.

I have been telling myself that the five year old, at least, has some chance of recovering from his ordeal, working on the theory that he is young enough to put all of this behind him, however, psychologists do not appear to share my optimistic outlook even for him.

Psychologists were almost unanimous in their view that the ordeal suffered by Elisabeth, Kerstin, Stefan and Felix would mark them indefinitely. "The four will never be able to live normal lives. I am afraid it is too late for that," Bernd Prosser, a clinical psychologist told Austrian television. However, the reunion of the Fritzl family members was described by doctors as an "astonishing success". The older children found it relatively easy to make contact. Only five-year-old Felix was said to have clung anxiously to his mother's legs.

Newspapers in the UK often use the term "shocking" to describe events which are horrible, but actually not shocking at all. We are so cynical that it is very rare that something happens which genuinely shocks us.

I have found the story of what transpired in Austria to be truly shocking. And stories coming out today, in which Fritzl threatened to turn the cellar into a gas chamber if his daughter and her children attempted to escape, only adds to one's sense of utter astonishment and revulsion.

I really was hoping that some of them might be able to rebuild their lives; but, sadly, people who know much more about psychology than I do say that this will prove to be impossible.

It's got to be the saddest story that I have read in years. And yes, it is shocking.

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Obama calls Wright comments 'outrageous'

Barack Obama has shown remarkable loyalty to Reverend Wright, a loyalty which must have been tested to the extreme when Wright decided to embark on a tour during the election battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Worse still, he has chosen to repeat some of his most contentious remarks on AIDS and race relations, and again praised Louis Farrakhan, a black Muslim leader whom many see as anti-Semitic.

It would seem that for Obama enough is enough and that the preacher has to go.

Speaking in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where a primary is scheduled for May 6, the Illinois senator sought quell attempts among his political rivals to link him to the pastor, describing Wright's recent public appearances as "outrageous," "appalling," a "distraction" and a "rant".

"The problems that we face as a country are too great to continue to be divided," Obama said during today's news conference. "What we saw yesterday out of Reverend Wright was a resurfacing, and I believe an exploitation, of those old divisions."

"It is antithetical to our campaign, it is antithetical to what I am about, it is not what I think America stands for, and I want to be very clear that moving forward Reverend Wright does not speak for me, he does not speak for our campaign … It contradicts everything that I am about and who I am."

I actually admired the way that Obama stuck by his pastor and refused to disown him when this whole mess hit the airwaves. However, I have found the fact that Wright has chosen to conduct this tour while Obama is fighting an election to be naive and self serving to say the least. I thought he did a wonderful interview with Bill Moyers, but apart from that, this tour was - for Obama at least - an accident waiting to happen.

Now, at last, Obama has felt the need to put some permanent distance between himself and Wright.

"What became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that contradicts what I am and what I stand for," Obama said.

In particular, Obama said he was angered by Wright's, "suggestion somehow that my previous denunciation of his remarks were somehow political posturing".

"The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago," Obama said.

I have always thought it a tremendous hypocrisy that Obama was attacked for his association with Wright whilst McCain was never really questioned about his seeking endorsement from John Hagee, a man who said that Hurricane Katrina was God's revenge for a gay pride parade.

The press have chosen during this election to give McCain the easiest of easy rides, falling over themselves to explain away his every error and accepting associations which he has with controversial preachers whilst questioning the same associations when it comes to Obama.

This will be the "Liberal" press that we always hear about in action.

I am always appalled during American elections to see how often the tactic of guilt by association is used, but I am even more appalled by how one way the tactic is applied.

Obama has now distanced himself from Wright, when will we hear cries in the press for McCain to reject the endorsement of John Hagee? I won't hold my breath waiting for that.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

DNC Ad on John McCain and Iraq: "100"

I wonder if McCain will regret saying those words?

The RNC are currently trying to have this ad banned claiming that it is “false and defamatory” and illegally coordinated.

Opposition factions unite to demand Mugabe's exit

Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, leaders of rival factions of the Movement for Democratic Change, have put aside their differences to call for Mugabe to step down now that the election recounts have confirmed that Mugabe has lost control of the Zimbabwean parliament for the first time in 28 years.

The opposition leaders moved fast to consolidate their gains as Mugabe's hold on power tangibly weakened. "We are here to ... say there will be no divisions among ourselves," Mutambara said at a joint press conference with Tsvangirai in South Africa.

"We are all going to work together in case Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF try to sabotage the will of the people. We are in control of parliament. We are also controlling the senate. This is the state of affairs in our country."

There is still a question over the results of the presidential election, especially as these figures have never been publicly released, however Tsvangirai is claiming that there is no need for a rerun of this election.

"The question about a runoff doesn't arise," he said. "It doesn't arise because of the simple fact that the people have spoken, the people have decided." Addressing Mugabe directly, he said: "Old man, go and have an honourable exit."

Many of us expected Mugabe to rig the recounts in order to retain control of parliament and are puzzled that he has not done so. However, this is perhaps an indication of just how deeply the dissatisfaction with Mugabe runs throughout Zimbabwean society. And, perhaps, this explains why Mugabe ordered raids on independent election monitor's offices.

The danger for Mugabe was always that discontent ran so deep that members of the army would not respond to orders to quell any uprising. It now appears that this is the case and that the people counting the votes, people who one would normally expect to respond to orders to falsify the results, have not done so.

For all the violence Mugabe has unleashed since the election, the result has still come back saying that he has lost control of parliament.

Perhaps he can now attempt to institute a coup, but are the army sufficiently behind him for to risk such an outrage? Up until now he has mostly employed his war veterans to do his dirty work for him, raising the prospect that he fears ordering the army to act lest they refuse to do so.

I don't want to get too excited too early, but things are not looking good for the old dictator.

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MI5 accused of colluding in torture of terrorist suspects

When did we sink so low? When did our abhorrence of torture become so worn out that it became a practice which we outsourced? Or, indeed, in the case of the US, a practice which they indulged in themselves and which the president felt able to publicly boast of?

A number of British terrorism suspects are claiming that MI5 outsourced their torture to the infamous Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI, in an attempt to obtain information to secure the conviction of al Qaeda suspects.

Tayab Ali, a London-based lawyer for two of the men, said: "I am left with no doubt that, at the very worst, the British Security Service instigates the illegal detention and torture of British citizens, and at the very best turns a blind eye to torture."

One man from Manchester says that in 2006 he was beaten, whipped, deprived of sleep and had three fingernails slowly extracted by ISI agents at the Rawalpindi centre before being interrogated by two MI5 officers. A number of his alleged associates were questioned in Manchester at the same time and two were subsequently charged. This man's lawyers say his fingernails were missing when they were eventually allowed to see him, more than a year after he was first detained. They say they have pathology reports that prove the nails were forcibly removed.

A second man, from Luton, Bedfordshire, alleges that two years earlier he was whipped, suspended by his wrists and beaten, and threatened with an electric drill, possibly at the same torture centre. His interrogation was coordinated with the questioning of several associates at Paddington Green police station, west London, and the questioning of a further suspect in Canada.

MI5 does not dispute questioning him several times during his 10 months' detention in Pakistan.

One would suspect that normally we could claim that we had no idea what the Pakistani authorities were doing to suspects they held in their facilities, however, in this case that theory does not appear to hold water.

MI5 is thought to be considering a defence based on its officers' insistence that they had no reason to know that the ISI might have been torturing the men - a position that Pakistani lawyers and human rights activists in Pakistan and the UK say beggars belief. Even a high-ranking Scotland Yard counter-terrorism detective has conceded privately that there is little doubt that the Luton man was tortured.

In the US, the CIA were acting under the dubious legal authority granted by Yoo's torture memos, but there is no such equivalent here in the UK.

Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 it is an offence for British officials to instigate or consent to the inflicting of "severe pain or suffering" on any person, anywhere in the world, or even to acquiesce in such treatment. Any such offence could be punished by life imprisonment.

Why are we doing these things? Why, since 9-11, has our moral compass become so skewered that we are now indulging in actions which we have always abhorred?

There are some who would argue that the world changed on 9-11, but that's a false argument. Yes, we learned that there were people out there who would like to kill many of us, but in any "war of civilisation" surely we do not defend our values by throwing them away at the first opportunity? For, by engaging in actions which we have previously defined as immoral and uncivilised, aren't we saying that our values system was false?

Aren't we becoming the very thing which we claim to despise? Or is our torture somehow honourable because we outsource it?

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Obama on Fox News.

I've managed to track down the entire Obama interview on Fox News.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

Obama admits he needs to woo white working class

When Fox News started running a clock, displaying how long it had been since Barack Obama agreed to be interviewed by them, it was only a matter of time before he acquiesced - lest he be portrayed by team Hillary as "running away from debates".

In the interview Obama says he has to do more to win over white working class voters whilst simultaneously insisting that race is not going to be an issue in this campaign.

Speaking on Fox, Obama said: "Is race still a factor in our society? Yes. I don't think anybody would deny that. Is that going to be the determining factor in a general election? No, because I'm absolutely confident that the American people - what they're looking for is somebody who can solve their problems."

Obama said he had won many such voters in other states and once a Democratic nominee had been decided, those voters would back the party's candidate.

"I am confident that when you come to a general election, and we are having a debate about the future of this country - how are we going to lower gas prices, how are we going to deal with job losses, how are we going to focus on energy independence - that those are voters who I will be able to appeal to," he said. "If I lose, it won't be because of race. It will be because ... I made mistakes on the campaign trail, I wasn't communicating effectively my plans in terms of helping them in their everyday lives."

All in all, Obama managed to survive the Fox News interview unscathed.

As Obama rightly points out, it's a highly "selective memory" which says that he can't win in predominately white states as he has already won in Idaho and Colorado.

And it's nice to see him turn on McCain rather than Clinton. On tax for instance he reminds us that McCain once said the tax cuts "offended his conscience", tax cuts which he now wants to make permanent for America's richest citizens and corporations at a time of war. Obama will, rightly, point out that McCain - rather than being a maverick - is actually a man who will do and say anything to please the Republican base. There's no principle there, McCain is a man who will sell his soul for the presidency.

Hillary has spent most of her campaign telling us that McCain has passed the litmus test to become Commander in Chief and that Obama has not. How refreshing to listen to a Democrat spend his time and effort discrediting his opponent rather than his Democratic rival.

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Marsh: It's Democratic "spinelessness" which makes them stick to rules.

I've spoken often about the insanity of Hillary's supporters, and to be sure I think Taylor Marsh is the most hysterical of all of them, but this quote simply left me gob smacked:

Meanwhile, as everyone worries about the African American vote, how about someone paying attention to the droves of women and Clinton voters who will side with McCain if Obama's the nominee? Hello? Anybody?

Now, all of this political maneuvering and making his blogger base look like children doesn't mean Senator Obama won't be the nominee, given the math and the general spinelessness of Democrats to prefer rules over winning.
She's saying that "women and Hillary voters" won't vote for the Democratic nominee if that nominee is Barack Obama and that the Democrats are "spineless" for sticking to the rules rather than changing them to make Hillary the winner of a race which she has lost.

One wonders why the Democrats even had an election at all. If Hillary is the answer, why did they even bother asking people the question of who they would like to be the Democratic presidential nominee? Because, according to Taylor Marsh, it's "spinelessness" to stick with the candidate that the people have chosen.

I've really seen it all during this election, but to hear a Democrat argue that it is "spinelessness" which would force the Democrats to accept a democratic decision really is one of the finest examples of the insanity which has affected Hillary's supporters.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Clinton supporters move to Obama.

I've said this a thousand times and it's, to me, so obvious that I am honestly stunned that Clinton supporters cannot see this.

"If this party is perceived by people as having gone into a back room somewhere and brokered a nominee, that would not be good for our party," House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.), the highest ranking African American in Congress, warned yesterday. "I'm telling you, if this continues on its current course, [the damage] is going to be irreparable."
This has been the problem with the Clinton plan to rely on the super delegates to give her the nomination. It's a backward plan which is simply never going to occur. For them to hand her the nomination they would have to disenfranchise millions of voters, many of them black, and many of them young people who have entered politics for the first time and who have been energised by Obama's campaign of hope.

The damage done to the party would last for generations, and I don't believe that people like Taylor Marsh can't see that, which is why I find their arguments simply puzzling.

Clinton's camp are arguing that Pennsylvania proves that the Democrats want this battle to go on, but all the indications on the ground are that this is far from true.
More than 70 top Clinton donors wrote their first checks to Obama in March, campaign records show. Clinton's lead among superdelegates, a collection of almost 800 party leaders and elected officials, has slipped from 106 in December to 23 now, according to an Associated Press tally.

"If you have any, any kind of loyalty to the Democratic Party, perhaps you need to rethink your strategy and bow out gracefully in order to save this party from a disastrous end in November," Rep. William Lacy Clay (Mo.), an African American Obama supporter, said in an appeal to Clinton.

James Clyburn has also spoken out about the way the Clinton camp is acting as if the black vote does not matter and the damage they are doing to the Democratic party by acting in this way.
"We keep talking as if it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter that Obama gets 92 percent of the black vote, because since he only got 35 percent of the white vote, he's in trouble," Clyburn said. "Well, Hillary Clinton only got 8 percent of the black vote. . . . It's almost saying black people don't matter. The only thing that matters is how white people respond. And that's what bothered me. I think I matter."
The truth is that, despite Clinton's claims that the momentum is now moving in her direction, the opposite is true. For momentum to be moving in her direction she would win states which she began leading by 25 points by up to thirty points rather than by nine. That's called losing momentum, not gaining momentum.

And, as previous Clinton supporters now start donating to the Obama campaign, it is noticeable that there are absolutely no Obama supporters moving in the direction of Hillary.

Again, that's not gaining momentum, that's losing momentum.

"I think she is destroying the Democratic Party," said New York lawyer Daniel Berger, who had backed Clinton with the maximum allowable donation of $2,300. "That there's no way for her to win this election except by destroying [Obama], I just don't like it. So in my own little way, I'm trying to send her a message."

The message came in the form of a $2,300 contribution to Obama.

Donors are not the only ones who have made the leap. Gabriel Guerra-Mondragón served as an ambassador to Chile during Bill Clinton's presidency, considered himself a close friend of Sen. Clinton, and became a "Hill-raiser" by bringing in about $500,000 for her presidential bid.

But he had a fitful few weeks as the battle between Clinton and Obama turned increasingly negative. Last week, he decided he had seen enough.

"We're just bleeding each other out," Guerra-Mondragón said when asked why he had decided to join Obama's finance committee. "Looking at it as coldly as I can, I just don't see how Senator Clinton can overcome Senator Obama with delegates and popular votes. I want this fight to be over -- the quicker, the better."

I have no idea when Hillary is going to bow to the inevitable and concede defeat. I do know that she cannot win and that she can cause terrible damage to Obama and to the Democrats chances in November the longer she continues battering the presumptive nominee.

The truth is that Hillary and her supporters have long ago left logic behind and, ironically, it is they rather than Obama who are now campaigning on "hope". With all the facts against them, that thing they euphemistically refer to as "the maths problem", they literally have nothing else left.

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Blair told aide 'Gordon will lose to Cameron'

The problems are mounting for Gordon Brown and the words of his previous Prime Minister will cut him deeply. Lord Levy had revealed that Tony Blair privately told him that he did not think Brown could ever beat Cameron in a general election.

Even though Blair last night issued a statement categorically denying the claims and insisting he did believe Labour could win under his successor, there was consternation in Downing Street.

In his memoirs, serialised today in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, Levy writes that Blair 'told me on a number of occasions he was convinced Gordon "could never beat Cameron"'. The peer added in an interview yesterday that Blair was 'disappointed to see Labour's slide' under his successor, with an ICM poll of marginal seats showing yesterday that on current polling trends 131 Labour MPs could lose their seats, handing David Cameron a solid majority.

I happen to agree that, as things stand today, Brown has almost no chance of beating Cameron at the polls, but I disagree that it had to be so.

When Brown came to power the country was sick to the back teeth of Blair's policies, especially his foreign policies. Brown was presented with a massive open goal which he lacked the courage to put the ball through. He should have ended our involvement in the Iraq war rather than pulling our forces only as far as Basra airport, where they remain involved in the war without having any influence over that war.

He should never have pushed for the 42 day extension for the detention of terrorist suspects which is a policy which simply stinks of Blairism.

And his decision to abolish the ten pence tax rate which effects some of the poorest people in our society was an own goal which I am still scratching my head trying to comprehend.

Brown was supposed to represent Labour after the long years of Tony and New Labour. Instead, he has clung to all that was wrong about New Labour and presented no new policies which could be considered Labour policies.

One government source said some colleagues now believed Labour would be out of power for the next two parliaments and were questioning which cabinet ministers would still be young enough to lead the party by the time it recovered: 'A lot of people are saying "we have lost the next election and the one after that, but when we come back I'll only be 43" or whatever.' MPs were looking to younger cabinet members such as James Purnell, Andy Burnham, the Miliband brothers or even Yvette Cooper to lead such a revival, he said.

Brown's future now depends heavily on pulling off better-than-expected results in Thursday's elections. Although London MPs reported voters swinging back to Livingstone this weekend, they urged Brown to stay away from the campaign for fear he will turn voters off. 'Every time Ken is associated with any Labour minister, and Gordon in particular, it just switches off a whole layer of support,' said one senior London MP. Another close friend of Livingstone said Brown should stay away and 'just let him win.'

The irony of all this is that Ken Livingstone might pay the price for Gordon's inability to promote policies which are sufficiently Labour. Ken is as resolutely Old Labour as it is possible for any MP to be, which is why I will be giving him my vote come May 1st.

Brown's problems stem from the fact that he has lacked the kind of courage which Ken has displayed. Brown has governed by trying to replicate Blair, certainly in terms of policies, and has never been the left wing Prime Minister which we all thought he was going to be. Many Londoners disagree with Ken's leftist views, but he has always won a sort of grudging admiration for the strength of his convictions and for his ability to articulate them.

Should Ken lose because of Brown that would simply be too horrible, especially when one looks at what London would be saddled with as it's Mayor.

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Mugabe fails in bid to switch poll result

Four weeks after a Presidential election for which we are still to be given the official tally, the news coming out of Zimbabwe is that Mugabe's recount is not going the way he would like it to, and that he has not managed to overturn any of the results of the election.

It means the first defeat in 28 years for Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party after Zimbabwe's electoral commission (ZEC) yesterday released seven more results from the recount, changing none. It brings to 13 the number of seats recounted, with 10 remaining to be declared - all in strong opposition-held areas. Zanu-PF would need to win nine to regain control.

Results have still not been released from the parallel presidential poll which the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says its leader Morgan Tsvangirai won, beating Mugabe outright. Independent monitors estimate that Tsvangirai won, but fell just short of the 50 per cent threshold to avoid a run-off. The MDC accuses Mugabe of delaying results to rig his victory and has rejected any run-off.

And as Mugabe arrests opposition members and uses brutality up and down the country ahead of the rerun for the election of the president, the United Kingdom have raised the matter of Zimbabwe at the United Nations.

Britain has called for a United Nations mission to investigate human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, saying opposition supporters were suffering an increase in violence a month after elections were held.

The UN Security Council, overcoming objections from South Africa, which currently holds the presidency, is due to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe for the first time on Tuesday. Yesterday Gordon Brown, who is seeking an arms embargo on President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party, said: "The whole international community must speak up against the climate of fear in Zimbabwe", and pledged British help to rebuild the country "once democracy returns".

Outside pressure appears to be the only hope for Zimbabwe's battered opposition. Hundreds of supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been attacked and burned out of their homes in the four weeks since the party won a parliamentary majority in the 29 March election. The result of the presidential poll held the same day has still not been announced, almost certainly because Mr Mugabe was decisively beaten by the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

The only hope here is that South Africa and other country's in the region can be embarrassed into recognising the illegitimacy of Mugabe's claims and to begin to publicly speak out against him. At the moment their silence is enabling him to continue to brutalise the opposition and to ignore the electorate.

It's simply bizarre that Mugabe hasn't managed to rig the recount to his advantage, although there is no indication that a small thing like an electoral loss is going to diminish his desire to cling to the presidency.

However, as we wait - one month after the election - for those presidential election results to be released, surely even the Mbeki's of this world will find it increasingly difficult to defend Mugabe's position?

He's not even giving them a PR story to defend in public, he's simply refusing to release the results whilst attacking supporters of the opposition.

'I think for the first time, at a very crucial moment, Mugabe is losing diplomatic support in the region and without that support his ability to survive politically is diminished,' said Eldred Masunungure, a professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe.

One can only hope that the professor is right.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Daily Show - Hillary Clinton: The Tide Is Turning

UN targets US over delay in Syrian nuclear evidence

The US yesterday issued a quite hysterical claim that North Korea were attempting to aid Syria to build a nuclear reactor which Israel managed to take out during their raid last year. The whole thing stunk to high heaven, and the US and Israel have been strangely silent about what took place (when Israel bombed Syria) until the US issued it's nuclear reactor claims yesterday.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the International Atomic Energy Agency chief, has reacted with understandable fury at the United States and Israel for their failure to pass the appropriate information on to the IAEA in a timely enough fashion for the IAEA to be able to investigate and verify the US claims, leading anyone with an ounce of cynicism to come to the conclusion that the whole story is a load of old baloney.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the International Atomic Energy Agency chief, issued a stiffly worded statement in which he criticised the US and Israel, as well as Syria, which should have informed the IAEA if it was building a nuclear reactor.

Noting that the IAEA was only informed by the Bush administration about the nuclear reactor claim on Thursday, seven months after the Israeli raid, he deplored the fact that the information had not been provided to the agency in a "timely" manner.

Mr ElBaradei also pointed out that, according to the information provided by the US, "the reactor was not yet operational and no nuclear material had been introduced into it". According to a Western diplomat in Vienna, that meant that if the UN inspectors had been alerted earlier, they would have been able to verify the facts on the ground. "Now nobody is ever going to know for sure," the diplomat said. In his statement, Mr ElBaradei criticised Israel for its "unilateral use of force" which undermined the "due process of verification".

Mr ElBaradei was said to be incensed by the American failure to inform the UN watchdog about the possible risk of nuclear proliferation when the Americans became aware of the nature of the site in 2006. "What kind of non-proliferation regime is this, when they come to the IAEA months after it's been bombed?" the diplomat said. The IAEA chief pledged to investigate the US information "with the seriousness it deserves".

"Now nobody is ever going to know for sure". Isn't that the very point? Israel and the US could have informed the IAEA and had them verify on the ground exactly what this facility was used for, but they chose to bomb it and then tell us all seven months later - when nothing can be verified - that it was a nuclear facility supplied by North Korea.

The Israelis are still refusing to comment on the matter and the Syrians dismiss the US claims as "ridiculous".

If the US claims are true, and we will now never know for sure, why didn't the US and Israel, rather than attack a facility which was not yet operational, not simply report it and expose this Syrian deceit to the entire world?
"It's sheer fabrication," said the spokesman for the Syrian embassy in London, Jihad Makdissi, adding that the reactor images showed a deserted military building. "The CIA giving testimony is the same CIA that briefed Colin Powell who spoke at the UN Security Council about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction."
And therein lies the rub. This is the same Bush administration which took it's nation to war on it's inflated claims regarding Iraqi WMD. On this occasion it could have led the IAEA right into Syria and pointed out the facility and ensured it's destruction. This would have strengthened the world's confidence in US intelligence, at a time when it has been undermined by the false claims made before the Iraq war, and strengthened the US's claims regarding Iran and it's supposed pursuit of a nuclear weapon. And yet, we are asked to believe that the US chose not to go down that route and instead allowed Israel to destroy all evidence that this facility ever existed.

Indeed, we are asked to believe that this facility had to be destroyed by Israel as a matter of urgency, even though the facility was not yet operational.

What a load of baloney... It's taken them seven months to come up with this story...

Why tell us now? Why didn't they tell us this at a time when their claims could be verified or proven false? This is, after all, an administration who have foregone any right to be given the benefit the doubt.

And it's highly suspicious that this information comes to light at the very moment when the US Congress is considering easing sanctions on North Korea.

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Scores arrested in police raid on MDC and poll monitors

Riot police in Zimbabwe have raided the offices of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change as well as those of independent election observers in Mugabe's most blatant move yet to intimidate the opposition and anyone who might question the validity of his attempt to steal the election - which we all know he lost.

Files were confiscated under a warrant authorising police to search for "subversive material likely to cause the overthrow of a democratically elected government".
You couldn't make this shit up could you?

Yesterday he again accused western countries of trying to oust him by conspiring with the opposition. The Herald added to his vitriol, describing African leaders who have criticised the withholding of election results as "myopic stooges".

That'll be the power sharing scheme put on hold then I take it?

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Carville vs Richardson

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Richardson's annoyance at the arguments put forward by Carville is plain to see. When Carville insists that Hillary is ahead in the popular vote - by counting Florida and Michigan - Richardson calls it what it is: "lunacy."

Again though, Carville pushes for yet more debates, having worked out that this is the only chance Hillary has of tripping up Obama.

In part three, when Carville uses the word "whining" over and over again whilst demanding these debates, he reveals himself to be the perfect embodiment of the Hillary campaign. Desperate. Unprincipled. Willing to say and do anything to overturn the democratic process.

Now they are saying it outright: It's because he is black.

It's been lurking just underneath the surface for most of this Democratic battle for the presidential nominee, but now - as it becomes obvious that there is no way Hillary can achieve victory through the delegates - it has burst to the top. It's the question of whether the US is ready to elect a black man.

If Mr Obama cannot break through the submerged racial prejudice of older white voters, the argument of many Democrats goes, he cannot win the White House. Time magazine's commentator Joe Klein said poorly educated white voters have grave doubts "about a young, inexperienced African-American guy with an Islamic-sounding name and a highfalutin fluency with language".
Until now the Hillary camp have supplied lots of different reasons as to why Obama is not fit to be president, but we are now being asked to consider whether or not he can win simply based on his colour.

It is undoubted that within any society there are racists and that they will not vote for Obama because of this, just as in any society there are people who are sexist and who would not vote for a female president. What is simply extraordinary about this argument is that it is seriously being proposed that the existence of racists should overturn the result of a democratic process.

Obama has already proven that he can win in states where the population is 94% white, so it's odd that this subject should be raising it's head at all. However, we have become used to Hillary flouting every victory as if it has some profound meaning which must immediately alter the decisions of the super delegates. But this is an altogether new low.

I suppose what's astounding and annoying me is that publications like The Independent are giving stories like this credence and running with the notion that the super delegates have some profound considerations to make based on the fact that some Pennsylvanians are racist.
Mrs Clinton raised enough doubts about Mr Obama in Pennsylvania to persuade white working-class voters to hand her a nine-percentage point victory. A big part of Mr Obama's problem is race. The exit polls in Pennsylvania revealed that 20 per cent of voters think race is important and heavily backed Mrs Clinton.
All of this is being aired in the hope that Clinton can persuade the super delegates that America is not yet ready to elect a black man and to overturn the results of an election which she has lost.

She has made some ridiculous arguments during this electoral process - certain states don't count, others are latte drinkers etc., etc., - but this latest argument is simply obscene. I didn't think it was possible for Hillary to fall any more in my estimation, but she's managed it with this argument - which is being put forward by her surrogates - and which has been hinted at every time one of her team refers to Obama as "unelectable".

Thankfully, it is said that the "Gang of Four" super delegates are talking of intervening to bring this nasty, vile campaign to a close.
One idea being floated is for a so-called Gang of Four – comprising the former presidential hopeful John Edwards; the former vice-president Al Gore; the Democratic Party leader Howard Dean; and the House speaker Nancy Pelosi – to intervene after the primaries on 6 May. They would then call on the superdelegates to make a commitment within 10 days so that the party can have a nominee before the August convention in Denver. At that stage, the Obama campaign hopes to have won 2,025 delegates, enough to secure him the nomination.
Bring it to an end already, I simply can't bear to hear any more of these arguments which appear to sully the entire Democratic party.

Click title for full article.

Gaza fuel crisis forces UN to stop food aid deliveries

United Nations have suspended food aid into the Gaza Strip due to a lack of fuel. Without fuel they are not able to operate the trucks which they use for deliveries.

At the request of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), distributors sent an emergency tanker to the Nahal Oz terminal through which Israel transfers petrol and diesel, but it was turned back by 1,500 farmers protesting that they needed fuel just as urgently. The driver was held for three hours, and then forced to return empty.
Palestinian distributors have been on strike for the past four weeks demanding that Israel increase both the supply of fuel and that they guarantee a steady flow.
Both sides agree that storage tanks on the Gaza side of the terminal are full, with stocks of up to 1 million litres of fuel. But Mahmoud Khozendar, the distributors' vice-chairman, said that was only enough to meet three or four hours' demand. They needed at least 10 times as much as Israel was prepared to deliver.
The Israelis have been maintaining this boycott ever since Hamas were elected by the Palestinians and the situation has worsened since Hamas took hold of the Gaza Strip in gun battles with Fatah.
Israel's declared policy has been to allow in enough fuel, food and medical supplies to keep people alive, but not enough for them to live well.
In other words, starve them without actually killing them. Of course, to pull this off one has to be prepared to indulge in all kinds of semantic arguments to justify such a barbaric practice continuing.

Israel responded by accusing Gaza's de facto Hamas government of "fabricating" a crisis for political purposes. Aryeh Mekel, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, alleged that Hamas had sent the protesting farmers to block UNRWA's shipment.

"Three weeks ago we sent in one million litres of fuel," he said. "Hamas refuses to take it in order to create an artificial so-called humanitarian crisis. They are trying to break the so-called blockade. They have enough fuel to meet all the humanitarian needs."

I know what Israel calls the "so-called blockade" is very real, so I am going to presume the same is true of the "so-called humanitarian crisis". Blockades produce crisis's, which is the very reason why country's like Israel impose them, so it's a bit rich for the Israelis to talk as if this crisis is of Palestinian making.

Indeed, such is the hardship in Gaza that Hamas have offered a six month ceasefire if Israel will lift the blockade.

Last night Hamas proposed a six-month cease-fire with Israel, saying the Gaza Palestinian group would stop firing rockets into the Jewish state if Israel lifts its blockade of the coastal strip at the same time, Egypt's state run Mena news agency reported.

The report came after a day of closed-door meetings between Egypt's powerful intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who has been mediating between Hamas and Israel, and Hamas' strongman, Mahmoud Zahar.

The effects of the blockade can be seen everywhere:

Local journalists report that bakeries and snack bars are closing for want of fuel. The roads are almost empty. Motorists who converted their cars to drive on cooking gas are running out of that too.

John Ging, director of the UNRWA in Gaza, said: "People are desperate. Everybody needs fuel. If the farmers can't get fuel, they can't pump water to irrigate their crops. About 70,000 people are without water in their homes; 25 per cent are getting water once every four days because of electricity cuts. All the hospitals are below the critical mark in their fuel resources.

"The laundry service in Gaza's biggest hospital has been reduced by 50 per cent, with all the unhygienic consequences. Teachers have no fuel to drive to their schools. It's not the distributors' responsibility to decide between hospitals and municipalities, or whether a doctor should get fuel."

Israel now attempts to have it's cake and eat it, by imposing a blockade on a civilian population and then trying to blame Hamas for the fact that the blockade is having the desired effect.

Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, has called what Israel is doing "collective punishment" but he has also attacked Hamas for it's rocket fire into Israel. "These attacks endanger both international and Israeli civilians, and cannot possibly contribute to Palestinian efforts to ease the blockade of Gaza," he said.

Hamas's offer of a ceasefire would, one would suspect, be enough to bring the matter to an end and stop the embargo. But it will do nothing. Israel will ignore the offer and continue exactly as before, because they refuse to deal with Hamas, despite the fact that Hamas were elected by the Palestinians, and despite the fact that a majority of Israelis want their government to enter into negotiations with Hamas.

Israel are hoping that their blockade will bring about the collapse of Hamas and are continuing that blockade long after it has become obvious that the blockade will achieve no such thing.

It's a dumb policy and an immoral one.

Click title for full article.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Clinton's supporters and their crazy arguments.

Taylor Marsh has put the video above on her website and exclaimed:

Honestly, this is just ridiculous. That it's being pushed by people like the usually astute Rachel Maddow is equally frustrating. On "Race for the White House" yesterday, Maddow basically said that the rules are the rules, screw Florida and Michigan because they ran rogue primaries.
But that's exactly the point. The rules are the rules and people who break the rules get penalised. Now it's not the fault of the people of Florida and Michigan, but all of the people who stayed at home because they thought the vote wouldn't count would be removed from the democratic process if these votes - which Hillary agreed would not count - were suddenly to be counted. There is no way to realistically work out the wishes of the people of Florida and Michigan from a vote which they were told was pointless. By Hillary and everyone else.
Democrats can't control the general election, but we absolutely control the means by which our nominee is selected. That's the whole point, which people like Maddow, though she's certainly not alone, are missing. Maddow also fell for the sports analogy yesterday, too. None of it holds water.
Taylor Marsh then gives no argument to support her claim that the "sports analogy" holds no water. Can any team in any sport ask that pre-season games, which they were told would not count, suddenly be included to alter the outcome of the season? Marsh has no argument because that is exactly what she is arguing for.
What this really does is relegate the Democrat party to purgatory, not Hillary Clinton.
And there we have it, the answer is Hillary and the democratic choice of the majority of voters is "purgatory".
There are rules. Michigan and Florida have been exiled. Delegate count now rules. Popular vote doesn't matter.
Just to keep things in perspective, Obama is ahead in both the delegate count and the popular vote.
But what if this formula dooms our party into nominating the weaker general election candidate? After Pennsylvania, there can be no doubt which one that is.
The candidate with the momentum behind them is not the candidate who six weeks ago had a lead of twenty five points - in state where almost all the voters were made up of her strongest constituency - and who ended up winning by a mere 9 points. That's called losing momentum.

Read Taylor Marsh by clicking the title.

Olbermann: Adults will have to step in and stop this.

The longer this goes on the more Hillary loses voters. This is what she spins as "momentum".

Congressman Wexler Presses Mueller on Torture Oversight

Helen Thomas Confronts Perino On Torture; Perino Denies and Lies

Think Progress:

During this afternoon’s White House press briefing, reporter Helen Thomas noted that Bush “has admitted that he did sign off on torture” saying it damages “the credibility of this country.” But press secretary Dana Perino denied that the United States has ever tortured detainees and referred to testimony from CIA Director Michael Hayden as evidence. [..]

In fact, during a February 5 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Hayden said outright that “waterboarding has been used” on three detainees in U.S. custody. But Hayden has refused to label waterboarding “torture,” calling it a “legal term” which seems to fit nicely with the Bush administration’s self-serving narrowed legal definition.

But waterboarding is torture and illegal under both U.S. and international law – with experts, government officials and those who have been subject to the harsh treatment all agreeing.

Seeming to acknowledge her colleagues’ absence on this story, an exasperated Thomas said out loud after her exchange with Perino: “Where is everybody? For God’s sakes.”

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.

Hillary spins victory as most miss what actually took place in Pennsylvania.

One of the most annoying things about following the Democratic race for presidential nominee has been to watch the way that the press constantly mimic the Hillary campaign's line and enter into meaningless discussions about how we should determine a winner. Today is no different with Hillary, yet again, seeking to portray a nine point win in Pennsylvania - a state which she originally led by twenty five points - into a "turning point" where the momentum moved behind her causing the Democrats to rethink what to do next.

In today's Guardian there are two articles entitled Obama's failure to finish gives Democrats pause and Victory gives Clinton fresh momentum which both flout the false press story that this race continues to be neck and neck and that Clinton could still pip Obama at the post. This is simply garbage. Clinton can only pip Obama at the post if the super delegates disenfranchise the voters by deciding that the candidate who was democratically elected is not the man for the job and decide to give the candidacy to Hillary instead. If they do so they would alienate the black vote from the Democratic party for at least a generation and their candidate, Hillary, would never get anywhere near the White House, so this notion should be dismissed as the non starter it actually is. Instead we are asked to consider the latest Clinton camp talking points as if they resemble anything which is actually place on planet Earth.

Barack Obama faced renewed questions yesterday about his ability to deliver a Democratic victory in November after his failure to knock out Hillary Clinton in Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary.
Pennsylvania couldn't have been more like Clinton territory had she chosen the voters herself from central casting and yet Obama managed to reduce her 25 point lead into a 9 point lead.

Before the election Clinton stated:

“A win is a win,” she said. “My opponent is outspending me 3 to 1, maybe 4 to 1. I think a win under these circumstances is a terrific accomplishment."

Moments later, Mrs. Clinton again highlighted Mr. Obama’s financial advantage as she raised questions about why he had not locked up the nomination.

“Why can’t he close the deal?” she said. “Why can’t he win a state like this?”

This is the same point that the Guardian are running with today. It's a shameful reiteration of a camp Clinton talking point. And it's a point for which some of her supporters have already supplied a disgraceful answer:
Gov. Ed Rendell, one of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most visible supporters, said some white Pennsylvanians are likely to vote against her rival Barack Obama because he is black.

“You’ve got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate,” Rendell told the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in remarks that appeared in Tuesday’s paper.
So when I read today that the Hillary camp are saying things like this:

"Obama is unelectable," one of her advisers said yesterday.

I am under no illusion that they are saying that "America is not yet ready to elect a black man." That is the racist undertone that floats just beneath the Clinton message that "Obama is unelectable". It's simply disgraceful.

And the harping on about the fact that Obama outspent Hillary by 3-1 and still didn't beat her entirely misses the point of what actually took place in Pennsylvania. Obama knew that Hillary had to win here or it was all over. He also knew that every time he threw money at Pennsylvania that Hillary would have to respond. So he deliberately threw a lot of money at a state which he could not win in order to bankrupt her campaign. And he has done so.

When Pennsylvania went to the polls Hillary's camp had $9 million in the bank and a debt of $10 million. We are told that overnight she has raised a further $3 million. She still faces an Obama team which has $42 million in the bank. It is for this reason that the Hillary team constantly referred to Obama's spending as "obscene". They knew exactly what he was doing and they were powerless to stop him.

She has almost no money left now as she staggers into the last stage of this race. That was the real story of what happened in Pennsylvania. And it's simply Hillary spin to talk about a 25 point lead disintegrating into a 9 point lead as an indication that she now has the momentum.

She does not have the momentum. And, after Pennsylvania, she now no longer has the cash.

That was Obama's game. And Hillary lost.

Press floats Mugabe unity government

Zimbabwe's state run press is often used by Mugabe to float his ideas without attaching his own name to them, and I suspect that this is what is going on here. They are now saying that Mugabe will annul last month's presidential election and call for a national unity government with himself as president while a new constitution is negotiated and a fresh ballot held.

It's simply outrageous.

And, short of other African nations - especially South Africa - expressing their horror at what he is doing, it's hard to think of any way to stop the old bugger from carrying out this outrage.

With the results of the ballot still unannounced 25 days after it was held, and a partial recount of parliamentary and presidential votes taking days, it is increasingly apparent that the Zimbabwean government is undecided on the way forward.

Zanu-PF has touted the idea of a presidential run-off with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change's candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai. But despite the ruling party's campaign of violence against opposition voters, Mugabe can be far from certain of winning, particularly with growing regional scrutiny. His government appears to be stalling while it finds a credible way to hold on to power.

In the Herald article, Obediah Mukura Mazombwe, a pro-Zanu-PF academic, wrote: "The [ruling] party should allow MDC-Tsvangirai, now in virtual exile, to return home and freely negotiate its participation in a [Southern African Development Community-mediated] process that should lead to the establishment of a transitional government of national unity led by the incumbent president."

The international community should be putting pressure on Mbeki of South Africa to tell Mugabe that the game is up and the time has come for him to go.

Anything else is simply a sham.

Click title for full article.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Chuck Todd: 'Impossible for Obama to Lose His Lead'

At long last the media are starting to say out loud what the progressive blogosphere has been saying since March 5th. The race is over and Hillary has lost. As Chuck Todd says, it's impossible for Hillary to win the delegate count. She now needs victories of 80% - 20% to overturn his lead.

Barring some unforeseen disaster, that is simply never going to happen.

Hillary supporters: Why doesn't Obama stand down?

I expected Hillary's supporters to be over the moon at her victory in Pennsylvania, but I really didn't expect insanity on this scale:

Seriously, at what point are these guys going to start holding their own candidate accountable for why this thing is still going on instead of complaining that Hillary is competing in contests that she is winning.
I mean seriously... Are My DD now suggesting that the candidate with the most delegates and the largest share of the popular vote is the one that should be considering standing down?

That's the daftest thing I've heard during this entire campaign. And that's really saying something.

Click title for full article.

Matthews: Media Created Clinton Winning Delusion

Matthews says what I have been saying for weeks now. The race is over and the media have contributed to the fact that four out of every five Hillary supporters haven't yet realised that the game is up and that Obama has won. He uses the word "delusion" and it's a very apt description of Hillary and her supporters, for they are truly delusional, talking of the "maths problem" which most of us recognise as actually victory for her opponent.

Hillary Clinton wins Pennsylvania primary

And on it goes...

With a victory in Pennsylvania of 10% Hillary has pulled off exactly what she needs to be able to keep going, fending off calls for her to step down from the Democratic hierarchy.

She now has to hope that this victory is enough to prompt an influx of cash into her campaign which is at this point $10 million in debt.

In a passionate speech, Clinton rejected calls from inside the party to bring the protracted contest to an end by standing down. "Some counted me out and said to drop out," she said. "But the American people don't quit. And they deserve a president who doesn't quit either."

She said it was "long road" to the White House, and appealed for funds for her cash-strapped campaign, which is carrying a debt of $10m, in contrast with the millions Obama has raised.

"Tonight, more than ever, I need your help to continue this journey ... We can only keep winning if we can keep competing with an opponent who outspends us so massively," she said.

Of course, realistically, Clinton has achieved bugger all. Even a 10% lead over Obama in Pennsylvania will only net her around 16 delegates in a contest in which she already trails Obama by around 150 delegates.

Coming into today, the odds that Clinton would catch Obama in pledged delegates were very small. Now they're zero. Before Pennsylvania, Clinton needed to win each remaining primary with 65 percent of the vote to close the gap. Even though she won Pennsylvania, that figure is now just over 68 percent. (Try it on the calculator below by dragging the red bar at the top to the right.) Furthermore, the state with the most remaining delegates is North Carolina, where Obama leads in the polls by about 20 points. Assuming he nets at least 20 more of the state's 115 delegates, Clinton needs 80 percent of the vote in each of the other eight remaining primaries to catch up.

And so the lost cause continues, with Hillary staggering on, hoping that Obama's campaign will somehow self implode. And where does this leave Hillary regarding her plan to round up the remaining super delegates?
Instead, let's look at a rosy but vaguely realistic scenario for Clinton: Let's say she whittles Obama's lead in North Carolina down to 10 points and grabs a 10-point victory in every other state. This would leave her behind by 132 pledged delegates, give or take a few, depending on how the cards fall in Pennsylvania. This means Obama would need 342 of 794 total superdelegates to reach the majority needed for the nomination. According to DemConWatch, 231 have already promised their support to Obama, so he would need 111 more supporters from the pool of 308 superdelegates that remain uncommitted—36 percent. Put another way, Clinton would still need to convince 64 percent of uncommitted superdelegates to go her way, even in this generous scenario.
I wonder if money will continue to flow towards such an obviously lost cause? For that's the greatest danger facing the Hillary campaign this morning. She might be refusing to accept reality, but how many people can she convince to part with hard cash to back her obviously lost cause?

Yesterday, Hillary made some of her most hawkish comments to date, comments which literally took the breath away of any Democratic supporter.
"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," she told ABS news . "In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."
I'm not sure why Hillary feels the need to make such provocative statements, especially as Israel is itself a nuclear power entirely capable of defending itself from any nuclear attack, but - in making such statements - Hillary is only succeeding in dragging this campaign further into the mud. I never thought I'd see the day when a Democratic candidate would be campaigning by threatening to "obliterate" another country.

Even the New York Times, which backs Hillary, has said her campaign was worse that the "mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it." They have concluded that her tactics do "nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election."

Her tactics are simply disgusting. If Obama can be attacked for campaigning on a message of "hope", I'll still root for him any day over a candidate who campaigns on a message of "nuclear obliteration".

At the beginning of this campaign I was willing to root for and to support either Democratic candidate, but I have no hesitation in saying that Hillary now repulses me. The things that come out that woman's mouth simply beggars belief.

Click title for full article.