Anytime I watch American punditry I am always struck by how selling out the left in order to please the centre - which in reality is actually the centre right - is always favoured by the pundits.
They seem to love it when Obama bashes his base. When Bush was president I seem to remember the opposite being true. There were things he wanted to do but couldn't because it was vital that he didn't displease his base. Obama, on the other hand, is always being asked to show that he is not partisan by kicking his base in the teeth.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The role of the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, in the Iraq war has always intrigued me. At first he states that the war - without a second UN resolution - would be illegal, only to dramatically change his mind at the last minute and declare the invasion legal.
Now, the Chilcot Inquiry have got hold of a letter which Goldsmith sent to Blair eight months before the invasion.
Blair is said to have not only ignored the letter but to have banned Goldsmith from attending cabinet meetings. The Attorney General is reported in today's Guardian to have been so angry that he threatened to resign and lost three stone in weight.
Tony Blair was told by his government's most senior legal adviser that an invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein would be a serious breach of international law and the UN charter.
Lord Goldsmith, then attorney general, issued the warning in an uncompromising letter in July 2002, eight months before the invasion. It was becoming clear in government circles that Blair had had secret meetings with George Bush at which the US president was pressing Britain hard to join him in a war to change the regime in Baghdad.
Goldsmith warned Blair that "as things stand you obviously cannot do it [invade Iraq]", a source familiar with the dispute told the Guardian.
Increasingly concerned that Blair was ignoring his earlier advice that regime change was "not a legal basis for military action", on 29 July 2002 Goldsmith wrote to Blair on what the Mail on Sunday described as "a single side of A4 headed notepaper".
It will be interesting to see what Goldsmith says when he appears in front of the inquiry.
Personally, I would have had great respect for him had he, like Robin Cook, resigned in protest over the illegality of the war. Indeed, his deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Office, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, resigned for that very reason, stating that she did not believe that the war was legal and that Goldsmith had always led his office to believe that this was also his view.
Her letter setting out why said Lord Goldsmith "gave us to understand" he agreed with Foreign Office lawyers that the war was illegal without a new UN resolution but changed his advice twice just before the war to bring it in line with "what is now the official line".It seems clear that Goldsmith was pressured to change his opinion and that he crumbled under the pressure.
It will be very interesting to see what he has to say when he is called upon to take us through this remarkable change of mind he appears to have had.
Click here for full article.
The Republicans make much of the fact that the US was not attacked (again) during the presidency of George W Bush, often ignoring the fact that Bush was warned that al Qaeda intended to attack inside the United States and that he took no steps of any kind to prevent or even inquire into how one could work to prevent 9-11.
The report by the Senate foreign relations committee is damning of the way George Bush's administration conducted the aftermath of its bombing campaign in Afghanistan, saying it amounted to a "lost opportunity". It states that as a result of allowing the al-Qaida leader to flee from his Tora Bora stronghold into Pakistan, Americans were left more vulnerable to terrorism, and the foundations were laid for today's protracted Afghan insurgency. It also lays blame for the July 2005 London bombings on a failure to kill the al-Qaida leaders at Tora Bora.
Republican critics are likely to dismiss the report as a partisan work designed to deflect the current military troubles in Afghanistan away from President Barack Obama and on to his predecessor. The committee is Democratic-controlled.
But the report contains a mass of evidence that points towards the near certainty that Bin Laden was in the Tora Bora district of the White Mountains in eastern Afghanistan, along with up to 1,500 of his most loyal al-Qaida fighters and bodyguards, in late November 2001, shortly before the fall of Kabul.
Further evidence came from al-Qaida suspects detained at Guantánamo and, most authoritatively, from the official history of the US special operations command, which confirms bin Laden's presence at Tora Bora.
"Osama bin Laden's demise would not have erased the worldwide threat from extremists," it concludes. "But the failure to kill or capture him has allowed Bin Laden to exert a malign influence over events in the region."
Warnings about al Qaeda began to pour in. The Bush Administration was repeatedly warned by both the U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies that al Qaeda was planning an attack. In his testimony before the independent 9-11 commission, Richard Clarke asserted that both he and Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet "tried very hard to create a sense of urgency by seeing to it that intelligence reports on the Al Qaida threat were frequently given to the president and other high-level officials." Clarke further stated that "President Bush was regularly told by the director of Central Intelligence that there was an urgent threat...He was told this dozens of times in the morning briefings that George Tenet gave him." The White House has confirmed that, on August 6, 2001, President Bush's Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) specifically focused on al Qaeda's intent to attack the United States, and specifically warned that airplane hijackings could be involved. According to press reports, the PDB included a fresh report from British intelligence warning that al Qaeda was planning multiple hijackings.
The Associated Press reported that "President Bush's national security leadership met formally nearly 100 times in the months prior to the Sept. 11 attacks yet terrorism was the topic during only two of those sessions, officials say..And now we find that bin Laden was at Tora Bora, surrounded by US troops, and yet, somehow, he managed to get away.
When it comes to the subject of terrorism, it has always seemed to me that it matters more to the Republicans (and their supporters) that they talk tough, rather than that their actions actually be effective.
That's why they advocate torture, even though most people say it is highly ineffective. It's why they always advocate sending other people's children to war rather than attempting any kind of diplomacy, because at all times it matters more to them that they are seen to be making "tough" choices than actually being effective.
Click here for full article.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
The alternative universe that is Fox News:
Really? I thought 9-11, the most horrific terrorist attack in American history, occurred during Bush's presidency. But Republicans like to airbrush that out of history. Maybe, by pointing this out, I am displaying a pre-9/11 mentality.
PERINO: And we had a terrorist attack on our country. And we should call it what it is. Because we need to face up to it so that we can prevent it from happening again.
HANNITY: I agree with you. And why won’t they say what you just so simply said?
PERINO: They want to do all of their investigations. I don’t know. All of the thinking that goes into it. But we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term. I hope they’re not looking at this politically. I do think we ought it to the American people to call it what it is.
I agree with every word of Brad Friedman's summation of Fox News:
Sure, MSNBC might have a liberal bent, but there is simply no comparison with the alternative universe which Fox News offers to it's viewers. It's a world where the present economic crisis is the fault of the Obama administration, and where extreme right wing opinions are regularly presented as the mainstream viewpoint and no left wing opinion exists other than, as Bill O'Reilly would put it, "the extreme left".
It must be stated over and over again: the Fox News Channel is not a news channel. It's a Republican party propaganda channel. As such, its first amendment right to say whatever it likes ought to be protected, but not its "right" to call itself "news". That's false advertising, and it ought to be outlawed by whoever regulates such things.
Perhaps if they changed the name to the Republican News Channel (RNC for short), there would be no complaint. Until they do, however, they need to be called out by the rest of us for exactly what they are.
To that end, recent statements by the White House are right on the money: Fox should be treated not like a news organisation but like a television network that exists to promote a specific political agenda.
This public recognition of the perfectly obvious is long overdue from Democrats, many of whom continue, foolishly, to treat Fox as merely a news outlet with a conservative bent. These Democrats fall into the false equivalence brier patch when they say Fox is merely a conservative counterpart to rival network MSNBC. Sure, several of the GE-owned news outlet's primetime shows cover real news from a progressive perspective, but progressivism does not equal liberalism, whatever that is, nor even Democratic-ism.
For the intellectually honest who bother to pay attention to MSNBC's primetime coverage (distinct from its all-rightwing morning coverage hosted for several hours by former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough) the news outlet's progressive viewpoint is obvious. So is their well-documented penchant for reporting on the scoundrels in, and failings of, the Democratic party. Such failings are not hidden from viewers.
By contrast, Fox presents an alternative reality where Republican hypocrisy, scandals and abuses of power are either spun into something they are not or, more frequently, simply not mentioned at all. As such, the depths of the historically unprecedented failure that was George Bush's presidency remain virtually unknown to Fox viewers. In the bargain, as the young Obama administration moves forward, attempting to deal with countless disasters they've inherited, issue after issue now comes as a complete surprise to the majority of Fox's audience.
The hypocrisy of listening to Fox News - the very people who loudly supported tax cuts at a time of war - now berating the Obama regime for the deficit is breathtaking.
It is with a sense of both shame and bemusement that we now witness good Americans agitated and drafted into protests over the very policies that the Republican failure has itself created and supported uncritically for years: record government expansion and deficits; massive Big Brother invasion of privacy; bureaucratic intrusion between patients and doctors; corporate bailouts courtesy of taxpayer largesse....
The list goes on and on, but the frothing teabaggers protest as if the last eight years never happened. Rather, these poor saps were presented with a phony version of reality produced with Hollywood-style special effects and distractions (missing blonds, steroids in baseball, terrorists around every corner, non-existent voter fraud). Now these confused souls roam the streets, town halls and email lists as clueless zombies, unaware of who and what they are fighting for (government-supported corporatocracy) or against (their own self-interest).
And Friedman is right when he states that you can call such a channel many things, but it's simply wrong to call it news.
Click here for full article.
Posted by Kel at 7:12 AM
What astonishes me about the tea party protesters is just how ignorant they are. It takes a certain kind of stupidity to hold up a sign saying, "Keep government hands off Medicare" and yet that sign has been seen at these right wing protests.
In November 1963, the American historian Richard Hofstadter gave a lecture at Oxford which became a famous essay: "The Paranoid Style in American Politics". "Although American political life has rarely been touched by the most acute varieties of class conflict," Hofstadter began, "it has served again and again as an arena for uncommonly angry minds". He coined the phrase "paranoid style" to evoke, as he put it, "qualities of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness and conspiratorial fantasy", and explained that he used the term the way an art historian might write of the baroque style or the mannerist style. He was referring not to the clinical paranoid but to the more or less normal person who speaks in this idiom of persecution. The clinical paranoid thinks the world is against him and him alone; the political paranoid believes he speaks for millions.
This is just the style of speech whose renaissance we are witnessing. In an article published in the New Yorker shortly after the September protests, Hendrik Hertzberg – a leading political commentator and former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter – pointed out that although this administration knew that overhauling the healthcare system would be difficult, what came as a surprise to them was "the predominant tone of opposition". "This sort of lunatic paranoia has long been a feature of the fringe," Hertzberg wrote. "What is different now is the evolution of a new political organism, with paranoia as its animating principle".
And these people are being fueled, not only by Glenn Beck, but by the entire Republican movement, who have chosen to cast themselves as the defenders of Medicare; which, for anyone who actually understands the Republican philosophy, is about a sick a joke as one could ever make.
But Beck is currently leading the way, accusing Obama of being a socialist or a fascist or a Nazi, depending on how his mood takes him. The terms appear, to Beck at least, to be completely interchangeable.
The message is that Obama is bad and his audience care little for which term he uses to make this point.
And Beck achieves this affinity with his audience by pretending to be for "the little guy":
"When did we become this country where everything is too big to fail?" he rhetorically asked the CBS TV interviewer Katie Couric, "What about the little guy?"Whilst actually hugely enriching himself by serving corporate interests:
His earnings in the year leading up to June 2009 were estimated by Forbes to be around $23m, and they are set to increase.The reason I say this is because of the change in tone which occurred the nano-second Beck moved to Fox News:
When Obama was elected, Beck had modest, reasonable things to say about him. "I think so far he's chosen wisely," he told Time magazine. "I frankly pissed off a lot of my real diehard Republicans when I said: 'He is my president. He is your president.' We must have him succeed. If he fails, we all fail." But as soon as Beck moved to Fox and Obama moved into the White House, Beck became a completely different animal – the leader, you might say, of the opposition.This is why I loathe Beck. Limbaugh, O'Reilly and the others mean what they say. They are right wing nutters who really have bought in to the Reagan philosophy, despite the fact that the recent economic upheaval rendered much of Reaganism useless.
Beck is a chancer. He's a shock jock and he's saying much of what he says for effect.
But what he is succeeding in doing is taking the Republican party - and it's dwindling band of supporters - ever more to the right. Indeed, the views of the lunatic fringe of the party are now so prevalent that they are demanding "purity tests" to ensure that Republicans are right wing enough to suit their tastes; imagining that the reason the Republicans lost the last election was because the Bush administration were actually "liberal light."
The notion that Bush was a "liberal light" leader is simply insane, and yet that's exactly what Mary Matalin argued recently.
Beck is merely the most public face of a political movement which is gradually losing it's mind. As such, he is their perfect representative.
"The fringe is the mainstream. I think a key point here is that with each passing decade since Ronald Reagan, the Republican party has moved further and further to the right. In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan seemed really conservative. If a person of Ronald Reagan's position and politics were around today, these people would probably call him a sellout. I could not name you six Republicans in Congress who seem like they're prepared to negotiate in good faith on anything that's remotely controversial."
Tomasky directs me to a poll published last week. One of Beck's big targets has been an organisation called Acorn, for which Obama once worked as a lawyer and which helped him get out the vote during his presidential campaign. Republicans accused Acorn of voter fraud, and this year it has been the subject of embezzlement and other scandals, to which Fox has given a great deal of coverage. As a result, this poll suggests, a majority of Republicans thinks the election was stolen. "Only one in four Republican voters thinks Obama won the election legitimately," Tomasky concludes in amazement. "What do you do with that? It's like trying to argue with people who think that the grass is blue and the sky is green."
Click here for full article.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Astonishing. Despite the fact that she left office without even completing her term, Mike Huckabee still finds Sarah Palin's “executive experience” preferable to that of Barack Obama.
This is partly why the Republicans are such a joke at the moment. They are left arguing for things which are simply laughable. The fact that between 62% and 71% of Americans state that she is not fit to be president, and that Huckabee is forced to argue that he would vote for Palin, highlights just what a terrible corner the Republicans now find themselves in.
They are having to publicly defend a figure who has become a national joke. Long may it continue.
They really are a classy bunch these tea party people....
Here Roy Sekoff discusses this behaviour:
A group called the Chicago Tea Party Patriots publicly heckled a grieving family and suggested that the couple fabricated their tragic story.
At a town hall held by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) on Nov. 14,, Dan and Midge Hough spoke about how they believed the death of their daughter-in-law and her unborn child were caused, in part, by a lack of health insurance. Twenty-four-year old Jennifer was uninsured. According to her in-laws, she was not receiving regular prenatal care and was not properly treated when she got sick. She ended up in an emergency room with double pneumonia that developed into septic shock, had a heart attack, a brain bleed and a stroke. The baby died and Jennifer died a few weeks later.
Midge Hough was heckled by anti-reform crowd members. "You can laugh at me, that's okay," she said, crying. "But I lost two people, and I know you think that's funny, that's okay."
Sekoff is right to describe this as "hate filled", for that it exactly what it is becoming.
Why is this moronic man still given air time?
Here Bolton argues against trying terrorists at all, saying that he would prefer simply holding them indefinitely. It's a startling reminder that, once any member of the Bush administration mentions "terrorism", then they stop believing in the law altogether.
Trying terrorists for their crimes is apparently displaying "a pre-9-11 mentality". The correct post 9-11 mentality requires locking them up and throwing away the key. Because that mindset has never caused the US any problems.
Friday, November 27, 2009
The Anti Defamation League has stated that Glenn Beck creates "an intersection between the mainstream and the extreme".
Personally, I think the man is an utter moron who doesn't understand the difference between Fascism, Communism and Socialism, but that doesn't matter, because his audience don't either.
HUFFINGTON: It is frightening. Well, I would say the fearmonger-in-chief title should still be reserved for Dick Cheney, even in retirement. But barring that, there is something that we need to really pay attention to with Glenn Beck. We cannot just dismiss him. Because the truth of the matter is that there is a good reason why we have an exemption to the free speech protection by the first amendment when we say you cannot shout fire in a crowded theater.
And he's doing that every night. He's basically using images of violence to bring together with all that he's accusing the Obama administration of, which varies from racism to communism, Nazism and everything else in between. So, all that has definitely an impact. I believe words matter, language matters and he's using it in incredibly irresponsible ways night after night.
He shouldn't be dismissed. He's selling hate and Murdoch is broadcasting it and that audience are swallowing this shit whole.
Crooks and Liars have put together a compilation of the worst of Beck's nonsense:
It astonishes me that this shit is being broadcast nightly in a country which tells us it's the greatest democracy on Earth.
The Chilcot inquiry today heard from Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK's ambassador to the UN in 2003, who stated that although he did not think the Iraq war would be proven to be illegal, even he thought it was of "questionable legitimacy" as it was not supported by a majority of the UN or even a majority of UK citizens.
So, the fact that the decision to go to war was never challenged at the UN or at the International Court of Justice is going to be used to argue that the invasion was not actually illegal.
Asked about the legality of the war, he said there were different opinions and that a "final and conclusive" verdict was never likely to be made.
But he added: "If you do something internationally that the majority of UN member states think is wrong, illegitimate or politically unjustifiable, you are taking a risk in my view."
"I regarded our participation in the military action against Iraq in March 2003 as legal but of questionable legitimacy in that it did not have the democratically observable backing of a great majority of member states or even perhaps of a majority of people inside the UK.
"There was a failure to establish legitimacy although I think we successfully established legality in the UN....to the degree, at least, that we were never challenged in the UN or International Court of Justice for those actions."
This is exactly the problem with the Obama administration refusing to prosecute the Bush regime for torture; in future, other Republicans - Hell bent on taking part in barbarous practices - will quote the fact that Obama has not prosecuted Bush and Co. as proof that torture is not illegal.
Greenstock's evidence came after yesterday's revelations by Sir Christopher Meyer, where he stated that the US decision to invade Iraq - which Blair had agreed with - precluded any findings on the ground.
In other words, a decision was made to invade, and the UK was left, as Meyer stated, looking "for a smoking gun" in order to justify a decision which had already been made.
It's very much as those of us opposed to the war at the time suspected, nothing Saddam could have done would have prevented the invasion. Bush wanted to go in and was going to do so no matter what the UN or Saddam or anyone else did about it.
He attacked the UK-backed process of weapons inspections in the run-up to the war, saying officials had been forced to scramble for a "smoking gun" while US troops gathered.
"The key problem was to let the military strategy wag the diplomatic and political strategy. It should have been the other way round," he said.
Bush and Blair were always going to remove Saddam; and the entire UN process, whilst useful for Blair politically, was never going to give them what they wanted, as they had no proof to back up their claims.
In short, Saddam had been found guilty of possessing WMD, and his sentence had been passed down by Washington and London void of any hard evidence that such weapons, or even related programmes, even existed. The sentence meted out – regime termination – mandated such a massive deployment of troops and material that all but the wilfully blind or intentionally ignorant had to know by the early autumn of 2002 that war with Iraq was inevitable. One simply does not initiate the movement of hundreds of thousands of troops, thousands of armoured vehicles and aircraft, and dozens of ships on a whim or to reinforce an idle threat.
President George Bush was able to disguise his blatant militarism behind the false sincerity of his ally Blair and his own secretary of state, Colin Powell. The president's task was made far easier given the role of useful idiot played by much of the mainstream media in the US and Britain, where reporters and editors alike dutifully repeated both the hyped-up charges levied against Iraq and the false pretensions that a diplomatic solution was being sought.
The tragic final act of the farce directed by Bush and Blair was the theatre of war justification known as UN weapons inspections. Having played the WMD card so forcefully in an effort to justify war with Iraq, the US (and by extension, Britain) were compelled once again to revisit the issue of disarmament. But the reality was that disarming Iraq was the furthest thing from the mind of either Bush or Blair. The decision to use military force to overthrow Saddam was made by these two leaders independent of any proof that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Having found Iraq guilty, the last thing those who were positioning themselves for war wanted was to re-engage a process that not only had failed to uncover any evidence Iraq's retention of WMD in the past, but was actually positioned to produce fact-based evidence that would either contradict or significantly weaken the case for war already endorsed by Bush and Blair.
That's why they wanted the UN inspectors pulled out so quickly, because the more they searched, the more they undermined Bush and Blair's case.
It's interesting now to hear that some of the people who were at the time the public face of that war (from the British perspective) - Greenstock, Meyer, - were actually having doubts of their own at the way the build-up to that war was being handled.
That's always going to be the problem with making a decision to go to war and then searching for reasons to justify that war.
Ritter hits the nail on the head:
There is a big difference between searching for a "smoking gun" and searching for the truth. By ignoring and/or undermining the work of the UN weapons inspectors in the lead-up to the war with Iraq, British officials demonstrated that they were not interested in the truth about Iraqi WMD, a fact that testimony provided by the likes of Sir Christopher Meyer alludes to, but falls short of actually stating.Bush and others condemned the UN inspectors because they were undermining their case for war. That fact alone should tell us that Bush and the neo-cons had decided that Iraq was going to be invaded no matter what.
They claim now to have genuinely believed that Saddam had WMD, but they arrived at this conclusion without any proof. And any time the UN inspectors were failing to find what they wanted found, they blamed the inspectors rather than their basic assumption.
They were never looking for the truth, they were looking for reasons to invade, which is why this war was fought on totally false premises. If that's not enough to make this war illegal then I don't know what is.
Click here for full article.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
“Canada needs to dismantle its public health-care system and allow private enterprise to get involved and turn a profit.”Yep, because "turning a profit" matters more than anything else... even your health.
I feel quite sure that the Chilcot inquiry is going to drive me crazy. We are going to hear lots of things which we already suspected, and the thing that will drive me nuts is that Blair and the people who lied to us will appear before the inquiry - mouth the lies they have been mouthing for the past half decade - and then glide back into public life, paying no price whatsoever for what they did.
Yesterday we dealt with just how detailed British intelligence's knowledge was concerning Iraq's weapons programmes.
We can argue forever over what constitutes a barefaced lie, but when Blair stated that he believed intelligence assessments had established "beyond doubt" that Saddam was continuing to produce chemical and biological weapon, we are getting pretty near to the point where barefaced lying was taking place.
Questioned by the panel of the Iraq inquiry, Foreign Office officials said they believed Saddam's nuclear programme had been dismantled and they had no evidence of his trying to supply chemical or biological weapons to terrorists.
Sir William Ehrman, the Foreign Office's director of international security at the time, yesterday revealed that ministers were repeatedly warned over the limits of intelligence on Iraq. "We did, I think on 10 March , get a report that chemical weapons might have remained disassembled and Saddam hadn't yet ordered their assembly," he told day two of the inquiry in London. "There was a suggestion that Iraq might lack warheads capable of effective dispersal of agents."
The department's officials told how ministers heard that knowledge of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes was "sporadic" in the years up to the invasion of 19-20 March 2003. In September 2002 the intelligence "remained limited", they heard. Yet Blair that month described Saddam's banned weapons programme as "active, detailed and growing" and said the picture emerging was "detailed and authoritative".
If British intelligence regarding Iraq's weapons programme was "sporadic" then it seems really obvious that it is almost impossible to establish anything "beyond doubt" as Blair claimed. Everything was actually in doubt, as we knew very little about what Saddam was up to.
And the way that Tim Dowse, then head of counter-proliferation at the Foreign Office, explained the government's famous "45 minutes from attack" claim spoke volumes:
The truth is that all of these claims, including Blair's comments about what British intelligence was establishing "beyond doubt" were actually part of a sell. They were selling us a war and they were saying anything they felt necessary to scare the public into backing that war.
Asked about suggestions that the Blair government's 45-minute deployment claim had referred to weapons of mass destruction usable by Iraq to strike another nation, Dowse said: "I don't think we ever said that it was for use in a ballistic missile in that way." The inquiry panel member Sir Lawrence Freedman pointed out: "But you didn't say it wasn't."
Neither MI6 nor the joint intelligence committee explained that the 45-minute claim was speculative and referred only to short-range weapons. Ministers later claimed they had never asked what kind of weaponry the claim was about.
And, in order to do so, Blair said things which he "believed", which is really just a clever lawyers way of providing himself with cover when the lie was revealed.
Because, once it was revealed that what Blair was saying was not in fact true, when we look again at what he said we suddenly notice that he actually was telling us what he "believed" the intelligence to be saying. So, it's suddenly subjective. Now it's all about whether Tony really believed that or not.
It's nothing more than a clever lawyer's trick. He was giving himself cover. And the fact that he sought to do so leads me to believe that it didn't matter to Blair whether or not what he was saying was true or false, this was a sell job.
And the thing which most annoys me is that Blair will sail away from all of this untouched.
Click here for full article.
MP's have already produced their own critical report on the policing of the G20 summit, so the latest report into police handling of that protest from Denis O'Connor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, is not saying anything that hasn't been said before, but it is notably critical of the police handling of the incident, calling for a police service which is "anchored in public consent".
O'Conner has used his report to demand wide-ranging reforms and a return to an ideal of policing based on "approachability, impartiality, accountability and … minimum force".
O'Conner has done well to articulate what many of the public feel. There was widespread reaction to the way that the police handled the G20 summit with many feeling that they were behaving as if protest itself was a form of lawbreaking.
O'Connor warned of a "hardening" of policing style in recent years and the erosion of the British approach to policing developed by the 19th-century prime minister Sir Robert Peel and based on consent.
He criticised the way officers were trained for the use of force, saying they wrongly believing "proportionality" means "reciprocity". Through the ranks, there was a failure to understand the law on policing protests. O'Connor said the lack of national standards meant that a high-profile area of policing had been treated as a "Cinderella" subject with inconsistencies from force to force.
He called for ministers to endorse and vocally support a consent-based approach ahead of the Olympics in 2012, when British policing will be on show to the world.
"It is time now for us to put the British model back on the table. The Home Office should be concerned by this drift, because members of the public are and I am trying to react to that," he said.
"Every police initiative, every decision about equipment should be examined to see if it complies with the principle of policing by consent … we are in danger of being left with a shadow of what we had, asking ourselves: where did it go?"
And the very fact that this report has been welcomed across the political spectrum says quite a lot about just how much the police alienated public opinion with the death of Ian Tomlinson and the other shocking images which came out of that protest and the police's handling of that event.
The proposals include:
The police's handling of the G20 summit protesters was heavy handed and provocative. The practice of "kettling" was disgraceful. The police at the time claimed that what happened was the result of too many "inexperienced youngsters" being amongst their ranks on that day. Whatever lay behind it, this latest report makes it very clear; it must never happen again.
• Immediate action from the home secretary, Alan Johnson, to issue guidance to all 44 police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that ensures they facilitate peaceful protest in a consistent way.
• The creation of a set of fundamental national principles on the use of force to cover all police business, emphasising "minimum use of force" at all times.
• Radical change in public order training, with an emphasis on teaching the 22,500 officers who receive basic protest training how to manage peaceful activists.
• A shakeup of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) to make it transparent and accountable. He highlighted Acpo's three "domestic extremism" units, which collate information on thousands of activists and which, the Guardian revealed last month, were receiving £9m from the government.
We are accustomed to report's which whitewash every police action and seek always to portray the police as acting honourably and to deflect any blame for violence towards the protesters themselves. It says a lot about what happened on that day that this report does not seek to do that and that it even gets the support of several police associations as it apportions the blame towards police behaviour.
The prime minister acknowledged public anger over police behaviour. Speaking for the first time about Tomlinson's death, Brown said: "I know that the events at the G20 caused a great deal of anger and sadness for people when we had the casualty. It is important that policing is of the best and where mistakes are made or there are question marks they have to be answered."
Several police associations gave their support to O'Connor's findings, including Acpo, which said the report would "shape the future of public order policing". Climate Camp, the UK's largest environmental protest group, said the proposals were "a huge leap forward".
That's highly unusual and it is to be welcomed.
Click here for full article.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Watch O'Reilly and Palin decide that anyone who thinks she is unfit to govern is part of an "elite". It's now officially "elitist" to think that Palin is one of the stupidest people ever to seek high office; indeed, her stupidity is now the very thing that makes her "one of us" and should be embraced.
Human Rights Watch have published a new report entitled "Cruel Britannia: British Complicity in the Torture and Ill-treatment of Terror Suspects" which says that the British government were complicit in the torture of suspects and quotes from the Pakistani torturers themselves stating that the government knew what they were doing and encouraged it.
This report couldn't be any clearer in it's allegations. It is stating categorically that the British government under Tony Blair was complicit in torture.
Researchers at the New York-based NGO spoke to Pakistani intelligence agents directly involved in the torture who say their British counterparts knew they were mistreating British terrorism suspects. These agents said British officials were "breathing down their necks for information" while they were torturing a medical student from London, and that British intelligence officers were "grateful" they were "using all means possible" to extract information from a man from Luton being beaten, whipped, deprived of sleep and threatened with an electric drill.
"UK complicity is clear," the report says, adding that it had put the government in a "legally, morally and politically invidious position".
The calls for an inquiry are now becoming overwhelming, especially as the torturers themselves are now saying that the British encouraged what they were doing.
The former shadow home secretary David Davis said the report was "astonishing", in that it "destroys the last remnants of any defence the government might have". He called on the government to hold an independent judicial inquiry.
HRW added to the growing number of calls for an inquiry into Britain's role in the torture. Among those issuing demands are parliament's joint committee on human rights, the Liberal Democrats, Amnesty International, and the former director of public prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald. Lord Carlile, the government's independent reviewer of counterterrorism legislation, Lord Guthrie, a former chief of defence staff, and Lord King of Bridgwater, a former Conservative defence and Northern Ireland secretary, have also called for an inquiry.
HRW pointed out today that the government may have little choice but to investigate British complicity, not only because a failure to do so is threatening to undermine its core values, but because it is a requirement of international law.
"The convention against torture requires states to reinforce the prohibition against torture through legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures," the report says.
It should be obvious to all that, in the years and months following 9-11, certain western countries gave upon the values which previously defined them.
The question now is what to do about that. This is the exact same issue which Obama, in the US, wants to look away from; insisting that we must look forwards and not backwards.
But that is simply not acceptable. We are either a nation of torturers or we are not. And, if we are not, then we prosecute the people who have indulged in such a practice, including the leaders who condoned such barbarity.
I really don't see any other way to restore equilibrium.
Click here for full article.
On it's very first day sitting the Chilcot inquiry has heard that the George Bush regime wanted to topple Saddam Hussein before 9-11 even took place. And it also heard that the Blair government were against such an action because they recognised that regime change would be illegal.
Quite how this practice, which by their own admission had "no basis in law", came to be the official policy of the UK government will no doubt be revealed in the weeks to come, but it is interesting to note that the UK position originally recognised the illegality of an invasion of Iraq.
Evidence given at the opening day of the inquiry, chaired by the former top civil servant Sir John Chilcot, painted a picture of a Whitehall slowly realising the significance of George Bush's election in November 2000 on US policy towards Iraq.
Even before the Bush administration came to power an article written by his then national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, warned that "nothing will change" in Iraq until Saddam was gone, Sir Peter Ricketts, a former chairman of the joint intelligence committee (JIC) and now the Foreign Office's top official, told the inquiry.
"We were aware of these drumbeats from Washington and internally we discussed it. Our policy was to stay away from that part of the spectrum," added Sir William Patey, then head of the Middle East department at the Foreign Office.
He revealed that in late 2001 – following the 9/11 attacks on the US – he asked officials at the ministry to draw up an Iraq "options" paper, including regime change. "We dismissed it at the time because it had no basis in law," Patey told the inquiry.
"We quite clearly distanced ourselves in Whitehall from talk about regime change," said Ricketts. Up to March 2002 "there was no increased appetite among UK ministers for military action in Iraq," he added.
Simon Webb, a former policy director at the Ministry of Defence, who also gave evidence today, described the issue of regime change in Iraq during the early days of the Bush administration as "the dog that did not bark. It grizzled, but it did not bark".
The truth is that the neo-cons were pushing for an invasion of Iraq long before 9-11, but it was that day which seems to have made it much harder for people like Blair to resist their urgings.
But it's interesting to note the fact that British intelligence at no point linked Saddam with al Qaeda in the way which people like Cheney continued to insist they were linked.
The truth is that the neo-cons saw in 9-11 their chance to carry out a long held ambition - the removal of Saddam Hussein - and they simply started a selling job to gain public approval for their task. I don't think even they ever believed that he was linked to the events of 9-11, but that day simply provided them with their best ever opportunity to remove him and they weren't prepared to allow that chance to slip from their grasp.
Moreover, voices in Washington were starting to link the Iraqi leader to al-Qaida. Ricketts said Britain had no evidence showing Iraq was "linked in any way to 9/11". He added: "We didn't have any such evidence."
Neocons in the Bush administration and the CIA claimed in the run-up to the invasion that Saddam was linked to al-Qaida, a claim dismissed at the time by MI6.
It was to facilitate that chance that the orgy of lies took place.
According to previously leaked documents, Ricketts, political director at the Foreign Office at the time, described the US in 2002 as "scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaida", a link that was "so far frankly unconvincing". He told Jack Straw, then foreign secretary: "We have to be convincing that the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for. Regime change does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge match between Bush and Saddam."I suspect that this might turn out like the Hutton inquiry, in that the final conclusion will matter less than what comes out in the wash. On day one we have already heard that the British government regarded regime change as illegal and that Bush wanted to invade long before 9-11.
And yet, we all know what happened next. We'll hear over the next few months how Blair moved from that initial position to approving an illegal war.
Well worth reading:
Click here for full article.
In Iran some Shia theologians argued at the time that the second coming of the Mehdi might well be at hand, because only divine intervention could have persuaded the Americans to behave so stupidly as to get rid of Iran's main enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq. The coming to power of a Shia-dominated regime in Iraq, the first in the Arab world since the time of Saladin, was bound to enhance Iranian influence over its neighbour.
Members of the Iraqi opposition in the weeks before the invasion were metaphorically touching wood in case the Americans and the British realised what they were getting into. In December 2002 I was at an Iraqi opposition conference in a hotel on Edgware Road in central London when an Iraqi friend spoke to me nervously: "I have only one fear," he said. "It is that the Americans will realise at the last moment that attacking Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein is not in their own best interests."
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
So, Murdoch thinks the way forward is to remove all links from Google and to have links to his content exclusively on Bing, the Microsoft search engine which no-one has ever heard of.
Microsoft has been in early discussions with the News Corporation, the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, about a pact to pay the News Corporation to remove links to its news content from Google’s search engine and display them exclusively on Bing, from Microsoft, according to a person briefed on the matter who spoke anonymously because of the confidential negotiations.
If such an arrangement came to pass, it would be a watershed moment in the history of the Internet, and set off a fierce debate over the future of content online.
That's a plan. It's a terrible one, but it's a plan.
All Murdoch is doing here is cutting himself further out of the picture. The notion that people would use one search engine simply to access Murdoch's content is borderline insanity.
Click here for full article.
Joe Conason points out to Joe Scarborough that the Iraq war, coupled with tax cuts for the rich, did more than anything to balloon the US deficit.
Scarborough wants to view such things as "the past" and thinks that "people who opposed everything George W Bush did" are bound to get it right once in a blue moon.
This what I find so palpably false about the current Republican position. At least the current deficit is being run up to avoid financial calamity. The deficit run up under Bush was to fight an illegal war that it's supporters were not prepared to finance through taxation.
And yet they insisted that supporting that war was the height of patriotism. They simply weren't prepared to pay for it.... Odd.
The Obama administration are coming to Copenhagen with a proposed target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, although they are keeping their figure to between 14% and 20% from the 2005 level, as they say they have to be realistic about what they can legislate.
I'm presuming that Obama is taking this stance because he still has to get anything he agrees to through the house and I suspect the Republicans will do their damnedest to prevent him from achieving anything on this subject.
"The one thing the president has made clear is we want to take action consistent with the legislative process," the official told reporters. "[We] don't want to get out ahead or be at odds with what can be produced through legislation.
The Observer reported on Sunday that the US was considering a "provisional target" at Copenhagen.
Todd Stern, the state department climate change envoy, told the Observer: "What we are looking at is to see whether we could put down essentially a provisional number that would be contingent on our legislation."
It has become almost a badge of honour amongst those nutcases to insist that man has nothing to do with climate change.
So, I suppose Obama is simply being realistic when he looks at the scale of the mountain he will have to climb once he brings back whatever he promises in Copenhagen to the United States.
Click here for full article.
The Chilcot inquiry is due to begin in London later on today, however some senior legal figures are claiming that the inquiry lacks the authority to decide whether or not the invasion of Iraq was legal or illegal.
Of course, the fact that this inquiry has been set up by the very government which ordered the invasion of Iraq makes one suspect that the question of the wars legality is one which they would prefer the inquiry didn't go into.
But one senior judge told the Guardian that analysing the war's legality was beyond the panel's competence.It does not include a single judge or lawyer.
"The truth of the matter is, if the inquiry was going to express a view with any kind of authority on the question of legality, it would need a legal member and quite a senior one," the judge said. "Looking at the membership … it seems to me that legality just wasn't going to be a question they would be asked to review."
Another senior legal figure said: "The panel clearly lacks the expertise to address the question of legality. The members are not experienced at cross-examination – it is simply not their skill set."
Tony Blair is going to take the stand and anyone who has watched Blair wriggle around the subject when facing parliament over the years would know that it will take a very experienced cross examiner to have any chance of getting anywhere with someone of Blair's pedigree. Blair's been delivering his version of the truth on this subject for years and has almost come to believe it himself.
"Some of the debates around the legality of the war are quite sophisticated – it is not all clear-cut," the senior legal figure said. "It's going to be very difficult to deal with someone like Blair without a panel experienced in cross-examination.".
"Looking into the legality of the war is the last thing the government wants," said the judge. "And actually, it's the last thing the opposition wants either because they voted for the war. There simply is not the political pressure to explore the question of legality – they have not asked because they don't want the answer."
"Lawyers are trained to weigh up evidence and will know and say when they see a decision-making process that appears to be out of the ordinary," said the British international law expert Professor Philippe Sands QC. "The fact that the members of the inquiry do not include a lawyer is very, very telling".So, at long, long last an inquiry has eventually begun. But it already looks as if it has been tilted heavily in favour of the government.
Click here for full article.
Monday, November 23, 2009
British military commanders were so shocked by the lack of preparation for the aftermath of the Iraq invasion that they believe members of the British and US governments at the time could be prosecuted for war crimes by breaching the duty outlined in the Geneva convention to safeguard civilians in a conflict, the Guardian has been told.
And this lack of preparation came about because Tony Blair's government wanted to conceal from the British public his intention to invade Iraq, maintaining his public stance that war was not inevitable and that what he really sought was Iraqi disarmament.
But the documents reveal what many of us have long suspected; Blair was always going to war, he just wanted it to appear as if there were other options.
Now, there are military commanders arguing that Blair could be prosecuted as a war criminal for failing to adequately prepare for the avoidance of civilian casualties. I would say that the invasion itself, which occurred outside of the United Nations Charter, would be enough to warrant such a prosecution.
Significantly, the documents support what officials have earlier admitted – that the army was not allowed to prepare properly for the Iraq invasion in 2002 so as not to alert parliament and the UN that Blair was already determined to go to war.
The documents add: "In Whitehall, the internal operational security regime, in which only very small numbers of officers and officials were allowed to become involved [in Iraq invasion preparations] constrained broader planning for combat operations and subsequent phases effectively until Dec 23 2002."
Blair had in effect promised George Bush that he would join the US-led invasion when, as late as July 2002, he was denying to MPs that preparations were being made for military action. The leaked documents reveal that "from March 2002 or May at the latest there was a significant possibility of a large-scale British operation".
Documents leaked in 2005 show that, almost a year before the invasion, Blair was privately preparing to commit Britain to war and topple Saddam Hussein, despite warnings from his closest advisers that it was unjustified. They also show how Blair was planning to justify regime change as an objective, despite warnings from Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, that the "desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.
However, as we'll never get to see Blair prosecuted as he should be, we can only hope that Chilcot avoids producing another whitewashed report and that he assigns the blame squarely where it is deserved.
Blair lied. And he did so repeatedly. He had long promised Bush that Britain would join the US in an invasion. But he wanted to hide this fact from the general public.
This meant that all preparation for that war had to be done without alerting the public and the UN to what was actually going on.
Inevitably, this left the armed forces ill prepared. But what did Blair care? He got what he wanted and that was war.
The key question: Is Blair a war criminal?
We've had umpteen Iraq inquiries already, but this one should be different. Its terms of reference are open. Previous inquiries concentrated on the non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the misuse of intelligence to make the case for war, the "dodgy dossier" and so on. But there are plenty of other questions, starting with the big one: was this a war of aggression and therefore a war crime? There were two views about its legality, and the then attorney general seems to have held both of them.There is mounting evidence that this was, at the very least, a war of choice. Saddam was complying with the inspectors, therefore there really was no need for Bush and Blair not to allow them to complete their task.
However, there are some of us - myself included -who think that the entire UN route was simply carried out to placate Blair and that a decision had already been made to invade. That's why Bush spoke of the UN's need to prove it's relevance. He was announcing at that point that the UN could either give him what he wanted - permission to invade - or it could deem itself to be as relevant as the League of Nations.
I think there are very few people who seriously think that Bush and Blair were not always going to invade no matter what the UN said.
Click here for full article.
However, we have now reached the exact point at which Lieberman, now joined by two others, has all along threatened to use the filibuster.
However, there were indications of more problems ahead for the US president as several senators crucial to winning the vote said they would not support the legislation as it is currently written.
They said this was because of the inclusion of a government-run insurance option, albeit one falling far short of that proposed by Obama after public protests and heavy lobbying by the health insurance industry.
The Senate voted along party lines, with all 58 Democrats and two independents producing exactly the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster.
If he does this the Democrats really do need to come down on him as hard as they can. Remove his chairmanships and kick him out of the caucus.
Obama has got the US nearer than it has ever been to establishing some form of universal healthcare. It would be a tragedy if this was to fail at this point, especially if it was filibustered with the help of people supposedly on the Democratic side of the debate.
Lieberman has already made it perfectly clear that public opinion on this subject is of little interest to him.
The bill drawn up by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is designed to ensure 94% of Americans are covered by health insurance by – among other things – offering government-run health insurance, alongside private companies, that individual states could opt out of if they objected.
Reid said it was morally right that reform of the US healthcare system, in a country in which half of all bankruptcies are the result of medical bills and half of those are among people who have private health insurance, would now be debated by the full Senate.
"Imagine if, instead of debating whether to abolish slavery, instead of debating whether giving women and minorities a right to vote, those who disagreed were muted, discussion was killed," he added.
Opinion polls have shown that a clear majority of Americans support the inclusion of publicly run health insurance.
Indeed, he pretended that this subject hadn't even been part of Obama's campaign.
The American public have made their views on this perfectly plain. Every opinion poll says that a large majority want a public option in healthcare.
"This is a kindof 11th hour addition to a debate that's gone on for decades," Lieberman told reporters tonight. "Nobody's ever talked about a public option before. Not even in the presidential campaign last year."
I asked in response, "How do you reconcile your contention that the public option wasn't part of the presidential campaign given that all three of the [leading Democratic] candidates had something along the lines of the public option in their white papers?'
"Not really, not from what I've seen. There was a little--there was a line about the possibility of it in an Obama health care policy paper," Lieberman said.
(That line read, "Specifically, the Obama plan will: (1) establish a new public insurance program, available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that want to offer insurance to their employees," and went on from there.)
I said, "And at the time Senator Clinton, and John Edwards also had..."
"Edwards probably had it more than anybody else," Lieberman said. "But Clinton, Obama, McCain--I don't see it. Anyway, I'm opposed to it."
Snakes like Lieberman, a man who once ran on the Democratic ticket, now appears to be against decades of Democratic policy. The Democrats have always favoured universal healthcare, so it's very odd that former Democrats like Lieberman now find the entire notion so repugnant.
First, he favoured the Iraq war, now he opposes a public option in healthcare; was he ever really a Democrat?
Click here for full article.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Listen as O'Reilly invites on guests and then simply shouts at them.
He's incensed that terrorists are going to be given a trial. It's quite clear that he doesn't believe in the American system of justice. And, sadly, that's increasingly becoming the Republican position.
Where I will give O'Reilly credit is that I could never imagine Beck debating any point with two Democrats.
Borelli on Hannity: A "big message" in black community is "you are owed something... and don't have to work hard"
We are used to watching fat dorks like Hannity blame poor people for their own poverty, but they usually don't bring race into the equation. I thought they hated all poor people equally.
The New York Post are reporting that Lou Dobbs was warned in July of this year to drop birther stories about the president, and that Dobbs became incensed by this.
"It seems this story is dead because anyone who still is not convinced doesn't really have a legitimate beef," read Klein's memo to employees of " Tonight."What does it say about Dobbs that he continued with this nonsense despite the fact that his employers were ordering him to back off?
Klein's move incensed Dobbs, who wasn't shy about telling off his boss.
"They have been talking pretty regularly since then," a source said. "And it's been pretty bad."
I am all for journalistic licence, and for people to resist the attempts of those higher up to silence them when they are in pursuit of the truth, but Dobbs was doing this in an attempt to prove that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.
In doing so he put himself in bed with Orly Taitz and some of the most irrational people on the political map.
At that point his job was always in jeopardy, and yet Dobbs persisted. Indeed, it is looking as if Dobbs jumped from CNN before he was pushed.
I presume that Dobbs persisted with the birther stories - despite the warnings from above - because he has genuinely convinced himself that there must be something to these stories.
Last month, Dobbs'agent, CNN sources said, bluntly told Klein: "You're unhappy, he's unhappy. Let him go."
Dobbs told Klein in recent weeks he wanted to go "the opinion route," laying the final groundwork for his departure.
CNN had been unlikely to renew Dobbs' contract in 2011 anyway, sources said.
CNN is pushing hard to position itself as a middle-of-the-road news source, between left-leaning MSNBC and conservative.
"Lou was polluting the CNN brand," said a TV insider.
That makes him an utter idiot. A total whackjob. I could understand him pushing this nonsense if he felt that it helped his ratings by feeding the tinfoil hat wearers, but if he genuinely believed in this nonsense then he's sadder than I realised.
The departure came at significant personal cost to Dobbs, who still had 1½ years left in his back-loaded, five-year, $35 million contract. Dobbs' final year would have brought him $9 million.So, he was willing to sacrifice $9 million rather than drop this nonsense about Obama and Kenya.
And there's worse news still for Dobbs:
A Fox News Channel spokeswoman insisted her network wasn't interested in hiring the veteran.I thought he would have found an open door over at Fox News, so that genuinely surprised me. It appears that Dobbs is too whacky even for the channel that hires Glenn Beck. How far out there do you have to be for that to happen?
Far out enough to believe that Obama was born in Kenya and willing to give up $9 million a year in order to pursue that theory I suppose.
Click here for full article.