Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beck: "This country will have a very short future if you base it on the friends" of Oct. 2 rally.

It was inevitable that Glenn Beck would react badly to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's determination to hold a spoof rally mocking the rally which Beck held.

Beck takes himself too seriously not to react. Indeed, he thinks his rally will go down in history. It takes quite an ego to make that claim.

But I didn't expect him to describe the Stewart/Colbert rally in the over-the-top way in which he does here.

He describes the friends of One Nation as "radicals, revolutionaries, Communist, agitators, that's all they are. They haven't been brought together since the 1960's. This is the point that I have been warning about for a long time. When their poll numbers go down, and when they get desperate, they will take to the streets and they will agitate."

See, how that works? When people who support Beck take to the streets, we are watching "good decent people"; however, when Colbert and Stewart hold a rally we are suddenly asked to see "agitators."

And I love how anything less than two million people on the mall for Stewart and Colbert will be "a failure". Is Beck seriously now claiming that he attracted two million people to his rally? Is he seriously claiming that more people attended his rally than attended the inauguration of America's first ever black president?

It's impossible to take this guy seriously.

Fake pimp from ACORN videos tries to 'punk' CNN correspondent.

James O'Keefe, the guy who played the pimp in the highly edited fake Acorn videos, has been caught out trying to stage a moronic “fake seduction” of CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau.

When Boudreau arrived at the address, a house located on a tributary of the Patuxent River, Santa approached her with a tape recorder in her hand and said she wanted to talk in the car, Boudreau said.

“I noticed she had a little bit of dirt on her face, her lip was shaking, she seemed really uncomfortable and I asked her if she was OK,” Boudreau said. “The first thing she basically said to me was, ‘I’m not recording you, I’m not recording you. Are you recording me?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not recording you,’ and she showed me her digital recorder and it was not recording.”

Santa told Boudreau that O’Keefe planned to “punk” her by getting on a boat where hidden cameras were set up. Boudreau said she would not get on the boat and asked Santa why O’Keefe wanted her there.

“Izzy told me that James was going to be dressed up and have strawberries and champagne on the boat, and he was going to hit on me the whole time,” Boudreau said.

It's being reported that O'Keefe wanted to make out that the boat was "an over-the-top 'palace of pleasure' replete with strawberries, champagne, a condom jar, fuzzy handcuffs, and, er, sex toys."

Have a look at the size of the boat in the video. The only reasonable conclusion, looking at that tiny boat and reading of what O'Keefe hoped it would represent, is that O'Keefe is a moron.

But a seriously creepy moron. Here's part of the script which he was planning to use for his faux seduction tape.

"My name is James, I work in video activism and journalism. I've been approached by CNN for an interview where I know what their angle is: they want to portray me and my friends as crazies, as non-journalists, as unprofessional and likely as homophobes, racists or bigots of some sort…"

"Instead, I've decided to have a little fun. Instead of giving her a serious interview, I'm going to punk CNN. Abbie has been trying to seduce me to use me, in order to spin a lie about me. So, I'm going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video. This bubble-headed-bleach-blonde who comes on at five will get a taste of her own medicine, she'll get seduced on camera and you'll get to see the awkwardness and the aftermath."

"Please sit back and enjoy the show."

It makes your skin crawl.

David Miliband bows out, defeated and demoralised.

I have already expressed my sympathy for David Miliband and my hopes that he was going to stick around to help his younger brother.

But, that was all before this, the moment when David Miliband found it impossible to hide his anger at his brother's statement regarding the Iraq war.

So, it comes as no surprise that he has decided that he is not going to serve in his brothers cabinet.

In a departure marked by magnanimity and self-restraint, David Miliband said that in some ways the easy decision would have been to remain in the shadow cabinet, but that his instinct as soon as he lost the leadership race on Saturday was that he would have to go.

He will remain as a backbencher, and write, as well as taking time to recharge his intellectual batteries and spend more time with his two young children. Heartbroken supporters continued to grit their teeth in the interests of party unity, but one said: "David is giving Ed some space to carry on torching the house we built."

The papers seem determined to see this as an act of "magnanimity and self-restraint", but I find the whole thing petulant and self indulgent.

The words of his supporters, that he is "giving Ed some space to carry on torching the house we built", is much nearer to what, I suspect, is actually going on here. Indeed, it is through the words of his supporters that one gets some sense of the anger and frustration which is behind his decision to stand down.
Jon Cruddas, a David Miliband supporter, said he was alarmed by triumphalists claiming that they had got their party back. "There is a danger that we are going to be dominated by a metropolitan liberal faction that is rather removed from the real world," he said.

Lord Prescott praised David Miliband and said: "He helped create a record that we can be proud of, and I respect the fact that during the leadership campaign he chose to defend it."
David represents New Labour and, like most of New Labour, he can't bring himself to say sorry for the Iraq war.

After all, Blair and the rest of them "sincerely believed" that Saddam had WMD, so who can fault them for their "sincere beliefs"?

Ed has broken with that mindset by stating that the Iraq war was wrong, and that statement brought from David the most public display of anger he has shown in his entire career.

The victory of Ed represents the death of New Labour and, as his brother was the next nominal head of that group, it probably is for the best that he heads for the backbenches.

I worry that New Labour will continue to haunt the party, refusing to accept that their moment in the spotlight is over. They delivered three election victories, but they alienated the party from it's base.

The bitterness they are now expressing is based on the fact that they can't understand how the party could be so ungrateful as to reject them.

Tony Blair had warned that the party would face certain defeat should it "move a millimetre from New Labour", which they probably believe, despite the fact that polls suggest a break from New Labour would make 47% of people more likely to consider voting Labour.

One would have hoped that New Labour could be magnanimous enough to hide their bitterness for the sake of rallying around the new leader, but David's departure for the backbenches shows that they are not taking their defeat well.

God knows what they have got in store for us in the months to come.

Click here for full article.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hannity and friends complain about Obama's Fox criticism.

Obama stated this:

The golden age of an objective press was a pretty narrow span of time in our history. Before that, you had folks like Hearst who used their newspapers very intentionally to promote their viewpoints. I think Fox is part of that tradition -- it is part of the tradition that has a very clear, undeniable point of view. It's a point of view that I disagree with. It's a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world. But as an economic enterprise, it's been wildly successful. And I suspect that if you ask Mr. Murdoch what his number-one concern is, it's that Fox is very successful.
Cue Sean Hannity to step forward and prove the very point which Obama was making. On what other news channel could one refer to "The Anointed One" and have everyone understand instantly that you are referring to the president?

What is that, if not having "a very clear, undeniable point of view"?

Gaffney Is Ludicrous.

It's hard watching Frank Gaffney engaging in this kind of fear-mongering and not conclude that the objections to the Park 51 mosque are simple Islamophobia.

Here, Gaffney argues that a mosque in Murfreesboro, TN, is attempting to introduce Sharia law on the whole of the United States.

It's the stupidest argument I have ever heard. As is pointed out to Gaffney here, the Muslim population of the US is only 2%. How can 2% of the population - even assuming that they desire Sharia law, which they don't - force their views, in a democracy, over the views of the other 98%? Especially as even country's like Pakistan, with a 98% Muslim population, don't have Sharia law.

It's hard to believe that Gaffney actually means what he is saying, which can only lead one to conclude that he is simply fear-mongering. Does anyone seriously believe that a mosque in Murfreesboro, TN, represents, as Gaffney ludicrously states, a desire "to destroy western civilisation from within"?

Israeli navy diverts Gaza-bound yacht.

Israel has turned away yet another boat headed for Gaza.

The Israeli navy today boarded a yacht carrying 10 Jewish activists who were attempting to break the sea blockade around Gaza, forcibly diverting the vessel to the nearby port of Ashdod.

"There was no resistance, no violence," an Israeli military spokeswoman said. "Before we boarded, we twice asked the captain not to cross the international line into Gaza waters but he refused."

But, one only has to look at who was on board to see how clearly Israel is losing the PR war over it's Gaza blockade.
Among the passengers are an Israeli Holocaust survivor, an Israeli whose daughter was killed in a suicide bombing in 1997, and a former Israeli air force pilot.
Hardly the "terrorists" that Israel usually claim are attempting to break it's blockade. All people of conscience are now waking up to the injustice of this.

Just how stubborn is Netanyahu? For how long will he insist on defending this PR nightmare for his country?

Click here for full article.

Tony Blair received early torture warning, court told.

There should be a day when people like Blair are called to account for what they did and didn't do.

Tony Blair was warned a matter of weeks after American forces began rounding up terror suspects that British nationals held by the US in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay were being tortured, secret documents disclosed in the high court reveal.

He expressed concern about their treatment after initially being sceptical, he admits in a hand-written note on a Foreign Office (FO) document dated 18 January 2002. It appears among heavily redacted MI5 and FO documents released in court hearings in which British nationals are suing the government, MI5 and MI6

Blair scribbled on the note, "The key is to find out how they are being treated. Though I was initially sceptical about claims of torture, we must make it clear to the US that any such action would be totally unacceptable and v quickly establish that it isn't happening."

But did anyone do what Blair's scribble asked for?

Evidence has since emerged that the British government knew the US was mistreating and torturing UK nationals and residents after January 2002 and for years afterwards, but did not seriously protest about it.

I remember that in "A Man For All Season's" Thomas More pointed out that, in such circumstances, British law relied upon the Latin phrase, "Qui tacet consentit", - silence equals consent - which would imply that, if Blair did not adequately protest against torture, that the law would assume he was consensual to it's practice.

I have yet to find any evidence that Blair protested against these American practices, and plenty of evidence exists to show that he must have been aware of them at the time that they were practiced.

A separate, previously classified Ministry of Defence document now released in heavily redacted form and dated 13 January 2002, warns that "the US treatment of the prisoners could be judged to be... [phrase blacked out]".

After noting that the ICRC was denied access, the writer of the note continues: "It is clear that the US is pushed logistically but my understanding of the Geneva Convention is that this is no excuse".

We can only surmise what the writer of the note was hinting at, but it seems pretty clear to me.

In one document, an official at the British embassy in Washington warns the FO in London reported back on discussions with the US in October 2001 about detention and treatment of detainees. "I drew attention to ECHR Article 3 [the European human rights convention's ban on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment] ..."

In January 2002 an MoD official noted: "From my visit to Bagram [prison in Afghanistan] and watching the reception of the 80 plus prisoners, it would seem that this detainee issue is one that has the potential to reflect badly on the US/coalition ... the US treatment of the prisoners could be judged to be [redacted]".

Another document, a 19-page appendix to a cabinet briefing paper dated 14 January 2002 and headed "UK nationals held in Afghanistan" is completely redacted.

During the court hearings, Jonathan Crow QC, for the security and intelligence agencies, said it was difficult and time-consuming for MI5 and MI6 to collate the documents relating to the case. Mr Justice Silber intervened at one point, saying: "But it is important in a case of this magnitude".

Richard Hermer QC, for the former detainees, told the court that at the heart of the case was the question of when MI5 and MI6 first became aware of the prisoners' treatment by the US. They were "pretty straightforward questions", he said.

Indeed, they are "pretty straightforward questions". When did we know of the torture allegations and what did we do about it?

To many of us, it appears that we did nothing.

Click here for full article.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Miliband Buries The Past.

In terms of style, there is clearly room for improvement, which I am sure he will achieve with time. But, as far as substance went, I thought he - at several points - got it bang on.

He started with where Labour got it right:

We changed Clause 4. We were right to do so.

Think of how we emphasised being tough on crime was as important as being tough on the causes of crime. We were right to do so.

Think of how we challenged the impression that we taxed for its own sake and that we were hostile to business. We were right to change.

And think of how we challenged the idea of a male dominated Parliament with All-Women shortlists and made the cause of gender equality central to our government. We were right to do so.

The old way of thinking said that economic efficiency would always come at the price of social justice.

With the minimum wage, tax credits, the New Deal, they showed that was wrong.

I am proud that our government lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, hundreds of thousands of pensioners out of poverty, proud that we created the highest levels of employment in Britain's history.

And he was also brave enough to say where we got it wrong.

"Iraq was an issue that divided our party and our country. Many sincerely believed that the world faced a real threat.

"I criticise nobody faced with making the toughest of decisions and I honour our troops who fought and died there. But I do believe that we were wrong. Wrong to take Britain to war and we need to be honest about that.

"Wrong because that war was not a last resort, because we did not build sufficient alliances and because we undermined the United Nations.

"America has drawn a line under Iraq and so must we."

It was extraordinary to watch his brother David and many of other Labour cabinet members sitting there as the conference hall exploded into applause. The Labour party has been held back by Blair's insistence that, although there were no WMD, he couldn't apologise for getting rid of Saddam. Many of the Labour cabinet who took part in that decision have stuck to roughly the same formula when it comes to that subject.

In a few sentences, Ed Miliband blew away that tired logic and claimed the Labour party as his own. Blair and his refusal to apologise have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

And he also attacked the notion that the United Kingdom should behave as almost a satellite state circulating a far greater world power.
"Our alliance with America is incredibly important to us but we must always remember that our values must shape the alliances that we form and any military action that we take."
His brother was too tied to Blair's legacy to ever strike such a distance between his regime and Blair's, which is why Ed is looking ever more like the most sensible choice for a party which feels the need to move on from policies - and acts of sheer stubbornness - which cost us five million voters in as many years.

However his comments about Iraq appear to have annoyed his brother, who was filmed asking Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman: "You voted for it, why are you clapping?"
The Blairites have been voted out of power and - as David's comments show - they are, even now, unwilling to admit that the sheer scale of the disaster which was the Iraq invasion contributed to Labour's loss and to their own in this leadership contest.

Ed Miliband represents a chance to move on from all that.

And he also refused to allow Nick Clegg to claim the mantle as the person most concerned with privacy and civil liberties when he stated that he would not allow the Tories or Lib Dems to "take ownership of the British tradition of liberty".

These are Labour and Liberal Democrat values, which Blair sold out, imagining that we would sacrifice our privacy for his empty promises - as 7-7 showed - of guaranteed security.

Clegg is to be applauded for his stance on civil liberties, but it is his willingness to swallow right wing economic dogma which will kill him with progressives.

Miliband has put a clear shaft of light between the Con-Dem coalition and Labour. And, I suspect, Clegg's lurch to the right - and the consequent loss of progressives votes for the Liberal Democrats - might make this a very good place for him to pitch his tent.

And, after Blair decided that New Labour would be pro-Israel, without bothering to inform the rest of us that we were now officially on the side of the occupiers, it was heartening to hear this man - whose parents fled the Holocaust - say this:

And let me say this, as Israel ends the moratorium on settlement building, I will always defend the right of Israel to exist in peace and security. But Israel must accept and recognise in its actions the Palestinian right to statehood.

That is why the attack on the Gaza Flotilla was so wrong.

And that is why the Gaza blockade must be lifted and we must strain every sinew to work to make that happen.

They were words that would never have come out of Blair's lips. And conference responded enthusiastically.

As I say, it could have been a more polished performance, but he gets ten out of ten for the substance of what he said.

Today, Miliband buried Blair. And everyone watching knew it. That's a pretty audacious start for a new leader.


I am pleased that the Independents leader writers heard exactly what I heard:

There were no great game-changing announcements such as when Tony Blair signalled the abolition of the party's Clause Four. There were no breathtaking oratorical flourishes. But in an hour- long address Labour's new leader guided his party away from the traumas and contorted positioning of the recent past and pointed it in a new direction.

As such it was the most daring speech from a Labour leader delivered for a long time.

His brother could never have made that speech.

Click here for full speech.

Americans' Incomes Sank After Bush Tax Cuts.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

So, were people better off after the Bush tax cuts? Did the tax cuts provide more jobs and increase people's wages as Bush claimed they would?

It's no surprise that the answer is in the negative.

What is surprising is that there are so many high income earners who want to be taxed more.
Asked "Do you think - raising income taxes on households making more than $250,000 should or should not be a main part of any government approach to the deficit," 64% of respondents whose household income topped $250,000 answered yes. That's the same percentage of affirmative responses from families earning under $50,000.
Not all wealthy people are as greedy as the Republicans it seems.

Vice President Biden to Democratic Base: 'Stop Whining'.

A theme is developing in the Obama administration towards what it sees as "whiners" amongst their supporters.

At a fundraiser in Manchester, NH, today, Vice President Biden urged Democrats to "remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This President has done an incredible job. He’s kept his promises."

The remarks, made to roughly 200 top Democratic activists and donors, recall comments President Obama made last week to “griping and groaning Democrats…Folks: wake up. This is not some academic exercise. As Joe Biden put it, Don’t compare us to the Almighty, compare us to the alternative.”

It should go without saying that even the most disgruntled Democrat supporter can listen to the insanity coming from the right and appreciate that an Obama administration is better than the alternative, but is that seriously what they are proposing should be the limit of public participation in the democratic process? Turn up every four years and vote and then remember that it could always be worse, as the Republicans could be in power?

Are Obama and Biden seriously arguing that we should now support the very behaviour which we condemned whilst the Bush administration was in office?

Would they make hypocrites of us all?

The campaign slogan wasn't "Shut up, it could be worse" if I remember correctly. It was something altogether more positive and involved the plural personal pronoun, "We".

It seems rather harsh to now be told that we should all assume spectator status unless what we have to say is sufficiently positive.

Click here for full article.

Mahmoud Abbas delays decision on whether to quit Middle East peace talks.

Netanyahu is refusing to continue her West Bank construction freeze, seriously undermining the Israel Palestine peace talks, and causing one to wonder just how serious he is about peace if he can't agree that illegal settlement building must end.

Speaking in Paris, Abbas said there would be no "quick reactions" before he consults the Arab League next week. "After this series of meetings, we might publish a position that clears up the position of the Palestinian and Arab people after Israel has refused to freeze settlements," he told reporters, after talks with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

An extension for "three or four months" would give the sides a chance to discuss the core issues, Abbas added.

Sarkozy said he "deplored the decision to resume settlement construction just as the talks were finally and concretely under way". William Hague, the foreign secretary, meeting his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, at the UN in New York, said he was "very disappointed". George Mitchell, the US special envoy, is due back in Jerusalem today to seek a way out of the crisis.

Abbas's caution reflects the high stakes following the Israeli prime minister's failure to extend a 10-month moratorium on building. Abbas and other Palestinian spokesmen had warned that they could not negotiate unless it was renewed.

The simple fact is that all Israeli building in the West Bank is illegal under international law.

Article 49 of The Fourth Geneva Convention:
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Netanyahu has now made it perfectly clear that he has no intention of obeying international law. And, as is reported in today's Ha'aretz newspaper, the freeze itself was a myth.
At the end of 2009, the number of housing units that were actively being built on all the settlements together amounted to 2,955. Three months later, at the end of March 2010, the number stood at 2,517. We are therefore talking about a drop of a little more than 400 housing units - some 16 percent of Israeli construction in the West Bank over that period.
I have no idea whether or not Abbas will wish to continue negotiating with an Israeli team who are stealing their land even during peace negotiations, but I find it incomprehensible that Europe can't guard Obama's back here and make it clear that we find Israel's position utterly untenable.

I note that both Sarkozy and William Hague have spoken out, but there needs to be more of a noise made about this.

Israel's decision on whether or to extend the freeze was always going to be an indication of just how serious she was about these talks.

Well, now we have our answer.

Obama demanded settlement freeze early on in his presidency and was, in my mind, foolish to back off from that stance. It would be a travesty if Obama now finds himself pressuring the Palestinians to accept that Israel's illegal activity should be allowed to continue.

The pressure should be exerted on the law breakers, not on the occupied people.

Click here for full article.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Christine O'Donnell: Evolution is a myth.

Bill Maher has released another clip revealing the views of Christine O'Donnell.

O’DONNELL: You know what, evolution is a myth. And even Darwin himself –

MAHER: Evolution is a myth?!? Have you ever looked at a monkey!

O’DONNELL: Well then, why they — why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?
How can someone who thinks this way be elected to the US Senate? She thinks the fact that monkeys don't turn into humans in front of her eyes is proof that Darwin's theory is wrong? That's staggering.

Ed Miliband won because he was neither Blair nor Brown.

They have had a night to digest the information, and this morning the reviews are coming in.

Andrew Rawnsley is predictably looking at what might go wrong.

You have just become the 10th postwar leader of the Labour party. It is a sobering thought that only five of them (Attlee, Wilson, Callaghan, Blair and Brown) became prime minister; only three (Attlee, Wilson and Blair) won elections; and just one (Blair) managed to secure more than a single term with a decent parliamentary majority. After being removed from office, Labour tends to spend a long time out of power: after 1951, 13 long years; after 1979, 18 even longer years; after 2010… Well, that is now in your hands.
This ignores the fact that Labour, prior to their latest election defeat, had just won three elections in a row, and had replaced the Conservatives as the natural government of the UK. Indeed, the Conservatives were so mistrusted that the public couldn't bring themselves to give them an outright victory even in the midst of an economic meltdown.

And one seriously has to wonder, once the scale of Osborne's cuts become clear, whether they will survive the orgy of financial savagery in which they are indulging. It is undoubtedly true that everyone agrees that cuts have to be made, but no-one is convinced that the deficit has to be cleared in one term, as the Con-Dem coalition are insisting upon.

So I think Rawnsley's view of things is, as always, slightly skewered towards the Tories.

Jonathan Freedland,
on the other hand, thinks that Ed won because he was neither Brown nor Blair.

Almost uniquely in the war between the Blair and Brown camps, Ed Miliband somehow emerged unscathed – Tony Blair's team in Number 10 used to refer to the younger Miliband as "the emissary from Planet Fuck", one of the few aides to Gordon Brown with whom they could have a conversation free of expletive-filled abuse. That fact, more perhaps than any other, explains why he has just become, albeit by the narrowest of margins, the 18th leader of the Labour party.

Despite rave reviews, which became more glowing the longer the contest went on, Ed Balls's campaign was hobbled from the start by his association with Brown. By Balls's own admission, he just couldn't get past the tag of Brown's closest confidant.

David Miliband suffered similarly, compromised by his status as the candidate of Blairite continuity. Tony Blair's not-so-coded backing for him, along with Peter Mandelson's warning that his younger brother would lead Labour into an "electoral cul-de-sac", may well have been a kiss of death.

I think Freedland is right. The party grew sick of Tony Blair which is why he was driven from office. We embraced him for as long as he delivered election victories until, eventually, even that was not a good enough reason to have him around. Gordon was an honourable man, but he lost.

David Miliband and Ed Balls were both seen as being firmly in the Blair and Brown camps respectively.

Ed managed, somehow, to avoid that trap.

But, this morning, one inevitably feels for David, the vanquished of the two brothers. I didn't want to see him elected, as I thought he was far too much of a Blairite, but it is, nevertheless, impossible not to feel for him in his present situation. For so long the crown had appeared as if it was his for the taking. Indeed, during the premiership of Brown there was often talk of when Miliband - always meaning David - would make his move.

Now, the chance of that crown is gone for good.

The Miliband brothers were brought up in a tight-knit family. Their fondness for one another was evident last night – at the very moment one brother reached the summit but, in so doing, left the other's life's ambition in ruins.

Ed's coronation was an extraordinarily poignant moment that David Miliband had feared, in the latter stages of the contest, he might have to confront. When it came he did so nobly. Afterwards he said the moment was Ed's. He was as thrilled for him as he was disappointed for himself. He made it clear that he loved his brother and that now, with the contest over, he wanted nothing other than for him to succeed as Labour leader.

But if managing the choreography of defeat was difficult, the process of deciding on his own future will be nothing short of agonising. His aides admitted, even before the result, that if David lost he would be "totally shattered". He would need time to think about the future. Decisions would not be rushed. It was not correct, they said, that he had decided already that he would promptly announce his intention to serve in his brother's shadow cabinet. "David will take his time," said one of his team. "In that sort of moment you can't rush. He will spend time with Louise [his wife] and their boys and think hard about what is best." Last night he merely congratulated his brother and called on the party to unite behind him. The reality is that David Miliband now has to think entirely anew about the rest of his professional life.

I hope David continues in the shadow cabinet. I would like to see him and his brother serve in a future Labour government.

His greatest mistake was that, like Blair, he never made any attempt to placate the left wing of the party. His brother did, which is why - by the narrowest of margins - he is the one left holding the crown.

That, and the fact that he seemed to transcend the Blair-Brown wars. Now, Ed has the job, and it would be great to watch his brother stick around and support him in the gargantuan task of getting Labour back into power. I hope David feels that he can do so.

It would be perfectly understandable were he to now fix his gaze towards Europe, but I would prefer it were he to remain very much in Labour's inner circle.

Click here for full article.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ed Miliband is elected leader of the Labour Party.

Well, I really didn't see this coming.

Ed Miliband is the new Labour leader, it has been announced at a special conference in Manchester.

He beat brother David by the wafer thin margin of 50.65% to 49.35% after second, third and fourth preference votes came into play.

Ed Balls was third, Andy Burnham fourth and Diane Abbott last in the ballot of MPs, members and trade unionists.

Mr Miliband, 40, replaces acting leader Harriet Harman in the contest triggered by the resignation of Gordon Brown.
I think that's great news. I had hoped for Ed but thought the party would embrace David because he was much more the New Labour candidate than Ed was.

At last there is a sliver of difference between the Tories and the Labour party and, come the next election, with what I fully expect to be the complete collapse of any left wing support going towards the Liberal Democrats, Ed has a chance of becoming the next Prime Minister.

And, until then, Labour will at least have a left wing voice to offer as an alternative to Cameron and Clegg's. He campaigned on "turning the page on New Labour"and beginning to work at taking back the Labour heartland, lost during the Blair years, especially in places like Glasgow East.

The newspapers will, predictably, define him as "red Ed", but I think the public are intelligent enough to see past this name calling.

Blair made it very clear that he wanted to see David elected as Labour leader and this rejection appears to mean that Blair's hold on the party is well and truly over. And not a moment too soon.

In his victory speech, he vowed to unify the party, telling delegates: "The Labour Party in the future must be a vehicle that doesn't just attract thousands of young people but tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of young people who see us as their voice in British politics today."

He paid tribute to his predecessors Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, but added: "We lost the election and we lost it badly. My message to the country is this: I know we lost trust, I know we lost touch, I know we need to change.

"Today a new generation has taken charge of Labour, a new generation that understands the call to change."

I am surprised, I really thought David would squeak past Ed. But I couldn't be happier with the result.

Click here for full article.

Hannity solicits Rand Paul's advice for Christine O'Donnell on how to handle the "got you" media.

Fox News are now officially endorsing the Christine O'Donnell/Sarah Palin/Sharron Angle/Rand Paul campaign policy of only talking to Fox News and no-one else.

It's a tacit admission that their candidates are not sufficiently equipped to have their views properly examined, but, as always, Fox have found a way to blame this on "the Liberal media".

Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?

The Independent has an article on Gideon Levy asking whether he is the most hated man in Israel or the most heroic.

It is possible to be both, especially as Levy asks questions which most Israelis have no interest in considering, let alone answering.

But I found Levy's take on Israeli attitudes to be fascinating. He begins by describing the narrative through which all Israelis are taught to view the conflict.

There’s a whole machinery of brainwashing in Israel which really accompanies each of us from early childhood, and I’m a product of this machinery as much as anyone else. [We are taught] a few narratives that it’s very hard to break. That we Israelis are the ultimate and only victims. That the Palestinians are born to kill, and their hatred is irrational. That the Palestinians are not human beings like us? So you get a society without any moral doubts, without any questions marks, with hardly public debate. To raise your voice against all this is very hard.”
And one can see why so many Israelis hate him, for he speaks with a truth which must be very hard for many of them to accept.
“How can you say it is a democracy when, in 62 years, there was not one single Arab village established? I don’t have to tell you how many Jewish towns and villages were established. Not one Arab village. How can you say it’s a democracy when research has shown repeatedly that Jews and Arabs get different punishments for the same crime? How can you say it’s a democracy when a Palestinian student can hardly rent an apartment in Tel Aviv, because when they hear his accent or his name almost nobody will rent to him? How can you say Israel is a democracy when Jerusalem invests 577 shekels a year in a pupil in [Palestinian] East Jerusalem and 2372 shekels a year in a pupil from [Jewish] West Jerusalem. Four times less, only because of the child’s ethnicity! Every part of our society is racist.”
And he makes an argument which I have always agreed with, that good friends of Israel should not stand silently by whilst she engages in actions which will ultimately harm her.
“A real friend does not pick up the bill for an addict’s drugs: he packs the friend off to rehab instead. Today, only those who speak up against Israel’s policies – who denounce the occupation, the blockade, and the war – are the nation’s true friends.” The people who defend Israel’s current course are “betraying the country” by encouraging it on “the path to disaster."
And he shares the doubts of many of us about the sincerity of Netanyahu when it comes to the current peace talks.
“There is a very simple litmus test for any peace talks. A necessity for peace is for Israel to dismantle settlements in the West Bank. So if you are going to dismantle settlements soon, you’d stop building more now, right? They carried on building them all through Oslo. And today, Netanyahu is refusing to freeze construction, the barest of the bare minimum. It tells you all you need.”
Then, he identifies why he believes Netanyahu is taking part in the current peace talks.
“If there are negotiations, there won’t be international pressure. Quiet, we’re in discussions, settlement can go on uninterrupted. That is why futile negotiations are dangerous negotiations. Under the cover of such talks, the chances for peace will grow even dimmer... The clear subtext is Netanyahu’s desire to get American support for bombing Iran. To do that, he thinks he needs to at least pay lip-service to Obama’s requests for talks. That’s why he’s doing this.”
It's terribly depressing, because everything he states rings so true. And yet he does identify some positives in this insane narrative, the first of which is that most Israelis do believe in a two state solution.
According to the opinion polls, most Israelis support a two-state solution – yet they elect governments that expand the settlements and so make a two-state solution impossible. “You would need a psychiatrist to explain this contradiction,” Levy says. “Do they expect two states to fall from the sky? Today, the Israelis have no reason to make any changes,” he continues. “Life in Israel is wonderful. You can sit in Tel Aviv and have a great life. Nobody talks about the occupation. So why would they bother [to change]? The majority of Israelis think about the next vacation and the next jeep and all the rest doesn’t interest them any more.” They are drenched in history, and yet oblivious to it.
And he sounds, at times, as if he is making the case for the boycotting of Israel, but his position is much more nuanced than that.
“Firstly, the Israeli opposition to the boycott is incredibly hypocritical. Israel itself is one of the world’s most prolific boycotters. Not only does it boycott, it preaches to others, at times even forces others, to follow in tow. Israel has imposed a cultural, academic, political, economic and military boycott on the territories. The most brutal, naked boycott is, of course, the siege on Gaza and the boycott of Hamas. At Israel's behest, nearly all Western countries signed onto the boycott with inexplicable alacrity. This is not just a siege that has left Gaza in a state of shortage for three years. It's a series of cultural, academic, humanitarian and economic boycotts. Israel is also urging the world to boycott Iran. So Israelis cannot complain if this is used against them.”
But, because most Israelis have been brought up to see Israel - and Israel alone - as the victim, he fears that any boycott would only feed into that mindset and confirm for many Israelis their belief that most of the world is anti-Semitic.
If [a boycott was] seen as the judgement of the world they would be effective. But Israelis are more likely to take them as ‘proof’ the world is anti-Semitic and will always hate us.”
And he identifies the only solution to the problem to be the intervention of the President of the United States.
“The day the president of the United States decides to put an end to the occupation, it will cease. Because Israel was never so dependent on the United States as it is now. Never. Not only economically, not only militarily but above all politically. Israel is totally isolated today, except for America."
Which is true, but terribly depressing. As we have already seen the pressure brought to bear on Obama for even daring to attempt to be even handed in this dispute.
He was initially hopeful that Barack Obama would do this – he recalls having tears in his eyes as he delivered his victory speech in Grant Park – but he says he has only promoted “tiny steps, almost nothing, when big steps are needed.” It isn’t only bad for Israel – it is bad for America. “The occupation is the best excuse for many worldwide terror organisations. It’s not always genuine but they use it. Why do you let them use it? Why give them this fury? Why not you solve it once and for all when the, when the solution is so simple?”
When Obama came to office I thought he, certainly much more than his predecessor, was serious about bringing a peaceful solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But every time Obama attempted to bring pressure on the Israelis members of the House and Senate would quickly condemn him.
Schumer, along with a majority of members of the House and Senate, signed on to letters politely suggesting the U.S. keep its disagreements with Israel private, a tacit objection to the administration's very public rebuke of the Jewish State over construction in Jerusalem last month.
These American politicians are part of the problem, not the solution. They are the equivalent of a kind uncle feeding an obese child chocolate. They make the solution to this problem impossible to achieve.

The irony is that they really do think that they are acting in Israel's best interests by making a two state solution unachievable, oblivious to the fact that any one state solution will almost certainly result in the end of the country they are seeking to defend.

And should Netanyahu be playing along with these talks without being serious about coming to a deal with the Palestinians, these same American Senators will be the first people to applaud him and to condemn Obama should he speak out in condemnation.

I wish Obama well, but the task he is confronting will be a seriously lonely road. And the first people to ambush him will be members of his own House and Senate.

Levy's article is fascinating and can be read here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sarah Palin Drops The H-Bomb: 'Barack Hussein Obama'.

Palin manages to suggest that Obama has a past that no-one has properly investigated, whilst inserting his middle name to emphasise his "otherness".

"Funny, Greta, we are learning more about Christine O'Donnell and her college years and her teenage years and her financial dealings than anybody ever even bothered to ask about Barack Hussein Obama as a candidate and now as our president," Palin said.

Palin added later that it is "fair to dig in somebody's past." She said that if the "lamestream media" did do that digging voters would "find out their associates and beliefs and what formed their beliefs."

She's never been subtle, but this is tawdry, even by her low standards. It's part of an almost constant Republican theme to portray Obama as somehow not a "real American".

'Pledge To America' sees Republicans vow to cut role of government.

Could the Republican Party be any dumber or treat the American public with more disdain than they are currently doing?

The Republican party has launched a mid-term election manifesto designed to play on voter anger at big government and what is seen by many as a Congress corrupted by corporate money and vested interests.

With the Republicans poised to take control of the House of Representatives and to cut the size of the Democrats' majority in the Senate in November, A Pledge To America makes dozens of commitments including slashing taxes, severely cutting government spending and repealing Barack Obama's health reform law.

The Republicans would also scrap the economic stimulus programme that the Democrats say saved the US from a far more severe recession. But at the heart of the document, which is modelled on the party's "Contract with America", which helped it to win control of the House in 1994, is an attempt to portray the Republicans as being radically against big government.

Leaving aside the fact that this is simply a clumsy rehashing of Gingrich's Contract with America, what they are essentially offering is more of the same. They are offering the exact same policies which led to this mess in the first place.

If it proves nothing else, this "Pledge" proves that the Republicans have learnt nothing from the financial collapse or from their own defeat in 2008.

They are bringing the same cards to the table and asking that we should all expect a different result when they play them.

"In a self-governing society the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed, and regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent," the pledge says.

"An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many."

It's simply bunkum. Since when do the people who lost the election get to speak out for "the governed"? And when did this bunch of millionaire, corporate lobby representatives, imagine that they, themselves, are not actually "elites"?

Just how naive do they imagine that people are?

The saddest thing is that I know that some Americans will swallow this junk.
"The American people are speaking out, demanding that we realign our country's compass with its founding principles and apply those principles to solve our common problems for the common good."
Yeah, serious problems like making sure that America's richest citizens don't see their taxes raised. These are the problems which actually concern these people. Even as they imagine that they are speaking on behalf of "the governed".

Even as they have the balls to refer to others as "elites".

Why do so many working class Americans fall for this bullshit? Surely the fact that they are standing in hardware store doesn't fool anyone into believing that this group of rich right wingers represent working class Americans?

Click here for full article.

Obama At the UN.

Obama has used a speech at the United Nations to appeal to Netanyahu's government to extend its moratorium on settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

"Israel's settlement moratorium has made a difference on the ground, and improved the atmosphere for talks. ... We believe that the moratorium should be extended. We also believe that talks should press on until completed. Now is the time for the parties to help each other overcome this obstacle."
He also held out a hand to Iran, even as Ahmadinejad displayed an insanity which prompted a walkout.

He spoke of cynics who doubt that peace can be achieved between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I must admit that I am of their number.

I would love nothing more than for Obama to prove me completely wrong. But I simply can't see a way for Netanyahu to deliver peace whilst leading the coalition which he currently leads.

But the speech was apparently only the most visible place where pressure was being applied. Behind the scenes many states were pushing Obama's vision.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, were engaged in numerous one-to-one discussions behind the scenes at the UN.

European diplomats were also busy, as well as the British foreign secretary, William Hague, who talked to the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, by phone before coming to New York.

Netanyahu's problem is that he must find a way to avoid angering the US, the main diplomatic and financial backer of Israel, while holding together the coalition over which he presides, and which is weighted towards pro-settler parties.

"No one is putting money on which way this will go," a western diplomat said.

I admire Obama's optimism, and I am genuinely in awe that he will put his presidency on the line in this way. He appears to be determined to play the cards which he has been dealt. Had the Likud Party lost the election in Israel, Obama's task would be ten times easier. And there's a part of me, were I in his position, that would have been tempted to wait for the collapse of the Netanyahu coalition before attempting the gargantuan task of overcoming the sixty years of animosity which fuel that conflict.

But he is pushing on, determined to attempt to make peace, even whilst Israel is represented by a coalition which does not believe in what Obama is attempting to do.

I have an admiration for that, even as I doubt that Netanyahu's government will ever agree to a meaningful peace agreement.

And Obama is to be applauded for pushing on, especially as his chances of success appear so slight.

The irony here is that it was his optimism which inspired so many of us during his campaign. And he continues to display it, even as some of his supporters - like myself - find themselves beginning to harbour doubts, especially when it comes to the dispute between Israel and Palestine and Netanyahu's ability to deliver his coalition to the side of peace.

But Obama, as always, has a way of coming up with a turn of phrase which makes doubters like myself feel ashamed.
This future will not be easy to reach. It will not come without setbacks, nor will it be quickly claimed. But the founding of the United Nations itself is a testament to human progress. Remember, in times that were far more trying than our own, our predecessors chose the hope of unity over the ease of division. And made a promise to future generations that the dignity and equality of human beings would be our common cause. It falls to us to fulfil that promise. And, though we will be met by dark forces that will test out resolve, Americans have always had cause to believe that we can choose a better history.
That's the optimism which he ignited during his election campaign, and that is the fire which he is now demanding we do not allow to be extinguished.

He never, ever, promised that it was going to be easy; so cynics like myself should cut him some slack.

Click here for full article.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Burns: GOP candidates aren't "going on Fox for an interview, they're going there for an infomercial to help raise money".

What Burns says here isn't even controversial. Fox News has given up any pretence of fairness. They are now basically fund-raising for Tea Party candidates.

Clegg has pushed his party closer to political slaughter.

Reading the tabloid reaction to Vince Cable's observation that markets are often rigged and that capitalism "kills competition where it can", one would be forgiven for thinking that he has said something outrageous.

The Liberal Democrat business secretary, declared the Sun, had launched a "vicious attack on the free market". This was an "all-out assault on capitalism", the Daily Mail warned. The Federation of Small Businesses demanded an instant apology. Was an anti-capitalist business secretary actually possible, one BBC presenter wondered.
Of course, like Clegg's speech the other day, Cable's speech had also been cleared by Cameron's office, but the adoration of the market is so widespread amongst the press that they appear to forget that it was Ted Heath who once spoke of "the unacceptable face of capitalism". Nowadays, despite the recent almost total collapse of the market, any criticism of how capitalism is conducted is considered heresy.

I liked what Cable had to say, as did the Liberal Democrat base, and I welcomed his insistence that this government would not stand idly by whilst bankers awarded themselves bonuses whilst the rest of the nation faced cuts of between 25 and 40% to most public services.

However, Seamus Milne reminds us this morning that Osborne has let it be known there will be no new bonus tax or increased bank levy. So Cable is merely throwing scraps to the left to keep us happy, and this coalitions inexorable drift to the right will continue with the full support of Nick Clegg.

Both David Cameron and Clegg know they need to be pacified, as the public will be when it sees bankers piling up billions in new bonuses just as the cuts start to bite deep – and Vince is the man for the job.

But this is strictly for the gallery.

The events of the past few days have driven home that the Liberal Democrats are now in the hands of a very different kind of leadership from those they've had in the past. As their overwhelming rejection of Michael Gove's academies and free schools showed, most of the party's activists remain firmly on the centre-left. But Clegg and his closest allies are somewhere else entirely – and will ignore them.

With his mini-me panegyric to Cameron, his declaration that the state should not "compensate the poor for their predicament", his attempt to redefine social justice as equality "between the generations", and his insistence that the "vocation of Liberalism is not to be a leftwing ghetto", Clegg's message could not be clearer. The Lib Dem leadership has turned its back on a whole spectrum of opinion, both inside and outside the party. For all Cable's efforts, the traditions of Lloyd George and Beveridge and the party's social democratic strand have been decisively marginalised.

Of course, the rightward turn long predates the general election aftermath, which Lib Dem leaders insist gave them no choice but to join a Tory coalition. Clegg and his market-orientated Orange Book friends had been steering the party in this direction for the previous couple of years. That paved the way for a meeting of coalition minds – as did the Lib Dem team that prepared the negotiating options for Clegg in the six months before the election.

The result is that, beyond the cause of civil liberties, the Liberal Democrat leader is now following Tony Blair and Cameron in attempting to define himself against his own party.

I think Milne makes a very serious point there. Clegg is insisting that his party hold together "for the sake of the coalition", but his every utterance puts him - with the exception of his statements on civil liberties - on the right of the political spectrum.

Clegg won't mind for a second Cable feeding this kind of red meat to the conference. Indeed, it suits his purposes perfectly for Cable to play to the gallery and give them the kind of left wing rhetoric which appeals to their sense of social fairness, and their collective outrage at the behaviour of the banking community.

And, all the while, Clegg continues to drag his party ever more towards the right, stating that There Is No Alternative.

Indeed, the kind of statements which Clegg has been making of late - "The Lib Dems never were and aren't a receptacle for leftwing dissatisfaction with Labour" - seems a tacit admission that the Liberal Democrat left wing voters have deserted his party, possibly for good.

But for the Liberal Democrats, the prospects look grim. It's hard to see why voters should reward them – as Clegg's right-hand man, Danny Alexander, argues – for sticking to what is a Conservative course. Clegg pleaded with his troops this week to imagine a sunlit future after five years of coalition government, and promised the Lib Dems' independence would be protected. But whether the party is actually in one piece by then, or Clegg still their leader, seems very far from certain.

Eventually the Lib Dems will realise where Clegg has taken them. At that point, Clegg will have to go, or the Lib Dems will fracture. Because he has taken them on a suicidal course.

Click here for full article.

UN panel accuses Israel of war crimes for 'unlawful' assault on Gaza flotilla.

No matter how many times the UN and other legal bodies say this, it never seems to make an iota of difference to Israel's behaviour.

A United Nations panel of human rights experts has accused Israel of war crimes through willful killing, unnecessary brutality and torture in its "clearly unlawful" assault on a ship attempting to break the blockade of Gaza in May in which nine Turkish activists died.

The report by three experts appointed by the UN's Human Rights Council (UNHRC) described the seizure of MV Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel, by Israeli commandos as illegal under international law.

It condemned the treatment of the passengers and crew as brutal and disproportionate. It also said that the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave is illegal because of the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

"There is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the fourth Geneva convention: wilful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health," the report said.

"A series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla and during the detention of passengers in Israel prior to deportation."

The Israelis have, predictably, rejected the findings as "politicised and extremist". And, of course, Israel refused to take part in this inquiry, despite earlier statements that she had nothing to hide and would co-operate.
In a statement, Netanyahu said: "Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true. It is in the national interest of the state of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing."
This offer to take part - and the declaration that "Israel has nothing to hide" - is forgotten as Israel now dismisses the report as biased.

But we all remember how shocked we were when we heard of the way Israel had boarded the Mavi Marmara, and that shock is itself and indication of how extreme Israel's reaction was. But, the report indicates that Israel's behaviour was even more shocking than we were led to believe.

The 56-page report – compiled by a former UN war crimes prosecutor, Desmond de Silva, a judge from Trinidad, Karl Hudson-Phillips, and a Malaysian women's rights advocate, Mary Shanthi Dairiam – accuses Israeli forces of various crimes including violating the right to life, liberty and freedom of expression, and of failing to treat the captured crew and passengers with humanity.

"The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel toward the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality," the report said.

Of course the Israelis will reject this report, and that, in itself, will surprise no-one. And the Americans will see to it that this report counts for nothing.

But there is a seeping of support away from the Israeli position - and a worldwide acceptance of the Palestinians as the victims of this piece - which Israel, for decades, managed to avoid.

Behaviour of the kind highlighted in this report has done much to undermine Israel's argument.

Indeed, Israel's denial of the use of white phosphorus in Gaza, and her subsequent admission that this substance had indeed been used, make many of us now take Israeli denials with a huge pinch of salt.
"Israel is a democratic and law-abiding country that carefully observes international law and, when need be, knows how to investigate itself," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It's impossible to take that statement seriously, when one can clearly see Israel violating international law through the building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, and offering to cease doing so only if the United States will free Israeli spies.

That is hardly the action of a nation which "carefully observes international law". Indeed, that kind of blackmail comes perilously close to the behaviour of a rogue state.

Click here for full article.