Tuesday, October 26, 2010

RNC Chair Steele Claims That Republicans Tried to Cooperate With President Obama.

Michael Steele makes the pathetic claim that the Republicans - The Party of No - did not attempt to obstruct the Obama administration, and that they really, really, wanted to co-operate with the regime.

Is there anyone, anywhere, dumb enough to swallow that argument?

Yeah, sure Micheal. That's why the GOP decided they liked the health care bill when it was Bob Dole's idea, or something akin to Romney-care, but once a Democrat put it out there for a vote, suddenly it was "Socialism" and the Republicans all voted against it. Spare me.
They have spent the last two years obstructing Obama at every turn. To attempt to argue the opposite now is simply pathetic.

Beck: "I'm not telling you who to vote for" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Beck has claimed that he will never endorse any candidate.

On November 30, 2009, Beck claimed: "I just gave an interview just the other day, where people said 'so you're going to be endorsing candidates?' I said not over -- not on -- over my dead body will I be endorsing candidates." Since then, Beck has claimed: "I don't ever endorse anybody. Nor do I want to. I'll tell you what I think about individuals, but I don't endorse them. I don't lend my credibility to anybody. I struggle to keep my credibility with myself."

Beck: "I don't want to tell who to vote for." From the September 20 edition of his Fox News show (emphasis added):

BECK: Well, what's the solution? Well, the immediate thing you can do is vote. You are the last line of defense -- and our founders knew. Our founders that, in the end, our branches of government would fail and the last line of defense would be you.

But here's the problem. Our turn-out is pathetic. Now, I don't want to tell who to vote for. I don't even know the candidates. Sean covers the candidates. I don't.

Listen to the above recording and ask yourself if you can divine any hint of who Beck would like you to vote for.

He is clearly pushing candidates like Christine O'Donnell. It's beyond doubt who he wants you to vote for.

For this man to claim that he will not endorse any candidate is simply a joke.

Humiliate, strip, threaten: UK military interrogation manuals discovered.

We learned yesterday of the US ignoring Iraqis torturing Iraqis, and today The Guardian have managed to unearth British army training methods which appear to be in direct breach of the Geneva Conventions.

Training materials drawn up secretly in recent years tell interrogators they should aim to provoke humiliation, insecurity, disorientation, exhaustion, anxiety and fear in the prisoners they are questioning, and suggest ways in which this can be achieved.

One PowerPoint training aid created in September 2005 tells trainee military interrogators that prisoners should be stripped before they are questioned. "Get them naked," it says. "Keep them naked if they do not follow commands." Another manual prepared around the same time advises the use of blindfolds to put prisoners under pressure.

A manual prepared in April 2008 suggests that "Cpers" – captured personnel – be kept in conditions of physical discomfort and intimidated. Sensory deprivation is lawful, it adds, if there are "valid operational reasons". It also urges enforced nakedness.

The images which emerged from Abu Ghraib were supposed to be the work of a few American bad apples, but it is becoming increasingly clear that both the American and the British interrogation methods had been changed and that nakedness and humiliation had become part and parcel of the way in which both country's interrogators chose to elicit the maximum information.

More recent training material says blindfolds, earmuffs and plastic handcuffs are essential equipment for military interrogators, and says that while prisoners should be allowed to sleep or rest for eight hours in each 24, they need be permitted only four hours unbroken sleep. It also suggests that interrogators tell prisoners they will be held incommunicado unless they answer questions.

These are clear breaches of the Geneva Conventions which state that no "physical or moral coercion" is permissible.

I used to believe that this was simply an American problem, but the Guardian's discovery of this British training manual must lead one to conclude that this became official coalition policy during the War on Terror.

Next month, at the high court in London, lawyers representing more than 100 Iraqis who were held and interrogated by British forces, between the March 2003 invasion and April 2007, will argue that there is compelling evidence that they were tortured in a systematic manner.

The abuse, documented by a team of lawyers led by a Birmingham solicitor, Phil Shiner, includes 59 allegations of detainees being hooded, 11 of electric shocks, 122 of sound deprivation through the use of earmuffs, 52 of sleep deprivation, 131 of sight deprivation using blackened goggles, 39 of enforced nakedness and 18 allegations that detainees were kept awake by pornographic DVDs played on laptops.

At a preliminary hearing, a high court judge said it appeared to be accepted by the MoD that there were "arguable cases of ill-treatment" and added: "It appears also to be accepted that there is an arguable case of something systemic."

I, long ago, came to the conclusion that American use of torture was systemic, simply based on the fact that what was happening (everywhere where torture was alleged) all followed a familiar pattern: enforced nakedness, use of noise and light to produce sleep deprivation, and a myriad of other things, were almost always without aberration. One never heard of nails being pulled out, of eyes gouged. It really was as if they were following a textbook.

The Guardian today reveal the British version of that textbook.

Someone, somewhere, gave permission for this. Someone authorised it.

They ought to be prosecuted. They are criminals.

Click here for full article.

Monday, October 25, 2010

David Brooks Downplays Influence of Anonymous Campaign Contributions.

David Brooks is going to great lengths to say that anonymous financing is not a big deal.

DAVID BROOKS: I think it’s tremendously corrupting in Washington. The question is does it affect the electorate? And I guess-- does it affect voters? A couple things. First, it’s important to remember the outside money is only ten percent of the total money. Most can-- most money is still candidate driven and it’s-- party driven. The second thing is the money is flowing in on both sides. Ask me, the public sector worker, $87 million. The NEA, $40 million. So, there’s a ton of money.

DAVID GREGORY: But you do know where they’re coming from?

DAVID BROOKS: Right. That’s-- that’s exactly right. The untransparent money is a genuine problem. But then this third thing, the final thing is does it affect voters? We’ve got $3.5 billion being spent on this election. Some of these outside funds like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, they’re spending $12 million. Do we really think that’s affecting? And then if you’ve got a race like in Colorado, where the Democrat and the Republican are each throwing 5,000 ads at each other. Do we really think if one candidate throws 7,000 as opposed to 5,000 it’s gonna make a big difference?
Erm, yes! Is he seriously arguing that these ads make no difference to the outcome of the election? If that was really the case then why would either party waste so much money advertising?

It does make a difference. And, I suspect, Brooks is making this very bad and ill thought out argument because he really doesn't want anyone spending too much time asking who is behind these adverts.

Huckabee blasts Rove, 'elitist' GOP establishment.

It really does seem as if the Tea Party movement could tear the Republican Party apart.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee today broadened the assault on the Republican Party establishment — and former Bush adviser Karl Rove in particular — levied recently by Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, blasting the "elitism" and "country club attitude exhibited by Rove and others who dismissed Delaware Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell.

"I was very disappointed in some, particularly Karl and others, who were so dismissive of Christine O'Donnell," Huckabee told Aaron Klein on the latter's WABC radio show Sunday.
"Unfortunately, there is an elitism within the Republican establishment," Huckabee told Klein. "And it's one of the reasons the Republicans have not been able to solidify not only the tea party movement but solidify conservatives across America."

"It's about, again, to be blunt, the kind of country club attitude that we're not sure there are certain people we really want as members of the club and we're not going to vote them in. And we don't mind showing up to events to put up signs and making phone calls and going door to door making those pesky little trips that we don't like to do, but we really don't want them dining with us in the main dining room," he said.
And there's a delicious irony in seeing the Republican Party being accused of the kind of elitism which they usually love to level at the Democrats.

The Republican Party use the term elitist as a way of avoiding discussion of just how barren their ideas are. It's a curious form of anti-intellectualism which allows George W. Bush to run for the presidency and makes it, somehow, bad form to question his lack of intellectual curiosity.

Some in that party are now turning the charge on each other.

Of course, the Republicans are right to question the suitability of Christine O'Donnell to stand as their party's representative. But - and the irony here is dripping in huge drops - they should have expected that someone like Huckabee might take the lessons learned at their own knee and accuse them of the very crimes which they are so fond of accusing others of when they question whether or not a candidate is suitable for high office.

Those people living in glass houses are now watching their own side throw stones at them. It really couldn't happen to more deserving people.

Click here for full article.

Iraq war logs: US turned over captives to Iraqi torture squads.

Until now, we had thought that the recent Wikileaks revelations had told us that the US ignored evidence of Iraqis torturing Iraqis, but it seems it was rather worse than that.

It now transpires that US forces handed over detainees to Iraqi units which they knew would torture them.

The 400,000 field reports published by the whistleblowing website at the weekend contain an official account of deliberate threats by a military interrogator to turn his captive over to the Iraqi "Wolf Brigade".

The interrogator told the prisoner in explicit terms that: "He would be subject to all the pain and agony that the Wolf battalion is known to exact upon its detainees."

It was bad enough when the charges were that the US was ignoring allegations of torture, but this is of another level altogether.

This is about the US handing over detainees in the full knowledge that they were about to be tortured.

And, for once, Nick Clegg is to be applauded for stepping up to the plate.

The evidence emerged as the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said the allegations of killings, torture and abuse in Iraq were "extremely serious" and "needed to be looked at".

Clegg, speaking on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show, did not rule out an inquiry into the actions of British forces in Iraq, but said it was up to the US administration to answer for the actions of its forces. His comments contrasted with a statement from the Ministry of Defence today, which warned that the posting of classified US military logs on the WikiLeaks website could endanger the lives of British forces.

Clegg said: "We can bemoan how these leaks occurred, but I think the nature of the allegations made are extraordinarily serious. They are distressing to read about and they are very serious. I am assuming the US administration will want to provide its own answer. It's not for us to tell them how to do that."

Asked if there should be an inquiry into the role of British troops, he said: "I think anything that suggests that basic rules of war, conflict and engagement have been broken or that torture has been in any way condoned are extremely serious and need to be looked at.

"People will want to hear what the answer is to what are very, very serious allegations of a nature which I think everybody will find quite shocking."

Lambasting Wikileaks for what they have done rather misses the point. Most of us are less concerned about how this information got into the public domain than we are about whether or not what is detailed here is true.

If this is true then we are dealing with war crimes. It is long past time for the US and UK to seriously look into what was done in Iraq.

And, unlike President Obama, I think that should go all the way to the top, and that the US should look at just who at the to gave the orders for this immoral crap in the first place.

Within the huge leaked archive is contained a batch of secret field reports from the town of Samarra. They corroborate previous allegations that the US military turned over many prisoners to the Wolf Brigade, the feared 2nd battalion of the interior ministry's special commandos.

In Samarra, the series of log entries in 2004 and 2005 describe repeated raids by US infantry, who then handed their captives over to the Wolf Brigade for "further questioning". Typical entries read: "All 5 detainees were turned over to Ministry of Interior for further questioning" (from 29 November 2004) and "The detainee was then turned over to the 2nd Ministry of Interior Commando Battalion for further questioning" (30 November 2004).

I have no faith that Obama will not sweep this under the carpet as he has swept the rest of the Bush regime's crimes under the carpet, but we now have the British Deputy Prime Minister saying that an investigation is needed into this. That ought to count for something.

Click here for full article.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Rules.

It's always a treat to listen to Bill Maher on a Sunday morning. He's very funny.

Councils plan for exodus of poor families from London.

London boroughs are booking bed and breakfast lodgings in Hastings, Reading and Luton as London prepares to see some 82,000 families forced to leave the city because of George Osborne's changes to housing benefit. London is about to see an exodus of the poor from the city.

The controversy follows comment last week by Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, who said the unemployed should "get on the bus" and look for work. Another unnamed minister said the benefit changes would usher in a phenomenon similar to the Highland Clearances in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when landlords evicted thousands of tenants from their homes in the north of Scotland.

Honestly, only a Tory could bring up the subject of the Highland Clearances and imagine that he is being witty when making a comparison with present day Tory policy.

In a sign that housing benefit cuts are fast becoming the most sensitive political issue for the coalition, Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham, last night accused the government of deliberate social engineering.

"It is an exercise in social and economic cleansing," he said, claiming that families would be thrown into turmoil, with children having to move school and those in work having to travel long distances to their jobs. "It is tantamount to cleansing the poor out of rich areas – a brutal and shocking piece of social engineering," Cruddas added.

The National Housing Federation's chief executive, David Orr, described the housing benefit cuts as "truly shocking". He said: "Unless ministers urgently reconsider these punitive cuts, we could see more people sleeping rough than at any stage during the last 30 years."

This is almost a textbook re-run of what we witnessed under Thatcher. Until she became Prime Minister, the sight of people sleeping rough in London was a relatively rare one. Under Thatcher, it became an almost routine vision.

Now the Tories have, once again, launched a savage attack on the poorest members of society and are introducing policies which will see many of them unable to afford to live in the capital.

There are rumblings of discontent amongst the Liberals, but it won't amount to naught. Power has, seemingly, removed their teeth.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, said last night he would table amendments to change housing benefit rules. He said: "I would fully expect to be one of those putting forward proposals for changes in the housing benefit rules, particularly for London."

But, as always when the Tories are in power, the middle class will remain largely unaffected by the chaos which they are dealing out to the poorer members of society.

This will play out on their TV screens as stories of the random poor. Eventually, they will tire of it and flick channels.

That's, certainly, what the Tories and Liberal Democrats are hoping for. As it's not as if they haven't been warned of the results of what they are about to do.

At a meeting of the Commons work and pensions select committee last Wednesday, the day Osborne announced £81bn of cuts in the spending review, MPs were told by London council chiefs that the housing benefit cuts could have devastating results.

Nigel Minto, head of sustainable communities at London Councils, who works closely with the capital's housing directors, told the committee that since June London councils had been "procuring bed and breakfast accommodation" in outer London and beyond. The committee was told similar problems would occur in other cities with high-priced property such as Brighton and Oxford.

Jeremy Swain, chief executive of the homelessness charity Thames Reach, said he was particularly worried about the impact on numbers sleeping rough in London. "We have reduced rough sleeping dramatically and we have a target of zero rough sleeping in London by 2012. For the first time I'm thinking that we will not achieve that," he said.

Karen Buck, shadow minister for work and pensions, said: "The sheer scale and extremity of the coalition proposals means almost a million households are affected across the country."

The truth is that the Tories don't care. I honestly have come to believe that they loathe the poor. It's the only rational explanation for the way they behave each and every time they gain power. They are simply shockingly oblivious to the pain they are causing.

But last night Cameron insisted the cuts were tough but fair. "Departments have to make savings. I don't underestimate how difficult this will be. But we are doing what we are doing because it is the right thing to do – right by our economy, right for our country."

Because it would obviously be "wrong" to ask those of us who could afford it to contribute more in taxation. That would, to the mind of a Tory, be insane talk. The Con-Dem coalition plan to wipe out the deficit by raising 23% by taxation and 77% from benefit cuts. That statistic alone says all that needs to be said about their priorities.

Click here for full article.

Nick Clegg 'searched conscience' over spending cuts.

Nick Clegg has told Desert Island Discs that he had to search his conscience when making the cuts in benefits which have caused so much outrage here in Britain.

Speaking about the cuts, he said: "I have spent every day of this process, pretty well every minute of this process, asking myself whether there are pain-free alternatives, whether we are doing the right thing, and I genuinely believe there is no easy alternative.

"I have certainly searched long and hard into my own conscience about whether what we are doing is for the right reasons.

"I am not going to hide the fact that a lot of this is difficult. I find it morally difficult. It is difficult for the country."

Why is it that politicians think that we will feel for them if they tell us that their acts of cruelty were difficult for them to bring about? And why does he imagine that the rest of us would only have accepted "pain free alternatives?"

I should hope, at the very least, that Clegg was tortured before he threw 490,000 public service workers on to the dole, that is the very least he could have done.

And, likewise, one would hope that he felt anxiety before removing benefits from the disabled.

But, missing from all of this apologia is any explanation as to why alternatives were not explored. Why were the rest of us not asked to contribute more? Why was the top rate of income tax not raised? Indeed, why are so many people who earn a good living, like myself, not asked to contribute in any way other than a 2.5% increase in Vat? Why aren't the city bankers, the people who caused this economic crisis more than anyone else, being asked to contribute more than the £2.5 billion scheme which Osborne has conjured up?

Clegg and the Tories can expect little sympathy when they tell us how hard they found it to be so cruel to the sick, the old and the disabled.

The entire budget is a regressive disgrace. It was a genuinely hateful way to address the deficit and revealed the Tories as utterly unchanged from the days when they were known as "the nasty party".

The main difference at the moment is that the Tories have the Liberal Democrats acting as their heat shield, absorbing the public anger and attempting to give the Tories a fig leaf of respectability as they carry out this act of political thuggery.

So, if Clegg is expecting sympathy for how hard he found it to bring himself to agree to what he agreed to, he won't get an ounce of it from me.

As far as I am concerned he, and his party, are dead in the water. They will be slaughtered at the next election because of what Clegg has agreed to, and they will fully deserve it.

Click here for full article.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Palin and Hypocrisy.

Sarah Palin tweets:

“NPR defends First Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it.

Juan Williams: u got taste of Left’s hypocrisy, they screwed up firing you.”
First of all, it's not a First Amendment issue, it's an employer issue. And, talking of hypocrisy, isn't what Palin is complaining about above, the very thing she is asking of the people wanting to open the Park 51 mosque?
"You have the right to have a mosque there but it would be "insensitive" if you availed yourself of that right?"
And she has the gall to think that she can detect hypocrisy on the left. She really is clueless.


There was a day when Williams himself would have condemned what he did.
In 1986, Juan Williams participated in a forum in The New Republic regarding a column by The Washington Post's Richard Cohen, who had justified the practice of D.C. jewelry store owners who would "admit customers only through a buzzer system, and [] some store owners use this system to exclude young black males on the grounds that these people are most likely to commit a robbery" (h/t). Defending this race-based exclusion, Cohen argued that "young black males commit an inordinate amount of urban crime," and that "black potential victims as well as white ones often act on this awareness, and that under certain circumstances, the mere recognition of race as a factor . . . is not in itself racism."

Responding to Cohen's argument, Williams said: "In this situation and all others, common sense in my constant guard.
Common sense becomes racism when skin color becomes a formula for figuring out who is a danger to me."

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Rachel Maddow on Juan Williams & Fox News' Islamophobia.

Rachel Maddow takes apart the right wing claim that Juan Williams has had his First Amendment Rights violated because he was fired for comments he made about Muslims.

MADDOW: Let’s be clear here. This is not a First Amendment issue. … The First Amendment does not guarantee you a paid job as a commentator to say what you want. Your employment as a person paid to speak is at the pleasure of your employer. In this case, it displeased Juan Williams’ employer, at least one of them, for him to have reassured the Fox News audience he too is afraid of Muslims on airplanes and that’s not a bigoted thing. … And so, Juan Williams lost that job. This is not a First Amendment issue. This is an issue of what your employer is OK with.
While Williams was fired for what he said by NPR, his comments actually produced a raise from Fox News.

Islamophobia is simply what Fox News does, so it's no surprise that Williams would have his contract extended - and be given a raise - when he says that he finds the sight of Muslims at an airport scary.

Daily Mail: Why Are We Giving Rooney So Much Money?

The Daily Mail are expressing their horror at the wage deal being offered by Manchester United to Wayne Rooney. In an article entitled, "A Victory for Greed", they lament:

Rooney, who will celebrate his 25th birthday tomorrow with a party at his £4.5million home, apologised to fans for the ugly spat with Sir Alex, but made no excuses for his £200,000-a-week salary - double his previous pay.

The agent who negotiated it, Paul Stretford, will himself receive up to £10million for a deal finalised as child benefit was axed for many families and the coalition announced that 500,000 public-sector jobs would go.
I've never heard the Daily Mail express shock at banker's exorbitant wages, or at their bonuses. Indeed, usually we could be accused of starting a class war for even bringing such things to people's attention.

Why is it that this working class man receiving such recompense disgusts them to such a degree?

Don't get me wrong, I have always thought that Rooney was motivated by greed and that the excuses he gave - concern that his club lacked ambition etc. - were merely pathetic attempts to pretend that he had some high moral purpose instead of an overwhelming desire for even more cash than he already has.

But The Daily Mail - of all newspapers - could normally be expected to applaud someone demanding that they receive the market value for their services.

I honestly can't help but think that they are appalled that someone of his class is receiving that kind of recompense. They find it rather vulgar when that kind of money is paid out to someone they find common.

It's okay to lash out millions a year to city gents, indeed, it's "common sense" as they would otherwise flee our shores and deprive us of their business acumen. (The same acumen which led to the financial collapse which has crippled our economy.)

But giving such funds to a young working class lad simply appals them. They can see greed when it is being practised by Rooney, but they applaud that same greed when it is practised by people in the City of London.

It's such snobbery.

Click here for Mail article.

Iraq war logs: secret files show how US ignored torture.

Wikileaks has released a further 400,000 secret US army field reports detailing that the US turned it's back on evidence of torture carried out by the Iraqi forces.

It's yet another grim indictment of the Bush regime's callous attitude to the subject of war crimes and the blasé manner in which it ignored evidence of wrongdoing.

The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent death.

The report named at least one perpetrator and was passed to coalition forces. But the logs reveal that the coalition has a formal policy of ignoring such allegations. They record "no investigation is necessary" and simply pass reports to the same Iraqi units implicated in the violence. By contrast all allegations involving coalition forces are subject to formal inquiries. Some cases of alleged abuse by UK and US troops are also detailed in the logs.

And, as is to be expected, Hillary Clinton has expressed her horror, not at what is contained in the reports, but at the fact that Wikileaks have had the temerity to release them.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, condemned the release of almost 400,000 secret US army field reports by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks claiming the disclosure could put lives at risk.

Speaking to reporters in Washington before the documents had been posted on the website, Clinton said she condemned "in the most clear terms the disclosure of any information by individuals and or organisations which puts the lives of United States and its partners' service members and civilians at risk".

One would hope that the Obama regime would react with immediate condemnation, not at the release of such documents, but at the horror stories contained within them.

In two Iraqi cases postmortems revealed evidence of death by torture. On 27 August 2009 a US medical officer found "bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck" on the body of one man claimed by police to have killed himself. On 3 December 2008 another detainee, said by police to have died of "bad kidneys", was found to have "evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen".

But even now, even as we are reading of such horrors, Hillary condemns the fact that this information is available to us, rather than choosing to condemn the acts of brutality which we are reading about.

And the logs also appear to show that the US claim that it does not count the Iraqi dead - a callous claim which was always breathtaking - is actually false.

Although US generals have claimed their army does not carry out body counts and British ministers still say no official statistics exist, the war logs show these claims are untrue. The field reports purport to identify all civilian and insurgent casualties, as well as numbers of coalition forces wounded and killed in action. They give a total of more than 109,000 violent deaths from all causes between 2004 and the end of 2009.

This includes 66,081 civilians, 23,984 people classed as "enemy" and 15,196 members of the Iraqi security forces. Another 3,771 dead US and allied soldiers complete the body count.

No fewer than 31,780 of these deaths are attributed to improvised roadside bombs (IEDs) planted by insurgents. The other major recorded tally is of 34,814 victims of sectarian killings, recorded as murders in the logs.

It says everything about how much the truth has been a major casualty of this war that we now have a US Secretary of State expecting us to share her horror that the truth has emerged, rather than disgust at what these logs contain.

The Obama administration have decided that no member of the Bush administration shall face charges for war crimes, no matter what evidence of US torture emerges. They have decided to "look forward, not backwards".

I suppose, in those circumstances, it would be hypocritical in the extreme for Hillary to express horror at the news that Iraqis were torturing Iraqis. But it says a lot about the moral decrepitudes of the US position, that we can read of such events and feel sure that nothing will ever be done about it. We have lost our moral compass.

Click here for full article.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hannity: Soros donations are a "well-funded, well-orchestrated movement to silence and intimidate" conservatives.

It's funny to watch Fox News complaining of others attempting to interfere with free speech and "silence conservatives".

Oh, how quickly they squeal when anyone mounts a defence against their barrage of lies.

Balaclava-clad fans make death threat at Wayne Rooney's home.

I know emotions run high when it comes to the subject of football, and I have made my own feelings regarding what Wayne Rooney is proposing perfectly clear. But I simply don't agree with this:

While Rooney was pondering the fall-out from several hours of high-level talks at Old Trafford, a 40-strong group of United supporters, many wearing balaclavas and hooded tops, had travelled to his home in Prestbury, Cheshire to warn him off any move to Manchester City. Witnesses reported a gathering outside his house, with a banner reading "If you join City you're dead".

If he wants to leave then let him bloody leave. The team is larger than one player, even though that player is engaging in an act of utter betrayal.

Yesterday, I thought Ferguson would dismiss him very quickly, but the noises coming from Old Trafford suggest that I have got this wrong.
The club's chief executive, David Gill, spoke to Stretford to reiterate Sir Alex Ferguson's belief that the player could be on the verge of making the biggest mistake of his professional life.

City are willing to pay Rooney £260,000 a week, which would make him the highest-paid player in the Premier League, but there is a desire among senior figures at Old Trafford to keep him. The fact he was not transfer-listed today suggests at least that there are attempts behind the scenes to resolve the matter. Gill had an hour-long meeting with Ferguson at lunchtime and spoke to the club's owners, the Glazer family, by telephone.

Rooney's position had begun to look untenable when he released a statement on Wednesday confirming that he wanted to leave Old Trafford, citing a concern that the club were in danger of stagnating at a time when they no longer appear to be in a position to sign the more expensive players on the market.

Ferguson had responded by saying his priority was to "put it to bed" today.
Normally, Ferguson would have fired him by now. It's an indication of Rooney's importance that there are obviously still attempts being made to keep him, despite his derogatory press statement.

But, important as he is to Manchester United's plans, there really is no need for gangs of thugs to descend on to his doorstep.


Now he's shocked everyone by suddenly signing a new five year deal.

Click here for full article.

Spending review cuts will hit poorest harder, says IFS.

It normally takes the Institute of Fiscal Studies longer than twenty four hours to work out whether or not a budget has been progressive or regressive, but, in the case of George Osborne's latest offering, no such time was necessary.

Osborne, backed by Nick Clegg, has made the ridiculous claim that the rich would carry the burden of this budget much more than the poor. It was a silly claim at the time when they made it, and the IFS has wasted no time in identifying what we all recognised when Osborne was making this silly claim.

Detailed analysis by the IFS undermining the government's case is expected to put intense pressure on Liberal Democrat ministers in the coalition who have stressed the need for tax rises and spending cuts to be progressive.

The chancellor, who acknowledged that his package of £81bn of cuts had involved "hard choices", insisted yesterday that they are fair and would be borne by "those who have the broadest shoulders".

But the IFS said that with the exception of the richest 2% of the population earning more than £150,000 a year, the less well off would be proportionately the hardest hit, with families with children the "biggest losers".

Carl Emmerson, the IFS acting director, said: "The tax and benefit changes are regressive rather than progressive across most of the income distribution. And when we add in the new measures announced yesterday this is, unsurprisingly, reinforced.

"Our analysis continues to show that, with the notable exception of the richest 2%, the tax and benefit components of the fiscal consolidation are, overall, being implemented in a regressive way."

The IFS have also poured scorn on Osborne's claim that his cuts of 19% across all governmental departments is less than the cuts Labour would have implemented.

The IFS challenged Osborne's claim that the government's cuts to those departments whose budgets were not protected averaged 19% compared with 20% implied by Labour's plans.

It said the Osborne's figures failed to take into account the £6bn of cuts already announced by the government this year while the actual figure under Labour would have been 16%.

All in all, the lies told by both Osborne and Clegg have been exposed with almost record speed. That's not really very surprising, as the distance between what they claimed and the truth is actually gargantuan.

Clegg, for reasons I could never work out, kept making the bizarre claim that the cuts would create a "fairer" and "more democratic" Britain. How he imagines punishing the poor brings this about was always lost on me.

The IFS also criticised plans to scrap council tax benefit and replace it with a system of locally administered council grants. It said that it would create a "postcode lottery", providing an incentive to councils to award grants in a way that encouraged poor families to leave the area.

"The incentive it provides to local authorities to encourage low-income people to move elsewhere is undesirable," Emmerson said.

The IFS findings are most damning for Clegg, who continues to insist - to anyone who will listen - that this budget is "fair" and "democratic". As I said a few days ago, I have absolutely no idea what measurement Clegg is using when he makes those claims. But him saying that something is "fair" and "democratic" doesn't make it so. The IFS appear to concur that conclusion.

As the IFS were briefing reporters about their conclusions, both Nick Clegg and David Cameron were answering voters questions in Nottingham. And Clegg was sticking to his script that this budget was fair and democratic.

Fairness was "literally the question I have been asking myself every single day of this very difficult process we have been going through", the deputy prime minister said.

"I honestly would not have advocated this if I didn't feel that, notwithstanding all the difficulties, we tried to do this as fairly as possible.

"Of course I understand people are very, very fearful, and fear is a very powerful emotion and it kind of sweeps everything else aside.

"But I would ask people to have a little bit of perspective: if you look at some of the announcements we made yesterday, and add that to some of the announcements we made in the budget, I think the picture is a little bit more balanced than people are saying."

Clegg appears to think that by securing a pupil premium and protecting overseas aid - both admirable things in their own right - that he has somehow kept the budget "fair" and "democratic". But that's the problem with coalition politics, one is always left celebrating the fact that things could have been much worse than they actually are.

The rest of us simply look at the budget - as the IFS has done - as it actually is. And what we see is a regressive budget which attacks the poor, the old and the disabled. It's a disgrace. And the Liberal Democrats should shudder that they were part of the government which produced this travesty. It goes against everything which they claim to believe in. And the IFS have dismissed Clegg and Osborne's claim that it is fair and democratic with almost record speed.

It is not. And that fact should now be beyond doubt. The country's leading tax and spend think-tank have made their view on this abundantly clear.


Clegg has decided to embark on some cognitive dissonance. The facts are simply too unpleasant for him to deal with.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, has taken the highly unusual step of attacking the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies, describing its methods of measuring the fairness of the coalition's controversial spending review as "distorted and a complete nonsense".

That's a classic case of "shoot the messenger".


Clegg and Cameron attempt to win over a sceptical audience, and fail. Support for the Liberal Democrats is now at a twenty year low.

As I have said ever since he joined this Con-Dem coalition, he is leading his party to oblivion. He will never be forgiven for this.

Click here for full article.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Limbaugh calls Soros donation "foreign money".

Rush Limbaugh has attacked a George Soros donation to Media Matters as "foreign money" being used in American politics.

"You want to talk a little foreign money in politics? George Soros has admitted to donating $1 million to Media Matters for America."
I know Soros has a foreign sounding name, Rush, but he is actually an American citizen:
George Soros, however, is an American citizen, with the full panoply of rights citizenship bestows (including the right to vote or run for office). He's been an American citizen for almost 50 years, since the age of 31 (Business Week: "George Soros became a naturalized American citizen in New York on Dec. 18, 1961, according to the Immigration & Naturalization Service").
Limbaugh doesn't even bother to check his facts before he spouts this kind of rubbish. What is it about the American right that they always see leftists with funny sounding names - Obama, Soros - as somehow non-Americans?

Pretty soon now you will have to have an (R) after your name in your passport to pass their nationality test.

Manchester United set for emergency talks on Wayne Rooney's future.

Wayne Rooney's statement, which is about as odious a thing as I have ever read, should see his career at Old Trafford brought to a shuddering close.

In it, he implies that his decision to consider moving to Manchester City is not simply a financial one but, rather, brought about by his fears that the club lack the ambition which he has, and that it is unable to attract the kind of big stars he feels should play around him.

He is attempting to disguise his avarice and rampant greed as, somehow, a nobler thing. To suggest that he is not merely being tempted by financial reward, but that he is being forced to leave one of the world's most successful football clubs because it lacks the ambition which he possesses. It's an insult to the entire team he plays with.

He then states, "for me it's all about winning trophies", and he says this as he proposes moving to club which has won far, far, fewer trophies than the club he is leaving. And yet, he wants us to believe that this is not merely about financial rewards.

Alex Ferguson is to hold a meeting this morning in response to Rooney's disgraceful and insulting press statement.

"Have I won 30 trophies or what?" the manager said. "I have every confidence in the future of this club.

Alex Ferguson is the most successful manager in British football's history and yet he is now being asked to justify his ambition to a 24 year old wanting to leave the club for money, and seeking to present his avarice as a noble cause as he does so.

If money is what matters most to Mr Rooney, then he should just say so. What makes this repellent is that he seeks to insult his team mates as he makes for the door, implying that it is not financial reward that propels him to do what he is doing, but a desire for trophies which his team mates, somehow, lack.

Ferguson has hinted that Rooney's days at Old Trafford are nearing an end.

"The important thing is that we put it to bed," Ferguson said. "We have a meeting at 10am when we will assess the whole situation. David has already spoken to the owners, which is important. We don't want this carrying on. We don't want a saga and we don't want it becoming more important than the team. It could affect morale. If we carry on with one individual dominating the headlines and our thoughts we would not be doing our job."

And, of course, Rooney is ignoring the fact that there was once a day when his own potential was doubted by some.

The manager was particularly aggrieved by the suggestion that his younger players might not be up to United's standard. "That's the trouble with potential. People don't identify potential – they're very poor at it – whereas I've identified it all my life. Others don't. I had a player once who said to me Rooney and Ronaldo weren't good enough and he was not prepared to wait until they were good enough."

But, of course, we are going down Rooney's side road to even pretend that this is about the potential of his team mates. This is about the fact that Manchester City are prepared to offer him £260,000 a week. He would like us to believe that this is the last thing on his mind. Only a fool would believe him.


Ferguson's annoyance at the way this is becoming all anybody will want to talk about is evident here.

Click here for full article.

Spending review axe falls on the poor.

I know it's just me, but I found it quite sickening to watch Nick Clegg pat George Osborne's back as he sat down having announced his brutal spending cuts.

Osborne was as smarmy and self pleased as he always is, as clear a product of the upper end of Britain's class system as one is ever likely to see, taking obscene pleasure in removing vital benefits from people in need.

Outlining his long-awaited comprehensive spending review, which will cut £81bn from government spending, Osborne vowed to restore "sanity to our public finances and stability to our economy". Perhaps the most striking of the new cuts announced was a package of £7bn in extra welfare cuts on top of the £11bn already made in the last budget. This will include the withdrawal of £50 a week from the million people claiming incapacity benefit for more than a year.

In a rapid-fire speech to the Commons, Osborne slashed £350m from the legal aid budget, reduced the police budget by 20% over four years, and hacked two-thirds off the £9bn communities department budget, including more than halving the support for social housing over four years. The pension age will rise to 66 from 2018.

Rail fares will be allowed to increase by 3% above RPI inflation from 2012, higher education spending will be cut by 40% – £2.9bn – by 2014/15, and flood defences by 15%. Further education will be cut by £1.1bn by 2014/15 and the "poorly targeted" education maintenance allowance for 16- to 19-year-olds is abolished.

And, most sickening of all, he then reduced the entire process to an Oxford debating society game, by announcing that the extra £7bn savings on tax credits and a range of other welfare benefits had enabled him to limit the overall reductions in the budgets of Whitehall spending departments to 19% over the next four years – less than the 20% pencilled in by the Labour chancellor, Alistair Darling.

If that wasn't an example of pathetic schoolboy one-upmanship, then I don't know what else it could possibly be.

For months he spoke of the need to cut these departments by between 25 and 40%, only, in the end, to play a game where he could score the cheapest of points against his rivals. And that tactic was only made possible by further slashing benefits needed by the poor, the old and the disabled.

Alan Johnson did well to point out the obscenity of what we were witnessing.

"We have seen people cheering the deepest cuts to public spending in living memory," he said. "For some people opposite this is their ideological objective. For many of them, not all of them, this is what they came into politics for."

And that, I think, is what I found the most obscene about the entire process. Had they announced these cuts in a sombre mood one might have deduced that we were witnessing what Osborne has always claimed, a government having to do something because there was no alternative. But what we witnessed was a Conservative celebration. Conservatives cheering to the rafters as they deprived benefits to the incapacitated, and slashed money for social housing. It was quite a sight. To see people actually cheering as they celebrated the loss of 490,000 public sector jobs over the lifetime of this parliament.

And the myth that the deficit will be paid on the shoulders of Britain's highest earners was exposed as the lie it always was. It is the poor, the disabled, the unemployed and the old who will be asked to suffer the most.

Taking the measures one at a time, the first – and the biggest – was to "time limit contributory employment and support allowance" for one year, that is the benefit formerly known as incapacity benefit. What this means is that a disabled or seriously sick person who has a working spouse, however low-paid their job may be, will lose their personal entitlement to benefits after a year.

Singles will be able to fall back on a means-tested safety net, but everyone else will be forced to rely on the generosity of their partner. Expect wheelchairs in Downing Street as the coalition does away with the long-established principle that people who have contributed their own national insurance in the past, and then become sick and disabled, should expect a modest stipend from the state in recognition of this.

On housing benefit, already savaged in June, there was a move to link the maximum rents paid for council and housing association properties to the market rent, something which will further encourage the cleansing of the poor out of central London.

This is what his Conservative colleagues were applauding. Reducing the savings credit, which rewarded pensioners who had saved from seeing their income support entitlement removed pound by pound to, in effect, punish them for their prudence.

How that fits in with the Tory philosophy is simply beyond me, especially as he went to such lengths to placate the equitable life savers of Middle England.

But, as much as Osborne and the rest of them will harp on about the reductions being 19% as opposed to the threatened 25% or 40%, one thing is worth remembering: these are the most brutal cuts in public spending in Britain since WWII.

And they do risk - the loss of 490,000 jobs in the public sector alone highlights the risk - of a double dip recession.

Those who oppose Keynesian economics, as Osborne clearly does, are pinning all their hopes on the Confidence Fairy.

Advocates of austerity believe that mystically, as the deficits come down, confidence in the economy will be restored and investment will boom. For 75 years there has been a contest between this theory and Keynesian theory, which argued that spending more now, especially on public investments (or tax cuts designed to encourage private investment) was more likely to restore growth, even though it increased the deficit.

The two prescriptions could not have been more different. Thanks to the IMF, multiple experiments have been conducted – for instance, in east Asia in 1997-98 and a little later in Argentina – and almost all come to the same conclusion: the Keynesian prescription works. Austerity converts downturns into recessions, recessions into depressions. The confidence fairy that the austerity advocates claim will appear never does, partly perhaps because the downturns mean that the deficit reductions are always smaller than was hoped.

It was brutal, and there is every chance that it won't work, and yet that was what caused Clegg to reach out his hand and pat Osborne's back as he took to his seat.

That moment truly made me wince. Because it shows that Clegg is not, as some have unfairly suggested, making deals for the sake of achieving political power. He is a true believer. He rejects Keynesian policies as vigorously as Osborne does.

My problem is that I think both of them are terribly wrong. And I fear we will all pay for their mistakes. And no-one, despite the claims of Osborne and Clegg, will pay more in the short term than the poor, the unemployed, the old and the disabled.

Watching Conservatives applaud that yesterday, and watching Clegg pat Osborne's back to celebrate his cruelty, are about as sickening a thing as I have ever seen on the floor of the Commons.


It's well worth reading Johann Hari on this:

George Osborne has just gambled your future on an extreme economic theory that has failed whenever and wherever it has been tried. In the Great Depression, we learned some basic principles. When an economy falters, ordinary people – perfectly sensibly – cut back their spending and try to pay down their debts. This causes a further fall in demand, and makes the economy worse. If the government cuts back at the same time, then there is no demand at all, and the economy goes into freefall. That's why virtually every country in the world reacted to the Great Crash of 2008 – caused entirely by deregulated bankers – by increasing spending, funded by temporary debt. Better a deficit we repay in the good times than an endless depression. The countries that stimulated hardest, like South Korea, came out of recession first.

David Cameron and George Osborne have ignored all this. They have ignored the warnings of the Financial Times, the newspaper most critical of their strategy. They have dismissed the warnings of Nobel economics laureates like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, who have consistently been proved right in this crisis. They have refused to learn from the fact that the country they held up as a model for how to deal with a recession – "Look and learn from across the Irish Sea," Osborne said – has suffered the worst collapse in the developed world. They have instead blindly obeyed the ideological precepts they learned as baby Thatcherites: slash the state, and make the poor pay most.

It's simply never, ever worked before. And yet Osborne, Clegg and Cameron insist that this time it will.

It can't be coincidental that this is being done to us by three men – Cameron, Osborne, and Nick Clegg – who have never worried about a bill in their lives. On a basic level, they do not understand the effects of these decisions on real people. Remember, Cameron said before the election: "The papers keep writing that [my wife, Samantha] comes from a very blue-blooded background", but "she is actually very unconventional. She went to a day school." Osborne is a beneficiary of a £4m trust fund he did nothing whatsoever to earn and which is stashed offshore to avoid tax. Clegg actually thought the state pension was £30 a week, a level that would kill pensioners.

These attitudes have real consequences. We're not in this together. Who isn't in it with us? Them, their friends, and their families.


There are two stories in today's Independent which really do perfectly highlight the Tory mindset.

The first tells us that Tory whips had actually warned MP's not to look too happy when Osborne announced the cuts:
Tory MPs had been told by party whips not to cheer the cuts too loudly. The message was that the cuts were a grim necessity, not something to enjoy or do with ideological zeal.
What does it say about the Tories that their own whips actually have to warn them not to look too happy as they make 490,000 people unemployed? And, worse, when they find themselves unable to comply with such a request?

Then tucked away inside is this gem:

The Queen is set to become one of the wealthiest crowned heads in Europe after the future of the British monarchy was secured in a historic deal with the Government that will give the House of Windsor a share of the £210m profits from government estates relinquished by George III.

The Civil List and the parliamentary system for funding the head of state are to be abolished, and from 2013, the Queen will receive her funding directly from the Crown Estate, which owns £6bn of British land and business. The deal means the Queen, and her successors, will not have to dip into her private wealth to help fund her crumbling palaces and staff wages, reducing financial concerns for Prince Charles when he ascends the throne, and potentially leaving him with a vast income.

Nice to know, as Clegg, Cameron and Osborne are so fond of telling us, that we are all in this together. He actually announced this in the same speech in which he took away billions in people's benefits.

Click here for full article.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Epic fail.

I came across this this morning. It's one of the greatest examples of the kind of cognitive dissonance routinely practised by the American right wing.

Craig T. Nelson: We are a capitalistic society. Okay, I go into business, I don't make it, I go bankrupt. They are not going to bail me out. I have been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody bail me out? No.
That's hysterical.

Beck lashes out at the Tides Foundation and the "dirtbag[s]" connected to Tides.

Need any more proof of how dangerous Glenn Beck is? We already know that Byron Williams got into a shoot out with the Californian police on his way to, "start a revolution by travelling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU" after hearing Beck repeatedly talk of The Tides Foundation.

Watch here as Beck, again, brings up The Tides Foundation.

But it's how he does it that's so strangely creepy:

Beck: Well, lets start here: Tides. The Tides Foundation. Oh, oh. Did you guys think I wouldn't talk about it any more? Oh, oh, look who is wrong....
Byron Williams has already spoken about Beck's influence on him, which one would think would make Beck at least avoid the subject of The Tides Foundation out of shame if nothing else. But that would presume that shame is an emotion which this charlatan is capable of producing.

He is doing all this after The Tides Foundation chairman has asked people to stop advertising on Fox News and warned that those who do so may end up with blood on their hands.

Pike noted that "businesses that pay to broadcast commercials on Fox News are subsidizing Glenn Beck's television show by continuing to pump money into the network," adding, "It has become clear that the only way to stop supporting Beck is to stop supporting Fox News."

Pike concluded: "The next 'assassin' may succeed, and if so, there will be blood on many hands. The choice is yours. Please join my call to do the right thing in this regard and put Fox News at arm's length from your company by halting your advertising with them."

And yet Beck, shamelessly, launches yet another attack on The Tides Foundation.

Here, Beck boasts that he's still on air despite the fact that The Tides Foundation have called for a boycott of his sponsors. But, he doesn't mention why they want him boycotted. He doesn't mention that his hate filled rhetoric almost resulted in some of them being killed. Instead, he sees only a "liberal" plot to silence him.

This little creep really is going to get someone killed. And, as he here makes painfully clear, he doesn't care about that. He really is the most dangerous man in American broadcasting. Unhinged and, seemingly, unconcerned about the fact that his conspiracy fuelled hate speak almost resulted in bloodshed.

Clegg struggles to contain his party's 'guilt by association' with Coalition cuts.

Nick Clegg has lost his bloody marbles.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Mini-ster, yesterday tried to calm jitters among Liberal Democrat MPs about the impact of the cuts – not least on the party's own electoral fortunes. He said: "The spending review provides the best evidence yet of why we are in government – and that we are delivering on our priorities."

He appears to think that the "gains" which he has wrestled from the Tories...

Mr Clegg, who beat off a Treasury attempt to end 15 hours of free child care for all three- and four-year-olds, trumpeted Liberal Democrat "gains" in the spending review – including a £2.5bn-a-year "pupil premium" for children from disadvantaged families; protecting spending on health, overseas aid and infrastructure projects; radical welfare reform; and delaying a decision on whether to renew the Trident nuclear missile system.

... are, in some way, a price worth paying for half a million job losses.

Welcome as the pupil premium and spending on overseas aid is, does Clegg seriously think this will have any impact on the public psyche as Osborne wields his blade across a wide range of public services? Does he seriously think people will say, "Well, it could have been worse, we could be without the pupil premium?" Or, "Thank God they have delayed the decision on Trident!"

Clegg and the Liberal Democrats will be remembered as the co-authors of one of the most brutal assaults on the state in living memory.

And they will be viewed much more harshly than their Tory counterparts because they campaigned on the very opposite of what they are now backing.

In a high-risk strategy, Mr Clegg urged his MPs to share ownership of the cuts, describing them as a "Coalition process and Coalition product".

Admitting that the review involved difficult decisions, he insisted: "These are the right decisions to build a fairer and more liberal Britain."

I've yet to work out on what basis Clegg thinks cuts on this scale make Britain "fairer" or "more liberal". What does he mean by that?

It's simply not fair that the poorest members of our society should pay more of a price than the banking community for a crisis caused by their greed; nor is it, in any way that I can measure, more "liberal".

Indeed, it's hard to think of anything less fair and less liberal than asking the poor to pay for the mistakes of the country's wealthiest bankers.

As I say, Clegg has simply lost his marbles. He appears to think that him saying that something is "fair" and "liberal" makes it so. But the rest of the nation has eyes, we can see what is happening. And Clegg's rampant bullshit won't blind us to what he has signed up to.

He has sold his party - and the people who voted for him - down the river. He should be ashamed of what he has done.

Click here for full article.