Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bush Says Jimmy Carter’s Criticisms Made His Life ‘Miserable’ .

President Bush has made a rare public appearance at the first official reunion of the Bush-Cheney Alumni Association, where he gave his reasons as to why, unlike his former Vice President, he has chosen to stay so quiet since leaving office.

I have no desire to see myself on television. I don’t want to be a panel of formers instructing the currents on what to do. … I’m trying to regain a sense of anonymity. I didn’t like it when a certain former president — and it wasn’t 41 or 42 — made my life miserable.
Think Progress have their take on this.

As USA Today notes, Bush is mostly likely talking about Jimmy Carter, since Ronald Reagan “was ill during Bush’s first term and passed away in 2004,” and Gerald Ford “stayed low-key until his death in 2006.” In 2006, Carter said that although he had been “very careful not to criticize President Bush personally,” he felt that his administration had “quite often deliberately misled the American people about the danger in Iraq to begin with, the causes for going to war in Iraq, and they have also misled the American people about what is happening in Iraq since we invaded.” After that time, he became increasingly vocal, especially when it came to Cheney, saying he had “been a disaster for our country.” He also said that the Bush administration had been “the worst in history,” but later tried to walk back those remarks.

It’s interesting that Bush admits to being so disturbed by Carter, since his administration tried to play down the former president’s influence. Bush said that such criticisms were “just part of what happens when you’re president.” Officials called Carter “increasingly irrelevant” and openly mocked him.

I have to give my rather grudging respect to the fact that Bush has, unlike Cheney, remained silent about the Obama presidency. Although I note that he applauds the stance which Cheney is currently taking:

For the first time, former President George W. Bush has said publicly that he approves of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s high-profile role in defending the past administration’s national security policies.

“I’m glad Cheney is out there,” Bush said Friday morning at a reunion breakfast.

But, it's very interesting to hear that an administration like Bush's, which came across as utterly unconcerned with how people viewed them - usually stating that their record was best left for history to judge - reveal that Carter's criticisms made them "miserable".

That's hard to believe. Certainly it puts them quite a distance from the arrogance which at the time seemed to define them, when they mocked the rest of us as being part of "the reality based community":

The source of the term is a quotation in an October 17, 2004, New York Times Magazine article by writer Ron Suskind, quoting an unnamed aide to George W. Bush:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality."

[... ]

"That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
It's hard to imagine a group of people with such a mindset being bothered in the slightest by what anyone else thinks of them, far less being made "miserable" by it.

Click here for full article.

Tories turn right to mend their broken poll lead.

With their lead in the polls beginning to falter, the Tories are showing further signs of panic by lurching ever more to the right in the hopes of averting disaster.

The Conservatives would abandon Labour's belief that "pumping" money into the most deprived areas is the way to solve Britain's social problems, a rising star of David Cameron's team says today amid signs that the panic-stricken party is turning to the right to curb a fall in the polls.

As the Tory leader prepared for his final conference speech today before the general election with the slogan "vote for change", a battle at the top of the party over strategy appeared to have been won by those favouring a hardline core-vote agenda.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, in charge of Tory plans to mend Britain's "broken society", says the party would send out a "strong signal" that "money is not always the answer" to deprivation. Using Thatcherite language, in an interview with The Independent on Sunday, she says a Tory government would oversee a "retrenchment of the state" – but the difference under Mr Cameron would be funding social entrepreneurs and volunteers to "reinvigorate" local communities.

That's extraordinary. Cameron has spent the past few years trying to lose his party's image as "the nasty party" and yet, months before the general election, they are now preaching that "money is not always the answer to deprivation". That defies belief. If money is not the answer to poverty then I am left wondering; what is?
WARSI: "In the past, when the Conservative Party fundamentally believes in a small state, and there has been a retrenchment of that state under various Conservative governments, we've assumed that that space will be filled by some level of society or voluntary sector. What's good about David's thinking is that he acknowledges that that's not going to happen automatically. And therefore something has to be done to make that happen."

"Clearly, if the solution to all their problems was money, we would have solved it, wouldn't we? That should send out a strong signal to say – actually, money is not always the answer. Because Labour has pumped money into areas, and has pumped money predominantly into their own areas... but actually why is it still in that mess?"
I can't be the only person who reads into that statement that money will no longer be forthcoming once a Tory government are in place. Nor can I be the only person to hear hints of Thatcherism in that statement.

Indeed, she shows the flaw in her thinking by admitting that, despite the conservative belief that society and the voluntary sector would fill in on social projects where the government have retreated, that this is "not going to happen automatically".

In other words, Cameron's Tories will offer community projects as an interim before, one can only assume, retreating when "society or the voluntary sector" take their rightful place in replacing government intervention.

Warsi is arguing that social deprivation is not something which the government should actually concern itself with and is saying that these problems are best solved by "the voluntary sector". In other words, the least well off should turn to charities rather than expect help to come from the government. That's radical shift to the right for the party who once wanted to Hug a Hoodie.

Cameron yesterday made a speech in which he insisted that the Tories would not retreat to core values in order to win the election. But there are signs that the right wing of the party are already winning that battle.
After polling evidence showed voters are confused over the Tory election strategy, George Osborne, George Bridges and Andy Coulson, all of whom favour a tax-cutting, "austerity" strategy on public spending, will take charge of day-to-day campaign management while Steve Hilton, Mr Cameron's director of strategy who favours more centrist policies, has taken a back seat, along with Mr Cameron himself.
Then we were treated to the sight of the ultra right wing Tory MEP Daniel Hannan launching the British version of the US Tea Party protests at which he lauded tax cuts and Ronald Reagan.
He [Hannan] defied the party line by saying radical tax cuts must be introduced, regardless of the size of the deficit. Addressing around 200 people at the Brighton Hotel, Mr Hannan cited Ronald Reagan's remark that "the deficit is so big it can look after itself". He added: "We seem to have lost sight of that wisdom."
Just as with the Republicans in the US, there really is no situation for which tax cuts is not the answer.

Both Warsi and Hannan sound like founder members of "the nasty party" that Cameron has spent the past few years distancing himself from.

And they remind many of us that, despite the cosmetic changes Cameron has brought about in that party, it's parliamentarians remain as rancid in their beliefs as they ever were.

Warsi and Hannan are both mouthing well worn right wing canards. That the poor should turn to charity and not government, and that Ronald Reagan was right when he argued that the more one gave to the rich, the more money would eventually trickle down to the rest of us.

I thought both of those notions were consigned to the past, but no, they have reappeared in Cameron's glossy new classless "Hug a Hoodie" Conservative party.

This isn't a new political movement, or a reborn party. They are stating the same rubbish which we have all heard before. The only difference between then and now is Cameron, mouthing whatever platitudes he imagines that we might want to hear.

But, at the heart of his party, the same greed and contempt for the less well off remains firmly entrenched.

Click here for full article.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Handshake That Didn't Happen.



It was probably the most anticipated handshake in British sport, especially as we had been warned in advance that it probably wouldn't be forthcoming. Indeed, such was the anticipation, that bookmakers had stopped taking bets on the matter.

The bookmakers Coral suspended bets on a possible handshake at 9.30am yesterday after a surge of wagers that the players would not shake. The pair had previously been odds-on to touch palms. William Hill said the non-shake would cost the company "a five-figure sum".
And, full marks to Wayne Bridge for making sure it didn't happen.

For American readers, a brief history.

John Terry,the captain of Chelsea and, until this recent scandal, the captain of England, was best friends and team-mates with Wayne Bridge. When Bridge left Chelsea to join Manchester City his relationship with his girlfriend faltered and John Terry was reported to be the shoulder he was leaning on.

Then the tabloids revealed that Terry was sleeping with Bridge's ex-girlfriend, despite being his best friend and shoulder to lean on, and that he had taken out a super injunction to prevent any newspaper ever revealing what he had been up to. His injunction was not upheld and he ended up reportedly paying Bridge's ex-girlfriend around £800,000 to buy her silence.

The affair cost Terry the England captaincy, but it also cost Bridge his international career as he has vowed to step down from England's national team rather than ever again have to play with someone who had betrayed him in such a fashion.

Yet, today, listening to the Chelsea fans boo Bridges - the betrayed friend - every time he touched the ball, was slightly sickening.

It was as if Chelsea supporters were punishing Bridge for not accepting the apology which John Terry has never, ever, offered.

In fact, Terry has never so much as publicly apologised to his wife and children and he has certainly offered no apology to Bridges. Indeed, to this day he has never even admitted that the affair even took place, despite paying a reported £800,000 for Bridges ex-lovers silence.

Perhaps Karma accounts for the fact that Manchester City - by far the underdogs in this match - left the stadium winning by an utterly unbelievable 4-2. No-one would have predicted that before this encounter.

But, when the match was over, Craig Bellamy delivered an astonishing post match analysis. Usually, footballers would say that they paid no attention to all of this press talk and that they were thinking only of the game; but Bellamy went much further.


I know what JT is like and nothing surprises me about him, so I am not going to start commenting on that guy. I think everyone in football knows what the guy is like. So you know, that's off the field.

But on it, he's an outstanding player and a great captain for Chelsea.
I have never been a great fan of Craig Bellamy; but, after watching the disgraceful treatment Chelsea fans handed out to Bridge, I take my hat off to the guy.

He inserted the knife like a surgeon. Right into Terry's jugular. With Terry refusing to even comment on the affair, one couldn't accuse Bellamy of being scared to say what was on his mind.

Nigel Farage's Outburst.



I watched Question Time the other night and saw the panel round on Nigel Farage for his comments at the European parliament in which he said the European president had "the charisma of a damp rag" and "the appearance of a low grade bank clerk". He then went on to say that, "you have a loathing for the very concept of the existence of nation states, perhaps because you come from Belgium which, of course, is pretty much a non country."

It's an extraordinarily rude performance and I was pleased to see both the reaction of the Question Time audience and the reaction which his comments produced at the European parliament.

The general disgust at his tone was best summed up by the question from an audience member when he asked if this was, "conclusive proof that he and UKIP have become a boorish national embarrassment".

Beck mocks Rep. Slaughter's story: "I've read the Constitution ... I didn't see that you had a right to teeth"



The things that American right wingers find funny never fails to amaze me. Here, Beck takes up the story of a woman so poor that she had to wear her dead sisters dentures. This was a theme which was also carried by Limbaugh.

LIMBAUGH: You know I'm getting so many people -- this Louise Slaughter comment on the dentures? I'm getting so many people -- this is big, I mean, that gets a one-time mention for a laugh, but there are people out there that think this is huge because it's so stupid. I mean, for example, well, what's wrong with using a dead person's teeth? Aren't the Democrats big into recycling? Save the planet? And so what? So if you don't have any teeth, so what? What's apple sauce for? Isn't that why they make apple sauce?
Maybe their audience loves this kind of stuff, but it comes pretty near to mocking people for being poor.

It's ugly and distasteful.

David Cameron prepares for hung parliament as lead narrows.

There are reports that David Cameron has set up a unit to prepare for a hung parliament which reflects the growing fear amongst Conservatives that they are losing what should be an election which is theirs for the taking.

As Conservatives gathered tonight in Brighton for their last conference before the general election, shadow cabinet ­ministers voiced fears that a narrowing in the polls had highlighted major weaknesses in the party's election strategy.

One influential member of the shadow cabinet reflected the jittery mood following a series of mistakes and policy confusions. "What's going wrong with our campaign?" the shadow cabinet minister asked. "Are we just making the odd mistake, or is there a deeper problem?"

Where, oh where, to begin?

The Conservatives have been running - ever since Cameron was elected - on the fact that Cameron is not Gordon Brown. This served them well for a long time but it was never going to be enough to get them elected, especially with their history as the "nasty party".

Now that an election looms, people are starting to ask just what exactly the Tories plan to do once elected and Cameron appears to have no answer.

He is like a rabbit caught in the headlights, scared to say anything in case he frightens voters away.

But, their hung parliament unit appear to be placing all their hopes in the Tory plan to massively cut back the deficit, a plan which is already at odds with the IMF.

Matt Hancock, chief of staff to George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, until he was recently selected as a parliamentary candidate, is taking charge of the post-election preparations. These revolve around an emergency budget, to be held within 50 days of the election, which would form the springboard to a second poll if the Tories were the largest party in a hung parliament.

"The emergency budget will be crucial in setting out the long-term approach of Conservatives in tackling the fiscal deficit," one senior figure said. "But it will also give a chance to present a take-it-or-leave-it challenge. If Labour want to vote against it and trigger a general election, we would be very happy to have another election this year, when we would be confident of winning on the basis of the budget."

That's insanity, and yet that is their plan of what to do should the election result in a hung parliament.

They have already made clear that they think the deficit should be cut as a priority, despite the fact that the IMF have warned that the fragility of the global economy meant stimulus packages should be left in place well into 2010.

Are they seriously thinking that they can have a second general election, which they think they would win, essentially asking the nation to vote for austere cuts in public services?

They must be living on some alternate universe if that's the plan that they have come up with.

And there were further indications of just how narrow their message is:
"The polls actually focus attention on our key message, which is: do people really want five more years of Gordon Brown," one source said.
That's not a message. And yet that remains about the only thing the Tories appear to think that they have to sell.

It's not enough not to be Gordon Brown. You have to for something. You have to tell us what you are going to do.

The task they face is considerable.
The Tories will need to gain around 117 seats just to secure a majority of one, requiring a swing not achieved since the 1930s.
You don't produce swings like that by merely attacking your opponent. You need to provide the country with a vision.

Brown may be unpopular, but he's not a hate figure, there's nothing particularly polarising about the man.

And, come election day, the public might very well decide to stick with the devil that they know.

The ball is firmly in Cameron's court. And, at the moment, it looks as if he doesn't have a clue what to do with it.

Click here for full article.

Government fury as judges attack security services.

The Guardian and other groups have succeeded at the Court of Appeal in having Lord Neuberger restore the critical paragraph of his judgement, which he cut under pressure from the UK government, in which he suggested that MI5 officers could not be trusted to tell the truth in the case of Binyam Mohamed.

Yesterday the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, agreed to restore the original judgment although he narrowed his criticism to Mr Mohamed's case. In the restored judgment the judge accused officers of having a "dubious record" over the "coercive interrogation" of the former Guantanamo Bay detainee. Lord Neuberger said some officers had been less than frank about what they knew about Mr Mohamed's ill-treatment.

The paragraph in question explains how MI5 had stressed to a parliamentary committee that it "operated in a culture that respected human rights and that coercive techniques were alien to the service's general ethics, methodology and training".

Lord Neuberger's final paragraph says: "Yet in this case that does not seem to have been true: as the evidence shows, some Security Services officials appear to have a dubious record relating to actual involvement, and frankness about any such involvement, with the mistreatment of Mr Mohamed when he was held at the behest of US officials."

The judge then added that while the good faith of the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was not in doubt, a question mark now hung over some of the legal statements he had made, based on MI5 advice. The judge's published criticism yesterday led to calls for a public inquiry into the security service's role in torture.

This has produced an astonishing reaction from the government.
Within hours Gordon Brown, David Miliband, the foreign secretary, and Alan Johnson, the home secretary, had issued statements backing MI5. In a direct challenge to the court, Johnson said he totally rejected its verdict.
I find it wholly disturbing that leading ministers, and especially the Prime Minister, would seek to criticise a court so publicly. They surely know that our system is built upon a separation of powers which they are now actively seeking to undermine.

Stung by the criticisms, the prime minister said: "We do not torture, and we do not ask others to do so on our behalf. We are clear that officials must not be complicit in mistreatment of detainees."

Johnson, who is responsible for MI5, said: "We totally reject any suggestion that the security services have a systemic problem in respecting human rights. We wholly reject too that they have any interest in suppressing or withholding information from ministers or the courts."

Miliband told Channel 4 News that he disagreed with the verdict: "I do not believe it is right to say that there's an interest or culture within the security services of the suppression of information."

It is now becoming impossible for Labour to avoid some kind of inquiry into the allegation that the British security services, at the very least, turned a blind eye to the torture of Binyam Mohamed. We now have the government in open battle with the courts, with many of us thinking that our courts are hardly radical hothouses, and if they are insisting that MI5 knew about the torture of Binyam Mohamed, then there's a very good chance that they are right. Courts don't go into open battle with a sitting government for no good cause.

Indeed, the very fact that Neuberger cut his original paragraph - under pressure from the government -only highlights the lengths to which they go to avoid rocking the boat.

The judges' verdict sparked widespread calls for a public or judicial inquiry into the handling of Mohamed's case.

"He cares the truth comes out so nobody would go through what he has gone through," said Cori Crider, legal director at Reprieve. "But questions linger. What policies allowed such complicity in torture? How many cases like Binyam's were there? Only a full public inquiry will answer the public's concerns about what has been done in our name."

These questions are not going to go away. Did the UK turn a blind eye - or worse, were we even more complicit - as Binyam Mohamed was tortured?

Gordon Brown, Alan Johnson and David Miliband can all act as if they are outraged that we can even ask such things, but the evidence now demands an inquiry into this.

The case of Binyam Mohamed is extraordinary in every sense of the word. Yesterday, despite huge pressure from the government, the court made clear - although it should be pointed out that it limited it's criticism to Mohamed's case alone - that some security officials "appear to have dubious records when it comes to human rights and coercive techniques".

That's a remarkable thing for a court to say. Indeed, the government's lawyer, Jonathan Sumption QC, thought it so damaging that he sought to have this paragraph removed from the published judgement and the court, under pressure, agreed.

Sumption argued that this was "exceptionally damaging criticism" and, now that it is public, it is hard to disagree with his assessment.

The question is what do we do now?

I find it impossible to believe that this can simply be swept under the carpet as a disagreement between the government and the courts. Someone is right here and someone is wrong. And the question at stake is whether or not the UK facilitated torture.

It demands an answer. And only an inquiry can provide that.

Click here for full article.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ben Stein Says The Reason Republicans Reject HCR Is Because They Pay More Taxes Than Democrats.



I honestly wrote my reaction to Obama's attempt to thrash things out with the Republicans over healthcare before I was even aware of this clip.

But I described the way the Republicans came across to me as this:

The Republicans came across as a bunch of resentful, rich white men asking,"Why should I pay for you?"
And, bang on cue, up steps former Nixon speech writer, Ben Stein, to make this point:
You asked one of the most brilliant questions I have ever heard anyone ask on TV, which is why are so many Republicans against more government interference in the health care system, and so many Democrats in favor of it? And the answer is much higher percentage of Republicans are taxpayers than Democrats and the Republicans are the people paying for it, and the Democrats are the people receiving it. So that has a lot to explain there.
They spent six hours yesterday trying to make their objections to healthcare about everything but that, but the undercurrent of what they were saying still seeped out.

Stein is only being more honest than any other Republican was yesterday.

His point is garbage, of course, but at least he was honest enough to say what is on his mind. He believes that wealthy people are naturally Republicans and that there is some kind of jealousy and resentment which fuels Democrats.

It simply would never occur to him that a person could be well off and still want a fairer system which helped those who were less well off. That's unthinkable to him.

Jeb Bush Says U.S. Leaders Now Must Have "Intellectual Curiosity"

I can honestly say that I have heard it all now.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) remains something of a powerhouse in Republican circles, so it seemed noteworthy that he doesn't seem to have much respect for a certain former half-term governor of Alaska.
In a recent interview with Newsmax, Bush was asked whether he thought Palin was a viable candidate for president. Though he had some nice things to say about her "charisma," it was clear that Bush thinks Palin doesn't have the intellectual heft to occupy the oval office. He said that Palin's success depends on her willingness to add a "depth of understanding of the complexity of life we're living in today" to her rhetoric.

"That's up to her," he said. "I mean, I don't know what her deal is, but my belief is in 2010 and 2012, public leaders need to have intellectual curiosity."
I don't even have to write another word.....

The irony is so blatant that I can leave it unsaid.

Obama, At Last, Threatens To Move On Without the Republicans.

I watched the first hour and a bit of this, had friends round for dinner, and then watched the last hour and a bit until Obama finally summed it all up.

All the Republicans seemed to be saying was that Obama ought to rip the whole thing up and start again. They had several well rehearsed points which they had come to make, the most obvious being the fact that the bill was 2,400 pages long, as if that fact, in itself, told us something meaningful about the bill.

The Republicans came across as a bunch of resentful, rich white men asking,"Why should I pay for you?"

Of course they tried to hide that fact behind concern for working Americans, but over a six hour period it was a falsehood which proved impossible to keep up. They were so obviously singing from a well rehearsed song sheet.

And the people who supposedly want the government to keep it's hands off Medicare, revealed themselves to be no great supporters of that cause.

The Democrats want to cover more than 30 million people over 10 years; Republicans said the nation could not even afford the entitlement programs, like Medicare, that already exist, much less start new ones.
I thought the day belonged to Obama, who even Republicans were reported to be impressed with.

Mr. Obama’s mastery of the intricacies of health policy was impressive even to some Republicans.

“It was sort of his classroom,” Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who delivered his party’s opening statement, said in an interview. “I was glad we did it, because the president’s megaphone is the biggest one and when he shares it with Republicans like he did, that gives us several hours to make our case, and I thought we made it well.”

I disagree with Alexander, I didn't think that they made their case well at all. They looked to me like obstructionists who had come along simply to repeat the phrase that Obama ought to rip the bill up and start again. Sometimes their talking points became so obvious that it was impossible not to pull them up on it.
Mr. Obama looked wryly at Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican whip, who addressed the president with a stack of papers in front of him. “Let me just guess,” Mr. Obama said, barely containing his smirk, “that’s the 2,400-page bill.”
The person who most gave away the fact that the Republicans had come here to preach and not to negotiate was John McCain.

Reminding Mr. Obama that both of them had run for office “promising change in Washington,” Mr. McCain delivered a lengthy talk deriding the Democrats’ bill as being produced “behind closed doors” and stuffed with “unsavory deal-making.”

Mr. Obama finally tried to cut the senator off. “We’re not campaigning anymore,” the president said. “The election is over.”

McCain actually said nothing which could be construed as looking for a way in which the two sides could come to an agreement, he merely delivered a litany of complaints implying that Obama and he had both promised change and that Obama had not delivered. The notion that he would have achieved what Obama was failing to do hung in the air; unspoken, but implied.

I can't have been the only person watching who winced imagining what might have been had the United States been foolish enough to elect this angry little man.

By day’s end, it seemed clear that the all-day televised session might have driven the parties even farther apart. Republicans said there was no way they would vote for Mr. Obama’s bill, and Democrats were talking openly about pushing it through Congress on a simple majority vote using a controversial parliamentary maneuver known as reconciliation.

As he wrapped up the session, Mr. Obama chided Republicans for advocating “baby steps” and rejected their call to start over, declaring Americans “don’t want us to wait.” He said that if he did not see any significant movement toward bipartisan cooperation, Democrats would push ahead on their own and leave it to voters to render their judgment.

“That’s what elections are for,” the president said.

Obama has hinted before that he doesn't care if he is a one term president, as long as he gets things done; and, in the end, that was the threat he was left issuing here.

He will push ahead with this, with or without Republican support, and let the cards fall where they may come the next election.

If he could achieve this, and force the Israelis into a meaningful peace deal with the Palestinians, I would say it mattered not a jot if he was re-elected; he would have done enough to leave his mark on history with either of those two things.

And he has wasted almost a year trying to find compromise and bipartisanship with this group of greedy, uncompromising and petulant children.

As he said during his most impressive moment at Invesco Field:
"Enough!"
There is no compromise to be made with these people, they are simply not interested, nor are they being honest about their objections.

It's long past time to move on without them.

UPDATE:



Here's an example of the way Obama easily dismantled their talking points, and of the way Cantor was called out for his use of cheap "props".

Obama: We could set up a system where food was probably cheaper than it is right now if we just eliminated meat inspectors, and we eliminated any regulations in terms of how food is distributed and how it's stored. I'll bet in terms of drug prices we would definitely reduce prescription drug prices if we didn't have a drug administration that makes sure that we test the drugs so that they don't kill us, but we don't do that.

We make some decisions to protect consumers in every aspect of our lives.

Click here for full article.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Weiner Offends The GOP On House Floor: You’re All ‘Owned’ By The ‘Insurance Industry’!



Anthony Weiner is fast becoming one of my very favourite Democrats, mostly because he really does speak his mind and say things as he sees them. And he has made more sense when talking about healthcare than anyone else. But yesterday, we had this memorable moment:

Speaking on the House floor this afternoon, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) lambasted Republicans for being “a wholly owned subsidiary of an insurance industry,” prompting an offended Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) to lodge a complaint

WEINER: You guys have chutzpah. The Republican Party is the wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry. They say this isn’t going to do enough, but when we propose an alternative to provide competition, they’re against it. They say we want to strengthen state insurance commissioners and they’ll do the job. But when we did that in our national health care bill, they said we’re against it. They said we want to have competition but when we proposed requiring competition they’re against it. They’re a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry. That’s the fact!

LUNGREN: Mr. Speaker I ask that the gentleman’s words be taken down.

WEINER: You really don’t want to go there, Mr. Lungren.

A minute later, Weiner returned to the floor and withdrew his words, and then substituted them by clarifying, “Make no mistake about it, every single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry!” Lungren once again immediately demanded that Weiner’s words be taken down. Weiner once more finally returned to the floor to withdraw his words, and ended his statement by saying that he has had “enough of the phoniness. We are gonna solve this problem because for years our Republican friends have been unable to and unwilling to. Deal with it!” His colleagues applauded his remarks.

I found this hysterically funny. Where the Republicans get the nerve to fake outrage is simply beyond me.

Yoo Delares His "Victory" A "Gift" For Obama.

Whenever neo-cons are found to be flat out wrong, they somehow manage to find a narrative which makes it look like they have been victorious. And there is surely no more brazen example of this than John Yoo's startling rewriting of history in The Wall Street Journal.

Barack Obama may not realize it, but I may have just helped save his presidency. How? By winning a drawn-out fight to protect his powers as commander in chief to wage war and keep Americans safe.
Only in the mind of a neo-con could this be seen as "winning a fight". For, in truth, Yoo has only escaped disbarment from the legal profession because Margolis refused to implement the OPR's findings:
The views of former Justice lawyer John Yoo were deemed to be so extreme and out of step with legal precedents that they prompted the Justice Department's internal watchdog office to conclude last year that he committed "intentional professional misconduct" when he advised the CIA it could proceed with waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques against Al Qaeda suspects.

The report by OPR concludes that Yoo, now a Berkeley law professor, and his boss at the time, Jay Bybee, now a federal judge, should be referred to their state bar associations for possible disciplinary proceedings.
Nor did Margolis in any way exonerate Yoo's behaviour or hand him any kind of victory. Indeed, he stated this:
For all of the above reasons, I am not prepared to conclude that the circumstantial evidence much of which is contradicted by the witness testimony regarding Yoo's efforts establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that Yoo intentionally or recklessly provided misleading advice to his client. It is a close question. I would be remiss in not observing, however, that these memoranda represent an unfortunate chapter in the history of the Office of Legal Counsel. While I have declined to adopt OPR's finding of misconduct, I fear that John Yoo's loyalty to his own ideology and convictions clouded his view of his obligation to his client and led him to adopt opinions that reflected his own extreme, albeit sincerely held, views of executive power while speaking for an institutional client.
So, I am not sure quite how Yoo thinks that he has won "a drawn out fight" here. He appears to believe that he has been vindicated simply because he has not been disbarred. But the legal views which he expressed, and which he imagines might still be left open to the Obama administration, have been described as, "an unfortunate chapter in the history of the Office of Legal Counsel".

Margolis further admits that it is "a close question" as to whether or not Yoo "intentionally or recklessly provided misleading advice to his client."

And yet Yoo now has the sheer gall to label this "victory" and to pronounce this as his gift to Obama.

This is why I despair at the Obama administrations unwillingness to investigate the war crimes of the Bush years. Yoo will take the fact that he has not been disbarred and sell this as a vindication for his utterly discredited legal advice.

And other right wing mouthpieces will echo his sentiments.

These people are simply shameless. Only a prosecution would have any chance of making them see that a crime had been committed here. Although, as the prosecution of "Scooter" Libby showed, there would still be many on the right who would refuse to accept that the law should apply to them.

But a prosecution might, just might, make the next president who wanted to stray into war crimes think twice before he wandered down that path.

Click here for Yoo's article.

Conservatives' election war chest tops £10m.

We are about three months away from the general election yet, everywhere I drive in West London, I see posters for the Tory party and none for Labour or the Liberal Democrats. Reading this morning's newspaper the reason for that has become blindingly obvious.

The Conservatives received more than £10m towards their election war chest in just three months – far more than the other parties combined.

The flood of cash into the Tory coffers is enabling it to outspend Labour in pre-election skirmishes ahead of the campaign. It reported gifts worth £10,481,949 in last quarter of 2009, compared with £4,962,886 collected by Labour and £1,055,717 received by the Liberal Democrats. The figures released by the Electoral Commission also show that the Conservatives raised some £26m during 2009, while Labour received about £16m over the year.

On one stretch of the A4 I saw three different posters carrying the message, "I haven't voted Tory before, but I like their plans to......" and an element of Tory policy in inserted.

And David Blunkett is making it clear that this is unlikely to change between now and May.
David Blunkett, Labour's chief election fundraiser, has said his party cannot afford to emulate the Tory election budget. He claimed it would be able to spend about £8m in the election, compared with an £18m budget for the Conservatives. In an email to party members, he said: "The announcement has confirmed what we've known for a long time – we're the underdogs in this election."
This coming election should be a walk in for Cameron. He's facing a party which has been in office for a very long time and has recently been hit by a worldwide financial recession. He has much more money at his disposal than his rivals and yet, because he appears to have no policies which he is willing to articulate, he has started slipping in the polls.

It appals me that there is any chance at all of these old Etonians forming the next government, but the election, despite the Tories holding every advantage imaginable, is starting to look as if it going to be much more neck and neck than I would have predicted a couple of months ago.

Cameron is in danger of blowing this.

Click here for full article.

Where Is the Anger On the Left?

Clancy Sigal has a very interesting article in today's Guardian Comment section entitled, "US liberals have lost their thunder", in which he argues that the American left have allowed rage to be something which is only ever expressed by that country's right wing elements.

In this second or third year of a devastating depression, not just recession, that has inflicted an epidemic of suffering on the lower half of the American nation, Obama is very busy being fluent and civil while being essentially untouched by the rage felt by so many of us. Our world, as we have known it, is being annihilated, and nobody in power shows signs of giving a damn.

The real anger is all on the right, kidnapped – or authentically voiced – by the all-white Tea Partiers, Palinites, Oath Keepers and "armed and dangerous" patriot groups, some but not all of whom are native-fascistic but also include pissed-off libertarians and the disappointed and dispossessed at the bottom of the pile.
And he reminds us of the last time we heard real anger from the left:

The last time I remember collective anger as legitimate was in the now-much-derided 1960s with its protest marches and brazen hippie-style slogans. Ever since there's been a gradual slide – I would argue descent – into sterile politeness. Recently, I attended a meeting of my local school board where a mild, hardly-above-a-whisper grumble from a parent prompted his expulsion enforced by armed police. Who knows what might have happened if any of us in the audience had stood up and actually spoken out as in that famous Norman Rockwell painting of a town hall meeting?

Why should full-throated emotion be the monopoly of the so-called "populists" who seem to be the only people around unafraid to shout, yell, stomp and scream?

I grew up in a boisterous, immigrant, loud neighborhood where everyone had an opinion and voiced it full throttle. Somewhere along the line, maybe when I shifted from working class to middle class, I lost my rough, grating, empowered, assertive voice – and maybe the anger that had fuelled it. If so, that's a pity.

We need liberal anger now more than ever.

I have just finished reading Nixonland, which sets out how Nixon used the genuine and deeply felt anger which the people who opposed the Vietnam war felt, and how he was able to appeal to "the silent majority", the people who felt that hippies and gays and blacks and women's rights activists were changing the planet far too fast for their comfort.

The truth is that anger on the left is always portrayed as dangerous to society as a whole, whilst to watch the tea party protests - as they are portrayed on Fox News - one is asked to look at this all white, aged group of people and imagine that one is looking at all that is good in civil society.

The fact that Sigal remembers the "much derided" protest marches of the sixties says a lot about the way both the left and the right are portrayed in the media when they protest.

Dirty hippies with their brazen slogans were easy fodder for Nixon to portray as people challenging the very way of life of the comfortable and the middle class in the United States.

Now that that same middle class rise up in anger over the election of a black president (and that is honestly the only coherent thing which I take from their protests) then their anger is never portrayed as dangerous, rather it is always the noise of "real" Americans or "ordinary everyday" Americans, and we are warned that we ignore their voices at our peril.

It could be argued that the left don't need to protest at the moment because they are in power. However, what they do need to do is put pressure on Obama and the Democrats to ensure, now that he has been elected, that Obama governs according to the promises which he made whilst campaigning.

Obama was elected with a much greater majority than anything George Bush ever achieved. He has a mandate from the American people to do the very things which the Tea Party protesters are insisting that he must not do. Universal healthcare being the most obvious thing which he promised that he would do.

The left need to keep up the pressure on him to see that this is done.

Click here for full article.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

David Petraeus Refutes Cheney on Torture.



Damn it... Who forgot to send Gen. David Petraeus the memo?

Here, David Gregory seeks to get Petraeus to say that he wishes he still had the ability to torture prisoners, and Petraeus simply refuses to take the bait. Indeed, he appears to insist that people like Dick Cheney are wrong when they repeatedly call for enhanced interrogation techniques to be part of the US arsenal for tackling terrorists.

MR. GREGORY: Can I ask it a slightly different way, if you don't want to talk about what specifically is being learned? Presuming that both U.S. forces and Pakistani officials are doing the interrogation, do you wish you had the interrogation methods that were available to you during the Bush administration to get intelligence from a figure like this?

GEN. PETRAEUS: I have always been on the record, in fact, since 2003, with the concept of living our values. And I think that whenever we have, perhaps, taken expedient measures, they have turned around and bitten us in the backside. We decided early on in the 101st Airborne Division we're just going to--look, we just said we'd decide to obey the Geneva Convention, to, to move forward with that. That has, I think, stood elements in good stead. We have worked very hard over the years, indeed, to ensure that elements like the International Committee of the Red Cross and others who see the conduct of our detainee operations and so forth approve of them. Because in the cases where that is not true, we end up paying a price for it ultimately. Abu Ghraib and other situations like that are nonbiodegradables. They don't go away. The enemy continues to beat you with them like a stick in the Central Command area of responsibility. Beyond that, frankly, we have found that the use of the interrogation methods in the Army Field Manual that was given, the force of law by Congress, that that works. And...

MR. GREGORY: Well...

GEN. PETRAEUS: And that is our experience...

MR. GREGORY: In terms of recruitment threats...

GEN. PETRAEUS: ...in, in the years that we have implemented it.

MR. GREGORY: In terms of recruitment threats, do you consider the prison at Guantanamo Bay in the same way? Do you consider it to be related, or do you think, in other words, should it be closed, or do you believe it was short-sighted to set a deadline certain for its closure?

GEN. PETRAEUS: I've been on the record on that for well over a year as well, saying that it should be closed. But it should be done in a responsible manner. So I'm not seized with the issue that it won't be done by a certain date. In fact, I think it is--it's very prudent to ensure that, as we move forward with that, wherever the remaining detainees are relocated and so forth, whatever jurisdiction is used in legal cases and so forth, is really thought through and done in a very pragmatic and sensible manner.
How long before the same right wingers who idolised Petraeus during the surge, turn on him as someone who doesn't know what he is talking about?

MPs' attack provokes the wrath of Murdoch.

Rupert Murdoch's News International media organisation has accused a powerful House of Commons committee of "bias", saying that the report on News International and it's dealings had caused "substantial damage to the newspaper industry as a whole".

The report itself was, indeed, damning of the News of the World and the whole of News International:

The 167-page report by a cross-party select committee is withering about the conduct of the News of the World, with one MP saying its crimes "went to the heart of the British establishment, in which police, military, royals and government ministers were hacked on a near industrial scale".

MPs condemned the "collective amnesia" and "deliberate obfuscation" by NoW executives who gave evidence to them, and said it was inconceivable that only a few people at the paper knew about the practice.

The culture, media and sport select committee was also damning of the police, saying Scotland Yard should have broadened its original investigation in 2006, and not just focused on Clive Goodman, the NoW's royal reporter.

The findings provoked calls by the ­Liberal Democrats for a judicial inquiry, and unusually strong reaction from a cabinet minister, Ben Bradshaw, and Downing Street. Bradshaw, the media secretary, said the report raised "extremely serious questions" for the Murdoch empire.

"This report … says lawbreaking was condoned and that the company sought to conceal the truth. We welcome the report and are considering what further action may be needed to be taken."

I suppose the reaction of News International is similar to the kind of reaction we have become used to from Fox News. Fox is no longer a news organisation, it represents a point of view and seeks to interpret all events through the prism of that point of view. Which is exactly what News International is seeking to do here:

News International, which also publishes The Times, Sunday Times and Sun, responded with a furious statement accusing some of the MPs of pursuing a "party-political agenda". It said the committee's report was biased and had been distorted by external influences, particularly The Guardian newspaper which has alleged that the culture of phone hacking at the News of the World was widespread.

"The credibility of the select committee system relies on committee members exercising their powers with responsibility and fairness, and without bias or external influence. Against these standards this CMS committee has consistently failed," News International said. "Rather than work in the public interest, certain members of the committee appear to have pursued a party-political agenda. They have worked in collusion with The Guardian, consistently leaking details of the committee's intentions and deliberations to that newspaper."

The company claimed that MPs, who were undertaking a far-reaching inquiry into press standards and the laws on libel and privacy, had become obsessed with the phone-hacking issue.

"The committee has spent seven months – close to half of its time on the inquiry – on allegations made by The Guardian, despite its wide-ranging remit to examine issues of vital importance to the newspaper industry. In all this time, the committee has failed to come up with any new evidence to support The Guardian's allegations. Sadly, this has not stopped members of the committee from resorting to innuendo, unwarranted inference and exaggeration."

News International said it "strongly rejects" the committee's claims that its executives had suffered "collective amnesia" or been involved in "deliberate obfuscation and concealment of the truth".

While News International complain that the committee had "become obsessed with the phone-hacking issue", most of us do find that a pretty big deal. Indeed, the report suggests that it is unlikely that only Clive Goodman, the News of the World royal reporter who was jailed for hacking into telephones, was involved in this practice.
"There is no doubt that there were a significant number of people whose voice messages were intercepted, most of whom would appear to have been of little interest to the royal correspondent of the News of the World. This adds weight to suspicions that it was not just Clive Goodman who knew about these activities."
Murdoch is banging on the bottom of the pond, hoping to muddy the water. It's an old right wing tactic. But even Tory MP's on the committee are not buying into it.
In response to the accusations by News International, Mr Whittingdale, a Tory MP, defended the committee's report. "I was certainly not subject to external political pressure at all, and we stand by our report," he said.
News International can scream and shout about "bias" until the cows come home, but the report is damning. And no amount of mud slinging from Murdoch will change that fact.

Click here for full article.

International Monetary Fund backs Labour's 'wait-and-see' approach to cutting deficit .

The International Monetary Fund may not know it, but they have backed Gordon Brown's plans to "wait and see" before cutting back on stimulus packages, which goes against the Tory plan to reduce the deficit as soon as possible.

In a rebuff to David Cameron's avowed intention to start repairing the public finances as soon as this spring's election is over, the Washington-based IMF said the fragility of the global economy meant stimulus packages should be left in place well into 2010.

The detailed study – Exiting from Crisis Intervention Policies – was published as data from the British Bankers' Association for January showed a dip in mortgage borrowing, a sharp drop in lending to businesses and a repayment of credit card debt for the 10th successive month.

"In general, fiscal and monetary stimulus may need to be maintained well into 2010 for a majority of the world's economies, including several of the largest, although the timing of the exit is likely to differ substantially across countries," the IMF said. It added that the recovery from the global economy's most severe downturn since the second world war had been stronger in the leading emerging economies such as India and China than it had been in the developed west.

Ever since the economic crisis began, Cameron and Osborne have shown themselves to be clinging to Conservative dogma and apparently completely unaware that that the Thatcherite/Reaganesque crap they were talking was partly what got us into this mess in the first place.

Obama and Gordon Brown both favoured using stimulus packages while Cameron was declaring that the recession should be allowed to take it's course. This was a position which was not emulated even by other right wing government's such as those of Sarkosy and Merkel. Cameron really was out there on his own insisting that the market would self correct, even as the market was threatening to implode in front of our eyes.
Darling said: "The IMF's report is further evidence that David Cameron and George Osborne have neither the experience nor the judgment to be trusted with the economy. The IMF agreed the government's approach is the right one. The report confirms that doing what David Cameron suggests would wreck the recovery."
David Cameron has been enjoying great success in the polls, although I freely admit that it's a success which I do not understand.

The only time he has ever been asked to make a serious call was during the economic crisis and the call he made was simply wrong.

But, even as the IMF report points out how wrong the Conservative approach to this is, they continue to insist that the report vindicates their position.

The shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Phil Hammond, said: "This report reinforces the view of the Conservatives, the CBI, Sir Richard Branson, the Bank of England, credit rating agencies and 20 leading economists that Gordon Brown must set out a credible plan for reducing the deficit as soon as possible, to put Britain back on her feet."

The IDF actually state the opposite:
"Fiscal and monetary stimulus may need to be maintained well into 2010, although if developments proceed as expected, withdrawal could begin in 2011."
And yet these jokers look as if they might very well enter Number Ten in the summer.

Click here for full article.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Coulter: "All Wars are the Same"



Even by her ridiculously low standards, this is shameful.

Q: Do you think the war in Iraq was necessary?

Coulter: The necessary/convenient argument, I do not understand. I mean was WWII necessary? Hitler didn't attack us. Was the civil war necessary, the Vietnam war, the Korean war? Either all wars are a war of necessity or all wars are wars of convenience.
That's idiocy. I know people like to simplify arguments, but this is taking that practice to a whole new level of banality.

Obama to the Republicans: Put Up or Shut Up.

Personally, I think he's making a mistake by not ploughing ahead with a public option, but Obama is nevertheless preparing to skewer the Republicans on healthcare.

President Obama on Monday issued his own blueprint for a health care overhaul, challenged Republicans to come forward with their ideas and laid the groundwork for an aggressive parliamentary maneuver to pass the legislation using only Democratic votes if this week brings no progress toward a bipartisan solution.

In laying out for the first time the details of what he wants in the legislation, Mr. Obama set in motion a new round of maneuvering intended to bring a bitterly divisive yearlong clash to a conclusion. With the two parties scheduled to meet Thursday for a televised session on the health care overhaul, Mr. Obama appeared intent on forcing the Republicans into a choice: either put a specific alternative on the table, giving Democrats a chance to draw pointed contrasts between the parties’ approaches, or be cast as obstructionist and not serious about addressing an issue of great concern to voters.
Of course, the Republicans are simply being obstructionist, that is what they always do.

But Obama is inviting them to a bipartisan meeting to force them to put up or shut up.
The initial Republican response suggested the two parties are more likely headed toward a showdown than toward a deal. Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, said Mr. Obama had “crippled the credibility” of Thursday’s meeting by proposing “the same massive government takeover of health care” that Americans had already rejected.
All indications are that they will do neither. They will simply walk into the trap which Obama is laying for them. It's becoming impossible to believe that the Republicans have any plans to reform healthcare. They certainly have none that they are prepared to bring to the table.

And the Democrats are promising that, should the Republicans fail to come up with an alternative, Obama will push this through and pass it via reconciliation.

This has set off the utterly predictable explosion of some right wing heads.

Booman looks at their comments:

This comment is typical:

Marxists don’t play by normal rules…They usually shoot those who oppose them. Rest assured that Obama would do just that if he could…Instead, he will lie, cheat and steal to get what he wants and dare anyone to stop him. He knows that we have had peaceful legislation in this country for over two hundred years, so there is no precedent for stopping a thug who needs to be physically subdued…The line in the sand has been laid at the feet of Senate Republicans…Stop playing nice! You better be prepared to shout, scream, walk-out, knock Harry Reid’s teeth out. Cane his ass on the Capitol steps…It’s been done before, and for less!

Clearly, these folks are feeling a bit upset after being told by their favorite bloggers than Obama had met his Waterloo.

The obstructionists appear to be furious that he's going to go ahead without them. "So much for bipartisanship!" they cry. So much indeed....

Apparently, in order to be truly bipartisan, one must allow the Republicans to kill all government proposals. So that, when the government is unable to pass any legislation, Sarah Palin can pipe up with, “How’s That Hope-Y Change-Y Thing Workin’ Out for Ya?”

Obama is right to push ahead without them. As Palin's comment amply illustrates, they don't want bipartisan agreement, they want to stop his government in it's tracks.

UPDATE:

George Lakoff has a very good take on why the Republicans do this.
It was entirely predictable a year ago that the conservatives would hold firm against Obama's attempts at "bipartisanship" - finding occasional conservatives who were biconceptual, that is, shared some views acceptable to Obama on some issues, while keeping an overall liberal agenda.

The conservatives are not fools.
Because their highest value is protecting and extending the conservative moral system itself, giving Obama any victory at all would strengthen Obama and weaken the hold of their moral system. Of course, they were going to vote against every proposal and delay and filibuster as often as possible. Protecting and extending their worldview demands it.

Obama has not understood this.

We saw this when Obama attended the Republican caucus. He kept pointing out that they voted against proposals that Republicans had made and that he had incorporated, acting as if this were a contradiction. But that was to be expected, since a particular proposal that strengthens Obama and hence weakens their moral view violates their highest moral principle.

Such conservative logic explains why conservatives in Congress first proposed a bipartisan committee to study the deficit, and then voted against it.
Nor does he think that Obama will be able to shame them by exposing their tactics.
If Obama thinks he can shame them in front of their voters, he is mistaken, again. Conservative voters think the same way they do.
My take on this is that Obama is trying to show independent voters that the Republicans are simply being obstructionist before moving on and passing the legislation without them. As the comment I linked to in the post shows, there is simply point in trying to talk sense to the hard liners because, as Lakoff suggests, they think the same way the Republicans do on this subject.

Click here for full article.

Hung parliament looms as Tory support crumbles.

When The National Anti-bullying Helpline charity announced that staff at Number Ten had complained about being bullied, everyone assumed that this was confirmation of the claims made in Andrew Rawnsley's book that Gordon Brown was a bully.

It hasn't quite worked out like that.

One of the Tory party's best known MPs, Ann Widdecombe, quit as a patron of the National Bullying Helpline, the charity which on Sunday sparked a storm at Westminster when its founder, Christine Pratt, entered the political fray, saying she had received four complaints of bullying from No 10 staff.

Last night the charity was close to implosion as other patrons also resigned, saying Pratt had acted unethically. Among those who quit were the television presenter Sarah Cawood and the workplace stress expert Cary Cooper. There were also reports that Tory councillor for Hillingdon Mary O'Connor resigned.

The helpline withdrew any suggestion that the complaints involved Brown, and had to fend off criticism that it had close ties to the Conservative party.

I listened yesterday as Pratt suddenly announced that none of the complaints her charity had received had concerned Gordon Brown, which was not something one could possibly have gleaned from the lurid headlines which her intervention had contributed to, and suddenly her deciding to speak out now appeared more politically motivated than ever.

In an interview in the Economist, Brown gave his first direct response since Rawnsley's allegations were published. "The cabinet secretary has made it clear that he's had no inquiries, there's been no reprimand, there's been no private message to me ... (The) story is completely wrong," Brown said.

David Cameron and the Tories have leapt on this story as proof that Brown is unfit for office.
William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said the allegations proved Brown was not "cut out for the job". He said on Sky News: "I don't think he has ever really shown that he can lead a happy team and maybe if there is truth in any of these allegations, that's part of the reason why."
However, this story is not the only thing that's crumbling if recent opinion polls are to be believed.

Support for David Cameron's Conservative party has crumbled to its lowest point for nearly two years, according to the latest monthly Guardian/ICM poll, leaving Britain on course for a hung parliament at the coming general election.

With no more than three months to go until polling day, the Conservatives have fallen to 37%, down three points on last month's Guardian/ICM poll and down two on another ICM poll earlier this month.

The party has not fallen so low in an ICM poll since the tail-end of the banking crisis, last falling to 37% in February 2008.

I detect a certain desperation when Cameron leaps on to this kind of story. I can sense his fear that the election is slipping away, and can't help but see him as a political opportunist who has no vision to sell, so he spends all his time looking for faults in his opponent. After all, Cameron has come this far in the polls simply because he is not Gordon Brown; and as the election nears, one can sense his confusion that this is no longer enough to have him elected.

Labour also claims that its personal polling of Cameron shows he is seen as "too shrill, divisive and not speaking for Britain any longer". Labour claims it is succeeding in portraying Cameron as a man running a concealment strategy, caught between his branding and his beliefs.

I still feel sure that the Tories will win the next election, but have been amazed at the way Cameron has crumbled the nearer we get to it.

Having enjoyed such terrific success in the polls by saying nothing, Cameron seems baffled that the British public are now asking just what exactly it is that he intends to do. But, rather than set out a vision of Tory policies, Cameron finds himself leaping over any story which shows Gordon Brown in a bad light.

It's a tactic which might very well backfire. I remember another election in which the occupant of Downing Street was guaranteed to lose. Every poll indicated that this was on the cards, but, on the day, John Major - another unelected leader who had taken over from a Prime Minister who had stepped down - prevailed and Neil Kinnock lost.

Cameron must do more than simply not be Gordon Brown, for the people might decide in such circumstances that it's better to choose the devil they know.

Click here for full article.