Tuesday, 31 August 2010


So that's that, then.

"Independence and sovereignty"? Who took it away in the first place? Not only a question for Iraq.

And "advice and assistance"? I have some: never, ever get involved in anything like this again.

Sibling Away

Is it still not over? Will it ever end?

Yesterday, we had the David Miliband-supporting Anne McElvoy on the radio bemoaning that the 50p tax rate was "taxing the middle classes", as if that were wrong in principle, and as if people on £150,000 per year were in the middle of anything. It really is a very long time since she attended the same secondary school as I did, although not at the same time.

I have doubts about supertaxes, since they leave in place the loopholes used by the super-rich and thus render themselves dead letters, but it was for proposing such a "Loony Left" new band that John McDonnell was kept off the ballot to succeed Tony Blair. Today, it is Conservative Party policy, being implemented as such. However, there would be no more of it under David Miliband, a senior Cabinet Minister when it was introduced.

McElvoy also asserted that "union power needs constraint". What "union power"? How much more "constraint" could there possibly be? The right-wing papers are almost touchingly convinced that such union resistance as is able to be mounted against the Coalition's cuts will result in unpopularity, not for the Coalition, but for the unions. Among the right-wing papers, I do of course include the effusions of those writing in support of David "Smash The Unions" Miliband.

And McElvoy referred to Peter Mandelson as "the mainstream of the Labour Party". Has she ever attended a Labour Party meeting? For that matter, has he? But speaking of whom, who cares what Old Ma Mandy says anymore? He's dead, isn't he? Tomorrow evening, the Channel Four News debate featuring all five Labour Leadership candidates faces the first of BBC Two's showings - for, dear license-payer, it is on twice in a single evening - of an "interview" with Tony Blair plugging his book. Under the present circumstances, not even university libraries are going to buy it. No one else in Britain was ever going to do so. There is to be no serialisation on these shores, if anywhere. No one wants anything to do with it, because no one wants anything to do with him. Apart, apparently, from the BBC, which has no scruples about advertising in his case, especially since it does not have to care whether or not anyone is watching. If only there were Coronation Street tomorrow. I do have a feeling that there might be football.

David Cameron is ridiculously putting it about that he is "most frightened" of David Miliband. What he means is partly that he rather likes the idea of facing at PMQs a Leader of the Opposition whose complicity in torture will shortly be revealed in all its wickedness, but primarily that he is most frightened of a Leader of the Opposition who is not beholden to a collapsed economic system outside of which Cameron physically cannot think, and who is therefore not signed up to its horrific foreign policy implications. On the latter point, in particular, and despite the several good points being made by the other three candidates, who could be better than an anti-Zionist Jew? Bring him on.

The People's Port

That is what Dover is now, in public ownership. We are going back to Thatcher's old trick of selling people what they already owned.

Still, mutualisation is obviously better than globalisation, the sale into foreign hands of a key point of entry into this country. If the Conservative Party were even vaguely conservative or Tory, then it would understand that implicitly, and it would recognise public ownership as the solution, therefore to be left exactly as it is.

NHS Direct is also a mutual. If you want to save it, then join it.


Woman's Hour had a piece on the impending abolition of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. The HFEA should not be abolished. Rather, its members should be elected by universal suffrage.

Candidates would have to be sufficiently independent to qualify in principle for the remuneration panels of their local authorities. Each of us would vote for one, with the top two elected. The electoral areas would be Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions. The Chairman would be appointed by the relevant Secretary of State, with the approval of the relevant Select Committee. And the term of office would be four years. Expert advice would still be taken. But it would be as it should be: on tap, not on top.

Predictably, Jane Garvey made no attempt to pull up interviewees who described IVF as having become "a routine procedure" (nothing else with its failure rate would be funded by the NHS) and who claimed that Britain was "a world leader in stem cell research", meaning the embryonic stem cell "research" that has never achieved anything but exists purely in order to offend the Catholic Church, not the adult and cord blood stem cell research that really does deliver the goods but which refusal to fund has driven from Newcastle to France.

But then, the first item this morning was on some forthcoming television programme about how boys can only be taught "literacy" by being taken out to climb trees or to stage mock-battles. But boys did better when teaching and examination were rigorously academic. And girls may have soared ahead in terms of raw results since that ceased to be the case, but they are almost immeasurably less well-educated than they used to be. The betrayal of both sexes is total.


In the first generation of Israel's life, a social democracy was built there, and that within Israel's internationally recognised borders. The Labour Movement was a friend of Israel, and Israel was a friend of the Labour Movement.

All of that, however, came to an end a long time ago. Before John Howard, before the Reagan Democrats, before Thatcherism, before anything else of that kind, there was the rise of Likud. It is the original and the archetypal neoconservative electoral force, complete with having been founded and led by old Marxists (in this case, by old Marxist anti-British terrorists) who had changed their views only insofar as they believed the bourgeoisie to have defeated the proletariat.

Today, not only is that party in government, as it usually has been during the last two generations. But it is in government, both with Shas - which, to be fair, is not without both a social conscience and quite a flexible approach to land issues, but which is still a party the presence of which around the Cabinet table raises very serious questions about the notion that Israel is an outpost of the West - but also, and much more disturbingly, with Avigdor Lieberman's lot.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef may want Mahmoud Abbas to be be visited by a plague, a view which he would share with Hamas. But he is content to leave that aspiration to any higher power in a position to give it practical effect. Lieberman, a true Zionist in being no fan of higher powers, advocates altogether more hands-on approaches. I know which I find more frightening.

An Implausible Concept

Radical Royalist writes:

That must have cost The Sunday Age some tears: To admit that "more Australians [are] favouring retaining the monarchy" than to make Australia a republic.

"Despite some re-emerging political momentum for the republican cause, voters appear increasingly apathetic about the idea of replacing the Queen and governor-general with an Australia head of state, although many are prepared to accept a republic after Queen Elizabeth's reign ends.

An Age/Nielsen poll taken earlier this month shows support for a republic is now running at 44 per cent. This is the lowest level since 1994, and well down from the peak of 57 per cent in 1999, the year the question was tested in a national referendum.

The national poll of 1400 people found almost half (48 per cent) are now against the idea. Such a level of hostility has not been recorded since the late 1970s, when about 61 per cent were against a republic."

Republicans put all their hope in the Queen of Australia's death - as if the people would rush out in a referendum and kick out King Charles. Can you think of anything more "un-Australian" than to deny a newcomer a fair chance to show his talents? This idea shows that Australian republicanism is an implausible concept.

"When the present Queen dies" means "never", and is not remotely compatible with any principled anti-monarchist position.

It is a way of deferring the decision until after the spectacular, spontaneous global outpouring of affection to mark the Diamond Jubilee, which will cement the monarchy everywhere where it still exists, and further afield in various ways, for at least another hundred years.

If Australia were ever going to abolish the monarchy, then that would have happened by now. The age of decolonisation was a long time ago, and Australia stopped being "an island halfway between England and Ireland" only slightly later than that.

An Insightful Piece

From Splintered Sunrise:

I want to reflect – indeed, I need to – on Al Hutchinson’s report into the 1972 Claudy bombing. In an insightful piece, Malachi has already said much of what needed to be said, but there’s still some amplification I want to do in terms of the historical context.

The facts of the matter are relatively simple. On 31 July 1972, three 250-pound bombs ripped through the tiny village of Claudy outside Derry, devastating the village and leaving nine civilians dead, both Catholic and Protestant. No warning was received. No claim of responsibility was ever made, though it was universally assumed the Provos were to blame. Even by the standards of 1972, our worst year for atrocities, it was an exceptionally stupid and murderous act. No prosecutions were ever brought, which is the starting point for the Hutchinson report.

What has grabbed the headlines is the apparent involvement of a south Derry priest, Fr Jim Chesney, in the bombing. This isn’t altogether a surprise – Chesney’s involvement had been rumoured for decades – but it makes the bombing unusual in the extreme, and that is reflected in the cover-up. In fact, we’re still at the point where intelligence rather than hard evidence is pointing to Chesney, and some people who know about these things are sceptical about his involvement. But we’ll assume that for the sake of argument, as the cover-up was premised on the assumption of his involvement.)

There is a general and a specific reason for Chesney to be a remarkable case. The general reason is that the Church doesn’t do war. Well, you can go back to the Crusades if you like, and the Franciscan Order has never quite lived down what its Croatian members did during WW2, but the general rule holds firm. That’s why, though many if not most Anglican churches contain war memorials and will fly the flag on certain occasions, you will not see anything of the sort in a Catholic church. And, even if the Church’s stringent conditions for a just war are met, priests are certainly not supposed to take up arms.

The specific reason has to do with the Catholic Church in the north of Ireland, which had long since reached a modus vivendi with the Orange State similar to the arrangements it reached with the Polish dictatorship – spiky, at times hostile, but mutually dependent. At the time, in 1972, and for many years afterwards, the British relied on the hierarchy as a moderating force holding the line against republicanism, the relationship intensifying in the 1980s when Douglas Hurd launched his programme of pacification through grantocracy. And this was reciprocated by the bishops producing fierce condemnation of the IRA as required, while offering very muted and qualified criticism of the state. In political terms, the bishops never quite ordered their flock to vote SDLP, but they came very very close. The establishment instinct ran very strong indeed.

Now, add to that the conformity you associate with a ghetto religion. If the Catholic clergy in the south sometimes resembled a mafia, discipline in the north was infinitely stronger. Considering that hundreds of priests would be active here at any given time, during the entire period of the Troubles there were precisely three priests who publicly fell out with the hierarchy. One of those was Pat Buckley, who doesn’t really count, as he’s a southerner and his problems with the hierarchy mostly related to his homosexuality. You had Fr Joe McVeigh in Fermanagh, who had an essentially republican viewpoint casting the bishops as pro-British; and Fr Des Wilson in Ballymurphy, who also started from a basically republican position but added to that social issues relating to the deprived urban area he was working in, plus some well-aimed criticisms of the elitist and cliquish practices of the Irish hierarchy. And that was it.

And this points up just how much of an outlier Jim Chesney was. There were a relative handful of priests who were known, quietly, to have strongly republican opinions, but that would be a matter of their opinions, and at most they might be thought to have turned a blind eye to certain activities. A priest actually becoming a bomber was literally unheard of; as I say, the rumours about Chesney have been circulating for many years, but I cannot think of any other named priest about whom there was anything similar, even on the level of rumour.

Which takes us to the cover-up, and we have some idea of the mechanics behind this. After the Claudy bombing, a detective sought permission to have Chesney arrested for questioning, but this was stopped by Special Branch. There then followed a series of discussions between British proconsul Willie Whitelaw, Cardinal William Conway and the top brass of the RUC on the theme of what to do about Chesney, which led to him being taken out of the north and transferred to a southern parish.

Note a couple of things about this. One is that the decision not to pursue Chesney was a political and police one, the two not really being separate in the north. The Church, in the person of Bishop Eddie Daly, interviewed Chesney twice; this was twice more than the cops did. Even after his transfer, there was nothing preventing the RUC from further investigating Claudy had they chosen to; they chose not to. Why?

One of the most common pitfalls to make when considering the north of Ireland is to assume that it works in a basically analogous way to Surrey or Hampshire, or indeed Dublin or Cork. It doesn’t – it especially didn’t in the febrile atmosphere of 1972 – and policing and criminal justice show that starkly. To say that the RUC lacked credibility in nationalist areas is to put it very mildly. It would be more accurate to say that the RUC was viewed as essentially a sectarian militia whose main purpose was to keep the Catholics down; a view shared by Protestants, who by and large thought this was a good thing. Internment was in full swing at the time. “Taken in for questioning” was not an innocuous phrase when it was known that suspects were being tortured. The loyalist gangs styled themselves as auxiliaries to the state forces, and in later years it would become clear that many of them, including some of our most notorious mass murderers, were actually on the state payroll.

Let’s take this further. What would have been the effect of arresting a priest on bombing charges, in the atmosphere of 1972? At the time, it wasn’t unknown for Catholic churches to be attacked by loyalist mobs. Two priests had relatively recently been shot by the British army. Is it implausible to think that ghetto opinion would have rallied behind Chesney, either believing the case to be a stitch-up or not caring, just seeing a priest under attack from the hated state? And what of the reaction on the other side? Loyalist political and religious leaders frequently claimed that the Vatican was controlling the IRA, often in collaboration with the Kremlin and sometimes the Freemasons or Illuminati. Some still do. Would the exposure of a bomber priest confirm that narrative? Was the fear of an enormous pogrom, dwarfing even that of 1969, an unreasonable fear?

So, when sketching out a police and state cover-up in which the Church was also complicit, the reasoning is not really all that mysterious. Since it appears that, despite plenty of intelligence pointing to Chesney, there was a lack of hard evidence coupled with the man’s own denials, it’s all too easy to see how a political-police decision (and all policing here is political) might be reached that pursuing Chesney through the criminal justice system was more trouble than it was worth. Having reached that conclusion, the next question was how to get him out of the picture before he did any more damage, which is where Conway comes in.

Jim Chesney has now been dead for thirty years. Willie Whitelaw is dead; William Conway is long dead; of the senior RUC officers involved, most will be dead by now. Justice, in the judicial sense, is probably out of the question at this point, and all the survivors and victims’ families can be left with is some transparency about what happened. Not that this will be much consolation. It’s a murky story, and nobody comes out of it well. As can be said about much in our history.

A Rally About Nothing

James Edwards writes:

Glenn Beck’s big rally at the Lincoln Memorial a couple days ago is the talk of the news media and the internet. Liberals are denouncing it, conservatives are walking on air, while tens of millions of people are completely mystified. And with good reason -- if Seinfeld was a show about nothing, this massive gathering was a rally about nothing. And while it may have looked impressive, in reality it shows just how impotent and adrift the mainstream conservative movement has become.

Nobody is really sure what it was even about. Beck, who is only famous because he has spent hours a day for the last decade ranting about politics, says it had nothing to do with politics, even though Sarah Palin was the keynote speaker.

It was about “restoring honor” or something, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Or it was a way of "supporting the troops," depending on which day you talked to Beck.

Then it turned into a rally to reclaim the Civil Rights movement, and give it back to the people who Beck swears pioneered the Civil Rights movement, right-wing conservatives. Yes, that’s what Beck actually claims to believe. Leave it to Glenn Beck to make white-hating black columnist Leonard Pitts look sane and reasonable.

It also has something do with honoring all those unsung heroes of the American Revolution, the numerous black Founding Fathers, whose existence (until Beck came along to set the record straight) has been covered up by “liberals” who are trying to divide us by race. Yes, Beck actually says this, too.

And Palin? She was asked what Martin Luther King would’ve thought of the rally. This was a great opportunity to tell it like it is for all of America to hear. She could’ve said something like: “Martin Luther King? I’m white – why would I give a damn what Martin Luther King would’ve thought about this rally? At any rate, he no doubt would have disapproved, as he was a radical left wing socialist whose movement was all about increasing the size and power of the federal government, and using it to take rights and resources from white people and give them to non-whites. Hell no he wouldn’t have approved, and I couldn’t be more proud of that fact.”

But did she say anything like that? Of course not. Instead, she talked about how she could “feel his spirit” in this place that MLK’s presence had turned into “sacred ground” and that he would’ve heartily approved because the rally was all about “equality”, which is what he stood for. And “conservative” National Review was so proud of her words they posted the video.

(Of course, none of this idiotic pandering did anything to convince liberals and non-whites that Beck, Palin, and the hundreds of thousands of white people who showed up at the rally are anything but despicable racists and Nazis.)

As it turned out, the rally was actually a huge revival meeting, in which Beck implored America to turn back to the god(s) of our Jewish-Christian-Muslim-Hindu-Mormon-Sikh-Zoroastrian heritage that made America great. He had over 200 members of the clergy on the podium, and he stressed that they were from “all faiths” and it didn’t matter which god we pray to, as long as we pray to something or someone, singular or plural. Just pick a higher power and go with it. In other words, it was the largest Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in history. Listen as Beck tells the crowd to “go back to your church, your synagogue, your mosque” and get to work on “refounding America.”

Now, normally, evangelicals would be horrified at this pantheism of “America needs to turn back to god, but it doesn’t matter which god” on full display Saturday, at a huge revival meeting led by America’s most famous Mormon. But not anymore. Judging by the posts and comments on the website of America’s biggest Christian news magazine, they ate it up. One columnist pretty much compared Glenn Beck to Jesus:

“We arrived an hour late. The entire reflecting pool area of the National Mall was packed. The adjacent fields were packed, and the tide stretched toward the Washington Monument. The Associated Press has reported that “tens of thousands” were there. That kind of cynical numbers-downplaying reminded me of Heidi’s Romans 8:28 observation and made me glad that every lie will come out in the wash eventually. They lied about Jesus the whole of his ministry. And after he was raised, which was the ultimate vindication, they paid off soldiers to spread the rumor that his body had been stolen. But as the Bible says, “No weapon forged against you shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17).

Neither Beck nor his other speakers (among whom, Sarah Palin) mentioned a word about Mr. Obama. This concerted decision to steer clear of politics and hatefulness robbed the Huffington Post of the ability to dub the affair “political,” forcing them to settle for the accusation that it was “religious.” This is like when the Pharisees called Jesus a glutton and drunkard when he ate and drank, and a madman when the crowds thronged Him so that he couldn’t eat—the damned if you do and if you don’t approach that makes me glad for the sovereignty of God and Romans 8:28.

Toward the end, Glenn Beck told the attentive crowd that if we don’t go home and let our revival meeting change our lives, by drawing near to God and by telling the truth in our daily living, then all we will have had was a good time on a Saturday afternoon.”

Notice how she accepts the liberal premise that criticism of Obama is “hatefulness.” Then she calls the rally a “revival meeting”, after complaining that the media was calling it “religious” in nature! If Beck comes across to normal people as a complete nutcase, it’s because he knows his audience.

Another columnist for World also wrote about the rally. His 72 year old mother attended, in spite of recently having a hip replacement. Which was no doubt paid for by Medicare, which probably doesn’t even phase her when she agrees with Beck and the Tea Parties that “government should get out of health care.” Anyway, his 72 year old mother must be a member of the lying liberal media, because she said the rally was all about god:

“I called my mother to see if the stories were accurate. “Mom, what was the rally like? What was the tone?” I asked. “Beck’s speech was primarily all about God,” she said verifying the news reports of the giant Tea Party. There wasn’t any focus on politics. It was about recognizing God.”

Clearly, Beck’s rally was a vague, confused jumble of meaninglessness. Or, if you prefer, a hot ghetto mess. Yet many conservatives are excited and thrilled, and think that 8/28/10 will forever be remembered as some kind of turning point, as the day when the huge task of “taking America back” formally got underway. In reality, it was the exact opposite. I’m convinced that one of these days, we’ll look back on this as the nadir of the mainstream conservative movement, as its death rattle, as the day the conservative movement gave up the ghost. Hundreds of thousands of white conservatives spent millions of dollars to travel to DC, to stand around and do nothing, after being ordered not to bring any signs to express themselves, while Beck and Palin lectured them on the glories of The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., and the importance of getting back to the fundamentals of the Christian-Jewish-Muslim-Hindu-Sikh-Mormon faiths.

Meanwhile, back in reality, the world they’re desperately trying to preserve, but can’t, because they’re desperately afraid to even name it, just keeps disappearing. In fact, the very next day the New York Times published an article about the death of conservatism in Orange County, California, which used to be the epicenter of political conservatism in America.

“Orange County has been a national symbol of conservatism for more than 50 years: birthplace of President Richard M. Nixon and home to John Wayne, a bastion for the John Birch Society, a land of orange groves and affluence, the region of California where Republican presidential candidates could always count on a friendly audience.

But this iconic county of 3.1 million people passed something of a milestone in June. The percentage of registered Republican voters dropped to 43 percent, the lowest level in 70 years.

It was the latest sign of the demographic, ethnic and political changes that are transforming the county and challenging long-held views of a region whose colorful — its detractors might suggest zany — reputation extends well beyond the borders of this state.

At the end of 2009, nearly 45 percent of the county’s residents spoke a language other than English at home, according to county officials. Whites now make up only 45 percent of the population; this county is teeming with Hispanics, as well as Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese families. Its percentage of foreign-born residents jumped to 30 percent in 2008 from 6 percent in 1970, and visits to some of its corners can feel like a trip to a foreign land.

The demographic changes that have swept the county reflect what is happening across the state and much of the nation. It has happened slowly but surely over the course of a generation, becoming increasingly apparent not only in a drive through the 34 cities that fill this sprawling 789-square-mile county south of Los Angeles, but also, most recently, in the results of a presidential election. In 2008, Barack Obama drew 48 percent of the vote here against Senator John McCain of Arizona. (By comparison, in 1980, Jimmy Carter received just 23 percent against Ronald Reagan, the conservative hero whose election as California governor in 1966 and 1970 was boosted in no small part by the affection for him here.)”

The demographic changes that have transformed Orange County are also transforming the rest of America. The process may be further along in Orange County, but it’s happening everywhere. Thanks to immigration, sixty percent of the babies being born in Texas are non-white, and it’s only a matter of a few more elections before Texas’s electoral votes go to the Democrats, and when that happens, the GOP can forget about putting one of their own in the White House ever again. And there are many other cities and states that are right behind Texas, and lots more where the process will take a few more decades to have the same effect, but all of America is on its way to turning into Orange County, California.

That’s why the Beck Heads and Tea Partiers are losing their country. Not because they don’t attend their local mosque often enough. But they can’t admit that, because that would be “racist”, and losing your country is a lot better than being called “racist.”

But a conservative movement as willingly impotent as the crowd that came to DC on Saturday can’t go on much longer. At some point it’s going to dawn on them that no matter how much they grovel to MLK and praise his holy name, or how many “conservative” imams they pack their podium with, they still get called racists and Nazis, and their country just keeps slipping further down the tubes.

When that finally sinks in with conservatives, and it may be sooner than we think, things will start to get interesting.

On the protection of American jobs, there is now a natural alliance between conservatives and the unions. On halting and reversing the national emergency of unrestricted and illegal immigration, and on making English the only official language of the United States, between conservatives and anyone with a black base. On fair trade agreements, repealing much or all of the USA Patriot Act, ending completely the neoconservative war agenda, strict campaign finance reform, a crackdown against corporate influence generally and corporate welfare in particular, and tax cuts for the poor and the middle class, between conservatives and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. On decency in the media, between conservatives and those in the tradition of the late C Dolores Tucker and of Father Michael Pfleger. And around the fact that the black male is the victim of a triple genocide in the womb, on the streets, and on the battlefield.

Democrats need to reach out to those who would otherwise be attracted to Mitt Romney, the prophet and apostle of socialised medicine, who ran for the Senate from the left of Ted Kennedy. To Mike Huckabee, economically one of the most left-wing governors in American history, and against abortion and same-sex “marriage” while in favour of Second Amendment rights. To Sarah Palin, with her admirable history as a Buchananite battler for job protection, war aversion, immigration control and family values against the archenemy of all of them, the global “free” market, and with her record of publicly administered natural resources held in common ownership. Or to Ron Paul, with his opposition to bailouts, wars, and the erosion of constitutional checks and balances. However, there should be no difficulty in defeating Michele Bachmann, since white Catholics have decided every Presidential Election since 1976, whereas Bachmann’s Wisconsin Synod teaches that the Papacy is the Antichrist.

The influence of the Unification Church through
The Washington Times seems to be giving way to Sharron Angle’s links to Scientology. (The NRA may have decided not to endorse Harry Reid after all, but it has also pointedly declined to endorse Angle, so perhaps Middle America is waking up at last.) For all the good that he did when he caused the godfathers of neoconservatism to liken him to Neville Chamberlain, Reagan not only, let the NRA recall, signed the Brady Bill, but he remains the only President of the United States ever to have been divorced, his Californian no fault divorce law has since been adopted by almost every state, and – read this one over until it sinks in – he legalised abortion in California.

Where are the Democrats who can and will confront Middle America with these realities? Who is preaching for a decision between reading the Bible as if it were the Bible and reading the Constitution as if it were the Qur’an? A Constitution, moreover, written by Deists who insisted that Christianity was no part of the law or of public and civic life, however long it may have taken the Supreme Court to catch up with that, the original intention of the framers. Obama has missed a trick by not giving white Evangelical Protestants the Supreme Court seat that the Republicans have no more delivered than they have delivered the slightest legal protection to the child in the womb.

As the movement takes shape in America, where are its Tea Parties against the utterly anti-conservative intentions and effects of neoliberal economics and neoconservative foreign policy, and where are its May Day parades against the utterly anti-worker intentions and effects of the uncontrolled mass immigration for which George W Bush should have been impeached? Then “things will start to get interesting”. Very, very interesting indeed.

Sunday, 29 August 2010


"British politics can't be beholden to the barons, in the Lords or in the trade unions", declares Lord Oakeshott, a Lib Dem.

In the glory days of the Liberal Party, it contained plenty of the hereditary barons and all of the trade union barons, causing it to do immense good by making it as beholden to the aristocratic social conscience and to organised labour as it was to those whose campaigns and measures against opium dens, against unregulated drinking and gambling, against seven-day working weeks, and for the extension of the franchise matched those of the Tory Wilberforce against the slave trade, of the Tory Shaftesbury against child labour and horrific factory conditions, and of the Tory Disraeli in his social reforms and, again, in his extension of the franchise. One need hardly add that there was plenty of crossover among the stands of Liberalism in its heyday. The Labour Movement emerged to some extent out of all of them and out of the corresponding strands of Toryism.

But today's Lib Dems would clearly do nothing against the re-emergence in today's Britain of drug (including opiate) dens, of unregulated drinking and gambling, of seven-day working weeks, and of what amounts to a very restricted franchise indeed, any more than today's Conservative Party would do anything against the re-emergence in today's Britain of slavery, of child labour and horrific working conditions, and of what amounts to a very restricted franchise indeed. Instead, if Lord Oakeshott is anything to go by, the Lib Dems, like their coalition partners, want to finish the job begun by Margaret Thatcher and continued by Tony Blair, of destroying both trade union barons and hereditary barons, thus to deny a voice both to organised labour and to the aristocratic social conscience.

To whom will we then be beholden? To the forces that wish to intoxicate us, work us every day, enslave us, work our children, work both them and us in sweatshops, and deny us the vote by denying us anyone to vote for. In other words, to the people to whom we are already beholden, thanks to the same politicians who have given vent to their hatred, first of the hierarchy and ritual of trade unionism (and of local government, and of the monarchy), and then of the hierarchy and ritual of the old House of Lords (and of local government, and of the monarchy). It's all just "restrictive practices" and "flummery", isn't it? So very "outdated"? We cannot be "hidebound" like that, now, can we? Why, just look at how many old trade union hands there are in the House of Lords. These things are all connected, you know.

All remaining bindings of the hide, and with them all hope of restoring the old ones and their glorious achievements, must be destroyed. So says Lord Oakeshott. So say the Lib Dems. So says everyone. Except us, the people. But no one ever asks us anything anymore. I wonder why not.


So there we have it. Not only the RAF - yes, the entire RAF. We also have to brace ourselves for the loss of the entire Brigade of Gurkhas, of a tank regiment, of the Black Watch, of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, of two new aircraft carriers due in 2016 and 2018, and of the Eurofighter/Typhoon aircraft. All to save Trident. We can have that national vanity project. Or we can have defence, including the defence of historic bonds of comradeship, the defence of Commonwealth ties, and the defence of the Union. But we cannot have both.

Last of the Summer Wine

I watched it for the first time that I can specifically remember, and the script confirmed why I had not been bothering to keep up with it.

But think of all those fiftysomething actors now approaching National Treasure status. Ten or fifteen years from now, they will probably still be alive, but what will they be doing? Where will be be displaying them, as we have been displaying Russ Abbot, Burt Kwouk, Josephine Tewson, Trevor Bannister, Jean Alexander, Frank Thornton and, of course, Peter Sallis?

I hope it got thirty million viewers. I don't expect that it did, but I wish that it had, even though, in itself, it didn't deserve to. It has not been cancelled because too few people were watching it. It has been cancelled because the wrong people were watching it. In very healthy numbers indeed compared to plenty of things watched by the right people. So it had to go.

Properly, Cynically Irish

R J Stove writes:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Silver Blaze”

Some recent Australian cultural trends—massive Islamic immigration, for instance—are so obvious that even an economist can detect them. Others occur so stealthily that they attract no attention, until you suddenly look around and think, Hey, whatever happened to such-and-such?

Ireland’s influence on Australia falls into the latter category. Once it was inescapable; now it has faded. Its very fading is a momentous incident, like the silence demonstrated by the nocturnal dog. No Australian 30 years ago would have predicted such a decline.

From the country’s federation in 1901 until the 1970’s, the Australian Labor Party abounded in Irish surnames: O’Malley, Scullin, Lyons, Chifley, Calwell, Walsh, Cahill, Murphy, O’Halloran, McKenna, Daly, Kane (sometimes Anglicized as Cain), Cavanagh, Burke, Hanlon, Hogan, Gair. Study any list of Australian Catholic bishops’ surnames from this period, and you’ll see the same thing: Moran, Kelly, Mannix, Lyons (again), Muldoon, Simonds, O’Collins, O’Brien, Sheehan, Cassidy, Clancy. An Aussie born before 1965 will remember how lavish St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were in Sydney and Melbourne, not to mention other Australian cities. All of which might sound similar to the Irish experience in the United States.

But it shouldn’t. Because, for one thing, Australia underwent nothing like the huge Irish influx that marked the United States after the Great Famine. Those Irish who came to Australia mostly came before the 1840’s. By post-famine U.S. arrivals’ standards, they were seldom too badly off. Unpleasant transportation logistics, yes. Coffin ships, no. Partly as a result, Irish political agitation in Australia remained pretty mild.

The one conspicuous exception to this generalization came with two national-service referenda that set Aussie against Aussie during World War I. Most Australian Protestants supported conscription. Most Australian Catholics (which effectively meant most Irish-Australian Catholics) opposed it. Firmest of the voices against conscription was Melbourne Archbishop Daniel Mannix, who called the hostilities “just a sordid trade war,” and who led the anticonscription forces at both referenda (1916 and 1917). Each time, the anticonscriptionists won. Nevertheless, they won by margins narrow enough to ensure that ill feeling on the matter long outlived the actual referendum results.

We need not make too much of that, though. Yes, Anglo-Australians and Irish-Australians had their sectarian strife. Yes, they traded witless insults in the school playground and discreetly—or sometimes openly—discriminated against each other in the workforce. (This discrimination is analyzed in a fascinating 2009 book by Sydney journalist Cliff Baxter, Reach for the Stars.) But they were not beating each other up, let alone committing mass murder, Belfast-style. A general sanity prevailed.

Such sanity had several advantages, but chiefly this one: When the real thuggee overtook Northern Ireland in 1969, most Irish-Australians exhibited much greater caution than their American counterparts about getting involved with it. During the 1970’s, Melbourne’s Celtic Club had a reputation—whether justified or not—for being a Sinn Féin activists’ haunt, and the police would periodically raid it. More frequent in Australia than such overt action was a certain indiscriminate sentimentality toward Irish Republicanism. This broke out in occasional foolish utterances, especially in 1979 when Lord Mountbatten was murdered (“Guess what we did in the holidays!” chirruped one Sydney undergraduate newspaper at the time) and regarding the Bobby-Sands-led hunger strikes two years afterward. What it never produced, in Australia, was anything as systematic, politically well connected, and cashed-up as the Noraid network in the United States.

Today the Irish heritage is but one Australian strand (and by no means the most prominent) among a dozen. The layman in the pew at the typical Australian Mass is likelier to have an Italian, Maltese, Lebanese, East Timorese, Chinese, or Filipino background than an Irish one. He feels no interest in those Hibernian icons—Eamon De Valera, Patrick Pearse, the Easter Rising—routinely invoked by Australian priests a few decades back.

Of course, many an Irish-Australian (femocrat Germaine Greer, for instance) can be found among militant ex-Catholics. We have our own “misery memoirs”—Angela’s Antipodean Ashes, perhaps?—in which the more boringly bourgeois an author’s childhood, the more lurid the tales of incestuous proletarian abuse with which he laughs all the way to the bank. So in some ways, Irish visitors to modern Australia would feel right at home.

Except that in other ways, they wouldn’t. Contrast the public response in Ireland concerning the Murphy and Ryan Reports with the public response in Australia concerning the government’s rather similar “Forgotten Australians” announcement.

This latter event occurred last November. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the (since deposed) opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull, Families Minister Jenny Macklin, and everybody who was anybody, my dear, met in Canberra’s Parliament House. There they apologized profusely to the half-million children—many of them postwar migrants—who, in government-run institutions, suffered abuse. Or were thought to have suffered abuse. Or knew someone thought to have suffered abuse. Or knew someone who did the cleaning for the third cousin of the next-door neighbor of someone thought to have suffered abuse.

Lots of tears were shed, pious Oprah-style resolutions made, pompous newspaper editorials published—but in taverns, barbershops, and taxis around the country, a different attitude prevailed. Thousands of Australians privately derided the brouhaha as the biggest joke since Little Nell’s death.

As for the March 2010 feeding frenzy over Irish clerical abuse (and the concomitant calls for Pope Benedict XVI to resign), it is simply impossible to convey the scorn that the average Australian, whatever his own religious allegiance or lack thereof, feels for such hysteria. We who actually have a grasp, however slight, of modern cultural history find the spectacle before us (that of Catholics being lectured on moral issues by the spiritual descendants of Alfred Kinsey, Bertrand “Dirty Bertie” Russell, Margaret Sanger, and Marie Stopes) to be pure comedy gold—fully comparable with I Love Lucy, Carry On, Jeeves, the 1937 Soviet constitution, and Princess Diana’s funeral.

In other words, when confronted with politics as psychotherapeutic debauch, Australians—including Irish-Australians—have retained some healthy skepticism. Too many Irish in Ireland give outsiders the impression of having lost this skepticism. Perhaps we should blame globalist sermons from Bono and from ex-President Mary Robinson, sermons which we Aussies have for the most part been miraculously spared.
Maybe some Irish-Australians should move to Dublin and teach Irish elites how to be properly, cynically Irish again. The shades of James Joyce and Flann O’Brien surely demand no less.

See also the pioneering studies of Australia's Hibernian heritage produced by the late Patrick O'Farrell.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Afghanistan: Stay Safe

Pull out.

School of Thought

Look at the people who want David Miliband. The people who do as much damage to Israel from thousands of miles away as NORAID used to do to Ireland. And now, the "free" schools lobby. If Ed Miliband is the only way of stopping this, then Ed Miliband it has to be.

United We Endeavour

The return of a manufacturing-based economy diffused throughout the country. Even to the only mainland region (well, the bit of it that is really Yorkshire, but never mind) without a single MP as a Minister in this Government. There are many, many things terribly wrong with this Government. But there are some things right with it, too. David Miliband supports all the bad ones and opposes all the good ones. Truly the Heir to Blair.

Believe In Children?

Barnado's presupposes that parental income and academic ability are the same thing, and no one at all has challenged this. Access to the best schools has now been restricted by fees or house prices for so long that we imagine it to be the natural order. Yet, well within living memory, it was not like that at all.

Limies for LaRouche?

Looking into the Democratic Labor Party's apparent Senate success in Victoria, the seat, if it has been taken, has been taken from Family First, a party sound in many ways, but with the flaws in these things when their original inspiration is Evangelical Protestant rather than orthodox Catholic, and when they have no roots on the trade union and mutual Left.

Also slogging it out was the Citizens Electoral Commission, Australian torch-carrier for Lyndon LaRouche, whose followers have been known to post comments on this blog, and the nomination of one of whom by the Democratic Party in TX-22 has come up in some other work that I am doing. It occurred to me today that the LaRouchies are missing a trick. Put together the old man's economic and other theories with hatred of the "German" Royal Family and a not unfounded view of the United Kingdom as the nucleus of the British Empire, and they have real potential to exploit the rise in English separatism.

After all, neoconservatism, which is also extremely anti-British and which is exactly as sane as anything propagated by LaRouche, has more than a foothold here. So why not?

E Pur Si Muove

As, of course, he never said.

Just as he was never imprisoned, he was never excommunicated, he died professing the Faith, the daughter who cared for him in his last days became a nun, and so on.

Galileo's error was not to say that the earth moved around the sun (although he could not prove that scientifically at the time - we happen to know, centuries later, that he was right, but that is not the same thing), but that the Church should teach heliocentrism as proved out of Scripture, which is in fact silent on the subject. His was not an erroneously low, but an erroneously high, doctrine of Biblical and ecclesial authority.

In the absence of scientific proof in his own age, he wanted his theory, which turns out to have been scientifically correct but which neither he nor anyone else could have known to have been so in those days, to be taught and believed on that authority, the authority of the Bible as interpreted by the Catholic Church. That, the Church refused to do. Who was on the side of science in that dispute? I think that we can all see the answer to that one. As, in the end, did he, dying as he did a Catholic in good standing.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


The campus-based sectarian Left of the 1970s, now called New Labour and the moderate-sounding "Centre Left", agreed about a great many things with the 1980s Radical Right, now firmly exconsed in government and calling itself the moderate-sounding "Centre Right". They have long since overcome their main differences, which were about foreign policy.

After all, being an unrepentant old Stalinist, Maoist, or adherent to the Trotskyist distinction without a difference, makes it easy to support the no less evil agenda of neoconservatives or "liberal interventionists" (there's that distinction without a difference thing again). As does being an unrepentant old supporter of apartheid South Africa, of the Nazi-harbouring pioneers of monetarism in Latin America, and of many another such regime from Marcos to Mobutu, from Suharto to the Duvaliers.

In domestic policy, meanwhile, there has not even been the need for any such convergence. Both sides were always in favour of legalising and normalising drug use, just as both sides were always in favour of abolishing the age of consent and of normalising sex with children. Neither side ever confined itself to the verbal expression of its principles on these matters.

No wonder that in May 2010, any two or all three of the parties were found to be capable of coalition with each other without the slightest loss of principle. Look what those principles were and are.

It is quite clear from the official news media that we are being railroaded into the legalisation of drugs, based on the wholly false premise that social and cultural normalisation has already taken place. If we allow this to happen, then next up with be the abolition of the age of consent, on exactly the same false basis, which, as with drugs, the mass entertainment media now presuppose to be the case.

Roll on electoral reform. Provided that we are prepared to make proper use of it.

Turkey's EU Nadir

As Asil Nadir returns from Northern Cyprus, let us remember that its sponsor is our NATO and putative EU brother, and ponder, where the latter application in concerned, both that Cyprus is a Commonwealth country, and that one in six Greek Cypriots in the world lives in the United Kingdom.

Keep America Moving

"Next month, The American Conservative’s nonprofit parent, The American Ideas Institute, will launch a new center on transportation made possible by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The center will work to showcase conservative arguments for a balanced transportation system in which rail and roads complement one another. As a preview of this new program, we present this symposium on the conservative case for rail."

Mecca Unveiled

Several women in head scarfs, but not veils, told a BBC Two documentary last night that face-covering was forbidden in Mecca. I had never known this, but it turns out to be true.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Poor To Suffer Most

Say it ain't so!

As for the Equalities Act, any weapon against all of this, I suppose. But with the support of all three parties, it has made Catholicism, as such, illegal in this country for the first time ever. Both the all-male Priesthood, and the definition of marriage as only ever the union of one man and one woman, are now against the law. Thank you, Harriet Harman of the Paedophile Information Exchange and of Paedophile Action for Liberation.

A Prime Opportunity

David Cameron should now introduce a legal presumption of equal parenting, restore the tax allowance for fathers for so long as Child Benefit is being paid to mothers, restore the requirement that providers of fertility treatment take account of the child’s need for a father, and repeal of ludicrous provision for two women to be listed as a child’s parents on a birth certificate, although even that is excelled by the provision for two men to be so listed.

But above all, under his current circumstances, he should legislate for paternity leave to be made available at any time until the child was 18 or left school. That would reassert paternal authority, and thus require paternal responsibility, at key points in childhood and adolescence. That authority and responsibility require an economic basis such as only the State can ever guarantee, and such as only the State can very often deliver. And that basis is high-wage, high-skilled, high-status employment.

All aspects of public policy must take account of this urgent social and cultural need. Not least, that includes energy policy: the energy sources to be preferred by the State are those providing the high-wage, high-skilled, high-status jobs that secure the economic basis of paternal authority in the family and in the wider community. So, nuclear power. And coal, not dole.

Or Have We Missed Something?

Well, have we?

Cut David Miliband

Today, to no one's surprise, he lines up with the Coalition's savage cuts in public spending, and even calls for them to go further. Well, of course he does. He supports none of the good things about this Government. But he invented all the bad things. Thank goodness that he is making plans to leave Parliament and this country, possibly before the turn of the year. Very good riddance indeed.


Even Bosnia is considering banning the niqab. Bosnia, an artifice of genocidal Islamist terrorists with overt Nazi tendencies, the population of which belongs overwhelmingly to two Christian subject-peoples historically overrun by the Turks, and the Constitution of which bans Jews and Gypsies from the Senate and the Presidency.

For this, we fought a war, the one that set both the scene and the precedent for Afghanistan and Iraq. Christmas edges closer to being banned with each succeeding year, an experience to which the Christians of Iraq had better accustom themselves, such of them as remain at all. Yet even there, they are not so sure about the veil.

But then, look at Syria. Christian-majority provinces, and Christian festivals as public holidays. But still a constitutional requirement that the President be a Muslim, much as our own Head of State has to be a Protestant. Yet a state which takes Islam with that level of seriousness forbids face-covering in universities.

If Syria and even Bosnia can restrict this practice, or even consider banning outright, then why on earth don't we?

On The Right Track

Diane Abbott writes:

My uncle Mackie was my favourite uncle and was a railway porter at London’s Euston station. He was devoted to his job and would boast happily that he had never taken a day off sick in his life. Ever since, however, generations of committed railwaymen and harassed rail users like myself have been ill-served by successive governments’ chaotic policies towards the railways.

Recent fare rises (and the even bigger ones in the pipeline) go to show that when it comes to the railways the Government doesn’t know what it is doing and long-suffering rail commuters are paying the price. Transport Minister Philip Hammond has been hinting at huge price rises but Britain already has some of the highest train fares in the world.

They are not just hitting us all in the pocket they are bad for the environment and wider society. Since 1997 train fares have gone up by seven per cent but the cost of motoring has dropped by 13 per cent and the cost of domestic air fares has halved.

It is almost invariably cheaper, for instance, to fly from London to Glasgow than take the train. Consequently people who might actually prefer to travel by train find themselves forced to use their car or take a plane. How does this make sense when the Government claims to be concerned about the environment?

Cutting rail fares 20 per cent would increase rail travel 17 per cent, which would be good for our pockets and for the cause of climate change. Instead fares are set to rise even higher. One thing that makes this worse is the difficulty in getting your hands on the cheap fare deals.

Not even the people who work for the train companies can work out the system. A survey by Which? last year revealed two-thirds of station clerks failed to quote customers the cheapest fare.

The chaos extends into management. Rail union TSSA (Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association) is in dispute with Network Rail because of what it claims are serious management failings. Among the allegations are a series of inappropriate payments to managers. There were apparently 95 compromise agreements signed by network Rail with managers in the period 2007/2008.

Compromise agreements are normally an indication that a member of staff has agreed to go by mutual agreement. If Network Rail had to let go of 95 managers then it really is in a mess. Further to this there are allegations of sexual harassment against network Rail’s head of human resources Peter Bennett. All of this would be just about bearable if the railways were genuinely private but they continue to cost the taxpayer billions.

We subsidise train operators to the tune of £1billion a year and subsidise network Rail by £4billion. Yet managers continue to pay themselves fat, private-sector salaries and bonuses and the companies continue to squeeze the travellers. That is why I believe it is time to take the railways back into public ownership. It was a mistake to privatise them in the first place as it’s allowed private companies to profiteer without regard to public interest.

My opponents in the battle for the Labour leadership are the Miliband brothers, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham. They all claim that it would be too expensive to bring the railways back into public ownership but they are wrong, it would actually save the public money. For one thing network Rail is effectively state-owned already. The rail infrastructure was effectively renationalised when Railtrack went into administration in 2001.

Network Rail debts are underwritten by the Government and the company is partially funded by it. Network Rail was described at the time as being “nationalisation in all but name”. New Labour’s administration at the time did not want to call it the renationalisation of Railtrack because they were terrified of being seen to go against the private sector, even when the taxpayer was getting a bad deal. More duplicitously they also wanted to avoid compensating Railtrack shareholders. So they let Railtrack go insolvent and then took it over.

It would cost nothing to bring back train operations into public hands. The Government would have two options: either it would not renew the franchises when they expire or, as the companies got into financial difficulties, they could be taken over. Additionally private-sector train operators receive a huge direct subsidy from the Government.

This is just subsidising their profits. It would be cheaper and in the public interest to operate the trains directly. The current mess doesn’t serve the general public, the taxpayer or the rail commuter. The Labour Party that I would lead would start listening to the public for the first time in a long time. On the railways, as on other issues, I would introduce policies that made sense instead of running scared of big-money interests.

I do not have the corporate backers that my opponents have. So this summer on the leadership campaign trail I have travelled to every corner of the British Isles by rail, from the Highlands to the South coast. I have marvelled at the beauty of some of the wonderful Victorian stations and the kindness and efficiency of so many staff.

The railways are too dear to the British people to be left to rapacious private companies. let’s stop these huge fare rises and make the railways the people’s railways once more.

Clegg Over

Over in The First Post, Neil Clark writes:

Nothing fails like success; nothing is so defeated as yesterday's triumphant cause. The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Phyllis McGinley wasn't writing about Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats when she penned those lines - but they sum up perfectly what has happened to Britain's third party and its leader since its breakthrough election 'success' in May. Then the champagne corks were popping, as the Liberals entered a peacetime British government for the first time since the 1930s. Three months on and it's a very different story.

A recent poll shows that Liberal Democrat support has slumped to just 16 per cent - with one third of those who voted Lib Dem in the general election abandoning the party. Rumours abound of high-level defections from the party - the latest concerning the former leader Charles Kennedy. As criticism of Nick Clegg mounts, so the personal deficiencies of the Lib Dem leader are becoming more apparent. The man who earlier this year rivalled Winston Churchill in the popularity stakes - after his slick performance in the first live television election debate - has been exposed as tetchy, humourless and lacking in charm.

Consider the way Clegg dealt with disillusioned Liberal Democrat voter Craig Toft, who had accused him of following an "ideological crusade" at a question and answer session in Newcastle last week. Instead of adopting a conciliatory tone, Clegg lost his cool, rudely interrupting his questioner and demanding three times that Toft give evidence to back up his claim, before launching into a tiresome three-minute monologue. A more accomplished political performer - Harold Macmillan, Harold Wilson, or even David Cameron - would have laughed off Toft's charge and probably succeeded, with a mixture of charm and persuasion, in getting the disgruntled voter back on board. Clegg by contrast came over as an insecure neurotic.

A few days later, Clegg hit the wrong key again when he pompously brushed off a questioner who had compared his 'political marriage' with David Cameron to the troubled union of Ashley and Cheryl Cole with the words: "Much as your [question] was elegant and humorous, please do not just glibly pick up whatever a headline says." The Lib Dem leader may have slept with up to 30 women - a claim he made in a magazine interview when he was running for party leader - but it's clear that he's never read Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

But if Clegg is feeling the heat now, it's nothing compared to what he can expect in the next few months. Grassroots Lib Dem anger against the coalition government's Thatcherite economic policies are growing by the day. Next month's party conference in Liverpool is more likely to resemble the rebellious Labour party conferences of the early 1980s than the triumphant 'All Hail the King' occasion that Clegg might have envisaged back in May. The basic problem - which more and more Liberal Democrat voters and activists are now waking up to - is that their leader has more in common with David Cameron and the Tories than he does with them.

It's not just that Clegg and Cameron are men cut from the same wealthy, upper-middle class, public school-educated cloth. It's that on the key issues of the day, Nick and Dave really are singing from the same hymn sheet. Clegg and the three other Lib Dems who entered the Cabinet in May - Vince Cable, David Laws and Chris Huhne - contributed to the publication in 2004 of The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism, which urged the party to adopt more free-market economic policies, including privatisation and health care reform. Under Clegg's leadership, the Lib Dems moved sharply to the neo-liberal right - dropping proposals such as re-nationalisation of the railways, which had been included in their 2005 election manifesto.

For Clegg, a political marriage with the fellow anti-statist Cameron is a perfectly logical step. But for Lib Dem voters and activists, the Lib Dem/Tory coalition is a shocking betrayal. It has involved spectacular U-turns on VAT, cuts in public spending and the NHS. Thanks to the Orange Bookers' takeover of the Liberal Democrats, a formal party split - as I suggested in a column for The First Post a week before the general election - seems inevitable. It won't happen this year. But sometime in the current decade the two wings of the party are likely to go their separate ways.

Clegg's Orange Book Liberals, espousing social and economic liberalism, will become the British version of the German Free Democratic Party and will be the natural coalition partners of the Tories, in the same way that the FDP collaborate in government with the German Christian Democrats. The more left-wing Liberal Democrats, perhaps led by current deputy leader Simon Hughes, or even a resurgent Charles Kennedy, would be committed to defending the welfare state and the NHS, and will be the natural coalition partners of Labour, who, regardless of whoever wins this autumn's leadership contest, will find themselves edging to the left as the impact of the coalition's draconian cuts in public spending begin to be felt.

Nick Clegg may well go down in history as the man who destroyed the Liberal Democrats in their current form. But it seems likely that Liberals will be participating in the government of Britain for a long time to come.

Fool Me Twice?

Tony Karon writes:

America’s march to a disastrous war in Iraq began in the media, where an unprovoked U.S. invasion of an Arab country was introduced as a legitimate policy option, then debated as a prudent and necessary one. Now, a similarly flawed media conversation on Iran is gaining momentum.

Last month, Time’s Joe Klein warned that Obama administration sources had told him bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities was “back on the table.” In an interview with CNN, former CIA director Admiral Mike Hayden next spoke of an “inexorable” dynamic toward confrontation, claiming that bombing was a more viable option for the Obama administration than it had been for George W. Bush. The pièce de résistance in the most recent drum roll of bomb-Iran alerts, however, came from Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic. A journalist influential in U.S. pro-Israeli circles, he also has access to Israel’s corridors of power. Because sanctions were unlikely to force Iran to back down on its uranium enrichment project, Goldberg invited readers to believe that there was a more than even chance Israel would launch a military strike on the country by next summer.

His piece, which sparked considerable debate in both the blogosphere and the traditional media, was certainly an odd one. After all, despite the dramatics he deployed, including vivid descriptions of the Israeli battle plan, and his tendency to paint Iran as a new Auschwitz, he also made clear that many of his top Israeli sources simply didn’t believe Iran would launch nuclear weapons against Israel, even if it acquired them.

Nonetheless, Goldberg warned, absent an Iranian white flag soon, Israel would indeed launch that war in summer 2011, and it, in turn, was guaranteed to plunge the region into chaos. The message: the Obama administration better do more to confront Iran or Israel will act crazy.

It’s not lost on many of his progressive critics that, when it came to supporting a prospective invasion of Iraq back in 2002, Goldberg proved effective in lobbying liberal America, especially through his reports of “evidence” linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Then and now, he presents himself as an interlocutor who has no point of view. In his most recent Atlantic piece, he professed a “profound, paralyzing ambivalence” on the question of a military strike on Iran and subsequently, in radio interviews, claimed to be “personally opposed” to military action.

His piece, however, conveniently skipped over the obvious inconsistencies in what his Israeli sources were telling him. In addition, he excluded perspectives from Israeli leaders that might have challenged his narrative in which an embattled Jewish state feels it has no alternative but to launch a quixotic military strike. Such an attack, as he presented it, would have limited hope of doing more than briefly setting back the Iranian nuclear program, perhaps at catastrophic cost, and so Israeli leaders would act only because they believe the “goyim” won’t stop another Auschwitz. Or as my friend Paul Woodward, editor of the War in Context website, so brilliantly summed up the Israeli message to America: “You must do what we can’t, because if you don’t, we will.”

Goldberg insists that he is merely initiating a debate about how to tackle Iran and that debate is already underway on his terms — that is, like its Iraq War predecessor, based on a fabricated sense of crisis and arbitrary deadlines.

Last Friday, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration had convinced Israel that there was no need to rush on the issue. Should Iran decide to build a nuclear weapon (which it has not done), it would, administration officials pointed out, quickly make its intentions clear by expelling the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors who routinely monitor its nuclear work, and breaking out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). After that, it would still need another year or more to assemble its first weapon.

In other words, despite Goldberg’s breathless two-minutes-to-midnight schedule, there’s no urgency whatsoever about debating military action against Iran. And then, of course, there’s the question of the very premises of the to-bomb-or-not-to-bomb “debate.” Perhaps, after all these years of obsessive Iran nuclear mania, it’s too much to request a moment of sanity on the issue of Iran and the bomb. If, however, we really have a couple of years to think this over, what about starting by asking three crucial questions, each of which our debaters would prefer to avoid or ignore?

1. Does the U.S. have a right to launch wars of aggression without provocation, in defiance of international law and an international consensus, simply on the basis of its own suspicions about another country’s future intentions?

Or to put it bluntly, as former National Security Council staffers Flint Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett have: Does the U.S. have the right to attack Iran because it is enriching uranium?

The idea that the U.S. has the right to take such a catastrophic step based on the fevered imaginations of Biblically inspired Israeli extremists — Goldberg has previously suggested that Prime Minister Netanyahu believes Iran to be the reincarnation of the Biblical Amalekites, mortal enemies the ancient Hebrews were to smite — or simply to preserve an Israeli monopoly on nuclear force in the Middle East is as bizarre as it is reckless. Even debating the possibility of launching a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities as a matter of rational policy, absent any Iranian aggression or even solid evidence that the Iranian leadership intends to wage its own version of aggressive war, gives an undeserved respectability to what would otherwise be considered steps beyond the bounds of rational foreign policy discussion.

Perhaps someone in our media hothouse could take just a moment to ask why, outside of the United States and Israel, there is no support — nada, zero, zip — for military action against Iran. In Goldberg’s world, this may be nothing more than the eternal beast of anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head in the form of disdain for the rise of yet another Amalek/Haman/Torquemada/Hitler. A more sober reading of the international situation would, however, suggest that most of the international community simply doesn’t share an alarmist view of what Iran’s nuclear program represents.

Indeed, it is notable that, in Goldberg’s world, Arabs and Iranians never get to speak. The Arabs, we are told, secretly want Israel or the U.S. to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities out of fear that the acquisition of nuclear weapons would embolden their Persian rivals. They are, so the story goes, just not able to say so in public. Of course, when Arab leaders do publicly express their opposition to the idea of another war being launched in the Middle East, they are ignored in the Goldberg-led debate.

Similarly, their rejection of Washington’s long-held premise that Israel’s special security must be exempted from any discussion of the creation of a nuclear-free Middle East remains outside the bounds of the Iran-debate story. And don’t expect to see any mention of the authoritative University of Maryland annual survey of Arab public opinion either. After all, it recently reported that, contrary to claims of an Arab world cowering under the threat of Iranian nukes, 57 percent of the Arab public actually believe a nuclear-armed Iran would be good for the Middle East!

The idea that Iran’s regime might exist for any purpose other than to destroy Israel is largely ignored as well. Bizarrely enough, Iranians don’t actually feature much in the American “debate” at all (beyond citations of Mad-Mullah-like pronouncements by some Iranian leaders who wish Israel would disappear). The long, nuanced relationship between Israel and the Islamic Republic, as explained by Trita Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States, is simply ignored. So, too, is every indication Iran’s leaders have given that they have no intention of attacking Israel or any other country. In fact, in the Goldberg debate, domestic politics in both the U.S. and Israel is understood as an important factor in future decisions; Iran, with the Green Movement presently suppressed, is considered to have no domestic politics at all, just those Mad Mullahs.

2. Even if Iran were to acquire the means to build a nuclear weapon, would that be a legitimate or prudent reason for launching a war?

If Iran is actually pursuing the capability to build nuclear weapons, its leaders would be doing so in response to a strategic environment in which two of its key adversaries, the U.S. and Israel, and two of its sometime friends/sometime adversaries, Russia and Pakistan, have substantial nuclear arsenals. By all sober accounts, Iran’s security posture is primarily focused on the survival of its regime. Some Israeli military and intelligence officials have been quoted in Israel’s media as saying that Iran’s motivation in seeking a nuclear weapon would be primarily to head off a threat of U.S. intervention aimed at regime change.

Most states do not pursue weapons systems as ends in themselves, and most states are hardwired to prioritize their own survival. It is to that end that they acquire weapons systems — to protect, enhance, or advance their own strategic position, or up the odds against more powerful rivals. In other words, the conflicts that fuel the drive for nuclear weapons are more dangerous than the weapons themselves, and the problem of those weapons can’t be addressed separately from those conflicts.

An Iran that had been bombed to destroy its nuclear power program would likely emerge from the experience far more dangerous to the U.S. and its allies over the decades to come than an Iran that had nuclear weapons within reach. The only way to diminish the danger of an escalating confrontation with Iran is to address the conflict between Tehran and its rivals directly, and seek a modus vivendi that would manage their conflicting interests.

Unfortunately, such a dialogue between Washington and Tehran has scarcely begun, even as, amid alarmist warnings, Goldberg and others insist it must be curtailed so as to avoid the Iranians “playing for time.”

3. Is Iran actually developing nuclear weapons?

No, it is not. That’s the conclusion of the CIA, the IAEA, whose inspectors are inside Iran’s nuclear facilities, and most of the world’s intelligence agencies, including the Israelis. U.S. intelligence believes that Iran is using a civilian nuclear energy program to assemble much of the infrastructure that could, in the future, be used to build a bomb, and that Iran may also be continuing theoretical work on designing such a weapon.

Washington’s spooks and its defense establishment do not, however, believe Iran is currently developing nuclear weapons, nor that its leadership has made the ultimate decision to do so. In fact, the consensus appears to be that Iran will not weaponize nuclear material, but will stop short at “breakout capacity” — the ability, also available, for instance, to Japan, to move relatively quickly to build such a weapon. Currently, as the New York Times reported, the time frame for “breakout,” if all went well (and it might not), would be about a year, after which Iran would have enough fissile material for one bomb. (The Israelis, by comparison, are believed to have 200 to 400 nuclear weapons in their undeclared program, the Pakistanis between 70 and 90, and the United States more than 5,000.) In addition, a credible nuclear deterrent would require the production of not one or two bombs, but a number of them, which would allow for testing.

For ex-CIA Director Hayden, such a breakout capacity would be “as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon.” His is a logical leap that’s hard to sustain, unless you believe that it’s worth launching a war to prevent Iran from, at worst, acquiring a defensive trump card that might prevent it from being attacked.

Iran’s enrichment activities are, of course, a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions backed by sanctions. Those were imposed to demand that Iran suspend its enrichment program until it satisfied concerns raised by IAEA inspectors over its compliance with the disclosure and transparency requirements of the NPT — especially when it came to aspects of its program which have been developed in secret, raising suspicions over their future use.

Three years before North Korea was in a position to test a nuclear weapon, it had to withdraw from the NPT and kick out IAEA inspectors. Iran remains within the treaty. Even as the standoff over its nuclear program continues, renewed efforts are underway to broker a confidence-building deal to exchange Iranian enriched uranium for fuel rods produced outside the country to power a Tehran reactor that produces medical isotopes.

None of this will be easy, of course. The two main parties are trying to impose their own, mutually exclusive terms on any deal: Washington wants Iran to forego its treaty-guaranteed right to enrich its own uranium because that also gives it the potential means to produce bomb materiel; Iran has no intention of foregoing that right. Such longstanding pillars of foreign policy sobriety as Senator John Kerry and Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, have publicly deemed the U.S. position untenable.

To suggest that Iran’s present nuclear program represents the security equivalent of a clock ticking down to midnight is calculated hysteria that bears no relation to reality. Ah, says Goldberg, but the point is that the Israelis believe it to be so. Yes, replies former National Security Council Iran analyst Gary Sick, now at Columbia University, but the Israelis and some Americans have been claiming Iran is just a few years away from a nuclear weapon since 1992.

The premises of the debate just initiated by Goldberg’s piece are palpably false. More important, they are remarkably dangerous, since they leap-frog over the three basic questions laid out above and move straight on to arguing the case for war amid visions of annihilation. This campaign of panic is not Goldberg’s invention. It’s been with us for a long time now. Goldberg is just the present vehicle for an American conversation initiated by others, among them those known in the Bush years as neocons, who have long been dreaming of war with Iran and are already, as Juan Cole recently indicated, planning for such a war under a future Republican administration, if not sooner.

Similarly, among Israelis, Prime Minister Netanyahu, in particular, believes that Americans are politically feeble-minded; he said as much to a group of Israeli settlers in a video that surfaced recently: “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in [our] way.”

Through Goldberg, the Israeli leader and his aides are seeking to “move America in the right direction” with dark tales of Auschwitz and Amalekites, and of Netanyahu himself as a hostage, in the Freudian sense, to a fierce and unforgiving father who won’t tolerate any show of weakness in the face of perceived threats to the Jews. Goldberg’s sources, including Netanyahu, make it perfectly clear that they don’t believe Iran would attack Israel. Instead, they warn that an Iranian nuclear weapon would embolden Hamas and Hizballah, although the logic there is flimsy indeed. After all, if Iran would not attack Israel on its own with a nuclear weapon, why would it do so to defend its insurgent allies?

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has suggested that a nuclear-armed Iran would prompt the best and brightest Israelis to emigrate, because they are clever people who can make a good life for themselves anywhere in the world. Indeed, and they have been doing exactly that for many years now. Some 750,000 Israeli Jews now live abroad — one in every six Israelis — precisely because anti-Semitism is no longer a threat to Jewish life in most of the industrialized world. None of this has anything to do with an Iranian bomb. It has to do with the frustration of Israel’s leadership that 63% of the world’s Jews have chosen to live elsewhere.

Despite Goldberg’s panic-inducing prediction, there are plenty of reasons to believe that, for all its bluster and threat, Israel won’t, in fact, bomb Iran next year — or any time soon. But would the Israelis like to see the United States take on their prime regional enemy? You bet they would. Indeed, Netanyahu continually insists that the U.S. has an obligation to take the lead in confronting Iran.

It’s patently clear in Goldberg’s piece that the Israelis are trying to create a climate in which the U.S. is pressed onto the path of escalation, adding more and more sanctions, and keeping “all options on the table” in case those don’t work.

In an excellent commentary that dismantles the logic of Goldberg’s argument, David Kay — the American who served as an UNSCOM arms inspector in search of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the U.S. invasion — suggests that:

“Israel is engaged in psychological warfare with the Obama administration — and it only partly concerns Iran… [B]eyond Iran, of probably greater importance to the current Israeli government is avoiding the Obama administration pushing it into a choice between settlements and territorial arrangements with the Palestinians that it is unwilling to make and permanent damage to its relationship with the U.S. Hyping the Iranian nuclear program and the need for early military action is a nice bargaining counter… if the U.S. wants to avoid an imminent Israeli strike, it must make concessions to Israel on the Palestinian issues.”

Creating a sense of crisis on the Iran front, narrowing U.S. options in the public mind, and precluding a real discussion of U.S. policy towards Iran may serve multiple purposes for various interested groups. Taken together, however, they reduce all discussion to one issue: when to exercise that military option kept “on the table,” given the unlikeliness of an Iranian surrender. The debate’s ultimate purpose is to plant in the public mind the idea that a march to war with Iran, as Admiral Hayden put it on CNN, “seems inexorable, doesn’t it?”

Inexorable — only if the media allows itself to be fooled twice.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

That's Born Into The World Alive

I am pleased to read that Nick Clegg weighs 6lbs 1oz and is doing well.

Upon Examination

How hard could it be to examine everyone both by coursework and by final examination, simply awarding the lower mark as the final grade?

However, there is no avoiding the fact that the "gender gap" began precisely with the introduction of Thatcher's wretched GCSEs. Girls do better than boys because the whole thing is designed to ensure that they do. Not the only problem with GCSE. But certainly one of them.

In Saint Helena, they study for, and are awarded, the export strength IGCSE, not permitted to be used in the state schools of its country of origin, but lapped up in areas of historic British influence around the world. No wonder that young Saint Helenians and others are aghast on encountering their equally "qualified" but woefully less educated contemporaries from over here.

And no wonder that Afro-Caribbean parents, even ones born in the United Kingdom, send their children, especially their sons, back to the West Indies in order to provide them with a traditional English education. Note the lack of inverted commas in that last sentence.

David Cameron and Michael Gove can do nothing about this, because that would entail denouncing Margaret Thatcher in the strongest possible terms.

Whitelaw Whitewash?

I suppose so. But if it had been up to him and Mick McGahey, then the miners' strike would have been resolved. Alas, they had to answer to Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill respectively. Alas for them. And alas for everyone else.

Speaking of Thatcher, she was a Cabinet Minister while this was going on, just as she was when European Community law was being made supreme over that of the United Kingdom, when our historic fishing rights were being signed away, when the only British Government ever seriously to consider doing so was coming within hours of withdrawal from Northern Ireland, when the ancient counties were being abolished, when schemes for Scottish and Welsh devolution were being devised, and when she herself was closing so many grammar schools that there were not enough left at the end for her record ever to be equalled, all under a Prime Minister who in his earlier career had laid waste to small and family business by abolishing Resale Price Maintenance.

And what of this strange, strange case? However much the man at the centre of it would have been horrified by the fact, it illustrates the long and very friendly partnership beween the Catholic Church and the British State in Ireland. There were numerous Catholic pulpit denunciations of Fenianism, which is unlike any of the three principal British political traditions in being a product of the French Revolution. Hence its tricolour flag. And hence its strong anticlerical streak, always identifying Catholicism as one of Ireland's two biggest problems.

In reality, those two biggest problems are the abiding legacies of the two main streams feeding into Irish separatism. The Orange Lodges opposed the Act of Union of 1800, the best thing that ever happened to Ireland, which incorporated one of the most backward countries in Europe into what became in the nineteenth century the most advanced country in the world. The consequent improvements in Ireland's agriculture, industry, education, infrastructure, welfare provision, honest and responsible administration, and so on, were almost incalculable, and enjoyed the strongest possible support of the Catholic Church, without which many, most or even all of them could not have happened, especially at local level.

But to the Orangemen, the Union meant Catholic Emancipation, and indeed the necessary Unionist majority in the former Irish Parliament was secured on that very basis, by Protestant Emancipationists who secured the votes of the Catholic commercial class by promising to deliver the Union that would deliver to those voters the right to sit in Parliament. Those voters delivered that majority, that majority delivered the Union, and the Union delivered Catholic Emancipation, which the old Irish Parliament would simply never have countenanced.

Protestant pioneers are sometimes produced by Republicans as a sort of trump card. But those believed their own Protestant, "Saxon" nation to be the only nation, as such and with all national rights accordingly, on the Irish island. They had no more interest in or regard for Gaels and Catholics than their contemporary, Thomas Jefferson, had either for the "Indians not taxed" or for his own slaves. They viewed those other inhabitants of Ireland as anti-monarchist opinion has regarded the Australian Aborigines from the Victorian Period to the present day, as Hendrik Verwoerd regarded the non-white peoples of South Africa, as Ian Smith regarded the Mashona and the Matabele, and as Golda Meir regarded the Palestinians when she denied that they existed at all, a view still widely and deeply held.

Such notions have been ridiculous when viewed from east of the Irish Sea at least since Dr Johnson asked "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?" But when the Stormont Parliament and its supporters opposed integration because integration meant Civil Rights, then they were in no way out of keeping with the anti-Unionist thinking of their ancestors. In the meantime, separatist leaders as late as the Gladstone years had seized on the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, with all its implications for the system of tithes, as a nullifying breach of the Act of Union.

The other main stream feeding into Irish separatism arose out of the urban Catholic bourgeoisie that the Union had so greatly expanded and entrenched. But it was largely directed from outside Ireland, and very often from thousands of miles away. It was, and is, the wannabe leprechaun pretensions of those who, if they had ever seen what they saw as the pure Gaelic folk-culture at all, had only ever done so from their carriage windows, so that they had no understanding whatever of people whose circumstances compelled them to live like that, people who warmly welcomed the drastic elevation of their condition by the alliance of Throne and Altar, however many tears that may have brought to the eyes of those whose wholly detached world had by then passed from Jacobinism to Romanticism, and who for the most part did not live in Ireland.

When those fantasists seized their moment during the international distractions of 1916, almost no one in Ireland had ever even heard of them, and barely any more people took them remotely seriously. By the time that the Home Rule legislation, with its built in delay until after the War, actually came into effect, then even the "official" reasons given for it by its proponents no longer applied.

Tendencies very much like both of these, and no less pernicious than either, are now apparent in the Nationalist nomenklatura of Scotland, in Wales's ruling oligarchy of those whose use of Welsh as a cordon sanitaire in English-speaking areas expresses their disdain for the Welsh-speaking and English-speaking common herds alike, and in the mounting clamour for an independent or heavily devolved England which in reality amounts to nothing more than the White Van Men of the South East, but bolstered from time to time by a sort of sub-Tolkien nonsense which nevertheless includes the waving of a Norman flag confined to ecclesiastical use until a football tournament in 1990.

Speaking of flags, that red saltire on the Union Flag was, and is, no word of lie. The Irish were vigorous participants in British imperialism, and especially in its military aspects. It was under that Flag, and by those means, that they propagated the Faith to the ends of the earth.

At The Stem

Oh, well, it looks as if embryonic stem cell "research" is illegal in the US after all, since it involves federal funding of the destruction of embryonic human beings, contrary to a ban proposed, it is true, by a Republican, but passed by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by Jimmy Carter.

So those who engage in these activities are just going to have to take up adult and cord blood stem cell research instead. Which actually works. Even if it does not offend the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church that educated a very great many of those practitioners, snivelling ingrates that they are.

Meanwhile, if we cannot afford Avastin (as a gastric spastic, I feel strongly about these things), then how come we can afford homeopathy, or IVF, or, for that matter, embryonic stem cell "research"? The second works so rarely that it would simply never be funded by the NHS if it were anything else, while the other two do not work at all, and are nothing more than pseudo-science, superstitious in one case, politically ideological, like the pseudo-science in the Soviet Union, in the other.

Ditat Deus

He certainly does if you are John McCain.

McCain has never before faced a serious primary challenge, and his election has then been secured by his popularity among Independents in a state where they, Republicans and Democrats are pretty much even.

However, primaries in Arizona are closed. Independents cannot vote in them. And JD Hayworth, is the sort of person classified as a conservative in the Lewis Carroll world of post-Bush political nomenclature. Thus, he is the sort that appeals to what, in historical terms, is now the incomprehensible Republican base.

If he loses, then what will McCain do? His extremely rich wife could easily fund an Independent run, after the manner of his friend and preferred running mate, Joe Lieberman. Ditat Deus?

But that still leaves the Democratic third or so in Arizona. And those Independents, probably a good number, with serious reservations about the war agenda. A morally and socially conservative economic populist and foreign policy realist, this is your moment. Ditat Deus. If you let Him.

America's Enemy, Israel

Philip Giraldi writes:

Israeli government claims that it does not spy on the United States are intended for the media and popular consumption. The reality is that Israel’s intelligence agencies target the United States intensively, particularly in pursuit of military and dual-use civilian technology. Among nations considered to be friendly to Washington, Israel leads all others in its active espionage directed against American companies and the Defense Department. It also dominates two commercial sectors that enable it to extend its reach inside America’s domestic infrastructure: airline and telecommunications security. Israel is believed to have the ability to monitor nearly all phone records originating in the United States, while numerous Israeli air-travel security companies are known to act as the local Mossad stations.

As tensions with Iran increase, sources in the counterintelligence community report that Israeli agents have become more aggressive in targeting Muslims living in the United States as well as in operating against critics. There have been a number of cases reported to the FBI about Mossad officers who have approached leaders in Arab-American communities and have falsely represented themselves as “U.S. intelligence.” Because few Muslims would assist an Israeli, this is done to increase the likelihood that the target will cooperate. It’s referred to as a “false flag” operation.

Mossad officers sought to recruit Arab-Americans as sources willing to inform on their associates and neighbors. The approaches, which took place in New York and New Jersey, were reportedly handled clumsily, making the targets of the operation suspicious. These Arab-Americans turned down the requests for cooperation, and some of the contacts were eventually reported to the FBI, which has determined that at least two of the Mossad officers are, ironically, Israeli Arabs operating out of Israel’s mission to the United Nations in New York under cover as consular assistants.

In another bizarre case, U.S.S. Liberty survivor Phil Tourney was recently accosted in Southern California by a foreigner who eventually identified himself as an Israeli government representative. Tourney was taunted, and the Israeli threatened both him and journalist Mark Glenn, who has been reporting on the Liberty story. Tourney was approached in a hotel lounge, and it is not completely clear how the Israeli was able to identify him. But he knew exactly who Tourney was, as the official referred to the Liberty, saying that the people who had been killed on board had gotten what they deserved. There were a number of witnesses to the incident, including Tourney’s wife. The threat has been reported to the FBI, which is investigating, but Tourney and Glenn believe that the incident is not being taken seriously by the bureau.

FBI sources indicate that the increase in Mossad activity is a major problem, particularly when Israelis are posing as U.S. government officials, but they also note that there is little they can do to stop it as the Justice Department refuses to initiate any punitive action or prosecutions of the Mossad officers who have been identified as involved in the illegal activity.

In another ongoing Israeli spy case, Stewart Nozette appears to be headed towards eventual freedom as his case drags on through the District of Columbia courts. Nozette, an aerospace scientist with a top secret clearance and access to highly sensitive information, offered to sell classified material to a man he believed to be a Mossad officer, but who instead turned out to be with the FBI. Nozette has been in jail since October, but he has now been granted an additional 90-day delay so his lawyers can review the documents in the government’s case, many of which are classified. If Nozette demands that sensitive information be used in his defense, his case will likely follow the pattern set in the nine-times-postponed trial of AIPAC spies Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, who were ultimately acquitted in April 2009 when prosecutors determined that they could not make their case without doing significant damage to national security. A month after Rosen and Weissman were freed, Ben-Ami Kadish, who admitted to providing defense secrets to Israel while working as an engineer at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, walked out of a Manhattan court after paying a fine. He did no jail time and continues to receive his substantial Defense Department pension.

The mainstream media reported the Rosen and Weissman trial intermittently, but there was virtually no coverage of Ben-Ami Kadish, and there has been even less of Nozette. Compare that with the recent reporting on the Russian spies who, by all accounts, did almost nothing and never obtained any classified information. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that spying for Israel is consequence free.