Sunday, 31 October 2010

Out of Control

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have rightly always opposed control orders. They are unsafe. Terrorists should be convicted and imprisoned. A real one can easily remove a tag and vanish. Some controlees have already done so. The provision for control orders has to be renewed by Parliament each year. Let it not be renewed next time. And let the provision itself then be repealed.

Weak Tea

Thirty to forty Tea Party gains in the House would really only add up to the emergence of a fourth party alongside the mainstream Republicans, the mainstream Democrats and the Blue Dogs. A story. But not very much of one.

Across The Aisle

Obama not as bipartisan as expected? If it is real bipartisanship that you want, then just as Fox viewers' efforts to draft Andrew Napolitano for the Senate race in New Jersey in 2012 could be seen off by a Democratic Presidential candidate who offered him Deputy Attorney General in order to help repeal Bush's assaults on constitutional liberty, so that same candidate should offer the position of Deputy National Security Advisor to Philip Giraldi, especially since the Israeli spy network will by then have succeeded in keeping the United States Senate black-free.

No Republican is ever going to make either of those offers, or anything remotely like them. How would paleocons react if a Democrat made them? After all, Pat Buchanan and Paul Craig Roberts served under Reagan, a service involving no less compromise, within the context of not commenting outside one's sphere of responsibility, than would be necessary for paleocons to serve in the Administration of a Democrat who could be endorsed by such of his own partisans as Bob Casey, Ben Nelson, Jim Webb, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine and Bart Stupak, never mind by such figures from across the aisle as Dick Lugar, Chuck Hagel, Christopher Buckley and Douglas Kmiec.

Harriet Harman's C-Word


Not environmentalist, but conservationist.

We live in hope.

Revise Standards

Another year, another Patronal Festival, another outing for the Happytudes. Useful though the Jerusalem Bible's footnotes are, the text itself is awful. I know that they are really supposed to translate the liturgical books exactly as they are. But at the very least, couldn't someone reissue the RSV Edition of the Missal? And not the NRSV, with the male pronouns taken out and to hell with the sense. If the Bible is that bad, then why use it all?

Furthermore, never mind moving All Saints Day to the day before, this once because it happens to be on a Monday. That is bad enough, of course. But following the triumphant visit of the man whose election led to our deprival of them in a fit of pique, and following the enthronement (as it is properly called) of Archbishop Vincent Nichols on the real Ascension Day, can we have it, the Epiphany and Corpus Christi on their correct days again, as observed by the Holy Father, and in at least one case as directly required by Scripture?

Paganes Ignorantes

I'm sorry, but the BBC's uncritical "Samhain" coverage today is appalling. The whole thing has no history prior to the late nineteenth century, and not even very much from as early as that. Folkloric practices traditionally branded as pagan in these islands are in fact Medieval, and Late Medieval at that; the allegation of paganism is the stuff of Protestant propaganda.

In any case, recent utterances make it clear that the Pagans are tapping into the popularity of Harry Potter and of the BBC's very own Camelot 90210 or whatever it is called. All pretence at continuing or reviving the pre-Christian past has ceased, and the whole thing is now openly made up off blockbuster films and the telly.

A Nice Venison Stew

Peter Hitchens writes:

Anyone would think that stags, if not shot by hunters, look forward to a contented old age being wheeled about in bath chairs in Eastbourne. The sentimental fuss about the alleged shooting of the ‘Emperor of Exmoor’ is Britain at its daftest.

This beast may look very nice. But if he hasn’t been shot, he’ll die horribly from a broken leg, or contract TB. And in the meantime he is getting up to things with his younger female relatives that have no place in a family paper. I’m hoping for a nice venison stew for supper.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Second Time As Farce

Back comes the Child Benefit story, just as the Housing Benefit policy falls to pieces, and just as Cameron comes back from Brussels with a triumphant increase in our contributions to show for his promise of no increase in our contributions. The story is that no one is remotely surprised at the Coalition’s falling apart before our very eyes.

Meanwhile, is Labour really targeting the North of Scotland now that the Lib Dems have turned Tory? Stranger things have happened. The question is whether the organisation still purporting to be the Labour Party is capable of making this happen. We need a movement in the tradition of those who have resisted enclosure, clearances, exorbitant rents, absentee landlordism, and a whole host of other abuses of the rural population down to the present day. Those who organised farm labourers, smallholders, crofters and others in order to secure radical reforms. Those who obtained, and who continue to defend, rural amenities such as schools, medical facilities, Post Offices, and so on. The county divisions that predominated among safe Labour seats when such first became identifiable in the 1920s. The working farmers who sat as Labour MPs between the Wars and subsequently. The Attlee Government’s creation of the Green Belt and the National Parks. And those who opposed the destruction of the national rail and bus networks, and who continue to demand that those services be restored.

We need a movement in the tradition of those who have seen, and who still see, real agriculture as the mainstay of strong communities, environmental responsibility and animal welfare (leading to safe, healthy and inexpensive food) as against “factory farming”, and as a clear example of the importance of central and local government action in safeguarding and delivering social, cultural, political and environmental goods against the ravages of the “free” market. Those who have fought, and who continue to fight, for affordable housing in the countryside, and for planning laws and procedures that take proper account of rural needs. Those who object in principle to government without the clear electoral mandate of rural as well as of urban and suburban areas. Those who have been and who are concerned that any electoral reform be sensitive to the need for effective rural representation. Distributism and the related tendencies. And those who are conservationist rather than environmentalist.

Sharpen the tools.

Philadelphia Freedom?

What a convenient distraction from WikiLeaks. Any war against Yemen will no doubt be as successful as the war against Iraq was, and as the war against Afghanistan still is. Expect everything from the old Michael Howard wish list, long predating September 2001, to be fetched back down off the shelf, as it always is in these situations.

And note well that Newark is in New Jersey, that Philadelphia is in Pennsylvania, and that we all know to whom those states have contracted out their homeland security. Those, in fact, who control much of the airport security in the world. Those, moreover, with a candidate for Mayor of, oh, where is it? That's right. Chicago...

Left And Right Must Unite And Fight

Any Questions saw agreement between Tariq Ali and Peter Hitchens on civil liberties, on housing, and on changing the clocks twice per year (not something about which I become terribly worked up), against those titans, Jack Dromey and Baroness Warsi. The alliance is there to be built. Let's get to it.

Grow Up

Some young IRA sympathiser addressed the "UK Youth Parliament" yesterday, and, if it matters, did so in Irish? So what?

Apart from quite how often it seems to be held, the real question is why what is doubtless this posh schools' booze-up, cokefest and orgy, equally doubtless at public expense, should be permitted to use the chamber of the House of Commons. Or the chamber of the House of Lords, come to that. Or Westminster Hall.

More broadly, politics is like Radio Four and so many other things: something into which one grows. Changing any of them to suit the unformed misses the whole point, and cruelly robs those unformed of the means to their own formation.

Victors' Justice

Mark Seddon, late of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, writes:

So what really lies behind the decision by Iraq's high tribunal to pass a death sentence on Tariq Aziz, long serving Iraqi foreign minister and number two to Saddam Hussein? The decision has caused shock waves around the World, largely because the sentence has the feel of vengeance to it. The Iraqi High Tribunal took what must be a highly unusual step in effectively rescinding the earlier judgments against him. For Tariq Aziz’s twenty seven year sentence has effectively been reduced to a matter of months by his death sentence. Aziz has now been found guilty of “the persecution of Islamic parties”, whose leaders were assassinated, imprisoned or forced into exile.

One of Saddam’s main targets was – according to the high tribunal - the Islamic Dawa party of current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim. Presumably there was enough proof to show that Tariq Aziz was involved with this persecution as well, and if so we can be fairly certain that retribution has indeed played a part in his death sentence. How ironic then that many Western Governments seemed so content for Saddam’s regime to contain Islamic parties at the time. But don’t hold your breath; it seems fairly unlikely that there will be calls for clemency from Washington and London.

Tariq Aziz is of course a Chaldean Christian, who along with the Assyrian Christians, have suffered terribly since the War, with more than half of their number now living in exile. Being the only Christian in a secular Ba’athist dictatorship was a factor apparently exploited by Saddam, with veiled threats being made periodically to Aziz’s family. I remember being in Iraq and hearing that Aziz feared Saddam, and that he was only too aware of the fragility of his family’s safety. Which is not to excuse Aziz for “following orders”, but it may go some way to explain why Aziz stayed in Baghdad even when it was obvious to him, if not Saddam, that America and Britain were deadly serious about invading. It was even rumoured at the time that Aziz was playing a double game towards the end – certainly that was my view when he was first incarcerated when the war ended. I fully expected him to be released in five years and retire to a bungalow in Beirut.

I reported from inside Iraq on two occasions just before the war began. I remember seeing Aziz in the foyer of the Al Rasheed hotel in Baghdad, playing court to the Nationalist Russian leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and the late Austrian far right leader, Jorg Haider. Eventually my requests to interview him paid off. I was taken to the Foreign Ministry in a blacked out limousine, into an underground car park, and up in an elevator to the echoing corridors. Aziz was sitting alone in a large armchair, Iraqi flags to his left and right puffing on an extra large cigar. He told me that “I have met your Mr Heath and Mrs Thatcher, but not your Mr Blair”.

“Please tell Mr Blair that we have no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq”, said Aziz. “Please tell him that he is welcome to come here, or send anyone who wishes to see for themselves”. I wasn’t sure just how serious Aziz was with his offer, particularly since each attempt over the preceding week to be allowed to visit some of the sites identified by Western intelligence as containing WMD were turned down with ever more ludicrous excuses. But having interviewed the former head of the UNSCOM weapons inspections team, Scott Ritter at some length, I was pretty sure that Aziz was telling the truth about WMD when he said Iraq didn’t have any. At the time I was also an elected member of the UK Labour Party’s ruling National Executive, so I did pass the message on to Tony Blair, who looked at me quizzically. He later joked to junior Foreign Minister, Chris Mullin that “the Iraqis must be getting desperate if they are talking to Mark Seddon”.

Some months after the war ended, I began wondering what had happened to Tariq Aziz. After all he had handed himself over to the Americans when they arrived in Baghdad. I finally managed to track his wife and two sons down to a hotel in Amman, Jordan, where they were being looked after by Chaldean Christians. Mrs Aziz was distraught, as she had learned that her husband had suffered a heart attack in custody. She had finally managed to trace Tariq Aziz to a prison holding camp near Baghdad airport, and had but a very short note scrawled by her husband saying “Don’t worry, I am ok”, which had been delivered to her by the Red Cross. One of Aziz’s sons was already contemplating moving to America to qualify as a dentist, although I recall advising him at the time that he might need to change his name before he could get a visa, as ‘Saddam Aziz’ was unlikely to go down well with US Homeland Security.

Tariq Aziz is 74, and in poor health. He has been for a long time. Given his sentence, it seems unlikely that he will ever leave custody, except in a wooden box. But vengeance is clearly a powerful motivating force. Nor should he expect much help from many of those Western politicians who used to pay homage to him back in the 1980s, when Iraq was an invaluable ally against the Ayatollah’s Iran. I even remember seeing pictures of Donald Rumsfeld watching Iraqi rockets being fired on the Fawr Peninsula – rockets he had been very keen to sell them. Perhaps Aziz, who could tell the whole story of Western involvement in Iraq, before, during and after the war, is simply too embarrassing and potentially compromising a figure to be allowed to live out his days in prison.

And what a convenient distraction from WikiLeaks.

Up For Grabs

Patrick J. Buchanan writes:

The polls and pundits are all in alignment now. The Republican Party is headed for a victory Tuesday to rival the biggest and best of those that the party has known in the lifetime of most Americans. In 1938, the GOP won 72 seats in the House. In 1946, Republicans swept both houses and presented Harry Truman with a “fighting 80th Congress” that contained three future presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. In 1966, Republicans picked up 47 House seats to set up the comeback of Nixon, who had led the party out of the wilderness of Goldwater’s defeat. In 1994, the Republican Revolution added 52 House seats and captured both chambers for the first time since Eisenhower’s first term.

Looking back on those Republican triumphs, and forward to Tuesday’s, what do these Republican off-year victories have in common? In all four — 1938, 1946, 1966, and 1994 — the GOP won not because of what the party had accomplished or the hopes it had raised, but because Republicans were the only alternative on the ballot to a Democratic Party and president voters wished to punish. By 1938, America had had its fill of FDR, as the Depression returned with a vengeance and his aristocratic arrogance became manifest in the crude attempt to purge Democratic senators and pack the Supreme Court with six new justices who’d rubber-stamp his New Deal.

In 1946, Truman was perceived to have been as naive as FDR in trusting “good old Joe” Stalin, who was imposing his murderous Bolshevik rule on 100 million Eastern Europeans and whose Maoist allies were waging war on America’s ally in China. What our boys won on the battlefield, our diplomats have frittered away, the country believed. In 1966, the nation was reacting viscerally to the stalemate in Vietnam, rising casualties, campus disorders, soaring crime, and riots in Harlem and Watts, all seen as the legacy of LBJ’s Great Society. In 1994, it was gays in the military, Hillarycare, and the public perception that Bill Clinton was more liberal than he had let on that cost Democrats both houses. The post-election spin that the nation had rallied to Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” was pure propaganda.

Tuesday’s election, too, will be no embrace of the GOP, but rather a repudiation of what Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have come to represent. All are seen as power-hungry politicians of an out-of-touch regime that is seizing control of private wealth and private lives as it fails in its duty to win our wars, balance our budgets and secure our borders. Republicans will be the beneficiaries of this repudiation, as Republicans are, almost everywhere, the only alternative on the ballot, and because they are seen correctly as having opposed the Obama agenda with near drill-team solidarity. Every Republican in the Senate but Arlen Specter and the ladies from Maine voted against Obama’s stimulus bill. Every Republican in the House, save eight, voted no on cap-and-trade. Every Republican on Capitol Hill voted no on Obamacare. More GOP senators opposed Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan than opposed any Supreme Court nominee in memory.

Tuesday, obstructionism reaps its reward. On Tuesday, the nation, including millions of Obama voters, will come out to empower the Party of No, even as the nation voted in 2006 and 2008 to throw out that party. While many did respond positively to Obama’s politics of hope and change in 2008, as they ousted the Republicans, the nation, after Tuesday, will have voted in three straight elections in four years to be rid of its ruling regime. The United States is starting to look like the French Fourth Republic. After France lost Indochina, began losing Algeria and was flipping from one premier and one party to another, the call went forth from an exasperated nation to Gen. DeGaulle to come and take charge of affairs.

Consider the critical issue facing America today — the budget and trade deficits, the soaring national debt, an unemployment near 10 percent for 14 straight months — and how neither party seems to have the cure. While George Bush’s tax cuts did not cause this, they did not prevent it. And if Republicans believe that his deficits did cause it, why have those Republicans not addressed the causes of those deficits — Bush’s wars, Bush’s tax cuts and Bush’s social spending on No Child Left Behind and Medicare drug benefits?

Yet, if liberal Democrats are right and deficits are the correct Keynesian cure for recession, why have Obama deficits of $1.4 and $1.3 trillion failed so dismally? Paul Krugman says they are not large enough. Perhaps, but the country is about to end the experiment. The Federal Reserve, having used and broken every tool in its toolbox, including doubling the money supply and setting interest rates at near zero, will now bet the farm on inflation, starting Nov. 3.

Both parties have lost the mandate of heaven, and neither knows if its economic philosophy even works anymore. We are in uncharted waters. The country is up for grabs.

Putting America in the same position as Britain.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Out of Oban

On further Scottish and Welsh devolution, it would be entirely consistent and honourable for the party that legislated for the present arrangements to say that that the matter should be left there, and that in any case the whole thing was a side issue while there was both an economic crisis and a war on. That is certainly the private view of most of its MPs from Scotland and Wales, and the public view of a few of them. On that basis, there is an alliance to be built with the backbench Conservative Right.

It was only the absence of the hope of office at Westminster, combined with the positive expectation of it at Holyrood and Cardiff, that made the Lib Dems enthusiasts for devolution. But they are now in office at Westminster while no longer in office either at Holyrood or, for quite a while, at Cardiff. Scottish and Welsh Lib Dem support is concentrated in areas where devolution has never been terribly popular, and the party is not doing very well at all in Wales.

As local communitarian populists and as battlers for single issues, Lib Dems are interested only in institutions that deliver the goods. As on the EU, so also on further devolution, they, too, can say with entirely straight faces that having supported the creation of what currently exists does not necessarily compel support for anything further. At least on their back benches, they may very well say so publicly, as they already do privately. Especially if they are given opportunities to do so. By the Leader of the Opposition.

Ed Miliband, over to you.

President Palin?

“If there’s no one else,” apparently.

So, let there be someone else. An heir and successor of Republican calls for Europe to revert to pre-1914 borders and thus end the First World War. Of those Republicans who resisted entry into the Second World War until America was actually attacked by either side. Of Eisenhower’s ending of the Korean War, his even-handed approach to Israel and the Palestinians, his non-intervention in Indo-China, and his denunciation of the military-industrial complex. And of Nixon’s suspension of the draft, his pursuit of détente with China, and the ending of the Vietnam War by him and by Ford, an old stalwart of the America First Committee.

Let there be an heir and successor of Reagan’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 1983, and, especially, his initiation of nuclear arms reduction in Europe. Of James Baker’s call to “lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of a Greater Israel” and to “foreswear annexation, stop settlement activity”. Of Republican opposition to the global trigger-happiness of the Clinton Administration. And of Bush the Younger’s removal of American troops from Saudi Arabia after 9/11, thus ensuring that there has been no further attack on American soil.

Let there be a candidate to reach out to those who would otherwise be attracted to Sarah Palin, with her admirable history as a Buchananite battler for job protection, for war aversion, for immigration control and for family values against the archenemy of all of them, the global “free” market, and with her record as Governor of Alaska on the basis of publicly administered natural resources held in common ownership.

Let there be a candidate 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. Let there be a candidate to reach out to those who would otherwise be attracted to Mike Huckabee, economically one of the most left-wing governors in American history, and who also happens to be against abortion and same-sex “marriage” while in favour of Second Amendment rights. And let there be a candidate to reach out to those who would otherwise be attracted to Ron Paul and to his opposition to bailouts, to wars, and to the erosion of constitutional checks and balances.

That candidate need not necessarily be a Republican.

As Audacious As Ever

Wanting to abolish the sixty per cent rule to break a filibuster, and wanting to end Congressional Districts that are colossally dominated by one party or the other. Perhaps he should also look at touchscreen voting? Who on earth's idea was that?

Restoring Sanity

With fixed terms, this could have been done this year, but it is still worth noting for future reference.

In time for the Rally to Restore Sanity, every House, Senate and Gubernatorial candidate should have been asked to sign a public repudiation of belief in “al-Qaeda”, of belief in “the global terrorist network”, of belief in “Taliban” distinct from the Pashtun as a whole, of belief in any connection between Afghanistan and 9/11, of belief in any connection between Iraq and 9/11, of belief in WMD in Iraq, of belief in such WMD as a threat to America even if they had existed, of belief in an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, of belief in such a programme as a threat to America even if it existed, of birtherism, of trutherism, of comparison between Obama and Hitler, of comparison between Bush and Hitler, and of LaRouche.

For a start, anyway.

A Sunshine State of Mind?

Charlie Crist is far from wonderful, but he is still better than Kendrick Meek. However, we all know who was most vociferous in backing the last Clinton bid for the Presidency, and who is most active in undermining African-American candidates. Let none of this be forgotten, either when determining whether or not to nominate Rahm Emanuel for Mayor of Chicago, or when determining whether or not Chuck Shumer should succeed Harry Reid in the event of the latter's unseating.

The Three Tea Parties

Paul Gottfried writes:

Having looked at the swelling of the Tea Party, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a uniform movement. There are at least three different movements trying to give the impression of being one. The most influential of these movements is the one that fits most easily into the GOP. It is associated with Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and other Republican regulars appearing on Fox. It emphasizes what Dick Morris describes as “economic issues exclusively,” and those issues can be summed up as Obamacare and some of the ill-considered bailouts passed by the Democratic Congress since 2008.

These protestors against the Democrats are by no means hardliners, and they already enjoy places of honor at the GOP table. These spokespersons for “smaller government” are not asking for much that the party can’t give them. Or else they are asking for what GOP leaders might claim they would give them if the media and Democratic politicians allowed them to do more. Such Republicans have made it a practice to scream loudly at the Dems. But they also tend to fall meekly into line once their party returns to power.

In 1994 after the great Republican congressional sweep, the late journalist Robert Novak urged the new House Speaker Newt Gingrich to abolish government-promoted quotas for minorities. Gingrich is reputed to have explained to Novak that there’s no reason to drive away blacks, women, and Hispanics by doing anything risky. In any case Republicans would vote Republican, no matter what. Gingrich was of course right.

What the Speaker might have also mentioned was that the 1992 Civil Rights Act, which re-institutionalized quotas after the Reagan administration had backed away from them, was mostly a Republican achievement. President G.H.W. Bush and Senate Minority leader Robert Dole had strongly backed the bill and induced Republicans in Congress to get behind it. Only heaven knows why a Republican Congress, once back in control, would have bothered to rescind it. Their voters were happy simply having their party win elections.

This group of Republican non-insurgents often shares the stage with another bunch of Tea Party activists. Although this second group may applaud the ungrammatical platitudes and gesticulating of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, it seems driven by something more than fear of Obamacare or anxiety about losing Medicare payments. This group senses that something was wrong with the government long before John McCain lost the presidential sweepstakes in 2008.

The quintessential representative of this position is the Tea Party senatorial candidate in Nevada Sharron Angle, who is battling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Angle laments the growth of the federal bureaucracy in her lifetime (she’s now in her sixties) and calls for abolishing the Department of Education and privatizing at least part of Social Security. She also makes clear that she dislikes the “reforms” of FDR, but unlike Beck and other Republican noisemakers, Angle is specific about what she wants to see put on the road to extinction, starting with Social Security.

She quotes her grandfather, who thought that every program we receive from the federal or state government diminishes our freedom. Angle is not a Republican pretending to be something else, but an undisguised opponent of the New Deal, Great Society, and whatever other congressional programs came after. Her suggestion about dumping the Department of Education made Fox-news contributors treat her as a kook, until it became obvious that Angle might win. It was thereafter necessary to welcome her into the GOP club.

A third group of Tea Party enthusiasts are people like Carl Paladino, the GOP gubernatorial candidate in New York who is headed for a humiliating defeat at the hands of liberal Democrat Andrew Cuomo. Paladino has not handled himself with tact, but that is not the only reason he is going to lose in a very blue state. He has also angered the neoconservative journalistic establishment, and particularly the editors of the widely circulated New York Post, by openly expressing his distaste for the gay movement. The Post and its editors have bent backward to court gays for their Republican Party, one that is to be built on creating a “business-friendly” environment and on shaping a consensus for a vigorously interventionist foreign policy.

Paladino is revisiting social issues from the right in a way that has upset neoconservative journalists. And they have gone after him with a vengeance, digging up enough dirt about him to sink his career many times over. Paladino represents a strain in the Tea Party movement that Republican regulars as well as neoconservatives reject as “right-wing.” They are therefore working openly to promote the victory of his very left-of-center opponent in the New York gubernatorial race. Paladino’s opponents view different groups of Tea Party activists very differently. They realize not all of them are clubbable, and they are determined to destroy the ones who are not.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Life On Mars

Houston is in TX-22.

Where the Democratic candidate, Kesha Rogers, is a supporter of Lyndon LaRouche.

Think on.

Exporting Crooked Democracy

Ann Jones writes:

Afghanistan still awaits final results from the nationwide election held last month to fill the 249 seats of the lower house of parliament. Deciding which of the more than 2,500 candidates won takes time because the Electoral Complaints Commission that investigates voting irregularities, made up of five men handpicked by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was swamped by more than 4,200 complaints.

Last year, when Karzai himself ran for reelection, he busied himself with backroom deals, while his supporters were caught red-handed stuffing ballot boxes and having a good laugh. Every Afghan knew that the president who had been foisted on them by foreigners in 2001 was stealing the election. Yet the international community, led by the United States, proclaimed the process if not exactly “free and fair,” at least “credible” — which is to say: Hey, what’s a little fraud among friends?

With that experience so fresh in memory, the current Electoral Complaints Commission went to work with unusual efficiency, resolving most complaints with unaccustomed speed. And last week the chairman of the Independent Election Commission, an oversight body also selected by President Karzai, announced that it would throw out as invalid almost a quarter of the 5.6 million votes cast. Until that moment Afghans, who aspire to democracy, had hoped for a more honest election than the charade that returned Karzai to power in 2009. No such luck. The partial results of this one look just as bad as the presidential vote, with roughly the same percentage of ballots invalidated.

While dumping fraudulent votes may give the appearance of rigorous oversight, the numbers raise a new mystery: where did those votes come from? In the two days following the election last month, the running total of votes cast rose from 3.6 million to 4.4 million. Now, it has suddenly jumped again to 5.6 million — of which 1.3 million ballots have been discarded, leaving a total of 4.3 million valid votes. Election-watcher Martine van Bijlert of the Afghanistan Analysts Network described the attitude of the Independent Election Commission this way: “If you want to know where the additional votes came from: they were added fraudulently, now they have been removed, and that is really all you need to know.”

Perhaps noting that the fraud factor was holding steady, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission declared that a level of fraud with more than one in five votes considered phony is “normal” in an election.

Thus do official bodies in Afghanistan’s widely advertised new democracy — the one for which our troops are fighting — smooth over all irregularities and make short work of making do, of overseeing elections as usual: not free, not fair, just good enough for Afghans.

But are they?

Without waiting for final results, what passes for “the international community” has already pronounced the elections a “success,” but an email from a parliamentary candidate, a woman I know named Mahbouba Seraj, tells a different story:

I honestly don’t know from where to start. My frustration, disappointment, and anger are so great I am afraid they might get the better of me. I was involved in the first presidential election of Afghanistan in 2004 and the first parliamentary election in 2005, but oh how different those elections were. I won’t say they were better because they too were captured by the War Lords, Commanders, and criminals — just like this election — but the level of fraud and corruption was nothing compared to this. Those men used force and got elected by their rifles and machine guns, but this election was… unbelievable. I have no other word to use.

Many “unbelievable” stories litter this election, but Seraj’s tale is especially instructive because, in the end, it is all too believable. In fact, it’s a pretty simple story of courageous idealism confounded by big men with money.

On the Campaign Trail

When I last saw candidate Seraj in Kabul, the Afghan capital, in July, she was about to leave for Nuristan Province to campaign. It was a brave undertaking. Nuristan lies in the northeast of the country, sandwiched between Panshir Province and Pakistan, along the southern face of the Hindu Kush, a monumental sub-range of the Himalayas. Its precipitous slopes and high valleys are so forbidding and remote that even Islam did not reach Nuristanis until the late nineteenth century, and they are to this day considered a unique people.

The Taliban move freely in Nuristan. In 2008, they almost overran a U.S. base there, killing nine American soldiers. Then-Afghan war commander General Stanley McChrystal responded by withdrawing American troops from all four of their major bases in the province. The U.S. military high command has given up on certain Afghan locales — in 2010, American troops notably left the deadly and unattainable Korengal Valley, not far from Nuristan — but never before to my knowledge had they given up on a whole province.

Nevertheless, Seraj, a woman of fierce energy, wanted to represent the people of the Duaba and Mondawel districts in western Nuristan, where her grandmother was born. She put it this way to me: “I believe in democracy so much. I want it so much for Afghanistan. I tell my constituents, ‘I don’t believe in buying votes as so many candidates do. Please give them to me willingly, because then you will have your representative in Parliament who will truly serve you.’”

Worried for her safety, I reminded her that, during the 2005 parliamentary campaign in her province, another female candidate, Hawa Nuristani, and several of her staff had been shot.

“Yes,” Seraj agreed, “but she survived, and she won.”

Mahbouba Seraj’s recent email about her election race was not meant for me alone. It was addressed this way: “To my beautiful and forgotten province and its lovely and amazing people.” It was an English translation of an open letter she had written to her constituents explaining why, in this important election, they had not been able to vote at all. Reading it made clear why she considered the election of 2010 even more outrageous than previous shameful Afghan escapades in electioneering and fraud.

In 2005, the men in power in Nuristan had tried to murder the candidate they opposed. Since then they have learned that the internationals — read Americans — will accept any results as long as the election process looks reasonably good. In 2010, far more sophisticated, they murdered democracy simply by killing time.

As Seraj wrote:

First of all, Nuristan had not been made ready for an election. They didn’t have Army and police personnel to provide security as promised. Then the hard-working head of the election committee of Nuristan was fired two weeks before polling day because some powerful candidates complained about him to the Election Commission. The young man who replaced him seemed to have no idea what his job was, yet he made sure the ballot boxes didn’t get to Mondawel and Duaba districts, which very conveniently happened to be my constituencies.

The most incredible part of the story is that this young man had the power to stop a plane that was ready to take off to deliver the ballot boxes. He refused to hand over the ballot boxes for Mondawel district to the official in charge of the district and the staff of armed men designated to carry the ballots through the mountains to all the remote polling centers in Mondawel. He created delays and made excuses for days until it was too late.

Officials in Kabul were also well versed in the technique. When Seraj tried to contact the head of the Independent Election Commission in Kabul, she reported:
“His very polite assistant would talk to me and tell me, ‘I will ask Mr. So-and-so to call you back,’ but he never did. Finally, I had to leave Nuristan and come to Kabul to meet with him, but when I arrived for our appointment, he had left the city to take care of other problems, and somehow I had not been notified.

“That day I tried to get in touch with anyone I could think of who might be able to help — the Minister of Defense, the Head of the United Nations in Kabul, Mr. de Mistura, and other officials at UNAMA [The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] — but everyone was engaged. By then I knew the level of fraud and corruption in Nuristan was going to hit the roof, and it did. Ballots were stolen from polling stations and scattered on the mountainsides or taken to people’s houses and filled out. To the last minute, people were offering to buy and sell voting cards and votes. What could we do? My campaign manager and I filled out complaints to the Election Complaints Commissions in both Nuristan and Kabul.”

Those complaints must now be among the thousands filed by people all over the country with similar disappointed dreams of real Afghan democracy — the very complaints now being so efficiently dealt with in Kabul even as disgruntled voters take to the streets of Herat, Kunduz, Paktia, Ghor, and other cities to protest mass disqualifications that seem to fall inequitably on certain areas or ethnic groups. Yet angry voters and candidates are turned away from the Election Complaints Commission with useless, unregistered receipts. Recognizing election proceedings that look “eerily familiar,” analyst van Bijlert notes: “the processes that are aimed at cleaning up the vote and dismissing fraudulent ballots have become so murky that they themselves are now widely seen as simply the next phase of manipulation.”

Democratic Dreaming

Mahbouba Seraj acquired her dreams of democracy from her ancestors — and from America. She is the granddaughter of Habibullah, who was the progressive amir or king of Afghanistan from 1901 to 1919, and the great granddaughter of Abdur Rahman, the amir of Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901. He introduced Islam to Nuristanis, gave Afghanistan its present borders, and for the first time subdued its disparate tribes, bringing them under centralized rule. She is also the niece of Amanullah, the modernizing amir who ruled from 1919 to 1929, pioneering in the fields of education and women’s rights, winning a war against the British, and gaining the country its independence.

Seraj herself graduated from Kabul University before being thrown into prison with her family after the monarchy was overthrown in 1973. The family fled the country in 1978 before the impending Soviet invasion, and took refuge in the United States where, Seraj says, “I lived, learned, worked, and in the end buried both my parents.” Her life changed completely when she saw an Afghan video of the Taliban executing a woman, clad in a faded blue burqa, in Kabul Stadium where, as a girl, she had happily watched games of soccer and buzkashi — Afghan polo — and had once attended a concert given by Duke Ellington.

When the Taliban fell, she returned to Kabul and went to work as a volunteer. She trained young diplomats for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; she trained women parliamentary candidates in the arts of political campaigning and, after they were elected in 2005, in the arts of legislation. She also created and hosted a national public-service radio program called “Our Beloved Afghanistan,” and taught aspiring Afghan businesswomen at the American University of Afghanistan.

Then, last summer she went to Nuristan to campaign. To her supporters back in Kabul she then wrote:

I want to help the most underserved people in the whole of Afghanistan, the Nuristanis. If only the world knew how these magnificent people live in these great valleys of Nuristan, without roads, schools, hospitals, electricity, or any of the basic necessities of life. The women of Nuristan do all the difficult physical work. They gather wood, they pick the fruit from the trees, they tend their animals and their children and their husbands, and they walk for miles, climbing steep mountains with huge loads on their backs and their kids in their arms. I want to be a voice for Nuristan. I want to put it back on the map of Afghanistan.

In her most recent message to her constituents, she wrote:

Now, I have no idea how the Election Complaints Commission is going to decide who has won this election. The ECC keeps saying, ‘We have criteria and will decide accordingly.’ But I wonder what criteria they will apply to candidates who have not received votes from their constituencies because some few people got paid to prevent the votes from being cast. Perhaps the government will abandon Nuristan, or perhaps it will pick its own winner and call this “A SUCCESSFUL AND JUST ELECTION SPECIALLY FOR NURISTAN PROVINCE, THE MOST BACKWARD, POOR, BEAUTIFUL, AND FORGOTTEN PROVINCE OF AFGHANISTAN.

Such a conclusion might be good enough for many Afghans whose dreams of democracy faded even before last year’s presidential election when word first began to circulate nationwide that the fix was in for Karzai. At least it would be no more than they have come to expect from repeated exercises in counterfeit democracy staged, it seems, more for the benefit of international audiences (and voters) than for the Afghan electorate.

Here’s a question for Americans: Would such a conclusion be good enough for us? We are, after all, citizens of the democracy that installed the largely fundamentalist government of Afghanistan in the first place, labeled it “democratic,” and staged the first Afghan presidential election in 2004 with unseemly haste as George W. Bush eyed his own run for reelection. Assuming command in Afghanistan in 2010, Gen. David Petraeus was careful to set American expectations low: “We’re not trying to turn Afghanistan into Switzerland in five years or less,” he said. “What’s good enough, traditional organizing structures and so forth are certainly fine.”

International apologists for “good enough” who foot the bill and stage Afghan elections no longer even pretend to aim for standards like those of Switzerland — standards that nonetheless enter the democratic dreams of a great many Afghans. They assume instead that Afghans naturally cheat. As it happens, Mahbouba Seraj does not. And while it may be unreasonable to expect perfection, the fact that Afghan elections grow ever more crooked as the years pass, and Afghan voters increasingly disillusioned, suggests that Afghans are learning to play (if they care to play at all) by what they take to be American rules.

Put yourself in the place of an Afghan for a moment. When you see photographs of President Karzai’s men stuffing ballot boxes, and an American president not only telephones to congratulate him on his victory, while admitting that the election was “a little messy,” but also sends more troops to shore up his government, what are you to make of it? What else could you make of it but that Americans are complicit in the whole corrupt and costly enterprise? If you were a Nuristani, eager to cast a vote for a splendid woman candidate, and the ballots never came, what in the world would you make of that?

If you were Mahbouba Seraj, believing fervently in democracy, such things might break your heart. If you are an American voter uneasy about the course of our democracy, well, maybe you ought to give some thought to this other Afghan democracy: the one we’ve set up, paid for, and sent our soldiers to fight for as an example to the world — a small but increasingly transparent replica of our own.

Opposition Opportunity

Not only should Ed Miliband Lead the Opposition to any increase in our EU budgetary contribution, as only the Leader of the Opposition to the cuts can do, but he should also remember that John Smith had been one of the Labour rebels whose votes behind Roy Jenkins had passed Heath's European Communities Bill, yet he cheerfully deployed every trick in the book during Maastricht's passage through Parliament. That's called Opposition.

There is work to be done by a Leader of the Opposition acting ruthlessly as such. The backbench Conservative Right is disaffected, so these challenges to put up or shut up, on the issue about which it claims to care the most, might well yield considerable results. Meanwhile, what of the Lib Dems? They were EU enthusiasts when they saw no hope of office at Westminster. But those days are gone, and everything about the EU - a legislature which meets in secret, for heaven's sake - is contrary to everything for which they stand. That is sharply true of the CAP and the CFP, and the CFP hits several centres of Lib Dem support particularly hard.

The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers subject us to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, of neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, of people who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland, of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura, of neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany, and before long both of the ruling Islamists in Turkey and of their opponents, variously extreme secular ultra-nationalists and viciously violent Marxist Kurdish separatists.

Who will propose the relevant amendments to restore the supremacy of British over EU law, to require that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy in the Council of Ministers until such time as it meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard, to restore the mysteriously discontinued annual votes on the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies, to use those votes to demand the abolition of those Policies, and to disapply in the United Kingdom anything passed by the European Parliament unless the majority of MEPs voting for it has been drawn from among those certified as politically acceptable by at least one seat-taking member of the House of Commons? Who would dare vote against such amendments?

Ed Miliband, over to you.

RIP Néstor Kirchner

But Peronism does remind us, as socially conservative and anti-Marxist patriots of the Left, that patriotisms can conflict within our own ranks.

No Robbery

The Andrew Gilligan Fan Club is calling for "repatriation" of British passport holders. But even if that were possible, I say that for every Islamist deported, we should also deport a neocon or other Zionist, and replace them both with a nice family of Palestinian or Iraqi Christians, the people in the world most likely to hold the line against any resurgence of either.

In The Ba'ath

The War Party has no problem with ghastly dictatorships. It has no problem with Islamists, including in Europe, and indeed in the Iraq where such forces have been unleashed by its actions.

And it has no problem with Ba'athists, cheerfully encouraging and assisting the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) that moved during the Iran-Iraq War to Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which until its own overthrow in 2003 provided most of the PMOI's money and all of its military assistance.

No, it is not made up of Arabs, and Ba'athism is supposed to be a form of Arab nationalism, founded, like so many such forms, by a Christian. But if there are Russian Nazis, increasingly in Israel because at least they are not Arabs, then there may as well also be Persian Ba'athists. And there are.

In fact, in backing both the PMOI and Jundullah, the neocons are backing both the Ba'athists and the Sunni Islamists in relation to the same country. But it is that country. So that's all right, then. Isn't it?

Towers of London

It all goes back to the sale of council housing, of course. The Housing Benefit racket thus created is vastly more expensive than would be the maintenance of a stock of council housing.

But why, when this certainly does not necessarily apply to a number of other local government services, is your local authority obliged to house you in its own area, no matter how expensive? Never mind in the most expensive wards. Not everywhere in the Kensington & Chelsea Borough can be quite as grand as all that.

Even in the old Derwentside days, never mind now that Durham County Council is unitary, you should have tried getting a council house here in leafy Lanchester, no matter how long you had lived here. Nor, I expect, would Housing Benefit have been able, or be able, to rent you anything privately in Lanchester. Again, no matter how long you have lived here.

The GLA is obviously far too large for the purpose (so is Durham County Council), but should housing in Inner London, at least, be handled at Borough level at all? Is it not time for an Inner London Housing Authority?

Handbag Hallucinations

It is always amusing to read those who seem to imagine that merely by having negotiated a rebate, Thatcher is somehow off the hook for having signed the Single European Act, and for having been an entirely compliant member of Heath's Cabinet before that.

She would have signed Maastricht, whatever she might have said from the comfort of retirement. She would have signed everything since, and more. She would have given up the rebate years ago, and dismissed with derision the latest in the line of always-tiny Tory rebellions on Europe. Massed ranks of Eurosceptical Tory MPs do not exist; there were only about twenty over Maastricht, and there may not even be half that many now.

The only possible opposition to this in the present context is from those who are opposing its context, the cuts. "How can you cut jobs and public services while doing this?" is the only pertinent question, and cannot be asked by those who are in favour of cutting jobs and public services.

But neither the fantasy "Thatcherite" media nor the pro-EU, pseudo-Left media will give that any more attention than they gave the three times more Labour MP s than Tories who voted against Maastricht, or the forty-odd Labour MPs who voted against the European Finance Bill when the Whip was withdrawn from half a dozen Tories for abstaining.

Clegg's Clearances Are Nothing New

In 2007, Newcastle City Council, a Lib Dem flagship, demolished council flats in order to put up houses to be bought by middle-class Lib Dem voters. Why was this only reported in the North East? How many more of these stories about the new generation of yellow Shirley Porters are there around the country, each being reported only in its own locality, if at all? Clearly enough to influence Coalition policy in favour of such clearances.

Beyond Suspicion

Last year, no one stopped for "terrorism" under the Sus Laws was even so much as arrested. Those Laws' real targets, like that of all these things, are altogether elsewhere.

But of course MI6 does not use torture. Perhaps even the commoners down the corridor do not, if only because they are too busy working on their silly television programme. And those days are certainly gone under the aegis of the FCO. David Miliband is a thing of the past.

Taking with him his Mossad methods and personnel, the former as taught by the latter (who had learned them from the Nazis) to every nasty regime in Seventies and Eighties Latin America. New Jersey and Pennsylvania, you have been warned. Occupied Territory, indeed. Just ask them in MI6. They remember Irgun, and Lehi, and all that. One of the reasons why they would never stoop to that level.

Gilligan Guilty?

What's this I hear, that the Yard is investigating Andrew Gilligan's assertion that Rahman had to appoint a white Deputy in order to give his otherwise Bengali Cabinet "a fig-leaf of competence"? Is he going to call Keith Vaz as a character witness?

Alliance with the anti-Islamist, but in all sorts of ways no less distasteful, Awami League is no more agreeable than alliance with the Islamists of Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Xinjiang and Jundullah on the part of those who can just about forgive their relatives for intoning "Here, Oh Israel, there is, at most, One God", and for occasionally popping in at the back of a Reform, or possibly Conservative, synagogue, but who otherwise regard any profession of religious belief as a self-evident disqualification from public office, and who either pretend or, utterly bizarrely, imagine that the Labour Movement would once have agreed with them.

When Tariq Aziz

Sent to the gallows: a Christian, for waging war on the Islamists who now control Iraq.

Sent to the gallows: the only man left who could ever have told the whole story of America's dirty war in Iraq.

Blunkett's Balkans

Although Blunkett lets himself and the side down at the end, Patrick Wintour writes:

England faces the rise of virulent nationalism outside the south-east as a result of the government's draconian spending cuts, David Blunkett, the former home secretary, warned tonight.

Predicting that the English Defence League (EDL) was more of a threat than the British National party, he said a new form of English colonialism was emerging during a period when the fabric of society outside the south-east was threatened.
Plans to replace regional development agencies with 40 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), and to withdraw funding from schemes designed to lessen the impact of immigration on public services, could fracture England's unity and breed resentment of the south of England, he said in a speech at Sheffield University.

Speaking to the Guardian, Blunkett added that the EDL, which has carried out a series of rallies this year, was trying to exploit the way in which Wales and Scotland received far more in government subsidies than regions such as Yorkshire.

In his speech at the centenary celebrations of Sheffield's Cambrian Society – which came before a speech tomorrow by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, promoting economic development in the regions – Blunkett said the abolition of regional bodies will lead to the "Balkanisation" of England, and end the ability of regions outside London to fight global market forces.

He said: "Our civil society – the glue that holds us together and the driving force for being able to assist each other in times of need – will be unable to respond as the years go by.

"It is the fracturing, the tearing, of the social fabric that concerns me most. The fact that we are likely to see a disintegration of the acceptance of responsibility, of the obligations and duties we owe to each other.

"The denial that there is such a thing as regional identity pulls the centrifugal force of England into London and alienates those who are hardest hit by the cuts.
"London retains a development agency and demands more resources – and, in capital funding, gets it – as the scarce resources available are pulled like a magnet into the developments for and around the Olympic Games."

The government has spoken of a need to rebalance the economy, but Blunkett claimed the bodies capable of helping that process were being systematically shut.

He claimed many of the engines of regional growth were being dismantled. The business secretary, Vince Cable, confirmed this week that LEPs will have no independent funding. Blunkett told the Guardian: "It is a formula for disaster, a tearing of the social fabric and either a return to the riots of 1981, or the growth of rightwing English nationalism."

He said he was concerned that Labour had, with the exception of Tony Blair, not found a language to address the concerns and anti-statism of the English. He said: "Through the Midlands, the south, the east, and the south-west, the 'anti-state' nature of individualism and an innate conservatism is a powerful force. Outside the culturally diverse and cosmopolitan city of London, the south and east returned just 10 Labour MPs out of over 200 constituencies on 6 May this year."

The Rent Is Still Too Damn High

Jimmy McMillan writes:

The rent is too damn high.

That's what I was thinking when the five guys jumped me as I was walking down a street in Brooklyn at two in the morning. At least, that's probably what I was thinking, since that's what I'm thinking most of the time.

I didn't see them, obviously. I don't have Spidey sense; I don't have peripheral vision. I'm a 10th degree black belt in karate, but, in the real world, there is no "crouching tiger". There's a car, exhaust steaming out like dragon's breath. I was pushed through an open door.

They tied my hands, blindfolded me. One said, "This is what you get when you talk about what you don't understand," or words to that effect. I could figure sending guys after me if I hadn't paid the rent – some of those landlords are straight-up criminals, it wouldn't surprise me – but I had. They wanted me to simply stop talking about it.

And they meant business, taking me to a wooded area off the parkway. I kept hoping this was some sort of prank. That my blindfold would come off and I'd be staring into a TV camera, into the face of Joe Francis or Paris Hilton.

I won't lie. Despite my three years as a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam, I was frightened. In Vietnam, I could see in the dark, shadows and voices guiding me through the jungle. Here, I could see nothing.

But I could smell gasoline.

They poured it over my head.

What did I say that had gotten them so mad?

George Bush and Barack Obama spent $700bn bailing out the banks, after the banks' housing Ponzi scheme collapsed. Obama spent another $787bn on the so-called "stimulus package". Every man, woman and child in America paid $5,000 to rescue Barack Obama and John McCain's top-hat-and-monocle-wearing friends. And the unemployment rate is still 9.6%. You still can't pay your mortgage or rent.

If the banks had collapsed, every homeowner who needed to could have called the bank and said, "I'm going to only pay you what I can afford, and you'll have to take it because you're too weak to say no." The free market would have solved the housing crisis. Obama and McCain only wanted the free market to apply to the little man, not their rich banker friends.

Banks have seized thousands of homes. What can we do?

First, reverse each and every foreclosure where bankers filed false documents. Arrest those bankers, right now. Filing false documents in court is illegal. Treat the banks like any other racketeering organisation that schemes to make millions by breaking the law. Bring the paddywagon, and give all these homes back to the families.

Second, nationalise the banks. If they say they are "too big to fail", and hate the free market when it applies to them, then make them a government organisation. Cut the average top banker salary from $20m a year to $45,000 a year. Bankers do not deserve big money. The free market has spoken: their businesses collapsed.

Third, use eminent domain to seize all of the other thousands of foreclosed properties that blight the urban landscape, and transfer them to families needing homes. The supreme court of the United States says that eminent domain can be used to transfer land from one private owner to another in order to further economic development (Kelo v. City of New London).

Finally, if we believe the free market theory, that putting cash into people's hands is the best way to boost the economy, then how about a rent freeze? High rent is the cancer and low rent the cure to this economic crisis. The rolling back of rent would give people money they can spend.

Grandmothers can't afford their medication; or, if they can afford it, they can't eat. You work 40 hours a week and you give all your money to the landlord. You've got no money for clothes. You've got no money to go on vacation. Even if you live in a homeless shelter, you have to pay $350 a month for rent.

When police found me that night, tied to a tree, at about 4am, I had some choice words for them.

The rent is still too damn high.


Robert Fisk writes:

In the centre of the rebuilt Beirut, the massive old Maronite Cathedral of St George stands beside the even larger mass of the new Mohammad al-Amin mosque.

The mosque's minarets tower over the cathedral, but the Maronites were built a spanking new archbishop's house between the two buildings as compensation. Yet every day, the two calls to prayer – the clanging of church bells and the wailing of the muezzin – beat an infernal percussion across the city. Both bells and wails are tape recordings, but they have been turned up to the highest decibel pitch to outdo each other, louder than an aircraft's roar, almost as crazed as the nightclub music from Gemmayzeh across the square. But the Christians are leaving.

Across the Middle East, it is the same story of despairing – sometimes frightened – Christian minorities, and of an exodus that reaches almost Biblical proportions. Almost half of Iraq's Christians have fled their country since the first Gulf War in 1991, most of them after the 2004 invasion – a weird tribute to the self-proclaimed Christian faith of the two Bush presidents who went to war with Iraq – and stand now at 550,000, scarcely 3 per cent of the population. More than half of Lebanon's Christians now live outside their country. Once a majority, the nation's one and a half million Christians, most of them Maronite Catholics, comprise perhaps 35 per cent of the Lebanese. Egypt's Coptic Christians – there are at most around eight million – now represent less than 10 per cent of the population.

This is, however, not so much a flight of fear, more a chronicle of a death foretold. Christians are being outbred by the majority Muslim populations in their countries and they are almost hopelessly divided. In Jerusalem, there are 13 different Christian churches and three patriarchs. A Muslim holds the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to prevent Armenian and Orthodox priests fighting each other at Easter.

When more than 200 members of 14 different churches – some of them divided – gathered in Rome last week for a papal synod on the loss of Christian populations in the lands where Christianity began, it was greeted with boredom or ignored altogether by most of the West's press.

Yet nowhere is the Christian fate sadder than in the territories around Jerusalem. As Monsignor Fouad Twal, the ninth Latin patriarch of Jerusalem and the second to be an Arab, put it bleakly, "the Israelis regard us as 100 per cent Palestinian Arabs and we are oppressed in the same way as the Muslims. But Muslim fundamentalists identify us with the Christian West – which is not always true – and want us to pay the price." With Christian Palestinians in Bethlehem cut off from Jerusalem by the same Israeli wall which imprisons their Muslim brothers, there is now, Twal says, "a young generation of Christians who do not know or visit the Holy Sepulchre".

The Jordanian royal family have always protected their Christian population – at 350,000, it is around 6 per cent of the population – but this is perhaps the only flame of hope in the region. The divisions within Christianity proved even more dangerous to their community than the great Sunni-Shia divide did to the Muslims of the Middle East. Even the Crusaders were divided in their 100-year occupation of Palestine, or "Outremer", as they called it. The Lebanese journalist Fady Noun, a Christian, wrote a profound article from Rome last week in which he spoke of the Christian loss as "a great wound haemorrhaging blood", and bemoaned both Christian division and "egoism" for what he saw as a spiritual as well as a physical emigration. "There are those Christians who reach a kind of indifference... in Western countries who, swayed by the culture of these countries and the media, persuade eastern Christians to forget their identity," he wrote.

Pope Benedict, whose mournful visit to the Holy Land last year prompted him to call the special synod which ended in the Vatican at the weekend, has adopted his usual perspective – that, despite their difficulties, Christians of the "Holy Land" must reinvigorate their feelings as "living stones" of the Middle Eastern Church. "To live in dignity in your own nation is before everything a fundamental human right," he said. "That is why you must support conditions of peace and justice, which are indispensable for the harmonious development of all the inhabitants of the region." But the Pope's words sometimes suggested that real peace and justice lay in salvation rather than historical renewal.

Patriarch Twal believes that the Pope understood during his trip to Israel and the West Bank last year "the disastrous consequences of the conflict between Jews and Palestinian Arabs" and has stated openly that one of the principal causes of Christian emigration is "the Israeli occupation, the Christians' lack of freedom of movement, and the economic circumstances in which they live". But he does not see the total disappearance of the Christian faith in the Middle East. "We must have the courage to accept that we are Arabs and Christians and be faithful to this identity. Our wonderful mission is to be a bridge between East and West."

One anonymous prelate at the Rome synod, quoted in one of the synod's working papers, took a more pragmatic view. "Let's stop saying there is no problem with Muslims; this isn't true," he said. "The problem doesn't only come from fundamentalists, but from constitutions. In all the countries of the region except Lebanon, Christians are second-class citizens." If religious freedom is guaranteed in these countries, "it is limited by specific laws and practices". In Egypt, this has certainly been the case since President Sadat referred to himself as "the Muslim president of a Muslim country".

The Lebanese Maronite Church – its priests, by the way, can marry – understands all too well how Christians can become aligned with political groups. The Lebanese writer Sami Khalife wrote last week in the French-language newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour – the francophone voice of Lebanon's Christians – that a loss of moral authority had turned churches in his country into "political actors" which were beginning to sound like political parties. An open letter to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, warning him to try to turn Lebanon into a "front line" against Israel, was signed by 250 Lebanese. Most of them were from the minority Christian community.

Nor can the church ignore Saudi Arabia, where Christianity is banned as a religion just as much as the building of churches. Christians cannot visit the Islamic holy cities of Mecca or Medina – the doors of the Vatican and Canterbury Cathedral are at least open to Muslims – and 12 Filipinos and a priest were arrested in Saudi Arabia only this month for "proselytism" for holding a secret mass. There is, perhaps, a certain irony in the fact that the only balance to Christian emigration has been the arrival in the Middle East of perhaps a quarter of a million Christian Filipino guest workers – especially in the Gulf region – while Patriarch Twal reckons that around 40,000 of them now work and live in Israel and "Palestine".

Needless to say, it is violence against Christians that occupies the West, a phenomenon nowhere better, or more bloodily, illustrated than by al-Qa'ida's kidnapping of Archbishop Faraj Rahho in Mosul – an incident recorded in the US military archives revealed on Saturday – and his subsequent murder. When the Iraqi authorities later passed death sentences on two men for the killing, the church asked for them to be reprieved. In Egypt, there has been a gloomy increase in Christian-Muslim violence, especially in ancient villages in the far south of the country; in Cairo, Christian churches are now cordoned off by day-and-night police checkpoints.

And while Western Christians routinely deplore the falling Christian populations of the Middle East, their visits to the region tend to concentrate on pilgrimages to Biblical sites rather than meetings with their Christian opposite numbers.

Americans, so obsessed by the myths of East-West "clashes of civilisation" since 11 September 2001, often seem to regard Christianity as a "Western" rather than an Eastern religion, neatly separating the Middle East roots of their own religion from the lands of Islam. That in itself is a loss of faith.

Regulate Immigration and Defend Borders

From the New York Times:

States must treat migrants with dignity but have the right to regulate immigration and defend their borders, Pope Benedict XVI said on Tuesday.

The pope made his comments in his message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, touching on a subject that has caused tensions between the church and governments in European countries, including France and Italy.

He said everyone had the right to leave home to seek better conditions of life in another country.

“At the same time, states have the right to regulate migration flows and to defend their own frontiers, always guaranteeing the respect due to the dignity of each and every human person,” he said.

He said immigrants had the duty to integrate into their host countries and respect their laws and national identities.

The challenge, he added, was to “combine the welcome due to every human being, especially when in need, with a reckoning of what is necessary for both the local inhabitants and the new arrivals to live a dignified and peaceful life”.

The French government came under fire from the local Catholic Church and the European Union earlier this year over its expulsion of Roma migrants after police cleared several illegal camps and forcibly repatriated the migrants.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Bearing Up

We have called in the Russians to extricate us from our own mess in Afghanistan.

You have to laugh.

Giving A Fig Leaf

Andrew Gilligan knows his audience, all right. Lutfur Rahman has to appoint a white Deputy in order to give his otherwise Bengali Cabinet "a fig leaf of competence". Inspector Knacker, over to you.

London's Not Burning

If there ends up being a firemen's strike on Bonfire Night, then that will be the fault of the other side for allowing such a thing to happen. Is this move cynical? Perhaps. Is it tactically masterful? Undoubtedly.

Whose Airport Security?

Check out who dominates that industry. They also dominate telecommunications, listening in on, for example, every telephone call into or out of the United States. From a British perspective, isn't privatisation wonderful?

Workers To Lose Ninety Per Cent Of Royal Mail

As ought to be the headline.

They already own one hundred per cent of it. We all do.

And was there ever a more glaring example of how public ownership is British ownership, or of how support for the "free" market is anti-conservative in general and unpatriotic in particular?

Common Justice

It should have not have taken the constitutionally monstrous Supreme Court, implementing a foreign document by reference to a foreign precedent, to give defendants in Scotland a minimum standard of justice and liberty. In each part of the United Kingdom, there are exemplary safeguards alongside outrageous abuses. The former from each part should be used to redress the latter in each part. Only one body can do that: the Parliament of the United Kingdom. When will it?

The Blunkett Formula

David Blunkett's question at PMQs was very much a sign of the times. He admitted that he was only joking about a "White Rose Parliament". But he was not joking about the money. Nor will a lot of other people be joking about the money. One for Ed Miliband, if he has any sense.

Xtreme No More

Any ideas for characters to appear in the new look old look, de-rebranded, back-to-its-roots Dandy?

Are The Democrats Worth Defending?

Bruce A. Dixon writes:

Four years ago it was the eve of the November 2006 election, Bush's last midterm. In what was the second issue of Black Agenda Report (this is issue 213) we wrote about the imminent changeover of the House of Representatives from Republican to Democratic rule. Our first dozen issues are lost, but we vividly recall what was written on this occasion.

After 12 years of spectacularly corrupt and aggressively pro-corporate Republican domination, the House and likely the Senate too, would be ruled by Democrats. Expectations were high.

Four years ago a hundred members of the House of Representatives had signed on as co-sponsors of one or more bills to impeach Dick Cheney and George Bush. One of them was Detroit's John Conyers, dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, who would chair the House Judiciary Committee beginning in January 2007, and thus have the unquestioned legal power to begin hearings on the question of impeachment. Authoritative polls repeatedly showed that a a narrow majority of the American people, and an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters favored impeachment and criminal investigation of the Bush-Cheney regime on a broad front, from waging illegal wars to torture, lying to Congress, international kidnapping, secret imprisonment without trial and tapping the phone and email of millions of Americans. Rep. Conyers was also a perennial sponsor of reparations, antiwar and single payer health care measures, causes which could surely be advanced by his long awaited ascension to power.

Democrats had always massively opposed the Iraq war, and millions were perfectly aware that a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives could bring this unjust war to a halt over any presidential objection by simply refusing to fund it.
The fall of 2006 was only a year after Katrina. The Republican congress had refused to investigate the federal role in the deaths of uncounted thousands, while the White House and military authorities barred journalists from photographing or observing the recovery of bodies. Federal, state and local authorities were making return of hundreds of thousands of residents, mostly black, impossible. A Democratic congress, some imagined, might turn this around too.

Under Democratic rule Rep. Bennie Thompson (D MS) of the Congressional Black Caucus would chair the new House Committee on Homeland Security. With his committee's subpoena power Thompson could, if he chose, investigate the role of Blackwater and other US mercenary companies in New Orleans and around the world and make people tell the truth under penalty of prison. Harlem's Charlie Rangel, another senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus would chair the House Ways and Means Committee, a position from which he could begin rolling back the regressive Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Of course, none of this happened. It's no exaggeration to say that every single progressive expectation of the Democratic majority in the House over the last four years has been disappointed or betrayed. In the final year of Republican House rule, Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi ordered the Congressional Black Caucus NOT to hold its own hearings on Katrina, and refused to call them herself, for fear that voters might see Democrats as the party of those undeserving colored people. Only Georgia's Rep. Cynthia McKinney defied Pelosi and House Democratic leaders to hold her own hearings, which were boycotted by all but one of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Between the November 2006 election and the beginning of the new Democratic party controlled Congress in January 2007, John Conyers walked back from his pro-impeachment stand, even having demonstrators and former staffers arrested outside his office when they tried to meet with him. Among the pitiful excuses Conyers offered for not convening impeachment hearings was that “Fox News would have a field day,” the votes to convict them in the Senate weren't there, (How Conyers knew that in advance of evidence or even hearings remains a mystery!) and that Bush-Cheney would be history in two more years anyhow.

But as David Swanson has pointed out, even if impeachment could not be won, calling the hearings would have set an invaluable precedent limiting presidential power. It would have drawn a historic line in the sand against further illegalities by that and future presidents. When John Conyers repaid the trust of forty years worth of re-elections by excusing the Bush-Cheney crimes without even an investigation, he empowered all of Bush-Cheney's successors to build upon that loathsome foundation. President Obama has done just that, introducing measures to “legalize” the flagrant atrocities of Bush-Cheney. Now torture, international kidnapping and secret imprisonment without recourse to a lawyer or a day in court are “legal.” The Democratic congress of 2006 enabled this, and the Democratic congress of 2008 ratified it.

Four years of Democratic rule in the House didn't end the Iraq war, has hardly even slowed it down. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the body responsible for recruiting Democrats candidates, collecting corporate donations and distributing these to its favorites, was headed by Chicago's Rahm Emanuel. The DCCC threw millions of dollars behind dozens of pro-war Democrats opposing antiwar Democrats in 2006 primary elections. The continued existence of the so-called “blue dog Democrats,” hypocritically accused by House Democratic leaders like South Carolina's Jim Clyburn of “gumming up the works,” hamstringing the president and “real Democrats” is largely the work of Congressional Democratic leader Rahm Emanuel, who went on to become chief of staff in a Democratic White House.

The elevation of Mississippi's Rep. Bennie Thompson to chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security had no effect on the fortunes of Blackwater and other mercenary companies, whose armed employees number more than 100,000 in Iraq, and a similar number in Afghanistan alone. The only result of his current high office is that now, during CBC week, Rep. Thompson hosts panels on how to become a minority contractor with Homeland Security.

As chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Harlem's Charlie Rangel got the big office – multiple offices, really --- and raked in the big donations that came with it. He no longer speaks against the war, even in whispers. And the Bush tax cuts remain untouched. Thus another senior black congressman repays the forty years Democratic voters invested in his career. His peer John Conyers still sponsors single payer legislation, but did little to advance it when this mattered. Reparations? Don't even mention it.

The Democratic controlled Congress passed the Bush bailout bill on the second try, thanks to Democratic candidate Barack Obama who suspended his campaign to come to DC and herd reluctant Democratic reps into line. Under President Obama, the next Democratic Congress exponentially expanded the bailout, making it the largest transfer of public wealth by far in human history, in excess of $21 trillion dollars. A Democratic congress approved a GM takeover without putting GM's vast industrial plant to work on green energy and mass transit. It stuck GM's union with the company's health care costs, and passed a paltry stimulus bill that left millions unemployed.

Four years of a Democratic congress have not produced an Employee Free Choice Act. Despite a massive Latino vote in 2006 and 2008, that community has nothing to show for its efforts but higher fences, drones on the border, and a possible DREAM Act that will extend the poverty draft to immigrant youth.

The bottom line is that the last four years of a Democratic congress have been pretty bad for Democratic voters, and very bad for African Americans. The White House, the Democratic National Committee, the NAACP and the constellation of civil rights groups, politicians and celebrities in their orbit are spending millions in a last minute effort to beg, to plead, to demand that every Democrat, every black person without exception come out to defend the Democratic president and his Democratic reps in the House and Senate.

The vice-president in record telling disappointed Democrats to “stop whining.” The Democratic president's press secretary has declared antiwar and pro-single payer Democrats to be in need of drug tests. And the Democratic president himself chides Democrats for expecting way too much. What then, should we expect from Democrats in the new Congress, whether or not they win majority?

The unfortunate answer is not much. The war in Iraq drags on, despite the “Mission Accomplished” claims of Democrats. The majority of Americans, and a crushing margin of Democrats favor withdrawal from Aghanistan and Pakistan, but Dems in congress won't give them that either. The final act of the current Democratic ruled Congress will be its lame duck session in December. Last spring President Obama created a bipartisan federal commission on fiscal responsibility. President Obama loaded it up with Republicans and Democrats who favor cutting or two-tiering social security benefits, raising the retirement age, and zeroing out Medicare and Medicaid. President Obama has given this assault on social security, Medicare and Medicaid his official blessing, declaring that “everything is on the table,” and that he will demand an up or down vote on the commission's recommendations with no amendments during the lame duck session of Congress.

Will the current Democratic ruled Congress find the spine to stand against their president on social security? They haven't found it on anything else. The prospect of return to a Republican ruled Congress is genuinely frightening. Even so, the question is unavoidable --- is Democratic control of Congress as we have known it the last four years worth defending at all?

In a word, No.

But where are the Democrats who will make common cause with the unions on the protection of American jobs? Who will make common cause with the Congressional Black Caucus, and anyone who has a black base, on halting and reversing the national emergency of unrestricted and illegal immigration, and on making English the only official language of the United States? Who will make common cause with the Congressional Prprogressive Cuacus on fair trade agreements, on repealing much or all of the USA Patriot Act, on ending completely the neoconservative war agenda, on strict campaign finance reform, on a crackdown against corporate influence in general and corporate welfare in particular, and on tax cuts for the poor and the middle class?

Where are the Democrats who will make common cause with those in the tradition of the late C Dolores Tucker and of Father Michael Pfleger on decency in the media? Who will make common cause with various other people around the fact that the black male is the victim of a triple genocide in the womb, on the streets, and on the battlefield? Who will make common cause with the Congressional Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus against the unfair consequences, and therefore the unfair principle, of the "affirmative action" that Colorado voted to end on the same day as it voted for Obama, and against the Ivy League's and other top universities' systematic exclusion of whites from poor and middle-income backgrounds, and from small towns and rural areas?

Where are the Democrats who will make common cause based on the fact that black and Hispanic votes reaffirmed traditional marriage in California and Florida on the same days that those states gave their Electoral College votes to Obama, with the black churches playing a pivotal role? Who, as a regular readers of Philip Giraldi, will use their own vigorous patriotic hostility to Israeli espionage against America in order to make common cause with the victims of the Israel Lobby's sustained campaign against black Democrats as such, a campaign on course to keep Florida from electing the only black Senator this year, as must not and will not be forgotten when Chicago's registered Democrats are deciding whether or not to nominate Rahm Emanuel as their candidate for Mayor?

Where are the Democrats who, as conservationists rather than environmentalists, will make common cause based on practical proposals for energy independence, proposals that would or should appeal to unions and others whose fight is primarily for jobs? And who will make common cause based on the importance of government action in bringing about and then conserving pro-life, pro-family and patriotic measures against poverty, in defence of traditional marriage, and in support of agriculture, manufacturing, coal, oil, and nuclear energy?

Where are those Democrats?

Nil Sine Numine

W. James Antle III writes:

There’s only one state where the Republican gubernatorial candidate is polling in the single digits less than a week before the election but conservatives remain hopeful that one of their own may yet prevail. The colorful race for governor of Colorado has become a contest between Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a liberal Democrat, and former Congressman Tom Tancredo.

Tancredo served five terms as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives and was an appointee in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Today, however, Tancredo is running for governor as the nominee of the American Constitution Party, Colorado’s state affiliate of the national Constitution Party. “It’s a small party with about 9,000 members,” he says. Yet Tancredo’s campaign has reduced the official GOP nominee to the status of a mere onlooker.

For weeks, polls have consistently shown Tancredo in second place. A few have shown him nipping at the Democratic front-runner’s heels. In late October, Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, showed Hickenlooper winning 47 percent of likely voters to Tancredo’s 44 percent — well within the survey’s margin of error. Republican nominee Dan Maes received just 5 percent.

The more Republican-friendly Rasmussen Reports also showed Tancredo within striking distance of Hickenlooper, taking 38 percent to the Democrat’s 42 percent. Maes lags well behind at 12 percent, with 6 percent still undecided. Even the Denver Post, which paid for the most recent public poll (taken by Survey USA) showing Hickenlooper up by double digits, has Tancredo hovering near 40 percent and Maes at just 9 percent. The RealClearPolitics polling average has Tancredo at 40.2 percent and the official Republican at 9.4 percent, with a 6-point Democratic lead.

All this has completely flipped the usual script. Typically, Republicans dismiss conservative third-party candidates as spoilers and try to rally the right behind the GOP nominee, no matter how liberal, because third parties can’t win elections. This has been particularly pronounced this year, as Tea Party activists have resisted channeling their energies into third parties and have instead contested the Republican primaries.

Early on, this bit of conventional wisdom held the Colorado gubernatorial race as well. Local Republicans were initially cool to Tancredo’s candidacy despite Maes’s weakness, with state party chairman Dick Wadhams describing it as the GOP’s “worst nightmare” and blasting Tancredo for being “dishonest.” “I’ll bet he wishes he hadn’t said that now,” Tancredo says. Indeed, Wadhams told the Denver Post, “I think Tom is in a position to pull this off.”

Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson, writing in The American Spectator, weren’t just worried that Tancredo would cost Republicans a chance at retaking the governorship. They feared he would doom Republicans up and down the ballot. “But it’s not just the governor’s office that could slip away from the GOP,” they argued. “The dispute between Tancredo and Maes could significantly undermine Republicans throughout Colorado and, in fact, the nation.”

How quickly things change. Republicans have been abandoning Maes in droves and endorsing Tancredo. The Colorado Senate race, which Republican Ken Buck narrowly leads, seems to be unaffected. And many conservatives have been calling on the GOP standard-bearer to drop out of the race so the third-party candidate can win. Tancredo hasn’t been shy about exploiting this sentiment. “You’re not going to win, hello! Hello?! You’re not going to make it, you know? So what’s the purpose?” he said in an interview with Fox News, pretending to speak to Maes through a megaphone. “Uh, if you stay in, what is the purpose? What are you trying to accomplish?”

In fact, Fox political blogger Alicia Acuna went so far as to say that Maes was the real third-party candidate in this race, not Tancredo. That could wind up being literally true: under Colorado state law, the Republicans could lose their major-party status if Maes fails to win 10 percent of the vote next week. The GOP would then have to wait two election cycles to regain top billing on the ballot and be allowed to raise as much money as the Democrats. (Many observers believe the law will be changed to prevent this from happening even if Maes can’t.)

A Tancredo victory would be predicated on his ability to become the de facto Republican candidate. “If I can get about 65 percent of the Republican vote, I can win,” he told me in an interview. “If I can’t, Hickenlooper will win.” The situation is similar to last year’s special election for New York’s 23rd congressional district, where Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman ended up winning more GOP and conservative support than the official Republican nominee, liberal state legislator Dede Scozzafava. Conservatives ended up losing that election because of the Republican’s intransigence: Scozzafava didn’t drop out until after her name couldn’t be removed from the ballot and she endorsed the Democrat.

Unlike Scozzafava, Maes’s problem isn’t liberalism as much as shaky finances and odd pronouncements. A Republican donor in the state said she gave Maes $300 to help pay his mortgage. He claimed it was a campaign contribution. Taking a cash contribution would appear to be a violation of campaign-finance laws. Maes has already been fined $17,500 for such transgressions.

Maes has dismissed these charges as “nonsense.” He has also called Tancredo an “illegal immigrant” and fretted about the United Nations gaining control of the state via bike paths. Few people gave Maes any chance of winning the GOP gubernatorial primary, until Republican front-runner Scott McInnis was beset by a plagiarism scandal from which his campaign never recovered.

Before the campaign, Tancredo urged both McInnis and Maes to drop out for the good of the party and allow the Republican state committee to choose an acceptable candidate instead. Tancredo pledged to support the committee’s choice but said if either McInnis or Maes won the primary, he would be forced to run for governor as a third-party candidate. Both McInnis and Maes refused Tancredo’s ultimatum, contending he should have entered the primary if he felt he was the more viable conservative.

Tancredo has made good on both his promise to run and provide conservatives with a realistic alternative. His success may also benefit the Constitution Party, which has struggled since the early 1990s to capitalize on conservative discontent with the GOP. The Constitution Party has also been looking for a big-name Republican defector for about that long, courting Pat Buchanan, former Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire, and “Ten Commandments Judge” Roy Moore.

Constitution Party leaders finally thought they had what they were looking for when Alan Keyes joined in 2008. Keyes ostensibly shared many of the party’s constitutionalist positions, was an eloquent Christian conservative, and an outspoken opponent of abortion. He also seemed to be on friendly terms with party founder Howard Phillips. But Keyes was rejected when he ran for the CP presidential nomination because of his support for the Iraq war and other neoconservative foreign-policy positions, with Phillips leading the charge against him. After his defeat, an angry Keyes left the party as abruptly as he entered it, taking part of the American Independent Party, its California chapter, with him.

Tancredo also voted for the Iraq War, as did Virgil Goode, another former Republican congressman who made common cause with the Constitution Party. But like many “Jacksonian” conservatives, Tancredo’s foreign-policy views mix hawkish nationalism with skepticism about interventionism abroad. Tancredo was a vocal opponent of the Kosovo war and a more quiet one of the surge (he publicly disagreed with the decision to send more troops to Iraq but he also voted against a nonbinding anti-surge resolution). “I’ve promised not to take us into the fight,” he says of his foreign-policy differences with the party that has nominated him for governor.

On domestic policy, Tancredo is solidly pro-life, a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, and was usually a reliable vote against big government whether it was proposed by Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. Reason admitted before the 2008 primaries that if illegal immigration into the United States were miraculously to stop, Tancredo would be a surprisingly libertarian Republican.

Of course, immigration — both legal and illegal — is Tancredo’s signature issue. He was an early proponent of the attrition through enforcement strategy of reducing the population of illegal immigrants through improved border security and actually enforcing the law. Tancredo also favors a moratorium on net legal immigration, reducing the number of new immigrants to the 200,000 to 300,000 people who annually leave the U.S. Both of these positions reflect the Constitution Party platform.

An early poll showed that Virgil Goode, who previously won his Virginia congressional district as a Democrat, independent, and Republican, could conceivably retake his House seat as a Constitution Party candidate. But Goode is backing the Republican challenger against the Democrat who beat him two years ago. He remains a member of the local GOP and doesn’t seem to want his relationship with the Constitution Party to extend beyond paying dues.

Meanwhile, Tancredo looked like he would probably ruin his political career by running as a third-party candidate so soon after leaving his House seat and running a disastrous campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Instead he is in a race where the Republican is the potential spoiler. Tancredo’s gubernatorial bid may boost the immigration issue, the Constitution Party, and his own status as a conservative leader.

If elected, Tancredo would in some respects be a Republican governor. He will side with the GOP on redistricting and probably wouldn’t let it slide into minor-party status. “Obviously, I’ll appoint conservatives to my administration, who will mostly be Republicans,” he says. But when asked if he would rejoin his old party after November, regardless of the outcome, Tancredo seems unsure.

“I don’t know,” Tancredo says. “Maybe if it moves back in a more conservative direction, I guess. Otherwise, what would be the point?”

Colorado gave its Electoral College votes to Obama on the same day as it voted to end legal discrimination against working-class white men. The rise there of a figure such as Tancredo should be a spur to find Democratic candidates who can reach out to that constituency with reference to fair trade agreements, to repealing much or all of the USA Patriot Act, to ending completely the neoconservative war agenda, to strict campaign finance reform, to a crackdown against corporate influence in general and corporate welfare in particular, and to tax cuts for the poor and the middle class.

With reference to halting and reversing the national emergency of unrestricted and illegal immigration, and making English the only official language of the United States. With reference to traditional family values. With reference to fiscal responsibility, recognising that neoliberal economics and the neoconservative war agenda are anything but fiscally responsible, and that on healthcare, confronted with a straight choice between the passed Senate Bill and what is for now the lost House Bills, it is obvious which is more responsible fiscally, just as it is obvious which is more pro-life.

With reference to the Ivy League's and other top universities' systematic exclusion of whites from poor and middle-income backgrounds, and from small towns and rural areas, as exposed by Pat Buchanan. With reference to Philip Giraldi's exposure of Israeli espionage against the United States. And with reference to the prioritisation of agriculture, manufacturing, and small and family-run businesses.

In Colorado and elsewhere, where are those Democrats?