Wednesday, 30 November 2011

West Britain

No trains or buses ran in Northern Ireland today.

Yes, that's right. They are all still in the public sector.

Grammar schools until very recently, with mainstream politicians who still want to bring them back.

All this, and no 1967 Abortion Act, either.

There is still somewhere in the United Kingdom that is forever Britain.

As Others See Us

Paul Krugman writes:

These days, ambulance-chaser economists like yours truly have an embarrassment of riches: so much is going wrong, in so many places, that one hardly knows where to start.

But let’s spare a moment for a disaster that’s being overshadowed by the euro crisis: Britain’s experiment in austerity.

When the Cameron government came in, it was fully invested in the doctrine of expansionary austerity. Officials told everyone to read the Alesina/Ardagna paper (which is succinctly criticized by Christy Romer), cited Ireland as a success story, and in general assured everyone that they could call the confidence fairy from the vasty deep.

Now it turns out that contractionary policy is contractionary after all. As a result, despite all the austerity, deficits remain high. So what is to be done? More austerity!

Underlying the drive for even more austerity is the belief that the underlying economic potential of the British economy has fallen sharply, and will grow only slowly from now on. But why? There’s a discussion in the Office for Budget Responsibility report, p. 54, that basically throws up its hands — hey, these things happen after financial crises, it says, and cites an IMF report.

So I wonder: did they read the abstract of that report? Because here’s what it says:

Short-run fiscal and monetary stimulus is associated with smaller medium-run deviations of output and growth from the precrisis trend.

That is, history says that a financial crisis reduces long-run growth potential if policymakers don’t limit the short-run damage it does.

And yet what’s happening in Britain now is that depressed estimates of long-run potential are being used to justify more austerity, which will depress the economy even further in the short run, leading to further depression of long-run potential, leading to …

It really is just like a medieval doctor bleeding his patient, observing that the patient is getting sicker, not better, and deciding that this calls for even more bleeding.

And the truly awful thing is that Cameron and Osborne are so deeply identified with the austerity doctrine that they can’t change course without effectively destroying themselves politically.

As the Brits would say, brilliant. Just brilliant.

Causing Charley James of Minneapolis to comment:

David Cameron, Chancellor Osborne and the entire British Orwellian newspeak experiment with austerity brings growth, hate brings love and banks aren't to blame for a banking crisis should be a lesson to those of us in a former colony. It does not work, no matter how much the circus parade of GOP presidential pretenders say it does.

In watching BBC news last night, it was amazing to see Osborne in Parliament tie himself in knots trying to justify a failed policy while insisting there is more to come because that will make everything better. This goes beyond believing in the confidence fairy; this is delusional behavior that would subject mere mortals (as opposed to ministers of the Crown or supposedly serious Republicans) to an intense intervention by friends and family members.

Putting The Maze Into Amazement

Michael Buerk must be on holiday or something. So who is chairing The Moral Maze?

A man who was installed as President of the National Union of Students by the Communist Party when it was an agency of the Soviet Union, and who has never expressed one word of remorse. He duly cheered on Tony Blair in general and the Iraq War in particular, since he entirely correctly discerned that they were the triumph of the campus-based sectarian Left from that period. He is now, one need hardly add, a salaried employee of Rupert Murdoch.

People complain, not necessarily without cause, when Claire Fox and Kenan Malik are both on the panel at the same time, and especially when there is what is always guaranteed to be a provocative witness from that same stable of the former Revolutionary Communist Party, the former Living Marxism, and spiked online.

But no one seems to mind that for many years, going back to when Melanie Phillips and someone called Michael Gove were both on it every week, The Moral Maze has been Neocons' Big Night Out. These days, if it is not Melanie Phillips, then it is David Aaronovitch, and him in the chair. At least Phillips has sound views on many social issues.

Supposed balance came from Matthew Taylor, formerly Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit under Tony Blair, and from a Blair cheerleader turned Cameron cheerleader, Anne McElvoy. She went to the same school as I did, though not at the same time. But she openly says that she still goes to Mass for no reason except to secure acceptably upper-middle-class school places for her children without having to pay fees.

The rest of us had to make do with Clifford Longley, another Murdoch courtier and a glittering ornament of The Tablet. Imagine if Radio Four and the remaining higher-brow factual segments of BBC Television were required to have an orthodox Catholic every time that they had a secular Jew, or a homosexual atheist, or an overtly homosexual Anglican cleric (and one of my favourite Radio Four presenters is an overtly homosexual Anglican cleric). Just imagine it, if only for a moment.

The Poor Private Sector?

You were the ones who wanted all the blue-collar work contracted out. It is still being done at public expense, of course. Just no longer by staff (although they are very often the same people as before) who have to be paid and treated properly.

Central and local government contracts are one of many examples of how there is not really any such thing as “the private sector” in the sense that is usually meant. It exists only because of numerous forms of central and local government action. It therefore has vast public responsibilities, to which it is very high time that it was held.

Here in the North East, we can almost smell the difference between highly unionised people with national pay bargaining schemes, and not. But that difference did not used to exist. It ought not to exist. I shall tell you why not.

Even leaving aside the private sector’s obvious dependence on education, healthcare, housing provision, transport infrastructure and so on, take out bailouts or the permanent promise of them, take out central and local government contracts, take out planning deals and other sweeteners, and take out the guarantee of customer bases by means of public sector pay and the benefits system, and what is there left? They are all as dependent on public money as any teacher, nurse or road sweeper. Everyone is.

And with public money come public responsibilities, including public accountability for how those responsibilities are or are not being met, accountability and responsibilities defined by classical, historic, mainstream Christianity as the basis of the British State and as the guiding inspiration of all three of this State’s authentic, indigenous, popular political traditions.

Unusual Channels

I had meant to press 81 on Freeview (BBC Parliament), but I accidentally pressed 71 (Cbeebies).

What I found was a great deal more intelligent and mature than what I had been looking for.

"Patriotic Volunteers"

As Jacob Rees-Mogg calls them.

Known to the rest of us as the EDL, whom he clearly wants to bring "very much back" to the Conservative Party as surely as his heroine once did.

And like all the rest of them today, he is dredging up the half-memory of Reagan and the air traffic controllers. But, among many things that could be said on that score, Reagan had a complete set of fully trained and qualified air traffic controllers ready, willing and able to be appointed in place of the strikers.

Where is the complete set of fully trained and qualified people ready, willing and able to fill each and every one of today two million strikers' jobs, up to and including as headteachers, radiographers, meteorologists, First Division civil servants, and so on?

Does he want to bring in the EDL to do all of those jobs as well? Very much back, indeed.

Reality Check

Or should that be, "Cheque"?

According to David Cameron, in no longer holding the position of that Blairite ultra, John Hutton, the Labour Party "has left reality".

You and I might call it Blairite fundamentalism. But to Cameron and the Coalition, it is just "reality".

Free Trade Unions

Having trade union reps on the premises, and giving them an office with a phone and an email address, all of that is one thing.

But having trade union reps employed as such by, say, the NHS or the Council? You wouldn't want your union rep to be employed by the company if you were in the private sector, would you?

The larger unions, about which we are really talking here, are loaded. Let them make use of the independence with which that wealth provides them. State funding of trade unions is as pernicious as State funding of political parties.

On The Whole

“We know that his whole party is paid for by the Unions,” shrieked Cameron. Well, yes. Everyone has always known that. It is hardly a secret. Whereas you have to do quite a bit of digging to discover that Cameron’s whole party is paid for, and his whole Cabinet is paid directly by, the foreign companies and proprietors who want rid of pension liabilities before they will buy up our public services on the cheap in order to pay both that party and those supposed Ministers of the Crown even more money in gratitude.

The Rising Moon

The question of Nile Gardiner's Unificationism has once again presented itself.

As Chesterton said, when people stop believing in Christianity (I mean, as he did, the strong stuff, not tepid Churchianity), then they do not believe in nothing. Rather, they believe in anything. Absolutely anything at all.

Except, of course, the mainstream Christianity against which they have defined themselves, and as professed by twelve tribes of Palestinian, by a large minority in Syria, formerly by a large minority in Iraq until neocon actions drove most of them out, and by the Armenians and Assyrians with reserved parliamentary representation in Iran.

See what neoconservatism has turned the Republican Party into. The old school of American mainline Protestantism was removed as its frame of reference and replaced with the witterings of Leo Strauss, Max Shachtman and Ayn Rand.

Creating the space for every fruitcake from sea to shining sea: Gardiner and the rest of the Washington Times Moonies, Romney and the Mormons (lining up Gardiner for National Security Advisor – then do we finally get to strip him of his British citizenship?), Sharron Angle and the Scientologists, Christine O’Donnell and the dabblers in witchcraft, Rand Paul and the worshippers of whatever Aqua Buddha might be, the Dominionists and the “Christian Zionists”.

Goodbye, Middle America.

Happy Saint Andrew's Day

There should be a public holiday throughout the United Kingdom today, and on Saint George's Day, Saint David's Day and Saint Patrick's Day.

Three fall in these Islands' incomparable Spring and early Summer, while the fourth, today, would preclude any Christmas anything until it was out of the way.

Away with pointless celebrations of the mere fact that the banks are on holiday. If we had proper holidays, as in other countries, then everyone, even shop workers and distribution drivers, would have those days off, as in other countries.

Much of the country is taking today off this year. Let's make it an annual event.

The Original Winterval

I have been participating elsewhere in a most interesting discussion of the decision of President Obama to omit any reference to God from his Thanksgiving Message. Such an omission is really only proper. Thanksgiving was invented in no small measure to supplant Christmas, and the American Founding Fathers were not Christians. They were Deists, and their position is exemplified by The Jefferson Bible, from which he excised all reference to Christ’s Divinity, Resurrection or miracles.

However, the actual phrase “the separation of Church and State” does not occur in the Constitution. Rather, the First Amendment’s reference to religion was designed to stop Congress, full of Deists as it was, from suppressing the Established Churches of several states, although they all disestablished them of their own volition later on precisely because they had fallen so completely under the Founding Fathers’ influence. The 1797 Treaty of Tripoli, “of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary”, was submitted to the Senate by President John Adams, was ratified unanimously, and specified that “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”. Although he attended Episcopalian services with his wife, George Washington did not receive Communion.

It has been suggested that Thanksgiving was a continuation of Puritan and older Harvest Festivals in East Anglia. It was not. Such things did and do go on in Europe, but certainly not among the Puritans. Next, you will be telling me that they believed in religious liberty. Whatever next! The historical facts are as I set them out. As Chesterton said, in America they give thank for the arrival of the Pilgrims, in England we should give thanks for their departure. A good line and one with various truths in it, but the link between Thanksgiving and the Pilgrim Fathers is a piece of fiction - at root, it is a lie. Arguably a harmless lie. But undeniably a lie.

Thanksgiving has been rather successful in supplanting Christmas, being the holiday for which people make a point of returning to their family homes and so forth, because the government of America started out as explicitly anti-Christian and has been terribly effective in de-Christianising its country, despite the First Amendment protections that every state then went on to relinquish voluntarily because they had fallen under the spell of the Founding Fathers.

However, since 1776 predates 1789, the American Republic is not a product of the Revolution, but nevertheless sits under a radically orthodox theological critique, most obviously by reference to pre-Revolutionary traditions of Catholic and Protestant republican thought, on the Catholic side perhaps Venetian, on the Protestant side perhaps Dutch, and on both sides perhaps at cantonal level in Switzerland, where it is possible that such thought might hold sway even now.

There simply were Protestant Dutch Republics before the Revolution. There simply was a Catholic Venetian Republic before the Revolution. There simply were, and there simply are, Protestant and Catholic cantons in Switzerland, predating the Revolution. The literature must be there, for those who can read the languages sufficiently well. Furthermore, there is no shortage of Americans whose ancestors came from the Netherlands or from Italy, and there may well be many who assume from their surnames that their bloodline is German or Italian (or possibly French) when in fact it is Swiss. It is time for a few of them to go looking for these things, with a view to applying them as the radically orthodox theological critique of that pre-Revolutionary creation, the American Republic.

Within that wider context, far more Jacobites went into exile from these Islands than Huguenots sought refuge here. The Jacobites founded the Russian Navy of Peter the Great. They maintained a network of merchants in the ports circling the Continent. Their banking dynasties had branches in several great European cities. They introduced much new science and technology to their host countries. They dominated the Swedish East India and Madagascar Companies. They fought with the French in India. And very many of them ended up either in the West Indies or in North America.

New York seems the most obvious place to look for them, being named after its initial proprietor as a colony, the future James VII and II. However, there were many Jacobite Congregationalists, such as Edward Roberts, the exiled James’s emissary to the anti-Williamite Dutch republics, and Edward Nosworthy, a gentleman of his Privy Council both before and after 1688. There was that Catholic enclave, Maryland. And there was Pennsylvania: almost, if almost, all of the Quakers were at least initially Jacobites, and William Penn himself was arrested for Jacobitism four times between 1689 and 1691.

Many Baptists were also Jacobites, and the name, episcopal succession and several other features of the American Episcopal Church derive, not from the Church of England, but from the staunchly Jacobite Episcopal Church in Scotland, which provided the American Colonies with a bishop, Samuel Seabury, in defiance of the Church of England and of the Hanoverian monarchy to which it was attached.

Early Methodists were regularly accused of Jacobitism. John Wesley himself had been a High Church missionary in America, and Methodism was initially an outgrowth of pre-Tractarian, often at least sentimentally Jacobite, High Churchmanship. Very many people conformed to the Established Church but either refused to take the Oath or declared that they would so refuse if called upon to take it. With its anti-Calvinist soteriology, it high sacramentalism and Eucharistic theology, and its hymnody based on the liturgical year, early Methodism appealed to them.

So the redemption of the American republican experiment, of which Thanksgiving is one of the great popular expressions, is clearly possible. But only by looking beyond the Founding Fathers and by submitting them, whatever the consequences, to what lies in that Great Beyond.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Bloody Students

Iranian ones were beyond reproach when they stamped their petulant little feet at the re-election of Ahmadinejad, for good or ill, by persons other than the North Tehran Trendies who alone are entitled to an opinion, including a vote.

But now, they have stormed the British Embassy because of our outrageous economic action against their country at the behest of a state which steals our citizens' identities in order to commit acts of international terrorism, ran a pirate foreign policy out of the office of our former Defence Secretary, and maintains the world's only threat of a nuclear attack upon a non-nuclear state.

A non-nuclear state with more women than men at university, with the most acclaimed cinema in the world, with better provision for small parties and for Independents than exists in many a United State of America, and with reserved parliamentary representation for Jews and for ancient indigenous Christians; in Israel, by contrast, the party of the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister seeks to denaturalise both the ultra-Orthodox Jews (as those in Iran would be classified) and the ancient indigenous Christians.

Tiny upper-middle-class children demonstrated against the hunting ban. A few years later, upper-middle-class teenagers demonstrated against the Iraq War. Do a little bit of mental arithmetic. They were right on both occasions. But you would never have guessed that from the wholly different ways in which they were treated both by the police and by the press. Plus ça change.

Capital Crimes

The sublime chandelier episode of Only Fools and Horses was on this afternoon. Combined with the wind and rain, and the fact that I have to be in the house all day today anyway in order to work on some material for publication, I do rather feel that this is a providential day. But watching John Sullivan's masterpiece has brought to the front of my mind something that has been rolling around in my head for a while. Only Fools and Horses was, and EastEnders still is, how working-class London portrays itself to the nation and to the world.

Whereas, notwithstanding the odd serial killer or what have you who might blow in, the villainous characters who are in Coronation Street for years on end are usually nothing worse than Dickensian employers and the like, EastEnders portrays no dividing line whatever between even the most respectable working-class families and the farthest shores of organised crime.

The residents of Albert Square invariably include at least one senior gangster, and the latest, Derek Branning, is not only played by a real life son of one the Krays' closest associates, but is depicted as sharing a flat with his idolising younger brother, a former policemen in no sense portrayed as bent. One of the main families in EastEnders for the last 20 years has been involved in all manner of violent and otherwise serious crime. As was that family's sometime stepfather, one of the programme's best-loved comic characters. But we were not talking about Del Boy and Rodney antics there. And so on, and on, and on.

Is blue-collar London really like that? Are the sort of people who literally arrange, or even carry out, contract killings really just regular punters in the pub, treated as quite unremarkable by neighbours who know exactly who and what they are? Are the families of the Firm and the Met really that intertwined? If not, then why does the most London of Corporations make it appear so in its flagship depiction of London life, which is also its flagship depiction of working-class life?

The Silenced Majority

Tomorrow's strikes enjoy two-thirds support.

That exceeds even Labour's 10-point lead over the Conservatives, which is just as ignored by the universally Blairite, and therefore pro-Cameron, media, as surely as is the fact that the other Coalition party's lead over UKIP is within the margin of error.

Ed Miliband should take this opportunity to make himself the only voice of two out of every three voters. And he should ask why we must suffer a commentariat which bears no resemblance to public opinion, even if that (rather than technological change) does make it far less important than it used to be.

The Not So Secret State

Specifically, the Murdoch Empire, apparently capable of hacking into the computers of the Northern Ireland Office.

Beyond Special Branch, beyond MI5, beyond MI6 - all of which, among others, had and have that particular back - are Rupert Murdoch and Company Limited.

And they make not the slightest attempt to hide that fact, because they know that nothing whatever can be done about them.

Can it...?

Come In From The Cold

Katia Zatuliveter was not a spy after all.

Well, of course she wasn't. A spy in the office of some Lib Dem backbencher? What on earth for?

Russia is not a threat to Britain. Nor is China. Nor is Iran. Rather, each in her own way is a challenge to us to be more properly ourselves.

The Enemy Of The Good

Mercer's 2010 Quality of Living Survey ranks 221 cities, with Vienna at the top. And Baghdad at the bottom. Yes, Baghdad. The one that we went to so much effort to "liberate" and improve".

All at the behest of the Israelis. I hope that they are very proud that, as Radio Four will detail at 8pm, there are now only seven Jews living in what was that one-third Jewish city a century ago. I might add that the Shrine of Ezra the Scribe (who invented both synagogues and the square Hebrew script) is already a mosque, with the Shrine of Ezekiel, featuring some of the oldest Hebrew inscriptions in the world, next on the list.

Perhaps they are. This is all very Avigdor Lieberman, after all.

Take Care

Small children need their mothers. It used to be the pride of Social Democratic and Christian Democratic West Germany that matters were carefully arranged to ensure that mothers did not need to go out to work, unlike in East Germany, where they were conscripted into the labour force and where their tiny tots were duly put into institutions suspiciously similar to Sure Start.

Not only in this regard, the Surveillance State of Bloc Party Britain seems to want to be East Germany rather than West Germany.

Which Side Are You On?

Over in The Week/The First Post, the ubiquitous Neil Clark writes:

Whose side are you on in Britain's biggest industrial dispute since the 1920s? The public sector trade unions, who are leading Wednesday's national strike of up to 2.6m workers, say they are fighting to maintain the living standards of their members, who are being hit with wage freezes, cuts to their pensions and a higher cost of living.

Prime Minister David Cameron says that far from being hard done by, many public sector workers will still receive pensions "far, far better" than ones in the private sector. And guess what? Dave's right. The concessions announced by the Government earlier this month mean that public sector workers will retire with pension deals worth up to 20 times that of the average worker in the private sector. According to Treasury figures, a civil servant on a final salary of £29,000 would earn an annual pension of £24,300. A private sector worker would need to accumulate a pension pot of £650,000 to achieve the same annual income.

Unfair? It most certainly is. Therefore it surely follows that private sector workers should be siding with the Government this week against those selfish strikers fighting to protect their "gold-plated" pension deals which the rest of us pay for.

Er, no.

We've got to ask ourselves why the Government is targeting the wages and pensions of those in the public sector. The stated reason is to cut the deficit. But is it really true? We have a Government that spent, according to the analyst Francis Tusa, around £1bn on the war in Libya and which, if reports are to be believed, is making contingency plans for war with Iran, a conflict which would surely cost even more. The Government hasn't cut spending on other areas that could easily be reduced. On the contrary, it is actually increasing the money it spends on foreign aid, for example, from £8.7bn to £12bn in 2014, a whopping 34 per cent rise.

To find the real reason why public sector workers are being targeted, we need to step back and consider what is the Government's core philosophy. As I wrote here last year, this is a coalition of free-market Orange Book Liberals and free-market Thatcherite Tories. The overriding aim of Cameron's administration is to "roll back the frontiers of the state" and "finish the job" - begun by Margaret Thatcher - of privatising or outsourcing the entire public sector, with the exception of the security forces and the judiciary.

The intention is there for all to see in the government's Open Public Services White Paper, published in July. The document calls for "greater diversity in the provision of public services" and for the state's role to change from being a provider of public services, to one that will just ensure "fair access" to them.

But there's one problem with this plan. Profit-hungry PLCs wouldn't want to take over the direct running of public services when public sector pensions are so much higher than those in private sector. Reducing pensions is therefore an essential preliminary to "finishing the job". "Pension obligations are the biggest barrier to more privatising and outsourcing of public-sector services," writes Peter Wilby. "Public services, we are repeatedly told, are run for the employees, not the public. They are being 'reformed' so that they can be run for the benefit of capital."

In relation to the Royal Mail, the Government has already announced that the taxpayer will take over responsibility for the company's pension fund - which has an £8.4bn deficit - "as part of the preparations for the sale of the company". But clearly there'd be an ever bigger outcry if they tried to do the same for schools, hospitals and other public services, hence the pressing need now to go on the offensive.

Pro-privatisation zealots will claim that allowing private corporations to provide services hitherto offered by the state will enhance "choice" and lead to a better deal for the consumer. But having seen what happened to our railways and to our gas, electricity and water companies when they were privatised - do we really want to see our health service, customs and immigration agencies and our state-schools go the same way? Of course not.

Which is why private sector workers ought to be putting to one side their envy over public sector pensions, and supporting Wednesday's industrial action. It's not so much that the Government's changes are inherently bad, it's the motivation which lies behind them that makes them so objectionable.

Hitchens To The Life

George Scialabba reviews the less influential brother, the one who couldn't make it in the country that had the measure of him, the one who has not successfully cost the Conservative Party two General Elections in a row:

It has always been with me a test of the sense and candor of anyone belonging to the opposite party whether he allowed Christopher Hitchens to be an ornament of Anglo-American literary journalism. Hundreds of novelists, historians, memoirists, and politicians have undergone Hitchens’s critical attentions, to the frequent edification and unfailing entertainment of his readers. Few present-day journalists have a detectable, much less unmistakable, prose style; the suavity and piquancy of Hitchens’s prose are unmatched among his critical peers.

Equally admirable is his breadth of reading; he has made an art of casual allusion. “Erudition” is not quite right; it suggests labor, and what is most impressive about the way Hitchens liberally sprinkles apposite quotes from Auden and Larkin, Waugh and Wodehouse, Jefferson and Churchill throughout his essays is his apparent effortlessness. He always seems to have been reading just the right book at just the right moment—though at a certain point it dawns on you that it can’t be an accident; he really must be intimate with an extraordinary expanse of modern European history and literature.

The essays collected in Prepared for the Worst (1988), For the Sake of Argument (1991), Unacknowledged Legislation (2000), Love, Poverty, and War (2004), and now Arguably range almost inconceivably widely. A short gallery of personal favorites would begin with his portrait of Thomas Paine, whom he praises in terms that strikingly parallel Lionel Trilling on Orwell:

Everything he wrote was plain, obvious, and within the mental compass of the average. In that lay his genius. And, harnessed to his courage (which was exceptional) and his pen (which was at any rate out of the common), this faculty of the ordinary made him outstanding.

It would include his portrait of Conor Cruise O’Brien, to whose variegated political and intellectual career Hitchens renders difficult and delicate justice. His first embattled defense of Orwell (several others would follow) remarks penetratingly that “the essence of Orwell’s work is a sustained criticism of servility. It is not what you think but how you think that matters.” There are blistering takedowns of English politicians Reginald Maudling and Michael Foot and American neoconservatives Norman Podhoretz and Charles Krauthammer, which, brief though they are, deserve to outlive their subjects. There is a harrowing report from El Salvador under the death squads, with a muted and diffident, but all the more affecting, tribute to the Catholic resistance.

A tossed-off column from 25 years ago is virtually Hitchens’s sole effort to formulate a political philosophy. It is so good that one is furious with him for never returning to the subject:

I bought an armful of socialist magazines in London recently, and was impressed by their dogged iteration of the new rage for free-market, individualist formulae. … Once the intoxication of this ‘new thinking’ has worn off, it will again become boringly clear that all macro questions are questions that confront society rather than the individual. … This is true of the imperiled web of nature and climate, which when messed around with can lead to dustbowls in one province and floods in the neighboring one. It is true of the water that can bring lead into the blood and bone of children. There is no ‘minimal government’ solution to any of these pressing matters.

One doesn’t want or need to argue this with any relish. The idea of the individual should not be glibly counterposed to the idea of society. After all, what is society made up of, if not individuals? But there are two ways of facing collective responsibilities. One is to ignore them until it is too late, at which point things like rationing, conscription, and regimentation become the options, irrespective of whether the system is capitalist or socialist. The other is to recognize them in time and take the necessary measures freely and by consent. But there is no evading these responsibilities altogether, or of dismissing them as ‘One World sentimentality.’


Alas, these examples have only gotten us through Hitchens’s first collection, Prepared for the Worst. There is no space left to mention his authoritative pieces on the New York intellectuals and Noel Annan’s portrait of the British Establishment, or “Booze and Fags,” a jolly paean to alcohol and tobacco, or an illuminating essay on Daniel Deronda (all in For the Sake of Argument); the pair of exquisite tributes to Oscar Wilde, the discerning essays on Conan Doyle, Kipling, and Anthony Powell, or the full-on considerations of Isaiah Berlin and Whittaker Chambers, Gore Vidal and Andy Warhol (in Unacknowledged Legislation); the magisterial assessments of Trotsky and Churchill, the wonderfully perceptive, V.S. Pritchett-like essays on Byron, Huxley, Waugh, Joyce, Proust, Borges, and Bellow, or the simultaneously rollicking and haunting record of a trip the length of Route 66 in a rented red Corvette (in Love, Poverty, and War).

And even this leaves out his books: No One Left to Lie To, a definitive account (or as near as possible) of Bill Clinton’s mendacity; The Trial of Henry Kissinger, which has convinced hundreds of thousands of readers (some of them sitting magistrates in foreign countries) that President Obama’s fellow Nobel laureate should be behind bars; and God Is Not Great, the first New York Times number one bestseller to advance that claim. It’s clear, I’m afraid, that within the confines of a mere book review, any short gallery of personal favorites will be frustratingly incomplete. There’s simply too much very good Hitchens.

Of course, not all of Hitchens was very good, even before 9/11 drove him mad. He was always too ready with abuse—“stupid” and “tenth-rate” were particular weaknesses. He is a compulsive name-dropper: in his very short Letters to a Young Contrarian, for example, the words “my friend,” followed by a distinguished name, appear dozens of times, giving the reader’s eyebrows a considerable workout. Some of the aforementioned allusions flow a little too readily: there is a subtle difference between relishing a fine phrase and relishing hearing oneself quote a fine phrase. And in recent years, he has occasionally fallen into what might be called the knightly style, where mellifluousness modulates into orotundity. “The disagreeable and surreptitious element of this story cannot indefinitely remain unexamined.” “The masochistic British attitude to inevitable decline seems to have reversed itself, at least to some extent.” All too many occurrences of “I think I may venture to say,” “if I may make so bold as to observe,” “I hope I may be forgiven for pointing out,” and the like. Fortunately, Hitchens the staunch republican has so frequently and zestfully insulted the British monarchy that he is in no danger of becoming Sir Christopher.

More damagingly, his politics have always been a little too first-person. Some memorable portraits and descriptions have resulted from his many extensively reported trips to the world’s trouble spots, but not much insight. The tendency of one’s first-hand experience—the testimony one has heard, the suffering one has witnessed, the bonds one has formed—to crowd other people’s arguments to the margins of judgment is hard to resist. To hope for drama and analysis, passion and wisdom, from the same writer, at any rate on the same occasion, is usually vain. Hitchens’s genuine, generous, longstanding hatred of oppression—a rare quantity among proponents of America’s wars on Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq—has nevertheless had disastrous results over the last dozen years.

I began this review by paraphrasing Hazlitt on Burke. When he passed from praising Burke to chastising him, Hazlitt observed that “the poison of high example has by far the widest range of destruction.” Hitchens’s single-minded advocacy of American military intervention has been as destructive as any mere scribbler’s efforts could be. “The very subtlety of his reasoning,” Hazlitt wrote of Burke, “became a dangerous engine in the hands of power, which is always eager to make use of the most plausible pretexts to cover the most fatal designs.” Hitchens’s reasoning has been anything but subtle, but he has more than made up for the poverty of his arguments with rich stores of invective, anecdote, and—as a last refuge—rhetorical patriotism.

What changed Hitchens’s mind about American foreign policy? Three things, it seems. The first was a growing identification, the longer he resided here, with American society and culture, a romance affectingly described in his autobiography, Hitch-22. The second was his increasingly militant anticlericalism, fed especially by the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Hitchens’s friend Salman Rushdie. The third was a long-gathering disaffection with the Anglo-American left, which he saw as frozen in postures of multiculturalism and anti-Americanism. He refers in the introduction to Arguably to an “ongoing polemic … between the anti-imperialist left and the anti-totalitarian left”; announcing his accession to the latter in Hitch-22, he described the former as those who “in the final instance believe that if the United States is doing something, then that thing cannot by definition be a moral or ethical action.” Perhaps because of chronic deadline pressure, Hitchens has never plumbed this important question any deeper than that facile opposition and glib taunt.

Rumbling around inside Hitchens, these ingredients produced dyspepsia in the 1990s, when he eventually accepted NATO’s rationale for its “humanitarian” bombing of Serbia and berated his comrades for insufficient hostility to the repellent Clinton (though not because Clinton had destroyed American manufacturing with his “free trade” agreements and accelerated the financialization of the economy, matters about which Hitchens had nothing to say). 9/11 churned his feelings to the point of nausea, and he vomited (or as he would say, spewed). This reaction did his insides much good—he proclaimed the relief “unbelievable.” But as with most such eructations, the results were indiscriminate.

His reports from Kurdistan, southern Iraq, and Afghanistan were vivid and moving. His account in Hitch-22 of his ideological evolution was admirably honest, even if long on anecdote and short on analysis. But his arguments—collected in A Long Short War (2003)—were as feeble as they were smug. A convenient, though very partial, catalogue of Hitchens’s sophistries was assembled by Norman Finkelstein:

To prove that, after supporting dictatorial regimes in the Middle East for 70 years, the US has abruptly reversed itself and now wants to bring democracy there, he cites ‘conversations I have had on this subject in Washington.’ To demonstrate the ‘glaringly apparent’ fact that Saddam ‘infiltrated, or suborned, or both’ the UN inspection teams in Iraq, he adduces the ‘incontrovertible case’ of an inspector offered a bribe by an Iraqi official: ‘the man in question refused the money, but perhaps not everybody did.’

…Hitchens maintains that that ‘there is a close … fit between the democratically minded and the pro-American’ in the Middle East—like ‘President for Life’ Hosni Mubarak … that the US’s rejoining of UNESCO during the Iraq debate proved its commitment to the UN; that ‘empirical proofs have been unearthed’ showing that Iraq didn’t comply with UN resolutions to disarm; that since the UN solicits US support for multilateral missions, it’s ‘idle chatter’ to accuse the US of acting unilaterally in Iraq; that the likely killing of innocent civilians in ‘hospitals, schools, mosques and private homes’ shouldn’t deter the US from attacking Iraq because it is proof of Saddam’s iniquity that he put civilians in harm’s way; that those questioning billions of dollars in postwar contracts going to Bush administration cronies must prefer them going to ‘some windmill-power concern run by Naomi Klein.’


Hitchens’s response to these and all other criticisms—including the fundamental one, that preventive war is a step toward international anarchy—has been sheer bluster, an insistence that he has been right all along, in every particular, with 20/20 foresight. Everything that has happened since the invasion—half a million deaths and several million refugees, not to mention the half-million deaths from sanctions that preceded it, and the wholesale and unnecessary aerial devastation of Iraqi infrastructure both in 1991 and 2003; in addition to deep inroads on civil liberties and constitutional government at home—is not our fault. But everything good that has happened is our doing—notably the Arab Spring, whose participants in fact repeatedly tell pollsters of their fear and mistrust of the United States, stemming largely from past and present American military interventions in the region. Although this is not a grown-up position, Hitchens has maintained it unflappably, and his reputation has not suffered. But then, no one has ever suffered much for flattering the prejudices of the American foreign-policy elite. Willingness to affirm the unique moral status and prerogatives of the United States has always been the chief prerequisite of political or journalistic Very Serious Personhood.

Arguably is much the longest of Hitchens’s collections. (And perhaps his last—he has advanced esophageal cancer.) It is very rewarding, with book-length (or very nearly) sections on American writers, English writers, writers under totalitarian regimes, and “Offshore Accounts”—reports/profiles/capsule histories of two dozen countries or international episodes. The choicest delicacies on this groaning board are a dozen or so exquisite appreciations: of Rebecca West, Evelyn Waugh, P.G. Wodehouse, Anthony Powell, John Buchan, Saki, Philip Larkin, Victor Serge, Victor Klemperer, W.G. Sebald, the novels of Fleet Street, the Flashman novels, and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Two charming throwaways, one on “like,” the other on the (soon-to-be-obsolete?) problem of not enough bookshelves, make one wish Hitchens had not given up to mankind what was meant for a few discriminating readers. But there is fine, mellow writing in each of the book’s 107 pieces.

Arguably is low on provocations: most of Hitchens’s worst writing appears in his Slate column, “Fighting Words,” which is mercifully underrepresented here. But slender threads of belligerence and chauvinism run through the book. Some are comparatively inconsequential. An essay on “Jefferson and the Muslim Pirates” offers these reflections:

[T]he Barbary Wars gave Americans an inkling of the fact that they were, and always would be, bound up with global affairs. Providence might have seemed to grant them a haven guarded by two oceans, but if they wanted to be anything more than the Chile of North America—a long littoral ribbon caught between the mountains and the sea—they would have to prepare for a maritime struggle as well as a campaign to redeem the unexplored landmass to their west. The US Navy’s Mediterranean squadron has, in one form of another, been on patrol ever since.

Besides managing to suggest that an American global military presence, particularly in the Middle East, is simply an expression of our national destiny, this passage also nicely elides a century of hideous cruelty and greed. In the phrase, “redeem the unexplored landmass to their west,” it is hard to decide which word is more offensive: “redeem” or “unexplored.” “Conquer the rest of the continent,” though perhaps less sonorous, would have been infinitely less objectionable. It is difficult to imagine the pre-9/11 Hitchens forgetting himself to such an extent; and, to be fair, even Hitchens post-9/11 rarely sounds so Blimpish.

But other, more characteristic remarks are less forgivable. In “The Anglosphere Future,” Hitchens again employs ideologically polarized lenses. This time he looks ahead, toward a worldwide commonwealth of English-speaking nations, based on America’s indestructible prosperity (the essay was published a few months before the Great Recession began), on the solidarity of America’s English-speaking allies against Islamic radicalism (“a barbarism that is no less menacing than its predecessors … the Nazi-Fascist Axis … and international Communism”), and on the English language itself (“uniquely hostile to euphemisms for tyranny”).

The shape of the world since September 11 has, in fact, shown the outline of such an alliance in practice. Everybody knows of Tony Blair’s solidarity with the United States, but when the chips were down, Australian forces also went to Iraq. Attacked domestically for being ‘all the way with the USA,’ Australian prime minister John Howard made the imperishable observation that in times of crisis, there wasn’t much point in being 75 percent a friend.

Leaving aside whether an Anglosphere is feasible or desirable, Hitchens here falls into the propagandist’s habit of saying “the United States” when he means “the government of the United States.” In this case, actually, even “the government of the United States” would have been misleading. The rush to war with Iraq was led, in the words of the appalled chief of staff to the Secretary of State, by “a cabal between the Vice President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense on critical issues, which made decisions that the bureaucracy did not even know were being made.” This cabal was the object of Tony Blair’s solidarity, not “the United States.”

Blair might, moreover, have shown a little more solidarity with the British public, which opposed the intervention even in the teeth of drumbeating by the Murdoch press, and indeed with his own government, whose attorney general warned him that the invasion was illegal and whose intelligence service warned him that the American cabal’s arguments were dishonest. As for Australia’s doughty prime minister, who also disdained solidarity with his own public, he might have been a better friend to the United States by admonishing its government—or governing cabal—to obey international law and cease lying to the American people and the rest of the world. The United States badly needed such admonitions from its foreign friends, since the American media and most intellectuals, with Hitchens in the vanguard, shirked that responsibility.

In his great essay, Hazlitt summed up:

Burke was an acute and accomplished man of letters—an ingenious political essayist. … He had the power of throwing true or false weights into the scales of political casuistry, but not firmness of mind enough (or shall we say, honesty enough) to hold the balance. When he took a side, his vanity or his spleen more frequently gave the casting vote than his judgment; and the fieriness of his zeal was in exact proportion to the levity of his understanding, and the want of conscious sincerity.

Whether or not one finds this true of Burke, it is Hitchens to the life.

Socialisme Conservateur

Matthew Franklin Cooper writes:

People who know me well are usually not surprised to know that I’ve had a fascination with the historical figure of Klemens Wenzel, Fürst von Metternich, since before I graduated from college: a bundle of contradictions (or seemingly so) drawn to another. Metternich has garnered in much of the world the reputation of an arch-conservative, even an absolutist reactionary, seeking quixotically to hold back an inevitable tide of progress, which finally saw him defeated in the liberal revolutions of 1848.

During his heyday, though, he was the bogeyman of many a ‘free-trade’ liberal, nationalist and free-speech advocate in his day, with the anti-nationalist Karlsbader Beschlüsse being the primary symbol of the censorship and repression with which Metternich was associated. As a personal figure, as well, he appeared to exemplify at once both the worst and the best of the old European nobility. Peter Viereck describes him as a ‘Frenchified German dandy… witty, pleasure-loving and arrogant’, which is perhaps not an unfair description. Continental in his attitude toward marriage (to put it politely, given his affairs with a number of high-profile women including Caroline Murat, Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister) and almost hubristically confident in his (formidable, to be sure) intelligence and abilities, he nevertheless dedicated those very same talents of which he was so cock-sure entirely to the service of his emperor and to the ancien régime.

Yet, under the international system he engineered, Europe enjoyed over a generation of peace – and what is more, it was not a peace enforced by the hegemony of a single economic or political regime, but rather a participatory and (largely) communicative system wherein powers were balanced with each other. He did not always get along with Emperor Francis; indeed, he opposed the most egregious forms of domestic censorship, advocated moderate local self-rule for Italians and Hungarians, was an ardent defender of the rights of Jews across the Continent in an era when they were still massively unpopular even amongst liberals, and was a consistent advocate for constitutional reforms within the Habsburg Empire. He attempted to bridge the gulf between the serfs, the growing proletarian class, and the landed gentry through his ‘socialisme conservateur’ – a vision of political economy which shares in its cosmopolitan reconciliation of the classes a great deal of overlap with later Catholic social theology, and by which the Prince made himself the ‘enem[y] of anarchy, moral and material’. In a time where liberal thought was converging upon the nation-state as its greatest vehicle of political empowerment, Metternich turned his vision at once upward to a greater international order and downward to more local forms of order.

One may argue the finer points over whether or not what he did was ultimately best for Europe as a whole, but there are many points that I think one can successfully take from his thought. For one thing, Metternich was far-sighted enough to see that the ethnically-homogeneous ideal of the nation-state was a horrible idea (a hearty thank-you to California Constantian for the link!), and that the secret societies within such ideas were allowed to manifest themselves in violent extremes were not a healthy development but rather a ‘gangrene of society’. Though one may decry that the Karlsbader Beschlüsse themselves were an extreme and repressive measure, one must remember that out of the ‘liberal’ Burschenschaften against which they were primarily aimed arose many of the aggressive hyper-nationalist and anti-Semitic tendencies which ultimately plunged the European continent into another total war, a genocide. By contrast, it is well to remember that Prince Metternich’s socialisme conservateur was at once the fountainhead of his support for the traditional monarchical state, as well as being the very source of his defence of the basic dignities of the Italians, the Hungarians and the Jews in Europe.

In keeping with the season, in addition to the other parts of my life for which I give thanks, I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to the intellectual inspiration of Fürst Metternich – a flawed but nevertheless incredibly profound political theorist as well as master diplomat.

Likewise, the principle of the planned economy came down to the Attlee Government, via the Liberal Keynes and via Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from an ultraconservative Catholic, Colbert (once assumed by a sometime regular below the line on here to be a reference to The Colbert Report). The principle of the Welfare State came down to the Attlee Government, via the Liberals Lloyd George and Beveridge, and via the Conservative Governments of the Inter-War years, from an ultraconservative Protestant, Bismarck.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Complex

The BBC seems to have one.

Two thirds on a proportional basis, one third on a constituency basis: what is "complex" about that?

Or is the fear that we might ask, "If they can have something like that in Egypt, then why can't we, in the most mature democracy in the world?"

Return of the Whigs

There is a Modern Whig Party in the United States, founded by veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and seeking to organize what it sees as abandoned conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans. It strikes me as too cautious both in challenging economic neoliberalism and in challenging social liberalism. But I am told that is growing quite rapidly, although it is not my main concern in this post.

The roots of the American Republic, of the campaign against the slave trade, of Radical and Tory action against social evils, of the extension of the franchise, of the creation of the Labour Movement, and of opposition to the Boer and First World Wars, all stretch back to Catholic, High Church (and thus first Methodist and then also Anglo-Catholic), Congregationalist, Baptist, Quaker and other disaffection with the Whig Revolution of 1688, such that within those communities, long after any hope of a Stuart restoration had died, there remained a sense that the Hanoverian State, its Empire, and that Empire’s capitalist ideology were less than fully legitimate, a sense which had startlingly radical consequences. Radical action for social justice and for peace derived from testing the State and its policies against theologically grounded criteria of legitimacy. It still does.

But the Conservative Party has been hoovering up Liberals for a very long time: Liberal Unionists, Liberal Imperialists, National Liberals, Alfred Roberts’s daughter, those around the Institute of Economic Affairs (although its founders and its founding backer, like Roberts, never actually joined), and now the Liberal Democrats. Among those last, the most blatantly obvious outrider or trailblazer is Elizabeth Truss, a veteran anti-monarchist campaigner within that party, and also possessed of most unorthodox opinions regarding the institution of marriage, but whom the Conservative hierarchy forced upon a safe Conservative seat in time for the 2010 General Election, since when it has promoted her vigorously in and through the media. The followers of David Owen, another who never formally signed up, were in a very similar position, although Owen himself is now close to Ed Miliband.

The Conservative Party is itself therefore two parties in one, which would be entirely separate in many other countries, competing hardly at all for the same votes and co-operating hardly at all on any issue of policy. The metropolitan, urban, capitalist, secular, libertarian, make-the-world-anew party has finally defeated and banished the provincial, rural, protectionist, church-based, conservative, mind-our-own-business party. The Whigs have finally defeated and banished the Tories.

Opposition to the privatisation of the Royal Mail echoes the Tory cry of “King and People” against the Whig magnates. It even expresses loyalty to the legacy of the Royal House of Stuart. Those who believe in publicly owned public services, in strong unions, and in rural communities must unite with those, very largely the same people, who believe in national sovereignty (both as against the EU and as against the foreign acquisition of a key national asset), in the monarchy’s direct link to every address, and in rural communities. Public ownership and strong unions are in fact safeguards of national sovereignty and of the countryside, and thus of that other such safeguard, the Crown. Together, we can save our Post Office.

However, Whiggery is also re-emerging in the form of Spencerism, the Whig Jacobitism. The Spencers were staunch Whigs, periodically emerging to run the country, and then disappearing back to their landed estates for another couple of generations. Yet, just as most Tories eventually balked at full on Jacobitism, so these Whigs seem to balk at what they see as a reigning house of lower-middle-class Germans. Ideology and identity are complicated things, after all.

The dim (or, for few, not so dim) memory of the Stuarts among the Tories has become the very bright memory of Diana among the Whigs, i.e., the economically neoliberal, socially liberal, and therefore geopolitically neoconservative ruling class now in control of all three political parties. They are all for the principle of parliamentary, which would now effectively mean popular, choice of the monarch. Just so long as that choice was in favour of a proper toff of unimpeachable Englishness, such as a member of the Noble House of Spencer. To them, the Throne’s legitimate occupant, at least once the present monarch dies, will be the legitimate heir of Diana as identified by popular acclaim, itself massively media-influenced. In other words, Prince William. Who will, of course, become King eventually, resolving the dispute.

But throughout his father’s reign, and indeed even before it begins, expect the Spencerists to bang on, and on, and on about its illegitimacy, and of course to form an entire subculture which will have as great, though nowhere near as subterranean, an influence as that of the Jacobites had. Indeed, both the emergence of that subculture, and that banging on itself, are already very well-advanced.

All Aboard The Double Dip

Told you so.

But these people are, or they are entirely dependent on, classical economists. To whom unemployment is a Good Thing. It frightens the middle and working classes into submission. So there can never be too much of it.

Unless you understand that, then you do not begin to understand either New Labour or the Coalition.

Itching For A Fight

That'll be Michael Gove, then.

Given Education in order to keep him away from the foreign policy brief in which his swivel-eyed lunacy would have made him the world's greatest threat to global peace and stability since the end of the Bush Administration. But evidently just as capable of raising merry hell there, too.

The Government is in a bind. It can hardly sack two million people, and in any case such is the nature of many of the jobs that it could not fill them with anyone apart from the people currently in them. Those people can just keep striking until they get what they want. So they will: they will keep on striking, and they will get what they want.

Like riots, there are always strikes of this kind under what the Conservative Party has become since the daughter of a Victorian Liberal became its Leader. The trick is to keep that party out of office. Then there are neither riots nor strikes. It is the riot and strike-inciting party created by Margaret Thatcher, and no one embodies it more perfectly than Michael Gove.

Hammer and Sickle

Fifty per cent of those elected in Egypt today must be either workers or farmers.

Imagine that...

Unfarepak

The legal fees in the Farepak case have now exceeded any compensation to which the victims might ever be entitled.

I don't know which is worse, that fact, or the fact that the only party to have taken up this case has been Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party, not in fact a vehicle for the Old Labour Left, but overwhelmingly a refuge for the pro-Soviet wing of the former Communist Party of Great Britain, and duly associated with the dotty historical theories of the Stalin Society.

Imagine if our country were divided into one hundred constituencies, each with as near as possible to an equal number of voters. Imagine if each of us voted for one candidate, with the six highest scorers declared elected at the end.

Permanent sizeable blocs might include a Blair or Cameron-style party of economically neoliberal, socially liberal, internationally neoconservative types, although I cannot help doubting whether very many people at all would vote for such a thing if it presented itself honestly as such.

However, permanent sizeable blocs would certainly include a party of High Tory paleocons (in the British and Old Commonwealth sense, so with a high view of the economic and social role of the State), an Old Liberal party (quite possibly the old Liberal Party, which still exists), an Old Labour Left party such as people wrongly supposed that the SLP might be or might become, and party of the patriotic and socially conservative base of the mainstream British Left.

Since an overall majority would always be impossible without at least four parties, we might reasonably hope and expect that all of these would always be in government at any given time. At least three of them definitely would be.

And then, like the victimisation of Remploy and so many other things, the victimisation of Farepak could simply never have happened.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Is George Osborne All That Bad?

No, bear with me.

He is an extreme social liberal who has voted to retain abortion into the very latest stages of pregnancy and, rather oddly for the heir of a baronetcy, against requiring the providers of fertility treatment to take account of the child's need for a father, but in favour of allowing two persons of the same sex to be listed as the parents on a birth certificate.

He is also a hardline neocon internationally, as this week's behaviour over Iran has made only too abundantly clear, and again as one does not really expect from a man who is impeccably a proper toff, for all that he was called "Oik" in the Bullingdon Club because his father was a mere baronet and was in trade.

He has never expressed any remorse, not only for having belonged to an organisation for the purpose of becoming drunk and disorderly before committing criminal damage and even assault, but also for cocaine use and for visiting prostitutes.

He wants the Eurozone to become a fiscal union, a single state, a country called Europe.

But he is in favour of restoring a manufacturing-based economy diffused around the country. He is in favour of using the full force of the statute law to impose an absolute division between retail banking and investment banking. He is rumoured to be about to freeze increases in train fares. He is in favour of using public money to pay businesses to take on unemployed youths. And he is in favour of similar State aid to small businesses generally, recalling his stated view that, where banks are concerned, "too big to fail is too big".

Now, is there any chance of passing the Chancellorship of the Exchequer to a supporter of manufacturing, of a truly national economy, of a British Glass-Steagall, of affordable public transport, and of harnessing the power of the State to create jobs and to keep businesses family and community-friendly, but not in favour of infanticide, of hilarious yet pernicious denials of biological reality, of the neoconservative war agenda, of juvenile delinquency, of illegal drug use, of prostitution, or of Eurofederalism?

Iain Duncan Smith?

Or must we wait for Ed Miliband to repay with Number 11 those who had put him into Number 10?

From The Nile To The Euphrates

And so it turned out, as the LORD, the Triune YHWH, had promised: a single civilisation. Specifically, a civilisation Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Druze; celebrating its Roman, Hellenistic and richly pre-Hellenistic past; with Arabic as its lingua franca and with its de facto capital at Damascus.

Ah, Damascus. Seat of three of the five Patriarchs of Antioch. And today protected by the vote of the country where the other two are seated, as well as by the seat of the Assyrian and Chaldean Patriarchs, numerous of whose faithful have been driven thence to Syria by our own pig ignorant foreign policy. This is the day when the distinctive civilisation of the Levant, a bulwark against the Islamism of those who are engaged in the Syrian insurrection, powerfully reasserted itself.

If Palestine east of the Jordan were properly democratic rather than ultimately ruled by an imported Bedouin royal house and entourage from deep in the Peninsula, then that would have been another vote to protect the Syrian heartland. Another would have come from Palestine west of the Jordan if representation at the Arab League were not bizarrely still in the hands of the hugely compromised PLO rather than the functioning democratic institutions.

And Egypt? If she had, as she ought to have, a constitutional settlement which included the Coptic Patriarch and the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood alongside the products of conventional representative democracy, then yes, of course. It is the Brotherhood, created by British intelligence, always well-connected in the Foreign Office, Anglophile, historically social democratic, and still fundamentally so in its activist base and in its enormous core support, that is the ultimate guarantor of a pro-British Egypt, Christian as well as Muslim, against the Salafi who have been given a constituency by our failure to capitalise on these advantages and whom we wish to see installed in Syria as part of a re-formed and reformed Ottoman Caliphate.

As the centenary of the First World War approaches, nothing could be more disgraceful.

Bush And Blair Are Now Convicted War Criminals

Here:

Kuala Lumpur International War Crimes Tribunal Hearing Issues Verdict: Former Prime Minister Blair and Former President Bush Guilty of War Crimes

KUALA LUMPUR, 22 November 2011 - The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal (Tribunal) entered its fourth and final day of hearing war crimes charge of Crimes against Peace against George W Bush (former U.S. President) and Anthony L Blair (former British Prime Minister) in Kuala Lumpur. For the first time a war crime charge has been heard against these two former heads of state in compliance with due legal process, wherein complaints from war victims had been received, duly investigated and formal charges instituted by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (Commission).

The Tribunal had decided the previous day that a prima facie case had been made out against both the accused. The Defence team presented their case and submission defending the accused. Some of the points submitted and argued are stated in the following paragraphs.

The Defence adopted their prior submissions and proceeded to raise additional grounds, relying additionally on the memoirs of the first and second accused. The Defence highlighted that as an amicus curiae, his function is to assist the Tribunal by raising points of law that are in doubt and to organise information or raise awareness of some aspect of the case that the Tribunal otherwise may miss.

No one knows what it is like to have the weight of the nation on his shoulders except a head of state. Both the accused, as former heads of state, took their nations to war. The question now is whether their actions amounted to the offence of Crimes against Peace. Did they ‘plan, prepared and invaded Iraq on 19 March 2003 in violation of the UN Charter’?

9/11 changed the world and cast it into a new atmosphere of fear. The world would be a different place. The Prosecution objected to the Defence attempts to show a video recording of the 9/11 attack, as there is no factual basis for the association of 9/11 with Iraq. The fact that the war occurred had been admitted. The war has taken its toll. The question is, was a crime committed by the accused. The Tribunal ruled that it has taken judicial notice (not having to tender evidence to established a fact) of the 9/11 attack and there was no need for the showing of the video.

The Defence submitted, that the first accused in his memoirs, on the issue of the absence of WMD, the accusation that ‘Bush lied, and people died’, would be illogical because he would not lead his nation to war on a lie which would be easily discernable after the war.

The second accused in his memoir said that he understood the need for the 2nd UN resolution for political legitimacy but knew the difficulty in getting one due to the politics within the UN Security Council permanent members. And also that there was no UN resolution for the action in Kosovo. While the first accused was of the view that Saddam had not adhered to numerous UN Security Council resolutions

There was a moral ground that many critics of the war do not appreciate. Liberating the people of Iraq from Saddam seems to be lost on the critics. The Defence also referred that the first accused had said that Saddam was a threat. Saddam had invaded two neighbours, Iran in the 1980s and Kuwait in the 1990s. He had killed his own people. Had used chemical weapons. Had links with terrorists. And Saddam was developing WMD. And after 9/11, Saddam was a threat that could no longer be ignored.

Some have seen the brutality of war while many are fortunate to have experienced peace. In any event the Defence urged the Tribunal to evaluate the evidence and return a verdict of non-guilty.

Prosecution in their reply stated that everyone has a right to lead unmolested lives governed by law. And in the case before the Tribunal that law is international law. We have to adhere to treaties and conventions that govern international relations. From the documents tendered the first accused had conducted himself in manner that showed that he had decided to invade Iraq long before 2003. And this is also evident from his memoir, which amounts to an admission.

In a criminal trial such as this, there are two elements that need to be proven. The actus rea (the act), which was the war, which is an accepted fact. The mens rea (intention) is shown clearly from the planning and preparation as early as November 2001 when he had asked his Secretary of Defence to draw up plans for the invasion of Iraq. And that in September 2002, the Defence Secretary had informed the first accused, who was the commander in chief that it would take six months to mobilise for invasion. On 4 November 2002, the UN resolution 1441 was passed and the invasion was launched on 19 March 2003. On 17 March 2003 the first accused stated “…Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing”. And on 19 March, the ‘shock and awe’ campaign called Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched.

The same is true of the second accused who had attacked Iraq. And that he had planned and prepared to invade since 1998. The reason is to bring freedom to the Iraqi people from Saddam through the use of military action.

There are 40 UN Security Council Resolutions against Israel but no action is taken. But Saddam had not adhered to 16 resolutions and Iraq is invaded. This is gangsterism.

This is a historic moment for the Tribunal to hear the distance drums of war rumbling even today due to the actions of the first and second accused. War criminals have to be dealt with, convict Bush and Blair as charged. A guilty verdict will serve as a notice to the world that war criminals may run but can never ultimately hide from truth and justice.

The Verdict

The Tribunal deliberated over the case and decided unanimously that the first accused George W Bush and second accused Anthony L Blair have been found guilty of the Crimes against Peace.

The second accused at the material time as heads of state launched an invasion on Iraq on 19 March 2003. The charge was duly served in accordance with the Charter of the Commission. The accused did not appear and an amicus curiae was appointed.

The evidence showed that as far back as 15 September 2001 the accused had planned to invade Iraq. Documents showed that this plan was conveyed by the first accused to the second accused. The accused had attempted to seek he UN approval for invasion. On 2 November 2002, UN Security Council Resolution 1441 did not authorise the use of force against Iraq. Weapons investigators had confirmed that there were no WMD. It was also established that the Iraq had no WMD. Iraq was not posing any threat to any nation at the relevant time that was immediate that would have justified any form of pre-emptive strike.

Humanitarian intervention was not a basis for the invasion. The UN Security Council must authorise any use of force. An individual state cannot replace the UN in deciding the use of force. The 9/11 attack did not show any connection with Iraq but instead the US had used this as a pretext to invade Iraq. Invasion to effect regime change has no legal basis under international law.

The Evidence showed that the drums of wars were being beaten long before the invasion. The accused in their own memoirs have admitted their own intention to invade Iraq regardless of international law. Unlawful use of force threatens the world to return to a state of lawlessness. The acts of the accused were unlawful.

The charge is proven beyond reasonable doubt. The accused are found guilty. The Tribunal orders that the names of the 2 convicted criminals be included in the war register of the KL War Crimes Commission. And the findings of this Tribunal be publicised to all nations who are signatories of the Rome Statue.

Despite all the facts both the accused had nevertheless invaded Iraq. A detailed written judgment will be published at a later date.

The trial was held in an open court from November 19-22, 2011 at the premises of the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War (KLFCW) at 88, Jalan Perdana, Kuala Lumpur.

Further Information

For further information, please contact:

Dato’ Dr Yaacob Merican
Secretary General of the KLWCC Secretariat
Tel: +6012-227 8680

Ms Malkeet Kaur
Media Representative of KLWCC
malkeet@dbook.com.my
Tel: +6012-3737 886

Whose Man In Tel Aviv?

The Iranian Parliament votes to downgrade diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom, with MPs shouting "Death To Britain" as they do so, and we endure it for the sake of the country of which Craig Murray writes:

The Independent on Sunday have bitten the bullet and openly questioned what Matthew Gould was doing in all those meetings with Adam Werritty, and why Gus O’Donnell lied about them.

They have an interesting new line from an FCO spokesman:

“The FCO has total confidence that Matthew Gould has acted appropriately at all times and at no stage was he acting independently, or out of line with government policy,” a spokesman said yesterday.

So “British Ambassador Matthew Gould declared his commitment to Israel and the principles of Zionism on Thursday” – Jerusalem Post 29 May 2011 is therefore a statement of official British government policy. Good to know.

The reference is to this, by Brian Brady:

They were the Odd Couple: the men with identical morning suits, matching jackets and jeans but from radically different generations. They commanded more column inches than any X Factor wannabe. The Mysterious Case of the Defence Secretary and the Strange Bloke with the Cheap Business Card gripped us all, until it culminated in Liam Fox's resignation.

What on earth had they been up to, the nation wondered. The plot thickened somewhat when an official inquiry confirmed that the curious duo was in fact, at times, a trio. They had had two meetings with Matthew Gould, Britain's ambassador to Israel, adding to claims that they were running a pirate (pro-Israel, or anti-Iranian?) foreign policy. Then, before we had got to know Adam Werritty properly, it all went quiet.

He has not been seen in the UK or abroad for several months; no neighbour has reported his presence at any of the various addresses unearthed when he was being sought by every news outlet in the country.

However, the trail has not gone cold because it emerges that Liam Fox and his adviser met Britain's ambassador at least four times more than was previously admitted. So why were we not told this before? Isn't this yet more evidence that they were operating outside the control of the Foreign Office?

The fog seems to extend even to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, whose report into the affair, which sealed Dr Fox's fate, identified just the two meetings between the former minister, Mr Werritty and Mr Gould.

The three men met in Tel Aviv at "a private dinner with senior Israelis" and, before Mr Gould took up the ambassador's post in Tel Aviv, for "a general discussion of international defence and security matters". Sir Gus observed that Mr Werritty was invited "as an individual with some experience in these matters".

Even this was a bit unsatisfactory, said Sir Gus. His report highlighted the September 2010 meeting in the UK with Mr Gould, then the UK ambassador-designate to Israel, ruling that "as a private citizen, with no official locus, it was not appropriate for Mr Werritty to have attended this meeting".

Yet it has been left to the former UK ambassador Craig Murray to uncover four more similar meetings – although Sir Gus claimed last week that "some of those ... took place before the election".

The suspicion of even more secret meetings, an inquiry which did not cover all the ground and the spectre of a favourite bogeyman is a gift to conspiracy theorists. However there are legitimate questions to be answered. The IoS revealed last month that Mr Werritty had visited Iran on several occasions and was so highly regarded by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad that he was able to arrange meetings at the highest levels of the Israeli government.

The disclosure that he – and Dr Fox – had met Britain's most senior official in Israel on more occasions than previously thought underlines their interest in the region.

The Labour MP Paul Flynn questioned why the official inquiry into the Fox affair had failed to investigate all the activities of Mr Werritty. He asked the Cabinet Secretary, during his appearance before the Public Administration Select Committee: "Are you satisfied that you missed out on the extra four meetings that took place, and does this not mean that those meetings should have been investigated because of the nature of Mr Werritty's interests?"

The accusation was not received well. Sir Gus rejected any criticism of his work, noting instead that: "If you look at some of those meetings, some people are referring to meetings that took place before the election." Mr Murray, however, has established that there have been at least five meetings altogether since the election and one beforehand.

Sir Gus added that "some issues arose where I wanted to be sure that what [Dr Fox] was doing had been discussed with the Foreign Secretary. I felt reassured by what the Foreign Secretary told me."

Craig Murray submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Foreign Office very late one night last week, asking for all communications between Mr Gould and Mr Werritty; barely an hour later, he received a rejection, explaining that his request was "likely to exceed the cost limit". Given that Freedom of Information requests normally take at least a fortnight to be answered, the swift, late-night reaction has done nothing to douse suspicions.

"It is plainly nonsense that to gather correspondence between two named individuals would be too expensive," Mr Murray said. "They could just ask Gould."

The Foreign Office remains nonplussed by questions about Mr Gould's conduct. "The FCO has total confidence that Matthew Gould has acted appropriately at all times and at no stage was he acting independently, or out of line with government policy," a spokesman said yesterday.

Clearly not satisfied with the efforts of Sir Gus and his attempts to question him last week, Paul Flynn is calling for a wider investigation. He said: "Witnesses before a select committee have said that the inquiry into the Werritty affair was rushed and inadequate, and possibly in breach of the ministerial code as it was not conducted by the only person who is the enforcer of the code: the independent adviser on ministerial affairs [Sir Philip Mawer].

"As the inquiry was conducted for reasons of political expediency to avoid embarrassment for the Government, and as new evidence is available, should we not have a full legitimate inquiry conducted by Sir Philip?"

The demand has, so far, received a response that would make Sir Gus's reaction seem enthusiastic.

On The Right Track

If George Osborne really does cap rail fare hikes to one per cent above inflation next year, or even if he doesn't, then Ed Miliband and Ed Balls should see him and raise him.

They should make the case for the renationalisation of the railways, uniquely without compensation in view of the manner of their privatisation, as the basis for a national network of public transport free at the point of use, including the reversal of bus route and rail line closures going back to the 1950s.

Only public ownership can deliver this. Public ownership is of course British ownership, and thus a safeguard of national sovereignty. It is also a safeguard of the Union in that it creates communities of interest across the several parts of the United Kingdom, the East Coast Main Line being a case in point. Publicly owned concerns often even had the word "British" in their names. They could have, and should have, again.

With the trains run on British-generated electricity rather than on imported oil, of course. And with all the stock built in Britain.

Expectent Praemia Palmae

I am not convinced that Muslim students really are walking out of Steve Jones's lectures because they do not believe in evolution. Has he asked them? They must have starry grades at A-level Biology in order to be on his course in the first place.

But if they are, then UCL has only itself to blame. It wanted to destroy the Christian basis of our civilisation. Having done so, it has left itself powerless to resist any and everything that might present itself instead.

The Other Side Of The World

Whereas the anti-privatisation paleocons of New Zealand First are back up to eight seats, the fractious, leaderless, calamity-prone ACT New Zealand can only manage one for what is now its very stale, Blairy brew of neoliberal economics, neoconservative foreign policy, liberal social policy for the bourgeoisie and spiteful authoritarianism for the lower orders, all overreached and undergirded by a wholly secularised misconception of the West.

J'accuse

For all his political faults, it becomes ever more apparent that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is the Dreyfus de nos jours, brought low by an alliance between those who will not have a Jew as President of the French Republic and those who will not have such a Jew who feels no civic allegiance to any country but his own. He is one of two protagonists in this story who are being used as foreign proxies in New York's domestic feud between Jews and blacks.

The other may be an African in America, but she is not an African-American in the sense that Jesse Jackson meant when he came up with that term. The demonstrators outside the courthouse were mostly Latina and unable to speak English properly on camera. Why did the police not demand to see their documentation? More is the pity, neither American party takes policing the undisputed border of the United States anything like as seriously as they both take policing the disputed border of the State of Israel.

Power Points

Although he is wrong to discount the vast reserves of coal on which this island stands, and which are also integral to the State's dutiful delivery of real jobs and of energy independence, Fred Pearce writes:

I never thought I’d say this – but the future is nuclear. Or it should be. And I urge Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne – who, like me, has been an opponent of nuclear power – to embrace that future. Our energy bills depend on it. And so may our climate.

Huhne’s ‘green tax’ sparked anger last week as it became clear that this surcharge on our energy bills will rise to £280 a year for every household by the end of the decade. For what? Some of the revenue from the tax, currently set at £89 per household, goes to pay for renewable energy projects such as the sleek and costly offshore wind turbines sprouting across the North Sea. But don’t worry, Huhne says, because the tax will also pay to cut our need for energy by subsidising home insulation, better boilers and the like. We will all end up better off.

There is a deal of scepticism about that claim. And many people would prefer a couple of hundred quid in their pockets than a pile of foam insulation in their loft. To be fair to Huhne, our current high energy bills are not mainly because of the green tax. The real problem for now is rising prices for gas and other fuels. But behind the immediate stink is a bigger issue. How do we want to get our electricity in future? The truth is that our energy industry is in a mess. Ever since privatisation, the utilities have been mired in short-term thinking and have failed to invest. The big power stations built by the old Central Electricity Generating Board are reaching the end of their lives.

Unless Huhne does something to replace them, he will be remembered as the Minister who left us huddled over candles as well as forking out for a green tax. Hopefully, Chancellor George Osborne will kick-start that process on Tuesday by announcing plans to accelerate infrastructure building as a recession-busting measure. But that still begs the question: What should we build? Should we opt for burning coal and gas, irradiating uranium or using Huhne’s green tax to harness the winds and tides?

In my judgment any long-term planning that ignores climate change is not just anti-green but botched business. Climate change is real. Admittedly, there are big uncertainties about how fast it will proceed, and what havoc it could cause. But the billions of tons of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere each year by burning coal, oil and gas are trapping ever more of the sun’s heat. That’s 200-year-old physics. So the world is going to have to move to low-carbon energy – and the sooner we get on this road the better. In Britain, now is the perfect time. And here is the good news. We don’t have to pay through the nose for a low-carbon future. All we have to do is to conquer our fear of nuclear power.

In fact, I see no sensible low-carbon future that does not involve a lot of nuclear power. Here’s why. First, by most measures nuclear is much greener than renewables. Yes, you read that right. Like them, it is indisputably low-carbon. No carbon is burned in a nuclear reactor, so no carbon dioxide is produced. But because you can get gigawatts of power from one site, nuclear is the only form of low-carbon energy that won’t blight the British countryside with wind turbines, solar panels or fleets of new pylons. Even better, because we have plenty of nuclear sites across the country where old power plants are shutting, new ones can be slotted in easily.

Second, nuclear is cheap. It is not yet quite as cheap as coal or gas but it is only half the cost of offshore wind, and an even better bargain compared with solar panels or tidal power. That calculation, incidentally, includes the huge costs of handling spent nuclear fuel and decommissioning the reactor when its days are done. Third, nuclear is doable. France spotted this long ago. Starting in the Seventies, it fitted itself out with enough nukes to power most of the country – in just a decade. France now has some of the cheapest electricity in Europe. And the company that did it, EDF, would love to do the same here.

Of course, nuclear has a PR problem. Some say it is unsafe. Yet even when nature threw a magnitude-nine earthquake and a 50 ft tsunami at a clapped-out Japanese nuclear plant at Fukushima this year, the meltdown failed to kill anyone. Then the German government announced it would phase out all its nuclear power plants by 2022. But that was a big environmental own goal for a country supposedly dedicated to fighting climate change because coal will be the big winner. Germany’s carbon emissions will rise as a result. Nice work, greens.

Some say we can’t handle the waste. Britain is sitting on enough high-level nuclear waste to fill three Olympic swimming pools, and enough intermediate waste to fill a supertanker. It’s all waiting for a final resting place. But for that we can blame vehement environmental opposition to every proposed burial site. For the greens to argue that nuclear technology must be abandoned because disposal routes haven’t been secured is a bit rich. They are largely to blame. Even so, the radioactive nasties are mollycoddled in storage. It costs us £2 billion a year (thanks again, greens) but it is safe. I fear the millions of tons of carbon dioxide spewing out of the coal-fired behemoths at Drax and Ferrybridge, Fiddlers Ferry and Didcot far more than the radiation that is under lock and key at Sellafield. If scientists are anything like right in their climate predictions, those carbon emissions are killing machines for the future.

Many greens – including Huhne before he became a Minister – like to believe that we can ban nukes and still banish climate change. But by throwing away the nuclear option, we would be throwing away the best – and cheapest – way of making big cuts in carbon emissions. Their muddled thinking is in danger of pushing up our energy bills and peppering the countryside with wind turbines – without fixing the climate. The Government’s Committee on Climate Change was right this year to conclude that nuclear is ‘the most cost-effective of the low-carbon technologies’ and might generate 40 per cent of our power by 2030. But we have to choose now.

As Huhne told the Royal Society in London last month, ‘time is running out .  .  . a quarter of our power stations will close by the end of the decade’. We need a new generation of power stations urgently. We will need renewables and nuclear. Will Huhne bite the bullet? His website contains abundant evidence of his past opposition. ‘Nuclear power not needed to meet climate targets’ is the headline on one item from 2007. But it is needed. If Huhne doesn’t make it happen, he will indeed be guilty of squandering our green taxes.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Irish Times

As if the problems in Northern Ireland were caused by the existence of “segregated” schooling. The significantly higher standards of education there, where neither comprehensivisation nor secularisation had ever happened, have already been subverted by the abolition of the grammar schools. And now, this.

The only way to maintain the Catholic school system in Northern Ireland is to keep Northern Ireland within the Union. For each of this Kingdom’s parts contains a Catholic intelligentsia, whereas the Irish Republic’s is the most tribally anti-Catholic in the world. The Republic’s Catholic schools, among much else, are doomed.

As would be Northern Ireland’s, if Sinn Féin had its way. Under the pretext that they teach through the medium of Irish, wholly and militantly secular Sinn Féin schools have been set up at public expense, in direct opposition to the Catholic system, by that party’s Education Minister. Her exclusion of Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist clergy from their historic role in the government of schools is the dry run for her party’s openly desired exclusion of the Catholic Church from schools throughout Ireland.

Greatly assisted, it must be said, by the terrifying rise of Official Sinn Féin in the 26 Counties. It changed its name to the Workers’ Party, which changed its name to Democratic Left, which staged an organisational and ideological takeover of the Irish Labour Party, which has just captured the Presidency (even if not, to be fair, in the person of an old Stickie) while having its Leader as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

That Leader was in Democratic Left until the moment when it merged into and effectively subsumed the Labour Party. He was in the Workers’ Party until the moment when it changed its name to Democratic Left. And he was in Official Sinn Féin until the moment when it changed its name to the Workers’ Party. He never left Official Sinn Féin, nor did it ever leave him. There was no confirmed decommissioning of Official IRA arms until 8th February 2010, within the last 24 hours of the existence of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.

To return to the latest utterance from Peter Robinson, the Orange Order’s ban on Free Presbyterian ministers as Chaplains may have been lifted, or it may now be widely ignored (like, lest Paisleyites gloat, the ban on alcohol in Orange Halls, and the ban of attendance at Catholic weddings and funerals because the Mass is celebrated), but it certainly used to be in place and in effect, well into the recent past. What are the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland to the DUP? As little as mainstream Irish Catholic culture is to Sinn Féin, so is mainstream Ulster Protestant culture to the DUP.

Yet Northern Ireland has been carved up between it and the anticlerical fanatics of Sinn Féin.

Alex Salmond Won't Be Comyn

Still less Red Comyn. But of that, another time.

The Shetland Question has reappeared in another forum. In Shetland, they object to the teaching of the Medieval wars against England, on the grounds that all of that was nothing to do with them. They flatly deny that they are Scots.

Another Realm, where aspects of Scots Law have been found not to apply, and not exactly signed up to the Braveheart Project. They will be keeping their oil to themselves. Just as the British Government will continue to own HBOS and RBS.

Leaving Scotland with Rab C Nesbitt and no means of supporting him.

Nothing To Overthrow

Fuss and bother about how a military coup had been feared in Pakistan after the death of Osama Bin Laden, overthrowing civilian rule.

Yer what?

When has there ever been civilian rule in Pakistan? The politicians are not even allowed the nuclear codes. The generals keep those to themselves. With the generals comes their intelligence agency, the ISI. And with the ISI comes a veritable cornucopia of Islamist factions.

But none of them wants to bomb Britain. Unless we give them some cause. Let’s not. The “Taliban” have no existence apart from the Pashtun in general, who are old Indian allies. “Al-Qaeda” does not exist at all.

As for the ISI’s backing of “Islamist militant groups” or what have you, sooner rather than later, and at least arguably already, what else will Pakistan have? What else will remain of her founding dream of a distinct Muslim nation on the Subcontinent, acting as such? Especially if she is to be sandwiched between India and the restored, Indian-backed “Taliban”.

No wonder that the “Taliban” are open to this. The scholars at Deoband strongly rejected Jinnah’s theory of two nations. So did plenty of other people: just as there have always been more Irish Catholics in the remaining United Kingdom than the entire population of the 26 Irish counties that seceded, so there have always been more Muslims in India than the entire population of Pakistan.

Friday, 25 November 2011

John 11:35

I am not often lost for words. But "The Bible, with a foreword by Michael Gove"? I mean, what does one say in response to that?

Just The Ticket

Bye, Bye, Biden? Why not? But replace him with Hillary Clinton? No, no, anything but that.

Even websites calling for a primary challenge by Bernie Sanders, Peter DeFazio, Dennis Kucinich, Russ Feingold or Barbara Lee also suggest a pro-life Catholic, Marcy Kaptur.

By no means only on that issue, she is head and shoulders ahead of the rest of that field. If there is to be a new running mate, then it should be Kaptur.

If not, or in the meantime, a primary challenge by her? Again, why not? Someone has to call Obama back to the coalition that put him in. And someone will have to be the nominee in 2016.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Suitably Chestertonian

Thus my friend Ann Farmer likes to describe her approach, and to hope that he would have approved. I certainly do. As should you.

Very Much Back, Yes

Such was the reply of Margaret Thatcher when, as Leader of the Opposition, she was asked if she was trying to bring the National Front vote back to the Conservative Party. The full interview can still be read on the website of her Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

Bringing us to the recruitment of "volunteers" to run immigration next Wednesday, far too soon for any sort of checks to be run on them. Is David Cameron trying to bring the EDL back to the Conservative Party? Very much back, yes.