Sunday 31 August 2008

Just The Ticket?

Since all you neocons out there cannot support any ticket with either Obama or the Buchananite Palin on it, is it time for a third party or an Independent candidate from your stable?

Who, exactly?

And why, exactly?

Good luck...

Creature Discomforts

How many people who object to Sarah Palin's cranky but, as Vice-President, immaterial creationism cheered on the Blair creature, including when Miliband was his Schools Minister, even while he was handing over state school pupils, at public expense, to at least one creationist organisation?

Of Bear-Baiting And Flea-Baiting

Gordon Brown is wrong about Russia. But at least his is a competent article. Unlike this, by, well, guess who?

In the last days of Blair, the Guardian refused to publish Silly Milly's piece of drivel bidding for the Labour Leadership, so it ended up in the Daily Telegraph, which ran it as a joke. To similar hilarious effect, the Mail on Sunday has cruelly printed this latest effusion.

Brown is baiting a bear, and should stop.

But the right-wing papers are baiting a flea, and should carry on, and on, and on.

Holiday Cover

Peter Hitchens writes:

"Mr Cameron’s lavish second holiday in Turkey, so very unlike the homely, modest West Country one he publicised, has barely been covered at all."

Over to the blogosphere, I feel.

Dr David Kelly

Where is the inquest?

And why hasn't there already been one?

Or Fewer

Ten items or fewer. Not "or less". Or fewer.

I was going to write that even the supermarkets had a duty to give a lead when the Foreign Secretary could write of "the immediate instinct of the PM and I". But since that person is only David Miliband anyway, who cares what he writes?

Saturday 30 August 2008

Russia's Pride, Britain's Shame

Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh have never been governed in practice by post-Soviet Georgia, Moldovo or Azerbaijan. Nor were they ever part of pre-Soviet Georgia, Moldavia or Azerbaijan.

Do they want, as Kosovo did and as Chechnya does, to join globalisation, European federalism, American military-industrial hegemony, and the militant Islam to which those forces pretend to be opposed but are in fact closely allied?

After all, look at 1980s Afghanistan, at 1990s Bosnia, and at today’s Kosovo, Chechnya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Look at how a bulwark against Islamic militancy has been taken out in Iraq, with all the predictable consequences. Look at how the global capitalist economic system depends on mass migration, not least to the West from the Islamic world. And look out for Xinjiang.

Do the people of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh want into this? Or do they want out of states moving in that very direction? The latter. They therefore deserve full recognition and every possible support.

Russia is leading that recognition and support. In common with all the Slavs, Russia is the gatekeeper of the Biblical-Classical synthesis that is the real West, not the secularised, consumerised, de-historicised, borderless, culturally debased, morally bankrupt pseudo-West, a wasteland without an Eliot, aimlessly waiting to be incorporated into the Dar al-Islam.

Furthermore, the South Ossetians, at least, are Russian-speaking Russian citizens. Whereas what have we ever done for the world’s peoples of English speech, British descent, or both? We did nothing to protect them, first from the Boers’ revenge republic, and then from the hopeless Mbeki, never mind the repulsive Zuma. Thatcher refused to recognise the Muzorewa Government, instead holding out for the Soviet-backed Nkomo as if he would have been any better than the Chinese-backed Mugabe. And so forth.

Russia’s pride is Britain’s shame.

Palin The Buchananite

Taki's Magazine is not too impressed: "People seem to be missing the fact that this is a classic, Rovian appease-the-base choice."

Well, I sincerely hope that either party in America still has a base which, like Buchanan, sees the neocons for what they are (old Trots, simply going about it by different means), and says so.

A base which, like Buchanan, is right about family values (strongly shared by Obama's black base, and by the rural and blue-collar whites who rallied to Clinton), right about strictly limited and strictly legal immigration (strongly shared by Obama's black base, and by the rural and blue-collar whites who rallied to Clinton), right about "free" trade (strongly shared by Obama's black base, and by the rural and blue-collar whites who rallied to Clinton), right about constitutional checks and balances (strongly shared by Obama's black base), right about real national security (strongly shared by the rural and blue-collar whites who rallied to Clinton), right about energy independence (strongly shared by the rural and blue-collar whites who rallied to Clinton), right about real environmental responsibility, right about Second Amendment rights and responsibilities (strongly shared by the rural and blue-collar whites who rallied to Clinton), right about Civil Rights (not "affirmative action", and in those terms (strongly shared by the rural and blue-collar whites who rallied to Clinton, as well as by a growing number of blacks who see the Hispanics getting AA these days), right about America as an English-speaking country (very, very strongly shared by Obama's black base, and by the rural and blue-collar whites who rallied to Clinton), right about foreign policy realism, and at least open to the Biblico-Patristic critique of Americanism itself.

But not a base which, like Buchanan, is wrong about the protection of workers and consumers (although he is not terribly badly wrong on that one these days), wrong about fair tax (likewise), wrong about universal health care, wrong about Social Security, and wrong about Civil Rights (in the sense that he still makes occasional rhetorical flourishes towards the remaining George Wallace Tendency, not they are ever going to get anywhere now). Still, you can't be a "fiscal conservative" in Alaska. It's Alaska. Where Palin has also been a good friend of the indigenous peoples.

I'm still backing Obama, but Palin, though certainly not McCain, is looking better and better, not least for the Democratic Party in the long run: it needs to become once again the party that reaches out to, and represents, those who will be and are being attracted to Palin.

Show Them A Menu With Prices

The Spectator on how people on a quarter of a million pounds of annual income are not really rich at all, and would in any case all leave the country if anyone tried to make them pay some tax, as, allegedly, would the non-doms.

These rules are in fact a subsidy, just like the ones that governments in the Sixties and Seventies used to pay to loss-making factories and the like, except that those were to protect the jobs of large numbers of tax-paying Britons rather than to protect the lavish lifestyles of a tiny number of tax-dodgers, many of them foreigners.

The defenders of such arrangements are like the private schools lobby whenever anyone dares to point out that almost all such institutions would close overnight if it were not for gigantic public subsidies through the tax system, utterly unused to being spoken to in such terms, and practically reduced to blubbering if anyone does so.

The non-doms and other super-rich manage to run businesses in numerous other countries without needing to live in them. But then, only the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic have this bizarre concept of domicile, making London the only one of the great cities of the world where such arrangements are in place.

And these people consciously wish to live in one of the great cities of the world, or else why do they all live in or very near to London, rather than anywhere else in Britain? So the idea that they would move if they were made to pay tax is absurd – where would they go?

The only comparable city is New York, in a country to which many of our non-doms would be (and sometimes have been) refused entry, and where neither they nor their mates would discover anything remotely resembling the indulgent tax regime that they enjoy here.

In any case, they wouldn’t take their investments with them: I say again, they already have investments all over the place.

A Windfall Tax On The Utilities?


Public ownership, as applied by the Tories to electricity in the first place.

If you don't believe in public ownership, then you don't believe in national sovereignty.

Georgia Cuts Diplomatic Ties To Russia

Putin and Medvedev must be shaking in their shoes. First Miliband, and now this.

The Persecution of Catholics in Orissa

It got onto News 24, or whatever it now calls itself! The BBC!

The status of Christianity as the most persecuted religion in the world, the particular virulence in India, the fact that most Indian Christians are Dalits ("Untouchables") or from the "Tribal Peoples", and the fact that seventy per cent of them are Catholics, have all been completely ignored by the BBC, among many others.

Instead, we get the likes of "Mumbai", a BJP-RSS name not acknowledged by either the High Court or the Stock Exchange in Bombay.

Globalisation and its multiculturalism are bringing "Untouchability" and low-caste status to these shores, too. And Christians, mostly Catholics, are paying the price here, as in India.

Perhaps not yet in blood.


Not yet.

Church Schools: The Real Class Bias

We all know that the real objection to "faith schools" is that Catholic ones have been so good at, according to the old Christian Brothers' maxim, "taking the sons of dockers and turning them into doctors".

The professions, and thus the places where professional people live, now contain any number of people originally from Scotland, the North, the Midlands and the less salubrious parts of the South, with working-class grandparents or even parents, and with Irish great-grandparents.

Where will it all end?

Meanwhile, the rubbish passed by the Bishops' Conferences as RE in Catholic schools would not be permitted, even now, in any other discipline. The likes of colouring in at 16 go on, but the curricula do not actually require or specify them, and they are certainly not universally practised.

We need someone in Parliament (especially as it is going to be hung next time) who will put down an amendment, such as would probably get through with only an angry Tablet and a quietly exultant Catholic Herald (and possibly Daily Telegraph) noticing, that all RE textbooks, resources and inspectors in state-funded Catholic schools (and I can't see where else the money is supposed to come from, nor is the separation of Church and State anything other than a direct disobedience to the Magisterium) must be approved directly by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Catholic Charities USA: New Poverty Rate Unacceptable


“It is unacceptable that in a nation that is as prosperous as ours that 37.3 million people, including 13.3 million children, continue to live in poverty. At 12.5 percent, the poverty rate indicates that reducing poverty is not a priority for this nation.

"For Catholic Charities USA, and our 1,700 local member agencies who serve nearly 8 million in need a year, the poverty rate is not just another economic statistic. This unacceptable figure represents the millions of families we see each and every day who are struggling just to make ends meet.

"Substantial decreases in these numbers must occur in order to alleviate the struggles that millions are experiencing.

"The downturn in the economy is making matters worse. Across our nation, Catholic Charities agencies are seeing more and more people having to choose between putting food on the table, paying their utility bills, or making their rent or mortgage payments.

“Needing help with food, rent, clothing, and prescriptions are all symptoms of much larger problems facing the poor and vulnerable in America, such as low wages and the lack of affordable housing and health care. These are problems that must be addressed if we are ever going to cut poverty in our country and create better economic opportunities for all.

“Reducing poverty in the United States must be a national priority. That’s why Catholic Charities USA launched its Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America, which aims cut the poverty rate in half by 2020. By helping to lift individuals and families out of poverty, we can ensure that they are in a better position to weather these economic downturns.

"Let these troubling poverty statistics be a call to action for each of us. As a nation, we must demand that our current and future leaders give a much higher priority to the needs of the poor in their policymaking decisions.

“In this election year, candidates for public office—especially our presidential candidates—must move from rhetoric to action and propose comprehensive plans to address the needs of more than 37 million people living in poverty in the United States over the next decade. We call on all Americans to ask their candidates, ‘If elected, what will you do to address poverty?’

“We must no longer ignore the injustice of poverty and the extreme inequality in America.”

Hear, Hear.

Greed causes abortion, greed causes poverty, poverty causes abortion, and poverty causes greed. Or, as it is otherwise known, consumer capitalism.

Friday 29 August 2008

Sarah Palin

This one could turn really interesting.

Is the Governor of a state so wedded to the "free" market that it pays people public money just to live there nevertheless a good Republican merely because she is notionally against abortion (not that it will make any difference)?

And while the radical feminist Clinton supporters might balk at a pro-lifer, the far more numerous rural blue-collar whites who preferred Hillary to that guy with the foreign-sounding name probably or certainly never did agree with her about abortion.

A morally conservative believer in big government projects for the common good is right up their street - Main Street, USA.

And after all, the economic things might actually happen. The Republican Party will never commit electoral suicide by delivering on abortion and then waking up to wonder where all its Catholic and white Evangelical supporters went. Home to the Democratic Party, that's where. Mission Accomplished.

But still don't vote for McCain. He won't stop abortion. He won't do populist things economically, not these days.

However, he will do whatever Robert Kagan tells him to do abroad.

Bomb it.

Putin It Like It Is

How dare Putin suggest that America egged on the lunatic Georgian military action in South Ossetia, never mind that she did so in the hope of securing the election of a hawk to her own highest office.

What, all those CIA operatives and American military advisers in Georgia were just admiring the view, were they? And Saakashvili's neocon links are just a coincidence, are they?

The term that the affronted are looking for is not "conspiracy", but "foreign policy". And yes, America has one. Sometimes even tied into her electoral politics.

Who knew?

Who didn't!

The Chains That Bind

Anyone still defending the impending unitary local government here in County Durham, just read this.

And note that Durham, a city, is graciously to be granted a Town Council, i.e., a Parish Council. Lanchester has a Parish Council, and I am proud to be in my third term on it. But Lanchester is not a city. A city wants, needs and deserves a City Council.

This is all about softening us up for the return of the regional assembly, already rejected in a referendum.

We don't want your wretched assembly. We want proper spending, proper results to show for it, proper local government, and a proper Parliament with proper MPs in it.

Uncaring Britain

Look after the sick or the old, and the State will give you fifty quid per week.

You can have capitalism or family values; the small state or strong communities.

But you can't have both.

The Croatia We Have, The Croatia We Need

Slavenka Drakulić on Croatia's failure to face up to her past. And also, inter alia, on the fact that, until the destruction of Yugoslavia, the only independent Croat state, ever, was the Nazis' Ustasha puppet one during the War.

The disastrous UDI of Franjo Tudjman's neo-Ustasha state in Croatia led to that state's war of Ustasha re-enactment (then, as in the Forties, on the same side as the jihadi) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as its removal of the constitutional recognition of the Serbs as one of Croatia's two founding peoples, leading to the largest ethnic cleansing in the entire break-up of Yugoslavia.

It gives me no pleasure to write any of this. I believe passionately, as any orthodox Catholic must, in the historic mission of the Croats as Antemurale Christianitatis, the Ramparts of Christendom. But they have been derelict in that duty twice in the last seventy years, and Christian charity includes the obligation to reproach the brethren when and where necessary.

They should have remained Antemurale Christianitatis within a multi-ethnic, post-Communist Yugoslavia, witnessing to Catholic Social Teaching both against nostalgia for the Communist past and against neoliberalism. Only ever having been a state as Hitler's plaything, and with no history of it, that is the Croats' true historic mission, as lived out within several preceding multi-ethnic entities.

That a people exists does not necessarily mean that it needs a state. On the contrary, that might very well be the last thing that it needs and (which is just as important) that others need of it. Inhabitants of this island, Belgium, the north of Spain, and elsewhere, take note.

But the Croats failed to bear witness. Until they repent - of the Ustasha from whom they took their inspiration, of their pro-jihadi war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, of the denial and attempted destruction of their Serbian compatriots (or, as Jesus would have put it, neighbours) -, then, at the very least, there should be no place for them in any Western forum.

Which is an almost incalculable shame, since every Western forum is crying out for the witness of Antemurale Christianitatis.

Problem Solved

If, outside a statistical margin of error (say, three per cent), either per capita spending or outcomes in a given area of government (health, education, whatever) were lower in any of three Northern regions, or either of the two Midland regions, or the South West, or East Anglia, than in any of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland London or the South East, then the pay of the relevant Ministers, always including the Prime Minister, should be docked by the percentage difference.

If, for example, all three Northern regions were behind in this way, one by four per cent, one by five, and one by six, then the Ministers' pay would be docked by fifteen per cent.

That should solve the problem pretty quickly.

Now we, the people of the North, the Midlands, the South West and East Anglia, just need to elect MPs who will legislate to this effect.


Told you so.

But why now? Are we being softened up for war against Syria?

Repent At Leisure

I suspect that there only appears to be less divorce because so many men now dare not marry in the first place. And that is not a good thing for women in the long run. Or even in the short run.

It is high time to entitle each divorcing spouse to one per cent of the other's estate up to fifty per cent, to disentitle the petitioning spouse unless fault be proved, to entitle any marrying couple to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 as regards grounds and procedures for divorce, to enable any religious organisation to specify that any marriage which it conducts shall be so bound (and to counsel couples accordingly), to legislate that the Church of England be such a body unless the General Synod specifically resolve the contrary by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses, and to do something similar for the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament; I will have to check the exact legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy, but if something similar can be done, then it must be done.

Thursday 28 August 2008

The East-West Dialogue of the Deaf

Even by his own very high standards, this is John Laughland on glorious form:

Perhaps the most revealing remark made during the crisis over South Ossetia was that by the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who attacked Russia in very strong terms for having reverted to “a 19th century approach to politics”.

Milliband’s hatred of Russia is built into his political DNA. His grandfather, Samuel Miliband, was a Warsaw-born Communist who famously fought in the Red Army but who then left the Soviet Union for Belgium when Stalin became top dog in Moscow. As a lifelong Trotskyite and supporter of world revolution, Miliband was disgusted by Stalin’s decision to create socialism in one country alone and by his de facto restoration of Great Russian nationalism.

Samuel’s son, Ralph, the Foreign Secretary’s father (born in Brussels), became a noted Marxist political scientist. His son David’s embrace now of the neo-conservative project of creating a unipolar world based on American power and the ideology of human rights is therefore a typical illustration of something of which I have written on many occasions in the past, namely the way in which true Marxists find their natural political home in the project of “global democratic revolution” proselytised by George W. Bush.

Indeed, the Foreign Secretary’s remark about Russia reveals more about the speaker than about the matter in hand. Of course the remark is notable for its hypocrisy. Miliband, after all, is a member of a government which has invaded two countries which have in the past been classic destinations for the British troops in the heyday of Empire, Afghanistan and Iraq, and which has also energetically pursued the extension of Western influence into another part of the world famous for being the focus of Great Power rivalry in the 19th century, the Balkans.

But the remark is mainly notable for the mindset it reveals. From Miliband’s point of view, Western policy over the last fifteen years has not been a matter of brute force. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the bombing attack on Yugoslavia have not been military invasions, but instead selfless acts inspired by a desire to promote democracy and human rights, and therefore not even political acts in the classic sense of that term. Instead, they are (he believes) acts carried out in the service of humanity, acts which no reasonable person could oppose. Anyone who does oppose them is probably an enemy of humanity itself.

By contrast, continues his reasoning, Russia’s decision to protect South Ossetia from the Georgian attack on the night of 8 August is a cynical exercise of brute force designed solely to extend Russian power into the Caucasus. Indeed, although Moscow actually did react to human rights abuses and war crimes committed by the Georgians when they attacked Tskinvali, the language coming out of the Russian capital has tended to focus more on the country’s national interests and security, and less on appeals to universal principles of human rights. This is what Miliband cannot stand. When George W. Bush gave the order to invade Iraq, by contrast, there was of course a certain amount of talk about America’s need to protect herself from external attack (a threat which was purely invented). But the centre of gravity of the American arguments in favour of that war lay in universalist and unpolitical claims about democratising the Middle East and advancing the global democratic revolution.

The great and controversial German jurist, Carl Schmitt, famous adopted Proudhon’s dictum that “Whoever speaks about humanity is trying to deceive.” It’s a good one-liner but the remark is incorrect. Precisely the danger of the Miliband-Bush vision of politics is that it is not based on a conscious desire to deceive others but instead on self-deception – on a genuine belief in the rightness of the universalist and almost Messianic mission which they embrace. Like the liberal imperialists of the, er, 19th century, these people do really believe that what they are doing is selfless and essentially non-political.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union – an artificial political creation based on a negation of Russian history and reality, on bogus internationalism, and on an allegedly universalist political creed which was supposed to embrace the whole of humanity – Russian politicians have long since abandoned any pretence that their own country has any such universal vocation. When I met President Putin last September, he specifically said that Russia had suffered greatly from having adopted Lenin’s universalist creed of communism. (“Vladimir Ilyich Lenin-Ulyanov said at one point: Russia matters nothing to me; what matters is to achieve world socialist revolution.”)

Not so the United States and Britain. The neo-conservative project of creating a unipolar world based on human rights and democracy (embraced energetically on both the Left and the Right of the American political spectrum, as the recent nomination of Joe Biden as Barack Obama’s running-mate sadly emphasises) does require brute force to implement it. Developments like the “independence” of Kosovo grow only out of the barrel of a gun. But the project is supported in London and Washington by people who have utterly deluded themselves about its truly political nature.

It is because the West still deceives itself on this matter, and because post-Soviet Russia no longer does, that East-West relations are a dialogue of the deaf. Both sides are speaking a language the other does not want to hear. The Western vision, based on self-deceit, is extremely dangerous; the Russian vision of politics is far more realistic. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the reassertion of a Russian presence on the international stage will force the Milibands of this world, obviously against their will, to realise a basic fact about the human condition. It is that the world has been divided into different states ever since the collapse of the Tower of Babel, and that politics consists therefore not in fantastic projects to construct a new tower in its place, but instead in making the best job one can out of the bricks which remain.

Harry's Place And The Blogosphere

I rarely blog about blogging, but they still don’t get it.

Remember, for example, all those people who rallied round Craig Murray? By no means all of them agreed with him.

But for HP, well, people probably just thought that there was a technical fault yesterday, because nobody else on the blogosphere, not even people who certainly knew what was going on, bothered to mention it. They were all perfectly happy in principle to see HP go.

Perhaps HP will now ask itself why that was.

Links' Links

I like to link to any site that links here, and am always glad to hear of such. But where to draw the line? If a site links to this one, and to several others of which I approve, but also to one that I find utterly repugnant (far beyond merely being wrong), then what should I do, and why?

The End of the New World Order

Seamus Miline is well worth re-printing in full:

If there were any doubt that the rules of the international game have changed for good, the events of the past few days should have dispelled it. On Monday, President Bush demanded that Russia's leaders reject their parliament's appeal to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Within 24 hours, Bush had his response: President Medvedev announced Russia's recognition of the two contested Georgian enclaves.

The Russian message was unmistakable: the outcome of the war triggered by Georgia's attack on South Ossetia on August 7 is non-negotiable - and nothing the titans of the US empire do or say is going to reverse it. After that, the British foreign secretary David Miliband's posturing yesterday in Kiev about building a "coalition against Russian aggression" merely looked foolish.

That this month's events in the Caucasus signal an international turning point is no longer in question. The comparisons with August 1914 are of course ridiculous, and even the speculation about a new cold war overdone. For all the manoeuvres in the Black Sea and nuclear-backed threats, the standoff between Russia and the US is not remotely comparable to the events that led up to the first world war. Nor do the current tensions have anything like the ideological and global dimensions that shaped the 40-year confrontation between the west and the Soviet Union.

But what is clear is that America's unipolar moment has passed - and the new world order heralded by Bush's father in the dying days of the Soviet Union in 1991 is no more. The days when one power was able to bestride the globe like a colossus, enforcing its will in every continent, challenged only by popular movements for national independence and isolated "rogue states", are now over. For nearly two decades, while Russia sunk into "catastroika" and China built an economic powerhouse, the US has exercised unprecedented and unaccountable global power, arrogating to itself and its allies the right to invade and occupy other countries, untroubled by international law or institutions, sucking ever more states into the orbit of its voracious military alliance.

Now, pumped up with petrodollars, Russia has called a halt to this relentless expansion and demonstrated that the US writ doesn't run in every backyard. And although it has been a regional, not a global, challenge, this object lesson in the new limits of American power has already been absorbed from central Asia to Latin America.

In Georgia itself, both Medvedev's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence and Russia's destruction of Georgian military capacity have been designed to leave no room for doubt that the issue of the enclaves' reintegration has been closed. There are certainly dangers for Russia's own territorial integrity in legitimising breakaway states. But the move will have little practical impact and is presumably partly intended to create bargaining chips for future negotiations.

Miliband's attempt in Ukraine, meanwhile, to deny the obvious parallels with the US-orchestrated recognition of Kosovo's independence earlier this year rang particularly hollow, as did his denunciation of invasions of sovereign states and double standards. Both the west and Russia have abused the charge of "genocide" to try and give themselves legal cover, but Russia is surely on stronger ground over South Ossetia - where its own internationally recognised peacekeepers were directly attacked by the Georgian army - than Nato was in Kosovo in 1999, where most ethnic cleansing took place after the US-led assault began.

There has been much talk among western politicians in recent days about Russia isolating itself from the international community. But unless that simply means North America and Europe, nothing could be further from the truth. While the US and British media have swung into full cold-war mode over the Georgia crisis, the rest of the world has seen it in a very different light. As Kishore Mahbubani, Singapore's former UN ambassador, observed in the Financial Times a few days ago, "most of the world is bemused by western moralising on Georgia". While the western view is that the world "should support the underdog, Georgia, against Russia ... most support Russia against the bullying west. The gap between the western narrative and the rest of the world could not be clearer."

Why that should be so isn't hard to understand. It's not only that the US and its camp followers have trampled on international law and the UN to bring death and destruction to the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the early 1990s, the Pentagon warned that to ensure no global rival emerged, the US would need to "account for the interests of advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership". But when it came to Russia, all that was forgotten in a fog of imperial hubris that has left the US overstretched and unable to prevent the return of a multipolar world.

Of course, that new multipolarity can easily be overstated. Russia is a regional power and there is no imminent prospect of a serious global challenger to the US, which will remain overwhelmingly the most powerful state in the world for years to come. It can also exacerbate the risk of conflict. But only the most solipsistic western mindset can fail to grasp the necessity of a counterbalance in international relations that can restrict the freedom of any one power to impose its will on other countries unilaterally.

One western response, championed by the Times this week, is to damn this growing challenge to US domination on the grounds that it is led by autocratic states in the shape of Russia and China. In reality, western alarm clearly has very little to do with democracy. When Russia collapsed into the US orbit under Boris Yeltsin, his bombardment of the Russian parliament and shamelessly rigged elections were treated with the greatest western understanding.

The real gripe is not with these states' lack of accountability - Russian public opinion is in any case overwhelmingly supportive of its government's actions in Georgia - but their strategic challenge and economic rivalry. For the rest of us, a new assertiveness by Russia and other rising powers doesn't just offer some restraint on the unbridled exercise of global imperial power, it should also increase the pressure for a revival of a rules-based system of international relations. In the circumstances, that might come to seem quite appealing to whoever is elected US president.

Let joy be unconfined.

Unhealthy, Unwealthy and Unwise

Ill health is linked to poverty, health inequality is linked to wealth inequality, and Britain, with a huge number of poor people by Western standards, and with the worst wealth inequality in Europe (or since our own records began), has a huge number of sick people by Western standards, and the worst health inequality in Europe (or since our own records began).

Who knew?

Not Tony Blair, the only Labour Prime Minister ever to have presided over increases in wealth and health inequality.

Not Gordon Brown, his sidekick throughout.

And not David Cameron or David Miliband, his mini-me wannabes, never mind Nick Clegg and James Purnell, George Osborne and Andrew "Andy" Burnham (who is called Andrew in private and who, if he used his natural accent, would sound like Nicholas Soames), their mini-me wannabes.

Since none of these knows any poor people, do they know any ill people?

Wiki Watch

If you visit the Wikipedia entry on conservative Democrats, you will read the only thing that I have ever written on Wikipedia (I barely know how to do it):

"In South Carolina in 2008, the Democratic candidate for United States Senator is Bob Conley, a traditional Catholic and a former activist for the Presidential candidacy of Ron Paul. Conley is expected to do well not least because so many African-Americans will be voting for the ticket with Barack Obama on it, while conservative votes for the ticket with Conley on it will also help Obama in what is expected to be a very close Presidential Election."

Or rather, you will read part of what I wrote. Since the weekend, someone has deleted the following:

"The morally conservative Black Church will be key to getting out Obama's vote in 2008."


I will be re-submitting it some time in the next 24 hours, and might also add that Conley's views are in fact a great deal closer to those of most African-Americans than are the views of Obama, not least because his background is so much closer to theirs than is that of a privately schooled lawyer and second generation academic.

Look out for it.

And, I ask again, why? What was wrong with what I originally wrote?

UPDATE 6:25 PM - just added, so keep an eye out for it:

"Conley's moral views are in any case closer to those of many African-Americans than are those of Obama, and the morally conservative Black Church will be key to getting out Obama's vote throughout the country."

Fitting The Bill

How they cheered and cheered the man who sent their jobs to Mexico and their sons to die in Yugoslavia. Whoever wins, he cannot possibly be too unlike Bill Clinton.

She's Right

The Clinton delegate who crossed to McCain because she thought he was pro-abortion.

It's the people who vote Republican because they imagine that party to be pro-life who are completely delusional.

"Aggressive In His Own Way"

That was how the BBC described David Miliband, who is giving the Ukrainians a well-needed laugh by visiting their country pretending to be the British Foreign Secretary.

They, like the Georgians and the Azeris, are also being visited by Dick Cheney. Who will, presumably, shoot them.

No wonder so many people now prefer the Russians.

Harry's Place

The Exile writes:

Harry's Place is now back on-line and no doubt feeling even more sanctimonious and self righteous than usual. The fact that many bloggers who normally could be expected to rally to this clear cut freedom of speech issue either ignored the events of the past 24 hours, or actually supported the attempt to knock HP off-line is something that should give HP pause for thought. Both Neil Clark and Lenin's Tomb were amongst those who just ignored the matter for most of the day, although the Tomb then posted on the matter late yesterday evening. That said, earlier in the day the Tomb's author did comment briefly on a forum, but only to let people know that HP was on its own. Other sites took the opportunity to stick the boot in by reminding people of just how one-sided the HP commitment to freedom of speech is. All in all, support for Harry's Place was nowhere near as total and solid as it should have been, given the attack that it had suffered.

Why so many people dislike HP is not hard to fathom, as the site is often little more than a smear machine disguised as a blog. When the machine decides to go after someone it uses all the talents that people thought had died with the late Dr. Josef Goebbels to try and discredit them. The aim, quite simply, is to stifle debate around certain issues by trying to discredit their proponents.

Jenna Delich had to misfortune to become a victim of the smear machine, so let's look at what happened to her in more detail. As we pointed out yesterday, she sent out a link to an article by a Joe Quinn that had been reposted on David Duke's site, to a University and College Union discussion board.

David T. of Harry's Place then felt able to headline his posting on the subject with the words "UCU and the David Duke fan". Nowhere in the text which followed is the allegation that Jenna Delich is a David Duke fan actually defended, but that doesn't matter because the smear is in. Just to make sure that the more bovine readers get the message, the lie is told that the Joe Quinn article only appeared on the Duke site, thus "It is therefore reasonable to infer that Jenna Delich reads and takes her information on world events from neo Nazis." Actually, the Quinn article was first posted on his own site, and then reposted by Duke as well as a few others, but to admit to that would make the neo-Nazi smear meaningless - even the readers of Harry's Place would be able to work that out - so it was better to offer up a small porkie in the hope that nobody would check.

Next, the machine posted a photo of Jenna, with the sub-heading "Sheffield-based academic, Jenna Delich - links to far right websites associated with the Ku Klux Klan". The fact that la Delich had linked to an article via one website had suddenly become "links" to "websites," but that is par for the smear machine's course.

Finally, the smear machine gave out just enough information about Jenna Delich so that its stooges who had bought into the smear that she was a "David Duke fan" who only "takes her information... from neo-Nazis," and who "links to far-right websites," could take over. It is now being reported that Jenna Delich has received hate mail and death threats. Of course that is not the fault of Harry's Place. They did not tell people to do that. Harry's Place doesn't do that - all it does is set the stage.

The Harry's Place smear machine has past form at all these noxious activities. Neil Clark can testify that the readers of Harry's Place were encouraged with a nod and a wink to write to the Guardian with a view to getting him sacked. Johann Hari knows that Harry's Place accused him of "making things up". That latter comment was deleted following a threat of legal action, but it was up long enough to serve its purpose. The stooges then took over and spread the smear far and wide.

So, on the basis of freedom of speech, your friendly old Exile has been forced to defend a blog that makes sh*t up about people with cavalier abandon and then sits back whilst its brain-dead readership tries to either intimidate them, get them to lose their jobs, or both at the same time.

Harry's Place do not deserve anyone's sympathy, but we do have to stand by that gleaming principle that debate should be free and open to anyone who can work a keyboard. For that reason alone Harry's Place had to be supported, even though by their smears they were trying to deny that freedom to others.

That simple truth sticks in this writer's throat as well as making his piles itch, but it doesn't alter the fact that the principle had to be defended.

Florida Democrats Fighting For Marriage

The first of two today from Right Democrat:

ORLANDO,FL - Florida Red and Blue, a political committee opposing Amendment 2, has released a TV ad which is both factually wrong and attempts to mislead and scare senior citizens. The ad will be aired on Florida stations during the Democratic National Convention through out this week.

The campaign commercial has a prominent theme which is repeated three times asserting that the marriage amendment is an attempt by the government to interfere “into our private lives”. Other parts of the ad state that defeating Amendment 2 would “keep government out of our private lives” and that “personal marriage issues should be decided by you, your family and clergy, not by the government.” *

“This ad is just factually wrong and Red and Blue needs to be held accountable for false and misleading advertisements” said John Stemberger, State Chairman of the official sponsor of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment. “To the contrary, the citizen initiated and citizen led Amendment 2 has nothing at all to do with government action. It has everything to do with citizen action stopping the government from redefining marriage against their will. Amendment 2 allows the people and not activist judges to decide how marriage will be defined in Florida. This is only the first of a series of ads in an avalanche of fraud and deception that is going to flood the airways in the October.”

The campaign commercial also states* that “Democrats are United against Amendment 2 in Florida.” This is not accurate or factually correct. Over three quarters of a million Florida voters signed a citizen’s initiative petition to get the marriage amendment on the ballot. Well over 33% of those Floridians who signed the petition are registered Democrats. The recent June 3, 2008, Quinnipiac Florida poll demonstrates that a significant 45% of Democratic voters in Florida support Amendment 2.

Senator Barack Obama in the recent Saddleback forum with Rick Warren clearly stated, “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.” “This hardly seems like unity among Democrats on the issue of the definition of marriage” said Eladio Armesto, the Chairman of the Florida Democratic League who is a major supporter of Amendment 2 in South Florida.

Stemberger said, “Marriage is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. It’s not even a liberal - conservative issue. It is a human issue and a moral issue—and one which Floridians will vote yes on in overwhelming numbers on November 4, 2008.”

Finally, the unanimous Florida Supreme Court made up of Democratic and Republican appointees has ruled that Amendment 2 is about the “singular subject” of marriage and that the effect of the amendment does nothing new as it merely takes the existing law on marriage and places it into the state constitution as 27 other states have done. (1) “Telling senior citizens that they will lose Social Security and or domestic partner benefits by voting yes on 2 is outright fraud and preys upon Florida’s most vulnerable and precious citizens” stated Stemberger.

Amendment 2 has received strong support from the Florida Catholic Conference:

The Catholic Church teaches that “the marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1660)

Unity, indissolubility and openness to fertility are indispensable to marriage. It is only through the union of one man and one woman that the authentic marriage bond can be realized.

The Florida Marriage Protection Amendment will define marriage in our state’s constitution as the legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife. As evidenced in our 2005 statement, Marriage is Between One Man and One Woman, the bishops of Florida have taken a position in support of Amendment 2.

Ethics Daily, Labor Day

Also from Right Democrat:

Writing at Ethics Daily, Chris Sanders argues that organized labor is still alive and well:

"Labor Day is coming up. In the United States, as with most legally mandated Monday holidays, in the minds of most it has lost any inspirational significance and has become just another three-day weekend.

In fact, its forgotten significance is buried deeper than the other Monday holidays. Many people who can tell you what Memorial Day and Veterans Day mean will be enjoying their Sept. 1 cookout without a clue what Labor Day means. (If this is you, a hint--it has something to do with unions.)

Labor will get its annual ink this Labor Day weekend, in a theme echoed over the 20 years I've been in the labor movement. The articles read like obituaries. They'll begin like this: "The American labor movement, like the old gray mare, ain't what she used to be. Down from a high of 35 percent of the workforce to less than 8 percent, labor is on its last legs."

Sorry to digress, but if unions are all but interred, if organized labor is so 20th century, so backward as to be irrelevant in the global economy, why all the flap over the Employee Free Choice Act?

This proposed legislation may not yet be on your mind. But if your state is a political battleground this year, you're seeing and hearing radio and TV ads in heavy rotation attacking unions and union friendly politicians. The over-the-top media spots feature Sopranos-style thugs and talking ballot boxes.

What's it all about? In short, big corporate interests are worried that the next government will amend labor law in 2009 to help workers who want to choose a union and rebuild America. For more, go to or

It's why Walmart is schooling its management to preach voting against Democrats in the November election. With a new government and a new labor law, Walmart is scared its workers might get a shot at a voice on the job. So, no matter what the pundits say on Labor Day, the reports of labor's death are greatly exaggerated.

We aren't dead, not by a long shot. I'm with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, with over a million members in the U.S. and Canada. At our convention in Montreal last week, I spoke about my Christian calling and the work the union has to do.

Here's what I said:

"I'm a Christian, I know something about calling. A calling is a voice you hear with your heart, that you feel deep inside, when you're so inspired that you know it comes from above. Consider these heartfelt words from the Bible. 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and the Spirit has anointed me to preach good news among the poor, to let the oppressed go free, to make the world better this year.'

"That's Jesus, speaking about his calling, a calling to a mission. It's a mission that belongs to all who believe--Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and beyond. You know what a mission is. It's more than your job description. It's bigger than your To-Do list. It's as big as the Montreal sky. It's to protect human rights and human dignity, to fight poverty, to speak out when no one else will--or can. It's to form that thin line against greed and injustice, to do, as the Apostle says, the work of love.

"Yes, we have some work to do. For the work of love is the work of change. We've been called to bring change. As Gandhi said, we must be the change we want to see in the world. Change isn't easy. Change isn't simple or obvious. It's just essential, right here, right now."

My paraphrase of Jesus' "Nazareth Manifesto," Luke 4:18-19, touched a deep place in the convention delegates' hearts. They resonated with the nexus between their high calling and the calling to something higher. The time is right for labor people who believe and believers who care about the struggles of people who labor to organize together, united as one in one cause.

As a Monday holiday, Labor Day is a paid day off. It's time, to echo Martin Luther King's words, for Labor Day to be a day on, not a day off.

Labor Day was born during the Industrial Revolution in the struggle for an eight-hour day. Eight hours, not 10 or 12 or more, became the norm for work, allowing people time to rest, take care of families and worship.

Eight hours became the norm, not through normal evolution or owner enlightenment, but when workers and their unions literally shed blood to secure their children's future. We today are their literal and spiritual children, and Labor Day is their legacy and our responsibility. It's a day on, not a day off, as we continue to stand up on the job.

No, organized labor in America isn't dead. American unions are uniting with labor globally to engage global corporate power. Unions like the UFCW are organizing and growing everywhere, because working people come together in tough economic times.

Unions are finding their spiritual center and bringing that light out from under the bushel for the world to see. Let's do it together.

Chris Sanders is executive assistant to the president and general counsel for Local 227 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, representing working people across Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Active at Highland Baptist Church, he plays rock guitar and leads worship at the Friday church service."

As Chris Sanders mentioned, there has been a strong connection between labor unions and religious groups as both work together to build strong families and communities. Listed below are statements of various faith communities on worker's rights.

Baptist Churches:

"We reaffirm our position that workers have the right to organize by a free and democratic vote of the workers involved. This right of organization carries the responsibility of union leadership to protect the rights of workers, to guarantee each member an equal voice in the operation of its organization, and to produce just
output labors for income received."
— American Baptist Churches Resolution, 1981

"We recognize the right of labor to organize and to engage in collective bargaining to the end that labor may have a fair and living wage, such as will provide and culture."
- Southern Baptist Convention

Catholic Church:

"In the first place, employers and workmen may themselves effect much in the matter which we treat-(saving the workers from being ground down with excessive labor). The most important of all are workmen's associations...but it is greatly desired that they should multiply and become more effective.
- Pope Leo XIII

"What is to be thought of the action of those Catholic industrialists who even to this day have shown themselves hostile to a labor movement that we ourselves recommended?"
- Pope Pius XI

"Among the basic rights of the human person must be counted the right of freely founding labor unions. These unions should be truly able to represent the workers and to contribute to the proper arrangement of economic life. Another such right is that of taking part freely in the activity of these unions without fear of reprisal."
— Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, Second Vatican Council, 1965

Church of the Brethren:

"Laborers are always to be regarded as persons and never as a commodity. Industry was made for man, and not man for industry. Employees as well as employers have the right to organize themselves into a union for wage negotiations and collective bargaining."
- Brethren Service Commission, Church of the Brethren

Congregational Christian Churches:

"We stand for the replacement of the autocratic organization of industry by one of collective effort of organized workers and organized employers."

The Disciples of Christ:

"Be It Resolved by the International Convention of the Disciples of Christ:

That It is our conviction that workers should have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist in forming labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing and to engage in such activities as are within the limits of Constitutional rights for the purpose of bargaining with employers and other mutual aid protection."

Episcopal Church:

"We reaffirm the right and desirability of workers in the United States to organize and form unions. ...We decry the growing wage of anti-unionism mounting in the nation today which asks people to forget the struggles that led to this form of negotiation as a just way to settle differences."
— Urban Bishops Coalition of the Episcopal Church, 1982 (when it was a lot more orthodox than it is today)

Evangelical and Reformed Church:

"In order that the Christian principles of respect for personality, establishment of brotherhood, and obedience in the revealed will of God may find more adequate expression in the economic order, we commit our selves to work for ...the recognition of the right of employers and workers to organize for collective bargaining, as a step toward the democratic control of industry for the good of


"The same rights of organization which rest with employers rest also with those whom they employ. Modern life has permitted wealth to consolidate itself through organization into corporations. Workershave the same inalienable right to organize according to their ownplan for their common good and to bargain collectively with theiremployers through such honorable manes as they may choose."
-Central Conference of American Rabbis

Lutheran Church:

"We are convinced that the organization of labor is essential to the well being of the working people. It is based upon a sense of the inestimable value of the individual man."
- United Lutheran Church in America

"It is the right of every man to organize with his fellow workers for collective bargaining through representatives of his own free choice. It is the duty of both management and labor to accept and support conciliations and arbitration in industrial disputes."
- Board of Social Mission and the Executive Board of the United Lutheran Church
in America.

Methodist Church:

"We stand for the right of employees and employers alike to organize for collective bargaining and social action; protection of both in the exercise of their right; the obligation of both to work for the public good."
- The General Conference of the Methodist Church

"Collective bargaining, in its mature phase, is democracy applied to industrial relations. It is representative government and reasoned compromise taking the place of authoritarian rule by force in the economic sphere. In its highest form it is the Christian ideal of brotherhood translated into the machinery of daily life."
- General Board of Christian Education of the Methodist Church

Presbyterian Church:

"Labor unions have been instrumental in achieving a higher standard of living and in improving working conditions. They have helped to obtain safety and health measures against occupational risk; to achieve a larger degree of protection against child labor; to relieve the disabled, the sick, the unemployed; and to gain a more equitableshare in the value of what they produce."
-Board of Christian Education, Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.

"The right of labor to organize and to bargain collectively with employers is clearly an inalienable right in a democracy, and has so been recognized by our government."
-Synod of Tennessee, Presbyterian Church of U.S.A.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Hillary Clinton's Brass Neck

“Borrowing money from the Chinese to buy oil from the Saudis”? The nerve of that woman! The sheer gall!

Hillary Clinton had pledged to nuke Iran if it had threatened Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates (she did not specify why it would ever have made any such threat, just as no one ever specified why Iraq might ever have attacked the British sovereign bases on Cyprus “within 45 minutes”, or indeed at all), which first alone had given the Clintons at least eighteen million dollars.

Yet these are the countries that are holding the West to ransom. As she herself points out.

The nerve of that woman! The sheer gall!

What Will They Say?

Roll on President Obama, and then the columnists and bloggers of the Establishment Right (and yes, that does include the likes of Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch, Oliver Kamm and all that crowd) might ever be able to admit that the American Administration of the day was wrong about anything.

When, with full Russian backing, Nagorno-Karabakh declares independence from "Western" (Anglo-American-Israeli) backed, Islamist Azerbaijan, what will they say?

When with full "Western" (Anglo-American-Israeli) backing, Islamist Chechnya declares independence from Russia, what will they say?

And so one could go on.

However, check the comments from the Tories' readers, if not always from the pseudo-Leftists' ones, and you will always see that they, on the other hand, are clearly still proper conservatives. So all is not lost.

The Democrats Need To Get Back To Their Future

Representative Nydia Valazquez, of New York's 12th District (Brooklyn, in other words), addressed the Democratic Convention in her capacity as Chairman of the House Small Businesses Committee. Good luck to anyone who could understand a word of her broken English. Clearly, she has extremely little cause to speak it in the absence of the television cameras.

Thank God that she was followed by Senator Bob Casey, son and namesake of the legendary former Governor of Pennsylvania. If the Democrats was still all like him and his father - pro-life and pro-family, or at least tolerant and respectful of those who are (Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have all been in their day, and deep down probably still are); passionately and actively concerned for bread and butter politics rather than upper-middle-class lifestyle issues; and fully understanding of the fact that unity of language is indispensable, not least if the English-speaking working class (black and white) is not to be kept down for ever by the bilingual or multilingual oligarchy - then they would never be out of office, and America would be fighting a successful war against want, idleness, ignorance, ill health and squalor, rather than the calamitous and doomed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not only in the United States does this lesson urgently need to be learned.

Ascension Island

Following today's news about Ascension Island, just Google for "Ascension Island Councillor Lawson Henry". This disgraceful state of affairs is only made even worse by the lack of media attention.

Of course, it was The Finchley Boadicea, alleged Protectress of the British Overseas Territories, who took away Saint Helenians' British Citizenship (now restored) in the first place, making herself known to them as "Maggie Thatcher, The Passport Snatcher".

In this, she was as patriotic as she was over the Single European Act, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Exchange Rate Mechanism, the Falklands (at least until the Argentines took her at her word and actually moved in), Grenada, and so much else besides.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Brown Weak For Not Sacking Miliband

There really is no arguing with this.

Meanwhile, yet more emails (there have been several, plus several phone calls) saying that everyone who is anyone knows that Miliband has joint British-Israeli nationality.

Given the sources, they cannot all be wrong. The son of the Convenor of the Church of Scotland's Israel Committee has appointed an Israeli citizen as Foreign Secretary.

And now, that Israeli citizen is being lined up to succeed him at the G8, on the UN Security Council, with his finger on the nuclear button, the lot.

What About North Ossetia?

Eh? Eh?

They are at it all over the blogosphere today. They really do believe that this a killer question.

Not only has North Ossetia no desire for independence, but if the South Ossetians were now (or, indeed, ever) told that the only way to reunion was incorporation into the Russian Federation, then they would leap at it.

As they will.

Very, very soon.


If so, then how many more times do the Republicans have to spit in your faces before you will come home to the Democratic Party, thus forcing it to be your home once again?

Re-register as Democrats and turn up at primaries or caucuses. How hard is that?

You don't like the Republicans. You don't really feel any affinity with them. And they despise you.

Well, try despising them back.

Traición de los Clérigos

John Zmirak on superb form, as these extracts illustrate:

"As American citizens, it is our duty to our neighbors -- to our fellow citizens who feel the impact of our votes -- to use those votes responsibly, in the legitimate interests of the country to which we profess loyalty. We might feel a stronger bond to our fellow Catholics in Mexico and the Philippines than we do to our Mormon or Jewish neighbors; indeed, on a supernatural level, we are more closely bound to them. We might well prefer to marry one of them, instead of an unbelieving American. We owe these Catholic foreigners the respect deserved by every human being, and the prayers that knit together the Mystical Body of Christ. There's just one little thing we don't owe them: the duties we have incurred toward our fellow citizens."

"One out of three Catholics who grows up in America leaves the Church. The only thing that has kept our share of the population from shrinking is mass immigration of uneducated poor people. Their arrival bucks up the numbers, gratifies a deeply dysfunctional bureaucracy, and fills the empty pews . . . for one generation. This influx of "fresh souls" from poor countries lets us pretend that our Church is successfully passing along the Faith, is reverently offering the sacraments, and generally chugging along as it always did. In fact, by losing one Catholic out of three, American Catholicism is collapsing almost as quickly as English Catholicism did under Elizabeth I. Except that we aren't even being persecuted -- and our Spanish Armada didn't sink. It crosses the Rio Grande, in small contingents, to the tune of around 1 million people per year. “Subsidizing” the U.S. Church with a constant influx of fresh Catholics to alienate and scandalize is no more prudent than paying General Motors to go right on building Humvees for the suburbs."

In fact, far from Hispanics' being the great hope of American Catholicism, Latin America has never been a very Catholic place, with slight if any Mass-going majorities, huge numbers of the unbaptised, rampant syncretism and surviving paganism, and a very heavy dependence on (historically European, these days usually North American) missionary priests.

Likewise, whereas eighty per cent of people in Poland are practising Catholics, only one in 10 Poles in Britain is a practising Catholic. I live five miles from a predominantly Catholic former steel town and its attendant former pit villages, several of which are also predominantly Catholic, and all of which have large Catholic populations. I have repeatedly heard Polish spoken in the street there. There are certainly Polish goods in the shops and so forth. And the Catholic churches and Catholic schools are still going strong. But they are as Anglicised-Irish as ever, with scarecely a Pole in sight. There are some, but not very many.

The sooner the Bishops stop urging their flock to accept the loss of their jobs, the running down of their wages and working conditions, and the confinement of their children and grandchildren to the bottom of the heap by means of de facto State bilingulaism, the better. No, these things are not somehow to the good of the Church.

It is also worth pointing out that the Navy that defeated the Spanish Armada was not in fact commanded by El Drac, still the bogeyman used to frighten children to sleep in Spain and Latin America, but rather by Lord Howard of Effingham, a Catholic (though probably forgotten just because he was less colourful than Drake) as loyal to his Queen Elizabeth as I am to mine.

Even the early-twentieth-century Catholic Encyclopedia, pre-Conciliar and basically Irish-American, has this to say:

"Among the many side-issues which meet the student of the history of the Armada, that of the cooperation or favor of the Pope, and of the Catholic party among the English, is naturally important for Catholics. There can be no doubt, then, that though the Spanish predominance was not at all desired for its own sake by the Catholics of England, France, and Germany, or of Rome, yet the widespread suffering and irritation caused by the religious wars Elizabeth fomented, and the indignation caused by her religious persecution, and the execution of Mary Stuart, caused Catholics everywhere to sympathize with Spain, and to regard the Armada as a crusade against the most dangerous enemy of the Faith.

Pope Sixtus V agreed to renew the excommunication of the queen, and to grant a large subsidy to the Armada, but, knowing the slowness of Spain, would give nothing till the expedition should actually land in England. In this way he was saved his million crowns, and spared the reproach of having taken futile proceedings against the heretic queen. This excommunication had of course been richly deserved, and there is extant a proclamation to justify it, which was to have been published in England if the invasion had been successful. It was signed by Cardinal Allen, and is entitled "An Admonition to the Nobility and Laity of England". It was intended to comprise all that could be said against the queen, and the indictment is therefore fuller and more forcible than any other put forward by the religious exiles, who were generally very reticent in their complaints. Allen also carefully consigned his publication to the fire, and we only know of it through one of Elizabeth's ubiquitous spies, who had previously stolen a copy.

There is no doubt that all the exiles for religion at that time shared Allen's sentiments, but not so the Catholics in England. They had always been the most conservative of English parties. The resentment they felt at being persecuted led them to blame the queen's ministers, but not to question her right to rule. To them the great power of Elizabeth was evident, the forces and intentions of Spain were unknown quantities. They might, should, and did resist until complete justification was set before them, and this was in fact never attempted. Much, for instance, as we know of the Catholic clergy then laboring in England, we cannot find that any of them used religion to advance the cause of the Armada. Protestant and Catholic contemporaries alike agree that the English Catholics were energetic in their preparations against it.

This being so, it was inevitable that the leaders of the Catholics abroad should lose influence, through having sided with Spain. On the other hand, as the pope and all among whom they lived had been of the same mind, it was evidently unjust to blame their want of political insight too harshly. It point of fact the change did not come until near the end of Elizabeth's reign, when, during the appeals against the archpriest, the old leaders, especially the Jesuit Father Robert Persons, were freely blamed for the Spanish alliance. The terms of the blame were exaggerated, but the reason for complaint cannot be denied."

"Let me pose a deeper question: Does transferring Catholics from a relatively traditional society such as Mexico to the slums of Los Angeles further their spiritual well-being? Are they really better off moving to parishes run by priests who dissent from Church teaching, in a state with same-sex marriage, a country with legal abortion, and a culture corrupted by Hollywood?"

"I have the firm support of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which, after encouraging decent treatment of immigrants, teaches: "Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens" (2241). Does that include entering illegally, using false documents to work and avoid paying taxes, waving foreign flags, and colluding with foreign officials to undermine U.S. law? If it doesn't, then immigrants who have shirked those obligations have lost any claim on our hospitality."

Well, there is certainly no point voting for McCain, then.

Always The Tartan Tories

They very nearly did a deal with Margaret Thatcher, now much-praised by Alex Salmond:

Devolution occupied huge quantities of parliamentary time in the late 1970s, as the Labour Government struggled to persuade its backbenchers to support legislation establishing elected assemblies in Scotland and Wales.

Many ministers were themselves less than enthusiastic about devolution, but had little room for manoeuvre because their party had manifesto commitments and its tiny parliamentary majority had disappeared entirely by March 1977, leaving it dependent on minor parties which favoured the legislation.

The Conservatives had supported the principle of devolution since 1968 when Edward Heath had surprised most of his colleagues by suddenly making the commitment in a speech at Perth. But by the time MT became leader, many in the parliamentary party were privately lukewarm, dubious or downright hostile. They feared devolution might damage or lead to the break up the United Kingdom, foresaw a backlash against the policy in England and predicted big tactical advantages in opposing the government's plans, so making life even more difficult for Labour. MT was certainly a sceptic about the Perth commitment, though she feared that a sudden reversal of policy would cause internal divisions, particularly with those still loyal to Heath and in Scotland where the whole party establishment was strongly devolutionist.

The issue came to the crunch at the end of 1976, when the government's Scotland and Wales Bill reached Second Reading in the House of Commons, the point at which the principle behind the legislation is examined. What should the Conservatives do?

One suggestion came, remarkably, from the Scottish National Party. A Conservative Whip, Jack Weatherill (later Commons Speaker) tells how he was secretly approached by the Scottish Nationalist MP, Hamish Watt, urging MT not to vote against the Second Reading , on the ground that: "If she does it will be impossible for the SNP to have any working arrangements with us". According to the note, Watt - who was a former Conservative parliamentary candidate - saw common ground between the two parties, particularly if (as many expected) the Conservatives were to become the next UK Government with the SNP a strong presence in Scotland.

Whether he spoke for himself alone or for any of his colleagues was unclear. Certainly there is no evidence in her files of a Conservative response, and when (two years later) there were press reports of Conservative efforts to reach a deal with the SNP to remove Labour on a confidence motion, MT made an immediate on-the-record denial.

Voting SNP has always been voting Tory really, and not just ideologically speaking. Though never more so that at the forthcoming General Election.

Free At Last

There is nowhere else on earth comparable to the four "frozen conflicts" left over from the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh have never been governed in practice by post-Soviet Georgia, Moldovo or Azerbaijan, and were never part of pre-Soviet Georgia, Moldavia or Azerbaijan.

Their two active and two soon to be active claims to independence should be evaluated in terms of their motives.

Do they, as Kosovo did and Chechnya does, want into the nexus of, on the one hand, globalisation, European federalism and American military-industrial hegemony, and, on the other hand, the militant Islam to which those forces pretend to be opposed but are in fact closely allied? Or do they want out of states moving in that very direction?

Manifestly, it is the latter.

They therefore deserve full recognition and every possible support.

NATO: The Paper Alliance

Over on RIA Novosti (rightly letting then know that they are not without friends), John Laughland writes:

As the dust settles on the conflict in South Ossetia - and as it vanishes progressively from the headlines in the Western press - one thing has become overwhelmingly clear. It is that Georgia will now never join NATO and that the balance of power in the world has therefore shifted radically as a result of this little six-day war.

During the conflict, many people in the Russian media (and in the country at large) seemed obsessed with the negative coverage of Russia's position in the Western media. It is certainly true that the media all over Western Europe and North America gave heavy prominence to the Georgian position and was very anti-Russian in tone. It is also true that this negative coverage comes after a long period of deterioration in relations between Russia and the West, which seemed to reach a new peak just after the South Ossetian conflict when Condoleezza Rice travelled to Warsaw to sign the agreement to station the new anti-missile shield in Poland.

On the other hand, while much political reality can be created (or at least influenced) by the virtual reality of TV, it is an inescapable truth of human history that the key questions of politics - especially the one about who has the right to rule - are usually decided by force. In the case of South Ossetia, the West's blandishments against Moscow - whose hypocrisy must be very irritating for Russia's leaders - are in fact nothing but psychological compensation for the fact that Western leaders know, in their heart of hearts, that they cannot and will not fight Russia over Georgia.

Russia is the second most heavily armed country in the world, and a serious nuclear power. The West, meanwhile, is fighting protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which mean that its hands are tied behind its back. If the NATO states are not prepared to go to war with the Russian army over that small parcel of territory around Tskhinvali of which few people in the West had even heard before the violence erupted, then Georgia can never join the Alliance because NATO membership means precisely that members must fight for each others' territorial integrity.

More than ten years of promises that Georgia would be invited to join NATO have therefore just been quietly shelved (even if the West does not admit this openly).

Moreover, not only Georgia's accession but the whole process of further NATO expansion is now on hold. If Georgia does not join NATO, then nor will Ukraine. The accession of the two Black Sea states to the Atlantic Alliance was part of the same strategic plan which went up in smoke as soon as Russian troops entered Georgia.

It is no coincidence, indeed, that tensions within the pro-Western bloc in Ukraine itself exploded just after the Ossetian conflict. President Yushchenko has accused his own prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, of treason for trying to curry support in Moscow for her own presidential ambitions. In a startlingly Soviet-style reflex, he has announced that he will set his secret services loose on her. Madame Timoshenko denies the charges, of course, but she has no doubt concluded, like many Ukrainians, that her vast and mainly Russian-speaking country can in fact never be part of a military alliance whose nuclear missiles are directed against fellow Russians within the Russian Federation itself.

This is a historic turning point. Ever since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the West has expanded its influence ever deeper into former Soviet territory. The Caucasus was one focal point for this expansion because of the oil pipelines bringing Caspian oil to the West. Russian troops are now within an hour's drive of that pipeline and there is nothing the West can do about it. It is also doubtful, incidentally, whether the famous missile shield, which Russian leaders rightly interpret as an anti-Russian project, can ever actually work. The project of NATO expansion having now been arrested, perhaps for ever, the aim of creating a unipolar world around the world-wide projection of American power is now a thing of the past.

Of course all this was foreseen long ago - in song, and by a Georgian. NATO is now like Bulat Okudjava's famous soldier: "He wanted to transform the world so that everyone would be happy. But he only hung by a thread for, you see, he was in fact made out of paper."

Janet Daley: The Grand Dragon


Something like 10 years ago, I remember asking the then Editor of The Catholic Herald, who had lately appeared on The Moral Maze, how he had got on with David Starkey. Fine, he replied. "But Janet Daley is just vile", and her idea of conversation over dinner was to have photocopied her Telegraph column in order to distribute it between courses, so that it could be discussed once the food had arrived.

John Major Was Good For Our Health

Following on from Sunday's posts about how John Major was a far more notable figure than either his predecessor (local princess, fee-paying school, Oxford, married a millionaire, called to the Bar, never looked back) or his successor (public school, Oxford, the Bar, carefully arranged safe seat at 30), and about how any war is really an expense to the NHS, it is worth remembering that Major believed passionately in the NHS.

The 1997 Election marked a dramatic shift to the Right both in terms of health spending and in terms of health organisation. And to this day, the Tories still have significantly more social democratic health policies than the Government has.

Team UK

If it must be Team Anything.

A single British football team for London in 2012? I can't see why not. Regular readers will be aware of my distinct scepticism about the cultural importance of professional football, but amateurs and professionals alike need to face the fact that not only does the rest of the world find it completely incomprehensible that we get to enter four teams, but we are in any case increasingly unlikely to enter any of them in practice.

As soon as the Americans, and various hugely populous African and Asian countries, started to take international football seriously, then so much as future qualification for the World Cup (in particular) became impossible for England eventually, and for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland immediately. Indeed, even England cannot any longer guarantee qualification for the European Championship.

Which would be fine by me, if total British non-qualification meant total British non-televisation. But if for some reason you do not take this view, then "Team UK" (if you must) offers the only hope, whether at amateur or at professional level.

Government Leaving Black Youths To Die?

Undoubtedly. After all, have you not noticed that white youths stabbed by other white youths are always “promising”, “gifted” or even “brilliant” examples of something or other, whereas black youths shot by other black youths are always “gang members”?

"Not In Scotland"

So the Radio Two presenters felt moved to add whenever they mentioned yesterday's "Bank Holiday". (Only in Britain do we have pointless celebrations of the mere fact that the banks are on holiday, which is why only in Britain are all sorts of things routinely open on public holidays. If our holidays celebrated people, or events, or Patron Saints, or what have you, then they would no more be something close to normal working days than Christmas Day is.)

But the apparent lack of demand for public transport on Boxing Day even in Scotland (where it is not a public holiday) fed the mounting perception that in practice the Scots now take all the English public holidays along with their own. Especially, I have to say, in the public sector, just how many people actually turned up to work in Scotland yesterday? More than on Boxing Day. But even so.

Sunday 24 August 2008

Choose Life, Not Death

Apparently, we can’t afford the latest drugs for kidney cancer. Funny how we can always, always find the money for wars. Any ongoing or putative war should be defined as an expense to the NHS on which its cost might otherwise be or have been spent, and evaluated accordingly.

Bolivia: McCain's Georgia

The rich, white eastern provinces of Bolivia are on the brink of a Rightist secession. These are not people who speak English as their first language, as the South Ossetians speak Russian. Nor are they American citizens, as the South Ossetians are Russian citizens.

But just look at the people to whom John McCain is appealing, as Hillary Clinton did. With Robert Kagan as Secretary of State, not just diplomatic recognition, but military intervention, would be guaranteed.

After all, is this not the backyard, the near abroad?

True North

We need an association of members, each paying an annual subscription as the core around which to organise further fund-raising.

Across the historic counties of Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, Westmorland, Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland, each locality's smallest existing or most recent local authority above Parish or Town level, but below County level, should be "twinned" with an authority of comparable population in Scotland, another such in Wales, and a third in London or the South East.

The aim would be for not less than equality between the Northern area and each of its three "twins" in employment, in wages, in incomes overall, and in both spending and outcomes in relation to each of education, training, health, social services, housing, transport, law and order, and culture, media and sport.

In every year when this was the case across all the areas in question, then the monies raised would be divided equally among the offices of all MPs. But in any year when it was not thus the case, then those monies would be divided equally among the members as a sort of dividend.

And something on the same model in the West Country? Good luck to it.

After Posh, Becks

David Beckham is probably the most famous Englishman ever, and, provided that his wife could be kept out the way, would be harmless in the non-job of Mayor of London.

For such it is: there are ten times as many quango members in London as Borough Councillors, Assembly Members and the Mayor put together. If any other part of the country were thus run like a colony, there would be bedlam. But people in London either don’t notice, or don’t care, or both.

In four years’ time, Beckham will almost certainly no longer be playing professional football. The idea of the buffoonish Boris Johnson welcoming the world to these shores is too horrific to contemplate. But there will have been a Mayoral Election between now and then.

Enough of Posh.

Back Becks.

Margaret Thatcher Is Demented

I haven’t had such a shock since Ronald Reagan announced that he had Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Lying Loony Hour

What is becoming of The Westminster Hour?

This week, we first got some loon from the wholly discredited Adam Smith Institute, given fully a quarter of an hour to bang on about how it was all the fault of the rabid Socialism of George Bush.

And then on came some loon from the wholly discredited Henry Jackson Society (previously assumed to be as defunct as the wholly discredited Euston Manifesto) to demand a war against Russia, as well as the vast transfer of public spending from public services and the relief of poverty to such people’s own thoroughly pecuniary military-industrial interests.

Of course, they can’t both be right, although they can certainly both be wrong, which they are.

But see your license fees being spent.

Majors and Minors

The lot from the Reduced Shakespeare Company had fun mocking John Major on this evening’s Sunday Supplement. But history will be kind to Major, as to Gordon Brown. Each will be seen as vastly preferable both to his predecessor and to his successor, be Brown’s successor Cameron or Miliband.

Major will be recognised as actually having done, is far less time, vastly more than Blair ever did. He will be notable as the last ever “non-graduate” Prime Minister (and never forget that he went from a very working-class home to a grammar school), while Brown will be notable, not only for never actually starting any wars, but also as not just the first Prime Minister ever to hold a non-Oxbridge degree (more than one in fact), but also as the last whether Cameron or Miliband follows him, and as the last state-schooled Prime Minister ever if it is Cameron.

Where Are The World's Wigginses?

People called Wiggins must have gone off to the New World, yet somehow a name like Bradley Wiginns speaks of these islands, and above all of this island. Why? Where are the world’s other Wigginses?

If Only We Were More Like Russia

Thank God for Peter Hitchens, the voice of Old Labour whether he likes it or not (which he does, really):

I remember the day in 1991 when the Kremlin stopped being a threat to Britain, a bright August morning in Moscow as the tanks withdrew from the end of my street, the Stalinist vigilantes packed up their little checkpoint in my block of flats and the KGB-sponsored putsch collapsed.

The bins were full of torn-up and half-burned red and gold Communist Party cards. Communism was gone for ever.

It has not come back. Private life, Christianity and family life returned and are (in some ways) now less threatened in Moscow than here in Britain.

I had been a militant pro-Washington Cold Warrior. I had been despised and sneered at by much of my own fellow-travelling generation.

They were specially nasty when I opposed communist infiltration in the unions, or attacked CND and pointed out that the nuclear threat to this country came from Soviet missiles, not from our own.

I knew my enemy at home and abroad, inside-out. And from that 1991 day onwards, Russia was not my enemy any more, just a big European country that I was lucky to have lived in, puzzling, cruel and harsh in some ways, deeply touching in others.

The German-dominated EU, it quickly emerged, was now a much more potent and urgent menace to British liberty and independence.

I am baffled that so many conservative-minded people in Britain and America cannot see this simple point.

They continue to rage about the alleged Russian menace, when Russia’s armed forces are a junk-shop of fizzing, flatulent scrap metal largely manned by corrupt drunkards, backed up by a fleet of half-sunk, rusting ships.

They babble of a new Cold War, when communism – the whole issue of that war – is dead in Russia.

But it has come to life again in Britain and America as political correctness, which is destroying all the things we fought the Cold War to save.

They fancy that the Western Left still has sympathy for Russia. I haven’t noticed it.

Leftist ‘thinkers’ are switching to supporting neo-conservative Washington, which has taken over the Kremlin’s old role of invading other people’s countries for their own good, even copying Soviet Moscow’s unhinged invasion of Afghanistan.

Actually, I often wish we were more like Russia, aggressively defending our interests, making sure we owned our own crucial industries, killing terrorists instead of giving in to them, running our own foreign policy instead of trotting two feet behind George W. Bush.

Russia, oddly enough, has come to stand for national sovereignty and independence, while we give up our own.

Georgia On McCain's Mind


There is simply no other word for it.

Randy Scheunemann signed the Project for the New American Century letter to Bill Clinton demanding war against Iraq; that was four years before 9/11. He signed the PNAC ultimatum to Bush, nine days after 9/11, threatening him with political reprisal if he did not go to war against Iraq, which had undoubtedly had nothing to do with 9/11, and war against which the PNAC, including Scheunemann, had demanded fully four years earlier. He was executive director of the old crook Ahmad Chalabi's "Committee for the Liberation of Iraq".

And now, Scheunemann is John McCain's nominee in waiting to be National Security Adviser. Between January 2007 to March 2008, the McCain campaign paid him $70,000. During those same 15 months, his Orion Strategies was paid $290,000 by the Georgian regime of Mikheil Saakashvili, in return for NATO membership, or at least the guarantee that America would go to war to defend Georgia even if Saakashvili launched some idiotic incursion into Abkhazia or South Ossetia and thus earned himself the wrath of Russia. He nearly succeeded. As National Security Adviser, he would succeed.

Scheunemann's two-man lobbying firm received $730,000 from Georgia from 2001 onwards. He was also paid by Romania and Latvia to do the same for them. And in their cases, he did succeed. Thanks to Scheunemann, America and Britain are now treaty-bound to intervene militarily in Latvia if Russia goes in to halt some violence against the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russians living there. Scheunemann arranged this state of affairs for cold, hard cash.


There is simply no other word for it.

You Must Be Joeking

This blog has never been Obamaniacal. It doesn't do mania of any kind. And it is feeling even less inclined towards Obamania now that Joe Biden is the Vice-Presidential nominee.

All we need now is Joe Lieberman as McCain's running mate: two North Eastern, white, ultraliberal, super-hawkish, Likudnik Joes together - Biden and Lieberman, each with a very good chance of becoming President between now and 2012, one by the assassination of the dusky President Obama, the other by the expiration of the aged President McCain.

Obama is still better than the alternative, not that that is saying anything. But to whom are these running mates designed to appeal? In whose interest is each ticket being balanced? Balanced by what, exactly?

Enough of this pandering to Hillary Clinton, with her eighteen million cracks. There is no need for the ballot paper to feature a candidate acceptable to man-haters, to black-haters, to illegal immigrants who refuse to learn English, to people who wish the foreign policy of the United States to be dictated by a not necessarily governing party in another country, or to financial dependents of the Gulf monarchies.

And note that the South has become the American equivalent of the North of England or the West Country, with no one on the Democratic ticket, and doubtless with no one on the Republican ticket either.

Sporting Life

Each host country gets to add a new Olympic sport. For London in 2012, I propose Prime Minister hating. We hated the last one, and the one before him, and the one before him. We hate the present one. And we will undoubtedly hate the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that...

Saturday 23 August 2008

Miliband: Silly, But Also Nasty

Time was when even lightweight Prime Ministers had heavyweight Foreign Secretaries. Hell, even Blair, the lightweights' lightweight, had Robin Cook, Jack Straw and the much-maligned Margaret Beckett (a Minister before he was a Labour Party member).

But now, we have an undoubted heavyweight, whatever else one might say about him, as Prime Minister, and someone who makes even Blair look like a colossus as Foreign Secretary. He is currently trying and failing to grow the thinnest of moustaches, like a boy of about 13. Suddenly, we see the horrific hormonal context of his purchase of babies over the Internet.

But is the undoubtedly ridiculous Miliband merely ridiculous? As Ralph Mliband's son, he was always guaranteed first a safe and then a Cabinet seat, entirely regardless of his abilities, once he had finished his progress from a birthright place at an elite pseudo-comprehensive to a birthright place at Oxbridge. He chose Oxford, and would have got in anyway because of who is his father was. Yet he hedged a bet in no need of hedging by gaining admission through a special access scheme run by ILEA. In other words, he stole the place of someone with no other way in, even though he himself was in absolutely no danger of being rejected.

Yes, Milly is very, very silly.

But he is also very, very nasty.

"It's Getting Just Like Britain"

So said Bob Crow on Any Questions, referring to the shallowness and razzmatazz of American politics. He was not joking. Nor should he have been.

Friday 22 August 2008

Obama: The Lesser of Two Evils?

John Peddler thinks so.

But I think that he could in fact prove better than that.

Queen and Country, Not Blood and Soil

Would there have been any Hitler or Mussolini if all those princely states had still existed in German-speaking Europe or the Italian Peninsula? Of course not.

Nor would the BJP be on the rise if all those princely states still existed in India.

I have long struggled to see what all Fascist regimes or movements have in common with each other but not with anybody else. There is not much. But there is certainly allegiance to "the Reich" or "the Volk" as an abstraction, echoing Marxists' allegiance to an abstract ideology. Give me a person any day.

New Labour, New Tory and Lib Dem MPs, take note.

Memory Sticks: Stick Them In Your Memory

Isn't privatisation great?

And wouldn't ID cards work like a dream?

As Neil Clark puts it in The First Post:

“This is a massive failure of duty. It is not the first time that the government has been shown to be completely incapable of protecting the integrity of highly sensitive data," was Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve's response to the news that a computer memory stick containing highly confidential data of 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales has gone missing.

But in his attack Grieve fails to mention one very important point.

It wasn't the government which lost the data, but a private company, PA Consulting, a sub-contractor to the Home Office.

It's not the first time that a private contractor has lost confidential government data. Back in December it was revealed that the details of 3m candidates for the driving theory test had gone missing in the US, after Pearson Driving Assessments, a contractor to the Driving Standards Agency, had lost a hard drive from what they described as a 'secure facility' in Iowa.

The question we ought to be asking is: why are core government tasks - including the handling of highly sensitive data - being outsourced to private contractors, very often contractors based in other countries?

The process of hiving off government tasks began with the then Conservative government’s 1991 White Paper 'Competing for Quality', which called for the activities of government departments and agencies to be 'opened up' for tender. By 1995, more than £2bn of activities had been 'market-tested'. Supporters of sub-contracting claimed that it would increase efficiency. But after this latest fiasco is there anyone still willing to argue that the increased involvement of the private sector in the business of government has led to greater efficiency?

It is logical to assume that the more outside agencies that handle government data, the greater the likelihood of it getting lost. But logic, it seems, goes out of the window where Britain's political elite and their blind attachment to neo-liberal dogma is concerned.