Friday 31 December 2010

114 Labour MPs Against Electoral Reform

You know how this one goes.

House Prices

You know how this one goes.

Train Fares

You know how this one goes.

Notre Devoir Sera D'Être Un Modèle

Regional interests in the Ivory Coast? Of course.

French interests in the Ivory Coast? If they say so, in which case the matter can safely be left to them.

But British interests in the Ivory Coast? No.

William Hague, you have been doing quite well. Do not make it look as if you have been spending too much time around the Heirs to Blair and the ageing valets of Paddy Ashdown.

Fall and Rise

It is not news that John Stonehouse was a Czechoslovak agent. Nor that he was the Labour MP most closely associated with the proto-Thatcherite Institute of Economic Affairs in the days when it was still trying to persuade all three parties, and that he was later briefly the only MP ever to sit in the English separatist interest, before he joined the SDP after having left Parliament and, er, so forth...

The sectarian, sometimes treasonable, Left; the sectarian Right, also treasonable in its relationship with the Rhodesians who purported to depose Her Majesty; and the SDP, with everything that lay behind it, including the direct intervention in the British electoral process of the European Commission, acting as such and on behalf of what has always been its sponsor in Washington: these three streams feed into and define the present Political Class.

But they have been thoroughly mixed into each other for as long as any of them has existed. Alas, the full story will probably never be told. It should be.

Yesterday Once More

In the dead of last night, I watched three fascinating installments of Yesterday's series on Nazi collaborators. The first was on the schemes of Seán Russell and the like to secure a German landing in the Irish Free State in order to bring about the 32-County Republic. The third was about ethnic Jews who fought in the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe and the Waffen SS.

And the one in the middle was about Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, veteran of the Allied side in the First World War, and created Grand Mufti of Palestine (he, like anyone else, had previously only been Mufti of Jerusalem) by the ardently Zionist Sir Herbert Samuel, but later radicalised along with his people by the repression only made possible by the freeing up of British forces when Czechoslovakia was handed over to Hitler. He was thus driven into Hitler's embrace, from which he organised the Bosniaks into the SS Division that was to be recalled in the uniforms and other features of their sons and grandsons in the 1990s.

Henry Kissinger once said that there was no worse fate than to be an American ally. But there just might be one. To have been a British ally. Ask the Arabs. Or the Serbs.

Nabatieh upon Tyne?

After all, the place has also sometimes been known as Château Neuf, and it remains noted for its Medieval European castle, as well as for its large Catholic minority.

I have been to Newcastle twice this week, and on both occasions I have noticed Lebanese restaurants, each time in a different part of town. I should ask them which lot of Lebanese they are. Either way, they will know whether or not Arab Christians eat halal meat. If they do, then that settles the matter of whether there is anything wrong with it in principle.

How I'm Missing Yer

Yes, he is a much-wanted war criminal who cannot visit numerous countries for well-founded fear of arrest. But so is Tony Blair, who has killed an awful lot more people and who is admired by Christopher Hitchens.

How, exactly was the emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union an objective of American foreign policy? (They have proved thoroughly obnoxious since shipping up in Israel, not that many of them are really Jewish at all.)

If, as was never remotely on the cards, the Soviet Union had indeed "put Jews into gas chambers", then how, exactly, would that have been "an American concern" rather than "a humanitarian concern"?

And what, exactly, was wrong with Nixon's reply: "I know. We can't blow up the world because of it"?

Don't start about the Holocaust, which was not remotely why the Americans or anyone else fought the War, and about which hardly anyone knew until the War's very final weeks. But one who did know was Churchill, who refused to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz even though he was fully aware of what was going on there.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Shock and Waugh

Over in The American Conservative, Neil Clark writes:

"Thank you for your letter. Would it give you comfort if I suggest you call yourself the Official Auberon Waugh Appreciation Society rather than the Unofficial Auberon Waugh Appreciation Society? I know of no rivals.

Of course I am trying to get Blair indicted for war crimes. It will take a bit of time and I fear I have rather squabbled with the Crown Prosecution Service over the years, but we must always hope for the best.

Yours sincerely,
Auberon Waugh
Combe Florey, Somerset

A copy of the fax that my friend Stuart Carr and I received from the late Auberon Waugh on June 6, 1999 is among my most treasured possessions. As two antiwar paleo-leftists living in Budapest, we had been appalled at Britain’s leading role in the bombing of neighboring Yugoslavia. Reading the British papers at that time was depressing—they were full of NATO propaganda about alleged Serbian atrocities; how Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav President, was the new Hitler; and why the war on one of Europe’s most Anglophile nations was such a good thing. But one voice stood out against the legion of bloodthirsty laptop bombadiers. It belonged not to a leftist but to a man described as the most reactionary conservative of his age.

Auberon Waugh hated war. He loathed the pomposity of Western politicians who thought they had a divine right to go around the world intervening in the affairs of sovereign states. Lots of people are calling for the arrest of Tony Blair for war crimes in 2010, but very few were doing so in 1999, when Waugh was. “The charge against Tony Blair is not so much that he took a very stupid decision … or even that his high moral pose may have been a front for ordinary self-importance and power mania,” Waugh wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. “The reason that he must be arrested and brought to trial for war crimes is that we cannot allow this sort of thing to happen again. We cannot accept that the U.S., supported by any group of countries, may bomb any nation whose domestic policies it finds objectionable. Such a system would only work if the President of the United States were God, which he obviously isn’t and never has been.”

Sadly, Waugh did not succeed in his attempt to have the “twerpish” Blair arrested. Just 18 months after he penned his article, Bron was dead at the age of 61. No one else took up the task of trying to hold Blair to account, with the result that four years later the British Prime Minister did it all again—as Waugh had predicted—this time in Iraq, with even more bloody consequences than in Yugoslavia.

Much like his father, the novelist Evelyn Waugh, Bron was dismissed by his liberal-left critics as an flippant eccentric whose Old Right opinions were of no account in the Brave New World of late 20th-century Britain. Yet Auberon Waugh’s work—laugh-out-loud funny as most of it is—was far more profound and prescient than most supposedly serious writers of the time. Ferdinand Mount called him “the prophet of a generation.” Rereading his articles and columns, one is struck by just how far ahead of the game Waugh was. On foreign affairs, he was truly in a class of his own.

“How can any intelligent person be expected to believe that a country of … mostly impoverished desert dwellers, poses a threat to world peace?” he wrote of Iraq in 1998, five years before the neocon WMD hoax went into overdrive.

During the first Gulf War in 1991, Waugh was almost alone in challenging the belief that Saddam Hussein’s regime, by virtue of being a dictatorship, lacked popular support. “For the purposes of this war, we were assured that Saddam Hussein ruled by terror and was detested by all his people. Yet we see him cheered by huge crowds with every sign of genuine enthusiasm wherever he goes in Iraq. How are we expected to know which are the propaganda dupes, the Iraqis or us?”

In 1999, while the vast majority of Western political commentators fell into line and regurgitated the Clinton-Blair line that the Serbs were the new Nazis and needed a good dose of humanitarian bombing, Waugh defiantly claimed that Serbian crimes had been “deliberately exaggerated”—which, of course, they had been.

Waugh got it right more often than the more serious-minded members of the fourth estate because he acted on the premise that politicians are inveterate liars, especially when they try to drum up support for military interventions.

He rejected the notion that Western leaders—because they had nice smiles and wore nice suits and had come to power through democratic elections—were necessarily more virtuous than the heads of other nations. “The main trouble with our limited democracy is the scope it gives to the power maniacs in society to impose their bossy urges and fatuous opinions,” he wrote. “It may be lovely for bossy people who like deciding how the rest of us should live, but it is hell for those at the receiving end.”

The basic problem, according to Waugh, was that politics attracts all the wrong people. “Politics is for social and emotional misfits. The purpose of politics is to help them overcome their feelings of inferiority and compensate for their personal inadequacies in the pursuit of power.” By contrast, the people who would make the best leaders have no interest in public office—they are far too nice and modest to think they should have authority over others.

Although strongly opposed to what he labeled “the socialism,” Waugh was no fan of modern globalized capitalism either, holding that it led to a world of “noise, smell, dirt and accompanying moral pollution.” He had a soft spot for sincere and sweet-natured communists like his friend Paul Foot, a leading light with the Socialist Workers Party. “For those who find it hard to believe how anyone can claim to believe in workers power without being a knave or a rogue, I produce Footie as my first exhibit. He is clever and funny and kind. Obviously there is a screw loose somewhere, but we all have our oddities.” When the left-wing magazine LM (formerly Living Marxism) was threatened by a lawsuit brought by the media giant ITN, Waugh rallied to the journal’s defense.

Waugh’s basic political creed was that Britain and the world would be a lot happier if everyone minded their own business. His son Alexander writes that the only time he can ever recall his father being rude to anybody was when a “whining American lady with blue-rinse hair” in the Doge’s Palace, Venice berated him for walking the wrong way down a passage between two galleries. “Go away you ugly old tart” was Waugh’s reply, which earned him instant hero status in his son’s eyes.

Waugh’s pen could be cruel, but more often than not his targets earned their treatment. He remorselessly lampooned the bossy, the boring, and the pretentious. “Anyone who claims to understand who is fighting whom in Bosnia, or why, should be exposed immediately as a posturing braggart,” he declared. When the model Jerry Hall, a judge for the literary Whitbread Prize, announced herself a devotee of the works of James Joyce, Waugh sprang into action. “Ulysses, in which a single character, Leopold Bloom, wanders round Dublin for a day, was possibly the worst idea for a novel that anybody ever had, but it has been seized upon by generations of insecure students and academics to demonstrate their intellectual superiority. … The danger of dumbing down is equally balanced by the danger of dumbing up. Jerry Hall would appear to represent the second danger.”

Always the contrarian, Waugh took great delight in ridiculing the latest popular fads and fashions. He rubbished claims that AIDS posed a huge threat to Western heterosexuals or that passive smoking could seriously damage one’s health.

He railed against drunk-driving laws—“Only three percent of drivers in accidents involving injury or death give positive breath tests. A case can be made for saying it is more dangerous to drive without having had any alcohol at all”—and at politicians lecturing us on how we should live our lives.

Waugh had the traditionalist’s hatred of modernity in all its forms. “He shared his father’s distaste for modern art, which he considered to be largely fraudulent, modern architecture, which he relentlessly attacked, and modern politics,” observed the novelist A.N. Wilson. He was no great fan of the modern Conservative Party either: “the new Conservatives are a small minority of the electorate, odious to everyone except themselves. Like most traditional conservatives, I will have nothing to do with them. If [William] Hague ever comes to power, I will go and live in Bergerac.”

He reveled in his ignorance of popular culture. “For more than 10 years I have been reading about Rod Stewart’s marital and amorous adventures in the tabloid press with great interest. This week it suddenly occurred to me that I did not know whether Stewart is a racing car driver, a footballer, a radio comedian or a television soap actor. On Thursday, for reasons which I cannot now remember, I decided to inquire. I was told he is a pop singer.”

Vituperative in print, in private Waugh was a genial and kindly man. He listened attentively to others and never sought to dominate a conversation. “People were terrified of meeting my father,” Alexander Waugh recalls. “They imagined him to be sharp, aggressive and impatient of other people’s opinions, but he was none of those things.”

James Fergusson remembers an occasion when Waugh had to deal with a drunken and boorish speaker at a lunch of the Royal Society of Literature. Despite being patronized by the man, Waugh was “civility personified” and later on in the evening, “without an unkind word,” steered “the wretch” into a taxi.

If Waugh the traditional conservative was out of step with the times in left-leaning 1970s Britain, he was even more of a fish out of water in the shallow, money-obsessed 1980s. In one of the most poignant passages in his autobiography Will This Do? he recalls attending his last Spectator party in the summer of 1989.

"I was asked to dinner afterwards but found myself sitting next to some young persons on the business and advertising side who not only did not recognise me but had no idea, when I told them who I was, that I was a journalist and contributor to the magazine. They were perfectly polite and we had a good conversation about their career prospects, which was the only thing which appeared to interest them."

Waugh entered the 21st century in failing health, and his death on Jan. 16, 2001 was no surprise to friends and family. But how very sad and unfortunate that he died at the start of a decade when we required his brand of High Tory skepticism more than ever.

In 2002 and 2003, we desperately needed him to have been around to poke fun at scare stories about Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. He would have been equally scathing about the War on Terror and the way our governments were deliberately hyping the terror threat in order to increase their control over us. If Waugh were alive today, I’m sure he’d be mocking the latest outlandish neocon conspiracy theory—namely that the Islamic Republic of Iran is rapidly developing nuclear weapons and poses a threat to the peace and security of the world. And he’d be appalled at the way that Britons, who never surrendered to the Nazis, tamely allowed their bossy-boots government to pass one of the most draconian bans on smoking in public places in the world.

When leading journalists die, it’s routine to claim that they were “irreplaceable.” But Bron Waugh, the most anarchic writer of his generation, truly was irreplaceable, as Charles Moore, his editor at the Daily Telegraph, conceded, and his death was good news only for the power-hungry, warmongers, and serial deceivers.

The tenth anniversary of Waugh’s death is marked by the publication in Britain of a new anthology of his work, Kiss Me, Chudleigh: The World According to Auberon Waugh. But much more ought to be done to honor him. Waugh believed that mankind did not divide “into the rich and poor, the privileged and the unprivileged, the clever and the stupid, the lucky and the unlucky, or even the happy and the unhappy,” but into “the nasty and the nice.” While keeping our sense of humor intact and not becoming too earnest—Waugh would have hated that—we need to build a left-right alliance against the nasty: to stand up to the control freaks, blow raspberries at the thought police, and ridicule the moral imperialists who wish to interfere in the running of other sovereign nations, most of which have much healthier and happier societies than our own. We must do all we can to turn the clock back to a gentler, less egotistical age. In short, it’s time to get the Official Auberon Waugh Appreciation Society fully operational.

And On Earth Peace

The heads of churches in Jerusalem have issued a joint Christmas message emphasising understanding, peace and justice. Here is the statement in full:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among all people!" (Luke 2:14)

We, the Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem, share with you in praising God for the birth of the holy child on a cold night in Bethlehem so long ago. We praise God for the faithful examples of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Joseph. We praise God for the shepherds who were first to share the Good News of the Savior's birth. We praise God for the witness of all the heavenly host in their joyous proclamation of God's desire for peace on earth that good will among all people will prevail against the darkness of sin.

Peace continues to elude the world our Lord was born to save. Too many people live under the threat of violence and political persecution. We, the Heads of Churches of Jerusalem, see the role of the Church to be one of encouraging all people to build bridges of understanding and not walls of separation. We condemn violence in any form. Violence has not and can never be accepted as the way to bring about a just and lasting peace between peoples.

We believe that hope for peace and reconciliation requires our active participation as people of faith. For hope to remain alive in the hearts of the faithful, we must take an active role in bringing hope for peace into reality. To this end, we want to inform you that the Heads of Churches take a serious role in building bridges of peace and reconciliation through our participation in the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

This Council brings together Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to discuss issues of shared concern for our people here and for mutual understanding around the world. We strongly believe that "on earth peace, good will among all people " starts with developing relationships built on mutual respect and understanding. We believe this Council's experience of cooperation and communication is an encouraging example to our people and to the world that in building bridges, God’s peace is possible.

Believing, with Mary, that "with God nothing will be impossible" (Luke 1:37) we proclaim with the heavenly host this Christmas, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among all people,” praising God as we hope for the future of all of God’s people.

May God bless the celebration of the Savior's birth this Christmas season. May God bless every effort for peace and may the one and living God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit bless, preserve and keep you, now and always. Amen.

+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
+Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarchate
+Patriarch Torkom II Manoogian, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
+Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
+Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
+Archbishop Abouna Matthias, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Paul Sayyah, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate
+Bishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
+Fr. Rafael Minassian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
(Christmas, 2010)

England Becomes The North East

I have never understood why we made so much of a fuss about football in the North East when we were really not very good at it, although the club within the historic County of Durham was a lot better than the other two, and when we were much better at cricket, which (like hunting and shooting) does not have the class connotations here that it has in the South.

And now I wonder, as really I always should have done, why we make so much of a fuss about football in England as a whole when we are really not very good at it, and when we are much better at cricket, a game, moreover, which really was invented here.

Trouble With The Waterworks

An argument against the greater efficiency and effectiveness of public ownership where utilities and other public services are concerned? Not at all.

Rather, an argument against the control of these things at too low a level, which is as pernicious as their control at too high a level. And an argument against the carve-up between a bizarre fundamentalist sect with links to the 1980s sectarian Right and a Marxist terrorist organisation with links to the 1970s sectarian Left, the model of the "centre ground" politics favoured by our Political Class of ageing Eighties Rightists and aged Seventies Leftists.

Always Winter?

My attention has been drawn to a post on the culturally Marxist neocon website Harry’s Place, snarling that if the unions are to retain a say in the Labour Party, then why not give one back to the Methodist Church? Well, if that were other than it generally now is in this country, then why ever not?

Labour was once the party of those Methodist and other MPs, including John Smith, who fought tooth and nail against deregulated drinking and gambling. Of those Catholic and other MPs, including John Smith, who fought tooth and nail against abortion and easier divorce, not least including both Thatcher’s introduction of abortion up to birth and Major’s introduction of divorce legally easier than release from a car hire contract. Of those, including John Smith, who successfully organised, especially through USDAW, against Thatcher’s and Major’s attempts to destroy the special character of Sunday and of Christmas Day, delivering the only Commons defeat of Thatcher’s Premiership. Of the Labour MPs who defended Catholic schools, and thus all church-based state schools, over several successive decades. Of the cross-party Lords defeat of Thatcher’s attempt to end Christian collective worship and religious instruction in state schools. Of the early Labour activists who resisted schemes to abort, contracept and sterilise the working class out of existence. Of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s unanimous vote against the Finance Bill that abolished the recognition of marriage, as such, in the taxation system. Of the trade unions’ numerous battles to secure paternal authority in families and communities by securing its economic base in high-waged, high-skilled, high-status male employment. And of the trade union banners depicting Biblical scenes and characters.

At the same time, Labour was the party of the Attlee Government’s refusal to join the European Coal and Steel Community on the grounds that it was “the blueprint for a federal state” which “the Durham miners would never wear”. Of Gaitskell’s rejection of European federalism as “the end of a thousand years of history” and liable to destroy the Commonwealth. Of the votes of most Labour MPs against Heath’s Treaty of Rome. Of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s unanimous opposition to Thatcher’s Single European Act. Of the 66 Labour MPs who voted against Maastricht, including, in Bryan Gould, the only resignation from either front bench in order to do so, and outnumbering Conservative opponents by three to one. Of the votes of every Labour MP, without exception, against the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies annually between 1979 and 1997. And of the 1997 General Election result’s keeping of the United Kingdom out of the euro, by making Gordon Brown Chancellor the Exchequer in place of Kenneth Clarke.

These two aspects of a single heritage are inseparable, as witnessed by the EU’s year planner for children, which includes the festivals of every major religion except one. Guess which one? 25th Decenber merits nothing more than the words “A true friend is someone who shares your worries and your joy”. Stuart Reid has told me something that he has also repeatedly said in print, and which Auberon Waugh also used to write, that at least the atheism of the EU was Catholic atheism. But it is not.

So much for co-operation with the civil authorities. What if the civil authority is the EU? What if there is practically no functioning civil authority, as in some countries where the Catholic Church is active? What if it would be better that there were not than that there were what there is, as in very many such countries? What if it is the Dutch civil authority, which has lowered the age of consent to 12, that, and not anything either Catholic or Reformed, being the vision of the Netherlands defended by the likes of Geert Wilders and the late Pim Fortuyn? (The legal situation in the Vatican City State, mercifully meaningless in practice, is an inherited imposition by Mussolini, lest anyone ever suggest either that he favoured the Church or that She favoured him.) What if the civil authority is a court presided over by Oz Robertson QC?

There can be no better day to consider these questions than today, the Feast of Saint Thomas of Canterbury. Ora pro nobis.

Don't Neuter Simon Hughes

Not something that one reads every day. Nor something with which one could possibly disagree, I am sure.

Simon Hughes is a very great man. In 1983, he did one of the greatest ever services to British parliamentary democracy, by keeping Peter Tatchell out of Parliament, where he would now be campaigning to lower the age of consent to 14, and might even have achieved that evil end. Well into the 1990s, the word “straight” had no colloquial meaning beyond “honest”, except perhaps in homosexual subcultures, so that what is now its almost equally familiar use might then have been known to Tatchell and to Hughes, but would not have been to the general electorate of Bermondsey or anywhere else.

Light sentences and lax prison discipline are both expressions of the perfectly well-founded view that large numbers of those convicted, vastly in excess of the numbers that have always existed at any given time, are in fact innocent. We need to return to a free country’s minimum requirements for conviction, above all by reversing the erosion of the right to silence and of trial by jury, and by repealing the monstrous provisions for anonymous evidence and for conviction by majority verdict. And we need to return to proper policing. Then we could and should return to proper sentencing, and to proper regimes in prison. But only then. Simon Hughes, over to you.

The Liberal Democrats set great store by election, transparency, decision-making at the lowest practicable level, and opposition to political extremism. So one or more of them should put down legislative amendments that would require British Ministers to adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy in the Council of Ministers until such time as it meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard, and to nullify in the United Kingdom any action of the European Parliament not passed by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by at least one seat-taking member of the House of Commons. And the Liberal Democrats are like Labour in that they, and their predecessor parties, voted against the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies year on year between 1979 and 1997. Those Policies are wildly at variance with any sort of historic Liberal principle, and the CFP hits Liberal Democrat-voting areas particularly hard. Simon Hughes, over to you.

Having already spoken out against David Cameron’s ignorant suggestion that social housing tenants be stripped of their security of tenure, let Hughes now go to the root of the problem: the sale of council housing. That policy compelled the State to make gifts of significant capital assets to people who were thus enabled to enter the property market ahead of private tenants who had saved for their deposits. And, as part of Thatcher’s invention of mass benefit dependency, it created the Housing Benefit racket, which is vastly more expensive than the maintenance of a stock of council housing. I am a good Chestertonian in this as in most, though not quite all, matters. I would dearly love every household to have a base of real property from which to resist both over-mighty commercial interests and an over-mighty State. But within the practicalities of these things, there is also a very strong case that each locality should have a base of real property from which to resist both over-mighty commercial interests and an over-mighty centre. Already, under New Labour, the powers that be apparently could not distinguish between the respectable working class and the characters from Shameless. So council and housing association tenants were to lose security of tenure so that Shameless characters could be moved in next door to them, or even in place of them. Those in that actual or potential position should contact Simon Hughes without delay. Simon Hughes, over to you.

Hughes should also use every parliamentary and other available means to call for a ban on anything paying any of its employees more than 10 times what it pays any of its other employees, with the whole public sector functioning as a single entity for this purpose, and with its median wage fixed at the median wage in the private sector, to which manual jobs would no longer be outsourced. The trick with the Conservatives is to make them think that it was their idea. In much that vein, there is the matter of holding Iain Duncan Smith to the logical conclusion of his position, namely for a unified system of taxation, benefits, pensions, minimum wage legislation and student funding to ensure that no one’s tax-free income ever falls below half national median earnings. (Some of us have been blogging away for years that there should be a single form of Social Security payment, called simply Social Security, and guaranteeing that minimum income universally.) Simon Hughes, over to you.

There is the need to renationalise the railways, uniquely without compensation in view of the manner of their privatisation, as the basis for a national network of public transport free at the point of use, and including the reversal of bus route and, where possible, rail line closures going back to the 1950s. Prescription charges, eye and dental charges, and hospital car parking charges must be abolished. Simon Hughes, over to you.

The television license fee should be made optional, with as many adults as wished to pay it at any given address free to do so, including those who did not own a television set but who greatly valued, for example, Radio Four. The Trustees would then be elected by and from among the license-payers. Candidates would have to be sufficiently independent to qualify in principle for the remuneration panels of their local authorities. Each license-payer would vote for one, with the top two elected. The electoral areas would be Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions. The Chairman would be appointed by the relevant Secretary of State, with the approval of the relevant Select Committee. And the term of office would be four years. You would not need to be a member of the Trust (i.e., a license-payer) to listen to or watch the BBC, just as you do not need to be a member of the National Trust to visit its properties, or a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to be rescued by its boats. Simon Hughes, over to you.

That model could certainly be applied to everything from the Press Complaints Commission to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, and arguably even to the Supreme Court, although in that case with only one candidate per region elected and with a vacancy arising only when a sitting member retired or died. Simon Hughes, over to you.

We need to ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one national daily newspaper. To ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one national weekly newspaper. To ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one television station. To re-regionalise ITV under a combination of municipal and mutual ownership. And to apply that same model (but with central government replacing local government, subject to very strict parliamentary scrutiny) to Channel Four. Simon Hughes, over to you.

With Norman Baker now a Minister, where is the Coroner’s Inquest that has mysteriously never been held into the death of Dr David Kelly? Simon Hughes, over to you.

These would be a start, anyway.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

The Holy Innocents

The aborted unborn.

Those subjected to infanticide.

The child-martyrs of Iraq, victims of those latter-day Herods, George Bush and Tony Blair.

And the boys condemned to pederasty because of our intervention in that interest in Afghanistan.

Nothing To Lose, But...

Of course each political levy is an individual donation. That is really not a complicated concept. Why the unions still bother to collect money on behalf of New Labour is altogether a different question.

1936 And All That?

Upstairs, Downstairs is, as anyone abroad would tell you, exactly what British television is all about. But why make two characters, an Upstairs one and a Downstairs one, supporters of Mosley? He was never very important. But we pretend that he was, in order to exaggerate the importance of his most vigorous opponents, the Communist Party.

Don't Sign Up To This

Being able to get your online petition debated in Parliament is a very bad idea, which would negate much of the good done by electoral reform and by primaries for the candidates to be submitted to the reformed voting system.

It would massively favour the shoutiest and the sharpest-elbowed, the people who really do believe that Jeremy Clarkson should be Prime Minister. Many of them are now beginning, or will soon begin, a prolonged period of unemployment, during which they will have all the time in the world for online petitions.

Now That The Debate Is Open

By all means let it be made a criminal offence for anyone above the age of consent, raised to 18, to buy sex.

And, with exactly equal sentencing, for anyone above the age of consent, raised to 18, to sell sex.

A Unique One

Andrew Dodson writes:

When U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak began cleaning out his Washington, D.C., office earlier this month, he came across a flier that he published during his first run for Congress in the early 1990s. It read, “Health care is a right, not a privilege.” “I coined that phrase almost 20 years ago,” said Stupak, D-Menominee. “I’ve always believed that all Americans have the right to health care.” As he prepares to leave office, Stupak says the passage of universal health care for all Americans — a controversial issue that thrust the Congressman into the national spotlight — is the highlight of his political career.

As a career-long supporter of universal health care, Stupak naturally wanted to support President Barack Obama’s 2009 health care reform bill. But as a pro-life Democrat, he feared the bill would allow for federal funds to be used to pay for abortions. So he, along with Republican Congressman Joseph R. Pitts submitted an amendment that national media coined the “Stupak Amendment.” The amendment prohibited such payments. The amendment was adopted by the House, but not in the Senate’s version of the legislation. Stupak said he would not vote for the final version of the bill if his amendment was not included.

But in March, Stupak struck a deal with Obama that had the President signing an executive order that barred federal funding for abortions. The deal cleared the way for the passage of the health care bill and ignited a firestorm of criticism against Stupak. It’s a decision Stupak says he’ll never regret. “It was worth it,” said Stupak. “It means that people finally have the opportunity to qualify for affordable health care.” Stupak went on to say the executive order has been upheld three times in different litigation. In April, Stupak announced he would not seek re-election in Michigan’s 1st Congressional District. He will be replaced by Republican Dan Benishek, of Crystal Falls, who defeated several challengers, including Democrat Gary McDowell, in November.

After 34 years of public service — which also includes work as a Michigan State Police trooper and state representative — Stupak said he plans to step away from government work for now, but he hasn’t ruled out returning to politics. “I’ve been married for 36 years and spent 34 years in public service,” said Stupak, 58. “I need to step away for awhile.” Stupak is married to Laurie Stupak. His son Ken Stupak is an attorney in California. Stupak likely will be heading to Massachusetts for a teaching fellowship at Harvard University beginning after the new year. He will work with graduate students in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, pending approval from the university, according to Jake Ackman, a Harvard spokesman. “The opportunity at Harvard is a chance for me to do something different, it’s something I’m looking forward to,” Stupak said.

Stupak’s political allies say he will best be remembered for his hybrid politics, which include pro-life and pro-gun beliefs that won over Republicans and financial and economic philosophies that brought fellow Democrats to his side. “Bart is a unique one,” said Thomas Baldini, of Marquette, who has served as Stupak’s district director for the past eight years. “He knows what he believes in and he understands his district. He’s not a wide-eyed liberal, or a wide-eyed conservative, despite what some people would say because he voted a certain way on an issue.” Stupak’s decisions regarding the health care reform bill turned out to be polarizing as former supporters turned their backs on the Congressman and spoke out publicly against him.

More seriously, Stupak dealt with threats from constituents and out-of-district residents. Russell Hesch, 73, of West Branch, is charged with threatening Stupak and his family because of his health care vote. He’s accused of writing a letter that threatened to paint the Mackinac Bridge with Stupak’s blood. “You always take all threats seriously,” said Stupak. In an interview with The Times earlier this year, Stupak said his phone rang off the hook with complaints and threats. Now leaving office, he said his “Stupak Amendment” could still be installed into the reform bill. “It could happen, especially with a Republican-controlled House,” said Stupak. “I’d still like to see it in statute, because it’s harder for the President to overrule it.”

Another major project that Stupak said he wanted to accomplish by year’s end is finalizing the purchase of Standish Maximum Security Prison by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In August, Stupak said federal officials were “very serious” about purchasing the prison, which closed in October 2009, but hung in limbo until last December, when federal officials considered sending Guantanamo Bay detainees to the Arenac County prison. The Obama administration decided to house those detainees in Illinois instead — a success for local opposition groups, such as the Michigan Coalition to Stop Gitmo North, but a blow to city officials and residents that didn’t want to see the prison vacant. Stupak said his successor will have to take up the fight to see the prison reopened. “I brought it as far as I could under my watch,” said Stupak. “It’s up to Benishek to make sure that money is there.” Though excited for the next chapter in his life, Stupak admits leaving government service is difficult for him. He remembers his father, Frank Stupak, being active in local politics, and helping him knock on doors during election seasons.

“That was me, that’s who I am,” said Stupak. “I loved going door-to-door to get out the Democratic vote. I remember times where my high school buddies and I would go out and take a weekend to just go and do it, pedaling for my dad.” He said he will miss his daily interaction with other members of Congress, also. “99.9 percent of the people in there are great people,” said Stupak. “I’m going to really miss the members, the daily interaction. I don’t agree with 100 percent of the people I worked with, but I know their hearts are in the right place — they all want the best for this country. We may disagree, but that keeps things interesting.”

Monday 27 December 2010


All day, I have been subject to frothing-at-the-mouth Kammite emails from the address, to which I invite you to send (by all means copied to your stories of and thoughts about all aspects of Kammery. You will notice that more than one link from this site contains the word "Kamm".

Either this sad, mad person, or else his laughable excuse for a Durham source, never made a Common Room President and College Council member, as I have done in what he insists has been a bad year for me, on account of the fact that that person or source was and is as dodgy as hell. That dodginess has subsequently been noticed by authorities rather less indulgent than College or University ones. But he really does need to get over it now. Whether the big, bad world will be either forgiving or forgetful depends on ... well, on all sorts of things, as we grown-ups know.

Honestly, driven stark, staring mad by the fact that I dare to exist at all when he has specifically told me not to? It must be fascinating to inhabit quite such a private world. Then again, it is obviously, and unsurprisingly, incompatible with sanity.


Christina Patterson writes:

Both [Ed Miliband and Alan Johnson] have accepted that it is 'inconceivable' that the 50p tax rate won't be needed at the time of the next election.

Making their position exactly the same as that of the Conservative Party, the position for which John McDonnell was kept off the ballot for Labour Leader against Brown because it was "Loony Left".

Selective Prosecution

No, not in Moscow.

Blow up the Stock Exchange and the American Embassy, indeed! What, like the plots to blow up Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf? Like the plots to blow up Manchester United and to release ricin on the streets of London? Or like the shoe, underpants and ink cartridge bombs, none of which ever went off?

As someone once said, "Fool me once"... That is, if you were ever fooled the first time. Many of us were not. And we are certainly not going to be when the Michael Howard Playbook, long predating 2001, is once again taken down off the shelf.

Of Beardies and Bully Boys

Martin Kelly writes:

The only observation one can make upon the depressing indiscretions uttered by Vince Cable et al to undercover reporters from The Daily Telegraph is that in light of that newspaper's reporting on MP's expenses, one has to ask whether it is now actually seeking to end the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

If that were to be happen, it would achieve the dubious distinction of providing an even more powerful illustration of the United Kingdom's democratic deficit than did the formation of the coalition itself. Just as the balance sheet of the Royal Bank of Scotland was, in the halcyon days of 2007, more valuable than the whole of the British economy, if it were to break the coalition then The Daily Telegraph, a private company, would hold more power than any other institution in the country.

While many are unhappy with the coalition, myself included, I am at least in favour of having some government rather than no government at all, the likely outcome of the coalition falling to bits as a result of some very gauche Liberal Democrat beardies voicing their opinions of their Bullingdon Boy colleagues.

The View From The Bridge

Or, rather, the hilariously hysterical reaction to the bridge-building.

We can't have co-operation between Rome and those who adhere to Eastern churches separated from her. Iraq? Did someone say Iraq? Palestine? Did someone say Palestine?

In Omnibus Sumentes Scutum Fidei

Gavin Havery writes:

Concerns have been raised in Parliament about the proposed closure of a Roman Catholic college in the North-East. Pat Glass, MP for North-West Durham, has tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons, expressing fears about the uncertain future of Ushaw College, near Durham. They are Parliamentary procedures which allow backbench MPs to publicise the views of individual MPs, draw attention to specific events or campaigns, and demonstrate the extent of support for a particular cause or point of view. Mrs Glass, who lives in Lanchester, said: “Ushaw College is a Roman Catholic college, home to St Cuthbert’s Seminary, which has been forming young men for the priesthood since its foundation and which holds a library that is priceless to the heritage of Catholicism in England and the North-East and consists of grade I and grade II-listed buildings.

“At a time when the Coalition Government’s cuts to the arts are hitting the North-East disproportionately, it is my opinion that we have a duty to protect our historic buildings and heritage here in the region. “Ushaw College is greatly important to my constituents and the local community.” Mrs Glass urged colleagues to note the importance of Ushaw College in the area, the concerns that local people have at the closure announcement and to support calls for the decision to be reconsidered. The motion regarding Ushaw College has been supported by eight other MPs, including fellow regional representatives, Roberta Blackman Woods, Kevan Jones, Mary Glindon and Ian Mearns.

Priests have been trained at Ushaw College since 1808, when St Cuthbert’s Seminary relocated from revolutionary France. In recent years, the college has begun hosting conferences and visits to cover its costs. But, faced with declining numbers of men wanting to enter the priesthood, trustees said that, pending consultation with employees and the Charity Commission, the college could close at the end of the current academic year, next June. Trustees of the 200-year-old Roman Catholic seminary began consultation on its closure earlier this year. There are 26 seminarians studying at the college and the proposals put 62 jobs at risk.

Mrs Glass has also written to Archbishops and Bishops to ask them to reconsider their decision to close the college. A spokesman for the Hexham and Newcastle Diocese said he felt it more appropriate for Ushaw College to comment on the matter. The Northern Echo contacted the college and its communications company for a response to the motion by Mrs Glass but none was provided before the newspaper’s deadline. Mrs Glass said: “The news about the proposed closure of Ushaw College comes on top of the recent threat to Auckland Castle and the Zurbaran paintings.”

Meetings are held around the table in the room where the Zurbaráns are hung, and must therefore begin with an injunction not to lean back, in case you set off the alarms.

Anyway, three cheers for Pat, and may we look forward to seeing her name on our list, to be published in the run-up to the 2015 Election (assuming a Yes vote on electoral reform, the enactment of fixed-term Parliaments, and the appearance of certain publications from within our own circle), of each constituency's best-placed candidate who subscribes to the Welfare State, workers' rights, trade unionism, the co-operative movement and wider mutualism, consumer protection, strong communities, conservation rather than environmentalism, fair taxation, full employment, public ownership, proper local government, a powerful Parliament, the monarchy, the organic Constitution, national sovereignty, civil liberties, the Union, the Commonwealth, the countryside, grammar schools, traditional moral and social values, controlled importation and immigration, a realistic foreign policy, a non-hysterical approach to climate change, and a base of real property for every household to resist both over-mighty commercial interests and an over-mighty State?

AV does have the advantage that standing in such an election is not necessarily standing against the other candidates.


See here.

As I asked then, "Putin-haters and Kremlin-baiters, with your beloved National Bolsheviks fighting on the streets of Moscow against your beloved North Caucasian Islamist separatists, for which side are you cheering, and why?" I am still waiting for an answer.

Brought To Book

From the people who brought you the Child Benefit fiasco, the Housing Benefit fiasco, the JSA fiasco (with claimants to have been compelled to do "voluntarily" what were already other people's paid jobs) and the immigration cap fiasco, comes the books for tots fiasco.

Specifically, this one is brought to you by Michael Gove, of the Toby Young's (darkie-)free schools fiasco, with legislation rushed through so that they could open this year, which none of them did, and which none of them might next year, or ever. Gove is also the old P W Botha cheerleader now engaged in withdrawing the Educational Maintenance Allowance from the kaffirs.

Isn't the Coalition doing well? And remember, it is to be continued even if there is a Conservative overall majority next time. Not that there is the slightest chance of that.

The Huntsman Blows His Bugle Horn

And so another Boxing Day comes round.

The hunting ban has never commanded popular support. Most people couldn’t care less. And among those who could (massively concentrated, on both sides, in rural communities), opinion is still overwhelmingly opposed to the ban, i.e., in favour of the safety of the sheep and poultry whom most anti-hunt types still want to eat, and in favour of killing far fewer foxes, by far more humane methods, than the ban compels.

This time last year, there was a Labour Government. Then as now, wealth inequality in Britain was greater than at any other time since records began. Then as now, social mobility had not only ceased, but gone dramatically into reverse. Then as now, the war in Afghanistan droned on. And so on, and on, and on. But never mind. At least the red-coated toffs had been knocked off their horses, so high a priority for Attlee, Bevin, Morrison, Bevan and Gaitskell. Except, of course, that it was not, and that they had not been, nor should they be.

Merry Christmas, Richard Dawkins

From Deformable Mirror:

And thanks so much for making me so happy to be a Christian. I mean, if a Christian public intellectual supported a war that ended in horrific bloodshed and was utterly unrepentant, I'd (to put it mildly) not regard him as my hero.

But Dawkins has decided that the poor man's Coffin Joe is his hero, though he couldn't be more unfortunate in his choice of words. 'Soldier' seems a really poor word to apply to someone who's never worn a uniform in their life, but who is very eager to send young men to fight and die so that he can get on Fox News.

Maybe I was unfair to Coffin Joe in comparing him to Christopher Hitchens, given that Coffin Joe comes up with some genuinely funny jokes and seems to think that kids are valuable. Hitch certainly ain't gonna shed no tears for Iraqis who've been blown to pieces and I'll never get why his fans always seem to crack up about his North Korea joke.

Still, Coffin Joe would probably be a bit swarthy and working class for new atheist taste: in common with many genuinely brave secularists in the developing world.

It really sticks in the craw a bit to see Dawkins fawning over Hitchens whilst not once mentioning Iraq (or Kosovo for that matter). Especially as he mentions Hitchens' biography of Mother Theresa as an example of why he admires him.

This is the same Richard Dawkins who, in The God Delusion, describes having been sexually abused as a child as "an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience".

Sunday 26 December 2010

The Season of Goodwill

Probably only Corrie was much watched on The Other Side last night, and even then millions of us recorded Strictly Come Dancing at the same time. I love you really, Auntie. If only you would stick to what you are good at: The One Ronnie (deliberately dated, that was the point), Doctor Who, Strictly, EastEnders, The Royale Family (sublime) and Come Fly With Me (give it time?).


Today has probably seen the execution of an Iranian student, Habibollah Latifi. I deprecate that in the strongest possible terms. As I do the noisy "protests", not for the first time, about one death in Iran from the people who have now spent many years demanding that nuclear bombs be dropped on that country, thus joining their voices with those of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and all the rest of them.

Gentlemen and Players

I shall be posting on hunting tomorrow, since there are no Boxing Day meets on this, the Lord's Day.

There are, however, football matches.

Happy Easter

From this very day's purveyors of chocolate eggs.

Made In Hell

From the Prime Minister who wanted to give Peter Tatchell a peerage comes the proposal for "gay marriage". This proposal would be rejected by Barack Obama, and it was rejected by the voters of California and Florida on the same day as they gave their Electoral College votes to Obama.

Unlike a civil partnership, which therefore ought not to be restricted to unrelated same-sex couples, a marriage has to be consummated. The Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith (the present title is not the one conferred by the Pope on Henry VIII, but the one conferred by a Protestant Parliament on his son, Edward VI) could not have signed a Bill which, for the first time, actually required, in order to receive some legal benefit or privilege, engagement in sexual relations other than those between one man and one woman in marriage. The Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith still cannot do so.

Still, we should seize the opportunity to propose something better. The extension to relatives of the right to contract civil partnerships. The entitlement of each divorcing spouse to one per cent of the other's estate for each year of marriage, up to 50 per cent, and the disentitlement of the petitioning spouse unless fault be proved, thereby restoring the situation whereby, by recognising adultery and desertion as faults in divorce cases, society declared in law its disapproval of them even though they were not in themselves criminal offences.

The entitlement of any marrying couple to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 as regards grounds and procedures for divorce, and to enable any religious organisation to specify that any marriage which it conducts shall be so bound, requiring it to counsel couples accordingly. And the statutory specification 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, with something similar for the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament, as well as by amendment to the legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy.

That would be a start, anyway.

Strong, Thoughtful Stuff

Following the Pope's appearance on Thought for the Day, BBC staff have been paid out of public funds to place abusive comments about him on BBC websites, and a flurry of complaints has either been organised by the Corporation or simply invented by it. He came to Britain, Auntie, even though you specifically instructed him not to. There was no assassination attempt, despite your relentless incitement. Get over it.

Banging on about Catholic child abuse now has a certain dated ring to it, a feel of the belated trendiness that is so characteristic of the middle-aged pseudo-undergraduates about whom we are talking in this case. But we still shouldn't let them get away with it. We should respond: Paedo Pete Tatchell, Harman, Hewitt, Fry, Channel Four, Greer, Dawkins, Oz Robertson, Pullman the Groomer, numerous Social Services Departments, the Police, and a great assortment of others besides.

However, Peter Hitchens has good news about the BBC's Director-General, Mark Thompson, who "has now said several things that go to the root of the matter. Here are two of them: 'Avoiding party political bias is a subset and only a subset of impartiality. It’s possible for all major parties to agree on a given subject and for there still to be a legitimate opposing view which should be heard and scrutinised', and: 'People sometimes confuse impartiality with centrism, i.e., a bias towards more "moderate" world-views as opposed to more "radical" ones.' This is strong, thoughtful stuff, not that he will be glad that I think so. But then, I’m biased."

Brass Monkeys

A life-size brass statue of Tony Blair on a plinth in the House of Commons? If Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill can be so depicted, then why not? Not because Blair was as "great" as either of them. But because each of them was as ungreat as he was. Yes, as ungreat at that.


Peter Hitchens writes:

Evidence piles up that Britain has secretly recognised a Palestinian State, to please the Arab world. Careful readers of the list of newly commissioned officers from Sandhurst will find among those who ‘passed with a view to being commissioned into the armed forces of their countries’ (the official wording) two cadets destined for the as yet non-existent army of an as yet non-existent ‘Palestine’.

A few weeks ago, the Foreign Office told me that a Press notice from our Jerusalem consulate, describing William Hague’s ‘first visit’ to this ‘country’, was a mistake. They refused to say if anyone had been reprimanded for it. Our national duplicity in this part of the world knows no bounds, but if there is a War Against Terror, which side is the dodgy Ramallah regime on?

Jolly good.

Of course there is a global war, not on terror, but of terror: terror against Christians by the Israeli Government of, as the sign of the Israel to come, secular ultranationalists and the sort of Haredim who believe that Gentiles are created only as beasts of burden; and terror against Christians by that Government's allies and clients, not least in the Islamic world. We removed Saddam Hussein in order to flood Iraq with jihadis, the easier to shoot at them. At least, that was the idea. The Christians were the bait in this Straussian game of cat and mouse, which should come as no surprise to anyone, since Israeli-client America and her little helpers are always friendliest towards the most anti-Christian regimes in the Middle East (Israel, Turkey, Egypt, the Gulf monarchs, what Iraq has become) against those most inclusive of Christians (Iran, Syria, Lebanon, the two parts of Palestine on either side of the Jordan, what Iraq used to be).

The Levant remained a bulwark against Islamist expansionism while it remained a civilisation of Christians, Muslims, Jews and Druze, with Arabic as its lingua franca and with its de facto capital at Damascus. But a dreadful wound was inflicted on it in 1948, from which it has still begun to recover hardly, if at all. The Holy Land – Latin Catholic and Greek Orthodox, Melkite and Maronite, Syrian and Armenian, Anglican and Lutheran – founded, and continues to give considerable support to, the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine, whatever else one might think of those organisations.

In Palestine east of the Jordan, Christians already enjoy reserved parliamentary representation. Lebanese Catholics and Orthodox pray for the success of Hezbollah, which is allied to several of their own political parties, and which is instrumental in restoring Beirut's historic synagogue. The other side in Lebanon, favoured by Israel and the neoconservatives, is funded by Saudi Arabia, which says all that needs to be said. Syria, with Christian-majority provinces and with Christian festivals as public holidays, and Iran, with reserved parliamentary representation for Armenians and Assyrians? Or the leader among the despotic, backward, misogynistic, Jew-hating and anti-Christian regimes that are demanding an American nuclear attack against the Iranian emerging democracy with its high culture, its more women than men at university, and its reserved parliamentary representation for Jews?

So, here's hoping that any Palestinian Declaration of Independence will explicitly lay claim to the whole of the viable Palestinian State created on both sides of the Jordan in 1948. Here's hoping that, mirroring Lebanon, it will guarantee the Presidency to a Christian while guaranteeing the Premiership to a Muslim, as would in the latter case have happened electorally anyway.

And here's hoping that it will place the new state under the protection, both of each and all of the remaining sacral monarchies, there being no other kind, in the Dar al-Islam (other than the one in Palestine east of the Jordan, perhaps), and of each and all of those in Christendom. As much as anything else, that would make the protection of Palestine a unifying force among the Christian and the Muslim traditional leaders still recognized at local level in several countries of Africa, where relations between Christians and Muslims are not currently at their best.

Lest we forget, 18 of the monarchs of Christendom – of Antigua and Barbuda, of Australia, of The Bahamas, of Barbados, of Belize, of Canada, of the Cook Islands, of Grenada, of Jamaica, of New Zealand, of Papua New Guinea, of Saint Kitts and Nevis, of Saint Lucia, of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, of the Solomon Islands, of Tuvalu, of the United Kingdom, and the Paramount Chief of the Great Council of Chiefs of Fiji – are the same person.

Furthermore, any appeal to any and every country that regarded either or both of Islam and Christianity as fundamental to its identity, especially if such an appeal appeared over the names of Catholic and Orthodox hierarchs as such (from the very Holy Land, no less), as well as of their East Coast elite-friendly Anglican and their Midwestern-friendly Lutheran counterparts, would place the American Republic and its Republican Party in a very difficult position indeed: is that Republic a product of the Revolution after all, or is it, since 1776 came before 1789, an expression of the pre-existing republican traditions of Catholic and Protestant Europe, as such?

Of course, as I keep being told, Jordan is Palestine: the entirely viable state created on both sides of the Jordan in 1948. "Why would anyone design Jordan as currently constituted?" No one ever did.

Herodianism Today


Looks like the War on Christmas has spread across the ocean, this time to Israel:

“NAZARETH ILLIT, Israel (AFP) – The mayor of a Jewish suburb of Nazareth sparked outrage on Wednesday after refusing to allow Christmas trees to be placed in town squares, calling them provocative. Predominantly Jewish Nazareth Illit, or Upper Nazareth, is adjacent to Nazareth, where Jesus is said to have spent much of his life. It has a sizable Arab Christian minority, as does mostly Muslim Nazareth itself. “The request of the Arabs to put Christmas trees in the squares in the Arab quarter of Nazareth Illit is provocative,” Mayor Shimon Gapso told AFP. “Nazareth Illit is a Jewish city and it will not happen — not this year and not next year, so long as I am a mayor,” he said of the northern Israeli town.”

So all you so called Zionist Christians, you John Hagees and Michelle Bachmanns, you Dispensationalists and others who traveled on Israeli junkets, met with Netanyahu and excused Israeli treatment of Christians in the past, what do you say now and treatment of your Christian brothers by banning a symbol of Christmas? Oh I forgot, if they don’t worship like you they’re not considered “Christians” in your eyes. Well, as the Bible says, you reap what you sow. So when Christians are driven from the Holy Land, we’re also going to blame you, because you said or did nothing when it happened.

Fall of Angels

If questionably at certain points, Charles Lewis writes:

When the archangel Gabriel landed in Nazareth 2,000 years ago to meet the woman who would become the Mother of God, as told in the New Testament, his greetings included necessary words of assurance: “Be not afraid.” Despite myriad artistic depictions through the ages that show Gabriel looking like the most serene of creatures, Mary may have been shocked out of her wits by his presence. Being a Jew of her times, she would have known about the angels of the Old Testament, and so would have had good reason to fear.

Angels were serious business in those days, even terrifying. They often carried flaming swords or their faces appeared to emit lightning. They were not the feathery sweet angels of today that hang from Christmas trees or appear in school plays. They certainly were not “Smiley the Angel,” an image that puts wings on the ubiquitous “smiley face” logo. Indeed, only months before, a relation of Mary’s was struck dumb for having the audacity to doubt Gabriel’s words. So after greeting Mary with, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women,” the angel of the Lord needed to reassure her that all would be well. “If you read early depictions of angels, they are complicated, frightening and wondrous beings that are extremely difficult to explain,” says Danielle Trussoni, author of the New York Times notable book Angelology.

Angels have played key roles in the formation of Judaism, Christianity and Islam — Muslims believe Gabriel delivered the Koran to Mohammed on behalf of Allah. But angels have fallen from their pedestals at the centre of the great monotheistic religions. They have become winsome and mild, mere “guides” and easily digestible for those who find religion uncomfortable and like their spirituality extra light with extra foam. They have been ripped from their Biblical and theological roots, and made palatable figures who emphasize feel-good spirituality over reliable Old Testament wrath and New Testament gallantry — for example, the angel Michael slaying the dragon in the battle to end all battles in Revelation.

In contemporary culture, by contrast, angels are often reliable but utterly non-threatening. For example, in the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (James Stewart) is shown the goodness of life by his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers). Clarence is far from scary or even impressive — perhaps “goofy” would be a better term. Not ineffectual, however: When George descends to attempt suicide, Clarence brings him back from the darkness. In The Bishop’s Wife, Cary Grant plays the smoothest angel of all, Dudley, trying to convince a stuffy bishop about the true meaning of Christmas.

The whole point of angels was to shock and send off alarms, Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft argues in his book Angels (and Demons). “They are not and never were cute, cuddly, comfortable, chummy or cool,” he writes. Glenn Peers, who teaches Early Medieval and Byzantine Art at the University of Texas, blames the sidelining of angels on a culture that has lost the “idea and sense that the world is far more full of life and energy than our eyes can reveal. It really is an inescapable fact, Scripture is peppered with references to angels and you can’t understand God’s communication with creation without angels.”

A 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 68% of Americans believe angels and demons are active in the world today. However, it is not clear whether those beliefs were biblically-based or more a blend of religious belief and vague spirituality. Religious thinkers argue that a serious belief in angels has diminished because the modern, dominant mood of secularism makes the faithful embarrassed of supernatural beliefs. In an interview, Mr. Kreeft said, “Angels did diminish in importance for Catholics over the last 50 years … not because of vagueness, but because of modernism and naturalism and skepticism of the supernatural.The people in the pews are still interested, but the priests and administrators and writers of textbooks, who were trained in the schools and seminaries of the 1960s and ’70s, are not into strong stuff like that, but prefer pop psychology, sociology, politics, and economics — the more boring, the better.”

For many Protestants, belief in the supernatural — including saints, veneration of Mary and angels — has eroded since the Reformation, as Christians who broke away from Rome began to focus their attention more closely on Jesus. Meanwhile, in the Pew survey, 73% of American Jews said they had no belief in angels. “I’m not surprised by that figure,” said Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman of Calgary. He said as Judaism matured, the need for angelic intermediaries began to vanish. As well, Rabbi Voss-Altman said, “in the shadow of the Holocaust,” the idea of good, interceding angels no longer rang true.

Yet as belief in angels becomes more shaky among the traditionally religious, interest has soared among many who are spiritual but distanced from traditional religion. Those who would not dream of praying the rosary or carrying a “saint card” in a wallet might buy a “Reiki Tamashi Pendant for Contacting Your Guardian Angel” from a New Age website. Or they might visit a spiritual counsellor who is also a psychic and clairvoyant who employs angels to “assist clients to find their true path in life.” David Albert Jones, a British historian and former Dominican friar, described the modern notion of angels as conforming to a soft, easy-to-follow post-Christian model of spirituality. “This can be seen from the place of angels in the ‘mind, body, spirit’ section that exists in many high-street bookshops,” he wrote in Angels: A History. “Angels remain attractive because they appeal to the imagination and to personal experience. They are a non-threatening element from established religion. They seem not quite serious.”

Kevin Vaughan, a professor of theology and adjunct faculty member at St. Michael’s College in Toronto, said clinging to angels, even in the absence of God or religious tradition, is a sign that people still want to answer spiritual questions and fill a void. For those of the old school, angels must be attached to their theological roots to have any meaning. “New Agers may claim angels and resort to them, but what’s the point really?” said Father Michael Patella, a professor at St. John’s College in Minnesota. “Unless these angels are pointing to some larger purpose, turning to them is just as futile as trusting in a rabbit’s foot.” Up until a few hundred years ago, belief in angels was as much a part of Christianity as Jesus, Mary and the saints. Some of the greatest minds of the Christian era devoted their considerable intellect to understanding angels.

“We are the odd men out today,” said Mr. Vaughan. “This lack of discussion of angels is really quite unique in the history of religion.” Hildegard von Bingen, an 11th-century nun whose music today has been appropriated by the New Age movement, had many angelic visions. That was thought to be to her credit. “Nobody thought Hildegard was crazy because she was seeing angels; rather they saw that as a sign of her sanctity,” said Mr. Vaughan. Because they appear disparately throughout the Bible with no apparent rhyme or reason, Mr. Vaughan said the challenge through Church history was to systemize angels and then define exactly what the were. By sticking close to the Scriptures, the early fathers of Christianity drew a picture of angels that were personal beings with their own personality and were utterly real. “The portrait we have in the Bible is that they operate on their own,” he said. “They are autonomous. Sure, they serve God, but some rebel and become demons. They have free will.

“Then Thomas Aquinas comes along and decides spiritual creatures are entirely immaterial: No vapour, no smoke, no feel, very much like thoughts themselves. The closest thing to us is like the soul.” And Thomas came up with something else: “Gabriel is as different from Michael as we are from horses or as horses are from sea cucumbers. It’s more than the difference between two people. It’s a lot deeper.” Earlier theologians took angels more seriously because of the profound impact they had on believers. In Genesis there was the angel with a “flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” In Ezekiel was the disconcerting image of the four angels each with the face of a man, lion, a bull and an eagle. And in Daniel there was the angel with “a face like lightning, eyes like flaming torches, arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and a voice like the sound of a multitude.”

“Angels take on huge and fearsome physical appearances because they are in fact huge and fearsome spiritually,” Mr. Kreeft said. “Sometimes they are frightening. When you meet God’s messengers, it is almost like meeting God. If your knees do not tremble, it’s not the real God, it’s your imagination.” Meeting an angel was a test you could fail. A few months before Gabriel visited Mary, he went to see Zechariah, an old man who was married to the equally aged Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin. He told Zechariah that his wife would have a son and they would name the child John, who became John the Baptist. Zechariah was numb with fear and refused to believe. Gabriel could have patted him on the shoulder and told him to relax. But being an angel and not a therapist, Gabriel struck Zechariah dumb for doubting. He got his point across, as all angels are wont to do.

If the popular image of angels was softened and degraded in part through the workings of popular culture, Ms. Trussoni, author of Angelology, is among a small group of artists working to reclaim their true nature. Angelology concerns the Nephilim, eerie figures described in Genesis as the products of angels mated with “daughters of man.” Despite being fictional, the book has a ring of “reality” because Ms. Trussoni built her creatures based on religious texts. “The most interesting aspect about angels for me is their position as a boundary between the seen and unseen,” she said. “I think angels have been big, or rather alluring in an intellectual and spiritual sense, for thousands of years and it only makes sense that they would suffuse pop culture in our era. The use of angels to express spirituality has never been easy, however.”

Theologians say guardian angels are rooted in the Bible, Jewish writings and the writings of the early fathers of Christianity. Like a friend, they can lead you to God; like an enemy, the fallen angels can lead you away from the divine. In modern film, guardian angels took on gritty guise in German director Wim Wenders’ beautiful film Wings of Desire. The camera followed two “invisible angels,” both dressed fashionably in full-length cloth coats and scarves, with no wings in sight. They walk through Berlin carrying the weight of thousands of years of observing history and trying to move those around them toward good. In one scene, an angel tries to “talk” a potential suicide off a ledge but when the man jumps the angel screams in agony. And one angel, showing free will, decides to become human.

Never once in the film is the word “God” spoken. In the making of the film, which was shot without a script, the director found that even someone with a thoroughly modern outlook can come to have faith in helpful angel. “I didn’t believe in angels when I made Wings of Desire,” Mr. Wenders said in a radio interview this year. “I thought of them more as a metaphor. But it was only after the film was finished that I realized I had gotten big help from somewhere … and I realized we had some incredible guardian angels working with us.”

Friday 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Back on Sunday or Monday.

A Light In The East

This week on Belarus and on Kosovo, every week on something, read Karl Naylor.

Tory Anarchism?

No, there is nothing Tory about it. The pseudo-conservative hatred of the State in all its manifestations has issued, first in the anti-politics of the parliamentary expenses "scandal" (not a penny was ever paid out either for the moat or for the duck house, none of this had anything to do with policy, and so on), and now, both in the IPSA fiasco that that has created, and in this week's flagrant contempt of Parliament, technically so called. Thank you, Margaret Thatcher.

Be On Your Guard

If you believe in any conceivable connection between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Shia-persecuting “Taliban”, then you are as stupid and as credulous as anyone who believes in “al-Qaeda”, or in “the global terrorist network”, or in “Taliban” distinct from the Pashtun as a whole, or in any connection between Afghanistan and 9/11, or in any connection between Iraq and 9/11, or in WMD in Iraq, or in such WMD as a threat to any Western country even if they had existed, or in an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, or in such a programme as a threat to any Western country even if it existed. In which case, you are on exactly the same level as birthers, or as truthers, or as those who liken Obama to Hitler, or as those who likened Bush to Hitler, and as the followers of Lyndon LaRouche. Are you?

A Moderating Effect

The moderating effect of the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and of the use of that provision to repatriate agricultural policy and to restore our historic fishing rights in accordance with international law.

The moderating effect of the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them.

The moderating effect of the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard.

The moderating effect of the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights (or of the "Supreme Court") unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons.

And the moderating effect of the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons, so that in that chamber (although there would still be the problem of those who turn up in the Council of Ministers) we were no longer subject to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, of neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, of members of Eastern Europe's kleptomaniac nomenklatura, of neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany, of people who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland, or, before long, of the ruling Islamists of Turkey and of their opponents, variously extreme secular ultra-nationalists and Marxist Kurdish separatist terrorists.

Jeremy Browne, over to you.

Primary Promise

The full Coalition Agreement last May said: “We will fund 200 all-postal primaries over this Parliament, targetted at seats which have not changed hands for many years.” The money would have been allocated to parties which now have seats in Parliament, according to their shares of the vote in May 2010. But this has been abandoned.

There are those who argue that it would be crashingly expensive to give the whole constituency and national electorates the last word in candidate selections and Leadership Elections respectively, as well as a say in policy formulation at national level. But these need not be postal ballots. Indeed, they ought not to be. Electoral registers are easy to obtain, and political parties already have them. These ballots could be conducted like other elections, with ballot boxes at polling stations. The main cost would then be room hire, assuming that the local party did not already own or have the use of anywhere suitable. They could all club together and hire somewhere on a single day. Easy.

In fact, although I still remain to be convinced about the State funding of political parties, I probably could be if this were one of the two conditions. The other being that all State funding be matched by resolution of one or more membership organisations, and if so matched be exactly the same for each party nationally and for each candidate, with or without party, locally, with a ban on any spending above twice the State funding available.

On The Ropes

On, and on, and on John Humphyrs banged. Not that Archbishop Bernard Longley was particularly good, it must be said. But Humphrys was determined to force him to sign up to the catastrophically failed HIV policy of the ageing hippies in the NGO Establishment, who would cheerfully see the entire population of Africa die of AIDS rather than brook, so to speak, the slightest criticism or compromise of the sexual revolution, which they see as a self-evident good.

Humphrys also insisted that because, as he could not demonstrate, the majority of White British Catholics dissented from the Church's Teaching on this, that or the other, then that Teaching would have to change accordingly. Such is the racism of Anglican liberals, but the Catholic Church mercifully does not work like that.

And then there was Polly Toynbee, who should stick to the social justice, a term of Papal invention, on which she is such an important voice. Her contribution this morning was utterly unhinged, trotting out the standard embittered claim that the simple peasants had not understood the religion question on the census, and reaching its crescendo with the claim that "the Church's views on sex and death are dominating Britain", particularly on assisted suicide, where one really would have thought that it was the BMA, not much of a Vatican puppet, any more than is the WHO that strongly commends Natural Family Panning.

Maoism Today

Running Britain? Even if not, then certainly all over the place under Western patronage – in Kosovo (where it is charmingly mixed up with Wahhabism and Nazism), in Nepal, in Rwanda (again, as part of a thoroughly noxious brew), in three Indian states, and in the neocon favourite lately running Portugal but now running the European Commission, to name but a few.

From the other side of the Sino-Soviet Split, compare and contrast the Today programmes fawning treatment of Eric Hobsbawm with its very different approach to Archbishop Bernard Longley. In fact, consider that the BBC allowed Hobsbawm on at all. Would it do that for David Irving?

Several Gratifying Outcomes

Daniel Larison writes:

There are several gratifying outcomes here. Most important, a treaty important to American national security will be ratified despite the often ignorant and at times flat-out dishonest opposition of people speaking for no more than 20-30% of the country. It is not all that often that sound policy and public opinion are on the same side, so it’s worth noting when it happens. Sound policy seems to have prevailed over hawkish demagoguery. Kyl’s gambit to run out the clock seems to have failed, and the automatic deference afforded to him on these issues after he orchestrated the defeat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is most likely at an end.

The side of the debate championed by Romney, Palin, Thune, Santorum, and Bolton has lost, and the virtually unanimous opposition to the treaty from movement conservative leaders, think tanks, and magazines has been ignored. For once, deceit and fearmongering did not win the day in a foreign policy argument. More substantively, U.S.-Russian relations will not be disrupted, our allies in Europe will continue to see their security enhanced by the thaw between Washington and Moscow, and inspections of Russia’s arsenal will resume to our benefit. The harm to U.S. credibility and diplomacy that I had feared would result from the treaty’s defeat will not materialize. All in all, this should prove to be a very good week for the United States and our allies.

Holiday Hijinks

Philip Giraldi, The Democrat We Need's nominee for Deputy National Security Advisor, writes:

It must be the season. Bibi Netanyahu will press the Obama Administration to free convicted Israeli/American spy Jonathan Pollard. My sources report that Obama has asked the Justice Department to brief him on the objections to doing so, so there is a better than even chance that Pollard will walk. An interesting aspect of the Pollard tale in its current version is that former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb has become a chief advocate for freeing Pollard, flying to Israel to address both Netanyahu and key Knesset members. Korb, who is presumably Jewish, is alleging that the reason for Pollard’s harsh sentence was that former Defense Secretary Cap Weinberger had a “visceral hatred of Jews.” Weinberger is no longer around to defend himself and Korb is conveniently forgetting the roomful of secrets that Pollard passed to his Israeli handlers, information that Israel subsequently agreed to return but never did. Korb also claims that the belief that Pollard passed information that wound up in Soviet hands, leading to the deaths of American agents, has since been found to be false. Funny, I’ve never seen evidence for that and I have spoken to individuals close to the subsequent damage assessment who claim that Pollard’s espionage had a devastating impact, hence the draconian sentence.

Another story getting almost no traction in the MSM is the account of how one Zalman Shapiro is in line for a top US government award for his work as a scientist and inventor. Only problem is Shapiro was president of a Pennsylvania company called NUMEC that is generally believed to be the source of 741 pounds of weapons grade uranium that made its way to Israel in the 1960s. In fact, CIA sources are convinced that NUMEC was the source of the Israeli nuclear program and have said so publicly. Shapiro allegedly met with Rafael Eitan, the same Mossad case officer who handled Pollard.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Contempt and Admiration

Misrepresenting oneself to an MP acting in that capacity strikes me as a contempt of Parliament.

You have to admire anyone who admires Helen Suzman, and even more someone who points out that she did more to bring down apartheid than was ever achieved by those who merely wanted that country to become a Soviet satellite.

Why is Norman Baker a Minister? He is a natural backbencher. And that is very high praise indeed. If he were still free to demand the scandalously, shockingly, shamefully never-held Coroner's Inquest into the most suspicious death in this country in anything approaching living memory, then that Inquest might have been held by now.

The Whole Truth?

I rather admire Gail Sheridan. "For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health."

Trotskyist campaigners for Scottish independence (work that out - but of that, another time) do not naturally arouse my sympathy. But perjury is a staggeringly common offence, yet you can probably name precisely three people who have ever even been put on trial for it, all of whom happen to have been convicted: Jeffrey Archer, Jonathan Aitken and Tommy Sheridan.

All out-of-fashion politicians. All convicted for having extracted money from major media interests, whereas nothing at all will happen to you if you perjure yourself in a murder trial. And in Sheridan's case, the man who sacked one of Scotland's two highest-paid advocates in order to beat the other one in court. Well, we can't be having that. Can we?

Just A Thought

At last. One can see how the Holy Father has been asked onto Thought for the Day. Hardly any contributor to it, and I include personal friends among them when I write this, has ever been well-known beforehand. Except, of course, on a certain dinner party circuit.

The National Secular Society has had a fit, of course. But it is now most notable for its anti-Pope rally at which there were more people on the platform than in the audience. It has only very recently stopped campaigning against Christmas as a public holiday, as it now often claims that it never did. It is still battling on over Easter, but it has sold the pass.

Keeping The Ball Rolling

Roger Bybee writes:

If the Democrats are to regain power, they must first wage an elemental battle over their party’s fundamental identity and strategy.

To briefly recap: The long-predicted Republican tidal wave arrived with the mid-term electorate—whiter, wealthier, older and more conservative than the mass of voters who elected Obama in 2008—evicting some 63 House Democrats and handing the Republicans six Senate seats.

Progressives hoping to move Democrats toward policies promoting shared prosperity must understand the reasons for this “shellacking” and the transformation necessary to get the party back on course.

The punditocracy almost universally pronounced that November 2 proved the nation wants to fundamentally change course. But this superficial analysis both overstates the Republicans’ non-existent mandate and understates the magnitude of the Democrats’ loss of connection to their base. Polling data clearly suggest that the majority of 2010 voters may have pulled the Republican lever, but they nonetheless decisively reject the pro-wealthy Republican program.

The divergence between the vote for Republican candidates and support for their policies was dramatized in polling by Peter D. Hart in the 100 congressional races that swung the election. By a margin of 77 to 21 percent, the voting public as a whole favored job creation through investment in public roads, schools and other facilities. (Continuing the tax cuts for those earning $250,000 or more—which the Republicans depict as a central route to economic rejuvenation—was opposed by 63 percent of all voters.)

In a very different way, the Democrats also experienced their own gulf between the approach of their leadership and the sentiments of key portions of the 2008 pro-Obama coalition. Youth, people of color, and blue-collar workers all have suffered especially sharp losses in pay and jobs during the recession.

In Wisconsin, for example, the blue-collar vote for Democrats sank from 52 percent in 2008 to 40 percent, which more than accounts for the loss of outspoken progressive Sen. Russ Feingold and the northwoods House seats held by staunch liberal Rep. Steve Kagen and the seat vacated by longtime progressive Rep. David Obey.

The main achievements touted by the Democrats—enacting a healthcare plan whose main features do not kick in until 2014 and halting the huge cascade of job losses that marked late 2008 and early 2009—failed to dent the day-to-day misery and anxieties about jobs, pay and security still being experienced by tens of millions of Americans.

The Great Recession continues to persist in large part because, as Carl Rosen of the United Electrical (UE) workers union puts it, “Workers can’t afford to buy what they make.” With earnings and savings falling for average families, the richest 1 percent of Americans command 23.5 percent of all annual income, up from 9 percent in the 1970s.

The remarkable plummet in public enthusiasm for the Democrats over the past two years indicates that the party of Roosevelt desperately needs a progressive transformation. It needs to re-connect with the people most victimized by the increasing inequality that is coming to define our country. But this will only happen if three things occur:

• 1. The Democratic Party must clearly represent the interests of working families and the poor.

In 2006, pollsters and political analysts John Halpin and Ruy Texeira analyzed Democracy Corps polling data and concluded: “A majority of Americans do not believe progressives or Democrats stand for anything.” In other words, it is unclear which values the Democratic Party would find worthy of fighting for.

They must become clear. The Democratic Party must become the party of the people shut out from the record profits and share of income enjoyed by Corporate America and the richest 1 percent. Just as the Republicans incessantly define themselves in simple, memorable terms like “smaller government and lower taxes,” the Democrats must become known as “the party of decent jobs, a fair shot for all, and dignity for everyone.”

• 2. Strong grassroots movements must force President Obama to rediscover his progressive side.

Obama’s rightward slide and unwillingness to act decisively has been the result of unwavering pressure from the Right—from his coterie of Wall Street advisors to CEOs to the Right’s massive media apparatus.

Even the most atrocious displays of corporate greed have little visible or audible mobilization on the Left. BP’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the death of 11 workers offered a clear lesson on what happens when corporate power becomes too big to regulate. No left-wing version of the Tea Party emerged during the last two years—and we need one badly.

There are endless problems facing working families, but none more critical than a daily volume of foreclosures 10 times higher than during the Great Depression, according to It Takes a Pillage author Nomi Prins. Why don’t the country’s two large labor federations, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, picket the giant banks foreclosing on homes across the country?

• 3. Democratic politicians must recognize “free trade” for what it is: economic poison for the country, and political poison for the party.

Since 1994, deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the admission of China into the World Trade Organization have contributed to the loss of 4.9 million U.S. jobs and the closing of 43,000 U.S. factories.

A September poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC revealed that 86 percent of the public opposed the export of jobs. On October 2, the Journal observed: “In the recent WSJ/NBC poll, 83 percent of blue-collar workers agreed that outsourcing of manufacturing to foreign countries with lower wages was a reason the U.S. economy was struggling and more people weren’t being hired; no other factor was so often cited for current economic ills.”

CNBC cited a finding that suggested a possible political alliance: “While 65 percent of union members say free trade has hurt the U.S., so do 61 percent of Tea Party sympathizers.”

These latest figures should remind President Obama and his advisors that free trade policies have become such a huge liability to nearly 90 percent of Americans that they virtually foreclose his re-election prospects. An analysis by Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch of the impact that “free trade” had on 182 competitive election indicated that opposition to “free trade” and the offshoring of jobs served as a firewall for Democratic congressional candidates, with opponents of these policies three times more likely to win compared to Democrats who supported them.

Lori Wallach, the group’s director, warned in a November 3 Common Dreams interview: “In 2008, Obama only won the election because he won the critical states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by differentiating himself from McCain on trade. It is pretty obvious with Dems and GOP nationwide running against the trade status quo and its job offshoring damage, that if Obama flip-flops now in favor of more job-killing NAFTA agreements, he will lose those states and end up a one-term president.”

A different future could be charted by the Democrats, however. But it will depend on them adopting a clearly defined identity, embracing grassroots activism and abandoning the “free trade” track to job destruction and community devastation.

Still, following the triumphant ratification of the Nixonian, Reaganesque New START, next on the populist-paleocon joint agenda is the non-ratification of KORUS. Where is the Democratic primary challenger who will embody this new alliance?