Thursday 30 September 2010

Out of the Shadows

Of those likely to be elected to the Shadow Cabinet, who could be the necessarily new Shadow Foreign Secretary? No contest. John Denham. Did Ed Miliband really oppose the Iraq War, or not?

Opposition Opportunities

John Smith had been one of the Labour rebels whose votes behind Roy Jenkins had passed Heath's European Communities Bill. But he cheerfully deployed every trick in the book during Maastricht's passage through Parliament. That's called Opposition. There is still work to be done by a Leader of the Opposition acting ruthlessly as such, particularly over the adoption of the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard, and over the restoration of the annual votes on the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies.

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

On further Scottish and Welsh devolution, it would be entirely consistent and honourable for the party that legislated for the present arrangements to say that that the matter should be left there, which is certainly the private view of most of its MPs from Scotland and Wales, and the public view of a few of them. On that basis, there is another Maastricht-style alliance to be built with the backbench Conservative Right. It was also the absence of the hope of office at Westminster, combined with the positive expectation of it at Holyrood and Cardiff, that made the Lib Dems enthusiasts for devolution. But they are now in office at Westminster while no longer in office either at Holyrood or, for quite a while, at Cardiff. Scottish and Welsh Lib Dem support is concentrated in areas where devolution has never been terribly popular, and the party is not doing very well at all in Wales.

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

And over to you on the circulating proposal to abolish all three Armed Forces by merging them into some sort of giant Marine Corps, under overall American command within the single EU structure that America has favoured since the 1940s. On the other side of the House are the Tories, together with a party largely based in rural Scotland, Mid-Wales, the West Country and North Northumberland. Defy them to explain their support for abolishing any, never mind all, of the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Define instead your agenda of saving and restoring the historic regimental system, rebuilding the Navy, saving the RAF, placing them all under strictly British command, and only ever using them strictly to defend British territory, citizens or interests, not to make the world anew to some academic blueprint. Propose to pay for it by, among other things, scrapping Trident. And dare the parties opposite to disagree. Including in the division lobbies of the House of Commons.

With The Times

Nick Boles is half-right.

The United Kingdom, being a multinational state, has never been as homogeneous as Sweden. But controlling immigration, and the wider task of resisting capitalism and globalisation, is in fact the only way to maintain the distinctiveness and diversity of four countries in one, in all four of which the old landed class has a different ethnic background from everyone else, one of which contains all three types of the Irish (one of those types hardly exists anywhere else in these Islands), at least one of which still has two thriving indigenous languages with distinct cultures accordingly, and so on, and on, and on.

The Swedes are happy both because of their social democracy and because of their immigration controls. You cannot have the first without the second. And that is a very good argument for either by reference to the other.

That Mutual Feeling

Even Tessa Jowell talks sense occasionally. She certainly did yesterday, when she called for Northern Rock to be turned back into a locally-based mutual building society. In fact, all of the banks should be turned into mutual building societies, ironclad as such by statute. Apart, that is, from the public stakes in HBOS and RBS. Those are permanent, non-negotiable safeguards of the Union, as public ownership always is. Therefore, the profits from each of those stakes should be divided equally among all the households in the United Kingdom.

Pay Attention

One in 10 of them may or may not have a gene also found in vast numbers of other people? What, that's it? Well, yes, of course it is.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder does not exist. Mostly for being born boys rather than the girls wanted and expected by their mothers (more and more of whom in any case know little or nothing about men or boys), half a million British children are now drugged up to their eyeballs with Ritalin and such like as "treatment" for ADHD and various other nonexistent conditions.

Having long since decided that femaleness, simply in itself, was a medicable condition requiring the pumping of women's and girls' bodies full of highly poisonous substances in order to stop those bodies from doing what they do naturally, we now seem to have decided to treat maleness in the same way, and to get in even younger than we did with femaleness.

Meanwhile, prisoners are to be tested routinely for ADHD, if that is not already happening. Criminal behaviour is to be, or is being, defined as a manifestation of ADHD. Why else bother testing prisoners, in particular and as such, for it? So they will all be found to have it. But they don't have it. No one has it. It does not exist.

The Middle Kingdom

Both American parties have pushed through globalisation in general, and things like Most Favored Nation Status for China in particular, with barely a whimper of dissent. Now, they seem to be waking up to what they have done. The problem is really even deeper. Like those of the West in general, America's relations with China have been conducted, because they have been defined, in exactly the wrong terms. Essentially, those terms are Marxist, because that is what is the definition of politics in terms of economics is by definition: Marxism.

China still makes things, builds things and mines things, putting the jobs, heat and light of her people first. She is emerging from the gangster capitalism that always follows Communism by returning to her own culture, which is firmly centred on the family and the local community, which reveres tradition and ritual, which upholds government by moral rather than physical force, which affirms the Golden Rule, which is Agrarian and Distributist, which has barely started an external war in five thousand years, and which is especially open to completion by, in, through and as the classical Christianity that is spreading like wildfire. She is like the Classical writers and the Church Fathers in that she takes Africa seriously, even going there to secure the food supply necessary for her to give up the extremely anti-Confucian one child policy. Nothing remotely approaching any of this can be said of America, or of Britain, or of numerous other Western countries besides. And that is the real problem, the root of all else in this context.

Not that China has been the only beneficiary of the suicidal tendency among Westerners generally and Americans in particular. Meg Whitman's domestic staff irregularities may seem good for a laugh, but there is nothing funny about them, since there is nothing funny about the ideology of which they are nothing more than an entirely consistent practical expression. But then, Whitman, like Fiorina with her history of exporting jobs from California to India and China, is nothing more than a bored rich person, rummaging about for something with which to fill up the early autumn of her days.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

A Farewell To Arms

One Party Leader, the Leader of the Opposition, would have voted against the Iraq War if he had been an MP at the time.

Another Party Leader, the Prime Minister, wishes that he had voted against the Iraq War as an MP at the time.

And the third Party Leader, the Deputy Prime Minister, actually did vote against the Iraq War as an MP at the time.

Of course, they are all anti-American and anti-Semitic (even the one who is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors), as everyone was branded for expressing even the slightest doubts about that war at the time and for a long time afterwards. It doesn't matter that this is now the view of the President of the United States.

Rather, it was and is that war's tiny number of supporters, then or now, who take the view of "someone else's country, right or wrong". But they cannot decide whether that country is America (at least under an eligibly white President) or Israel. They are not the same, you know. Thank goodness that one of these people has just been kicked out of frontline politics and another one is about to be.

Oh, I so, so hope that one of these creatures tries his luck at South Shields. Especially against a proper Labour candidate. We live in hope.

Oh, Brother

David Miliband this, David Miliband that. BBC News at Ten was 13 minutes in before it deigned to mention the real, and really huge, story of the day, Liam Fox. He was given less than a minute, so was that doctor who has been struck off, and then there was a brief report of the enormous anti-cuts demonstrations across the Continent. Can someone please explain to me when David Miliband became one of this country's great statesman? If there are any still alive, then they certainly don't include him. Proper coverage of the candidate who won, rather than one of those who lost, would not go amiss. Nor would some coverage of the Government rather than the Opposition.

I dare any of you Blairite London hacks to put up as an Independent at the South Shields by-election, and see how far you got in defence of the Iraq War, the non-regulation of the City, the funny money PFIs and City Academies, the imposition of tuition fees, and the assault on civil liberties, as well as the view that Britain should have joined the euro, as advocated by the Blairites but blocked by Gordon Brown and Ed Balls. You could also explain how opposition to the Iraq War was still anti-American and anti-Semitic, as you all insisted that it was at the time, even now that it is the position of the President of the United States and of Britain's most prominent Jew, the latter among the three Party Leaders out of three who now take that view.

Go on. I dare you.

"Pointless" Stem Cell Activity

Anything involving embryonic stem cells rather than adult and cord blood stem cells.

Conservative Convergence

First Ed Miliband defends traditional Post Offices, shops and pubs against the "free" market, prioritises family life over long working hours, and articulates working-class concerns about excessive immigration's effects on wages, working conditions, housing and so on.

And now David Davis calls for a strategy for growth and employment alongside that for deficit reduction.

No wonder that those who try and fail to post abusive comments on here are now, even by their own standards, quite so angry. Long may they remain so.

Miliband Soft On Crime?

I've said it before and I'll say it again, civil libertarianism is anything but soft on crime.

We now have such soft sentencing, such lax prison discipline, and so forth, because, having moved away from a civilised society's minimum standards for conviction, we know perfectly well that perhaps half of people now convicted would not have been in better days, and that in that case a third of them would never have been charged. But, as with the warmongering of recent years, are you any safer?

If we returned to those standards, then we could return to proper sentencing, proper prison regimes, and all the rest of it. Indeed, we must. But not before. Ed Miliband, over to you.


Or, better still, Fox out.

Liam Fox against cuts? Pull the other one. He and and his CIA SpAd have a much-trailed scheme to abolish all three Armed Forces in favour of something like the United States Marine Corps, except in no sense an elite force, as part of the single EU defence "capability" under overall America command. It should never be forgotten that an absolute ban on Germany's having an Air Force was written into the Treaty of Versailles. To be deprived of this right by one's vanquishers is one of the great historic indicators that defeat has tipped over into humiliation.

Still, look at the people with whom the far more traditionally Tory David Cameron and William Hague have encircled Fox at the MoD. Apart from the Lib Dem Eurosceptic Nick Harvey, now on record against Trident, I do not know about Peter Luff, but Gerald Howarth is late of the European Arab Bank, Andrew Robathan has been on his travels courtesy of CMEC (Nicholas Soames, Hugo Swire, Crispin Blunt, Alan Duncan, Commons receptions to celebrate Norouz, you get the idea), and Lord Astor is actually CMEC's Vice-Chairman. No wonder that Fox feels the need for Luke Coffey to keep him company. Cameron has effectively given him a team of warders.

Swire, Blunt and Duncan are also Ministers, and could perfectly easily be bumped up to join Ken Clarke and Andrew Lansley in the Cabinet, as could Howarth, or Robathan, or whoever. Fox is far from irreplaceable, and appears to have been set up for a fall, taking the neocon entryist tendency down with him. We live in hope. Fox has an implacable, and probably pecuniary, opposition to Hague's pursuit of bilateral ties with Russia, with China, with Latin American countries, with the Arab world in general and the UAE in particular, with India, with Indonesia, with Japan, with the major Commonwealth countries of Africa, and through the Commonwealth generally. Never mind withdrawal from Afghanistan.

So, if you really wanted this Blairite defence policy and the abandonment of an anti-Blairite foreign policy based instead on common sense, decency and the national interest, then you could have hoped (and, if you could, voted) for David Miliband as Leader of the Labour Party and as Prime Minister. But not now. And Fox is also on his way out. Happy days. Happy, happy, happy days.

In The Shadows

Unless I am very much mistaken, Diane Abbott is the only member of the Campaign Group to be one of the 49 candidates for the Shadow Cabinet, and not one of the very interesting list of those who nominated John McDonnell without being Campaign Group members has felt able to put up. The second point, especially, is a very great shame indeed. Jon Cruddas is also a notable absentee, the one non-fresher who could be forgiven for having supported David Miliband, since he had obviously taken temporary leave of his senses.

Kevan Jones is giving it a go, though. I hope that he gets on, because that will bump up to one hundred per cent the current ninety-nine per cent certainty that he will be the Labour candidate for the new seat within the expanded boundaries of which I sit as I am writing this. His nomination papers will then be far more notable for who has not signed them than for who has, and one really does have to wonder who would turn out to leaflet for him across great tracts of his new patch. He himself certainly has no intention of going there. Ever.

And it will be an AV election. Assuming (and we can do a lot more than that in the seat as envisaged, especially in profoundly anti-Kevan areas) enough hardcore pro-life, pro-family, pro-worker and anti-war votes to prevent early elimination, that creates quite an opportunity for a candidate who will give a voice to those whose priorities include the Welfare State, workers’ rights, trade unionism, the co-operative movement, consumer protection, strong communities, conservation rather than environmentalism, fair taxation, full employment, public ownership, proper local government, a powerful Parliament, and a base of real property for every household to resist both over-mighty commercial interests and an over-mighty State, while having a no less absolute commitment to any or all of 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, and a realistic foreign policy.

A voice to those who are aware of, who understand, who value and who draw on the Radical Liberal, Tory populist, trade union, co-operative, Christian Socialist, Social Catholic and Distributist, and other roots of the Labour Movement, rejecting cultural Marxism no less comprehensively than they reject economic Marxism, and vice versa. A voice to those who, with Herbert Morrison, “have never seen any conflict between Labour and what are known as the middle classes”, and who, with Aneurin Bevan, denounce class war, calling instead for “a platform broad enough for all to stand upon” and for the making of “war upon a system, not upon a class”.

An opportunity to give a national platform and profile to a candidate who is part of the alliance of the traditional Right and the traditional Left against the neoconservative war agenda and its assaults on liberty at home, including against any new Cold War with either or both of Russia and China. Who is part of the socially and culturally conservative, strongly patriotic tendencies within the British Left’s traditional electoral base. Who recognises that we cannot deliver the welfare provisions and the other public services that our people have rightly come to expect unless we know how many people there are in this country, unless we control immigration properly, and unless we insist that everyone use spoken and written English to the necessary level.

A candidate who refuses to allow climate change to be used as an excuse to destroy or prevent secure employment, to drive down wages or working conditions, to arrest economic development around the world, to forbid the working classes and non-white people from having children, to inflate the fuel prices that always hit the poor hardest, or to restrict either travel opportunities or a full diet to the rich. And who could therefore co-operate as closely as possible with the forces of provincial, rural, protectionist, church-based, conservative, mind-our-own-business Toryism, forces set free by electoral reform from tendencies variously metropolitan, urban, capitalist, secular, libertarian and make-the-world-anew.

Imagine if even one such MP were returned in 2015, assuming that Rod Liddle was not, after all, the Labour MP for South Shields from this year or next. Imagine the effect that it would have, especially if it removed someone who would otherwise have become a Cabinet Minister. The combination of AV, the new and larger boundaries, and the visceral loathing of Kevan Jones among the politically active and others in important parts of that new constituency, makes such a return a very great deal more than plausible here. If we can be bothered. In the meantime, good luck in the Shadow Cabinet election, Kevan.

Always Ready

Kevin Maguire comes from South Shields. Think on.

If it is going to be a journalist, then Mark Seddon seems to be back on these shores full-time, as does Tim Collard. And then there is Rod Liddle, who is once more a Labour Party member, and who last month wrote:

"I am pretty much of the left, but loathe the censoriousness, arrogance, self-righteousness and political correctness of the left, or London faux-left, as I would describe it. I sign up to most of the stuff which used to be considered left – decent minimum wage, redistributive tax policy, social ownership of those things which as a society we need but which the market struggles to provide (trains, utilities, council housing and the like).

My worries about immigration, meanwhile, are twofold; that as a country we have become too crowded, and that the free movement of labour has made it harder for indigenous working class people to earn a decent wage, rent a decent house, get their kids educated in schools where the other kids speak the same language and so on and so on. My dislike of multiculturalism stems not simply from the belief that competing cultures undermine a sense of national identity and shared aspiration, but that some of the cultures we have encouraged, or made allowances for, are profoundly illiberal and penalize the most vulnerable sectors of society. And when that happens – either with the more rigorous strictures of Islam, or the low educational achievement and predilection towards crime of young African Caribbean men (© Diane Abbott), we should say so, and say so forcefully.

I suppose on these latter points it has largely been the right-wing doing most of the running – but I do not see why it is right wing
per se to object to the authoritarianism of Islam, or a culture which leads black kids towards crime. Quite the reverse, I would have thought. But there we are. I hope this has helped."

Of course, it could be someone from somewhere else entirely. By the time that this by-election comes round, Derek Simpson will certainly have retired, while Tony Woodley, if he has not already done so, will not have long to go, and could easily resume for a time the old practice of union leaders sitting simultaneously as MPs; alas, and I may be wrong about this one, Ian Lavery seems to have decided against that one. Still, there will be lots of "retired" Blairites to replace in 2015.

Cameron's Counterfeiting

David Cameron is certainly being unconservative and un-Tory in seeking to impose unnatural constituency boundaries, although such things are nothing new to some of us. But he is being entirely faithful to the record of his party and of its unquestionable heroine.

She sat silently in Cabinet while counterfeit counties were created, and while this country's law was made subordinate to that of the nascent EU (there has never been "a free trade area" called "the Common Market", nor did Heath ever suggest that there was, as Tony Benn, Michael Foot, Peter Shore and Barbara Castle pointed out at the time), under a Prime Minister who earlier in his career had laid waste to small and family business by abolishing Resale Price Maintenance in the name of the "free" market, and who had sat, as had she, in the Government that destroyed the thoroughly conservative and thoroughly Tory national rail network.

Right Angle?

Panorama was about Scientology again last night. Not as much fun as last time, but all the better for that. Anyway, note well that the Tea Party's flag-carrying Senate nominee in Nevada, Sharron Angle, wants prisoners to be re-educated according to the principles of that organisation, and therefore, due to copyright constraints, by that organisation itself. An organisation which forces its members, even its married members, to have abortions.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Community and Solidarity

So, is Ed Miliband going to nationalise our train set, as desired by practically everyone, including the majority of Conservative voters?

He needs to stop talking about "kids", "mums" and "dads", just as the practice needs to stop of playing pop music at these events, and just as all the parties need to stop hiring halls that are far too large, only to fill them for the Leaders' speeches, but for nothing else, with the paid staff of the Political Class and the media who are now by far the bulk of the attendees.

Miliband can claim that he is "not a social conservative", and in many specific ways he is not one. But in his invocation of community and solidarity against the destruction of local Post Offices, of distinctive high streets and of village pubs, he is far more of one than any member of the Cabinet apart from Iain Duncan Smith, as is also the case with his call to rethink our working time culture in the interests of family life, and with his emphasis on that life's importance in teaching unselfishness.

Remember when opposition to the Iraq War was branded anti-Semitic? Well, is Ed Miliband anti-Semitic? The warmongers have gone very quiet on that one, just as they have on their previous, loudly-stated view that the President of the United States was above both the law and the Constitution. They still periodically affect to care about single deaths in Iran, the country on which they wish to drop a nuclear bomb. But who is listening to them anymore? Still, a supertax on all income derived from support for that war would still be well worth it, including to set an example for the future.

And the need for a purge is now central to the credibility or otherwise of Labour under Miliband. Every member of either House who as an MP voted to invade Iraq must be presented with a public recantation to sign by a given date or else have the Whip withdrawn. Freshers can be forgiven, since they thought that David Miliband was going to win and they therefore supported him in order to get on, but every other MP who did so must be told publicly that they will never again be tolerated as Labour candidates.

The Progress Tendency, the Euston Manifesto Group, the Henry Jackson Society, the private army ritually inaugurated by David Miliband on Bank Holiday Monday, and all the rest of such things, must be declared proscribed organisations, and rooted out as ruthlessly as the far less dangerous Militant Tendency, which never got anywhere and was never going to, ever was.

You get the idea.

But does Miliband? Is he worthy of the support that was given to him by Frank Field, by Neil Kinnock, by Roy Hattersley, by John Smith's widow, and by the majority of that section of the Electoral College which was made up neither of full-time professional politicians, nor of people whose idea of a hobby is going to Labour Party meetings, but of the general public?

Off The Street?

Some people belong on it.

Squealing in the usual quarters about the decision of the Charities Commission to register Soldiers off the Street as charity number 1137594. For once, they have a point. Its trustees are a gruesome bunch of BNP and EDL stalwarts. (Nor is there any apparent need for this initiative? Have the Charities Commissioners never heard of the Royal British Legion?)

So, how about deregistering those charities whose trustees are gruesome bunches of old Stalinist, Trotskyist and fellow-travelling stalwarts from the Seventies? Or of old Eighties Radical Rightists? Or of Likudniks and worse? There has already been action against Atlantic Bridge, so things are looking up, even if that, like the exposure of Policy Exchange as a forgers' den, would have cost Liam Fox and Michael Gove their respective jobs in better days than these.

Off the street? Some people belong on it. Including the BNP and the EDL. But by no means restricted to them.

Good Old Mr Wilson

Over in The First Post, Neil Clark writes:

Man of the moment Ed Miliband has had no shortage of advice since he won the Labour leadership contest on Saturday. But if he's really shrewd and wants to re-establish his party as the party of government, he would do well to follow the example of Labour's most successful leader. No, not Tony Blair, but Harold Wilson. Taking over a dispirited party that had been out of office for 12 years, Wilson made Labour the 'natural party of government' (he won four elections out of the five he contested), without moving to the right, as Tony Blair did, and surrendering all Labour's traditional principles. Wilson was able to achieve such remarkable success because he realised that party unity was the key to winning elections.

This, as his biographer Philip Ziegler explains, meant taking up policy positions which "almost everyone could accept if not actually share". Wilson stressed that Clause Four - Labour's commitment to public ownership - was "the position of the whole party". On foreign policy he kept Britain in Nato, but refused to send British troops to Vietnam and supported détente with the Soviet Union and the communist countries of eastern Europe. On Europe, he kept both Labour Europhiles and Eurosceptics happy by expressing his support for the European ideal, but stressing that Britain would only join the EEC if there were adequate safeguards for the Commonwealth and for British agriculture. His announcement of a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EEC in 1975 was a classic example of Wilson's brilliant party management: any other policy would simply have split the party.

Wilson's cabinets and shadow cabinets reflected the broad nature of the Labour movement, including not just social democrats like Roy Jenkins and Tony Crosland, but committed socialists like Tony Benn, Barbara Castle and Michael Foot. Wilson found room for everyone - as Ziegler states: "His preoccupation was that no one - left or right, ideologue or pragmatist - should feel excluded." Right-wingers who feared being marginalised by the advent of Wilson - a man of the left - as party leader were pleasantly surprised by Wilson's approach, while the left were kept happy because their most prominent members were given important cabinet posts. Wilson forged friendly relationships with prominent business leaders while still keeping the beer and sandwiches ready at Number 10 for the union leaders.

Of course, Wilson had his detractors: as I mentioned in The First Post last week, the far-left, including Ed Miliband's father Ralph, a Marxist academic, believed that he had 'sold out' for failing to condemn US military action in Vietnam and that in office he had not been left-wing enough. But critically, the vast majority of the left in Britain stayed onboard: Labour's electoral decline only started after Wilson stepped down as party leader and Prime Minister in 1976. After Wilson left, Labour gradually fell apart - with the left- and right-wings engaging in a brutal civil war which enabled the Conservatives to stay in power for almost 20 years.

Wilson has never got the credit he deserved, but with the passage of time, his achievements in government look even more commendable. Without having the benefit of North Sea oil revenues, Wilson extended public ownership, abolished prescription charges, established the Open University and passed important legislation outlawing racial and sexual discrimination. The gap between rich and poor narrowed in the Wilson years and ordinary people saw a significant rise in their living standards.

It will be harder for Ed Miliband to emulate Wilson's achievements today, given the fact that the media is far more right-wing than it was in Wilson's heyday. And despite the ludicrous 'Red Ed' jibes, Miliband is, on several key policy areas, far more to the right than Wilson was, as I highlighted in The First Post last week. Nevertheless if Miliband can up his game and put together a programme of progressive policies that can unite the vast majority of people in the Labour movement the rewards could be huge.

For that to happen, Miliband needs to 'do a Wilson' and listen to all strands of opinion within his party and not just a narrow right-wing clique who have dominated Labour for far too long and whose pro-privatisation, pro-war views are not shared by the population at large. To show to Labour traditionalists that the New Labour days really are over, he must find roles for prominent left-wingers like Diane Abbott and John McDonnell. But, in the interests of party unity, he also needs to find suitable positions for those who opposed his candidacy, such as Alan Johnson, the former Home Secretary, who backed Miliband's brother David. "What a change from Hugh (Gaitskell)! That man knows how to get the best out of people," enthused Tony Benn, on Wilson's leadership skills.

Labour supporters will be hoping that they'll be saying the same thing about Ed Miliband in a few years' time.

Telling Sweet Nothings To Power

Andrew Bacevich writes:

Once a serious journalist, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward now makes a very fine living as chief gossip-monger of the governing class. Early on in his career, along with Carl Bernstein, his partner at the time, Woodward confronted power. Today, by relentlessly exalting Washington trivia, he flatters power. His reporting does not inform. It titillates.

A new Woodward book, Obama’s Wars, is a guaranteed blockbuster. It’s out this week, already causing a stir, and guaranteed to be forgotten the week after dropping off the bestseller lists. For good reason: when it comes to substance, any book written by Woodward has about as much heft as the latest potboiler penned by the likes of James Patterson or Tom Clancy.

Back in 2002, for example, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Woodward treated us to Bush at War. Based on interviews with unidentified officials close to President George W. Bush, the book offered a portrait of the president-as-resolute-war-leader that put him in a league with Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. But the book’s real juice came from what it revealed about events behind the scenes. “Bush’s war cabinet is riven with feuding,” reported the Times of London, which credited Woodward with revealing “the furious arguments and personal animosity” that divided Bush’s lieutenants.

Of course, the problem with the Bush administration wasn’t that folks on the inside didn’t play nice with one another. No, the problem was that the president and his inner circle committed a long series of catastrophic errors that produced an unnecessary and grotesquely mismanaged war. That war has cost the country dearly — although the people who engineered that catastrophe, many of them having pocketed handsome advances on their forthcoming memoirs, continue to manage quite well, thank you.

To judge by the publicity blitzkrieg announcing the arrival of Obama’s Wars in your local bookstore, the big news out of Washington is that, even today, politics there remains an intensely competitive sport, with the participants, whether in anger or frustration, sometimes speaking ill of one another.

Essentially, news reports indicate, Woodward has updated his script from 2002. The characters have different names, but the plot remains the same. Talk about jumping the shark.

So we learn that Obama political adviser David Axelrod doesn’t fully trust Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. National security adviser James Jones, a retired Marine general, doesn’t much care for the likes of Axelrod, and will say so behind his back. Almost everyone thinks Richard Holbrooke, chief State Department impresario of the AfPak portfolio, is a jerk. And — stop the presses — when under the influence of alcohol, General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, is alleged to use the word “f**ked.” These are the sort of shocking revelations that make you a headliner on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Based on what we have learned so far from those select few provided with advance copies of the book — mostly reporters for the Post and The New York Times who, for whatever reason, seem happy to serve as its shills — Obama’s Wars contains hints of another story, the significance of which seems to have eluded Woodward.

The theme of that story is not whether Dick likes Jane, but whether the Constitution remains an operative document. The Constitution explicitly assigns to the president the role of commander-in-chief. Responsibility for the direction of American wars rests with him. According to the principle of civilian control, senior military officers advise and execute, but it’s the president who decides. That’s the theory, at least. Reality turns out to be considerably different and, to be kind about it, more complicated.

Obama’s Wars reportedly contains this comment by President Obama to Secretary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates regarding Afghanistan: “I’m not doing 10 years… I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”

Aren’t you, Mr. President? Don’t be so sure.

Obama’s Wars also affirms what we already suspected about the decision-making process that led up to the president’s announcement at West Point in December 2009 to prolong and escalate the war. Bluntly put, the Pentagon gamed the process to exclude any possibility of Obama rendering a decision not to its liking.

Pick your surge: 20,000 troops? Or 30,000 troops? Or 40,000 troops? Only the most powerful man in the world — or Goldilocks contemplating three bowls of porridge — could handle a decision like that. Even as Obama opted for the middle course, the real decision had already been made elsewhere by others: the war in Afghanistan would expand and continue.

And then there’s this from the estimable General David Petraeus: ”I don’t think you win this war,” Woodward quotes the field commander as saying. “I think you keep fighting… This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”

Here we confront a series of questions to which Woodward (not to mention the rest of Washington) remains steadfastly oblivious. Why fight a war that even the general in charge says can’t be won? What will the perpetuation of this conflict cost? Who will it benefit? Does the ostensibly most powerful nation in the world have no choice but to wage permanent war? Are there no alternatives? Can Obama shut down an unwinnable war now about to enter its tenth year? Or is he — along with the rest of us — a prisoner of war?

President Obama has repeatedly stated that in July 2011 a withdrawal of U. S. troops from Afghanistan will commence. No one quite knows exactly what that means. Will the withdrawal be symbolic? General Petraeus has already made it abundantly clear that he will entertain nothing more. Or will July signal that the Afghan War — and by extension the Global War on Terror launched nine years ago — is finally coming to an end?

Between now and next summer attentive Americans will learn much about how national security policy is actually formulated and who is really in charge. Just don’t expect Bob Woodward to offer any enlightenment on the subject.

Sunday 26 September 2010

The Squeezed Middle

They are still at it.

They are still talking about the brother who lost, in the way that Simon Cowell always paid more attention to Gareth Gates than to Will Young. They are still defining as "the centre ground" the demented attempt to re-stimulate the economy by putting yet more people out of work and by withdrawing yet more spending power, a scheme any deviation from which is termed "a lurch to the Left".

They are still calling the rich "Middle England" and "the middle classes"; Ed Balls told Jon Sopel that "the middle income is thirty thousand pounds", which should at least guarantee that he remains Shadow Education Secretary, at which he is good, rather than being moved to Shadow Chancellor, at which he would clearly be hopeless.

And they are still presenting trade union members as creatures from outer space, with those nurses and care workers, dustmen and bus drivers whose only political activity is the payment of the levy depicted as somehow less normal than the quite abnormal people, and I know of which I speak, whose hobby is local politics, or even than MPs, who have a thoroughly abnormal manner of life. David Aaronovitch told Andrew Marr that Britain should adopt something like American primaries. He had a point. But at present, the affiliated organisations section of Labour's Electoral College is by far the nearest thing to that. Ed, not David, Miliband won it.

The Squeezed Middle? We certainly are.


I had never before seen, or even heard of, Sunday Morning Live. I am normally at Mass when it is on. But I am confined to barracks today while some medication does its work in anticipation of tomorrow's latest in the never-ending proddings of my apparently fascinating innards. So expect no more posting or comment moderation until Tuesday. And I have now seen Sunday Morning Live, which featured a working prostitute as a mainstream, respectable guest. On the BBC. At public expense. The "free" market in action, of course. Go to Mass instead.

The Local and The Quirky

Although he is wrong to oppose AV, Nick Cohen is right when he writes:

Too few people have noticed the authoritarian implications of reducing the number of MPs. Like electoral reform, constituencies of equal size sounds like a marvellous idea. But in an attempt to secure party advantage, the Conservatives will rush a process that ought to be handled carefully. The Boundary Commission will not just liquidate 50 seats, it will reorganise the boundaries of hundreds of other constituencies to find new homes for the abandoned voters. Metropolitan commentators dismiss complaints as special pleading from Labour, which will probably lose ground to the Tories.

They do not understand that most people in Britain still live and die close to where they are born. A sense of place and an attachment to their town or city remain central to many citizens' identity. The Tories are instructing the Boundary Commission to forget about local pride and dispense with public inquiries, where voters in Wolverhampton, for example, could object to being moved into Dudley or voters from Portsmouth could object to being annexed by the Isle of Wight.

At their best, Conservatives once understood the importance of the local and the quirky. Cameron is giving up on the Burkean tradition and carving up Britain like a demented socialist planner scoring lines on a map, not just because he may win more seats but because "reform" will also make the Commons easier for the executive to control.

Consider the position of the harassed MP in the new order. He or she will have thousands more constituents. But they will not have more staff to serve them. A grateful executive has taken the opportunity of the expenses' scandal to hack the resources they need to represent their constituents and investigate the state.
More to the point, if Tory MPs object to Cameron's policies, they will find it far harder to combine with the opposition to mount a successful rebellion. The PM is not proposing to match a cut in the number of MPs with a cut in the number of ministers and junior ministers who must toe the party line or lose their jobs. The payroll vote will remain as strong as ever, while the number of potentially rebellious backbenchers falls.

Say what you will about his hunger for power, but Cameron emerged from the coalition negotiations as a formidable political operator. After making sure the public could not vote on or even attend public inquiries to contest his boundary changes, he made certain that Clegg's proposed "reform" would be subject to a referendum he could well lose.

Forming The Core

We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.

The sum total of the attention paid to these issues in A Pledge to America.

Who is pointing out that, to say the very least, none of these is honoured by neoliberal economics or neoconservative foreign policy? That the America which did honour these things enabled herself to do so by means of highly extensive local, state and federal government action?

That nothing in the record of the GOP begins to match the Hyde Amendment, which was proposed by a Republican, but which was passed by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by Jimmy Carter? That the Senate Healthcare Bill passed to placate Blue Dogs who voted against it anyway, and wavering Republicans who did not exist, is not only vastly less responsible fiscally than would have been the House Bill, but also vastly less pro-life? That the Pregnant Women Support Act will harness the power of the federal government to save countless lives in the womb, but would probably fail the strict constructionist test written into the Pledge?

That traditional marriage is Obama's own view, that the voters of California and Florida re-affirmed it on the same day that they gave their Electoral College votes to him, and that the borderline (if borderline) secessionist tendencies in and around the Tea Parties would do nothing to prevent state-level deviations from it, just as they would do nothing to prevent state-level continuations of abortion, the eradication of which by federal action, not least against poverty, is a cause comparable in every way to the use of such action to eradicate Jim Crow?

Among so very, very, very much else besides.

Saturday 25 September 2010

"Sharing Britain's Progressive Future"

Too long, and containing one of those silly yet sinister Political Class words. Without that, it would have been fine, including by being utterly innocuous.

Oh, well, here we are. Let the world take note that the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will be an anti-Zionist Jew. Yes, he comes out of the metropolitan Marxist émigré intelligentsia rather than the Labour Movement. But, unlike his brother, he has bothered to find out about the Labour Movement, to build bridges to it, and even to come to resemble it in parts. Hence his election by easily the largest section of the Electoral College, the one, moreover, not made up exclusively, predominantly, or even all that significantly of people whose hobby is politics, very largely for its own sake. The general public in this process, and which has no role in the Conservative or Lib Dem processes, has backed Ed, not David, Miliband.

No, he has never done anything outside politics. Only Diane Abbott had, and she was the first candidate to be eliminated. Talk of newly elected MPs with a serious chance of getting onto the Shadow Cabinet also illustrates what a closed class politicians have become. But speaking of the Shadow Cabinet, it is now absolutely imperative to keep David Miliband off it. Most of those MPs who supported him did so, in an open ballot, because they thought that he was going to win. But he has lost now, and they now have a secret ballot.

After all, precisely which portfolio would be appropriate for a man who thinks that the only problem with the cuts is that they do not go far enough, and who supports the removal of security of tenure from social housing tenants, the introduction of “free” schools (which no one wants to become, so look out for compulsion), selling off our GP services to American healthcare companies, engaging private companies at public expense in order to persecute supposed benefit cheats, creating for-profit universities, privatising the Royal Mail, abolishing all three Armed Forces by “merging” them under American command, and so many other things now being implemented by this Blairite Government complete with Alan Milburn, but unrestrained by Gordon Brown? He has long wanted to means test Child Benefit. He devised all of these measures while Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit.

David Miliband is, however, opposed to some things about this Government: withdrawal from Afghanistan, restoration of the link between pensions and earnings, taking the working poor out of income tax, the abandonment of identity cards, electoral reform, an inquiry into his own complicity in torture, dismantlement of the surveillance state, a renewed emphasis on a manufacturing-based economy diffused throughout the country, removal from Job Centres of advertisements for the sex industry, David Cameron’s acceptance of the principle of the maximum multiple, Iain Duncan Smith’s acceptance of the principle of a minimum income guaranteed universally by the State, expansion both of nuclear power and of coal, opening up of the serious possibility that Trident might be cancelled, one coalition partner that really did oppose the Iraq War while the other at least has the decency to pretend that it did so, and the pursuit of bilateral ties with Russia, with China, with Latin American countries, with the Arab world in general and the United Arab Emirates in particular, with India, with Indonesia, with Japan, with the major Commonwealth countries of Africa, and through the Commonwealth generally, among others. Again, exactly which portfolio would be appropriate for man who was opposed to those policies, and why? Or, indeed, for anyone who seriously wanted him as Leader?

Still, we are lucky to have been made aware of the result. Perhaps I should have watched it on Sky, or listened to it on Radio Four, but instead I had to sit through Emily Maitlis and Nick Robinson talking over the top of it, in the same way that the BBC's lot talk over the top of parliamentary proceedings, and for the same reason: the utter conviction, both that they themselves are the real point, and that everyone is an uninterested in politics, properly so called, as they are. Nadir was reached today when Robinson imposed himself over Ann Black to announce that the favoured David Miliband had won. We never did hear Ann Black actually announce the correct result. Thank you, Auntie. You have excelled yourself.

Beyond Their Ken

Just as, if Cameron was so frightened of David Miliband, then why did the right-wing press and the Cameron-worshipping BBC want him to win, so why did they want Oona King to win if she posed the slightest realistic threat to Boris Johnson? Whatever else Ken Livingstone may be, he is quite possibly the most ruthless political operator in Britain today. Oona King simply isn't. Nor, for that matter, is Boris Johnson. Ken's re-election will effectively be for life.

One Week Left At Large

On Friday, the Equalities Act, supported by all three parties, will come into effect. For the first time ever, Catholicism, simply as such, will be illegal in this country. See you in prison.

What Are We Paying For?

Once upon a time, we engineered a split from Sinn Féin, and it proceeded to hang the IRA. Sinn Féin never tired of pointing out that Fianna Fáil was "a British proxy", and only stopped doing so on itself becoming one in recent years. Fianna Fáil fulfilled its responsibilities as our proxy, producing the corpses of IRA men to prove it. When will Sinn Féin? Irish politics can be brutal. No one needs to tell them that. Do they?

Friday 24 September 2010

Party On?

Julie Burchill sometimes bemoans the utter impossibility of drumming out of the London media certain people from the right families. I have long suspected that she had Toby Young, hardly unknown to her, in mind.

Last night, the man most recently known for being the alleged support among the general public for a deranged schools policy which has now been as good as abandoned, was on This Week to shriek and screech that the Labour Party Leadership might be won by someone other than The Approved Candidate, and possibly even by someone who held Unapproved Opinions. And that with Labour already neck-and-neck with the Conservatives, even before the cuts. I mean, where would it all end? Britain must remain a one-party state, or else ... well, or else what, exactly?

Still, in order to preserve the One-Party State of Britain, the media has managed not to mention, or not to mention until it was too late to affect the outcome, that the One Party's candidate was a torturer who was going to enormous lengths to try and cover up his indictable crimes against humanity. Had the Fourth Estate done its job properly, then this evil, hateful creature's candidacy would have been strangled at birth, and he himself might very well have left Parliament by now. There might even have been some effect if the preening, increasingly co-opted "blogosphere" had exercised anything like the role that it claims to have.

The Blogging Establishment has, however, got its man in Tower Hamlets. Or, at any rate, it thinks that it has. But what if Lutfur Rahman's Independent candidacy for Mayor is successful, as Ken Livingstone's was back in the day? Labour has a very poor record where securing election to these thoroughly un-British offices is concerned. And you do not have to be the deeply unlikeable Rahman or one of his supporters to be more than a little uneasy as the presupposition, as if it were self-evident, that only white, upper-middle-class, Oxbridge secularists are morally eligible to participate in the political process, even down to merely joining a political party. People like that don't approve of the black churches, either. Or of the Catholic Church.

As for the calls for Labour to expel Labour Left Briefing, they are hardly the only washed-up, unrepentant old Communists, fellow-travellers and Trotskyists in the Labour Party. How about expelling them all? Beginning with the torturer, David Miliband. But that isn't going to happen, any more than the washed-up, unrepentant old Communists, fellow-travellers and Trotskyists who surround the Coalition are going to be kicked out of anything. It is time to start again.


Mehdi Hasan was dazzling on Question Time, until the last question. Then he claimed that "tens of thousands" of Catholic priests had been "accused of child rape". Eh?

Credit Where It Is Due

I am very pleased that there is to be greater protection for investors in building societies and credit unions. But I do not know which shames the Labour Party more, that it took this Coalition to do it, or that it took the EU to make the Parliament of the United Kingdom do it. Time to start again.

An Excellent Prospect

Prospect is always a good read, and the latest edition includes a fascinating article by David Marquand on Edmund Burke.

Marquand writes that "The little platoons that needs succouring are defenders of traditional ways of life like the Countryside Alliance, bodies like the Church of England that resist the hedonistic individualism now threatening to erode social bonds, and institutions like the trade unions that countervail untamed capitalism."

To which one should only add that defending traditional ways of life, resisting hedonistic individualism, and countervailing untamed capitalism, are all basically and ultimately the same cause. A cause, in all three aspects, for the Countryside Alliance, for the Church of England, for the trade unions, and for many, many, many more besides. All supported by exactly as much central and local government action as necessary. That is what the State is for, and that is why we will always need it.

Fun, But Fringe

This weekend, Thaxted is marking the centenary of the appointment of Conrad Noel. Well, fair enough, up to a point.

But Noel, Stewart Headlam, Henry Scott Holland and all that lot were, and are, interesting for their personal, liturgical, theological and political eccentricity, rather than for their influence, which was mostly negligible even on the sectarian fringes (although association with Noel was one of the reasons given by the Communist Party for the expulsion of the Trotskyists), and which was less than that on the Labour Movement of trade unionists and co-operators, Radical Liberals and Tory populists, Social Catholics and Distributists. The displacement of that mass popular Movement by the sectarian fringe is a story with which regular readers will be more than familiar.

In that Movement's urgently necessary reconstitution, the Christian Socialist tradition will again be vital. Inseparably bound up with the unions and with mutual enterprises, its two main sources and expressions were in the Radical Liberal chapels, and among those to whom catholicity was not necessarily the length of lace on one's cotta, or the wearing of a rustic Sarum cassock with a leather belt and a Canterbury cap, but full and visible communion, uncompromised and uncompromising, with the Petrine See of Rome.

Large Local Difficulties

I am very glad that England is not to undergo a revaluation for the purposes of the Council Tax, an arbitrary levy on the theoretical value of an asset which in any case one might not own, and which one certainly cannot sell unless one is supposed to go and live up a tree or something. The restoration of the rates in all but name was paid for by a two and a half per cent increase in VAT, which was hardly any way to help the poor. And all the old middle-class rates exemptions (students, clergy, &c) were brought back; they remain in place to this day.

But the myths prevail, both that the Council Tax is “universal” (in fact, it specifically replaced a universal tax, the universality of which was presented as the problem with it – astonishingly few people, rather than addresses, are liable for Council Tax), and that the Poll Tax was a massively unfair imposition on the poor, who in reality had it paid for them through the benefits system, or paid far less than they do now, or both.

Now, it is not my concern to defend the Poll Tax. It was in many ways misconceived, and in every imaginable way badly implemented. But if the people who had complained most vociferously about it had been the poor, then it would still be in place. No government since 1979 has cared tuppence about the poor. When Thatcher blamed an underclass for rioting against being dragged into any sort of civic participation, and blamed Major and Heseltine for giving in to that underclass, then she was right. Just not in the way that she thought.

That underclass was not economic, but moral. It was not the poor. It was well-heeled students, dossing graduates, and people like that. That was why there was any surrender. There would have been none to the poor. And those are the people who did, and do, object to any sort of civic participation; extremely poor people either ignore such things or never hear about them in the first place, rather than objecting to them. They who so objected did so because of the words and deeds of Margaret Thatcher, with her active scorn for the public realm and her instruction to her followers that their good fortune was their moral superiority, so that others less privileged were manifestly less worthy.

The Poll Tax has become a useful way of explaining the fall of Thatcher without mentioning the EU, just as unilateral nuclear disarmament (advocated by the Gaitskellites and many Tories in the Fifties and Sixties, and not Labour Party policy until two years and a General Election after the Limehouse Declaration) has become a useful way of explaining the creation of the SDP without mentioning that it was a direct intervention in the British electoral process by a President of the European Commission acting as such. Be not deceived, in either case.

It is also worth pointing out the very odd mythic status of the Poll Tax in Scotland, where it was introduced a year early by popular demand, where there was never a riot against it, where the Tories experienced a net gain of one seat in 1992, and where a party which bangs on and on about its alleged iniquity is now determined on replacing the Council Tax with something more than suspiciously like it.

Everyone uses lots of local services. Unless they send their children to private schools, as hardly anyone does, then most people make as much such use as each other, regardless of class or income; indeed, such things as street lighting are often significantly better in more affluent areas. But hardly anyone votes in local elections, because local government is emasculated yet expensive, and notoriously unaccountable. It has not always been any of those things.

We need to restore in full the proper powers of local government, with no tendering out of services in Conservative areas to the people who fund the local Conservative Party (in Labour areas, the Labour-funding unions rightly make sure that things are kept in house), no ultra vires principle, no surcharging, no capping (local government is in fact significantly less profligate than central government), none of the things that would not be tolerated in any other comparable country, not least including the frequent redrawing of boundaries, abolition of whole tiers, and such like.

We need to bring back the old committee system, which gave individual councillors real clout, and so made it worthwhile to buttonhole them in the street, in the pub, or wherever, or indeed to write to, telephone or email them. Eric Pickles has made a good start in allowing a return to that system, but he needs to require it.

We need a system whereby each of us votes for one candidate and the requisite number, never fewer than two, is elected at the end.

And we need a fair, efficient, comprehensible and accountable system of funding. Until anyone presents me with a better alternative, then I continue to propose an annual flat fee, fixed by the council in question, strictly voluntary, entitling the payer to vote and stand in elections to the council, and payable through the benefits system on behalf of the very poor. Central government would continue to meet much or all of the cost of statutory services to statutory standards. With its fees, the council could do pretty much whatever it liked on top, directly accountable to the people paying the bills.

All Loonies Together

Ahmadinejad’s theories about 9/11 are exactly as sane as any belief in an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, or in such a programme’s threat to America or Britain even if it existed, or 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 America or Britain even if they had existed, or that Obama was not born in America, or in anything peddled by the supporters of Lyndon LaRouche, one of whom is the Democratic nominee in the 22nd Congressional District of Texas. Except that Ahmadinejad (like, to be fair, LaRouche) has never started a war.

Full of Wind

The world's largest offshore wind farm? Well, hurrah!

It is not that these things have no possible role. But they are supplementary. Two things are core. One is coal, on which this island largely stands. The other is nuclear power.

The Colbert Report

"Break Dancing Jesus" of this parish once posted one of his splenetic comments when I pointed out that the idea of a planned economy had come down to the Attlee Government, via the Liberal Keynes, from "the conservative Colbert". Poor, thick, overprivileged BDJ had seriously assumed that I had meant Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report. Was he joking, as I would have been, and as you probably would have been? No, he was not. Any more than the several other thick, overprivileged spewers of bile on here would have been. Reading this, they doubtless imagine that he was right. So quite what he made of today's proceedings on Capitol Hill, I can only begin to imagine. Unless, that is, he feels like telling us?

Almost Heaven

The electors of West Virginia have the opportunity to return to Senate Governor Joe Manchin, a potentially filibuster-breaking Democrat who is a pro-life Catholic, who is a member of the NRA, who is a strong supporter of coal, and who is wanted for the job by the AFL-CIO.

And those of that state's First Congressional District have the opportunity to return Mike Oliverio, another pro-life Catholic and supporter of President Obama's view that marriage is only ever the union between one man and one woman. Oliverio is selling himself as a fiscal conservative, but since he is inside the Democratic Party, he can and must be presented with exactly how fiscally conservative, fiscally responsible, and indeed pro-life, pro-family, patriotic, and generally conservative morally, socially and culturally, neoliberal economics and neoconservative foreign policy are not.

Oliverio's nomination was secured with help from the RNC operatives who purport to be the organised pro-life movement. But he has been nominated now. Once he has also been elected and has thus become a caucusing Democrat on Capitol Hill, then he can be turned. Turned on to the fact that the public option and then the single-payer system, bringing with them the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, would have been, and therefore must be, as vastly more pro-life as they are vastly more responsible and conservative fiscally, compared to enormous public subsidies to the insurance companies, without Stupak-Pitts, in order to appease Blue Dogs who voted against that Bill anyway and "moderate Republicans" who turned out not to exist at all.

Meanwhile, the Pledge to America is being compared to the 1994 Contract with America, but without the decency to dress appropriately when presenting it. Well, we all know the sort that swept onto the Hill in 1994. And, consequently, what happened in 1996.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Many Happy Returns

Having this day attained the age of the Lord's Death, I am now going to start saying exactly what I really think.

Reclaiming The Streets, And Much Else Besides

Four, five, six cheers for Sir Dennis O'Connor.

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, as Sir Dennis understands. Then we could and should return to proper sentencing, and to proper regimes in prison. But only then.

Restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law. Requirement of a resolution of the House of Commons (itself elected so as better to represent the breadth and depth of public opinion, and accordingly from candidates selected by means better involving the general electorate) before any ruling of the European Court of Justice, or of the European Court of Human Rights, or of the "Supreme Court", or pursuant to the Human Rights Act, can have any effect in the United Kingdom. Restoration of British overall control of our defence capability. Removal of all foreign forces and weapons from British territory, territorial waters and airspace.

Abandonment of the existing erosion of trial by jury and of the right to silence, of the existing reversals of the burden of proof, of the provision for conviction by majority verdict (which, by definition, provide for conviction even where there is reasonable doubt), of the admission of anonymous evidence other than from undercover Police Officers, of the provision for conviction on anonymous evidence alone, of both pre-trial convictions and pre-trial acquittals by the Crown Prosecution Service, of the secrecy of the family courts (although that is improving), of the anonymity of adult accusers in rape cases, of any thought of identity cards, of control orders, of the provision for Police confiscation of assets without a conviction, of stipendiary magistrates, of Thatcher's Police and Criminal Evidence Act, of the Civil Contingencies Act, of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act, and of the Official Secrets Acts.

Raising of the minimum age for jurors at least to 21. A return to preventative policing based on foot patrols, with budgetary sanctions against recalcitrant Chief Constables who failed to implement this. Police Forces at least no larger than at present, and subject to local democratic accountability though Police Authorities, not through elected sheriffs. Restoration of the pre-1968 committal powers of the magistracy, along with the pre-1985 prosecution powers of the Police. Each offence to carry a minimum sentence of one third of its maximum sentence, or of 15 years' imprisonment where that maximum sentence is life imprisonment. A single category of illegal drug, with a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on. Return to the situation whereby a Bill which ran out of parliamentary time was lost at the end of that session.

That would be a start, anyway.

In The Lead

The election of a new Leader of the UUP offers an opportunity to the next Leader of the Labour Party, to say that he will make himself and his party the mainland voice of mainstream opinion in Northern Ireland, by opposing any significant move there unless it is supported by all three of the SDLP, the UUP (for whom the link-up with Cameron has done absolutely nothing, so that it has now been effectively repudiated) and the Alliance Party (about which the Lib Dems have pretty much forgotten since they hit the big time).

Looks like the soul of moderation, doesn't it? So it is. Not least, since whichever of the UUP and the DUP is not on top at the given time is always that bit more integrationist and more sceptical about the carve-up with Sinn Féin, as this result demonstrates. For that matter, that carve-up is hardly a cause dear to the heart of the SDLP, either.

Woodward: "Actually, I'm Not Dead"

Once upon a time, people clearly felt the need to feign outrage at the news that one party was bugging the other. These days, everyone not only assumes something like that to be the case, but feels no obligation to pretend that they do not. Watergate would not be a story on any level today. What sort of progress that is, is not the point. It is just a fact.

Crazy Lefties

I do not belong to "the blogosphere". I am a bibliophile and a newsprint addict who thinks that people with nothing better to blog about than blogging, or than the awfulness of "the MSM" compared to it, ought not to have blogs, any more than people than people with nothing better to write about than the awfulness of blogs ought to have newspaper columns. So I may have a blog, but I am not a blogger.

However, I see that those who are, are cock-a-hoop at the defeat in the libel courts by one of their number of one Johanna Kaschke. Kaschke is late of Respect and before that (or was it?) of the Communist Party. She left Labour in 2007 after having failed to secure its nomination for Bethnal Green & Bow, and she ended that year by joining the Conservative Party, in which she has rapidly become quite a well-connected activist. Ms Kaschke maintains that alluding to her past brands her "a crazy lefty".

If she is, then she has joined the right party, and it is no wonder that she is doing so well in it. In fact, the entire SWP faction of Respect in her own Tower Hamlets not long ago defected thereto after having fallen out with the Islamists. Around the country, local factions of various Asian and other origins routinely defect from Labour or other things to the Conservatives on frankly communal grounds, and are always welcomed with open arms.

But of course they are. It was David Cameron's vehicles that toured Ealing Southall blasting out in Asian languages that Hindu, Muslim and Sikh festivals would be made public holidays under the Tories. It was his "Quality of Life Commission" (don't laugh, it's real) that then proposed giving the power to decide these things to "local community leaders". What else would those figures be given the power to decide in return for filling in every postal voting form in their households in the Bullingdon Boys' interest, and making sure that all their mates did likewise? To the statelets thus created – little Caliphates, little Hindutvas, little Khalistans, and so on – people minded to live in such places would flock from the ends of the earth, entrenching the situation for ever.

The Conservative Party recently welcomed, with some fanfare, John Marek, who was fiercely anti-monarchist and anti-hunting while Labour MP for Wrexham, and who went on to become the founder and only ever Leader of Forward Wales, a Welsh separatist, Welsh-speaking supremacist, economically Hard Left, unyieldingly Politically Correct, Tommy Sheridan-endorsed, RMT-funded party which was only dissolved in January of this year.

Will Cameron also recruit, if he has not already done so, Marek's fellow founder-members of Forward Wales: Ron Davies, one of the very few former Cabinet Ministers without a seat in either House, and a noted campaigner both against shooting and for the abolition of the monarchy, recalling Marek's own parliamentary question to Tony Blair requesting that the Oath of Allegiance be replaced with something acceptable to anti-monarchists; Graeme Beard, a former Plaid Cymru councillor in Caerphilly; and Klaus Armstrong-Braun, who in his time on Flintshire County Council was the only Green Party member ever elected at county level in Wales? Cameron has already signed up Mohammad Asghar, a Member of the Welsh Assembly who has moved seamlessly from Plaid Cymru to the Cameroons.

And so on, and on, and on, and on, and on. They obviously find the 1980s Radical Right's company as congenial as they find each other's. As well they might. Blue is the new Red-Brown.

If either "the blogosphere" or "the MSM" ever paid any attention to any of this, then I should have a great deal more respect for whichever of them did so.

Vince Was Right

Rod Liddle writes:

What exactly was wrong with the Vince Cable’s address to the Lib Dem party conference? It seemed to me measured and enlightened. He suggested that the supposedly free market was often “irrational or rigged”, which is surely uncontentious. And that capitalism militated in favour of monopolies, abhorring free competition. Perfectly reasonable judgment again. And then that the pay of various people in the city, and those bonuses, seemed out of proportion to their talents or the work which they had done. What is wrong with any of that?

Business leaders have reacted patronisingly by saying that Vince shouldn’t talk this sort of stuff, it’s ok if you are some Lib Dem opposition spokesman but beyond the pale for a government minister. But it’s the truth, and no less the truth now that the Lib Dems have formed this unholy alliance and reside in a sort of power. Why is it ok to attack benefit claimants for the amount of money they obtain from the state but not ok to attack the far greater sums filched from the state via our big businesses? Just wondered.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Cable Conservatism

Pat McFadden laid into anyone who dared to suggest that global capitalism was anything less than utterly wonderful. But still some of you insist on remaining in the Labour Party. You can doubtless guess whom McFadden has nominated for Leader.

Anyway, perhaps Vince Cable believes in agriculture, manufacturing, and small business. In national sovereignty, the Union, and economic patriotism. In local variation, historical consciousness, traditional moral and social values, and the whole Biblical and Classical patrimony of the West. In close-knit communities, law and order, civil liberties, academic standards, all forms of art, and mass political participation within a constitutional framework ("King and People" against the Whig magnates).

Perhaps Vince Cable believes in conservation rather than environmentalism. In sound money, a realistic foreign policy, a strong defence capability used only for the most sparing and strictly defensive purposes, the Commonwealth, the constitutional and other ties among the Realms and Territories having the British monarch as Head of State or other such constitutional links, the status of the English language and the rights of its speakers both throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere (with the Celtic languages alongside English in their areas, French alongside English in Quebec, and so on, being examples of local variation to be conserved, though not to be imposed elsewhere), and the rights of British-descended communities throughout the world.

Perhaps Vince Cable believes in exactly as much central and local government action as is required by these and numerous other priorities, a profound suspicion of an American influence and action characteristically defined against them, and an active desire for a different American approach.

And perhaps Vince Cable is less than enamoured of the campaigns for globalism, Eurofederalism and Political Correctness run jointly by big business and by giant, equally acquisitive and monopolistic organisations to which the term "trade union" does not properly apply.

But alas that he seems determined to compromise that conservatism by supporting the privatisation of the Royal Mail. A worker share? They already own it. We all do. We are being taken back to the days of the biggest anti-conservative of them all, and to her conning of people into buying what they already owned.

How Red Is Ed?

Over in The First Post, Neil Clark writes:

According to his critics, he's a dangerous left-wing radical who, if he ever became prime minister, would take Britain back to the Socialist 1970s. According to his supporters, he's the man who will lead Labour away from Blairism and reconnect the party with its core supporters and traditional values. Both his detractors and supporters are in agreement that Ed Miliband - who could well be Labour leader when the results of the party ballot are revealed this weekend - is the candidate for 'change'. Miliband himself has as his campaign slogan: 'Call for Change'. But if we look beyond the rhetoric and the sound-bites, a very different picture emerges.

The reality is that Ed Miliband is not so much the 'change' candidate, but a politician who will deliver more of the same neo-liberal policies that both Conservative and Labour governments have followed over the past 30 years. Genuinely left-wing politicians talk about dismantling capitalism or radically reforming it. Miliband calls instead for a 'capitalism which works for people'. Genuine socialists believe in public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. Ed Miliband doesn't even advocate re-nationalisation of the railways - a move supported by a majority of Tory voters, never mind Labour party members.

If Miliband were a committed leftist, he would surely have been proud to have been labeled a Bennite. Instead, when the Guardian's Decca Aitkenhead mentioned 'the whisper' that he was really a disciple of Tony Benn, he went off 'like a shotgun' - as if Bennism was some appalling disease. And it's hard to imagine a genuine socialist accepting a donation from a hedge fund, headed by a multimillionaire trader who has profited greatly from currency speculation and the credit crunch. With his pro-capitalist, pro-globalisation views, Miliband is, in fact, further to the right than many European Christian Democrats, who believe that big shops should stay closed on Sundays and that the state should run the railways. He's certainly further to the right than old school One Nation Tories like Harold Macmillan, Rab Butler and Sir Ian Gilmour, all of whom supported a mixed economy.

The fact that Miliband can be labelled 'left-wing' at all is a sign of how far to the right Britain has travelled in the past 30 years. Back in the 1960s, the far-left, including Miliband's father Ralph, a Marxist academic, lambasted Labour leader Harold Wilson for being too 'right-wing'. Yet Wilson extended public ownership, set up the Open University, abolished prescription charges and kept British troops out of Vietnam. Today, Wilson's pro-mixed-economy, social democratic views would position him well to the left of the political spectrum, but 45 years ago his positions were mainstream. Miliband's policies - of establishing a High Pay Commission, of campaigning for a living wage of £7.60 an hour and increasing taxes on the wealthy - may place him to the left of his ultra-Blairite brother David, and of the ruling Thatcherite coalition, but they hardly make him Britain's answer to Hugo Chavez.

In the current climate, it's easy to understand why many leftists have backed Miliband's leadership campaign. "Diane Abbot can't win and Ed's the best of the rest" is the logic many seem to have followed. In addition, Miliband comes across as a reasonably likeable politician and came out very well in the recent MPs expenses scandal, being described as "a saint" by the Daily Telegraph for his low claims. But those who hope that the younger Miliband - for all his personal attributes - is the man who will lead a socialist - or even a social democratic - revival in Britain are likely to be in for a major let-down.

Those on the right meanwhile can continue to sleep easily in their beds, secure in the knowledge that in the next general election, Britain's three main parties will once again be led by men who think that capitalism is the only show in town.

But he is still the best hope of beating his brother.

The Same Goal

Paul Buhle writes:

Over a conference table at a Washington hotel on March 20, a couple dozen antiwar activists and intellectuals, yours truly included, met to hash out the beginnings of a most unusual movement. We wanted to end American war and American Empire, against the evident bipartisan determination to keep both of them going. There never was such a boundary-crossing event before, at least not in my 50 year political lifetime or any historical incident that I can recall.

Not quite true. The Populists, arguably the one literal grassroots movement that most nearly overturned the two party system in a handful of states, brought together a kind of cultural conservatism, bathed in scorn of city life, and political radicalism. The antiwar movement of the 1910s made Republican German- and Scandinavian-Americans of the northern Midwest and Great Plains states turns to the Farmer-Labor movement, under a variety of names, and again, in the middle 1930s, to join campus antiwar activists in resisting the militarization of American culture. Even as Pearl Harbor drew close, Norman Thomas stood on platforms with outspoken conservatives urging some other solution than US entry with the inevitable counterparts of conscription, loss of civil liberties, etc. They were wrong about the war but, at least after Truman came to power, right after all about the doleful consequences of mobilization for war. The big state, with its military-industrial part not at all benign, was here to stay.

Even these past sagas, now relegated to a kind of pre-history, seem very different from the little gathering of magazine editors, journalists, youth activists against war. We live in a time so strange that several nineteen year olds joined us, devotees of maverick Texas congressman Ron Paul, had been at the conservative CPAC convention the day before, on their feet cheering Paul's call for an end to US occupations overseas while neocon elders sat in their chairs, glowering. A time so strange that these kids sat a few seats away from Jon Berger, the SDSer on hand, reminding me of my own SDS days and the historic moment when isolationists joined us against the Vietnam War. The shared sentiment never became a real movement forty years ago, but this time it might.

The editors of The Nation, American Conservative, Reason, The Progressive Review (on line), Black Agenda Report (on radio) and the Veterans for Peace Newsletter were all very much were on the scene, although perhaps not so prominent as notables Ralph Nader or William Greider. The event-coordinator, Kevin Zeese, is director of Voters for Peace but perhaps better remembered as a longtime, prominent figure urging an end to the drug war.

The premise was simple, if difficult to grasp entirely at first: the crisis of empire has generated a wave of distrust, make a sense of outrage simultaneous among erstwhile Leftwing enthusiasts of Obama (this writer included) and Rightwingers who get labeled "Isolationist" but cannot be pinned down precisely on issues beyond their opposition to US interventions, occupations and military bases abroad. Well, it does sound simple. Perhaps the real problem has been a lack of trust among varied opponents of war, a combination of the usual Lesser Evil voting and a growing, parallel if not mutual sense of political despair.

There proved ample room for agreement as well as disagreement, summed up for me in one exchange. I proposed a return to the late 19th century title, "American Anti-Imperialist League," set up by Boston Brahmins to oppose the bloody war on the Philippines. A conservative sitting improbably to my left complained that the phrase "anti-imperialist" brought visions to his reader of Jane Fonda, whereas "opposition to empire" would give them a proper perspective. (I was loath to mention what recovered past visions of Jane Fonda might do to, or for, me.) In other words, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan made us both rage and weep, while the remembrance of the 1960s made him rage and me weep … with nostalgia.

We had, however, the same goal: bring the troops home now. And we had better learn to work on that together, somehow or other, if we didn't want rightwingers gulled by Sarah Palin and leftwingers waiting, waiting and waiting hopelessly for Obama to do the right thing globally. It's easy for either side to project nuttiness in the other. Speaking only for myself, I have a useful yardstick for these particular conservatives' favorite politician: I ask myself whether Ron Paul is crazier than my evangelical relatives. The answer is personally satisfying, even when Paul goes off on a tangent about abolishing the Fed (well, not a bad idea) or something about immigration that I do not like at all.

Veteran peace mobilizers, like Sam Smith, Mike McPherson of Veterans for Peace, and young peace mobilizers, like the SDS activist Jon Berger from the University of Maryland, offered some of the most useful, i.e., practical reflections and questions of the day. How would a multiracial coalition of antiwar conservatives and radicals operate? And how would they overcome what remains a crucial distinction between distaste and disillusion toward a president whose election seemed so promising (alternatively: threatening, at least frustrating) but whose global military strategy was and is dead certain to remain both catastrophically expensive and just plain awful? There aren't any easy answers, but the route toward them must lie in a better understanding, and that, at least, seems to have been achieved.

At the end of this day, the presence of the van den Heuvel-style mover-shakers on various points of the spectrum might well have been the most impressive fact in evidence. It wasn't, because their affable expressions mirrored something deeper, the ground changing beneath all our feet. Somehow, the delayed crash of Cold War Liberalism may finally have happened, as it could not happen under either Clinton (the male one) or Bush. It is awfully hard to see what lays on the other side, but as aging Pan African giant CLR James wrote after reading The Gulag Archipelago: "at least we know." The bipartisan military-industrial empire has hit the skids and may be in ruins the day after tomorrow, so to speak. At any rate, their Demo-Republican credibility is gone. Now the rest of us had better speak up and begin organizing alternatives.

Who, Whom?

Tom Meehan writes:

This week, my home state of Pennsylvania woke to find the Rendell Administration embarrassed for hiring a private security firm to spy on his own citizenry. Their best defense was that they needed infrastructure threat information to satisfy the Federal Government. So Rendell is firing the company after letting them observe and report on us for at least a year. The press is playing gotcha while the legislature presses for disclosure of the secret reports. So far it seems that the contract spies uncovered a plot by environmental extremists to stop d natural gas exploration by nefariously speaking up at public meetings. I wait with baited breath for new revelations.

Absent from the coverage was a healthy interest in just who was spying on whom. Will anyone be surprised to learn that when looking for experts on how to address the security threat posed by Pennsylvanians to their own government, Rendell's people reached out to the Israeli's? The Institute of Terrorism and Response (ITRR) describes itself as..."an American and Israeli nonprofit corporation created to help organizations succeed and prosper in a world threatened by terrorism." Their specialty?

"Our US-based experts specialize in facing and overcoming domestic forms of terrorism like environmental, ecological, anti-abortion, anti-government, and "home-grown" religious extremism. We have expertise in a wide range of fields including law-enforcement, corporate security, homeland-security, intelligence, law, emergency medicine, and anti-terrorism. The Philadelphia office is also home to our campus-outreach initiative; a nationwide network and fusion-center of students and scholars united against terrorism."

"Anti-government", "anti-abortion" and "ecological threats", it may come as a relief to some that these foreign goons kept the Commonwealth safe from ecological ninnies, Catholics and the Tea Party. Frankly I'd prefer to be spied on by fellow Americans rather than people who learned law enforcement by breaking heads on the West Bank.

If that sounds like hyperbole, consider the desired "Course outcome" one gets from their training.

"The Anti-Terrorism / Response to Terrorism student, upon completion of the course has an understanding of the treat of terrorist attacks and methods; and will be able to incorporate the preparedness and response procedures utilized in Israel into their jurisdictional Homeland Security Planning, Preparedness, Training and Response procedures."

Since there is no reference to the inconvenient existence of our constitution, we'll just have to take it on faith that trainees understand that bulldozing our houses is not an option here.

The institute, which exists in the form of two post boxes, one in Philadelphia and the other in Jerusalem, also operates educational initiatives, including campus seminars, international internships, delegations to Israel, research projects and grant collaboration described thusly, "ITRR has experience with various grant programs DHS, HRSA, and CDC. We form mutual sustainable partnerships with academic institutions to obtain such grants, ensuring the continuance of important training and educational programs." The unmistakable implication here is that they can help you get grants from your own government you might not get on your own.

The penetration of our society by the personnel and institutions of any foreign power is troubling. Actually hiring out our security to persons from a country actively encouraging our entry into disastrous wars is suicidal.

Philip Giraldi adds:

The bigger question is to what extent has the security infrastructure of the United States been outsourced. To be sure, most of the outsourcing has gone to Israeli companies that have been able to exploit their alleged expertise on security issues. They have also benefitted from Congress’ grant of preferential status to Israelis when bidding on US government contracts, meaning that they often are able to undercut US companies because they have few R&D expenses, having either stolen the technology from US competitors or having received subsidies from the Israeli government to enhance their competitiveness. Israeli companies now dominate in the areas of transportation and telecommunications security, both of which are critical national infrastructures that should be restricted only to American companies employing American citizens.

One recalls that at the time of the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinski scandal there were reports that the NSA had determined that a foreign nation had been listening in to White House phone calls. That foreign nation was Israel, able to do so because several Israeli companies had the contracts to provide various services relating to telephone monitoring. The Israeli companies involved are still active, having changed their names and shifted their business locations to the US, but their ownership and management continues to be Israeli.

Israeli owned airline security companies are also in the game, acting frequently as the local Mossad station. The companies have a number of times been caught isolating and then interrogating passengers who were apparently of interest to Israeli intelligence, but they continue to benefit from large contracts in both Europe and the United States to provided security services.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Gesture Politics

I hope that Lib Dem delegates feel better. But there are going to be few or no "free" schools, anyway. As this week goes on, they are going to have to do better than this. Will they? If not, why not?

Pay and Conditions

There should be a statutory ban on anyone's being paid more than the Prime Minister. As there should be on paying any employee more than ten times what you pay any of your 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. Possibly, that median would do as the salary for MPs. Certainly, it would not go down as a result of this measure if, as urgently needs to be happened, the contracting out of public services were discontinued and all such work were brought back in house.

Leading us to the definition of the public sector. At the very least, it includes the many politically well-connected companies dependent on public contracts. It includes the companies owned or controlled by Academy sponsors and handed lucrative contracts, met entirely out of the public purse, by Academies with, since they purport to be private schools, no obligation to put out to tender. And it includes the bailed-out banks. At the very least.

The Meat of the Matter

Fan of face-covering, polygamy or minarets though I am not, I should much rather eat halal meat, the legality of which is also a serviceable weapon against the hunting ban, than ingest the products of much of what is now "mainstream" farming. Neither side in this battle is the side of our traditional culture. More is the pity.

Follow Peter

Specifically, follow him around asking why he campaigns to lower the age of consent to 14, and is on record that "it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful".

Richard Dawkins might also be followed around and asked what formation in the Augustinian doctrine of Original Sin was given either to Stalin or to Mao, just for a start, and how he knows that the human species did not descend from a single pair. Then again, despite the BBC's reporting of their childish scream for attention as Saturday's main event (though with the numbers couched in such terms as "up to"), are they really worth bothering with after the spectacular failure of their campaign against the Holy Father's visit?

Definitely worth bothering with, however, is the persistent use of the term "stem-cell research" to mean scientifically worthless but morally abhorrent playing about with embryonic stem cells, together with the viciously cruel justification of this by reference to an ever-longer list of medical conditions. The real stem-cell research involves adult and cord blood stem cells, is ethically unproblematic, and has already yielded real results, but struggles to secure funding because it is of no interest to those who cannot forgive the Catholic Church either for having educated them or, as in the case of Richard Dawkins, for having educated the wrong sort.

The Price of Tea

The O’Donnell nomination is jaw-dropping. With no means of supporting herself, she ran as a Tea Party candidate for Senate in order to live off the campaign contributions. So much for a mass popular movement. She couldn’t have done that if it were really any such thing. It is textbook astroturfing, the corporate faking of grass roots.

Guess Who's Not Coming To Dinner?

With uncharacteristic kindness about the GOP's treatment of conservatives, Patrick J. Buchanan writes:

“Blacks for Gray, Whites for Fenty,” ran the nuanced headline on page one of the Washington Examiner. The story told of how black Mayor Adrian Fenty, who got rave reviews for appointing Michelle Rhee to save District of Columbia schools, was crushed six to one in black wards east of the Anacostia River, as he rolled up margins of three to one in the white wards west of Rock Creek Park. In Fenty’s political obit, it was said, he devoted too much time and gave too many appointments to non-blacks in a rapidly gentrifying city where black folks are still the majority. After one term, Fenty is out. And there may a lesson here for the black man in the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

For, at a weekend gathering of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, a commission is preparing a report card on how our first black president is dealing with issues of concern to black America. Last week, an open letter came from public policy scholar Dr. Boyce Watkins, who gave it to Obama with the bark on. Black unemployment last month hit 16.7 percent. Among black teenagers, it is 45 percent. Blacks, wrote Watkins, “bear the brunt of this economic crisis in ways that are unimaginable to other Americans. Our homes are being foreclosed on more often, and we are less able to rely on a source of background wealth to help us get through.”

Yet as this crisis deepens for black America, Obama and Sen. Harry Reid are pursuing an amnesty called the DREAM Act for 2 million illegal aliens, as a prelude to full amnesty for 12 to 20 million. These illegals hold 8 million jobs that would otherwise be available to black Americans. In 2009, as unemployment soared under Obama, the U.S. government issued 1.131 million green cards, 808,000 of them for immigrants of working age, the fourth highest number of foreign workers brought into this country in history. Why, with 25 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, are we importing a million foreign workers? Why are we not sending the illegals back, as President Eisenhower did, and imposing a moratorium on new immigration, as FDR did, to save American jobs for American workers?

African-Americans have other grievances. Whatever you say about tea party folks, they ride to the rescue of their embattled own, like Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell. And the Obama Democrats? What did they do for African-American William Thompson, who lost to Michael Bloomberg by 4.6 points in 2009 and would be mayor of New York if Obama’s people had gone all-out for him? Bloomberg spent $100 million to bury the under-funded Thompson. Democrats have now sent their one black U.S. senator, Roland Burris, packing, telling him not to run again. They turned their backs on Alvin Greene in South Carolina, who admittedly has big issues. But what have they done for black Rep. Kendrick Meek, who won a major primary victory in Florida and is in a three-way race for the Senate?

Meek is the only black with a chance to be in that select body of 100. Yet some Democrats talk of cutting Meek and backing Gov. Charlie Crist because Crist may have a better shot at winning. What did Republican-turned-independent Crist ever do for the Democratic Party? If Obama and his party had gone all-out for Meek, as the tea party has for Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky, Meek might be in the hunt.

Consider the most prestigious appointments Obama has made. Though black folks accounted for one-fourth of all of Obama’s votes in 2008, Obama has continued a Democratic tradition of not naming any blacks as national security adviser, CIA director, secretary of state, secretary of defense or secretary of the treasury. Republicans have appointed two African-Americans as secretary of state and two as national security adviser. Colin Powell also served as chairman of the joint chiefs. Bill Clinton had two nominations to the Supreme Court. Obama has had two. Not one of the four they picked was black. The only black sitting justice, Clarence Thomas, was appointed by George H.W. Bush.

While Obama did name the first black attorney general, the only place that black Democrats get preferential treatment is … the House Ethics Committee. At one point this year, all eight suspects under investigation were members of the Black Caucus — a statistical impossibility. Like conservatives in the GOP, blacks in the Democratic Party are the old reliables. They do not cut and run. They were there for Clinton during impeachment, and as others depart, they are there for Obama. But while conservatives always get one of their own on every national ticket, and all of their own on the Supreme Court, African-Americans seem to settle for a few back-of-the-bus Cabinet seats.

Say what you will about the right. But if their party took them for granted the way Democratic presidents take black constituents for granted in plum appointments, there’d be a whole lot of shakin’ going on.

On the protection of American jobs, there is now a natural alliance between conservatives and the unions. On halting and reversing the national emergency of unrestricted and illegal immigration, and on making English the only official language of the United States, there is now a natural alliance between conservatives and anyone with a black base.

On fair trade agreements, repealing much or all of the USA Patriot Act, ending completely the neoconservative war agenda, strict campaign finance reform, a crackdown against corporate influence generally and corporate welfare in particular, and tax cuts for the poor and the middle class, there is now a natural alliance between conservatives and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

On decency in the media, there is now a natural alliance between conservatives and those in the tradition of the late C Dolores Tucker and of Father Michael Pfleger. And there is now a natural alliance around the fact that the black male is the victim of a triple genocide in the womb, on the streets, and on the battlefield.

What is more, if you voted for Buchanan in 2000, then you have voted for something that neither big party has ever offered, namely a Presidential ticket with a black woman on it.