Saturday 30 June 2018

Blowing Out The Candles?

According to the BBC, 50,000 or more people took to the streets of London today, "to celebrate the seventieth birthday of the NHS." As if it had been a birthday party. Are they aware that Jeremy Corbyn made a speech? Or do they imagine that he performed magic tricks for the children?

Armed Forces Day?

This strange idea of Gordon Brown's has never caught the public imagination. Who needs it? Try dealing with the pay and conditions of the Armed Forces instead. Try dealing with what has always been this country's obscene treatment of veterans. And try staying out of wars.

Plucky Little Belgium?

No, that condescension seems out of place. Belgium has now suspended all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

British Officers are in the control room of the Saudi bombing of Yemen, the biggest humanitarian catastrophe in the world today. They have been, and they are, training the Saudis in and for the war in Yemen. 

And of course, the Saudis are the power behind Jaysh al-Islam, the Army of Islam, "our" side in Syria. The Syrian Arab Army, it should be added, reflects the Syrian population in being 80 per cent Sunni Muslim. Syria's is not a sectarian war. It is a war between those who value the immemorially pluralist Syria, and those, organised and funded from outside, who want to destroy it in favour of something else entirely.

The supply of British arms to Saudi Arabia needs to be brought back to the floor of the House of Commons as a matter of the utmost urgency. The rather good Labour Chief Whip ought to publish in advance the list of MPs with leave of absence. For anyone else, abstention this time ought to mean deselection in due season, and universal moral revulsion with immediate effect. No such person ought to be re-elected. Therefore, no such person ought to be reselected.

At least in view of the continuing failure of Labour to pursue this course of action, who will do so? My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

Trial Date Watch: Day 62

More than 11 weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served even the whole of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 117

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Friday 29 June 2018

On This Rock

Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam Meam. 

Considering the claims that the See of Rome makes, then, while individual Popes might be or have been charlatans or lunatics, the institution itself is either telling the truth in making those claims, or else it is indeed the Antichrist, and any professing Christian who does not submit to Rome on Rome’s own terms must believe it to be so. 

Who will call good evil by pointing to the Papacy’s defence and promotion of metaphysical realism, of Biblical historicity, of credal and Chalcedonian orthodoxy, of the sanctity of human life, of Biblical standards of sexual morality, of social justice, and of peace, and by then saying, “Behold, the Antichrist”? That is the question.

Ah, Faith of Our Fathers. Father Faber, like a striking number of Tractarian or Tractarian-influenced converts, had an ancestry that was largely Huguenot (as is part of mine, although another side is Highland Catholic). So his “fathers chained in prisons dark” were not quite as his thoroughly rousing hymn would suggest.

The Lanchester Review: On Not Being A Tribal Politician

My latest is here:

I am firmly a man of the Left. I believe in economic equality and in international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends. In the struggle for economic equality, the leading role belongs to the working class, and the leading role within the working class belongs to the trade union movement. In the struggle for international peace, the leading role belongs to the working class and to the youth. Each of those struggles has always been fundamental to the other, and it always will be. The anti-racist and anti-imperialist struggles have always been fundamental to each and both of them, and they always will be. All other identity issues are subordinate within this, if they can be, or they are precluded by it, if they cannot be. Yes, I am firmly a man of the Left.

I am not, however, a Marxist, in the straightforward sense that I do not believe in dialectical materialism. Marxism asks many of the right questions, but it almost always gives the wrong answers, at least in practice. Its sense of its own inevitability is also thoroughly pernicious. Our gains have not been inevitable. We had to fight to make them, and we have to fight to keep them. I can and do work with Marxists. But I am not one of them. As they would be the first to tell you.

Therefore, I rejoiced at the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as a serious candidate for the Leadership of the Labour Party in 2015, ending a 21-year period during which Britain had had no political debate as such. Both economic policy and foreign policy had been off the agenda, and that despite the widespread unpopularity of the catastrophic economic and foreign policies that had been pursued as if they had been self-evident.

I have now been out of the Labour Party for far longer than I was ever in it, and I have profound differences with Corbyn, including the appointment of his enemies to frontbench and other positions, the overly cautious housing and transport policies, the Customs Union, the whipped abstentions on CETA and the EEA, the free vote on Syria, the whipped abstention on Trident, the acceptance of any part of the Government’s baseless claims about Salisbury and Douma, the complaint that the recent bombing of Syria had not been authorised by Parliament rather than that it had been wrong in itself, the failure to bring the arming of Saudi Arabia back to the floor of the House of Commons, the failure to travel to Iran in order to demand the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Abbas Edelat, the capitulation to neoliberal capitalism on the issues of drugs and prostitution, the support for the Government’s indulgence of the ludicrous theory of gender self-identification, the failure to secure justice for the 472 Teaching Assistants whose pay the Labour Durham County Council has cut by 23 per cent, the paying of court to the unrepresentative Board of Deputies of British Jews and to the astroturfed Jewish Leadership Council, the failure to prevent the suspension or expulsion of distinguished Jewish and other activists on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism, and the failure to nip in the bud the imported New York practice of smearing black activists as anti-Semitic if they become too uppity for the Liberal Establishment.

Nevertheless, the positive impact of Corbyn’s mere presence has been, and remains, breathtaking. Although she has failed to deliver on it, Theresa May’s Downing Street speech on becoming Prime Minister has been followed by talk of workers’ and consumers’ representation in corporate governance, of shareholders’ control over executive pay, of restrictions on pay differentials within companies, of an investment-based Industrial Strategy and infrastructure programme, of greatly increased housebuilding, of action against tax avoidance, of a ban on public contracts for tax-avoiding companies, of banning or greatly restricting foreign takeovers, of a ban on unpaid internships, of a cap on energy prices, and of an inquiry into Orgreave. And that was when she had thought that she was going to beat Corbyn out of the park.

Since then, he has deprived her of her overall majority, and she has had to make a deal with the DUP that has entirely repudiated the idea that austerity had been an economic necessity rather than a political choice. She has lately repeated that repudiation in relation to the funding of the National Health Service, and the only debate on that is now the debate as to which taxes to put up. Meanwhile, she, a Conservative Prime Minister, is now effectively on record that Britain ought no longer to attempt to remain a “tier one” military power.

Corbyn is therefore the most influential British politician in living memory, reshaping both parties to an extent that neither Margaret Thatcher nor Tony Blair could ever have imagined, and doing so, up to now, from Opposition. Indeed, he has hardly needed to do anything. It is almost enough that he exists. I for one yearn for him to become Prime Minister.

But none of that makes me a sectarian left-winger, or even a tribal Labour voter. The anti-cuts and anti-war movements were, and are, very broadly based, and they have always suffered from a failure to make the most of that fact, since they have always had the potential to speak for the great majority of people in every part of the country. For example, the cuts have been ruinous in the countryside. The 90 per cent public opposition to the Iraq War was arithmetically impossible without including the majority of Conservative supporters even in 2003. And so on.

My direct political experience has been as a hospital governor covering a huge and largely rural area, as a governor of two rural schools, as a member of Lanchester Parish Council, and around the Labour Leadership of the old Derwentside District Council, which it ran in alliance with the Independents against the rival Labour faction that is now disastrously mismanaging the unitary Durham County Council.

No party has ever fielded a full slate of candidates for Lanchester Parish Council, nor should it. But I have always used all 15 of my votes for it. Last year, I voted for 12 of the 15 successful candidates, variously Labour, Independent, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and No Description. On the same day, I took my own very public advice and voted for the County Council candidates best placed, as I judged it, to defeat Labour and thus to secure justice for the Teaching Assistants. On that basis, I had advocated the re-election of all Independent, Liberal Democrat, and Conservative incumbents who had sought it, and no Labour vote under any circumstance, not even for candidates to whom I was practically family. Had my advice been taken, then the Teaching Assistants would have won by now. But as it was, more attention was paid, with calamitous consequences, to the political advice of the man whom the new Member of Parliament for North West Durham has since appointed as her Political Advisor.

Although I ached to vote Labour at last year’s General Election, I could not do so, because the nationally imposed candidate, who had no previous connection to this constituency, had not supported the Teaching Assistants. Nor had any of the other Labour candidates in County Durham apart from Grahame Morris, whose re-election I therefore enthusiastically encouraged. Here in North West Durham, by contrast, the Liberal Democrat candidate was Owen Temple, a longstanding local councillor and one of the Teaching Assistants’ two greatest champions at County Hall.

So I voted for Owen and I urged others to do so, having voted for Labour’s much-missed Pat Glass in 2015, for the leading local Independent Watts Stelling in 2010 (because of Labour’s all-women shortlist, but I have a huge amount of respect for Pat), for Watts in 2005 (against Hilary Armstrong, because of Iraq), for Labour in 2001 because there was nothing else and because the first Blair term was by no means all bad, and for Labour in 1997 because that was just what my generation did after having come of age under John Major. Hey, even Tariq Ali has voted Lib Dem at a parliamentary election in his time. Although as far as I know, he has never voted Tory at one. Nor have I. Yet?

I did call for a Labour vote everywhere outside County Durham except at Manchester Gorton, where I supported George Galloway, a man who agrees with everything in the first eight paragraphs of this article, and with whom I also agree on a lot of other things such as abortion, assisted suicide, fathers’ rights, opposition to Scottish and Catalan separatism, the need to control immigration in the trade union interest, and understanding why people voted for Donald Trump even without agreeing with them, although certainly finding Hillary Clinton to have been equally unacceptable. George and I do disagree, too. While I am no Zionist, I accept the simple existence of the State of Israel as a fact of life after four generations of Israelis, and I dislike academic and cultural boycotts as contrary to the nature of scholarship, art and science. He flatly refused to me to fly to Iran, which he knows well and where he is known well, to rescue Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. But the agreement between us is vast, and the parliamentary process is poorer for his absence. Still, there is time yet. And he did once say live on air that he would take a seat in the House of Lords if I did.

I have also voted four different ways at my four European Elections: Socialist Labour, Respect, No2EU, and then Labour only in 2014 because the Eurofederalist ultra Stephen Hughes had retired. Who in the Corbyn inner circle, being old enough, has never voted for any of the Socialist Labour Party, Respect, No2EU, or one of the affiliates to the second or third of those?

I am now working with all of the non-Labour members of Durham County Council and with the trade unions, to bring Volkswagen’s production for the British market to County Durham after, or even before, Brexit, and I am more than open to further suggestions along similar lines. As the Member of Parliament for North West Durham, my Westminster office would be a global centre for the broadly based opposition and alternative to neoliberal economic policy and neoconservative foreign policy, strongly asserting that opposition and that alternative as the real centre ground.

I am both a product and a feature of the political pluralism of North West Durham, where Labour holds fewer than half of the County Council seats, the Conservative parliamentary candidate won 34 per cent of the vote last year, the Liberal Democrat candidate cut the Labour majority in half in 2010, and an Independent kept his deposit both in 2005 and in 2010. Wear Valley was controlled for a time by the Liberal Democrats, who remained numerous on it until its abolition. Derwentside was in practice controlled by an alliance between the Independents and that section of the local Labour Party which now supports my parliamentary candidacy; its Leader from that time, Councillor Alex Watson OBE, is one of my Campaign Patrons, as well as being, with Owen Temple, the other great champion of the Teaching Assistants on the County Council. My other Campaign Patron, and again a stalwart of the Teaching Assistants’ campaign, is Davey Ayre, a legendary local trade unionist.

I would appoint an Independent, a Labourite, a Conservative and a Liberal Democrat in each of the County Wards, ideally including at least one person in each of the former District Wards, to work with me and with local people. The price of my support for any Government in the coming hung Parliament would be the necessary support for a number of projects in each of the former District Wards equal to the former number of District Councillors, together with justice for the Teaching Assistants, and together with the implementation of the plan for the rail service in the North of England that was recently advanced by well over 20 local and regional newspapers, most of which have never supported Labour, and only one of which did so last year. And yes, I do mean the price of my support for any Government. Even a Government headed by Jeremy Corbyn.

I need £10,000 in order to stand for Parliament with any chance of winning. My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

Deeply Immersed In Torture

Again I say that if Laura Pidcock has not reported this to the Police by five o'clock on Monday afternoon, then I will. Craig Murray writes:

Even I was taken aback by the sheer scale of British active involvement in extraordinary rendition revealed by yesterday’s report of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. 

Dominic Grieve and the committee deserve congratulations for their honesty, integrity and above all persistence. It is plain from the report that 10 Downing Street did everything possible to handicap the work of the committee. 

Most crucially they were allowed only to interview extremely senior civil servants and not allowed to interview those actively engaged in the torture and rendition programme. Theresa May specifically and deliberately ruled out the Committee from questioning any official who might be placed at risk of criminal proceedings – see para 11 of the report. 

The determination of the government to protect those who were complicit in torture tells us much more about their future intentions than any fake apology. In fact it is impossible to read paras 9 to 14 without being astonished at the sheer audacity of Theresa May’s attempts to obstruct the inquiry. 

They were allowed to interview only 4 out of 23 requested witnesses, and those were not allowed “to talk about the specifics of the operations in which they were involved nor fill in any gaps in the timeline”. 

If the UK had a genuinely free media, this executive obstruction of the Inquiry would be the lead story. Instead it is not mentioned in any corporate or state media, despite the committee report containing a firm protest:
It is worth reflecting that the Tory government has acted time and time again to protect New Labour’s Tony Blair, David Miliband, Jack Straw and Gordon Brown from any punishment for their complicity in torture, and indeed to limit the information on it available to the public.

The truth is that the Tories and New Labour (which includes the vast majority of current Labour MPs) are all a part of the same elite interest group, and when under pressure they stick together as a class against the people. 

Despite being hamstrung by government, the Committee managed through exhaustive research of classified documents to pull together evidence of British involvement in extraordinary rendition and mistreatment of detainees on a massive scale.

The Committee found 596 individual documented incidents of the security services obtaining “intelligence” from detainee interrogations involving torture or severe mistreatment, ranging from two incidents of direct involvement, “13 to 15” of actually being in the room, through those where the US or other authorities admitted to the torture, to those where the detainee told the officer they had been tortured. They found three instances where the UK had paid for rendition flights.

My own evidence to the Committee focused on the over-arching policy framework, and specifically the fact that Jack Straw and Richard Dearlove had agreed a deliberate and considered policy of obtaining intelligence through torture. 

The report includes disappointingly little of my evidence, as the Committee has taken a very narrow view of its remit to oversee the intelligence agencies. This is the only part of my evidence included:
130. This was not unique to the Agencies. Their sponsoring Departments appear to have adopted the same approach. We heard evidence from a former FCO official, Craig Murray, who suggested that “there was a deliberate policy of not committing the discussion on receipt of intelligence through torture to paper in the Foreign Office”.
In July 2004, when he was Ambassador to Tashkent, he raised concerns about the use of Uzbek intelligence derived from torture in a formal exchange of telegrams with the FCO. Mr Murray drew our attention to FCO documents from the same time, which we have seen, one of which referred to “meetings to look at conditions of receipt of intelligence as a general issue”. He told us that the meetings “specifically discuss[ed] the receipt of intelligence under torture from Uzbekistan” and “were absolutely key to the formation of policy on extraordinary rendition and intelligence”.
Mr Murray told us that, when he had given evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee about this, they sought the documents from the FCO which replied that the “meetings were informal meetings and were not minuted ”. He went on to say:
“the idea that you have regular meetings convened at director level, convened by the Director of Security and Intelligence, where you are discussing the receipt of intelligence from torture, and you do not minute those meetings is an impossibility, unless an actual decision or instruction not to minute the meetings has been given.… Were it not for me and my bloody-mindedness, … you would never know those meetings had happened. Nobody would ever know those meetings had happened.”

131. We note that we have not seen the minutes of these meetings either: this causes us great concern. Policy discussions on such an important issue should have been minuted. We support Mr Murray’s own conclusion that were it not for his actions these matters may never have come to light. 
Jack Straw to this day denies knowledge and involvement and famously told Parliament that the whole story about rendition and torture was a “conspiracy theory”.

Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop, because we have not been, and so what on earth a judicial inquiry would start to do I have no idea. I do not think it would be justified.

In fact I strongly recommend you to read the whole Hansard transcript, from Q21 to Q51, in which Jack Straw carries out the most sustained bravura performance of lying to parliament in modern history. 

The ISC report makes plain he was repeatedly involved in direct authorisations of rendition operations, while denying to parliament the very existence of such operations. For over a decade now the British government, be it Red Tory or Blue Tory, has been refusing calls for a proper public inquiry into its collusion with torture. 

The ISC report was meant to stand in place of such an Inquiry, but all it has done is reveal that there is a huge amount of complicity in torture, much more than we had realised, which the ISC itself states it was precluded from properly investigating because of government restrictions on its operations.

It also concluded in a separate report on current issues, that it is unable to state categorically that these practices have stopped. The Blair and Brown governments were deeply immersed in torture, a practice that increased hatred of the UK in the Muslim world and thus increased the threat of terrorism. Their ministers repeatedly lied about it, including to parliament. 

The British state has since repeatedly acted to ensure impunity for those involved, from Blair and Straw down to individual security service officers, who are not to be held responsible for their criminal complicity. This impunity of agents of the state is a complete guarantee that these evil practices will continue.

Not Fun, And Not Fair

Not even the Major Government had a death wish like this. 

Putting up Council Tax, making workers over 65 pay National Insurance, and levying National Insurance on income from occupational pensions.

Yes, you did read that third one correctly.

By simply giving up like this, the Conservative Party is spoiling all the fun.

"Where's Jeremy Corbyn?"

He is on Good Evening Britain, as he has also been on The Last Leg and on Celebrity Gogglebox, each of them watched by a very great deal more than 100,000 people.

He is at Saturday's NHS March, which could well be larger than that, but which will certainly receive nothing like as much coverage.

And he is at next month's Durham Miners' Gala, which, largely because of his presence, will be attended by at least double the number that "marched for Europe", but again with practically no attention from the supposedly national media.

National Service, Indeed

Conscription, eh? This, remember, is "the centre ground".  Support for never-ending global war is the mark of "moderation". To be opposed to it, from a variety of political positions, is to be an "extremist".

But I'll say this for Emmanuel Macron's revival of something that in Britain was abolished by the Conservatives: for so long as Donald Trump was the President of the United States, and there is no way that this dotty scheme is going to last much longer than that, then it will at least be National Service.

That is to say, it will be in the service of France. Tony Blair, by contrast, wanted to conscript this country's least accomplished 16-years-olds directly into the IDF.

But there is nothing to stop people from joining the Armed Forces. If they struggle to recruit, then they need to ask themselves why.

Trial Date Watch: Day 61

More than 11 weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served even the whole of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 116

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Thursday 28 June 2018

Money Well Spent?

At 69p per person, or whatever the real figure is, the monarchy keeps sweet a lot of people who need to be kept sweet. But I am entirely at a loss as to why it has that effect on them.

Either the Queen or her equally revered father has signed off on every nationalisation, every aspect of the Welfare State, every retreat from Empire, every loosening of Commonwealth ties, every social liberalisation, every constitutional change, and every EU treaty. If they could not have done otherwise, then why bother having a monarchy? What is it for?

I support public ownership and the Welfare State in principle, even if the practice has often fallen short. The same may be said of decolonisation, as a matter of historical interest. I find some social liberalisations and some constitutional changes a cause for joy, and others a cause for horror. I abhor the EU, and the weakening of the Commonwealth. But this is not about me.

Is it the job of a monarch, if not to acquire territory and subjects, then at least to hold them? If so, then George VI was by far the worst ever British monarch, and quite possibly the worst monarch that the world has ever seen.

And is it the job of a British monarch to maintain a Protestant society and culture in the United Kingdom? If so, then no predecessor has ever begun to approach the abject failure of Elizabeth II, a failure so complete that no successor will ever be able to equal it.

For all her undoubted personal piety, I am utterly baffled by the cult of the present Queen among Evangelical Protestants and among those who cleave to a more-or-less 1950s vision of Anglicanism, Presbyterianism or Methodism. What has either the monarchy or the Queen ever done for them?

During the present reign, Britain has become history’s most secular country, and the White British have become history’s most secular ethnic group, a trend that has been even more marked among those with Protestant backgrounds than it has been among Catholics, of whom I am one.

This has implications for the Windrush debate, and with nine Commonwealth Realms in or on the Caribbean, a fat lot of good being the Queen’s loyal subject has done anyone there. It also has implications for aspects of the debate around the Brexit that I have always supported. If you wanted to preserve and restore a Christian culture in this country, then you would welcome very large numbers of immigrants from the Caribbean, from Africa, and from Eastern Europe.

All non-ceremonial exercises of the Royal Prerogative, including Royal Assent, should be transferred to six, seven, eight or nine of nine Co-Presidents, with each of us voting for one candidate, and with the top nine elected to hold office for eight years.

That would enfranchise those who inexplicably looked to the monarchy to protect them from social democracy, or from social liberalism, or from European federalism, or what have you. Like hereditary peers, it has never done any such thing. Candidates would not be nominees of political parties, but any party of which a candidate happened to be a member would be listed next to his or her name on the ballot paper.

The Royal Family might relocate to the Canada of Justin Trudeau, who is their kind of politician in a way that neither Theresa May nor Jeremy Corbyn could ever hope to be. But the monarchy could continue to exist in Britain, too. If it kept sweet the people who needed to be kept sweet. In a word, liberals.

The Possibility For Reduced Tension

Mary Dejevsky writes: 

Once upon a time the announcement of a summit meeting between the leaders of two powerful and unpredictable states would have been greeted with relief, even hope. But for the second time this year, the response to such news – in much of the Western world at least – has been almost the opposite. 

When the President of the United States met Kim Jong-un – he of newly nuclear-capable North Korea – there was widespread concern that Donald Trump would be tricked into betraying vital US and Western interests. (He didn’t.) And the same warnings are being sounded now, before Trump embarks on his first formal summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on 16 July – with as little justification.

Even with Russia, the US is in a position of enormous economic and military superiority. It can pick and choose its concessions. And anyway, since when have dangerous military stand-offs (Syria), unresolved regional conflicts (Ukraine), and wars of words (the furore in Washington over so far unproven claims that Russia helped Trump to his election victory) been regarded as preferable to a personal meeting that might defuse East-West tensions? 

It need be nothing dramatic, no betrayal of the Western world, just the start of a process that could foster international security and save lives. Yet the opposition is ferocious – not just among Trump’s many foes in Washington, but from the UK and some other Europeans as well. Last weekend, there was reported to be “alarm” in Whitehall about the prospect of a US-Russia summit. “Fears” are now reported to be “growing” over a possible Trump-Putin “peace deal”. 

How so? Surely only because talk of “peace” might quash the politically useful image of Russia as the perpetual enemy. With the World Cup showing a more human – and less threatening – face of today’s Russia, heaven forfend that Trump and Putin might between them banish that equally useful spectre (for some) of a “new Cold War”. 

Some of the same considerations that fuelled opposition to the Trump-Kim summit are in play, too. They boil down to the notion that Donald Trump is too inexperienced or too naïve or too corrupt to be trusted with the defence of the West – and that Putin, as a veteran operator (and in Washington and London something of the devil incarnate) – could seize the advantage. 

After all, did not Trump say, during his campaign that he wanted to improve relations with Russia? Did he not suggest that Putin was a man he could talk to, while conceding that his best efforts might not actually work? And has this intention – which made for one of the starkest differences between his election platform and Hillary Clinton’s – not been a big reason, perhaps the biggest reason, for Trump’s subsequent difficulties in Washington? 

Well, yes. But none of that argues against a Trump-Putin summit. On the contrary, it should have happened much earlier. 

That is, first, because – like it or not, and a great deal of the US political and media establishment does not – Trump won the presidency. Granted he did not win the popular vote, but he won fair and square under the US electoral system as it stands. And he won on a platform that included trying to thaw relations with Russia. 

That has not stopped his opponents fighting tooth and nail to prevent him honouring that particular promise. The plethora of investigations into alleged Russian electoral interference and “collusion” is one way in which his freedom of action has been circumscribed. Congress has also passed measures – including new sanctions that only Congress can lift – which effectively curb the president’s leeway to deal with Russia still further. 

In this climate, it is to Trump’s credit, and Putin’s, too, that they have remained essentially above the political fray. They have resisted personal attacks, delegating any harsh words to members of their entourage, and speaking from time to time on the phone. At two previous meetings on the fringe of multilateral gatherings, they have snatched some one-to-one time – to the barely disguised horror of their respective teams. Now, finally, Trump is honouring his election promise. 

Second, it is because one-on-one meetings can be productive – for all leaders, but especially for a president such as Trump who sets so much store by personal rapport. 

For all the warnings that nothing will come out of it, so why bother – often from the very same people warning that Trump could get lured into a lopsided agreement – what is important is that the two leaders are able to meet in the same place and get along. As with the Kim summit, the meeting is essentially “the message”. The point at this stage – as with the first Thatcher and Reagan meetings with Gorbachev – is to open, or widen, a channel of personal communication that, in itself, reduces a great many other risks. 

Third, opponents of a summit insist that there is nothing to talk about. Or rather, nothing that would not entail concessions that no self-respecting US president should make. But there are at least two very specific topics for the agenda. 

One is Syria and the Middle East in general. US and Russian forces have, by dint of behind-the-scenes military discussions, miraculously avoided direct clashes in (or over) Syria. That the US has now apparently abandoned “its” rebel forces around the latest conflict zone (Daraa) suggests a belated acknowledgement that President Bashar al-Assad has essentially won.

The US – and the UK – have until now resisted Russia’s attempts to convene international talks with a view to Western involvement in a settlement and in reconstruction. Given the “facts on the ground”, it is high time for the US to help rather than hinder a peace plan for Syria. 

Then there is Ukraine. The murky involvement of Russia in eastern Ukraine, and the US decision to supply Javelin missiles to the Kiev government have created the potential for the conflict to escalate. There are signs, though, that Russia wants it to end, but is angling for something – in return. That something would be the loosening of sanctions, which have been more of a political than economic punishment. 

But there is not the slightest chance that Russia will give up Crimea – either now or for the foreseeable future – and Crimea is why many of the sanctions were imposed. Still, however, there might be an agreement to be struck, with international guarantees for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and security, and the status of Crimea – like that of Kosovo – left in limbo. 

So there is plenty for the two leaders to talk about, and there are the dim outlines of future deals that could, just, make the world a safer place. With Russia, as with North Korea, Trump is homing in on a single relationship, where a change in atmosphere could change much else. 

The Kim summit has already shown the possibility for reduced tension across the region and accelerated economic development for North Korea. Something similar – on a much bigger scale – can be glimpsed if Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin decide to get along.

Re: Offending

Imagine that I ever were to be put on trial. And imagine that I were convicted; that the claims of my enemies were believed beyond reasonable doubt by 10 or more of 12 randomly assembled members of the general public. 

The Government is planning to abolish custodial sentences of less than 12 months anyway, and I would be wildly unlikely to be given a year inside for whatever it is that they are pretending to think that I might have done.

But what if I did get 12 months, or more? Well, I could just self-define as a woman, and be sent to a "residential centre" instead.

Where There's Life?

Anthony Kennedy was one of the three, three, supporters of abortion who were nominated to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan.

Donald Trump will nominate a supporter of his immigration policies. But he is most unlikely to nominate an opponent of abortion.

In any case, regardless of the political composition of the Senate, no opponent of abortion could conceivably be confirmed.

Meanwhile, the people who insisted that Reagan, the Bushes, Dole, McCain and Romney were pro-life will continue to make the same insistence about Trump, on the same total lack of evidence.

Well, they do have to make a living somehow.

Taking Flight

Boris Johnson's nonattendance is now the stuff of daily parliamentary humour.

No one who aspired to be Prime Minister would avoid a Commons Division by taking a publicly funded 14-hour round trip to Afghanistan to attend a 10-minute, made up "meeting" with a man who had been in London only three weeks earlier.

But if Johnson is not Prime Minister by the time of the next General Election, then he seems less and less likely to contest what he himself has turned into his highly marginal seat.

Many of us never could understand why anyone took him seriously. The number of people who do so now reduces on a daily basis.

Leading Questions

Yesterday, Johnny Mercer asked the Prime Minister to confirm that she wished the United Kingdom to remain a "tier one" military power. Although she referred repeatedly to remaining a "leading" military power, she did not give that assurance. 

Leaving "tier one" is now as much of a consensus as taxing more in order to spend more on the NHS. The only dissidents are those Labour MPs who vote only when they are whipped to abstain, but who abstain the rest of the time.

Unlike their front bench, they also favour a second referendum, between staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union, and staying in the EU, with no Third Way. But in answer to Vince Cable, Theresa May pointedly failed to rule that out, either.

Intelligence and Security

What is Madeleine Albright doing in my country, never mind on my BBC? On the first point, although arguably not on the second, we have to put up with Tony Blair, because he is one of ours. But we do not have to put up with this.

Speaking of Blair, of course everyone always either knew about the abuse of detainees, or could have guessed. That remains the case even though the Americans have ordered the redaction of a report of a British parliamentary committee. Had I been on that committee, then I would have published the lot, and taken the consequences.

Yes, there does need to be a public inquiry. There also need to be one or more criminal trials. If there is enough evidence to charge me (which there is not, but for the sake of argument), then there is easily enough to charge Blair and others. 

Does it just need to someone to make a formal complaint to the Police? I am prepared to be generous on this one and hand it over to the sitting MP for North West Durham, since she is apparently the great hope of the Left. She has until five o'clock on Monday afternoon, which is more than long enough, to tweet that she has done the necessary.

Or I will.

Trial Date Watch: Day 60

More than 11 weeks after I had again been due to stand trial, I now no longer have a trial date, even though it is rightly a criminal offence to fail to attend one's trial.

Had I been tried, as expected, on 6th December, then, even had I been convicted, I would already have been released, since I would by now have served even the whole of a wildly improbable six month sentence.

The legal persecution of me, which has been going on for over a year, was initiated only in order to deter me from seeking public office or to prevent my election to it, and its continuation is only to one or both of those ends. Amnesty International is on the case.

Until there is anything to add to it, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Libel Watch: Day 115

The Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig, was so afraid that I was going to be elected to that authority, that he faked a death threat against himself and dozens of other Councillors.

Despite the complete lack of evidence, that matter is still being pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service as part of the attempt by the sacked Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to secure a Labour seat in one or other House of Parliament.

If I am wrong, then let Henig and Saunders sue me. Until they do, then this post will appear here every day that the post is delivered.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Hope For Us All Yet

I disagree with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on relatively few issues, but they are rather large ones. 

Even so, though, if she can administer a richly deserved defeat to Joe Crowley, then any of us might aspire to election. And that is before at least one potential by-election in this country in the near future. 

There is going to be another hung Parliament. That much is inevitable. I need £10,000 in order to stand for Parliament with any chance of winning.

My crowdfunding page has been taken down without my knowledge or consent. But you can still email instead, and that address accepts PayPal.

Maltese Cross-Road

George Galloway writes: 

Despite Malta’s commitment to peace, it could be dragged back to wars as ‘Malta’s Tony Blair’ takes his country into long uncharted water. But he should beware of barriers as loyalty to his predecessor, Dom Mintoff, runs deep.

I spent last weekend in Malta, down by the dockyard. Thirty years before on exactly that spot working class history was made, the mighty HMS Ark Royal was blocked by the dockers from entering that which they once called home on the grounds that they might be carrying nuclear weapons.

Blacksmiths, shipwright’s laborers and deckhands became admirals for the day as they tugged defunct rust-bucket, the "Copper Mountain”, into the middle of the harbor. Being refused entry into their former warm-water fortress reduced the Royal Navy’s rear admirals to helpless apoplexy.

My host at the weekend was the then-leader of the opposition Labour Party, who had called on the workers to take direct action. A one-time prime minister of Malta, Dr Karmenu Bonnici was acting in the tradition of independent Malta’s first prime minister, Dom Mintoff. 

Mintoff was a major figure in the politics of the 1970s, more remarkably so because his country then had a population smaller than many individual cities in the surrounding countries.

On his FIRST afternoon in office, in 1971 he was sworn in by the British governor whom he promptly ordered to pack his bags and prepare to leave.

He then summoned he head of NATO in Malta, an old Italian fascist by the name of Admiral Birindelli, declared him persona non grata and ordered him to leave the island immediately.

Not bad for a first day on the job.

Mintoff was the first European leader to recognize and build close economic relations with China, breaking all connections to Taiwan.

The Red China Dock, built by Chinese labour, was the very dock from which the workers would later block the Ark Royal.

When Mintoff later leased naval facilities back to the Royal Navy, it was on condition of the primacy of Maltese sovereignty and a signed copper-bottomed guarantee that no attack on any Arab country would ever be launched using Malta’s land sea or air.

I visited the tough streets of the appropriately named Bastion district in Valletta, from which he came and gained a deeper appreciation of the background to the anti-imperialist politics with which Mintoff imbued the Maltese labour movement.

Malta’s constitution, amended by Dom Mintoff, asserts the country’s neutrality and commits it to peace.

The Red China Dock is not what it was and not just in nomenclature. The one thousand dockworkers of thirty years ago are now just 100.

The Tito-ist “worker self-management” which used to see the dockers run the business has been forced by EU competition rules to permit its takeover by a foreign commercial outlet. The General Workers Union no longer calls the shots, or can stop them.

Despite its neutrality clause in the constitution Malta undoubtedly collaborated with the NATO destruction of the country’s neighbor Libya, just 200 miles away. French NATO war-planes continue to fly from Malta on war duties over Libya today.

Labour are back in power in Malta, but is not the same Labour and not the same Malta. If I tell you that Tony Blair is the new best friend of the Maltese Labour PM Joseph Muscat you will be able to read the shorthand.

Unspoken defiance of Malta’s constitutional commitment to peace and neutrality is one thing but brazen acts to the contrary are something else, especially if they are sails in the wind.

The refusal of a Russian “request”, which actually had never even been made for refueling its battle group led by the Admiral Kuznetsov in Malta, was a slap in the face for Russia and a display of open partisanship towards the NATO war on Syria. An attack on an Arab country Malta now evidently does support.

The Maltese Prime Minister Muscat followed through with an evidence-free allegation that his country had been targeted for “cyber-attack” from Russia, and a fanciful claim that Russia had mounted a “disinformation campaign” against the country’s government.

Russophobia has not stopped the Muscat government selling Maltese (and thus EU) passports to Russian oligarchs however, at one million euros apiece. Malta sells 1800 passports a year, a handy piece of business right enough bringing in nearly two billion euros a year to the treasury.

Though just 44, but 5 years in office, Prime Minister Muscat – known universally as Malta’s Tony Blair – has announced that he will retire before or at the country’s next general election, sparking speculation about what the avowedly “pro-business” PM will do next?

Make a pile of money, like his British hero, is obviously one possibility. But others wonder if a position on the international stage might not be more likely?

With a fair bit of Western political capital in the bank, the former MEP might even be a refreshing transfusion for the tired sclerotic leadership of the EU itself.

The question on everybody’s lips in Malta however, is will the prime minister go for broke, break with the party of Mintoff’s Labour and trade Malta’s non-alignment neutrality and commitment to peace in exchange for a glittering new crown.

Malta is fast becoming the gambling capital of Europe. But taking on Dom Mintoff’s legacy would be a very high risk game of chance.

Free Us From This

Joana Ramiro writes:

Outsourcing giant Serco was handed a colossal £3.6 billion in government contracts for private prisons and accompanying prison services – and it spells bad news for the Tories.

Private prisons have been around since the 1990s, following an outsourcing flurry by the government under a policy called Private Finance Initiatives, or PFI for short.

But the business has flourished in recent years, and turned into a multi billion pound industry for security companies like Serco, G4S, Sodexo, and even the maligned Carillion.

And now Serco is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, other shocking revelations have come to light.

How many private prisons are there?

There are currently 14 private prisons in Britain, with another series of young offender institutions (YOIs) and youth security facilities.

Serco runs five of the adult private prisons. G4S runs another five of them, plus at least three security training centres (STCs) and one YOI – including the infamous Medway STC and Oakhill YOI.

The rest of the 14 HM Prisons are run by Sodexo Justice Services.

How much do private companies make out of running prisons?

According to a Freedom of Information request by the office of shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon, the government’s most expensive contract is with Serco, for running HMP Thameside in South East London.

Serco got a cool £931 million from the taxpayer to run the facilities imprisoning 1232 people.

Thameside was part of the Design, Construct, Manage & Finance (DCMF) programme and it was given to Serco to build and run for 25 years. It opened in 2012 with an original capacity of 900.

Has it paid off?

No. The government admitted last July that it would not make a promised £115 million in savings from privatising prison services.

A statement from the National Offender Management Service said at the time:
“A contracting exercise exposed that historically the costs of maintenance and services were not clearly understood by the business and consequently planning assumptions have not held true. The contract is therefore underfunded and the declared efficiency savings reduced.”
Private prisons were also found to be rife in poor performance (particularly in Carillion’s case), contract failings and widespread violence both among prisoners and between prisoners and security staff.

G4S-run young facility Oakhill recorded 330 assaults in six months at the end of last year.

Why does it all spell Tory trouble?

Serco is under criminal investigation for allegedly overcharging the Department of Justice in an prisoner electronic monitoring contract.

But that didn’t stop the government from appointing the company’s former head of public affairs, Edward Argar, as the new junior justice minister earlier this month.

The Government has serious questions to answer about new Justice Minister Edward Argar's previous role at outsourcing giant Serco.

Burgon told Buzzfeed at the time that “it is in the public interest that the government clarifies what dealings Mr Argar will have with Serco in his new ministerial capacity.”

Will prisons be taken back into public hands then?

You’d think that would be the obvious conclusion, but instead Minister for Prisons, Rory Stewart, announced yesterday he would allowing companies to bid for two new contracts. One at the site of the former Glen Parva prison, and a new one at Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

Carillion had originally bid to build and run the sites, but its recent collapsed resulted in a whole new contracting process.

The projects are part of a £1.3 billion scheme by the government, aiming to create up to 10,000 new prison places.

Private companies will be hoping to build and run the site at Glen Parva, and manage the Wellingborough prison after it has been built by the state.

Burgon slammed the plans, accusing the government of being “obsessed” with privatising and outsourcing prisons.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary said:
“From the crisis in prisons maintenance to the failings of our probation services, the Tories’ obsession with privatisation and outsourcing has caused widespread damage to our justice system – and it’s the public who’ve had to foot the bill.

With a Labour government, there will be no new private prisons and no public sector prisons will be privatised. Labour will bring all the outsourced prison maintenance contracts back in house at the earliest possible opportunity. The Tories must abandon this failed experiment of prison privatisation.”

Remains to be seen whether Serco will be given the chance to bid.

The Conservative Case For Universal Healthcare

Chase Madar writes:

Don’t tell anyone, but American conservatives will soon be embracing single-payer healthcare, or some other form of socialized healthcare. Yes, that’s a bold claim given that a GOP-controlled Congress and President are poised to un-socialize a great deal of healthcare, and may even pull it off. 

But within five years, plenty of Republicans will be loudly supporting or quietly assenting to universal Medicare. And that’s a good thing, because socializing healthcare is the only demonstrably effective way to control costs and cover everyone. It results in a healthier country and it saves a ton of money. 

That may seem offensively counterintuitive. It’s generally assumed that universal healthcare will by definition cost more. In fact, in every first-world nation that has socialized medicine–whether it be  a heavily regulated multi-insurer system like Germany, single-payer like Canada, or a purely socialized system like the United Kingdom–-it costs less. 

A lot, lot less, in fact: While healthcare eats up nearly 18 percent of U.S. GDP, for other nations, from Australia and Canada to Germany and Japan, the figure hovers around 11 percent. (It’s no wonder that smarter capitalists like Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway are bemoaning the drag on U.S. firm competitiveness from high healthcare costs.) 

Nor are healthcare results in America anything to brag about: lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and poor scores on a wide range of important public health indicators. Why does socialized healthcare cost less? 

Getting rid of private insurers, which suck up a lot money without adding any value, would result in a huge savings, as much as 15 percent by one academic estimate published in the American Journal of Public Health. When the government flexing its monopsony muscle as the overwhelmingly largest buyer of medical services, drugs and technology, it would also lower prices–that’s what happens in nearly every other country. 

So while it’s a commonly progressive meme to contrast the national expenditure of one F-35 with our inability to “afford” single-payer healthcare–and I hesitate to say this lest word get out to our neocon friends–there is no need for a tradeoff. If we switched to single payer or another form of socialized medicine, we would actually have more money to spend on even more useless military hardware. 

The barrier to universal healthcare is not economic but political. Is profligate spending on health care really a conservative value? And what kind of market incentives are working anyway? It’s an odd kind of market transaction in which the buyer is stopped from negotiating the price

But that is exactly what Medicare Part D statutorily requires: The government is not allowed to haggle the prices of prescription drugs with major pharmaceutical companies, unlike in nearly every other rich country. (Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump pledged to end this masochism, but the 45th president has so far done nothing, and U.S. prescription drug prices remain the highest in the world.) 

Does anyone seriously think “medical savings accounts” with their obnoxious complexity and added paperwork are the right answer, and not some neoliberal joke? The objections to socialized healthcare crumble upon impact with the reality. 

One beloved piece of folklore is that once people are given free healthcare they’ll abuse it by going on weird medical joyrides, just because they can, or simply let themselves go because they’ll have free doctor visits.

I hate to ruin this gloating fantasy of lumpenproletariat irresponsibility, but people need to take an honest look at the various health crises in the United States compared to other OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries

If readily available healthcare turns people into hedonistic yahoos, why does Germany have less lethal drug overdoses than the U.S.? Why does Canada have less obesity and type II diabetes? Why does the Netherlands have less teen pregnancy and less HIV? 

The evidence is appallingly clear: Among first-world countries, the U.S. is a public health disaster zone. We have reached the point where the rationalist santería of economistic incentives in our healthcare policies have nothing to do with people as they actually are.

If socialized medicine could be in conformity with conservative principles, what about Republican principles? This may seem a nonstarter given the pious market Calvinism of Paul Ryan and Congressmen like Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who seem opposed to the very idea of health insurance of any kind at all. 

But their fanaticism is surprisingly unpopular in the U.S. According to recent polling, less than 25 percent of Americans approve of the recent GOP healthcare bills. Other polls show even lower numbers

These Republicans are also profoundly out of step with conservative parties in the rest of the world. Strange as it may seem to American Right, $600 EpiPens are not the sought-after goal of conservatives in other countries. In Canada, the single-payer healthcare system is such a part of national identity that even hard-right insurgents like Stockwell Day have enthusiastically pledged to maintain it

None of these systems are perfect, and all are subject to constant adjustment, but they do offer a better set of problems–the most any mature nation can ask for–than what we have in the U.S. And virtually no one looks at our expensive American mess as a model. 

I recently spoke with one German policy intellectual, Nico Lange, who runs the New York outpost of the German Christian Democrats’ main think tank, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, to get his thoughts on both American and German healthcare. 

Is socialized medicine the entering wedge of fascism and/or Stalinism? Are Germans less free than Americans because they all have healthcare (through a heavily regulated multi-payer system), and pay a hell of a lot less (11.3 percent of GDP) for it? Mr. Lange paused, and took an audible breath; I felt like I had put him in the awkward spot of inviting him over and asking for his honest opinion of the drapes and upholstery.

“Yes,” he said, “we are less free but security versus freedom is a classic balance! National healthcare makes for a more stable society, it’s a basic service that needs to be provided to secure an equal chance for living standards all over the country.”

Even as Mr. Lange delineated the conservative pedigree of socialized medicine in Germany–“You can certainly argue that Bismarck was a conservative in founding this system”–I had a hard time imagining many Democrats, let alone any Republican, making such arguments. 

Indeed, the official GOP stance is perhaps best described as Shkrelism than conservatism, after the weasel-faced pharma entrepreneur Martin Shkreli, who infamously jacked up the price of one lifesaving drug and is now being prosecuted for fraud. 

Though in fairness, this type of bloodsucking awfulness is quite bipartisan: Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan corporation, which jacked up the price of EpiPens from $100 to $600, is the daughter of Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who defended his daughter’s choice.

But GOP healthcare politics are at the moment spectacularly incoherent. Many GOP voters have told opinion polls that they hate Obamacare, but like the Affordable Care Act. And as the GOP healthcare bill continues to be massively unpopular, Donald Trump has lavished praise on Australia’s healthcare system (socialized, and eating up only 9.4 percent of the GDP there). 

Even in the GOP, this is where the votes are: Trump’s move to the center on questions of social insurance–Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security–was a big part of his appeal in the primaries. The rising alt-Right, not to hold them up as any moral authority, don’t seem to have any problem with universal Medicare either. 

It will fall on “reform conservatives” to convince themselves and others that single-payer or some kind of universal care is perfectly keeping with conservative principles, and, for the reasons outlined above, it’s really not much of a stretch. 

Lest this sound outlandish, consider how fully liberals have convinced themselves that the Affordable Care Act–a plan hatched at the Heritage Foundation for heaven’s sake, and first implemented by a Republican governor–is the every essence of liberal progressivism.

Trump’s candidly favorable view of Australian-style socialized healthcare is less likely a blip than the future of the GOP. Republican governors who actually have to govern, like Brian Sandoval and John Kasich, and media personalities like Joe Scarborough, and the Rock, will be soon talking up single-payer out of both fiscal probity, communitarian decency, and the in-your-face evidence that, ideology aside, this is what works. 

Even the Harvard Business Review is now giving single-payer favorable coverage. Sean Hannity and his angry brigade may be foaming at the mouth this week about the GOP failure to disembowel Obamacare, but Sean’s a sufficiently prehensile fellow to grasp at single-payer if it seems opportune–just look at his about-face on WikiLeaks. And though that opportunity has not arisen yet, check again in two years. 

The real obstacle may be the Democrats. As Max Fine, last surviving member of John F. Kennedy’s Medicare task force, recently told the Intercept,  “Single payer is the only real answer and some day I believe the Republicans will leap ahead of the Democrats and lead in its enactment,” he speculated, “just as did Bismarck in Germany and David Lloyd George and Churchill in the UK.” 

For now, an invigorating civil war is raging within the Democrats with the National Nurses Union, the savvy practitioner-wonks of the Physicians for a National Health Program, and thousands of everyday Americans shouting at their congressional reps at town hall meetings are clamoring for single-payer against the party’s donor base of horrified Big Pharma executives and affluent doctors. 

In a few years there might even be a left-right pincers movement against the neolib/neocon middle, whose unlovable professional-class technocrats are the main source of resistance to single payer.

I don’t want to oversell the friction-free smoothness of the GOP’s conversion to socialized healthcare. Our funny country will always have a cohort of InfoWars ooga-boogas, embittered anesthesiologists and Hayekian fundies for whom universal healthcare is a totalitarian jackboot.

But, and not to be a jerk, it’s worth remembering that Hayek himself supported the socialized healthcare of Western Europe in one of his most reasonable passages from The Road to Serfdom.

So even if there is some banshee GOP resistance at first, universal Medicare will swiftly become about as controversial as our government-run fire departments. Such, after all, was the trajectory of Medicare half a century ago. 

You read it here first, people: Within five years, the American Right will happily embrace socialized medicine.