Sunday, 31 May 2009

Respect is due: Amos Elon, 1926-2009

From his obituary in the Independent:

Amos Elon, a leading Israeli writer and historian who became increasingly disenchanted with the course taken by his country after the 1967 Six Day War, has died in Italy, his home since 2004, at the age of 82. He had leukaemia. Elon built up an unrivalled reputation in a 30-year career as a journalist on the liberal daily Haaretz, a public intellectual, and an early critic of the occupation and advocate of Palestinian self-determination. But he will probably best be remembered most for his books; an author who wrote with equal insight and scholarship about Zionism and its impact, and the assimilated pre-holocaust European jewry into which he himself had been born.

Elon was born in Vienna on 4 July 1926. His father, a businessman with a taste for adventure, left Austria for British-run Palestine two years later, bringing the rest of his family, including his young son, to join him in 1933, against the darkening background of Nazism. Elon grew up in Tel Aviv and was for three years a member of Haganah, the pre-state military which fought for Israel's independence, and after the 1948 war studied law and history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and at Cambridge. He joined Haaretz in 1951, and as a protégé of Gershom Shocken, the paper's publisher and editor-in-chief, was sent to Europe as a foreign correspondent and later for six years to Washington.

He was in his forties when he wrote the book which first made him famous. The Israelis: Founders and Sons was an early example of "revisionist" history, in which he examined critically, from an essentially left-wing Zionist perspective, the development of the Zionist project and its failure to take into account the plight of Arabs displaced by the founding of the Israeli state. "The Arabs bore no responsibility for the centuries-long suffering of Jews in Europe," he wrote. "Whatever their subsequent follies and outrages might be, the punishment of the Arabs for the sins of Europe must burden the conscience of Israelis for a long time to come." (1)

His position was not only just, it was patriotic and truly pro-Israeli. Israel will not survive if it refuses to address the massive injustice it has committed. Until it does, it will be hated, attacked and possibly destroyed. Unfortuantely, the people of Isreal seem to be listening more to the strident, intransigent ideologues, who might be viserally appealing but offer no future for Israelis or Palestinians.
1 - "Amos Elon: Writer who became disillusioned with Zionism and advocated Palestinian self-determination," obituary written by Donald MacIntyre, published in The Independent, 28th of May, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/amos-elon-writer-who-became-disillusioned-with-zionism-and-advocated-palestinian-selfdetermination-1691760.html)

Something to do in Britain, if you're mad

Tommorrow, David Irivng, the not-at-all-mad and certainly not a racist, anti-semite, holocaust denier, liar, fraud, fool or blithering idiot, will be holding a reception (1).

At this soiree, Irving will address the buring issue of the day, in his own inimitable way, discussing the question of (I am not making this up), "The Nazi leaders and Westminster - which were the more corrupt?"

I have no idea if this is genuine. If it was anyone else, I'd assume it was a piss take, but no lunacy beyond Irving. The event is advertised on his website, described as his "3.30pm Windsor Garden Party." Obviously, Iriving is comparing himself to a irrelevant, anachronistic old lady with little grasp of the real world and a distorted view of history. Which is a surprisingly accurate assessment, for Irving.

The answer to the question is, of course, "They were both more corrupt that Stalin," which may or may not be true, but demonstrates the appropriate level of respect for the question.

Irving seeks to equate the pathetic, venal money grabbing of MPs at Westminster with a regime that exterminated millions of people simply because it didn't like them. It's an elephant in the livingroom situation, only the elephant is more like a Brachiosaurus. Hitler might not have tried to bill the tax payer for his hanging baskets, but he ordered the murder of millions of people. No further debate as to whether the Nazis were 'better' in some piddling aspect is necessary.

Only a frickin' loon would entertain the comparison. Which bears out what I've already said (2) about David Irving.
1 - The event is advertised on Irving's website, http://www.fpp.co.uk/online/index.html. It is mentioned twice on the day I viewed the webpage, 30th of May, 2009. This redundancy suggests he might, in fact, be serious.
2 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/01/david-irving-absolutely-stark-staring.html

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Metiria Turei

Big cheer to the new co-leader of the Greens (1).

In an ideal world, Sue Bradford might have been recognised for her hard work and forthright attitude, but we don't live in an ideal world. If we did, Sue Bradford wouldn't have had to sacrifice her leadership ambitions to stop child beaters claiming a specious defence for their brutality. Her achievements in parliament have been substantial for a backbench MP:
She pushed through members bills securing the passage of the anti-smacking law, increasing the minimum youth wage to equal the adult minimum wage and increasing the time mothers can keep babies with them in prisons. (2)
Standing up for what she believed in made it pretty certain she could never lead the party, because it would be giving the cynical exploiters of knee jerk imbecility an easy target. Which is a refelction of the dismal state of New Zealand politics. We need more Bradfords. People like her actually make parliament important and effective.

While I was politically more in sympathy with Sue Bradford's position, the choice is a pragmatic one, and readiness work with the government , whatever its hue, has won a grudging concession on insulation from Bill English (3). Perhaps the election of Turei is a consequence of Labour's high-handed attitude towards the party when it was in power, and Labour's pretty piss-poor environemtnal and ethical policies.

Perhaps this is a parlimeantary term too soon for Turei, but the loss of Rod Donald disrupted the natural order of succession. The Green Team leaders are very young, which means they'll have to work hard to establish credibility. But lets see what they
1 - "Greens elect Metiria Turei as new co-leader," by Claire Trevett, published by the New Zealand Herald, 30th of May, 2009. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10575491)
2 - ibid.
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/05/budget-bill-part-2.html.

Budget Bill, part 3

Budget Bill says he's boosting Maori spending (1). We remember, something about race based funding. We don't say anything, because Budget Bill is better than the person who said that.

Budget bill wrong foots us. Budget bill tells us he's got $321 million for research, science and technology. We blink. We shake our heads. We do some sums. We look aback at Budget 08. We see Dr Cullen promising investment of $1.1 billion operating and $747.3 million capital in these areas (2). We see names like New Zealand Fast Forward Fund. R&D tax credits. We remember what happened to the tax credit. We wonder what happened to Fast Forward. We discover Budget Bill scrapped it, too (3).

We know when we're getting bilked. We admire Budget Bill's cheek. We salute his gall in nixing research projects and then reannouncing it. We wonder what happened to the millions fdifference between what was promised last year and what is promised this year. We think, maybe it is our tax cut. We look forward to that.

Budget Bill puts up money for new police officers. We think, he will need them. We think, the policies pursued by his government will mean these police will be very busy indeed. We applaude the $256 million to manage the increased number of offenders serving community sentences and improve the quality of parole and home detention management. Budget Bill says, he's got $385 million over the next four years for increased prison capacity. We remember, Michael Cullen promised us $216.3 million to replace Mount Eden. We admire Budget Bill's enthusiasm for recycling.

Budget Bill promises us more roads. We have heard this before (4). We wonder, why roads are so expensive and cycleways so cheap.

Budget Bill talks broadband. We don't think the figures are big enough.

Budget Bill talks tough. Budget Bill says, that's the end of the good news. We think, we know Budget Bill. Budget Bill is joshing us. Budget Bill still hasn't mentionedf our tax cuts.

Budget Bill says, he won't be paying anything to the Super fund.

Say what?

Budget Bill says, he won't be paying anything to the Super fund.

Budget Bill? Did you say that right?

Budget Bill says, it makes little economic sense to burden future generations with debt. Budget Bill clearly knows less about economics than we do. Bufdget Bill should know, when the market is down, you shovel more money into it. Buy up cheap. Makee money in long run. Budget Bill doesn't get this. Or maybe Budget Bill does. Maybe Budget Bill just hates Michael Cullen and wants to destroy his legacy.

We remember Budget Bill saying, he did not want to saddle future generations with the cost of short term policies. We think, he is doing just that. We say, he's creating a massive pensions gap which will wreck the economy in ten years time. There won't be any money to pay pensions with. People will have to work until they drop. People will get a pension counted out in cents. We think, is this what Budget Bill really wants.

Budget Bill says no tax cuts. Budget Bill says he can't afford them. We think, we thought you were a neo-liberal Laffer Curve junkie, Budget Bill. You thought, the best way to stimulate growth and increase tax revenue was to cut taxes.

We wail, and gnash our teeth. Though it feels like Budget Bill has just kicked them out.

Budget Bill says, this is necessary. He says, the world has moved very quickly from the best of times to the worst of times. We think, you ain't seen nothing yet, sucker. We think, should we vote NAtional for the next two decades so they have to deal with the mess they are creating?

Budget Bill says, this Government’s aspirations are for an economy that values enterprise, rewards people for effort and encourages them to get ahead. We think, he's only bloody made getting ahead a necessity. Because there won't be anything for you to retiire on if you don't grab it now.

We say, this is the Budget of Fear. Budget Bill used fear to justify his assault on the legacy of the previous administration, by presenting the worst case scenarios outlined in BEFA 2009. We say, Budget Bill has hamstrung the economy by starving it of capital to fund research and innovation. We say, Budget Bill has created a disaster-in-the-making that will play out in 20 years time.
1 - "Budget Speech," delivered by Bill English MP on the 29th of May, 2009. (http://www.treasury.govt.nz/budget/2009/speech/b09-speech.pdf)
2 - "Budget Speech," delivered by Michael Cullen MP on the 22th of May, 2008. (http://www.treasury.govt.nz/budget/2008/speech/b08-speech.pdf
3 - "National Quietly Dumps Two Billion Dollar Fast Forward Fund," press release by The Progessive PArty, 12th of February, 2009. Reproduced by voxy.co.nz. (http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/progressive-party-national-quietly-dumps-two-billion-dollar-fast-forward-fund/5/8810)
4 - "Hughes: Joyce Reveals His Smoke And Mirrors For Third Time," press release by the Labour Party, 19th of May, 2009. Reproduced by voxy.co.nz. (http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/hughes-joyce-reveals-his-smoke-and-mirrors-third-time/5/14418)

Budget Bill, part 2

Budget Bill says, he will consolidate the Government’s fiscal position, keep debt under control and ensure that Crown finances are properly managed (1). We read between the lines. We say, in defianace of received economic wisdom, and against the example of every other developed economy in the world, you're going to try and balance the budget during a recession. And build a cycleway.

Budget Bill says, the Government has been active in softening the sharp edges of this recession. We say, watch your metaphors, Bill. We say, you seek to blunt sharp edges, not soften them.

Budget Bill boasts that the ReStart package is already helping around 1,400 families. We remember the 1,200 who have already tasted the razor in the public service. We think they would probably have their jobs back. We don't think they'll appreciate ReStart.

Budget Bill tells us, he's fast tracking $500 million of infrastructure investment in school improvements, state housing upgrades, and roading projects. We remember him telling us he was doing this in February (2). We work out this is money allocated by the last government. We suspect he wouldn't mention old money if there was any new money to brag about.

Budget Bill says, what's important is improving the business environment and removing roadblocks to growth; investment in productive infrastructure; and improving the way government works. We think, the environment is as important as the business environment. We think, some of these roadblocks might be there for a reason. We think, there is other infrastructure that needs investment. We think, we might have different ideas about what improving the way government works. We think, Budget Bill might be speaking in code.

Budget Bill tells us, the business environment will be improved by a thorough review of government regulation. We don't like the sound of this. Budget Bill reminds us about streamlining and simplifying the Resource Management Act. Budget Bill says, he will change the Overseas Investment Act, review telecommunications regulation. He says, he will review a range of environmental legislation, will redesign the legislation to allow quick and efficient decisions for productive investment We put two and two together.

Budget Bill says, the process of creating regulation will be considered by the Regulatory Responsibility Taskforce overseen by Hon Rodney Hide, as Minister for Regulatory Reform. We choke on our drinks. We ponder Rodney Hide being in charge of regulation review. We think of new cliches to replace the fox being in charge of the henhouse. We see portends of the apoclaypse.

Budget Bill says, the next three years will see extensive investment in transport, housing and electricity transmission and generation. We say, in public transport, state housing and renewable generation. We note the absence of these adjectives. We are distrait. We think, what was he saying about streamlining regulation? We foresee coal fired power stations besmirching North Island.

Budget Bill says, he will create a National Infrastructure Unit. We say, will Rodney Hide head this as well? We see further portends of the apocalypse.

Budget Bill says, he has a plan to balance the Government’s books. Budget Bill says, we spend too much. Budget Bill scares us with figures. Budget Bill says, current projections show debt will reach 48 per cent of GDP by 2013 and 70 per cent by 2023. We are frightened. We check with Treasury's BEFU 2009 [pdf] (3). We find Bill is using the downside scenario to frighten us. We also find a caveat he overlooked - these scenarios play out "in the absence of any further response by government" (4).

Budget Bill says, we can not allow debt to accumulate on this scale. We think, it is pretty unlikely it ever would. We think, you wouldn't know that from what Budget Bill is saying. We think, Budget Bill might be being prudent. We suspect, Budget Bill is probably trying to justify his strangling of public service.

Budget Bill says, the Government’s priority will be to rebuild its finances so another
generation can cope with future recessions. Budget Bill says, this Budget starts the process of changing Government spending priorities. Budget Bill says, he has $1.45 billion a year new money for us. Budget Bill also says, he has found $500 million a year by reallocating money set aside for 'low priority' projects. We wonder what programmes were cut. We wonder how many contracts were cancelled. We wonder, how many people were made redundant. We wonder, were our priorities were the same as Budget Bill's?

Budget Bill says, here's money for health and education. We say, please sir, can we have some more?

Budget Bill says, more than 180,000 homes built before 2000 will have access to grants for insulation and clean heating over the next four years. Most households will be eligible for grants of up to $1,800 and those with Community Cards will be eligible for additional funding. We say, this is good. We wonder, what did Jeanette and Russell threaten to do to him to make him do this?

Budget Bills says, the stimulus to the building industry will provide green jobs to help cushion the effects of the recession. We say, this is true. We say, you should be doing more of this.

We say, you see, Budget Bill? Public spending can be good.
1 - "Budget Speech," delivered by Bill English MP on the 29th of May, 2009. (http://www.treasury.govt.nz/budget/2009/speech/b09-speech.pdf)
2 - "Fast-tracked public projects give $500m boost," unattributed government press release, dated 11th of Febrruary, 2009. (http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/fast-tracked+public+projects+give+500m+boost)
3 - "Budget & Economic Fiscal Update 2009: downside scenarios," published by Treasury, 28th of May, 2009. (http://www.treasury.govt.nz/budget/forecasts/befu2009/befu09-pt2of6.pdf). I'm not able to verify where he got the figure of 70% by 2023 from, but it bears a passing resembleance to the downside figure of 76% mentioned in Treasury's DEFU 20008 (http://www.treasury.govt.nz/budget/forecasts/eff2008/eff08.pdf)
4- ibid.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Budget Bill

Budget Bill says, the Government was elected on a platform of enterprise and growth. We say, you were elected on a platform of tax cuts. We want you to tell us about the tax cuts." But Budget Bill is a tease. Budget Bill doesn't tell about the tax cuts. Budget Bill tells us about other stuff (1) & (2).

Budget Bill tells us about how his government is ambitious. Budget bill tells us he wants us to realise our aspirations. Budget Bill talks about prosperity and competitiveness. Budget Bill talks about an open economy. We say, we aspire to a sustainable economy. We aspire to worker's rights. We aspire to egalitarianism. We aspire to a cohesive society and socialist principles. We think Budget Bill may not help us with this.

Budget Bill says things are tough. We say, we knew that. We say, what about the tax cuts.

Budget Bill says, stable government is critical in a turbulent time. We wonder how pissing off the Maori Party with a supercity is creating stable government. We read between the lines. We anticipate concessions for stability.

Budget Bill says his government has managed to "cushion the immediate impact on New Zealanders and to enhance future growth." We say, say what, Bill? We say, holding big meetings with rich people is not much cop. We say, a cycleway isn't much cop. We say, getting workers to pay their own wages through taxpayer subsidy of their wages is not much cop.

We say, if you have time to consult with business about what they want, why not Aucklanders about what they want?

Budget Bill says, the economy will make the adjustments it needs. We think of a new drinking game. We drink when Budget Bill talks about "adjustment" and "efficiency." We look forward to getting very drunk.

Budget Bill wants new jobs. Budget Bill feels the pain of people who have lost their jobs. We wonder why Budget Bill has been making so many people in public service lose their jobs. We think 1,200 people have just thrown something hard at Budget Bill as he smirks at them from their TVs (3).

Budget Bill says he's fulfilling many pre-election commitments. We note the qualifier. We wonder if we're getting ourt tax cuts after all. We wonder if more things will get thrown at Budget Bill. Budget Bill talks about working with support parties. We think he's clenching his teeth. We worry about his blood pressure. We wonder what we might get. We wonder what he'll take away to make up for it.

Budget Bill says protecting the most vulnerable is a priority. We had nevetr though of the super rich as vulnerable. We hang our heads in shame at our lack of empathy with the super-rich. We are glad Budget Bill is there to look out for them.

Budget Bill says, he'll New Zealand Superannuation, benefits, student support, and Working for Families. We say, that rat you're swallowing looks pretty big, Budget Bill. We say, you look like you're choking. We say, you almost made it sound like not slashing our entitlements was a favour. We say, coming from National, it probably is. We say, gulping down the ideological rodent is probably better than sampling the contents of the bottle marked 'Electoral Poison.'

Budget Bill boasts about increasing core Crown expenditure by $3 billion. We are impressed. Then we remember Budget Bill saying, since June 2004 core Crown expenditure has risen from $41.9 billion to $63.5 billion (4). We are less impressed. We wonder how much off this increase will be left after inflation. We feel pissed ecause public services are being bashed. We comfort ourselves thinking about the tax cuts we're getting.

Budget Bill promises us better, smarter public services. We think smarter should be another buzz word in the drinking game. We drink, long and deep.

Budget bill says dramatic and indefinite increases in public debt is is unacceptable to this Government. Budget Bill does not want to saddle future generations with the cost of short term policies. We say, Budget Bill is all about the short term. We remember talk about borrowing to fund infrastructure while making tax cuts (5). We wonder if Budget Bill means what he says. We wonder if Budget Bill realises there are other costs than srivctly monetary ones. We worry about the social cost of Budget Bill's polices.

Budget Bill tealls us he's all about raising productivity, lifting economic performance and closing the income gap with Australia. We note the implied values. We worry about resource consumption. We worry about asset stripping. We worry about privatisation of SOEs. We think, if we cared so much about wages in Australia, we'd go there to live. We think we'd rather stay here, though Budget Bill is starting to make us wonder.

Budget Bill says, his Budget addresses the major economic issues facing New Zealand. We think, there's a typo there, Bill. We think you meant to say it addresses the major economic issues facing the tiny rich elite of New Zealand whose interests your party represents, while giving a two finger salute to the rest of the country

Budget Bill tells us, the global economy is sufferring the largest, most synchronised decline since the Second World War. We wonder, why is Budget Bill doing the opposite of all the other devloped economies, and reining in public spending during a recession. We think, low growth might actually be good. We think of peak oil and environmental degradation and pollution. We think Budget Bill's fixation on grwoth is the essence of short-termism.

Budget Bill complains about deficits in the government books. We laugh. We shout at him that we know this is a paper deficit. We know the Cullen fund will rebound. We know you'll take credit for it when that rebound puts the books abck in the black. And we'll crucify you over the failure to invest when the market was down.

Budget Bill complains some more about excessive borrowing. We think about borrowing to fund infrastucture while cutting taxes again, and wonder if we ca spell hypocrisy. Budget Bill complains about the current account deficit. We think that's what happens when your economy is based on exporting comodities and world commodity prices collapse.

Budget Bill complains about excessive growth of the domestic and consumption sectors of the economyand insufficient growth and investment in those parts of the economy that either export or compete with foreign producers. We remember that one of the first things Budget Bill did was scrap the Research & Development tax credit (6). We think that was an area we might have been able to compete with foreign producers. We think, Budget Bill chiding us for spending borrowed money is a bit hypocritical. We remember basic capitalist rules. We remember high consumption is important for profit. We remember low wages are important for profit. We work out there's a gap between these two ideals. We understand soaring debt.

Budget Bill says, the global recession has leant more urgency to a programme to lift productivity, build business confidence and investment and create jobs. We say, it is a golden opportunity for you to ram through radical monetarist measures to enrich the rich and beggar everyone else. We say, it's 1984 all over again. We say, without David Lange's brio but with extra Neo-liberal lunacy to make up for it.
1 - I have been reading James Ellroy. This explains the clipped style of this post. Hopefully, I'll get over it.
2 - "Budget Speech," delivered by Bill English MP on the 29th of May, 2009. (http://www.treasury.govt.nz/budget/2009/speech/b09-speech.pdf)
3 - "Another 220 jobs axed under National," by Grant Robertson, released by the Labour Party, 27th of May, 2009. (http://www.labour.org.nz/news/another-220-jobs-axed-under-national)
4 - "Bill English: Since 2004 core expenditure has risen from $41.9 billion to $63.5 billion," answer to parliamentary question from Craig Foss, 3rd of April, 2009. Reproduced on interesst.co.nz(http://www.interest.co.nz/ratesblog/index.php/2009/04/03/bill-english-since-2004-core-expenditure-has-risen-from-419-billion-to-635-billion/)
5 - "Nats to borrow for other spending - but not tax cuts," unattributed NZPA story, published in the New Zealand Herald, 2nd of August, 2008. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10524905)
6 - "R&D credit axing draws fire," by Owen Hembry and Errol Kiong, published in the New Zealand Herald, 9th of October, 2008. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/taxation/news/article.cfm?c_id=335&objectid=10536575)

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Cameron's £64,000 two finger salute to Britain

The Tory leader, David Cameron, has been making capital out of the expenses row. Never mind he's been aided by what appears to be a deliberately staged leak by tory sympathizers:
... John Wick, the former SAS officer who handed over MPs' expense claims to The Daily Telegraph, was involved in Tory fundraising, although a Tory source insisted it was "on the fringes". It is believed Mr Wick was involved in the Carlton Club political committee, which has raised more than £400,000 for the Tories since Mr Cameron became leader. (1)
We can even ignore how the press coverage - controlled by the pro-conservative Daily Telegraph - has been biased to the point that the public service the newspaper has performed has been undermined by the political use of the leaked information to smear Labour and Gordon Brown, while holding up David Cameron as a paragon (2).

After all, it is his job to make himself look good and the government look bad. And Cameron has worked hard to achieve this, making sure it looks like he is doing something. Unkind commentators - like me, for example - might say he should work hard at something, rather than just trying to create the image of industy, but we'll let that pass for the moment.

He has challenged his MPs and warned them about their claims and has taken a tough line with those making the most craw-sticking claims. Several of Tory MPs, including the long serving ex-minister Douglas Hogg and Cameron's parliamentary aide, Andrew MacKay, have agreed to stand down at the next election. Cameron has appeared to take swift and decisive action, while Brown vacillated.

Only, it is just appearance. A real hard line approach would be to demmand the MPs face reselection and possibly even trigger a byelection - this involves a delightfully silly constitutional fudge (3) - or withdraw the whip and throw the MPs out of the party. But Cameron isn't interested in punishing the cheats and frauds, he's only inteested in winning the election. His 'hardline' is a cynical exercise in image manipulation.

Which brings us to the final kick in the teeth for the long suffering British tax payer.

MPs like Hogg and McKay, or Anthony Steen or Peter Viggers, who have all agreed to stand down at the next election, will actually be paid to go. Who will pay? The tax payer:
The latest announcements take to eight the number of MPs stepping down at the next general election. Quitting then not only saves their parties from bruising by-elections but also ensures each up to £64,000 in "resettlement grant" cash, paid for by the taxpayer. (4)
Rather than risk his chances of winning the election by going through the messy business of expelling the egregious MPs, or - Heaven forbid - making them repay the money they've claimed, Cameron would rather give them MORE MONEY.

And that really is cynical, opportunistic, politics-before-principle. And, surprisingly, it makes me angrier than the expenses farce itself. Perhaps because I am British, I actually expect MPs to be corrupt, venal toe-rags. If they get away with stuff like this, it is my fault as an elector for failing to scrutinise them and to hold them to account. But to see Cameron blithely bribe his worst offenders to to slink of quietly and not make unseemly headlines, is really disgusting.

And, weirdly, this detail is tacked onto the end of a long article in the Independent, featuring the news that Brown and Blair had a meeting, because Brown's worried about losing the elction. That is not news. It's vapid personality politics - "Oh, look, things are so bad, Brown's resorted to asking Tony Blair for help!" Hundreds of thousands of pounds xtra cash being paid to the worst leeches, is news, and should be across the front page.

I could understand the Telegraph not trumpeting it - but the Independent? I'm disappointed.
1 - "Brown calls Blair in to No 10 for secret talks as crisis mounts," by Jane Merrick and Brian Brady, published in The Independent, 24th of May, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brown-calls-blair-in-to-no-10-for-secret-talks-as-crisis-mounts-1690125.html).
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/05/expenses-row.html
3 -Merrick and Brady, Op. Cit.
4 - 'Resignation from the British House of Commons,' wikipedia article, viewed 24th of May, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resignation_from_the_British_House_of_Commons)

UPDATE
- 24th May 2009: To my horror, I've discovered I have ben unfair to David Cameron. He had previously made efforts to get his MPs to publish their expenses (4).

In light of this new information, I have removed some of the prejorative comments in the above post, suggesting he had only become interested in expenses when it became a front page issue.
5 - "Tory MP Nicholas Winterton accuses David Cameron's 'mafia' of trying to force him out," by Rosa Prince, published in the Telegraph, 25th of July, 2008. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/conservative/2455511/Tory-MP-Nicholas-Winterton-accuses-David-Camerons-mafia-of-trying-to-force-him-out.html)

Hilarious. Insanely hilarious II

The British National Party are trying to introduce youngsters to the delights of racial supremicist bullshit Hitler worshipping ignorance and philistinism through the wonders of cutting edge multi-media technology. Or, at least, some troglodyte has filmed a sock puppet and stuck it up on You Tube (1) in an effort to win over the youth to the cause of Aryan advancement:



So woeful is this in all ways I don't think the youth of today have anything to fear from it. Those that don't immediately turn away to look at more interesting stuff, like paint drying or moss growing, won't be able to make out the lyrics, delivered in a piping voice which confirms suspicions that one of the membership requirements for the BNP is a set of undescended testes.

The lyrics are stupendously stuped, vis the first verse, featured on Have I Got News For You the other night. Bear in mind this is as an 'Educational poem':
In AD 20 was born a queen,
Boadicea was her name,
But then one day from across the sea,
Some mean old Romans came.

They took her land and beat her kids,
And that just was not right,
So she fought and died for freedom,
And Boadicea was white!
And, fuck me, that's just 45 seconds of a five minute video. I didn't feel it necessary to watch any more.

Putting to one side the small matter that the Romans were as white as the inhabitants of the island they invaded, the BNP moron who composed this masterpiece, this latter day Triumph of the Will, refers to the rebellious queen as Boadicea. That name derives from Tacitus, and the correct name of the Celtic queen was Boudica (2).

So the staunch defenders of all things Anglo Saxon (never mind Boudica pre-dated the Anglo Saxons by about 600 years) are using the name given to her by the fascist oppressor invaders. Which isn't suprising, given their admiration for fascist oppressor invaders of more recent vintage.

And on purely aesthetic grounds, the four syllable Boadicea does not scan as well as the three syllable Boudicca.
1 - "Heroes by Billy the Brit," produced by BillyBrit Puppet, hosted by youtube. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKuGrkBPf-s)
2 - 'Boudica's Name,' courtesy of Wikipedia, viewed 24rd of May, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boudica#Boudica.27s_name)

Saturday, 23 May 2009

More expenses drivel

As the expenses 'crisis' drags on into another tedious week, the Daily Bigot Mail is trying to crucify another MP - who just happens to have a brown skin - for NOT fleecing the tax payer for tens of thousands of punds for a second home in London that hardly ever gets used, and instead opting to stay at a hotel:
Labour MP Khalid Mahmood is the latest to be sucked into the expenses scandal.

He stayed at a five-star hotel in London with his girlfriend and charged hundreds of pounds to the taxpayer as his second home allowance.

Mahmood, who is the MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, claimed a total of £1,350 for nine nights stay over a four-week period in 2004, when he stayed at The Bentley hotel in Kensington.

He also claimed £1,225 for five nights stay in 2008.

Mahmood used the hotel after separating from partner Nasim Akhtar, with whom he lived in Wembley, though this address was not given on his 2004 claims form. (1)
This was the top story on the Daily Mail's website. The Mail has never run the risk of leaving people in any doubt as to its opinions, but now they're flogging the ground where the dead horse used to be.

It seems MPs can not only not have homes in London, where they might reasonably spend a fair bit of time, they can not sleep in hotels either. Perhaps they may sleep in cardboard boxes under bridges, but are they allowed to claim the cost of the box to the tax payer, or must they thrash some homeless type and turf them out of their box?
1 - "Labour MP spent £2,575 staying in 'riot of gold, marble and silk' hotel with girlfriend," unattributed article, publised in The Daily Mail, 23rd of May, 2009. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1186818/Labour-MP-spent-2-575-staying-riot-gold-marble-silk-hotel-girlfriend.html)

Friday, 22 May 2009

Hilarious. Insanely hilarious.



When I first saw this picture I thought it was a joke, but it is a genuine poster put up by the British National Party, a collection of Hitlerite goons with enough PR nous to make themselves seem semi-respectable (1).

The question is wrong. Instead of asking "what would Jesus do?" we need to ask, "what would the BNP do to Jesus"?

The answer is made clear in on their website:
... we call for an immediate halt to all further immigration, the immediate deportation of criminal and illegal immigrants, and the introduction of a system of voluntary resettlement whereby those immigrants who are legally here will be afforded the opportunity to return to their lands of ethnic origin assisted by a generous financial incentives both for individuals and for the countries in question.

We will abolish the ‘positive discrimination’ schemes that have made white Britons second-class citizens. We will also clamp down on the flood of ‘asylum seekers’, all of whom are either bogus or can find refuge much nearer their home countries. (2)

If Jesus had tried to emigrate to Britain (presummably to vote for the BNP), he'd have been refused as a shifty foreigner. If he had been living in Britain and the BNP had come to power (presumably with his support, the poster implies) they would have sought to 'resettle' him elsewhere, with 'generous financial incentives' (Thirty pieces of silver?). If Joseph and Mary, with the infant Jesus, had sought asylum in Britain, while Herod was butchering the innocents, the BNP would have told them to go to Hell.

So I don't think Jesus would have been voting BNP, really.

Tossers.

1 - If the BNP have a problem with me reproducing their poster and images, they can fuck off.
2 - "Immigration: time to say enough," policy statement of the BNP regards immigration. Policy details correct as of 19th of May, 2009. (http://bnp.org.uk/policies/immigration/)

America's home grown terrorism

Several things about the arrest of four Muslims in New York, for an attempt to bomb a synagogue, are troubling (1).

Obviously, four very wicked, evil men have been arrested. This is a good thing. But the sting operation around it is questionable - how much were these men encouraged and supported by the FBI in their attempted attack? How much were vague expressions of disgust and anger incited into a definite plan of attack? And how much of this is really to do with their faith (three of them being converts) and how much to do with them just being fuckwit scum?

I'm more interested in the last question than the first two. The answers to those will become clear as more information emerges. For the last question, we can hazard some opinion on what is already known.

I don't think these people decided to commit an outrage because they were Muslims. There adopted faith might have given their urge to violence direction, but the urge itself was implanted in them by the culture they grew up in. They sought to commit violence not because they were Muslims, but because they were Americans. They were all ex-criminals, shaped by America and radicalised by Islam. Their attempt at terrorism wasn't founded in their faith, but in the crazy American desire to do violence against something, the perversion of tough frontiersman mythology through individualism and social Darwinist ideology. This is the cultural mix that gave us Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber, countless high school shootings and gun rampages, and a contual 'background noise' level of violence that would be unacceptable in any civilised society. If you don't like something, you fight against it, rather than learning to tolerate its difference.
1 - "Police: Men planned terror attack in New York to avenge deaths of Muslims," by Ed Pilkington, published in The Guardian, 21st of May, 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/21/new-york-terrorism-plot-synagogues)

Anachronism to host irrelevance

The leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, has managed to gain an invite to the Queen's summer Garden Party. Okay, he's had to cadge a ticket off a mate, the complimentary second string spot usually reserved for the important person's partner, but he's still getting to go, which will be nice for him:
Nick Griffin, the leader of the far-right British National party, is planning to attend a garden party in June hosted by the Queen at Buckingham palace, according to an associate.

Richard Barnbrook, a BNP member of the London assembly, said he was taking Griffin to next month's event as his guest. "I imagine there will be a to-do and a hoot. These things are going to happen more and more as the [BNP] goes forward," he said.

A BNP spokesman said that for Barnbrook to "snub an invite from the Queen would be absurd", adding: "If we get elected MEPs this is the kind of thing we are going to be doing on a regular basis." The event will take place after the European elections next month. (1)
I can't help but wonder if - in the unlikely event that he gets any where near the Queen - he'll have the guts to tell her to haul her Germanic arse back to Bavaria, and to take her Johnny foreigner husband with her? Or does the BNP's policy of resettlement only apply to the hoi-polloi, not to the aristocracy? And Germans, after all, are a special case. Griffin, after all, presides over a party full of people with a strong admiration for Germanic rulers with Bavarian connections.

I'm actually looking forwards to the pictures from the garden party, Nick Griffin trying to look ebullient and like he's having a fine old time, hob-nobbing with the great and the good. Expect the BNP to post lots of pictures of him gurning and grasping unwilling hands, while everyone he tries to talk to desperately attempting to maintain a safe, probably upwind, distance from him, with glassy fixed smiles plastered acrsoss their faces ...
1 - "BNP leader Nick Griffin to attend Queen's summer garden party," by Matthew Taylor, published in the Guardian, 20th of May, 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/20/bnp-griffin-queen-garden)

Thursday, 21 May 2009

How not to win the war (on terror) at home

MI5 have been accused of using coercion and threats to try to force young British Muslims into acting as informants:

Five Muslim community workers have accused MI5 of waging a campaign of blackmail and harassment in an attempt to recruit them as informants.

The men claim they were given a choice of working for the Security Service or face detention and harassment in the UK and overseas.

[snip]

Three of the men say they were detained at foreign airports on the orders of MI5 after leaving Britain on family holidays last year.

After they were sent back to the UK, they were interviewed by MI5 officers who, they say, falsely accused them of links to Islamic extremism. On each occasion the agents said they would lift the travel restrictions and threat of detention in return for their co-operation. When the men refused some of them received what they say were intimidating phone calls and threats.

Two other Muslim men say they were approached by MI5 at their homes after police officers posed as postmen. Each of the five men, aged between 19 and 25, was warned that if he did not help the security services he would be considered a terror suspect. A sixth man was held by MI5 for three hours after returning from his honeymoon in Saudi Arabia. He too claims he was threatened with travel restrictions if he tried to leave the UK. (1)

Just another example of how utterly clueless and heavy handed the security services can be. It also suggests that MI5 sees Muslims as somehow 'not British,' duplicious and all in the know about the real terrorists, plots and fanatics.

It is good these stories have been exposed, because it will mean MI5 have to stop doing it, but it will serve as further evidence of institutional anti-Muslim bigotry in British society, for the real fanatics and haters.
1 - "How MI5 blackmails British Muslims," by Robert Verkiak, published in The Independent, 21st of May, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/exclusive-how-mi5-blackmails-british-muslims-1688618.html)

He's only gone and bleedin' done it

The other day I suggested it was time for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was about due another attention seeking tantrum (1). Right on cue, here he goes:

Iran announced the successful test-launch yesterday of an "advanced technology" missile capable of hitting Israel and US bases in the Gulf.

In a move that some analysts saw as a response to the meeting on Monday between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Sejil 2 missile had "landed exactly on the target".

The launch, which Mr Ahmadinejad said had taken place earlier in the day, may also have been timed to coincide with the official start of campaigning for the 12 June election.

The President faces challenges by critics of his stridently anti-Israel and anti-Western rhetoric. At a rally in the northern Selman province, where the official Iranian news agency IRNA said the launch had taken place, Mr Ahmadinejad said Iran had the power to "send to hell" any military base from which "a bullet" was fired against the country. State television showed footage of a missile soaring into the sky, followed by a vapour trail. (2)

Unfortunately, in the same post, I also predicted that if this occurred, I'd be arrested on suspicion of hacking into top secret government files. No sign of the NWO goons yet, but I'm expecting them any time.

Hang on, the dog's barking ...
1 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/05/just-when-it-looked-like-things-couldnt.html
2 - " Iran's long-range missile test is 'playing with fire', says Israel," by Donald MacIntyre, published in The Independent, 21st of May, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/irans-longrange-missile-test-is-playing-with-fire-says-israel-1688643.html)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Hilariously weird rightwing media squabble unfolding in Britain

The British National Party - the semi-respectable and semi-literate face of British far right politics - and the The Sun - the semi-respectable and semi-literate face of British far right journalism - are locked in a desperate turf war. Both espouse similar values and ideals - St George, whiteness, bring-back-the-birch and cast out the bleedin' immies and so on - and inevitably have turned on each other in a battle for their shared demographic.

The BNP has claimed that the Sun has libelled it by publishing a story containing an image of a phoney BNP leaflet. Reluctantly, I'll quote from their website:
The British National Party has called in the police and laid charges over the latest media lie about the party which has included a completely forged leaflet condemning the Gurkhas.

BNP lead North East candidate Adam Walker has this morning laid an official complaint against The Sun for incitement to racial hatred. The Sun story consists of a poor quality black and white leaflet which attacks the Gurkhas and which was not issued by the BNP.

“We have never issued such a leaflet,” Mr Walker said, adding that he had been contacted by the Northern Echo newspaper on Sunday and asked about the leaflet then.

“I told that newspaper that the leaflet was not ours, and that we would never issue such a thing,” Mr Walker said. “The newspaper would not tell me when or where it had been distributed, which made me highly suspicious. (1)

Hilariously, Walker goes on to identify the source of the smear:

“It is clear that this is just another ‘black operations’ trick drawn up by the local Communist Party front organisations who make a living out of spreading anti-BNP lies.

[snip]

Mr Walker pointed out that the BNP have “members who fought alongside the Gurkhas and ex-forces who have served alongside them in garrisons. They are as disgusted and appalled as I am that The Sun and its Communist Party allies can resort to such tactics ..." (2)

Get that? The Sun, a rightwing rag that still lionises Margaret Thatcher and is owned by Rupert Murdoch, is in fact a communist fellow traveller. Topless birds, footie and Marx - no wonder it is so popular.

Interestingly, this isn't the first time I've encountered this paranoid obssession that the BNP and their ilk have with the baleful influence of the CPGB. The other day, LiveLeak.com published a bit of a rant about hordes of Roumanian's emigrating to Britain, and it rounded the diatribe off as follows:

The destruction of the Romanian economy took place under the Soviet Communist era - when that party was supported in Britain by the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).

Today, the CPGB is the organisation which coordinates anti-BNP propaganda in the media. That Communist front organisation’s leader actually stood as an election candidate for the CPGB in 1962, at the time when the Soviet Communist Empire was at its height. (3)

Which is fantastically potty and suggests the BNP is actually serious about this Red Menace nonsense. So much the better. The more time they waste running from shadows, the better. Also serves to reveal their Nazi roots, as well. Hitler was fervently anti-Communist. They're just following the example and teachings of their spiritual leader.

Meanwhile, the Sun has hit back with a story of its own, complaining about how the BNP has produced an image of a British soldier with falsely attributed words. Again, with some regret:

AN ex-Guardsman branded the BNP “scumbags” last night for using his photo and faked words on an election flyer.

Former Scots Guards NCO Stuart Walker, 37, was shocked to see a picture of himself in uniform outside Buckingham Palace on a poll leaflet.

Beside it, implying he would back the racist party in the Euro elections, were words criticising kit shortages and soldiers being “abused” by Muslims.

Stuart, who left the Army in 1997, first knew about it when it dropped through a relative’s letterbox. The dad-of-two, now a corporate manager in London, said he rang the BNP’s offices to complain and was told to “f*** off”.

He told The Sun: “I was completely outraged when I saw this leaflet. I think they got the photo off a website and the quote they’ve made up. They are scumbags and I’d never vote for them in a million years.”

The BNP is also reported to have used shots of US actors and Italian OAPs to represent British voters. (4)
It looks like the Sun has caved in and pulled the Gurkha story - I can't see it on their website. Which might mean that the leaflet really is a forgery - though the sentiments expressed in the leaflet are in line with the BNP's stance on immigration - which calls for
an immediate halt to all further immigration, the immediate deportation of criminal and illegal immigrants, and the introduction of a system of voluntary resettlement whereby those immigrants who are legally here will be afforded the opportunity to return to their lands of ethnic origin ... (5)
You'll note, if you peruse the BNP press release, that Adam Walker doesn't actually say the BNP want the Gurkhas here, or condemn the contents of the leaflet - an indirect admission that the leaflet, while not actually a BNP publication, was an accurate enough sumamry of their position.

My hunch is that it was put out, unauthorised, by a member of the BNP. A few weeks ago, a leaked internal memo from the BNP warned members not to do their own propaganda work (6). This is probably the sort of thing they were worried about - unruly members not being able to keep their inner racist thug hidden up until election day.

1 - "BNP Calls in Police over Latest Media Gurkha Lie," press release by the British National Party, 18th of May, 2009. (http://bnp.org.uk/2009/05/bnp-calls-in-police-over-latest-media-ghurkha-lie/)
2 -
ibid.
3 - "Paying the Price for EU Madness: Millions of Unemployed Romanians on Their Way to the UK," by anonymous poster 24038462, published on LiveLeak.com, 16th of May, 2009. (http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ad9_1242483244&c=1)
4 - "Hero's fury at BNP 'fake' pic," by Tom Newton-Dunn and Andy Crick, published in The Sun, 19th of May, 2009. (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2436087.ece)
5 - "Immigration: time to say enough," policy statement of the BNP regards immigration. Policy details correct as of 19th of May, 2009. (http://bnp.org.uk/policies/immigration/)
6 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/04/bnp-bigwigs-battle-burnout-blues.html

Monday, 18 May 2009

Aung San Suu Kyi on trial

Our esteemed trading partners, in Burma/Myanmar, a free trade partner of New Zealand's since 2008, have just put Aung San Suu Kyi on trial (1).

Over to you Phil. Tell us about it. This was your triumph, remember? (2). Obviously, human rights was never one of the "outstanding issues of interest to New Zealand" (3).

Astonishingly, Labour seems to have forgotten it's leaders role in embracing the military junta and has issued a blustering press statement, clearly designed to make National look bad for having links with such unlikeable people. Evil Natinoal, putting profit before principle and so on. Just don't ask who signed the deal. No wonder Phil's been keeping a low profile. Here is the press release, reproduced in full so you can appreciate the blink-inducing hypocrisy:

Sham trial of Aung San Suu Kyi a disgrace

Burma’s military junta must not be allowed to perpetuate the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi through a sham trial, says Labour Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Chirs Carter.

“Aung San Suu Kyi is Burma’s democratically elected leader who has been in isolation under house arrest for most of the last 19 years.

“Her current term of detention is due to expire at the end of this month and elections were planned for next year.

“The credibility of the Burma junta’s commitment to hold democratic elections must now be called in to question.

“The military junta’s pretext that Aung San Suu Kyi has broken the terms of her imprisonment is spurious and transparent to the whole international community,” Chris Carter said.

“How she can be in breach of her detention because an American passport holder swam across the lake adjacent to her house is beyond comprehension.

“This is clearly subterfuge on the part of the junta to construct a reason to continue her illegal detention, and to continue to deny the people of Burma their democratic rights,” Chris Carter said. (4)

Sorry, Chris. Not on. If she has been in "illegal detention," why did YOUR PARTY sign a free trade agreement with the venal scum that put her there?

You might have forgotten everything you once believed in, but we haven't. Take your righteous hypocrisy and fuck off.
1 - 'Suu Kyi trial begins amid tight security,' unattributed article by The Associated Press, reproduced by the Guardian, 19th of May, 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/18/burma-suu-kyi-trial)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/08/is-is-most-unfair.html
3 - Phil Goff, then Trade Minister, quoted in "Conclusion of ASEAN FTA negotiations," press release by the New Zealand Government, 29th of August, 2008. Reprodced on Scoop.co.nz. (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0808/S00500.htm
4 -'Sham trial of Aung San Suu Kyi a disgrace,' unattributed press release by the Labour Party, dated 15th of May, 2009. (http://www.labour.org.nz/news/sham-trial-aung-san-suu-kyi-disgrace)

Just when it looked like things couldn't get any worse ...

Harriet Harman waded into the expenses row. There is no situation that is not made significantly worse by the involvement of Harriet Harman. Be warned, what follows contains dangerous levels of cosy NuLabour speak and possibly illegal levels of cliche:

We have reached a defining moment – for the public, politicians and, yes, the media. We need a three Rs approach: reparation, reassurance and renewal. On expenses, we must make reparations with a system of reassessment and payback. We have to provide reassurance immediately with an interim system imposing moratoriums on claims for furniture and a cap on interest claims. And, for the future allowance system, we need the independent input that the Committee on Standards In Public Life will provide. But we also must seize the opportunity for much wider debate and action to address the underlying problems – and to renew politics and parliament.

No one is arguing for the status quo, and there is a fresh chance for progress. That will be a debate that takes place within all the parties. As leader of the House of Commons, I believe that it needs to reach all sides of the house – and involve those outside the house too.

And, though I know it is hard to get a hearing on it now, I will continue to argue what I believe to be the truth. That most MPs go into parliament as a matter of public service, and are hard-working, decent and honest. These MPs are every bit as angry as the public to learn not only that public money has been misused, but that their own reputation and that of parliament has been stained in the process. (1)

Just reading that made me want to pluck out mine eyes.

It also prompted me to wonder how NuLabour manages to produce such vacuous waffle. Do they have a standard 'fill in the blanks' statement that they can issue whenever there's a pathetic arse-over-tits event happening? Something like this, I mean:
We have reached a (defining moment/turning point) – for (Choose from: the public, the politicians, our allies, our enemies, the human species, the media, children, our revered war dead, the planet, our new citizens, our indigenous people, British workers, our loyal voters) and, yes, (Insert as necessary, from previous list).

We need a three Rs approach: (Insert three random words begining with R here - suggestions: reassurance (compulsory), regrowth, renewal, reperation, revenge, redistribution (NOT RECOMMENDED), redfinement). On (Insert crisis here), we must make (Insert first R word) with a system of (Insert second and third R word). We have to provide (Insert R word) immediately with an interim system imposing (Insert whatever the Tories suggested last week as if it was a really good idea no-one had thought of until now. Or make something up).

And, for the future (Make spurious reference to the furture - always good to get people away fromt he present), we need the independent input that the (Identify body that will be powerless to deal with future repeat outbreaks of the crisis but will be blamed for it) will provide. But we also must seize the opportunity for much wider debate and action to address the underlying problems – and to renew (Choose from: our country, our leadership, our dreams, our desire for victory, our place as a nation in the front rank of world powers, our status as a firm but fair world power, or something other that might make people feel good).
It works very well:
We have reached a turning point – for our allies, our enemies and, yes, the planet.

We need a three Rs approach: reassurance renewal, revenge, . On the crisis in Iran, we must make renewal with a system of reassurance and revenge. We have to provide reassurance immediately with an interim system imposing harsh sanctions coupled with readiness to take whatever steps are necessary.

And, for the future of the region, we need the independent input that the United Nations inspectors will provide. But we also must seize the opportunity for much wider debate and action to address the underlying problems – and to renew our dreams and our status as a firm but fair world power.
I expect, should Ahmadinejad get stroppy again - he's about due another atack of grandstanding - some NuLabour goon will mouth something very similar to the above.

And I'll be arrested on suspicion of having hacked into NuLabour's top secret speech writing computer.
1 - "Our chance to renew politics," by Harriet Harman, published in The Guardian, 17th of May, 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/17/mps-expenses-reform-democracy)

Sunday, 17 May 2009

David Irving's take on the expenses fiasco

From the pages of David irving's online diary:
IN the evening, the television news announces that a Mr Shahid Malik, Britain's previously unnoticed and unheard-of "Justice Minister," who turns out to be a Black with a Midlands accent, has announced his resignation for fraudulently claiming from the taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds rent repayments for a property. He tours the TV studios at mid-day professing his honesty. As my Mother used to say, "The more they talk of their honesty, the more we count the spoons." By evening, the prime minister has been forced to suspend him.
I did not even know we had a justice minister, let alone a Black ... (1)
WTF is with the capitalisation of 'black'? Why is Mr Malik's skin colour relevant at all? I'm interested in his competence and his honesty, not his pigmentation. Still, some people might have different priorities, and think a dishonest all-white Britain preferable to an honest not-all-white Britain.

We haven't arrived at either, od course, but it highlights what I suspects are Irving's priorities - racial purity over moral purity. Though he would probably argue the two go hand in hand.

Further on, he seems to return to the theme of racial taint in Britainia:
A real British Parliament must now cleanse its green-leather benches of the fraudsters, phoney Britons, embezzlers, shysters, and freaks ... (2)
"Phoney Britons"? What could he mean ...
1 - From 'A Radical's Diary,' by David Irving, dated 15th of May, 2009. (http://www.fpp.co.uk/docs/Irving/RadDi/2009/160509.html)
2 - ibid.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

MarSOC murders in Afghanistan

Three years ago, Donald Rumsfeld created a special Marine formation, the Marines Corps' Special Operations Command, or MarSOC, to conduct special operations in Aghanistan. It doesn't seem to be answerable to within the traditional military structure and has been involved in some of the bloodiest, violent and unjustifiable instances where Afghan civilians have been slaughtered.

The Independent's Jerome Starkey writes:

Troops from the US Marines Corps' Special Operations Command, or MarSOC, were responsible for calling in air strikes in Bala Boluk, in Farah, last week – believed to have killed more than 140 men, women and children – as well as two other incidents in 2007 and 2008. News of MarSOC's involvement in the three incidents comes just days after a Special Forces expert, Lieutenant-General Stanley McChrystal, was named to take over as the top commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan. His surprise appointment has prompted speculation that commando counterinsurgency missions will increase in the battle to beat the Taliban.

MarSOC was created three years ago on the express orders of Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary at the time, despite opposition from within the Marine Corps and the wider Special Forces community. An article in the Marine Corps Times described the MarSOC troops as "cowboys" who brought shame on the corps.

The first controversial incident involving the unit happened just three weeks into its first deployment to Afghanistan on 4 March 2007. Speeding away from a suicide bomb attack close to the Pakistan border, around 120 men from Fox Company opened fire on civilians near Jalalabad, in Nangahar province. The Marines said they were shot at after the explosion; eyewitnesses said the Americans fired indiscriminately at pedestrians and civilian cars, killing at least 19 people.

The US Army commander in Nangahar at the time, Colonel John Nicholson, said he was "deeply ashamed" and described the incident as "a stain on our honour". The Marines' tour was cut short after a second incident on 9 March in which they allegedly rolled a car and fired on traffic again, and they were flown out of Afghanistan a few weeks later.

The top Special Operations officer at US Central Command, Army Major General Frank Kearney, refuted MarSOC's claims that they had been shot at. "We found no brass that we can confirm that small-arms fire came at them," he said, referring to ammunition casings. "We have testimony from Marines that is in conflict with unanimous testimony from civilians."

At the military hearings on the incident, which were held back in the US, soldiers said the MarSOC troops, who called themselves Taskforce Violence, were gung-ho and hungry to prove themselves in battle. The inquiry also heard testimony suggesting there were tensions between the Marine unit and its US Army counterparts in Nangahar province.

Col Nicholson told the court the unit would routinely stray into areas under his control without telling him, ignoring usual military courtesies. "There had been potentially 25 operations in my area of operations that I, as a commander, was not aware of," he said. Asked about the moment he was told of the March shootout, he added: "My initial reaction was, 'What are they doing out there?' " The three-week military inquiry ultimately spared the Marine unit from criminal charges.

[snip]

In August last year, a 20-man MarSOC unit, fighting alongside Afghan commandos, directed fire from unmanned drones, attack helicopters and a cannon-armed Spectre gunship into compounds in Azizabad, in Herat province, leaving more than 90 people dead – many of them children.

And just last week, MarSOC troops called in the Bala Baluk air strikes to rescue an Afghan police patrol that had been ambushed in countryside in Farah province. US officials said two F18 fighter jets and a B1 bomber had swooped because men on the ground were overwhelmed. But villagers said the most devastating bombs were dropped on compounds some distance from the fighting, long after the battle was over, and when Taliban forces were retreating. Afghan officials said up to 147 people were killed, including more than 90 women and children. (1)

The inevitable effect of letting gung-ho thugs with guns rampage is indicated by the priceless Patrick Cockburn, also in The Indie:
It is astonishing to discover that the same small American unit, the US Marine Corps' Special Operations or MarSOC, has been responsible for all three of the worst incidents in Afghanistan in which civilians have been killed. Its members refer to themselves as "Taskforce Violence" and the Marines' own newspaper scathingly refers to the unit as "cowboys".

[Snip]

Survivors from Gerani, Gangabad and Khoujaha villages say that there had been fighting nearby but the Taliban had long withdrawn when US aircraft attacked. This was not a few errant sticks of bombs but a prolonged bombardment. It had a devastating effect on the mud-brick houses and photographs of the dead show that their bodies were quite literally torn apart by the blasts. This makes it difficult to be precise about the exact number killed, but the Afghan Rights Monitor, after extensive interviewing, says that at least 117 civilians were killed, including 26 women and 61 children.

The US military has now fallen back on the tired old justification that the enemy was using civilians as human shields. This certainly is not satisfying infuriated Afghans from demonstrating students at Kabul university all the way to President Hamid Karzai. Whatever MarSOC troops thought they were doing in Bala Boluk, the killing of so many civilians will do nothing but strengthen the Taliban. (2)
Not doubt we'll be told, once these killings are investigated, that there may have been 'instances' where troops - possibly 'stressed' or 'angry' deviated from 'correct proceedure.' That does not exculpate the murderers in MarSOC, it merely makes their commanders guilty as well.

It is a bullshit defence, anyway, because these thugs have been at least allowed, at worst encouraged, to do this sort of thing. They don't seem to be responsible to the official military authorities, so who does command them now? It might have been Rumsfeld that set it up and created the monster, but it's existence is being tolerated by the new adminsitration. If Obama wants to salvage some sort of victory - moral, not military - from the disaster in Afghanistan, he has to act to stop these savages from killing innocent people for sport.
1 - "Rumsfeld's renegade unit blamed for Afghan deaths" by Jerome Starkey, published in The Independent, 16th of May, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/rumsfelds-renegade-unit-blamed-for-afghan-deaths-1685704.html)
2 - "" by Patrick Cockburn, in The Independent, 16th of May, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/patrick-cockburn-these-killings-will-only-strengthen-the-taliban-1685705.html)

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Lee lets cat out of bag

Melissa Lee's suggestion (1) that the Waterview Connection would divert criminals away from her (potential) electorate was stupid. Not because it was racist or unthinking, but because it was honest.

Lee revealed the truth behind National's attitude towards crime - don't deal with it, just divert it. Make it someone else's problem. Keep it out of areas that vote National, keep it in areas that support Labour. Perhaps a wall around the Occupied Territories South Auckland will be her next proposal.

With that sort of frank attitude, she won't last five minutes in Parliament.
1 - "MP: Motorway would keep South Auckland criminals out," unattributed Newztalk ZB atrticle, 14th of May, 2009. Reproduced by The New Zealand Herald. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10572203)

Still can't get my head around

... the appointment of Christine Rankin to the Families Commission. Sorry, but what happened to Moderate John, the natural centrist? Obvious, clumsy pay back.

Or, given the effect it is already having (1), perhaps it is a political masterstroke to completelty destory the commission and silence a voice that would criticise the impact of his economic policies.
1 - "Campaigner quits over Rankin," by Tracy Watkins, published in the Dominion Post, 14th of May, 2009. rReproduced on stuff.co.nz. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/2409165/Campaigner-quits-over-Rankin)

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Expenses Row

Last week the Telegraph performed an important public service by publishing details of British M.P.'s expense claims, pre-empting the publication of the efited version that Parliament was going to produce. For this, the paper should be applauded, as it has taken a risk and there is a suggestion that legal action may be taken.

In that first set of reports, the Telegraph concentrated on claims made by the Labour government (1). This could be justified, as the actions of the government are inherently of greater interest than the actions of the opposition. This week, the newspaper has published details of the Conservative claims (2).

While the Telegraph has been at pains to point out it is being even-handed, I think it is showing clear bias. First of all, the publication of the Labour parties claims first - though arguably justified - could equally be a deliberate move to make sure Labour are the ones most visible in the spotlight, and receive the greatest amount of - entirely deserved - public opprobrium. The names published after the first week blur. People will remember the names of Labour M.P.s and that they are linked with the scandal, whereas the Tories will just be more politicians grafting for all they're worth.

Second, there is a difference in the way that the expenses relating to the Tories are being presented. While the Telegraph is publishing details that will make the conservatives squirm, David Cameron is being shielded - perhaps dishonestly. While Gordon Brown was roasted over his (apparently legitimate) payments to his brother, the reporting on Cameron is characterised by vagueness. We're told:
Mr Cameron has claimed only for mortgage interest and utility bills on his Oxfordshire constituency cottage. Some years, his Parliamentary expense records are only 20 pages long – compared with expenses claims of more than 90 pages for some of his colleagues. (3)
One can't help but wonder how much a 'cottage' in Chipping Norton might cost, and how much the tax payer might be paying out to service the loan. It is within the rules, obviously, but the lack of hard data suggests that Mr Cameron is getting the soft treatment.

And what about the next line, where we can take comfort in the fact that his expense claims are "only 20 pages long" in some years. Some years? What about the other years? Was it 30 pages long? 50? And if M.P.s are lodging claims of 90 pages, why aren't they being named? Two possible reasons - because they're claims were justified (M.P.s from the further flung parts of Britain), or because they were Tories and the Telegraph didn't want to draw attention to that annoying fact?

And why focus on the number of pages in his expenses claim - a meaningless measurement - than giving us a straightforward figure, straight away?

Because, of course, they don't want to admit that Cameron is no better than the rest of them. Further on, we're given some figures:

Mr Cameron claimed more than £1,700 a month in mortgage interest during two of the years covered by Parliamentary records.

In total, Mr Cameron has claimed £82,450 towards the cost of his second home over the past four years. In the 2004-05 financial year, he claimed the maximum allowance ... (4)
But by this point, a lot of people will have stopped reading and even those that do will have received the impression that David Cameron is squeaky clean - just like those reading reading about Brown's payments to his brother will have been lead to think that there was something untoward going on, due to thespin put on the facts by the Telegraph.

Even in admitting that Cameron has been as busy with his claims as his colleagues, the Telegraph can't resist trying to put him forward as Mr Honest. The section quoted immediately above continues:
... but during 2007-08, he was only the 406th highest-claiming MP.

Mr Cameron’s personal claims are likely to put him in a strong position to root out problems uncovered among other Conservative MPs. (5)

That is opinion, being presented as fact in the reportage section of the Telegraph, not in the leader or the op-ed pages. It's a pathetic lapse of journalism and it is that sort of clumsy attempt to spin this cluster-fuck of corruption to Cameron's advantage that makes the Telegraph's pontificating about honesty, openess and the public good, disingenuous. Cameron might - or might not - be a decent, upstanding fellow, but the Telegraph is trying to create this idea in the minds of its readers.

Immediately afterwards, comes a shot at Gordon Brown:

His simple claims stand in contrast to those of Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister. Mr Brown switched the property on which he claims his allowance after becoming Prime Minister.

Last week, he repaid a £150 plumbing bill after incorrectly claiming for it twice. His brother also organised a cleaner for his London flat between 2004 and 2006. (6)

There is nothing in there that the Telegraph has highlighted as untoward, and repeating it again is drumming home the message - "Brown gave his brother money, Brown calimed twice for stuff, Brown's a flipper." Again, the Telegraph is manipulating its readers, not reporting facts.

Contrast that with the report on Brown's claims made in the Telegraph a few days earlier (7). The report kicked off with a headline screaming "Gordon Brown’s house swap that let him claim thousands." The Cameron story was headed up, "David Cameron limits claims to mortgage and utilities." Do you notice a slight difference in tone there?

The sub-headings go even further. We're informed that "Gordon Brown used his Parliamentary allowances to boost his expenses claims by switching his designated second home shortly before he moved into Downing Street upon becoming Prime Minister," which suggests something murky is afoot, but apparently, "David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has some of the most straightforward expense claims of any member of the shadow Cabinet."

Note the qualifiers there, by the way, "most straightforward" and "of the Shadow cabinet." "Straightforward" doesn't mean "smallest" "honest," or "justifed." "Of the shadow cabinet" might indicate he fairs rather badly compared to other MPs. Who knows? Not us, based on the mealy-mouthed coverage in the Telegraph.

Meanwhile, we're breathlessly informed about the intimate details of Brown's claims. This is fairly standard propoganda Tsunamai tactics - there isn't anything much amiss with Brown's claims, so simply go for the quantitiative approach and tell us how much he's billing us for, to make it seem bad. We get told we paid for his toilet to be unblocked, for goodness sake. While it is admitted that - unlike David Cameron - Brown "did not claim mort­gage interest payments on the Fife home" the Telegraph is desperate to drum up some suggestion of impropriety. So we get the payments to his brother - deliberately phrased as payments to "his brother, Andrew, a high-flying executive ... for “cleaning services”," which make it sound disingenuous, as if Andrew Brown was the one doing the cleaning (8).

The main point of the article is that Brown billed the tax payer for a London flat and then 'flipped' his claim to his constituency home. It is a smoke and mirror routine - once the facts are clear, it is innocuous. Brown made the change just before becoming Prime Minister. Prior to that, he'd claimed for a second home in London, rather than living at the official Chancellor's residence at Numer 11 Downing Street. Brown, as Chancellor, didn't live at Number 11, because it was occupied by Tony Blair, who lived in the more spacious Number 11. Brown continued the practice and didn't physically move into the Chancellor's residence until he became Prime Minister (9).

This accounts for Brown's refusal to take advantage of the 'grace and favour' flat he was entiteled to - Tony Blair was living in it - and the whole Telegraph case on his second home claim collapses once that's made clear. Of course, the Telegraph doesn't bother to mention that small circumstance. Why spoil a good beat up?

1 - "Cabinet MP's expenses," index of different articles relating to the claims made by ministers and ex-ministers, viewed 13th of May, 2009. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/cabinet-expenses/)
2 - "Conservative MP's expenses," index of different articles relating to the claims made by Conservative M.P.s and ex-M.P.s, viewed 13th of May, 2009. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/conservative-mps-expenses/)
3 - "David Cameron limits claims to mortgage and utilities: MPs expenses," by Robert Winnett, published in The Telegraph, 11th of May, 2009. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5305130/David-Cameron-limits-claims-to-mortgage-and-utilities-MPs-expenses.html)
4 -
ibid.
5 -
ibid.
6 -
ibid.
7 - "MPs' expenses: Gordon Brown’s house swap that let him claim thousands," by Rosa Price and Holly Watt, published in The Telegraph, 8th of May, 2009. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5293446/MPs-expenses-Gordon-Browns-house-swap-that-let-him-claim-thousands.html)
8 - The headlines and extracts quoted in this paragraph are drawn from the articles identified in #3 and #7, above.
9 - As per the wikipedia article, "11 Downing Street," viewed on 13th of May, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/11_Downing_Street)

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Health & education spending cut back

Why is this not a surprise:

Proposed spending increases in health and education by the Labour government are likely to be axed in the Budget.

[snip]

Finance Minister Bill English said the figures and the revenue outlook meant National could not proceed with Labour's proposed spending in its May 28 Budget.

"We've had to scale back the undertakings made by the previous government," English said.

"They had allocated some quite large spending increases for this Budget. They won't be able to happen now because there is less revenue.

"But we will still be spending more on public services."

In 2008, Labour added $3b in spending during the 2009-10 financial year on to the Government's books, much of it on social services such as health, community services and education.

The spending increases, outlined in the 2008 Budget but now likely to be scaled back, include $750m more for health, $591m over four years for tertiary education, $182m for school operations funding, $446m for community service non-governmental organisations and $180m for police. (1)

This is only the start of it, of course. THe credit crunch must be a libertarian wet dream. Expect further hysterical cut backs in public spending, justified in with hysterical references to 'balancing the books' and 'preserving fiscal integrity' or what have you. At the same time, there will be further tax cuts - justified by claims that this will somehow 'stimulate the economy' and will 'encourage enterprise and investment.' Never mind that this has never been shown to happen anywhere in the world, ever (2).

What we're seeing is the seeding of the next ten or twenty years social problems. As public spending gets gut back, and the already struggling are pushed further into poverty by the demented application of failed libertarian policies, we'll see another sharp rise in the statistics which New Zealand's already leading the world in - suicide, child abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug use, prison population, familial breakdown and so on. The freemarket goons, blinded by their ideology (I'm being kind here and assuming they actually believe the tripe they spout and aren't just lying to give their behaviour a veneer of acceptability) will find ways to blame the victims, denouncing the 'benefits junkies' and 'immorality and indivduality sresulting from politically correct social engineering' and the like. They'll call for more of the same.

And, unfortunately, they'll get their way long enough to do real, terrible damage to the most vulnerable people in society - children. And the consequences created by their ideologically driven social vandalism will be around for a very long time.
1 - 'Labour Budget pledges face axe,' by Colin Espiner, published in The Press, 7th of May, 2009. Reproduced on stuff.co.nz (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/2390322/Labour-Budget-pledges-face-axe)
2 - Don't quote me on the "never ... anywhere ... ever" bit. I just kinda made that up. But I await evidence to the contrary with anticipation.

Theresa May: Going, Going ...

So, Theresa May is in a bit of trouble.  Tories are scheming and plotting - which they do on any day that ends in a 'Y' - and rumour...