Friday, 29 April 2011

Bullingdon is back

Oh Dear! Beneath the smooth veneer of a Surrey Jaguar car salesman there lies an atavistic attitude and a contempt for lesser mortals. Given a comfortable ride and an easy brief, Cameron oozes charm and competence. Prick his bubble and a darker, more repugnant side emerges. 
The deeply repulsive Bullingdon Club, featuring such alumni as Boris Johnson and George Osborne as well as Cameron, flaunted their wealth and status. They operated on the simple premise that, “We are very, very  rich and can do what we like, when we like and to whom we like.” This included trashing restaurants and upsetting decent folk on a regular basis.” Large wodges of cash would be used to help pay for the shenanigans as the Hoorays wandered off into the night. 
Cameron’s  “Calm down dear” comments come straight from the ‘BullingdonClub Rules for a Tewwific Night Out’ Section two, entitled, ‘Showing contempt for oiks.’
“Members will score highly whenever a deeply patronising attitude is used to an oik. The score will be doubled if the recipient is female; trebled if female and elderly and quadrupled if the insult is delivered in tones of the purest condescension.” 
(This last section is made up but you get the idea).
Cameron may well score highly with his Bullingdon chums. It plays badly in the decent real world.
Would you buy a Jag from this man?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


A most dispiriting and frustrating 5 minutes spent watching elderly comfortably-off Conservative gentry on Newsnight last night. They were on a home counties golf course amiably dismissing the need for electoral reform. Their wives meanwhile were attending a pottery event nearby. They were far worse. Why should they worry their fluffy little heads with the complexities of AV? Far too difficult to understand. They would much rather leave such complicated matters to their menfolk. What? ! The only the way this bunch of complacent affluent noodles would burn their bras would be if their house caught fire. Their approach could be summed up as ‘we do what the Tory party and our husbands tell us.’ Isn’t evolution brilliant?
The ‘No’ campaign have appealed to the thick and the uninterested by making it all sound very complicated. No it isn’t. It is as simple as 1-2-3. The ‘Yes’ campaign have overcomplicated matters and relied on slick PR when clarity was all.
Cameron opposes AV. He is only PM because of it. The first ballot in the leadership election was won by David Davies. Cameron came in second. The bottom candidate dropped out and they all voted again. Second preferences anyone? There are many other similar examples where our ruling class use AV to decide who gets what but then, they clearly are so much cleverer and superior to us. 
Humbuggery, smuggery, thuggery and disregard for fairness allied to outright lies and the support of the Murdoch media empire are turning what should be a good debate about the future of our democracy into a farrago of flatulence. And there are a few more tortuous days to endure. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Super Dooper Injunctions

The news that Andrew Marr has admitted that he took out a Super Injunction will surprise no-one in the Westminster Bubble. It rapidly emerged that the media and most politicians (aka ‘the chattering classes) exchange gossip on these matters on a regular basis. They knew but we didn’t. 
Does it matter? Not so much in the many cases of footballers and their affairs with grannies or slappers. But when an international company covers up the evil dumping of toxic material in a third world country using these gagging orders then it clearly does. They are so powerful that one has been applied to the whole world! 
This iniquitous process has created a two-tier system. The rich and powerful can increasingly buy silence, cover-up and privilege. At the same time the poor and the vulnerable are having legal aid budgets slashed. 
All in this together? Bollocks. 

Monday, 25 April 2011

AV or Not AV - that is not the question.

Let’s get this straight. The argument over a marginal improvement in our electoral system pales into insignificance against the massive and damaging failures of our democratic system.
All three major parties are singing from the same song book. They may not be on the same tune but they are on the same page. Very little real choice exists. Hence the made up spats about who is telling porkies in their av leaflets and internships. It is all designed by PR and Spinners to make us think there is a difference. Consider their abject grovelling before the bankers; their readiness to hit the weak and the vulnerable and the protection of the rich. And especially consider the supine approach to tax avoidance. So much so they are proposing to exempt themselves from upcoming legislation.
All three parties are dominated by bright young things who followed the same route. Oxbridge - Researcher to an MP - Assistant to a Minister or Shadow Minister - safe seat - Parliament. Not having a clue about real life outside the bubble. Yet these same people can happily send other people’s sons and daughters into an increasing number of wars. They can consign thousands to the dole queue with barely a qualm. They can reduce or remove incapacity benefits from the most vulnerable with the merest twinge of conscience. They offer patronising platitudes instead of radical action.  
The party system stinks. It was useful in the days when parties held national conferences to decide policy issues. Now it is done by sofa government with an inner caucus comprising members of the political class with several so-called advisors and rune readers. Many MPs are party hacks who obey their whips and traipse regularly through the lobbies without a brainwave troubling their skulls. It goes even further with the parties often parachuting in favoured creeps into local constituencies to ensure a shoe-in into the Commons. It is astonishing that any of the parties still have activists prepared to lick envelopes and ‘go on the knocker’ when they count for so little.
One new MP complained recently that she did not understand the contempt that MPs are held in. When the repayment of Expenses and their exemption of Tax Avoidance is considered (Daily Telegraph) it is clear they still do not get it. Too many still see it as a license to join the gravy train. This used to be a Conservative trait but recent research revealed that Labour MPs were just as eager to join the nest lining clubs. Shame upon shame.
Our system is rooted in the 18th Century. ‘My Honourable’ this and ‘My Respected’ that is just so much hifalutin twaddle when the sins and arrogance of the place are considered. Voting takes an incredibly long time and allows whips to bully the feeble minded (and the lecherous to have a quick grope - true!). Nothing that an electronic system could not put right. A root and branch reform of the procedures of Parliament is long overdue. 
AV is a very small step when giant strides are needed. A ‘No’ vote should serve to light the blue touch paper to all sorts of extra-parliamentary action. A ‘Yes’ vote will not lessen the need for swingeing reform.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Absolute Bloody Madness

Tomorrow morning two tribes from Manchester will entrain, ‘encar’ and ‘enbus’ to go to Wembley. They will traipse 200 miles to London. Stay a few hours and then traipse back again. And for what? A game of football. Manchester City are playing Manchester United in the Semi-Final of the FA Cup. 
Environmentally it is stupid and indefensible. It would have been much more straightforward and green to use Liverpool, Birmingham or Sheffield. All the way to and from Wembley there will need to be high security to keep the tribes apart. Motorway Services and Stations need to beware.
The start time (5.15pm) is truly amazing and remarkably ridiculous. The tribes will be able to spend a great part of the day imbibing dutch courage in copious amounts. They will then, suitably topped up, wend their wobbly way towards Wembley. Encounters with the other tribe will happen and enmity will ensue. How violent this becomes is a matter of considerable concern. A true blue asserted that he finds the offensive nature of the tribalism very disturbing. So much so he has turned down the chance to go, fearing serious trouble. 
They will gather at ‘New Wembley’ at grossly inflated prices to watch overpaid young men clatter into each other for the benefit of their respective owners. One, a dubious yankee consortium, who bought the club via enormous loans which have to be paid back by the club (Isn’t capitalism wonderful?). The other with very dubious human rights skeletons in his family background. Yippee. The players will count their cash and buy yet another too fast car and say nothing apart from invoking the usual ill parrots and boys done well platitudes which serve for intelligent analysis in the barmy world of football.

Each highly paid Manager will blame/salute the referee, depending on whichever decision turned out to be crucial. Tribal passions will be further inflamed and the journey back to Manchester will be fraught with difficulties. And why is this stupid timing going ahead? Mammon, in the form of TV has had its usual say. 
What a farce.
Ever since the FA recklessly vastly overspent their budget on New Wembley they have looked for ways to claw back some cash.
Environmental issues? Not a problem.
Trouble on the route and around the ground? Everything is under control.
Violence on the pitch? Usual lack of action.
Managers slagging off referees? Usual slapped wrists.
Think of the money! Think of the money! THINK   OF   THE   MONEY!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Bradley Manning’s shameful treatment.

“More than 250 of America's most eminent legal scholars have signed a letter protesting against the treatment in military prison of the alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, contesting that his "degrading and inhumane conditions" are illegal, unconstitutional and could even amount to torture.”
“The list of signatories includes Laurence Tribe, a Harvard professor who is considered to be America's foremost liberal authority on constitutional law. He taught constitutional law to Barack Obama and was a key backer of his 2008 presidential campaign.
Tribe joined the Obama administration last year as a legal adviser in the justice department, a post he held until three months ago.
He told the Guardian he signed the letter because Manning appeared to have been treated in a way that "is not only shameful but unconstitutional" as he awaits court martial in Quantico marine base in Virginia."
"Bradley Manning is the soldier charged with leaking US government documents to Wikileaks. He is currently detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral.

For nine months, Manning has been confined to his cell for 23 hours a day. During his one remaining hour, he can walk in circles in another room, with no other prisoners present. He is not allowed to doze off or relax during the day, but must answer the question "Are you OK?" verbally and in the affirmative every five minutes. At night, he is awakened to be asked again "Are you OK?" every time he turns his back to the cell door or covers his head with a blanket so that the guards cannot see his face. During the past week, he was forced to sleep naked and stand naked for inspection in front of his cell, and for the indefinite future must remove his clothes and wear a "smock" under claims of risk to himself that he disputes.
The sum of the treatment that has been widely reported is a violation of the eighth amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the fifth amendment's guarantee against punishment without trial. If continued, it may well amount to a violation of the criminal statute against torture, defined as, among other things, "the administration or application … of … procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality."
In an Orwellian twist, the spokesman for the brig commander refused to explain the forced nudity "because to discuss the details would be a violation of Manning's privacy".
The administration has provided no evidence that Manning's treatment reflects a concern for his own safety or that of other inmates. Unless and until it does so, there is only one reasonable inference: this pattern of degrading treatment aims either to deter future whistleblowers, or to force Manning to implicate WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a conspiracy, or both.
If Manning is guilty of a crime, let him be tried, convicted and punished according to law. But his treatment must be consistent with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There is no excuse for his degrading and inhumane pretrial punishment. As the state department's PJ Crowley put it recently, they are "counterproductive and stupid". And yet Crowley has now been forced to resign for speaking the plain truth.
The WikiLeaks disclosures have touched every corner of the world. Now the whole world watches America and observes what it does, not what it says.
President Obama was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander-in-chief meets fundamental standards of decency. He should not merely assert that Manning's confinement is "appropriate and meet[s] our basic standards", as he did recently. He should require the Pentagon publicly to document the grounds for its extraordinary actions – and immediately end those that cannot withstand the light of day.”
Bruce Ackerman, Yale Law School, New Haven, Connecticut
Yochai Benkler, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
“Benkler told the Guardian: "It is incumbent on us as citizens and professors of law to say that enough is enough. We cannot allow ourselves to behave in this way if we want America to remain a society dedicated to human dignity and process of law."
He said Manning's conditions were being used "as a warning to future whistleblowers" and added: " I find it tragic that it is Obama's administration that is pursuing whistleblowers and imposing this kind of treatment."
“Ackerman pointed out that under the Pentagon's own rule book, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Manning's jailers could be liable to prosecution for abusing him. Article 93 of the code says "any person who is guilty of cruelty toward any person subject to his orders shall be punished". Guardian online April 2011
Hang your head in shame President Obama. And hand back the Nobel Peace Prize - you are unworthy of it.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Silence of the Clams

There are many disturbing aspects of the phone-hacking scandal. One of the most puzzling has been the lack of interest shown by the great mass of the media. Imagine what  Murdoch’s media would have made of the story if the offenders had been the BBC? 
So why, when it comes to phone-hacking at Murdoch's News of the World, is everyone so quiet? Why has it been left almost entirely to the Guardian, with help from a few other media organisations such as the New York Times, to reveal the extent of the criminality? 
One reason is the unwritten rule that the press do not snitch on each other. Whether this comes from proprietors having a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ (what a misnomer) or that they know it would end up as dog eat dog. 
More pertinent is the probability that too many of them have used similar methods and are keeping their fingers crossed that the News of the World takes the hit. The Daily Mail has been the most silent. Under its loathsome bullying martinet of an editor (Dacre) it is not unreasonable to suggest that fearful staff may have resorted to illegal methods to keep their jobs. And staff at the Mirror, the Sun?
Another element is the lack of political interest apart from a few MPs. 
“This affair is just one example of how politicians have lost the authority, the will and the moral compass to control corporate interests. They consider only the most modest proposals to bring banks to heel. They make it laughably easy for multinationals to avoid tax. They stand by as supermarkets drive out small retailers. They introduce "reforms" to education and health that allow corporations to take over the provision, if not the ownership, of our biggest public services. The corporate sector gets what it wants. Why shouldn't Murdoch? It's business as usual.
The Labour party was once the political arm of the organised working-class. All three main parties are now the political arm of the organised corporate class. (My emphasis) This is not a peculiarly British phenomenon. Almost every advanced democracy, and particularly the US, struggles to control the corporate sector. It is not just that politicians depend on its donations to finance election campaigns but also that they lack the staying power to withstand corporate pressure.” Peter Wilby Guardian 12/4/11
Other MPs are scared.
“Another fear is that Murdoch's journalists will use their formidable resources against anybody who displeases them. Chris Bryant, one of the few MPs who dared to highlight what he calls "a many-layered scandal", told the Commons last month that "a senior figure allied to Rupert Murdoch" had sent him a warning "that it would not be forgotten" ibid.
We are ruled by a political class who are at the beck and call of the corporate world. No real choice in Westminster. 
Come on you Greens.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Toxic Clegg

With his admission that he cried, Clegg crossed a threshold from a hate figure into a sad and pathetic one. At the moment virtually everything he touches seems to go down the toilet. The LibDems are heading for a poor result in Scotland. They are currently lying behind the Green Party in 5th place. They are in a similar situation in Wales. Throw in the Local Elections and things could get very heated very quickly in his party. His role as Deputy seems to put him in the firing line without any apparent rewards. Cameron must be concerned about all this negative attention. How much can Clegg and the LibDems take before the coalition glue unsticks? Clegg came from a comparatively comfortable and largely unaccountable role in Europe. It must be appearing ever more attractive as the opprobrium and ridicule mounts. 
For example, Cristina Odone writing in the Daily Torygraph, “Nick Clegg must be hoping his interview with the New Statesman, in which he admits to crying over his critics’ attacks, will play well with the electorate. He will hope that the revelation that even his son is asking why Clegg is so hated will pull at heartstrings all over the land.
Think again, Nick. The son of a millionaire banker, educated at Westminster and Oxbridge, weeping because someone called him names, does not elicit sympathy at a time when millions really are worried about insecure jobs, food and petrol prices spiralling, and inflation returning to 1970s levels. Women are unforgiving about “lady men” who weep for themselves: stoicism in the face of hard times is inspiring, but blubbing when your feelings are hurt inspires mockery.” Daily Telegraph 7/4/11
Another ‘Glenda’ writing on the same subject was a little more supportive but went on to quote an occasion when she witnessed Harriet Harman under pressure. It was a time when Labour were in a mess and no other Cabinet Minister wanted to appear on ‘Question Time.’ Harman was booed onto the platform by a distinctly hostile audience, yet she stuck to her guns and gave as good as she got. It would seem very unlikely at present that Clegg will give as good as he gets. 
Overriding all this however, is the way the Tories are getting away with it. The NHS plans were not in their manifesto. The scrapping of the Educational Maintenance  Allowance was pooh-poohed by Gove  before the election. “Sure Start?’ Safe with us squire” ...and so on. They have lied and been duplicitous over numerous issues yet to date little heat has descended upon their slippery shoulders. 
Thanks to the Clegg firewall. 
A minority Conservative government would have had to be a lot more sensitive to the feelings of the poorest and most vulnerable in our country. 

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Phone Hacking Scandal and Trelford

For an ex-editor of the Observer with a good reputation, Donald Trelford somewhat blotted his record with his observations on the phone hacking scandal back in February.
"It seems extraordinary that this story should remain so high on the news agenda. It was all a long time ago, two people have been to jail, the paper's editor has resigned twice from senior posts without any convincing evidence being produced against him, the Press Complaints Commission appears satisfied that newspapers now abide by data protection law, and police inquiries have resumed."
He turned his ire onto the Guardian for continuing to dig and ferret out the story when News Corp had done its best to bury it. He incredibly blamed the Guardian for bringing the press into disrepute. 'It's a case of dog eats dog gone barking mad'
Whoops. It is difficult to think of someone being so wrong, misguided and shallow. Recent developments show this story to be massive as Henry Porter spells out in the Observer.
“One of the most serious post-second world war scandals to affect British public life cannot be placed in quarantine and forgotten simply by means of a late apology and millions in damages. It is already clear that admissions made by News International raise huge questions about the competence and ethics of the company's management, including James Murdoch, as well as profound doubts about attempts to quash the police's inquiry into allegations of widespread criminality.

But much more important is that the News of the World operation has penetrated to the heart of the British government and may even have intercepted Gordon Brown's messages. We know that Labour's culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, who was the minister overseeing the media, was hacked, as was her husband David Mills; the former deputy prime minister, Lord Prescott, has been told that the News of the World was listening to his messages; and it seems likely that Tony Blair's communications director Alastair Campbell was also a victim.
Two weeks ago I wrote formally to the former prime minister Gordon Brown to ask if he had received confirmation from the police that his phone was compromised by the News of the World. He has yet to reply, but the very idea that a serving chancellor's phone was hacked by journalists is shocking, to say nothing of subsequent moves to dissuade him from speaking about it in public. That single aspect of the story tells you a lot about Murdoch's power and the fear he can instill in politicians. 

Never mind the footballers, TV presenters and film stars that Rupert Murdoch's people have been busily buying off or threatening since this scandal broke. There are hundreds of them, maybe even thousands, and they all have the right to a private life, but the gravity of this affair lies in this: at the same time as Murdoch's organisation was maintaining sway over the course of politics in this country, his journalists were listening to government ministers' private messages. It is difficult to imagine a more dangerous breach of trust by a public corporation, which of course may even have implications for national security. If the chancellor's phone was hacked, it certainly does.

Since the Guardian's Nick Davies began his investigations, it has become clear that News International would go to extraordinary lengths to suppress the story, including an attempt to derail further investigation by the police after royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glen Mulcaire had been jailed. There is in an ongoing dispute between the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, and the acting deputy commissioner, John Yates, about advice given by the Crown Prosecution Service to the police, but what must be clear is that the police investigation was stalled and somewhere along the line Murdoch's influence was felt.
This whole sorry affair seems to condemn modern journalistic practices, yet it offers hope, because without the persistence of the Observer's sister paper, the Guardian, and the resolve of a few victims such as Lord Prescott, very little of this story would have been made public.”
Henry Porter Observer online 9/4/11

Saturday, 9 April 2011

NHS sell-off: lies, evasions and spin.

One of the worst things (among several) about the government’s plans for the NHS is the downright lies and evasion they have practiced to get to this point. The Coalition Agreement hammered out during those frenetic days in May makes no mention of any reorganisation. The only reference is the following: “The parties agree that funding for the NHS should increase in real terms in each year of the Parliament, while recognising the impact this decision would have on other departments.”  Coalition Agreement document May 2010

It now emerges that the NHS has to make 20 billion pounds of cuts by 2015. Already we are seeing evidence of delaying tactics being applied to all non-urgent surgical procedures. This inevitably  increases the waiting time and suffering of people needing hip operations or cataract treatment. No mention of any of this before the election.

The Conservative Manifesto spelt out a few changes but nothing of the import and the impact of their actual proposals. They even denied any wish to undergo any massive reorganisation! “We are stopping the top-down reconfigurations of NHS services,(my emphases) imposed from Whitehall rather than led by the local NHS, family doctors and local communities.” Conservative Manifesto 2010
Having hit a great deal of opposition, the PR skills of Cameron and his crew have been called into play. The idea of a period of listening is classic PR. It sounds good. It will reassure a few but actually change very little. Like most PR it is all about spin. 
For the actuality, look at the way Lansley is behaving. If this ‘listening period’ is serious then an invitation to speak to the Royal College of Nurses next week would seem to be an excellent opportunity for a frank exchange of views. He is the first Secretary of State to turn down the chance to address the RCN in eight years. [Update: 9th April. Lansley will now attend following the hoo-ha about his initial decision not to go. Should be a lively session.]
Lansley and Cameron addressed the College before the General Election last year. But that was when they were keeping their powder dry on their actual plans for the NHS.
Clegg and the LibDems have been rightly pilloried for the student fees debacle. The lies, evasions and duplicity of the Tories over the NHS is their equivalent. 
Update number 2: 13th April. Craven wormtongue Lansley is attending the RCN conference today but will not risk addressing the delegates. Instead his spinners are putting it out that he is there 'to listen.' What bollocks. He will arrive just after the nurses hold a vote of no-confidence in him and his plans....will he hear what they say? 

Friday, 8 April 2011

Tax Avoidance Exemption for MPs? Never.

A newly-elected MP told journalist Steve Richards in an off-air moment that the thing she found most difficult to handle about being an MP was the disdain of the public. Perhaps there would be less disdain and more respect if MPs stopped putting their own interests before those of their constituents. After the expenses outrage you would think that they would have got the message. Think again. As an article in the online Telegraph reveals.
“New tax year, same old MPs. After Budget promises to tackle tax avoidance, Parliament is passing legislation to block several loopholes – but an obscure clause specifically exempts MPs from these new restrictions.
Yes, really. Anyone who thought the denizens of Halitosis Hall had learned their lesson after the MPs’ expenses scandal will be disappointed. But it seems politicians still cannot get their heads round the childhood adage about sauce for the goose and gander – or why their constituents are fed up with buying them duck houses.
“HM Revenue & Customs says that this legislation is only there to stop ‘tax avoidance’. However, Section 554E(8) specifically exempts members of the House of Commons and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority from the new legislation in situations where they are actually caught by it.
“If the legislation is fair and proportional, what is the need for a specific exemption for members of the House of Commons? Why don’t they rely on the same arrangements that every other employer and employee in this country has to rely on?
“If the legislation only targets tax avoidance, why is there a need for a special exemption for MPs?” Ian Cowie, Daily Telegraph 8/4/11
Why? WHY? WHY?
Up with this we will not put. Contact your MP and make sure they know exactly what you feel about this. Contact campaigning organisations who utilise the internet (38 Degrees, Avaaz etc ) to add this issue to their target list. 
Make sure MPs know that we know.
Suggested letter/email
Dear --------------------(name of MP)
Legislation currently going through Parliament to block tax avoidance loopholes contains Section 554E(8) which specifically exempts members of the House of Commons and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. This is outrageous and indefensible.
What are you going to do about this despicable little clause? 
Yours etc. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Tories? Doncha just love ‘em.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker told a business audience in the United States, “We are making cuts that Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s could only have dreamt of.”
Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin talking to Boris Johnson about whether there should be more airports said, “We don’t want more people from Sheffield flying away on cheap holidays.”
Barker is a junior Minister who hardly anyone has heard of. Letwin is a millionaire member of a predominantly wealthy Cabinet. Both reveal the heart of darkness that lies deep within the Tory psyche. Ruthlessly right wing, uncaring and arrogant. But they do know what they stand for. 
What do the political class that dominates NewLabour believe in?

Monday, 4 April 2011

Obama own goal

“Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, will be tried by a military commission in Guantánamo. It is the latest retreat by the Obama administration from its much-vaunted plans to overhaul the legal processing of terror suspects.
Mohammed and four other terror suspects will be put on trial through a military system that President Obama had vowed to abolish when he began in office in January 2009.
The about-face is hugely symbolic as Mohammed was al-Qaida's main architect of 9/11, according to the commission of inquiry into the terrorist outrages convened in New York. How he is treated arguably sets the tone for America's legal handling of terror suspects.” Guardian online 4/4/11
Apart from the Republicans and some Democrats making it very clear that they would oppose any civil trial on US soil, there was also the issue of using torture to get evidence. The CIA admitted that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was water boarded 183 times in a month. Despite the claims of the egregious Chaney, the use of water boarding is cruel and inhuman punishment i.e. torture. All the ‘confessions’ and the ‘admissions’ would have been ruled as inadmissible evidence because of the illegal methods used to obtain it. So a Civil Trial became a major problem. 
A President who practiced what he preached would have dug his heels in and insisted that the Rule of Law operates above all else. He would have held a trial on US soil under US jurisdiction. Yes it would have been difficult. Yes, great chunks of so called ‘evidence’ would have been ruled inadmissible. Yes, there was a possibility that because of this KSM could have walked free. But it would have been right. Instead Obama has caved in and given in to the thick, the undemocratic and the raving right in his country. 
What he is left with is a mess. The so-called tribunal in Guantanamo is an absolute gift to terrorists and despots around the world. The staging of what is in effect a show trial gives strength to enemies of the US and disheartens their allies and friends. It throws the Rule of Law into the bin. It also helps remind us that the US, significantly, does not recognise the International Criminal Court. 
We will hear no more of ‘the city on the hill’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’ and talk of ‘human rights’ from US spokesfolks around the world. We will remember that when faced with the issue of upholding the Rule of Law (one of the bulwarks of the Constitution) or of giving in to (at best) a more pragmatical approach, this President let the founding fathers down. 

Sunday, 3 April 2011

NHS Reform and Lansley

“The confusion over the Government's plans for the NHS is, to put it at its most moderate, surprising. This is a matter not just of ideology but of competence.
The Prime Minister seems to have assumed, despite the evidence over many years, that Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health, knew what he was doing. When Mr Lansley succeeded in uniting doctors, nurses, public opinion and most Liberal Democrats against his reforms, No 10 seems to have assumed that he needed to communicate the changes better.

It is certainly the case that the communication of the policy has been lamentable. Mr Lansley's main message has been that GP- commissioning was promised in the Tory and Liberal Democrat manifestos, and in their coalition agreement. That claim lacks a basis in fact, to put it politely. (my emphasis) The Tory manifesto spoke of giving GPs the power to commission care, rather than requiring them to do so, and the coalition document was similarly permissive. The Lib Dem manifesto was silent on the issue. The coalition agreement also promises that primary care trusts (PCTs) "will act as a champion for patients and commission those residual services that are best undertaken at a wider level, rather than directly by GPs". The Bill dispenses with the trusts altogether.

As David Owen argues today, Mr Lansley has no mandate for his reform. That is why Nick Clegg felt emboldened to seek changes to the policy; what the changes are precisely we will find out soon. (The main business in private seems to have been a struggle over the extent to which Mr Clegg will take credit for saving the day.) In many ways, however, it is already too late. Our willingness to give the Government the benefit of the doubt has been forfeited. We do not know how the reorganisation of the NHS was supposed to work, and suspect that Mr Lansley does not either.” Independent on Sunday 3/4/11

We know that Mr Lansley is not to be trusted. His justification for promoting these wholesale changes to the NHS without telling the electorate was that he ‘mentioned them in a few meetings.’ This is unsupportable and those greedy GPs who have already jumped in thinking of the wodges of cash they will make should think again. We want Doctors - not accountants, business managers or financiers. 
Lansley is another of the current crop of politicians who seek to line their pockets with another income while working as an MP. They have great difficulty understanding the lot of the great mass of the British people as it is beyond their ken. It does not stop Lansley and his cronies trying to remodel the NHS on American lines. 
Just like Patricia Hewitt, when she stepped down as Secretary of State for Health, Lansley will have his eye on a plum job with a private medicine company when his dirty deeds are done.

Friday, 1 April 2011

April Fools FA

Today is April 1st. All Fools Day. Many media organisations try to slip in bogus items in the hope they will catch out their viewers, listeners and readers. They make up stories such as the Panorama investigation into the Spaghetti tree or the Guardian’s creation of San Serife, a hidden island in the Atlantic. 
The Today programme had an item about 3D Radio. The Independent went with Portugal selling Ronaldo to Spain to help pay off their debt. The Guardian had a leading article waxing lyrical about the forthcoming Royal Wedding which had me going and there was a BMW advert offering a Royal Wedding ‘Special Edition’ car. 
The doozy of the day though was the report that the Premiership were going to improve the behaviour of players and managers, “Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has announced a crackdown on the "unacceptable" behaviour by players and managers towards referees.” BBC Online.
Now that really is an April Fools cracker.

Later (7-55pm) along comes this little gem to top the lot, "Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson claims the new Premier League initiative to encourage respect for referees is unnecessary, saying “I don’t think managers disrespect referees.” Telegraph online

You couldn't make it up.