Friday, 25 April 2014

De-Knight The Nonce

It is not in dispute that, back when it was still just about legal, Chris Woodhead had an affair with a Sixth Former.

And now, this.

Unlike those other Thatcher favourites, Sir Jimmy Savile, Sir Cyril Smith, Sir Laurens van der Post, and the man on whom she was politically most reliant, Sir Peter Morrison, Sir Chris Woodhead is still alive.

Forfeiture would of course be automatic upon incarceration for having run an international free brothel for the predators of young boys.

But why wait?

The former Dame Jean Else lost her handle for less than has already been established in this case. Nor has she ever defended teacher-pupil sex, as Woodhead has in his time.

Savile also wangled himself a Papal Knighthood. Damian Thompson is said to be angling for one of those. He will of course call, perhaps on his Telegraph Blog, for Woodhead to lose his K forthwith.

After all, if not, then what are they to make of that in the Nunciature and in the Vatican? Or, indeed, anywhere else? What is any of us to make of it?

Thursday, 24 April 2014

A Very Free School Indeed

With Sir Chris Woodhead's school now under international investigation for having harboured a prolific pederast, isn't the lack of Local Authority "interference" looking splendid?

Councils have not in fact run schools since 1988, an entire 26 years ago.

When Michael Gove suggests that they still do, then he is lying.

When the likes of Toby Young suggest it, then they simply do not know what they are talking about.

Being media apparatchiki, Gove and Young are both permitted and enabled to get away with it. Heaven forfend that they might be held accountable.

But, of course, the Local Authority has never had the slightest involvement in the Southbank International School.

And that has worked out well.

Hasn't it?

Veiled Threat

I wish every success to any Muslim women who seek to restrain their male relatives from becoming jihadi in Syria.

But remember, by so becoming, those Muslim menfolk would have been going to fight for the side in support of which the Government had wanted to deploy their mostly non-Muslim, and their otherwise "moderate Muslim", classmates, workmates, team-mates, and so on.

Until that Government was itself restrained by the somewhat unfashionable, but rather successful, figures of Vladimir Putin and Ed Miliband.

Also, notice the motivation cited by the boys moved to head for Syria: the scenes shown on the television news in Britain. Exactly the same as David Cameron's at least ostensible motivation was, and exactly the one that he cited in Parliament and to the public.

Fading Yellow

Poor Danny Alexander, who is well on course to lose his own seat, seems to imagine that anyone would want to deal with the Lib Dems in the next Parliament. Or even have any need to do so.

The Lib Dems are claiming to have exercised a restraining influence, thereby keeping the Coalition "on the centre ground".

So remember, this Government is what the Lib Dems' restraining influence looks like, and it stands on the Lib Dems' definition of the centre ground.

Remember, and vote accordingly.

The Blond Bombsite

By the time of the next General Election, Boris Johnson will have been out of Parliament for as long as he was ever in.

After that Election, more or less any seat still held by the Conservative Party will by definition be a safe seat, often occupied by an MP of very long standing.

Will MPs who had toiled for decades, in good times and in bad, be supposed to waft into the Leadership a man who had only just re-entered Parliament, and that on the specific understanding in his own mind that he would instantly be made Leader?

Johnson, like Michael Gove, is given no scrutiny whatever, in both cases because they are the media's own. But Gove is a spectacularly unsuccessful politician, while Johnson is not really a politician at all.

In 2010, Labour decided that it, and not the media, was going to chose its Leader. That party has been ahead in the polls for almost the entire period since, and it remains so.

2015 might very well be the year when the Conservatives come to the same decision.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Happy Saint George's Day

God Save The Queen.

Although (and it is not very often that I say this) I take Dan Hodges's point, even if he does fail to see the connection between later activities and what he bizarrely claims to have been the spontaneity of Euro 96, nevertheless today ought to be a public holiday throughout the United Kingdom.

As should Saint Andrew's Day, Saint David's Day and Saint Patrick's Day. Away with pointless celebrations of the mere fact that the banks are on holiday.

It is because, uniquely in the world, most of our public holidays are not for or about anything that, uniquely in the world, they do not in practice apply below a certain socio-economic level.

It is amazing how many people assume that because there is a legend about Saint George, he himself must be a purely legendary figure. He is not.

The Tomb of Saint George at his birthplace, which is now known as Lod and which is the location of Israel's principal airport, has become a shadow of its former self.

It was once a major focus of unity between Christians and Muslims in devotion to the Patron Saint of Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt before, and as much as, the Patron Saint of England.

Three quarters of those who practised that devotion were violently expelled in 1948.

On what remains, see here.

But as for Egypt, the Holy Father has today appointed a priest of the small Coptic Catholic Church as his Personal Secretary. Hope springs eternal.

Distorts and Warps

Of course Russia and China are as opposed as anyone to the rise of Islamism, and indeed more actively opposed than most, being very much on the front line against it.
 
That was precisely why they opposed Tony Blair's wars in Kosovo and Iraq, and why they opposed the Heir to Blair over Libya and Syria.
 
They have been proved right on every count.

Kipper Ties

UKIP will be humiliated when it comes second to Labour at the European Elections. But it ought to be pleased.
 
There was never any requirement to change the electoral system for those elections. Tony Blair did it purely in order to purge his many critics among Labour MEPs.
 
In the wildly improbable event that UKIP ever had topped the poll, then the whole thing would have been put back to First Past The Post, leaving UKIP with no seats in 2019, just as it will have no seats in 2015.
 
Yes, that would have added up. And Nigel Farage knows that it would have added up.
 
UKIP is in any case highly unlikely to exist by 2019. But even that existence is more likely than there ever, ever being any change to the electoral system for the House of Commons.
 
Not that it would matter if there were. One or other of Labour and the Conservatives would still always provide the Prime Minister, Labour would still do so with an overall majority three quarters of the time, and each of those parties would still never drop below 200 seats.
 
A party with 200 MPs is a major political force even if it has no other members in the entire country. A party with no MPs is simply not a major political force, and that is that.
 
People who say that Labour, the Conservatives or both would dissolve into "constituent parts" under a different electoral system know absolutely nothing, not the first thing, about Britain. They "learned" it all out of books, and those books were about other countries.
 
Ask any member of either of those parties to which "constituent part" he or she belonged. Anyone who has ever been in or around either of them will have read that last sentence and laughed out loud.
 
UKIP, on the other hand, is very split indeed. Over half of its voters support same-sex marriage. It has a very heavily neoconservative activist and voter base in foreign policy terms. And so on.

It is beyond improbable that the ardently Thatcherite UKIP lot will have been at all impressed by Cameron's "Christian country" spiel even while he was calling the Police on the Bishop of Oxford for having dared to deliver a petition on food poverty to his constituency office.

(Incidentally, how stony a heart it would have taken not to have laughed very loud indeed as the Mail on Sunday's fraudulent "story" on food banks collapsed before the very eyes of the Internet, and as the charity in question experienced a huge surge in donations as a result.)

Rather, the Kippers come out of the school of Enoch Powell, who insisted that Christianity had no political implications whatever, and of the likes of the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs, fiercely of the view that churches ought to behave as if that were the case.

You never, ever hear that from even the most militantly atheistic sections of the British Left, with which extremely few of those letter-writers to the Daily Telegraph were identifiable, and who in any case pointedly did not say that. You never have done. Well, of course not.

I expect, however, that you would hear what amounted to precisely that over the gins in the golf club bars of UKIP country: "Christmas Carol Services for the kiddies, and giving a nignog a good kicking so that he knew his place, which was in Nignogland. That was what it was all about, before the C of E succumbed to Political Correctness gone MAAADDD!!!"

In all fairness to the dear old Church of England, no, it most certainly was not.

A Meretricious Figure

Daniel Larison writes:

Freddy Gray tries to make sense of David Cameron’s political career. Here he comments on Cameron’s recent eagerness for military intervention:

One day, we may look back on Cameron as a heroic figure who only went to war reluctantly for the noblest causes, while at the same time pulling off massive political, economic and cultural reforms at home.

But Cameron’s obvious impulsivity in foreign affairs suggests a far different verdict—a meretricious figure who would rush to war for the sake of his own conscience, or just some good headlines.

Cameron had the good fortune to become the leader of the opposition when Blair was still in power, since this made it very easy to position himself as the voice on reason on foreign policy by comparison without having to commit to much.

Even though he was a supporter of the Iraq war all along, he benefited from the fact that Blair and Brown were far more deeply implicated in the debacle.

In that respect, the long years in the political wilderness were a blessing for the Tories, since it prevented them from being as closely identified with the extremely unpopular war as Labour was.

Nonetheless, the foolish impulsiveness that Gray identifies was always there, as we saw when Cameron out-McCained McCain in his enthusiasm for the cause of Georgia during the August 2008 war.

Alex Massie recalled that incident in the weeks before the Libyan war this way:

His Dash to Tbilisi was straight from the pages of the John McCain Foreign Policy Manual, substituting feel-good sloganising and photo ops for measured calculations of both the national interest and anything Britain could practically or usefully do.

Since taking office, Cameron has proven that his foreign policy judgment is almost always just as bad as McCain’s.

As if the Libyan intervention had not been bad enough, he was quite ready to fall in line behind the U.S. to bomb Syria last year out of a misguided desire to show “solidarity” with the U.S. in waging another unnecessary war.

The only good thing that can be said about his foreign policy record is that he at least had the sense to abandon the attack on Syria when Parliament and the public had rejected the idea.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Biden Time?

He clearly wants it.
 
Hillary Clinton should take nothing for granted.
 
But she will.
 
As the Bourbon that she is, she has learned nothing, as surely as she has forgotten nothing.
 
Joe Biden would be an awful President of the United States.

But at least he is not one of the Clintons.

The Return of The SDLP

From abortion, to austerity (on both sides of the Border), to toasting the Queen and staying in her house, Northern Ireland's green vote is being given plenty of cause to see red again.
 
Watch out for that third European seat. If the SDLP takes it, then it is well and truly on the way back.

United, Indeed

I make no pretence to following football for its own sake. But I do believe in local patriotism.

The grounds of football and other major sports clubs should be as they are in Italy, owned and run by their respective local councils.

Both parties ought to be in no doubt as to who was in charge, as Newcastle City Council has singularly failed to be in recent years where the very name of St James' Park has been concerned.

While the clubs themselves should be as they are in Spain, proper clubs with the fans as their members who elect the board, and who can decline to re-elect it.

A Hugely Interesting Fact

Peter Hitchens writes:

What would you think if Russia’s spy chief had been discovered last week, roaming round Ukraine?

The British media would have been raging and howling about sinister Kremlin meddling.

Well, as far as I know, no such visit took place.

But something just as astonishing did happen.

John Brennan, Director of the CIA, was, in fact, in Kiev last week, and I do not think he was there for the nightlife. 

It is, by any measure, a hugely interesting fact that such a person, who seldom ventures out at all, was in Ukraine at a moment of great tension.

Yet the information was buried by British news media.

Last week, I asked several colleagues whom I know to be assiduous newspaper readers, interested in the world, savvy and alert, if they knew Mr Brennan had been in Kiev.

Not one of them did.

Well, what else don’t we know?

Here’s a hint. About three quarters of what Russia is now doing in Ukraine is a bitter joke at the expense of the ‘West’.

What we attack them for doing is what we have also done, in Yugoslavia and Ukraine.

We snatched Kosovo from Serbia. They have snatched Crimea from Ukraine.

We like referendums which confirm what we wanted to do all along. So do they.

So far, even they haven’t had the nerve to copy the EU habit of rerunning any votes that give the wrong result.
We unleashed armed mobs in Kiev, to overthrow the lawful authority. They have done the same in Donetsk.

Just as I have no doubt that Russian secret services and front organisations have helped, encouraged and equipped the crowds in Donetsk, I have no doubt that the ‘Maidan’ protests in Kiev had what I shall politely call help from outside.

I write as a former Marxist revolutionary who has organized demonstrations and knows how hard it is to mobilise and sustain them.

I think both sides have also shut down broadcasts they do not like.

The simple conclusion we might draw from this, this Eastertide, is that it would be wise to stop being so lofty about what the Russians are doing, and pretending that our side are the nice, law-abiding freedom-lovers.

We should ask instead what this conflict is really about.

I will tell you. It is an old-style territorial clash over a very valuable piece of territory, in which the EU, as Germany used to do, seeks to expand its power and influence into areas long dominated by Moscow.

This can only be resolved through compromise.

Yet, on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War that almost ended civilisation, I am amazed by the partisan enthusiasm for conflict and confrontation that has infected so many politicians and journalists.

Why wait for future historians to tell you that you were rushed into a stupid, ruinous war by crude, one-sided propaganda?

Tell these people now that you want no such thing.

Emotion and Motivation

Eileen Shim writes:

The news: Every day, the push toward national legalization of marijuana seems more and more inevitable.

As more and more politicians and noted individuals come out in favor of legalizing or at least decriminalizing different amounts of pot, the mainstream acceptance of the recreational use of the drug seems like a bygone conclusion.

But before we can talk about legalization, have we fully understood the health effects of marijuana?

According to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from Harvard and Northwestern studied the brains of 18- to 25-year-olds, half of whom smoked pot recreationally and half of whom didn't.

What they found was rather shocking: Even those who only smoked few times a week had significant brain abnormalities in the areas that control emotion and motivation.

"There is this general perspective out there that using marijuana recreationally is not a problem — that it is a safe drug," said Anne Blood, a co-author of the study. "We are seeing that this is not the case."

The science: Similar studies have found a correlation between heavy pot use and brain abnormalities, but this is the first study that has found the same link with recreational users.

The 20 people in the "marijuana group" of the study smoked four times a week on average; seven only smoked once a week.

Those in the control group did not smoke at all.

"We looked specifically at people who have no adverse impacts from marijuana — no problems with work, school, the law, relationships, no addiction issues," said Hans Breiter, another co-author of the study.

Using three different neuroimaging techniques, researchers then looked at the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala of the participants.

These areas are responsible for gauging the benefit or loss of doing certain things, and providing feelings of reward for pleasurable activities such as food, sex and social interactions.

"This is a part of the brain that you absolutely never ever want to touch," said Breiter.

"I don't want to say that these are magical parts of the brain — they are all important. But these are fundamental in terms of what people find pleasurable in the world and assessing that against the bad things."

Shockingly, every single person in the marijuana group, including those who only smoked once a week, had noticeable abnormalities, with the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala showing changes in density, volume and shape.

Those who smoked more had more significant variations.

What will happen next? The study's co-authors admit that their sample size was small. Their plan now is to conduct a bigger study that not only looks at the brain abnormalities, but also relates them to functional outcomes.

That would be a major and important step in this science because, as of now, the research indicates that marijuana use may cause alterations to the brain, but it's unclear what that might actually mean for users and their brains.

But for now, they are standing behind their findings.

"People think a little marijuana shouldn't cause a problem if someone is doing OK with work or school," said Breiter.

"Our data directly says this is not so."

Our Morality

Tom Morton writes:

"Their morality," thundersqueaked Nicola Sturgeon at the recent SNP conference in Perth, "is not our morality."
 
She was talking about the Tories, but as in the much flaunted myth of "civic nationalism", there was an ethnic tinge lurking beneath the rhetoric.
 
Just as it's open season on "Old Etonian toffs" on the grouse moors of Govan, while the former pupils of Loretto, Glenalmond, Fettes, George Watson's and Merchiston stalk the deer forests of Holyrood in lordly fashion. They're not like "us", "down there".

"Civic nationalism" is the buzzphrase used by the separatist camp to deflect any hint of comparison with the kind of nationalism that led to bloody mayhem in the Balkans.
 
Or, even more inflammatory, any reminder of the SNP's flirtations with fascism in the 1930s, courtesy of such figures as barrister Andrew Dewar Gibb and the poets Douglas Young and Hugh MacDiarmid.
 
Civic nationalism defines a community not by its borders or ethnicity, but by a shared set of political values, and the shared democratic visions of its people.
 
Sort of like, well, Britain.

But for Sturgeon, the sharing of those values stops 10 miles north of Carlisle.
 
Carlisle, with its English Street, its Botchergate, its quaint 440-year-old law that demands the whipping of any Scotsman "found wandering".
 
Carlisle, "down there".

I write from Shetland, where "down there" can mean John O'Groats.
 
Where "us" does not reach further than Sumburgh Head.
 
Where one local crofter, asked about Scottish independence, allegedly replied: "Well, in London they don't care about us. But in Edinburgh, they hate us."

I am not a Shetlander, having spent most of my life in west central Scotland, and I have an affection for Disneyburgh that extends beyond its nae-knickers poshness and self-satisfied capital cool.
 
But I can't see why folk from Auld Reekie, Glasgow, that Dear Green Place or any other part of Scotland should be perceived as being somehow morally better, more enlightened, even more leftwing than those across that invisible border.

Much is made, in separatist circles, of the fact that Scotland labours under the yoke of a government it did not vote for.
 
Scotland, they say, has but a single Conservative MP and is a repository of equality, loving kindness and a fervour for linked-arm semi-socialism.
 
Those bastards in Carlisle, Durham, Newcastle and suchlike Tory hotbeds: they did this to us.
 
May they rot in hell with that Maria Swiller and her horrid ilk.

A wee look at history reveals a rather different story.
 
A fascinating analysis by Graham Cowie, a public law postgraduate at Glasgow University (and avowed Liberal Democrat), of the Westminster vote in Britain since the second world war reveals the following: Scotland has voted for a Labour government at Westminster in every election since 1945, except for 1951 and 1955.
 
Which means that between 1997 and 2010, the government was one a majority of Scots voted for.
 
But in 1951 the vote was tied at 37 seats to Labour and 37 to the Conservative and Unionist party, with one Liberal. A tie.
 
And in 1955 Scotland voted for a Tory government. The year I was born.

Since the war, Scotland's voters have failed to get their government of choice for a total of 34 years and 10 months.
 
But for the Welsh it's 39 years and three months. Northern Ireland? Fifty-two years and four months.

And as for the English?
 
Well, there's a lot of "them" "down there".
 
For 10 years and seven months since the war, including the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, the UK government has not been the one that England voted for.

So it's complicated. It's statistics. ut that's first-past-the-post democracy.
 
As for Scotland, when we look at votes, how representative is the SNP administration at Holyrood?
 
There's an overall majority, but they achieved 45% of the constituency vote and 44% on the regional lists.
 
On a 50% turnout.
 
Less than half of half the electorate.
 
That's not "most Scots".
 
It's not "us".
 
It's not me.

Here's a thing: I'm from Carlisle.
 
On 31 December 1955, Hogmanay, my Scots-born parents were in the city. Living there, indeed, not on some desperate antepartum race for the border.
 
They were back in Glasgow within months, but my birth certificate is English, red-on-cream, and one flourish of it should prevent any horsewhipping incidents. I keep it handy just in case.

Maybe that's why I hate borders.
 
Why I believe in solidarity with those strange folk who dwell "down there", who wish to work together for a fairer, more equal society.
 
And why I despise the way issues of health, childcare, justice, fairness, poverty and unemployment have been reduced to nothing more than a line in the land.

Fawning West Wingery

It took me 10 years to keep out of Parliament a person who believed that The West Wing was a documentary, not only about its own country, but about this one, which he thought was the same one, and thus also scripted by Aaron Sorkin.

Marina Hyde writes:

Covering the Beijing Olympics for The Guardian, the hotel that was my home in the Chinese capital was called – in an irony impossible to ignore – The Foreign Experts Building.

Whether that name had lost something in translation would be for the bilingual to say: all I know is that it provided the most chastening of perspectives every time I used my room key.

The Olympics is a vast – and vastly exposing – event, and there is nothing like looking down at the words "Foreign Experts" and thinking: "Christ, what if I get sent to the dressage tomorrow and have to type like I have an iota of a clue of what is going on? Is that a paso doble? Or has it got something in its hoof?"

Had I been less than 180 hours of Linguaphone off being able to order a taxi, I would have requested transfer to The Foreign Frauds Building without delay.

This, I imagine, will not be the daily insecurity of former Obama strategist David Axelrod, once he is fully in situ on these shores and masterminding Ed Miliband's 2015 election plan.

Nor do I picture Aussie Lynton Crosby, his Tory counterpart, suffering any pangs of self-doubt as he sparks up a complimentary fag and ponders which stripe of the native poor he might hammer today.

As for widely respected Canadian Bank of England governor Mark Carney, he probably doesn't pay in shops by apologetically opening a purse of baffling currency and indicating the person at the till should simply take what is required.

And after he'd trousered his gazillion pound kiss-off, you can be sure the former England manager Fabio Capello sauntered off into the sunset thinking: "It's not me, it's you."

The Italian was probably right.

Certainly, there is something exceptional about the news that the England squad are being helped to prepare for penalty shootouts by a native – even if it is Steve Peters, the erstwhile Rampton psychiatrist credited for successes by Ronnie O'Sullivan and the British cycling team.

It's not so much that England football's headspace feels unravelable only by the finest the Viennese psychiatric schools have to offer.

It's more bemusement at the unfashionable idea that there is not a foreigner better equipped to advise us when we have all but given up entrusting any remotely important jobs to one of our own.

Miliband's appointment of Axelrod seems a case in point.

Given that Obama and Miliband are – how to put this delicately? – blessed with varying presentational skills, one might assume they are such different candidates that the Labour leader would have done better to enlist the help of someone with more tailored local expertise.

But then one would be forgetting the fawning West Wingery that has misshapen a generation of British politicians – and ably assisted their real-life White House overlords in misshaping a couple of Middle East countries.

Appointing chiefs of staff, fancying that the spin room after our inaugural election TV debates resembled America's megawatt version of the same, prime ministers looking like they've won a contest to attend White House summits: these are the excruciating affectations of a post-imperial satellite that long ago lost confidence.

At least Axelrod is a real-life Washington man.

When the late John Spencer – who played President Bartlet's chief of staff in Aaron Sorkin's drama – was in town on promotional duties, Tony Blair's own chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, actually invited him to No 10.

I suppose it was a bilateral of sorts.

Yankophilia has passed for strategy for yonks now, and anyway it's hardly a surprise that hiring British has gone the same way as buying British.

The prestige candidate these days is foreign.

David Cameron is frightfully concerned about British jobs for British workers, except on occasions like his recent appointment of another former senior Obama adviser, Jim Messina, to his 2015 campaign team.

No doubt Messina is a super-smart and reasonably priced chap, but the way these appointments are sold as a great coup always feels suspiciously substance-free.

It takes a certain type of self-doubt to insist that we don't just want a guy like that – we want that guy.

That exact one, even if he's going to advise us on key marginals or whatnot from a US base, as Messina is.

Quite why no one from Delaware is helming the campaign against Scottish independence is a puzzle, when convention increasingly demands the English be saved from themselves by a foreigner (as indeed does the independence debate itself – an emotional scene in which I picture myself hanging on to Scotland's leg and screaming: "Please don't leave us! We'll become insanely rightwing without you!").

Then again, perhaps the most significant intervention in the argument thus far has come from the aforementioned Canadian, Carney, who has cast doubt on the possibility of an independent Scotland keeping the pound with any ease.

Huzzah for our foreign experts, then.

I like to imagine them all living in the same hotel – London's version of my Beijing billet – in which Lynton Crosby could be found propping up the bar with whichever American is tipped to be the next director general of the BBC, and whichever South American is soon to turn down the FA's offer of the England job.

As for our elected politicians, do let's hope we're now on the very last generation of homegrown.

Unlike some, we'd love our prime minister to have been born in Kenya, and 2030 aspirants should consider a birth certificate forgery at their earliest convenience.

To Dominate The Eurasian Landmass

John Pilger writes:

I watched Dr Strangelove the other day. I have seen it perhaps a dozen times; it makes sense of senseless news.
 
When Major TJ "King" Kong goes "toe to toe with the Rooskies" and flies his rogue B52 nuclear bomber to a target in Russia, it's left to General "Buck" Turgidson to reassure the president.
 
Strike first, says the general, and "you got no more than 10-20 million killed, tops".
 
President Merkin Muffley: "I will not go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler."
 
General Turgidson: "Perhaps it might be better, Mr President, if you were more concerned with the American people than with your image in the history books."

The genius of Stanley Kubrick's film is that it accurately represents the cold war's lunacy and dangers. ost of the characters are based on real people and real maniacs.
 
There is no equivalent to Strangelove today because popular culture is directed almost entirely at our interior lives, as if identity is the moral zeitgeist and true satire is redundant, yet the dangers are the same.
 
The nuclear clock has remained at five minutes to midnight; the same false flags are hoisted above the same targets by the same "invisible government", as Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations, described modern propaganda.

In 1964, the year Dr Strangelove was made, "the missile gap" was the false flag.
 
To build more and bigger nuclear weapons and pursue an undeclared policy of domination, President John F Kennedy approved the CIA's propaganda that the Soviet Union was well ahead of the US in the production of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
 
This filled front pages as the "Russian threat".
 
In fact, the Americans were so far ahead in production of the missiles, the Russians never approached them.
 
The cold war was based largely on this lie.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its Nato enlargement project.
 
Reneging on a US promise to the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand "one inch to the east", Nato has all but taken over eastern Europe.
 
In the former Soviet Caucasus, Nato's military build-up is the most extensive since the second world war.

In February, the US mounted one of its proxy "colour" coups against the elected government of Ukraine; the shock troops were fascists.
 
For the first time since 1945, a pro-Nazi, openly antisemitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital.
 
No western European leader has condemned this revival of fascism on the border of Russia.
 
Some 30 million Russians died in the invasion of their country by Hitler's Nazis, who were supported by the infamous Ukrainian Insurgent Army (the UPA) which was responsible for numerous Jewish and Polish massacres.
 
The Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, of which the UPA was the military wing, inspires today's Svoboda party.

Since Washington's putsch in Kiev – and Moscow's inevitable response in Russian Crimea to protect its Black Sea fleet – the provocation and isolation of Russia have been inverted in the news to the "Russian threat".
 
This is fossilised propaganda.
 
The US air force general who runs Nato forces in Europe – General Philip Breedlove, no less – claimed more than two weeks ago to have pictures showing 40,000 Russian troops "massing" on the border with Ukraine.
 
 
What is certain is that Barack Obama's rapacious, reckless coup in Ukraine has ignited a civil war and Vladimir Putin is being lured into a trap.

Following a 13-year rampage that began in stricken Afghanistan well after Osama bin Laden had fled, then destroyed Iraq beneath a false flag, invented a "nuclear rogue" in Iran, dispatched Libya to a Hobbesian anarchy and backed jihadists in Syria, the US finally has a new cold war to supplement its worldwide campaign of murder and terror by drone.

A Nato membership action plan – straight from the war room of Dr Strangelove – is General Breedlove's gift to the new dictatorship in Ukraine.
 
"Rapid Trident" will put US troops on Ukraine's Russian border and "Sea Breeze" will put US warships within sight of Russian ports.
 
At the same time, Nato war games in eastern Europe are designed to intimidate Russia.
 
Imagine the response if this madness was reversed and happened on the US's borders. Cue General Turgidson.

And there is China.
 
On 23 April, Obama will begin a tour of Asia to promote his "pivot" to China.
 
The aim is to convince his "allies" in the region, principally Japan, to rearm and prepare for the possibility of war with China.
 
By 2020, almost two-thirds of all US naval forces in the world will be transferred to the Asia-Pacific area. This is the greatest military concentration in that vast region since the second world war.

In an arc extending from Australia to Japan, China will face US missiles and nuclear-armed bombers.
 
A strategic naval base is being built on the Korean island of Jeju, less than 400 miles from Shanghai and the industrial heartland of the only country whose economic power is likely to surpass that of the US.
 
Obama's "pivot" is designed to undermine China's influence in its region. It is as if a world war has begun by other means.

This is not a Dr Strangelove fantasy.
 
Obama's defence secretary, Charles "Chuck" Hagel, was in Beijing last week to deliver a warning that China, like Russia, could face isolation and war if it did not bow to US demands.
 
He compared the annexation of Crimea to China's complex territorial dispute with Japan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
 
"You cannot go around the world," said Hagel with a straight face, "and violate the sovereignty of nations by force, coercion or intimidation."
 
As for America's massive movement of naval forces and nuclear weapons to Asia, that is "a sign of the humanitarian assistance the US military can provide".

Obama is seeking a bigger budget for nuclear weapons than the historical peak during the cold war, the era of Dr Strangelove.
 
The US is pursuing its longstanding ambition to dominate the Eurasian landmass, stretching from China to Europe: a "manifest destiny" made right by might.

NATO Belligerence Endangers Us All

Jeremy Corbyn writes:

Tomorrow will see a four-way meeting take place as Russia, the United States, the EU and Ukraine discuss ongoing tensions in the latter country.

But while the endless drama of meetings, lurid statements and predictions and mass demonstrations catches the world's eye, something more significant and fundamental is taking place in international politics.

As the US moves into relative economic decline, China's expansion and Russia's huge energy reserves and location are moving the politics of the world to a different place.

Russia and China have reached a momentous agreement to sell gas and do business in either of their own currencies - but not in dollars.

As with Iraq's 2002 move from dollars to euros, the new means of exchange downgrades the US dollar as the international currency of choice, but now on a far bigger scale.

The broad historical sweep since the end of the Soviet Union showed two decades of unipolar US power.

But now the resurgence of Russia and the enormous economic power of China are ending that.

The history of conflicts since 1990 is grim.

Hot wars took place in the Gulf, in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all involving the US and Nato.

The period saw the European Union cement its relationship with Nato, and more recently the US shift its military focus to the Asia-Pacific region as it now sees China as its main rival.

The EU and Nato have now become the tools of US policy in Europe.

The US remains overwhelmingly the military superpower.

It seized opportunities in 1990 and in 2001 to increase its military spending and develop a global reach of bases unmatched since the second world war.

The expansion of Nato into Poland and the Czech Republic has particularly increased tensions with Russia.

Agreements Gorbachov reached before the final demise of the Soviet Union and subsequent pledges that Ukraine's independence would not see it brought into Nato or any other military alliance appear to have been forgotten by Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his increasingly bellicose statements.

Indeed, a huge joint exercise is planned for this July between Nato and Ukrainian forces. This can only make an already dangerous situation even worse.

On Tuesday night the Stop the War Coalition hosted an extraordinarily well-informed public meeting on the crisis at the Wesley Hotel in Euston, London.

Jonathan Steele, a former Guardian Moscow correspondent, outlined the situation expertly, noting that coverage has been dominated by two Hs - hypocrisy and hysteria.

While there were democratic forces in the Maidan protests motivated by falling living standards and corruption, there were also far-right nazi groups involved.

The far-right is now sitting in government in Ukraine.

The origins of the Ukrainian far-right go back to those who welcomed the nazi invasion in 1941 and acted as allies of the invaders.

Stop the War officer and long-term anti-war activist Carol Turner pointed out that the sanctions against Russia are confused and controversial, largely targeting individuals, while the effect on Germany of any broader-reaching economic sanctions would be huge.

And already Gazprom has increased the price of its exports to Ukraine.

The overall issue is still one of the activities and expansionism of the post-1990 United States.

Turner referred to statements made by the US in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse.

In an article in the International Herald Tribune of March 9 1992 Patrick Tyler of the New York Times outlined the new strategy by which US defence secretary Dick Cheney was preparing for expansion - and many future conflicts.

Tyler wrote that "the classified document makes the case for a world dominated by one superpower, whose position can be perpetuated by constructive behaviour and sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging US primacy."

The author of this strategy, Paul Wolfowitz, specifically divested it of any role for the United Nations, which had been used to provide a mandate for the Gulf war of 1990-91 while the Soviets were preoccupied with their state falling apart.

The plan was never to remove nuclear strike aircraft from Europe or reduce the role of Nato, despite the end of the Warsaw Pact.

"We must seek to prevent the emergence of European-only security arrangements which would undermine Nato," Wolfowitz warned.

Wolfowitz wanted to make arrangements in eastern Europe similar to those in the Gulf, where Saudi Arabia had been armed as an ally for regional wars.

Now it is acting as a US ally in the Syrian conflict.

On Ukraine, I would not condone Russian behaviour or expansion.

But it is not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied.

And there are huge questions around the West's intentions in Ukraine.

The obsession with cold war politics that exercises the Nato and EU leaderships is fuelling the crisis and underlines the case for a whole new approach to foreign policy.

We have allowed Nato to act outside its own area since the Afghan war started.

The Lisbon Treaty binds the EU and Nato together in a mutual alliance of interference and domination reaching ever eastwards.

The long-term effect of the behaviour of US Secretary of State John Kerry, backed by the EU and the British government, is to divide the world.

An ever-growing and more confident Russia-China bloc will increasingly rival Nato and the EU, meaning a new cold war beckons.

Would it not be better if when the four powers sit down together they looked at agreeing on a neutral, nuclear-free Ukraine, the possibility of de-escalating the crisis and cut out the hypocrisy of feigned moral outrage from a country that has invaded many others, has military bases scattered worldwide and whose arms industry has made billions from the death and destruction of so much life in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Peace campaigners in Britain need to look at the dangers of the mutual defence agreement with the US and the way it ties us into all their strategies.

We also need to look at the role of Nato overall.

The Nato summit due in Newport, Wales, in September is a good opportunity for us to express our opposition to the strange notion that expanding a nuclear alliance east makes us safer.

It does not.

It makes the whole world infinitely more dangerous.