Sunday, 29 March 2015

Non Vestra, Sed Vos

Don't Be A Mug

Immigration, like the national debt, has been an objective failure of this Government compared to the record of its predecessor.

Not even the Greens are going into this Election opposed to "controls on immigration". I am not aware of any country that has ever had no such controls.

(Nor, by the way, is it the case that EU membership, for all its other faults, necessitates granting free entry to all EU citizens. The United Kingdom's unusually, but not absolutely, lax approach to this is precisely that, and it is entirely by our own choice.)

Today, even Peter Hitchens pretty much says "Vote Labour", by saying that that is what he will do, if he votes at all.

And the comments under Fraser Nelson's post on today's four-point Labour lead are just hilarious. They know that it is now or never if they are going to win another overall majority. So they know that they are never going to do so. Ever. It's all over.

Pointing The Way

With the SNP riding so high in Scotland, how well must Labour be doing everywhere else, to have tonight's four-point lead?

Divided By A Common Language

It is an oddity of our political and media classes, that they are so utterly Americanised as to assume that even the racism in Britain is American rather than British.

Yes, of course all this "weird" and "geek" business against Ed Miliband is anti-Semitic.

But it is specifically of New York, and of the rest of America against New York. They have to say "North London", but they don't mean it.

The whole thing is lost on almost everyone in Britain. But that fact is itself lost both on those engaging in it, and on those taking offence at it.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Then, As Now

36 years ago today, the SNP proposed the motion that brought down a Labour Government, thus bringing Margaret Thatcher to power.

She led her party to an overall majority of 44, with 22 seats in Scotland. Scotland put her over the line.

Feeling The Benefits

If Child Benefit were only to be paid up to the second child, then employers who did not pay the Living Wage ought only to be permitted to employ up to two people who were therefore in receipt of in-work benefits.

Iain Duncan Smith, a father of four with a fraudulent CV that would get him sanctioned if he presented it to any adviser at a Job Centre, has lifted this Child Benefit idea from Nadhim Zahawi, who claimed parliamentary expenses in order to heat his stables.

The Loony Right

Limit Child Benefit to the first two children, abolish the contributory element of Employment and Support Allowance, take away the Carers' Allowance from 40 per cent of the people receiving it, and tax disability benefits.

Before anyone asks, I have been turned down five or six times, which is how I know that anyone who gets through must indeed be in a very bad way.

Conveniently, Newsnight decided to dispense with politics altogether. The four items were mental illness among airline pilots, Amanda Knox, the last grand piano in Gaza, and the art of old-fashioned letter-writing, complete with a reading by Benedict Cumberbatch.

But then, what would have been made of any of this by, say, James Landale, David Cameron's old school chum whose idea of journalism is to pop round in casual attire and stay for whatever it is that posh people call the meal in question, even to the point of chopping the carrots?

Switch over, and who else might have provided any insight? Cameron's awestruck auditor, but Ed Miliband's prolonged heckler, Kay Burley?

Like backgrounds on the Loony Right think tank circuit and in its attendant student networks, Loony Right views of this kind are given a completely free pass. They are treated as normal, as "the centre ground".

Read the comments under almost any post, although those about Jeremy Clarkson are a good place to start at the moment, on the Telegraph and Spectator websites, or on Guido Fawkes, or on Breitbart London.

These people are truly unhinged. On Breitbart, in particular, much of what appears above the line has scant acquaintance with sanity, either.

There are the claims to represent working-class opinion while defending the right of some upper-middle-class oaf to "lamp an underling", and there the claims to represent the hardworking private sector by people who do absolutely nothing apart from post comments on those sites morning, noon and night.

Like many other aspects, both of those would be funny. But, like many other aspects, they are not.

Yet, by sheer force of bellowing, those views dominate the national debate to such an extent that even Ed Miliband dare not express the obvious way to prevent private profiteering from the National Health Service, which everyone apart from the Loony Right regards as the quintessence of British national identity and as absolutely sacrosanct.

That was something else that Newsnight felt unworthy of coverage, doubtless because such attention would have involved the BBC's mentioning NHS privatisation at all. It has spent five years absolutely refusing to do so, for fear of creating a permanent Labour lead of between 10 and 20 points.

In vain has poor Tim Stanley tried to suggest that his readers would hate the "boorish Eighties materialism" of Jeremy Clarkson if they met him in the flesh. To those readers, anything other than boorish Eighties materialism is the Islamo-Marxist work of the EUSSR.

They believe it. They really and truly believe it. And although it is not clear that a lot of them even live in the United Kingdom, or have in some cases ever set eyes on this country, the entire debate, even to the point of naming the so-called moderators, is conducted in order to please them.

They are Jeremy Clarkson, and rest of us are Oisin Tymon.

Sad, But True

It won't have been the depression.

It will have been the antidepressants.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Don't Let Us Down

Owen Jones writes:

Ah, so that’s why David Cameron didn’t want to debate Ed Miliband.

In the nearly five years since Miliband was elected Labour leader, he has suffered the indignity of having a vat of ridicule and bile being slowly poured over his head.

A key line of attack to undermine his authority is that he was the “wrong Miliband”, who spitefully trashed the political career of his more charismatic and able brother.

Bizarre: the equally wonky but more arrogant and aloof David Miliband would have plunged Labour into civil war with his unrepentant Blairism in the era of austerity.

But Miliband has been dogged by disastrous personal ratings, the product of four things: the hangover from a deeply unpopular Labour government that suffered a catastrophic election defeat just five years ago; his own frequent failures to communicate; the shortcomings of his team, who have often boxed their leader in; and an overwhelmingly hostile media – the country’s most powerful political lobbyists – which has no intention of allowing him to become prime minister.

But last night, Miliband won.

Yes, I know the reaction polls handed a slim victory to Cameron, but given that the prime minister’s ratings have been consistently much better than Miliband’s, for the gap to be closed so considerably is a triumph.

Most of us would prefer to be smothered in honey and locked in a room with a swarm of bad-tempered bees than suffer a 20-minute interrogation by Jeremy Paxman, but Miliband performed well.

He even turned the tables, winning applause from the audience when he told his persecutor that it would be the people, not Paxman, who would decide the election.

It was a little reminder of those moments when Miliband has shone in the past few years, when he has confronted the powerful: the Murdoch empire, the Daily Mail, the energy companies.

Few will have watched last night’s non-debate, but it will have three key effects: boosting the often flagging morale of Labour activists and supporters; giving Ed Miliband renewed confidence in the final few weeks of the campaign; and disrupting the narrative of Labour’s useless joke of a leader.

And yet I found myself dogged by frustration.

Yes, sure, I know he confronts a bitterly hostile media which savages him over how he eats bacon sandwiches and his kitchen arrangements.

But the passion, determination and steel he showed last night – why isn’t it demonstrated more often, more consistently? That’s what he now has to put right.

Labour’s leading figures collectively allowed the myth to flourish that overspending caused the crisis, even though the Tories backed their spending plans pound for pound and wanted even less regulation for the banks.

They failed to offer short, sharp messages and commitments, constantly repeated, instead settling on policy wonkery, random messages thrown into the ether (remember “the British promise”?) which were quickly abandoned, or gave set-piece speeches in the middle of the day with virtually nobody watching.

They presided over their collapse in Scotland by allying with the Tories, instead of setting up their own separate and vehemently anti-Tory campaign.

They failed to settle on a coherent, radical programme at a time of social and economic crisis, with commitments such as an £8 per hour minimum wage by 2020 (which still would not even approach the living wage).

No wonder they haemorrhage votes to their left – the SNP and the Greens – and fail to produce enough excitement and enthusiasm to eclipse the obsessive media personality attacks.

And yet – despite all these continuing failures – Labour and the Tories are evenly matched in the opinion polls, and Lord Ashcroft’s detailed constituency polls suggest Labour is outpolling the Tories in the marginals.

That was not where the Tories expected to be at this stage, and they are not comfortable with it.

Yes, the Tories anticipate that as the choice becomes ever more real over the coming weeks, the voters will finally, definitively turn in their direction.

The media onslaught will escalate as election day approaches. There will be renewed campaigns against immigrants, benefit claimants and public sector workers.

A sustained and meaningful Tory lead in those circumstances is possible.

But maybe – just maybe – if Miliband shows the same passion and grit that he did last night, and gives a clear vision of hope when life is so hard for so many, the Tory game plan could continue to falter.

No pressure, Ed. But millions want hope, and they want this lot out. Don’t let them down.

Reclaiming Liberty I

Liz Kendall and Lisa Nandy write:

For our generation of Labour politicians, the new Labour politics of the state is about putting power in the hands of people. It leaves the divisions inside the Westminster bubble far behind.

The debate is not between left and right, public or private, Blair v Brown.

Instead, it is about devolving power to our cities, counties and communities, and renewing our public services so that they are accountable to and shaped by the people who use them.

Politicians speak as if government exists without people.

Take children in care. Far too often the system we have constructed drives a coach and horses through the relationships that sustain children at the most difficult times in their lives.

Children are often sent to live far from friends and wider family, since foster care is funded, but often kinship care is not. It is not uncommon for children to have several social workers in a few short years.

When we have built these systems we have forgotten what matters to us as human beings – warmth, trust, the knowledge, as Shaks Ghosh, the head of Crisis, said over a decade ago, “that there is someone on the other side who cares if you live or die”.

So much is changing.

The welfare state was created in a world where elites were used to giving orders and the rest of us following. 

The labour movement grew by organising working people to ensure those with power acted for the common good, but it did so by creating its own, sometimes rigid, hierarchies.

Mourn its death or celebrate its demise, but this world is no more.

Today we live in a society where people are more aspirational but have less power and are more isolated.

We expect to be treated equally, but in too many areas of life we have lost the capacity to act together.

The state created in the middle of the 20th century was based on forms of top-down public management that are no longer possible.

When national politicians pull policy levers in Whitehall they often find they have no strings attached.

Politicians have tried to compensate for the collapse of the old hierarchies and the failure of the centralised state by using performance indicators and micro-management to exert control.

We no longer trust the old elites, but we do not trust ordinary people either.

Too often public services view people as individuals whose needs or demands can be met without thinking about their family and relationships.

People are treated as isolated units, ignoring the fact that we are happiest when we are involved, in relationships with other people, in the world around us.

Our priority now must be to develop new ways to give people real power over the institutions and services that have the greatest impact on their lives.

This will work only if people themselves create this power and it is built from the grassroots. It cannot be dictated by national government.

The core theme of our thinking is that liberty should be reclaimed as a defining ideal of left-of-centre politics in England.

We must champion the power of human beings to shape their own lives, and oppose the tyranny of the bureaucratic state and an unrestrained free market, both of which are generating huge inequalities.

Liberty is not an abstract slogan. It is not simply individual but shaped by the constraints of living together with other people.

English liberty is a social liberty.

We all live in society and are dependent on one another, and so our freedom is exercised with other people through negotiation and dialogue.

A state that values freedom is one where public services are determined by and with citizens.

The kind of liberty we want is only meaningful if we challenge the huge imbalances in power that exist in England.

Limited resources, time, confidence and social status have a powerful bearing on our ability to participate. This is why the role of the government matters.

We need a state that works in partnerships to help shape the institutions and social infrastructure that enable people to have more control over their lives and for individuals and families to flourish.

There are two challenges here.

First, we need a different kind of political authority at local, regional and national level.

A genuine commitment to devolution requires a commitment to sharing power at every level. We need to devolve power from Whitehall not just to the town hall but down to communities and individuals too.

The job of politicians is not to dictate and deliver. Political leadership is about bringing people and resources together to create the power people need to help themselves and one another, with the state acting as a partner.

Second, real democracy enables people to have the power and responsibility to decide what is important to them.

The job of Westminster is to create systems and structures that allow people to decide for themselves, and make sure they are held accountable.

Public services that are fit for the 21st century must be not just devolved, but democratic and participative.

They must be shaped by the widest range of people and civil society organisations, to support each other.

How that works cannot be determined from Whitehall. Giving power to people is a big departure from the way Whitehall and many of our town halls are run today.

It will be uncomfortable for many politicians used to holding power.

It holds enormous challenges: to give people more freedom, to tackle power imbalances, to avoid postcode lotteries, and to create meaningful accountability at every level in society.

Discussing how we do this is an important debate. But whether or not we do it is now beyond doubt.

The institutions that will last will be those that are built and run together, with relationships at their heart.

Reclaiming Liberty II

Jon Wilson writes:

‘Liberty’, Liz Kendall and Lisa Nandy argue in a collection of essays published by Compass yesterday, ‘should be reclaimed as a defining ideal of left of centre politics in England’.

It was a nice coincidence I read colleague David Carpenter’s wonderful commentary on Magna Carta the same week Finding Our Voice. Making the Twenty First Century State came out.

Liberty is an important theme in British politics 800 years after Magna Carta was sealed, and inevitably I was thinking about contemporary parallels.

Let’s start with bad King John.

David Carpenter describes John as a trickster, and a man who enjoyed the game of politics too much.

He liked to trim and tack, to constantly mess around with details that shouldn’t have concerned a monarch, all in the name of making himself look good.

All tactics and no strategy, this clever man ended up being castigated by his subjects as capricious tyrant.

When he taxed his people too much to pay for a foreign war, John was forced to concede to the demands of a rebellion of England’s regions and cities.

800 years ago in June 1215, he agreed to the Magna Carta before dying an ill and broken man a year later the age of 49.

No English politician now is as anywhere near as bad as King John.

But it’s easy to compare the capricious trickery of George Osborne with the thirteenth century tyrant.

In the last fortnight, we’ve seen a budget that was all tactics and no plan, the use of a select committee to trap for Ed M on VAT and a plot to oust the speaker.

I’m not making a partisan point: Gordon Brown, whose departure from the House of Commons I don’t lament, got wrapped up in the same kind of shallow effort to find pressure points of difference not find common ground.

John, George, Gordon share a love of the gossip and the game.

They imagine power is about outwitting rivals not creating effective action for the common good.

Amidst the web within which they wrap their rivals, there’s no room for a serious strategy to improve the country.

We end up with a politics that is nothing but moves and counter-moves. In these times, any plan needs to begin with the concept that was central to Magna Carta – liberty.

Magna Carta did not found English democracy.

It does not mark the superiority of English political traditions to European or even Asian ways of doing things.

But it was one particular way of challenging capricious central power that resonated here for a long time. Its solution to John’s tyranny was not individualistic.

The rebels’ effort to stitch together a coalition of diffuse interests by reflecting the liberties of each might be a model for our politics now.

For the authors of Magna Carta, ‘liberty’ is not a set of abstract rights, defined in principle but with no account of how they’d be put into practice. This is no Declaration of Human Rights.

Instead, it defines liberty as the practical capacity people have to access institutions that can put wrongs right.

Freedom is not freedom from interference, but the liberty to negotiate and be heard by the institutions that rule our lives whether (in 1215) in court, city corporations or before the king.

A similarly practical account of liberty should be Labour’s response to the capricious tyrannies sustained by this Conservative-led government.

As we’ve argued in this column before, there are too many places in Britain today where our lives are ruled by forces out of our control: public services which don’t listen; politicians and bureaucrats who don’t trust people to make their own decisions and instead try to micro-manage from Whitehall; an inhuman housing market; a financial sector that is irresponsible and, still, out of control.

The answer is not – not most of the time – to increase regulation.

In Britain the regulatory road has run its course, as we see every new regulation is gamed by the big corporates, and we end up with a new form of despotic power.

The answer is to diffuse authority instead.

We need stronger local councils, with a public voice built into the way they work; we need individuals and groups to have more power in shaping the public services they use; we need workers to have a say in the businesses they work for.

We need, probably too, to break up organisations that are big enough to wield despotic power, banks and energy firms above all.

In their place, we might have a bias in favour of businesses rooted in particular cities and regions, instead of rootlessly flitting across the globe in search of the next tranche of cash.

That means, as Kendall and Nandy argue, putting liberty at the centre of Labour’s politics.

‘Liberty’, as they say, ‘is not an abstract slogan’. It is a social phenomenon, about our capacity to shape our lives through negotiation and dialogue with others.

Work by Compass in Finding our Voice gives countless examples of how this new left politics of liberty can be put into practice; institutions in cities and regions leading economic growth, more democratically run public institutions (why not start with universities?); electing license payers on the BBC’s board of governors; care users have greater role shaping their individual care packages.

The blue Labour triad of regional banks, vocational institutions and workers on boards is a good start. It’s not about a new ideology, but instead a new model for how institutions work in a more democratic fashion.

The solutions aren’t the same as those needed in 1995, let alone 1215.

But there is a long-running story in England about institutions where people don’t feel bossed around, but are free to forge their common destiny, on a scale where they can be heard.

It’s that story which will decide Labour’s future.

Jeremy Clarkson and the Political Correctness of the Right

Nick Cohen writes:

One of the many delusions of the Right is the myth of conservative robustness. Conservatives don’t play the victim card, they say.

They tell it like it is, and don’t care who knows it. They stand on their own two feet, and take it on the chin. They have guts and backbone too.

It’s easy to mock the anatomical clichés, but middle-class leftists should worry.

Millions of people are about to vote for Ukip, in part because they resent a modern version of Victorian prudery that has stopped robust debate, and allowed sharp-eared heresy hunters to patrol the nation’s language.

If fellow citizens are prejudiced, then there is indeed a case for fighting them.

But most people resent political correctness, not because they want to criminalise homosexuality or send women back to the kitchen, but because of the trickery that comes with it.

The politically correct damn you for raising your voice to ask relevant questions.

Wonder if, for instance, the pay gap can be explained by women taking career breaks for child birth, and the facts are pushed aside and you are a sexist.

Your critics turn a wider truth – that misogyny still flourishes – into a reason to suppress specific arguments.

Their condemnations reek of conspiracy theory. You are only raising this subject because you are sexist/racist/homophobic.

Your supposedly honest inquiries and relevant questions are not what they seem. They are masks that hide your true motives.

The pervasive cult of victimhood completes this sanctimonious trinity. The put upon and discriminated are survivors of abuse.

You cannot expect them to engage in vigorous argument or accept the consequences of their actions, but must treat them as children instead.

If you do not, your cruelty reinforces the case for the prosecution.
The desire to play the victim and divert attention is hardly confined to the Left. Match-fixers  can be found across the board, as the supposedly robust British Right are demonstrating to excess in their wails about the sacking of Jeremy Clarkson.
The relevant facts are these.

Clarkson turned on his producer because there wasn’t a hot dinner waiting for him at the crew’s hotel. (Today’s celebrities, like yesterday’s aristocrats, expect their servants to anticipate their every appetite.)

He called Oisin Tymon a “lazy, Irish c***”. The abuse went on for 20 minutes, according to witnesses. Clarkson couldn’t stop, couldn’t leave Tymon alone.

Finally he attacked him, and split his lip with a punch that left the 36-year-old with blood running down his face and needing treatment in A&E.

The BBC inquiry suggested that Clarkson would have kept on hitting him, if onlookers had not intervened.

Most people – well, most men anyway – would have let the matter rest if Tymon had smacked Clarkson back. They would have been square, and that would have been that.

However strong my impulse would have been to hold his coat, how could Tymon throw a punch? He was the subordinate and Clarkson was the aristocratic star.

Tymon was too low down the light entertainment hierarchy to think about defending himself.

According to the BBC report, Clarkson left Tymon thinking his career was over and he had “lost his job,” as if it was he who had been at fault.

Forgive me. I realise I shouldn’t go on about mere facts. The last thing the right-on PC Right wants you to do is concentrate on what happened.

Instead, its propagandists say you should dismiss the evidence and head off into conspiracy theory.

The dispute was a “fracas” says Rod Liddle of this parish. “Whatever the rights and wrongs” of  it, the real story is that the “liberal fascists” of the BBC wanted Clarkson out.

Now I have always rubbed along well enough with Liddle.

The next time I see him I’ll ask if he would ever dream of excusing a leftish celebrity if he had hit a subordinate with the same “whatever the rights and wrongs of it” reasoning.

Meanwhile Brendan O’Neill popped up to tell readers of the Telegraph that what Clarkson did to his producer was irrelevant.

No one cares if bosses beat up workers, and Clarkson’s enemies were hiding their true motives. All they were concerned about was Clarkson’s right-wing politics.

The focus hasn’t been on what he allegedly [sic] did with his fists in that hotel, but on what he does with his brain and his mouth the rest of the time: agitate the PC; annoy the eco-friendly; spout values that we — as in that infinitesimally small number of people who work in politics and the media — consider to be toxic and wicked.

Notice how, like magicians manipulating their audiences, Clarkson’s defenders move your eye away from the scene of the crime.

Once again, you mark yourself as prejudiced, if you concentrate on the evidence.

But instead of being damned as a sexist, misogynist or racist, the Right will damn you as a “Guardianista” who inhabits “fashionable Shoreditch salons,” as Richard Littlejohn put it in the Mail.

Once again, legitimate questions become masks that hide true motives. Once again a wider truth – there are liberals who could not stand Clarkson – is used to prevent discussion of a specific event.

And once again the politically correct invoke the cult of the sacred victim.

Except this time the victim is Clarkson and all who love him. He was “too white, too male and too damned British” for the BBC according to the Mail

White British men and everyone else who does not share the values of the “liberal fascists” are victims as well, because the fascists have ensured that their opinions will no longer be represented on BBC television.

Thus the infantilising left is matched by the infantilising right.

No one on either side of the culture wars is responsible for their actions. They are the victims of a conspiracy by enemies with hidden agendas.

Can I say how pathetic I find this?

Ah, I find I can’t.

First I must issue a trigger warning.
Here it is.
Trigger Warning: This paragraph contains words and/or sentiments that survivors of Toryphobic abuse may find triggering.

You are a shower. You are a disgrace. You are girly men in big girls’ blouses.

You are gutless, spineless, gaggle of hypocritical bed-wetting, comfort-blanket-hugging cry-babies.

For God’s sake pull yourself together, and stop your bloody whining.

Common Ground With Iran

Patrick J. Buchanan writes:

The forces that do not want a U.S. nuclear deal with Iran, nor any U.S. detente with Iran, are impressive.

Among them are the Israelis and their powerful lobby AIPAC, the Saudis and their Sunni allies on the Persian Gulf, a near-unanimity of Republicans, and a plurality of Democrats in Congress.

Is there a case to be made for a truce in the venomous conflict that has gone on between us since the taking of U.S. hostages in 1979? Is there any common ground?

To both questions, President Obama and John Kerry believe the answer is yes. And they are not without an argument.

First, the alternative to a truce—breaking off of negotiations, doubling down on demands Iran dismantle all nuclear facilities, tougher sanctions—inevitably leads to war. And we all know it.

Yet Americans do not want another war in the Middle East, with a nation three times the size of Iraq, and its allies across the region.

Nor can Iran want such a war.

Had the ayatollahs and mullahs wanted it, they could have had a war with the United States at any time in the third of a century since they seized power.

Yet as Ronald Reagan was taking the oath in 1981, our hostages were suddenly on their way home.

With the accidental shoot-down of an Iranian Airbus by the cruiser Vincennes in 1988, the Ayatollah ended his war with Saddam Hussein, fearful the Americans were about to intervene on the side of Iraq.

Why Iran wants to avoid war is obvious. Given U.S. air, missile, and naval power, and cyberwarfare capabilities, a war with the United States would do to Iran what we did to Iraq, smash it up, set it back decades, perhaps break up the country. Some mullahs may be fanatics, but Iran is not run by fools.

Yet even if we have a mutual interest in avoiding a war, where is the common ground between us?

Let us begin with the Sunni terrorists of al-Qaeda who brought down the twin towers, and the Islamic State that is beheading Christians, apostates, and nonbelievers, and intends to establish a Middle East caliphate where there are no Americans, no Christians, and no Shiites.

Americans and Iranians have a common goal of degrading and defeating them.

In the Syrian civil war, Iran and its Shiite allies in Hezbollah have prevented the fall of the Alawite regime of Bashar Assad. For years, Iran has helped to keep the al-Nusra Front and ISIL out of Damascus.

When the Islamic State seized Mosul and most of Anbar, the Iranians helped to rally Shiite resistance to defend Baghdad, and are now assisting the Iraqi army in its effort to recapture Tikrit.

Until this week, the U.S. stayed out, as Shiite militias were mauled by fewer than 1,000 jihadis.

Wednesday, however, we intervened with air power, thus exposing Iraq’s reliance on us.

This does not contradict but rather reinforces the point. In the war to expel the Islamic State from Iraq, we and Iran are on the same side.

Does Iran wish to displace American influence in Baghdad? Undeniably.

But when we destroyed the Sunni Baathist regime of Saddam, disbanded his army, and held elections, we greased the skids for a pro-Iranian Shiite regime. We can’t walk that cat back.

Consider Yemen.

This week, the Saudis sent their air force against the Houthi rebels who had seized the capital of Sanaa, driven out the president, and have now driven south to Aden to take over half of the country.

Why is the Saudi air force attacking the Houthis?

The Houthis belong to a sect close to the Shiite and are supported by Iran.

Yet the Houthis, who bear no love for us, began this war to expel al-Qaeda from Yemen.

And their hatred for ISIS is surely greater than it is for us or Israel, as, last week, 137 of their co-religionists were massacred in two mosque bombings in Sanaa. ISIS claimed credit.

In summary, though the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Shiite militia in Iraq, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Alawite regime of Assad may not love us, they look on al-Qaeda and ISIS as mortal enemies.

And, thus far, they alone have seemed willing to send troops to defeat them.

Where are the Turkish, Saudi, Kuwaiti, or Qatari troops?

During World War II, the U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine shipped tanks, guns, and munitions to a Soviet Union that was doing most of the fighting and suffering most of the casualties in the war against Hitler.

No matter all the “Uncle Joe” drivel at Tehran and Yalta, we were never true friends or allies, and shared nothing in common with the monster Stalin, save Hitler’s defeat.

If President Nixon could toast Mao Zedong, can we not deal with Ayatollah Khamenei?

Clearly Not At Ease

Neil Clark writes:

You really couldn’t make it up.

Almost 24 million people in the EU are unemployed. The Greek debt crisis has yet to be resolved. An Islamic State terrorist attack in Tunis, just over 100 miles from Italy. The ever-worsening problem of climate change.

And what are the EU elite talking about? How best to counter ‘Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns’. It’s good to know they’ve got their priorities right, isn’t it?

At last week’s summit in Brussels, EU leaders discussed a range of options- one of which could include the setting up of a new Russian-language TV channel funded by European taxpayers.

A timetable has been laid out: we’re told the EU-funded European Endowment for Democracy will present media proposals to a summit in Latvia on May 21-22, and that EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will finalize the plans by the end of June.

This follows on from Members of the European Parliament passing a resolution in January urging the EU to counter Russian ‘propaganda’.

“The EU and its member states have been concerned for some time about Russian propaganda, and about the fact that the counter-argument coming from the EU often seems to be poorly focused and unconvincing,” according to the BBC website.

Well, that BBC report is right, because the “counter-argument” which comes from the EU and the US is certainly “unconvincing”.

But it’s “unconvincing” not because of presentation flaws, or because insufficient money was put into“selling” the message, but because the dominant Western narrative on Russia and the Russian “threat”is false, and anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see that it’s false.

That’s the basic problem that those seeking to push this narrative have. Setting up a new European TV channel, or giving money to ex-Soviet Republics to set up their own Russian-language channels to fight Russian “propaganda”, won’t remedy it.

“The Russian threat to the west”? You only have to look at a map of Europe and see how NATO has expanded eastwards since the demise of the Soviet Union to realize who is threatening whom.

“Russia is a dangerous aggressor which needs to be stopped.” This is truly risible. By any objective assessment it’s the US and its allies who are the dangerous aggressors.

Was it Russia which invaded Iraq in 2003, falsely claiming it had WMDs? Or Russia which bombed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for 78 days and nights in 1999?

Or Russia which attacked Libya in 2011, helping to destroy a country which had the highest living standards in Africa? Or is it Russia which has killed up to 200 children in Pakistan in drone strikes since 2004? 

“Russia is to blame for the Ukraine crisis.” Again, one only has to spend a few minutes on this topic to realize that this claim is nonsense too - it was the EU and US who caused the crisis, by sponsoring and supporting a “regime change” against a legitimate, democratically-elected government.

Just imagine if Russia had interfered in the same way in Canada! But the EU and US do it in Ukraine, and somehow Russia is to blame.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine”, again, a load of hogwash. If Russian had invaded Ukraine, we would certainly know about it by now.

It’s hard to keep up with the number of false reports of “Russian tanks in Ukraine” we’ve had: here’s two more for the collection from February.

“Russia‘s annexation of Crimea”, well, Crimea would still be part of Ukraine today had it not been for the Western-sponsored coup which toppled the legal government of the country.

Crimea was only handed to the then Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 and the majority Russian population of Crimea unsurprisingly voted to return to their motherland after the coup in which far-right anti-Russian extremists played a leading role.

As to the rubbishing of the referendum in which the people of Crimea exercised their democratic rights to rejoin Russia, the best response I read was from the British journalist Peter Hitchens:

“I have spent much of the weekend wheezing with helpless mirth at the efforts of members of my trade to disapprove of two things they’ve spent their lives applauding – democracy and self-determination. They have to do this because on this occasion they operate in favor of Russia, a country on which we must all (for some reason) look down with cold sneers on our faces.”

What we’ve been fed in the West about the Ukraine conflict is lies, lies and more lies, and weve witnessed, as Hitchens notes, elite hypocrisy on a massive scale. A crisis caused by the EU and the US’s regime-change activities in a country bordering Russia is blamed on Russia.

Russia, threatened by NATO’s eastward expansion, is portrayed as a “threat.” Countries that have committed serial aggression against other sovereign states in recent years, leading to massive loss of life, label a country that hasn’t taken part in these crimes a “dangerous aggressor.”

Lies are told and the truth is suppressed on a daily basis. “The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember, writes veteran, award-winning anti-war journalist John Pilger.

“The biggest Western military build-up in the Caucasus and eastern Europe since World War Two is blacked out. Washingtons secret aid to Kiev and its neo-Nazi brigades responsible for war crimes against the population of eastern Ukraine is blacked out. Evidence that contradicts propaganda that Russia was responsible for the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner is blacked out.”

It doesn’t really matter how much the EU decides to spend on countering “Russian propaganda,” if the script they’re pushing is so clearly untrue, then they’re not going to convince people.

Once again, Europe is following in the footsteps of Washington.

In February, Secretary of State Kerry pleaded for more funding to counter news outlets like RT. But RT’s budget is less than the budget of the US government media services and indeed the BBC’s World Service.

Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute, hit the nail on the head when he told RT:

I think the problem the US has is they have an unlimited advertising budget, but the product they’re selling is not very attractive overseas. People are tired of US interventionism; they’re tired of US exceptionalism; they’re tired of the US bombing their country… if you’re a Somalian, you don’t care about listening to a radio broadcast from the US, you just wish the US would stop bombing you.”

The EU will be making a big mistake if they can solve the problem of having “unconvincing” counter-arguments on Russia and Ukraine by throwing euro at it.

An old Persian proverb tells us that “the man who speaks the truth is always at ease.” When it comes to the current propaganda war against Russia the Western elites are clearly not at ease and it’s not hard to work out why.

Leave The Houthis Alone

Justin Raimondo writes:

Saudi Arabias US-backed aggression  against the sovereignty of Yemen is a textbook example of how local conflicts are internationalized – and become tripwires for regional wars and even global conflagrations.

Like Libya, Yemen is yet another Middle Eastern country that doesn’t really exist: it is actually at least two separate countries, perhaps three – the southern provinces, which are primarily Sunni, the northern tribes, who adhere mostly to they Zaydi form of Shi’ite Islam, and the area around Sa’na, the capital, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth, where all Yemen’s clashing cultural, political, and religious factions meet.

The north/south division dates back to the nineteenth century British colonization, when, in 1839, the British seized the port city of Aden and administered it as a subset of the Indian Viceroyalty.

It became a major trading center after the opening of the Suez canal, and the Brits pushed outward, extending their influence throughout what had been a land perpetually divided between the Ottoman Empire and local imams, including the distinctive Zaydis in the north.

In 1911, the Zaydis rose up against the British and their local collaborators, abolished the north/south division negotiated by the British Foreign Office, and established the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen under Imam Yahya.

Yahya’s dream was to recreate the ancient Qasamid dynasty, founded in the seventeenth century: a "Greater Yemen" extending into what is today Saudi Arabia as well as the whole of modern Yemen.

In the 1960s, the de-colonization movement in the Arab world took on a Nasserist, socialist form, and this was manifested in Yemen in the form of a coup against the king by Nasserist officers, who then established – after a three-way civil war pitting royalists against republicans against ultra-leftists – the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), in the south, which became a de facto member of the Soviet bloc, and the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) in the north.

The two Yemens warred with each other constantly – as well enduring violent internal conflicts – reflecting the religious, ideological, and historical differences that have plagued the country for centuries, but agreed to merge in 1990, after the Soviet bloc collapsed and the PDRY was left without Russian subsidies.

Yet the "merger" was weak from the very beginning, and old divisions soon reemerged.

The southerners formed a secessionist movement, as did the Zaydis in the north (although they said they only wanted autonomy), and to complicate matters al Qaeda moved into the ensuing chaos – providing the central government in Sa’na with the perfect excuse to ask for outside intervention on its behalf.

As US aid and "advisors" poured into Yemen, the central government used this in order to cement what amounted to a de facto dictatorship.

Government troops largely ignored Al Qaeda, which has very little popular support and poses no real threat to the central government’s authority, and concentrated their fire on the southern independence movement and especially the Houthi insurgency in the north.

The latter – who are now in control of large swathes of the country, and have sent the "president" into hiding – have their origins in the "Believing Youth," which sought to revive the Shi’ite Zaydi religious tradition in order to counter Sunni fundamentalist preachers – precursors of al Qaeda – proselytizing with some success in the north.

The Houthi counterinsurgency movement has defied the efforts of both the central government and the Saudis to suppress them, albeit not without considerable losses on their part: thousands of civilians were killed in the conflict, with hundreds of thousands displaced.

In spite of US-based news accounts reporting the current conflict to be between the Saudis and "Iran-backed rebels," the evidence for the Tehran-Houthi connection is tenuous to nonexistent.

There is no evidence of Iranian involvement beyond political (i.e. rhetorical) support.

Indeed, as Christopher Boucek and Marina Ottoway report in their book, Yemen on the Brink, "some Yemeni officials have confided that such assertions are unfounded."

Doctrinal differences between the Zaydi sect of Shi’ism and the Iranians over important theological issues within Islam preclude Tehran from providing any substantial support for the Houthi insurgency beyond mere words.

Neoconservative pundits who point to the Houthis’ success with alarm mirror the propaganda of al Qaeda, which denounces the Zaydi "takfiris" (apostates) in similarly hysterical terms.

The Houthis, for their part, have never attacked Americans or American interests in Yemen, as acknowledged in a series of classified cables sent by the no-longer-present US embassy.

All of which underscores the present conundrum faced by US policymakers in the region.

The neocons are screaming that US air strikes in Tikrit are helping the Iranian-commanded Shi’ite militias defeat ISIS, while in Yemen we are backing the Saudis against the supposedly-but-not-actually Iranian-backed Houthis.

They are right to point out the obvious contradiction, but wrong in their proposed resolution – which seems to be to play the Sunni card and oppose the Iranians (or, more accurately, the Shi’ites) at every opportunity.

Apparently the neocons’ calls to smash ISIS have been conveniently forgotten.

As with most of the current problems in the region, it all goes back to the Iraq war.

That war handed the Iranians de facto control of Iraq: although the initial plan was for the neocons to anoint their favorites, Ahmed Chalabi and his gang, as the "democratic" rulers of the country, things didn’t work out that way (and Chalabi, it turns out, was canoodling with Tehran all along).

Instead, the Ayatollah Sistani, chief of the majority Shi’ite sect, threatened an all-out rebellion if direct elections weren’t held.

The Shi’ite parties won that election, and subsequent elections, and today Iraq is an Iranian ally.

That’s why thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had to die – in a war to make Iraq a Shi’ite theocracy.

Now that Iraq is in the Iranian camp, it was only natural they would turn to their Shi’ite allies when ISIS arose to threaten Baghdad.

This enraged the neocons, who – forgetting their own role in handing Iraq to the Iranians – are now targeting Tehran.

The Iranians are taking care of ISIS for us, precluding US "boots on the ground," much to disappointment of John McCain and Lindsey Graham. It doesn’t count as a war in their book unless American blood is being spilled.

The same irony abounds in Yemen, where the Shi’ite Houthis are viscerally hostile to Al Qaeda, and are, indeed, the only indigenous force capable of defeating them and rooting them out.

Yet that would preclude a Saudi-US intervention – and we can’t have that!

What’s happening in Yemen is a local problem, with causes that are strictly confined to the long and tumultuous history of that dirt-poor country.

Foreign intervention, whether from the British, the Saudis, al Qaeda, or whomever, has only led to endless war and not improved the lot of the people by one iota.

Now the Americans are using the "war on terrorism" to impose their will and re-order the Yemeni polity when they can have no real understanding of what is – or ought to be – going on there.

Washington and Riyadh are internationalizing a conflict that is Yemeni in origin, and will only be resolved by the Yemenis themselves.

As I have written on many occasions, the "Sunni turn" – the US playing the "Sunni card" in Iraq and Syria – has been a disaster on so many levels that it’s hard to keep count.

In Iraq, it led directly to ISIS – the mutant offspring of the so-called "Arab Awakening."

In Syria, where US-backed "moderate" jihadists defected en masse to the ranks of our enemies, it led to the empowerment of ISIS and Al Nusra.

And now in Yemen it is leading to the destruction of the Houthis – a long-suffering and valiant people – at the hands of our Saudi allies and their 10-nation alliance of despots.

To add stupidity to deadly folly: our anti-Houthi pro-Saudi orientation is acting directly against our interests, which are supposedly focused on eliminating al Qaeda from the scene.

In this instance, as in Syria, we are on the same side as al Qaeda. How does this make sense to anyone but Bibi Netanyahu?

Each time we intervene where we have no business intervening the "blowback" hits us right in the face – and provides yet another excuse for yet more intervention.

It’s an endless cycle, one that won’t come to an end until and unless we rid ourselves of this succubus – this Empire – that is costing us so much.