The Nether-World

June 5, 2007

The New Cold War

Filed under: Russia, US Politics — netherworld @ 7:21 pm

Remember “Protect and Survive“, the ridiculous government information pack that told us how we might survive a nuclear attack by doing stuff like painting our windows white? I wonder if it’s going to be reissued. It’s not time to start diving under tables yet but one of the legacies of the Bush and Blair era seems to be a return to the Cold War. That’s quite an achievement after a well over a decade of thawing relationships with Russia. This comes, of course, with the news that President Putin of Russia has threatened to target European cities with nuclear weapons if America goes ahead with its missile defence shield which would include installations of radar and missile batteries in the Czech Republic and Poland. The relationship between the USA and Russia has been deteriorating for a while now, largely because of America’s insistence on continuing with this lunatic program, which Russia obviously sees as a threat, but also for other reasons. Indeed, things have got so bad that Condoleezza Rice, a supposed expert on the Cold War, had to deny last month that a new Cold War was taking place and then two weeks later accuse Russia of having a Cold War mentality. This was before Putin’s recent announcement, if Russian missiles are going to be aimed at us it will be hard to dismiss the idea that we are returning to the bad old days before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Bush’s continued insistence that the proposed missile shield is not against Russia and is merely a defence against North Korean or Iranian attacks is not believed in Russia as neither country has the capacity to successfully target the USA. Russia’s argument against this seems quite reasonable. After all, how would the USA react if missiles were placed in a neighbouring country with a string of assurances that it was defence against some other state? Using Bush’s logic, all Castro and Khrushchev would have needed to do in 1962 is insist that the missiles in Cuba were a precaution against a possible attack from Canada. Tony Blair was always enthusiastic about the missile shield and lobbied for parts of to be installed in Britain making the country a potential target.

At the heart of all this is the neocon credo of “Full Spectrum Dominance“, an unrealistic plan for America to have total control of land, sea, air and space. This is what Tony Blair approvingly refers to as a “unipolar world”. To most other people it’s simply an empire and is already pretty much scuppered as a plan. America can only get away with this kind of dominance if compliant states let it and Russia has now drawn a line in the sand. Obviously this will cause the Bush administration to go into one of its periodic episodes of chest-thumping histrionics but in reality there is little it can do other than either back down or resign itself to this new reality.

If this is a new Cold War, there are some differences from the last one. The Soviet Union was bankrupted by the arms race which America started. The new Russia, on the other hand, has some of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, a commodity desperately needed in Europe and we have already seen how Russia can use this resource as a weapon. This will make it somewhat harder for European countries to fall into line with every insane command from the White House. The stark reality is Europe needs to maintain good relations with Russia or face a severe energy crisis.

That’s not to say that there aren’t legitimate disputes with Russia that need resolving. Among these is the fate of Kosovo which might be solvable, and the trail of contamination left across London from the polonium 210 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko which probably won’t be solved. For its part, Russia has genuine security concerns. Not only is it angry over the so-called defence shield, it is also angry about the broken promises concerning NATO expansion into eastern Europe.

What we seem to be presented with is two choices, neither of which are particularly appealing. The first is the unipolar world Blair is so enthusiastic about where America is the only power on the planet and we all ally ourselves to America’s benevolent protection and defer any disputes over to its jurisdiction secure in the knowledge that it will always act fairly and impartially as we have seen so often. The other option is the Bipolar world where another power (Russia in this case) acts as a counter-balance to American hegemony resulting in America’s allies having nuclear weapons pointed at them as we experienced in the last Cold War. There is a third option, and I’m not sure if this is any more appealing than the other two. That is a multi-polar word where there are several superpowers that can keep each other in check. Obviously this still means that someone or other will still be pointing missiles at us but it might allow us a bit more independence from the de facto occupation of so much of the world (particularly Europe) by American forces. This would mean that Europe would have to stand up on its own two feet and refuse to be a pawn in a game between America and Russia. I think this is eventually what we may end up with as China also flexes its muscles. The downside is that this all sounds very 1984 with three large blocks permanently at war with just the alliances changing from time to time. There don’t seem to be many other alternatives at present. Nuclear weapons are not going to be un invented, some states will always be more powerful than others and alliances will always be formed and broken. Also, the prospect of further conflicts is very real the more scarce the World’s resources get.

How ironic that the destruction of Iraq over fictitious WMD and the sabre rattling with Iran over potential WMD has led to a serious threat of real WMD raining down on Europe’s cities as the world’s last superpower insists on pointing its WMD at Russia. And what a coincidence that this current crisis flared up shortly after Britain decided to renew its Trident WMD program. No doubt we will now be told that with Russian missiles aimed at London, renewing Trident was the correct decision and the original cause for this new arms race (America’s provocation of Russia) will be glossed over.

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June 3, 2007

Iraq Update

Filed under: Bush, Iraq, US Politics — netherworld @ 12:01 pm

It’s been a while since I posted anything on Iraq. There doesn’t seem much point in relaying the latest horrors here as they are always superceded by new ones, but it is worth looking at some of the broader developments. First off, General Sir Michael Rose has come out with what may be his strongest statement yet on the futility of a continued coalition presence in Iraq.

“There is no way we are going to win the war and (we should) withdraw and accept defeat because we are going to lose on a more important level if we don’t,” he said.

Well obviously many of us have been saying this for years, but will anyone listen to this senior military officer who has been saying things like this for a while now. There is going to be a reduction of British troops we are told, but Gordon Brown hasn’t specifically said anything about a full withdrawal yet. On the other side of the pond retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez has echoed General Sir Michael Rose by saying that the United States can forget about winning the war.

“I think if we do the right things politically and economically with the right Iraqi leadership we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will – not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat,” retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez said in an interview.

As for the Bush administration, well they are certainly not listening. America is digging in and plans to stay for at least 50 years it seems.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and a senior U.S. commander said yesterday that they favor a protracted U.S. troop presence in Iraq along the lines of the military stabilization force in South Korea.

Gates told reporters in Hawaii that he is thinking of “a mutual agreement” with Iraq in which “some force of Americans . . . is present for a protracted period of time, but in ways that are protective of the sovereignty of the host government.” Gates said such a long-term U.S. presence would assure allies in the Middle East that the United States will not withdraw from Iraq as it did from Vietnam, “lock, stock and barrel.”

Hmmm, does anyone remember what Donald Rumsfeld was saying at the start of all this?

“It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months,” he said, speaking at the American air base at Aviano, in northern Italy.

Of course Dubya keeps on insisting that US troops are occupying Iraq at the invitation of the ‘sovereign’ Iraqi government.

We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It’s their government’s choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave.

The thing is the majority of members of the Iraqi parliament are saying “Leave”. Bush isn’t worried by such a trifling detail however and is pressing ahead with the long term occupation. After all, he still has an obedient Nouri al-Maliki to repeat the increasingly threadbare spin.

The U.S.-backed Shiite leader also dismissed concerns that U.S. forces would stay in Iraq for 50 years following a White House comparison to the U.S. presence in South Korea.

 

“This is baseless because this matter is up to the Iraqi people and the government, and the Iraqi people did not make a decision yet, and discussion on this matter did not take place,” al-Maliki said.

I wonder why that discussion hasn’t yet taken place. From the same source we learn that Turkey is massing its troops on its border with northern Iraq in preparation for a possible military incursion against Kurdish separatists. Somehow Mr al-Maliki’s warning to Turkey seems a little hollow.

“Secondly, the Iraqi territory should be respected, and we will not allow it to become a battleground,” he added. “As we don’t want to harm neighboring countries, so we don’t want the others to enter the Iraqi territory with a military incursion or fight of any kind.”

You what? It’s a bit late to start complaining now about foreign armies entering Iraq isn’t it? Just what the mighty Iraqi army would do in the event of a Turkish incursion is an interesting question. A more interesting question is what would the Americans do? Turkey and Iran are both concerned about Kurdish separatists but Turkey is allied with the USA whereas Iran is enemy number one. America wouldn’t want anything to interfere with the enormous fortress they are having constructed for them at such a cost in lives and money (about the only thing that is being built in Iraq). The plans for the new ‘embassy’ were hurriedly removed from the architect’s website we are told because the State department does not want them to be in the public domain. Could these be the plans and drawings they are so worried about? It doesn’t look like a temporary installation does it?

Meanwhile the bombing of Iraqis by the USAF continues with very little reporting on it. May saw The US military’s highest casualty rate since November 2004.The ‘surge’  seems to be every bit the failure it was predicted it would be. Six out of ten Americans now believe the war was a mistake (you really have to wonder about the other four in ten). Perhaps it’s this siege mentality which is making the Democrats cave in to every demand made by the idiot in chief and making them look identical to their Republican ‘rivals’.

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May 30, 2007

Silly Products

Filed under: Not Politics, Silly Products — netherworld @ 4:03 am

I like collecting news of the world’s most pointless or useless products. So, via an e-mail from a friend, here is a real winner:

A Washing Machine with an iPod Dock. No, really.

lgwasher.jpg

Well, I just can’t imagine how we all managed to get by without this massive improvement to our lifestyles. I think this has to to be added to some other winners I’ve collected from various blogs. Here are a few:

If you know of any more daft products, do let me know.

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May 28, 2007

Ihre Papieren, Bitte!

Filed under: Bliar, Civil Liberties, John Reid — netherworld @ 7:27 am

john_reid_stop_and_question.jpg

Courtesy of Beau Bo D’Or

Warning: Swear blogging alert

So, here I am trying to recover from this awful flu bug which has incapacitated me somewhat, and thinking that as it’s a bank holiday weekend it might just be possible to get through it without without Blair or any of his minions managing to enrage me to the point where I have to write something. Fat chance! Anyway, this has pissed me off enough to go into swear blogging mode so apologies for the language, normal service will resume once I calm down.

Before we have digested John Reid’s latest attack on the European convention on human rights (ECHR) the stupid cunt has to go even further and try to bring back the racist Sus law. It didn’t work then why should it work now?

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Blair has to put his ten pence worth in, turning my incandescence into apoplexy. Look guys, I’m not feeling well and it’s supposed to be a holiday. Is it really too much to ask for both of you political has-beens to shut the fuck up at least until Tuesday? Apparently it is. It’s hard to know where to start, but seeing as the return of the Sus law has been covered very well here, here, and here we may as well move on to the insane rantings of Blair. Before we do though I’d just like to repeat an important point that Devil’s Kitchen rightly makes:

Er… Does anyone remember that Identity Cards were not going to be compulsory to carry? You know, various Home office ministers pooh-poohed the idea that Britain was going to become some kind of jack-booted, totalitarian police state because you wouldn’t actually have to carry your ID Card with you?

I think this is what DK is referring to:

The bill made no difference to police stop and search powers, he [Charles Clarke] said, and there would be no requirement for people to carry ID cards at all times.

Right, moving on to Blair:

The absconding of three people on control orders because of suspicion of their involvement in terrorism has, once again, thrown into sharp relief the debate about terrorism and civil liberty. Within the next few weeks we will publish new proposals on anti-terror laws. Our aim is to reach a consensus across the main political parties.

Well, if they had been tried for their alleged connections with terrorism using phone tap and other currently disallowed evidence, they would, if found guilty, be behind bars now. The debate about terrorism and civil liberty exists because you are doing the terrorist’s job for them by removing the civil liberties we want to defend. Your aim is to push through even more Draconian legislation with the minimum of debate as usual using a relatively minor event as an excuse.

But at the heart of these new proposals will lie the same debate: the balance between protecting the safety of the public and the rights of the individual suspected of being involved with terrorism.

And where exactly is the “balance” here if everyone is now a suspect?

First let us clear away some of the absurd criticism of the police and security service over the three individuals who absconded.

As far as I’m aware no one is criticising the police and security services over this incident. The criticism has been leveled at you and your government for these ridiculous control orders.

After September 11, 2001, in common with many other nations, we passed new antiterror laws. In the aftermath of such an outrage it was relatively easy to do. We gave ourselves the ability, in exceptional circumstances, to detain foreign nationals who we believed were plotting terrorism but against whom there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. It was an important power. They were, of course, free to leave Britain. But we wouldn’t let them be free here. The ability to detain foreign nationals gave our services the ability to focus even more resources on the surveillance of British nationals who were a threat. It also sent out a strong signal of intent.

It sent out a strong signal of shoddy law making. If there was insufficient evidence to prosecute foreign nationals then there was no need to incarcerate them without trial, and when that was declared illegal to put them under house arrest. If there was a justifiable suspicion of malicious intent then they should have been kept under surveillance until there was sufficient evidence to prosecute.

In December 2004 these laws were struck down by the courts. In his famous judgment Lord Hoffmann said there was a greater risk to Britain through the abrogation of the foreign suspect’s civil liberties than through terrorism.

That’s right, a judge with a far better knowledge of the law than you possess realised that indefinitely imprisoning people without trial is fundamentally wrong in a free society. Not too complicated is it?

So we were forced to opt for the much milder remedy of control orders, applicable to both foreign and British nationals. These do not involve detention. They impose some limits on the individual’s freedom. They are better than nothing and have utility – because otherwise the individuals would have to be subject to even more intensive surveillance.

You were forced to do no such thing. You had the option to attempt a prosecution using phone tap and other surveillance evidence as other countries do. You just didn’t like the humiliation of a judge telling you you were wrong so you appealed the judgement and lost that too. The control orders were your sour grapes.

They were, however, much weaker than we wanted, perpetually diluted by opposition amendments, constantly attacked on civil liberty grounds.

Yes, there is a good reason they were attacked on civil liberty grounds. House arrest is still a form of imprisonment and there was still no trial to justify such an action. Are we learning yet? Obviously not.

In addition, after September 11, and again after July 7, we have tried continually to deport foreign nationals who were either engaged in or inciting extremism. Again and again in court judgments we were forced to keep them here. The important point is that although of the hundreds we keep under surveillance, many are UK citizens – as with these three individuals – many are not and in any event their influence and the ideas they import from abroad have a significant and radicalising effect. And, of course, we lost the crucial vote on 90 days’ precharge detention, despite offering a week-by-week court hearing throughout the 90 days.

If inciting extremism is illegal, then those who do it can and should be charged, tried and locked up if found guilty. Simple no? If someone is deemed dangerous or suspicious by the security services then surveillance seems the obvious course of action. I don’t see what difference it makes whether they are foreign nationals or UK citizens (like the July 7 bombers). Yes, you did lose the vote on 90 days detention without trial and you haven’t stopped sulking since. Hopefully, if you try to reintroduce it, you’ll lose the vote again because it’s damaging to civil liberties (even with a week-by-week court hearing) and completely unnecessary as we have seen.

So when there is an outcry about the three absconding, we should remember that consistently over the past few years, and even after July 7, attempts to introduce stronger powers have been knocked back in parliament and in the courts. Indeed recently it was said, again in a court case, that unless the British government could prove that a foreign national suspect would not be at risk of mistreatment in his own country, we were obliged to keep him here.

Er…outcry? The only outcry I heard came from you and that odious thug John Reid. You just don’t get do you Blair? The reason Parliament and the courts knocked back your attempts to introduce stronger powers is because Britain has a strong tradition of protecting civil liberties, and as Prime Minister you have a duty to do that also. Your dismay that the British government should prove that a foreign national suspect would not be at risk of mistreatment in his own country before you deport him is not a great surprise to anyone because we are all too familiar with your ambivalence to torture, whether it’s calling the American Guantanamo gulag an “anomaly” or pretending that extraordinary rendition doesn’t happen. The fact is, you couldn’t give a flying fuck if people are tortured even if they are innocent.

So the fault is not with our services or, in this instance, with the Home Office. We have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first.

Yes, the fault is with the Home Office and you. Who else is at fault if your dodgy legislation fails? As you say, we have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first. This is what makes us different from the terrorists and from the totalitarian regimes that you support. Strange as it may seem to you Mr Blair, that’s how we like it.

I happen to believe this is misguided and wrong. If a foreign national comes here, and may be at risk in his own country, we should treat him well. But if he then abuses our hospitality and threatens us, I feel he should take his chance back in his own home country.

Oh, fuck off! Civil liberties are not “misguided and wrong” you wanker. If foreign nationals abuse our hospitality we can either deport them (if we know they won’t be tortured or worse) or we can imprison them. We just need to prove in a court of law that they have indeed abused our hospitality. I can’t believe I have to explain this to a barrister.

As for British nationals who pose a threat to us, we need to be able to monitor them carefully and limit their activities. It is true that the police and security services can engage in surveillance in any event. But this is incredibly time-consuming and expensive, and even with the huge investment we have made since 2001, they simply cannot do it for all suspects. Over the past five or six years, we have decided as a country that except in the most limited of ways, the threat to our public safety does not justify changing radically the legal basis on which we confront this extremism.

You should monitor anyone, foreign or British, who the security services believe pose a threat to us, and activities shouldn’t be limited unless a good reason to do so can be shown. Time and money shouldn’t be a constraint on justice. What a bloody daft thing to suggest. With that logic you might as well bang everyone up up and dispense with courts all together… Oh, wait a moment… Of course, if your America’s foreign policies didn’t have half the world wanting us dead then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t have such a terrorist threat to confront.

Their right to traditional civil liberties comes first. I believe this is a dangerous misjudgment. This extremism, operating the world over, is not like anything we have faced before. It needs to be confronted with every means at our disposal. Tougher laws in themselves help, but just as crucial is the signal they send out: that Britain is an inhospitable place to practise this extremism.

Anyone’s right to civil liberties comes first. What is dangerous is departing from that stance. The tougher laws don’t seem to help. You keep introducing more and more and yet we are constantly being told of ever more numerous heinous plots against us. Saudi Arabia has even more Draconian laws and yet extremism is still practiced. Go figure.

This is part of a bigger picture, in which a considerable part of media and public opinion continues to blame us for causing the extremism.

Hmmm, I wonder why the media and public opinion would think such a thing. Could it be they have a point? Anyway, not all the media do think along those lines. Your masters at The Scum and The Daily Mail certainly don’t.

I was stopped by someone the other week who said it was not surprising there was so much terrorism in the world when we invaded their countries (meaning Afghanistan and Iraq). No wonder Muslims felt angry.

Er, yes…?

When he had finished, I said to him: tell me exactly what they feel angry about. We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a United Nations-supervised democratic process and the Muslims in both countries get the chance to vote, which incidentally they take in very large numbers. And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims.

You remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes. In both countries the civilians are being bombed to smithereens by British and American forces. Iraq has been utterly destroyed and is now in the grip of terrorism that didn’t exist before the illegal invasion. You lied to the world about Iraq’s non-existent WMD because regime change is illegal. The various civil wars are tearing what’s left of Iraq to pieces, you made no plans whatsoever for the aftermath of the illegal invasion. There are two million refugees and a further two million internally displaced people and over 600,000 dead. The country is now divided along sectarian lines with a government that seems almost as brutal as Saddam’s…but at least they got to vote for the candidates you put forward – Whoop di doo!! And you wonder why Muslims feel angry? You deluded idiot. Oh, and you are losing in Afghanistan too.

What’s more, British troops are risking their lives trying to prevent the killing. Why should anyone feel angry about us? Why aren’t’t they angry about the people doing the killing? The odd thing about the conversation is that I could tell it was the first time he had even heard the alternative argument.

Words fail me. So, the British army aren’t doing any of the killing, is that what you’re saying? Have you asked the family of Baha Musa why they might be angry? You might, by luck or design, managed to have a conversation with someone who perhaps wasn’t as well informed as he might be, but I bet there are opponents of your policies who could wipe the floor with you.

This extremism can be defeated. But it will be defeated only by recognising that we have not created it; it cannot be negotiated with; pandering to its sense of grievance will only encourage it; and only by confronting it, the methods and the ideas, will we win.

I think one way of defeating this extremism is by recognising that we have at the very least contributed to causing it, whether in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine or Lebanon. I don’t know whether or not it can be negotiated with but we have to acknowledge that there are legitimate grievances that need to be addressed even if we rightly condemn and try to counter the violence, because by dismissing the grievances you are provoking further extremism. Your confrontational attitude has made things worse not better and you seem to have run out of ideas (I’m not sure you had any to begin with). Fortunately for all of us, both here and abroad, you will be out of office soon and we can only hope that your successor is a bit more pragmatic (a forlorn hope I fear). The continuation of your policies will lead to even more defeat. Your conviction that your bankrupt policies will lead to victory remind me of the claptrap Mussolini came out with during the second world war… Vincere e vinceremo! (To win and we will win!). Well, we all know what happened to him. Here’s a reminder. What isn’t widely known is that when the bodies were taken down the children of Milan were invited to piss on the corpses (I cite my father as a source for that nugget). You Mr Blair deserve nothing less for your crimes.

*UPDATE*

More bloggage on this from Not Saussure and Obsolete

 

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May 26, 2007

Under The Weather

Filed under: Civil Liberties, Fruitbats, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nu Labour, UK Politics — netherworld @ 4:33 am

Sorry about the lack of posts. I seem to have come down with some nasty lurgy which is making staring at a computer screen for any great length of time give me a headache (not to mention the blocked sinuses, fever, aching muscles and hacking cough), and stringing a coherent sentence together is difficult. So as a total cop-out, here are ten other stories collected over the week (in no rational order) that are worth reading:

  • Ministry of Truth on John Reid’s latest attack on our freedoms.

  • Mask of Anarchy on McDonald’s efforts to to have the word “McJob” removed from the dictionary.

  • Rachel has returned from her honeymoon only to face yet more abuse from a batshit cyber-stalker and is asking for help.

  • Grimmerupnorth on why Jon Cruddas is a dishonourable hypocrite who should not be elected to the Deputy Leadership.

  • Not Saussure on yet another attack on our civil liberties by our wonderful government.

  • Blood & Treasure on the latest ratcheting up of the hate campaign against Iran.

  • Ten Percent on America’s renewed sabre rattling against Iran and on just who is really supporting Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon.

  • Lenin’s Tomb on the secret air war in Iraq.

  • Tears for Lebanon on the misery that the Lebanese people are facing.

  • Obsolete on Margaret Hodge’s latest outburst in favour of the BNP (supported by Hazel Blears no less).

Hopefully I’ll be back to ‘normal’ blogging as soon as I feel a bit better.

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May 17, 2007

A Sad Day For Democracy In Britain

Filed under: Gordon Brown, John McDonnell, UK Politics — netherworld @ 3:45 am

thatcher.jpgIt’s over! We now know for certain (barring the unexpected) who the next Prime Minister of the UK will be. There was never really any doubt about the outcome. The sad thing is that a much needed debate within the Labour party has been stifled by the Brown camp. Labour party members have been denied any say in who their leader will be and it was only the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) who got to decide, ignoring the views of the thousands of rank and file Labour supporters. I was realistic about John McDonnell’s very slim chances of becoming the leader of the Labour party but I did think (wrongly it turns out) that he’d be able to get onto the ballot at least.

I made no secret of the fact that I supported John McDonnell who, in my opinion, offered a clear alternative to the New Labour/Tory domination over British politics, which has resulted in a lack of any meaningful debate. Now that John McDonnell has thrown in the towel after it became evident that there was no way for him to gather the necessary 45 votes to get onto the ballot, that debate will be delayed for another two years when I expect Labour to lose the next General Election because it has nothing new whatsoever to offer other than a continuation of ‘Blairism’ which everyday shows just what a bankrupt and failed ideology it is. For this reason the PLP went out of its way to prevent a challenge. I cannot believe that no heavy pressure was put on PLP members to vote for Brown. Just look at the figures; 308 nominations for Brown, 29 for John McDonnell. Realising that Brown would eventually win the contest, they voted in the only way that ensured they kept their privileged positions or gained new ones.

I think John McDonnell fought an honourable and inspiring campaign and behaved thoroughly decently throughout. I hope he continues to fight for those old Labour values he believes in which have been undermined by Blair and Brown in a decade of betrayal. I hope he also continues to fight for the now disenfranchised Labour party members who have been told in no uncertain terms just how little their views matter to the PLP. New Labour likes to portray itself as a party that offers choice, whether in health services or in education, but despite its rhetoric it offers no choice when it comes to selecting a leader. I doubt this page will remain long on the Labour website (via Blairwatch).
As Ringverse says:

The leader of this country was decided over a meal in an Islington restaurant in 1994.

We will now be treated to a coronation instead of a contest and this will be spun as some kind of victory for democracy when the opposite is the case. The anger amongst Labour party members is palpable. I’m not a member of the Labour party. I used to vote Labour before Blair took over and transformed the party so radically, and I was prepared to vote Labour again in the event of John McDonnell winning the leadership. If I was a member though, I think I would now be tearing up my membership card after realising the contempt that the PLP shows for ordinary party members. I wonder how many party members will be doing just that. Under Blair membership of the Labour party halved, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this trend continued under Brown.

Gordon Brown promised us a a “new kind of politics” when he takes over. I think we can now see that for the empty rhetoric it is.

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May 15, 2007

Taking Liberties

Filed under: 7/7, Bliar, Civil Liberties, Protest, Terrorism, Torture — netherworld @ 4:35 pm

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This film is at the top of my ‘must see’ list. As the title suggests, Taking Liberties is about the attack on civil liberties that Britain has experienced since 1997 when Tony Blair came to power. Other than the various plugs for it I’ve seen on numerous blogs of all political persuasions and, of course, the information on the film’s website along with the trailer, I don’t know that much about it but it certainly seems to be a very interesting documentary and a fitting tribute to the Blair years. The film covers the following topics:

Tim Ireland over at Bloggerheads has seen the press screening and has written a positive review. Here is the trailer on YouTube:

Taking Liberties will be in cinemas from June 8. It is very unlikely to get anything like the same publicity that Hollywood bockbusters get and it will only be shown in a few selected cinemas so check the website’s cinema listings to find out where it is showing.

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May 13, 2007

Why John McDonnell Should Be Labour Leader

Filed under: Gordon Brown, John McDonnell, UK Politics — netherworld @ 4:22 am

awip.jpgThis blog is not affiliated with any political party. I like it that way as it means I feel free to criticise any party I like. However, a quick look at what I write should tell you that I can be broadly described as left or lefty liberal etc. Since Blair became leader of the Labour party, I haven’t felt able to vote Labour. I never trusted Blair. I did originally think that the ‘Demon Eyes‘ poster put up by the Tories in 1997 was unfair because all Blair was to me at the time was a slightly milder version of the Tories. Now I think that poster was spot on, in fact, if anything, it didn’t really go far enough, but then who could have guessed at how bad things would turn out? Not finding a party that I felt enthusiastic enough about to vote for has been extremely frustrating this last decade. I’m not going to be able to bring myself to vote for Gordon Brown either. I’ve never voted Tory and have no intention of doing so and the Lib Dems, though they have some policies I support (not least ending our involvement in Iraq), don’t seem to me to be strong enough to be in government and they are trying to appeal to ‘left’ and ‘right’ and pleasing no one.

Why mention all this? Well, as I have spent a lot of energy criticising Blair and New Labour, I have also thought about what alternatives might exist. As far as I can see there is only one person in the Labour party offering an alternative to the more-of-the-same deceit offered by Brown and the rest of ‘New’ Labour, and who is untainted by the wars and sleaze of the Blair era. That alternative is, of course, John McDonnell. Over the last year I’ve referred to him obliquely and linked to his website from time to time both here and on Blairwatch but I haven’t leapt right out and said that I fully support him because, as you’ve seen above, that isn’t really my style. However, I’ve seen Gordon Brown being portrayed as the only option as leader of the Labour party and attempts to stifle any deviation from that view in true New Labour fashion by the current bunch of cabinet ministers. We are now in the ludicrous position where there will be a leadership contest with just one contestant until either John McDonnell or Michael Meacher stand against him, if they can get the required 45 votes to get on the ballot – and it is still far from certain that either of them will be able to do so.

So what we may end up having is a coronation dressed up as a leadership contest. This isn’t healthy in a democracy. Whatever people may think of the other potential candidates, their ideas should be aired so everyone can scrutinise them and either agree with them or debunk them. Let’s assume that John McDonnell does challenge Brown for the leadership (as I hope he does). Once he is on the ballot, it is still highly improbable that he will win (from what we are constantly being told) but the media will finally have to stop marginalising him and listen to what he says…so will Gordon Brown. In order to win Brown will have to answer the questions McDonnell poses and vice versa, and if the arguments are sound, concessions will have to be made and the eventual leader will not only have a stronger mandate but also some more well-formed policies. This strikes me as obvious.

The fact that John McDonnell hasn’t been getting very much in the way of media coverage only made me want to find out more about his policies. And after reading what is on his website and watching his broadcasts on YouTube, I liked what he had to say. He seems to be making similar arguments to the ones I have been making. Not only that but he seems a damned site more straightforward than either Gordon Brown or Michael Meacher. His voting record is easy to look up and is consistent with what he says (unlike Meacher’s). His policies are clearly defined whereas Brown is either keeping his cards close to his chest or doesn’t have that much to offer that’s vastly different from Blair. Other than some anodyne crap about ‘Britishness’, Brown hasn’t really put his cards on the table the way McDonnell has. After a decade of Blair, I find McDonnell’s kind of openness refreshing. I’ve never met him (although I did hear him speak at an anti-war rally) but people who have met him comment on how straightforward he is.

Anyway, I was intrigued enough to lash out £2.50 on the small book he’s published (it is very small, about the size of a CD and not much thicker). It’s like the old tradition of pamphleteering. The book outlines what John thinks is wrong with our current policies and proposes his ideas on how to improve things in a clear and easy-to-understand way without being patronising as New Labour often is. I’m even more convinced now that John McDonnell would be the best person to salvage what’s left of the Labour party and restore its credibility, not by going backwards but by rediscovering its original values which have been swept aside by Blair and Brown’s rush towards unrestrained market dominance over everything. With John as leader, I would be enticed to vote Labour again but I’m not under any illusion that he will easily win the contest. I think there is a small chance he could do it, however, if more people saw what he had to offer.

So, because I agree with much of what he says and because he has been so marginalised by Labour and the media and also because an outbreak of democracy is so badly needed in the Labour party, I’m declaring my support for John McDonnell in the coming leadership ‘contest’. Not that I’ll get to vote, of course, but when the next general election does come, it would be nice to be offered a genuine choice for once.

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May 10, 2007

A Date For Your Diary: June 27

Filed under: Bliar, Nu Labour, UK Politics — netherworld @ 5:56 pm

So we now know that Tony Blair will quit as Prime Minister on June 27. There are now just seven more weeks of him to put up with before we can celebrate his leaving with a party. The avalanche of political obituaries has already started with the BBC coverage being embarrassingly gushing. As promised, I have written one too. It can be found on Blairwatch. It’s rather long but I wanted to cover as much as possible of the last ten years of disappointment, scandal and mayhem. Chicken Yogurt has a fitting tribute to Blair as does Paul Linford. Anyway, now that the serious stuff is out of the way. A rather shorter and more humorous tribute to the Blair years can be found here.

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Tony Blair Will Announce His Resignation Today

Filed under: Bliar, Protest — netherworld @ 1:03 am

Well, hooray! I’ll have more to say about Blair’s time in office later over at Blairwatch, but for anyone in London who wants to express their gratitude to Tony for ten years of wars, corruption, sleaze and the erosion of civil liberties and democracy, the Stop The War Coalition is providing an opportunity.

Thursday 10 May Downing Street
3.30 to 5.00 pm: Symbolic protest when Tony Blair resigns
(Please note time change)

Tony Blair is resigning early and in disgrace due to his support for the Bush wars. He will announce his resignation on Thursday 10 May. We are asking for as many people as possible to come to Downing Street from 3.30 to 5.00 pm for a symbolic protest in memory of the thousands who have died as a result of his war policies. Please bring old shoes to lay at Downing Street. Local Stop the War groups are asked to bring their banners.

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