16 September, 2006

Sinner Ladies

You can usually rely on The Sun for a good headline.

Some power-crazed headmaster is keeping his school's children on the grounds at lunchtime and feeding them the sort of food much recommended by a nonentity who is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. Mothers to the rescue. Good for them.

Bush planning the end of the world.

Or so the UK television station, Channel 4, would have us believe. Tonight, the channel is broadcasting The Doomsday Code, a programme which is anti-American even by their standards.

Tony Robinson, the diminutive republican (as in Robespierre, not George Bush) is presenting what purports to be a serious examination of the influence of the Book of Revelation on American politics.

The chain of logic is crude: Revelation is a "weird" book so those Christians who take it literally are weird. These weird Christians are "End Timers" who believe that end of the world is nigh and some of them visit the White House.

No one knows if George W Bush is an End Timer himself, but his policies are at one with those of the evangelical Right and his language is often apocalyptic, such as when he describes the 'war on terror' as 'the epic struggle of good and evil'.
So Bush and the evangelical right are ascribed beliefs according to the programme's agenda, rather than any evidence of what either might, or might not, believe.

It gets eerier:
There are End Timers in the White House, manipulating US policy in the Middle East: Before the war in Iraq, the USA supported a negotiated settlement in which Israel would return the Occupied Territories to the Palestinians. By 2004, after a torrent of criticism of the Roadmap to Peace, Bush's position had changed and now there is no call for a large-scale withdrawal from the West Bank.
No mention that the rise of Hamas and Hezballah has led to the painful realisation by all concerned, including the Israeli Prime Minister, that the Roadmap seriously undermined Israel's security.

For good measure, the End Timers are also blamed for the AIDS crisis in Africa and are accused of regarding the UN as the Anti-Christ. According to the Radio Times preview (not on line) the End Timers are actively undermining belief in global warming.

I think I'll record the programme and report back later in the week.

(update 17.9.06)
I've watched the programme and there is nothing to add to the above. It was sadly typical of what passes for factual documentary television in the UK: tenuous connections and similarities presented as fact.

Mind the rush

After the initial surge of apathy in response to NATO's request for more resources, Poland is now offering to send another 1,000 troops to Afghanistan, next February. Better late than never.

Norway might send a few.

The Guardian thinks there is a serious problem with the Taliban and this war is in danger of being lost. For once, they are right.

15 September, 2006

New Conservative Logo

The Conservative Party has a new image. Out with the torch of freedom logo, in with the broccoli windswept oak. A bargain at only £40,000.

If I had any skill in such matters, I would photoshop Charles II peeking out from the foliage; the present party leadership reminds me of the self-destructive Stuarts.
Broccoli joke by Lord Tebbit.

Bush Derangement Syndrome

Tony Blair's attitude towards American foreign policy after 9/11 seems to have caused Bush Derangement Syndrome to mutate into an anti-Blair strain.

On Tuesday, I identified the anti-Bush flavour of the Conservative Party leader's foreign policy speech.

Dhimmi Carter, this week, told the BBC ,

I have been really disappointed in the apparent subservience of the British government's policies related to many of the serious mistakes that have been originated in Washington....

...No matter what kind of radical or ill-advised policy was proposed from the White House, it seems to me that almost automatically the government of Great Britain would adopt the same policy without exerting its influence.
Also this week, in the Independent, Clare Short - she of the I will/might/won't/maybe/won't/will/won't resign over Iraq fame - wrote,
..I have reached a stage where I am profoundly ashamed of the Government. Blair's craven support for the extremism of US neoconservative foreign policy has exacerbated the danger of terrorism and the instability and suffering of the Middle East.
Today, even the Daily Telegraph submitted to the plague. In a leader criticising Short, the DT opined that Blair's
unquestioning adherence to George Bush's foreign policy has not always been in the best interests of this country.
One striking thing this wide range of opinions have in common is that they all state a view but offer no argument to back it up, rather, we are meant to take it as a given that Tony Blair is an unthinking ally of George Bush. Evidence please.

9/11 was an attack not just on America but on all the western democracies. As such it required a unified response by the West. Blair was one of a only a few western leaders to grasp this, as he seems to have grasped that, as the most powerful nation in the free world and as the immediate target of the terrorist atrocities of that day, it was natural that America should play the leading role.

Blair seems to have realised immediately it was in the UK's policy interests to support Operation Enduring Freedom because specifically striking back at the perpetrators of 9/11 and, more generally, weakening the capacity of terrorists to strike at the west, was in the UK's policy interest. It would make the UK a safer (but, of course, not entirely safe) place.

Blair could have followed many other European governments and declined to take part in the invasion of Iraq. Indeed, that is what the left (and some on right) really mean when they criticise Blair for his supposed subservience to President Bush. After examining in some detail the case for and against invasion, many of us on the right who are Blair's bitter opponents on domestic policy, were totally convinced by the evidence, particularly of Saddam's Weapons Of Mass Destruction programme, and concluded that Blair was making the right policy decision, a decision in the UK's national interest. This blog has noted previously the influence Blair exercised over Bush by persuading him to go the UN route, mainly so he could drag a recalcitrant Labour Party with him by appealing to their obsessive internationalism and infatuation with the UN (there is a syndrome surely worthy of psychiatric attention).

It is the left which, in failing to support steps necessary to defend the security of the UK, has acted against the policy interests of this country through their subservience to a vague internationalism. They should not be allowed to transfer their failings to other politicians who have made the defence of the realm a priority and acted accordingly. Domestically, Tony Blair may arguably have been the most incompetent and dishonest prime minister in British history but, in foreign policy, his record has been one of remarkable success. That is why the left hate him as much as they seem to hate themselves and their country.

Dead sheep savages Blair

Dhimmie Carter has been criticising Tony Blair, reports The Guardian

Being attacked by Carter must be like being savaged by a dead sheep.

A few dead sheep on the Guardian staff, by the look of the final paragraph.

In 1976 Mr Carter unseated the incumbent Gerald Ford to become the 39th US president, serving until 1981. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, when he was cited for his decades of work seeking peaceful solutions and promoting social and economic justice.
To which we can add that he was also honoured with the inaugural Fiskie.

The Fraying Anglican Communion

Since its establishment in the mid 16th century the Anglican Church has encompassed a very wide spectrum of views, ranging from Calvinistic puritanism to papist Anglo-Catholicism. At times, the debates between the factions have been extremely vigorous, even bitter. Yet, despite the tensions, the Anglican communion held together through a common adherence to the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion.

The basic principle underpinning the 39 Articles, which allowed the warring factions to co-exist, was that, as set out in Articles VI and XXXIV, Anglican beliefs, rites and ceremonies should be consistent with scripture.

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.... (Article VI)

It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, and utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word... (Article XXXIV)
In modern parlance, do your own thing so long as it is not contrary to scripture.

Then, increasingly from the 1960s, along came the liberals (for want of a better term) who rather than accept the hitherto universal Anglican principle of diversity within the bounds of scriptural authority, arrogantly demand that everybody do the liberal thing, whether or not it has scriptural authority. Thus we came to the current controversy over homosexual priests.

There is no doubt that the concept of homosexual priests has no scriptural authority. Indeed, as far as I can see, the liberals have never sought to make their case in other than secular terms, specifically, the language of human rights. Many individual Anglicans find this rejection of scriptural authority unequivocally unacceptable and so are being forced by their consciences to consider leaving the Anglican communion. In fact, the undermining of the basic principle uniting the Anglican Communion - scriptural authority - is threatening schism.

At present, the flow of churches away from the Anglican Communion is a trickle, most notably the Church of Nigeria and a relatively few, but increasing, number of parishes in the American Espicopal Church. However, the flow is threatening to become a flood, with African churches taking a lead. It is beginning to look like orthodox Christians within Episcopalian Church will be left with little choice but to follow their consciences down a similar course.

14 September, 2006

Cameron - the mule of politics.

The Daily Telegraph reports on next week's Conservative Party conference at Bournemouth.

David Cameron has plundered ideas from the television shows, The Dragons' Den and The X Factor, in an attempt to spice up this year's Conservative conference, it will be announced today.

Under the banner "A New Direction", Mr Cameron will use his first conference as leader to transform the annual seaside gathering.

Ann Widdecombe will be transformed into a Tory "dragon," while activists will take part in X Factor-style votes in some debates.

Not having seen either of the shows mentioned, I cannot gauge the precise depths to which Cameron is taking this once great party but we can be fairly sure that it will plumbs the depths of populism. This blog has already the noted the lack of substance in Cameron's recent major speech on foreign policy. We can also note his devotion to fashionable leftish causes such as global warming and his incredible love young thugs speech. It all adds up to an insubstantial approach to electioneering: a strategy for the next general election based on presenting the Conservatives as more modishly caring than either Labour or the Liberal Democrats.

Cameron's attempts to portray the Conservatives as populist with-it liberals brings to mind Disraeli's words in Coningsby, when he wrote:
It seems to me a barren thing, this Conservatism, an unhappy cross-breed; the mule of politics that engenders nothing.

A health service to die for.

A long standing joke has it that if the disease does not kill you, the NHS will.

Now we are told the NHS is killing the mentally ill.

It will kill a few more when the NHS comrades go strike. What a joy to live in a socialist utopia.

13 September, 2006

Islamic history lesson

David Musa Pidcock is leader of the Islamic Party of Great Britain. He believes that warmongering elements within contemporary American governments were responsible for both 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. At least, I think he's blaming FDR for Pearl rather than GW.

MEMRI TV has a clip, from Iranian television, of Pidcock and soulmates.

Please Sir, can NATO have more?

NATO is still asking another 2,500 troops for Afghanistan and, with one exception, the member states are still saying no. The exception is Latvia which has managed to find 20 troops (yes, twenty, two- zero). It would be laughable if the consequences were not potentially so serious.

At a time when NATO's Operation Medusa is making some progress recapturing territory from Taliban terrorists it would be tragic if ultimately the bravery of the troops involved would be rendered pointless through the cowardice of the majority of NATO's member states.

This blog makes no apologies for repeatedly asking the question, what is the point of a military alliance in which the majority of governments will not commit their military forces? Joining an alliance should not mean a complete surrender of responsibility to other countries but a sharing of that responsibility with other countries. That is not happening. Some NATO countries are content to leave the fighting completely to a handful of others and turn a deaf ear when asked to play a part; others play only a token part, sending forces to an area but keeping them out of combat. The full burden of fighting and dying falls on the military of a minority: in Afghanistan, notably the USA, the UK, Canada and Netherlands.

NATO has perhaps outlived whatever usefulness it ever had, if any, and has increasingly become a m├ęsalliance between those willing to defend the west and those willing for others to defend the west. Time for a divorce.

12 September, 2006

Cameron's Foreign Policy

Yesterday, I reported David Cameron's five guiding principles for Conservative foreign policy and asked, "What does it mean?" Since then I have studied Cameron's speech, "A new approach to foreign affairs - liberal conservatism."

One significant headline-grabbing principle is that Cameron will not automatically agree to any policy America suggests; although a reliable ally, the UK will not give unthinking support but will be prepared to disagree with the US, as and when when necessary. Nothing new there. That sounds very much like the relationship between Tony Blair and George Bush over the invasion of Iraq. Then, the president went to great lengths to meet Blair's concerns, even to the point of causing himself domestic political problems by going down the UN route. Nothing unusual there either, it is how alliances work.

Another headline grabber is the need for international action:
There has always been scope for multilateral action that involves NATO, the UN, the G8, the EU and other similar institutions.
That sentence could be a piece of vintage Blair rhetoric. However, the UN is notoriously ineffective at defending anything from anything (Lebanon, Somalia, etc) and this blog has previously noted the dismal results of multilateral NATO (in)action in Afghanistan.

In fact, there appears to me to be nothing in David Cameron's speech which, if you substitute "New Labour" for "liberal conservative", could not have been said by Tony Blair, with the exception of some potentially hostile signals to the White House.

I conclude that the speech is a classic bit of politicking, saying nothing substantive but sending a message to the UK electorate that, "I'll be tougher than Blair when dealing with America; unlike the weak Blair, I won't be a pushover for a warmongering president."

In normal times, all good politics, no doubt, but these are not normal times: British and US servicemen are fighting and dying together in the Middle East. The Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition really should have more to offer than leftish anti-American electioneering rhetoric.

Culture Vultures

According to theories of cultural relativism, all cultures are of equal worth. Maybe, but some cultures are probably more equal than others.

As Jack Handey said,
If your friend is already dead, and being eaten by vultures, I think it's okay to feed some bits of your friend to one of the vultures, to teach him to do some tricks. But ONLY if you're serious about adopting the vulture.

New Labour, Same Old Dinosaurs:

Just when you thought the union dinosaurs were safely corralled in New Labour's "Jurassic Park", they have broken out.

Unison are threatening to strike over privatisation of the NHS supply network. Civil servants are threatening to strike over pay cuts, job losses and privatisation.

Union leaders are flexing political muscles in a way not seen since the early 1980s, when Mrs Thatcher tamed them.

And Tony Blair, the man who made New Labour electable and won three consecutive general elections, faces possible humiliation today, at what could be an even more than usually ill-tempered and hostile TUC general congress.

Today could be the day when the Labour Party commits electoral suicide, again.

(Update: @19:00; 12.9.06)
It was.

11 September, 2006

Iron Lady: Tin Man

Mrs Thatcher does not mince her words. Speaking in Washington today, she said,

With America, Britain stands in the front line against Islamist fanatics who hate our beliefs, our liberties and our citizens. We must not falter. We must not fail.Today, we are here to remember to pray for the dead and to share their loved one's grieving. But we also need to renew our resolve that, however bitter or lengthy the struggle, this evil shall not prevail.

David Cameron is another matter. Also today, in his first major speech on foreign policy, he articulates his five guiding principles:

First, that we should understand fully the threat we face.
Second, that democracy cannot quickly be imposed from outside. Third, that our strategy needs to go far beyond military action. Fourth, that we need a new multilateralism to tackle the new global challenges we face. And fifth, that we must strive to act with moral authority.
That is all very well, but what does it mean?

Children of 9/11

Five years on and there is little, if anything, new to say about the events of 9/11. The 9/11 Commission has reported and millions of other words have been expended by various analyses, all of which can be reduced to the same basic fact: on 11 September, 2001, Islamic terrorists struck at the USA homeland in a series of co-ordinated attacks, killing and maiming thousands of innocents.

Today should be for remembering those innocent victims who lost their lives and the untold numbers of survivors, families and friends who will be affected for the remainder of their lives by the events of that day, in particular the thousands of children.

Some of those affected had not even been born on 9/11.

There are dozens of children like Gabi Jacobs, born to Sept. 11 widows in the months after the attacks. Five years later, as they approach kindergarten, they are just starting to grasp the stories of their fathers and of the day that changed their lives forever.

The first baby arrived just hours after the disaster and the last nine months later. Some mothers only discovered they were pregnant after the dads were gone -- including Rudolph Giuliani's longtime aide, who was married to fire Capt. Terence Hatton. The firefighter's daughter was born the next spring, and her mother named her Terri.

Their fathers were rescue workers, cops, restaurant waiters and stockbrokers. Their mothers, pregnant and alone when the dust of the towers settled, worried about the stress on their unborn children from the agony and shock. Some miscarried. One went into labor during her husband's memorial service.

Instead of normal happy childhoods, many children's experiences have been dominated by psychological trauma, an issue examined in detail by the New York Times.

Some of the most moving post-9/11 images are children's drawings. The full version of the picture of an aeroplane crashing into the Twin Towers, at the top of this post, appeared in a Chicago Sun Times special on the 1st anniversary of 9/11. It was drawn by a 6 year old whose father had just moved away from New York prior to the atrocity. Is it not sad that a child's imagination should encompass such images.

10 September, 2006

Green Man causes trouble.

At a well dressing service, the Rector of Eyam has refused to bless one of the wells because it depicts a pagan symbol: the Green Man.

Odd. Quite a few cathedrals (including Canterbury, Gloucester, Exeter and Carlisle) and many other churches have Green Man carvings.

Originally well dressing was a pagan festival which was banned by the church.

Abu Ghraib

Abu Ghraib is the Baghdad prison where the media had field day with reports of US soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners. Now, the Americans have gone, taking most of the prisoners with them and the Iraqis have taken over. Are the remaining inmates happy to be free of the cruel, infidel invaders? Apparently not, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Some of the small number of prisoners who remained in the jail after the Americans left said they had pleaded to go with their departing captors, rather than be left in the hands of Iraqi guards."The Americans were better than the Iraqis. They treated us better," said Khalid Alaani, who was held on suspicion of involvement in Sunni terrorism.
It seems their new Iraqi gaolers have taken away their televison and are treating the terrorists worse than the Americans did . You just can't please some people.

It will be interesting to see if the meedja makes such a fuss about Abu Ghraib as it formerly did.