Archives for May 2011

Congress kills off the peace process

Being asked to address a joint session of Congress is something that is only offered to the world’s greatest statesmen. Winston Churchill was asked three times. Nelson Mandela and Yitzhak Rabin have also been honoured in this way. But things have changed. Ten days ago Benjamin Netanyahu, the obdurate, Arab hating, hard line prime minister of Israel who has done everything he can to scupper the peace process, was allowed this great privilege.

How could this have happened, and in a week when Netanyahu openly criticised President in front of television cameras in the White House? Because the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives wanted to send a message to the President that they were not going to support any peace settlement with the Palestinians.

Mr Netanyahu duly delivered the message loud and clear – in fact he went further. He said that he had absolutely no intention of making peace with the Palestinians.

So what should the rest of the world make of this? That American politics is unfathomable and corrupt? Pretty much. It also demonstrates just how powerful the Israeli lobby is in the US. Congress is completely within its control. Something that has been achieved through lobbying, ‘campaign contributions’ and by convincing the average Joe that to be anti-Israeli is to be anti-American – and that all Arabs are terrorists.

Congress has made an ass of itself. It has demonstrated just how corrupt it has become and sent a totally inappropriate message to the ‘new Middle East’. Every American should be ashamed of the feckless, corrupt lackeys who see fit to support a nation whose behaviour towards the Palestinians resembles that practiced by 20th century fascists.

Behind the scenes, war has been declared between Congress and the administration on this issue. Hilary Clinton is furious, Obama is spitting tacks and the State department is incandescent with rage. Because of the antics of Congress, America is going to find it impossible to be cast as the honest broker in any peace negotiations ever again.

So what does this mean? The peace process is dead, no question. In September Palestine will declare to the UN that it wishes to be recognised as an independent state. It has no other option. Congress has seen to that. The US reaction? It could use its veto in the Security Council, but if it did so it would lose friends and influence that it would never be able to restore, particularly in the Middle East – and that wouldn’t be very clever. The best hope is that common sense will prevail and that the US will abstain, but that’s by no means certain. All eyes are on President Obama. Which way will he go? His re-election campaign funds are already being used as leverage by AIPAC supporters. We will see the true measure of the man come September.

 

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Obama puts his head in the lion’s mouth


The American public have been so brainwashed by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) members and by the most aggressive PR and lobbying campaign the world has ever known, that they have been convinced that to be anti-Israel is to be anti-American. If that wasn’t alarming enough, the Israel lobby in Washington is so powerful that it has Congress eating out of its hand…its leverage? Money. Money that is showered on compliant Congressmen and women in huge quantities – particularly at election time.
The success of the Israeli lobby in America has made any progress in the Israel / Palestinian peace process impossible. Couple this with a right wing Israeli government that is intent on colonising the whole of the Occupied Territories, and the chances of there ever being a Palestinian state is close to nil. Successive American Presidents have given into the pressure. None have been brave enough to risk their presidency floundering on the rocks of the ‘peace process’…until now.
Last week, and repeated in his speech to AIPAC yesterday, President Obama has put his head in the lion’s mouth. He’s mentioned the unmentionable – the 1967 border with Israel. This has to be where negotiations start. ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu couldn’t believe his ears. He was incandescent with rage: affronted that the President didn’t understand ‘the reality’. Obama went on… “no more procrastination…we cannot afford to wait another decade or three”. No American president since Lyndon Johnson has been so candid …or so brave.
The reality President Obama recognises is that he has an opportunity: an opportunity to make change happen because of what he can now say. He’s grabbed that opportunity and he’s rattling Bibi’s cage hard – and there’s nothing Bibi can do about it. Changing times have changed the dynamic. Obama’s had the courage to seize the moment.
So what’s Bibi going to do? If he doesn’t start talking he’ll be overtaken by events. Unfortunately, that’s very likely to happen. Now that Fatah and Hamas are speaking as one, it’s their stated intention to declare Palestine an independent state in September. They see no point in getting involved in more peace talks with Israel. Why should they? The only potential fly in the ointment is that the Palestinian proposal has to go before the UN, and of course the US can use its veto.
Obama would like Israel to come to its senses before September, which is why he’s putting on the pressure. It won’t – and it’s actually too late anyway. So what ‘s he going to do? If he vetoes the Palestinian declaration the US will suffer irreparable damage in the ‘new Middle East’. If the US abstains, then it’ll be a whole new ball game – and a very uncertain one. Israel is going to pay a very heavy price for years of bullying, procrastination, obfuscation and mind-blowing stupidity.

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Obama’s speech to AIPAC

VIDEO CLIP    Bibi can’t argue with this. Surely his hardline attitude is going to hit the rocks unless he ends his procrastination. The problem is that he doesn’t want a settlement…ever.

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A Clegg up for Nick?

The Lib Dems are undoubtedly  feeling a little sore right now. Their recent battering at the polls have left them bruised and bewildered, but probably much wiser. To those of us looking on, the scale of their naivety, their unworldliness, their stupidity even, remains mindboggling. They were right royally stuffed by their coalition partners in so many ways. The ‘nasty party’s’ cunning plan worked a treat.

But what now? Nick Clegg is promising a much more robust relationship with the Tories, but will it happen? Well it might. Why?  Because the nastiness of the Tory cunning plan might just have done enough to make those sleepy souls in Lib Dem world headquarters sit up and think. The Tories scheming and plotting may yet be their undoing – and the making of Clegg minimus.

If Nick Clegg has the balls to stand up to Cameron and is seen to do so. If the Lib Dems can find their voice and people start to believe that they are having a positive, if not restraining influence on the Tories, then things could change.

It wasn’t only Lib Dem eyes that were opened by the “ruthless, calculating, tribal” behaviour of Dave and his bully boys. The electorate have had a timely reminder of what sort of people the Tories really are. They’re also beginning to realise that they were duped. Once this has really sunk in, there is every likelihood people will start to feel aggrieved and the target for their opprobrium could shift. Having been tough on Nick Clegg  there could be a reversal of sentiment towards the Deputy Prime Minister and his party.

This is Nick Clegg’s opportunity. If he’s half the man he should be, he can turn things round, but it’s a big ‘if’ and a big ask. We will soon see if Nick Clegg has any ‘cajones’ and whether the Lib Dems can step up to the mark and give the Tories as good as they get. Edwina Currie once said that dealing with the Lib Dems is like wrestling with a jelly. Is she right? Is there anything to them? Is Nick Clegg a leader or a waste of rations? We’ll soon know.

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The first cut is…deep enough!

I’ve just watched venture capitalist John Moulton on The Daily Politics putting his case for deeper and swifter cuts. He argues that more pain now will deliver greater gain later on. He complains that the state is far too big: he wants  to see the economy made up of 40% public sector and 60% private sector instead of the other way round.

I’m not a great fan of ‘vulture capitalists’ as they are of banksters born, but John’s point about the balance between public and private sector is well made. The public sector is far too big in this country. In communist China the public sector is less than 30% of the economy. Where I disagree with John is his way of achieving a smaller public sector. His solution of making deeper and more swifter cuts is too simplistic. Why? Because any idiot can cut (as we are witnessing now), but there are very few who have the imagination to create. Yes, we need a much bigger and more productive private sector, but we have to make this happen, it won’t happen by itself.

Successive governments have proved to be particularly useless at creating the right circumstances for businesses to grow and prosper. Tories are ‘master cutters’ and Labour swell the ranks of the public sector to cover their lack of ideas. Private sector growth in Britain rises and falls with the economic cycle, not much else.

John Moulton’s plan of deeper and swifter cuts would certainly increase the pain and there would be some gain, but not enough to justify the human cost of his proposal. I believe his motivation  is one of self-interest. He and his vulture capitalist friends would have plenty to feast on in the short term – and they wouldn’t have to wait so long either.

Last week Germany announced that it had just posted its best ever export figures. Its economy is doing really well. The difference between the British economy and the German economy? They make things and they save. In Britain we don’t make (enough) things and we don’t save. The Germans innovate and positively advantage their manufacturing sector, we positively disadvantage our manufacturing sector – and maintain a quaint distain towards those who make things.

In my opinion the cuts that have been announced are deep and swift enough. But we are making a massive, massive error by not making a huge investment in the means to grow our real economy – and by real economy I mean that part of the economy that makes and creates things, things we can sell abroad.

All the coalition has come up with so far is to designate a few enterprise zones, and as past experience demonstrates, all they do is to recycle existing jobs into smarter premises. What we need is some really imaginative thinking if we are to make Britain prosperous again. We Brits are stubborn souls. Sometimes we have to read the writing on the wall before we get off our backsides. There’s no evidence yet that things are about to change, but I live in hope.

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Politicos by Roz

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Vince Cable returns from the Planet Zog

Vince Cable returned to earth yesterday looking a little frayed at the edges with a message for the Lib Dem multitude – and maybe for our benefit too. He’d had an epiphany. “Tories are ruthless, calculating and thoroughly tribal”, he said in a revelatory tone. He’s right of course, but this is hardly new information. The Tories are not called the ‘nasty party’ for nothing. But what is revealing is that he felt he had to make the statement at all. Was he feeling aggrieved, was he trying to make an excuse for his party’s failings last week, or was he trying to bring the more naive members of his party to their senses?

It’s difficult to tell, but what is clear is that the Lib Dems failed to understand one of the basic tenets of warfare – ‘know your enemy’. Is it fair to call their coalition partners ‘the enemy’? Well, as the events of last week proved, the Tories are certainly not their friends.

In the heady days after the general election when the Lib Dems had their heads in the clouds and were lapping up the trappings of ‘power’, the Tories were planning and scheming, which is exactly what the Lib Dems should have been doing. To survive a coalition with the Tories and come out on top the Lib Dems needed to be as ruthless and calculating as their coalition partners. They were not, and have shown themselves to be naive and feckless. They have only themselves to blame for the predicament they now find themselves in.

It seems to me that too many politicians have little or no idea of what life is like in the real world. In the real world being ‘nice’ is seen as a sign of weakness. Respect comes from being ‘up to the mark’ and in command of your game. It’s not necessarily pleasant, but it’s reality.

Veteran city analyst David Buik made this comment on life in the City today when he retired in April: “If you’ve got good manners, warmth and kindness, you’ll never make it. You’ve got to eat nails for breakfast and spit rust out to really make it”. It’s not a world many of us want to inhabit, but life in politics is every bit as tough as life in the City, if not tougher. It’s a world for men, not boys. It would appear the Lib Dems are still in short trousers.

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Eaten for breakfast…lunch and supper!

What a remarkable victory…for the Tories. They achieved everything they planned for – and more. AV, the Lib Dem’s totem, was kicked into the long grass never to reappear. The Lib Dems have taken the rap for the cuts, tuition fees, job losses – in fact they’ve taken the rap for everything. And Dave and the gang? They came out smelling of roses and actually managed to increase the number of Tory councillors.

You have to admire the Tories, and Cameron and Osborne in particular. They planned everything down to the last detail. From the very outset, their aim was to ‘fix’ Nick Clegg and mortally wound the Lib Dems. Clegg was to be set up to be the coalition’s Aunt Sally and divert any opprobrium away from Dave. The party, by association, would take the flack for the coalition’s ‘hard choices’. It worked like a dream. The electorate fell for it hook, line and sinker.

But this is only phase one. The long-term aim of the plan is to ensure that Britain has a Tory government for the foreseeable future. How? Well, the Lib Dems are between a rock and a hard place. They have no other option other than to remain a part of the coalition, but by the end of this Parliament the Tories aim to see that the Lib Dems are virtually annihilated as a political force. The electorate are out of love with the Lib Dems and are unlikely to kiss and make up before 2015. They are set to give the Tory plan a very timely helping hand. But couple this with some carefully thought through gerrymandering, the reduction in the number of MP’s, the equalling out of constituency numbers and some nifty boundary changes, and Britain is set to have a Tory government for many a long year. Oh, and come 2014 George Osborne will be sweetening us up by giving us some of our money back. A Tory victory in 2015 is virtually assured.

But what about Labour, I hear you cry? Labour is lost. It has an unremarkable, unconvincing leader who lacks authority. Against the current Tory party it doesn’t stand a chance. It will take years before the Labour party regains its credibility – which it is unlikely to do under the leadership of Ed Miliband.

What is remarkable about the events of the last couple of days is the chronic ineptitude and naivety of both the Lib Dems and the Labour party. Perhaps now they will wake up to the fact that they face a very determined and ruthless Tory party. It’s time to get real. They need to know their enemy – and clearly they don’t.

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Can Twitter swing the AV vote?

This could be an interesting day. The polls would have you believe that it’s game over for the ‘Yes’ campaign, but is it?

The ‘No’ campaign has fought a rather silly and fundamentally untruthful campaign which may just be starting to unravel. Why? Because it’s finally being seen for what it really is, a cunning manipulation of the electorate by the Tories. A victory for the ‘No’s coupled with their well planned gerrymandering could put the Tories in an unassailable position come the next election – and probably the one after that too.

The British electorate may be criticised for being too eager to vote ‘against’ rather than ‘for’, and certainly Nick Clegg has provided the ‘No’ campaign with a convenient  Aunt Sally – which they have exploited with unseemly vigour – but something fundamental has been overlooked. Whatever the shortcomings of the electorate, it does not like being duped.  I believe there is now a growing realisation that this is exactly what the ‘No’ campaign has tried to do, dupe them.

There’s another factor which the ‘No’ campaign may not have bargained for. The Twitter conversation. As recent events in the Middle  East have proved, it’s fascinating how truth surfaces, how fundamental dishonesty becomes obvious. Today we’ve had David Blunkett’s admission  that the ‘No’ campaign lied about the cost of AV as well as Labour voters admitting they’ve changed their minds – presumably because they’ve seen through the Tory ‘cunning plan’.  The conversation as started. Twitter could yet deliver a fatal blow to the ‘No’ campaign.

The day is not yet done. There could be some surprises when the results are announced tomorrow.

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FPTP? It makes my brain hurt!

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