Monday, 24 July 2017

Setting The Standard

This is to make possible the launch, in October 2017 or as soon as possible thereafter, of a new print magazine, The Weekly Standard. There will be 25 pages of popular television, pop music, and football.

And there will be 25 pages of alternatives to neoliberal economic policy and to neoconservative foreign policy, including weekly columns by Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon, George Galloway, various supporters of one or more of those, paleoconservatives from both sides of the Atlantic, and the only guaranteed Liberal Democrat columnist in the national media, as well as a page of reflections from the traditions of Christianity in Britain and in the Middle East that are politically radical precisely because they are doctrinally orthodox.

In addition to the regular columns, each edition will feature five guest articles. The subjects of those are already intended to include Modern Monetary Theory, the valiant struggle of the Durham and Derby Teaching Assistants, the scandal of blacklisting in the construction industry, the fraud against the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme, the right-wing case against Trident, the case against NATO by a former Special Assistant to President Reagan, the crisis on St Helena, the Chagossians, the Dalits, the Rohingya, fathers' rights, the persecution of Dorje Shugden practitioners, the secular humanist case against assisted suicide, and the Britons fighting against the so-called Islamic State in Syria. All this, and a great deal more besides.

Alongside popular television, pop music, and football. With a serious commitment to all of them, and to the right of their fans to read intelligent comment that treats them as adults and as the citizens who most need to be equipped for the struggle against neoliberal economic policy and against neoconservative foreign policy.

A Warning About The Dangers

Kevin Yuill writes:

This week, the High Court heard a legal challenge from a terminally ill British man who wants the right to die. 

Noel Conway, who is 67-years-old and has motor neurone disease, wants an assisted death when his health deteriorates further. 

Lawyers are asking the courts to declare that the blanket ban on ‘assisted dying’ under the Suicide Act is contrary to the Human Rights Act. 

The current law on assisted dying was overwhelmingly upheld by parliament in 2015. 

The fact that the courts are hearing a challenge to this is deeply worrying. 

The courts, which recently defended parliamentary sovereignty in the Article 50 legal challenge, should not be used to circumvent ‘inconvenient’ legislation. 

Doing so shows contempt for democracy. 

Moreover, the 1961 Suicide Act is a remarkably good piece of legislation. 

The potential sentence of 14 years in prison for assisting a suicide reflects society’s condemnation of killing, while simultaneously removing punishment of the victims of suicide. 

It has been used only a handful of times, but stands as a symbol of our commitment to the preservation of human life. 

When dealing with such sensitive cases here in the UK, we should consider what is happening in Canada. 

There, the prohibition against assisted suicide was struck down by a single judge, in a single court case, involving a terminally ill individual. 

In 2012, lawyers representing Gloria Taylor, who, like Conway, was suffering from motor neurone disease, successfully argued that prohibiting assisted suicide breached her rights. 

The Supreme Court upheld the decision and ordered the federal government to pass legislation permitting assisted suicide. 

Bill C-14 became law on 17 June 2016, allowing both assisted suicide and euthanasia (where the doctor kills the patient). 

The CBC reported recently that, by the end of 2016, there had been 1,324 cases of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in Canada – that is, assisted suicide and euthanasia. 

This number is likely to increase. 

Before the ink was dry on C-14, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association launched a court case to ‘strike down’ as unconstitutional the somewhat slippery provision that a person’s ‘natural death must be reasonably foreseeable’ to qualify for death by lethal injection. 

In the weeks that followed C-14’s passage into law, the Canadian federal government announced that it would conduct research into the possibility of extending the benefits of euthanasia to people with dementia, ‘mature children’, and those with solely psychological suffering. 

In the case of a 77-year-old woman suffering from non-terminal osteoarthritis, the judge chided doctors who had refused euthanasia on the grounds that her disease was not terminal. 

He granted the woman the right to die as she was ‘almost 80’ with ‘no quality of life’. 

And, of course, her death was judged to be ‘reasonably foreseeable’. 

In the province of Ontario, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced that it would force doctors to either euthanise patients who wanted to die, or refer them to someone who would.

Three years ago, it was a crime for doctors to kill their patients in Canada. 

Now, doctors could lose their licence for refusing to participate in killing their patients. 

Judges and juries are generally sympathetic in tragic cases like Conway’s. 

But there is no need to change the law. 

We should take the court case in Canada, which opened a Pandora’s box, as a warning about the dangers of legalising assisted suicide.

Where Are The Wreaths For The Known?

Phil Restino and Ernie Gallo went to great lengths to get this into the Daytona Beach News-Journal. It deserves a wide circulation: 

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis recently told constituents of how he participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

He told us to remember and give thanks to those who gave their lives in the service of our nation, as they are the “indispensable Americans without whom we would not be free.”

Ernie Gallo of Palm Coast is the USS Liberty Veterans Association’s president.

On June 8, 1967, the USS Liberty, stationed in international waters, was attacked for two hours by the Israeli military.

That left 34 U.S. sailors and Marines dead, 174 wounded and the Liberty the most decorated ship for a single engagement in U.S. Navy history.

The Navy Board of Inquiry following the attack was a farce and cover-up that included admirals threatening the survivors with court-martial, life imprisonment or “worse” if they ever spoke of the attack, as detailed in testimony to the commission convened by Adm. Tom Moorer, retired chief of naval operations and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Justice has been denied the men of the Liberty for 50 years.

If moved to by his constituents, Rep. DeSantis could initiate a proper congressional investigation into the attack on the Liberty.

Like the men on the Liberty, DeSantis is a Navy man proud of his service as a JAG officer. He knows how a Navy Board of Inquiry is supposed to work.

At noon on June 8, Gallo and his shipmates gathered at the tomb for their fallen crew members at Arlington National Cemetery. Although invited, Congressman DeSantis did not attend.

DeSantis claims to know nothing about the attack on the Liberty.

We owe the 34 “indispensable Americans” who gave their lives on the USS Liberty. It’s time “we Americans” let Congressman DeSantis know about it.

Restino, of Port Orange, is spokesperson for We Are Change - Central Florida. For 10 years he’s organized USS Liberty Remembrance Day events in Volusia County.

Gallo, of Palm Coast, is the Liberty Veteran Association’s president.

For more info, see here and here.

Explanatory note:

On June 8, 1967, while patrolling in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was savagely attacked without warning or justification by air and naval forces of the state of Israel.

Of a crew of 294 officers and men (including three civilians), the ship suffered thirty four (34) killed in action and one hundred seventy three (173) wounded in action.

The ship itself, a Forty Million ($40,000,000) Dollar state of the art signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform, was so badly damaged that it never sailed on an operational mission again and was sold in 1970 for $101,666.66 as scrap.

At 1400 hours, while approximately about 17 nautical miles off the northern Sinai coast and about 25 nautical miles northwest of El Arish, USS Liberty’s crew observed three surface radar contacts closing with their position at high speed.

A few moments later, the bridge radar crew observed high speed aircraft passing over the surface returns on the same heading.

Within a few short moments, and without any warning, Israeli fighter aircraft launched a rocket attack on USS Liberty.

The aircraft made repeated firing passes, attacking USS Liberty with rockets and their internal cannons.

After the first flight of fighter aircraft had exhausted their ordnance, subsequent flights of Israeli fighter aircraft continued to prosecute the attack with rockets, cannon fire, and napalm. 

During the air attack, USS Liberty’s crew had difficulty contacting Sixth Fleet to request assistance due to intense communications jamming.

The initial targets on the ship were the command bridge, communications antennas, and the four .50 caliber machine guns, placed on the ship to repel boarders.

After the Israeli fighter aircraft completed their attacks, three Israeli torpedo boats arrived and began a surface attack about 35 minutes after the start of the air attack.

The torpedo boats launched a total of five torpedoes, one of which struck the side of USS Liberty, opposite the ship’s research spaces.

Twenty-five Americans, in addition to the nine who had been killed in the earlier air attacks, were killed as a result of this explosion.

Take Back Control

Matt Turner writes:

‘Take Back Control’. A simple, yet incredibly effective message.

The mantra emphasising the necessity of reasserting British democracy and sovereignty was one of the main factors in convincing 52% of the public to vote for Brexit in the EU referendum last year. 

It’s common sense, and a proposal that resonated with the majority of the population. 

Why shouldn’t we take back control from those who make policy decisions that impact us, yet are wholly unaccountable to our electorate? 

While (often deeply flawed) arguments about immigration and the NHS were put forward by Leavers, in true Bennite fashion, I always found the democratic argument for leaving the EU to be the most poignant. 

The beauty of the democratic argument is that is can be applied to other policy areas — including foreign policy. 

Since the rise of the New Right, cross-Atlantic love-fest between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, we have not had a truly independent foreign policy. 

The ‘Special Relationship’ that is lauded by both the centre-left and centre-right (who interestingly, are often the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for the European Union) has an anti-democratic sentiment to it. 

Britain’s foreign policy agenda over the last few decades, which has been largely dictated to it by the United States, has made both Britain and the world a more dangerous place to live in.

It is often claimed that the UK and US have shared interests, but the reality is that what is best for Britain rarely comes into the equation. 

Instead, we are subservient to the foreign policy interests of the United States. 

One has to ask: why did Britain happily follow America into propagating and financing the barbarism which has since decided to bite the hands that fed it, namely, the Afghan Mujahedeen in the 1980s? 

During the rigid, ideological warfare of the Cold War, any British reservations of the backlash were cast aside in favour of American geo-strategic hegemony in the Middle East.

It was the then Labour MP George Galloway who during this time, told Margaret Thatcher that she, as lapdog in chief for the United States, had “opened the gates to the barbarians”. 

How right he was. Our acquiescence to American interests has been clear to see over the last few decades.

Just look at Tony Blair’s “I’m with you whatever” commitment on intervention in Iraq to fellow war criminal George W. Bush. 

Those four words encapsulate British foreign policy better than any soundbite, policy proposal or academic paper. We are with America “whatever”.

Fear not that American presidents and military generals were not and never will be elected by the people of Britain, we must toe the line! 

It clearly wouldn’t matter whether the British people were against a certain military action or not — we would go cap in hand to the United States regardless. 

It is evident that our assorted conquests with the United States in the Middle East have had a negative impact on our country — and many of the decisions that have led to the increase in barbarous terrorism over the last decade in Britain can be traced back to the American war rooms — where there isn’t a shred of democratic legitimacy to be seen. 

While we do not have an independent foreign policy, we are nothing but a lapdog, and an obedient one at that. In the current circumstances — this issue is more important than ever before. 

As Theresa May continues to hold hands with one of the most dangerous Presidents we have witnessed in our lifetime, it is more imperative than ever that we consider a more independent approach to our foreign policy. 

We must be able to stand up to the self-serving demagogue Donald Trump, and have the British gumption to say “no” instead of following him at a whim like successive Prime Ministers have to successive Presidents in the past.

Not only this, but the public mood really is beginning to change. Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy stance was proven to be highly popular during the general election.

This was arguably the first time a real scepticism of American intervention and British involvement has been pushed by one of the mainstream political parties, and YouGov polling found that around 60% believe that our involvement in the Middle East bears at least some responsibility for the sorry state we find ourselves in, both domestically and internationally.

Why should we continue to assist America’s goal of geo-strategic hegemony in the Middle East when it has destabilised our country, the main actors are not accountable and the majority of the British public are now sceptical? 

Surely, if we are to really ‘Take Back Control’, we must do so from all corners, and our one-sided ‘Special Relationship’ with the United States is nothing but an affront to democracy.

And Here's The Kicker

Phil Hall writes:

Continued membership of the EU is now a serious obstacle to the success of a future Labour government and for this reason we should get out of the EU as soon as we can and leave the single market. 

After the debacle in Greece, whereby the once radical Syriza government was made to introduce an extreme austerity programme and privatise large parts of the public sector, it became difficult to see the EU as benign. 

The EU in collaboration with the IMF forced Portugal, Italy and Spain to introduce cuts which hurt their citizens and depressed their economies.

Within the European Union, the plans of any future Labour government to renationalise the railways and energy industries, increase public spending, provide a reflationary stimulus, subsidise British industry, or prevent labour flows from undercutting the wages and conditions of British workers would be blocked and opposed.

Within the European Union it is clear that a Keynesian-socialist approach is not permitted. Voting for Jeremy Corbyn with Britain still in the EU would have been as disillusioning as voting for Syriza. 

However progressive Syriza’s policies seemed, the EU forced it to implement privatisation and cuts. 

The European Union has generated a tangled ball of legislation which, on the whole, reflects a post-Thatcherite monetarist consensus on what constitutes “good” economic policy. 

Full employment, a Keynesian goal — and also a socialist one — is not seen as a worthwhile objective. Instead, governments are obliged to operate “efficiently,” with low levels of inflation — euphemisms for austerity. 

Reflationary measures, government investment and activation of the economy, are banned by the Stability and Growth Pact and the European Court of Justice has ruled against trade union action aimed at stopping workers’ wages being undercut by bosses importing foreign workers and paying them less. EU competition rules prohibit countries from supporting local industries. 

The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union blocks state aid to industry or nationalisation because: “A company which receives government support gains an advantage over its competitors.” 

And here’s the kicker: legislation promoted by the EU business lobby and adopted by the European Commission is ratified much more easily than if it were to go through a national parliament. 

The EU is a back door for “business-friendly” legislation that might otherwise be opposed and stopped in a national parliament. 

The infamous Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a case in point.

The main, and unconvincing, argument of the soft left for remaining within the EU is still that the EU acts as a break on the more extreme neoliberalism of the Conservative government in power. 

According to the defenders of the EU, being a member of the organisation helps guarantee the protection of the environment, human rights, labour rights and privacy. 

But after the last British election, we see that this argument for remaining in the EU was really always only a counsel of despair. 

Clearly none of the “leftists” who voted for remain, who fully understood the reactionary nature of the European Union, imagined that Corbyn would get so much popular support or that Labour would currently be so far ahead in the latest opinion polls. 

A Labour government in Britain, the fifth-largest economy in the world, would represent a threat to the neoliberal EU. 

Labour Britain outside the EU represents the possibility for the establishment of a strong European-wide alliance of socialist parties and a brake on neoliberal policy making within Europe.

What could never be reformed from within may very well be reformed by the constructive example of a successful socialist country outside the EU and outside its single market.

And the Morning Star editorialises: 

Twelve top big business leaders marched into 10 Downing Street last Thursday afternoon to give Theresa May and her Brexit ministers their orders. 

Representatives from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Institute of Directors, City gamblers Risk Capital, weapons manufacturers BAE Systems, corporation tax dodgers Tesco, the privatised multinational National Grid company and other firms told the Prime Minister and her Cabinet members that they must make the necessary concessions in order to reach a deal with the EU. 

As the Finanical Times reported matters, May “was bluntly invited to back away from the cliff edge.” 

CBI director general Carolyn Fairburn, formerly of Lloyds Bank, demanded a lengthy transition deal and continuing close involvement in the EU customs union and single market “feeling that the political tide was moving in her favour.” 

These and other business leaders have made little secret of their hope that spinning out Britain’s exit process from the EU will create the conditions in which last year’s referendum result can be frustrated and reversed. 

New Lib Dem leader Vince Cable — formerly of the Shell oil corporation and the privatiser of Royal Mail — has volunteered to lead the struggle politically, although the most he can hope for is a return to the post of Business Secretary in another coalition government. 

Last Thursday’s corporate missive was received, understood and acted upon immediately. 

The following day, Environment Secretary and leading Brexiteer Michael Gove began sounding the retreat by revealing that free movement of people between the EU and Britain could continue for at least two years after March 2019, the deadline for reaching a deal. 

Other concessions on this sticky point and others in the exit negotations will follow. 

The Morning Star welcomes continuing rights to travel, study and settle across Europe where these can be negotiated on a fair, humane and equitable basis. 

Indeed, free from “Fortress Europe” restrictions, British governments should extend those rights to non-European partners and families of British citizens already living here — although it remains to be seen how the EU would respond to such an extension of free movement as part of any future arrangements with Britain. 

A shared and major concern of May’s new EU business advisory group and Michel Barnier’s fellow unelected negotiating team is that big business should remain free to move (or “post”) workers around Europe where they can be super-exploited regardless of national or regional legislation and negotiated trade union agreements. 

During last week’s negotiations, Barnier made it clear that “posted” workers must be classified as “service providers” and therefore covered by “free trade in services” or “right of establishment” rather than the potentially more restricted “free movement of people” principles. 

This is the basis on which legislative and trade union action to enforce equal treatment for them has been outlawed by a stream of EU Court of Justice rulings. 

The recent GMB conference was right to sound the alarm about any deal with the EU which allows such super-exploitation to continue. 

As Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reminded television interviewer Andrew Marr yesterday, free market fundamentalism is no friend of the workers. 

The labour movement should oppose any “single market” or “customs union” deal with the EU and leave a future Labour government free to outlaw super-exploitation of labour, regulate trade and the movement of capital, invest in strategic industries and insist on progressive procurement contracts between the public and private sectors.

"Which Union?"

That question needs to be put to a referendum in Scotland, to a referendum in Northern Ireland, and to a referendum in Gibraltar.

In Scotland, the options would be the United Kingdom outside (or, at any rate, nominally planning to leave) the European Union, and independence with a view to seeking EU membership.

In Northern Ireland, the options would be the United Kingdom outside (or, at any rate, nominally planning to leave) the European Union, and incorporation into the EU member state of the Irish Republic, assuming that it would be willing to take Northern Ireland, which is very far from clearly the case.

And in Gibraltar, the options would incorporation into the United Kingdom outside (or, at any rate, nominally planning to leave) the European Union, and becoming an autonomous community of the EU member state of Spain.

In no case would there be any third option, and in all three cases the result would be final.

All of this needs to happen this year.

Although of course it does assume that the United Kingdom has the slightest intention of ever leaving the European Union.

We all know about "transitional periods".

The Hill Top of Crook, Indeed

"Utterly ruthless, but never exactly in the intellectual vanguard." That was how an erstwhile Special Adviser to a Labour Cabinet Minister described her to me.

Having known Hilary Armstrong for 30 years, and having had the singular pleasure of serving on her Constituency Executive during and around the Iraq War, I treat her latest intervention exactly as it deserves to be treated.

Back in the day, when she was Tony Blair's Chief Whip, she banned me from being a council candidate in her constituency because I was mixed-race, and instead imposed her pure white office boy, who went on to lose the election itself so spectacularly that he took a distinguished councillor down with him.

It is worth noting that a clearly ill-advised Laura Pidcock put this person's image and endorsement on her election literature. Not much in the way of showing racism the red card there.

Armstrong used the hunting ban, of which more anon, to cajole disgraceful Labour MPs into supporting the Iraq War. But she herself did not vote for that ban, nor did Blair, and nor did their close ally, the Stop Gordon Brown candidate of that moment, John Reid.

Around that time, her sometime National Executive Committee "colleague", Mark Seddon, told that, while of course I ought to be the next MP for North West Durham, there was bound to be an all-women shortlist. No one ever bothered to impart such information to the aforementioned office boy, with hilarious consequences.

Speaking of the NEC, Armstrong and her little chai wallah once blocked the Constituency Labour Party here from nominating me to it, thereby preventing anyone else from doing so, since one of my nominations had to come from my home CLP.

In the intervening years, the Conservative Party, while retaining and even consolidating its electoral base, has shrivelled in its membership to a tiny subculture so detached from the mainstream that it regards the repeal of the never-enforced hunting ban as a national priority, while seriously imagining that Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg ought to be Prime Minister.

There are, however, still a few people in that party who realise that such ridiculous figures, both of whom are complete confections and not remotely "authentic", could never win a General Election, either against Jeremy Corbyn, or against any of the stars of the 2015 intake in his Shadow Cabinet, which is where the stars of the 2015 intake are.

In particular, they are justly terrified of Angela Rayner. Hence the barefaced lie that Labour promised to write off existing student debt. Now, there would be no cost involved in writing off absurdly high debts that no one has the slightest intention of ever trying to collect. But Labour never promised to do so.

The General Election has taught the Conservatives nothing. They still believe that they can use their courtier media to spread any old drivel and no one will call them out on it. Hence the student debt story.

And hence the deselection story, which is equally baseless.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Crowing Under The Crown

As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the media have reverted (in fact, they did so some years ago) to the situation that obtained before she ever came along.

In those days, books about the Royal Family were written, bought and read only by people who liked the Royal Family, in the way that books about trains are written, bought and read only by people who like trains, while books about stamps are written, bought and read only by people who like stamps.

And now, television programmes about the Royal Family, even ones about Diana of all people, are made and watched only by people who like the Royal Family.

In the course of the present reign, and especially of the last 30 years, Britain is best understood as one of those countries which abolished their monarchies and then brought them back again.

The British monarchy is back forever now.

And Relative Dimension

There are some pretty far-fetched events in Macbeth, but no one suggests changing the sex of the eponymous character.

The proof of the wisdom of a female Doctor in Doctor Who will be whether anyone watches.

Or at least whether anything like as many people, in this country and throughout the world, do so.

But first on The Mash Report (execrable, but then I accept that I am twice the age of the target audience), and then on Dead Ringers, the BBC has gone out of its way to insult even the existing audience.

Doctor Who fans, perhaps because there are just so many of them, crystallise in the BBC's mind its own adolescent sense, not of having too few friends, but of having the wrong ones.

That never bothered me. The cool kids and I ignored each other so happily that, when I did have cause to interact with them, then we got along fine. I am still in touch with a lot of them on Facebook and what have you.

But the BBC is the boy who hates his mates, because they are not the mates that he wants, but they are the only ones that he is ever going to have.

Very occasionally, he lashes out. For example, over Doctor Who. Or in the form of The Mash Report.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Down On The Farm

Farm subsidies go back to the War, and the system put in place by the Attlee Government worked perfectly well until the Conservatives took this country into the Eurofederalist nightmare.

Now, those of them who belatedly want out of that, want it in order to turn this country into a petri dish for the utterly unconservative and un-Tory economic theories that predominated, but which never quite became monolithic, during the 40 years between Jim Callaghan's turn to monetarism and Theresa May's loss of her overall majority.

"Why should farmers get State aid when no one else does?" is the wrong question. The question ought to be why other people did not get State aid when the farmers did.

In any case, the likes of Michael Gove are wasting their time. Theirs is the farmers' party. It always has been, and it always will be.

Everyone else in it is just a farmhand, and the terms of their occupancy of their tied cottages have never been reformed. They can be evicted at any time.

On The Money

Whether either yesterday’s inflation figure or today’s borrowing figure is a good thing or a bad thing, the point is that the Government had no idea that it was coming.

The Government had, and it has, absolutely no idea what is going on in the economy, and absolutely no idea about Economics.

That ought to come as no surprise.

There have been seven recessions in the United Kingdom since the Second World War. Five of them have been under Conservative Governments.

That party has also presided over all four separate periods of Quarter on Quarter fall in growth during the 2010s.

By contrast, there was no recession on the day of the 2010 General Election.

And now, the Conservatives have more than doubled the National Debt. The Major Government also doubled the National Debt.

Yet the Conservatives’ undeserved reputation for economic competence endures. They are subjected to absolutely no scrutiny by the fake news detractors of their opponents.

Until now.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

"That's What Trade Unionists Look Like"

The First Shall Be Last

The really sad thing about how many Firsts are now being awarded is that they really did work that hard to get them.

Worked. That hard. At university. I don't know what the world is coming to.

Of course, we knew the deal: at least 50 for absolutely any old rubbish, in return for no more than 68 for anything, ever.

I was once given back something with a 7 crossed out, and 68 written next to it.

I wish that I had kept it, as a perfect representation of the glory days of an institution that is no doubt well past them now.

Utopian and Scientific?

It's always Hitler, isn't it?

The latest variation on that theme is, "You wouldn't put up a statue of Hitler in Manchester, so why put up a statue of Engels?"

Well, Hitler never lived in Manchester. Engels did.

Many monstrous figures from this country's past are prominently remembered on its streets and in its public places, and why not?

There is no more argument against a statue of Engels in Manchester than there was for Rhodes Must Fall.

"Would we tolerate Nazi propaganda in Manchester?" We ought to be more concerned about Nazi propaganda in Ukraine, whence this statue has come.

The comparison with Engels is any case not Hitler, but Nietzsche, and there are certainly statues of him in the places with which he was associated.

The comparison with Hitler would presumably be Stalin, and there are at least two streets in Britain named after him, both of them falling under Conservative-led local authorities in the South of England.

I should have to check, but I very much doubt that either Chatham or Colchester has ever had so much as an old-fashioned right-wing Labour council.

Never mind a Soviet fellow-travelling one in the immediate post-War period when Colchester presumably erected its Stalin Road, and Chatham its Stalin Avenue.

Again, why not?

After all, we fought a war, we fought the War, not only with him, but essentially for him, and it was his army that actually won it.

No good purpose would be served, but many bad ones would be, if we were ever to forget those facts.

Or if we were ever to forget the connection between Engels and Britain in general, and Manchester in particular.

Barmy Bagshawe

Louise Mensch was once a Member of Parliament.

Just give that a moment to sink in.

Amber Light?

The simple fact that Amber Rudd refused to hold an inquiry into Orgreave conceded the case of those who were calling for that inquiry.

And the simple fact that Amber Rudd refuses to publish the report into overseas funding of terrorism concedes the point of those who are calling for that publication.

But there still needs to be an inquiry into Orgreave.

And there still needs to be publication of the report into overseas funding of terrorism.

Mind The Gap?

The BBC has very successfully spun yesterday's news about itself as being about a "gender pay gap".

But in fact, it is about obscene amounts all round, to upper-middle-class, liberal-Right, mostly white people.

Men and women alike.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Value of Nothing

No one does the Pompous Tory Voice quite like Michael Fallon.

Including when he was lying through his teeth to Parliament about how a Trident had been fired at Florida.

He is so bad that the voters of Darlington once replaced him with Alan Milburn, and, at 65, he has never worked outside politics.

He has certainly never been in any of the Armed Forces. But then, hardly anyone under 75 has ever been in any of the Armed Forces.

Yet he presumes to lecture his colleagues, or indeed anyone else, on "military values".

Of course, when a Prime Minister needs, either directly or by proxy, to instruct her Ministers not to conduct themselves in the manner that is now endemic, then she has, for all practical purposes, ceased to be Prime Minister at all.

She remains nominally in office only because her party has no one else. That was how she got the job. And that is how she retains it.

Marking Her Card

Could you keep your job if you had been recorded using the n-word?

Yet you are almost certainly harder to sack than a Member of Parliament is. An MP can be expelled by a simple resolution of the House of Commons.

The thing is that it requires another MP to move it.

There is no danger that this might become a regular occurrence. It never has yet, and the provision has always been there. 

MPs using the n-word to public meetings, or anything remotely comparable to such behaviour, will always be mercifully rare.

No sensible person would actively wish his Member of Parliament ill in the conduct of her duties.

But, even if not for want of trying, I am not a politician. I am a journalist.

Cheerleading is not journalism, or vice versa. Come to that, cheerleading is not activism, or vice versa.

As an activist, I am not a member of any political party, nor will I ever be. I have been banned from the Labour Party for as long as my Labour MP, Laura Pidcock, has been old enough to vote.

Laura has entered Parliament from the employ of Show Racism the Red Card.

Unencumbered by office as a Shadow Minister or a PPS, when is she going to show Anne Marie Morris the red card?

Why has she not already done so?

The Turn of The Screws

Today's ruling against the Prison Officers' Association, only one day after yet another report had exposed the ongoing disaster in the prison system, will aid and abet yet further cuts and privatisation.

The POA is the kind of union that supports the Durham Teaching Assistants, that addressed the recent Durham Miners' Gala, that materially supported Jeremy Corbyn's Leadership campaign even without being affiliated to the Labour Party, and that  helps to fund the Morning Star.

It is being made an example of.

Well, it is an example. A very, very good one.

BBC Trust

No employee of anything ought to be paid more than 10 times the pay of any other of its employees. That ought to be the Statute Law.

Moreover, the BBC license fee ought to be made optional, with as many adults as wished to pay it at any given address free to do so, including those who did not own a television set but who greatly valued, for example, Radio Four.

The Trustees would then be elected by and from among the license-payers. Candidates would have to be sufficiently independent to qualify in principle for the remuneration panels of their local authorities.

Each license-payer would vote for one, with the top two elected. The electoral areas would be Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions. 

The Chairman would be appointed by the relevant Secretary of State, with the approval of the relevant Select Committee. And the term of office would be four years.

One would not need to be a member of the Trust (i.e., a license-payer) to listen to or watch the BBC, just as one does not need to be a member of the National Trust to visit its properties, or a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to be rescued by its boats.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Trumped Again

And now, even Obamacare is to remain in place.

What, exactly, is the point of this Presidency?

Compensation Authority

If the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is refusing to compensate 13, 14 and 15-year-olds on the grounds that, on the balance of probabilities, they consented to their sexual abuse, then that it is because they could legally be convicted of sexual assault.

It is very high time for Parliament to tidy up the shambolic laws on sexual offences.

First, the age of consent should effectively be raised to 18, by making it a criminal offence for anyone to commit any sexual act with or upon any person under that age who was more than two years younger than herself, or to incite any such person to commit any such act with or upon her or any third party anywhere in the world.

The maximum sentence would be twice the difference in age, to the month where that was less than three years, or a life sentence where that difference was at least five years.

No different rules for “positions of trust”, which are being used against male, but not female, 18-year-olds looking after female, but not male, Sixth Formers visiting universities.

And no provision, as at present, for boys to be prosecuted at any age, even if they are younger than the girls involved, whereas girls have to be 16.

The law on indecent images is also enforced in totally different ways in relation to boys and girls of the same age, and even to boys who are younger than the girls. That must end.

Children under the age of consent can have abortion or contraception without parental permission (thank you, Margaret Thatcher). That is an argument for banning children under the age of consent from having abortion or contraception without parental permission.

Unless they decided as adults to seek to make contact with their children, then the financial liability of male victims for pregnancies resulting from their sexual abuse ought also to be ruled out. Talk about victim-blaming.

Secondly, it ought to be made a criminal offence for anyone aged 21 or over to buy or sell sex, with equal sentencing on both sides.

No persecution of girls and very young women whose lives had already been so bad that they had become prostitutes.

No witch-hunting of boys and very young men who were desperate to lose their virginities.

But the treatment of women and men as moral, intellectual and legal equals.

Thirdly, the offences of rape, serious sexual assault, and sexual assault, ought to be replaced with aggravating circumstances to the general categories of offences against the person, enabling the sentences to be doubled.

The sex of either party would be immaterial.

There must be no anonymity either for adult accusers or for adult complainants. Either we have an open system of justice, or we do not.

In this or any other area, there must be no suggestion of any reversal of the burden of proof.

That reversal has largely been brought to you already, by the people who in the same year brought you the Iraq War. The Parliament that was supine before Tony Blair was also supine before Harriet Harman.

Adults who made false allegations ought to be prosecuted automatically.

Moreover, how can anyone be convicted of non-consensual sex, who could not lawfully have engaged in consensual sex?

If there is an age of consent, then anyone below it can be an assailant. But a sexual assailant? How?

Similarly, if driving while intoxicated is a criminal offence, then how can intoxication, in itself, be a bar to sexual consent?

The law needs to specify that it was, only to such an extent as would constitute a bar to driving.

And fourthly, obscenity ought to be defined as material depicting acts that were themselves illegal, or which was reasonably likely to incite or encourage such acts.

Sentencing would be the same as for the illegal act in question in each case. American-style legislation for internally administered “balance of probabilities” or “preponderance of evidence” tests to sexual assault allegations at universities or elsewhere must be banned by Statute.

It is incompatible with the Rule of Law to punish someone for a criminal offence of which she has not been convicted.

It must be made impossible for anyone to be extradited to face charges that fell short of these standards, or for such convictions to have any legal standing in this country.

As for teaching things in schools, how is that curriculum time currently being filled?

Apply the Eton Test. Would this be taught in a school that assumed its pupils to be future Prime Ministers or Nobel Laureates?

If not, then instead fill the hours with something that was. Teach Latin. Someone will.

Convictions under laws predating these changes ought to be annulled along with those of men whose homosexual acts would not be criminal offences today.

Labour should vote against that unless it also annulled, not only all convictions in the above categories, but also all convictions and other adverse court decisions arising out of Clay Cross, Shrewsbury, Wapping, and the three Miners’ Strikes since 1970.

This would set the pattern for all future feminist and LGBT legislation. Without a working-class quid pro quo, then Labour would vote against any such legislation.

Alongside the DUP, the Conservative Right, or whoever. It is not Blair’s Labour Party now.

Neither Necessary Nor Inevitable

Jamie Hall writes:

Noel Conway’s challenge to the 1961 Suicide Act goes before the high court this week. 

His argument is that the UK’s ban on assisted suicide breaches the right to a private life under the Human Rights Act – and his aim is to have it legalised for terminally ill people who have less than six months to live. 

As someone who relies extensively on social and medical care, I have great empathy for his fear of losing dignity, and the desire to avoid suffering or a drawn-out death.

However, legalising assisted suicide is a dangerous way of achieving those goals.

Conway’s fears are not groundless.

When social care visits are rushed, being left wearing a filthy incontinence pad feels undignified; and when palliative care is cut, death can result from dehydration on a hospital ward. 

But this is neither necessary nor inevitable. 

The resources and experience exist to give everyone the care they need to have a dignified, self-directed life, and a painless, smooth death – and we should be campaigning to expand access to those resources, not to replace them with a lethal cocktail. 

When legislating to allow assisted suicide, it is impossible to implement effective safeguards that limit it to people at the end of their lives who are not experiencing mental illness or undue pressure. 

Feeling like a burden is one of the greatest risk factors for suicide: disabled and terminally ill people like me are constantly told that we are a financial, emotional and practical burden on society, with the strong implication that we would be better off not being a burden. 

Moreover, the medical profession is notoriously bad at predicting how long people have to live, and there is no way of being certain that someone accessing assisted suicide isn’t suffering from depression or experiencing external pressure. 

Assisted suicide would turn these predictions and judgments into a matter of life and death – and even one unnecessarily early death resulting from a change in the law would be one too many. 

Once assisted suicide is legalised, campaign groups argue, it will be difficult to justify offering it only to those with less than six months to live. 

What about those with less than a year to live, or those experiencing “incurable suffering”? 

In Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg (among others), assisted suicide has been legalised for people suffering from mental illness alone, and safeguards have been repeatedly ignored

An emphasis on ending lives is replacing an emphasis on suicide prevention – and the difficult but worthwhile process of recovery. 

The majority of groups in favour of assisted suicide are coordinated by people who are not disabled or terminally ill, and either fear an undignified death or have witnessed a loved one dying without good palliative care

Meanwhile, neither groups run by and for disabled and terminally ill people nor the British Medical Association support assisted suicide, which would fundamentally destroy our trust in doctors to support us in making decisions that maximise our health and quality of life. 

If medical, social and palliative care are treated as an expensive luxury for disabled and terminally ill people compared with the lower cost of assisted suicide, this will inherently devalue our lives, and affect the care offered to all of us. 

Remaining alive will become a selfish decision that burdens our families, risks their inheritances, and has a huge financial cost to society. 

Disabled and terminally ill people are being told that, while other lives can improve and other people should be deterred from killing themselves, our lives are so bad we should actually be offered assisted suicide, and it would be best for other people if we accepted it.

In a world where disabled people received truly equal treatment, assisted suicide wouldn’t be an option.

Instead, we would find people who had professional, well-paid assistance that allowed them to live independently, work where possible, and have access to the best treatments for their conditions.

Assisted suicide might be cheaper and easier, but the necessary social and medical care to experience a dignified decline and a painless, comfortable death would be infinitely more valuable than the unnecessary shortening of people’s lives.

A Major Swing

A major swing to reject the constraints imposed on the trade union movement by the European Union is taking place, dramatically demonstrated by the GMB union’s congress deciding last month to change policy and now to support Britain leaving the EU and its single market. 

This is a significant change in what was previously the most pro-EU of Britain’s unions. 

The GMB’s position against membership of the single market now aligns the union with the position of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership. 

It will boost campaigning within the wider labour movement, opening the door wider for insisting on the restoration of full sector-wide collective bargaining, on the lines outlined by the excellent Institute of Employment Rights Manifesto for Labour Law. 

The GMB policy-making body congress voted for the ending of free movement of labour and to seek “advantageous terms of trade” outside the EU customs union. 

The GMB sees opportunities in leaving the EU for expanding collective bargaining and defending jobs. 

Leaving the single market can free trade unions to enforce collective agreements without employers using EU legal loopholes to undermine them. 

Additionally, outside the EU, a Labour government can direct target state investment and stem the offshoring of jobs according to GMB, something which is illegal inside the single market. 

It is worth looking at the history of this change in policy. 

It was only in 1981 that former GMB general secretary David Basnett (1973-1985) said that “anyone who thought Britain should not be in the European Economic Community wanted [their] head examined.”

Basnett’s comments contrasted with then Labour Party and TUC policy which called for unconditional withdrawal.

The attitude of the wider movement was that, when workers required redress over low pay, job cuts or the unfair sacking of a shop steward, workers through their unions resorted to collective action to deliver justice. 

Workers’ rights did not involve a tribunal judge to adjudicate over individual disputes.

The former pro-EU GMB position tied lay representatives and officialdom.

For example in three GMB congresses in the early 1980s the central executive council managed to have every anti-EU motion remitted. 

Basnett’s successor John Edmonds called on the Labour Party to fully embrace Helmut Kohl and Margaret Thatcher’s capitalist project of the new European single market. 

Edmonds went even further in 2000, demanding that Gordon Brown reverse his opposition to Britain joining the euro. 

Before 1988, GMB operated at the TUC as a focal point of pro-EU opinion. 

This laid the groundwork for Jacques Delors in 1988 to lobby the TUC to support “a social Europe.” 

This was the package of individual employment rights held as a social democratic counterpart to the EU neoliberal single market. 

Britain’s trade unions had to surrender the union closed shop and sector-wide collective bargaining. 

It also had to accept the supremacy of EU law and the precedence of the EU “four business freedoms” over workers’ rights. 

A post-1988 generation of trade unionists arose in TUC-affiliated unions which were forced to accept the EU framework.

In reality it was a pessimist’s charter which supported the notion of a “floor” of individual workers’ rights which it was wrongly believed no Tory government could undermine. 

The unions’ surrender of collective rights for individual employment rights in the EU framework set the labour movement on a path of managed decline. 

Workers’ rights within the myth of social Europe were subsequently watered down by EU treaty changes which entrenched further “labour market flexibility.”

Attacks on workers by the John Major, David Cameron and Theresa May governments were met with acclamation from EU institutions. 

The European Court of Justice in 1996 ruled that the Major government’s two-year qualification period for unfair dismissal did not infringe EU law. 

Despite Labour reversing this, it was further extended by the later coalition neoliberal government of Tories and Liberal Democrats to deny justice for many workers. 

Similarly, when the Cameron government gutted the Health and Safety Executive, the very agency tasked with enforcing the EU-derived Working Time Regulations, the effects of the “austerity” public spending cuts rendered unenforceable many of its provisions. 

The legal mechanism to enforce other individual employment rights resides in the employment tribunal — a poor bargain for the trade union movement. 

Employment tribunals have expensive hearing fees, legalistic doctrines that are generally employer-friendly and anti-worker, while its three-month time limits on making a claim force claimants to rush claims which can then be thrown out for technical and bureaucratic reasons. GMB has found EU law a hindrance to protecting its members. 

Whenever GMB members have faced redundancy in Britain’s industries due to crises in the capitalist free market, successive governments have refused to nationalise or support jobs with state investment in line with EU rules. 

It is these experiences that laid the ground for GMB’s gradual shift from EU-enthusiasm to being one of begrudging support which was reflected in its approach to the 2016 EU referendum to one of seeking an “angry Remain vote.” 

The backing of the TUC and most trade unions for Remain in the referendum was based on two pessimistic propositions.

First, that a Tory government would tear up the “social Europe” individual employment rights, as porous and leaky as they were. 

The second, more understated, was that there was no prospect of a Labour government any time soon to reverse any damage. 

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party and the popularity of the Labour manifesto have created the conditions in which GMB and others in the movement have reassessed their stance on the EU and dealt a severe blow to the previous pessimism.

The commitment of a future Labour government for state-led investment in manufacturing, for nationalisation of strategic utilities and the pursuit of sector-wide collective bargaining are only possible outside the EU and its single market.

The attachment of Corbyn-sceptics to single market membership needs to be understood in the knowledge that EU law’s “four business freedoms” will make much of Labour’s popular manifesto impossible to implement.

The Morning Star has consistently pointed out that leaving the EU single market would be “a step towards restoring democratic control of our economy and would remove an obstacle to progress.” 

Therefore, trade unionists who want to see Labour’s manifesto put into practice need to vote Labour everywhere and support a people’s Brexit from the EU single market.

Of Reality Itself

Tim Black writes:

Remember the Battle of Aleppo? Remember its culmination, the siege of east Aleppo? Sure you do. 

It was the battle in which the Syrian government, backed by Russia, engaged in, as the French government put it, ‘the meltdown of humanity’. 

It was the siege in which the Russia-Assad coalition sought, in the words of British MP Andrew Mitchell, ‘to match the behaviour of the Nazi regime in Guernica in Spain’. 

It was proof, if any were needed, asserted Samantha Power, the then US ambassador to the UN, that ‘what Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counter-terrorism. It is barbarism.’

Of course, the reality was rather more complex than Western politicians’ Manichean perspective allowed.

Yes, over the course of the four-year-long Battle of Aleppo, many terrible things had happened: an estimated 21,000 civilians lost their lives, many at the hands of Syrian government forces; hundreds of thousands more have been displaced; and the city is a pale, devastated imitation of the vital, teeming metropolis it was before 2011.

But what happened in Aleppo was not quite the massacre of the innocents Western politicians acted as if it was. 

For a start, the Russia-backed pro-government forces were not actually fighting and killing civilians. 

They were fighting a rebellion staged by some of the most repellent, hardline Islamist groups out there, including Jabhat al-Nusra, formerly known as the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.

For those who think that that was merely a pretext for Assad, and his Russian backers, to crush an army of good, moderate rebels, just look at the reality of civilian sympathies.

As journalist Patrick Cockburn noted at the beginning of this year: 

There was an implicit assumption that all the inhabitants of East Aleppo were firmly opposed to Assad and supported the insurgents, yet it’s striking that when offered a choice in mid-December only a third of evacuees – 36,000 – asked to be taken to rebel-held Idlib. The majority – 80,000 – elected to go to government-held territory in west Aleppo. This isn’t necessarily because they expected to be treated well by the government authorities – it’s just that they believed life under the rebels would be even more dangerous. In the Syrian Civil War, the choice is often between bad and worse.’


In May, the New York Times, in a report from a post-conflict Aleppo, quoted a local who spoke of life in the rebel-held part of Aleppo as a ‘chaotic wasteland full of feuding militias – some of them radical Islamists – who hoarded food and weapons while the people starved’. 

Another said, ‘No one is 100 per cent with the regime, but mostly these people are unified by their resistance to the opposition… that is corrupt, brutal and compromised by foreign sponsors’. 

But who among the Western political classes wants a rather messy truth – that life under a small-time despot like Assad is preferable to life under big-time Islamist militias – to get in the way of peddling a simple-minded, good-versus-evil narrative?

After all, that narrative, that grim fairytale, served a rather useful, triple end.

It provided grandstanding politicians and commentators with a sense of moral purpose; it continued the reheating of Cold War animosities and further demonised Russia as a callous, Empire-minded state; and, almost by accident, it diverted attention from a battle a few hundred miles away in Iraq that was to be just as brutalising and devastating as the years-long battle fought in Aleppo.

Because make no mistake, in terms of severity and civilian fatalities the Battle of Mosul, in which the US and Iraqi army fought ISIS, has been more than the equal of the Battle of Aleppo.

It may not have lasted as long, having begun in earnest on 17 October last year, and effectively concluding this month.

But, in that shorter time span, the killing, the bombing and the fighting have arguably been more intense than at any point in the Battle of Aleppo.

Little wonder that according to Amnesty International, between February and June this year, the US-backed Iraqi security forces were responsible for killing 5,805 civilians.

That figure, as Amnesty noted, doesn’t take into account the hundreds if not thousands of civilians massacred by ISIS as they tried to escape west Mosul.

So over the course of just five months, nearly 6,000 civilians lost their lives at the hands of the Iraqi-US coalition.

That is more than comparable with the 21,000 civilians the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported had lost their lives at the hands of all sides in the Battle of Aleppo over the course of its four gruelling years.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the US-Iraq coalition has caused the deaths of so many civilians in Mosul. 

On 11 January, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, reported that Mosul was ‘witnessing one of the largest urban military operations since the Second World War’. 

She also revealed that nearly 50 per cent of those being treated for gunshot wounds were civilians, a far higher percentage than in other sieges of which the UN had experience. 

As Cockburn reports, ‘On 30 December, the Kurdish health minister, Rekawt Hama Rasheed, said his hospitals had received 13,500 injured Iraqi troops and civilians and were running out of medicines’.

Amnesty International’s analysis merely deepens the impression of a battle waged with an increasing disregard for civilian life. 

It reports that, from January onwards, having struggled against ISIS tactics, which involved tunnelling through and then using civilians’ houses to launch sniper or grenade attacks, the US-Iraqi forces started using explosive weapons with large-scale and therefore indiscriminate effects. 

One Mosul resident who managed to get out in time told of how the strikes targeted ISIS snipers and civilians alike. 

‘A strike would destroy an entire house of two storeys. They’d hit one house and also destroy the two houses on either side. They killed a huge number of people.’

And then there were the reported atrocities which matched anything levelled at Syrian government forces in Aleppo. 

They even included Iraqi soldiers pushing their prisoners, who may or may not have been members of ISIS, off a cliff. 

Yet where was the outcry? Where were the MPs lining up to denounce US-backed cruelty? 

Where was the ambassador to the UN declaring that the fighting in Mosul proved that ‘what the US and its allies is sponsoring and doing is not counterterrorism – it is barbarism’? 

Where was the ostentatious compassion, the off-the-shelf Nazi analogy, the preening self-righteousness?

It was nowhere, of course.

Instead, an Iraq-US spokesman, US colonel Joe Scrocca, called the Amnesty International report ‘irresponsible and an insult’. 

Others simply pointed out how incredibly difficult it is to fight the Islamist insurgents in built-up urban environments. 

Residents become ‘human shields’, and family homes sniper hideouts. Civilians are therefore bound to die in the battle against the Islamist enemy. 

There is an inescapable truth to the argument that wars are dirty, that non-combatants will be dragged in, no matter how hard it is to confront.

But why then, when Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, were engaged in an equally difficult conflict in Aleppo, did so many prefer to posture and pronounce on Putin and Assad’s wickedness? 

The hypocrisy is not surprising, but that does not make it any less shocking. 

While the Battle of Aleppo is still portrayed as a humanitarian catastrophe and a war crime, the Battle of Mosul is celebrated as a decisive victory against the Islamist enemy without (if not within).

But the fact that the US-backed Iraqi military killed nearly 6,000 people in Mosul tells us something important about the Western response to Aleppo. 

It tells us that it wasn’t really motivated by a concern for human life; that it wasn’t really proof of the virtue of the West; and that it wasn’t really proof of the vice of Russia. 

It tells us that the moral hyperbole vented over the actions of Syrian government forces, and, more importantly, Russia, was opportunistic and cynical. 

It tells us that a desire to bash Russia, and burnish one’s own self-image, can lead to a dangerous distortion not just of the brutal reality of war, but of reality itself.

Content Analysis

Philip Giraldi writes: 

Not so long ago my wife and I, in a heated moment, canceled our subscriptions to the Washington Post and the New York Times on the same day.

We stopped short of burning recent copies of both publications on a bonfire in our front yard, but were elated at ending our connection to America’s leading sources of government propaganda and outrageously fake news.

We toasted our liberation with a nice glass of Oregon State pinot noir.

We had become increasingly annoyed over the constant defamation of Donald Trump as candidate and president-elect even before he was inaugurated and had a chance to do anything wrong.

But the real reason for our removal of America’s self-styled papers of record was the horrible coverage of Russia in general and what was going on in Syria in particular.

That both papers kept repeating how Moscow had interfered in the election and that Syria was using chemical weapons without providing any evidence in either case had proven to be our own red line in terms of what we would allow into our house.

Not having the papers readily available has meant that we have avoided a lot of sensational journalism explaining in some detail why the United States has both a right and an obligation to be interfering militarily in every corner of the world simultaneously, and we also missed some really crazy stuff.

Washington Post opinion piece that I completely missed when it first appeared on June 23, but which I have recently discovered, was entitled “This is what foreign spies see when they read President Trump’s tweets.”

As presumably few Americans can appreciate that Donald Trump’s tweets are actually classified documents and I was once upon a time a spy, I found the title intriguing, so I put on my tin hat and dove in.

First of all, I took note of the author.

She is Nada Bakos, self-described as a former “CIA analyst and targeting officer.” I didn’t know what a targeting officer was, but the article went on to explain it.

Per a page advertising her forthcoming book at Amazon, Nada worked as an “analyst on the team charged with analyzing the relationship between Iraq, al Qaida, and 9/11.”

Redundancy aside, as there was no actual evidence linking together Iraq, al-Qaeda and 9/11, one wonders how Bakos reacted when CIA Director George Tenet and Vice President Dick Cheney came pounding on her door insisting that there had to be a relationship to justify war.

Reportedly some CIA analysts refused to endorse the lie that Iraq was cooperating with al-Qaeda to bring about 9/11, so hopefully Bakos got it right and stood her ground.

Bakos subsequently became the chief “targeter” working on al-Qaeda notable Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who rose to the rank of First Emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq before he died in a “targeted” killing by U.S. forces in 2006.

Bakos’s book’s subtitle is “My life in the CIA, on the Hunt for the Godfather of ISIS,” which refers to her role in locating and killing al-Zarqawi.

I would note in passing that al-Zarqawi was a genuine monster and richly deserved what he got.

In any event, the Amazon blurb goes on to note that “after 20 years in the intelligence field and corporate world, Ms. Bakos is currently focused on national security issues and regional stability around the world.”

One might note in passing that “regional stability” is a feelgood U.S. government buzzword that means the same thing as “humanitarian intervention” or “responsibility to protect,” both of which are sound principles that are presumably enshrined somewhere in the U.S. Constitution.

Or maybe not.

So what does Nada Bakos have to say about Trump’s tweets?

Well, intelligence agencies around the world are apparently busy trying to analyze them because “they’re trying to determine what vulnerabilities the president of the United States might have.

“And he’s giving them a lot to work with. Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency.”

Bakos twists herself into a pretzel in trying to emphasize the importance of an intelligence agency learning everything there is to know about a foreign head of state. She draws on her own experience, recounting how:

“At the CIA, I tracked and analyzed terrorists and other U.S. enemies, including North Korea. But we never had such a rich source of raw intelligence about a world leader, and we certainly never had the opportunity that our adversaries (and our allies) have now—to get a real-time glimpse of a major world leader’s preoccupations, personality quirks and habits of mind. If we had, it would have given us significant advantages in our dealings with them.”

That’s where I began to lose it.

I would first of all note that learning what one might about habits and attitudes of terrorist leaders in order to anticipate where they will go or what they would do so you can kill them is much different than assessing what the head of a legitimate government might say or do based on his or her personality.

I seriously doubt that there are teams of intelligence analysts, as Bakos claims, sitting around worrying about the deeper meaning of Donald Trump’s tweets.

There might be no deeper meaning at all, and it would seem to me that Trump is relatively transparent.

Narcissistic, quick to take offense, impulsive, unwilling to consider “details”—he is a walking id.

So what is there to figure out beyond that?

I suspect this article was written both to sell a book and to diminish Donald Trump from a new angle, one that might reasonably be described as bizarre.

Whatever kernel of truth it might contain is overwhelmed by hyperbole.

Bakos cites how the Saudi Arabians may have exploited their intelligence-derived assessment of Trump to publish favorable newspaper stories about him and line the highway from the airport with billboards praising the new American president.

But, as flattery will get you everywhere, such activity is not necessarily a brilliant insight into how to win over the new sheriff in town.

It would not have taken a genius to figure out that Trump likes to be celebrated, and it is likely that the Saudis would have made a similar effort for any American president.

And I might add that judging from Bakos’s brief bio, she likely did her “analysis” and “targeting” from the comfort of an office at CIA headquarters.

I wonder how much time she spent actually analyzing foreign leaders up close and personal.

I know from my own experience that no one in Langley in my era would have wasted much time or effort on personality profiles.

That was done at headquarters by guys and gals who holed up in the basement and went methodically through newspaper clippings.

As a CIA case officer who lived overseas in four countries, my recollection is that no one ever had the least bit of interest in the quirks of foreign leaders.

They were part of the background noise of operating overseas.

While we would have been delighted to recruit a deputy prime minister both as a source of information and as an agent of influence, it was a very low priority to step back and worry about his personal foibles.

As I recall very clearly, the Department of State generally had the “leader profile” bases well covered both in terms of foreign-government intentions and the proclivities of the key players in the host governments.

U.S. Foreign Service officers actually met with senior government officials, attended their receptions, had lunch with them, and went to their parties.

The FSOs were very well trained in making assessments and writing them up for policymakers in Washington. It was their job and they were quite good at it.

So, no, I am not buying that Donald Trump’s twittering makes the United States more vulnerable from a national security point of view, with teams of hostile intelligence officers somehow and somewhere using computers to perform “content analysis on the president’s tweets in the aggregate,” as Bakos puts it.

I do believe, however, that there is a major covert industry nationwide that is seeking to do whatever it can to delegitimize Trump and Bakos’ silly article is just one more example of what is being purveyed in the mainstream media to that end.

The jury should still be out on what kind of president we actually have, and Trump is certainly not helping his case through his unwillingness to play the game and act presidential.

But the assertion that his use of Twitter is somehow making the country less safe is complete nonsense.