Colonial settler regime demands tribute from vassal state

Did I just mention the Phoenix? Page 9 of the current issue has a long and interesting article on the diplomatic fallout from the use of forged Irish passports by Mossad assassins. Which is to say, although Micheál Martin remonstrated with the Israeli government in rather strong terms, the DFA has no plans to tighten up of Section 10 of the Passports Act 2008, where you will find the loophole whereby intelligence operatives of “friendly” states (Brits, Yanks, Israelis) use Irish passports to go about their dodgy business, and the Dublin government doesn’t make things difficult for them. The quid pro quo is that a small state without much in the way of an intelligence-gathering operation gets to piggyback on intel gathered by the CIA, MI6, Mossad et al.

And therefore Minister Martin’s outrage is entirely without consequences, much like David Miliband’s expulsion of a solitary Israeli diplomat. Israel-firster commentator Stephen Pollard said on News 24 that this was just a bit of pro forma stuff, and I suspect he was right. Sending the Israelis to the naughty step doesn’t work, because sooner rather than later they’ll be back doing the same thing. Six years ago, when Mossad were caught doing the same thing with New Zealand passports, the Kiwi government actually did take tough action, and eventually got a clenched-teeth apology, and if Mossad have tried it on with NZ passports since, they’ve been extremely discreet about it.

Anyway, talking of Ireland and Israel, in the last couple of weeks we’ve had a good illustration of who has diplomatic clout and who doesn’t. As usual, almost the entire Irish political class, north and south, headed over to Washington for St Drunkard’s Day with the aim of sucking up to Barack O’Bama. In fact, a couple of minor party leaders from the north (Margaret Ritchie and Reg Empey) were extremely miffed at not being invited into an Teach Bán so they could suck up to the Emperor in person. Theoretically, the enormous Irish diaspora plus the purchase of Irish culture (well all right, kitsch paddywhackery) could afford an Irish government with a bit of diplomatic zing some opportunities to advance its interests. And this might be a possibility, if you had a government with a few ideas and a positive foreign policy, such as we had under de Valera. But no, for as long as anyone can remember it’s all been about sucking up. That’s a clear example of the dog wagging the tail.

For an example of the opposite, you just had to take a look at last week’s Aipac conference, one of the main events of the Washington political calendar, when administration officials and most of the membership of Congress compete with each other in vigorously sucking up to the Zios. And not without reason – when you look at the way Cynthia McKinney was done over, it’s not surprising that few elected officials have the balls to stand up to the Lobby. Aipac, by the way, is completely unabashed about this – shit, they’re proud of it. I don’t understand how anyone could dismiss as a conspiracy theory Mearsheimer and Walt’s impeccably researched book on the power of the Israel Lobby, because there very obviously is an Israel Lobby, and moreover one that actively boasts about its political clout.

And into this jamboree strides none other than Bibi Netanyahu, with his grisly sidekick Ehud Barak in tow. And lo, to look at Bibi swanking about Washington as if he owned the place, you would wonder who exactly the Emperor was. Then you got to Bibi’s speech, which was delivered with all the high-octane bullshit quotient you would expect from an insurance salesman, which is what Bibi used to be.

Milking the memory of the Holocaust? Check. Banging the drum for war with Iran? Check. Criticism of Israel the same as anti-Semitism? Check. Double standards applied to Israel? Check. Our 4000-year attachment to Eretz Israel? Check. I call on Abbas to come to the negotiating table? Check. The living standards of Palestinians thriving under the occupation? Check. The Goldstone Report equivalent to blood libel? Check.

God, it’s wearying stuff, and you could write it yourself. Although to be fair, it was slightly less bellicose than what the AWL puts out.

Meanwhile, relations between Washington and Israel are said to be at a low ebb. Why is this? Well, Joe Biden was recently in Israel promoting Washington’s peace plan, which involves a freeze in settlement building. Bibi announced more construction while Biden was in the country, which can only be interpreted as holding up two fingers to the Yanks. Biden was miffed, and said so; the Israelis waxed wroth about Biden daring to be miffed.

So, how bad are those relations?

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington this week absorbing the full wrath of the Obama administration, the Pentagon and Israel’s defense establishment were in the process of sealing a large arms deal.

According to the deal, Israel will purchase three new Hercules C-130J airplanes. The deal for the three aircrafts, designed by Lockheed Martin, is worth roughly a quarter billion dollars. Each aircraft costs $70 million.

The aircrafts were manufactured specifically for Israeli needs, and include a large number of systems produced by Israel’s defense industry. The deal will be covered by American foreign assistance funds.

Yeah, Bibi, how do you like that wrath? Ain’t no way you’re going to have business as usual after snubbing the Yanks like that!

Kapow! Take that, Mrs Clinton!

This comes via Xinhua. You’ll know that every year the US State Department publishes an international human rights report on countries around the world. This can have useful information, but also tends towards the tendentious, soft-soaping US allies with pretty dodgy records whilst hyping up the charges against countries Washington has a beef with. Well, those cheeky Chinese have taken it upon themselves to issue an official report on human rights in the United States. I know, you’ll be thinking that the Chinese government is probably not best placed to lecture anybody else, but someone has to do it, and there’s a certain poetic symmetry. A bit like the time Bob Mugabe offered to send election observers to Florida.

China Friday retorted U.S. criticism by publishing its own report on the U.S. human rights record.

“As in previous years, the (U.S.) reports are full of accusations of the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions including China, but turn a blind eye to, or dodge and even cover up rampant human rights abuses on its own territory,” said the Information Office of the State Council in its report on the U.S. human rights record.

The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009 was in retaliation to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009 issued by the U.S. Department of State on March 11.

The report is “prepared to help people around the world understand the real situation of human rights in the United States,” said the report.

The report reviewed the human rights record of the United States in 2009 from six perspectives: life, property and personal security; civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; racial discrimination; rights of women and children; and the U.S.’ violation of human rights against other countries.

It criticized the United States for taking human rights as “a political instrument to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, defame other nations’ image and seek its own strategic interests.”

China advised the U.S. government to draw lessons from the history, put itself in a correct position, strive to improve its own human rights conditions and rectify its acts in the human rights field.

This is the 11th consecutive year that the Information Office of China’s State Council has issued a human rights record of the United States to answer the U.S. State Department’s annual report.

“At a time when the world is suffering a serious human rights disaster caused by the U.S. subprime crisis-induced global financial crisis, the U.S. government still ignores its own serious human rights problems but revels in accusing other countries. It is really a pity,” the report said.

Spying on citizens

While advocating “freedom of speech,” “freedom of the press” and “Internet freedom,” the U.S. government unscrupulously monitors and restricts the citizens’ rights to freedom when it comes to its own interests and needs, the report said.

The U.S. citizens’ freedom to access and distribute information is under strict supervision, it said.

According to media reports, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) started installing specialized eavesdropping equipment around the country to wiretap calls, faxes, and emails and collect domestic communications as early as 2001.

The wiretapping program was originally targeted at Arab-Americans, but soon grew to include other Americans.

After the September 11 attack, the U.S. government, in the name of anti-terrorism, authorized its intelligence authorities to hack into its citizens’ mail communications, and to monitor and erase any information that might threaten the U.S. national interests on the Internet through technical means, the report said.

Statistics showed that from 2002 to 2006, the FBI collected thousands of phones records of U.S. citizens through mails, notes and phone calls.

In September 2009, the country set up an Internet security supervision body, further worrying U.S. citizens that the U.S. government might use Internet security as an excuse to monitor and interfere with personal systems.

The so-called “freedom of the press” of the United States was in fact completely subordinate to its national interests, and was manipulated by the U.S. government, the report said.

At yearend 2009, the U.S. Congress passed a bill which imposed sanctions on several Arab satellite channels for broadcasting contents hostile to the U.S. and instigating violence.

Racial discrimination a chronic problem

Racial discrimination is still a chronic problem of the United States, the report said.

Black people and other minorities are the most impoverished groups in the United States.

According to a report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Census, the real median income for American households in 2008 was 50,303 U.S. dollars, but the median incomes of Hispanic and black households were roughly 68 percent and 61.6 percent of that of the non-Hispanic white households.

And the median income of minority groups was about 60 to 80 percent of that of majority groups under the same conditions of education and skill background, the report added.

Ethnic minorities have been subject to serious racial discrimination in employment and workplace, the report said.

Minority groups bear the brunt of the U.S. unemployment. According to news reports, the U.S. unemployment rate in October 2009 was 10.2 percent. The jobless rate of the U.S. African-Americans jumped to 15.7 percent, that of the Hispanic rose to 13.1 percent and that of the white was 9.5 percent, the USA Today reported.

The U.S. minority groups face discriminations in education. According to a report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Census, 33 percent of the non-Hispanic white has college degrees, proportion of the black was only 20 percent and Hispanic was 13 percent.

Racial discrimination in law enforcement and judicial system is very distinct. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, by the end of 2008, 3,161 men and 149 women per 100,000 persons in the U.S. black population were under imprisonment.

And a report released by New York City Police Department said that of the people involved in police shootings whose ethnicity could be determined in 2008, 75 percent were black, 22 percent were Hispanic; and 3 percent were white.

Ethnic hatred crimes are frequent. According to statistics released by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, a total of 7,783 hatred crimes occurred in 2008 in the United States, 51.3 percent of which were originated by racial discrimination and 19.5 percent were for religious bias and 11.5 percent were for national origins.

Widespread violent crimes

Widespread violent crimes in the United States posed threats to the lives, properties and personal security of its people, the report said.

In 2008, U.S. residents experienced 4.9 million violent crimes, 16.3 million property crimes and 137,000 personal thefts, and the violent crime rate was 19.3 victimizations per 1,000 persons aged 12 or over.

About 30,000 people die from gun-related incidents each year. According to an FBI report, there had been 14,180 murder victims in 2008, the report said.

Campuses became an area worst hit by violent crimes as shootings spread there and kept escalating. The U.S. Heritage Foundation reported that 11.3 percent of high school students in Washington D.C. reported being “threatened or injured” with a weapon while on school property during the 2007-2008 school year.

Abuse of power

The country’s police frequently impose violence on the people and abuse of power is common among U.S. law enforcers, the report said,

Over the past two years, the number of New York police officers under review for garnering too many complaints was up 50 percent.

In major U.S. cities, police stop, question and frisk more than a million people each year, a sharply higher number than just a few years ago.

Prisons in the United State are packed with inmates. About 2.3 million were held in custody of prisons and jails, the equivalent of about one in every 198 persons in the country, according to the report.

From 2000 to 2008, the U.S. prison population increased an average of 1.8 percent annually.

The basic rights of prisoners in the United States are not well-protected. Raping cases of inmates by prison staff members are widely reported, the report said.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, reports of sexual misconduct by prison staff members with inmates in the country’s 93 federal prison sites doubled over the past eight years.

According to a federal survey of more than 63,000 federal and state inmates, 4.5 percent reported being sexually abused at least once during the previous 12 months.

Poverty leads to rising number of suicides

The report said the population in poverty was the largest in 11 years.

The Washington Post reported that altogether 39.8 million Americans were living in poverty by the end of 2008, an increase of 2.6 million from that in 2007. The poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, the highest since 1998.

Poverty led to a sharp rise in the number of suicides in the United States. It is reported that there are roughly 32,000 suicides in the U.S. every year, double the cases of murder, said the report.

Workers’ rights not properly guaranteed

Workers’ rights were seriously violated in the United States, the report said.

The New York Times reported that about 68 percent of the 4,387 low-wage workers in a survey said they had experienced reduction of wages and 76 percent of those who had worked overtime were not paid accordingly.

The number of people without medical insurance has kept rising for eight consecutive years, the report said.

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showed 46.3 million people were without medical insurance in 2008, accounting for 15.4 percent of the total population, comparing with 45.7 million people who were without medical insurance in 2007, which was a rise for the eighth year in a row.

Women, children frequent victims of violence

Women are frequent victims of violence and sexual assault in the United States, while children are exposed to violence and living in fear, the report said.

It is reported that the United States has the highest rape rate among countries which report such statistics. It is 13 times higher than that of England and 20 times higher than that of Japan.

Reuters reported that based on in-depth interviews on 40 servicewomen, 10 said they had been raped, five said they were sexually assaulted including attempted rape, and 13 reported sexual harassment.

It is reported that 1,494 children younger than 18 nationwide were murdered in 2008, the USA Today reported.

A survey conducted by the U.S. Justice Department on 4,549 kids and adolescents aged 17 and younger between January and May of 2008 showed, more than 60 percent of children surveyed were exposed to violence within the past year, either directly or indirectly.

Trampling upon other countries ‘ sovereignty, human rights

The report said the United States with its strong military power has pursued hegemony in the world, trampling upon the sovereignty of other countries and trespassing their human rights.

As the world’s biggest arms seller, its deals have greatly fueled instability across the world. The United States also expanded its military spending, already the largest in the world, by 10 percent in 2008 to 607 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 42 percent of the world total, the AP reported.

At the beginning of 2010, the U.S. government announced a 6.4-billion-U.S. dollar arms sales package to Taiwan despite strong protest from the Chinese government and people, which seriously damaged China’s national security interests and aroused strong indignation among the Chinese people, it said.

The wars of Iraq and Afghanistan have placed heavy burden on American people and brought tremendous casualties and property losses to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the report.

Prisoner abuse is one of the biggest human rights scandals of the United States, it said

An investigation by U.S. Justice Department showed 2,000 Taliban surrendered combatants were suffocated to death by the U.S. army-controlled Afghan armed forces, the report said.

The United States has been building its military bases around the world, and cases of violation of local people’s human rights are often seen, the report said.

The United States is now maintaining 900 bases worldwide, with more than 190,000 military personnel and 115,000 relevant staff stationed.

These bases are bringing serious damage and environmental contamination to the localities. Toxic substances caused by bomb explosions are taking their tolls on the local children, it said.

It has been reported that toward the end of the U.S. military bases’ presence in Subic and Clark Philippines, as many as 3,000 cases of raping local women had been filed against the U.S. servicemen, but all were dismissed, according to the report.

If you’re so minded, you can read the full report here.

The Ayn Rand Dating Agency

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Maybe, like me, you’ll have fond memories of the fine film Reds, focussing on the relationship between John Reed and Louise Bryant, or the even better take on love and revolution in Margarethe von Trotta’s Rosa Luxemburg. Some critics, including myself when in a dyspeptic mood, will charge that these movies sacrifice hard politics on the altar of the romantic story. This is probably unjust, because I certainly wouldn’t go to see a film consisting of three hours of Warren Beatty speechifying – there has to be some drama, after all. And there’s an essential emotional truth in the way that people thrown together in a great cause will often form intense attachments to each other, the personal and the political reinforcing each other.

Mind you, there’s probably a lot less of this on today’s left than there used to be. This would be thanks to the pervasive influence of political correctness, which means your right-on socialist has to negotiate a minefield of complicated etiquette, if he wants to signal his interest in a female comrade without appearing to be a sexist git. And even the initial challenge of getting one’s leg over pales into insignificance compared with the ideological demands of sustaining the relationship. How, for instance, is a right-on socialist supposed to ask his partner if she fancies doing it doggie style?

You: You know, we’ve been doing it in the missionary position for months, and it might be nice to try something different. Would you mind awfully turning over?

Her: Whaaat?! I’m reporting you to the Central Committee, you misogynistic pervert!

But while the hip and happening left provides comedy fodder, the Old Right provides a heart-warming story of couples brought together by their devotion to an ideological crusade. And, in the annals of matchmaking, there can be no matchmaker more unlikely than US Representative Ron Paul (R-TX). According to the Washington Post, many of those who rallied to the veteran libertarian’s presidential campaign last year are now pairing off:

For anyone who doubted it, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the libertarian phenom of the 2008 presidential campaign, is a lover, not a fighter.

And he’s spreading love far and wide across the Internet, albeit unwittingly.

Paul is the inspiration behind a new online dating site called Ron Paul Singles. “We put the LOVE in Revolution,” the Web site proclaims.

It works just like any other online dating service. Plug in “man seeking woman,” “woman seeking man,” “woman seeking woman,” “man seeking man” or even “couple seeking (fill in the blank)” and you’re instantly shown the potential opportunities out there in the land of Ron Paul Love.

We asked Rep. Paul a few questions about the site via e-mail, including whether he ever imagined that he’d spur an entire online dating community built around… well, himself.

“Well, I never thought I’d speak to crowds of 5,000 college kids chanting ‘End the Fed’ and burning Federal Reserve notes, so I guess nothing surprises me that much anymore,” Paul wrote back.

The neophyte yenta said he didn’t know who was responsible for creating the Web site but “I suppose it’s all about Freedom bringing people together — spiritually, politically, and now, romantically.” And he encouraged any of his single friends who “want to meet a great lover of liberty” to sign up for the Ron Paul Singles dating services and give him some feedback on their experiences.

Roll Call newspaper reported on the Ron Paul love site in its print edition today, dubbing the congressman, who is an obstetrician and gynecologist, “Doctor of Love.”

Paul’s office declined to speak to Roll Call about the dating site, but he told the Sleuth he kind of likes the new nickname. “It’s got a nice ring to it — I’ll bet my wife will like it better than ‘Dr. No.’ And, I’ve always been sympathetic to the slogan ‘make love, not war.'”

The Web site gurus say they’re still waiting for their first real success story. But one customer has had a promising experience thus far, writing: “What initially started out as something to relieve a little boredom and to have some fun turned into one of the most beautiful experiences… I met the most amazing man on your site, it’s still fairly new but I knew from the moment I saw his eyes, (the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen) that he would take me to a place I’ve longed to be and bring back my smile forgotten.”

Rep. Paul is even responsible for making love happen offline.

Just last weekend in Las Vegas, at a regional conference of the grassroots lobby group Campaign for Liberty, of which Paul serves as honorary chairman, two young activists who went to hear Paul speak met and fell in love. And then some.

According to Jesse Benton, the senior vice president of Campaign for Liberty, the lovebirds, Brooke Kelley and Chris Kopack, met at 2 p.m. on Friday and went to a Vegas chapel at 4 a.m. on Saturday and tied the knot. “We wish the happy couple all the best,” Benton said.

If he runs for president again in 2012, seems Ron Paul has a ready-made campaign slogan: Got Love?

Regular readers will know that I’ve long had a soft spot for Dr Paul’s quirky mix of Austrian economics, strict constitutionalism and anti-imperialism. Even when I disagree with him, which is often, he always has something interesting to say. And he is also accomplished at putting the heebie-jeebies up the GOP establishment, to the extent that they are having to turn to the wingnuttery of Sarah Palin as a bulwark against the libertarian menace.

But this has thrown me a little. Ron Paul the politician of iron principle, we know. Ron Paul the scourge of the Federal Reserve, we know. Ron Paul the medical practitioner, we know. But Ron Paul, the doctor of love? A dating site being inspired by a man who at present is most prominent for his unwillingness to date a certain Austrian fashionista?

But why not? There’s a certain off-the-wall charm to the idea. I would certainly say that a resourceful writer could turn this into a pretty good comic novel.

The last of the Austrians

For those of you who didn’t understand Gregor Gysi or are just looking for an alternative perspective, here are some pithy remarks from Ron Paul, who is that rarest of creatures, a politician who actually knows a great deal about economics. I have of course pretty major differences with Ron, but his critiques are usually great value. And, with there being more common ground than you would think between the Marxists and the Austrians… well, his talent for hitting the nail on the head comes in handy.

Anatomy of ineptitude

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Yes, I know I should be moving on to more edifying fare – and I really need to get that review of Richard Seymour’s book off the back burner – but I am forced to pose the question: just why is the Gail Walker column so unmissably bad?

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just a matter of me disagreeing with it – there are plenty of pundits I enjoy reading, even if I don’t agree with them. Nor is it just a matter of general badness. There is, I think, a serious mismatch between the writer and her chosen material.

I have a vague memory of Gail from, oh, it must have been the Good Friday Agreement period, when each Saturday’s Telegraph would have as a big splash the Gail Walker Interview, wherein our intrepid scribe would enjoy a chinwag with Daphne Trimble. Although, logically speaking, she couldn’t have been interviewing Daphne every week, but it always seemed to be somebody like Daphne. Then I lost touch with the Tele for some time, due mainly to having been in countries where you couldn’t get the Belfast press. Then, when I came back, our Gail was equipped with a fully-fledged column, a column that seems only to have grown in size since.

Earlier iterations of the column showed a focus on showbiz and lifestyle, with a particular liking for the old Glenda Slagg motif of picking apart female celebrities in a don’tchajustluvher/aren’tchajustsickofher manner. That, I feel, is where Gail’s heart really is, and if she has a forte, that’s it. But, in a manner common to lightweight columnists, she has a hankering to be taken seriously, and so has ventured into politics more and more often. And not just local politics, which is the usual fare of the Tele pundit. (Lindy McDowell’s recent fixation on Israel isn’t that much of a departure. You have to remember that, for unionists, the Israelis are ersatz Prods, the Palestinians are ersatz Catholics and Hamas are functionally the same as the Provos. Thus cheerleading Israel also functions as refighting the Troubles.) But our Gail sets her sights higher and likes to venture into high-end international politics, where she gives an unfortunate impression of being hopelessly out of her depth.

Gail’s other big shtick is that she’s the no-nonsense Tory taking on the liberal elite. This isn’t very difficult to do – the Daily Mail runs a small army of columnists doing this every week – but Gail suffers a lot from a local problem in that Norn Iron doesn’t have a liberal elite, it has a reactionary elite. She gets around this by declaring war on her bête noire, “the lefties”, but that only demonstrates that she has a serious case of Lefty-In-Your-Head Syndrome. She obviously has no experience of the left, or knowledge of its arguments, and indeed her categorisation of who constitutes “the left” is alarmingly broad. (Insofar as one can tell. Mindful perhaps of the libel laws, Gail almost never names her targets.) So we get the construction of straw-man arguments like “The lefties all love Mugabe” or “The lefties all want to kill the Jews” which Gail can then attribute to her unspecified “lefties” and allow herself to feel virtuous for opposing the position she’s just made up and smeared people with. It does begin to grate a little.

So, this week Gail does the inauguration of Barack O’Bama. It is, I should explain, traditional for Belfast columnists when covering American politics to write stuff like “You’re Very Welcome, Mr President”. Gail, having nailed her colours to the McCain-Palin mast, is a little more sour, but still keeps up the façade. And there are a few little gems I’d like to pick out.

The most excitement is found among the Left. (But isn’t that always the way, no matter what the issue is.) They’ve always been dreaming of a president who would, let’s see, be nice to the Soviet Union, take the side of the Arabs and Palestinians, get rid of right wing tyrants and turn a blind eye to the leftie tyrants, and most of all lift the embargo on Cuba and be nice to Fidel.

Does Gail not know that the Soviet Union ceased to exist almost twenty years ago, or is this an attempt at humour? And can she point me to anyone, outside of the Republican blogs, who claimed that O’Bama was going to do all this?

Amid all the furore of the US presidential race, there’s one thing that always consoles me. It’s the penchant of the Americans, whatever their political colour, for voting an American into office.

Not some British trade union doppelganger. Not some woolly liberal fence-sitter. But a full-blooded commander in chief of the US Armed Forces on land, sea and air. They’ve done that again this time, and he happens to be black.

Very soon the British liberals are going to wake up one morning and discover with shock that Obama was a Yank all along. And a GI to boot.

Well, I would be very surprised if the new president wasn’t an American citizen – it’s in the Constitution, after all. But the “commander in chief” bit is the important one. There is a point in that eventually O’Bama is going to invade some foreign country. Surrounded by people like Clinton, Holbrooke and Brzezinski, it may be sooner rather than later. Many, perhaps most, people would see that as a bad thing. But Gail is all “Ooh, I love those hunky GIs in their spiffy uniforms! Come on, Barack, invade a country just for me!” One senses that, as a girl, Gail must have seen Top Gun once too often.

For me, I’m just glad there is still an America. Still prepared to put its soldiers and its money in where nobody else wants to go. It’s already a great nation and it makes all its presidents great.

Even Dubya. Even, this early on, President Obama.

Hail to the chief.

See what I mean? Full marks to Gail, though, for sticking to her view that Bush-43 has been a great president, rather than the worst holder of that office since Woodrow Wilson. And get this:

The truth is, the reason why so much ‘hope’ is pinned on Obama in Britain is because America and its culture actually dominates Britain to a greater degree than any other European country.

Unable to elect a loony left government of their own, the loony lefties here keep hoping the US, in some brainstorm, will do it for them.

It’s also a kind of inverted racism on their part. Somehow Obama’s blackness, they think, must mean he is more like them in their whitey dreams of equality. (Colin Powell, of course, is also black but had he been elected president, one shudders to think how the left would have responded. He is a right wing republican, and that’s far too complicated.)

Firstly, as America is the sole remaining superpower, who holds the presidency has a certain influence over all of us. Secondly, Colin Powell is a not some rightwing nutjob, but a centrist, even liberal, Republican who could easily be a centrist Democrat, much like Eisenhower.

But hold on, are we being lectured on racial sensitivity by a woman who used the word “honky” in last week’s column and “whitey” in this one? Is there some weird psychological thing going on here, or is it just plain crassness? Or both?

Three messiahs for the price of one

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As I write, I’m just listening to the inauguration ceremony in Washington, as we bid farewell to the long dark night of W, and as Irish-American senator, son of Jor-El and all-round saviour of humanity Barack O’Bama takes charge of the United States. Yes, I know, it’s easy to be cynical. We know, after all, that O’Bama is basically a down-the-line New Democrat, who can’t be expected to do anything even vaguely radical. We know that he is staffing his administration with retreads from the Clinton administration, starting with Hillary herself, and taking in the likes of Rahm Emmanuel, and even that evil bastard Holbrooke, who seems hell-bent on restarting the Bosnian war. We know, too, that in the last analysis he will do whatever Wall Street tells him to do.

And yet, there is something positive there in terms of the grassroots movement, the Black mobilisation in particular, and the rejection of the legacy of the Bush-43 administration, where we can see some potential. O’Bama is going to disappoint his followers big time – even if it wasn’t for the economic crisis and the foreign wars he’s been left with, the extraordinary burden of expectations on him would by itself account for that. The big question will be whether the wave he rode to power can, in the context of the crisis, give rise to something we can be really enthusiastic about. There’s some relevant discussion here.

While we’re on the subject of messiahs, there have been a lot of them doing the rounds as the handover of power has been going on. Here’s a question – when was the last time you saw Will Smith in an enjoyable film? It must be several years, at least, while he’s been busy playing roles that almost require him to wear a halo. He’s there in Washington too, although thankfully not rapping as he did for the Clintons. Not surprisingly, that long-running story about the Fresh Prince playing Barack in the movies just won’t go away. And why not? You want a charismatic Black lead with a messianic streak…

Finally, just to do the hat trick, did you catch any of the big Lincoln Memorial gig the other day? A bit of a mixed bag, I’ll admit, and not everybody there was to my taste, although an event featuring Shakira can’t be all bad. Springsteen was expected, and at least has good progressive credentials; Beyonce doesn’t exactly have the progressive credentials (unless “I’m a liberated woman cos my man gives me lots of bling” is where feminism is at presently) but is such a big act that she was probably inevitable. No, the thing that got up my goat was the choice of an Irish act, to reflect the ancestral roots of the president-elect (and not forgetting Derry man Joe Biden). And, with all the musical talent in Ireland and in the Irish diaspora, who turns up? Those sanctimonious tax-dodging phonies U2. Ah well, you couldn’t expect Bono to miss a chance to suck up to the new boss.

Cherishably grumpy as ever, the Hitch is on the case

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It may be that, like me, you’ve grown a little tired already with the euphoria surrounding Barack O’Bama, significant though his victory undoubtedly is. Are you in the market for something a little sceptical, even sour? Well, there’s no better man for the job than the Hitch, whose last column on the subject was a real stinker:

Anyone would think we had just elected a hip, skinny and youthful replacement for God, with a plan to modernise Heaven and Hell – or that at the very least John Lennon had come back from the dead.

The swooning frenzy over the choice of Barack Obama as President of the United States must be one of the most absurd waves of self-deception and swirling fantasy ever to sweep through an advanced civilisation. At least Mandela-worship – its nearest equivalent – is focused on a man who actually did something.

I really don’t see how the Obama devotees can ever in future mock the Moonies, the Scientologists or people who claim to have been abducted in flying saucers. This is a cult like the one which grew up around Princess Diana, bereft of reason and hostile to facts.

Oh come now, Peter! I take your point, but isn’t that putting it a little strongly?

If you can believe that this undistinguished and conventionally Left-wing machine politician is a sort of secular saviour, then you can believe anything. He plainly doesn’t believe it himself. His cliche-stuffed, PC clunker of an acceptance speech suffered badly from nerves.  It was what you would expect from someone who knew he’d promised too much and that from now on the easy bit was over.

He needn’t worry too much. From now on, the rough boys and girls of America’s Democratic Party apparatus, many recycled from Bill Clinton’s stained and crumpled entourage, will crowd round him, to collect the rich spoils of his victory and also tell him what to do, which is what he is used to.

Well, that’s a point with a little substance behind it. And, for all those who had hoped for a radical break with the past, the sheer number of Clinton retreads should be a bit of a warning signal. I’ve mentioned before our old friend Zbigniew Brzezinski, that greyest of Democrat eminences, emerging as Barack’s foreign policy guru. The appointment of Rahm Emmanuel – a man who in 1991 actually left his job in Washington to enlist in the Israeli army – as chief of staff doesn’t bode well either if you thought the likes of Feith and Wolfowitz were passing into history. There’s even speculation that that evil bastard Holbrooke may be making a comeback. If you want to judge the new Emperor, look at his appointments.

Sorry, Peter, you were talking about Barack’s acceptance speech:

He reached depths of oratorical drivel never even plumbed by our own Mr Blair, burbling about putting our hands on the arc of history (or was it the ark of history?) and bending it once more toward the hope of a better day (Don’t try this at home).

I am not making this up. No wonder that awful old hack Jesse Jackson sobbed as he watched. How he must wish he, too, could get away with this sort of stuff.

And it was interesting how the President-elect failed to lift his admiring audience by repeated – but rather hesitant – invocations of the brainless slogan he was forced by his minders to adopt against his will – ‘Yes, we can’. They were supposed to thunder ‘Yes, we can!’ back at him, but they just wouldn’t join in.  No wonder. Yes we can what exactly? Go home and keep a close eye on the tax rate, is my advice. He’d have been better off bursting into ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony’ which contains roughly the same message and might have attracted some valuable commercial sponsorship.

Well, at least the new president will have to do some stuff. He can’t go around spouting Chauncey Gardiner aphorisms forever. So, he will accumulate a record we can judge him on.

Peter then mutters darkly about the Chicago Democratic machine and Tony Rezko. I don’t know, Peter, you’ve been flogging the Rezko angle for months and it hasn’t taken. Even the Bill Ayers story that you were so assiduous in promoting eventually died a death – fair enough, the McPalin camp made some play of it, but even the moose-shooting hockey mom couldn’t really get much traction in trying to tar O’Bama with what Ayers was up to forty years ago, on the basis of what seems little more than a nodding acquaintance. The categories of “news” and “things Peter Hitchens finds hugely significant” are not always coterminous.

Peter then picks up a little with his discussion of racial politics in modern America:

They also know the US is just as segregated as it was before Martin Luther King – in schools, streets, neighbourhoods, holidays, even in its TV-watching habits and its choice of fast-food joint. The difference is that it is now done by unspoken agreement rather than by law…

I was in Washington DC the night of the election. America’s beautiful capital has a sad secret. It is perhaps the most racially divided city in the world, with 15th Street – which runs due north from the White House – the unofficial frontier between black and white. But, like so much of America, it also now has a new division, and one which is in many ways much more important. I had attended an election-night party in a smart and liberal white area, but was staying the night less than a mile away on the edge of a suburb where Spanish is spoken as much as English, plus a smattering of tongues from such places as Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan.

As I walked, I crossed another of Washington’s secret frontiers. There had been a few white people blowing car horns and shouting, as the result became clear. But among the Mexicans, Salvadorans and the other Third World nationalities, there was something like ecstasy.

I’m not sure I like where this is heading…

They grasped the real significance of this moment. They knew it meant that America had finally switched sides in a global cultural war.

Yes! The Third World has conquered Washington!

The United States, having for the most part a deeply conservative people, had until now just about stood out against many of the mistakes which have ruined so much of the rest of the world.

Suspicious of welfare addiction, feeble justice and high taxes, totally committed to preserving its own national sovereignty, unabashedly Christian in a world part secular and part Muslim, suspicious of the Great Global Warming panic, it was unique.

Do we hear an echo here of Palin’s “real America”? You know, completely ignoring the fact that most Americans nowadays don’t live in all-white small towns? With the implication that the big cities on the coasts are some sort of ersatz America – it’s a pity nobody told Bin Laden that.

These strengths had been fading for some time, mainly due to poorly controlled mass immigration and to the march of political correctness. They had also been weakened by the failure of America’s conservative party – the Republicans – to fight on the cultural and moral fronts.

They preferred to posture on the world stage. Scared of confronting Left-wing teachers and sexual revolutionaries at home, they could order soldiers to be brave on their behalf in far-off deserts. And now the US, like Britain before it, has begun the long slow descent into the Third World. How sad. Where now is our last best hope on Earth?

Brilliant stuff. Melanie Phillips, eat your heart out.

And eat your heart out, Gail Walker. As a devout follower of the US Republicans our Gail, of course, can’t bring herself to outright praise O’Bama, but she does employ some fancy footwork. One notices immediately that her enormous girl-crush on Sarah Palin has vanished down the memory hole. And all this lauding of the wonderful US system of government is a quite obvious dodge.

Anyway, what’s all this talk about change? Even if O’Bama really was going to bring serious change, it wouldn’t be the sort of change Gail would like. Let’s remember that unionism doesn’t sit well with change. If unionism was a rock band, it would be called Status Quo. It might even be Status Quo Ante. That’s why the most successful Official Unionist leader I can remember is the quirky nonagenarian Jim Molyneaux, whose idea of leading unionism was to say and do as little as possible. On one famous occasion, he actually put out a statement to say he wouldn’t be putting out any statements for the foreseeable future.

Gail does manage to get around this by stripping the politics out of politics and getting it down to personalities, which is more her shtick. And I’m not wholly unsympathetic to the complaint that politics here is dominated by a bunch of uninspiring old grey men who’ve seemingly been around forever. But, given our political system, Gail’s proposal for elected mayors isn’t going to change that. So what do we have? Basically, the problem with our politics, as per Gail, is that there aren’t enough young, energetic and good-looking people around. I suspect she may be confusing the political process with X Factor.

I hate to be a naysayer, but…

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Liam points out, quite correctly, much of the media and the BBC in particular going orgasmic over Barack O’Bama’s election. At this point in time you sort of wish Edward Said was still alive, and wonder whether he would describe this as an Orientalist love affair.

But it’s clear that everybody wants a piece of the president-elect. Gordon Brown is dying for a photocall, in the hope that some of the stardust will rub off. Brian Cowen wants O’Bama to visit Ireland, to get in touch with his ancestral heritage. I believe the Kenyans have a similar idea in mind. I was also quite touched by seeing the celebrations by the citizens of Obama, Japan. It reminded me of that (possibly apocryphal) story about Palestinians cheering Gazza’s footballing exploits.

Of course, there’s also been the suggestion that the New Messiah should visit the North in order to boost the peace process. Honestly, these American presidents are like buses. We don’t get one here for 200 years, then you can’t move for the buggers. I also notice the SDLP trying to dine out on the claim that their man has won. This is based on the somewhat tendentious idea that both O’Bama and the SDLP are the modern manifestations of Dr King’s civil rights politics.

But back to the BBC. Yesterday, the O’Bama story took up approximately 70% of the day’s bulletins. There was one other major story, which was Lewis Hamilton’s homecoming to the McLaren team. Actually, the two stories were explicitly linked, with copious references to the first black US president and the first black Formula 1 champion. Hamilton himself even went so far as to name-check O’Bama as an inspirational figure. And in fact they do look a little alike, so at some points it was hard to tell where one story stopped and the other started.

Now then. I’m not a follower of Formula 1 and so don’t have any strong feelings about Hamilton or any of its other denizens, although I did used to think Schumi would look well at the helm of a U-boat. Most of the hype has passed me by. I also take with just a pinch of salt the claim that Hamilton is going to be Britain’s first sporting billionaire – Tiger Woods, who’s been around a long time, hasn’t quite made that cut, and if what Max Mosley says about F1’s financial bubble is true, the sport is heading for a serious crash. But still, he’s famous, wealthy, lauded and he’s at the top of the world in doing something he loves. Fair enough.

What has struck me is the frequent reference to Hamilton as a role model for young black men. It’s not quite the burden of expectations borne by O’Bama, but it does seem that any halfway presentable young black man who achieves prominence in Britain ends up being hailed as a role model who can steer young black men away from knives and drugs. It helps, I suppose, that Hamilton, like O’Bama, isn’t all that black – and I’m not referring here to his mixed-race background as such, but more to the fact that he hasn’t grown up surrounded by black street culture. He doesn’t wear chav clothing and say “innit” all the time. A lot of the praise of Hamilton centres around how nice and polite and well-spoken he is. And just as the US electorate haven’t just sent Chuck D to the White House, he doesn’t show any signs of being uppity like, say, Linford was.

In short, he’s just the sort of young black man who middle-class white suburbanites can take to their hearts, because really he isn’t too far from being one of their own. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, of course. But what it has to do with gangs and knife crime beats me. I say, let the young lad enjoy his success and don’t burden him with having to be a poster boy for some Daily Mail view of what black folks should be like. That won’t do anybody any good at all.

Nation finally agrees to spare black guy some change

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With apologies to the Onion

The late Frank Zappa, who had a nice line in satire, used to have a good quip about hydrogen. This is based on the scientific idea that hydrogen, as the most common element, was the basic building block of the universe. Frank begged to differ. In fact, he said, stupidity was more common than hydrogen. Much of his evidence for this derived from close observation of American politics. Joe the Plumber, how are you.

But the interminable presidential election that’s just taken place has thrown up a few surprises. And despite being a hardened cynic, there was one candidate who did catch my imagination, with his manifest integrity and iconoclastic ideas. Unfortunately, that was Ron Paul.

Ron, of course, wasn’t in contention last night. Nonetheless, I settled down last night with a glass of dark liquid, and the mute button and a Southern Culture On The Skids CD handy for any appearances by Dude Hitchens or the man now officially known at our place as Justin Fucking Webb. And the eventual winner, as we’d been expecting, was the Democrats’ man, Irish-American senator Barack O’Bama. (I have been asked what kind of a name Barack is. I can only speculate that it’s some local Offaly rendering of Fionnbarra.) The man is, to give him his due, quite an exceptional politician. He’s certainly one of the best communicators I’ve ever heard, better even than Bill Clinton. Forget about his speeches being full of Bono-style vacuities – O’Bama could read out the phone book and have an audience exclaiming “Yes we can!”

By contrast, the Republican candidate, Scots-Irish senator John McCain, started out hobbled. It isn’t just that he’s a poor speaker, although he is. He made up for that to a big extent by the media legend of him as a straight-talking maverick, when his Senatorial colleagues are more apt to describe him as a grandstander. But he was fatally crippled, not only by being about 120 years old and looking more like Young Mr Grace by the day – an impression only strengthened by the fraudulent old windbag Lieberman playing Lemmon to his Matthau – but by the terminal unpopularity of the Bush administration. He did make a valiant effort to run as the change candidate, but that’s not very easy when you’re running against a president who you’ve agreed with 90% of the time. O’Bama, on the other hand, had a useful platform in the primaries thanks to his decent position on Iraq, and then there was the banking crisis, which seemed to be the decisive factor in strengthening him while cutting the legs out from under McCain.

Then there were the running mates. O’Bama, sensitive to accusations of inexperience, played it safe by selecting veteran Irish-American senator Joe Finnegan Biden. McCain, though, threw us all a curveball with his pick of the almost beyond parody (but thank you, Tina Fey) Alaska governor Sarah Palin. I thought at the time this was a cunning ploy by McCain to corner those women pissed off by Hillary’s defeat. McCain, who seemed to have met Palin only twice before the announcement, may have thought so too. (I also whimsically thought McCain might have been making a pitch for the crucial Inuit vote, but it turns out Palin too is of Irish extraction. Hey, couldn’t we revitalise our construction industry building all those ancestral homes?) But her real value was in rallying conservative Republicans, who’d never really liked or trusted McCain. The imponderable is whether her undoubted value in rallying the wingnut vote was outweighed by her repelling effect on swing voters.

So Barack has his mandate. He also has, thanks to the nature of his campaign – its grassroots popular character, his defeat of the Clintonite party machine, in particular the extraordinary turnout of black voters – the burden of enormous expectations. Millions of people, especially minorities and youth, have made a huge emotional investment in him – much like the feminist investment in Hillary, only on a bigger scale. Yet, to paraphrase George W Bush, it may be that people are misoverestimating him. Remember that, whatever the McPalin talking points, he’s never been a radical but rather a model New Democrat perhaps a millimetre to the left of Hillary Clinton. We don’t yet have much of an idea of how he’ll deal with the economic crisis. Even if he is all they say, he’ll still have to deal with a Congress completely in hock to corporate lobbies. And although he’ll attract a great deal of international good will simply by virtue of not being Bush, his big foreign policy plus – his sensible line on Iraq – is at least balanced by his enthusiasm for sending even more troops to Afghanistan, not to mention surrounding himself with Cold War gargoyles like Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Well, we shall see. But to take the positive view for the time being, this is hugely significant in terms of race in American politics. The Republicans have been pushed back into the old Confederacy (and run unusually close in several southern states), while the much ballyhooed racist Democrat vote in Pennsylvania failed to materialise, and the black electorate is energised and has achieved a sense of its potential clout in society. That, in immediate terms, is to the good. What’s more, the Reps will have to realise that, thanks to W’s Unitary Executive Doctrine and his rewriting of constitutional law to the effect that whatever the president does is legal, the uppity Negro will probably be the most powerful president in US history. And how’s that for an unintended consequence?

Rud eile: As I chronicled a little while back, there has been quite a bit of fancy footwork from the Decent Left, whose natural preference for the most bellicose candidate available has been trumped in the last analysis by their desire to be on the winning side. So, after spending a months boosting McCain, we saw Oliver Kamm, Nick Cohen, and the Harry’s Place boys switch their allegiance to O’Bama without batting an eyelid. I am, however, pleased to report a lone holdout in the form of Marko Attila Hoare (part of this blog’s extended family) who has maintained his Balkan-centric support for McCain despite considerable domestic pressure. Sir, I salute your indefatigability!

Finally, let’s give the last word to Palin’s pornalike Lisa Ann, who actually seems better able to handle interviews than the original…

And, just to raise the tone a little, it’s Flynt contra Palin

The US Republicans are getting very angry these days, aren’t they? Those McCain rallies are starting to get a bit boisterous whenever the uppity Negro – you know who I mean – gets mentioned. Well, if they were lacking something to get really angry about, they’ve got a good cause now. Yes, it’s your friend and mine, that old sexist reprobate Larry Flynt, who’s releasing a Sarah Palin-themed porno under the Hustler imprint.

We should, of course, have seen this coming a mile off. Larry loves his political satire, as Rev Falwell painfully found out. He’s quite serious about political advocacy, especially around civil liberties issues (check out his book Sex, Lies and Politics for an idea of what makes him tick politically). He hates the religious right, and he really, really hates the moralising hypocrites who are so much in evidence on the religious right. So Palin getting the scabrous Flynt treatment is only natural. Not to mention the Republican base’s outrage at Palin being sneered at by metropolitan elitists, which has some truth behind it – as a born-and-bred hillbilly, Larry is allowed to sneer at her cornpone folksiness all he likes.

So, hitting the video stores soon will be milftastic industry veteran Lisa Ann playing America’s hottest governor. I can’t honestly say I’m familiar with her body of work, although the cognoscenti reckon she’s a reliably filthy performer, as one would hope. You may cast your eye over the image above and say that she doesn’t really bear that striking a resemblance to Governor Palin, but at least she’s in the right age bracket, and you know, the right hairdo and a pair of power specs might work wonders. I’m also intrigued by the casting of socialist porn star Nina Hartley in the role of Hillary Clinton.

But, much as I love Nina, this opus probably isn’t going to make my must-watch list. Although the concept is sound, I confidently expect the execution to be horrible. For one thing, Who’s Nailin’ Paylin is a shockingly lazy title. Larry should be ashamed of himself, especially with a gimme like Drill Baby Drill conveniently to hand. So we probably aren’t talking the height of sophistication here. Anyway, it can’t possibly be as funny as the classic Linda Lovelace for President.

Unless, of course, Larry throws in some unspeakable act involving a moose…

But I suppose this is what you get when you’ve a succession of facile male media pundits who can’t seem to find anything worth saying about Palin except to remark on her sex appeal, or to put it more bluntly her fuckability. This might go some way to explaining why Palin’s polling numbers are a good deal higher among men than women. (I’d also not be surprised if she had developed a lesbian cult following. She has that tomboy-femme thing that lots of gay girls find irresistible.) But really, you’re electing one of the highest offices in the country, and the eye-candy quotient of the running mate becomes one of the major talking points?

And don’t even get me started on Justin Webb…

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