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Likely Coalition Partner for Floundering UK Conservative Party Sits on the Hard Right Fringe

The Democratic Unionist Party now look like the Tories preferred coalition partners. The DUP, which is the biggest Unionist (ie pro-UK) party in Northern...

Will Conservative Party Quackery or NDP Principle determine Canada’s Palestine Policy

The Conservative party leadership campaign has unleashed pro-Israel quackery, but it is the NDP race that could have greater impact on Canada’s Palestine policy. Aping...
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Video: ‘Power Stance’: Where did conservative party in Britain get it?

Body language trainers call it the 'Power stance'. But some are finding it just plain weird. RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-air Subscribe to RT! Via Youtube
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Corrupt Conservative Party Profiteering From Dodgy Tax Havens

Conservative Party candidates are bankrolled by hedge fund donations siphoned to Westminster from lucrative tax havens including the Cayman Islands, new analysis suggests. Figures released...

Canada Politics: Deception and Betrayal in the Conservative Party

“This creature, the so-called Conservative Party, if it goes forward will be an illegitimate creation conceived in deception and born in betrayal.” Progressive...
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Video: Austrian crossroads: Conservative People’s Party leads in election

The leader of the right-wing, anti-migrant People's Party has claimed victory in Austria's legislative election - paving the way for him to become the...

UK General Election: Exit polls predict Conservatives largest party in hung parliament

Exit polls predict Theresa May’s Conservatives will form the largest party in the UK General Election - but may fall short of a...

Major donor to PM May's party might stop funding Conservatives over Brexit stance

Tories may lose support from one of their major donors, steel magnate Andrew Cook. He...

UK Labour leader urges party not to defy Conservative spending cuts

By Chris Marsden Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has issued a letter instructing local Labour councils to abide by the law and impose austerity cuts demanded...
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Video: Conservative Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott Ousted by His Own Party

Democracynow.org - In Australia, conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been ousted during snap elections called for by his own Liberal Party. Via Youtube

Stewart Interrogates the Tea Party: If Boehner and Ryan Aren’t Conservative Enough, Who Is?

“When Ronald Reagan's just another Hollywood...

George P. Bush, Tea Party Conservative

Another Bush. This one says he's with Ted Cruz and the refurbished tea party. Kurt NimmoInfowars.comDecember 15, 2013 George P. Bush is kicking off his political...

House GOP Leadership Thwarted by Tea Party Conservatives over Defunding ObamaCare

A vote on a bill to continue government spending after September 30 offered by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) scheduled for Thursday was...

UK Conservatives mimic far-right party

President of the European Commission (EC) Jose Manuel Barroso has accused the leading Conservative party in the UK coalition government of copying an extreme...

Republican party is ‘toast’ says Az. senator in ‘hot mic’ moment — RT US...

Published time: 19 Nov, 2017 10:23 Edited time: 19 Nov, 2017 10:34 Arizona Senator Jeff Flake...

GOP Senate candidate accused of sex assault loses nearly all party support in DC...

The most senior Senate Republican is siding with several women alleging sexual misconduct against a candidate...

Tory MP slams own party for universal credit abstention — RT UK

Published time: 19 Oct, 2017 15:49 Andrea Leadsom, the Tory leader of the House of...

Out in the cold? New UKIP leader Henry Bolton shuns right wing in party...

The new leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has caused outrage among the right-wing...

Mutinous Tory shocked at ‘abuse’ from his own party after failing to topple Theresa...

Published time: 10 Oct, 2017 13:00 The Conservative MP and former party chairman who attempted...

Tory conference: Can Theresa May rescue her leadership, or has her party lost patience?

Theresa May’s political stock is collapsing after a battering in June’s snap election, and amid...

Catalonia and the Unsustainable Strategy of Conservative Spain

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0 When Spanish President Mariano Rajoy deployed thousands of police forces to Catalonia to repress an illegal referendum...

Grassroots politics: Legalize cannabis to woo millennial voters, Tory ex-MP Blunt urges party

Published time: 3 Oct, 2017 15:49 Legalizing cannabis could help the Tories woo young voters,...

Tory party conference to get ‘biggest ever’ armed security detail, Manchester police tell RT

Published time: 29 Sep, 2017 16:10 Edited time: 29 Sep, 2017 16:18 Tens of thousands...

‘Coalition of Conservative chaos’: Corbyn savages May government at conference (WATCH LIVE)

Jeremy Corbyn has insisted it is time for Prime Minister Theresa May to stand down...

Seeking to Ban Mosques and Deport All Migrants, Right-Wing Party Is Set to Enter...

A poster in Berlin from the far-right Alternative für Deutschland features the party's two main candidates, Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel, ahead of Germany's...

Widespread Conservative confusion feeds govt’s baffling Brexit stance

The Brexit vote was meant to rid the Conservatives of their crippling divisions over Europe...

The Grand Old Party’s Over. Make Way for the Trump Party.

You’ve probably heard the story. It’s said that in ancient Rome, the emperor had a member of the Praetorian Guard who, amid all the...

Brexit Secretary’s ex-aide calls for new ‘Democrats’ party to reverse the EU exit ‘catastrophe'

Published time: 9 Aug, 2017 13:20 Brexit is a “catastrophe” that should be “reversed,” according...

Rep. John Duncan, Conservative Peace Proponent, Will Not Seek Reelection to US House

Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) announced on Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2018 to the United States House of...

Democratic Party ‘Better Deal’ Puts Lipstick on Its Pig

Eric Zuesse I write this as a Democrat who rejects the Party as it has become — controlled by and representing the Party’s billionaire donors,...

‘Japanese-paid’ neoconservative think tank hypes Chinese threat to Britain

A British neoconservative think tank, recently accused of being paid by the Japanese embassy to...

Corbyn trolls May’s call for cross-party collaboration by sending autographed Labour manifesto

Published time: 12 Jul, 2017 09:21 Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has mocked Prime Minister Theresa...

Conservative coup rumors swirl as May’s popularity plummets

Published time: 7 Jul, 2017 11:15 Prime Minister Theresa May risks being overthrown by members...

‘Monumental failure’: Sinn Fein deadlocked with DUP, UK conservatives dealt another crisis

Northern Ireland's two main political parties have failed to reach a new power-sharing agreement, and...

Conservatives in chaos: Tory rebels want Theresa May gone by summer 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May is coming under increased pressure from her own party, as her...

The Democratic Party’s Deadly Dead-End

Exclusive: By playing for centrist and neoconservative votes, national Democrats have left the party floundering with no coherent political message and...

Searching for the Soul of the Democratic Party

Writing in Politico, Bruce Bartlett complains the Republican Party has lost its way because it has ceased to champion ideas; he says the GOP...

#NastyParty: Twitter fumes as Tories find £1bn for DUP but deny emergency workers pay...

Published time: 29 Jun, 2017 11:33 The Tories are facing a barrage of social media...

DUP letters: Party lobbied to stop NI couples marrying in Scotland

Published time: 21 Jun, 2017 14:32 The Scottish Government has released letters from the Democratic...

Conservative voters dying off at rate of 2% per year, warns Tory lord

Published time: 20 Jun, 2017 15:37 He who has the youth has the future, said...
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Video: ‘Labour Party cut themselves from working class’ – Ex-Scottish MP on GE &...

The Scottish National Party, which favours independence for Scotland, could turn out to be a king maker in this election. If neither the Conservatives...

Theresa May faces grilling by her own party as she cobbles together minority govt

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is set to be questioned on Monday evening by a...
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Video: Theresa May to form minority government backed by Democratic Unionist Party

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will form a new Conservative minority government with the help of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to...

Conservatives, DUP agree to ‘confidence and supply’ deal on government

Published time: 10 Jun, 2017 20:04 The Democratic Unionist Party has agreed to the principles...
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Video: UK’s Hung Parliament—Conservatives Lose Majority; Labour’s Corbyn Delivers Stunning Rebuke of PM May

https://democracynow.org - British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a major setback Thursday in an election that saw her Conservative Party lose its majority ... Via...

Jeremy Corbyn Rides Leftist Tide in UK Election in Rebuke of Austerity and Conservatives

British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a major setback Thursday in an election that saw her Conservative Party lose its majority in Parliament less...

Death of UKIP? Paul Nuttall’s party faces election wipeout

Published time: 9 Jun, 2017 00:36 The UK Independence Party (UKIP) faces a devastating night...

Party leaders make final election dash armed with pleas, policies & promises (VIDEO)

Party leaders took to the streets one last time pushing some of their most popular...

‘I’m really pleased we have food banks’: Outrage at UK Conservative politician’s comments (VIDEO)

A Conservative Party politician seeking re-election provoked uproar at a hustings in Cornwall when she appeared to praise the existence of food banks in...

Stephen Hawking declares which party he’s voting for to save NHS

Labour must win on June 8 because the Conservative Party will destroy the National Health Service (NHS), renowned physicist Stephen Hawking said, having previously...

The Labour Party has Regained Its Principles and Offers Hope to Millions

After 20-plus years of being lost in the muddy centre ground of British politics, the Labour party now stands tall again as the party...

Today’s Labour voters ‘prefer Corbyn to Blair’ as socialist tightens grip on party

Published time: 17 May, 2017 11:27 Edited time: 18 May, 2017 06:46 The Labour Party...

Corbynistas already planning Labour’s victory party as Tory lead narrows again

Thousands of Facebook users say they will flock to the Red Lion pub in Westminster...

What is in the UK Labour Party’s manifesto?

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Liberal pundits slam Corbyn pledge to carry on as Labour leader even if party...

Jeremy Corbyn’s vow to stay on as leader of the Labour Party even if it loses heavily in next month’s general election has been...

Blairites declare UK Labour party unelectable

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Boris Johnson’s sister joins rival party in bid to halt UK government’s Brexit plans...

Published time: 27 Apr, 2017 18:24 The sister of Boris Johnson, the Conservative politician and a...

WaPo Can Identify ‘Far Right’ in France–but in White House, It’s ‘Conservative’

Marine LePen and Steve Bannon have very similar ideologies–but they’re described very differently by the Washington Post. (cc photos: Marie-Lan Nguyen, Don Irvine) This article...

Scottish National Party could ‘lose 10 seats’ to Tories

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson is urging her party to “work, work, and work some more,” as polls show they are on course for...

Communist Party champions Corbyn’s Labour, says it won’t stand election candidates

Published time: 24 Apr, 2017 16:15 The Communist Party of Britain (CP) has confirmed it will...

Party of Defence? Tory government plans to strip soldiers of their rights, inquiry told

Published time: 24 Apr, 2017 12:45 Attempts by the government to remove the UK from certain...

Tony Blair urges cross-party election push to stop Tory 'hard Brexit'

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is attempting to rally a cross-party alliance to fight...

‘Genuinely scared’: Farage says May’s snap election tactic is to dodge party expenses scandal

Published time: 18 Apr, 2017 21:23 Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage says PM Theresa May’s decision...

Labour wins local election after UKIP rival gets party name wrong on registration form

Labour won a local council seat in Suffolk unchallenged because a UK Independence Party (UKIP) candidate wrote the name of their party incorrectly on...

‘Job done’: UKIP’s only MP quits party after Brexit success

Published time: 25 Mar, 2017 15:26Edited time: 25 Mar, 2017 15:29 Having defected from the Conservatives...

UKIP needs no Banks: Leaked Euroskeptics’ docs show deep party rift

Leaked minutes from a UK Independence Party (UKIP) meeting show the leadership dismissing the defection...

UKIP’s only MP could be expelled from party by end of the month

Published time: 10 Mar, 2017 17:21 The future of the UK Independence Party’s (UKIP) one and...

26,000 members quit Labour Party… but is Corbyn or Brexit to blame?

Almost 26,000 people have left the Labour Party since summer 2016, it has emerged, as...

Going on the Offensive: A State-Based Strategy for the Democratic Party

Having lost control of the White House, Congress and probably the Supreme Court, the Democrats appear consigned to a defensive, resistance-based role in the...

Annals of the Stupid Party

No matter what happened while Barack Obama occupied Pennsylvania Ave., several things have become clear since Donald Trump took office in January: Most Congressional Republicans...

WaPo, Organ of Extreme Center, Calls MLK ‘True Conservative’

The Washington Post‘s misidentification of Martin Luther King. Because words and history evidently have no meaning, the Washington Post  (1/16/17) decided to honor civil rights...

UKIP members could defect to Conservatives en mass, Tory councilor tells RT (VIDEO)

Nigel Farage’s UKIP has been suffering from an identity crisis since Britain voted to leave...

Hillary Regnant: Perpetual War Party Prepares to Coronate Its First Queen

The Obamas are going all out for Hillary. Of course, they are; when she is in charge, Barack will look good in comparison. Even his...

Tories are ‘party of the workers,’ says Theresa May… while wearing £800 outfit

Talking the talk, but not quite walking the walk, Prime Minister Theresa May used her...

Bernie Sanders’ brother Larry stands in David Cameron’s old constituency for UK Green Party

Witney, Oxfordshire, is about to feel the Bern. Well, kind of. Larry Sanders, brother of...

Trump Will Destroy the Republican Party

We have something special to share with you over the next couple days. Instead of our usual market commentary, we’re featuring a recent interview...

The Far Right Proposals in the 2016 Republican Party Platform

The Republican Party platform is a wish list for what Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump would like to impose on America. What's surprising...
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Video: A Tectonic Shift in Conservative World: Trump Accepts Nomination as Roger Ailes Ousted...

http://democracynow.org - When Fox News Chair Roger Ailes, amid multiple accusations of sexual harassment, resigned on the same day the Republican Party ... Via Youtube
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Video: UK Elites Oppose Brexit – Their Party to be Led by a Leader...

Bill Black tells Paul Jay that the Conservatives risk political annihilation if they don't respect the results of the referendum, in spite of the...

Could a new center-left party emerge from a Labour split? Lib Dem leader Farron...

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has hinted that Britain’s tumultuous political environment may offer an...

Brexit supporter Nigel Farage resigns as UK Independence Party leader

Brexit campaigner and MEP Nigel Farage has announced he is stepping down as leader of...

UKIP mega-donor plans new political party… without Nigel Farage

Aaron Banks, the millionaire businessman who bankrolled UKIP’s Leave.EU campaign, has said he wants to...

To the rescue? 60,000 join Labour in 1 week as party’s MPs launch anti-Corbyn...

Tens of thousands of new supporters have joined the Labour Party in the past week,...

America’s One-Party Government

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org INTRODUCTION Today’s United States is a more realistic version of the type of society that George Orwell fictionally described in...

Democrats Are Now the Aggressive War Party

Exclusive: For nearly a half century – since late in the Vietnam War – the Democrats have been the less...

Libertarianism and the Libertarian Party

Now that Mary Matalin and the mainstream media have mentioned the Libertarian Party as a possible alternative to the Republicrat Party, already there is...

NeverTrump’s 3rd-Party Dilemma

Ever since Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his campaign and Donald Trump essentially secured the Republican nomination, certain elements of Conservative Inc. have been flailing...

Conservative coup? Cameron could face Tory revolt if Britain stays in EU

Tory MPs are considering a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister David Cameron if...

Muslim leaders demand Tory party Islamophobia inquiry

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has called for an urgent inquiry into alleged Islamophobia...

RT America gives Green, Libertarian candidates a voice with 3rd-party debates

Left versus right. Democrat versus Republican. Liberal versus conservative. American politics appears to be a two-sided...

Arianna Huffington as Agent for the Democratic Party

Eric Zuesse At Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington is the top person, and her site is so blatantly hostile to the Republican Party as to have...

British Conservative Breaks Ranks, Opposes TTIP

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org It’s as if, say, during the Republican Administration of U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush, the person who had...

British politicians shown as squabbling children in hilarious Green Party broadcast (VIDEO)

Britain’s Green Party has released the party political broadcast to end all party political broadcasts,...

Labour Party and unions mount nationalist campaign over UK steel industry

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Robert Stevens Following an emergency meeting with cabinet ministers yesterday, British Prime...

Hillary Clinton’s Neo-Conservative Foreign Policy

Eric Zuesse Newly released Hillary Clinton emails clarify the depth of her foreign-policy neo-conservatism, and the closeness of her views to the views of the...

Green Party presidential candidate offers ‘collaboration’ with Bernie Sanders

Facing a mathematically improbable path to victory, Democratic Party presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders needs all...

David Cameron and the one party state dream that is becoming reality

“The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time,...

Poland’s Tea Party Movement

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons) On a rainy day in April 1990, I journeyed to the outskirts of Warsaw to one of those functional Communist-era apartment building...

UK: Second undercover police officer exposed infiltrating Socialist Party

Trevor Johnson and Chris Marsden A joint investigation by BBC Newsnight and the Guardian has uncovered a second undercover police officer, known as “Carlo Neri”...

An open letter to the Labour Party

Dear Labour Party, Please, I beg of you. I fall on my knees and gaze up at you in utter desperation because, as I see...

New Obama rule allows doctors to declare patriots, conservatives and Constitutionalists mentally ill to...

Following the Alinsky—Marx playbooks to the letter, one thing Barack Obama and complicit members of Congress have managed to do during his tenure is...

Tony Blair, imperialist war and the Labour Party

By Chris Marsden Tony Blair’s role in waging war against Iraq in 2003 has returned to haunt the ruling elite in Britain–nowhere more so than in...

Hillary Clinton Pretends to Be Progressive; She’s Actually Conservative

Eric Zuesse The contrast between Hillary Clinton’s stated positions and her actual record, is stark. The record shows that she actually supports international trade treaties that...

ACTION ALERT: Why Do Conservatives Get to Question Candidates—but Not Progressives?

CNN‘s Republican debate included questions from conservative talkshow host Hugh Hewitt. Why won’t there be a progressive asking questions at CNN‘s Democratic debate? (cc...

Corbyn: Conservative government declaring war on organized labour

Britain's Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn says the Conservatives are declaring war on organized labour. Addressing trade unionists, Corbyn promised to fight Conservative legislation currently...

The political issues posed by Corbyn’s election as UK Labour Party leader

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party is an indication of enormous social anger and disgust with the rotten...

American and NATO Wars to Blame for Invasion Crisis, says Austria's Freedom Party Leader

From: newobserveronline.com The military intervention in Iraq, Libya, and Syria by the United States and the NATO Western military alliance is responsible for...

UK Labour Party steps up purge of suspected Corbyn supporters

By Chris Marsden Jeremy Corbyn is standing for Labour leader based upon the claim that the party can be won back from the right-wing course it...

The Two Core Beliefs of the Republican Party

Eric Zuesse 1: One core Republican belief is spread by religious fundamentalists, and it’s a conviction to do war against others by outpopulating them – reproducing more...

How Democratic & Republican Party Chiefs Work to Deceive the U.S. Public

Eric Zuesse An organization that typically promotes the Republican propaganda agenda received information from the Democratic Obama Administration, and they publicized information from it that...

UK Conservatives plan to scrap Human Rights Act

By Jean Shaoul The incoming Conservative government is to replace the 1998 Human Rights Act with a British “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.” It will curtail...

Exit polls predict general election lead for Conservatives – but no majority

The Conservatives are set to remain the largest party according to the first exit poll. David Cameron's party is set to increase its seats but...

Neoconservatives waging ‘war of deception’ against Americans: US Scholar

The pro-Israel neoconservatives in the United States are determined to continue their “war of deception” against Muslim nations and the American people, a scholar...

Britain’s Cameron Government Under the Helm of the Conservative Friends of Israel

Conservative Friends of Israel, abbreviated to CFI, is a British parliamentary group affiliated to the Conservative Party, which is dedicated to strengthening business, cultural...

UK party leaders’ debate: Pro-business parties discuss how best to impose austerity

Chris Marsden Seven-and-a-half million people tuned into ITV’s UK party leaders’ debate Thursday night. Though a highly regulated and stage-managed affair, the debate served to underscore...

Gallup Finds: Among Conservatives, Education Increases False Belief

Eric Zuesse 100% agreement among scientists does not exist on anything, not even on basic laws of physics; but there are some scientific topics where...

What America’s Democratic Party Must Do in Order to Deserve to Win

Eric Zuesse The Democratic Party is at a crisis of its basic values, of its basic reason for existing; it is at an existential crisis...

In the U.S., Conservative Politicos Rob the Campaigns of Progressive Candidates

Corruption of 'Emily's List' Is Hidden by Liberals Eric Zuesse  RINF Alternative News A liberal website buried this huge scandal, by giving it the sleep-inducing headline "You...

Electoral Commission scrutinises donation to Conservatives

Melanie Newman The Electoral Commission has agreed to scrutinise a donation connected to a Russian banker to the Conservative Party following a complaint by the Bureau...

Video: NH Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Called Tea Party Members “Teabaggers”

Annabelle Bamforth via Ben Swan Video has surfaced of Walter Havenstein, the GOP establishment’s pick to challenge Maggie Hassan (D-NH) in the upcoming New Hampshire...

Access all ministers: billionaires and lobbyists at lavish party with David Cameron

Nick Mathiason, Melanie Newman and Tom Warren Today, the Bureau can reveal the billionaires, lobbyists and foreign interests who attended one of the most important private Conservative...

Is The Tea Party Dead?

Do you remember when the pundits were talking about how the Tea Party movement was going to transform American politics?  Do you remember when establishment Republicans in Congress were scared to death of having Tea Party challengers come after their seats?  Well, those days are over.  In primary after primary in 2014, it has become [...]

If He Was Around Today, Thomas Jefferson Would Be Considered A Tea Party Extremist

Thomas Jefferson was radically anti-tax, pro-gun and anti-central bank.  He loved precious metals, he openly acknowledged a “Creator” and he wanted to add an amendment to the Constitution which would ban the federal government from going into debt.  If he was around today, he would be considered a “nutjob”, an “extremist”, a “fascist” and even [...]

FBI won’t file charges against IRS over treatment of Tea Party groups

Following a months-long investigation, the FBI does not plan to file criminal charges related to the Internal Revenue Services' increased examination of conservative groups,...

How the GOP Became the ‘White Man’s Party’

The GOP's manipulation of racial fears...

In US, Liberals Closing in on Conservative Edge

(AP)The amount of people in the United States who self-identify as "liberal" has climbed to its highest level in two decades, according to a...

Dumbing America Down, Conservative Style

The Right wants us to think...

Pat Buchanan, Drugs, and Conservative Love for Big Government

Ryan McMaken A few decades hence, when drug prohibition is, like alcohol prohibition, an amusing byword for destructive, overweening, and failed government...

How “Conservatives” Help the Left

On Friday, January 3, radio talk show host Mike Gallagher charged NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden with being a “traitor” while accusing those of his...

The Most Radical Conservative Regime: Bolivia under Evo Morales

Significant changes in Latin America have mystified writers, journalists, academics and policy-makers who purport to comment on developments in Latin America . The...

Establishment Terrified Tea Party Won’t Back Unnecessary Wars

The interventionist establishment is terrified that a reinvigorated Tea Party may prevent new unnecessary wars and foreign military interventions in the coming years, according...

Establishment Terrified Tea Party Won’t Back Unnecessary Wars

The interventionist establishment is terrified that a reinvigorated Tea Party may prevent new unnecessary wars and foreign military interventions in the coming years, according...

Bloomberg: Trans Pacific Partnership Is “Corporatist Power Grab”, “As Democratic And Transparent As A...

Washington's Blog The U.S. Trade Representative — the federal agency responsible for negotiating trade treaties — has said that the details of...

Editorial: How Bad is the Corporate and Conservative Media?

How you can help one of...

Conservatives, Christians, Rally Behind Suspended “Duck Dynasty” Patriarch

Response from conservative, Christian, and pro-family commentators and leaders has been strong in the wake of the forced “hiatus” of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil...

Ryan-Murray Debt Deal Gives Away Sequester Cuts, Sells Out Conservatives

In announcing the budget agreement hashed out during secret negotiations over the past two weeks, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), shown, said: "I'm proud of...

Ryan-Murray Debt Agreement Gives Away Sequester Cuts, Sells Out Conservatives

In announcing the budget agreement hashed out during secret negotiations over the past two weeks, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), shown, said: "I'm proud of...

Paul Ryan Surprised by Tea Party Outrage Over Budget Surrender

Federal government has accumulated debt exceeding all debt under presidents from Washington through Reagan Kurt NimmoInfowars.comDecember 12, 2013 Ohio Republican and Speaker of the House, John...

Canadian Conservatives’ Cyber-Bullying Bill – A Pretext for Expanding Police Surveillance

Under legislation now before parliament, Canada's Conservative government is seeking to greatly expand the state's power to spy on Canadians' use of the Internet,...

Canadian Conservatives’ cyber-bullying bill–a pretext for expanding police surveillance

By Dylan Lubao10 December 2013 Under legislation now before parliament, Canada's Conservative government is seeking to greatly expand the state's power to spy on...

“Conservatives,” Mandela, and the Founders: Do Conservatives Really Believe in Liberty?

In the wake of Nelson Mandela's death, National Review Online published accolades from several self-avowed “conservatives.” John Boehner, for example, alluded to Mandela's “long walk...

South African Communist Party Admits Mandela’s Leadership Role

Shortly after the death of South African revolutionary Nelson Mandela, the South African Communist Party and the African National Congress both released official statements...

Conservatives Plan 2014 Assault on Education, Healthcare, Workers’ Comp and Environment

Jon Queally writes at Common Dreams: According to internal documents obtained by the British newspaper and published online Thursday, the Guardian reports that more than...

5 Ways Conservative Politics Promotes Freeloading and Shirking

Corporate conservatives want special rules that...

Wisconsin Conservatives Targeted in Secret Probe

With the Obama administration still under fire for scandalously abusing the IRS to target conservative and Tea Party organizations, a Democrat-led District Attorney's office...

Mitch McConnell: Time for GOP Establishment to ‘Stand Up to’ Tea Party

Matthew BoyleBreitbartDecember 2, 2013 Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican up for re-election in 2014, told the Washington Examiner in an interview published...

Alleged Hand Written Letter By Obama Refers To Conservatives As “Tea Baggers”

Disgruntled supporter wrote to complain of “toxic political environment” created by ObamacareSteve WatsonInfowars.comNov 27, 2013 A letter allegedly hand written by president Obama refers to...

Conservatives Trying to Resurface Compassionate Conservative Bunk

Paul Ryan, whose policy ideas are...

“Moderate” President of Brazil Rallies Communist Party Allies

Between confiscating land from its owners at gunpoint and collaborating with the world's most ruthless despots in the ongoing conquest of Latin America for...

Canada’s Conservative government targets federal workers’ basic rights

By Ed Patrick15 November 2013 Deep within its most recent omnibus budget legislation (Bill C-4), Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government has buried sweeping...

When Liberals Red-Bait Conservatives

As a consequence of the shutdown drama, Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats and liberals such as journalist Jonathan Chait are now describing...

In Defense of the TEA Party

Just a few years ago, some American citizens came together to demand change. They were fed up with decades of out-of-control government growth, confiscation...

Conservatives, capitalists and more

The Harper Conservatives have forcefully championed the interests of international investors and corporations, but it has not been enough for the “greed is good” business pundits who earn their living pimping the interests of the rich and powerful. Last November … Continue reading

German Social Democrats’ convention backs coalition talks with conservative parties

By Ulrich Rippert23 October 2013 Last Sunday a convention of leading figures in the Social Democratic Party (SPD) agreed to commence coalition negotiations with...

German Social Democrats, conservatives agree on talks to form coalition government

By Christoph Dreier21 October 2013 After the third round of exploratory talks on Thursday last week, the representatives of the Social Democratic Party (SPD)...

Maybe the Tea Party Won

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/maybe_the_tea_party_won_20131020/ Posted on Oct 20, 2013 ...

Conservatives Accept Challenge from Obama to “Win an Election”

The president couldn't resist spiking the ball after scoring his “keep the status quo” touchdown earlier this week in his remarks on Thursday:

You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election!

Well that is exactly what conservative challengers are attempting to do against those who folded in the showdown over the debt ceiling and ObamaCare funding. In Mississippi, Republican Senator Thad Cochran is now facing State Senator Chris McDaniel in the Republican primary. Immediately upon making that announcement, McDaniel began receiving “a flood of support” from various groups eager to unseat Cochran, who is perceived by many to be a RINO.

In South Carolina, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham will face three challengers in his primary, including State Senator Lee Bright, who blasted Graham’s support for the debt-ceiling deal: “We didn't get anything ... we surrendered again.”

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be forced to face primary challenger Matt Bevin, a supporter of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Bevin posted a web video saying:

This shutdown was completely avoidable if we had real leadership in Washington. Instead we have career politicians like Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid who make decisions based on what is political expediency for them — not on principles — and not on what is in the best interest of the American people.

In Tennessee, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, hardly a favorite among conservatives (in August a coalition of 20 Tea Party and conservative groups sent him a letter asking him to retire), is now being challenged in his primary by two conservative aspirants.

In Wyoming, Republican Senator Mike Enzi will meet Liz Cheney, the eldest daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, in the primary. Cheney has the backing of conservatives in the race while the Republican National Committee is backing Enzi.

The timing looks favorable for conservatives, says even long-time liberal commentator Stuart Rothenberg, who wrote, “If victory is taking over an emasculated, weak, unsuccessful Republican Party, if that is what they think victory is, then maybe they can have victory.”

Despite the negative post-mortems pouring out of the mainstream media about how the intransigent, unyielding stance taken by Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul has severely damaged the GOP, there has in fact been little permanent or irreversible damage done, according to Sean Trende, the senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics. After slicing and dicing all the available polls from Gallup, Rasmussen, The Economist, Pew, NBC News, Reuters and Fox, Trende concludes that “the idea that [the GOP’s] prospects were seriously damaged is thin.” He noted that the single “most important electoral predictor for midterm elections” is presidential job approval and said:

Obama is nowhere near the type of job approval numbers that he’ll need before we can start talking seriously about Democrats taking back the House....

For now, there’s really not much evidence that Republicans took it on the chin ... electorally speaking.

By the time the midterms ramp up, the current “victory” in Washington will be but a distant memory. What will likely have a much greater impact is ObamaCare, the rolling disaster that the electorate will be more intimately, and painfully, aware of by then. As Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) explained:

Right now, Obamacare, for many Americans, is just a website that doesn't work. But in a few weeks, in a few months, it’s going to start directly impacting millions and millions of people, costing them their existing coverage, costing them hours at work, moving them from full-time to part-time, costing them the relationship with their doctor.

As that perception becomes reality, more and more Americans may wish that the fight against ObamaCare, just lost, would have been won after all. That will likely work to the advantage of conservatives, Americanists, and Tea Partiers in 2014. Added Rubio:

We [may] have missed a golden opportunity to do something about [Obamacare], but we haven’t given up the fight. The one thing I want people to understand is they should not feel depressed about this or discouraged about the long-term of it.

We are going to prevail on this issue. It’s just a matter of time.

As deliberate as President Obama has been in the past to provoke the Republicans and excoriate their unwillingness to compromise, he may have blundered this time by telling them to “go win an election.”

A graduate of Cornell University and a former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and blogs frequently at www.LightFromTheRight.com, primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Posted on Mar 24, 2013
Flickr / Susan E Adams (CC-BY-SA)

The tea party is under the delusion—the latest in a series of a many—that Fox News, the right-wing’s treasured network for all things skewed and biased toward conservatives, is making a hard turn to the left (spoiler: It’s not). As a result, a number of tea partyers have begun boycotting the Republican-leaning news network.

They’ve also issued a list of demands that reads like a report from the satirical publication The Onion, including that Fox News “be the right-wing CBS News: to break stories, to break information, and to do what news organizations have always done with such stories: break politicians.” They also want the network to devote at least one segment to discussing last year’s deadly Benghazi attack on two of its prime-time shows every night and allot sufficient resources to investigating President Obama’s birth certificate.

“We need Fox to turn right,” boycott participant Stan Hjerlied explained to The Daily Beast. “We think this is a coverup and Fox is aiding and abetting it. This is the way Hitler started taking over Germany, by managing and manipulating the news media.”

The group also demanded that the network cease striving to be “fair and balanced,” but failed to note that it actually accomplished that feat a while ago.

The Daily Beast:

The three-day boycott lasted Thursday morning through Sunday morning, and is the second time this group of activists have gone Fox-free in an effort to steer the coverage. Organizers say a two-day boycott earlier this month knocked 20 percent off of the network’s regular viewership. (A Daily Beast analysis of the same data showed that the boycott had little effect.)

…A leader of the boycott, Kathy Amidon, of Nashville, declined an interview, instead directing The Daily Beast to a website, Benghazi-Truth. The website, a single-page, 23,000-word manifesto complete with multicolored fonts, supposedly incriminating videos of Fox News’s complicity in a coverup, and communist propaganda photographs, is kept by someone who identifies himself online as “Proe Graphique,” and who other members of boycott described as someone who works “in New York media.”

By way of explanation, the website reports: “People ask why not all mainstream media? Why just Boycott FOX? The answer, again, is that FOX needs the Tea Party/conservatives more than the conservatives need FOX after FOX turned left, basically selling out the people who made FOX successful in an attempt to earn an extra buck. FOX is extremely vulnerable to these boycotts while the rest of the MSM doesn’t need us at all, to speak of.”

Read more

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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Conservatives Benefit From Instant Runoff Voting Too

According to a report yesterday in Bloomberg Businessweek, former 2012 Republican Presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were very close to forming a “Unity Ticket” back in February of 2012, in an effort to knock Mitt Romney out of nomination contention.

After Santorum claimed the Iowa caucus and three other primaries in early February, the talk of forming a “Unity Ticket” reached its peak.

John Brabender, Santorum’s chief strategist, told Bloomberg Businessweek that, “Everybody thought there was an opportunity. It would have sent shock waves through the establishment and the Romney campaign.”

But the talks over the ticket broke down when neither candidate could agree over which one of them would be at the top of the eventual ticket.

These talks of an alliance between Santorum and Gingrich to take down Romney remind us how narrow our choices are with a two-party system. If our political system provided for third, fourth or fifth parties, Santorum and Gingrich could have simply run on other party tickets, and Republican-leaning voters would have had more choices.

Every generation or so, it seems that an American presidential candidate will run on a third party ticket. They always lose, and they rarely even advance their own interests, as they split the votes from the side they’re on.

Charles Koch ran as a Libertarian, Ross Perot invented the Reform Party to run on, and Ralph Nader hooked up with the Greens. Before that John Anderson ran in 1980 as an independent. None ever got anywhere.

That’s because in the United States, we use what’s called “first-past-the-post, winner-take-all” voting systems.

But that wouldn’t have been the case if we had instant runoff voting (IRV) or proportional representation (PR).

The United States is one of only a handful of developed countries in the world that doesn’t have proportional representation, and of those few nations, two, Australia and New Zealand, have instant runoff voting.

We don’t have it, because we’re one of the world’s oldest democracies. After the Constitution was written, James Madison had a horrible realization.

Madison realized that we were the first real democracy of major significance since Rome, and that our democracy was, in reality, an experiment.

Madison also realized that with first-past-the-post-winner-take-all elections, you could have a democracy if there were only two parties, so 51% of the vote could win, but couldn’t have a real small-d democracy with more than two parties. With three parties, 34% of the vote could run the country. With four parties, it could be 26% of the vote.

That’s why, in Federalist Papers #10, Madison begged us not to from political parties, or what he called “factions”.

Madison wrote that, “…It may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction.”

It wasn’t until Madison was long dead that Englishman John Stuart Mill proposed, and invented, the idea of proportional representation, where whichever party got, for example, 9% of the vote, that party would get to put their people into 9% of the seats in Parliament. Or thirty percent. Or sixty percent. Whatever the voters wanted, they got.

Proportional representation is the reason why there are so many political parties in Israel, Germany, France, Japan and a host of other developed nations.

Under proportional representation, the voices of all of the people are heard, because it not only allows for but actually promotes multiple political parties

There are two ways we can accomplish this democratic ideal of more than just two political parties here in the United States.

The first is to have the states change the way they apportion votes to Congress and the Senate.

Proportional representation, otherwise known as “fair voting,” already has a long history in U.S. elections. Over 100 cities and counties across the country use some form of fair voting to fill their various elected offices.

FairVote is one of the leading organizations in the fight to bring proportional representation to the halls of Congress and the Senate.

The organization also advocates strongly for instant runoff or ranked voting.

In our current system of voting, also known as a “plurality voting system,” three political parties is a crowd. Our current two-party system discourages new candidates from entering the fray, and suppresses new ideas and dissenting opinions.

However, instant runoff voting creates the democratic ideal of majority rule and voter choice.

Instant runoff voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference (i.e first, second, third and so on).

If a candidate receives a majority of first choices, he or she is elected. But if nobody has a clear majority of votes on the first count, a series of runoffs begin, using voters’ preferences as indicated on their ballot.

The candidate who receives the fewest first place votes is eliminated.

All ballots are then recounted, and if you voted for the guy who got the least number of votes, your second choice gets counted instead.

The weakest candidates are continually eliminated and their voters' ballots are added to the totals of their next choices until one candidate wins a majority of votes.

An example of an election when instant runoff voting would have worked wonders for America was the 2000 election between Bush, Gore and Nader.

Back in 2000, I voted for Ralph Nader, and Louise voted for Al Gore.

Although the real reason Bush took Florida was because the US Supreme Court stopped a statewide recount, and because Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris had illegally knocked about 70,000 African-American voters off the rolls even before the polls opened, Ralph Nader did get around 70,000 votes in that election.

But what if IRV had been in place?

Under IRV, and if I lived in Florida (I actually lived in Vermont at the time) I could have voted for Ralph Nader as my first choice, and Al Gore as my second. Since Nader had the fewest votes and lost, my ballot would have rolled over to a vote for Al Gore.

Now just imagine all of the Ralph Nader votes that were cast across the country rolling over to votes for Al Gore.

Surely, Al Gore would have won the election, and the Supreme Court never could have stolen it for George Bush.

Right now, instant runoff voting is used in more than 300 communities across the country, including San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, California.

And, thanks to organizations like FairVote and the Green Party, instant runoff voting is becoming more and more popular across America.

But we need to take instant runoff voting and proportional representation national.

We need more voices and more choices in our elections.

It’s time to leave the 18th century system behind, and step into the 21st century!

Tea Party Group “Deeply Embarrassed” by Failure to Plan Pro-Gun Rallies

February 15, 2013  |  

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TheTeaParty.net, a well-known conservative group, reached out to supporters to say that it is "deeply embarrassed" to have failed to raise enough money in the last several weeks to fund a nationwide series of pro-gun rallies scheduled for Feb. 23.

"Last week we announced that we needed to raise $100,000 to market the Day of Resistance to make sure that there are HUGE crowds at all of these rallies," read the Wednesday email from outreach director Dustin Stockman. "Unfortunately we remain well short of our goal. As of writing we have only raised $26,125.72 towards the $100,000 goal."

Day of Resistance has not explained exactly what the money would be spent on.

The announcement came shortly after Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, offered the tea party response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

Since its successes in 2010, the tea party has been plagued by bitter splintering, the kind of behavior that decades ago helped make the American left so ineffective. The recent  brouhaha over former House majority leader Dick Armey's departure from FreedomWorks, the David Koch-backed tea party campaign operation, is just one example of the internal strife. There was then, of course, that weakness at the ballot box last year.

In politics as in all else, money, money, money makes the world go round. If tea party outfits can't even adequately fund a few gun rallies, you know they're on the ropes.

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Rand Paul to deliver Tea Party State of the Union

U.S. Senator Rand Paul. (Reuters / Gary Cameron)

U.S. Senator Rand Paul. (Reuters / Gary Cameron)

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) will give an official Tea Party retort after US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address is delivered on Tuesday, but the lawmaker says he doesn’t expect his remarks to widen a rift among conservatives.

For the third year in a row, the Tea Party movement will respond to the democratic president’s annual address, and this year they’ve chosen Sen. Paul to present the remarks. But even though the senator has been considered a likely candidate for the 2016 GOP race, Paul has also been portrayed as a politician with the ability to drive the Republican Party apart.

A stingy libertarian and an opponent of Big Government and federal intervention of all sorts, Paul has been described by some members of the press as being capable of either reviving the floundering Republican Party or else killing it on his own. In comments delivered during the last year, he has made a handful of remarks that challenge the status quo of his own political party and has dared other right-wingers to make a change. He insists that his State of the Union response won’t be one that divides, though.

“I see it as extra response, I don’t see it as necessarily divisive,” Sen. Paul told CNN over the weekend.

If his remarks do make some Republicans weary, the GOP has elected Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) to lead the party’s official response, also to be delivered Tuesday evening after Pres. Obama’s address. But while Sens. Paul and Rubio have both been labeled as products of the Tea Party movement, they don’t agreed on all that much ideologically.

“Call it the first showdown of the Republican 2016 presidential primaries,” writes Dan Hirschhorn for the New York Daily News. "Who can talk back at Obama better?"

Republican strategist Brad Todd tells the paper the onslaught of speeches is “like three corners of a triangle with Paul closer to Obama on foreign policy than he is to conservatives.”

"The only suspense about these speeches is whether Paul is going to rebut Senator Rubio or President Obama,” says Todd.

Speaking to CNN, Sen. Paul says he won’t let this week’s remarks do anything to speed split Republicans on the two.

“I won’t say anything on there that necessarily is like, ‘Oh, Marco Rubio’s wrong.’ He and I don’t always agree, but the thing is, this isn’t about he and I, this is about the tea party, which is a grassroots movement, a real movement, millions of Americans who are still concerned about some of the deal making that goes on in Washington. They’re still concerned about the fact that we’re borrowing $50,000 a second,” he said.

"None of the things I ran on as part of the tea party have been fixed,” added Paul, who is expected to rehash some of those suggestions in his critique of Obama’s address. On his part, the president is all but certain to make a focal point of his presentation the US economy. The results of a poll from Quinnipiac University released this week show that 35 percent of Americans want to hear detailed remarks from the president regarding the economy, with another 20 percent saying the federal deficit should take top priority.

Sen. Paul has been a strong advocate of drastically reducing foreign aid and military spending in order to attempt to salvage the faltering economy. In his interview with CNN, Paul said, “We shouldn't send foreign aid or money to people who are burning our flag and chanting death to America. So I think I do represent a wing of the Republican Party who doesn't want to send good money after bad from Egypt, or to several of these countries. I would put strings on the money that goes to Pakistan. I would say to Pakistan, you don't get more money until you release the doctor who helped us get bin Laden."

Also last year, Paul told CNN that the GOP is “in danger of becoming a dinosaur” and advocated drastic reform.

“We’re not competitive in huge areas of the country. Some of the biggest states: California, New York Illinois, we’re not competing anymore, in fact, we don’t even advertise there,” Sen. Paul told CNN. “So, we need a new type of Republican. I think that involves some of the ideas of Libertarian-leaning Republicans; people who believe in a less aggressive foreign policy; people who believe that we’re not gonna deport 12 million Hispanic folks.”

Amy Kremer, chairwoman of Tea Party Express, tells the press that the rebuttals offered on Tuesday by both Sens. Paul and Rubio will discuss a more right-learning response to the economy.

“Americans are fed up with Washington politics that fail to address America’s fiscal woes” she says. “Both Sen. Rubio and Sen. Paul will articulate pro-growth messages that will resonate with the American people.”

The senator from Kentucky likely won’t stop there, though. In this week’s sit-down from CNN, he condemned the current White House policy that reportedly authorizes the commander-in-chief to order the killing of US citizens with drone strikes conducted overseas.

“It’s very unseemly that a politician gets to decide the death of an American citizen," said Paul. “The president, a politician, Republican or Democrat, should never get to decide someone’s death by flipping through some flash cards and saying, ‘You want to kill him? Yeah, let’s go ahead and kill him,'"

Sen. Rubio’s remarks presented on behalf of the Republican Party will begin immediately after Pres. Obama’s State of the Union address concludes. Sen. Paul’s statement will be made after Sen. Rubio’s and will be carried live on the Internet from the Press Club in Washington, DC.

Joe Walsh To Form Tea Party Super PAC to Compete With Rove

Former Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., announced Tuesday that he is forming a super PAC “to support freedom-loving conservative alternatives” and to fight back against a Karl Rove initiative to keep unelectable Tea Partyers from winning primaries.

Walsh tweeted on Tuesday:

I'm filing the paperwork to form a super PAC to support freedom-loving conservative alternatives to @KarlRove on FOX.

He wrote on his Facebook page that “if we had listened to Karl Rove in 2010, there would be no [Florida] Sen. Marco Rubio. Rove backed Charlie Crist, who was last seen raving about President Obama at the Democrat National Convention last year.” Walsh also referenced Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, whose opponents were also backed by Rove.

“In fact, if we had listened to Karl Rove in 2010, there never would have been a congressman Joe Walsh. Rove thought openly Tea Party candidates like Walsh couldn’t win,” wrote Walsh, who lost his seat in 2012 to Democrat Tammy Duckworth.

Walsh was responding to the launch of the Conservative Victory Project, a new initiative by the Karl Rove-linked super PAC American Crossroads. The idea is to enlist GOP billionaires to crush efforts by the Tea Party to pick off establishment incumbents and/or field far-right conservatives in the primaries that have no hope of winning a general election.

“There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” Steven Law, the president of American Crossroads, told the Times last weekend. “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.”

Tea Party groups were not happy about it. Matt Kibbe, the head of Freedomworks, called the move “Orwellian” and rather dramatically said in a statement that “The Empire is striking back.”

“All events point to a fundamental clash between the old guard Republican establishment dictating outdated ideas from the top-down, versus a tech-savvy younger generation of activists driving their agenda from the bottom-up,” Kibbe wrote. “These blatant acts of hostility are typical behavior of an entrenched political establishment, circling the wagons around incumbents, regardless of job performance in office.”

“I dare say any candidate who gets this group’s support should be targeted for destruction by the conservative movement,” wrote Erick Erickson on RedState.com.

Karl Rove Pokes Tea Party Hornets’ Nest

Karl Rove blasted some of the "grassroots" Tea Party groups who have declared war on his newest effort to repackage the conservative crap sandwich in a prettier package that "can win elections." This is the purpose of Rove's new group, he claims, th...

Conservative Divisions Over Gay Marriage Laid Bare

The depth of Conservative divisions over gay marriage are to be laid bare on Tuesday when David Cameron faces being deserted by more than half of his MPs ahead of a commons vote on the issue. Senior Cabinet ministers have attempted to win over the wav...

Conservative Divisions Over Gay Marriage Laid Bare

The depth of Conservative divisions over gay marriage are to be laid bare on Tuesday when David Cameron faces being deserted by more than half of his MPs ahead of a commons vote on the issue. Senior Cabinet ministers have attempted to win over the wav...

Rove and ‘Tea Party’ Now in GOP Civil War

As Digby noted, it seems the Republicans are now trying to kill the Frankenstein monster they created:

Karl Rove was instrumental in creating this monster. Now it's got a mind of its own.

It's hard to know how this will play out. The Tea Party is really just the re-branding of the far right of the Republican Party. But it may just be that the establishment made a mistake in doing that. They don't see themselves as Republicans anymore. They see themselves as a distinct movement that wants to explicitly run the Republican Party.

The wingnuts have always had real power within their Party but they didn't know it. Now they do. And they have spent the last 30 years having people like Karl Rove rev them up and expand their egos into believing they represent a majority of Americans and have a responsibility to hew to their principles no matter what. It was a good way to market conservatism. But it was never true.

Rove, Tea Party in GOP civil war:

As they try to pick up the pieces from last fall’s defeat, the establishment and Tea Party wings of the GOP are at each other’s throats.

Karl Rove, fresh off the multi-million dollar disaster that was 2012, has launched a new initiative, The New York Times reported Saturday. Known as the Conservative Victory Project, the group, a spin-off of Rove’s American Crossroads, will help recruit establishment Republicans, as well as defend Senate incumbents against challenges from more conservative candidates.

The aim, in a nutshell, is to push back against the Tea Party and bring the GOP’s nominating process back under the control of the party’s Washington power-brokers. In recent cycles, Tea Party-backed Senate candidates have won the Republican nomination over more moderate GOPers, only to be defeated in the general election. In several cases—think of Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” remarks—they’ve been done in thanks in part to campaign trail slip-ups that more seasoned candidates might have avoided.

But the news has triggered a full-blown revolt among conservative activists, both inside and outside Washington. Read on...

And here's more from Steve Benen: Welcoming the Conservative Victory Project to the field:

The Conservative Victory Project is the latest effort from Rove, and will exist as an appendage of sorts to the American Crossroads super PAC.

Its efforts will not go unchallenged.

Roll Call reported over the weekend that the Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), is already condemning Rove's new project.

"This is a continuation of the establishment's effort to avoid blame for their horrible performance in the 2012 elections," Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins said. "They blew a ton of races up and down the ticket because they recruited moderate Republicans who didn't stand for anything. Now they want to use this new PAC to trick donors into giving them more money so they can lose more races."

Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller echoed the sentiment: "They are welcome to support the likes of Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist and David Dewhurst. We will continue to proudly support the likes of Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz."

Hoskins and Keller have a point. On the other hand, so does Rove. In fact, the great irony of this fight is that neither side of the Republican divide has any credibility at all.

Rove's American Crossroads raised breathtaking amounts of money in 2012, promising right-wing donors an impressive return on investment, and proceeded to lose nearly every race Rove targeted. Right-wing groups, meanwhile, weren't much better, and helped nominate ridiculous candidates that led to Democratic victories.

Rove and his allies argue, "Listen to us or we'll be stuck with another bunch of candidates like Akin, Mourdock, O'Donnell, and Angle." Simultaneously, the Club for Growth and its allies argue, "Listen to us or we'll be stuck with Karl Rove's 99% failure rate."

The opportunity for a round of bitter proxy fights will materialize very soon: Steve King in Iowa, Paul Broun in Georgia, and Joe Miller in Alaska are each poised to launch right-wing Senate bids, and by most measures, these candidates are so far from the mainstream they're very likely to fail -- after winning their respective primaries.

The Conservative Victory Project will likely try to take them down during their respective primaries, and even-further-right-wing groups will push in the opposite direction.

It won't be pretty, but Democrats will love every minute of it.

Rove Takes on the Tea Party, Maher Rips ‘Con Men’ Limbaugh and Beck, and...

Rove Takes on the Tea Party, Maher Rips ‘Con Men’ Limbaugh and Beck, and More

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Posted on Feb 3, 2013

Rove vs. the Tea Party: Karl Rove wants the GOP establishment to take back the Republican Party from the tea party, and he’s launching an initiative to do so. Rove and other organizers behind his super PAC American Crossroads are supporting a new super PAC called the Conservative Victory Project. The group’s goal is to defeat unelectable tea party candidates—such as Christine O’Donnell, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock—in GOP primaries and have more electable Republicans as the party’s candidates against Democrats. “There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” American Crossroads President Steven Law, who will run the new super PAC, said. “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.” (Read more)

Krugman vs. the NRA: New York Times columnist Paul Krugman excoriated the National Rifle Association during a discussion on ABC’s “This Week,” calling the powerful gun lobby group “an insane organization.” The Nobel Prize-winning economist argued that the NRA’s “bizarre” approach to gun control is ultimately working against it. “Now the craziness of the extreme pro-gun lobby has been revealed, and that has got to move the debate and got to move the legislation at least to some degree,” Krugman said. (Read more)

Perry vs. the Boy Scouts: Unpopular Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he is not OK with the news that the Boy Scouts of America may be getting ready to end its bigoted and discriminatory policy of banning gays from joining the organization. Perry, an Eagle Scout, spoke at the Texas Scouts’ 64th annual Report to State, where he stated that the organization should not soften its policy of barring members because of their sexuality. “Hopefully the board will follow their historic position of keeping the Scouts strongly supportive of the values that make scouting this very important and impactful organization,” Perry said. (Read more)

McDonnell vs. Hybrid Owners: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell evidently doesn’t understand that the point of owning a hybrid or electric vehicle is to save money on gas. To wit: The GOP governor has proposed a $100 fee for alternative fuel vehicles to make up for losses on the federal gas tax. As one person protesting the plan noted, “We should be rewarding people for trying to do their part to stop the climate crisis and to lower pollution. We shouldn’t be punishing them with taxes.” (Read more)

Texas vs. Obama: Given that Texans already launched an effort on the White House’s We the People site to succeed from the U.S., the results of a new Public Policy Polling survey should come as no surprise—the number of people who support secession efforts has increased since President Obama’s re-election in November. According to the poll, 20 percent of Texas voters said they’d like the Lone Star State to leave the union, up from 14 percent in September 2011. Unfortunately for the secession supporters, most Texans don’t share those beliefs. Two-thirds of voters in the state support Texas staying in the U.S., according to the poll. (Read more)

Video of the Day: On the latest edition of “Real Time,” host Bill Maher said the left shouldn’t be gloating about Sarah Palin’s getting dropped by Fox News. Why? Because it frees her to go the way of influential conservative pundits and “con men” like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. “Con men, like Rush and Beck, are one reason the Republicans are in such dire straits today because they don’t care about winning elections; they care about separating rubes from their money,” Maher explained. “They’ve discovered there is a fortune to be made by keeping a small portion of America under the illusion that they are always under attack from Mexicans, ACORN, or Planned Parenthood, or gays, or takers, global warming hoaxers. It doesn’t matter. They don’t want a majority; they want a mailing list.”

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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Conservative MPs urge Cameron to delay gay marriage vote, citing re-election worries

British Prime Minister David Cameron (AFP Photo / Justin Tallis)

British Prime Minister David Cameron (AFP Photo / Justin Tallis)

Members of UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party urged him to delay a parliamentary vote on gay marriage, warning it could harm his re-election bid. Conservative MPs are also preparing to defy Cameron’s plan to legalize gay marriage.

Opponents of the gay marriage bill have warned the issue could weaken the party and harm Cameron’s chances of re-election in 2015. Conservative association leader Geoffrey Vero called the bill a “dangerous risk to take with [Cameron’s] core supporters.”

A letter expressing disapproval of the bill signed by more than 20 chairs of local Conservative associations was sent to Downing Street on Sunday afternoon.

"We feel very strongly that the decision to bring this bill before parliament has been made without adequate debate or consultation with either the membership of the Conservative Party or with the country at large," the letter read. "Resignations from the party are beginning to multiply and we fear that, if enacted, this bill will lead to significant damage to the Conservative Party in the run-up to the 2015 election."

Around 180 MPs are prepared to defy Cameron’s plan to legalize gay weddings, the Sunday Telegraph reported. 

­

From civil union to a ‘great institution’

The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill would allow same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies. The bill would also allow couples who have previously entered into civil partnerships to convert their relationship into a marriage, and enable them to change their legal gender without having to end their union.

Civil partnerships for same-sex couples are legal in the UK, and provide the same legal rights as marriage. However, gay marriage supporters have claimed the distinction implies that gays and lesbians are inferior.

Cameron has spoken passionately about his belief in allowing same-sex couples to marry: "I'm a massive supporter of marriage and I don't want gay people to be excluded from a great institution,” he said in a statement.

He even argued that gay marriages are in tune with Conservative values – a claim disputed by many in his party.

“I am far from happy about these matters. These days, marriage seems to be taken too lightly by too many and an important thing to me is not to have marriage vows whether civil or religious devalued,” Conservative Deputy Chief Whip John Randall wrote in the letter to Downing Street.

­

Playing politics

As Conservatives warn that the bill could harm Cameron’s re-election chances, it appears their fears may be warranted.

A poll conducted by ComRes found that 62 percent of British ethnic minority voters believe marriage should only be permitted between a man and a woman. Those same minority voters have been identified by the Conservatives as a key demographic in the next election.

Nearly 70 percent of black voters polled said they believed Cameron’s desire to legalize same-sex marriages was “more about making the Conservative Party look trendy and modern” than his personal convictions.

Despite the overwhelming disapproval from Conservative MPs, the bill has received strong support from most of the Cabinet and younger members of the party, who have written to Tory MPs urging them to vote in favor.

Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs are also largely in favor of the bill, which is expected to be approved in the House of Commons on Tuesday. The bill will then move to Parliament’s Upper House, the House of Lords, which is expected to vote on it in May. It will then return to the House of Commons for a second vote.

Nonprofit Spends Big on Politics Despite IRS Limitation: American Future Fund Has Conservative Roots

Last fall, a cadre of wealthy business executives and conservative groups tried to sell California voters on new campaign finance reforms.

Couched in lofty rhetoric about the importance of cutting off money from special interests to politicians and other regulations favored by reformers, their proposal sought to ban the practice of using payroll deductions for political expenditures — a popular method of union fundraising.

Once alerted to the true nature of Proposition 32, the unions and political left rose up against it.

An innocuously named nonprofit, the Iowa-based American Future Fund, proved to be one of the biggest backers of the initiative, sinking more than $4 million into the ballot measure that voters ultimately rejected.

As a “social welfare” organization, the American Future Fund is not required to publicly disclose its donors. But to maintain its tax-exempt status under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code, influencing elections cannot be its primary purpose.

The American Future Fund’s investment in California was part of a nationwide, political advertising spree in 2012 that exceeded $29 million, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of state and federal records.

That amount included more than $19 million on efforts designed to oust President Barack Obama, as well as millions more to oppose Democratic candidates for Congress and even two state attorneys general. Now the group is funding adsopposing Obama’s nomination of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for defense secretary.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens Uniteddecision in 2010, nonprofits such as the American Future Fund have played a more prominent role in electoral contests — all while giving their supporters the ability to keep their identities hidden. During the 2010 midterm elections, politically active nonprofits outspent super PACs, which exist to fund political advertisements, by a 3-to-2 margin.

The American Future Fund ranked third among “social welfare” nonprofits in spending in the 2012 federal election,according to the Center for Responsive Politics, trailing only the Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

There are also Democratic-aligned nonprofits, but their spending was well below that of their conservative counterparts. The top left-leaning nonprofit was the League of Conservation Voters, which reported spending about $11 million in the 2012 election opposing or supporting candidates.

The American Future Fund’s spending “raises some serious questions” and “evades any form of meaningful disclosure,” said Adam Rappaport, senior counsel with watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Numerous officials with the American Future Fund did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Advocating for ‘free-market ideas’

The American Future Fund’s mission is to “educate and advocate for conservative and free-market ideas,” according to its annual filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

Despite asserting that it isn’t primarily focused on elections, the nonprofit’s DNA is decidedly political.

Conservative political operative Nick Ryan, a longtime adviser to former GOP Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa, founded it in 2007. Over the years, the group has paid Ryan’s firm, Concordia Enterprises, hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for consulting services.

In 2010, the New York Times reported that Iowa businessman Bruce Rastetter provided an unspecified amount of “seed money” for the organization. Ryan once represented four of Rastetter’s companies as a lobbyist, including Hawkeye Energy Holdings, one of the country’s largest ethanol producers.

The nonprofit’s first president was Nicole Schlinger, the former finance director of Iowa’s Republican Party. Its current president is veteran Republican state Sen. Sandra Greiner, who served for 14 years as the Iowa chairwoman of the pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council.

Ryan and Greiner did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2008, when the American Future Fund was seeking — and ultimately garnered — tax-exempt status from the IRS, it pledged to abstain from electoral politics, saying it would spend 70 percent of its time doing work to “educate the public on policy issues” and 30 percent engaging in efforts to “influence legislation through grassroots advocacy.”

When asked on its application if the group had any plans to spend money to “influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment” of anyone seeking public office, it answered “no.” It also vowed to stay out of the presidential race.

When the IRS subsequently inquired why the group’s advertisements “appear to be more partisan than nonpartisan,” the group’s attorney, Karen Blackistone, wrote that the efforts were “strictly issued-based and nonpartisan.”

The group takes a position on issues and encourages the public to contact their representative, she wrote in a 2008 response to the IRS.

“AFF’s advertisements have never commented on a candidate’s character, qualifications or fitness for office,” she stated.

Big money tied to post office box

The American Future Fund has raised more than $60 million, with spikes in contributions coming in election years.

Much of that money has come from another conservative “social welfare” nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors by name — the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights.

The nonprofit has no website and lists its address as a post office box in Phoenix. It was launched in 2009 by Republican operative Sean Noble, who has extensive ties to the vast political network underwritten by the Koch brothers.

Noble, a former chief of staff for former Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

For three years running, Noble’s organization has reported making substantial grants to the American Future Fund for “general support,” according to IRS filings. The nonprofit contributed more than $14 million to the American Future Fund between 2009 and 2011, or 51 percent of funds the group raised over the three-year period.

The Center to Protect Patient Rights has also given millions of dollars to a network of conservative groups, including the Koch-backed nonprofit Americans for Prosperity, as was first reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.

In addition to Noble, there is another Koch connection.

In 2008, Trent Sebits, the former manager of public and government affairs for the Kochs’ Wichita-based refining giant, Koch Industries, registered with the state of Kansas to lobby on behalf of the American Future Fund and Americans for Prosperity. Sebits did not respond to a request for comment.

The American Justice Partnership, another “social welfare” nonprofit, gave $50,000 to the American Future Fund in 2011 and $2.4 million in 2010, according to IRS filings. The group supports free enterprise and is often at odds with trial lawyers.

Dan Pero, its president, said in an emailed statement that the organization supported the American Future Fund to help “promote free enterprise and improve the fairness and predictability of the legal environment.”

Like super PACs, “social welfare” nonprofits are allowed to accept unlimited donations from individuals, corporations, unions and other organizations. The only funders whose names they are required to publicly disclose are those that make contributions earmarked for political purposes.

That’s as it should be, according to attorney Dan Backer, who is not affiliated the American Future Fund but does work with other conservative groups.

“A nonprofit makes its decisions by a board or other management structure, which is distinct from its donors,” Backer said.

Increasingly political

In 2010, the American Future Fund became far more politically active, reporting $8.6 million in political expenditures as well as millions more for “media services,” “telecommunications” and “mail service/production.” It told the Federal Election Commission that it spent $9.1 million on political advertisements.

Marcus Owens, former chief of the IRS’s nonprofits division, said it is “difficult to conjure up a situation where a particular expenditure would be reportable to the FEC but would not constitute political campaign intervention under tax law.”

Nevertheless, Owens said the organization could make a “straight-faced argument” that its orientation had simply changed over time to become more overtly political.

Of the $25 million that the American Future Fund reported spending to the FEC last year, more than 90 percent fueled ads that urged voters to support or reject candidates.

The group also sought the FEC’s advice on whether mentioning the White House or “the administration” in negative ads ahead of Election Day would be seen as referring to a “clearly identified candidate for federal office.”

Such a designation would have required the group to disclose information about its donors. (The commission deadlocked, 3-3, in a vote along party lines.)

In addition to the presidential race, the American Future Fund spent money in 20 congressional elections in 2012, including California’s 26th Congressional District, where it spent $500,000 attacking Democrat Julia Brownley, who, as a state legislator, had authored legislation to bolster disclosure for political advertisements.

She won anyway, but told the Center for Public Integrity that she is “deeply concerned” about the activities of non-disclosing groups in the wake of Citizens United and hopes to “take immediate action” to strengthen federal disclosure laws.

The American Future Fund also spent more than $542,000 to aid West Virginia Republican Patrick Morrisey in his successful quest to win the race for attorney general, records indicate, and more than $620,000 in a failed effort to sink Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat.

Complaints about the American Future Fund’s political activities have followed it since its creation.

In 2008, the Democratic Party in Minnesota contended that the group needed to register as a political committee after paying for ads that praised then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. The FEC disagreed.

Two years later, in October 2010, consumer group Public Citizen and two other organizations alleged that the American Future Fund’s “huge expenditures” to aid candidates in the midterm election should have triggered requirements that the group register as a political committee and disclose its donors. That complaint is still being considered by the FEC, which often takes years to fully resolve such matters.

CREW, the watchdog organization, filed a complaint against the American Future Fund with the IRS in February 2011 that challenged whether its primary purpose was something other than influencing elections. The group has dismissed the complaint as “baseless” and contends that CREW “only targets government officials and organizations who have a differing or conservative point of view.

‘GOP should stop being the stupid party’

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (file photo)

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says the Republican Party has to stop being the “stupid” party, as its approval ratings dipped to between 10 and 30 percent in recent public opinion polls.

Jindal made the remarks about his own party on Thursday in an address at the three-day winter meeting of the Republican National Committee, which was held in Charlotte, North Carolina and concluded on Friday.

It seems that Jindal has decided to resort to shock therapy to convince GOP officials that they must make serious efforts to improve the Republican Party’s image at this critical juncture.

“The Republican Party does not need to change our principles -- but we might need to change just about everything else we are doing.”

"We've got to stop being the stupid party. It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults," Jindal said. "We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I'm here to say we've had enough of that."


Jindal, thought to be a potential 2016 presidential contender, said Republicans have become obsessed with Capitol Hill number crunching and have failed to publicize the party's strong points on financial growth policies.

He contended that the Republicans had gone too far in the recent debates with the Democrats over “which party can better manage the federal government” and added, "If our vision is not bigger than that, we do not deserve to win."

Over the past two months, conservative Republicans have held high-stakes budget battles with President Barack Obama over raising the debt limit and "fiscal cliff" spending cuts and tax increases, which have been a public relations catastrophe for the party.

"We as Republicans have to accept that government number crunching -- even conservative number crunching -- is not the answer to our nation's problems," Jindal stated.

"If you take nothing else away from what I say today, please understand this -- we must not become the party of austerity. We must become the party of growth," he added.

GVN/HGL

Conservatives Have Their Worst Week Ever

Have Republicans, and the right wing in general, ever been more disjointed? More confused? More incapable of getting out of their own way?NRA head Wayne LaPierre. (Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/Getty Images)

Watching America's political conservatives try to counter-maneuver opposite Barack Obama's re-inauguration over the course of the last week has been an incredible comedy – like watching the Three Stooges try to perform a liver transplant on roller skates.

Let's review the basic timeline. First, Political Media, a conservative action group, decided to try to make an appeal to win the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere by declaring January 19th – previously known as Martin Luther King Day, to the rest of us – to be "Gun Appreciation Day."

On Daily Beast: No Winners in Angry Gun Control Debate

They solicited hundreds of sponsors and sought to get 50 million people to sign a goofball petition (written in the style of the Declaration of Independence, with a plethora of "Whereas…"-es... Why do gun people insist on trying to use 18th-century syntax?) against the "tyrannical governments" that were out to take their guns. "Gun Appreciation Day" would also involve gun shows and other local events all over the country, meant as a counter-balance to the candle-toting gun control protests that were springing up over last weekend in anticipation of Obama's inauguration and the rumored plans for new gun legislation.

But even before their excellent idea gets out of the gate, it stalls out, as obnoxious reporters check the list of "Gun Appreciation Day" sponsors and find that the "American Third Position," a group that purports to represent the "unique political interests of White Americans," is one of the event's sponsors.

So now, Political Media has not only decided to hold its Gun Appreciation Event on a holiday meant to celebrate the life of a black leader who was a symbol of nonviolent protest and who was killed by a white man with a gun, it's done so with the financial help of some yahoo white supremacist group. But this doesn't derail the whole thing, as it's of course just an innocent mistake. Political Media kicks "Third Position" out and appropriately issues a statement, saying, "We have removed the group and reiterate this event is not about racial politics, it is about gun politics."

So far, so good, right? Well, then they go and actually hold their "Gun Appreciation Day" rallies all over the country, on Martin Luther King Day. And what happens? Five people get accidentally shot!

You can't make this stuff up. In three separate incidents – one in North Carolina, one in Ohio and one in Indiana – gun-loving real Americans did their darndest to worsen the demographics in the favor of the gun control lobby by blowing themselves away with accidental discharges. They failed, fortunately – all five victims in the three incidents survived – but you literally can't script a worse outcome for a political sideshow meant to highlight Americans' love of the wholesome, safe exercise of gun rights.

In North Carolina, three people – a 50-year-old man, a 54-year-old woman, and a 50-year-old retired sheriff's deputy – were injured when someone pulled a shotgun out of a display case and the 12-gauge accidentally went off, spraying the three people with birdshot.

In Ohio, a gun dealer was "checking out" a semi-automatic handgun he'd brought to a show at the Medina County Fairgrounds when he "accidentally" pulled the trigger, forgetting that, while he'd removed the magazine, he'd left a round in the chamber. According to the local police chief, the bullet "struck the floor, then a longtime friend of the gun dealer. The man was wounded in the arm and leg."

The man was rushed by helicopter to a hospital in Cleveland. I sure hope that dude has private health insurance that he paid for. If it turns out that taxpayers had to foot the bill for a freaking helicopter flight to rescue the friend of some gun-toting conservative who decided to protest the socialist Obama administration by accidentally shooting a pal on Martin Luther King Day, that would be some kind of embarrassing, wouldn't it?

Of course, that would fit right in with the kind of week gun advocates had. In a show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, one Emory Cozee was loading his .45 while walking back to his car when he accidentally shot himself in the wrist. Once again, the taxpayer had to step in to the man's aid, as state troopers rushed to the scene and transported Cozee to a nearby hospital. No charges were filed, stupidity not yet being against the law in Indiana, or anywhere else.

Beyond those five people getting shot, the other "Gun Appreciation" events went on without incident. Then we had Obama's inauguration, where the president took more than one opportunity to goad the gun lobby in advance of an upcoming heated fight over his proposed gun restrictions, saying among other things, "Being true to our founding documents . . . does not mean we will all define liberty in the same way," and, "We cannot substitute absolutism for principle."

Without even taking a position on Obama or his proposed gun law, let me say this: The president, when he makes his case, does not come across like a drooling maniac, like he's pissed off to the point of reaching back, grabbing a frying pan, and belting you across the forehead if you even think about disagreeing with him. He comes across like what he is – a calm, experienced attorney making a rhetorical argument to adults. That, plus a lot of video of little kids' bodies being hauled out of school rooms in suburban Connecticut, can win you a lot of votes with people on the fence on the gun issue.

Then there's Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA. He came out after Obama's speech and gave one of his own at the Weatherby International Hunting and Conservation Awards in Reno, Nevada. In it, LaPierre weaved back and forth like a maniac, his blond forelock heaving, as he blurted out semi-coherent, quasi-grammatical defenses of "absolutism," saying things like "absolutes do exist, it's [sic] the basis of all civilization," and "without those absolutes, democracy decays into nothing more than two wolves and one lamb voting on who to eat for lunch."

He then proceeded to double down on his organization's lunatic decision to inject Obama's daughters into the national gun debate, saying, "If neither criminals nor the political class, with their bodyguards and security people, are limited by magazine capacity, we shouldn't be limited in our capacity, either."

This was clearly a reference to the controversy about the NRA's recent TV buy, in which they blasted Obama for being an "elitist hypocrite" for allowing his daughters to have Secret Service protection while Joe Sixpack has to send his kids to school without paramilitary security experts. "Protection for their kids, and gun-free zones for ours," was the ad's nutty tagline.

The NRA was rightfully blasted for that crazy-ass commercial, which made no sense on any level and mainly painted the NRA as a bunch of disturbed rage-addicts who are completely out of touch with national sentiment after Sandy Hook. (Yes, the president's kids have Secret Service protection – to protect them from your members, you idiots!)

Overall, people like LaPierre have fallen into every single political trap that's been laid for them in the last month, allowing Democrats to paint them as humorless, frustrated and probably dangerous political radicals whose response to Sandy Hook has been to publicly attack the president's minor children and to propose more guns in schools. Even the surge in NRA membership numbers since Sandy Hook is a net minus for the NRA, politically, because it scares the hell out of normal people and will result in increased pressure on pro-NRA congressional members to distance themselves from people whose response to piles of mowed-down children is to buy more guns.

So to recap: The gun lobby's response to Obama's inauguration was to organize a "Gun Appreciation Day" on Martin Luther King Day that left five of their own gun-loving members accidentally shot. Then they responded to Obama's inaugural speech by doubling down on the "elitist hypocrite" ad that earned them near-universal condemnation previously. So how could things get worse?

Well, you could have a spokesman for Political Media, which organized "Gun Appreciation Day," tell the Hollywood Reporter that Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained is the perfect argument in support of gun rights. Political Media's Larry Ward said he's considering a "What Would Django Do?" campaign as part of this new rhetorical line they're thinking of trying to sell, particularly to the black community. The idea is, get this, that there wouldn't have been slavery if slaves had had gun rights.

"Django is perfect for what we're trying to do," said Ward, "which is to promote gun rights to minorities."

Hey, dipshit: Before anyone allowed slaves to have guns, they would have had to have other rights, like for instance being considered human beings. Are you people completely stupid? You'd have to have hoovered more coke than even Quentin Tarantino to imagine a world where white slave owners denied black people freedom of movement, denied them education and freedom of speech and dominion over their own bodies, but then for some reason also allowed them to buy guns. Jesus Christ! The whole point of slavery is that slaves didn't have any rights, much less the right to bear arms.

Now, Django Unchained is a movie that uses the N-word 109 times (breaking the all-time record set by Finding Nemo, as Kamau Bell wittily noted) and was so historically jumbled that it featured scenes of both the Ku Klux Klan and sunglasses before either existed. Can you imagine any white guy going into Bedford-Stuyvestant or Compton or any other place where so many young black people have been killed by guns, and trying to connect with them by telling them you're down with Django Unchained? That's how out-to-lunch these NRA dudes are, that they genuinely think this is their entrée into minority communities.

I'm not naïve enough to think that just being publicly stupid is going to result in political problems for American conservatives. That's never been the case before – hell, there are still people out there who think Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. There's enough popular anger out there toward Barack Obama that someone like Wayne LaPierre could probably shoot skeet on Martin Luther King's grave and public support for the NRA still won't drop below 40 percent.

But the behavior of the gun lobby in the last month will, for sure, have an impact on people who are on the fence about gun control. Moreover, there's bigger game in play here. The Republicans post-2012 have been staring down the barrel of an increasingly desperate demographic problem that will require the party to find some way to market itself to blacks, Hispanics, women, gays and other minorities or else be relegated to permanent minority status.

But after Sandy Hook, the Democrats have skillfully painted the Republicans as the party of scary-looking and scary-sounding white maniacs like Tennessee security-company CEO James Yeager, a shaven-headed, soul-patched anger-sick white loony who posted a video promising to go ape if gun laws are enacted. "If this goes one inch further, I'm going to start killing people," Yeager said.

Conservatives could have dealt with this post-Sandy Hook political curveball in a number of ways, from simply shutting up and working quietly behind the scenes to scuttle gun control efforts (that always worked before) to announcing willingness to engage in some extremely mild compromise (like maybe prohibiting schizophrenics from carrying machine guns near kindergartens).

Instead, they decided to piss all over Martin Luther King Day and then shoot themselves by the half-dozen in the process.

Well done, fellas! You're well on your way to solving your demographic problems.

© 2012 Rolling Stone

Matt Taibbi

As Rolling Stone’s chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

Conservatives Have Their Worst Week Ever

Have Republicans, and the right wing in general, ever been more disjointed? More confused? More incapable of getting out of their own way?NRA head Wayne LaPierre. (Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/Getty Images)

Watching America's political conservatives try to counter-maneuver opposite Barack Obama's re-inauguration over the course of the last week has been an incredible comedy – like watching the Three Stooges try to perform a liver transplant on roller skates.

Let's review the basic timeline. First, Political Media, a conservative action group, decided to try to make an appeal to win the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere by declaring January 19th – previously known as Martin Luther King Day, to the rest of us – to be "Gun Appreciation Day."

On Daily Beast: No Winners in Angry Gun Control Debate

They solicited hundreds of sponsors and sought to get 50 million people to sign a goofball petition (written in the style of the Declaration of Independence, with a plethora of "Whereas…"-es... Why do gun people insist on trying to use 18th-century syntax?) against the "tyrannical governments" that were out to take their guns. "Gun Appreciation Day" would also involve gun shows and other local events all over the country, meant as a counter-balance to the candle-toting gun control protests that were springing up over last weekend in anticipation of Obama's inauguration and the rumored plans for new gun legislation.

But even before their excellent idea gets out of the gate, it stalls out, as obnoxious reporters check the list of "Gun Appreciation Day" sponsors and find that the "American Third Position," a group that purports to represent the "unique political interests of White Americans," is one of the event's sponsors.

So now, Political Media has not only decided to hold its Gun Appreciation Event on a holiday meant to celebrate the life of a black leader who was a symbol of nonviolent protest and who was killed by a white man with a gun, it's done so with the financial help of some yahoo white supremacist group. But this doesn't derail the whole thing, as it's of course just an innocent mistake. Political Media kicks "Third Position" out and appropriately issues a statement, saying, "We have removed the group and reiterate this event is not about racial politics, it is about gun politics."

So far, so good, right? Well, then they go and actually hold their "Gun Appreciation Day" rallies all over the country, on Martin Luther King Day. And what happens? Five people get accidentally shot!

You can't make this stuff up. In three separate incidents – one in North Carolina, one in Ohio and one in Indiana – gun-loving real Americans did their darndest to worsen the demographics in the favor of the gun control lobby by blowing themselves away with accidental discharges. They failed, fortunately – all five victims in the three incidents survived – but you literally can't script a worse outcome for a political sideshow meant to highlight Americans' love of the wholesome, safe exercise of gun rights.

In North Carolina, three people – a 50-year-old man, a 54-year-old woman, and a 50-year-old retired sheriff's deputy – were injured when someone pulled a shotgun out of a display case and the 12-gauge accidentally went off, spraying the three people with birdshot.

In Ohio, a gun dealer was "checking out" a semi-automatic handgun he'd brought to a show at the Medina County Fairgrounds when he "accidentally" pulled the trigger, forgetting that, while he'd removed the magazine, he'd left a round in the chamber. According to the local police chief, the bullet "struck the floor, then a longtime friend of the gun dealer. The man was wounded in the arm and leg."

The man was rushed by helicopter to a hospital in Cleveland. I sure hope that dude has private health insurance that he paid for. If it turns out that taxpayers had to foot the bill for a freaking helicopter flight to rescue the friend of some gun-toting conservative who decided to protest the socialist Obama administration by accidentally shooting a pal on Martin Luther King Day, that would be some kind of embarrassing, wouldn't it?

Of course, that would fit right in with the kind of week gun advocates had. In a show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, one Emory Cozee was loading his .45 while walking back to his car when he accidentally shot himself in the wrist. Once again, the taxpayer had to step in to the man's aid, as state troopers rushed to the scene and transported Cozee to a nearby hospital. No charges were filed, stupidity not yet being against the law in Indiana, or anywhere else.

Beyond those five people getting shot, the other "Gun Appreciation" events went on without incident. Then we had Obama's inauguration, where the president took more than one opportunity to goad the gun lobby in advance of an upcoming heated fight over his proposed gun restrictions, saying among other things, "Being true to our founding documents . . . does not mean we will all define liberty in the same way," and, "We cannot substitute absolutism for principle."

Without even taking a position on Obama or his proposed gun law, let me say this: The president, when he makes his case, does not come across like a drooling maniac, like he's pissed off to the point of reaching back, grabbing a frying pan, and belting you across the forehead if you even think about disagreeing with him. He comes across like what he is – a calm, experienced attorney making a rhetorical argument to adults. That, plus a lot of video of little kids' bodies being hauled out of school rooms in suburban Connecticut, can win you a lot of votes with people on the fence on the gun issue.

Then there's Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA. He came out after Obama's speech and gave one of his own at the Weatherby International Hunting and Conservation Awards in Reno, Nevada. In it, LaPierre weaved back and forth like a maniac, his blond forelock heaving, as he blurted out semi-coherent, quasi-grammatical defenses of "absolutism," saying things like "absolutes do exist, it's [sic] the basis of all civilization," and "without those absolutes, democracy decays into nothing more than two wolves and one lamb voting on who to eat for lunch."

He then proceeded to double down on his organization's lunatic decision to inject Obama's daughters into the national gun debate, saying, "If neither criminals nor the political class, with their bodyguards and security people, are limited by magazine capacity, we shouldn't be limited in our capacity, either."

This was clearly a reference to the controversy about the NRA's recent TV buy, in which they blasted Obama for being an "elitist hypocrite" for allowing his daughters to have Secret Service protection while Joe Sixpack has to send his kids to school without paramilitary security experts. "Protection for their kids, and gun-free zones for ours," was the ad's nutty tagline.

The NRA was rightfully blasted for that crazy-ass commercial, which made no sense on any level and mainly painted the NRA as a bunch of disturbed rage-addicts who are completely out of touch with national sentiment after Sandy Hook. (Yes, the president's kids have Secret Service protection – to protect them from your members, you idiots!)

Overall, people like LaPierre have fallen into every single political trap that's been laid for them in the last month, allowing Democrats to paint them as humorless, frustrated and probably dangerous political radicals whose response to Sandy Hook has been to publicly attack the president's minor children and to propose more guns in schools. Even the surge in NRA membership numbers since Sandy Hook is a net minus for the NRA, politically, because it scares the hell out of normal people and will result in increased pressure on pro-NRA congressional members to distance themselves from people whose response to piles of mowed-down children is to buy more guns.

So to recap: The gun lobby's response to Obama's inauguration was to organize a "Gun Appreciation Day" on Martin Luther King Day that left five of their own gun-loving members accidentally shot. Then they responded to Obama's inaugural speech by doubling down on the "elitist hypocrite" ad that earned them near-universal condemnation previously. So how could things get worse?

Well, you could have a spokesman for Political Media, which organized "Gun Appreciation Day," tell the Hollywood Reporter that Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained is the perfect argument in support of gun rights. Political Media's Larry Ward said he's considering a "What Would Django Do?" campaign as part of this new rhetorical line they're thinking of trying to sell, particularly to the black community. The idea is, get this, that there wouldn't have been slavery if slaves had had gun rights.

"Django is perfect for what we're trying to do," said Ward, "which is to promote gun rights to minorities."

Hey, dipshit: Before anyone allowed slaves to have guns, they would have had to have other rights, like for instance being considered human beings. Are you people completely stupid? You'd have to have hoovered more coke than even Quentin Tarantino to imagine a world where white slave owners denied black people freedom of movement, denied them education and freedom of speech and dominion over their own bodies, but then for some reason also allowed them to buy guns. Jesus Christ! The whole point of slavery is that slaves didn't have any rights, much less the right to bear arms.

Now, Django Unchained is a movie that uses the N-word 109 times (breaking the all-time record set by Finding Nemo, as Kamau Bell wittily noted) and was so historically jumbled that it featured scenes of both the Ku Klux Klan and sunglasses before either existed. Can you imagine any white guy going into Bedford-Stuyvestant or Compton or any other place where so many young black people have been killed by guns, and trying to connect with them by telling them you're down with Django Unchained? That's how out-to-lunch these NRA dudes are, that they genuinely think this is their entrée into minority communities.

I'm not naïve enough to think that just being publicly stupid is going to result in political problems for American conservatives. That's never been the case before – hell, there are still people out there who think Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. There's enough popular anger out there toward Barack Obama that someone like Wayne LaPierre could probably shoot skeet on Martin Luther King's grave and public support for the NRA still won't drop below 40 percent.

But the behavior of the gun lobby in the last month will, for sure, have an impact on people who are on the fence about gun control. Moreover, there's bigger game in play here. The Republicans post-2012 have been staring down the barrel of an increasingly desperate demographic problem that will require the party to find some way to market itself to blacks, Hispanics, women, gays and other minorities or else be relegated to permanent minority status.

But after Sandy Hook, the Democrats have skillfully painted the Republicans as the party of scary-looking and scary-sounding white maniacs like Tennessee security-company CEO James Yeager, a shaven-headed, soul-patched anger-sick white loony who posted a video promising to go ape if gun laws are enacted. "If this goes one inch further, I'm going to start killing people," Yeager said.

Conservatives could have dealt with this post-Sandy Hook political curveball in a number of ways, from simply shutting up and working quietly behind the scenes to scuttle gun control efforts (that always worked before) to announcing willingness to engage in some extremely mild compromise (like maybe prohibiting schizophrenics from carrying machine guns near kindergartens).

Instead, they decided to piss all over Martin Luther King Day and then shoot themselves by the half-dozen in the process.

Well done, fellas! You're well on your way to solving your demographic problems.

© 2012 Rolling Stone

Matt Taibbi

As Rolling Stone’s chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

There Was a Time When Conservatives Advocated Gun Control

For anyone who missed it over the weekend, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry had a rather interesting segment to open her show on Sunday, where she said conservatives haven't always been against gun control laws and the issue wasn't necessarily a partisan one. She gave viewers a little history lesson about the days when the Black Panthers were taking up arms on the streets of California and none other than conservative icon St. Ronnie Reagan was signing legislation to disarm them.

So... if we want to get conservatives to go along with some sort of gun control legislation, do we need to try to bring back the Black Panthers and get them back out there advocating for open carry? They all loved it when we had these TeaBirchers out there bringing guns to rallies and town hall meetings protesting the health care law. If Fox was going crazy over just a few of these New Black Panthers standing outside of a polling place, imagine how they'd act if we had the old Black Panther Party back, '60's style, armed and ready to stand up for their Second Amendment rights.

For more on what Harris-Perry was talking about here and what went down with the Black Panthers in the '60's, check out this article from The Atlantic from back in Sept. of 2011: The Secret History of Guns:

The Ku Klux Klan, Ronald Reagan, and, for most of its history, the NRA all worked to control guns. The Founding Fathers? They required gun ownership—and regulated it. And no group has more fiercely advocated the right to bear loaded weapons in public than the Black Panthers—the true pioneers of the modern pro-gun movement. In the battle over gun rights in America, both sides have distorted history and the law, and there’s no resolution in sight.

Conservative MPs Tell David Cameron To Take Powers Back From EU

Conservative backbenchers will today tell David Cameron he must claw back full British control over social and employment law from Brussels and warn the "status quo is no longer an option". The Fresh Start group, which is said to have wide support amo...

Nick Clegg Unveils Liberal Party ‘Memorial’

Nick Clegg inadvertently lamented the death of his own party's values on Monday when he unveiled a plaque commemorating the founding of the Liberal Party and refereed to it as a "memorial". As the Liberal Democrat leader reflected on the beginnings of...

Gunman opens fire on Greek party HQ with AK-47

A police member stands on January 14, 2013 outside the headquarters of the New Democracy conservative party in Athens. Shots were fired early on January 14 near the offices of main Greek ruling party New Democracy in Athens, police said, after a recent wave of arson attacks against political offices.(AFP Photo / Aris Messinis)

A police member stands on January 14, 2013 outside the headquarters of the New Democracy conservative party in Athens. Shots were fired early on January 14 near the offices of main Greek ruling party New Democracy in Athens, police said, after a recent wave of arson attacks against political offices.(AFP Photo / Aris Messinis)

A gunman opened fire on the headquarters of Greece’s ruling New Democracy party in a seemingly randomized shooting spree. The building was empty at the time of the attack, but one round hit the office where the Greek PM sometimes works.

Spokesperson for the Greek government Simos Kedikoglou told press that no party members were in the building at the time of the attack and that one of the stray bullets had hit the window of the office where the Prime Minister occasionally works.

Minister Antonis Samaras spends most of his time in a different office in the center of Athens.

"Of course there could have been (victims). There could have been a cleaner in the prime minister's office or a security guard at the site," Kedikoglou said. He stressed that the “government will take every action necessary to safeguard our democracy."

Police immediately cordoned off the area around the Greek capital’s crowded Syngrou Avenue, to the South of the city center.

According to police reports, two men emerged from a vehicle on Syngrou Avenue and one opened fire on the New Democracy Party’s headquarters with a Kalashnikov.

Police are now investigating a stolen burnt out car that they suspect to be the vehicle used in the incident.

No group or political organization has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but it comes off the back of a wave of attacks on New Democracy officers with firebombs over the weekend.

Similarly, on Friday unidentified assailants reportedly threw the homemade incendiary devices into the homes of five Greek journalists working for state media. Government spokesperson Kedikoglou’s brother was also targeted in the spate of attacks, sparking a sharp condemnation from the Greek government.

An anarchist group said it was behind the attacks on January 11, justifying the attack as a protest against the one-sided coverage of the financial crisis by the Greek press.

"We believe the attacks are related to the latest economic developments and the way the journalists present the facts,"
a police official, who preferred to be unnamed, told Reuters.

Greece has just entered into the sixth year of its toxic financial crisis, with the government planning to implement more austerity measure to try and bring down the public deficit.

The sweeping measures have sparked widespread public anger, triggering protests and street violence throughout the country. As a result of the crisis Greece has seen a rise in the popularity in more extremist political groups as disillusioned Greeks move away from mainstream politics.

AFP Photo / Aris Messinis
AFP Photo / Aris Messinis

AFP Photo / Aris Messinis
AFP Photo / Aris Messinis

AFP Photo / Aris Messinis
AFP Photo / Aris Messinis

David Cameron Faces Party Battle Over Europe

David Cameron is facing a challenge to hold his party together as battle lines are drawn over Europe.

With just over a week until the Prime Minister's key speech on Britain's relationship with the EU, Tory Europhiles have launched a fight-back against demands for an in-out referendum.

Cabinet minister Ken Clarke will share a platform with Labour peer Lord Mandelson later this month to stress the benefits of remaining in the union.

The move comes after fellow Conservative Lord Heseltine warned that the economy would suffer if Mr Cameron took a "punt" and committed to a national poll on membership.

Around 20 Tory MPs have also apparently signed a letter, due to be published this week, warning of "massive damage" if the UK leaves the EU.

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told Sky's Murnaghan show that he, Mr Cameron and many other MPs were in agreement on the EU's importance to Britain.

The Lib Dem said the idea of isolating Britain from Europe was "just mad". "That would be completely the wrong thing," he said.

"In the end it is our national interest, our national interest in terms of our economy and jobs and society that has to come first in any approach."

Labour leader Ed Miliband on Sunday criticised Mr Cameron's handling of the situation as "incredibly dangerous", and he ruled out promising a referendum before the future shape of the EU was clear.

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "I think he is essentially sleepwalking us towards the exit door of the EU.

"The last thing we should do is start saying for some date five, six, seven years hence, let's decide now to have an in-out referendum."

Mr Miliband went on: "As Michael Heseltine said very well ... that means you are having a referendum on a negotiation that has not yet begun, with a timescale that is uncertain and an outcome that is unknown. That is an incredible gamble.

"We know why this is happening. (Mr Cameron) is worried about the threat from UKIP and he is worried about what is happening in his own party."

Rumours have been circulating that Downing Street has given tacit approval to efforts to highlight the dangers of an exit.

In an unusual intervention last week, senior US diplomat Philip Gordon openly stated that America wanted Britain to remain in the EU.

Prominent business figures including Sir Richard Branson have also spoken out about the potentially dire consequences of severing ties.

Tory backbencher Robert Buckland, who has organised the pro-membership letter, said he had been informed that Number 10 regarded his efforts as "helpful".

"There is a silent majority out there who do not want Britain to leave the EU," he told the Mail on Sunday.

"The danger for the Tories is that because the right-wing Eurosceptics are making the most noise, we could slide towards the exit door of the EU."

According to the Observer, Mr Clarke and Lord Mandelson are spearheading a new organisation, the Centre for British Influence through Europe.

The group, due to launch at the end of the month, will apparently support a cross-party "patriotic fightback for British leadership in Europe".

William Hague represents Conservative-Liberal Democrat government in Washington

Foreign secretary William Hague will represent the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat government in the US today as he makes his first foreign trip since the...

‘Anti-austerity protests tip of iceberg’

Reports coming out of the UK suggest that more anti-austerity protests are expected to be held in the country following the surprise victory of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, I think yesterday’s demonstration is the first but it won’t be the last and it won’t be the biggest demonstration against the Tories," John Rees, the Spokesperson for The People’s Assembly Against Austerity told Press TV on Sunday.

He said thousands of people have already announced that they would take part in the rallies scheduled to be held next month.

“The People’s Assembly is planning on 20th of June a demonstration which has over 30,000 people saying they are coming to it on Facebook and that’s a month before it takes place,” John Rees added.   

On Saturday, British police clash with anti-austerity protesters in central London as thousands turn out to express anger at Tories rise to majority rule with only 37 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, media published on social networks indicated a heavy-handed response to the rally.

Many protesters called for proportional representation, insisting that their voices are not being attended to under the current voting arrangement. 

London-based political commentator Rodney Shakespeare described the protest rally as a sign of public anger about British government’s policies as well as the result of the recent parliamentary elections.

“Out on the streets you have got anger about the British foreign policy not being discussed, you have got anger about poverty and the cuts which are coming and that wasn’t really being discussed... you have got anger about the no recognition of the overall economic system, you have got particular anger over the results of the election which meant that all the small parties… except the SNP… were not having a fair deal,” Professor Shakespeare told Press TV.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party won an overall majority required to form a new government.

The Tories grabbed 331 seats in the House of Commons, 24 more than in 2010. Labour won 232, the Lib Dems 8, the SNP 56, UKIP 1, and other parties secured 22 seats.

SP/HA

‘UK democracy run by big business’

The victory of Conservatives in UK general elections has sparked hot debates among experts about the democratic nature of its political system and economic prospect.

One of the main points which is repeated in most debates is that the austerity measures would continue in the next five years.

“Obviously we had a 5 year coalition government where at least some of the extreme right-wing policies of the conservative party was controlled and managed by the Lib Dems. What we are likely to see is that the austerity measures now are taking a full speed,” London-based commentator Shabbir Razvi told Press TV.

He blamed the Conservatives politicians for not briefing the nations over the budgets allocated for various fields saying:” What we have is that austerity measures will continue unabated and really what this reflects is that Britain is very much a democracy, or a form of democracy, which can be bought by money.”

According to Razvi, at the end of last year, the electoral commission found that Tories received the largest amount of donations at 8 billion, the bulk of which came from financial associates in banks, different industries and business.

The analyst said the Tories are now going to follow the agenda of big corporations, big businesses saying what big corporations want is to create a sort of jargon and euphemistically it is called to create a competitive environment.

“What the multinational corporations want is that vast majority of the people in the UK to be working at a very minimum wage so that the corporations make bigger and bigger profits and at the same time cuts and the privatization of the national health service, cuts and the privatization of the police service, the fire service, and so on,” he noted.

 He then referred to the relatively low turnout in the general elections saying out of the 45 million people who were eligible for vote, only 30 million voted.

“That means the largest party that didn’t participate in the elections was the non-voters and the conservative party only got 35 percent of the popular vote, he said.

Razvi slammed the form of democracy in the UK saying that it appears that the form of democracy that is being practiced in the UK, the mother of all democracies, is not really quite democratic as it is run by big businesses, big media tycoons, and the rich and the wealthy.

MTM/MH

So You Want To Help Africa Mr Paterson? Then Stop Promoting Ideology And Falsehoods...

Countercurrents and RINF 23/2/2015, Global Research and The 4th Media 24/2/2015, Il Cambiamento 25/2/2015, London Progressive Journal 21/3/2015

According to Mathew Holehouse in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper (here), former UK Environment Minister Owen Paterson will this week accuse the European Union and Greenpeace of condemning people in the developing world to death by refusing to accept genetically modified crops. Speaking in Pretoria, South Africa, on Tuesday, Paterson will warn that a food revolution that could save Africa from hunger is being held back and that the world is on the cusp of a green revolution, of the kind that fed a billion people in the 1960s and 1970s as the world’s population soared.

After talking about a growing global population and the pivotal role of GMOs in feeding it, Paterson will assert:

"This is also a time, however, of great mischief, in which many individuals and even governments are turning their backs on progress. Not since the original Luddites smashed cotton mill machinery in early 19th century England, have we seen such an organised, fanatical antagonism to progress and science. These enemies of the Green Revolution call themselves ‘progressive’, but their agenda could hardly be more backward-looking and regressive… their policies would condemn billions to hunger, poverty and underdevelopment. And their insistence on mandating primitive, inefficient farming techniques would decimate the earth’s remaining wild spaces, devastate species and biodiversity, and leave our natural ecology poorer as a result.”

Instead of parroting the corporate spin of the pro-GMO lobby, Paterson would do better to consider more viable options that he likes to denigrate as 'backward-looking and regressive' by listening to what Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated in April of last year: 

“We don’t have a goal of developing GM products here or to import them.  We can feed ourselves with normal, common, not genetically modified products.  If the Americans like to eat such products, let them eat them.  We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.” (see here)

Or maybe Paterson would benefit from heeding a Statement signed by 24 delegates from 18 African countries to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization in 1998:

“We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us. We do not believe that such companies or gene technologies will help our farmers to produce the food that is needed in the 21st century. On the contrary, we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millennia, and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves.”

Perhaps he should also listen to Viva Kermani (here - supported by data) when talking about the situation in India:

“… the statements that they [supporters of GMOs] use such as “thousands die of hunger daily in India” are irresponsible and baseless scare-mongering with a view to projecting GM as the only answer. When our people go hungry, or suffer from malnutrition, it is not for lack of food, it is because their right to safe and nutritious food that is culturally connected has been blocked. That is why it is not a technological fix problem and GM has no place in it.”

Paterson has a history of engaging in the type of emotional blackmail and smearing of critics that comes second nature to the pro-GMO lobby. Anyone (usually portrayed as affluent Westerners – which is not true, given many of the critics are not ‘Western’, affluent or reside in ‘developed’ countries) who opposes GM crops or food is painted as an enemy of the poor because they take food from their bellies (see this). Paterson is using a rhetorical device deliberately designed to mislead and stir up emotion. His tactics are based on spurious claims about the efficacy of GMO technology and are intended to divert attention away from the true nature and causes of hunger and food poverty.

Proponents of GM crops constantly claim that we need such technology to address hunger and to feed a growing global population. We are told by the GMO biotech lobby that GM crops are essential, are better for the environment and will provide the tools that farmers need in a time of climate chaos. They claim that GM crops provide higher yields and higher incomes for farmers around the world. All such claims have been shown to be bogus.

For example, let us take one report from the many that could be cited to show the fallacious nature of these claims. The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) last year released a report that concluded hunger is caused by poverty and inequality and that we already produce enough food to feed the world’s population and did so even at the peak of the world food crisis in 2008. The report went on to say that current global food production provides enough to feed ten billion people and the recent food price crises of 2008 and 2011 both took place in years of record global harvests, clearly showing that these crises were not the result of scarcity.

CBAN also noted that the GM crops that are on the market today are not designed to address hunger. Four GM crops account for almost 100 percent of worldwide GM crop acreage, and all four have been developed for large-scale industrial farming systems and are used as cash crops for export, to produce fuel or for processed food and animal feed.

The report also stated that GM crops have not increased yields and do not increase farmers’ incomes. GM crops lead to an increase in pesticide use and cause further harm to the environment. Pesticide reduction was the primary selling point for Bt cotton adoption in India, but overall pesticide use has not decreased in any state that grows Bt cotton, with the exception of Andhra Pradesh. Read the full report that contains over 100 references in in support of these claims.

Hunger, food security and ‘feeding the world’ is a political, social and economic problem and no amount of gene splicing is capable of surmounting obstacles like poor roads, inadequate rural credit systems and insufficient irrigation.

Paterson's talk about backward, regressive, primitive farming practices that would condemn millions to hunger and decimate the ecology is again playing on fear and emotion. What he says has no basis in reality.

Numerous official reports have argued that to feed the hungry in poorer regions we need to support diverse, sustainable agro-ecological methods of farming and strengthen local food economies: for example, see this UN report, this official report, this report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and this report by 400 experts which was twice peer reviewed. 

See also see this report that indicates GMOs are not necessary to feed the world.

So from where and from who is Paterson getting his information from? I think we know the answer.

It is after all small farms and peasant farmers (more often than not serving local communities) that are more productive than giant industrial (export-oriented) farms and which produce most of the world’s food (see this report from GRAIN). The experience with GM crops shows that the application of GM technology is more likely to actually undermine food security and entrench the social, economic and environmental problems created by industrial agriculture and corporate control (see this other report from GRAIN and this article by Helena Paul documenting ecocide and genocide in South America due to the imposition of GM crops there).

“The problem is that the poor have no money to buy food and increasingly, no access to land on which to grow it… GM is a dangerous distraction from real solutions and claims that GM can help feed the world can be viewed as exploitation of the suffering of the hungry. GM crops do not increase yield. Nor are there any GM crops that are better than non-GM crops at tolerating poor soils or challenging climate conditions. Thus it is difficult to see how GM can contribute to solving world hunger… The two major GM crops, soy and maize, mostly go into animal feed for intensive livestock operations, biofuels to power cars, and processed human food – products for wealthy nations that have nothing to do with meeting the basic food needs of the poor and hungry.”

This above quote is from the Open Earth Source report GMOs Myths and Truths. The report provides specific details about GM crops that have been specifically promoted as helping small-scale and poor farmers in Africa. However, the results were the opposite of what was promised and all these projects failed.

Owen Paterson is a staunch supporter of GM technology, so staunch in fact that fellow Conservative Party MP Zac Goldsmith stated Paterson was little more than an industry puppet (see this in the UK’s Independent newspaper that quotes Goldsmith).

Paterson is ignorant of or at least content to side line the devastating, deleterious health, environmental, social and economic impacts of GMOs, which are outined in the 'GMO Myths and Truths' report. He acts as a mouthpieces for the GMO biotech sector and has made numerous false claims about the benefits and safety of GMOs that fly in the face of research findings.

In the recent past, he was keen to reassure the British public that safety concerns over GMOs are based on "humbug" and that GM food is completely safe to eat. See this article, which outlines Paterson’s stance and critiques his claims. 

When Paterson talks about 'enemies' of the 'green revolution' as being fanatical Luddites, he may also like to consider that the ‘green revolution’ was not the resounding success he likes to portray it as. Raj Patel provides some revealing insight into how the ‘green revolution’ took credit for many gains in Indian agricultural that were due to other influences (see this). And, of course, the ‘green revolution’ was based on, among other things, massive external inputs, violence, severe environmental and human health degradation and debt (see this – the entire text of Vandana Shiva’s book ‘The Violence of the Green Revolution’ - and this and this, which both highlight the current agrarian crisis in Punjab, the original ‘poster boy’ of the ‘green revolution’).   

It comes as no surprise that Paterson would state the things he does. As Environment Minister, his support for GMOs was being carried out in partnership with a number of pro-GMO institutions, including the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), which is backed by GM companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience. Last year, despite government attempts to throw a veil of secrecy over meetings and conversations it had with the industry, GeneWatch UK uncovered evidence that GMO companies are driving UK government policy in this area (see here). 

So if you were still wondering from where and whom Paterson is getting his information from, it should by now be clear. 

His attacks on Greenpeace and others who advocate a shift away from petrochemical/GM agriculture towards sustainable farming are part of the wider media campaign to demonize scientists and prominent anti-GMO campaigners. A number of hatchet pieces have in recent months branded Vandana Shiva a liar and a charlatan and the GMO lobby has assembled all the ingredients (not least a massive amount of money) of a classic yet predictable propaganda campaign (see this and this). From the UK, to Ghana (see this) and India (see this), there is a concerted campaign by the GMO lobby and its political handmaidens to demonize critics of GMOs. 

Paterson plays his role well.

Such tactics are used because the pro-GMO lobby has a big problem. It cannot provide a convincing case for GMOs. It therefore resorts to populism, intimidation, character assassination, emotional blackmail, falsehoods, panic mongering and unfounded claims (see this to see how its rhetoric about ‘sound science’ and dispassionate reason informing the debate on GMOs contradicts how it acts in reality). In fact, it goes above and beyond such things by tightening its grip on countries on the back of coups, war and conflict (see this to understand how big agritech concerns benefit from and fuel the situation in Ukraine).

Yes, it is a time of great mischief as Paterson says – but not because of what his critics say or do – but because of what he and his backers do by turning their backs on the type of sound science and progress in the way that he falsely he accuses GMO critics of doing. 

Paterson belongs to the pro-big business Conservative Party which champions the type of privatisation, public expenditure reduction, deregulation, tax avoiding and ‘free’ trade policies that have ceded policy decision making to powerful corporate players. This has in turn led to a concentration of wealth (see this) and imposed ‘austerity’ and drives hunger, poverty, land grabs and the disappearance of family/peasant farms (see this analysis of food commodity speculationthis description of the global food system and this report by the Oakland Institute on land grabs) – the very bedrock of global food production (see this).

What Paterson and the agritech cartel offer is more of the same by tearing up traditional agriculture for the benefit of corporate entities. Paterson talks of critics of GMO as being Luddites, fanatics and condemning billions (yes, he does say billions!) to poverty and underdevelopment with regressive policies. He should look closer to home.

He should realise that elite interests in the West have condemned tens of millions to hunger and poverty in Africa by enslaving them and their nations to debt and that agriculture has for many decades been an important means by which US foreign policy creates dependence and subservience (see here). But such things are not to be debates by Paterson. Like all good (or should that be bad?) politicians, he twists the truth and turns deception and hypocrisy into an art.  

The current global system of chemical-industrial agriculture and World Trade Organisation rules that agritech companies helped draw up for their benefit to force their products into countries (see  here) are a major cause of structural hunger, poverty, illness and environmental destruction. By its very design, the system is meant to suck the life from people, nations and the planet for profit and control (see  here). Blaming critics of this system for the problems of the system is highly convenient. And forwarding some bogus technical quick-fix will not put things right. It represents more of the same.

So you want to ‘help’ Africa Mr Paterson?

Daniel Maingi works with small farmers in Kenya and belongs to the organization Growth Partners for Africa. Maingi was born on a farm in eastern Kenya and studied agriculture from a young age. He remembers a time when his family would grow and eat a diversity of crops, such as mung beans, green grams, pigeon peas, and a variety of fruits now considered ‘wild’. Following the Structural Adjustment Programmes of the 1980s and 1990s and a green revolution meant to boost agricultural efficiency, the foods of his childhood have been replaced with maize, maize, and more maize. He says:

 "In the morning, you make porridge from maize and send the kids to school. For lunch, boiled maize and a few green beans. In the evening, ugali, [a staple dough-like maize dish, served with meat]… [today] it’s a monoculture diet, being driven by the food system – it’s an injustice.” (see here  and here for the sources that quote Maingi and other commentators mentioned below).

As much of Africa is so dry, it’s not suited for thirsty crops, and heavy use of fertilizer kills worms and microbes important for soil health. Maingi therefore argues that the model of farming in the West is not appropriate for farming in most of Africa and that the West should invest in indigenous knowledge and agro-ecology.

Growth Partners Africa works with farmers to enrich the soil with manure and other organic material, to use less water and to grow a variety of crops, including some that would be considered weeds on an industrial farm. For Maingi, food sovereignty in Africa means reverting to a way of farming and eating that pre-dates major investment from the West.

Mariam Mayet of the African Centre for Biosafety in South Africa says that many countries are subsidizing farmers to buy fertilizer as part of the chemical-industrial model of  agriculture, but that takes money away from public crop-breeding programmes that provide improved seeds to farmers at low cost:

“It’s a system designed to benefit agribusinesses and not small-scale farmers.”

She adds because so many institutions, from African governments to the World Bank, have ‘embraced’ the ‘green revolution’ so much that alternative farming methods are getting short shrift.

Elizabeth Mpofu, of La Via Campesina, grows a variety of crops in Zimbabwe. During a recent drought, neighbours who relied on chemical fertilizer lost most of their crops. She reaped a bounty of sorghum, corn, and millet using what are called agro-ecological methods: natural pest control, organic fertilizer, and locally adapted crops.

There is also concern about the increased reliance on expensive inputs and the dramatic drop in price of crops. This has resulted in poverty for the small farmer.

Daniel Maingi:

“What the World Bank has done, the International Monetary fund, what AGRA and Bill Gates are doing, it’s actually pretty wrong. The farmer himself should not be starving”.

He added that what the Gates Foundation/big agritech backed Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) (see this) is doing is “out of sync with the natural process” by bringing in imported seeds, which are not adapted to the land and require excessive fertilizer and pesticides. 

In effect, giant agritech corporations with their patented GMO seeds and associated chemical inputs are working to ensure a shift away from diversified agriculture that guarantees balanced local food production, the protection of people’s livelihoods and environmental sustainability. The evidence provided by GRAIN and the Oakland Institute shows that small farmers are being displaced and are struggling to preserve their indigenous seeds and traditional knowledge of farming systems. 

Globally, agritech corporations are being allowed to shape government policy by being granted a strategic role in trade negotiations (see this). They are increasingly setting the policy/knowledge framework by being allowed to fund and determine the nature of research carried out in public universities and institutes (see this). They continue to propagate the myth that they have the answer to global hunger and poverty.

… take capitalism and business out of farming in Africa. The West should invest in indigenous knowledge and agro-ecology, education and infrastructure and stand in solidarity with the food sovereignty movement.” Daniel Maingi, Growth Partners for Africa.

Paterson and his corporate associates believe that the poor must be ‘helped’ by the West and its powerful corporations and billionaire 'philanthropists'. It harks back to colonialism. The West has already done enough damage in Africa as Michel Chossudovsky has described:

“The “economic therapy” imposed under IMF-World Bank jurisdiction is in large part responsible for triggering famine and social devastation in Ethiopia and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, wreaking the peasant economy and impoverishing millions of people. With the complicity of branches of the US government, it has also opened the door for the appropriation of traditional seeds and landraces by US biotech corporations, which behind the scenes have been peddling the adoption of their own genetically modified seeds under the disguise of emergency aid and famine relief. Moreover, under WTO rules, the agri-biotech conglomerates can manipulate market forces to their advantage as well as exact royalties from farmers. The WTO provides legitimacy to the food giants to dismantle State programmes including emergency grain stocks, seed banks, extension services and agricultural credit, etc.), plunder peasant economies and trigger the outbreak of periodic famines.” See the full article (‘Sowing the Seeds of Famine in Ethiopia’) from which this extract is taken here


When Owen Paterson accuses critics of GMOs of being elitist and regressive, he is merely attempting to shift the focus from his own own elitist, regressive ideology. 

Hasn't the world had enough of the type of Western 'humanitarianism' that Paterson espouses?

Secrecy And Lies: Government Collusion With The GM Biotech Sector In Britain

In 2012, the current British Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Owen Paterson called concerns over the use of GM foods “complete nonsense” in an outright attack on valid concerns about GMOs (1). Since then, through comments and speeches, he has consistently voiced unqualified support for the GM food industry.

MP Zac Goldsmith is a member of the Conservative Party to which Paterson also belongs and has accused his fellow party member of making “nonsensical” claims and as being a puppet of the industry. He has stated that Paterson has swallowed the industry line hook, line and sinker and fears that big agribusiness is framing the debate for the government in order to secure control over the food chain (2).

Paterson seems to be blissfully unaware of, or is content to ignore, the devastating, deleterious health, environmental, social and agricultural impacts of GMOs as detailed in this article: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-realities-of-gmo-and-petro-chemical-agriculture-allergies-toxins-new-diseases/5367760
In a recent report by in the Daily Mail newspaper in Britain, it is claimed that Paterson’s support for GMOs is being carried out in partnership with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), which is financed by GM companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience (3). The revelations come weeks after it was revealed that a group of scientists behind an official government study backing GM all had links to the industry (4).
Evidence has emerged of meetings and briefings involving ministers and the ABC and its industry backers, despite no such meetings with groups worried about the impact of GM on human health and the countryside.

GeneWatch UK made a Freedom of Information request to find out what was said at the briefings, but Paterson’s department has refused to give details. As a result, GeneWatch UK has lodged a formal complaint with the Information Commissioner in the hope that ministers will be forced to admit how GM companies are driving government policy.

In a press release, GeneWatch Director Dr Helen Wallace says:

“The evidence strongly suggests the Government is colluding with the GM industry to manipulate the media, undermine access to GM-free-fed meat and dairy products and plot the return of GM crops to Britain. The public have a right to know what is going on behind closed doors… Ministers who should be protecting our environment have put Monsanto and Syngenta in the driving seat of policy on GM crops and foods.”

Paterson’s department has refused to provide details of a telephone conference between the department and the ABC on June 10 last year. Ten days later, Paterson made a speech calling for opposition to be dropped and claiming GM crops and food were ‘probably safer’ than the conventional equivalent. We are left to draw our own conclusions.

Paterson’s ministerial department has also refused to release a “message on media suggestions” sent by the ABC to the ministry last April, or details of discussions between Monsanto and the ministry two months before. In addition, the ministry would not provide details of a meeting and emails between former environment minister David Heath and the ABC in January last year.

The GM biotech has already captured politicians and regulatory and policy-making bodies in the US (5). It is also in the process of doing so in India (6). It is clear that Britain faces a similar problem.

Corruption, whether institionalised or individual, has many faces and too often attempts to hide itself behind a veil of secrecy. Left unchallenged, the corruption soon becomes pervasive, accepted and no longer seen for what it actually is. Its outcomes too often become regarded as normal or part of the ‘natural’ course of events.

The GM biotech sector’s corrosive influences on governments must be challenged now, before it’s too late - before we end up eating and being poisoned by its products and before the sector and its backers in the US State Department (7) destroy each and every nation's food sovereignty by weaponising food in order to control entire populations (8).

Be informed and take action:

 

Notes



8)      William Engdahl; ‘Seeds of Destruction’; 2007; page 143

GMO Industry: Puppets In High Places

Global Research 23/2/2014

Anne Glover recently declared that there is no evidence pertaining to the adverse impacts of GMOs. This is an extremely disturbing statement. It’s extremely disturbing because it is not only patently wrong, but also because Anne Glover ischief scientific adviser of the European Commission.

In an interview with EurActiv on 24 July 2012, she stated:


"There is no substantiated case of any adverse impact on human health, animal health or environmental health, so that’s pretty robust evidence, and I would be confident in saying that there is no more risk in eating GMO food than eating conventionally farmed food." (1)


In a letter to Anne Glover, which is posted on the GM Watch webite, Dr Brian John says that her claim is a “lie”. John regards himself as a member of the global scientific community ad has a background in environmental research and a long list of contacts in academia and within environmental, health, and consumer NGOs. In the letter to Glover, he states that many of his colleagues are directly involved in research in the GM field, and between them they have contributed hundreds of articles to the peer-reviewed literature.


Anne Glover wrote in 2012:


"If we look at evidence from [more than] 15 years of growing and consuming GMO foods globally, then there is no substantiated case of any adverse impact on human health, animal health, or environmental health." (2)


In 2013, she wrote:


"There is no evidence that GM technologies are any riskier than conventional breeding technologies and this has been confirmed by thousands of research projects. Food produced with GM technology is very common in other parts of the world, without any evidence that this has been harmful to the people that consumed it or to the environment at large." (3)  


Brian John asks Glover:


“With all due respect, that is a repetition of the same lie. What literature do you read? And from whom do you obtain your scientific advice?”


John goes on to state:


“I wish to place on record that there is abundant and unequivocal published evidence, within and outside the peer-reviewed literature, of real harm to living organisms in the plant and animal kingdoms arising from the growing of GMO crops and the consumption of GMO foodstuffs.  This material is freely available to any scientist who chooses to examine it, and many of the key publications are found within a list recently compiled and published by GMO Free USA.” (4)


John then lambasts Glover for her one-sided approach:


“Of course, there are others lists of publications, some purporting to demonstrate harm associated with GMOs, and others purporting to show that they are safe. You refer to "thousands of research projects" and pretend that they all reach the same conclusion.  That is of course nonsense.”


Although Glover likes to argue there is a consensus within the ‘scientific community’ concerning the benefits and safety of GMOs, this is patently not the case.


John tells Glover:


“The fact of the matter is that there is a powerful case showing that GMOs are harmful, with the findings of many early papers substantiated and confirmed by subsequent research. To deny that case is to perpetrate a falsehood.”


He asks if Glover will now:


“… retract your 2012 statement and accept that there is abundant evidence showing adverse impacts (both direct and indirect) on human and animal health and on the environment arising from the growing and consumption of GMO products? And will you also issue an apology to those members of the research community whose publications (in peer-reviewed journals showing harm arising from the use of GMOs) you have so studiously ignored?”


In a December 2013 press release, the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) stated that Glover’s GMO propagandising is “irresponsible” as she “chooses to listen to one side of the scientific community only – the circle of GMO producers and their allied scientists” (5). Based on a statement signed by 297 scientists and experts, Dr Angelika Hilbeck, chair of the ENSSER, which published the statement, said:

“We’re surprised and pleased by the strong support for the statement. It seems to have tapped into a deep concern in the global scientific community that the name of science is being misused to make misleading claims about the safety of GM technology.”

Glover has serious conflicts of interest that have led Member of the European Parliament and former French minister for the environment, Corinne Lepage, to call for her resignation. According to GM Watch, Glover is a shareholder in a biotech company (6), and her background is that of a business-savvy genetic engineer. Her track record includes setting up the firm Remedios, which was named Scotland’s “Best New Biotechnology Company” for Biotech Scotland by its industry peers (7).

Glover’s pro-GM propaganda mirrors that of Owen Patterson, British Environment Secretary (8). His British Conservative Party colleague Zac Goldsmith has called him a puppet of the biotech industry (9).

Although Glover’s views are of great concern, in many respects she is symptomatic of a much deeper malaise whereby a lack of independence from the biotech and food conglomerates is distorting regulatory practices and corrupting policies within the EU to the detriment of the public (10).    


Read the full transcript of Brian John’s letter to Anne G lover here:http://gmwatch.eu/index.php/news/archive/2014/15308-eu-chief-science-adviser-s-gmo-safety-claims-are-a-lie


Notes


4)  http://gmofreeusa.org/gmos-are-top/gmo-science/                                   



The Deceptions And Falsehoods Of The GMO Lobby: Acquiesce Or Europe Will Become “Museum...

British Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is a staunch supporter of the GMO sector. Despite mounting evidence pointing to the deleterious health, social, ecological and environmental impacts of GMOs, Paterson has a blind spot that lets him ignore reality and allows him to lend unconditional support to the biotech conglomerates, the very concerns that regard Europe as a massive potential cash cow from which their GM crops have till now mostly been barred or restricted.
Paterson recently told the Oxford Farming Conference that Europe is likely to become "the museum of world farming" because of its failure to embrace genetically modified crops. He went on to state that the longer Europe continues to close its doors to GM crops, the greater the risk that the rest of the world will bypass us altogether:
"Europe risks becoming the museum of world farming as innovative companies make decisions to invest and develop new technologies in other markets."
Paterson said there was "compelling evidence" that GM crops could benefit farmers, consumers, the environment and the economy.
Nearly 50 countries around the world have either banned GM crop production outright, or have put in place extremely tight restrictions on the production and use of GM products. However, EU member states will soon vote on whether to allow cultivation of a variety of maize that has been made insect-resistant through genetic engineering. If licensed, it would be the first GM food crop authorised for planting by the EU in 15 years.
Paterson said any decisions must be based on scientific evidence, in contrast to "politically motivated" delays and blocks to GM crops in the past.
He stated:
"I will continue to make the case for a regime that allows fair market access for products once they have passed Europe's rigorous, independent scientific assessment."

Paterson has previously indicated that he wants to relax British regulations on the cultivation of GM crops, and has said they have “environmental benefits”.

Owen Paterson has a track record of lending blind support to the GM sector with his factually incorrect statements. In 2013, he called concerns over the use of GM foods “complete nonsense” in an attack on public concerns about GMOs (1):

“I’m very clear it (GM) would be a good thing… The trouble is all this stuff about Frankenstein foods and putting poisons in foods. There are real benefits, and what you’ve got to do is sell the real environmental benefits. Those benefits include a reduction in the use of pesticides because some GM crops are pest-resistant.”

Paterson also said that consumers were already unwittingly eating GM food on a regular basis, so concerns about human health are misplaced and based on “nonsense” and “humbug.”

In another 2013 speech, Paterson stated that “seven million children” had gone blind or died over the past 15 years because “every attempt” to introduce a GM-rice fortified with sight-saving vitamin A had “been thwarted.”

Owen Paterson vs the reality of GMOs and petro-chemical agriculture

Paterson talks emotive, simplistic sound-bite stuff about dead children that might play well to sections of a wider misinformed public. It conveniently overlooks broader, more complex issues related to global poverty, the international system of finance, the ‘structural adjustment’ of local systems of agriculture that have destroyed indigenous food production, world trade policies and the corporate hijack of much of global farming by the West for its agribusiness industry (2).

Paterson’s stance typifies how powerful interests (or their mouthpieces) distort reality when faced with a situation that curtails their interests and profits. It is in their view their opponents who are ideologically or politically motivated and who engage in emotive scare-mongering, while it is they, the immensely rich and politically well connected, who have humanity’s interests at heart and are driven by science and altruism.

If the likes of Paterson are all too dismissive of those anti-GM/anti-MNC “disgusting enemies of the poor,” “ignoramuses” and “scientific jokers” (eg, Professor Seralni in France and Pushpa Bhargava in India) who supposedly engage in “lies,”, “nonsense” and “deceit” to counter scientific facts and the “safe frontier technology” of GMOs (3), perhaps they might be inclined to pay more heed to millionaire MP Zac Goldsmith, who is a member of the Conservative Party to which Paterson also belongs.

Hardly a dyed in the wool, anti-MNC leftie, Goldsmith last year claimed that Paterson is a puppet of the biotech industry and does not understand the dangers genetically modified crops pose to the ecosystem.

Speaking to The Independent newspaper on 3 July 2013, Goldsmith declared:

"He's swallowed the industry line hook, line and sinker without talking to anyone with a different view. When designing policy that's a dangerous thing, and I'm concerned big business is framing the debate for the government… The story so far suggests that GM is predominantly about the industry getting greater control over the food chain, rather than alleviating poverty or environmental concerns." (4)

Paterson displays blatant disregard for the political hijack of food and agriculture and its regulatory bodies by powerful agribusiness and the consequent lax regulations governing its activities. His stance indicates he is probably part of that very problem. His claim about the reduced levels of pesticides is but one instance of his ignorance. This can be placed alongside his range of ignorance on the actual documented lack of agricultural benefits derived from GMOs and their deleterious health impacts (5,6,7,8,9).

His outbursts persist regardless of the destruction of indigenous, traditional patterns of agriculture whose productivity is often far better than any petro-chemical based and/or GMO-based ’green revolution’. If he wants to talk about “museums” then he may like to look at historical evidence pertaining to traditional farming in India and its much better levels of productivity compared with modern methods (9).

It is such a travesty that a senior politician, a ‘public servant’, seems content to become part of the problem by kowtowing to the massive well-documented GMO industry pressures and its global PR machine, which receives full and active support from the US State Department (10,11).  

And whether the public wanted them or not in the US, GM crops are prevalent there, despite there having been significant concern from scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to the FDA allowing GM products into the food chain. The concerns of the scientists were ignored, and by the time the public became aware, the GM products were firmly embedded into the US food production chain (12).

FDA scientists had continually warned regulators that GM crops could create unpredictable and hard to detect side effects, including allergies, toxin production, nutritional problems, and new diseases. They recommended that long-term studies were needed to fully assess the effect of GM foods on other crops, the ecosystem, and animal and human health, but these warnings were ignored.

William F Engdahl has written on this and both he and the watchdog body Corporate European Observatory have raised serious concerns about deep-seated conflicts of interests within the European Food Safety Agency as well pertaining to the biotech sector and major food conglomerates (13,14).

As the GM food sector continues to push at India’s door, we should look to what the GM cotton sector has already ‘achieved’ there. The continued use of GM modified cotton has reduced yields, and the cotton bollworm has developed a resistance to the GM crops which contain the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxin (15). This is resulting in an ever increasing barrage of profitable ‘innovations’ from the biotech sector. ‘Innovations’ and ‘R&D’ being trendy terms for attempting to keep on top of the damage being done to agriculture as each new 'frontier' product fails the farmer. More destined to fail technology replaces the older destined to fail products under the banner of ‘cutting edge’ developments (16).

The original ‘green revolution’ is now displaying its devastating long-term health and environmental impacts in Punjab (17). What price its potential ‘second coming’ in the form of GM food crops some years down the line? To answer that question, all we need to do is look elsewhere at the emerging outcomes referenced elsewhere in this article, not least five paragraphs further down through a recent article by Helen Paul on the impacts of GMOs in the Americas.    

Paterson’s claims that the use of GM crops reduce the use of pesticides do not hold up. Research by a WashingtonState University team found that the use of herbicides and insecticides has increased dramatically since GM crops were introduced in the US in 1996 (18). And researchers at the University of Arizona found that multi-toxin GM crops (which are the most technologically advanced crops in use) quickly lose their ability to fend off pests, which is likely to lead to a complete failure of the GMO (19).

Moreover, there has been no proper research or monitoring by the companies producing GM crops of the effects on humans consuming products made with GM crops. Scientists like Dr Arpad Pusztai in theUK and Professor Seralini in France, who have published findings critical of GM crops and food, suffered a wave attacks designed to undermine their work (or careers) by supporters of the technology.

Minister Patterson’s pro-GM attitudes come as little surprise, though. The cosy relationship between governments and the biotech companies is well known, especially in the US (20), where there has been legislation passed that allows biotech companies to be totally free of any legal ramifications if their products cause harm (21).

Perhaps Owen Paterson should take heed of mounting concerns about the terrible health impacts of glyphosate and how GMOs drive the sales of this weedkiller and the deleterious impacts of GMOs on plants and humans (22). He could also take note at the provincial government of Chaco province in Argentina issuance of a report on health statistics from the town La Leonesa, which showed that from 2000 to 2009, following the expansion of genetically-modified soy and rice crops in the region (and the use of glyphosate), the childhood cancer rate tripled in La Leonesa and the rate of birth defects increased nearly fourfold over the entire province (23).

Or maybe he should read Helen Paul’s recent piece in The Ecologist (24). She discusses the unfolding social, health, environmental and ecological disasters of GM agriculture/petro-chemical agriculture on a country by country basis in the Americas and argues that a powerful message should be sent to the EU (and Paterson) that GMOs are not wanted there and that Europe should stop buying and importing the products of GM-driven genocide and ecocide in the Americas. She reveals how repression and displacement, often violent, of remaining rural populations, illness, falling local food production have all featured in this picture. Yet, she argues, we currently face a desperate, almost farcical push for GM crops in the UK and Europe, characterised by hyperbolic and inaccurate claims of which the frequent claims byPaterson no doubt typify.

Far from being a "museum of world farming" as Paterson, likes to claim, Europe could show the way to a rich and varied GM free, organic-based agriculture that provides nutritious, healthy food and jobs. At the same time, Paul argues, we should address the profound degradation of soils and accelerating biodiversity loss, caused to a great extent by the industrial model of agriculture to which genetically engineered crops belong.

Maybe politicians such as Owen Paterson are (unwittingly) content to be fodder for the wider political and economic that GMOs (and big dam, debt-inducing, dollar supporting, oil-dependent chemical agriculture) are tied to. It’s an agenda encompassing an integrated strategy that involves the (near) monopoly ownership and control and ultimate weaponisation of all water, seeds, food and food retail, land and energy, which in turn both fuels and is fuelled by militarism, conflict, debt and dependency (25,26,27,28). Across the planet, we see this agenda being played out via violent conflict, ‘free’ trade agreements (29,30) and the shaping of political agendas (31).


Notes

A Conversation with Vandana Shiva - Question 5 - Patenting Life

Norway’s Billions Could Go Into Renewables

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/norways_billions_could_go_into_renewables_20131014/

Posted on Oct 14, 2013

By Kieran Cooke, Climate News Network

This piece first appeared at Climate News Network.

LONDON—Norway is sitting on a huge pot on money – and a new government now being formed in the country is considering investing some of that vast stock of wealth in renewable energy projects around the world.

“If Norway actually does this, it will be an unprecedented shift in the global investment community and also for tangible action on climate change,” says Samantha Smith, head of the global climate and energy initiative at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), one of the organisations lobbying for Oslo to take a more proactive approach on renewables investment.

At the latest count, Norway had more than $750bn of holdings in its sovereign wealth fund – not a bad nest egg for a country with a population of a little over five million, but which is already one of the richest in the world.

A centre-right coalition government is in the process of being formed in Norway, following elections in September. The new government, headed by Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg, has in recent days proposed using money from the sovereign wealth fund – the world’s largest – to invest in sustainable companies and projects in developing countries, and also to make substantial investments in the renewables sector.

The move is being supported by some of the country’s biggest pension funds and by religious groups, non-governmental organisations and other bodies.

“Norwegian savings could change the world,” says Nina Jensen, head of WWF-Norway.

WWF wants the Norwegian fund to allocate 5% of its portfolio to direct investments in renewable energy infrastructure and projects – and to end its investments in coal and tar sands.

Money through taxes

The fund – officially known as the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, which up to 2006 was called the Petroleum Fund of Norway – was formed in 1990 and makes its money through taxes from Norway’s substantial oil and gas sector. It also owns oil fields in the North Sea and elsewhere, and has a 67% stake in Statoil, the Norwegian oil conglomerate.

The fund has considerable influence on financial markets around the world. Under present rules governing investments, the fund can put 60% of its money in stocks, 35% in bonds, and up to 5% in global real estate. The fund owns sizeable chunks of some of Europe’s leading companies, and it is estimated that one in every $80 invested in global equities is owned by Norwegians.

Several large investment funds in Europe are already investing in the renewables sector, including pension funds in Denmark and in the Netherlands.

Climate scientists warn that global average temperatures need to stay within a 2°C rise on pre-industrial levels by mid-century. If not, serious climate change could be inevitable.

In a World Energy Outlook report earlier this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said there was little hope of remaining within the 2°C limit based on present levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and called for a $2 trillion renewables investment programme up to 2020.

Call for subsidies cutback

The IEA also called for a cutback on fossil fuel subsidies, which it said were six times the amount of support given to the renewables industry in 2011.

Those lobbying for more renewables investment by Norway say the government in Oslo could act as a trendsetter.

The Norwegian fund, generally considered to be transparent and well run, is often held up as a leading example of how to carefully shepherd money accumulated from oil resources, for the benefit of future generations.

Financial analysts predict that if the Norway fund invests directly in renewables, then other sovereign wealth funds around the world are likely to follow suit.

Bjarte Hoff (CC BY 2.0)

Propaganda And Puppets: The GM Sector And The Battle For The Future Of Humanity

Global Research and Countercurrents 9/7/2013

Last year, the then British Agriculture Minister Jim Paice told the Cereals 2012 conference that the public is softening its views towards GM crops (1). He said more work needed to be done to communicate the ‘full facts’ about GM crops. He stated:
“GM is not the panacea and it isn’t going to produce all the food on its own, but it has a role to play as long as it is applied safely and all the tests on its application are properly carried out… But yes… I do believe that the famous tanker is beginning to turn.”

Reality check for Jim Paice: the public is not ‘softening’ its views, no matter how hard the GM sector tries to soften us up. Moreover, just whose version of the ‘full facts’ are we to be subjected to? Those of the GM sector?

As if Paice’s words were not worrying enough, even more alarming were the comments last year from the British Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson. He called concerns over the use of GM foods “complete nonsense” in an attack on public concerns about GMOs (2):

“Emphatically we should be looking at GM … I’m very clear it would be a good thing… The trouble is all this stuff about Frankenstein foods and putting poisons in foods. There are real benefits, and what you’ve got to do is sell the real environmental benefits. Those benefits include a reduction in the use of pesticides because some GM crops are pest-resistant.”

Paterson also said that consumers were already unwittingly eating GM food on a regular basis, so concerns about human health are misplaced:

“There’s about 160 million hectares of GM being grown around the world. There isn’t a single piece of meat being served [in a typicalLondon restaurant] where a bullock hasn’t eaten some GM feed. So it’s a complete nonsense. But, the humbug! You know, large amounts of GM products are used across Europe.”

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth, or more aptly, from a minister acting as a front for the pro-GM lobby – GM food is safe simply because people do not know they are eating it, have no say in eating it and have not dropped dead from eating it. Perhaps Patterson would like to consult the mounting research that contradicts his assertions pertaining to the health impacts.


Such playground logic may wash well in certain quarters, but should we expect such inanity from a senior politician? You do not have to necessarily be a dyed in the wool sceptic to conclude that Paterson’s knowledge of the issues is limited at best and that his words have all the subtlety of a glossy pro-GM brochure.


In a June 2013 speech, Paterson was still peddling the same line and stated that “seven million children” had gone blind or died over the past 15 years because “every attempt” to introduce a GM rice fortified with sight-saving vitamin A had “been thwarted.” Very emotive and simplistic stuff, which conveniently overlooks wider more complex issues related to food poverty.


Surprisingly, however, one of the most damning indictments of Paterson’s recent speech came not from expected anti-GM sources, but from millionaire MP Zac Goldsmith, who is a member of the Conservative Party to which Paterson also belongs. Goldsmith accused his fellow party member of making "nonsensical" claims about the benefits of GM technology, claiming that Paterson is a puppet of the industry and does not understand the dangers genetically modified crops pose to the ecosystem.


Speaking to The Independent newspaper on 3 July, Mr Goldsmith said:


"Any half-way decent GM enthusiast with a scientific background would have blushed during much of the speech Owen Paterson made. You have to wonder about the government's gung-ho attitude to GM… It undermines his credibility on this issue and makes the government look very silly… I think he's falling into a trap over GM and I don't think he understands the issue. He's swallowed the industry line hook, line and sinker without talking to anyone with a different view. When designing policy that's a dangerous thing, and I'm concerned big business is framing the debate for the government… The story so far suggests that GM is predominantly about the industry getting greater control over the food chain, rather than alleviating poverty or environmental concerns." (3)


Is Paterson unaware of the issues related to the hijack of food and agriculture by powerful agribusiness, the lax regulations concerning its activities and the seed patenting and monopolies and resultant difficulties faced by farmers in places like India (4,5)?


Is he also unaware of the documented health risks or the actual efficacy or lack of agricultural benefits derived from GMOs (6,7,8,9,10)?


Or is he content to become part of the problem by kowtowing to the massive well-documented GMO industry pressures and its global PR machine, which receives full and active support from the US State Department (11,12)?  


Based on the overwhelming evidence, it is Paterson who is talking complete nonsense. In response to Patterson, Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said:

“GM crops are not cheaper, they use more pesticides in America not less, and they haven’t increased yields – so Mr Paterson has got most of his facts wrong. He talks about embracing new technology, but there are better ways of breeding crops now that do produce bigger yields, are resistant to drought and salinity. They are helping produce high yields in Africa right now. The minister’s obsession with GM really is backward-looking.” (13)

Melchett also says:

“Owen Patterson is wrong to claim that GM crops are good for the environment.  The UK Government’s own farm scale experiment showed that overall the GM crops were worse for British wildlife. US Government figures show that overall pesticide use has increased since GM crops have been grown there because, as scientists opposed to GM predicted, superweeds and resistant insects have multiplied. The recent British Science Association survey showed public concern has not changed, and the number of people saying that GM food should be encouraged dropped from 46 per cent in 2002 to 27 per cent in 2012. Owen Patterson says that people are eating meat from animals fed of GM feed without realising it. That is because the British Government has consistently opposed moves to label to give consumers accurate information, and he should put that right by immediately introducing compulsory labelling of meat and milk from animals fed on GM feed.” (2)

Friends of the Earth's senior food and farming campaigner Clare Oxborrow has said:

“Owen Paterson’s claims that we need GM crops simply don’t stack up. The industrial farming system, which GM aggravates, has been instrumental in causing the global food crisis we currently face. A fresh approach to agriculture is urgently needed to serve up sustainable diets globally, including reduced meat-consumption in wealthy nations and an end to food crops being used for biofuels.” (14)

Eight European countries have banned the production of GM crops: Poland, Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, and Bulgaria. In nearly 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and most of the countries in Europehave either banned GM crop production outright, or have put in place extremely tight restrictions on the production and use of GM products.

Even though GM crops are prevalent in the US, there was significant concern from scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to the FDA allowing GM products into the food chain. The concerns of the scientists were ignored, and by the time the public became aware, the GM products were firmly embedded into the US food production chain (15).

FDA scientists had continually warned regulators that GM crops could create unpredictable and hard to detect side effects, including allergies, toxin production, nutritional problems, and new diseases. They recommended that long-term studies were needed to fully assess the effect of GM foods on other crops, the ecosystem, and animal and human health, but these warnings were ignored.

In India, continued use of GM modified cotton has reduced yields, and the cotton bollworm has developed a resistance to the GM crops which contain the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxin (16).

The claims that the use of GM crops reduce the use of pesticides do not hold up in either. Research by a Washington State University team found that the use of herbicides and insecticides has increased dramatically since GM crops were introduced in the US in 1996 (17).

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that multi-toxin GM crops (which are the most technologically advanced crops in use) quickly lose their ability to fend off pests, which is likely to lead to a complete failure of the GMO (18).

Moreover, there has been no proper research or monitoring by the companies producing GM crops of the effects on humans consuming products made with GM crops. Scientists like Professor Seralini in France who have published studies critical of GM crops and food have suffered a wave of designed to undermine their work by supporters of the technology.

Minister Patterson’s pro-GM attitudes come as little surprise, though. The cosy relationship between governments and the biotech companies is well known, especially in the US (19), where there has been legislation passed that allows biotech companies to be totally free of any legal ramifications if their products cause harm (20).

In the UK, Genewatch UK has revealed how Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, and BASF (all biotech companies) under the guise of the ‘Agricultural Biotechnology Council’ held a meeting in June 2012 with government ministers and academics to formulate a ‘strategy’ to promote GMO in schools, to ‘educate’ the public and to ‘improve’ the regulatory framework favouring GMOs, while encouraging farmers to change their farming methods to fully accommodate the GMO products the companies produce.

Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK said:

“This dodgy deal shows breath-taking arrogance by Monsanto and its friends, who seem to think that British farming must be destroyed to suit their own commercial interest and British children should be brainwashed to support their business strategies. It is shocking that the Government has done a secret deal to promote GM in Britain and abroad when US farmers are struggling to tackle superweeds and superpests caused by growing GM crops. Ministers should not prop up this failing industry by pushing Monsanto’s propaganda in British schools at taxpayers’ expense.” (21)

Despite recent euphoric claims by some quarters that Monsanto has been placed on the back foot, this is far from the truth. The biotech sector continues to try to hijack legislation for its own gain, as evidenced by the 2013 Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India bill 2013 (22), and is determined to continue to push its global agenda (23).

Maybe politicians such as Owen Paterson are content to be willing servants for the wider military-industrial complex agenda that GMOs (and big dam, oil-dependent chemical agriculture) are tied to. And that agenda encompasses an integrated strategy that involves the (near) monopoly ownership and control of all water, seeds, food and food retail, land and energy, which in turn both fuels and is fuelled by conflict, debt and dependency (24,25,26,27). From Syria and Pakistan, to Egypt, India and Europe, we see this agenda being played out via conflict or war, trade agreements (28) and the molding of political agendas (29).

For the big corporations and the families and individuals behind them, profit and 'full spectrum global dominance' of resources, nations and people is the ultimate aim.

 Notes


Falklands ‘mistake’: Thatcher files reveal split over war with Argentina

Published time: March 22, 2013 09:21
Margaret Thatcher.(AFP Photo / Suzanne Plunket)

The British government was divided over military involvement in the Falklands, new documents from former Prime Minister Thatcher’s archives have revealed. The papers show strong opposition in Thatcher’s own party to going to war with Argentina.

Contrary to the united front presented by the ruling conservative party before going to war with Argentina in 1982, there was heavy criticism of Thatcher’s jingoistic attitude to the conflict.

The documents published by Churchill College, Cambridge University, show the ex-PM’s correspondence with party members. One of Thatcher’s MPs warns that “we are making a big mistake,” while another advised “blowing up a few ships and nothing more.”

Sir John Hoskyns, Thatcher’s policy advisor, voiced fears that the government would “make almighty fools of themselves” and it would spell the downfall of the Thatcher regime.

One West Devon MP told Thatcher that “my constituents want blood.”

There was a significant call among Tory MP’s calling for “calm” in the face of a growing push towards a “hard line.”

"Will only support the fleet as a negotiating ploy. If they will not negotiate we should withdraw,"
wrote one MP.

Thatcher’s chief of staff, David Wolfson, even suggested a plan to bribe the islanders, promising them $100,000 and the possibility of taking up residency in Britain, New Zealand or Australia.

A historian from the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust, which disseminated the documents, said that the documents “reveal how stressful this situation was, it was a massive undertaking which tested her to the full.”

“These papers [show] in the early days of the conflict there was great confusion and doubt. We might have expected her to be breathing fire. She's not. She's always making the case,”
said historian Chris Collins.

The Falklands war was sparked when Argentinian forces mounted an invasion of the British-controlled islands on April 2, 1982. The UK reacted shortly afterwards, dispatching its navy to retake the Falkland Islands. The resultant conflict lasted 74 days and left 649 Argentines dead as well as 255 British servicemen.

Argentina still disputes Britain’s claim on the Falklands, which they call Las Malvinas, as they say it lies within their sovereign territory. The issue has been a significant bone of contention between the two countries recently.

The islanders themselves held a vote on whether or not to remain a British Overseas Territory at the beginning of March, with an overwhelming majority choosing to remain a British colony.

In February, Argentina refused an offer from the British government to discuss the sovereignty of the Falklands with the islands’ inhabitants. Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman insisted that the UN regards the dispute as a bilateral issue between London and Buenos Aires.

“I think the fanatics are not in Buenos Aires, [but] maybe in the United Kingdom because they are 14,000km away from the islands. And I think they are using the people living in the islands for political [reasons] and to have access to oil and natural resources which belong to the Argentine people,” he said in an interview with The Guardian in February.

Falklands: Thatcher Papers Reveal Tory Splits

Wide divisions within the Conservative Party over how the Government should respond to Argentina's invasion of the Falklands are revealed in Margaret Thatcher's private papers which have been made public.

While the Tories publicly presented a united front in 1982, briefing notes prepared for the-then Prime Minister demonstrate the polarised opinions she had to contend with in the early days of the crisis.

Until now the backroom deliberations have remained largely private but the notes are among those released by the Margaret Thatcher Archive Trust as it opens its files from a year which came to define Lady Thatcher's career.

They range from Ken Clarke, then a junior minister, arguing to "blow up a few ships but nothing more" to West Devon MP Peter Mills who warned "my constituents want blood".

Historian Chris Collins, from the trust, said the papers reflected the "chaos" within the party and more widely following the surprise attack.

He added: "These papers reveal how stressful this situation was, it was a massive undertaking which tested her to the full.

"In the early days of the conflict there was great confusion and doubt on behalf of the party and more widely.

"People were feeling very down about the whole process and what was going to happen next. There was tremendous chaos.

"But of course a party has to show a united face as far as it can."

On April 6, four days after the incursion, the Chief Whip, Michael Jopling, prepared a note for the Prime Minister saying: "You may like to have general re-action to events in the Falkland Islands."

Mr Clarke, along with Sir Timothy Raison, MP for Aylesbury, are attributed with the view: "Hopes nobody thinks we are going to fight the Argentinians. We should blow up a few ships but nothing more."

Lady Thatcher has marked the comment with two blue biro lines.

Sir John Page was said to be "desperately depressed" by the situation and Ian Gilmour, later Baron Gilmour of Craigmillar, said: "We are making a big mistake. It will make Suez look like common sense."

Five MPS urged Lady Thatcher to "keep calm" adding "we can get away without a fight" while others were "all taking a hard line".

A similar note the following day described Stephen Dorrell as "very wobbly".

It adds: "Will only support the fleet as a negotiating ploy. If they will not negotiate we should withdraw."

Meanwhile, referring to Keith Stainton, the note reads: "Intends to attack the Government. His wife has large interests in the Falklands."

Lady Thatcher is the first British Prime Minister whose private and official papers have been released in this way.

Charles Moore, her authorised biographer, said: "The Thatcher archive is a marvellous resource for all those interested in her career as Prime Minister and in this country's recent political history.

"This release will provide the raw material to help researchers study and understand the changing political landscape of her first year as Prime Minister."

The latest release is open to the public at the Churchill Archive Centre in Cambridge and is available online.

:: A hand-written note by Lady Thatcher, prepared after April 2, 1982, possibly in preparation for a speech or press conference, shows that she settled on a brief but broadly supportive position on the Duke of York's deployment as part of the Falklands task force.

"If asked about Prince Andrew it is the express wish of The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and of Prince Andrew himself, that if the Invincible sails he sails with her," it says.

:: The papers mention an early meeting with Robert Mugabe, who had been elected as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe in 1980 and was then still considered a hero by many after his role against white-minority rule.

At a lunch held in his honour on May 19, 1982, Lady Thatcher praised him for his "friendly and open manner".

Canadian Government Fights US Opposition to Tar Sands Pipeline


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Bio

Yves Engler is a Canadian commentator and author. His most recent book is The Ugly Canadian - Stephen Harper's Foreign Policy, and previously he published The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy and Canada in Haiti: Waging War on The Poor Majority

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Engler Report with Yves Engler. He now joins us from Ottawa.Yves is a commentator and an author. His most recent book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper's Foreign Policy.Thank you for joining us again, Yves.YVES ENGLER, AUTHOR, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks for having me.JAY: So The New York Times came out and said now's the time to say no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. There's been a massive movement in the United States against it, the big protests and personalities coming out, trying to stop this pipeline taking Alberta tar sands oil in a pipeline down to Texas. How's all this being received in Canada by, you could say, the public and by the Harper government?ENGLER: Well, the Harper government is basically freaking out about the possibility that Obama would say no to the pipeline. They've launched a full-court press in terms of lobbying in the U.S. for the pipeline. John Baird, the foreign affairs minister, just the other day said it's been the number-one priority for more than two years for a Canadian team based in Washington at the Canadian embassy there. And there was just access to information documents that came out about--detailed a little bit about the strategy to convince U.S. journalists to support the pipeline and Canadian officials taking a New York Times journalist out to the, you know, fancy restaurant, you know, paid $129 for, you know, two people to go out for dinner.So the aggressiveness of the lobbying campaign is unprecedented, I think, certainly in the history of recent Canadian relations with the U.S. To have a government in this country so aggressively, basically, in a battle, political battle with a social movement in the U.S. is not something that I think maybe has ever been seen in the history of Canadian-U.S. relations.Where the Canadian public is on the matter is a little bit unclear, but the dominant media is almost overwhelming in their endorsement of the pipeline. You have the premier from Saskatchewan, from Alberta, repeatedly going down to Washington [incompr.] lobby on behalf of the pipeline. So you have a strong, you know, full, political elite, really, in Canada supporting it.But you know that there is significant opposition to the tar sands. One of the reasons why they need the pipeline down south is because of so much opposition to the Enbridge pipeline through B.C. and the Kinder Morgan pipeline through B.C. There's so much opposition to the tar sands in B.C. that they need the southern route. But it is really an unprecedented political battle by the Conservative government in favor of this pipeline.JAY: Now, I heard something about a potential pipeline that's actually going to go through Toronto. What is that about?ENGLER: Yeah. There is a reversal of a pipeline that's currently in place, Line 9, and that's before the National Energy Board right now. And that's about getting tar sands oil over to refineries in Montreal and possibly in the Maritimes, but also moving some of that oil down to Portland, Maine.And there's been significant demonstrations in Vermont and in Maine against the pipeline. And recently, I think actually just last weekend, even, there were votes, municipal votes in Vermont where dozens of different municipalities--or counties, I guess, in the U.S. expressed overwhelming opposition in these referendums to tar sands oil coming through there.So they're desperate. The oil companies that have plans for, you know, doubling and tripling of tar sands extraction over the next couple of decades, they are desperate to find outlets for that oil. And, you know, the geography of Alberta means that it's not so easy to get that oil out, and they're trying all the different methods, the preference being, obviously, the Keystone XL, then taking it to the Gulf coast because the refineries are already there. They already have access to most of the international market [crosstalk]JAY: Apparently, one of the bigger refineries that can deal with this heavy crude is owned by the Koch brothers.ENGLER: They have significant interests. I believe they have some interest in the pipeline itself, even, they have some investment in the pipeline itself. And the lobbying, obviously, is, you know, really strong.And one of the things that's interesting about the Canadian lobbying is just how involved Canadian diplomats are with American oil companies and working with the American oil companies and really stoking their lobbying for the pipeline. It's really an alliance, Canadian government really working in alliance with the most reactionary and big oil interests within the U.S.JAY: And China's also moved into the tar sands with some oomph, have they not?ENGLER: A more than $15 billion investment, the state-owned oil company, that the Harper government approved a few months back. It was very controversial, the Chinese investment into the tar sands interests, and controversial within Canada because of the question of China--not controversial because of all the carbon that's emitted from tar sands extraction, but controversial because of, you know, the sort of geopolitics of China being not a country that's fully aligned with the Western powers.JAY: And just--I guess, just as a little bit of background, particularly for American viewers, does Harper completely discount the whole issue of climate change? Or he pays lip service to it?ENGLER: He pays lip service to it, a bare-minimum lip service to it. Even after Obama's speech, his inauguration, where he, you know, referred to some of the climate disturbances, the Hurricane Sandy and other disturbances within the U.S. of recent, there were--a lot of the commentaries noted how you would never hear that from Harper. He doesn't deny climate change. He did until pretty recent, before he took office, as late as 2002. There's an infamous letter he sent that basically denied climate change. But since he's taken office, that's, you know, changed officially. But he certainly downplays it or rarely discusses it. He goes out of his way to cut funding to scientists, government-funded scientists that are investigating the matter, and obviously pulled Canada out of the Kyoto Protocol.And they've really put their eggs in the tar sands basket. And that's one of the reasons why the question of Keystone XL is so important to them, because if--currently, Canadian--or Alberta oil is sold at quite a significant discount on international markets, about $35 discount from the price that American oil is selling at. And that's in large part because there is limited access to refining, limited pipeline capacities, and the difficulty of getting it to market. And so they're very nervous that that price differential will continue and actually get worse, making the tar sands unviable economically. And so that's, you know, a big part of their campaign.They've been so tied into tar sands interests, and really to the detriment of much of the manufacturing sector of the Canadian economy. The price of oil [crosstalk]JAY: Let me ask that question. How big or how significant is the tar sands in the Canadian economy?ENGLER: Ultimately it's--I don't know the exact GDP proportion, but it's, you know, a couple of points of GDP. It's fairly small in the overall--you know, housing sector would be, you know, up there at the top end, and manufacturing probably still above it. But the price of oil being high and the reliance on tar sands and all the--.Canada's one of the few places that has lots of reserves that have completely opened to foreign investment, right? So there's a huge influx of foreign investment into the tar sands. Most oil-producing countries have, you know, national state-owned energy companies that restrict, you know, foreign ownership. But because Canada doesn't have that, it's, you know, very sought after, obviously, by the big, you know, foreign multinational oil companies. And so that--the influx of money at that level has had a real pushing-up of the Canadian dollar, to the detriment of the Canadian manufacturing sector.And so there's been some studies--a recent one that came out just showing how few jobs are actually being created from the oil sands, from the tar sands sector, and yet they're undermining, you know, tens of thousands more jobs in the manufacturing sector.And there's a regional component to this. The Conservative Party is very strong. Their base is in Alberta. And so that's where the tar sands are. So there's a regional component to that policy [incompr.] being so [incompr.]There's, you know, personal components. Harper has very strong personal ties to the oil sector.So if the tar sands collapses, economically speaking, or even stagnates, they've put so many of their--they've put so much emphasis on that sector that that's very dangerous for the Conservative government politically. I think that's one of the reasons why they're so aggressive in their lobbying in the U.S. to get the Keystone XL built.And alongside that is the fact that this is starting to come back--it's already come back to bite them a little bit, their pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, their constant criticism of the NDP, the opposition, for discussing a carbon tax, in the context of Obama's recent declarations about a desire to bring in a carbon tax and, you know, concern about climate disturbances. This is--the Conservative Party policy has started to cause them a little bit of trouble politically within Canada.And so they've already started changing their rhetoric a little bit because of the protests in the U.S. against the Keystone XL. They've been changing their rhetoric a little bit with regards to climate change. It's--I think at this level it's just a rhetorical thing. Whether it will move to policy, that's sort of a matter of, you know, where things go in terms of--politically. But they've been really forced on the defensive.So it's an interesting dynamic where you have a social movement in the U.S. that's basically forced a, at minimum, rhetorical shift in gears by a Canadian government on the question of climate change.JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Yves.ENGLER: Thanks for having me.JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

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Greece: The Crisis Behind the Crisis and the Challenges Facing the Left

Neoliberal policies created a disaster in the country now shredded by austerity measures. The Syriza party and the Greek left have much work ahead if they are to build a just and sustainable economic and social order.

When the global financial crisis of 2008 reached Europe's shores sometime in late 2009, the eurozone, with its faulty design and distinct neoliberal policymaking framework, experienced its first major crisis since the introduction of the euro as a single currency; the danger of an imminent collapse was suddenly all too real. From the beginning, there were warnings about the dire consequences of introducing a single currency into a region with sharp economic and cultural differences, but the European political elite turned a deaf ear on the skeptics.(1) European business interests were too big to be compromised over concerns about future financial busts or speculations about the risk of adopting a foreign currency without the backing of a federal treasury and a central bank acting as lender of last resort. Indeed, like the owner of the Titanic who told the captain to go full speed although several warnings had been received about icebergs ahead, European policymakers at the time could not resist the temptation to launch euro as a cash currency in spite of the fact that the Eurosystem was built on a weak institutional foundation. And they compounded the error by allowing highly problematic candidates to join the union, thereby violating the principles of optimal currency areas.(2)

Unfit to Join the Euro

The first crack in the EU wall occurred in Greece, the weakest link of the currency union. Economically, socially and culturally, Greece was ill prepared to join the euro when it did back in 2001, but the country managed nevertheless to do so mainly because of its legacy of contribution to the development of Western culture.(3) The nation's domestic political and economic elite were eager to join Euroland not just because of the perceived benefits, but also because they were very much in need of a psychological boost: if you are weak and marginal, and incapable of change and improvement, joining a group of strong and rich nations gives you the illusion that you are on a par with them.(4) Hence the hilarious statement of then Greek Finance Minister, Yannos Papantoniou, who described the joining of the euro as "'an historic day that would place Greece firmly at the heart of Europe,"' or the equally laughable statement of then prime minister Costas Simitis, who propounded that "we all know that our inclusion in EMU (European Monetary Union) ensures for us greater stability and opens up new horizons."

Apparently, both of these political midgets felt that what shapes a nation's economy is its currency, not its productive base, technological know-how, human skills, etcetera. Be that as it may, the euro produced, for the most part, a rocky ride for Greece (GDP increased, but both public and private debt levels reached new heights while competitiveness declined significantly) that ten years later crashed against the brick wall erected by international credit markets when they refused to extend further lending on account of the country's massive fiscal deficit and humongous public debt burden. And perhaps not without coincidence, both of the aforementioned euro cheerleaders ended up having reigned over the longest unbroken period of political corruption in the modern period of Greece, courtesy of neoliberal "socialist" governance.(5)

When the global financial crisis erupted, the Greek economy had already entered a downturn phase, with GDP expansion having slowed down in 2008. The industrial sector, in fact, had entered a phase of recession as far back as 2005. In 2008, the industrial production indicator had fallen by 4.2 percent and reached a 10 percent decline in 2009.(6) Yet, when the crisis initially reached Greece, everyone was in an apparent and inexplicable state of denial, including leading EU officials. Thus, in October 2008, Kostas Karamanlis, then Greece's prime minister and leader of the conservative New Democracy party, declared in a speech to his cadres that the Greek economy was largely "shielded" from the effects of the economic crisis thanks to the structural adjustments his government had initiated. And his main political opponent, PASOK leader George Papandreou and current prime minister, assured the citizenry that "there was plenty of money around" and that, if elected, his government would exhibit "'the political will"' to find money for the toiling population, just as it had been found for the bailouts of the banks. But the most problematic example of unwillingness on the part of leading public officials to recognize the trouble that lay ahead for Greece came from the EU chiefs themselves: thus, EU Commissioner Joaquín Almunia announced as late as February 2009 that "the Greek economy is in better condition compared with the average condition in the Eurozone, which is currently in recession."(7)

Why were the Greek and EU political elites unable and unwilling to face up to the gravity of the Greek situation before things got out of hand? This question remains vital as the Greek economic crisis is now turning into a humanitarian crisis and EU leaders continue to ignore the pressing reality of the situation, intent on pushing forward with the destructive policies of austerity and fiscal adjustment.

But Greece's sovereign debt crisis did not come out of the blue. It may have been precipitated by the financial global crisis of September-October 2008 (the deficit had climbed to 15.4 percent of GDP, although there are accusations made from a former employee of the Greek Statistical Authority, Zoe Georganta, a professor of economics at the University of Macedonia, that the official figures for the 2009 budget deficit had been inflated by the Papandreou government in 2010 in an apparent attempt to legitimize the harsh austerity measures that came along with the bailout plan orchestrated by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); an inquiry is now underway by Greek prosecutors). But it had long been in the making. It was, in effect, a time bomb waiting to explode. The Greek economic model of growth was highly flawed: growth was not based on economic fundamentals; income tax rates were always very low, tax evasion massive, and Greek governments ran a continual deficit - building up an immense stock of national debt consistently well over 100 percent of GDP.

The Triple Nature of the Greek Crisis

Still, the Greek crisis must be seen as something much more than the simple outcome of corrupt government practices, although corruption, including tax evasion, is a major component of the economic ills facing the country today. It is the story of a kleptocratic state and a parasitic capitalist elite who got caught in the web of the eurozone's flawed design when the US financial crisis of 2007–2008 hit Europe's shores.(8) It is also the story of an economy that did not meet the prerequisites for entering an alleged optimum-currency area, nor did it make much attempt to fit in properly. But it is also the story of the general failure of the global neoliberal project, the financialization of the economy and free-market orthodoxy.(9) Indeed, how else could eurozone countries with such dissimilar economies - Greece, a statist and highly corrupt economy; Ireland, a poster-child for neoliberal capitalism; Spain, a faithful follower of EU dictates about deficits and debt - end up suffering the same fate?

The reason is rather simple: because they all orbited the same central entity, the black hole of European neoliberal capitalism. As such, political and ideological differences between social democratic and conservative political parties have long ago vanished. Thus, in Greece, Spain, Portugal and elsewhere, "'social democratic"' governments long ago discarded even the pretext of being agents of progressive reform.(10) Hence the ease with which such governments went along with the EU/IMF dictates in imposing unprecedented cuts and austerity measures that have drastically reduced the standard of living for the working people in their respective countries. In sum, the Greek crisis:

  • stands as a severe fiscal and public debt crisis (during the 1980s and 1990s, annual government expenditures exceeded revenue by an average of more than 8 percent of GDP, while the national debt exceeded 100 percent of GDP) stemming from the deep and long-term structural problems of the Greek economy and the deformities of the domestic political and cultural system
  • represents a European crisis due to the intricate trade and financial ties between Greece and the other eurozone member-states, and
  • reflects the deadly failure of the neoliberal project, which has become institutionalized throughout the EU's operational framework, all while the IMF remains the world's single most powerful enforcer of market fundamentalism. 

At the heart of the neoliberal vision is a societal and world order based on the prioritization of corporate power, "free" markets, and the abandonment of public services. The neoliberal claim is that economies would perform more effectively, producing greater wealth and economic prosperity for all, if markets were allowed to function without government intervention. This claim is predicated on the idea that "free" markets are inherently just and can create effective, low-cost ways to produce consumer goods and services. Subsequently, an interventionist or state-managed economy is wasteful and inefficient, choking off growth and expansion by constraining innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit.

This is the version of neoliberalism developed by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School and usually associated with the Pinochet regime in Chile, and, later, with the free-market policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan - an ideological revolution that was long in the making but that gained ascendancy over Keynesianism with the appearance of stagflation.(11) And it is by far the most dangerous ideology of our time (12), spreading havoc with its "economics of social disaster."(13)

In April 2010, with the bond vigilantes having woken up as a result of Dubai's debt crisis in late 2009, Greece was shut out of the international bond markets and - facing the prospect of a default - sought refuge under an EU/IMF financial rescue scheme. Months prior, the Papandreou government (14) had approached the IMF to extend its "'technical know-how and experience"' to the EU by administering a dose of shock therapy. Greece needed to be "rescued," and the Europeans needed not only the Fund's expertise but also to add an element of legitimacy to the austerity experiment that was about to be performed on a peripheral member-state. In this context, the invitation to the IMF to join in the operation on an ailing European patient served multiple purposes.

The neoliberal quacks were quick to rush to judgment about the roots of the Greek crisis - allegedly, a bloated public sector that wasted too many resources on lazy, unproductive citizens and hindered the potential of the private sector - and lost no time in recommending brutal austerity measures. What if the facts did not fit this narrative? Indeed, all the available data showed that the Greek public sector, while inefficient and corrupt, was actually smaller than the public sector of many other European nations; that Greeks worked on average more than most other Europeans; and that even Greek productivity in the years leading up to the crisis compared favorably with that of Germany.(15) And what if there were huge imbalances in the eurozone, with the core states running huge surpluses and the peripherals running huge deficits?(16) Greece was judged to be solely responsible for the sad state of its fiscal condition in the age of the euro and had to be punished, both as penance for its sins and as a warning to its southern cousins that the same fate awaited them if they didn't put their own fiscal houses in order.

It is this cynical, brutal perspective that led to Greece becoming an unwilling test subject for the EU's neoliberal vision and kept Germany's game going when things got rough in Euroland. Most of the German banks were overexposed to Greek debt and nearly insolvent. The May 2010 bailout of 110 billion euros (with a usurious interest rate of 5 percent) was orchestrated by the EU and the IMF - the twin monsters of neoliberal capitalism - in an apparent attempt to have Greece keep up with its debt payments to foreign banks: hence the rejection of even the slightest consideration of a debt restructuring, even though this would have been the quickest and safest way to allow Greece some breathing room. Helping its economy recover through the coordinated implementation of a large-scale development plan would also have been appropriate in a proper economic and monetary union. Indeed, such moves could have secured the confidence of international bond investors in the euro's sustainability and might even have prevented contagion in the rest of the periphery. They would certainly have prevented the spread of an otherwise avoidable contagion from the periphery to the center, which is clearly underway as of last year. But with the adoption of punishment as policy, contagion in the periphery became inevitable, and with the deficit economies in the periphery wrapped in an austerity straightjacket, the surplus economies of the center were bound to feel the effects of their insane and brutal policies. The economies of both Germany and France contracted in the last quarter of 2012. GDP in the eurozone as a whole fell by 0.5 percent last year, and, more significant, 2012 will go down in history as the first year since 1995 in which no quarter produced growth.(17)

The Catastrophic Effects of Austerity

Indeed, as a policy, the bailout scheme proved to be a dismal failure on every possible front, save for ensuring that debt payments kept flowing to foreign banks. The crude macro-stabilization program and the harsh austerity measures that accompanied the loan to Greece (amounting to 11 percent of the country's GDP) had the opposite of the intended effect on the markets and choked off all prospects of recovery for the Greek economy: demand plummeted due to the deadly combination of massive budget spending cuts, reductions in wages and pensions, and sharp tax increases, causing thousands of small businesses to go bankrupt and forcing several multinationals to move their production facilities to nearby Balkan countries, thereby producing explosive unemployment rates, sharply diminishing state revenues and substantially increasing the debt-to-GDP ratio.(18) The policy pursued by the EU/IMF duo is so fundamentally flawed that Keynes must be rolling over in his grave. Still, economic dogmas ought, apparently, to be respected, no matter what results they produce, so in the mind of the neoliberal zealots, they should be pursued to the bitter end. Thus, less than two years later, a second "bailout" of 130 billion euros was extended to beleaguered Greece, with terms and conditions for allegedly turning the economy around that are much harsher than the first "rescue" attempt. The "pay while you bleed" and "suffer for your sins" policy of the twin monsters should by now be clear to everyone.

In drafting the document for the so-called Second Economic Adjustment Program for Greece, the EU's neoliberal lackeys contended that "Greece made mixed progress towards the ambitious objectives of the first adjustment program."(19) On the positive side, it is noted, the general government deficit was reduced "from 15.75 percent of GDP in 2009 to 9.25 percent in 2011." On the negative side, the recession "was much deeper than previously projected" because, it is claimed, factors such as "social unrest" and "administrative incapacity" (including a lack of effectiveness in combating tax evasion) "hampered implementation." The antigrowth "fiscal and structural adjustment" program was perfectly designed and would have produced all the anticipated results if the government were better able to carry out the policies (perhaps it should have ordered the police and the army to arrest all public administrators and have them shot for disobeying the troika's commands), and if the citizenry did not on occasion make some fuss about the austerity program by staging demonstrations here and there, or by occupying the square outside the Greek parliament building. In essence, this is what the neoliberals' above comments are saying.

The feeble excuses of the EU bureaucrats for the fiscal consolidation program's causing a much sharper economic decline than "previously projected" fly in the face of the recent partial concessions made by the IMF: that the policies carried out in Greece ended up having much more adverse effects on the economy because the IMF miscalculated the impact of the fiscal multiplier. Indeed, the executive summary of the Second Economic Adjustment Program for Greece goes on to state unequivocally that, insofar as the prospects of the success of the second adjustment program are concerned, "the implementation risks ... remain very high" but the success of the program "depends chiefly on Greece."(20)

The neoliberal economics applied to Greece by Germany, the EU and the IMF did not simply cause a greater decline in Greek GDP than "originally projected" or make the debt grow substantially bigger in the course of the last two years (from 126.8 percent in 2010 to 180 percent in 2012). It also produced an economic and social catastrophe of proportions unparalleled in peacetime Europe. In May 2010, when the first bailout was approved and the austerity measures kicked into high gear, the unemployment rate in Greece stood at 12 percent. It has since climbed to 27 percent, and the youth unemployment rate has reached 62 percent. According to the Greek Statistical Authority, the actual number of unemployed reached 1.35 million in November 2012, with the number of employed standing at 3.642 million.(21)

Poverty is also spreading rapidly, affecting all groups in society, including children. In a recent report released by Eurostat, 31 percent of Greeks had a standard of living in 2011 that was close to the poverty line,(22) while the Labor Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labor (INE-GSEE) states in its monthly publication Enimerosi that by the end of last year, 3.9 million people had fallen below the poverty line.(23) Income levels for workers have also taken a big hit over the last two to three years, and there is more wage suppression to come. According to research data released by the INE-GSEE, incomes dropped by 22.8 percent, or 19 billion euros, during 2010-2011, with a projected decline of 33 billion euros in available income in 2012.(24)

Perhaps most indicative of the catastrophic impact of the EU/IMF austerity measures imposed on Greece is that many schools throughout the country have gone on for a second year without heating oil (the nation was shocked recently by the death of two college students who died in their sleep due to inhalation of carbon monoxide from a makeshift stove as they could not afford heating oil, whose cost has gone through the roof because of the government's ingenious scheme to find extra revenues by raising the taxes on heating oil by 450 percent), the public health care system has collapsed to the point that even medication for cancer patients is not available, and suicides, for a nation that used to have the lowest recorded suicide rates in Europe, are taking place at a record pace.

The aim of the EU/IMF structural adjustment program with regard to the Greek labor market (employment and wages) is crystal clear: total liberalization, minimum wages comparable to those in Bulgaria and Romania (two relatively backward-looking Balkan nations, and with levels of corruption equal to those in Greece), and a potential ban on strikes. The first two elements of the subversive neoliberal labor market policy are well advanced, while the third one is in the works. Again, these measures have an official stamp of approval from the Greek government, including the current administration, a tripartite coalition consisting of the leader of the conservative party as prime minister and the leaders of the Socialist party and the Democratic Left as vice presidents. Moreover, as with every Greek administration since the outbreak of the crisis, the Ministry of Finance serves as a Trojan horse for inflicting the scorched-earth policy of the EU and IMF on Greece's economy and its people.

"The Left's Moment": Problems and Challenges

The scorched-earth policies pursued in Greece over the last three years by Germany and the twin monsters of neoliberalism, i.e., the EU and the IMF, have produced an economic and social catastrophe of unprecedented proportions for a nation in peacetime conditions. For the past three years, Greece has been a guinea pig for the policy prescriptions of a neoliberal EU under the command of Germany and its northern allies. A public debt crisis has been used as an opportunity to dismantle the social state, to sell off profitable public enterprises and state assets at bargain prices, to deprive labor of even its most basic rights after decades of hard-fought struggles against management, and to substantially reduce wages and pensions, creating a de facto banana republic - all with the support of a significant segment of the Greek industrial/financial class and with the assistance of the domestic political elite.

Greece is a nation experiencing a catastrophic crisis of immense proportions inside one of the world's richest regions, yet its government celebrates the fact that the deficit has been reduced as a result of the fiscal adjustment efforts (when virtually all other economic and social variables have gone from bad to worse every year) and expects the citizens to offer more "blood, tears, toil and sweat." At the same time, it is launching a brutal frontal attack on the left, using lies and propaganda and, increasingly, the iron fist of the state, as public opinion polls show consistently for the last few months that the conservative party of New Democracy (which is at the helm of the tripartite government currently ruling the nation) and Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, are in a neck-and-neck race.

The political landscape of Greece has changed radically as a result of the economic crisis. First, the socialists, the true masters of calculated political and ideological duplicity, the real maestros of corruption in Greece, are all but finished as a political force. In the 2012 national elections, the Socialist Party received 12.3 percent of the popular vote, and the latest polls show that its popularity has dropped to about 7 percent. This is the price paid for surrendering Greece to the EU/IMF rescue mechanism in May 2010 and for collaborating since the 2012 elections with the conservatives in finalizing the conversion of Greece into a neoliberal zombie society.

Second, the conservatives, under the leadership of the current prime minister, Antonis Samaras, have shifted from being opponents of the memorandum of agreement with the EU and the IMF when they were the opposition to become its obsequious servants. Their credibility and base support has weakened considerably in the course of the last couple of years, but the conservative constituency in Greece feels trapped and has few options other than perhaps to throw its support behind Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party of Greece. To be sure, a good percentage of conservative voters have already done so: the neo-Nazis received 7 percent of the popular vote in the 2012 elections, and their numbers seem to be growing in spite of (in fact, maybe because of) being nothing more than preachers for hate and thugs who carry out organized attacks against immigrants throughout Greece. Ideologically, they embrace Hitler's National Socialism doctrine, strive for racial purity and openly envision the reestablishment of concentration camps for leftists and communists.

Greece's neo-Nazi political party represents a real threat to the social fabric of Greece; however, it remains to be seen how the appeal of the extreme right will be countered when society itself is facing a meltdown because of the harsh austerity measures and the traditional political establishment is morally bankrupt and has lost much of its legitimacy.(25)

The emergence of Syriza as the second-largest party (pulling 26.89 percent of the vote against 29.66 percent for the conservatives) represents the biggest change in the Greek political landscape. In many ways, this is indeed the "left's moment in Greece,"(26) but the reality of the support rate that the left enjoys is more complicated than what the numbers report. Most of its votes in the 2012 elections came from former Pasok voters. This is not to imply that Syriza may eventually rise to power on a protest vote, but it does mean that the left finds itself in the uncomfortable situation of having the backing of a huge percentage of "political orphans." Even more troubling is the fact that many former Socialist Party hacks look to relaunch their political careers by seeking to attach themselves to Syriza's political cause. These are, of course, political opportunists of the highest caliber, and Syriza must turn its back on them if it wishes to keep intact the left's overall mission, vision and core principles.

The general impression among analysts and an increasing number of average citizens is that Syriza is about to become a "new Pasok." This is not far from the truth, especially as some elements close to the leadership of the party appear to be willing to make whatever compromises may be necessary in order to have Syriza rise to power. The party also lacks a clear and coherent agenda for change, and its position on the current crisis has shifted remarkably in the course of the last several months from calling for the abolition of the EU/IMF fiscal adjustment program (but without having an overall strategy for managing the crisis, or even solid support at the grassroots level) to renegotiations of the agreement (when the "troika" - the European Commission, the IMF, and the European Central Bank, or ECB - supervising the fiscal consolidation effort has opposed outright any attempt aiming towards renegotiations of its terms of agreement for the bailout schemes). Conscious, perhaps, of the immaturity of Greek citizenry, but also reflecting its own political and ideological ambiguities, Syriza has also opted not to confront direct exit from the euro as a possible policy option, even though this may, in the final analysis, be the only effective strategy (but with a potentially huge short-term cost) for stopping the permanent decline of the nation's economy. Indeed, as things stand, the current eurozone is doomed to fail, and the peripheral nations will go on experiencing worsening economic and social conditions as the core remains adamantly opposed to any policy options that would mutualize the debt in the eurozone, provide relief for the beleaguered south, or end austerity.

To be sure, Syriza faces daunting challenges ahead, while finding the resolve to deal with them is undermined by the cacophony of views that prevail inside the party and by its lack of apparent influence among working-class organizations and trade unions. The extent to which the organization might be able to find qualified members among its ranks for the tormenting task of turning around a highly inefficient public administrative system and managing an economy which, by the end of the current year, will have seen its GDP shrink by an incredible 25 percent since the onset of the global financial crisis of 2008, is also highly debatable. For a party of the left, Syriza has also shown reluctance, or unwillingness, or inability to embark on an open discussion about the country's future political culture, having chosen, instead, to consume itself scoring political points over the way political corruption was sustained in the past by the conservative and socialist parties.

Yet, if there is anything that the economic crisis in Greece reveals, other than the fact that neoliberal policies wreak havoc on the standard of living and produce massive unemployment and widespread poverty, and that a way must be found to restart the engine of the economy and get the unemployed back to work, it is the need to come to terms with the norms and patterns of the nation's political culture, including revisiting questions of civic virtue, fairness and social provision, expectations and obligations, and articulating visions of a good and decent society.

Having said all that, Syriza remains in Greece today the only political force that can offer hope for the future, put an end to the ongoing catastrophe, and, under certain conditions, work its way toward the realization of a sustainable economic and social order based on those core principles that have long defined progressives worldwide: employment opportunities for all, decent wages, a vigorous and efficient welfare system, free health care services, free education, quality social services, a progressive tax system, democratic accountability, environmental protection, respect for the "other," democratic participation at the workplace, sound business practices, and incentives for new business undertakings.

In politics, there is a huge gap between theory and practice, so Syriza should be neither idealized nor undermined for what it is trying to do, which is to answer history's call and try to rescue the country that gave birth to democracy from becoming ultimately a wretched society and a failed state inside one of the world's richest regions.

C. J. Polychroniou is a policy fellow at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. Certain parts of the above article are included in a recent Policy Note (2013/1) published by the Levy Institute and titled "The Tragedy of Greece: A Case Against Neoliberal Economics, the Domestic Political Elite, and the EU/IMF Duo." The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the Institute's board nor its advisers.

Endnotes

1.
Some of the most dire warnings against the launching of the euro came from inside Germany itself. Wilhelm Hankel, Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider, Joachim Starbatty, and Wilhelm Nφlling were four renegade professors who opposed the euro from the start and tried to stop it with a legal challenge to Germany's highest court. Obviously, they lost the case. They tried again 12 years later against a German bailout of Greece. They lost again. Their basic claim all along has been was that the euro was an architectural flaw which would lead to the downfall of European economies. Moreover, and in sharp contrast to the original arguments in support of the creation of a single currency zone in Europe, the euro has led to greater economic and social inequality among the various national economies, has exacerbated the problem of unemployment in the peripheral economies, and has produced huge transfers from the periphery to the core.

2.
The original optimal currency area approach was laid out by Robert Mundell in his article "A Theory of Optimum Currency Areas," American Economic Review Vol. 51, No 4 (1961), pp. 657–665. See also R. I. McKinnon, "Optimum Currency Areas," American Economic Review Vol. 53, No. 4 (1963), pp. 717–725.

3.
Greece gained entry into the eurozone by fabricating - with significant help from Goldman Sachs - the true state of the country's fiscal condition. The EU political elite was clearly aware of Greece's actual fiscal condition, but opted to look the other way.

4.
This is the reason that, in spite of the irreparable damage that three years of catastrophic austerity measures - part of the bailout agreements orchestrated by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - have caused, both to the national interests and to Greece's social fabric, the discussion of exiting the euro remains a taboo virtually across the political spectrum.

5.
The conservative government of Kostas Karamanlis, which came to power in 2004 and governed until 2009, proved to be equally, if not even more, corrupt and immensely incompetent. In fact, from the 1980s onwards, the socialists and the conservatives had ruled the nation in a similar fashion, both of them using the state and its coffers as a means to enrich themselves and their parasitic capitalist partners and to cater to the needs and demands of their political clientele in order to maintain an army of faithful party voters, making it thus virtually impossible to tell which of the two political parties has caused greatest damage to the common good. Both have been implicated in various large-scale scandals that involved exploiting state resources in order to transfer wealth from the public to the private sector and to redistribute wealth from the bottom to the top. Both of them, as well as the private sector, squandered European Union structural funds with reckless abandon, in the process allowing the destruction of vital sectors of the economy to take place (e.g., agriculture). Insofar as the culture of corruption - which the elite saw fit to let spread throughout society, thus creating a system of "corrupt legality" - is concerned, foreign actors also had a major role in it. The German industrial giant Siemens was in the habit of handing out bribes to political figures in order to gain preferential treatment over business deals (i.e., gain state contracts). This was a global practice of Siemens', and it is estimated that the bribes to Greek officials in both main political parties may have been as much as 100 million euros over a ten-year period. Charges were filed in 2008 for money laundering and bribery, but a parliamentary investigative committee that had been formed to examine the Siemens scandal conveniently swept the case under the rug.

6.
Greek Statistical Authority (March 18, 2010). See www.statistics.gr.

7.
Cited on the web site of the Greek Embassy in Washington, DC. See http://www.greekembassy.org/embassy/Content/en/Article.aspx?office=3&folder=1013&article=24631

8.
See Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and L. Randall Wray, "Euroland's Original Sin," Policy Note 2012/8. Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (July 2012). Online: http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1559

9.
C. J. Polychroniou, "The Greek and the European Crisis in Context," New Politics Vol. 13, No. 4 (Winter 2012), pp. 49–56.

10.
See C. J. Polychroniou, "The Mediterranean Conundrum: Crisis in the European Periphery," Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XLVII, No. 21 (May 26, 2012), pp. 35-41.

11.
A fine new source discussing the history and the policies of neoliberalism is that of Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics ( Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012).

12.
Among the many profound pieces by Henry A. Giroux on the ideology of neoliberalism, see in particular his latest one "The Politics of Disimagination and the Pathologies of Power," Truthout (February 27, 2013). Online: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/14814-the-politics-of-disimagination-and-the-pathologies-of-power

13.
See C. J. Polychroniou, "Greece's Bailouts and the Economics of Social Disaster," Policy Note 2012/11. Annandale-on-Hudson, New York: The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (September 2012). Online: http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1569

14.
George Papandreou, son of Andreas Papandreou, founder of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) and prime minister of Greece for almost ten years, after having won three national elections, became prime minister in October 2009. With no charisma whatsoever and lacking in intellectual prowess and administrative and leadership skills, his failure as a top political dog was all but ensured. He resigned in November 2011, after having ruled the most excruciatingly amateurish and agonizingly incompetent government in modern Greek history, but will always be remembered as the prime minister who "masterminded" the unconditional surrender of Greece to Germany and the IMF and imposed brutal austerity - the prime minister whose ultimate vision was "one working person per family." He is still the leader of The Socialist International, one of the most shameful contemporary political organizations, allegedly at the service of democratic socialism but whose members included, among other "devotees to the cause of socialism and democracy," Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali; and, the irony of all ironies, he gets paid hefty fees to lecture for a few weeks at prestigious institutions like Harvard and Columbia, probably on how to ruin an economy and destroy a nation's sovereignty.

15.
See Dimitri B. Papadimitriou, Gennaro Zezza, and Vincent Duwicquet, "Current Prospects for the Greek Economy: Interim Report," Annandale-on-Hudson, New York: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (October 2012). Online: http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1589

16.
See Jörg Bibow, "The Euro Debt Crisis and Germany's Euro Trilemma." Working Paper No. 721. Annandale-on-Hudson, New York: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (May 2012). Online: http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1535

17.
Philip Blenkinsop and Annika Breidthardt, "Euro Zone Economy Falls Deeper than Expected into Recession," Reuters (February 14, 2013). Online: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/02/14/uk-europe-economy-idUKBRE91D0CS20130214

18.
C. J. Polychroniou, "Greece's Bailouts and the Economics of Social Disaster," Policy Note 2012/11. Annandale-on-Hudson, New York: The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College (September 2012). Online: http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1569

19.
European Commission, "European Economy: The Second Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece," Occasional Papers 94 (March 2012), p. 1.

20.
European Commission, "European Economy: The Second Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece," Occasional Papers 94 (March 2012), p. 4.

21.
Greek Statistical Authority, "Labour Force Survey: November 2012," Press Release (February 14, 2013).

22.
Cited in ekathimerini.com. "3.4 Million Greeks near Poverty Line in 2011, Eurostat Reports," (December 3, 2012). Online: http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_03/12/2012_472690.

23.
INE-GSEE (Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour), Enimerosi, No. 200 (December 2012), p. 1.

24.
INE-GSEE (Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour), The Greek Economy and Employment: Yearly Report (2012), p.21.

25.
Greece's two main political parties, the conservatives (New Democracy, or ND) and the socialists (Pasok), used to draw, until recently, over 75 percent of the combined vote. In the 2012 elections, both parties together managed to attract less than 35 percent of the popular vote - and if elections were held today, it is unlikely that they would get more than 28 percent of the combined vote.

26.
The phrase is borrowed from the title of an article by Costas Lapavitsas, which appeared in The Progressive, Vol. 76, Issue 7 (July 2012).

Mistake or not? People who started Iraq war are having second thoughts

Published time: March 20, 2013 10:42
An Iraqi baby lies in a cradle while a woman argues with U.S. soldiers of 1/8 Bravo Company searching for weapons, explosives and information about militants in the area during a foot patrol in a neighbourhood of Mosul June 26, 2008 (Reuters / Eduardo Munoz)

The number of Americans thinking the Iraq invasion was a good thing dwindled from 75% in 2003 to 42% in a recent Gallup poll. RT asked some of the politicians behind the decision to intervene if ten years on they still think it was right thing to do.

The 2003 "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad, which began an almost decade-long campaign in Iraq was first to be approved of by US and British MPs The two countries summoned the so-called 'coalition of the willing', after the UN Security Council did not agree on a military operation in Iraq. The pretext for invading was allegations Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. As they’ve been never found, the main justification for the invasion is lacking.

An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes March 21, 2003 (Reuters / Goran Tomasevic)

Still, some of those who voted for invading don’t think they were wrong:

No, I don’t regret voting in that way, because I think the people of Iraq have been freed… Of course, you regret any number of people who died, but the big question is: what was the intent of Saddam Hussein against his own people? We have already seen that we had a very repressive regime,” Liam Fox, UK Conservative Party chairman from 2003 to 2005 said RT. 

What Iraqis got in exchange for “a very repressive regime” could hardly be called a better and safer life. In fact it has been ten years of bloodshed, which is not over yet. Baghdad is seeing explosions in its streets almost on a daily basis.

At least 134,000 civilians in Iraq have lost their lives following the US-led invasion and according to a report by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University the overall number of casualties could be 4 times higher. Around 5,000 coalition soldiers died according to estimates by iCasaualties.org. UN High Commission for Refugees says more than 2 million people were displaced in the conflict.

A U.S.soldier of the 1st Battalion (22nd regiment) of the fourth Division of the U.S. army stands guard next to detained Iraqis caught during a raid in Tikrit, September 10, 2003 (Reuters / Arko Datta)

Add to that the US war expenses, which the Brown University study has so far put at more than 2 trillion dollars. And still some American military officials remain undaunted by the numbers and believe what they did 10 years ago was actually a good thing.

I think it was very necessary for us to do something to help the Middle East achieve a degree of freedom that it hadn’t had before. Now, a lot of people are going to argue with that, the Iraq invasion did not provide the types of freedom that we had originally envisioned, but what they were dealing with was the regime that did not allow any freedoms and now, depending on where you are in Iraq, there’s at least a semblance of some freedom,” Col. Cedric Leighton from Washington DC told RT.

He didn’t specify where exactly the places with semblance of freedom are to be found.

An Iraqi girl holds her sister as she waits for her mother (R) to bring over food bought in Basra, March 29, 2003 (Reuters / Jerry Lampen)

The number of Americans, thinking the military campaign in Iraq wasn’t worth it has been growing. Ten years ago a Gallup poll showed 75% were for and 23% against the invasion. According to the same poll, conducted on the eve of the 10th anniversary, 42% still support the move while 53% of Americans consider it a mistake.

At least some of the decision makers have joined those 53 percent and acknowledge they were wrong.

"In anyone's candid moments, they will tell you were it not for the WMD, we wouldn't have authorized use of force there," said Senator Jeff Flake in an interview with USA Today.  Flake, who as a member of the House voted in support of the joint resolution that led to the Iraq invasion, went on to say: "I don't attribute any nefarious motives to President Bush or those involved. I think we were just wrong. Sometimes, you're wrong."

U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad April 9, 2003 (Reuters / Goran Tomasevic)

Among British decision makers acting a decade ago there’s also a man, who changed his mind. Lord John Prescott, who in 2003 was Tony Blair’s Deputy Prime Minister and believed a military operation against Saddam Hussein was necessary told RT he would not agree to it, if he had known what he knew now. He believes it was regime change, though “it always used to be denied that it was regime change.”

And I want the lesson to be learned and we shouldn’t repeat it again. These countries must develop in their own ways,” Lord Prescott concludes.

Freedom of press under pressure: UK to launch media regulator

Published time: March 18, 2013 11:49
Britain's Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron (R) and with Liberal Democrat Party Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg react as they answer a question from the media during a joint press conference inside 10 Downing Street to mark the half-way point in the five-year term of the coalition government in London on January 7, 2013. (AFP Photo/Peter Nicholls)

A new press watchdog is reportedly set to be established in the UK, despite fears voiced by Conservative Party leader Prime Minister David Cameron that it could jeopardize freedom of the press in the country.

MPs have reportedly reached a last-minute compromise over new press regulations following a parliamentary vote.  It has allegedly been agreed that the press watchdog will have the authority to levy six-figure fines of up to $1.5 million, as well as require newspapers to print apologies when necessary.

Negotiators initially disagreed on the terms of the proposed watchdog, which would protect individuals from malicious newspaper reporters. While all agreed that the press cannot be trusted to govern itself, many insisted – the Prime Minister among them – that if regulation of the press is necessary, it should be without political involvement.

Cameron argued that enshrining media restrictions could erode the concept of the free press:  "The idea of a law, a great, big, all-singing, all-dancing media law ... would have been bad for press freedom, bad for individual freedom," the Conservative Party leader was quoted as saying.

Members of the Hacked Off Campaign stage a photocall to illustrate how many people have signed the petition for a free but accountable press in the United Kingdom out side of Parliament in London on December 3, 2012. (AFP Photo/Andrew Cowie)

He proposed to protect victims of unruly newspapers through a royal charter, an executive document that does not require a vote in Parliament.

Opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband urged lawmakers to "stand up for the victims" of press abuse by formalizing the new press regulations into law.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, whose privacy has been repeatedly violated by the media, said she and other victims “have been hung out to dry” by the government.

Talks reportedly continued through the night on March 18, with Cameron allegedly failing to rally support for his regulatory scheme. It was reported he was forced to compromise and accept the opposition parties’ terms, some of which he had earlier described as “bad for press freedom,” in order to avoid an inevitable defeat in the House of Commons.

“After five-and-a-half hours of talks in Ed Miliband's office which ended at 2:30am, we are confident we have the basis of an agreement around our royal charter entrenched in statute,” a senior Labour source told the Daily Mail.

The heated debate over media regulation in the UK was triggered by Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into press ethics, following revelations of the illegal practice of phone-hacking by tabloid journalists.

The scandal resulted in the closure of Rupert Murdoch’s ‘News of the World’ tabloid in 2011 and a wave of resignations after it emerged that journalists had regularly eavesdropped on voicemails and hacked into computers in search of dirt on celebrities.

The UK already has one government-approved regulatory authority, Ofcom, established in 2003 to protect against “scams and sharp practices.” The Office of Communications operates under the so-called ‘Communications Act 2003,’ a parliamentary act that defines the authority of this ‘super-regulator’ in protecting the public from what might be considered harmful or offensive material.

PMQS: Miliband Mocks Cameron: ‘What Can He Organise In A Brewery?’

Ed Miliband unleashed his best ever gag at the start of prime minister's questions on Wednesday, mocking David Cameron for reports he has been forced to abandon his plans to introduce a minimum price for alcoholic drinks.

"In the light of his u-turn on alcohol pricing can the prime minister tell us if there is anything he could organise in a brewery?" the Labour leader said to roars of laughter from his MPs.

It has been reported that opposition to the policy from his cabinet, including from former health secretary Andrew Lansley, education secretary Michael Gove and home secretary Theresa May - who is said to be positioning herself to challenge for the Tory leadership - Cameron has had to drop the plan.

Miliband joked: "He obviously could not tell us about his policy on alcohol minimum unit pricing, I think the reality is he has just been overruled by the home secretary on this one."

The barb did not go down well with May, who, stood next to the Speaker's chair rather than sat on the government front bench, responded with her now trademark 'death stare'.

Generated image from gifs generated with the Imgflip Animated GIF Generator

Downing Street has refused to say whether plans for minimum pricing had been dropped, insisting the policy will be unveiled in "due course".

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The prime minister's official spokesperson said there was a "real problem with deep discounting and the impact of anti-social behaviour" that had to be tackled.

During PMQs Cameron was directly confronted in the Commons by Tory MP Sarah Wollaston - a former GP - who said abandoning minimum pricing would "critically undermine future efforts".

He told her: "There is a problem with deeply discounted alcohol in supermarkets and other stores and I am absolutely determined that we will deal with this.

"We published proposals, we are looking at the consultation and the results to those proposals, but be in no doubt, we've got to deal with the problem of having 20p or 25p cans of lager available in supermarkets. It's got to change."

A confident Miliband, who enjoyed one of his best PMQs performances to date, said reported cabinet splits showed the government was "falling apart".

"A week out from the Budget, they have got an economic policy that's failing, a prime minister that makes it up as he goes along and all the time, it's the country that is paying the price," he said.

Loading Slideshow...

  • Theresa May

    Current position: Home Secretary Rides: "Beyond The Borders" Odds to win: 4/1 For: Politically, May is a shrewd and successful operator who has done a credible job as home secretary, a role that has tripped up many previous politicians. Against: A Tory minister recently described May as "100% charmless" and the only benefit that her appointment as leader would bring would be "net migration".

  • Boris Johnson

    Current position: Mayor of London Rides: "Bumbling Oratory" Odds to win: 5/1 For: Boris is rarer thing than a <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sugarbushdrafthorse.com%2Frevival.html">Sugarbush Draft Horse,</a> he's a "popular Tory". An <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2012%2F10%2F07%2Fboris-johnson-preferred-to-david-cameron_n_1945895.html">opinion poll last October</a> outed him as the people's choice to replace Cameron. Unfortunately, it's not up to the people... Against: Johnson has all but ruled out taking over from Cameron before 2015, wary that undermining him could scupper any leadership hopes. Just like what happened to Lord Heseltine in the wake of Margaret Thatcher stepping down...

  • Michael Gove

    Current position: Secretary of State for Education Rides: "Baccalaureate Backtrack" Odds to win: 9/1 For: Gove is highly regarded within the Tory party as charming, polite and capable. Against: He has taken a bruising both from the public and other Tories for some of his proposals as Secretary of State for Education.

  • Philip Hammond

    Current position: Defence Secretary Rides: "Stripped Down Defender" Odds to win: 10/1 For: Erm... Against: Recently received a "slapping down" from Danny Alexander for publicly complaining about defence cuts. Also, he's possibly the most "beige" of all the prospective candidates.

  • Adam Afriyie

    Current position: MP for Windsor Rides: "Outside Upstart" Odds to win: 25/1 For: Afriyie is part of the new generation of Tories with fewer qualms about toppling their leader. One Tory minister said: "<a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegraph.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fpolitics%2F9916975%2FTories-too-afraid-of-fresh-chaos-for-leadership-coup.html">They don't have the same memory or experience to hold them back</a>. "And if they start to think they're going to lose their seats at the election, they could get a bit panicked." Against: Was widely ridiculed earlier this year when the relative unknown was tipped for a leadership challenge. Also, no-one seems to have told him about his own challenge until he read about it in the papers and "<a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.guardian.co.uk%2Fpolitics%2F2013%2Fjan%2F31%2Fadam-afriyie-pm-in-waiting">nearly choked on my Cornflakes</a>".

  • Liam Fox

    Current position: Rides: "Spend Wisely" Odds to win: 33/1 For: Dr Fox has become the unofficial spokesman for those Tories disaffected with the current leadership with a number of public statements criticising their direction on austerity. Against: Is it really a good move to appoint someone who was forced to resign from his job as defence minister for <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2011%2F10%2F09%2Fliam-fox-resigns_n_1002156.html">allowing a close friend improper access to the highest level of government affairs?</a> Additionaly, <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2013%2F03%2F11%2Fliam-fox-tory-leadership_n_2851902.html">Fox recently said</a>: "I think there is no chance of us having a leadership election in the Conservative Party before the election, I think that would be madness."

Earlier on HuffPost:

‘Order! Order! The Member For Wandsworth North – Down To The Office’

Disgraced former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne was ridiculed on his first day in jail when a warder called him to breakfast shouting "Order! Order!", it was reported today.

The prison officer, using the Tannoy system in Wandsworth jail, mimicked the Commons Speaker by adding: "The right honourable member for Wandsworth North - down to the office," The Sun newspaper reported.

Other prisoners at the south-west London jail were said to have roared with laughter as Huhne went from his cell to pick up the meal.

The newspaper also reported that 58-year-old Huhne has been moved to a wing for vulnerable prisoners because other convicts humiliated and bullied him.

He is said to have asked to be moved to the special area after prisoners discovered he was a millionaire and badgered him for cash.

An unnamed woman, speaking to the newspaper outside the prison yesterday after a visit to see her boyfriend, said the other prisoners targeted Huhne as a "soft touch" within hours of his arrival.

"Someone found out he was a millionaire and as soon as he was on the wing there were loads of people after him. They kept on going up to him saying, 'We know you've got money'," she said.

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"They had to move him into the segregation block because inmates were bullying him."

Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce were handed eight-month jail sentences at Southwark Crown Court in London on Monday for perverting the course of justice when Pryce took speeding points for Huhne in 2003.

Jailing the pair, Mr Justice Sweeney said Huhne had fallen from a "great height", and Pryce from a "considerable height".

Economist Pryce, 60, was convicted after a retrial last week, while Huhne pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial last month after denying the offence for nearly two years.

The former energy secretary, who once had ambitions for the Lib Dem leadership, was the first former Cabinet minister since Jonathan Aitken to be jailed.

The Sun reported that Pryce spent a "nervous" first day in Holloway prison in north London.

Postman Robert Brown told the newspaper a friend he had visited in the jail told him he had spotted Pryce, who is a mother-of-five.

"My friend said she was very scruffy and looked really nervous," he told the newspaper.

Loading Slideshow...

  • Theresa May

    Current position: Home Secretary Rides: "Beyond The Borders" Odds to win: 4/1 For: Politically, May is a shrewd and successful operator who has done a credible job as home secretary, a role that has tripped up many previous politicians. Against: A Tory minister recently described May as "100% charmless" and the only benefit that her appointment as leader would bring would be "net migration".

  • Boris Johnson

    Current position: Mayor of London Rides: "Bumbling Oratory" Odds to win: 5/1 For: Boris is rarer thing than a <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sugarbushdrafthorse.com%2Frevival.html">Sugarbush Draft Horse,</a> he's a "popular Tory". An <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2012%2F10%2F07%2Fboris-johnson-preferred-to-david-cameron_n_1945895.html">opinion poll last October</a> outed him as the people's choice to replace Cameron. Unfortunately, it's not up to the people... Against: Johnson has all but ruled out taking over from Cameron before 2015, wary that undermining him could scupper any leadership hopes. Just like what happened to Lord Heseltine in the wake of Margaret Thatcher stepping down...

  • Michael Gove

    Current position: Secretary of State for Education Rides: "Baccalaureate Backtrack" Odds to win: 9/1 For: Gove is highly regarded within the Tory party as charming, polite and capable. Against: He has taken a bruising both from the public and other Tories for some of his proposals as Secretary of State for Education.

  • Philip Hammond

    Current position: Defence Secretary Rides: "Stripped Down Defender" Odds to win: 10/1 For: Erm... Against: Recently received a "slapping down" from Danny Alexander for publicly complaining about defence cuts. Also, he's possibly the most "beige" of all the prospective candidates.

  • Adam Afriyie

    Current position: MP for Windsor Rides: "Outside Upstart" Odds to win: 25/1 For: Afriyie is part of the new generation of Tories with fewer qualms about toppling their leader. One Tory minister said: "<a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.telegraph.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fpolitics%2F9916975%2FTories-too-afraid-of-fresh-chaos-for-leadership-coup.html">They don't have the same memory or experience to hold them back</a>. "And if they start to think they're going to lose their seats at the election, they could get a bit panicked." Against: Was widely ridiculed earlier this year when the relative unknown was tipped for a leadership challenge. Also, no-one seems to have told him about his own challenge until he read about it in the papers and "<a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.guardian.co.uk%2Fpolitics%2F2013%2Fjan%2F31%2Fadam-afriyie-pm-in-waiting">nearly choked on my Cornflakes</a>".

  • Liam Fox

    Current position: Rides: "Spend Wisely" Odds to win: 33/1 For: Dr Fox has become the unofficial spokesman for those Tories disaffected with the current leadership with a number of public statements criticising their direction on austerity. Against: Is it really a good move to appoint someone who was forced to resign from his job as defence minister for <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2011%2F10%2F09%2Fliam-fox-resigns_n_1002156.html">allowing a close friend improper access to the highest level of government affairs?</a> Additionaly, <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.co.uk%2F2013%2F03%2F11%2Fliam-fox-tory-leadership_n_2851902.html">Fox recently said</a>: "I think there is no chance of us having a leadership election in the Conservative Party before the election, I think that would be madness."

Related on HuffPost:

The Global Austerity Resistance Continues

Protesters march against government austerity measures in Madrid, March 10, 2013. (Reuters/Sergio Perez)Tens of thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Spain and Greece this week in response to ongoing budget cuts and high unemployment. In Spain, unemployment has passed the five million mark for the first time since records began—attracting widespread criticism over the conservative government's austerity plans. Similarly, Greece, which has served as a laboratory for austerity enthusiasts, has suffered mass poverty, unemployment and suicide since severe budget cuts were implemented by the government.

"Poverty, unemployment, suicides. Enough is enough," was the slogan chanted on Syntagma square by some 1,500 Greek demonstrators non-affiliated with political parties who were mobilized through social media. The demonstration ended when police shot tear gas at protesters—a police tactic also used during the anti-austerity demonstrations in Athens when the debt cries began in late 2009.

Earlier this month, three people in central Greece killed themselves on the same day, and analysts said there is a correlation between the rising rates and three years of pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions that have pushed many people into poverty. According to the Greek Reporter:

There has been a sharp rise in the number of suicides in Greece since the beginning of the crisis in 2009, with official sources putting the figure at over 3,100 from the start of 2009 to August 2012, though experts say that deaths by suicide are often not documented as such because of the social stigma attached to them.

On Saturday, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promised that there would be "no more austerity measures" as international creditors prolonged an audit of crisis reforms.

"There will be no more austerity measures," Samaras said in a televised speech to his conservative party's political committee. 

"And as soon as growth sets in, relief measures will slowly begin," Samaras said. 

But he noted that Greece's ailing economy was "out of intensive care, not out of the hospital."

However, it seems unlikely Samaras will have the last word on budget cuts, and auditors have made it clear they expect to see an increase in privatization plans. Under the bailout conditions adopted last year, Greece needs to cut public sector workers by 25,000 in 2013 and a total of 150,000 by the end of 2015.

In Spain, the Madrid protest ended when police fired tear gas at protesters and arrested 45 individuals, including nine minors. Reportedly, 40 individuals were injured during the protest, and police claim they found four firebombs in a backpack abandoned on a street, in addition to 22 firecrackers, five flares and a stick from two minors near Madrid's main railway station.

The AP reports rallies were organized in Madrid and 60 other cities by 150 organizations including trade unions representing the construction, car and television industries as well as police and health services. Police estimated some 20,000 people marched in Barcelona, but authorities did not have figures for a large rally held in Madrid.

Protesters marched to the Spanish parliament in opposition to tax hikes, spending cuts, high unemployment and alleged corruption. At the tail end of the demonstrations, young protesters threw bar chairs into a road and burned garbage containers.

At the beginning of the month, many thousands of demonstrators held marches in more than 20 cities in Portugal to protest against austerity measures. Tens of thousands filled a Lisbon boulevard during the protests and headed to the finance ministry carrying placards that read, "Screw the troika, we want our lives back." The troika is a slang term for the three organizations which have the most power over debt-ridden countries' financial futures: the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank.

Protesters can be heard in the video below singing a song linked to a 1974 popular uprising known as the Carnation Revolution—named because no shots were fired when the population started descending the streets to celebrate the end of Marcello Caetano's reign; instead protesters placed carnation flowers into the muzzles of rifles and on the uniforms of the army.

Portugal is expected to suffer a third straight year of recession in 2013, and the overall jobless rate has grown to a record 17.6 percent—of which young people are a particularly devastated demographic with unemployment close to 40 percent.

© 2013 The Nation

Allison Kilkenny

Allison Kilkenny is the co-host of the progressive political podcast Citizen Radio (wearecitizenradio.com) and independent journalist who blogs at allisonkilkenny.com. Her work has appeared in The American Prospect, the L.A. Times, In These Times, Common Dreams, Truthout and the award-winning grassroots NYC newspaper The Indypendent.

Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Did Clegg And Cable Know?

The ten things you need to know on Friday 8 March 2013...

1) DID CLEGG AND CABLE KNOW?

They may like to think they occupy the moral high ground but those Lib Dems know how to do a scandal, don't they? Former cabinet minister Chris Huhne has already pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice over his speeding points and, yesterday, Chris Huhne's ex-wife Vicky Pryce was found guilty too. ("The Price of Vengeance," splashes the Mail; "The Pryce of Revenge," splashes the Telegraph).

But here's the key bit: as the Daily Mail reports, "senior Liberal Democrats were dragged into the Chris Huhne scandal last night amid sensational claims that... Pryce confided in them two years ago".

'Did Clegg and Cable know?' is the headline in the Daily Express, which reports:

"Detectives uncovered explosive evidence suggesting that senior Lib Dems including Mr Clegg's wife Miriam and Business Secretary Vince Cable could have been in on the secret.

"They found emails from Huhne's ex-wife Vicky Pryce, saying she admitted the deception to Mr Cable, Mrs Clegg and others.

"... One, written in April 2011, claims she confided in Mr Cable and his wife saying she had 'told Vince and Rachel about points'.

"... Referring to the Deputy Prime Minister, his wife, the Business Secretary and Lib Dem elder statesman Lord Oakeshott, she says: 'Yes, I have told VC, Miriam C, MOak and a few other Lords and others working close to NC.'"

Both the Cleggs and the Cables have released statements denying they had any prior knowledge of the speeding-points story.

Nonetheless, the term "explosive" is also used by the Mirror in its lead editorial: "The guilty verdict on Vicky Pryce is a family tragedy and, for the Lib Dems, a second potentially explosive scandal over who knew what."

And the Sun declares: "The Lib Dems just cannot rid themselves of the stink of scandal."

First Rennard, now Pryce. Victory in Eastleigh suddenly seems so long ago. In fact, in comments made ahead of the Eastleigh by-election but published in House magazine last night, the party president Tim Farron referred (in a positive way!) to Lib Dems as "nutters" and "cockroaches" but warned his colleagues that "the party is in a critical state... We shouldn’t assume our survival is guaranteed".

By the way, did I mention that Liberal Democrats are gathering in Brighton today for their spring conference? You can't beat that for (bad) timing, eh?

2) GET RID OF DAVE? NAH, TOO CHAOTIC...

Good news for the leader of the Conservative Party - from the Telegraph:

"Conservative Cabinet ministers will not dare to move against David Cameron because they know they would plunge the party back into the turmoil of the 1990s, the Prime Minister's allies have said.

"... Allies of the Prime Minister said they believed that ministers such as Mrs May would run if a vacancy ever arose.

"But they insisted that neither she nor any other senior Cabinet minister would actively try to bring down the Prime Minister, fearing that to do so would repeat the Tory infighting that scarred Sir John Major's government.

"A minister close to Mr Cameron said: 'No one from that generation would move against him, because they know exactly what would happen to the party if they did. They remember the 1990s and all the damage we did to ourselves then.'

"Instead, the minister said, any attempt to oust Mr Cameron would come from younger Tories, including those first elected in 2010."

Bring on Adam Afriyie, eh?

3) WHEN RUPERT MET NIGEL...

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has a new admirer - from the Huffington Post UK:

"Nigel Farage told Rupert Murdoch at a private London dinner he would form an electoral pact with the Conservative Party if David Cameron quit as prime minister, it has been reported.

"According to the Daily Telegraph, the Ukip leader met the News International chairman for a 'secret' meal on Tuesday, the pair's first meeting, in the wake of the Eastleigh by-election which saw Farage's eurosceptic party push the Tories into third place.

"The newspaper reports that Farage told Murdoch he would work with the Tories to defeat Labour in 2015, as long as the prime minister was no longer the party's leader."

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4) LABOUR'S IMMIGRATION DOG WHISTLES

Hey Ed Miliband, how's that new 'progressive' approach to immigration working out for you? And have you mentioned it to your shadow home secretary?

"We won't pay dole to EU migrants for three months, vows Labour," was the headline in last night's Evening Standard; the paper was reporting on Yvette Cooper's dog-whistling speech on immigration yesterday. 'Benefit tourism' is a myth: official figures show that those born abroad are significantly less likely to claim benefits than UK nationals - but Cooper is intent on sounding 'tough'.

As the Guardian's veteran home affairs editor Alan Travis observes:

"Yvette Cooper may well have promised not to 'enter into an arms race of rhetoric' with the Tories over immigration but Labour's new approach appears designed to ensure that nobody can put a cigarette paper between them."

He adds:

"Cooper also seems to have taken the lesson from Tony Blair's law and order strategy of matching every 'tough' initiative put forward by the Conservatives and, if possible, out-flanking them by proposing a few more practical solutions of your own."

How depressing. Is there no one in public life willing to make the case for immigration?

5) 'COASTING CAN KILL'

According to the Times, in a speech today the health secretary Jeremy Hunt will tell "hospital bosses that too many of them are complacent about being 'not bad' and warns them that 'coasting can kill'... Mr Hunt compares NHS hospitals to the failing British Olympic team of years past, when they did not aim to win but were content not to come last."

The paper also reports on how "Harry Cayton, head of the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, believes that a return of old-fashioned moral concepts is needed in order to guide the NHS out of a malaise and rebuild public confidence after the Mid Staffs scandal."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this 3-minute video of an adorable baby elephant playing in the ocean. Go on. You know you want to.

6) HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A TORY DONOR SCORNED

Bizarre. From the Daily Mail:

"The Tories’ biggest donor of the last decade has held an extraordinary private meeting with Labour to discuss its election strategy.

"Lord Ashcroft, a hate figure for most Labour MPs, held talks with Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, one of the architects of the party’s 2015 campaign.

"It emerged last month that the peer, a former deputy chairman of the Conservatives who gave the party £10million in funding but stopped donating several years ago, had decided not to give any more after becoming disillusioned with David Cameron’s leadership."

7) AUSTERITY WATCH, PART 121

From the Independent:

"The Government's programme of public spending cuts has been marred by short-term thinking, turf wars between departments and perverse decision-making, a committee of MPs said today.

"The Public Accounts Committee said some of the £200bn of cuts made by George Osborne undermined his attempts to boost growth. It lambasts 'silo thinking' by departments who gave no heed to how spending decisions that they made might affect other parts of the Government."

Meanwhile, the Sun reports on the prime minister's 'major speech' on the economy in Keighley yesterday - and the latter's response to his freelancing business secretary:

"Angry David Cameron has slapped down Vince Cable over his 'Plan B' suggestion for more borrowing in a bid to boost puny growth... in a withering put-down for Labour's alternative strategy too, Mr Cameron said: 'There are some people who think we don't have to take all these tough decisions to deal with our debts.

"'And what we need to do is to spend more and borrow more. It's as if they think there's some magic money tree. Well let me tell you a plain truth: there isn't.

"'Changing course would plunge the UK 'back into the abyss', the PM also warned."

Given the coalition is borrowing £212bn more than it had planned to, Dave may have his own 'magic money tree' hidden away somewhere...

8) HIDING BEHIND ISLAMOPHOBES

Tory ministers have been to invoke the German government's support for a tougher approach to migrants from Bulgaria and Romania - but my colleague Felicity Morse draws our attention to some of the more unsavoury views expressed by that country's interior minister:

"The British government has been accused of 'hiding' behind Germany and a minister with a 'dubious and suspicious record' in a bid to bolster support for blocks on Eastern European immigration."

Hans Peter Friedrich, writes Felicity, "has a controversial history with minorities in Germany, causing outrage a year ago after telling journalists in: 'Islam in Germany is not something supported by history at any point.'"

A spokesperson for Hope Not Hate told her: "Hans Peter Frederich allegedly has a dubious and suspicious record and Britain is hiding behind that. Government scaremongering on Romanians and Bulgarians is deflecting attention from what's going on at home with welfare and the NHS and the economy."

9) YOU WANNA PIECE OF US?

Uh-oh. From the BBC:

"North Korea says it is scrapping all non-aggression pacts with South Korea, closing its hotline with Seoul and shutting their shared border point.

"The announcement follows a fresh round of UN sanctions punishing Pyongyang for its nuclear test last month.

"Earlier, Pyongyang said it reserved the right to a pre-emptive nuclear strike against its 'aggressors'."

Hopefully it's the usual bit of bluster from the crazies in charge of the North Korean dictatorship and not something more serious or significant...

10) WE LOVE YOU MAGGIE. WELL, SOME PEOPLE DO.

Tories rejoice! The Telegraph reports:

"The birthplace of Baroness Thatcher is finally to have a permanent statue erected in her honour, housed in a museum dedicated to the former prime minister...

"After years of wrangling over the issue, a £200,000 fund-raising project is to begin, half of which will pay for the statue and half for the renovation of the Grantham Museum in Lincolnshire.

"... By taking the decision out of the hands of local politicians, who have spent decades arguing over whether to have a statue, the museum staff hope to unite the town’s residents behind the project."

SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT

Tonight I'm interviewing leading climate change sceptic, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, at the Oxford Union for a pre-recorded Al Jazeera show. It kicks off at 7.30pm and other contributors include Oxford professor Myles Allen, author and activist Mark Lynas and the Mail on Sunday's David Rose. If you'd like to come along and ask a question from the audience, please email [email protected]

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 41
Conservatives 32
Lib Dems 11
Ukip 11

That would give Labour a majority of 96.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@DavidWooding That post Eastleigh smirk of satisfaction seems to have vanished from many Lib Dem faces this morning.

@DavidLammy Feel like I've waited all my life for football like this from Spurs."Please Gareth Bale don't stand against me at the next election!" #COYS

@davidwearing Shall we pre-empt the "men's rights" self-pity by pointing out that *every day* is International Men's Day? #IWD

900 WORDS OR MORE

Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "It’s a myth that lazy foreigners are sponging off our welfare state. Our leaders ought to be straight with us."

Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, says: "More spending? The coalition may as well build a bridge to the moon."

Jonathan Aitken, writing in the Daily Mail, says: "The mad hubris of us politicians: I know because it brought me down too."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

Rupert Murdoch And Nigel Farage Dine In ‘Secret’

Nigel Farage told Rupert Murdoch at a private London dinner he would form an electoral pact with the Conservative Party if David Cameron quit as prime minister, it has been reported. According to the Daily Telegraph, the Ukip leader met the News Inter...

Fee to enter? Britain’s immigration crackdown continues

Published time: March 07, 2013 16:11

A Bulgarian shows his UK visa in front of the British embassy in Sofia (AFP Photo / Valentina Petrova)

Immigrants entering Britain may be forced to pay a fee, which would only be reimbursed when they leave UK soil, and if they haven’t used health services. The UK is taking an increasingly hardline stance, despite a recent sharp decline in immigration.

The UK is seeking to impose financial bonds “as a further deterrent to reduce non-compliance by high-risk nationalities,” a source close to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told the Daily Mail. Additionally, migrant family members already residing in the country would be made to pay a sum of thousands of pounds. It would be returned upon leaving the country.

If the reform goes through, immigrants entering the country for living and work purposes would have to put down the money to guarantee they wouldn’t ‘drain’ the country’s financial resources. Such resources would include things like non-emergency care from the health service. However, if British welfare was used by migrants entering the country, they would risk losing their money.

The entry fee would additionally be used to make sure immigrants didn’t outstay their visa  (and fining them if they do), consolidating an existing act. The Immigration and Asylum Act (1999), already gives the government the right to make immigrants front some money upon entering the country, which can be retained by the government should they remain in the UK after the expiration of their visa.

Individuals from two or three countries were tagged as “high risk”, and it is at them that the scheme is targeted. The UK will not be allowed to impose the charge on immigrants from EU countries who comprise the EU’s Schengen passport-free zone.

Bulgaria and Romania had hoped to gain the same freedom to enter the UK as other EU nations, and were expected to apply to join the zone in a meeting on Thursday. However, their entrance needed to be granted through a unanimous vote, and Germany announced their plan to veto the move on Monday.

“There will be no vote, and no decision,” a source in the EU's current Irish presidency told AFP on Wednesday. “Several nations have reserves or concerns.” As a result, residents of the two countries could be among those impacted.

Net migration into Britain has fallen by a third, from 247,000 thousand migrants in June 2011 to 163,000 in 2012, according the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Conservatives said they would clamp down on migrants, saying they were taking advantage of Britain's “soft touch,” which he was determined to quash.

On Wednesday, the Labour party leader Ed Miliband promised to take a heavy hand with immigration. He stated that the party had got it wrong in the past, saying “millions of people are concerned.”

“Low-skill migration has been too high and we need to bring it down,” he said.

The Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called for the closure of student visa loopholes on Thursday, saying that many overstay or abuse (e.g. working instead of studying), despite the party denying accusations that they are moving to the right on migration.  

The British Conservative party was shunted into third place in the Eastleigh by-election in February. The UKIP candidate, who beat the Conservatives, is a member of a party described by the Tory government as packed with “loonies and closet racists.”  

It has been suggested that parties are adopting a stronger stance because of UKIP’s reputation for being heavy-handed on immigration.

Labour MP Diane Abbot, issued a recent warning to her party not to “spiral downwards” by veering to the right on immigration as a result of the by-election results.

Swiss Curb Executive Greed; Will Anyone Follow?

Swiss Curb Executive Greed, Will Anyone Follow?

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Posted on Mar 5, 2013

By William Pfaff

Switzerland just had a referendum in which it voted to give company and bank shareholders veto rights over the salaries, bonuses and overall compensation packages of senior executives and board directors.

Bonuses will be prohibited for executives being hired, those leaving, and for those present when a company is taken over. Pension funds holding stock in a company will be required to take part in these compensation votes. Violation of the new rules can be punished by fines worth up to six years of salary and prison sentences of up to three years. These requirements will be written into the Swiss constitution. In short, the Swiss want revolutionary change in the manner by which the modern European (and implicitly, American) corporation is managed, and in how it distributes its funds. This is a demand based on morality.

A majority of 68 percent of those voting in all the Swiss cantons approved this initiative. The Swiss citizenry, in short, is very angry about the current practices of Swiss corporations and financial institutions, even though the country is scarcely noted for past criticism of high finance and the practices prevailing in the international economy.

The Swiss are not the only ones angry at the pay practices of globalized capitalism. The European Union’s Commission, executive agency of the 27-member EU—whose combined economy is the largest and potentially most powerful in the world, dominating world trade—has just delivered a second staggering blow to international finance and the practices of bankers.

The Commission has ruled that all bankers and banking institutions anywhere within the EU, and also—here comes the knockout punch—all those executives working for EU-based banks worldwide, must have the bonuses they pay or receive capped at no more than existing annual salaries. This limit can be waived only if the bank’s shareholders agree, and then only to the level of double the executive’s current salary.

For a normal human being working in a normal enterprise, bonuses are usually connected to meritorious service. They are not a plutocratic competition in ego-display by a limited number of the very rich.

Today’s rich, though, are different from you and me. An executive’s pay sheet may identify bonuses as merited supplements to salaries, and stock option assignments and other monetary and material rewards as essential to keeping an immensely important individual in the company, preventing him or her from taking their invaluable talents elsewhere, but this is part of the game played by the new corporate rich. (The individual may actually be getting fired, and the money greases the exit.)

You can imagine how this draft EU law on banker compensation has been received in the City of London, the British Conservative Party and the community of New York-based executives of London and Scottish banks.

It is difficult to see how Britain can remain a member-state of the EU if this law is approved by finance ministers and the European Parliament—which will happen. Prime Minister David Cameron has already, for purely party-political and electoral reasons, promised the British electorate a referendum before the next national election on the U.K.‘s remaining in the Union (on what he assured them would be revised terms—but scarcely this revision).

The conventional political and journalists’ judgment today is that Britain is on the way out of Europe, for better or for worse. But wait—we have not yet counted in the weight of moral opinion not only in Britain and even, just possibly, in the United States, which now will become the only great business center in the world which practices this kind of mind-blasting greed. Interesting enough, though, the greedy lost the 2012 national election in America.

This greed has caused moral revulsion throughout the Western world—including in the United States, which started it all, and as a result now experiences radical inequality between rich and poor. Just since 2008, American disposable personal income has risen by 1.4 percent per year. Corporate profit has increased by 20 percent per year. The Barclays Bank’s chief American economist says nothing like this has been seen in 50 years.

America’s Puritan forefathers were Calvinist; their “errand into the wilderness” had been conceived as a re-enactment of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage and their Biblical covenant with God was understood as to build a new heaven and new earth. Until the American Revolution, their Presbyterian church, with its millenarian theology, provided the only organized link among the separate colonies.

However, the austere and frightening theology of Calvinist predestination and “irresistible grace” changed in America due to the influence of the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). He argued that for hard-working men and women, predestination could be bestowed, and success and riches be seen as evidence of Heavenly Election. American Protestantism has always respected business success and wealth.

But this? The tea party movement, whatever its ideological aberrations, was seen in 2010 as a people’s revolt against big and intrusive American government, supposed “free riders,” welfare queens, Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” who would vote against him (or wouldn’t vote at all), and against academics, intellectuals and the mainstream media.


It was much more. It was a protest against secular and cosmopolitan forces in America and an affirmation of a traditional American religious culture. But what was not seen then was that it was an upsurge by America’s outsiders or abandoned: the precarious or jobless American poor and lower middle class, protesting globalization, American industry shipped abroad, American deindustrialization, American employment shipped to China, foreign immigrants living on American welfare rolls—and dead American towns, working farmers reduced to living in shabby house-trailers, their children facing perpetual debt in order to get an education.

All this while the rich get greedier.


Visit William Pfaff’s Web site for more on his latest book, “The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy” (Walker & Co., $25), at www.williampfaff.com.

© 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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Shadow Justice in the UK: Britain’s “Secret Courts”

Civil liberties campaigners vowed to continue fighting Government plans for secret court hearings in sensitive national security cases after MPs rejected stronger safeguards.

Ministers comfortably saw off a bid to reinstate amendments made by the House of Lords despite Labour securing the support of a number of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs.

Several prominent Labour ex-ministers defied their own party’s position to back the Government in last night’s vote on controversial elements of the Justice and Security Bill.

An attempt to make judges balance national security against the public interest of open justice was defeated by 297 votes to 226, majority 71, in what opponents called a “dark night for British justice”.

Minister Kenneth Clarke insisted the measures were essential to enable sensitive intelligence material to be introduced in a small number of civil cases where the state is being sued.

The alternative, he said, was that the Government would be unable defend the action and could be forced to pay out millions in compensation – as happened with a series of former Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The defeated changes, originally passed in the House of Lords only to be reversed by the Government in the Commons committee going through the Bill line-by-line, would have made the legislation impossible to operate, he said.

The vote came after former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf said the legislation already ensured the operation of closed material proceedings was under the “complete control” of the judge in any case.

Critics complain though that CMPs undermine the principle of open justice and allow the security services to cover up involvement in abuse and torture.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan told the Commons that while he accepted the difficulty of “reconciling the issues of justice and security” the legislation was not “proportionate to the scale of the problem”.

Among prominent Tories backing the amendments was Andrew Tyrie who said they were “about whether people can get to hear the case made against them, and whether we can keep legal safeguards we have had for generations”.

Analysis of division lists revealed seven Liberal Democrats rebelled to support the public interest test amendment, including party president Tim Farron, deputy leader Simon Hughes and former minister Sarah Teather.

The issue is set to provide a renewed confrontation this weekend between Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his party activists – who last year voted overwhelmingly to oppose the legislation – at the Lib Dem spring conference in Brighton.

Labour former foreign secretary Jack Straw backed the legislation, however, telling MPs it was about “how you protect the sources of information on which intelligence depends”.

Party colleague Hazel Blears, a former counter terrorism minister, also gave her support.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said last night: “History teaches that politicians abandon ancient legal principles at their peril. Today’s cover-up is tomorrow’s scandal.

“The opposition to turning British courts into secret commissions continues. Once again, we look to the House of Lords to defeat Secret Courts and defend the Rule of Law.”

Clare Algar, executive director of Reprieve, said: “This has been a dark night for British justice.

“These plans for secret courts were always dangerous and unnecessary, but the failure of even minor attempts to modify the Bill means that it is even worse than when it first reached the House of Commons.

“MPs must now vote against the Bill altogether if they want to defend British justice.

“Should that fail, the House of Lords will be the only thing standing in the way of plans which would mean the end of the right to a fair trial in a vast range of civil cases.”

Speaking after the vote, Mr Khan said: “It’s disappointing that Labour’s attempts to reintroduce checks and balances into the Government’s plans for closed material proceedings have been defeated by the Tories and Lib Dems.

“This had the support of the Government’s own Independent Reviewer of Terrorism and the Joint Committee of Human Rights. We will be looking to our colleagues in the House of Lords to once again bring some balance to the Government’s plans over the coming weeks”

A Conservative Party source said: “By opposing this Bill, Labour are prepared to accept the possibility of millions of pounds going without challenge to individuals who could be terrorists.

“This raises the appalling prospect of taxpayers’ cash funding jihadist groups.”

Pointing to the presence of former Labour home office ministers Paul Goggins and George Howarth among those voting with Mr Straw against the amendments, they said: “This shows that under Ed Miliband the Labour Party is more interested in playing politics than acting as a serious alternative government.”

Tory Vice Chair Says Ukip Is ‘Connecting’ With Voters

The Conservative Party vice chair Michael Fabricant has called on his party to recognise the policies from Ukip that are "working" - and said that his party's voice was "muffled and not crisp".

fabricant

Michael Fabricant MP has tweeted his Eastleigh analysis

In a lengthy series of tweets published to his 9,992 followers on Friday night, MP Michael Fabricant, who has been one of the key figures leading the campaign for the third-placed Tory candidate Maria Hutchings in Eastleigh's by-election, said: "The only real winner was UKIP."


Michael Fabricant
If #Eastleigh is anything to go by - and it WAS just a and NOT a Gen Elec - UKIP clearly connected with Conservative policies!

David Vick
UKIP is doing a perfectly good job projecting Conservative core policies and principles. That's why we're all voting for it

"Nigel Farage [Ukip's leader] is right, the UKIP message 'connects' with the electorate and it's not just Europe but crime, immigration, too.

"UKIP appealed to protest voters but also to Blue Collar Conservative voters. UKIP do not have the resources to fight 650 seats effectively at a General Election. Also this was almost certainly a protest vote. But no-one should write UKIP off. They will do well in the European elections (their very raison d'etre).

hutchings

Cameron and the defeated Hutchings on the campaign trail

"UKIP are unlikely to do well in the General Election, but it is not toally impossible. The Conservatives need to 'connect' too."

He called on the Tories to change their "voice" to capture the Ukip voters. "The Conservative voice is muffled and not crisp. It does not clearly project Conservative core policies or principles.

"The party must now co-ordinate and simplify its message without policy distractions away from core principles.

"Everyone from the PM downwards must focus on the economy, immigration, crime, Europe and not allow other side policies distract."

In a tweet which seemed to refer to the recent gay marriage debate. "Of course, liberal policies do not distract Government from the core issues, but they are seen to do so by the electorate

"With UKIP clearly announcing policies the public want to hear, we must do the same."


Michael Fabricant
#Eastleigh Only real winner was UKIP. Cons share fell by14%, Lib Dem share fell by 14.5% (!!), Labour (the Opposition) didn't move at all.

He also attacked Labour's fourth place in the by-election. "Ed Miliband should ask himself: Why did UKIP do well and Labour not improve?"

But he warned: "When two centre right, eurosceptic parties scrap with each other, it allows a leftish, pro-Europe Party to achieve power."

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron was attacked by Tory backbencher Eleanor Laing, who was scathing of the “hurtful” Tory leadership, who she said had abandoned “ordinary Conservative voters”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's World At One, the MP for Epping Forest said, “ordinary Conservative voters don't feel that this government is in tune with them,” adding that Cameron and his Westminster coterie were not “tuning in to the hopes and fears of the vast majority of ordinary people out there in Britain today”.

WATCH: Hutchings' Bizarre Exit From Eastleigh Count

SEE ALSO: Crisis For Cameron As Ukip Beat Tories And Lib Dems Win

SPINNING AROUND: Conservatives Spin Loss As Victory For Coalition

UK FM Hague instructed cabinet not to mention Iraq War — report

Published time: March 01, 2013 13:35

British Foreign Minister William Hague. (AFP Photo / Leon Neal)

As the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war looms, the UK cabinet has been urged not to discuss the 2003’s invasion or its legality until an inquiry into it is complete. The instruction has been met with distaste from Liberal Democrat MPs.

A confidential letter warned MPs not to mention the war or deeply controversial issues surrounding it.  As March began, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a directive instructing Conservative MPs to make no mention of Iraq or the conflict’s 100,000 deaths, according to a private correspondence leaked to the Guardian.

“The foreign secretary has written to colleagues to remind them that the agreed position of the coalition government is not to comment on the case justification for the war until Chilcot has reported,” a source close to Hague told the newspaper.

The Chilcot Inquiry is the UK public investigation into the country’s role in the Iraq War. Whitehall sources said that Hague wasn’t attempting to enforce a gag on a highly controversial political issue, but was delaying commenting on the war until after the inquiry’s publication.

The results of the Chilcot Inquiry were supposed to have been published in 2012, but were delayed last July. Conclusions are now expected to be made public mid- to late-2013. However, it is unlikely the inquiry will render a formal judgment on the Iraq intervention.

The report has utilized “oral and documentary evidence,” according to a 2012 letter from Chilcot to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, written at the time of the inquiry’s delay.  This includes evidence such as cabinet meeting minutes.

Despite having agreed it is “essential to hold as much of the inquiry as possible in public,” the British Foreign Office prevented the release of telephone conversations between then-UK PM Tony Blair and then-US President George Bush in the days preceding the invasion.  

The evidence is also inconsistent, and gaps in the documentary record and lapses in memory may have hindered the investigation, according to the letter.

Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry’s head, once said the final report would be twice the size of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ – over 1 million words long.

Anti-war protestors pass Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament on a march opposing a military strike on Iraq on September 29, 2002. (Reuters)

The 2003 invasion resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, and 179 British deaths. The WikiLeaks Iraq war logs showed that more than 90,000 Iraqi civilians died throughout the course of the conflict, placing the overall number of Iraqi deaths at over 100,000.

The instruction not to mention these events has led to a bitter row within the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. Liberal Democrat ministers stood strongly opposed to the Iraq invasion at the time, while Conservative Party members stood in staunch support. Many Liberal Democrat MPs intend to defy the directive.

“William Hague is entitled to his views on what should be said about the Iraq war but he can’t force them on the Lib Dems,” a senior Liberal Democrat source told the Guardian. “The idea that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats will be mute on the 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq will get very short shrift indeed.”

The party’s former leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, also spoke out against the attempt to silence MPs on the war’s anniversary, pointing out the high levels of Conservative enthusiasm for the war in 2003, despite their not being the ruling party.

A photo issued 23 March 2003 of a British Royal Marine from 42 Commando squadron firing a Milan wire-guided missile at an Iraqi position on the Fao peninsula 21 March 2003. (AFP Photo / John Mills)

He went on to label UK intervention in Iraq as the country’s biggest foreign policy blunder since Suez, which Conservative MP Kenneth Clarke recently also used as a comparison while speaking to the BBC, calling the Iraq War “the most disastrous foreign policy decision of my lifetime… worse than Suez.”

In 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter.

Despite the primary motivation for the invasion being Saddam Hussein’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, the failure to locate them both before and after the Iraq War intensified international debate about the decision to go to war. The only such discoveries ended up being badly corroded munitions produced in the 1980s, which could not be used as originally intended.

The UK’s decision to participate in the invasion was met with wide-scale protest at the time, not just in England but across Europe and around the world. In February 2003, an estimated 6 to 10 million people participated in protests that spanned 60 countries.

Millions of people are expected to take to the streets of towns and cities across the globe on Saturday to demonstrate against a looming U.S. led war on Iraq in the biggest protests since the Vietnam war. February 15, 2003. (Reuters / Peter MacDiarmid)

In the UK, an estimated 750,000 to 1-million-plus protesters participated in anti-war demonstrations; the march in London was named the largest political demonstration Britain had ever seen. Later in March, tens of thousands of schoolchildren staged walkouts across the country, and in the day following the actual invasion a wide-scale demonstration took place in front of the Houses of Parliament. In the days afterward, over 100,000 people took to the streets.

If Europe Were a House… It’d Be Condemned

One of the primary focal points of our writing is the corruption that has become endemic to the political and financial elites of the world. When we refer to corruption we are referring to insider deals, cronyism, lies and fraud. Since the Great Crisis began in 2008, these have become the four pillars of the financial system replacing the pillars of trust, transparency, truth and reality that are the true foundation of capitalism and wealth generation.

As we regularly note, corruption only works as long as the benefits of being “on the take” outweigh the consequences of getting caught. As soon as the consequences become real (namely someone gets in major trouble), then everyone starts to talk.

This process has now begun in Spain.

MADRID — Spain’s governing Popular Party was drawn deeper into a web of corruption scandals this past week, after the Swiss authorities informed the Spanish judiciary that the party’s former treasurer had amassed as much as 22 million euros, or $29 million, in Swiss bank accounts.

The treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, resigned from his job in 2009, after being indicted in the early stages of an investigation, which is still ongoing, into a scheme of kickbacks and illegal payments allegedly involving other conservative party politicians…

Nonetheless, the revelations have brought a fast-growing list of corruption investigations, which have unspooled across Spain, to the doorstep of the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has so far remained silent. About 300 Spanish politicians from across the party spectrum have been indicted or charged in corruption investigations since the start of the financial crisis. Few have been sentenced so far.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/world/europe/corruption-scandals-widen-in-spain.html?_r=0

Outside of Spain, corruption scandals have also erupted in Greece. There it was revealed that the very Greek political parties that were negotiated the Greek bailout had received over €200 million in loans from the Greek banks.

Greek prosecutors have ordered the two main ruling parties to testify in an investigation into more than 200 million euros in loans they received from banks, officials said on Friday.

 

The investigation - which is examining whether the loans are legal and whether any wrongdoing was involved - could embarrass the fragile conservative-led government, which relies on aid from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

 

Last year a Reuters report revealed the conservative New Democracy and the Socialist PASOK parties were close to being overwhelmed by debts of more than 200 million euros as they face a slump in state funding because of falling public support.

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/01/us-greece-parties-idUSBRE91010O20130201

Here again, we find that politicians were “on the take” via questionable if not illegal funds. The fact that this story is coming out now does not bode well for Greece, which is barely holding together as a country.

The consequences of this discovery will not be positive for the Greek political class:

Greece's finance minister was sent a bullet and a death threat from a group protesting home foreclosures, police officials said on Monday, in the latest incident to raise fears of growing political violence.

 

The package was sent by a little-known group called "Cretan Revolution", which warned the minister against any efforts to seize homes and evict homeowners, police sources said. The group sent similar letters to tax offices in Crete last week.

 

http://news.yahoo.com/greek-finance-minister-sent-bullet-mail-165717734.html

 

Italy is also facing a major scandal implicating key political figures including the biggest player for European financial system, ECB President Mario Draghi:

Back in mid-January, Bloomberg’s Elisa Martinuzzi and Nicholas Dunbar reported that Deutsche Bank helped Italy’s third-largest bank, Monte Paschi, cover up a 367 million euro loss at the end of 2008 with a shady derivative deal. That swap helped the bank look better than it really was just before taxpayers bailed it out—echoes of Goldman Sachs’s deal to hide Greece’s national debt.

 

The Italian papers followed Bloomberg’s scoop days later with news that Nomura had structured a derivative for Monte Paschi along similar lines. The Italian central bank then disclosed Monte Paschi executives had concealed documents on the trades from them. Reuters reported that JPMorgan also did a sketchy derivative for the bank.

 

But the scandal only continued to grow. So far, the bank may have lost a billion dollars on the deals, and it turns out that the Bank of Italy knew about the allegedly fraudulent deals back in 2010, when Mario Draghi was its chief. Draghi is now head of the European Central Bank, and has been critical in tamping down the euro crisis in the last several months.

 

Now, the scandal threatens to change the course of Italian national elections being held later this month, giving a leg up to Silvio Berlusconi…

http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/bloomberg_unearths_an_italian.php

The key item in the above story is Mario Draghi’s involvement. As head of the European Central Bank, Draghi is arguably the most powerful man in Europe. Indeed, it was his promise to provide unlimited bond buying that stopped the systemic implosion of Europe last summer.

In this sense, the entire EU has been held together by Draghi’s credibility as head of the ECB. The fact that we now have a major scandal indicating that he was not only  aware of fraudulent deals in 2010, but gave them a free pass will have major repercussions for the future of the Euro, the EU, and the EU banking system.

We hope by now that you see why we have remained bearish on Europe when 99% of analysts believe the Crisis is over. The only thing that has the EU together has been the credibility of politicians who we are now discovering are all either corrupt, inept or both.

To use a metaphor, if Europe were a single house, it would be rotten to its core with termites and mold. It should have been condemned years ago, but the one thing that has kept it “on the market” was the fact that its owners were all very powerful, connected individual. We are now finding out that the owners not only knew that the home should have been condemned but were in fact getting rich via insider deals while those who lived in the house were in grave danger.

As we stated at the beginning of this issue, corruption only works as long as the benefits of being “on the take” outweigh the consequences of getting caught. As soon as the consequences become real (in that someone gets in major trouble), then everyone starts to talk.

The above stories about Greece, Spain, Italy reveal that we have entered the stage at which people have begun to talk about Europe’s corruption.

We have produced a FREE Special Report available to all investors titled What Europe’s Collapse Means For You and Your Savings.

This report features ten pages of material outlining our independent analysis real debt situation in Europe (numbers far worse than is publicly admitted), the true nature of the EU banking system, and the systemic risks Europe poses to investors around the world.

It also outlines a number of investments to profit from this; investments that anyone can use to take advantage of the European Debt Crisis.

Best of all, this report is 100% FREE. You can pick up a copy today at:

http://gainspainscapital.com/eu-report/

Best

Phoenix Capital Research

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Eastleigh Candidate Claims Local Schools ‘Not Good Enough’ For Her Children

Maria Hutchings, the Tory candidate in the Eastleigh by-election has provoked outrage after appearing to claim that the local state school was not good enough for her children.

Hutchings, competing for the seat left vacant by disgraced Lib Dem Chris Huhne, said she believed it would be "impossible in the state system" for her son to get a good enough education to become a surgeon.

According to the Daily Mirror, Hutchings said on Friday: "William [her son] is very gifted which gives us another interesting challenge in finding the right sort of education for him – impossible in the state system. He wants to be a cardio-respiratory surgeon.”

However, the most recent Ofsted reports for a number of Eastleigh schools, including Thornden, Wildern and Toynbee high schools, have found them to be "outstanding".

david cameron maria hutchings

Maria Hutchings received campaign support from David Cameron this week

Hutchings, a mother of four children, Victoria, 24, John Paul, 18, William, 12 and ten-year-old Harriet, was accused of being "out of touch" by opposition candidates for her remarks.

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In response, the satirist John O'Farrell, standing for Labour in Thursday's byelection, said: “Ten years ago, when I was concerned about the lack of suitable local schools, I organised with other parents to set up a new non-selective state school.

“My own children went there and I served as chair of governors for eight years. Maria Hutchings claims to ‘get things done’ – but in actual fact the opposite is true. All she’s shown is that she’s just as out of touch as the rest of the Conservative party, whether on education, tax cuts for millionaires or trebling tuition fees.”

The Liberal Democrat leader of Eastleigh Borough Council Keith House said: "Although it's down to every parent to choose the right school for their child, it's simply not true to say that the education in Eastleigh is not good enough for our children.

"Ofsted have rated several local schools 'excellent', they were good enough for Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Thornton's daughter to study medicine at Imperial College London, and they are good enough for the majority of Eastleigh parents who are proud to have such excellent schools to choose from.

"Maria's claim that it's 'impossible' to get a good state education in Eastleigh is an insult to the teachers who work hard to give our children the best start, and to the parents who are glad to have such good schools that are part of the local community."

A Conservative spokesman said: "Maria Hutchings wants all children to get the best possible education - that's why she's backing Michael Gove's reforms to bring back rigour to the state education system after 13 years of Labour.

"Maria has campaigned tirelessly to help parents of children with special educational needs get the best education for them."

The ill-advised comments from Hutchings follow embarrassing suggestions she copied parts of her website from online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Elsewhere, Hutchings, who already stood for the seat in the 2010 General Election, was also spotted by Sunday Times journalist Kate Mansey hugging a woman asking for directions, mistaking her for a supporter. Mansey tweeted:


Kate Mansey
I was there when the lady in this picture asked for directions. Maria Hutchings said: "Can I give you a hug?"#awkward http://t.co/chWaiSBR

Hutchings, O'Farrell and Lib Dem candidate Mike Thornton will contend for the seat vacated by Chris Huhne after he admitted a charge of perverting the course of justice by persuading his wife Vicky Pryce to take the blame for his speeding offence in 2003.

John Major Tells Tory EU ‘Rebels’ To Be Quiet, Warns Against UK Exit

John Major has warned eurosceptic Tory MPs to keep quiet, arguing they are damaging David Cameron's negotiating position in Brussels as he tries to repatriate powers ahead of a 2017 referendum.

The former prime minister, whose time as leader of the Conservative Party was characterised by deep splits over Europe, said the in/out ballot promised by Cameron was a necessary "gamble" for both the country and the party.

"The relationship with Europe has poisoned British politics for too long, distracted parliament from other issues, and come close to destroying the Conservative Party. It is time to resolve the matter," he said.

"I favour this referendum because I simply don't believe we can go on on as we are, year after year, prime minister after prime minster going to Europe being pushed by people to negotiate a victory equivalent to Waterloo," he said.

In a strongly pro-EU speech given at the Chatham House foreign policy think-tank in central London on Thursday afternoon, Sir John said that while the EU was far from perfect, to leave would be to "jump into a void".

But the former prime minister, who negotiated Britain's opt out from the single currency during the Maastricht negotiations in 1991, warned the "aggressive" stance taken towards the EU by some Conservative MPs was damaging and should be ignored by Cameron.