Saturday, 27 February 2010

Poor Mr Brown

He can't get anything right. First he spells a soldier's name wrong. Now a Tory group finds that somebody in his office complained of being bullied (back in the Blair-Prescott days, it seems). They can't make their attacks trivial enough because they dare not mention the main charge: that for ten years he managed the economy on the same basis as the chancellors of the Thatcher-Major years, that he sunk our best chance of joining the euro, and that he agreed to spend large quantities of taxpayers' money on Tiny Blair's wars.

Thirty years ago, Mrs T. decided to let British manufacturing go and to rely on the brokers and bankers and bookies of the City of London to pay for our imports, and it has gone on ever since, through three recessions. Now that those nice bankers have let us down again, we have built up huge debts in order to help them get back to 'normal'.

Now the cuts in public spending are due, but they mustn't hurt before the election! Guess where they will come: in education, health, care for our environment - not in military spending or prestige projects (must look good for theOlympics!); and taxes will not increase for the wealthy (mustn't scare them away!) nor on aviation fuel. How much longer will people go on tolerating this system?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


I caught and released ten shrews in my house last week - all in 36 hours (including nights, when I didn't put the trap down, as they get hungry once or twice an hour). They were so tiny - the biggest 5 cms long, plus tail. It is marvellous that you can get an entire mammal into such a minute volume - heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen, guts, brain (not very much!). And the mother must have got into the house with nine teeny-weeny babies inside her.

It makes you realize how extravagant nature is producing huge creatures like us, and in such large numbers that we are now clearing the world's tropical forests to make room for oil palms and soy beans. But there was a preposterous article in the Times recently, saying that vegetarianism is more damaging for the planet than meat-eating. The analysts, at Cranfield University (of all places) compared people scoffing quantities of tofu with eaters of English mutton. Well it's obvious that clearing forests to grow soya in Brazil puts more carbon into the atmosphere than grazing sheep on established British grassland, but they failed to notice that most of the world's soya production is fed to livestock to produce meat, and that much of the pasture on which the sheep graze was once forested.

Warm-blooded animals like sheep and pigs and people are altogether very expensive for the planet because we waste a lot of energy keeping our bodies warm and moving ourselves around (though most pigs, alas, are not allowed to move at all, and they are kept warm by burning fossil fuels to heat their barns). And I haven't mentioned the methane-rich belches of cows. If meat-eaters seriously want to avoid destroying the world's forests, they should raise cold-blooded animals like snails or earthworms. Plenty of scope for new recipes there!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

"The only democracy in the Middle East"

I receive a regular e-mail newsletter from Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Palestinian Christian. His latest tells of an attack by Israeli police on a peaceful demonstration at Ush Ghrab, on the edge of Beit Sahour, a Christian-majority town near Bethlehem. They have already lost land to the illegal expansion of Israeli East Jerusalem. The Israeli army used Ush Ghrab as a base until 2006, when they evacuated it. The municipality has since installed a children's playground on the site and wanted to build a children's hospital, but were not allowed to do so.

On Sunday about a hundred demonstrators walked peacefully to Ush Ghrab, led by a priest, with the intention of celebrating mass. They were accompanied by Israeli and international supporters. Suddenly Israeli police jeeps arrived and gave orders - in Hebrew - to disperse within one minute. The demonstrators asked in English and Arabic for an explanation, but soon the police were throwing tear-gas grenades at them. The priest continued praying for humanity and understanding. A father carrying his child kicked a gas canister away. The crowd held their ground, and eventually the police left. The demonstrators will be back next Sunday; watch this space. The incident can be seen on youtube:

It is important to remember that not all Israelis - still less all Jews - are Zionists; the most vocal opposition to the government comes from Israelis inside the country and from groups such as Jews for Justice for Palestine outside it. Nor are all Zionists Jewish; on the contrary, many of the most uncritical supporters of Israeli government policy are gentiles such as George Bush and Tony Blair. One suspects that in many cases fervent declarations of love for Israel come from those who are anxious to hide a secret anti-Semitism.

Israel can only be called democratic if you ignore the fact that it exercises almost total control over the lives of millions of Palestinians who are not represented in the Knesset. True democracy will come only when it is recognized that the massive colonization of the West Bank has made the 'two-state solution' impossible and that some form of federal single state must be brought into existence.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


It's all on to Iran again. When will the world learn that attempts to humiliate a great nation only result in defiance? Iran has existed for two and a half milennia, and every Iranian knows that Cyrus was running a great multi-ethnic society when the British were still dancing about in woad and long before America had even been thought of. Yet we will not treat them as equals.

Of course, it does not help that Ahmadinejad is a jumped-up little demagogue, but he is no Hitler, just the front man for the ayatollahs, who themselves are constrained by a religion that preaches human brotherhood and compassion for the poor and downtrodden. And Iran still has the largest surviving Jewish community in the Middle East.

Iran is doing nothing illegal under international law. 20% enriched uranium is a valid fuel for a nuclear reactor, and Iran is a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation pact. Even if Iran did develop a nuclear bomb, the West turned a blind eye when India and then Pakistan did the same, so what is different.

It is of course Israel that is different - Israel, which has had nuclear warheads for forty years or more and which has never signed the nuclear non-proliferation pact. Israeli propaganda claims that Ahmadinejad is a new Hitler who wants to destroy Israel. But what has he said? That Israel should be 'wiped off the map'. But East and West Germany were wiped off the map without a shot, as was Czechoslovakia, as was the Central African Federation, as was Austria-Hungary, as were many past political constructs.

At present five million Palestinians are totally controlled by the representatives of six million Jewish Israelis. If the two were meged in a single political entity, Israel and the West Bank and Gaza would be wiped off the map, and a new democratic state would be born. In the long term that is the only possible solution, for no Israeli government is going to have the power to remove hundreds of thousands of Israeli colonists from the West bank, without which a Palestinian state is impossible.

Ahmadinejad has also said that Israelis who are not wiolling to live in peace with their Muslim and Christian neighbours should go back to Europe or America; but how is this different from the spirit of UN General Assembly resolution no. 194 of 11th December 1948 (ignored by Israel), which resolved that 'refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return...' Why should Israelis who do not wish to live at peace with their neighbours be permitted to stay?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

I keep getting requests from people to be their LINKEDIN contact. I don't have the heart to refuse, but it strikes me as a completely parasitic network, a bit like a chain-letter or a faceless Facebook. I suppose it plays on people's insecurity and their need to show what important friends they have - but in that case why should I get asked? I have no influence, no contacts in high places and - thank goodness - hardly anyone knows of my existence.

The desire for fame is a deeply rooted thing, going back millions of years into our primate ancestry. The alpha males produced the most offspring and the alpha females gave their status to their sons and daughters, so the craving for attention got passed on. I felt it myself until 1989, when I decided I wanted to be obscure, but by then I had five children.

However, I think I'll start a website. I have too many unpublished things, and that would be an easy way to publish them. I already have this blog, but it has mainly been for ephemera, and I don't get much feedback.

Friday, 5 February 2010

The Blair Witch Prize

I learnt the other day that last February Blair was given the Dan David Prize by the University of Tel Aviv as the "Laureate for the present age in the field of leadership". It value: one million US dollars!!! Well he certainly was a brilliant Fuehrer. He led Britain back to 1956, when we thought we could send the army in to sort out those unruly A-rabs. He led us out of the counsels of Europe and into the arms of the worst American administration of all time. And he divided Britain more deeply than even Mrs Thatcher did. Full marks! $1 Mn to add to the proceeds of his five jobs! Incidentally, I was glad to hear from a friend at Yale that his professorship of religion there has caused some protests.

One of his knacks as leader was getting rid of his best ministers. He sacked Mo Mowlem from the Northern Irish Office so that he could take the credit for her peace agreement. He removed Robin Cook from the Foreign Office, where he had been the best Foreign Secretary in my lifetime - author of an 'ethical foreign policy', which, if it was not 100% ethical, was the best we could do. Actually, that sacking, in May 2001, was probably done at the behest of Bush, who was already plotting to remove Saddam. And he drove out Clare Short, our best ever International Development Secretary, by lying to her to keep her from resigning with Robin Cook over the Iraq War.

Well Mo and Robin are, alas, dead, but Clare is still there to tell the truth, and she brought the house down with her revelations to the Chilcot Enquiry. Unfortunately she is leaving Parliament when the election comes. Incidentally Brown's recent promise of a referendum on voting reform is totally cynical. This should have happened more than ten years ago, when the Jenkins Commission recommended the abolition of the iniquitous first-past-the-post system. But then we wouldn't have had the Blair/Brown continuation. He just hopes to seduce the floating voters who want voting reform. If it worked he could then forget about it for another five years.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Blair's appearance before the Chilcot Enquiry was pretty nauseating. His absolute belief in his own judgement is positively pathological, and his expression of no regrets is disgusting. I'm afraid I don't expect much from the Enquiry though; two of its members, Gilbert and Freedman, are long-standing Blair supporters, and Gilbert was one of his foreign policy advisers!!!

The fact that Gilbert and Freedman are Jewish has led to accusations of 'anti-Semitism' against anyone who questions their suitability, but the complaint is not that they are Jewish but that they are Zionists. It would have been equally bad if they had been Christian Zionists (of whom there are millions - probably out-numbering Jewish Zionists). If they had been non-Zionist Jews, that would have been fine.

This is the third loaded and toothless enquiry into the Iraq War. There is something 1984-ish about this persistent attempt by the Government to re-write history.