I've added another blogroll for the Brit blogs I've discovered. The political blogs here tend to be less polarized than in the states; there's virtually no wingnut/moonbat divide. Bloggers of every persuasion link to each other respectfully, with wide allowance made for humor. Or humour.
Not all the blogs I've linked are political. Some I just read for the pictures. If you don't get British humor, you probably won't get British blog either.
They don't seem to be as heavily trafficked as US political blogs, and the reticent Brits don't comment as much either. There's a whole new vocabulary to contend with: bollocks and arse and lollies, hopefully not all in the same sentence, whilst the spelling conventions are puzzling: "fetus" is spelt "feotus" and "theater" is "theatre" and is not where you see films.
Here's a handy cultural glossary to guide you:
"Is This The Way To Amarillo" is a horrid song by Tony Christie. For some reason it's very popular.
Stella Artois is not a woman, it's a type of beer that's popular. Sort of like Budweiser, which here is made in the Czech Republic, not by Anheuser Busch.
Flapjacks are not pancakes, they're oily granola bars.
Oxbridge is a way to refer to Oxford and Cambridge at the same time. Its American equivalent is "Ivy League."
Poncy is a word people use to make themselves feel superior to ponces.
Robert Kilroy Silk is a nutcase former head of the UKIP (UK Independence Party), but now has formed his own party, Veritas. The American equivalent is Pat Buchanan.
Boris Johnson is a Tory known for having affairs and insulting Liverpoolians. The American equivalent is MSNBC's Chris Mathews.
Andrew Marr is the leading political reporter for the BBC. There is no American equivalent.
Plaid Cymru is not an oddly patterned Camry, it's a Welsh political party.
The Archers is a horrid radio programme on BBC Radio 4. It's immensely popular, for the same reason certain songs are.
Radio 4 is sort of like NPR with horrid melodramas spliced in between the news and other stuff.
A cell phone is called a mobile. It just is.
Trainers are what are known as tennis shoes, running shoes, or sneakers in the US.
Subject verb agreement rules are quite different in the UK. Do not assume someone is ignorant if they say "Labour are going to win."
Top-up fees are still a mystery to me, despite the fact I've asked an Oxbridge professor.
Actual British bloggers are welcome to comment. I might be wrong; I often am.
UPDATE: Nick informs me people from Liverpool are known as "Liverpudlians." Why Boris Johnson would bother insulting such a creature is still a mystery.
And we refuse to discuss "Mancusians" or in fact even go to Manchester.
UPDATE II: Or Mancunians. Whatever.
Tony Blair must have said, "If I lied then may God strike me with lightning" because yesterday his plane was struck by lightning.
Today the twitter is all about did Tony lie, and if so, is it appropriate to call him a liar?
Interestingly, a poll says that among those that support Labour, one fifth believe he lied. (Forty-four percent overall believe he lied.) This is not surprising, as those of us in the United States, where it's easy enough to document George Bush's lies, watched as he skated to victory in November. And to show I'm not biased, Bill Clinton lied too, about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, yet it hardly damaged his ratings. Granted, lying about what should be a private matter when you're asked in front of a TV camera is hardly inexcusable. And lying under oath to Republican scum is likewise excusable, in my opinion. (Did I say I wasn't biased? I lied.)
Conclusion: Calling someone a "liar" is not the smackdown some old fashioned reporters believe. Which means there's hardly any incentive anymore to stick to the truth.
Other than a hot seat. And those lightning strikes.
Kathy at Citizen's Rent cyber-coughed on me and gave me this
virus meme. Which five people (alive or dead) would you like to see blog?
A reality-based blog by Jesus H. Christ. My first comment: About those Beatitudes: Are they or are they not an endorsement of the safety net?
A group blog by the Brontë sisters. I'd love to hear their smackdown of Kevin Drum on "Where are all the women bloggers?"
I'd like to see Oscar Wilde join AmericaBlog, posting as "Oscar in London." His post "The Importance of Being Gannon" would be priceless.
A travelblog by Bill Bryson, which would be full of snark like this: "Their wives, lavishly rouged and powdered, looked as if they'd just come from a coffin fitting."
A campaign blog by Russ Feingold, who's now posting occasionally at Kos. I remember his broken down clunker of a campaign van from his first campaign. His blog would be just as charming, but hopefully not a clunker.
Much as I'd like to spread out the link love, I can't help but post another link to the blog with the wince-inducing name Chicken Yoghurt. (I don't eat either one, but somehow the ingredients combine well in a blog).
Justin has a thought-provoking—no, it's more than that, this post brings together the irony and the complete insanity of this war in a way that's beyond provoking.
He reminds us that the world sat by when Saddam used chemical weapons against the Kurds in a place called Halabja:
But like I said, at the time there was nary a squeak from the one-day liberators of Iraq. Only when they needed to persuade a sceptical nation did they truly embrace the horror of what Saddam had done.
Jack Straw, Tony Blair, Colin Powell, and Condelezza Rice all embraced Halabja, eventually, though. Because they recognize atrocity when they see it. (Okay, it takes a few years for them to recognize it. Fourteen years. But still...)
"So they were late in a condemning the atrocities of Saddam Hussein," you say. "They got there eventually and showing what Saddam did to the Kurds gave them leverage to oust the dictator and give the Kurds a better life," you tell me. "Now, Saddam is gone we can get on with giving the Kurds their lives back," you reassure me.
You're wrong, I say:
From the NY Times:
HALABJA, Iraq, April 11 - For years Nuradeen Ghreeb has dreamed of bringing clean drinking water to his hometown. That town happens to be Halabja, where 17 years ago he and his parents cowered in a basement as Saddam Hussein's airplanes attacked with chemical weapons, killing at least 5,000 people.
But on Sunday, Mr. Nuradeen learned that his dream was over, because the United States had canceled the water project it had planned here as part of a vast effort to rebuild Iraq after the 2003 invasion. Ordinarily a quiet and reserved civil engineer, he sat on one of his beloved water pipes on hearing the news and wept, his tears glistening in the afternoon sun.
That's right, there's no room in the budget nowadays to embrace Halabja.
Remember, if you're against the war you're in favor of Saddam and the atrocities he committed. Because if you're against the war you can't distinguish between an atrocity, and say, an atrocity. There's some nuance there, but I'm too busy painting anti-war signs to get it.
More pointed blogging from Chicken Yoghurt:
Because of the mess we created, we have to divert funds away from projects that were clearing up the mess that Saddam created. Because we didn't plan adequately for the aftermath of the war, and we let Iraq subsequently become a basket case - a honey pot for every yahoo with an AK-47 and a boner for his virgins - we can't now look after the people we said we were invading the country to save.
Blair said yesterday: "I can't say I am sorry about it. I am not sorry about it. I think I did the right thing." That's did the right thing. Not doing the right thing. The line's been drawn. It's all in the past. Tony's moved on.
Who speaks for Halabja now?
Go. Read. Be provoked. And remember the name Halabja.
Strawberries find another raison d'etre: Strawberry Tabouli.
I don't know if it's still strawberry season anywhere, but if so, and you're tired of strawberry shortcake, here's a new take on traditional tabouli.
I love tabouli, but since I can't stand fresh tomatoes, I like the idea of substituting strawberries. The result is a fruit salad with bite. This is an excellent dish for potlucks or summer picnics, since it travels well and it's not likely anyone else has brought the identical dish. (Don't you hate that?)
With all the fuss over the British election, I've almost forgotten my American political heroes. I read this yesterday at Kos, and I'm glad the media is finally getting beyond the scream:
Let's just state the obvious: New Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is no Terry McAuliffe . Where the flashy former Clinton fundraiser was a gregarious ringmaster accustomed to the bling-bling of the highest non-publicly elected Democratic job around, Dean is almost a seminarian in his approach to the post. And, oddly, his style seems to fit with the party's bid to build its blue-collar base--just as McAuliffe's meshed with the DNC's need to raise gobs of money and go high tech.
What's so different? McAuliffe would limo around town, dropping in at the Palm to huddle with Washington big shots. The 2004 presidential hopeful, by contrast, takes the bus or subway, buying his own $1.35 ticket. Sometimes he bums rides from staffers or walks the four blocks to the Capitol for meetings. "Please Call Me Howard" never flies first class and always carries his own bags.
I can vouch that this is true. I also remember scouring Albuquerque for cheap hotel rooms for him and his staff, during a national native American conference. The leading Democratic candidate for President ended up staying at a Best Western. I didn't hear any complaints.
Other signs of the ex-guv's modest style: He eats at his desk, stays in a cheap D.C. hotel, and likes oxford shirts and penny loafers. Affectionately dubbed a "geek" by pals, he's often glued to his cellphone and loves E-mail. "His expertise is grass roots and his lifestyle is no different," says an associate. So far, Washington likes what it sees, surprised he's not the oddball that newsies pegged him as last year. Says an aide, smiling: "They're giving him a shot."
One of these days I might tell you all about the time we lost the Governor. He was pretty cool about it, though one of his staffers blistered our ears.
(Another political hero of mine, Sen. Russ Feingold, is blogging over at Kos. Every time I think I'm jaded about the political process in America, I remember the way he painted his pledges to the people of Wisconsin on his garage door. I drove by his house and saw it. He's kept every one, too.)
More on the British election, for members of the class who haven't fallen asleep:
Chicken Yoghurt has more on the emergence of Iraq as an issue. He also has an excerpt from the Radio 4 interview I mentioned yesterday, as well as a link to the interview (scroll down to 8:10). Go listen, and tell me you too don't have fantasies of John Humphrys and George Bush, one on one, live....
Another good source of Brit election blog is Election Blog Roundup. Go here to see which candidate is getting the smirk wiped off his face today.
Nosemonkey summarizes the "If you're against the war you're pro-Saddam"
argument crap. This is crying out to be said, and I'm glad Nosemonkey has said it.
The news here is that there's no news. The election is boring, say the pundits. Granted, it's not as fascinating (and repugnant) as Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" but it has its rousing moments: Long-time Labour MP Brian Sedgemore has defected to the LibDems. He's urging voters to "give Mr. Blair a bloody nose."
He should join Reg Keys, campaigning against Tony Blair in Sedgefield, who deserves his own swift boat, if not a constituency.
If you're not into text, try this, from Kontraband, which isn't as good as "This Land is Your Land" from JibJab, but Woody Guthrie didn't write songs about the old country for use as parody.
Meanwhile, I'll be here today, mingling with actual British subjects. If they're not careful, I'll blog about them tomorrow, or else I'll just suck some more pencils.
Well, finally. The war in Iraq has become an issue. I reported earlier than no one, not the candidates, the press, nor the average bloke on the street, was talking about the two-tonne elephant in the room: the Iraq war.
But things seem to have taken a turn this weekend. After taking criticism for not speaking up about the war, LibDem leader Charles Kennedy gave a press conference this morning, joined by potential cabinet ministers Menzies Campbell and Baroness Shirley Williams. The focus was entirely on the war. (He's explained their deliberate "damned if you do" strategy was to initially focus on the economy, taxes, pensions, and other pocketbook issues, to avoid being labeled a one-issue party.) In his statement, he questioned whether or not Tony Blair can be trusted, implying the future could hold similar situations (Iran) where a Prime Minister will be forced to choose between George Bush's scheme for world domination and the British people's natural reluctance to build another empire. (Okay, that's not exactly what he said; he was much more circumspect than my fingers are when I type.)
The press was vigorous in picking apart his statement, quizzing him on his allegations that America is determined to go to war with Iran and may bring Britain along, and his statements that Saddam's regime had been near the brink of collapse. (The press being composed of mostly white men, I noticed.) They were also inordinately consumed with the question of why didn't he call Tony Blair a liar, as Michael Howard did, and did he want to see him in the docks.
The most persistent question was "Isn't the world better off with Saddam gone?" (A question which ignores the fact the war was sold on the basis of WMDs and also implies the ends justify the means.) Baroness Williams got the last word, however, pointing out this argument would compel us to go to war on multiple fronts were the mission to rid the world of all despicable dictators.
Despite the pettiness of some of the questions, I had to applaud the persistence of the press, quite the opposite of the cowed bunch in the White House press gaggle. (And yes, I mixed some additional minor metaphors in here; today's metaphor, however, is still "elephants.")
As BBC analysts agreed later, the best thing Charles Kennedy can do is continue to link Tony Blair to George Bush. The British people hate the idea of their leader being led by the rogue cowboy currently occupying the White House.
But this was merely an opening salvo in the shock and awe "Remember the War!" campaign. After the news conference, Radio Four aired a live interview with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. To say interviewer John Humphrys was grilling him would be calling a spade a spoon—Jack Straw was sizzled, poked, and picked apart until nothing but a few feathers remained. I almost—almost—felt sorry for him. But then I remembered his performance at the UN prior to the war, and my heart fluttered with glee at the notion of him sweating upon Mr. Humphrys' spit. (My latest fantasy involves George Bush being dogged by John Humphrys.)
The questions, which emerged over the weekend, were over the advice given by the attorney general prior to the Iraq invasion. Reports published in The Daily Mail indicate there were six points on which the legality of the war could be challenged. Tony Blair, however, has said the advice was "unequivocal" yet refuses to release the 13-page report. (Who, I wonder, leaked the details to the Daily Mail?) Every time Jack Straw dodged the question, John Humphrys insisted upon having an answer.
Amazing. I can't help but remember in America it's whores like "Jeff Gannon" who get to ask the questions. Professional journalists who ask both (or all three) sides tough questions aren't allowed anywhere near the White House press room, and the American people have no clue the purpose of journalism is to discover the truth, not complicity hide it.
But let's come back to that rant another day.
Now Labour have just had their press conference, in front of their signature pink background. Tony Blair was clearly a man on the ropes. Draw a line under it, he whined, poodle-like, and Gordon Brown dutifully crowed about the economy, trotting out those sums he's so good at. Shorter Gordon Brown: "It's the economy, you daft buggers, and I know more maths than Michael Howard." (And I have more metaphors than a barnyard.)
Will it matter to the voters? Will they suddenly become impassioned by anti-war fervor and vote for a regime change, despite a generally booming economy? Not likely. Polls still report a small fraction claim the war is a leading issue. But as several pundits have opined, the issue is subsumed by the larger issue of trust.
So yes, the elephant has finally been spotted, unfortunately, elephants aren't very alarming creatures.
Except when they're ridden by George Bush and called "the Republican party." And that's one elephant that won't hunt.
Remember when The Guardian asked readers to write letters to voters in Clark County, Ohio, asking them to vote for John Kerry? It caused an international uproar.
Recently the BBC went to Springfield, to ask people there if they'd like a chance to influence the vote here in the British elections. Typical reactions: "Huh?" and "Tony...what did you say his last name was?"
It seems, despite the chance to pay back the interfering dentally-challenged Brits, they don't give a rat's ass who wins. (The Guardian editor who came up with the idea recounted some of the letters they got in reply, most of which indicated their readers were "plaque-infested tea swillers.") The reporter who covered the story for the Springfield paper said it took them 30 minutes to figure out how to dial internationally. She's now coming here to cover the British elections, courtesy of the BBC. (The Guardian editor called her "charming," like he still hadn't sorted out the meaning of "patronizing.")
I hope she reports that people in Britain mostly prefer coffee these days, and their pearly whites are just that. And I hope she gives them the addresses of voters in, say, Sedgefield. Reminding voters here just who Tony Blair's American supporters are might convince them to vote against him.
Labour's hapless leader has picked up another endorsement, this time from NY Times' Tom Friedman, a man fond of globalization, Cinnabon, product placement, and now, Tony Blair.
New York Times columnists are not allowed to endorse U.S. presidential candidates. Only the editorial page does that. But in checking the columnist rule book, I couldn't find any ban on endorsing a candidate for prime minister of Britain. So I'm officially rooting for Tony Blair.
I've never met Mr. Blair. But reading the British press, it strikes me that he's not much loved by Fleet Street. He's not much loved by the left wing of his own Labor Party either, and he certainly doesn't have any supporters on the Conservative benches. Yet he seems to be heading for re-election to a third term on May 5.
Aside from the fact you should never go about endorsing a candidate when you can't even spell the name of their party, Tom Friedman makes the mistake of assuming Labour might win because of Tony Blair, rather than in spite of. As I observed earlier, Tony is loathed here, sort of the way Tom Friedman is loathed by the left in America. When someone who ought to know better consistently doesn't, and then uses a hard-earned bully pulpit to press their ill-conceived notions of globalization and non-existent WMDs upon an unsuspecting public, the reaction is similar to Matt Taibbi's in the NY Press:
This would be a small thing were it not for the overall pattern. Thomas Friedman does not get these things right even by accident. It's not that he occasionally screws up and fails to make his metaphors and images agree. It's that he always screws it up. He has an anti-ear, and it's absolutely infallible; he is a Joyce or a Flaubert in reverse, incapable of rendering even the smallest details without genius. The difference between Friedman and an ordinary bad writer is that an ordinary bad writer will, say, call some businessman a shark and have him say some tired, uninspired piece of dialogue: Friedman will have him spout it. And that's guaranteed, every single time. He never misses.
The fact is, Labour will win, (despite the fact the LibDems will surely gain votes this time round) but it has more to do with the hope among their voters that Gordon Brown will take over in the not too distant future. So maybe Mr. Friedman is cozying up to the wrong British politician.
Worst of all, he'd like American Democrats to emulate Tony Blair, perhaps find a clone to run in 2008, mainly because he thinks Tony Blair shares his cockeyed views on globalization and wars of naked aggression. In his strong, muscular bear hug of an endorsement, he opines:
In sum, Tony Blair has redefined British liberalism. He has made liberalism about embracing, managing and cushioning globalization, about embracing and expanding freedom - through muscular diplomacy where possible and force where necessary - and about embracing fiscal discipline.
Tom, you really should put the thesaurus down and get out more. (British Airways wouldn't mind some product placement.) It's precisely because of his support for such things the British people have stopped "embracing" Tony Blair. They've been cuckolded by the bride they twice married, but that pre-nup gave them a vast majority in Parliament. Plus Michael Howard is scary and Charles Kennedy just can't embrace momentum.
And before you give any more advice to Democrats, search your newspaper's archives: we had a president who embraced globalization and fiscal discipline. He was impeached. We had a candidate who cozied up to the same principles, and an election was stolen from him. Do you actually think any Democratic policy will make up for the fact we face candidates who lie, cheat and steal in order to be elected and then claim they're the persecuted victims of filibustering Democrats?
Maybe if people like Tom Friedman used their bully pulpit to point out such conceits occasionally, instead of embracing British politicians they've never met, Democratic principles—which are as right and true as any Tony Blair ever spouted—might actually be embraced.
Be the change you want to see, Tom.
I've spent the day gardening, and am too tired to think of anything other than buttercups and mint. Fortunately other bloggists haven't let dirt gather under the nails of their blogging fingers. From my blogroll:
Lauren at Feministe talks about her ideal mate. Better reading than Cosmo.
Iddybud, who was on my blogroll a long time before I realized the blog name hadn't shown up, has a good wrap-up of John Edwards' podcast. He discusses the bankruptcy bill, among other issues. She listens to this stuff so I don't have to figure out that podcast thingy.
Shakespeare's Sister has found a post I missed at AmericaBlog: A letter from John Aravosis to Microsoft. Apparently "they messed with the wrong faggots." It's the best letter I've read in a long time. She's right; we've got his back.
Shaula at tsuredzuregusa reports that Canadian women are way ahead of American women when it comes to reproductive and economic freedom. I have daughters, and her predictions are scary.
For food nerds, Parke at U.S. Food Policy deconstructs the new Food Pyramid. I like Kathy's interpretation even better. (Why couldn't they have left this thing alone? It worked fine for me, but then, so did Clintonian economics.)
And finally, Diane at DEDSpace has been flower blogging lately, and I'm green with envy. All except my thumb.
Atrios recently celebrated his third blog birthday, and I too am happy to report What Do I Know? is three months old today. It seems like only yesterday I was writing this, promising to impart "blistering pustules of knowledge" (my, how the young do overwrite!) and pondering the naming of a blog, which must be undertaken with periods of deep thought and perhaps the lighting of incense.
While the pustule thing didn't really work out, I am still having fun. And I've picked up a few friends along the way. Many of them reside on my blogroll, which you may have noticed has been burgeoning lately. Must be spring.
What I began on a whim (after a suggestion from Nancy) now occupies my every waking moment, and has even featured prominently in a few nightmares. I am trying to keep it more in perspective, since I tend to suffer from Blog Abuse (which my fellow Kathy at Citizen's Rent added to the DSM). Again, springtime weather helps, and my tendency to imagine my thumb might be green. (When my gardener arrived today, I proudly pointed to all these ornamental plants that were coming up. He assured me they were weeds.)
Like I say, What Do I Know?
I'm no economist, but I play one on my blog. One of the basic tenets of econ is that individuals won't behave in a way that violates their economic best interest (otherwise all bets are off and economists would be out of a job).
Of course, that doesn't exactly ring true in many cases. Take interests payments. It makes economic sense to pay off loans at a high interest rate rather than stick money into a low interest savings account, but how many people pay the minimum payment on their credit card bill and invest the rest?
A switch in the way the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal gas tax is levied could be in the offing, making it more of a user fee than a tax. By unanimous voice vote, the Senate Finance Committee approved legislation Tuesday to establish a 15-member commission to report back within two years on ways to ensure enough tax revenue to pay for the nation's highway, bridge and public transit programs.
High on the list the panel will consider is the per-mile fee that is already the subject of a $1.25 million pilot project in Oregon that will use a special "smart'' odometer coupled with a global positioning system in every vehicle, a system invented at Oregon State University.
The problem is, those people with long commutes who buy a gas saving car will pay the same tax as they would if they were driving a Hummer. They're not rewarded for buying a fuel efficient car, except for those thumbs up from fellow green motorists. Thus, the economic principle of people behaving according to their best interests kicks in. We'll all be dodging Expeditionary Behemoths with our no-longer-financially-smart Smart cars if this idea takes hold, and these days I don't put any form of idiocy past them.
The libertarian in me (who I think hides in my uterus) whispers to me this isn't a good idea for privacy wonks, either, since the technology that would enable the guvment to track our highway usage would also tell where we've been via GPS technology. It's bad enough they knew when we go to subversive countries like France, do we really want them to know when we go to Santa Fe too?
Those of us who'd like to leave the earth somewhat less abused than we found it should vociferously protest this idea. Consider this my vociferous protest, for now.
Who knew bacon and egg ice cream could nab you the top spot of the 50 Best Places to Eat? I know I'm out of touch with the rest of the carnivorous world's tastes, but tell me y'all don't eat this? Everything on this tasting menu from The Fat Duck (£97.50) sounds utterly revolting:
Nitro-green tea and lime mousse, orange and beetroot jelly, oyster, passion fruit jelly, horseradish cream, lavender pommery grain mustard ice cream, red cabbage gazpacho, jelly of quail, langoustine cream, parfait of foie gras
Roast foie gras
Sardine on toast sorbet
Ballotine of mackerel 'invertebrate', marinated daikon
Salmon poached with liquorice, asparagus, pink grapefruit, Manni olive oil
Poached breast of Anjou pigeon pancetta
Pastilla of pigeon leg, pistachio, cocoa and quatre épices
White chocolate and caviar
Mrs Marshall's Margaret cornet
Pine sherbet fountain
Mango and douglas fir puree
Bavarois of lychee and mango, blackcurrant sorbet
Carrot and orange tuile
Bavarois of basil
Smoked bacon and egg ice cream
Pain perdu, tea jelly
Leather, oak and tobacco chocolates
Praline rose tartlet
What I want to know is, what kind of wine do you serve with sardine on toast sorbet?
Fat Duck chef Heston Blumenthal beat out Alice Waters at Chez Panisse (number 13) with this six-year-old's "Let's play restaurant!" fantasy menu. If you're counting, 14 of the best restaurants were in the UK (I expected to hear restaurant patrons in England chanting for Manchester United, not ordering langoustine cream), six were in New York, while nine were in France.
I guess when your country is known for having awful, boring food, you have a lot to prove. But let's not go overboard. Douglas firs belong on Christmas tree lots, and white chocolate doesn't belong anywhere.
Thai food in a hurry, with ingredients you have around the house, plus that eggplant you've been wondering what to do with. My dirty little secret: Good food is easy to prepare. Open a can of coconut milk, spoon out some curry paste, and you're on your way.
But if you want to believe I'm slaving in the kitchen, go ahead. It only adds to the image.
Shortly after I posted my British politics update last night, I read about this man, Reg Keys, who is running against Tony Blair in his own district (as an Independent candidate). Who is Reg Keys, and does he have a chance of taking down a sitting Prime Minister?
"The last time I saw my son, Tom, was at a railway station when he marched off down the platform with his head held high, proud to do his duty for his country.
"He believed what he was told. But the Prime Minister misled the country, and Tom and eighty four other soldiers who had their oath of allegiance betrayed came home in coffins - having died for a lie.
"Its time to bring accountability back into British politics.
Reg Keys lost his son in Iraq. Now he's running against the man who sent him there. He's got no political experience, but his campaign is starting to look like it's got legs.
One Labour executive from the district, Derek Cattell, has resigned in protest and supports Reg Keys. Another candidate for the seat, David Shayler, has stopped his campaign and thrown his support to Reg Keys. Brian Eno, formerly of Roxy Music and U2 guru, is also a supporter. (Oddly enough, Labour has been using the U2 song "A Beautiful Day" at their rallies.) If I had any idea where Sedgefield was, I'd go there and help this guy out myself.
Interestingly, if Sedgefield votes Tony out, Gordon Brown will be the new Labour leader. Most voters would prefer that, so in a weird way, they'd be doing Labour a favor.
Can he actually win? I don't know, but I'll be watching this closely. And so, I hope, will Tony Blair.
I don't usually read obituaries, but this one in The Guardian caught my eye:
Marla Ruzicka, who has been killed by a car bomber near Baghdad airport, was an extraordinary, one-person American aid agency, who worked tirelessly to get compensation for victims of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Though only 28 when she died, she was an unusual mixture of charm, ebullience, adventure-seeking and tireless dedication to helping ordinary people whose lives had been shattered. She lobbied journalists and diplomats with equal persistence, but loved nothing better than to sit with wretched families after the spotlight had moved on, record every detail of their stories, go out and campaign for official apologies and compensation - and then stay in touch to keep them informed.
She'd gone to Iraq to document the civilian casualties, and became one herself, along with her driver, who had planned to quit, but stayed on knowing she was about to leave Baghdad this week. While there she developed contacts among the U.S. military, urging them to report on the many unreported incidents occuring daily in Iraq. In 2003 a segment of her journal was published on AlterNet :
A small grenade was thrown at the tank, causing it to loose control and veer onto the highway, over the family's small Volkswagen. Mohammad and Hamdia were killed instantly, orphaning the three girls in the backseat. The girls survived, but with broken and fractured bodies. We are not sure of Ayat's fate; her backbone is broken.
CIVIC staff member Faiz Al Salaam monitors the girls' condition each day. Nobody in the military or the U.S. Army has visited them, nor has anyone offered to help this very poor family.
There's more at AlterNet from Don Hazen, who says he's "never known anyone quite like her." Here's what she wrote, shortly before she died, in an essay to Human Rights Watch:
"A number is important not only to quantify the cost of the war, but, to me, each number is also a story of someone whose hopes, dreams and potential will never be realised, and who left behind a family."
I don't visit the hate-blog Little Green Footballs, but I did see my name there once when I googled myself. The comments were not nice. (They'd found my photo on the front page of the Albuquerque Tribune, where I was identified as a Dean supporter. They thus assumed all Deaniacs were flakes. I wanted to ask if they thought Congressman Jeff Flake was also a Deaniac.)
Anyway, I found this quiz (via Scribbling Woman) disturbing. You're asked whether a pro-genocide statement was made by a commenter at LGF or a Late German Fascist. With my personal nemesis Ann Coulter on the cover of Time, who spews a similar brand of liberal-hate as found on LGF, I wonder if this is what the founding fathers had in mind when they guaranteed freedom of speech.
I'm guilty, too, of not tempering what I say in cyberspace (though I've never advocated extermination of vermin, only the verminization of the exterminator). Language is a powerful thing. Those of us who use it as our primary weapon should be careful of how we load it.
Nothing would make me happier than to see Tony Blair lose the election over Britain's involvement in the war, but unfortunately that's not going to happen. Oh, he might lose the election, in a when-pigs-fly-(like on an airplane) sense, but it won't be because he supported George Bush in his war on Iraq.
The war is simply not an issue here, at least not one that's being talked about in any substantial way (other than by The Guardian newspaper, which is mostly read by Oxford students and Liberal Dems). Neither Labour nor the Conservatives mention it, nor does the average bloke on the street go on about it when interviewed. Television news is all about Rover, immigration, MRSA, and other domestic issues. Charles Kennedy, who is against the war, mentioned his position as a reminder that he's a man whose judgment is sound. In a recent poll only 3% ranked the war as the most important issue, which sparked some discussion over whether or not that was an accurate reflection, but not about the issue of the war itself.
In America, Tony Blair, despite his insistence on going along with George Bush's war, is regarded as intelligent, well-spoken, thoughtful, sincere, all the things we find missing in our own leader. Here, he is loathed. A large segment of the population simply can't stand him. I found that difficult to fathom at first. I remember hearing dual descriptions of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, in which one was described as well read, a deep thinking intellectual—a perfect description of Tony Blair, I assumed, while the other was called shallow, a performer, a smiling face who says what people want to hear. I wondered what kind of Barbie doll this Gordon guy was.
Of course, I had it wrong. It's Gordon who's the policy wonk, the well-read intellectual who's good at sums. Blair is regarded as two-faced, a man who can't be trusted, not just over the war, but because he went back on his promise to Gordon to let the other man assume the leadership of the party, and thus the mantle of Prime Minister after his own two terms.
Recent polls have Labour pulling ahead, after some harrowing neck and neck polling results earlier. They may have peaked too early, as part of their strategy rests on people being so scared of a Tory win they'll hold their nose and vote Labour. As in any close election, it's GOTV—Get Out the Vote—that will determine the winner. That's a lot easier to do if people think the election's close. (Parliamentary seats are much smaller than congressional districts, and a few hundred votes are sometimes all that separates the two leading contenders.)
But there are, of course, more than two parties. An excellent analysis of the impact of voting LibDem in a multi-party election can be found by Nick Barlow at What You Can Get Away With. With 659 seats in Parliament, and Labour currently enjoying a whopping majority of 408 seats (over 160 Conservative seats and 54 LibDem), it's virtually impossible for any other party to outright win. (Here's a handy election calculator in case you're not good with sums.) (On the other hand, if you're really into graphs and such, Phil Hunt offers another explanation of why a LibDem vote isn't wasted.)
Though the LibDems are generally to the left of Labour, it's not true that they're pulling votes only from pissed off Labour voters. They seem to be an equally attractive option for disgruntled Conservative voters, and are making headway in several marginal Tory districts. In fact, in Michael Howard's own district, Folkestone, a LibDem was his next closest challenger in 2001. (I know what you're thinking—I asked a knowledgeable friend if it was possible for Tony Blair to actually lose his own seat, and she said yes, theoretically, but party leaders are assigned to safe seats—there's no residency rule here.)
None of that convinces Guardian writer Polly Toynbee, who is offering free nose pegs to encourage people to vote Labour, in case the Tories squeak in whilst voters beat Blair about the buttocks. Maybe it's American of me, but when she calls the Conservative campaign "low, racist, insinuating, and populist" I can't help but scoff. I know low, racist, insinuating and populist campaigns, and Mr. Howard, you're no George Bush. Conservative election-meister Lynton Crosby is no Karl Rove, either, with a brace of Swift Boat vets hanging from his belt, and Michael Howard on his worst immigrant-bashing days can't outsmirk the Chimp in Chief.
But British voters seem alarmed by the prospect of a return to Thatcherite conservatism, nevertheless, and this might give Labour the edge. "Vote for Tony, and get Gordon later" seems to work well for them too.
And Iraq? The most we can hope for is a draw down there, which isn't such a good thing, frankly. The British troops have an excellent reputation when it comes to policing rough areas, a deft and delicate hand (Northern Ireland was a long time ago), which is what the situation calls for at present. The world needs more British troops, not less. (Another thing that took me aback when I first moved here: someone saying on BBC that the British troops were the best in the world. Patriotic bragging, I thought, but he was right. They really are a first class military, despite the fact they don't consume a defense budget larger than the next 20 nations combined.)
My prediction? (Keeping in mind I'm notoriously bad at these things, and have the bar tab to prove it.) Low turnout will lead to some election upsets. Tony Blair wakes up to a moving van outside No. 10, with Charles and Sarah's furniture inside, and baby Donald looking to usurp Leo's nursery. Tony trades in his House of Commons membership for a seat in the Lords, where he finds himself the only Lord with all original teeth. Conservatives wonder if it's not time to hang it up and join their soulmates New Labour in opposition, while George Bush convinces his new poodle Vicente Fox to send Mexican troops to replace British soldiers.
And pigs cash in their frequent flyer miles.