British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that he intends to introduce a tax break for married couples, fulfilling a long-standing promise to recognize marriage in the UK’s tax system (unlike in the U.S., where a married couple can pool their income and deductions, Britain currently treats individuals largely separately for tax purposes). The measure, which is aimed at low- and middle-income earners, would leave a typical couple around $330 a year better off.
It’s not a huge amount of money — and some Conservative politicians, religious leaders and pro-marriage groups say it’s too little to make a difference. However the announcement is as much a statement of Cameron’s personal support for marriage as it is about the money, and is designed to send a message that the state values the institution (Cameron has defended his support for gay marriage in part by claiming it will strengthen marriage as a whole). Along with reforms to education and the welfare system, the promotion of marriage is part of the government’s effort to address the problem of family breakdown and its attendant social problems, which are reckoned to cost the UK some $75 billion a year.
Reaction to the announcement from the left has been predictably hostile. Labor politicians have condemned the plan as “insulting” to single parents (a designated victim group) and couples who choose not to marry. Harriet Harman, the party’s senior token women and a dour, knee-jerk feminist, called it “stigmatizing and moralizing” and “Victorian finger-wagging.” The Tories’ coalition partners, the center-left Liberal Democrats, have been equally critical, with party leader Nick Clegg accusing Cameron of trying to “turn back the clock to the 1950s.”
Why so much outrage over such a modest gesture? The tax system has long discriminated against married couples, particularly if one parent stays at home to raise children, and in favor of couples who separate. Meanwhile, more generous tax breaks have long been the norm in countries including France and Germany, where marriage rates are higher.
No one is suggesting that either single parents or cohabiting couples can’t make good parents, or that every marriage is successful. However, studies have repeatedly shown that married couples are more likely to stay together than cohabiting ones; and that marriage provides the most favorable conditions for raising children who will do well at school and have better job prospects, and avoid alcoholism, drug addiction and other problems. Stable marriages and strong families are also powerful engines for lifting people out of poverty and increasing social mobility.
The NSA/PRISM scandal has spread to the UK, with the news that American intelligence officials shared telephone and internet data harvested by wiretapping programs with their counterparts at GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters). According to The Guardian, GCHQ has had access to PRISM data since at least June 2010, and generated 197 intelligence reports from it last year.
Those reports would normally be passed to MI5 and MI6, Britain’s domestic and foreign intelligence services.
The Obama administration has insisted that the PRISM program has not targeted U.S. citizens. However, if foreign citizens of interest were communicating with U.S. citizens, then those Americans would presumably be known to the NSA. Many Americans are skeptical that either their government or the phone and internet companies involved are telling the truth, and with so many questions remaining unanswered, it’s possible that information on American citizens may have been shared with British officials and politicians.
GCHQ has refused to confirm any involvement with the PRISM program, and we don’t, of course, know who in the UK security services would have seen such information. We do, however, know which politicians might have had access to it.
These would include the Home Secretary Theresa May, who is the minister responsible for national security and policing. Also, members of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which has oversight over GCHQ and other branches of the security services.
That committee is chaired by the Conservative MP Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign secretary and defense minister. The other members are Tory MPs Julian Lewis and Mark Field; Labour MPs George Howarth, Hazel Blears and Paul Goggins; Liberal Democrat MP Menzies Campbell; and two members of the House of Lords: the Conservative peer Lord Lothian, and the unaffiliated peer Lord Butler, a former top civil servant.
It seems clear, meanwhile, that both the NSA and GCHQ have been viewing PRISM data relating to British citizens. If so, the NSA’s involvement is diplomatically embarrassing both for the Obama administration and the British government. GCHQ would appear to have circumvented the usual legal process required for the UK security services to obtain personal information on British citizens from internet and telephone companies.
Demanding that the British government hold an inquiry, Keith Vaz — the Labour chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee — said:
I am astonished by these revelations, which could involve the data of thousands of Britons. The most chilling aspect is that ordinary American citizens and potentially British citizens too were apparently unaware that their phone and online interactions could be watched.
If — as Obama and his National Security officials insist — Americans have nothing to be alarmed about, then presumably the involvement of the British security services shouldn’t be an issue either. But the president is a long way from convincing Americans that that is the case.
What Does a Muslim Extremist Have To Do To Get Arrested in Britain These Days? Send an Offensive Tweet?
One of the two men who murdered a British soldier in London on Wednesday was arrested in Kenya in 2010 on suspicion of trying to join Islamist militants fighting in Somalia, it emerged tonight. Michael Adebolajo was thought to have been trying to link up with the militant group al-Shabab. He received ‘consular assistance’ from the UK foreign office before being deported.
It has already been revealed that both of the men who killed Drummer Lee Rigby close to his barracks in Woolwich were known to the security services, and the latest reports will raise new questions about why Adebolajo was not more closely monitored by the police and MI5, and whether he could have been prosecuted for terrorist activity.
There have also been claims that Adebolajo was approached by the British security services, and that they attempted to recruit him as an informant. Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale remain under police guard in hospital after being shot by police following Drummer Rigby’s murder, and four other men have been arrested in connection with the attack.
Meanwhile, on the day that Drummer Rigby’s family visited the scene of his murder, Prime Minister David Cameron was criticized for flying to Spain for a holiday with his family while so many questions about the attack remain unanswered.
Also today, the British Home Secretary said a task force would be set up to determine if new laws were needed to counter the radicalization of young Muslim men in mosques and universities, amid concerns that little progress has been made in combating extremism since the London bus and subway bombings in 2005.
Any new measures are sure to be opposed by civil liberties and human rights campaigners, but the government is likely to be able to count on widespread public support for tougher measures following Wednesday’s horrific events, and the subsequent revelations about the killers that suggest they could have, and perhaps should have, been apprehended well before they carried out the attack.
While the security services may have been at fault with regard to Drummer Rigby’s killers, however, the police have displayed rather more alacrity when it comes to rounding up members of the public for making anti-Muslim comments on social media.
The British soldier killed by Islamists in a machete attack in London yesterday has been named as Drummer Lee Rigby, aged 25, from Manchester. He was married with a two-year-old son. In addition to performing ceremonial duties as a drummer with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Drummer Rigby had served in Afghanistan.
Also today it was revealed that the two men who murdered Drummer Rigby were Britons of Nigerian descent, who were known to the security services. One of the men has been identified as 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo, a Muslim convert — it was Adebolajo who was seen justifying the killing in a video shot by an eyewitness shortly after the attack.
Police raided five addresses in London, and the home of Adebolajo’s father in Lincolnshire. They arrested a man and a woman on suspicion of conspiracy to murder, the first indication that the killers may not have been “lone wolves.”
The similarities with last month’s Boston bombings are striking. The perpetrators of both attacks are “home-grown” terrorists, and like the Tsarnaev brothers the London terrorists appear to have had associates, but not to have been part of a large recognized group. As was the case with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Adebolajo and his accomplice had come to the attention of the security services, but appear to have slipped through the net, provoking criticism in sections of the UK press.
While the pressure cooker bombs used by the Tsarnaevs were sophisticated devices compared to the knives and machete used by the London killers, both attacks were relatively crude affairs compared to previous plots, both successful and unsuccessful. While there’s no suggestion of a link between Boston and London, it appears that Islamists have figured out they’re less likely to be apprehended if plots are kept relatively small and simple, with as few people as possible involved — Nidal Hasan’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood was another example.
Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the attacks in a speech this morning, and said the British people would “never give in to terror or terrorism.” He also paid tribute to Cub Scout leader Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, who in a remarkable act of bravery confronted the killers, and kept them talking in a bid to stop them attacking anyone else.
In other developments today, the Ministry of Defence was forced into a U-turn after announcing that members of the armed forces should not wear their uniforms in public. The decision was reversed after complaints that it could be construed as caving in to terrorism. Meanwhile the website of the charity Help for Heroes, which raises money for injured servicemen, crashed after it was swamped with donations; Drummer Rigby was wearing one of the charity’s T-shirts when he was killed, and the outpouring of support for the British Army that we’ve seen today is a fitting tribute to him.
More: Drummer Lee Rigby
A man thought to be a British soldier has been killed by Islamist terrorists in a horrific attack in broad daylight in a London street. Two men ran the victim over with a car before hacking him to death with knives and a machete, while shouting “Allahu Akbar.”
The attackers apparently filmed themselves carrying out the killing, and invited stunned bystanders to take photos and video of them posing beside their victim. Video has been aired on ITV news of one of the attackers brandishing a blood-stained machete and shouting at bystanders, as onlookers tried to help the slain man. He’s heard saying “I apologize that women had to witness this today, but in our lands women have to see the same.” Judging by the accent of the man speaking in the video, he’s either British born or has spent some years in the country, making it likely that the terrorists were “home-grown,” rather than from outside the country.
Other news outlets have reported that one of the men said, “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.”
When armed police arrived on the scene (British police officers are not routinely armed), the attackers confronted them with knives a handgun, and both were shot and wounded. They’re now under guard at London hospitals, and it’s not known at this stage whether they acted alone or are part of a larger plot; however, it’s clear that they had no fear of being killed or captured, and may well have intended to be “martyred.”
The attack took place in Woolwich in south-east London at 2.20 p.m. local time. The victim is believed to be a soldier based at the nearby Woolwich barracks, home to elements of the Royal Artillery; he was wearing a T-shirt from the charity Help for Heroes, which raises money for injured British soldiers.
One witness told a London radio station: “These two guys were crazed. They were just animals. They dragged him from the pavement and dumped his body in the middle of the road and left his body there.”
After all the controversy – it was too much, and too expensive; it would be marred by protests – this morning’s funeral for Lady Thatcher in London was a splendid and memorable affair, which did her memory, and her country, proud. It was a moving, dignified and pitch-perfect occasion: unmistakably British, and a fitting send-off for the country’s greatest post-war prime minister.
Big Ben fell silent – for the first time since the funeral of wartime leader Winston Churchill – and tens of thousands of admirers lined the streets to applaud Lady Thatcher’s coffin as it was borne on a horse-drawn gun carriage to St Paul’s Cathedral. The funeral was conducted with full military honors: the coffin was carried into St Paul’s by servicemen representing units that played key roles in the 1982 Falkands war against Argentina, and two of the field guns that fired a salute during the funeral procession had last been fired in anger during that conflict.
A solemn and dignified service followed, featuring choral music and hymns by Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Brahms among others. Lady Thatcher’s granddaughter, Amanda, read from Ephesians chapter 6 (in a soft but unmistakeable Texas accent – she’s the daughter of Lady Thatcher’s son Mark and his American first wife), and Prime Minister David Cameron from John chapter 14 (‘I am the way, the truth and the life’).
The Bishop of London gave an address in which he spoke about the strong personal faith that informed Lady Thatcher’s politics (she was baptized a Methodist and later converted to Anglicanism), and about how much the person he knew differed from some of the myths and caricatures. The final hymn was Lady Thatcher’s favorite I Vow To The My Country, and when her coffin was carried out of the cathedral the crowd erupted into cheers and applause as the cathedral’s bells rang out.
In the run-up to the funeral, much had been made of possible disruption by left-wing protestors, but in the event few turned up; the Washington Post, rather optimistically, had reported that protestors were expected to ‘line the streets’, but there were barely enough of them to line a taxi stand. I suspect that many of the louts and “activists” who have been filmed drinking and dancing on the streets of London and elsewhere in the past few days forgot to set their alarms, and slept through the whole thing. Those protestors that did show up struggled to get themselves noticed or heard; early on in the proceedings there were reports of objects being thrown at the funeral procession, but it turned out the only things that were thrown were flowers.
British MPs have tonight voted to back plans by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to legalize same-sex marriage. The House of Commons voted in favor of the proposals by 400 votes to 175, and the right for gay couples to marry is now all but certain to become the law of the land (unlike in the U.S., there’s no provision for local or regional governments to legislate on the issue).
Cameron has attempted to make a conservative case for gay marriage, claiming it will make the institution of marriage stronger, rather than weakening it. But while the result was a victory for him, it came at some cost: his party is deeply divided on the issue, and more than half of Tory MPs either voted against the bill or abstained (the government allowed a “free vote” on the issue, meaning MPs were not compelled to vote along party lines).
The changes will primarily affect civil marriages, although some smaller religious organizations, including the Quakers, have said they will conduct same-sex weddings. To counter fears from the Church of England and other churches that they will be forced to marry gay couples, the legislation includes a provision that no religious organization will be compelled to do so.
However, the government has tied itself in knots in order to push the legislation through. Bizarrely the legislation specifically bans the CofE from offering same-sex marriage – meaning that, even if the church in the future wanted to permit gay weddings, it couldn’t. Opponents of the plans, meanwhile, fear the legislation will not stand up to scrutiny in the European Court of Human Rights, and that in time every church will be forced to offer gay weddings.
Cameron has insisted that he wants to introduce gay marriage because “it’s the right thing to do.” But many Tory MPs believe the move is simply another step in Cameron’s bid to “modernize” the party, and “detoxify” the Conservative brand; the proposals did not appear in the party’s last election manifesto, and the issue is a low priority with most voters.
Cameron’s leadership on the issue is unlikely to do him much harm at the ballot box. Opinion polls show a majority of Britons who express an opinion are in favor of same-sex marriage, and while some polls have suggested that the controversy will cost the Tories more supporters than it gains them, the next general election is more than two years away, and will be dominated by the economy and, to a lesser extent, the UK’s relationship with Europe.
Religious groups opposed to the redefinition of marriage might be forgiven for wondering how Cameron squares his stance with his call just a few weeks ago for the Church of England to help counter the nation’s “slow-motion moral collapse.” Cameron would argue that the two points of view are not incompatible, but many Christians will see tonight’s vote as another victory for those who want to marginalize religious belief in Britain – and that’s before the law of unintended consequences kicks in, as it surely will.
British Prime Minister David Cameron this morning delivered his heavily anticipated speech on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union. Mr Cameron pledged that, should his Conservative party be returned to power in the 2015 general election, he would seek to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership, before holding a referendum that would give the British people the choice of staying in the EU on the new terms, or leaving entirely.
It’s long past time the British people were given a say on the issue. When two-thirds of voters opted to remain in the European Economic Community, as it was then called, back in 1975, the relationship was purely a trading one, based on the European “single market” (that referendum was held by a Labour government, after Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath had taken Britain into the EEC in 1973 without consulting the electorate).
Since then the EU has expanded, appropriating more and more power from national parliaments, particularly in the areas of business regulation and economic policy. There’s also been a relentless drive, led by Germany and France, towards greater fiscal and political union – a process that accelerated with the creation of the European single currency a decade ago, and which has been given greater, rather than less, impetus by the economic turmoil currently engulfing the continent (the solution to every problem confronting Europe is, its citizens are frequently told, “more Europe”).
Reaction to the speech suggests that Cameron may, for now, have succeeded in uniting his party, which has for years been beset by quarrelling between supporters of the EU and “euroskeptics.” But in other respects he’s kicked the can down the road; today’s speech was short on specifics (exactly which powers Cameron would seek to repatriate, for example), and several questions remain unanswered; among them, whether Cameron would himself campaign to leave the EU were he not to get everything he wanted from negotiations.
Cameron’s most pressing concern, however, is to retain power in 2015, and preferably without being bound into a coalition with the left-of-center Liberal Democrats, as he has been for the past two-and-a-half years. To that end he needs to neutralize the threat posed by the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which has positioned itself to the right of the Tories on the related issues of Europe and immigration (in a little under a year from now a new wave of economic migrants, from Romania and Bulgaria, is due to descend on Britain, taking advantage of EU “freedom of movement” laws).
Some interesting political news from the UK, which ties in with my piece on the front page about the couple who had three foster children taken from them because they were members of the right-of-centre UK Independence party (UKIP) – and which will perhaps provide a crumb of consolation for downcast U.S. conservatives.
Yesterday three special elections (we call them by-elections) were held to fill vacant seats in the House of Commons. All three were ‘safe’ seats for the left-of-centre Labour party, and as expected Labour held all three. UKIP, however – which is widely regarded as a fringe or protest party of the right – came second in two of the contests, and third in the other one; and its best result came in Rotherham, where the fostering controversy erupted over the weekend, and where UKIP finished second with more than a fifth of the vote.
The results were the party’s best showing in elections for the Westminster parliament. It’s likely the fostering controversy earned UKIP a few votes, especially in Rotherham, and it certainly gave the party bags of free national publicity in the days leading up to the elections; however, the party has been making steady progress in recent years.
UKIP’s success was a shot across the bows of the Conservative Party, which is in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who are essentially left-of-centre on most issues, but with a pro-business streak. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has allowed himself to be dragged to the centre by his coalition partners on issues including Britain’s relationship with the European Union and ‘green’ energy, to the dismay of many of his MPs, and the party’s grassroots supporters. His government has also failed to deliver a promised crackdown on immigration.
UKIP’s flagship policies are withdrawal from the EU, and an end to the largely uncontrolled mass immigration to the UK of the last couple of decades – both of which are supported by a majority of the British people. The party has attracted disillusioned voters from both the Conservatives and Labour, but it’s Cameron’s Conservatives who stand to lose the most from UKIP’s rise – by splitting the centre-right vote, it’s reckoned to have cost the Tories up to 21 seats, and an overall Commons majority, in the 2010 general election.
Last night’s results will increase the pressure on Cameron to move back to the right on Europe and immigration. There’s also talk of a Tory-UKIP pact at the next general election – which will be in 2015, if the coalition survives that long – with UKIP not fielding candidates in ‘marginal’ Conservative seats. The sticking point is the contempt that UKIP members harbor for Cameron, who in 2006 dismissed them as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” as he sought to ingratiate himself with Britain’s liberal-left cultural and media establishment.
If Britain’s economy remains sluggish, and UKIP continues to out-poll the Tories in by-elections, local council elections and the 2014 European elections, there’s a good chance that Cameron will be ousted in favor of a more unabashedly right-wing leader. If he survives, he’ll have to lose face by cutting a deal with UKIP, or move his party far enough to the right to negate the UKIP threat. Either way, last night’s results were good news for British conservatives.
Earlier today I reported at PJ Media on how I was able to make donations to Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, despite being a British citizen. PJ Media is still waiting for a response from the Obama campaign, but we’re not holding our breath. We’ve also been in touch with the Federal Election Commission and the Government Accountability Institute.
Last night I telephoned the Obama campaign’s donation compliance department. The staffer I spoke to said she would refund my donations, but was unable to explain why they had been processed. She hung up on me when I asked to speak with someone who was authorized to talk to the press. I spoke to a second staffer at Obama HQ in Chicago, who was more helpful. She took my details, and said someone from the press department would phone me back, but they’ve yet to do so.
I’ve also sent emails to the compliance department and the campaign’s press office asking them to comment on my report, and to explain why they continue to accept donations from non-U.S. citizens – and specifically, why they don’t require donors to supply the CVV (card verification value) number for their payment card.
I also contacted the Federal Election Commission. A spokesperson told me that campaigns are only required by law to file with the commission details of individuals contributing more than $200. And they are only required to make “best efforts” to verify the mailing address of those donors; so it’s hard to see how FEC analysts would be able to detect a contribution of, say, $500 from a foreign citizen if they simply supplied a false U.S. address, as I did. Campaigns are required to keep details of individuals contributing lower amounts on file.
The spokesperson could not comment on any investigations currently in progress, saying details would be confidential. She told me that if I wanted to file a complaint, I could do so through the FEC’s normal filing procedure.
It’s been reported that Barack Obama’s re-election campaign is knowingly accepting donations from non-U.S. citizens, and PJ Media can confirm that it’s not only possible, but very easy, for foreign citizens to make contributions. I’ve been able to donate $25 to the Obama campaign in three separate transactions, despite being a lifelong British citizen resident in the UK. What’s more, two of my donations were processed despite the Obama campaign noting that I had provided a non-U.S. address, and despite my failure to provide proof of American citizenship when asked to do so.
I first tried to donate on October 6, via the donation page at BarackObama.com, the president’s official re-election campaign website. I entered my name, and my UK street address and city, as I figured that at a minimum I would need to supply these in order for my bank to process the transaction. I also supplied my email address.
However, in order to progress to the next screen I had to provide a U.S. state, postcode, and phone number. I have relatives in Massachusetts, so I chose MA from the list and entered my relatives’ postcode and a variation on their phone number, with the last four numbers changed so the state and area codes would be correct.
I then entered my debit card number (this is a card that draws on my checking account, as distinct from a credit card) and expiration date, but I was not asked to enter the three-digit CVV (card-verification value) number on the back of the card; I had seen reports that the Obama campaign had disabled the requirement to supply this number.
I clicked “donate,” and despite my intention to test the system, I was a little surprised to see that my donation was, initially at least, accepted – I figured it was still possible that the discrepancies in the address would show up. I received an acknowledgement of my donation from the Obama campaign via email, although the email did add that the donation was “subject to review.” I then made a second donation, for $5, so that I could take a screen grab of the page you see below.
As a control, I then tried to make a donation to the Romney campaign, entering the same information. This time, I was asked for the three-digit CVV number, and when I clicked “donate” I was immediately informed that the address I had entered did not match the address on file for the card.
I wasn’t entirely surprised when, on October 9, I received an email from the “compliance” department at the Obama campaign. The email said that, because I’d supplied a foreign address, I would need to supply a copy of the photo page from my U.S. passport in order to comply with Federal Election Commission regulations. I don’t have a U.S. passport of course, so I didn’t respond to the email. (Oddly, the email also said I needed to supply the passport page “even though you provided a passport number when donating online”; I hadn’t supplied a passport number when I donated, or been asked to supply one.)
Most Americans will have never heard of Jimmy Savile, the flamboyant disc jockey, television presenter, and charity campaigner who, by the time of his death last year at the age of 84, had become a legend in the field of what we Brits call “light entertainment.” Savile was best-known for the long-running BBC show Jim’ll Fix It, in which he would arrange for the wishes of youngsters to come true.
Savile was also famous for his gaudy costumes, his jewellery, his mane of silver hair, his cigars, and his numerous catchphrases. He was a bachelor, and managed on the whole to keep his private life private. Perhaps inevitably given his “unusual” lifestyle, and the fact that much of both his charity and broadcasting work involved him being around children, there were rumors of sexual misconduct, and a couple of allegations of indecent assault. Nothing, however, was proven.
So it did not come entirely as a surprise when, shortly after his death, new allegations of sexual assaults on teenage girls as young as 14 began to emerge. But the volume of complaints has grown at an astonishing rate. A few days ago, police investigating the claims described Savile as a “predatory sex offender,” and said they were pursuing 340 lines of inquiry involving 40 potential victims — including young boys — and were dealing with allegations dating back to 1959.
The fact that Savile was apparently able to get away with committing rapes and other assaults for so long is bad enough. But what’s even more disturbing is that most of the alleged attacks were carried out while he worked for the BBC, and in many cases are said to have taken place in its offices and dressing rooms. It’s claimed that senior figures at the BBC turned a blind eye to Savile‘s behavior over the years, and that of other male stars.
And the cover-up continued after Savile‘s death. When the allegations against the star became widespread the BBC’s Newsnight program began an investigation, but the report was never aired. The BBC is investigating both the decision to pull the investigation and the allegations against Savile, and senior figures in the corporation are to be quizzed by a parliamentary committee.
There’s a note of irony about the scandal in which the BBC finds itself embroiled. One reason why, at least in the 1960s and 1970s, Savile‘s bosses and colleagues were able to ignore or excuse his behavior was that it was taking place against the backdrop of the sexual revolution, and the advent of the “permissive society,” which the BBC played no small part in celebrating and promoting (for more on the prevailing “culture” at the BBC, read this eye-popping account by a female presenter). Nowadays, such is the extent to which the corporation has embraced the modern diktats of political correctness, any male employee who so much as holds the lift door open for a female colleague risks being hit with a sex discrimination complaint.
What makes this affair particularly galling for the BBC is that, while any major organization would rightly be castigated for systemically covering up sexual assaults on young girls, none has appointed itself the arbiter of an entire nation’s morals and tastes to the extent the BBC has. It’s by some distance the most smug and self-righteous institution in Britain; in its fervor to impose its liberal-left worldview on the British people (its influence is also growing worldwide) it puts most religious bodies to shame.
The video currently doing the rounds in which Mitt Romney writes off 47% of the electorate as never going to vote for him because they’re “dependent upon government” looks rather like his “bitter gun clingers” moment. As with Romney’s remarks, Obama made his notorious claim to what he assumed was a “friendly” audience at a fundraiser during the 2008 primary campaign. Conservatives seized on Obama’s words as evidence of his innermost beliefs and his disdain for Middle America, and many thought they would handicap him in the general election. We know how that turned out.
The left is now crowing that Romney’s “revealing” gaffe has all but handed the election to Obama, and of course the big difference is that Romney’s remarks are sure to get a lot more coverage than Obama’s ever did. But while he’s being hammered on this by Democrats and their MSM allies, Romney can and should turn the situation to his advantage. His campaign quickly put out a statement in a bid to clarify his remarks, but Romney should go further and use this opportunity to rekindle the debate about the whole issue of entitlements and dependency on government.
As several commentators have pointed out, Romney’s numbers are muddled. He appears to be conflating the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income taxes (although, as Patrick Brennan points out at The Corner, many of that group do pay other taxes) with the 47% of voters that, as Jay Cost has noted, roughly constitute the “floor” of support for Democratic presidential candidates.
I like messing about with Photoshop, so I couldn’t resist joining in the #EmptyChairDay fun. Here’s my first effort:
That one took a while, and I was planning on leaving it there, but then I saw this tweet from David Limbaugh:
Several tweeters observed that, unlike Obama, the chair didn’t throw like a girl.
Then I got my first direct commission:
Then I got another request…A change of chair was called for here – I tried it with the farmhouse chair, but there wasn’t enough background detail to clone out Obama, and anyway, I think the big leather number works better…
Thanks to David, Cary and Buckeye Einstein for the ideas – and Happy #EmptyChairDay!
I just watched Clint Eastwood’s convention speech again, and it came across a lot better second time around. When I watched it live it had seemed more disjointed; but that was around 3 a.m. UK time this morning. I was forcing myself to stay awake for Romney’s speech, and I was also following Twitter as Eastwood was speaking, so I wasn’t fully paying attention. When I watched it properly — as most of the television audience would have done last night — it made perfect sense, while being undeniably off the wall.
There was still that part around the middle where Eastwood was briefly incoherent, and it does make for slightly uncomfortable viewing. But watching the Democrats crowing on Twitter and the blogosphere today I’d begun to fear that perhaps the speech had been as big a disaster as they were claiming. It wasn’t.
Eastwood’s skit was all the more engaging for its spontaneity and the occasionally rambling delivery. As Richard Fernandez says on the home page, “It wasn’t the speech of someone who was running for office.” You got the feeling Eastwood was doing this a little reluctantly, out of a sense of duty, in stark contrast to the Hollywood liberals who never miss an opportunity to engage in self-righteous grandstanding and brag of their intimacy with President Obama — “hot-dogging it,” in Clint-speak.
At the moment, however, the nearest thing the Democrats have to star quality for next week’s convention in Charlotte is Eva Longoria, the former Desperate Housewives actress who’s also the face of L’Oréal and, most recently, cat food. Her speech is sure to be polished and teleprompted; it’s also sure to be predictable, tediously earnest, and have little appeal beyond the convention hall and Latino special interest groups (Longoria is an immigration activist, and a budding constitutional scholar).
In the meantime liberals are whistling past the graveyard, claiming that Eastwood’s convention turn has somehow damaged the Romney campaign and handed the Democrats an advantage. But do they really think undecided voters might be put off supporting the GOP ticket because a movie legend isn’t quite as eloquent as he used to be? On the contrary, it’s likely that his message will have resonated with many swing voters, the delivery notwithstanding.
Typical of the attacks on Eastwood was Michael Moore’s in the Daily Beast, in which Moore claims to represent “the American mainstream” in the same breath as mocking an 82-year-old national icon. That combination of tone-deafness and spitefulness is a hallmark of liberalism, and it’s become a feature of the Obama administration — and it’s why I suspect Eastwood will have the last laugh in November.
I doubt Lianne Mellor has read The Road to Serfdom. As a young, artistically inclined person I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that she describes herself as a liberal rather than a conservative. And I’m pretty sure that, living in England, she won’t be familiar with Obama’s “You didn’t build that” speech, in which he essentially declared that no small business owner or entrepreneur can achieve anything without the help of a vast, benevolent government.
But amid all that’s been written and said by politicians and commentators in the last couple of days hammering Obama for his denigration of business and business people, Lianne, without realizing it, has offered the most eloquent and heartfelt rebuttal of the President’s weltanschauung that I’ve heard.
Unable to find work after qualifying as an architect, Lianne set up her own business producing tea sets and other homewares decorated with her own illustrations. She had support from a business advice service run by her local council, but essentially she did it on her own, progressing in just a couple of years from working in her dad’s garage to having her products stocked by upmarket British stores.
And she’s not afraid to take the credit for her success. Interviewed by BBC News for a feature on young people trying to find work in Britain’s struggling economy, she said:
“It’s really, really hard work but it’s so worth it. And when you can look around you at the end of each day and think ‘I got me here, you’re only here because of your own hard work’, and everything around you, you’ve created…”
“I got me here.” It’s an infinitely more appealing and inspiring mantra than “You didn’t build that”; it’s a celebration of earned success, and the polar opposite of Obama’s paean to stifling, destructive big government. Put it on a T-shirt. Put it on a bumper sticker. Get this girl to speak at the Republican convention.
Lianne’s website is here (I suspect Americans will like her quirky, Beatrix Potter-esque designs) and she’s also on Twitter. She might not care for being held up as the Ayn Rand of decorative pottery, and I don’t expect her to endorse anyone in the US elections. But it won’t be lost on American conservatives that this resourceful, proudly independent young woman produces all the paraphernalia you need to hold a tea party.
Channelling Iowahawk, Robert Gibbs Takes Obama’s ‘Car in the Ditch’ Metaphor to New Heights of Absurdity
Liberals may be dead set against torturing terror suspects, but they appear to have no such qualms about torturing metaphors. Just when you thought you’d heard the last of Obama’s ‘car in the ditch’ stump speech routine, his former press secretary turned campaign advisor Robert Gibbs dragged it out of its cell, waterboarded it and pulled out its fingernails.
“When Barack Obama got the keys to the bus it was trapped in the ditch with three flat tires. We’ve changed the tires, we’ve pulled the bus out of the ditch, and we’re starting up the road to strengthening the middle class,” Gibbs said this morning.
“There’s a different theory. Mitt Romney wants to take that bus — probably a bus made in Switzerland or Bermuda – and he wants to turn that bus around, he wants to pick up some millionaires and billionaires and shower them with cash,” he said.
The most obvious evolution from the Obama version to the Gibbs version, aside from the fact that Romney is mentioned by name (although interestingly he isn’t “sucking on a slurpee”), is that the car is now a bus, which is an unfortunate modification coming from an adviser to a president who’s famous for throwing former associates who’ve become a liability, from Jeremiah Wright to his own grandmother, under just such a vehicle (I was going to mention Van Jones, but I thought introducing a Van into a post already containing a car and a bus might seem flippant). Also, in the Obama telling, the car usually had “a few dinks and dents,” but there was no mention of one flat tire, let alone three.
Gibbs takes the metaphor in a new and wonderful direction, however, when he turns his attention to Romney’s diabolical plans for the recovered vehicle. Gibbs says it was “probably” made in “Switzerland or Bermuda,” two countries associated with rich people, secret banks accounts and tax avoidance.
But this was the same bus that, Gibbs tells us, Obama and the Democrats were about to drive off in, down the “road to strengthening the middle class.” Did they have no qualms about traveling in a vehicle that was presumably made out of melted-down Nazi gold, sitting on seats upholstered with the skin of Bermudan peasants?
And while we’re on the subject of where the bus was built, didn’t Gibbs’ former boss last year embark on his ‘economic recovery tour’ of struggling heartland states in a bus made in Canada? Granted, Canada isn’t the pariah state for liberals that Switzerland or Bermuda are, but when the conversation turns to creating American jobs, it’s probably wise to leave buses out of the discussion.
You have to hand it to Gibbs, though, when he introduces the “millionaires and billionaires” into the story. While this shorthand for evil rich people has become one of Obama’s stock phrases, not even the president in his pomp would have attempted to work it into the ‘car in the ditch’ story. It’s a rhetorical feat with an extraordinarily high degree of difficulty, akin to Tiger Woods sinking a 30-yard putt while simultaneously hitting on a cocktail waitress.
I can only assume that Gibbs – a man who, during his tenure as Obama’s spokesman, earned more laughs while trying to be serious than most comedians get in a lifetime – was aiming for parody. But while it’s a fine effort, it doesn’t come close to the gold standard of Obama metaphor mockery. Take it away, Iowahawk…
Nine men were jailed in Britain last week for raping and abusing dozens of girls aged as young as 13 over a period of several years in the northern town of Rochdale. The men plied the girls with drink and drugs before assaulting them, in a practice known by the appalling euphemism of “grooming.” One girl was raped by 20 men in one night; another had an abortion after becoming pregnant by one of her attackers. Police are trying to track down other victims of the gang, and are hunting up to 40 more suspects.
These would be horrific crimes under any circumstances. But the case had an added dimension that has provoked much controversy: All of the rapists were Muslims, and all of their victims were white. Predictably, racist groups such as the British National Party are trying to exploit the case, citing it as evidence that the sexual abuse of white women by Muslim men is widespread in Britain. Equally true to form, many liberals in the media, politics, the criminal justice system and others charged with guarding the flame of multiculturalism are falling over themselves to deny that “race” has anything to do with it.
Leading the campaign to persuade the public that there’s “nothing to see here” in terms of the identities of the rapists and their victims was the chief of the police force that investigated the case, who insisted it was “not a racial issue.” The mantra was taken up by the left-wing Guardian newspaper, a prominent Labour MP, and assorted left-wing bloggers, while the BBC — the taxpayer-funded propaganda arm of Britain’s liberal-left establishment — carried the message far and wide in its television and online reporting. The ability of sections of the media to produce lengthy reports without mentioning the word “Muslim” was something to behold; by way of contrast, try to imagine the same outlets reporting on a sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church and omitting the word “Catholic.”
Unfortunately, the evidence points overwhelmingly to the contrary. Out of 77 men convicted of similar “grooming” offences in recent years, 67 were Pakistani, while analysis of several cases has shown that 94 percent of perpetrators were, in the official terminology, “Asian.” And in every case, the victims have been overwhelmingly young white girls. While this doesn’t, as racist groups claim, mean the abuse of white girls by Muslim men is endemic, there is clearly a racial element to these crimes.
(The “Asian” race category encompasses a vast number of ethnicities and religions, from Indian Sikhs and Hindus to Filipino Christians. Not for the first time, Britain’s many and varied Asian communities have been angered to find themselves lumped together with Muslims in the coverage of horrific crimes.)
The race of the gang members themselves isn’t an issue, but their religion and associated cultural attitudes, and the racism that these foster, are. The fact that in this case, as in previous ones, the perpetrators were Muslims, and from parts of the world where extremist forms of that religion hold sway — eight of the Rochdale gang were of Pakistan origin and the ninth was an Afghan — has absolutely everything to do with the case, and it’s just one uncomfortable aspect that liberals don’t want to confront.
Another is the fact that politically correct attitudes to all things “racial” among the relevant authorities meant the victims’ ordeals went on for years longer than might have been the case. Many of the victims were from broken homes and under the supervision of social workers, but when they reported abuse to their carers, the police and prosecutors failed to act because, it’s claimed, they were “petrified of being called racist.”
As we all know, Republicans have for some time now been engaged in a War on Women. According to Al Sharpton, they’ve also declared a War on Blacks. And in the coming days and weeks, in the wake of Obama’s decision to support gay marriage following years of
poll soul-searching, we can expect the White House and compliant media to start putting it about that the GOP is waging a War on Gays; Chris Matthews was on the case within minutes of the President’s interview being broadcast, followed today by the Washington Post, with a hit piece on Mitt Romney that may already be unravelling.
Three wars! This is getting ridiculous – even the entire US military is only expected to be capable of fighting two wars at a time. The Republican troops are certainly going to be spread thin in the coming months; it’s a good job the Romney-led War on Dogs fizzled out before it really got going.
The social issue ‘wars’ are, of course, inventions of the Democrats, but I think a better analogy for these manufactured controversies from the Republican point of view is forest fires. Obama is scuttling around the forest, starting social issue fires left, right and center – the Sandra Fluke phone call, the Trayvon Martin speech, and now the gay marriage ‘evolution’. As each one takes hold, the Obama-friendly media arrives on the scene shouting “Fire!” at the top of their lungs (or, in the case of Matthews, shrieking like a girl). Republicans rush to try to put the fire out, or at least stop it spreading, but just as they get one blaze under control, another one erupts.
The idea is to keep the Republicans chasing around, tamping down social issue flare-ups, until November so that they’re not able to focus on the real problems, which are jobs and the economy (I won’t try to take the analogy any further). It’s a deeply cynical strategy on the part of Obama and his team, but the fact that they’re resorting to it this early on suggests a degree of desperation that I find encouraging.
As the campaign takes shape, each time the Democrats attempt to bring up social issues Romney should politely explain that he would rather not waste time talking about matters that Americans will inevitably disagree on, and which cannot be quickly or easily resolved by the President or Congress; and that he would prefer to focus on the subjects that are of pressing concern to every American – the economy and jobs, and Obama’s utter failure on both counts.
As expected, the socialist Francois Hollande has defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in France’s presidential election. Meanwhile, in Greece, and also as expected, exit polls for the country’s parliamentary elections are predicting chaos. The center-right New Democracy party has won about a fifth of the vote, with a hard-left coalition pushing the center-left Pasok into third place, while just to make things interesting, neo-Nazis have picked up around 7% of the vote and are set to enter parliament for the first time.
In short, these results represent a comprehensive rejection of the austerity-based plans to salvage the eurozone’s indebted economies, both in the impoverished south of the continent and the slightly-less-impoverished north. As I wrote two weeks ago, Hollande has pledged to renegotiate the European ‘Fiscal Compact’, which was designed to impose fiscal discipline on the continent’s governments and on which the ink is barely dry.
In Greece, the disparate parties must now to try to cobble together a coalition government. If they fail, there will be another election; if they succeed, it will be at the cost of concessions to the anti-austerity parties of the far left and right. The Greek people have so far insisted that they want to remain in the euro, while rejecting the austerity and reforms on which continued membership is conditional; something will soon have to give.
With Germany now almost alone in backing austerity as the solution to the eurozone’s problems, the break-up of the single currency – beloved of statists, social democrats (who would pass for socialists in the US) and bureaucrats – is a step closer this evening. The death throes could last for years, and will inflict great pain on millions of people. But for those who believe in small government, individual liberty and the pre-eminence of the nation state, while supporting economic co-operation between nations, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Europe’s high-tax, high-spending, mass immigration-fueled social democratic welfare racket wasn’t going to last forever. The eurozone project plastered over the cracks by transferring money from north to south, and the financial crisis that began in 2008 has merely brought forward the day of reckoning. It was always going to get worse before it could get better.
The tax hikes and cuts in spending that governments have imposed in a bid to keep the eurozone together have done little to tackle the underlying debt crisis, and nothing to produce the growth which is the the continent’s only hope of recovery. They’ve succeeded only in driving disillusioned electorates towards extremist parties. In Greece some of those extremists will soon be part of the government, while in France they’re waiting in the wings; Hollande relied on the support of Communist parties to defeat Sarkozy, who himself finished only narrowly ahead of the far-right National Front’s candidate in the first round of voting.
There will be all kinds of predictions in the next few days as to where Europe goes from here, but the truth is we’re in uncharted territory now. All we know for sure is that things are about to get interesting.
It would be understandable for those American conservatives who take an interest in goings-on in Europe (and I appreciate that many will have grown bored of the regular announcements that the debt-mired continent has been ‘saved’, followed a few days later by the news that it’s once again at the brink) to root instinctively for Nicolas Sarkozy in France’s presidential election run-off a week on Sunday.
As Michel Gurfinkiel writes on the front page, Sarokozy, of the nominally conservative UMP, finished narrowly behind the Socialist Party’s Francois Hollande in yesterday’s first round of voting. The outcome of the run-off will depend on how many votes each can pick up from the eliminated candidates.
Opinion polls, which called the first round pretty accurately, suggest a win for Hollande, and crunching the numbers he appears to have a slight edge; factor in Sarkozy’s personal unpopularity and the ‘throw the bums out’ mood of French voters and the margin grows. Sarkozy could still turn things around; however, from a conservative viewpoint, his defeat would be no bad thing.
When Sarkozy came to power in 2007 he was hailed in some quarters as a French Reagan or Thatcher, the man who would finally take on the unions and other vested interests to cut taxes, reform the public services and free businesses and industry from burdensome regulations.
He made some progress, but was thrown off course when the financial crisis hit in 2008. Sarkozy soon reverted to the time-honored French policies of state intervention, or dirigisme, raising taxes and clamping down on what he called the “dictatorship of the market”. Acknowledging this change of direction he even mused “Have I become a socialist? Perhaps.” From the French Reagan to the French Bernie Sanders in a little over a year.
Sarkozy was pushed further to the left by the rise of Hollande, who has promised big increases in state spending, 60,000 new teaching jobs (Sarkozy had promised 100,000 new state-subsidized jobs), a rise in the minimum wage and a 75% top tax rate on high earners (sound familiar?). He’s also pledged to scrap Sarkozy’s modest proposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.
While it’s tempting to leave French voters to choose their poison, the result of this election will have implications for the rest of Europe and beyond. While Sarkozy has so far gone along with Germany in promoting austerity-led policies in a bid to tackle Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, Hollande favors an approach based on more borrowing and more spending to promote growth – precisely the policies that brought ruin to Greece and now threaten Italy and Spain. He’s also pledged to ‘renegotiate’ the Fiscal Compact that Europe’s leaders signed in March, which holds nations to strict deficit limits.
As this Wall Street Journal analysis makes clear, France is already heading for the edge of the fiscal cliff; the only question is how quickly it gets there. Yesterday’s victory for Hollande caused European stocks to fall, and if he prevails in the run-off and makes good on his promises, the bond markets could soon begin to take a tougher line with France, as they have with Europe’s southern nations (French banks are already dangerously exposed to Spanish and Italian debt).
A Sarkozy win would postpone the day of reckoning, but if he continues to pursue his socialist-lite polices then France will eventually find itself facing a Greek-style crisis either way. That would hasten a radical restructuring, and perhaps the break-up, of the single currency eurozone, which in turn would drive another nail into the coffin of the European welfare state model – which the eurozone has helped to sustain way beyond its sell-by date by propping up the continent’s weaker countries with borrowed money.
That’s an outcome fiscal conservatives both in Europe and the US should welcome, and if Mitt Romney is elected in November the opportunity will exist to once again demonstrate the superiority of America’s free-market model for those who need persuading, or reminding. And when France goes over the cliff it will be better to have a full-throated socialist in the driver’s seat than a discredited conservative.
Bryan posted earlier on the hysterical reaction of Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher to Mitt Romney’s use of the slogan “Obama Isn’t Working” for one of his campaign websites. Christopher claims the words evoke racial stereotypes about “shiftless” black men.
As Bryan noted, only a race-obsessed liberal would look at the slogan and divine a meaning other than that which is clearly intended: that Obama’s policies aren’t working for America, and that large numbers of people are unemployed as a consequence.
But something Christopher failed to mention in his rant was that Romney was simply borrowing an entirely appropriate and highly effective message that helped former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher win the 1979 general election and throw out James Callaghan’s Labour government, which like the Obama administration had presided over rising unemployment.
The brilliantly simple slogan appeared on a poster devised by the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, which depicted a queue of people outside an unemployment benefits office (the Romney campaign has borrowed that picture too, but I’d suggest they update it with one that includes plenty of young people and minorities for maximum effect). The ad was voted poster of the century in 1999.
Christopher also didn’t mention that the Romney campaign explained the inspiration for ‘Obama Isn’t Working’ when it first rolled out the website last year. (He posted an update after the fact was brought to his attention, snarkily calling the Romney campaign’s explanation ‘elaborate’ when it was perfectly straightforward; it’s Christopher who’s being elaborate).
The fact that Romney openly acknowledged the provenance of the phrase stands in stark contrast to the behavior of Joe Biden. Biden, you may remember, ripped off whole chunks of a speech by Neil Kinnock, who as leader of the Labour party was Thatcher’s nemesis for a decade.
Kinnock lost elections to Thatcher in 1987 and 1992, and Biden’s plagiarism helped put paid to his presidential ambitions in 1987. The lesson would seem to be: if you’re going to borrow someone’s idea, make sure you borrow a winning one.
*I’d love to get into the semantics of the original Thatcher slogan, and discuss how the words ‘Labour’ and ‘Working’ were cleverly employed as homonyms. However, I fear Christopher would accuse me of homophobia.
Yesterday Bryan Preston covered Barack Obama’s remarks on the Falkland Islands at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia. When asked about Argentina’s claim to the British-ruled islands, Obama said the U.S. would continue to observe a “neutral” stance, adding that “this is not something that we typically intervene in.”
Taking a leaf out of the Sean Penn guide to diplomacy, he also attempted to refer to the Islands by their Argentinian name, Las Malvinas. Obama’s response attracted little interest here in Britain, and while the Smartest President Ever mistakenly called the islands the Maldives, I didn’t find Obama’s intention to use “Malvinas” particularly troubling. While it’s possible to interpret that particular remark as supporting Argentina, perhaps he was simply trying to be diplomatic by using the Latin American name in the presence of Latin American hosts; it’s likely that if he mentioned the islands during a speech in Britain he’d refer to them as the Falklands.
I do, however, have a problem with Obama framing America’s position with regards to the Falklands dispute as “neutral.” This appears to be a different thing to supporting the status quo, which is British sovereignty over the islands so long as that remains the wish of the 3,000-plus inhabitants.
As I’ve written previously, it’s unlikely that Argentina will move against the Falklands in the foreseeable future; Britain has beefed up its military presence on the islands considerably since the 1982 war, which saw it retake the islands after Argentina mounted a surprise invasion. Argentine president Cristina Kirchner’s current rhetoric on the sovereignty dispute is designed primarily to distract attention from looming economic problems at home.
But Obama appears to be suggesting that if Argentina did attempt to invade the islands again, he would maintain American’s “neutral” stance, and that can only give encouragement to the Argentines and their rabble-rousing leader. Kirchner apparently fancies herself as Hugo Chavez in drag, and with Venezuela backing Argentina’s claim to the Falklands she seems determined to pursue the Chavez model of belligerence abroad and ruinous socialism at home, having just announced plans to nationalize the country’s largest oil and gas company. Re-election for Obama in November would ensure Kirchner a sympathetic ear for further post-colonial whining, and likely encourage further trouble-making.
Britain Waits For Obama to Comment Movingly and Eloquently on Gun Murders of White Tourists by Black Youth
I don’t know what President Obama’s schedule is looking like for today, but I’m sure he’ll be making time to comment on the case of Shawn Tyson, the Florida teenager who was yesterday sentenced to life without parole for the cold-blooded murders of two young British men who were holidaying in the state.
I’m sure the president will want to share his thoughts on the tragedy, because he takes such a keen interest, in his capacity as bridge-builder-and-healer-in-chief, in inter-racial altercations – and in particular fatal shootings to which there’s an apparent racial element. And the racial element here is at least as much a factor as it was in the case of the Trayvon Martin shooting which has so exercised Mr. Obama, and probably more so.
Tyson was black, while his victims, James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, were white. The pair were gunned down after straying into Tyson’s predominantly black housing project, and while there’s no shortage of black-on-black shootings in such areas, it’s hard to imagine that two black men with no gang affiliation walking through the same neighbourhood would have been as likely to be targeted.
As reported in the Fox News story linked above, friends of Cooper and Kouzaris who spoke at the trial said they were “dissatisfied” with the lack of support or condolences from the United States government, and from President Obama in particular.
But I’m sure Mr. Obama will be swift to make amends, and will “insert himself” into this tragedy in a way that, according to the Washington Post, is “at once deeply personal and completely universal, and avidly avoids taking sides in a political fight”.
I’m expecting Mr. Obama to say that he can only imagine what the parents of Cooper and Kouzaris have had to go through since Tyson executed their sons, after making them beg for their lives, last April.
Perhaps he’ll even say that the two young men could have been, if not his own sons, then perhaps his younger brothers. They’re white, yes, but in every other respect they could have been his sons, or his brothers – and anyway, we’re all color blind these days when it comes to such matters aren’t we?
Or perhaps the president will take a more controversial line and, in the context of discussing the problem of gang-related violence in America’s black communities, deliver a compelling soundbite that will earn praise from America’s and the world’s media. Something like: “If I had a son, he’d look like Shawn Tyson.”
I’m confident that Mr. Obama will want to comment on this case. Because if he didn’t, some observers might jump to the conclusion that the leader of the free world was little more than a shameless, race-baiting opportunist who was more interested in firing up one of his core constituencies head of November’s election than in seeing justice done.
And that would come as an awful disappointment to his many adoring fans here in Britain – none more adoring than Prime Minister Cameron himself.
Spin-Obsessed, Free-Speech-Averse Regime Attacks Romney For Suggesting Russia is Still a Threat. Russia Weighs in Too
If Mitt Romney was looking for a way to burnish his credentials among skeptical conservatives, he couldn’t do much better than getting attacked by the Prime Minister of Russia and Obama’s press secretary on the same day.
Romney pounced yesterday after Obama was overheard hinting to Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev that if his boss, President Putin, gave Obama ‘space’ to focus on his re-election campaign then he would, in his second term, have the ‘flexibility’ to deliver a deal on the proposed US missile defence shield that Russia would find agreeable.
Romney told CNN that Russia was “without question our number one geopolitical foe”. He went on: “Russia continues to support Syria, supports Iran, has fought us [over] crippling sanctions we wanted to have the world put in place against Iran. Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage and for this president to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn’t have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia, is very very troubling, very alarming. This is a president who is telling us one thing and is doing something else.”
Today both the White House and Medvedev hit back. Medvedev said Romney’s remarks were “very reminiscent of Hollywood and also of a certain phase in Russian-U.S. relations,” and suggested that he and other Republican candidates check their clocks because “it is now 2012, not the mid-1970s”.
Meanwhile Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney called Romney’s remarks “a little inaccurate”, and claimed the relationship that Obama had established with Russia had “born a great deal of fruit, including Russia’s cooperation with China at the United Nations in sanctioning Iran”.
However while Russia, after years of stalling, has supported limited sanctions against the Mullahs, it continues to oppose further measures, including sanctions on Iranian oil exports, that could seriously harm the regime. Carney also failed to acknowledge Russia’s continued thwarting of attempts to end the bloodbath in Syria, the killing or jailing of journalists and political opponents of the Moscow regime, and accusations of massive fraud in the recent presidential election won by Putin.
Romney was quite right to take Obama to task, and to spell out the threat that Russia still poses to the free world. The response of both Medvedev and Carney is an attempt to cover for Obama’s weakness, and Russia’s thuggish regime, by making the story about reckless Republicans re-fighting the Cold War. As I wrote yesterday, expect that narrative to be embraced by the MSM, and as an early example note the headline on ABC’s story about Medvedev’s remarks: ‘Russian President Says Mitt Romney is Stuck in Cold War’ – it’s worded to make Medvedev appear reasonable, and paint Romney as paranoid and out of touch. Buzzfeed has more on the Democrat’s desperate attempts to leverage Obama’s gaffe into an attack on Republicans.
By assuming leadership of the Republican push-back against Obama’s troubling remarks Romney has done his foreign policy props no harm at all, both in terms of the primary campaign and a possible general election battle. Democrat sneers aside, it may be that the US will in fact find itself having to re-fight the Cold War in some form or another – and Obama is clearly not up to the job.
ABC’s Jake Tapper and others are reporting a troubling exchange, clearly not intended to be public*, between Barack Obama and Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev at the end of a meeting in Seoul earlier today. It went like this:
President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.
President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…
President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.
President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
Obama is implicitly linking his ability to pursue the policies Russia would like him to pursue with regards to missile defense to the requirements of the election campaign – specifically the requirement to “sound tough” on national security issues.
He’s not saying “give me time because I don’t have time to schedule the necessary meetings and talk to the relevant people.” He’s asking for political wiggle room. And he knows that Putin wouldn’t be minded to “give him space” if there was any risk of Obama pursuing a missile defense policy that was unacceptable to Russia. A nod’s as good as a wink, as we say in Britain.
Everyone understands that politicians seeking election have to pander to their domestic constituencies and allies, but pandering to a foreign nation – and a dangerous strategic rival at that – is an alarming new tactic.
And while it was bad enough that Obama recently recruited a friendly foreign leader to his re-election bid in the shape of British Prime Minister David Cameron, this is surely the first time that an American president has asked the leader of a corrupt, hostile and thuggish nation to tacitly support his campaign.
It wouldn’t, however, be the first time a leading Democrat has sought to cooperate with the Russians for political gain. Ted Kennedy infamously traveled to the Soviet Union with an offer to help its communist rulers deal with Ronald Reagan in return for the Soviets helping the Democrats challenge Reagan in the 1984 election. (More on Teddy’s escapades here and here.)
French Spree Shooter is a Muslim Named Mohammed Who Fought With the Taliban in Afghanistan. Other Than That He Fits The Media’s ‘Far-Right’ Profile Perfectly
Following a siege which began early this morning, French police have arrested the prime suspect in the killings of three Jewish children; the father of two of the children, who was a rabbi; and three French soldiers.
The suspect has been named as Mohammed Merah, a French national of Algerian origin. According to reports in the French media, Merah fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and after being captured he escaped in a mass breakout from Kandahar prison in 2008.
The news that the killer is not just a Muslim but a veteran jihadist will prove hard to swallow for sections of the liberal media both in Europe and the U.S., which had been playing down the possibility of an Islamist connection, and pushing the theory that the gunman was a “far-right” (the media’s term, not mine) extremist in the mold of the Norwegian mass-shooter Anders Breivik.
The selection of Jewish victims clearly suggested either an Islamist or “far-right” connection. But while the identities of the soldiers – two were Muslims of North African descent and the third was a black man — certainly allowed for the possibility that the gunman was a racist, and possibly a neo-Nazi, it was equally likely that the soldiers were targeted because of French involvement in Afghanistan, and that their ethnicity was irrelevant.
However, the narrative which had gained widespread popularity — certainly in the left-leaning British and American media — in the past few days was that the gunman was a racist who had been driven to committing the murders by the emergence of immigration, and Islam in particular, as an issue in the current French presidential campaign. The possibility of Islamic terrorism had been barely mentioned.
A Cindy Sheehan Wannabe, Dressed in Rags and Carrying a Planned Parenthood Placard: This is the New York Times’ Idea of a ‘Centrist’ Woman
Today’s New York Times includes another of those tiresome pieces, which adorn the MSM in the run-up to elections, about how Republicans are scaring away those all-important moderate voters. It’s a well-worn liberal trope, designed persuade nervous conservatives that they should turn against their ‘extremist’ leaders, and pressure their representative to abandon radioactive/toxic/poisonous policies (delete as appropriate).
Specifically, the piece suggests that Republicans are losing the support of ‘centrist’ women because of their far-out polices on issues such as contraception and abortion. This paragraph gives you the gist…
In Iowa, one of the crucial battlegrounds in the coming presidential election, and in other states, dozens of interviews in recent weeks have found that moderate Republican and independent women — one of the most important electoral swing groups — are disenchanted by the Republican focus on social issues like contraception and abortion in an election that, until recently, had been mostly dominated by the economy.
Unfortunately, the effectiveness of this particular piece of mischief-making is somewhat undermined by the Times’ choice of photograph to illustrate the article…
The caption reads: Lynn Leseth in San Diego on Thursday at the Rally for Women’s Rights, which denounced efforts to limit reproductive freedoms.
Apparently, in NYT-land, a woman who looks like a cross between Cindy Sheehan and Jack Sparrow, and turns up at Planned Parenthood rallies waving a placard decrying the ‘War on Women’ is a centrist.
The boss of Britain’s biggest public sector union has come up with a foolproof plan to roll back the spending cuts being imposed by the Conservative-led coalition government: sabotage this summer’s Olympics in London.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, thinks the modest cuts (around three per cent in real terms over the term of this government) to public services are such a provocation the wrecking the games would be justified. “If the Olympics provide us with an opportunity, then that’s exactly one that we should be looking at,” McCluskey told the left-wing Guardian newspaper. He also called on members of the public to support striking workers with ‘civil disobedience’.
Unite is the biggest single donor to the opposition Labour party, and McCluskey’s remarks were seized on by the Conservatives. Prime Minister David Cameron forced Labour leader Ed Miliband to condemn the threat, and so risk falling out with the union which not only bankrolls his cash-strapped party, but played a key role in making him leader.
McCluskey has badly misjudged the mood of the British people. The upcoming games have captured the imagination of the country, and are set to provide a welcome boost to morale amid the current austerity and high unemployment. At the same time, in light of the economic situation people are growing tired of public sector unions campaigning against job losses, and cuts to pensions that are far better than most private sector workers can hope for.
The left in Britain is currently in some disarray, with the general public showing no inclination to revolt against the coalition’s policies, and criticism of Miliband’s leadership growing by the day. If the Olympics are disrupted by strikes, Cameron would likely win public support for a crackdown on public sector unions, and the Conservatives would receive a boost in their bid to win an outright majority at the next election.
An investigation by the Telegraph newspaper has found that some British abortion clinics are agreeing to terminate pregnancies based on the sex of the unborn baby — a practice which is not just immoral, but illegal under UK law.
Undercover reporters accompanied a number of pregnant women to clinics where they asked for their unborn baby to be terminated because it was the “wrong sex.” In some cases, Asian women carrying baby girls asked for the abortion on “cultural” grounds; in others, the women cited a desire for “family balancing.”
Some of the clinics approached explained that they could not perform sex-selection abortions, but others agreed to carry out the procedure. In most cases no counseling was offered, and one doctor was secretly filmed telling a women who enquired about having her baby girl aborted: “I don’t ask questions.”
The Telegraph has said it will publish further disclosures from its investigation tomorrow. Britain’s Health Secretary has said he will report the clinics caught in the sting to the police and the General Medical Council, the medical profession’s governing body.
The exposé is welcome, and will be a setback for the UK’s increasingly assertive pro-abortion movement. But it only hints at a wider, ongoing, and largely tolerated scandal.
In 2010, according to government figures, just under 190,000 abortions were carried out in England and Wales, and of those, 98% were carried out on the grounds that going through with the pregnancy carried a risk to the woman’s mental health. Pro-life campaigners have long alleged that the “mental health” provision is routinely abused and amounts to abortion-on-demand, and the Telegraph report lends credence to those claims: if abortion clinics are prepared to perform blatantly illegal sex-selection terminations, one can only imagine how widely the subjective “mental health” provision is being exploited.
Commenting on the Telegraph report, Anthony Ozimic, spokesman for British pro-life organization Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, said:
This investigation confirms the reality of eugenics in modern British medicine, in which some innocent human beings are deemed too inconvenient to be allowed to live. Sex-selective abortion is an inevitable consequence of easy access to abortion, a situation to which the pro-abortion lobby has no convincing answer.
The current laws and regulations are loosely interpreted and routinely flouted. The abortion lobby are shedding crocodile tears over sex-selective abortion because it calls the abortion industry and their feminist credentials into question.
Anyone who doubts, as the row over HHS contraception mandate rages on, where America is headed if Obamacare isn’t repealed should note that 96% of the abortions performed in 2010 were funded by the National Health Service — that is, by British taxpayers — yet while there’s an active pro-life lobby in the UK, abortion is nothing like as big an issue here as it is in the U.S. Perhaps this scandal will help to generate a new and badly needed debate.
The umpteenth agreement to save Greece and the Eurozone was reached at around 3am this morning British time, so unfortunately I was tucked up in bed and missed all the excitement. But it was probably for the best: with an ‘historic’ deal seemingly being signed every few weeks for the last couple of years, my neighbours must be sick of me running out into the street each time a new bailout is announced, waving the European Union flag and singing Ode to Joy (yes, we Europeans have our own
national transnational anthem) at the top of my voice.
Forgive the sarcasm, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to take these eleventh-hour, continent-saving announcements seriously. If you’re interested in the details of the latest can-kicking exercise, the Wall Street Journal has a summary here, but essentially, in return for 130 billion euros in bailout loans, Greece has agreed to reduce its debt-to-GDP ratio from 160% to 120.5% by 2020, with private investors taking a haircut of up to 70% on their Greek bond holdings.
To reduce the debt, Greeks will be subjected to another round of punishing austerity measures: tens of thousands of public sector jobs will go, and there will be further cuts to pensions and wages. As a condition of the agreement, monitors from the European Union, European Central Bank and IMF will be permanently stationed in Athens to enforce compliance.
Anyone who’s been following the eurozone crisis will know that elements of the deal are likely to unravel, and we’ll be back here in a few weeks, or a few months. Some private investors have still to sign up to today’s agreement, and the Greek government must commit to three billion euro’s worth of cuts in the next few days in order to get the bailout money; not surprisingly, some eurocrats believe yet another bailout will be required in short order.
Europe’s leaders have at least – for the time being anyway – decided that they want to keep Greece in the death grip of the eurozone. Last week several officials and politicians, including Germany’s finance minister, were making noises about Greece being forced out of the single currency. It may be that those noises were a bluff designed to concentrate the minds of the country’s politicians, although it could also be the case that the eurocrats haven’t ruled out an eventual Greek exit, and are simply buying time to shore up their banking systems in readiness.
Either way, Greece remains stuck with the worst of both worlds: condemned to decades of austerity, massive unemployment, social unrest and low economic growth, but unable to cut itself loose, return to the drachma and devalue its way back to competitiveness.
The big question is how long the Greek people will put up with this state of affairs. The governing coaltion parties have been losing support, and extremist parties on both the right and left are set to make gains in elections scheduled for April on the promise of opposing further cuts (the communist KKE party is organizing street protests for tomorrow). If some of those parties end up in government, they may demand a renegotiation of the bailout on less harsh terms, threatening to take Greece out of the euro if they don’t get their way.
The Greek people remain understandably schizophrenic about their predicament, with opinion polls showing that a majority both want to remain in the euro, but oppose the spending cuts that are a prerequisite of continued membership. It’s no surprise that some European officials have suggested postponing the elections and installing a technocratic government along the lines of that imposed on Italy last year – a move which would be the final humiliation for the cradle of democracy.
Greece’s Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos claimed this morning that his country had avoided the ‘nightmare scenario’, but for millions of ordinary Greeks the nightmare is just beginning.
Tensions have been rising between Britain and Argentina in recent weeks over the Falkland Islands. The Falklands lie around 300 miles east of Argentina in the South Atlantic but have been British since 1833, and the 3,000-odd inhabitants have made it clear that they want to remain British subjects.
Argentina invaded the islands in 1982, and Britain retook them in a conflict which cost the lives of 255 British and 649 Argentine servicemen. The ‘Argies’, as we Brits call them, haven’t renounced their claim to the islands, and Argentina’s socialist President Cristina Kirchner has stepped up the sabre rattling in recent months. Kirchner would love to get her hands on oil deposits which Britain is hoping to tap, and she may also be calculating that, with doubts growing about the sustainability of the country’s economic boom, she may soon need to divert the attention of her subjects with a unifying military escapade.
Things have been brought to a head by Britain’s decision to send its newest warship, HMS Dauntless, to patrol the waters around the Falklands, and by the arrival on the islands of Prince William, the Queen’s grandson and second in line to the throne, in his capacity as a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot. Argentina’s foreign ministry has called the Prince a ‘conquistador’.
The Obama administration, always eager to support a South American rabble-rouser over a proven ally, has been giving encouragement to the Argentines for some time, and now Kirchner has received the support of leftist clown and occasional thespian Sean Penn. On a visit to Buenos Aires Penn backed Argentina’s claim to the islands, accusing Britain of “archaic” colonialism.
Penn is of course notorious for supporting anti-US tyrants, and in particular Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Now it seems he’s adding Argentina to his Latin American sphere of influence, and it’s no surprise that he’s thrown his lot in with Kirchner, a shrill populist who’s a sort of cross between Chavez and Eva Peron (both ideologically and, it has to be said, physically).
Referring to the islands by their Argentine name, the ‘Malvinas’, Penn claimed the world “is not going to tolerate any ludicrous and archaic commitment to colonialist ideology”. Penn called on Britain to negotiate with Argentina over the islands, as has spineless UN chief Ban Ki-moon. However the British government has made clear that the future of the Falklands isn’t up for discussion, so it’s a case of Kirchner either putting up or shutting up.
If Argentina does try to seize the islands, they’ll find it considerably more difficult than in 1982, when the defenders comprised a handful of Royal Marines. Now four Typhoon fighters are based there, along with air defence systems and some 1,200 personnel, while the waters are patrolled by the aforementioned Dauntless, and according to the Argentinians, a submarine (Britain doesn’t discuss submarine deployments; in the 1982 conflict an Argentine cruiser, the General Belgrano, was sunk by a British sub).
If however, they succeed, Britain will be obliged to retake the islands as they did three decades ago. And when that happens perhaps Penn could volunteer to act as a human shield for the Argie invaders. I’d suggest he set up a ‘peace camp’ at the airfield, which, as in 1982, will be a key strategic target, and which, on that occasion, had the crap bombed out of it by the RAF.
As defenders of religious freedom in the US rail against the Obamacare contraception mandate, today brought another reminder that the campaign by secular extremists to drive religion from public life isn’t confined to the US.
A judge ruled that a town council in Devon, in south-west England, acted unlawfully by beginning its meetings with a prayer, which it had been doing without controversy for around 400 years. The court case was brought by the National Secular Society after an atheist former councillor, Clive Bone, complained. Not surprisingly, Bone represented the Liberal Democrats, who are the Conservative’s coalition partners in the national government and who, in spite of their name, are liberal only when it comes to matters of crime and punishment.
The court ruling wasn’t quite the victory militant atheists are claiming, however. The judge did not find that the saying of prayers breached the human rights of atheists, as the NSS had claimed. Instead he found against the council under legislation relating to the conduct of council meetings; those laws could shortly be scrapped as part of reforms to local government, allowing prayers to resume, and presumably leading to a new legal challenge.
But this case wasn’t about the ‘rights’ of atheists, or the wounded feelings of Bone, who of course wasn’t compelled to join in the pre-meeting prayers. While Bone was probably motivated in part by good old-fashioned British bloody-mindedness, as in the US, the aim of the liberal-left militant atheist movement is to destroy religion as a source of moral authority, clearing the field for the state, when under the control of enlightened liberals, to impose its values on society.
At least in the US there’s a powerful coalition fighting to defend religious liberty. Here we have the Church of England, whose leaders are either too busy engaging in liberal activism or too lacking in self-belief to defend religion, and which is headed by a leftist crank who’s called for elements of sharia to be incorporated into the law of the land, attacked the free market and sided with anti-capitalist mobs.
Groups such as the National Secular Society hardly need to trouble themselves with court cases to banish religion from public life. They could just sit back and let the CofE do the job for them.
Last week I wrote about the impending trial of the Chelsea and England soccer player, John Terry, on charges of racially abusing an opposing player. Shortly after that piece appeared Terry was stripped of his position as England team captain by the sport’s governing body, the Football Association. Now the England team mananger Fabio Capello, who is Italian, has resigned after criticising the decision in an interview for Italian television.
While the prosecution of Terry is absurd, and is motivated primarily by political correctness, it could be argued that the decision to relieve him of the England captaincy is justified because the pressure of the upcoming court case would have made it difficult to focus on his responsiblilties. However it’s hard to believe that the FA’s decision wasn’t influenced by the nature of the alleged offence, and the need to be seen to be ‘doing something’.
Capello certainly thought so, pointing out in the interview that Terry was innocent until proven guilty. However, as the hysteria over the Terry case has shown – commentators both within and outside football have called for Terry not just to be stripped of the captaincy, but dropped from the national team altogether – in Britain, when it comes to accusations of racism the principle of innocent until proven guilty is becoming something of an anachronism.
Coincidentally, the favorite to replace Capello as England boss ahead of this summer’s European Championships tournament is the Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp – who, just a few hours before Capello’s resignation was announced, was cleared of tax evasion following a high-profile trial of his own. At least Redknapp was afforded the courtesy of having his trial confined to a court of law.