Tuesday, October 23, 2007 

Call to arms - Mad Mel has moved.

Via D-Notice, I, err, notice that Melanie "Clinically Sane" Phillips has moved home from her previous, commentless own site over to the Spectator's execrable home of all right-wing thought, which does feature the opportunity to stick your two pence worth in.

While Mel has yet to sound off on her favourite topic of how Iran is plotting the second Holocaust, or "Londonistan", she has posted about the global warming "scam". A BBC journalist has already challenged her. Let's see how long it is before Mel begs to have comments on her posts turned off, or moderation kicks in.

Note to self - Phillips has two l's, you dipshit.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007 

The New Party turns out to be the same as the old one.

More interesting than that there turns out to have been a number of errors/mistakes in An Inconvenient Truth (politician makes a polemic in which he exaggerates, labours the point and goes over the top with some of his scaremongering? Who would have thought it?) was that the man who brought the attempt to stop the government from showing the film in schools was a member of the "New Party".

(As an aside, it has to be said I don't much like the idea of AIT being a compulsory showing in schools, especially without it being made clear that it is both a polemic and a one sided view, with differing opinions also offered. Kids are not stupid; they know when they're being taught bullshit, and when it comes between choosing either Al Gore's view or Melanie Philips', I'm pretty sure who'll they'll plump for.)

Probably like most people, I'd never heard of this new grouping that was err, claiming to be new. The BBC's article notes that:

Mr Dimmock is a member of the "New Party", apparently funded by a businessman with a strong dislike of environmentalists and drink-drive laws.

When asked on the BBC's World Tonight programme who had under-written his court costs, he paused long and loud before saying that "someone on the internet" had offered him support.

The New Party's website is similarly disingenuous as to whom's paying the bills. The about page only announces the support of two hardly well-known figures:

The New Party is pleased to acknowledge the support of:

* John Harvey-Jones
* Vivien Saunders

John Harvey-Jones is a former chairman of ICI, and according to a highly sycophantic and probably self-written Wikipedia profile, a Wienerite, one of the heavy influences on Thatcherism and the "New Right". More well-known admirers tend towards the neo-conservative (at least when it comes to foreign policy, in Sullivan's case) school of thought: Andrew Sullivan, Mark Steyn and the ghastly Michael Gove like to be thought of as his disciples. Vivien Saunders, is err, a former golfer and golfing coach.

How about policies then? Considering that the New Party describes itself as "a party of economic liberalism, political reform and internationalism", it's not much of a surprise when clicking on their manifesto to learn that they're in favour of a flat income tax:

On present figures, the personal allowance would be £12,000 and everyone would pay 22 per cent of all earnings above this level.

This is about as grossly unfair as you can possibly get, and is the complete anti-thesis of "progressive" taxation, from a party that claims to be progressive. It doesn't stop there though. The New Party also wants to "cut the cost of the state", which for cut you can read slash and decimate, although they claim that this will mostly target bureaucrats, as no one wants to see nurses and bobbies lose their jobs. Quite how they'll manage not to do that when they propose to make £35 billion of savings as a minimum, not a maximum isn't explained.

They also claim to have a moral purpose:

Many of our problems today can be traced back to the loosening of family ties and the breakdown of shared values. The tax and welfare systems, far from supporting families, have contributed to these problems by undermining personal and civic responsibility.

Ah yes, it's all the fault of the welfare state, a familiar refrain of the Telegraph whenever something goes wrong! While their position on criminal justice and prisons is relatively liberal, their attitude towards drugs is of a similar moral bent:

Downgrading cannabis has not been a success. The police have had their job made even more difficult and there is evidence that a growing number of people are experiencing mental problems as a result.

This is errant nonsense, especially from a political party claiming to be standing for social liberalism. They're also completely clueless over the Human Rights Act:

The Human Rights Act is a misnomer, it serves no useful purpose and has been hijacked for political ends. Not only has it fuelled the compensation culture but it has also diminished the role of parliament by requiring the courts to make judgements on political matters. We shall therefore repeal the Human Rights Act. We would, nevertheless, remain signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, and it would be a matter for parliament to determine its response to the judgements by the European Court of Human Rights.

Considering the Human Rights Act implements the ECHR into UK law, all repealing the HRA will do is make the route to justice even more distant, expensive and difficult.

Perhaps most enlightening though is their policies on the environment and climate change, or rather, the almost complete lack of them. They touch slightly on it in "facing the energy crisis", to which their solution is nuclear power, also mentioning "environmentally friendly towns". The rest is in their "Internationalism" section, which rapidly goes from concluding, despite the IPCC's findings, that "we must ensure that we do not rush into new taxes and controls without considering their real effects," to bringing up the old misnomer that the fact that India and China are developing at such rate that anything we do is a waste of time. Their solution is:

We should concentrate on developing and diffusing new technologies, revisit nuclear generation (which is now much safer and produces little waste) and provide positive incentives for developing countries to support cleaner technologies. The recently announced Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development which includes countries which did not support Kyoto is a welcome step in the right direction.

And that's it.

Why could their apparent aversion to anything more concrete be? After all, according to their PR bumpf on their challenge to the sending out of AIT, "climate change is clearly taking place". Delving a little deeper into their national policy committees, you soon find that their nominal supporters include:

Alex Black, who's a self employed Road Transport Contractor. His reasons for supporting the New Party are:

I was disillusioned with all other parties after visiting MPs & MSPs with no positive responses despite putting practical propositions forward. I organised & took part in the fuel protest, and was surprised at the level of support from the public. This encouraged me to think that there was maybe a chance for people getting more democracy from the system that the New Party was proposing.

Robert Dunward, New Party chairman, who has been involved in... the haulage industry and Sandy Bruce, the owner of the modestly named Sandy Bruce Trucking.

The rest are a rag-tag bunch of businessmen and small c conservatives, all apparently united by the mouth-watering prospect of paying the same rate of tax as those earning slightly more than the minimum wage and smashing the state, while sitting in the camp of believing that climate change is happening while also refusing to do anything about it. The only reason for why these natural far-right Tories are setting up their own party is that the actual Conservative party has turned into a centre-right cult with more in common with the right of the Labour party than their "progressive" vision of the future. The so-called New Party then in actuality wants to turn the clock back: right to the 19th century.

Update: Poor Pothecary has also turned his sights on the New Party, and discovers via the Scotsman that it was set up by Robert Wilson Menzies Durward, a businessman who cut his political teeth opposing the aggregate tax and drink-driving "witch-hunts". He's also behind the Scientific Alliance, (SourceWatch) which just popped up on the BBC News to criticise Al Gore's dual-taking of the Nobel Peace Prize. Spinwatch also has more.

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Monday, April 23, 2007 

Just how much madder can Mad Mel get?

In years to come, it's hard to dismiss the possibility that Melanie Philips' trajectory from seeming sanity into abject madness won't be a well established case-study for psychology students. Unlike those who slowly lose their minds over time for no apparent reason, or descend into psychosis as a result of imprisonment or abuse, Ms Philips is providing the whole world with the evidence of how someone utterly convinced in their own righteousness will use any evidence, however disreputable or clearly unfounded to prove their wider aims.

Mel herself of course denies that she is batshit crazy. When told disarmingly by Jackie Ashley that some of the ideas she espouses in her Londonistan diatribe come across as "bonkers", she spat back that to say so was akin to the tactics of Stalin, and reminiscent of the treatment of Jews in 1930s Germany, who were ignored when they raised the alarm about what was taking place. This feeds from Mel's obsession with the Holocaust; she believes that a second genocide is either taking place, or is about to take place, and that anyone who dares to criticise Israeli policy is helping it to happen. Her response to the setting up of Independent Jewish Voices was to call them Jews for Genocide.

Even by her standards, her latest investigations into the missing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are incredible. Writing in the Spectator, presumably because even the Daily Mail wouldn't print such staggering inanity, she has almost single-handedly found where they went. Amazingly, it seems that she was right all along in believing that the weapons were secretly smuggled out to Syria, which is a nice bonus:

It’s a fair bet that you have never heard of a guy called Dave Gaubatz. It’s also a fair bet that you think the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found absolutely nothing, nada, zilch; and that therefore there never were any WMD programmes in Saddam’s Iraq to justify the war ostensibly waged to protect the world from Saddam’s use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Between March and July 2003, he says, he was taken to four sites in southern Iraq— two within Nasariyah, one 20 miles south and one near Basra — which, he was told by numerous Iraqi sources, contained biological and chemical weapons, material for a nuclear programme and UN-proscribed missiles. He was, he says, in no doubt whatever that this was true.

This was in the first place because of the massive size of these sites and the extreme lengths to which the Iraqis had gone to conceal them. Three of them were bunkers buried 20-30 feet beneath the Euphrates. They had been constructed through building dams which were removed after the huge subterranean vaults had been excavated so that these were concealed beneath the river bed. The bunker walls were made of reinforced concrete five feet thick.

Mr Gaubatz verbally told the ISG of his findings, and asked them to come with heavy equipment to breach the concrete of the bunkers and uncover their sealed contents. But to his consternation, the ISG told him they didn’t have the manpower or equipment to do it and that it would be ‘unsafe’ to try.

‘The problem was that the ISG were concentrating their efforts in looking for WMD in northern Iraq and this was in the south’, says Mr Gaubatz. ‘They were just swept up by reports of WMD in so many different locations. But we told them if they didn’t excavate these sites, others would’.

That, he says, is precisely what happened. He subsequently learned from Iraqi, CIA and British intelligence that the WMD buried in the four sites were excavated by Iraqis and Syrians, with help from the Russians, and moved to Syria. The location in Syria of this material, he says, is also known to these intelligence agencies. The worst-case scenario has now come about. Saddam’s nuclear, biological and chemical material is in the hands of a rogue terrorist state — and one with close links to Iran.

It's perhaps worth the reading the Wikipedia entry on the Iraq Survey Group, which is reasonably extensive. This seems to directly contradict Gaubatz's account on at least one count: there were three separate sectors, based in the north, around Baghdad and in south, so his claims that the ISG weren't interested due to their apparent immobility seem to be nonsense. The entry also mentions how they were in fact remarkably successful in moving around, only suffering very minor losses, although this was well before the insurgency had reached the strength which it's at today. As Not Saussure also notes, in order for these great bunkers to have been built, it seems that they would have had to diverted the course of the Euphrates, something which might just have been noticed from a country which was one of the most monitored from the air for well over a decade.

All of this begs the obvious question: if such WMD stockpiles had existed, wouldn't a Bush administration desperate to justify its aggression have done the obvious thing and done everything in its power to make it known that the war had been worth fighting after all? Well, as it turns out, Mel has the answer to that as well:

The Republicans won’t touch this because it would reveal the incompetence of the Bush administration in failing to neutralise the danger of Iraqi WMD. The Democrats won’t touch it because it would show President Bush was right to invade Iraq in the first place. It is an axis of embarrassment.

Incompetence sure hasn't stopped the Republicans from doing, well, anything, over the last 7 years. As for the Democrats, wouldn't the more hawkish among them, notably Hilary Clinton, love to able to prove that she was right to support it after all, as well as being able to blast the Republicans for allowing the Syrians to get their hands on Saddam's most deadly weaponry, making the Middle East yet more dangerous?

In fact, it's even worse than we thought. Mel has the testimony of John Loftus that there's an even bigger conspiracy taking shape:

Saddam’s nuclear research, scientists and equipment, he says, have all been relocated to Syria, where US satellite intelligence confirms that uranium centrifuges are now operating — in a country which is not supposed to have any nuclear programme. There is now a nuclear axis, he says, between Iran, Syria and North Korea — with Russia and China helping to build an Islamic bomb against the West. And of course, with assistance from American negligence.

‘Apparently Saddam had the last laugh and donated his secret stockpile to benefit Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. With a little technical advice from Beijing, Syria is now enriching the uranium, Iran is making the missiles, North Korea is testing the warheads, and the White House is hiding its head in the sand.’

You would have thought if such activity was taking place in Syria that we would have heard about it, and that indeed, Israel would be even more concerned about it than it is about Iran, seeing as it shares a border with the country. It's also somehow difficult to imagine how Saddam and the mullahs, implacable enemies, would even in defeat have decided to share the hidden spoils of his labour with them.

In order to further her argument, Mel then published in full the memo from which she quotes John Loftus. It's incredibly lengthy, so I'll leave it to Glenn Greenwald from Salon to sum it up:

On her blog today, Phillips expounds on her article by printing a lengthy Memorandum which claims that: (a) John Negroponte is persecuting various groups which are trying to bring the WMD conspiracy to light because (b) Negroponte is part of what they call the "Red Team" in the U.S. government, which is exceedingly loyal to China, which is crucial given that (c) the stolen-WMD-plot involved the subsequent transfer of "Saddam's WMD technology to Syria and Iran" and that all happened (d) "because the Chinese Army created an international consortium of rogue states to develop the Islamic Bomb" (and Negroponte, it implies, is concealing that by persecuting these groups because he is an agent of China).

John Loftus shares a world-view with Melanie Philips. He too believes that al-Qaida, Hamas, etc are the new Arab equivalent of the Nazis, and that a second Holocaust is a real possibility. One has to wonder if this apparent group-think, with Philips apparently believing anyone as long as they share her own unshakable ideology (Dave Gaubatz now runs a website dedicated to keeping tabs on Muslims across America, and heads a group amusingly called SANE, which in its mission statement says it stands for "A strong commitment to preserve and to protect America’s Judeo-Christian content and moral grounding", which is almost exactly what Mel claims to be doing here in poor Blighty) is what is really behind this phenomenal exclusive. To Mel, anyone who believes that the moral decay in society is a result of multiculturalism and the supposed loosening of our Judeo-Christian shared values is worthy of supporting, even if they come up with such ignorant, conspiratorial, paranoid rot as the above.

As instructive as this is in measuring Mel's sanity, it's also illustrative of the malaise affecting the neo-con right. Its war has become a disaster worse than even the most pessimistic opponent could have predicted, yet it's still so obsessed with proving its righteousness that it will turn to the most improbable and laughable claims and demand that they be investigated. It draws upon on the slightest clink of light, the never completely debunked although daft theory that the weapons were moved into Syria before or after the war, and is willing to believe any construct which takes advantage of it.

And it isn't just on this that they're completely opportunistic. From the second that the first news came from Virginia that Cho had gone his rampage, right-wing bloggers have been desperate to try and link his anger to Islam. Mel's friend Gaubatz did exactly this. So did Debbie Schlussel, who runs what I can only describe as possibly the worst blog I've seen since Little Green Footballs. This all links back to another spree-killer, who just happened to be Muslim, who committed "extroverted suicide" in a mall in Salt Lake City. His apparent martyrdom is explained to us by... Gaubatz.

Mel then keeps what can only be described as good company. She does at least try somewhat to cover her back, mentioning in each article that she doesn't know whether the allegations of Gaubatz and Loftus are true, and tries and fails to self-deprecate at the beginning:

You may be tempted to dismiss this as yet another dodgy claim from a warmongering lackey of the world Zionist neocon conspiracy giving credence to yet another crank pushing US propaganda. If so, perhaps you might pause before throwing this article at the cat. Mr Gaubatz is not some marginal figure. He’s pretty well as near to the horse’s mouth as you can get.

Mel is far too dismissive of herself. She's not a lackey, she's one of the arch propagandists in this country for the neo-con world outlook. She might object to us calling her mad, but we ought to take her no-nonsense, politically correctness-baiting attitude and throw it back at her. Why call a mad animal that looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck anything other than a mad duck?

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Friday, January 05, 2007 

Jamil Hussein - rumours of his non-existence have been greatly exaggerated..

Carnage from yesterday's car bombing of a petrol station in Mansour. New York Times report.

Unlike the search for Osama bin Laden, the search by right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin for Jamil Hussein, the supposed non-existent source for numerous AP reports of violence in Iraq has finished before it has even begun.

The saga began when AP reported that four mosques and six people had been set on fire by Shia militiamen in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Hurriyah. Both the Iraqis themselves and the US military then disputed that any of this had happened, while AP later corrected the story to one mosque. The main source for the report was one Captain Jamil Hussein, an Iraqi police officer who had been one of the main providers of information to AP from within the force itself, and had been doing so since 2004. An initial search by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, at the request of the US military, found no record of a Jamil Hussein at any Baghdad police station. Only later did another search find a Capt. Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, assigned to the Khadra police station, but it seems that the Iraqis then didn't bother to inform the US of their discovery.

Sensing blood, right-wing bloggers had something a field day, linking in their other dubious claims about the massacre at Qana during the Israel-Lebanon-Hizbullah war, the Reuters photographer who added smoke to a photograph for reasons known only to himself and claims since repudiated by Human Rights Watch that photographs of ambulances struck by Israeli missiles had been faked. Now that Hussein has been recognised by the Iraqi ministry of the interior as existing, Michelle Malkin and friends, instead of apologising, are as Tony Blair likes to do, moving on. In fact, it was always a side issue on Malkin's trip to Iraq itinerary anyway:

The "Jamil Hussein" story is one important item on our agenda, but not the only one. As Curt and other bloggers on this story have noted from the beginning, Jamilgate isn't just about "Jamil Hussein." Bryan and I plan to do as much on-the-ground reporting as we can to nail down unresolved questions--not only about Jamil Hussein and the Hurriya six burning Sunnis allegations, but also about the AP four burning mosque story discrepancies and the many other AP sources that our military has publicly challenged--including "Lt. Maitham Abdul Razzaq" and more than a dozen police officers listed by U.S. military spokesman Navy Lt. Michael Dean. There's also the issue of detained AP photographer Bilal Hussein. And we are looking forward to reporting first-hand on the security situation in Iraq outside the so-called "Green Zone" (International Zone) and talking to as many American and Iraqi Army troops with insights on these and other broader matters.

Well congratulations Michelle, now you've got more time to get shot at on Baghdad's streets with all the over "hajis", as Jamil Hussein himself now faces being arrested for risking his own safety helping a tremendously under stress news organisation report what is actually happening in Iraq. It also comes as one of AP's other Baghdad staff has been found dead, bringing to 4 the total killed since the beginning of the Iraq war, with 129 journalists in total having died.

There is of course nothing wrong with asking questions about news coverage, and wanting to get to the bottom of what seem like potentially wrong or misleading reports. However, as IraqSlogger points out in a measured piece, mistakes were made by all sides. AP may have been too hot-headed in defending its reporting, but surely now that it turns out Hussein is real it's easy to see why it was so defensive and dismissive of the rabid efforts by some to denounce their efforts to produce a true picture of the violence enveloping Iraq. Apologies all round would not go amiss, but none should be expected from Malkin and co.

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