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I was at the office for the State of the Union address. This may only be 9pm for those of you fortunate to live in the continental United States, but for those of us living in the 51st state, it's 3am.
So the SotU was merely the icing of bluebottles on the stinking cowpat.
What in the name of screaming indigo fury was with all the applause in between the announcement of initiatives and declarations of "we're going to war; the UN can go piss up a rope"?
It's just undignified sucking up. You don't get that in the House of Commons when Brenda turns up in all her jewellery for the Queen's Speech. (Phil i n tow, looking bad-tempered, like he'd rather be out shooting small furry creatures. Or possibly poor people)
No, Brenda just gives it "the my gahvarnment and eaheye..." and the MPs moan "hear, hear" then drop off to sleep again. Brenda then buggers o ff back to the Palace to do her washing or perhaps to instruct the butler to flog some gift from the government of Burkina Faso on eBay. It's really very civilized.
Actually, that's about the only time it is civilized, as MPs are usually very rude to ea ch other. I like this. It's one of the very few instances of politicians being honest.
The present leader of Her Majesty's opposition (I suppose this would be equivalent to the Senate minority leader, but with a little less power but a little more press clout) is a pillock of the first order.
He left his first career because he was too stupid for the army (!!!) and was elected by virtue of the fact that he is more bland, thick and unphotogenic than blancmange, and so none of the Tories could get up th e energy to hate him.
His opponents were a Cambridge-educated smoothie of ambiguous sexuality (there is something oddly Krycek-like about Michael Portillo) and a beer-guzzling jazz enthusiast of the "oh for fuck's sake, just get on with it, you pov scum" school of social responsibility. Both of these had a personality and thus had to be eliminated from the race.
So anyway, Iain Duncan Smith (so called because he got a stick up his bottom the size of the Eiffel Tower at the thought of being plain old I ai n Smith) tried to trade on his *one* advantage: to whit, he hadn't pissed anyone off yet. He gave these long, dull speeches in which he said (and I paraphrase, but only slightly) "You won't like me when I get angry" and "Don't mess with me, for I am th e Quiet Man!"
And for a while, whenever he rose to spoke in the Commons, there would be a rising sea of "Shhhhhhh" sounds, accompanied by sniggering.
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It strikes me that I like my politicians childish.
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I'm not entirely certain where the government I voted for has disappeared off to, but apparently the Labour government have been replaced by bloody *pod people*.
= John Prescott, formerly a trade union firebrand, has ju st told the firefighters that if they persist in a strike in which most of the country agrees they have a good case for a payrise, they will be forced back to work and a new law will be rushed through parliament under which future strikes would be illegal.
ETA: It should be pointed out that while the strike is on, emergency fire cover is provided by the army chaps -- army chaps who will be sorely needed to kick Iraqi bottom, come the war. Hence the intense desire for the dispute to be settled.
= Tony B lair, previously a trumpeter of reform of the House of Lords, announces that having abolished the right of peers to sit in the second chamber, he wants the future Lords to be appointed by the government.
Hands up, who thinks the independent second chamb er of a bicameral legislature should be replaced with an unelected chamber under which appointees are beholden to the party of the day for preferment? He says he wants a chamber of "experts"
No, he wants a chamber of bloody LAWYERS, which will be a pensi on plan for all his mates, who are also lawyers.
Oddly, even though it makes me think that my government has been replaced by pod people, I rather respect the decision to back the US (while disagreeing with it) by Tony Blair.
The pop-eyed git.
Unlike Dubya, he gains no electoral advantage from supporting the US so closely. Indeed psephologists and pundits of all stripes seem to think that if there's a terror attack here or the war goes as pear-shaped as it could in the worst case scenario, he will be blamed for it.
If the opposition weren't so shite, they would be making hay out of this now, but alas, the Tories are the traditional sabre-rattling, US-lovin' party so they have to sit tight and snipe at details.
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Incidentally, the Republicans are doing themselves no favours at all by spewing loathing against Germany and France for disagreeing that we need to hurtle into a war which will cause massive instability in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.
Both France and Germany have sound, domestic electoral reasons for not going to war, and almost everyone in Europe has qualms about the Bush administration's unilateralism and its arrogant rhetoric -- and that's even if they are in favour of a war to topple Saddam. (Back us whether you agree with us or not, you lily-livered decadent Eurotrash!)
Believing that a mandate from the United Nations is necessary in order to go to war against a dictator to whom the word "evil" most definitely applies does not equal anti-Americanism, and no amount of ugly name-calling will change that.
Mr Rumsfeld needs to realise that not agreeing with a very hawkish US administration is not the same as being anti-American *or* best friends with Saddam Hussein -- or being a coward.
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The SotU address was an odd mixture of predictable, unpredictable and OhMyGodWhatAreYouThinkingOF?
The most worrisome part, of course, was that the US has now said it will not wait fo r a mandate from the UN to go to war. I think that's foolish because there's no love for Saddam anywhere in the world and the best chance of getting rid of him this time is to gain backing, albeit grudging, from the rest of the world.
I wouldn't say I w as a dove on the issue, not compared to some people in our office, but I think the UN mandate is the only way we should go to war.
Also I have to say that I am not certain how exactly the sums will add up.
The US is certainly in a better economic state than its people would appear to believe, judging from consumer confidence figures. Its economy is growing faster than all of its major rivals but the stock market lows are obscuring that. The stock market situation will improve once the war starts because uncertainty is the killer, not conflict.
This is part of the reason why the Bush administration is urging against the inspectors being given more time. The US economy has to recover -- in terms of a feelgood factor and improving stock markets -- ready fo r the election in 2004. The longer this drags on, the less likely it is that the economic boost of a wartime economy will be felt in time for 2004 campaigning. The Bushes are one family unlikely to forget that it's the economy, stupid.
With the tax cuts and the bill for war, how are these things to be afforded?
The war will be expensive and there are few signs that the outside world is willing to finance it. In 1991, Japan and Germany picked up a hefty tab for the Gulf war. This time, there will be no such deals.
If the US goes to war with Iraq without UN backing, its allies will be Britain, Australia and possibly a truncated European coalition of Spain, Italy and a Nordic country or two.
The war will be won by the US because of air superiority, though most estimates suggest that up to half a million Iraqis will be killed or injured and the victory may take longer than we all assume, depending on
the strength of Iraqi resistance on the ground and what happens to Saddam Hussein.
Whatever occurs, you're looking at a substantially longer version of US protection than was the case in Afghanistan (where, incidentally, the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is pushing, with some success, for an Islamist state and a return to the repressive laws of the Talib an. So much for that 'liberation of the Afghan people'. I guess you can only liberate a people when the ones with the guns want to be liberated. Talk about a no-win situation)
This protectorate stage will be lengthy, bloody and *damned* expensive and the US taxpayers will be shouldering the burden, if Bush unilaterally declares war. The reason for that is that if they try to pay for it by exploiting Iraq's substantial oil fields, it will be seen as confirmation that this was a war about oil.
Saddam is likely to set the oil fields afire and blow up well heads anyway come the invasion, so that's bad news for the Iraqi people, who will be living in environmental hell, but jolly good news for Halliburton and good ol' Uncle Dick.
Moving back to the speec h, I notice that Bush has launched a huge new Aids initiative, for which I applaud him.
However, I can't help noticing also that part of this intiative could have been accomplished a month ago, when Cheney scuppered a deal to secure cheap generics for d eveloping world countries at the eleventh hour at the behest of the pharmaceutical lobby.
This money will not be going to the Global Fund for Combating Aids, TB and Malaria, the main international body charged with fighting the epidemic -- instead it will be spent on bilateral deals with about 17 countries, mostly in Africa.
I suspect that part of the reason for this is the US wanting those countries to know exactly who their benefactor is. Fair enough I suppose, given the strain of militant Islamism thriving in parts of Africa and the fact that it's US money.
The US doesn't get enough credit for the good it does and it's used as the excuse for the bad that others do.
Still dislike Mr Bush.
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Some links that I found interesting:
The torture trail that led to September 11
This is a two-part investigation into how the use of torture in Middle
Eastern countries forged the kind of Islamist militants wh o could
contemplate the horror of 9/11. I found it completely absorbing.
"Stormin' Norman says don't rush to war