Saturday, September 06, 2008

Cut Fuel Bills, Ditch Lily Livered Brown Gang

Immoral, obscene - two words you won't hear from the government to describe its disgusting lily-livered cop-out and the stranglehold of the big energy companies.

Four of the big six are foreign-owned and, as mentioned here, they are not in it for the customer, they are in it for big profits for shareholders and fat salaries for directors. 

It was Blair and Brown who allowed these companies to ride off into the sunset with few checks and controls and use clever accounting tricks to trouser the cash. 

Ministers were either suckers or in on the plan. Or all born under the star sign of Pluto. Their behaviour is a disgrace. 

Brown and the gang have the gall to suggest no "short-term gimmicks or giveaways", just more insulation. As one trade union leader put it, the insulation will be needed to line the coffins this winter.

What about the thousands of people worried sick about their huge heating bills? Worried sick about how they are going to get through the winter. 

Conservatives, LibDems, SNP, they can all shout from the rooftops - it will make no difference, until that general election. 

Reshuffling the government pack will just deal another dead hand. The side-show of a leadership challenge is just that - a pathetic diversion. Brown, Miliband whoever, whatever, the Blairite/Brown policies remain. The greed and selfish arrogance is set too deep.

Mealy-mouthed ministers have been rounded on by the unions. And there lies the key.

Change can come from the trade union movement. Money talks and the unions have a new, more powerful and influential voice. New Labour and the cronies need them for financial support. Hit them where it hurts, in the pockets and give them a taste of their own medicine.

The TUC conference starts next week, the Labour Party conference soon afterwards. It is time now for the New Labour parasites to be kicked out of office and take their big business pals with them. 

More than 100 Labour MPs have backed calls for a windfall tax. Tony Woodley, leader of the biggest trade union, Unite, branded ministers' climb down over winter fuel relief as a "downright disgrace":

"This is no longer about lagging the loft ... We need to legislate to cap these price rises from these greedy utilities ...  if we don't do that then we would have betrayed our people and betrayed our party."

If unions don't act, they could be the ones who could be accused of betrayal. 

Ridding the country, once and for all, of the damaging New Labour shambles will not hurt the Labour Party. Eventually it will rise from the ashes, reinvented and regenerated.

The True Labour/New Labour split in the TUC mirrors that in the Labour Party and among 'Labour' MPs. It's time to bury the naive pigeon holes of petty party politics and put people first. 

Ditch all the lily-livered New Labour ministers with a lethal injection of a large dose of reality. 


Friday, September 05, 2008

A Night At The Oprah-Without Palin

A pit-bull with lipstick is not Oprah's kind of gal. The US entertainment media is having a field day, after Obama's Oprah won't let Sarah near the sofa. 

ABC News is leading the pack, and naughty Drudge is at it again - this time forcing US talk-show Queen, Oprah Winfrey, to wriggle on her sofa and admit she won't be letting Republican darling, Sarah Palin, onto her show.

Quite right - it's the US elections, but, hey, the Grand Old Oprah caused a storm when she gave Obama a prime slot on the TV show, just weeks ago. 

Drudge broke the Clinton-Lewinski 'affair' and is well know over here for breaking the story of Prince Harry and Tommy Taliban in Afghanistan.

Now he exclaims: "Oprah Winfrey may have introduced Democrat Barack Obama to the women of America -- but the talkshow queen is not rushing to embrace the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket!"

Drudge, well-known for having the ear of the Republican Party, reports a back-room row over whether Palin should be on the show and points out that Oprah executive producer Sheri Salata, has contributed thousands of dollars to Obama's campaign. 

An Oprah statement said "The item in today's Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show." 

Then with some perverse logic, the statement goes on: 

"At the beginning of this Presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over." 

She's the Queen of the Scene and no one can argue with that - if only anyone could make sense of what she was trying to say.


Fighting Talk From Maverick McCain

Republicans and Democrats have hit the campaign trail, with the race for the White House now in its final weeks. And old-timer McCain is spoiling for a fight.

With the election all about timing, it was McCain who gained the high ground, delivering the last of the big set-piece convention speeches.

"Let me offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second Washington crowd," MccCain said in his speech to Republican delegates. "Change is coming."

The straight-talking guy was back in town but this was no 'electrifying' speech like Sarah Palin. And it didn't need to be. But he did need to be McCain and connect with delegates and voters. And show he is still a fighter.

Unlike Obama's speech a week ago, McCain offered no rousing oratory until the end of his speech.

He was the one in the spotlight, running for president and McCain made the best of it, as noted here by the Washington Post.

The POW turned political maverick, vowed to vanquish the "constant partisan rancor" that grips Washington. And, to repeated cheers from delegates, McCain made only a passing reference to Bush. 

As for Obama, he said, "I will keep taxes low and cut them where I can. My opponent will raise them. I will cut government spending. He will increase it."

As predicted here, as part of the strategy, McCain's life story was the theme of the speech.

A naval career, including capture by the Vietcong, a harrowing five years in a North Vietnamese prison and refusing to leave when his captors offered a deal that he said would dishonor his service. 

And a history of political independence that he said required him to cross Republican colleagues and presidents when he felt they were wrong. 

As if to dispel any doubts over the 72 year-old, McCain ended by showing there was a lot of life left in the 'white-haired dude'.

"Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight for what's right for our country," he said in a convention crescendo.

Then, with his crowd cheering and in McCain style, he stepped off the stage, plunged into the audience and out onto that campaign trail.


Lifting Lid On Sexed Up Dossier Secrets

A three year battle to expose the truth behind the "sexed-up" Iraq dodgy dossier has received a major boost, with the Cabinet Office being told to release e-mails and memos, to show whether intelligence was manipulated before the dossier's publication.

Investigative journalist, Chris Ames, has been fighting to get the material released under freedom of information laws and expose one of the most shameful episodes of Blair's premiership. 

In a 20-page ruling, the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, said there was "a strong public interest" in exposing messages exchanged by 'political figures' and there was "evidence that the dossier was deliberately manipulated in order to present an exaggerated case for military action."

Ames, a freelance writer and investigative journalist, has written extensively about spin doctor involvement in the 2002 dodgy dossier and is the author of the website.

An account of the background to the dossier and Ames' investigation is given on his website and reported extensively in the Independent and Daily Telegraph and, using PA copy, in the Guardian. But no report, at the time of writing, from the BBC!

Commenting on the ruling, Ames said: "The commissioner has laid bare the Government's farcical cover-up, which included shamelessly playing the national security card. He has also given a strong hint that the Government has concealed evidence of sexing-up to save political embarrassment."

The Cabinet Office has 35 days either to publish the information requested by Ames, or to appeal.

The "sexed-up" dossier, with its now de-bunked '45 minutes weapons of mass destruction' claim, was published in 2002 as Parliament returned and Blair needed the dossier to boost his case for the Iraq invasion. 

Intelligence chief, John Scarlett, who was in charge of the dossier, allowed changes to be inserted by Downing Street spin doctor, Alastair Campbell. 

Campbell's Diaries reveal how he reacted furiously to a report by Andrew Gilligan on the BBC Today programme, implying that he had inserted a key claim in the dossier stating weapons could be launched in 45 minutes. 

Ministry of Defence weapons expert, Dr David Kelly, who met Gilligan to discuss the dossier, was found dead in Oxfordshire, following a witch hunt by the government for Gilligan's source.

The Hutton Inquiry whitewash into Kelly's death found that Campbell proposed a number of changes to the dossier before its publication, some of which were accepted.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Clarke Tightens Blairite Grip On Brown

Clarke's anti-Brown outburst in the New Statesman wasn't new. He's said it all before. But this time, Clarke and the gang can smell blood. 

Either him, or one of the Blairites, like Milburn, Byers, Blunkett et al, often carefully placed in the Blair-loving Murdoch's Sunday Times

What is revealing is the Blairite hold on the Party and the timing - anyone would think the conference season is about to get underway!

With Brown weak and at an all time low and a public spat between his supporters Darling and Balls, the Brownites are rapidly diminishing.

The BBC's Nick Robinson puts it into context with a clever little sketch in today's political blog.

But even that just scratches the surface. 

The Clarke outburst isn't so much about a leadership challenge or using Clarke as the stalking horse. It is all about influence and manipulation.

The suggestion of a true Labour coup, reported here in July, fronted by the likes of McDonnell, doesn't seem to have materialised. 

But that is what is on the minds of rank and file Labour Party members, as the conferences get underway. And that is what New Labour fears most.

With any change of PM, regardless of constitutional issues, there would have to be a general election sooner rather than later and New Labour would be annihilated. 

So the strategy, for Clarke and the Blairites, is to try to keep Brown going - but to make sure the Blairite policies remain at the forefront of the government. 

If you can't beat Brown, Blair him.


Palin Electrifies, Swipes At Obama

Was it a bird? Was it a plane? No, it was Sarah Palin, supermom, who 'electrified' delegates at the Republican convention, taking a swipe at Obama and political elitists on the way. 'Electrify' is being used by many in the media to describe Palin's performance and, as here in the Washington Post, the word fits just right. 

Even the Murdoch-owned Times, with its blatant Obama bias, was forced to use it in a headline. How that must have hurt. 

On prime-time TV across the networks, Palin accepted the nomination and became the first woman to gain a vice-presidential nomination in 24 years.

At a stroke, Palin showed she has managed to survive the lies and smears put about in viral internet comments and so gleefully picked up by the Main Stream media (MSM).

Like our 'political class', she managed a few swipes at Obama and what she called "the Washington" elite. 

"The American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of 'personal discovery.' This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn't just need an organiser," Palin said, in a clear reference to Obama's time as a community organiser in Chicago.

And to the political and media class she added: "Here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country."

The McCain campaign took a gamble by picking Palin, a little-known governor with less than two years in office. But she's proved that, for the Republicans, she was just the right choice. 

Her speech and the way it was received, reveals even more about the McCain strategy first explored here

Experience? Obama is an Illinois senator, Palin is a state governor. Patriotism? Her son is about to go to Iraq. Small-town girl? 

"And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organiser,' except that you have actual responsibilities." 

That was another swipe at Obama and his time as community organiser in Chicago and his present line of attack, that he has the experience of running a big campaign.

Whatever line of attack the Obama campaign now uses, the McCain campaign can come back with a counter-claim, that is far more damaging to Obama. 

As observed here earlier, Obama's only hope is to keep the MSM on side. But cracks are appearing there too. The McCain campaign is already launching a fierce attack on Obama bias in the media. Murdoch has admitted he's supporting Obama only because he can sell more newspapers. 

McCain's life story, another weapon in the campaign armoury, is starting to be placed in the media spotlight.

It was Palin's day and the last word should go to her. 

On Obama: "In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers." 

On McCain: "And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change." 

Sometimes, even, politicians can talk a lot of sense.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cancer-Linked Statin Cause For Concern?

A warning of a possible link between one cholesterol-reducing statin and a possible cancer risk is being reported by the BBC after it was widely reported in today's Mail and Daily Telegraph.

The controversy centres on one statin called Simvastatin, Ezetimibe, the approval by NICE and a move by NHS Trusts to switch people from their usual statin to Simvastatin because it is cheaper. 

All today's reports highlight one particular piece of research which shows possible links between Simvastatin and Ezetimibe and cancer.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has urged both healthcare professionals and patients to report side effects from the use of simvastatin/ezetimibe to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.

Here, the drug watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) approved wider use of the drug, which includes the statin, Simvastatin and a drug called Ezetimibe, last November.

Following this, it is understood a number of NHS Trusts directed GPs to switch patients to Simvastatin.

A Google search of  "Simvastatin and chronic myeloid leukemia" or "Simvastatin and chronic lymphocytic leukemia" brings up a number of respected clinical medical research documents investigating a possible link between the two. 

Was NICE aware of this on-going medical research and possible link, when it gave the drug approval in November? 

A spokesman for pharmaceutical company Merck Schering-Plough, which makes drug, said that it believed the findings were an "anomaly", but it was working to examine the study further.

The BBC, Mail and Daily Telegraph repeat the advice - if you are worried see your GP.


Brown Slips On His Own Banana Skin

Wasn't this week going to mark the unveiling of some masterful economic recovery plan? Apparently not. That has to wait until the pre-budget report next month. Meanwhile, as  the country slips deeper and deeper into recession, according to the OECD, the banana skins are littering the floor.

As the nation held it breath, what did we get yesterday? A wriggling Darling, trying to justify his weekend comments and hold onto his job, pictures of Brown in someone's new kitchen and Blears somewhere in the background. 

Apparently Brown and Blears made a sharp exit after the kitchen photocall, leaving behind more banana skins.

What we did get, a housing 'rescue plan', was a little bit of  this and a little bit of that. And all a little bit too little, too late. And another banana skin.

"We have listened," said both Blears and Brown, but not apparently to the financial experts. The only people they listened to were the big struggling housebuilding firms, who must be rubbing their hands with glee

Sure, there's a bit of stamp duty relief - which will mean nothing to an awful lot of homeowners. Help if you run into trouble with mortgage payments - a bit late on that one. Some buy-back arrangement with councils - which means you'll never own the house outright. 

And "free" 30% loans for first time buyers of new homes in England - and a "fee" at the end of it. 

Stamp duty alone will cost £600m. The help for housebuilders £300m. Altogether a package of measures costing around £1 billion. 

Brown is living on borrowed time. Where's that money going to come from? More borrowing? There was £2.7 billion borrowed for the tax relief fiasco and before that billions borrowed for Northern Rock. The government really cannot keep borrowing itself out of trouble.

Any relief for those trying to get onto the property ladder is welcome. But the housing slump is not the problem. The problem is deep-rooted in the economy.

The real problem is the level of interest rates, the sudden lack of mortgages, rising unemployment, rising food and fuel bills and rising inflation. People struggling to pay their bills in the government created 'debt-culture'.  

Oh yes, and economic confidence, which keeps getting knocked back by all the in-fighting and puerile comments by ministers in the media. 

If Brown was a banana - he would slip on his own skin.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

DT's O'Sullivan Right On With McCain

Fellow journalist, John O'Sullivan, writing in today's Telegraph deserves a mention in dispatches, for his analysis of the McCain campaign.  

O'Sullivan's piece takes top spot in the US Real Clear Politics review of today's campaign articles. 

He's one of the first UK Main stream media commentators to analyse the McCain campaign and chances of election success.

Sunday's Orange Party post, "McCain-it's all in the timing", urged readers to "put aside party politics, bury bias, study strategy and more importantly timing. That's the key to understanding how the US presidential election is being played out."

O'Sullivan has injected a similar dose of 'real clear politics' in the debate with the same approach in his article.

The Orange Party has tried to take a dispassionate look at the McCain campaign and pointed out that one of his strengths had yet to come out - his life story. 

O'Sullivan too takes up this thread in the article "The party's just starting for McCain" and points out, "McCain's biography is his real qualification for the presidency to many voters. His appeal is not policy but personality."

Both lead to a similar conclusion.

The Orange Party: "Obama's hope now, perhaps, lies not with the voters - it lies where it always did, with the Main Stream media. Keeping the Main Stream media ... on side, has always been at the heart of the Obama strategy."

O'Sullivan is more circumspect: "No one can sensibly predict who will win. But we can say that MCain won't lose. Obama will have to find some way of defeating him." 

O'Sullivan is a former special adviser to Thatcher, associate editor of The Times, assistant editor of the Daily Telegraph, and editor of Policy Review.

The Orange Party is neither a right wing, left wing or any naive pigeon-hole wing journalist  but on this issue is right behind O'Sullivan.


Blears-Taxpayers Subsidise Housebuilders

Government attempts to dig itself out of an economic hole have begun with a short term fix to use taxpayers cash to prop up the struggling housebuilding industry, neatly spun as help for first-time buyers. 

Communities secretary, Hazel Blears, announced the scheme 'HomeBuy Direct', where people earning less than £60,000 will be offered loans free of charge for five years, followed by a "fee", on new properties, co-funded by the government and developers. 

Predictably both the BBC and Guardian report the government-spun line.

The scheme, along with other measures in a £1 billion package, is being spun to "help first time buyers". It will do nothing of the sort but it will help private house builders. 

This means taxpayers are to subsidise the big private house building firms which have suffered badly in the housing slump. This is despite the fact that private house builders already make a profit on the sale of new houses. 

Even the long-winded department for communities and local government (DCLG) admits to the hot air:

"This will help the housebuilding industry weather difficult conditions, so that, when the market recovers, they are ready to expand and get back on with building the new homes the country needs for the long term."

In addition the DCLG says there will be a "fee", once the five-year "free" period is up. 

The £300m move may help big business but will do nothing for people struggling with debt due to the steep rise in the cost of living and food and fuel prices. 

And just how many people actually want to buy a new house and want to be saddled with the debt and a "fee" in five years time, when the so-called loan runs out? 

Blears and Brown say it shows the government is listening. But both the Conservatives and LibDems have been quick to see the whole £1 billion package for what it really is. 

Conservative shadow chancellor, George Osborne, said: "I suspect that what we will see in the coming weeks is a desperate and short-term survival plan for the prime minister rather that the long-term economic plan the country needs."

LibDem leader, Nick Clegg, said: "This looks like a hotchpotch of measures thrown together to save Gordon Brown's political skin. Yet again the government is desperately scrabbling around for a way to fix problems of its own making."

This first raft of measures to 'kick-start the economy' due to be announced by Brown's ailing New Labour government  is not a promising start. 


57 Billion PFI Borrowing Black Hole

The true extent of the New Labour's smoke and mirrors economic sham is revealed in figures which show that £57 billion has been kept off the public spending balance sheet by using PFI schemes. 

Public Financial Initiative (PFI) contracts use public money to allow private firms to build such things as hospitals and schools, which are then forced to enter into long-term contracts with the private firms to operate them. So the initial cost doesn't appear as public spending.

And, according to the BBC, the commons public accounts committee said many authorities were "not doing a good job" of managing the PFI schemes.

Matthew Sinclair, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "Only if services are taken out of the hands of politicians and bureaucrats entirely, and control handed back to civil society, will this waste really come to an end."

There are now more than 500 PFI projects with a combined capital value of £57 billion, according to the committee.

PFI schemes are just one of a number of economic accounting measures used by the government to keep public spending off the balance sheet and allow the government not to bust its 'golden rule' on borrowing. 

In July, it was highlighted here how we are living in cloud cuckoo land on borrowed time with borrowed money. Brown, spun as the prudent chancellor, helped create and rode on the back of the economic good times, with a false feel-good factor. 

The current economic crisis is an accident waiting to happen after living for a decade in an economic fantasy world.

For years, the government propped up an ailing economy by borrowing, keeping public spending off the books and  creating a consumer debt culture. 

Whether you believe Darling or Brown, we are not well-placed to weather the economic storm.