Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Shaky Cease-Fire In Gaza

Israel's unilateral Gaza cease-fire has thrown the ball firmly back in the Hamas court, with a warning that Israel will reserve the right to return fire, if Hamas continues to fire rockets into the South.

The Israeli cabinet voted for an Egyptian-backed 10-day cease-fire deal, ending the three week long Operation Cast Lead, after a cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv this evening. 

But the Jerusalem Post reports IDF forces will remain in Gaza until it's clear Hamas has ended its rocket fire into Israel. 

Hamas leaders have repeatedly warned they will not respect any cease-fire as long as Israel remains inside Gaza. Asked about Hamas continuing its rocket attacks, the Israeli prime minister warned "he wouldn't advise them to try it". 

Prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said the aims of the Gaza operation had been "met in full" and the cease-fire would start from 2am Sunday (local time).

Israel's operation had been at least a year in the planning and training, with the objectives of taking out Iran-supplied Hamas rockets launched from Gaza and ending Iranian weapons smuggling through the Egyptian border tunnels, before the start of Obama's US presidency. 

EU leaders, including prime minister Brown, had offered help to end arms smuggling into Gaza. The cease-fire was agreed by the Israeli cabinet after talks with Egyptian intelligence chiefs, according to the Israelis. 

Meanwhile, Iran's proxy war against Israel was confirmed at an Arab summit, where Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, rejected Israel's conditions for a truce and called on all Arab countries to cut ties with the Jewish state, backed by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian president Bashar Assad. More moderate Egypt and Saudi Arabia boycotted the summit.

With Hamas launching a rocket attack on Israeli civilians during the cabinet meeting and in the hours afterwards, the signs are it won't be long before any fragile peace is shattered. 

Picture: The Israeli cabinet meets at the defence ministry in Tel Aviv, Saturday night.


BBC's Gaza Bias Mocked In Israel

The BBC's endless diet of pro-Hamas bias hasn't gone unnoticed in Israel, with the popular Israeli comedy show 'Eretz Nehederet' (A wonderful country) delighting viewers with its satire of the corporation's Gaza coverage. 

As Operation Cast Lead enters its third week and calls from around the world denouncing Israel and its actions growing stronger, many Israelis see the anti-Israel BBC bias as part of the on-line battle for hearts and minds and an excuse to vent anti-semitism.

A fierce battle rages on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blogs and forums and in the Main stream media but Israel has been fighting back with its own Hasbara (explanation), including this from 'Eretz Nehederet'.

UPDATE 21.20: The Israeli cabinet has announced a unilateral 10-day cease-fire deal in Gaza. At a press conference directly following the meeting, prime minister Ehud Olmert said goals of Operation Cast Lead had been met in full and thanked foreign minister Tzipi Livni for diplomatic efforts.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Forced To Live With Useless Trident

Ex-generals have branded the Trident missile system completely useless and the £20 billion replacing it a waste of money, particularly with the economic crisis. That won't make a blind bit of difference but two cheers for trying.

As the generals denounce Trident as irrelevant, it would take a brave political leader to have the guts to scrap it. 

In an attack that wouldn't be out of place from the so-called lefties (and the Orange Party for that matter) the ex-generals have rounded on the money spent on the UK's nuclear submarine system, arguing that rather than spending £20 billion renewing Trident, more should be spent on the armed forces. 

Replacing Trident was one of Blair's legacy leaving presents, giving the go-ahead to replace the system in 2006. Now heartily backed by Brown he's probably already written his "by the time you're reading this" letter to nuclear submarine captains.

The Trident system of submarines, missiles and warheads still has a lot of life left in it, not due end until the 2020s and could be upgraded and patched up, rather than replaced with a brand spanking new US baby. 

Retired generals have a habit of speaking sense, in the past rounding on the utterly futile and hugely expensive military debacle of trying to fight wars on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Their views of course come from a military perspective. But what other view should be taken, apart from politicians quite willing to sell their souls  to the US arms trade? 

Once again it begs the question what's independent or a deterrent about the UK's independent nuclear deterrent? Their argument points out there's nothing independent about the UK's reliance on a US system, we only keep it going to get a seat on the UN security council and it makes no difference to the current nuclear arm race. 

In a letter to the Times, Field Marshal Lord Bramall and Generals Lord Ramsbotham and Sir Hugh Beach say Trident is "irrelevant" and write: "Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of the violence we currently face, or are likely to face - particularly international terrorism."

"Rather than perpetuating Trident, the case is much stronger for funding our armed forces with what they need to meet the commitments actually laid upon them. In the present economic climate it may well prove impossible to afford both."

In these hard economic times, £20 billion of our cash is a lot to fork out for seat on the top table of the UN security council. 

Trident and the whole US-owned submarine missile system is a Cold War legacy weapon. It is not a weapon for the situation we are in now, where the direct threat to the UK comes from fundamental Islam.  

The case for and against Trident will no doubt rage on, ad nauseam but when the views of these generals are taken into account, the arguments are indeed purely political rather than military.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Heathrow Runway Will Never Take Off

Disheartened Heathrow opponents can take heart from the mass of opposition against the £9 billion third runway, as a pig-headed government, bent on getting its own way, bulldozes through the sop to its big businesses pals with a powerful Heathrow lobby pushing behind the scenes. 

Government spin has gone into overdrive, as plans for a third runway at Heathrow were given the go ahead, with the 'promise' of new jobs and strict noise and pollution controls, neither of which stand up to close scrutiny and a new fast rail link to Heathrow as a sweetener. 

The Orange Party warned in November that it was a case of when, not if, the expansion would be announced, as it became clear Heathrow was a runaway runway sham

The government is singing from the old boom years hymn sheet. Now the bubble has burst, it should be time to rethink the Heathrow monster. But that won't get in the way of a powerful lobby and short-sighted government.

Brown switched New Labour's greybeard, Geoff Hoon, to transport to steer through the plan, backed by Adonis in the Lords. What the government wants, Hoon will make sure the government gets, regardless of the arguments stacked up against them. 

But on the political front alone the plan will face hurdles at every stage with overwhelming opposition from Tories, LibDems, the London mayor, dozens of Labour MPs and a cabinet rebellion led by environment secretary, Hilary Benn. Benn must now consider his position in cabinet if he's to salvage any credibility. 

Even MPs, brow-beaten by the business spin, cannot stomach the way the green lobby has been ignored and can do without a Heathrow battle in their marginal constituencies.

But Brown's deputy Mandelson and powerful lobby forces are at work here. For BAA's Spanish owners, Ferrovial, Heathrow is a lucrative jewel in the crown. Its main customer, British Airways is trying to sew up transatlantic trade. 

Both environmental and political protesters do face an uphill struggle as the whole issue of environmental impact has been spun away and buried. 

Brown told MPs yesterday there wouldn't be a commons vote on the expansion, when he rejected a Tory demand and caved in to the powerful lobby, saying it would go to a planning inquiry.

The government has tried its damnest to stitch it up. A planned unelected and unaccountable planning quango stuffed with New Labour lackeys, was designed for exactly this kind of confrontation to side-step objections. 

Heathrow isn't just huge, it's grotesque. A third runway will only add to the problems. 

Heathrow is being developed purely for the lucrative transatlantic trade and business traffic in particular. But in a few years time, that could be a road to nowhere as the world's financial centres continue to switch to the Far East. 

The Orange Party doesn't believe any further Heathrow expansion is necessary. High speed rail links in and out of the Capital would be a better, realistic solution. If there's an argument for a big London-based European hub, then Heathrow is not the answer. 

Business leaders say thousands of jobs rely on Heathrow expansion. Jobs sure, but they don't need to be created at Heathrow. 

But the arguments pale into insignificance with a general election looming. The government is out of touch with voters who are becoming increasingly angry and frustrated. Time and again the government gets away with doing just what it wants, regardless of public opinion. 

Heathrow expansion is another nail in its coffin. When New Labour's stranglehold on government bites the dust, the expansion plan will be booted out. 

Heathrow and its further expansion is just one of the crippling legacies of Brown's deluded blooming booming years. Once again we are being forced to live with that legacy until a new government sees sense and catches up with the times. 

UPDATE: Backbench true Labour MP, John McDonnell, has been suspended from the commons for five days. His crime? Running off with the sacred mace and attacking Hoon over the Heathrow runway with the words: "You are a disgrace to democracy." Thank god there are still Labour MPs with the guts to stand up to these morons.


Headless Chickens Leave Voters Cold

Ministers are floundering around sending out a staggering array of mixed messages to capture headlines and bewitch voters. But running around like headless chickens leaves voters bothered and bewildered. 

Hardly a day goes by without more spin and confusion. The Orange Party is starting to get a headache. God knows what the public must be thinking. 

A couple of treats over the last few days bring all the spin into sharp focus. 

First up slippery Jack Straw who, having failed to get secret inquests in his anti-terror bill, to rounds of applause from anyone concerned about civil liberties, suddenly pops up with the same cunning plan to allow inquests behind closed doors with the pathetic excuse of “national security”. Everyone knows this is just a way of avoiding coroners' stinging criticism over troop weapons shortages. So why the confusing flannel?

Yesterday's prize went to Mandelson's junior minister, Baroness Vadera with her ludicrous headline grabbing statement that she saw "green shoots of recovery". Hastily retracted, Vadera eats shoots and leaves. It grabbed the headlines but not in the way either she or Mandy intended. 

Today it's the Heathrow runway sham. At a stroke blowing the government's pretence of any green credentials out of the window and forcing backbench Labour MPs, particularly in the marginals, to write their election suicide notes. 

Today also it's Blair-boy Miliband whose suddenly woken up, smelt the coffee and decided the 'war of terror'  wasn't such a good idea after all. Where on earth has he been all these years? Seven years of New Labour foreign policy thrown out of the window. Where was the weasel-worded wonder boy's conscience then?

And if that's not all, the public has to suffer the ridiculous sham of the school league tables, now a totally meaningless yearly farce.

Meanwhile back in Brown's deluded world, he's running around like a headless chicken trying to look busy doing nothing, as the economy crashes around his ears, creating false hopes on the jobs front as every new announcement is swiftly rounded on and exposed as a sham. 

Still to come is Mandy's plan to sell off Royal Mail. He's sticking to his guns but faces a full-scale backbench rebellion, throwing the whole mess into a confusing spotlight. 

So much of the spin has Mandelson's paw prints over them and its starting to get up the nose of backbench MPs. 

Did Brown really know what he was letting himself in for when he allowed Mandelson to flee from the clutches of the EU and run for cover in his government? It seemed like such a good idea at the time and for a while the master of spin did his job, managing to head off any coup against Brown and paint the supreme leader in a good light. 

But, as the Orange Party warned at the time, Mandelson always came with a health warning. Too much spin is bad for the government's health. Tories, LibDems and SNP will be laughing all the way to the ballot box.

UPDATE: Backbench true Labour MP, John McDonnell, has been suspended from the commons for five days. His crime? Running off with the sacred mace and attacking Hoon over the Heathrow runway with the words: "You are a disgrace to democracy." Thank god there are still Labour MPs with the guts to stand up to these morons.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

End This PC World Madness

In a front page worthy of a Private Eye cover, the Sun has neatly captured the politically-correct mad world we live in, with Prince Charles and his polo pal trading 'insults'. 

But what is worse, Sooty or Big Ears? As Harry Hill would say, there's only one way to find out.

It's all getting a tad tiresome, kicked off recently by Prince Hal's three year old video comment about his "Paki friend". 

Then some tried and failed to whip up outrage about his comments on "ragheads". Just what are soldiers supposed to call the enemy? "Watch out there's a fundamental Islamist in Afghan ethnic tribal dress, hiding behind that rock about to blow your head off."

It wasn't too long ago when 'ginger' was off limits, until many pointed that they were proud of their dwindling Celtic gene-pool. 

At the moment it seems we are OK with fat, bald, white, working-class trash. And that says it all. 

Don't think for one moment PC world has branches only in the UK. 

Swing over to the US and there's a right row going on over the Alabama 'Trail Maids',  set to take part in Obama's presidential inauguration parade (pictured opposite).

Apparently some feel the Southern Belles, dressed in Gone With The Wind style finery, send out the wrong message in these enlightened times and hark back to the days of plantation slavery. 

The head of the Alabama NAACP wants Mobile’s Azalea Trail Maids to stay home on Inauguration Day, claiming the group reminds him of slavery. County leaders say nothing could be further from the truth, pointing out they don’t see what the dresses have to do with racism. Just a dress they wore back in those days.

There is an insult hiding in there somewhere - but not racial. More an insult to the proud women of the South’s past who ran the plantations while the menfolk were off fighting in the Civil War, now turned into a Disney-style theme park.

But how ridiculous anyway. What gal wouldn't die for a chance to dress up as Scarlet O'Hara and quite a few guys for that matter. 

Not long ago the Sun (again) used this front page picture to pose the question - what do all these people have in common? Sparking righteous indignation at the Guardian. The reveal was that they are all British.

It's a slippery path when political-correct lunatics are let out on the loose. With today’s pseudo-liberal mentality, there comes a time when everyone of all cultures has to tell these people to get a life.

What should be separated out here is the difference between a nickname or costume, which some may well find offensive but others are happy to live alongside and a nasty, hurtful, racist slogan or rant which deliberately sets out to be offensive and stir up hatred.

The latter should be stamped on and stamped out. The former is probably more in the eye of the beholder. 


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Showtime For Obama!

Obama's Big Show, otherwise known as the presidential inauguration celebration (Sunday), is shaping up to be the biggest production this side of the Academy Awards, dwarfing the Superstar's anointment at the Mile High stadium in August. As ordinary folk flounder in economic recession depression, the president-elect hasn't lost any of his old showmanship. 

God know what it all will cost. This is America where they do things big but the inauguration gig is big even by their standards. A press release from the PIC (Presidential Inaugural Committee) announces the all-star line-up worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster:

George Stevens, Jr. Executive Produces;
Don Mischer Produces And Directs;
Michael Stevens Is Producer And Writer

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) is pleased to announce the producers and initial talent lineup for WE ARE ONE:  THE OBAMA INAUGURAL CELEBRATION AT THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL, the Opening Celebration for the 56th Presidential Inaugural, to be presented exclusively by HBO on Sunday, January 18 (7:00-9:00 p.m. ET/PT).  The event will be free and open to the public, kicking off the most open and accessible Inauguration in history.

The special will be executive produced by George Stevens, Jr. (The Kennedy Center Honors), and produced by Don Mischer (Olympic Ceremonies) who will also direct the special, and Michael Stevens (The American Film Institute Salutes) who is also writing the special, and will be a production of The Stevens Company in association with Don Mischer Productions.

Musical performers scheduled for the event include Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher Raymond IV, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor,, and Stevie Wonder.  Among those reading historical passages will be Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington.  The Rt. Reverend V. Gene Robinson will give the invocation.  Rob Mathes will be the music director and arranger for the backing band, which will support all of the artists.  Additional performers will be announced as they are confirmed.

"Our intention is to root the event in history, celebrating the moments when our nation has united to face great challenges and prevail," observed George Stevens, Jr.  "We will combine historical readings by prominent actors with music from an array of the greatest stars of today."
The Orange Party was relieved to leave the political hype and media spin after the US elections with the painful plea - God Help America Now.

Since then No Drama Obama has kept a strange silence, hiding beind the mantra of  'one president at a time' - except for the numerous times when it  suited his political advantage. Now all that is set to change as The One will have to put his mouth where his money is. 

As some switched-on US commentators are already pointing out: "Let's hope Mr. Obama and his team can govern as well as they can produce and package political events for television."


Brown's Jobs Sham Raises False Hopes

Government ministers, who've never had a proper job, have gone into jobs overload, raising false hopes with the sham of jobs to dig themselves out of a hole, as the economy crumbles round their ears. 

With unemployment rife, the government knows the election will be fought on the battle ground of the economy. But time and again these much vaunted 'jobs' are nothing of the sort - just a sham to capture headlines, raising false hopes for people desperately struggling to make ends meet and anxious about the bleak future.

The economic recession depression should be a golden opportunity for the government to dust itself down, pick itself up and start all over again. But after a decade of spin and deceit, the only solution Brown can come up with is still more of the same.

The Orange Party is starting to lose track as the government goes into jobs announcements overload, none of which stand up to close scrutiny and none of them cut any ice with voters who are fed up with being Brown beaten by the spin.

A quick look trawl through Brown's BBC and Downing Street websites reveal the true extent of this deliberate electioneering campaign to hit on jobs, jobs, jobs as the government founders and flannels its way along.

Today we learn ministers are considering plans to guarantee reportedly up to £20 billion of loans to small businesses by insuring banks against firms defaulting on their loan payments. The devil is in the detail due to be announced tomorrow but what is clear is that kind of cash is a drop in the ocean and seems like more cash is just being thrown at the banks.

Yesterday it was the three amigos, Mandelson, Purnell and Brown promising to lift the country out of recession with the 'creation' of 500,000 new jobs with grants of £2,500 each to employers. But the figures didn't stack up and rapidly fell apart when Purnell revealed the scheme was going to cost a mere £500 million - or just £1,000 per head and only kick in after six months unemployment.

Brown promised to 'create' 100,000 new jobs, when that was actually only 'up to' 100,000 jobs and he meant protecting existing jobs. Then we had the announcement of 35,000 apprenticeships. But no one seemed to know if these were 'new' apprenticeships. 

He did cheer everyone up in Liverpool,  unveiling £35 million extra to help business start-ups. But then it transpires this wasn't new money after all. 

And so it goes on. There's clearly a well-planned election strategy at work here. Travelling round, looking busy doing something, creating great false expectations with commitments which cannot be delivered. It may look good on Brown's websites - but that's all. 

Time and again companies state the bleedin' obvious. Bogus job creation schemes are a waste of space if banks won't lend them money, preferring instead to squirrel away all that taxpayer's cash. 

But the government is good at creating non-jobs particularly in the public sector. None of these jobs have any connection with the real economy. What's the big deal about New Deal apart from fiddling the dole figures with useless job creation schemes and disillusioned workers? 

The recession should be a time for opportunity, to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. Cut out the waste in Whitehall and local government. Put an end to the squandered billions and hair-brained fancy white elephant schemes. 

Create a culture and climate away from debt which allows firms to flourish and create genuine jobs. Real jobs for real people is a fine mantra. It just needs a government that will put its mouth where our money is. 

Picture: Tractor Stats


Monday, January 12, 2009

Well-Stuffed MPs Return To Palace Of Plenty

Well-fed MPs drift back to Parliament today after a record-breaking 24-day festive holiday at the taxpayer expense, as people suffer the worst slump for nigh on 30 years. Meanwhile home secretary, Jacqui Smith, has a lot of explaining to do about her bogus figures. 

While shops go to the wall, UK manufacturing falls at its fastest since 1981, numbers on the dole the highest since 1997, MPs have lost their conscience and connection with ordinary folk.

Job losses seem to have escaped the public sector fat cats with meaningless job titles, now part of a long overdue crusade by many national newspapers. At the top of the public sector food chain stand the country's MPs, ring fenced and cushioned from the recession and the growing band of 'payroll MPs' flushed with promoted egos and self-importance. 

What a difference a job makes. On the one hand, the government offers top whack wages, generous benefits and gold-plated pensions to its card carrying Common Purpose quango lackeys, while in the real world of real dwindling jobs, it's all wage cuts, unpaid overtime and short-time working.

The grotesque contrast between the harsh world of struggling ordinary folk in the economic crisis and the cosy comfort of the political elite, is most evident in the closeted world of MPs and their lifestyles, as they look set to continue to squander our money. 

While occupational pension schemes are being closed down, MPs' pensions remain protected. Hard-pressed families struggle with debt, but MPs have their mortgages paid for them by the taxpayer. People are tightening their belts but MPs' generous expenses system allows them to squander taxpayers' cash on furniture and home improvements. 

Peter Oborne, writing in the Mail last week, put his finger on what he called a national disgrace: "MPs who put private profit above public interest are treating voters with contempt as they milk their expenses system." Yet still nothing on MPs' expenses has been published.

Top of the dishonesty pile must come home secretary, Jacqui Smith, who seems to have put on a bit of weight over Christmas, according to the picture above, to face questions over more bogus figures and face accusations of becoming a bit of a big fat liar. 

Last year, she was forced to admit that immigration numbers were made up. Letters to newspapers sucking up to her while attacking the Tories were actually written by friends or relations.

That's on top of the revelation that the home secretary misled MPs over knife crime statistics. And there's the not so very small matter of Tory opposition spokesman Damian Green, who looks set to be cleared over trumped-up home office leak allegations.

Meanwhile Brown faces his first real test of the New Year as he tries to look busy doing nothing and prepares to spin his way around the go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow with a decision on the controversial scheme, opposed by environmentalists and west Londoners, expected in the next few days.

More than 50 Labour MPs are opposed to it, along with the Conservatives. But Brown is behind the scheme and, backed by deputy prime minister Mandelson and a very powerful Heathrow lobby and advertising campaign, the government is set to wriggle its way around the pollution and noise with the promise of a new high-speed rail link on top of another runway.

The high point on the horizon? Some political commentators are bending over backwards to toe the Downing Street line that Brown has ruled out holding a spring election. He's done nothing of the sort. He lives and breathes election strategy and how to wrong-foot the Tories. 

Last week team Brown spent around £200,000 of taxpayers' money on a pre-election tour of the north. Mandelson's minion, Derek Draper, who has set up a New Labour propaganda blog, with contributions from, er, Mandy and Brown's bully Charlie Whelan, is already in a pickle over 'moderation'. Brown's personal Downing Street website a flagrant breach of the civil service code, would not look out of place in North Korea. 

If that's not all blatant electioneering, the Orange Party is at a loss to know what is.

Photo: Tractor Stats