Syria: We’re Not the good Guys

It’s too easy to be cynical about politics and politicians, and so when something out of the ordinary happens, we often dismiss it. This week’s British parliamentary vote against joining an American attack on Syria was historic, and to be celebrated. It established both that Britain can be independent of the US, and that we can step back from a war that seemed inevitable.

Until the vote, the whole situation stank of the 2002-2003 period during which Bush and Blair concocted their illegal attack on Iraq. Back then, we could see that the war was unnecessary. We could see the lies being created before our very eyes (Brits at least – Americans took several more years to realise they had been scammed). We knew, at least six months before the war that the decision had already been made. We marched in record numbers, but it was futile: Blair dragged us into the war against our will. He destroyed his political career as a result, but earned himself millions in “consultancy” fees from those who had benefited from the war.

Now, for the moment, our democracy has proven it can stand up against war-greedy corporations, the demands of the US Empire, and the need for military and intelligence “communities” to justify their own dubious and expensive existences. However cynical we may be about our democratic representatives, we should applaud and support them at this moment. The vote against war was a brave moment for Parliament.

“But”, comes the response, “what about the people of Syria”? It’s an important question, and a hard one to answer, but while considering the answer, we should remind ourselves of some important facts.

1. We’re Not The Good Guys

This is hard for Europeans to recognise, and even harder for Americans, who live in a propaganda bubble that North Korea would be proud of. It’s a mantra we need to remember. We (the West) are the bad guys. In the past few centuries, we have committed crimes and atrocities beyond count.

The three biggest warmongers today – UK, France, USA – are the worst of the worst, and have been for decades (in America’s case) or centuries (in the case of Britain and France). At the very least, tens of millions of people have been slaughtered by these three nations in their self-serving grabs for power and resources. We shouldn’t be distracted by the fact that the centre of Western power has moved from Paris and London to Washington. It’s the same imperialistic drive, the same European tribal instincts and allegiances at work.

These three powers between them have chewed up the rest of the planet. From India to Algeria, Colombia to Lebanon, Vietnam to Indonesia, Guatemala to Iraq, we have directly or indirectly caused misery on a global scale. There is only one significant moment in modern history where we have been on the right side: World War II. That was the exception, not the rule – and even then, we were hardly squeaky-clean. WWII set the stage for American imperialism. Better perhaps than German imperialism, but not to its millions of victims.

One more time: we’re not the good guys. Whoever should be leading an intervention to help the Syrian people, it should not be us. Sending Britain, France and America into Syria is like sending child rapists to run a nursery.

2. We Don’t Do Humanitarian Intervention

A brief look at modern history will kill the idea that we are prepared to spend billions of dollars in warfare for the good of foreign civilian populations. There are minor exceptions: interventions in African conflicts are cheap in dollars and lives, and these are easy to win because any opposition will be poorly trained and armed. The UK’s intervention in Sierra Leone was against a few thousand hungry gangsters holed up outside Freetown. France’s interventions in Ivory Coast and Mali were quick and easy. All three of these interventions were designed to support existing leaders against rebels, not to change regimes; and they were self-serving too, preserving old colonial ties.

Besides these, our behaviour speaks for itself. The biggest war since WWII has been in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and we have left the UN to deal with that, despite slaughters and reports of 50 rapes per hour taking place at times. Ditto in Darfur, where hundreds of thousands were killed. Our “allies” in Sri Lanka are reported to have slaughtered 40,000 Tamils in 2009, and herded hundreds of thousands more into camps. Mass rape is reported. We tut-tut and keep trading with them. Our new friends in Burma are averting their gaze while nationalists slaughter and rape members of the Rohingya Muslim minority. And we line up to sign oil deals there.

While we invaded Iraq to “deal with the evil dictator Saddam”, we continued to partner with leaders who were as bad, or even worse. While Saddam was torturing and killing his own people, the British ambassador Craig Murray was warning that in Uzbekistan, the leader Islam Karimov was boiling dissidents to death. Murray was fired for criticising a friend of the war on terror.

3. Syria Is Next To Iran and Israel

Amidst all the Syria noise, you might have forgotten that for the past decade or so, Iran has been “months away from developing a nuclear weapon”. The war party has been trying to justify an attack on Iran (one of the world’s biggest oil producers) for many years. Even world-class neo-con liars have found it hard to persuade anybody that a war on Iran might be necessary. In 2008, as he was leaving office, Bush was still trying to persuade the public that Iran was a threat. An attack on Syria would at the very least destabilise Iran, which is already suffering from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on its doorstep. A friendly regime in Syria would provide another good launch point for a future attack on Iran.

Meanwhile, Israel would love to see its Middle Eastern enemies weakened and broken. Israel is still occupying the Golan Heights, Syrian land that was taken and occupied during the 1967 war. Israel appears to have no intention of letting the land return to Syria, and a weakened Syria would allow Israel to finalise its land grab. In reality, this is already happening: in February this year, Israel granted an oil-drilling license in the Golan Heights to a US company with links to Dick Cheney, one of the chief gangsters involved in the Iraq war. This is an illegal move: international law does not recognise the land, or the oil, as belonging to Israel.

4. What’s The Big Deal With Chemical Weapons Anyway?

Obama’s stipulation that use of chemical weapons in Syria would be the last straw is weird and arbitrary, and reminds me of nothing more than Bill Hicks’ “pick up the gun” sketch. The line appears to have been drawn solely for the purpose of claiming it had been crossed. I don’t know whether Assad has used chemical weapons or not: the man seems perfectly capable of doing so. But likewise, the US is perfectly capable of telling massive lies in order to justify new wars, as demonstrated in both Vietnam and Iraq.

To use chemical weapons would be horrendous, but far less so than many acts of the US, British and French empires. Assad would also have to excel in evil to beat the murderous behaviour of the US in Iraq and so many other places. America is now known to have supported Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against Iran, and used vast amounts of depleted uranium (and perhaps other substances) which have led to many birth defects in Iraq. In other words: even if Assad is a murderous bastard, several recent US presidents have been far worse. Whatever Assad has done, to allow a US attack could only make things worse at every level.

So What Now?

The Syrian civil war is a reality. Mankind only has one tool to deal with such situations: the United Nations. It may not be perfect, but we have nothing else. The UN must be empowered and trusted to do whatever it can to help refugees, protect civilians and try to end the conflict. The American, British and French should stay as far away as possible – except, possibly, to supply resources to a UN peacekeeping operation. There is no quick and easy answer to Syria, and a US attack is not even an answer at all – it would be fuel added to the fire. Bullying the UN Security Council into backing yet another US war is not the same as allowing the UN to deal with the situation.

And if the West truly has billions of dollars to burn, peace can be bought far more cheaply than a war which can only increase instability in the Middle East, and lead to more terrorist attacks both there and here.

The US is trying to broaden and continue its endless, pointless war on terror. We can be proud that the British Parliament has just made that task a little more difficult. Obama wars are no better than Bush, Reagan or Nixon wars. At least if America goes to war against Syria, this time we can try to ensure they go alone, and are exposed as the gangsters they are, and have been since the 1950s.

It’s Official! Obama’s Endless War

Amidst the various sporadic outbreaks of moronitude, people could be forgiven for missing this week’s top story. The Obama administration casually admitted that the US has been running a global, open-ended war since the 9/11 attacks, and it has no intention of stopping any time soon.

During a Senate hearing, Pentagon officials said that the “war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates” could last another 20 years; and claimed that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that was passed in order to allow the 2001 attack on Afghanistan was an open-ended authorisation to deploy violence anywhere on the planet. When an Independent Senator pointed out that the Pentagon has “…essentially rewritten the Constitution…”, this was met with a shrug, and “…I’m not a constitutional lawyer or a lawyer of any kind…” from one of the Pentagon officials. Now, I’m not a lawyer either, but I’m aware that “ignorance is no defence” when it comes to lawbreaking.

The Pentagon is apparently aware that it is breaking US law (not to mention international law), and seems to be 100% comfortable with that fact. US democracy is revealed to be a sham when most Democrats loyally line up behind the Obama administration; meanwhile, Republicans, rather than oppose Obama’s shredding of the constitution, would rather pursue three completely fabricated attacks on Obama instead. As we already know, the Republicans are even more enthusiastic about pursuing illegal wars than the Democrats.

The current phase in the “war on terror” involves firing missiles at various targets in Pakistan and Yemen, and in the process killing far more civilians than fighters. Pakistan has just achieved the first moderately democratic transfer of power in its history; the US, in pursuing an illegal war against Pakistani individuals, against the wishes of the Pakistani parliament, can fairly be described as a terrorist entity. Under international law, Pakistan is within its rights to retaliate – though it lacks the power to do so, and any retaliation would only strengthen the case for continued terrorism by the Americans.

Yemen is a very poor country which is experiencing a severe water crisis. For a fraction of what the US spends on bombing the place, work could begin on securing water supplies and addressing poverty. But helping fix Yemen’s problems wouldn’t serve the Pentagon’s interests: in order to pursue endless war, it requires a frightened American population; and that needs an enemy. If American morons were to discover that the “terrorist threat” consists of small, scattered groups of idiots driven by poverty more than anything else, support for the Pentagon’s terrorist campaign would weaken.

Those people who were paying attention at the beginning of the “war on terror” (in which the neo-cons blamed Afghanistan for the actions of a small group of Saudi dissidents), will remember predictions that the war may last a decade; now it’s clear that the strategy is to keep kicking the can down the road. 20 years is a meaningless number. The “enemy” barely exists, yet so long as people believe it does, the war will continue, and create the illusion of an enemy as it does so.

The fact that the entire “global terrorist threat” against America has managed to produce 19 men armed with knives, and two men armed with pressure cookers, over a period of twelve years, would make intelligent people stop and think; luckily for the war machine, there appears to be a great shortage of intelligent Americans (or alternatively the corporate-run media ensures they rarely get heard).

Since the Republicans are doing their best to cover up for Obama’s attacks on the constitution, it’s up to liberals to break ranks. Sure, it was good to have a Democratic president, and even better to have a black one, but any dreams that Obama was any kind of liberal must surely have been shattered by now.

Americans, you are bringing death and destruction to places most of you can’t find on a map, just as you did during the “Cold War”. Billionaire interests are leading your country to destruction, and like sheep, you blindly follow. The more foreign civilians you kill, the more likely that some person, sickened by the death and destruction in their own country, will try to take revenge on you. And it seems equally inevitable that you will crap your pants and allow unelected interests to take even more of your liberty in response.

As one of your great men, Benjamin Franklin, said:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Who Bombed Boston?

Something HUGE happened on Monday. A multiple bombing, resulting in fatalities and many injuries, which received saturation-level media coverage. The bombs in Nasariyah, Kirkuk and Baghdad killed at least 31 people and injured over 200.

Only joking. Monday was, of course, the date of the biggest bomb attack on US soil since 9/11. Some moron (or morons) planted home-made bombs, killing three innocent people and causing many serious injuries to others who were simply taking part in a marathon for charity. On Twitter, I was accused of a “lack of empathy” for even daring to raise deaths in Iraq or Pakistan, on the day that Americans were killed. Americans! Somebody doesn’t know the meaning of empathy, obviously.

We learned, again, that three is greater than 31. Or than 300. Or than 3000. There is huge empathy around the world for the people who were killed and injured on Monday in Boston, but also huge frustration at the total lack of empathy for the deaths occurring around the world – deaths for which Americans have blood on their hands. While Pakistanis have to suck up the fact that 50 civilians die for every “terrorist” killed in drone strikes – perhaps over 4,000 deaths so far.

Because Americans are real people, and Pakistanis… well, they’re not really, are they? Except they are. You have our empathy, America. Where is yours?

Now, of course, the predictable Muslim-baiting begins. The hate dollar is big, and Americans are the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Hate sells in America. You may have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the last decade, but playing the victim is way more fun than feeling, somewhere deep down, a little bit guilty. The usual suspects – those people and businesses who know how to play morons for the hate dollar – are out in force; and morons are buying.

So far, Fox News guest hater Erik Rush wins the top moron award for wanting to kill all Muslims in response to Boston. Generalising hate towards a quarter of the planet’s population at least means you avoid mistakes – like bombing Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen when you are attacked by a small group of Saudi militants on 9/11.

But who bombed Boston? Fascists on both sides of the Atlantic think they know, and have wasted no time in telling us “it was Muslims”. Never mind that they have repeatedly called it wrong; they know that morons will forgive them getting it wrong repeatedly, if they only get right once. Who remembers now all the morons that blamed the Oslo bombing on Muslims? It was done, of course, by a right-wing “patriot”. Was there a witch-hunt of blond, right-wing patriots? No – acts of individuals are only blamed on groups when they’re brown-skinned.

I don’t know who bombed Boston, but I’ll stick my neck out – and unlike the fascists, I’ll use facts to make my best guess.

We know that from 1980 to 2005, 6% of terror attacks in America were carried out by Islamic extremists. We also know that extremism among far-right Christians is on the rise. The Oklahoma bombing was not a one-off: the Southern Poverty Law Center provides a long list of far-right and Christian plots that have taken place since. It’s easier to be scared of brown-skinned, Arabic- or Urdu-speaking foreigners than it is of the white “loner” who lives down the road, but statistically, the Boston bombing is far more likely to be the work of a Christian than a Muslim.

There’s a good chance that I’m wrong; there are Islamic terror groups that would no doubt like to target Americans (in fact, there are a lot more such groups than there were when the “war on terror” began in 2001). We’ll have to wait and see.

[UPDATE: as you probably noticed, the bombs were not planted by far-right Americans. I called it wrong. However, I called it less wrong than many media pundits are calling it, even now. The two Chechen murderers are variously described as anything from a “cell” to a full-blown Islamic plot to destroy humanity. The reaction has been breathtakingly moronic, even to a seasoned moron watcher. More to come shortly.]

One prediction that I’m sure of: morons always win from violence. Fear will grow; Obama will get more support for his attacks on US civil liberties; the military machine will thrive on the fear, get increased funding, and kill more brown people; the NRA will sell more guns; Glenn Beck and Pamela Geller will sell more of whatever they sell to morons. This cycle will keep on turning until Americans finally spot the pattern, and decide enough is enough. That’s all it needs.

Why Maggie Won’t Have a Respectful Send-Off

Perhaps the United States once really was “the land of the free” – but I see no historical evidence that it deserves this label (unless it refers simply to the freedom of white people to grab land, in the early, pioneer days). An illustration of the power of US corporate propaganda is the way in which Ronald Reagan, a global terrorist and domestic criminal, who redistributed large chunks of the US economy to the super-rich, is today seen by many Americans as a hero; or at least, a nice old man. He even has a provincial airport named after him. This Stalinist-style rewrite of history is an American speciality. The truth is dead – long live the propaganda.

Reagan’s loyal sidekick, Margaret Thatcher, died last week, and the right immediately tried to begin another rewrite of history; the media has pushed a largely establishment view, and the old lady has been given a state-funded funeral, with military escort, to take place this Wednesday. The British establishment is trying to airbrush one unfortunate fact out of history: Thatcher is widely loathed by much of the British public – probably by more people than ever supported her. Unfortunately for the Conservative party, right-wing media and wider establishment, the British people have less of a tendency towards amnesia than our American cousins, and, it appears, less of a tendency to lie down and let the state roll over us.

Thatcher, I commented on Twitter, was the most hated Briton of the 20th Century. I only received one dissenting reply, which suggested Ian Huntley (the murderer of two young girls) as an alternative. Perhaps he was right – but reaching for a child killer underlines my point rather than destroying it.

The point of most of the protests, blogging and anger is deadly serious: to prevent Thatcher from getting the Reagan treatment. It’s important that the long series of tragedies that marked the Thatcher era is kept in the public memory. Even the combined might of the right-wing media has failed to hide that Thatcher is hated by millions of people.

Some clever person thought up a way to reveal the extent of Thatcher-hate: by suggesting that people buy the Wizard of Oz song, Ding Dong the Witch is Dead. The single rocketed up the iTunes chart to number one (before mysteriously settling back to second place in the hour before the count closed on Saturday night); the right, still failing to comprehend the truly mass nature of the anti-Thatcher feeling, tried to replace it with a pro-Thatcher song, “I Love Margaret Thatcher” (which was actually satirical – there are no known pro-Thatcher songs). This effort was promoted by the right-wing media – and still flopped dismally, reaching a pathetic 35th position. Despite what the media was telling us, there was no groundswell of pro-Thatcher feeling to rival the anti-Thatcher feeling.

The BBC and Capital Radio both decided to censor the charts. You see, it’s fine for the mass media to tell people what tunes to buy, but when the public choose the top single for themselves, to make a statement? That’s dangerous sedition. We now have an established precedent: when a fact (in this case, the extent of hatred for Margaret Thatcher) is inconvenient to the British establishment, the media can and will impose censorship.

Anti-Thatcher banners were displayed at football matches. Plans for a minute’s silence at stadiums were shelved, because football fans would have refused to stay silent. Every attempt to paint a picture of a nation in mourning failed.

The right resorted to snivelling: “An old lady has died… Think of her family.” But then why is such a hated woman awarded a state-funded funeral that is bound to generate anger and protest? Why is there a military presence, and why are the chimes of Big Ben to be silenced? Because then future generations can be taught that she was a national heroine; that her vindictive and deliberate destruction of Britain’s social fabric was actually done in the national interest. The fact of the funeral itself can be used to write history – how different is this from the state-sanctioned worship of North Korean leaders? These tyrants can prove how “loved” they are by showing videos of cheering, flag-waving crowds. Tomorrow’s event is made-for-TV. The pictures will show the burial of a loved woman, not a hated one. Millions can express their hatred for Thatcher on the streets, online, at football matches, by buying singles; but the final story that the establishment wants to tell is a different one altogether.

This is why the protests this week have been important. This is a battle for memes: a struggle to control which version of history goes into the history books. Because for all the praise over Thatcher’s legacy, the British people have not forgotten:

  • Thatcher’s “economic miracle” never happened: British GDP has grown in line with Germany and France – and this happened at the time of a North Sea oil boom in the UK.
  • Thatcher therefore didn’t create wealth with her policies – she merely redistributed it, from poor to rich, as shown by the Gini coefficient.
  • And the long-term economic legacy? According to Thatcher fans, we now have a country of opportunity for hard workers. Yet Thatcher actually made it harder to succeed – social mobility fell, and is among the worst in Europe, with only Portugal lagging behind us. This fact, more than any other, destroys the central myth of Thatcherism.
  • Thatcher’s one true economic achievement was to turn London into a global financial centre; but this happened at the cost of losing Britain’s position as a manufacturer, leaving Germany to soar ahead; and the 2008 crash showed that the City boom was far less valuable to the nation than had been previously assumed. It had been built on sand.
  • Some “libertarians” have declared Thatcher a fighter for individual liberty – these people clearly don’t remember the most authoritarian regime of the post-war era, probably even beating New Labour’s control-freakery after 9/11. The police were given a blank cheque by the Thatcherites: as a result, police corruption and violence soared. Deaths in custody were ignored. When young people turned away from politics and embraced rave culture, the police were even there to stop them dancing in fields. Thatcherism did not approve of dancing. “Free” people must consume, not dance.
  • Despite the rise in brutal policing (or more likely, because of it) violent crime rose throughout the 1980s, peaking in the mid-90s before starting to fall again (see “Trends in Crime” graph in this BBC article).
  • Thatcherites spread the myth that privilege is now about hard work, not birthright; yet when Thatcher’s moron son Mark attempted to engineer a coup in Equatorial Guinea and was arrested, strings were pulled on his behalf, and he was fined and released.

So Thatcher’s death is being used by conservatives to reinvent her life. Don’t these people have any respect for a frail old lady who has died, or for her family? Despite a torrent of media lies and censorship; despite the police acting to prevent peaceful protest; despite the tabloid wailing about “leftie extremists”, the British people have acted to stop history from being rewritten. The British love of free speech wasn’t given to us from above; it’s deep in our culture, and it’s the people who claim to defend it who most want to take it away.

Drugs For All The Family!

With cannabis liberalisation starting to take place all over the Americas, it may be that the moronic “war on drugs” (and yes, whoever thought up that concept must have been on drugs), is finally peaking. What better time could there be to buy some weed, and have a smoke with your kids? Even small babies can join in – just make sure you blow a little smoke in their direction.

Shocked? Angry? Upset that I mentioned drugs and children in the same sentence? I was, of course joking; while I believe all drugs should be decriminalised for adult use, I equally believe that the concept of liberty applies to adults, not to children. It is right that parents, teachers and other adults should restrict childhood behaviour, for many reasons.

So why is there no outrage at the widespread use of recreational drugs by children? Sucrose, fructose, dextrose and other members of a popular family of drugs (known on the street as “sugar”) are addictive stimulants with serious health implications. Even conservatives who think that cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine should be banned often use these dangerous substances, and shockingly, even give them to small children.

Europeans became addicted to sugar centuries ago, with demand so high that the early Atlantic slave trade was driven by the need to grow more. The sugar industry grew in wealth and power, and has its claws so deep into our culture and our politics, that few politicians dare question its right to push its dangerous substance to our children.

Even the recent research that definitively linked sugar to the global epidemic of type 2 diabetes hardly caused a stir.

Only one politician has tried to make a – very modest – stand. The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, tried to ban the sale of huge servings of sugar-rich drinks (if you haven’t been to the US, the size of drink portions on offer are astounding – at least double what you will find anywhere else). Bloomberg’s plan was struck down in court, allowing the drug pushers: Coca Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s and the rest – to keep on selling quantities of the drug that are lethal if used long-term.

There is huge ignorance and hypocrisy here: sugar is probably more dangerous than a number of illegal drugs; yet people who would never touch these, will happily buy their kids Pepsi instead of milk or water – such is the addictive nature of sugar, and the overwhelming power of the sugar lobby to drown out any criticism in the media.

I think Bloomberg got it wrong. Just as cannabis and cocaine should be legally available for adult consumption, so should sugar. But none of these substances should be sold to children. Morons, thinking they are fighting for “liberty”, swallow the sugar industry’s propaganda just as readily as they buy the bullshit of the gun lobby.

It’s time to ban the sale of sugar to kids, along with all other potentially dangerous drugs; in a generation, adult consumption will also fall, and the apparently unstoppable “obesity epidemic” will start to fade away. But the sugar industry has been the world’s biggest drug pusher for centuries – as Bloomberg found, it will fight vigorously to defend its market.

Rand Paul: Civil Liberties Hero?

Delivery from President Obama!

Delivery from President Obama!

As regular readers will know, my political roots lie on the left; but I feel very little affinity with the left today, largely because it has lost touch with its tradition of support for civil liberties. The right loves to throw around the F-word (Freedom, I mean) but has never, in practise, believed in it. “Freedom” meant, under Reagan, the right to destroy democracy worldwide in the name of “fighting communism”. Today, “Freedom” means the right to destroy democracy in the name of fighting terrorism. The right in Europe and the US has always been the greatest threat to liberty; today, much of the left has decided to join it.

This means that, if you care about civil liberties, there is increasingly little to choose between Conservative/Labour, Republican/Democrat. George W Bush and the Neocons, who concocted a “global war on terror” when the “threat” comprised of perhaps a few hundred extremists at most, had a clear strategy; recreate the cold war climate of fear, and thus erode support for civil liberties. The Bush Administration carried out war crimes on a global scale and unprecedented attacks on civil liberties at home. Obama’s Hope & Change message seemed to carry a promise of a return to truly progressive values – most of all, defence of free speech – but the Obama Administration has not only preserved the core of the Bush attacks on civil liberties, but extended them (and continues to do so).

Free speech is even more under threat today than it was when Obama came to power in 2008. At this point, the partisan nature of US politics becomes tiresome. The right had, as ever, abandoned its commitment to Freedom when freedom came under sustained attack by Dubya. Now, the left largely averts its gaze when Obama does the same thing. The US mass media has utterly failed to hold Obama to account, just as it ignored the crimes of Bush. Even Fox, constantly attacking Obama for things he hasn’t done, has barely bothered to attack him for the things he has done. Fox-viewing morons want Obama impeached for a variety of bogus “crimes”, but not for the actual attacks his administration has made against the US Constitution – largely because these attacks are supported by Republicans even more than by Democrats. The US news organisation that has best held Obama to account isn’t Fox, but the progressive Democracy Now!

The political news in America has been dominated for the past couple of days by a filibuster by the right-wing Senator Rand Paul. He spoke for 13 hours in an effort to delay the appointment of John Brennan as the director of the CIA. Brennan was the major architect of the drone assassination programme, in which at least 4,700 people, many of them innocent of any crime, have been killed with no due process (click for a photo gallery of drone strike victims).

Before we brand Paul a saviour of international law, let’s note that his concern isn’t over drone strikes in general, but primarily because the Obama administration claims the right to kill US citizens (apparently the other 95% of us are fair game). And we should also note that he appears to be using this event as a publicity-generator for a possible 2016 Presidential run. Yet, as Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! has written in today’s Guardian, it is shameful that only Paul has chosen to speak out on this issue (with some backing from only a small handful of Republicans and one Democratic Senator).

They say bipartisanship is dead in Washington; but when it comes to ignoring America’s global terrorism, torture and tyranny, under Presidents from both parties, the Republicans and Democrats are remarkably united. We can expect Republicans to excuse international law-breaking; we might hope that Democrats would know better. But they don’t.

Nobody on the left has any reason to like or trust Rand Paul; yet in this case, partisanship should be put aside. At a time when almost nobody is prepared to fly the flag of liberty, anyone who does so deserves qualified support. Obama has now won his second term. A Romney win would have been disastrous, and led to even more international criminality. But Obama – we should have noticed by now – is no progressive, and is happy to advance the military-corporate attacks on democracy.

The US left needs a reality-check. When the right-wing, corporate-backed Rand Paul is saying what Democrats should be saying, he deserves at least one round of applause.

10 Questions For Climate Change Deniers

Lord Monckton, leading climate change denier

Lord Monckton, leading climate change denier

Debating climate change deniers is generally about as useful as debating young-Earth creationists. They have no evidence on their side, but that doesn’t seem to worry them in the slightest. Given that these people managed to go through school without picking up even a modicum of scientific theory, it seems pointless trying to lecture them.

So instead, this is an invitation to climate change deniers to make their case right here. Here are 10 questions for deniers to answer in the comments section of this blog. Feel free to answer any or all of the questions below. The best answers (assuming there are any) will be published in a follow-up post, fully credited and fairly presented.

Please note that comments should not be added in crayon.

  1. Picture question: Look at the picture of Lord Monckton above. Would you buy a used car from this man?
  2. If there is a “scientific debate” why do only 24 out of 13,950 peer-reviewed papers (that’s 0.17%) dispute man-made climate change?
  3. If there is “science on both sides”, why do billionaires secretly have to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into denialist propaganda?
  4. Why are there no climate scientists as spokesmen for the denial side? (Name one to prove this assertion wrong).
  5. Why does leading “denialist” spokesman Lord Monckton have to tell lies if the facts are on his side?
  6. Why do you not believe climate scientists about present warming, but believe them when they say the climate changed in the past?
  7. Who knows most about the climate? a) Climate scientists, b) Economists, c) Oil companies, d) Michele Bachmann?
  8. The greenhouse effect, caused by carbon dioxide, is explained by basic Physics and can be easily demonstrated in the lab. Do you still deny this even after watching the short, simple video? a) No, I admit defeat b) What’s a lab?
  9. Carbon dioxide has increased by 40% since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Is this a) A lot, b) Not a lot?
  10. Look at yourself in a mirror. Does that look like a person who can grasp scientific concepts? a) Yes, b) No, c) I can’t read – I’ve no idea how I got this far through the post.