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!
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.
It was pretty clear, except perhaps to morons, that Bush and Blair were building up for their attack on Iraq long before war was declared in March 2003. Most people will still remember the huge global day of protest in February 2003. Most populations, with the notable exceptions of Israel and the US, were strongly against the war, and most people were well aware that the Iraqi “threat” had been concocted. People were also unconvinced that Saddam’s “evilness” constituted a reason for war, especially since he had been armed and supported by the US for years before he was identified as a “bad guy”.
London’s march on 15 February 2003 was the largest protest in British history: over a million people demonstrated against the war. However, that protest was not the first; 400,000 Londoners marched against an attack on Iraq in October 2002 – itself one of the largest marches ever seen in the UK. Already in October, most intelligent observers knew that the decision had been made, despite the Bush/Blair lie machine claiming that our leaders were still “hoping for a peaceful resolution”. Years later, we discovered we’d been right: Blair had already given his backing to the neo-con war plans in March 2002, a full year before the war began.
We weren’t fortune-tellers or mind-readers; we simply knew some history, and could see that the public was being softened up with scare stories about Saddam Hussein. Likewise, we already knew in 2002 that the neo-cons planned to attack Iran. On a successful “liberation” of Baghdad, they would continue on to Tehran. Fortunately, the Iraq war was incompetently handled, and the US became bogged down, preventing a new front from being opened. But the war on Iran wasn’t cancelled, just postponed.
As I’ve observed repeatedly over recent years, the only reason Iran hasn’t been attacked is that, with wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US doesn’t have enough military capacity. It’s no coincidence that, alongside the recent US troop withdrawal from Iraq, America has also opened dialogue with the Taliban (yes, those same evil-doers that they were going to wipe out in 2001, remember?) The US now has plenty of capacity for a new war – and when in recent history has it ever failed to take advantage of such a position?
The excuses for attacking Iran are as patchy as those for attacking Iraq. They may be developing WMD (in the form of nukes)… but the US has been saying that for years, and there’s still no firm evidence. Even if they are, there is nothing in international law to prevent Iran from owning nukes – Pakistan and Israel both developed the bomb in secret, resulting in relatively little fuss. There are simple lies aimed at the most gullible morons: Iran says it wants to wipe Israel from the map? False. Iran denies the Holocaust? Also false. Then there are truthful claims about Iran’s human rights record; yet Iran is no worse than many US allies: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Uzbekistan to name a few. The US never – repeat Never – goes to war in order to defend human rights (in any case, wars can only make the situation worse for the people of Iran, and make it impossible for them to rise up against the regime).
You’d hope that enough Americans would have learned the hard way, from Iraq, or Vietnam before it. But most Americans rely on the US mass media for facts, and (as we saw in Iraq) the US mass media is incapable of holding the military-industrial complex to account. The New York Times famously apologised for its Iraq coverage; most US newspapers and TV channels were even worse, but failed to apologise.
The case against an Iran war is even simpler than the one against Iraq. Unlike Iraq, Iran has never attacked its people or neighbours with WMD. Indeed, it was Iraq that attacked Iran with chemical weapons in the 1980s; weapons that were supplied by the Reagan administration. Yet morons seem to never learn; and the moron media in the United States seems no more willing to tell the truth about this coming war than they were in 2002/03. Iran’s huge reserves of high quality oil hardly need mentioning.
The UK government is making supportive noises of the coming American war; Cameron will undoubtedly follow, but without the support of the population, just as Blair did. This time, much of the EU is also on board. The Obama administration may be no less warlike than the Bush regime, but it’s clearly more skilled at diplomacy.
When Blair took us to war, MI5 told him we would likely experience terror as a result. on 7 July 2005, 52 Londoners were killed on public transport, and hundreds injured. If we attack Iran, we expose ourselves to new terror – which in turn will create new justifications to continue this eternal American war. The next war is coming soon; our leaders are terrorists, and are inviting terrorism upon us; mass-murder will, yet again, be done in our name. And we have no choice but to resist.
It’s time once again to look back at the highlights and lowlights of the past year. The widespread economic and social problems have meant that, for millions, 2011 has been a difficult, challenging time. But not for MoronWatch! 2011 has one of the most moronic years in modern history. And it’s time to give thanks to all the morons who helped make it happen.
So here’s my attempt to remember just a few of this year’s moronic events, and the morons behind them. I couldn’t possibly cover every piece of moronitude, and I’ve undoubtedly missed some key events and people – feel free to add your favourites below.
Those who entertained us by promising to deliver, before completely failing to do so.
Winner: Harold Camping, who predicted the second coming would take place on 21st May, followed by the end of the world on October 21st. He worked it out using numbers. Sadly (at least for morons awaiting Judgement Day), his calculations turned out to be wrong. Jesus failed to show in May, but Harry stuck to his guns and said the world would still end in October (it didn’t, FYI). Honourable mention: the people who believed him.
Guido Fawkes (aka Paul Staines), a right-wing British blogger who tried (with help from the moron press) to show, via an online petition, that the UK public were clamouring for a return of the death penalty. They weren’t.
Donald Trump, who reignited the birther controversy, demanding Barack Obama produce his long-form birth certificate. With beautiful timing, Obama duly did so, destroying Trump’s presidential campaign (though to be fair, Trump had already destroyed it himself by being Donald Trump).
Christopher Monckton, a man who has profited hugely from selling climate change denial to morons, despite having been repeatedly discredited, opened a Twitter account. After skirmishes with myself and other “fans”, he quickly closed it down again.
The far-right English Defence League (EDL) have continued to keep us entertained with their moronic (and badly-spelled) antics, both online and offline. This year, they discovered that posting online threats to attack the Occupy protesters in London would lead to them being arrested when they arrived in town for Remembrance Day.
Rick Perry, presidential hopeful, had a moronic plan to close entire government departments, but when asked during a TV debate, he couldn’t remember which ones. Oops!
Michele Bachmann, after showing early promise to be the flag-bearer for American moronism in next year’s presidential election, vanished without a trace (as did several of her moronic competitors).
Who has been doing their best to destabilise world society, and (whether deliberately or accidentally) drive us towards war?
Winner: The Tea Party caucus in Congress for refusing to raise the US debt ceiling until the 13th hour, resulting in a downgrade for the USA’s credit rating. While some “moderate” Republican morons used the debt ceiling increase as a negotiating tool to try to force cuts in spending, the Tea Party, led by MoronWatch favourite Michele Bachmann, were genuinely prepared to force a US debt default, taking the global economy to the brink of panic.
European leaders for repeatedly failing throughout the year to take the actions necessary to stabilise the EU economy. Special mention to Silvio Berlusconi, for clinging to power despite having mismanaged the Italian economy for years, so he wouldn’t face prosecution for – well, pretty much everything. Very special mention to Dave Camoron and his nationalistic, Eurosceptic Tory right, who tried (perhaps successfully) to single-handedly derail a deal that would stop the European economy from collapsing.
Ongoing: The US for its moronic “war on terror” which grinds on, killing civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, pushing those countries steadily towards social collapse and so putting power in the hands of the Taliban and other extremists, who are (in theory) supposed to be the enemy.
Binyamin Netanyahu, who has stopped even pretending to care about peace in the region, and endlessly accelerates Israeli aggression and land theft. Special mention: the moronic pro-Israel lobby in the US who continue to support Israel, regardless of what it does.
Ongoing: most world governments for their endless execution of the utterly failed War on Drugs, which swallows endless billions of dollars and millions of lives, and results in more people taking more dangerous drugs.
Terrorism is becoming ever-more fashionable, especially among those who claim to be fighting terrorism. Here is my selection of the year’s top terrorists.
Winner: President Assad of Syria, for the mass-slaughter of his own people in the streets of Syrian cities. Of course, like all good state terrorists, Assad says that his victims aren’t civilians at all, but are themselves terrorists working in behalf of Syria’s enemies. No doubt, Syria has its own population of morons who believe him.
Barack Obama, for drone strikes on Pakistan that kill civilians on a regular basis. Obama fans may point out that it’s actually the Pentagon or the CIA carrying out these attacks, but if we blamed Bush’s wars on Bush, let’s be consistent and lay the blame for post-2008 terrorism on Obama. It’s only fair. And by the way, it’s probably about time Obama returned his prematurely-awarded Nobel Peace Prize.
West Bank extremist settlers for their barely-reported campaign of “price tag” terrorism against Palestinian civilians. Their strategy is to endlessly provoke the Palestinian population by ripping up crops, sabotaging irrigation systems or damaging mosques, then shooting people who protest. If the protests get too big, they go running to Mummy (aka the Israeli Defence Force) who shoot or arrest and torture Palestinian civilians.
Mystery winner: somebody, probably Israel or the US, carried out a terrorist attack on an Iranian military base, and quite possibly other attacks we haven’t heard about. If Iranians protest or retaliate in any way, it just shows how unreasonable they are. Honourable mention: Western media and politicians who ignore these attacks and continue to beat the drums of war against Iran.
London’s Metropolitan Police, who executed Mark Duggan, a young black man, in North London, based merely on the suspicion that he might be carrying a gun. Immediately after the shooting, the police lied to journalists, saying an exchange of fire had taken place – it hadn’t. The shooting triggered an uprising in Tottenham which led to the UK summer riots. Notably, this is the second time a riot has begun in Tottenham after the police killed an unarmed person. Special mention to the poorly-named Independent Police Complaints Commission, who are never independent and always ignore complaints. As ever, they came down on the side of the police.
While it’s useful to understand motivations, some people are just plain evil.
Winner: “Pepper Spray Cop” – the policeman in Berkeley, California who was videoed casually spraying peaceful, seated protesters in the face with pepper spray. He was just one of many US police officers who took part in violent attacks on peaceful Occupy protesters this year, showing that free speech isn’t as much an American value as we might have hoped.
The US state of Georgia, who executed Troy Davis, despite strong evidence that his trial had been rigged.
Supporters of presidential candidate and libertarian, Ron Paul at a debate. Paul was asked about his “libertarian” approach to healthcare: what should happen to people with no health cover if they were to fall ill? He confirmed that they should be given the “freedom” to die. At which, the audience applauded heartily, yelling “Let him die!”.
Everyone loves a little hypocrisy. Well, MoronWatch does, anyway. Here are some of the highlights.
Winner: Joint prize to The UK, France and the US for attacking Libya, to “protect civilians”. Strangely, their newly-found morality hasn’t been applied in recent years where civilians in their thousands (or tens of thousands) have been persecuted, slaughtered, raped or driven from their homes in various countries including Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Bahrain. Did I mention Libya is a major oil producer?
The Republican Party, who desperately fight for tax cuts for the rich, while proving decidedly reluctant to extend a tax cut for working Americans. Not only is this morally suspect, it’s also economically moronic: tax cuts for people on low and average incomes feed back into economic growth far more effectively than extra money for the wealthy.
Western conservatives, who enjoy using the words freedom and democracy incessantly but who, when faced with Arabs demanding democracy, proved decidedly lukewarm about the idea.
Just Plain Moronic
Awarded for general acts or statements of stupidity.
Winner: The British Public, for rejecting a modest improvement (the Alternative Vote, or AV) to our democratic system that would help weaken the current Labour-Conservative duopoly on power, open the door for the creation of fresh new political parties, and revitalise our democracy (as had already happened when AV was adopted in Australia). The newspapers (which mostly support the Tories or Labour) had largely come out against AV, and since most of the public pay no attention to politics, they voted as the press barons told them to. Thus proving that referendums, though seemingly democratic, are not in practise.
UK Prime Minister Dave Camoron for publicly giving the advice that people should pay off their debts. Although this advice is sensible, unfortunately our current economic system isn’t. A widespread shift from spending to saving, at a time when the economy is already struggling, would make the situation worse. By the end of the day, Dave was forced to reverse his advice. People are supposed to keep spending, and paying down their debts, even as the majority of them become poorer. How will that work? It won’t.
All-round weird moron Donald Trump, for suggesting that the US should take Libya’s oil as “payment” for “liberating” Libya. It’s almost like the good old days of Empire. In fact, I think it is the good old days of Empire.
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, for his wonderfully simple (in every sense of the word) 9-9-9 economic plan, under which corporation tax, income tax and sales tax would all be pegged at nine percent. The tax would result in the poor paying more, the top 10% doing pretty well, and the top 1% doing fantastically well. Cain proved incapable of explaining how it could possibly work, just as he proved incapable of explaining anything at all, from foreign policy to why a series of women would accuse him of sexual harassment.
The delightfully named, but not at all delightful, Eric Pickles, Tory government minister, for the most pointless spending exercise of the year. Councils across the UK have been encouraging recycling by providing households with recycling bins and reducing general waste collections from weekly to fortnightly. Although this is sensible and desirable, the British press and public did what they do best: moan about it. So Pickles threw £250m at restarting weekly bin collections, thus managing to waste huge amounts of cash and reverse years of progress towards recycling, all to win a few moron votes. Not only was the idea moronic, but most councils have rejected the cash anyway.
The British government and media, for creating a new moral panic about Sexualisation, an imaginary problem designed to scare parents that society had become too sexual, and was threatening their children – and hence laying the foundations for future legislative attacks on sexual freedom.
Obama spent a second day here in London yesterday; not that Londoners seemed to notice – our citizens are way too “cool” to acknowledge being interested in anything, even the US Prez. There was a police presence around the Regents Park mosque when I cycled past in the morning and again in the evening and I wondered if that was related; perhaps he planned to pray there? (Ha! Not really… Just tossing a morsel to the morons who still think Obama’s a Muslim).
I got home and watched the 7pm TV news on Channel 4. The 55-minute bulletin was dominated by coverage of Obama’s speech to both houses of parliament, and also covered the barbeque hosted by Obama and Camoron, along with several minutes devoted to Michelle Obama’s meeting with working class teenagers at Oxford University. The overall feeling: the UK is still in love with the Obamas.
Channel 4 had commissioned a poll via YouGov, comparing British public attitudes to Obama with a similar poll about Bush conducted in 2003. Some of the results:
Those who have confidence in the US President: Bush: 22%, Obama 72%
Is the President a danger to world peace? Bush: 60%, Obama 6%
Do you welcome the President? Bush 21%, Obama 60%
Do you think the President is highly intelligent? Bush 17%, Obama 81%
Is he a good advertisement for America? Bush 20%, Obama 78%
Then I checked Twitter, and found a tweet from serial-moron @mdino90: Obama once again embarrassed country in front of Queen – How did he do this I wondered? The answer, I was told, is that Obama continued a toast to the Queen during the national anthem. Apparently he also wrote the date as 2008 when he signed a guest book the previous day.
Let me explain something about the British: we’re not a patriotic country. We don’t fly flags from our houses (except perhaps on the important occasions, like the football World Cup). We rarely hear the national anthem, and most people don’t know the words. Although we tend to enjoy a bit of ceremony around state events, we don’t really worry too much about tradition. If Black Rod forgot to bring his stick to the opening of Parliament, few would either notice or care.
So even if the British people were aware of Obama’s “gaffe” yesterday (and as far as I can tell, the UK media barely noticed), nobody gave a damn. Notably, if you search for “Obama gaffe” this morning on the Google UK News service, most of the links that appear are American, with Fox (of course) featuring near the top. The only prominent link on the subject I could see was from Sky News – which (coincidentally, I’m sure) is owned by Rupert Murdoch, as Fox is.
I’m sorry Obama-haters, but this seems to be a story that’s been 99% concocted by the US media. The British people couldn’t give a damn about a glass raised during our (very dull) anthem. We rate Obama far more highly than Bush (click the poll link above if you don’t believe me), regardless of any misgivings we may have over his continuation of many aspects of Bush’s foreign policy.
Most of you, whether in the US or anywhere else on Earth, will have heard about the Birther controversy. The widespread rumour that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the US, and so was ineligible to become President. In an attempt to lay the story to rest, Obama released his birth certificate during the 2008 election campaign; but the story, fueled by political rumours, continued to grow, with denials that the certificate released was real, and calls for the release of the “long-form” birth certificate.
The point was often made that no former (white) President had ever been asked to show his certificate – that the claims about Obama being non-American were coming from the traditionally racist right-wing constituency who were doubtless enraged with the election of a black President, and for whom the birth certificate issue became a proxy for their racism.
The discussion had seemed like it may slowly subside into the darkest corners of moronic conspiracy blogs when at the start of 2011, along came publicity-seeking billionaire Donald Trump, who raised the profile of the discussion again, much to the delight of the Obama-hating right, including the 40% of Republicans who believed that Obama was born overseas.
Then a couple of weeks ago, something strange happened; Fox News pundits who had enjoyed spreading anti-Obama stories, including birth-certificate-related ones, suddenly started to come out against the conspiracy theory. Had the anti-Obama right finally seen sense and decided to allow some honesty into the debate? Well, it seems not…
Today in a surprise announcement, Obama called time on the hysteria and released the long-form certificate. Perhaps he had finally decided to end the dumb discussion. Or maybe he’d carefully picked the moment to cause maximum political damage to his enemies. If the latter, he thoroughly deserves his moment, after having to take flak from morons over a period of more than two years.
So let’s look at who (deservedly) loses out here:
Donald Trump, who decided it was smart to place himself at the head of the birther movement, and whose presidential run is probably now doomed as a result. Strangely, Trump is trying to spin the birth certificate release as a victory… well, good luck with that!
The Republican Party, which allowed the discussion to grow and grow, and now can only be damaged by it.
The Tea Party, the fake “revolutionary” movement created by right-wing billionaires, which is tainted with birtherism.
The right-wing media, most of all Fox News, that helped spread the idea. Even right-wing British rags like the Daily Mail joined the game.
And finally, thousands of ordinary morons who used Twitter to repeat the lies they’d been told. Their racism got the better of their reason (if they had any to start with) and they end up looking most stupid of all.
The War On Morons has a long way to go; but today marks victory in a decisive battle.
When Labour came to power in the UK in 1997, the left/centre majority heaved a sigh of relief after 18 years of Conservative rule. Britain had become a far more progressive place in those years, and the feeling that our leaders were finally in tune with us was elating. Anti-gay laws were repealed, police were subject to more control over their street behaviour, pay of teachers and nurses rose and massive investment was pumped into the crumbling education and health services. “Cool Britannia” was announced, and top music stars were seen rubbing shoulders with government ministers.
It was all so much fun that we chose to ignore the parts we didn’t want to see. Labour wasn’t going to re-nationalise any privatised industries, however messy or unwise the privatisations had been; most of the new schools and hospitals were built under a “Public-Private Partnership” regime that would work out more expensive in the long run; Blair and his top ministers seemed to love the company of Bankers and CEOs, and the rich-poor divide was allowed to widen even further.
I voted Labour in 1997 and again in 2001. And then came 9/11, and Blair’s fangs appeared. His religious mania started to be slowly unveiled (religion is a vote-loser rather than a winner in UK politics, and his spin-doctors played it down as best they could). Days after 9/11, it became obvious, to those who watched, that Iraq was in the cross-hairs of the neocons, and by mid-2002 there was no doubt that an attack on Iraq was in the planning stages (we later learned that Blair had already committed in early-2002). A large anti-war march was held in London in October 2002 (while Blair was still pretending that all options were on the table) and a huge march was held in February 2003, a month before the war. But Blair ignored the marchers, ignored the facts, ignored the majority within his own party, and took Britain to join one of the least justified, most brutal wars in modern history.
From that moment, he was widely hated by the British people, and the hatred steadily increased. When, in July 2005, terrorists killed 52 in London, and injured 700 more, most people held Blair’s Iraq adventure partly to blame, and his popularity fell further. It wasn’t just that he had carried out an unforgiveable act – it was that he had come to power as a progressive, and our eyes had finally been opened to reality. When Blair left power, exposed his deep Catholic fundamentalism, and began to profit from oil and other companies who had benefited from the Iraq war, the transformation was complete.
In the UK, we were as elated as American progressives by Obama’s election in 2008 – Bush had been hated here and worldwide for his moronic foreign policy, long before the majority of Americans turned against him. We knew, though we didn’t want to acknowledge it, that America is more than the President, and that Obama’s main reforms would be on domestic ground. Sure enough, America’s murderous behaviour towards Afghanistan and Pakistan was little changed – some things (such as drone attacks on civilians) became even worse. But we tried to ignore these, and enjoy the knowledge that Obama was more intelligent, more progressive than Bush could ever be.
So now we have a bombardment of Libya. We want to cling on to the idea that this is being done to protect civilians, but even as the bombing started, civilians were being shot dead in the streets of Yemen, Syria and Bahrain with barely a word of condemnation. It becomes increasingly clear that far from boosting the Arab revolutions, this attack on Libya will deliberately undermine them.
American progressives are going to increasingly feel about Obama the way we felt about Blair in 2003. It was easy to hate Bush – he gave us plenty of reason to, and he’d been elected by morons anyway, but Blair and Obama were ours. We can try to justify Obama’s capitulation – we already knew that America’s democracy is no longer strong enough to represent the will of the people over the interests of corporations and the military. But whichever way you look at it, betrayal hurts.