Somewhere in my book collection and not immediately available to hand I have a copy of Arthur Woodstone’s 1970s book ‘Nixon’s Head.’ The single review of this on the Amazon website (where it’s available for 0.01p) as I recall accurately sums it up “Superb book, albeit of its time, which is based on the statement: 'I think anyone who wants to be president should have his head examined' (Averill Harriman, 1970). Woodstone conducts an arms-length psychological analysis of Richard Nixon based on his speeches, public statements and conduct etc. The reader can almost taste Woodstone's mounting horror at the sheer lunacy and palpable madness of Nixon's public pronouncements. I don't think it would spoil the ending for readers I if were to say Woodstone's conclusions tend to suggest Nixon was as mad as a bag of spanners.” (Credit: ‘Casual Observer’ 2007).
Now in the wake of the latest explorations of the madness of the current ruler in the White House (ref. Bob Woodward’s latest blockbuster and an anonymous op ed in the New York Times) I imagine a sign appearing on the Oval Office door: ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps.’ We know of course that pyschiatrists shouldn’t pronounce on the mental health of people they have not directly had the opportunity to diagnose, but isn’t it time to waive the rule in the case of the ‘Leader of The Free World’?
If only Nixon had had the opportunity to Tweet, his tenure may have been truncated sooner. “F*****G BAD! They’re all lying C***S! I’LL GET THOSE B******S! S**T FACED MOTHERF*****S!”
One hopes that one day in the not too distant future we will have our Trump tapes. I suspect if such exist and they are made public our esteem for Nixon will rocket up, for in comparison to Trump Trickie Dickie was not an entire intellectual write off. But having said that, I would be the first to queue up for John Adams’ forthcoming opera Trump in North Korea. It would of course play to more packed houses than any presidential-themed opera before or since, including Abe Lincoln or Barack Obama to mention but two. Or the other 43. Yeah, and Hamilton as well.
I’ve just watched 12 Angry Men again. The key phrase used in the film is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ – and unless the jury finds the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt, they must find him not guilty on so serious a charge it could lead to the death penalty. Well, now it seems we have been presented with all the evidence we need that two named Russians carried out the attempted Skripal murder. Putting to one side the fact that government ministers had reached their guilty verdict months before the evidence was found, perhaps there are now sufficient grounds to agree with them. Even though – even though – the evidence remains circumstantial. CCTV footage of two men walking around London or Salisbury is not in itself enough to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt. The Guardian mentioned today that ‘traces’ of Novichok had been found in the men’s hotel. If so, that would go quite a long way to removing doubt, though why the alleged perpetrators would fiddle around with the nerve agent’s container in their hotel room does need explaining. Playing the role of Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men, RT (Russia Today) seeks to question the veracity of the government’s line here.
It would be foolish to say the UK government’s position isn’t feasible, even if in so many other areas what they say is unfeasible (Brexit for example). But there is more explaining to do, and I think we should know more about Skripal’s ongoing work or contacts with MI6 – was he still active and if so, doing what? The British public, in Salisbury at least were exposed to risk and in classic ‘elf’n’safety’ speak, perhaps we ought to be told what risk assessments are made when double agents move in down your street.
Now let’s look at something completely different. Now that the Labour Party has adopted the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, some of the IHRA possible examples need to be examined in the light of recent events. Funnily enough, this includes Russia’s alleged dirty doings. In response to Skripal the UK government has sought tougher sanctions, diplomatic expulsions and other measures. OK, let’s say that that is fair enough, we don’t want to sit back in the face of political assassinations, here or anywhere else. Which begs the question, what sanctions has the government sought against Israel on account of its alleged program of systematic political assassination? Let’s recall that one IHRA example of possible anti-semitism is “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” Isn’t it curious that notwithstanding the use of the word ‘democratic’ in this example, we are expecting of Russia a higher standard of behaviour than of Israel – since the UK government has not joined or called for any action to impose sanctions on the latter? Shouldn’t we expect the same standards from any country?
Is there evidence of Israel having a program of targeted political assassination? Judge for yourself here.
It’s a rather long list, starting in 1956, and since double standards can work both ways, it would seem that the UK government’s double standards in this case could well fall foul of the IHRA example, though not for the reasons intended. What makes the whole sanctions issue more laughable are the attempts by some, including the U.S. Congress to make support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement illegal. I am sure that western double standards don’t go unnoticed in the uncivilised rest of the world.
Incidentally, it was the issue of double standards that finally got to the last juror in 12 Angry Men, and made him change his mind to deliver the now unanimous not guilty verdict.
It’s a shame the Labour Party NEC backed down on the question of adopting all of the possible examples of anti-semitism appended to the IHRA definition. It was expedient I suppose, but hardliners like Hodge have already said it’s two steps forward and one step back, although I have not seen an elaboration on what the one step back is. The issue is not going away as long as the anti-Palestinian pro-Israeli lobby keeps up its work. That they will do that is evident from the work this lobby is doing in the U.S. (given the American contribution of 20% to Israel’s defence budget this is more important to them than what the U.K. is up to.) An article just published by Counterpunch reveals how as a consequence of a quite separate dispute in the Middle East (Qatar v. Saudi Arabia, et al) the Qatari owned Al Jazeera TV network has dropped its U.S. equivalent of their U.K. investigation of how the Israel lobby is working tirelessly behind the scenes to smear pro-Palestinian voices, especially in academia. Here’s a sample:
Students recounted in the documentary exactly what they faced. Summer Awad, who took part in a campaign for Palestinian rights in Knoxville, Tennessee, was harassed on Twitter, and information about her, some of it dating back a decade, was posted online: ‘They are digging and digging. Somebody contacted my employer and asked for me to be fired. If they continue to employ me they will be denounced as antisemitic.’ Denunciation can end careers or make it hard for students to find a job after graduation. To get their names off the blacklist, some victims write messages of ‘repentance’, which Canary Mission posts on its site (8). These anonymous confessions, whose writers explain that they were ‘deceived’, are much like those of suspected communist sympathisers under McCarthyism in the US in the 1950s, or victims of authoritarian regimes today. Baime said: ‘It’s psychological warfare. It drives them crazy. They either shut down, or they spend time investigating [the accusations against them] instead of attacking Israel. It’s extremely effective.’ Another person told Kleinfeld [Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter): ‘I think antisemitism as a smear is not what it used to be.’
Labour’s outright adoption of the IHRA definition will I think give the lie to the last comment above (although there's a bit of ambiguity there). It will be used as ‘the lobby’ intends – to silence legitimate debate in the U.K. political party where that debate has been strongest, and dare I say healthiest.
A response has arrived from the BBC regarding my complaint about the Radio 4 Sunday programme’s interview with Jonathan Sacks. This is it:
Thank you for contacting us about Sunday, broadcast 2 September on BBC Radio 4.
I understand you felt the interview with Jonathan Sacks was biased against Jeremy Corbyn.
Whilst we appreciate your views on the matter, it is important to recognise that the reason Lord Sacks was on the programme was to discuss why he went public with his judgement that the Labour leader is an anti-Semite.
During the discussion, Edward Stourton noted that Enoch Powell was seen as a toxic figure, challenged Lord Sacks on an interpretation of his words, and reflected the Labour party's response on the issue.
When reporting on the comments that have come to light, made by Jeremy Corbyn in 2013, about British Zionists, we have included criticism that these comments have provoked, including from members of his own party, such as Luciana Berger and David Lammy, but we have also reflected Mr Corbyn’s explanation for these remarks.
Jonathan Sacks, who was Chief Rabbi from 1991-2013, is one of the most high profile members of the British Jewish community. As such, his strong reaction to Mr Corbyn’s comments was a significant intervention, not only to this specific story, but also to the wider issue of anti-Semitism allegations within the Labour Party. When reporting on Lord Sacks’ criticism of Mr Corbyn, we have featured the response of the Labour Party and other supporters of Mr Corbyn to this.
We appreciate there are diverging views within the British Jewish community on this issue. We have never stated that Lord Sacks’ views are representative of all British Jewish people, but have reflected the prominent position he holds within the community.
Please be assured your complaint has been circulated to senior management, and the producers of Sunday, on our audience feedback report.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to get in touch.
BBC Complaints Team
My original complaint included my suspicion that the BBC did not invite anyone from the Labour Party or Corbyn’s office to contest live what Sacks might have to say – this response is silent on that point, and silence can only be read as assent. Whilst Sacks was given pretty much free rein to air his views directly, all we seem to have had in reply from those he was attacking were ‘reflected’ views or a read-out response. As regards Sacks’ ‘prominence’ one only has to read, e.g. analysis on the Jewish Voices for Labour website that there are a multitude of thoughtful Jewish voices which are being ignored by bodies like the BBC. The BBC say they have ‘never stated that Lord Sacks’ views are representative of all British Jewish people’ – but they’ve never stated the opposite either – it’s just implied that he does.
Interesting too that Sacks was happy to agree to do this interview on a Sunday, when Corbyn had an article printed in the Guardian on a Friday and was heavily criticised for being oblivious to Jewish religious observance. I have to say I have no idea what Jeremy does on the Christian Sabbath. I bet Sacks doesn’t either although I guess we could both take a stab at it. But that’s not the point.
I’m not against change, but with the advent of the Internet, and computer programs, change seems to be introduced for change’s sake – the tech savvy designers can’t stop fidgeting with ‘new looks,’ ‘fantastic new designs,’ ‘amazing experiences’ and so on. None of which of course matches the rhetoric but only happen because they can – not that they must. Hence, my online banking portal will change shortly and I will have to refamiliarise myself with all the upgraded features I was perfectly content without before. Then there’s Google – ‘upgrading’ gmail with a new look which merely serves to discombobulate near-elderly types like myself. Part of the reason for program upgrading is naturally the desire for profit – when you find that your version of Word no longer works in the latest version of the great scheme of things, you have to nip out (sorry, that’s what we used to have to do) and buy the latest version. Not that the latest version will have any tool to help the imagination, you’re still unaccountably left to your own devices to find the words you need to express yourself. (Yes, I know that's not strictly true any more. And who needs words when you can have an emoji?)
There used to be an idea that not everybody needs to be on the same hymn sheet (remember talk of a twin-track E.U?) – that it was perfectly OK to travel life’s course at one’s own pace. This is now fuddy duddy thinking. Everything must be conducted through an online portal, and the less likely you are to have easy access to an online portal (e.g. many Universal Credit claimants or any peasant seeking interaction with government agencies these days) the more you will be seen as wilfully betraying progress. When the case is made on behalf of poor old bloody pensioners that they don’t make use of the internet as much as they SHOULD do, it sounds like our society is harbouring a Trojan army of retards who could imminently crash the system through their sheer minded obstructiveness. They stand opposed to greater heights of efficiency, transformational management and productivity, they’re but barnacles on the sleek hull of decimated public services. I tried to introduce my mother in her eighties to the use of a mouse. Her spirit was willing, but her flesh was weak. In such circumstances, I worried that the internet could be a very dangerous, or at least a rather expensive place.
Just about every new technology, or variants of new technology have met resistance. What is different now however is the fact that the technologies that are changing fastest are those which seem to have more immediate, universal application. Whoever thought of Google maps deserves credit. The idea is grandiose in its vision, matching your whole life not just in terms of getting from A to B geographically but everything in between and more importantly anticipating where you’re going next. In life. You’re whole life is already contained in a heavenly Cloud, and unlike the weaving machines in Colne Valley you can’t smash the Cloud. (Having said which, I’m sure somebody is trying.) Yes, there is a bit of a reaction to the sprawling influence of new technology. According to today’s Guardian there’s a movement against social media – young people are more questioning of its value and there’s a ‘Don’t use social media month’ coming up. I wouldn’t hold my breath. It’ll just lead to another change in portals and the main task of the social media moguls will be to spot which start-up will be the next trend setter and buy them out.
Well, I don’t know where I’m going with this. At heart I’m just an old postie wondering where all the mail went.
I am beginning to wonder about the sanity of continuing to blog about the so-called anti-semitism ‘problem’ in the Labour Party – it feels like an all-consuming flesh eating moth that’s flown in through the window and is about to burrow into one’s brain through one’s left ear lobe. Maybe that should be the right ear lobe. Anyway, it’s been a long day, starting with Jonathan Sacks given free air time to slander Corbyn on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme this morning and the BBC news at ten this evening headlining with the ‘news’ of Gordon Brown’s speech (rant) to a smallish meeting of the Jewish Labour Movement (which they’ve never reported before) instead of leading with their next story about the complete fuck-up in Brexit which is now emerging, and which will definitely pose an ‘existential’ threat to a great many people in the UK. The fact that all these anti-Corbynites didn’t speak out at the same time – Sacks, Field, Brown, various others – but have emerged in a drip feed, strongly suggests a concerted effort to keep the nonsense alive. It’s like somebody is passing a baton around, with the words ‘now it’s your turn, he hasn’t gone yet.’ Why didn’t Gordon Brown awake to Corbyn’s ‘anti-semitism’ three months ago? Why did it take Field so long to discover his badly hurt conscience? Come on Tony, it’s your turn next. The Telegraph would love to hear from you.
Yet another Labour comrade has been feeding the Daily Telegraph’s insatiable appetite for comments designed to assist Labour win the next election. Comrade Blunkett pronounced to an audience (which almost certainly will have outnumbered purchasers - still less readers - of his book ‘The Blunkett Tapes’) that “Either Jeremy Corbyn can lead a party into gradual decline and irrelevance, or demonstrate that he can lead a party fit for government. The choice is his." Actually David, the choice was in the hands of Labour Party members, and your coded call for Corbyn to resign can be consigned along with the Telegraph to the toilet. But another ‘Big Beast’ – Gordon Brown has unintentionally reminded voters what irrelevance is since that was the judgement of the electorate on him in 2010. Speaking today at a meeting of the Jewish Labour Movement, Gordon has like an Old Testament prophet seen the future of Labour if Jeremy doesn’t buck his ideas up. He wants Labour to adopt the contentious IHRA definition of anti-semitism in its entirety (it already has of course, but perhaps that fact is a post-truth fact). The dividing lines are becoming clearer, and as this affair drags on, it must be obvious to even the most disinterested, couldn’t-care-less observer that this row has bugger all to do with anti-semitism.
I caught an interview with Jonathan Sacks on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme this morning. Here is my complaint, banged off to the corporation as soon as I finished my corn flakes:
"Jonathan Sacks was given the opportunity to repeat his accusation that Jeremy Corbyn is a racist and an anti-semite, and to repeat his comparison of Corbyn with Enoch Powell. This should have been balanced with a Labour Party or Corbyn spokesperson being given the opportunity to contest these slanders, but it is clear from the context of the interview that no such opportunity was offered. Ed Stourton very briefly mentioned Labour's response, and did ask some not terribly probing questions, but Jonathan Sacks was under no pressure to justify his comments in any depth, but merely to repeat them without further challenge."
People like Sacks who make outlandish statements deserve more of a grilling, but never seem to get anything more than a mild and respectful nod from the mainstream media. Can’t imagine why.
Thanks to Jewish Voice for Labour for revealing what the great Corbyn ‘irony’ remark was all about. I haven’t seen it reported anywhere else before – the actual words used by the Palestinian ambassador at the meeting in 2013 were intended as ironic: “You know I’m reaching the conclusion that the Jews are the children of God, the only children of God and the Promised Land is being paid by God. I have started to believe this because nobody is stopping Israel building its messianic dream of Eretz Israel to the point I believe that maybe God is on their side.” He was challenged by a group of Zionists in the room. It was this that sparked Corbyn’s comment – which has so inflamed ‘Lord’ Jonathan Sacks, Frank (perhaps a peerage from May is on its way) Field and others. I bet none of the Corbyn detractors had read the Palestinian ambassador’s ironic comment either.
This month 550 wildfires have been burning in British Columbia, with whole cities shrouded in smog. Who can say for sure this is the result of climate change? But it’s a fair question to ask, not least since the Canadian government was willing to pump billions of dollars into a new ‘Trans Mountain’ oil pipeline to get more product from the Albertan tar sands to the Pacific coast. But the good news is that a Federal Court of Appeal has thrown out the planned pipeline – on the grounds of objections by the indigenous Tsleil-Waututh Nation, who it appears were illegally sidelined in the whole business and who objected to the pipeline on environmental grounds. Thank heavens somebody can put two and two together, and on this occasion it doesn’t seem to be Justin Trudeau. Looks like his difficulties with Trump may get a bit bigger.
Frank Field’s resignation of the Labour Whip in parliament seems an odd thing to do, since his much aired complaint these last two days seems more to do with the Labour Party per se than the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) itself. He’s surely not so daft as to imagine that the two things don’t go hand in hand, and he will have to leave the Party, one way or the other. I suspect he wants to milk it for all it’s worth and hopes to be expelled, then he can stride with a martyr’s steps into the sunset. At 76 years old, I suspect he was near retirement anyway. His grandstanding reminds me of the sad affair of the late Brian Sedgemore’s departure in 2005. He came from the opposite end of the political spectrum but resigned over Iraq and then joined the LibDems. He was a regular rebel, and in an interesting parallel with Field, Sedgemore was ‘one of only five Labour MPs to vote for the Third Reading of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, defying his party Whip, which was to abstain.’ (Wikipedia) At least Jeremy only had four rebels to deal with in the last E.U. ‘crunch’ vote. I do hope that now Field is no longer in the PLP he will relinquish chairing the Work and Pensions Select Committee without a fuss – in this parliament, that position is allocated to a Labour MP. He knows this. Will he go quietly, or will it be a case (yet again) of Jeremy being dictatorial/authoritarian/autocratic (also autocratical)/bossy/despotic/domineering/ imperious/overbearing/peremptory/tyrannical (also tyrannic)/tyrannous?*
*delete as appropriate; thanks to Merriam-Webster online dictionary