Archive for September, 2006

George Bush takes advice on Iraq. Now that would be news.

September 30, 2006

According to Bob Woodward, one of the two investigative journalists who brought the facts of the Watergate break-in to light, the Bush administration fails to take seriously any reports, even when they come from top military and intelligence advisers, if they challenge Mr Bush’s convictions about how well the war in Iraq is going.

Woodward, who has been out and about publicising he now book State of Denial, claims that Bush is so convinced that he was right to go to war that he has, as far back as 2003, repeatedly ignored advisers who have told him that large reinforcements would be needed to put down the insurgency in Iraq.

A report by The National Intelligence Estimate, some of which has been released by Mr Bush during the week, predicted a continuing escalation of violence in Iraq as the conflict as the insurgents came to be perceived as central part of the global jihad.

According to Woodward, who was speaking to CBS, “the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse, and in public, you have Pentagon [saying], ‘Oh no, things are going to get better’”

So Bush, in the words of the singer-songwriter Paul Simon, “hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”. An enlightened leader of a sophisticated western democracy behaves like some tin-pot dictator in remote banana republic. Tut, tut!! Whatever next?

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George Bush takes advice on Iraq. Now that would be news.

September 30, 2006

According to Bob Woodward, one of the two investigative journalists who brought the facts of the Watergate break-in to light, the Bush administration fails to take seriously any reports, even when they come from top military and intelligence advisers, if they challenge Mr Bush’s convictions about how well the war in Iraq is going.

Woodward, who has been out and about publicising he now book State of Denial, claims that Bush is so convinced that he was right to go to war that he has, as far back as 2003, repeatedly ignored advisers who have told him that large reinforcements would be needed to put down the insurgency in Iraq.

A report by The National Intelligence Estimate, some of which has been released by Mr Bush during the week, predicted a continuing escalation of violence in Iraq as the conflict as the insurgents came to be perceived as central part of the global jihad.

According to Woodward, who was speaking to CBS, “the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse, and in public, you have Pentagon [saying], ‘Oh no, things are going to get better’”

So Bush, in the words of the singer-songwriter Paul Simon, “hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”. An enlightened leader of a sophisticated western democracy behaves like some tin-pot dictator in remote banana republic. Tut, tut!! Whatever next?

An Inconvenient Truth and a young audience?

September 30, 2006


John Naughton (see blogroll on the right) took his kids to see An Inconvenient Truth; Al Gore’s much-praised film about what a damaging effect the release of carbon-dioxide emissions into the atmosphere is having the environment. 

His observations [link] and the discussions he reports having with his kids afterwards make for interesting reading. 

And, yes, I do think that films like this should be shown in schools

North Face of Soho by Clive James

September 28, 2006

To coincide with the publication by Pan Macmillan on the 6th of October of North Face of Soho, the fourth volume his Unreliable Memoirs, Clive James (see the Clive James and Pete Atkin blogrolls on the right) will be doing the rounds of the media, discussing mainly, but, no doubt, not exclusively, the book and the period of his life that it covers.

One of the places he’ll be found is on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book(Sunday the 15th of October 16.00 and Thursday the 19th of October 16.00) where he will be in discussion with the programme’s regular presenter, Mariella Frostrup.

For anybody who has read and enjoyed, as I have, the first three volumes, Unreliable Memoirs, Falling Towards England and May Week Was in June, this latest one is a most welcome addition and one that has been long awaited.

It should, if anything, be more popular with the general reader than the previous volumes because it deals with the time when he became well-known public figure, first as the the Observer’s acerbic TV critic, and later as the fast-talking wise-cracking frontman of the various shows he wrote and presented for television companies over the last twenty years or so.

A short audio extract from North Face of Soho can be found here. 

29/09/06 

AMENDMENT: The broadcast dates have been amended from the 8th to the 15th. and 12th to the 19th.

North Face of Soho by Clive James

September 28, 2006

To coincide with the publication by Pan Macmillan on the 6th of October of North Face of Soho, the fourth volume his Unreliable Memoirs, Clive James (see the Clive James and Pete Atkin blogrolls on the right) will be doing the rounds of the media, discussing mainly, but, no doubt, not exclusively, the book and the period of his life that it covers.

One of the places he’ll be found is on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book(Sunday the 15th of October 16.00 and Thursday the 19th of October 16.00) where he will be in discussion with the programme’s regular presenter, Mariella Frostrup.

For anybody who has read and enjoyed, as I have, the first three volumes, Unreliable Memoirs, Falling Towards England and May Week Was in June, this latest one is a most welcome addition and one that has been long awaited.

It should, if anything, be more popular with the general reader than the previous volumes because it deals with the time when he became well-known public figure, first as the the Observer’s acerbic TV critic, and later as the fast-talking wise-cracking frontman of the various shows he wrote and presented for television companies over the last twenty years or so.

A short audio extract from North Face of Soho can be found here. 

29/09/06 

AMENDMENT: The broadcast dates have been amended from the 8th to the 15th. and 12th to the 19th.

North Face of Soho by Clive James

September 28, 2006

To coincide with the publication by Pan Macmillan on the 6th of October of North Face of Soho, the fourth volume his Unreliable Memoirs, Clive James (see the Clive James and Pete Atkin blogrolls on the right) will be doing the rounds of the media, discussing mainly, but, no doubt, not exclusively, the book and the period of his life that it covers.

One of the places he’ll be found is on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book(Sunday the 15th of October 16.00 and Thursday the 19th of October 16.00) where he will be in discussion with the programme’s regular presenter, Mariella Frostrup.

For anybody who has read and enjoyed, as I have, the first three volumes, Unreliable Memoirs, Falling Towards England and May Week Was in June, this latest one is a most welcome addition and one that has been long awaited.

It should, if anything, be more popular with the general reader than the previous volumes because it deals with the time when he became well-known public figure, first as the the Observer’s acerbic TV critic, and later as the fast-talking wise-cracking frontman of the various shows he wrote and presented for television companies over the last twenty years or so.

A short audio extract from North Face of Soho can be found here. 

29/09/06 

AMENDMENT: The broadcast dates have been amended from the 8th to the 15th. and 12th to the 19th.

Blair tells it how it is.

September 26, 2006

Although I don’t agree with everything in it, I do think that John Naughton’s (see Blogroll) measured reaction to Tony Blair’s last speech as Prime Minister before Labour Party Conference seems to me to hit just about the right and summed up pretty what many of us who’d heard or read the speech felt.   

September 26th, 2006 [link]

Listening to Tony Blair’s valedictory speech I was struck by two thoughts. The first is how good he was at reminding his party about how and why it won office (and, by implication, warning it not to forget that lesson). The second was that, but for his single, colossal misjudgement about Iraq, he would have gone down as one of the great reforming prime ministers in British history.

There were some really good lines in the speech — for example, his crack about Labour’s “core vote” being the people of Britainrather than its traditional “heartlands”. The observation that the only Labour party tradition he abhorred was “failure”. And his frank admission that some of the things that were done by Thatcherism had to be done if Britain were to become a modern country. Nobody who recalls the chaos of the Wilson/Heath/Callaghan years will dispute that.

That said, Blairism wasn’t the continuation of Thatcherism by other means. Listening to his recital of what his administration has done in terms of renewing the country’s public services, schools, hospitals, etc., it was impossible to believe that a Tory government would have done the same. A few weeks ago I met an American who had been a student here in the 1970s and hadn’t been back to the UK since. He was dumbstruck by how much had changed — for the better. And he was right.So long as it stuck to domestic issues, the speech was terrific.

But the moment it moved on to the ‘war’ against terrorism, it lost its way. Just like its author.

Blair tells it how it is.

September 26, 2006

Although I don’t agree with everything in it, I do think that John Naughton’s (see Blogroll) measured reaction to Tony Blair’s last speech as Prime Minister before Labour Party Conference seems to me to hit just about the right and summed up pretty what many of us who’d heard or read the speech felt.   

September 26th, 2006 [link]

Listening to Tony Blair’s valedictory speech I was struck by two thoughts. The first is how good he was at reminding his party about how and why it won office (and, by implication, warning it not to forget that lesson). The second was that, but for his single, colossal misjudgement about Iraq, he would have gone down as one of the great reforming prime ministers in British history.

There were some really good lines in the speech — for example, his crack about Labour’s “core vote” being the people of Britainrather than its traditional “heartlands”. The observation that the only Labour party tradition he abhorred was “failure”. And his frank admission that some of the things that were done by Thatcherism had to be done if Britain were to become a modern country. Nobody who recalls the chaos of the Wilson/Heath/Callaghan years will dispute that.

That said, Blairism wasn’t the continuation of Thatcherism by other means. Listening to his recital of what his administration has done in terms of renewing the country’s public services, schools, hospitals, etc., it was impossible to believe that a Tory government would have done the same. A few weeks ago I met an American who had been a student here in the 1970s and hadn’t been back to the UK since. He was dumbstruck by how much had changed — for the better. And he was right.So long as it stuck to domestic issues, the speech was terrific.

But the moment it moved on to the ‘war’ against terrorism, it lost its way. Just like its author.

Helen & James

September 26, 2006

  Helen & James

This is my daughter Helen, and her husband-to-be, James. They seem  think that I was denying their existence by leaving them unmentioned in the first draft of my profile my profile.  This is not the case;  it’s  just that I’m reticent about mentioning members of my family when I do not have their permission to do so.

Bush V The Geneva convention 2

September 24, 2006

Just a few days after President George Bush, with the help of his chief henchman, the Vice-President Dick Cheney, thrashed out a deal with his Republican critics, led by Senator John McCain, that allows him, with Congress’s blessing, interpret the Geneva Convention in more or less any way he feels like when dealing with detainees in Guantanamo or in any of the CIA’s ‘black’ prisons.

Today Bush’s instincts about how to deal with terrorism are brought into question by a National Intelligence Estimate report, which has been investigated by today’s New York Times, that says that by going to war in Iraq Bush has done something that has actually worsened terror threat.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by
United States intelligence agencies since the
Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the
Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document’s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.

And what will happen now? Not a lot, I would say. There does not appear to be anyone capable of calling Bush and the bunch of shysters who surround him to account.