THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

Posts categorized "United States" Feed

Barackading the Manning

Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison – live updates | World news |

The Guardian suddenly seems to be my newspaper. Soon I will have to take back all those Guardian reader and Guardianista jibes over the years. Or perhaps not. At the moment it's doing a good job of covering the civil liberties crisis in America and the British state's toadying complicity. 

For example, it's reporting the swingeing sentence on whistle-blower Bradley Manning. I think the ACLU best sums up my own opinion on the subject;
...a legal system that doesn't distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it's also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.
Birgitta Jonsdottir, the Icelandic MP associated with Wikileaks, makes the killer point though; has been held accountable for the criminality exposed in the documents for which Manning is standing trial - except him.
As modern statists continue to replace the rule of law with the rule of men that's not exactly surprising. Those walking free committed their crimes in the service of the state so of course they will not be prosecuted.

If the rule of law applied; if there was a brave prosecutor to say "Be you never so high, the law is above you" then the story would be different, but that's not the reality of the post 9/11 West. Manning's punishment is not for any harm he may have done to intelligence assets, but for letting the supposed owners of the state in question - the American people - know what it was doing in their name. So much for accountability.

Stories such as this that give the lie to the statists' deliberate blurring of the distinction between people, nation and state. Any notion that "the state is us" is ridiculous. It's a massive power centre that is supposed to be accountable to us, but which lashes out violently at any of its people naieve enough to behave as if that's true. Recently, the British state has even been caught boasting to the American state about how unaccountable its agents are. 

I suspect there has also been a pretty good (and incredibly hypocritical, given the American state's usual posture on sexual diversity) attempt to smear him. He has been made out to be a social cripple, a sexual deviant and a general nut job. This is what any of us can expect if we incur the wrath of the servants who think they are our masters. Is it any wonder I erupt when purveyors of horrific tosh emerge from behind the skirting boards to tell us these gangsters have "far more moral legitimacy" than private citizens?

Bradley Manning is a good servant of the American people. He was a bad servant of the American state. He knew the risks he took in blowing the whistle and he blew it anyway. Don't let a state that tells you - when it suits its purpose - that your colour, creed or sexual orientation are irrelevant then use sexual and other smears to mask the courage of what he did.

Live free or die

New Hampshire BearCat Opposed; Marine Colonel Peter Martino Claims 'We're Building A Domestic Army' (VIDEO) (UPDATED).
It's been a while since I had the energy to post more than once in a day, but I can't resist commenting on this gem. Please compare and contrast this gentleman's cheerfully robust approach with the limp response of British citizens to state salami-slicing of our liberty. Here speaks a free man.
He is Pete Martino, a retired colonel in the US Marines. He was speaking at a council meeting in Concord, New Hampshire on a proposal to equip the police there with an armoured vehicle. This story has already hit the news because the local police chief named legitimate protest groups as reasons he might need such equipment. Fortunately, someone leaked his proposal document to a civil liberties organisation. Col. Martino is articulate, frank and funny. I loved his comment that he told his kids 
...there's always free cheese in the mousetrap...
That's a lesson our entitlement-crazed fellow-citizens could usefully learn.

Those who mock American democracy because of the low turnouts in Presidential elections should note the active local democracy here. Would any British council or any other organ of the state hold a hearing like this on a line item of public expenditure? Please note however the left-liberal Huffington Post's attempt to discredit Col. Martino by pointing out that had been fired by a British defence contractor. Apparently he spoke out on its underbidding for a US embassy security assignment for which it was allegedly not equipped.

If only more of us had 'form' for such principled behaviour. Without courageous whistle-blowers such as Bradley ManningEdward Snowden and whoever leaked the Concord armored car proposal, America's current civil liberties debate would not be taking place. It is certainly shocking that the US government has been caught out implementing nation-wide surveillance on the scale of East Germany's Stasi. It is certainly shocking that, if Col. Martino is right, it is trying to circumvent the US Constitution's rule against troop deployments on US soil. But at least, thanks to the whistle-blowers, there's a discussion. If America goes down the road to a police state, its people will have approved it.  Will the same be true in Britain?

If we are ever to speak as freely again as Col. Martino does here, a useful first step would be to afford total legal protection to whistle-blowers. Revealing a crime or abuse of state power should never have negative consequences. That would put us ahead of the USA on civil liberties and might begin to reverse our long slide into authoritarianism.

Thank you, Dr. Ron Paul


Few men have done their fellow countrymen greater service than Dr. Ron Paul. In making his farewell speech to Congress, he articulated his vision and expressed his hope that, despite all his worst predictions having come true, the next generation will rebuild America. Apart from his repeating the common misconception that the Great Writ of habeas corpus originated with Magna Carta, I can find no fault with what he said.

You can watch the video or, if you find his oratory a little lacking (he's a gynecologist, not a lawyer), you can read his speech here. Either way, I urge you to take the time for, though he would laugh at the idea, this is an important man. 

Violence, or rather the avoidance of it, is at the heart of his thinking;

The immoral use of force is the source of man’s political problems. Sadly, many religious groups, secular organizations, and psychopathic authoritarians endorse government initiated force to change the world. Even when the desired goals are well-intentioned—or especially when well-intentioned—the results are dismal. The good results sought never materialize. The new problems created require even more government force as a solution. The net result is institutionalizing government initiated violence and morally justifying it on humanitarian grounds.

This is the same fundamental reason our government uses force for invading other countries at will, central economic planning at home, and the regulation of personal liberty and habits of our citizens.

It is rather strange, that unless one has a criminal mind and no respect for other people and their property, no one claims it’s permissible to go into one’s neighbor’s house and tell them how to behave, what they can eat, smoke and drink or how to spend their money.

Yet, rarely is it asked why it is morally acceptable that a stranger with a badge and a gun can do the same thing in the name of law and order. 

This is only his final speech in Congress. We shall hear more from him yet. He may even run for Governor of Texas in 2014. But it's not too soon to thank him for all the unsung work he has put in for what - for most of his life - has seemed the lost cause of liberty. I also thank the people of the great state of Texas who have given him the opportunity to defend the US Constitution to Congress (and by extension the principles of liberty it enshrines to the world) for twenty-three years out of the last thirty-six.

h/t Nourishing Obscurity

Why I still love America

Can you imagine a speech of this power delivered with such sincerity by a British politician? They are a seedy, cynical bunch, but Ms Rice (though a practical and effective politician) speaks from the heart. I know no other argument for the Romney candidacy than that she endorses it, but she herself would be the best President America could currently have. By a happy coincidence that very rarely occurs, she would also be the most electable Republican.

I saw her pass by with the Russian foreign minister at my favourite restaurant in Moscow when I lived there. My late wife and I were sitting among her Secret Service guards because the restaurant's staff kindly decided to let us have our usual table even though the place was closed for that meeting. I heard Russian friends speak of her with respect (she speaks their language well and, though she never wavers in advancing America's position, they know she understands Russia's importance in the world). It's in the nature of Russians that they respected her as much for the former as the latter. They despise their weaselly critics, not the sincere ones. This, by the way, is rather a problem for British diplomacy, with its reputation for combining sucking up with backstabbing.

I urge you to watch the whole video. She demolishes President Obama without mentioning him once or directly attacking anything he has said or done. This woman is highly intelligent, streetwise and a fine, impassioned speaker but the reason I love America is that someone of that calibre can be applauded for speaking from the heart in terms like this;

Ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement. We have not believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well. We have not been envious of one another and jealous of each other’s success. Ours has been a belief in opportunity and a constant battle — long and hard — to extend the benefits of the American dream to all — without regard to circumstances of birth

and this (speaking passionately about education);

Self esteem comes from achievement, not from lax standards and false praise.

I long for the day when I can hear such sentiments expressed sincerely by British politicians. I know of no greater criticism of my own nation that I can only think of two who might ever do it; both of them on the margins of the Conservative Party and with little hope of advancement under its current, deplorable, leadership.

Or perhaps, sadly, there is one greater criticism; that the morals of the British electorate have degenerated so far, that such words would be received badly.

h/t Sean Linnane


I have been unfashionably fond of America since my days reading DC Comics and watching "Rawhide" on TV as a small boy. At university, I coined the word "yankophile" during a debate, noting how odd it was that we have the words "francophile", "russophile" and "sinophile", but no word for the love of our best friends. I love American popular culture (who doesn't?) and I feel more at home in New York than London. I enjoy and admire American literature. The greatest living writers in our language are all American (read this book if you think I am wrong), which gives the lie to the nasty, snobbish sneering of the Guardianisti.

So, as a confirmed yankophile, this was the most difficult story not to blog about during my recent purdah. It's disappointing (though not surprising) to someone who lived in Moscow for years and has Russian friends to find the Kremlin is still obsessing about unlikely exchanges of nuclear nastiness. But it's devastating to learn of what appears to be an un-nervingly wicked betrayal of America's most loyal ally.

I want to believe this story only shows just how un-American Obama is. Time will tell. In the meantime, it certainly accounts for Hilary Clinton's disproportionate reaction to the activities of Wikileaks*. She is a lady with more to hide than we ever imagined. With one nugget of  information, Wikileaks has shaken my faith in America in a way decades of Soviet propaganda (and pernicious Guardian sneers) could not. I wonder how many more such revelations are to come.

*Not blocked by the Great Firewall of China, whereas The Last Ditch now is. Hmm.