Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A typical Manchester scene

Manchester, Wilmslow Road (just opposite Owens park) approx. 7.20 a.m. Wednesday 31 st October. An arsehole clearly parked in the cycle path and on a double yellow line. He seems to be there most moenings. Like most Mancunian motorists he thinks a "cycle path" is really another name for a "car park". As I say, an arsehole.

Lickspittle Diplomacy

There can be few more disgusting spectacles that Kim Howells (was this why he joined the Labour Party?) standing next to the Saudi King Abdullah prattling on about "shared values". What shared values does any civilised person have with these obscurantist barbarians? It isn't just that they are medievalist misogynists , torturers and murderers (and racists). It's that they have imprisoned and tortured British subjects. But British diplomacy has come a long way since Palmerston. No gun-boats these days; nowadays its arse-licking. As Robert Fisk puts it in yesterday's Independent: "The awful truth is that we fete these people, we fawn on them, we supply them with fighter jets, whiskey, and whores". What on earth is anyone to think next time a British Minister talks about "human rights"? What on earth do Labour Wimmin think about this? (Remember Cherie Blair justifying the war in Afghanistan on "feminist" grounds? Where is she now? Or any of them?). Are we really meant to believe that Wahhabism is a force for moderation in the world? Have we forgotten where the nutters who blew up they twin towers mostly came from?

Here, also from the Independent, is a revealing insight into the values of the Saudis:

"...the notorious religious police enforce values so strictly that in March 2002 they allowed 14 schoolgirls to die when their school caught fire, rather than to allow them to leave the building without the proper Islamic dress..." Shared values?
(I see Miliband is shrewdly out of it. Is this really because of his rent-a-womb adoption in the USA or has he more sense than Howells?)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Pity the footmen

Dear God. It looks like they have been buggering the footmen again. On video. With cocaine. This really is the most compelling argument against republicanism; i.e. that this bunch of in-bred quarter-wits are an endless source of amusement.

Scotland's social democracy

Ah, the poor English. Oppressed by the iniquitous Barnett Formula. Of all the injustices in all the bars in all the must be the worst. Yet Alex Salmond looked pretty relaxed about this on the Marr show this morning. He didn’t seem that bothered about Barnett. I’m not an economist, but if an independent Scotland had its oil revenue (£1 billion a month) and its taxpayers didn’t have to contribute towards Trident renewal and Labour’s various wars might not that go a long way? The remedy proposed by the Tories (excluding Scottish MP’s from decisions affecting only England) is in a way a logical solution to the “West Lothian Question”; but suppose Labour win the next election yet there is a majority of Tory MP’s in England. In other words, there could be a Tory majority in the “English Grand Committee” (making Cameron in effect the English First Minister) and a Labour majority in the (UK) House of Commons. I am sure this is part of the attraction of all this for the Tories who always do better in England than elsewhere (of course they also want to play the “Scottish card” against Brown who is reduced to endlessly bleating on about his “Britishness”). But I can't see why the Tory solution should be preferable to independence (which it will surely hasten) with both countries controlling their own revenue (as proposed by Salmond). As Salmond suggested this morning, of the two countries the one which might find it most difficult to go its own way is England. To me Scotland looks more progressive and outward-looking and pro-European than England. Which of the two is most prone to introverted xenophobic Euroscepticism, nostalgia for empire, and rampant neo-liberalism? As Ian McWhirter remarked in the Guardian the other day “…this SNP administration is implementing the most progressive political agenda seen in Britain for three decades”. And it’s popular. Only a few days ago I read about a scheme in deprived areas piloting universal free school meals. And in England? The top priority is abolishing inheritance tax. We should learn from the Scots...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The gravy train rolls on

Private Eye reports that the diminutive "socialist" Ian McCartney, former Chair of the Labour Party, has taken a job with US nuclear corporation Fluor for £110,000 a year. Fluor is described as "essentially a Republican firm"; its president of "global public affairs" is an active member of Orange County Republicans, and the company has given financial support to Bush. And Martin O'Neill, a Labour MP until 2005 and a "friend of Gordon Brown" has taken a job as paid adviser to The Washington Group (another "Republican-oriented" corporation and one which has done well out of Iraq "reconstruction"). It is unclear what their duties are, or how onorous they are. I suspect a large part of it involves making introductions, Hoyle-style.

Of course, the one that takes the biscuit is Sir John Bourn, who has resigned as head of the National Audit Office after the Eye uncovered details of his profligacy with public money, in particular, it seems, a taste for expensive oyster lunches and numerous overseas holidays (sorry, "official visits"). The Guardian laconically reports that his job "...gave him unqualified powers of oversight over public spending, a position which required him to be watchful for signs of extravagance or corruption...".

It was Tom Leher, wasn't it, who said, after the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger in 1973, that political satire was "obsolete"?

Friday, October 26, 2007

In the pay of the arms trade

Doug Hoyle was MP for Warringon North before he went to the House of Lords. Now it transpires that back in 2005 Hoyle took money to introduce an arms dealer (sorry, an “arms company lobbyist”) to the Government Minister in charge of weapons procurement (the Guardian has the story). The Lords code of conduct requires Hoyle to have declared to the Minister that he was in the pay of the lobbyist. On these occasions politicians generally suffer acute memory loss and Hoyle is true to form: he told the Guardian he “did not know” if he had made the required declaration. It isn’t just cash-for-introductions, I mean that’s shabby enough…but a lobbyist for the arms trade? Is it possible to stoop any lower than that? Doug Hoyle would have not been my first choice if I’d had to guess which MP it was - if it had been Mandelson or Milburn I would be wholly unsurprised. Why do they do it? He can’t need the money (I don’t suppose he’s hugely wealthy but he must be comfortably-off). All very sad, in a way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Above the Law

Yesterday Yates of the Yard made it perfectly clear in his evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) that he thinks there is a trade in honours and that the police inquiry was deliberately obstructed by Downing Street. He didn’t say so in so many words, but that without any shade of doubt was his meaning. But it looks to me as if Yates is being set up as a patsy. The PASC exudes a world-weary phlegmatic tolerance vis-a-vis the illegal sale of honours; what they are outraged about is the police investigation. The rozzers have strayed onto their patch; apparently unaware that it is a “no go” area. Is Yates really such a bloody fool as to imagine that the rule of law applies to Government Ministers? Tony Wright, the PASC Chairman, smugly presides over this distasteful farce. Shame.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Two privatisation scandals

Two privatisation scandals caught my attention this week. One from an article in Thursday's Guardian by Seamus Milne. Primary care trusts are to be encouraged by the government "to buy in advice" from 14 selected companies "on health needs, contracts and local provision". This will "pave the way for private companies to decide the range of services provided and use their access to information to pick the most profitable services to bid for in other areas". Allyson Pollock - who has written extensively on the PFI fraud - says it is "the last piece in the jigsaw" that opens the door to "a US-style health mantainance model". The companies selected include United Heath, the biggest healthcare organisation in the USA which makes billions of dollars each year by "cherry-picking patients and treatments"; in 2004 its chief executive resigned after a share option scandal (after paying himself $125 million). Each year 18,000 Americans die because they do not have medical insurance. Yet this is the model which bedazzles PFI enthusiasts. Already PFI has landed the NHS with a total bill of £50 billion for new hospital buildings, and each year the NHS pays £700 million to the PFI profiteers. Meanwhile it is clear that privatisation plays its part in the MRSA infection scandal (if you have part-time temporary badly paid cleaning staff what the hell do you expect?). But such is the power of the sub-Thatcherite dogma driving PFI that nothing will shake New Labour's attachment to it.

Then, in Private Eye it is reported that the previously government owned Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) - which invests UK aid in firms in developing countries - has been sold off to a company called Actis (created by former CDC managers!). They picked up the deal for £373,000 (which, says Private Eye, was "a bargain price for managing, without facing any competition, £1 billion of state funds"). In the following year Actis reported profits of £14 million ("..and that was after the firms 192 employees had been paid an average of $220,000; the senior partner Paul Fletcher "trousered" $1.8 million). This is taxpayers money. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The company is worth more than £200 million and possibly as much as £800 million: "In two years the 20 or so partners in Actis have seen their money grow by at least 5000%...". Surely this is something the Serious fraud Office should be investigating? It strikes me as a lot more serious than "cash-for-peerages". The Minister responsible was nice guy Hilary Benn. Well done to the Eye for reporting this.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ming the Merciless Mercilessly Ditched

Mike Hancock MP says: "I think he was shafted by a complete shower of shits". That would be Cable and Hughes, who have been bad-mouthing Ming for some time, and who appeared on Newsnight last night looking like a couple of pallbearers. It has all happened a bit sharpish, I think. I had expected he would go after Christmas if the poll ratings were still poor. Obviously, there has been some skullduggery. (Still Ming is no innocent, he played Mark Antony to Julius Kennedy not so long ago. He who lives by the sword?). Ming is obviously peeved about it. He is reported to have said: "Sod the lot of them" and that is delicately described as a "paraphrase". The most likely successor is Nick Clegg. Overall I think this is better news for Labour than for the Tories.

Tories: a case of premature congratulation?

Andrew Rawnsley made four good points in his Observer column.

One: "For a government at the midterm of a third term, Labour's poll ratings are really not at all bad. The main traffic in votes has been between the Tories and the Lib Dems".

Two: "...Gordon Brown's reputation has taken a severe hit. But he is still well ahead of David Cameron when pollsters ask who would make the best Prime Minister".

Three: "He needs to prove that he can be a good governor. That means spending less time obsessing over how he can wrong-foot his opponents and much more time thinking about how he can put the country right. That demands more statesmanship and less gamesmanship". Or less gimmickry, as I have argued before.

Four: "As for the Tories, sensible members of their frontbench know that their party would be foolish to get drunk on the idea that Labour is now doomed. It is only a fortnight since the Tories were trembling before polls putting them more than 10 points behind. A lot of senior Tories think they have had a lucky escape..." There will probably not be an election until 2009 and as Jackie Ashley said in yesterday's Guardian " ...if a week is a long time in politics, then how long is a couple of years?" Cameron and Osborne seems overly prone to premature congratulation...

With eerie premonition Ashley also mused: "There's something piquant about the fact that Brown's best friend in politics outside Labour is the man who could decide his future: by stepping down, Campbell could well revive his party, and with it Labour's poll ratings..." Well, now it has happened; although of course Ming did not go for that reason. It takes the heat off Gordon for the moment at least. The Tories cannot bellow about the election that wasn't endlessly...and to lie about how they would have welcomed an election a few weeks ago (when is someone going to point out that Cameron is no less duplicitous on this score than Brown?).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Spoilt Brat Tax Abolished

Effectively, inheritance tax has been abolished. What Brown has done is to keep the individual starting point for inheritance tax at £300,000 but to allow couples to automatically transfer this to their partner. It means that, for example, a widow will have a double allowance of £600,000 (rising to £700,000 by 2010). Spoiled brats will inherit £700,000 without paying a penny. Oh happy day.
One argument commonly heard against the tax, is that it involves “double taxing”. There are three reasons why this is not a good argument. Firstly, “double taxing” is not uncommon; every time I pay VAT I pay with income already taxed; inheritance tax is not unique in this respect. Secondly, it simply isn’t true that, in the case of inheritance tax, this is wealth previously taxed. Property price inflation delivers a wholly unearned and unmerited windfall which has nothing to do with hard work and thrift but is about having enough cash to invest in property (which many working class people do not have and so they are excluded from this bonanza) and being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Why should this go untaxed while the actual earned income of school dinner ladies and cleaners is taxed? Thirdly, it is those who inherit, not those who bequeath, who are taxed; and they have not previously been taxed on the wealth which they inherit purely as an accident of birth. It isn’t only the super-rich who benefit from inherited wealth. The middle and upper middle classes do so too; and this widens the gulf between them and those below.
Politaholic would like to keep the tax, and pretty much at £300,000 (or better still, replace it with an annual tax on land values). But I must concede that the pragmatic case for raising the threshold is strong. The tax seems to be resented to an extraordinary exaggerated degree by Middle England for whom, of course, the great God and sole topic of conversation is property values. (The Financial Times on 10/10/07 reported that “a quarter of households in the 30 marginal seats forming the next election battleground are theoretically liable for inheritance tax – a levy paid by just 7 per cent of UK estates”. What is more that is an underestimation since it is based on figures from 2000 and since then house prices have risen dramatically. It is pretty compelling electoral arithmetic). The tax is also easily avoided by the judicial use of trusts and gifts and various other devices (making it, to some extent, a tax on those with less financial nous). What’s more the tax doesn’t really raise much in terms of government revenue. Currently inheritance tax raises about £205 billion (0.5% of tax revenue). It will raise even less now. The Financial Times says that: “Average house prices in Cornwall, Southend, Milton Keynes, Bournemouth, Norfolk, Devon and York have risen to between £200,000 and £250,000, pushing many homes above the £300,000 threshold”. But this is still a fair bit below a million quid, or £700,000 for that matter. Even from a pragmatic point of view, Brown did not have to push the threshold up quite so high; and had he not done so he would have had an opportunity to portray the Tories as the defenders of undeserved privilege, which of course they are. But then, in this matter, so is he.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

OK-Yah-Politics at PMQ's

Politaholic has just watched PMQ's (via the Downing Street web-site). It is widely being interpreted as a Cameron triumph; poor Gordon had to endure a kicking. I'm not so sure. Gordon Brown was fairly restrained and focused relentlessly on matters of policy. Cameron and Osborne - to my possibly jaundiced eye - looked like a bunch of braying Hooray Henrys whooping it up as they closed in on their fox. The joke about the "bottle bank" from a Tory backbencher was excruciating and the exaggerated laughter from the Tory benches almost made one embarrassed for them. Cameron's performance lacked any finesse, and certainly lacked any gravitas. He sounded inebriated with triumphalism. One could easily see him smashing the crockery in drunken Bullingdon mode and calling for a wench to bring him another pitcher of ale. It was harder to see him as Prime Minister; both he and Osborne looked lightweight to me. When Brown, at one point, retorted: "This (Cameron) is the man who wanted to end Punch and Judy..." he clearly had a point. It was not so much yah-boo politics as OK-yah-boo politics. Brown was obviously on the back-foot (and of course the idea that the polls had nothing to do with deciding not to call an election is tripe) but on the whole I think he made a good fist of it. In my view, on this showing, the Tories will not retain their advantage. Loud-mouthed and boastful Ra-Ra's are not really very popular. As they say, you can take the boy out of Eton, but...

Who wears the pants?

Oh, dear. The underpants - last seen on John Major - have reappeared. Gordon will not, I think, be amused. Are things really that bad?

Gwen and Dave

Gwendoline has designed a new handbag. Sorry, that’s Samantha Gwendoline Sheffield, daughter of the Viscountess Astor and the 8th Baronet of Sheffield. She grew up in Normandy Hall (shown here) in North Lincolnshire (it has a 350-acre estate). Times were hard. Mother had to take in washing…no, not really. Now Samantha has designed a handbag. Sam is creative director (whatever that is) at Smythson of Bond Street. In this capacity she has designed Christmas cards at £55 for a box of ten (at Woolworth you can buy 40 for 99p) and a £300 leather wallet. And now she has designed a handbag – a "Nancy bag" (!) - priced at £950. According to the Smythson catalogue the bag is “…handmade in a luxuriously soft calf leather…lined in a rich, dark mauve satin…” Obviously worth every penny. The Smythson catalogue is very interesting. Did you know you can buy four “watermarked White Wove cards with a labrador dog motif” for a mere £26? A “Panama silver pencil” from £7 (for one!)? A “leather make-up brush roll complete with professional brushes and tweezers” for only £275? That’s my Christmas shopping planned.
Oh, and Samantha is married to plain “Dave” Cameron, Tory Leader, the “ordinary bloke” who "understands" ordinary people…He even saw one once… at a distance...through the school gates at Eton...

Politaholic is the greatest

Modesty is my middle name. See this. I am the champ. I have won the Manchester Blog Award for best political blog. Ah yes, I'm the greatest. I sting like a butterfly and float like a bee.

Seriously, I think there are better Manchester politics blogs, but I'm not complaining. I shall boast and brag about this for ever. My colleagues at work are already sick and tired of hearing about it. How they will suffer...

Many thanks to Manchizzle who (I think) organised the event. It sounds like everyone had a good time (aided no doubt by adequate quantities of beer). And thanks to the the misguided fools who nominated/voted for me. The cheque is in the post.

I'd also like to thank my agent, my manager, my body double (Brad: he's my spitting image), and of course God....blub blub...
Here’s a list of this year’s other winners:

Best Personal Blog: Single Mother on the Verge
Best New Blog: Rent Girl
Best Writing on a Blog: Day of Moustaches

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cocaine Galore

It's a cocaine version of "Whisky Galore". According to Tuesday's Guardian the Mosquito Coast is benefiting - in an extraordinary way - from the "war against drugs". The drugs are smuggled from Columbia to the USA, but when the Columbian drug runners fear they will be intercepted by the US coast guard, they ditch their drugs. Bales of cocaine are washed ashore, and previously poverty stricken inhabitants of Bluefields, on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast, reap the dividend, selling the drugs back to the dealers (at a fraction of the market value) but at considerable profit: "some locals who used to live in rags live it up at posh hotels...others stock-up on wide screen TV's and expensive beer". Fantastic. Uneveven and combined development?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Brown/Cameron on the Marr Show

Odd old game politics. This morning on the Marr show we saw the two party Leaders lying through their teeth. Brown said that the latest opinion polls had no bearing on his decision not to call an election and denied that Labour had over the previous fortnight been stoking election fever to try to destailise the Tories. Cameron said he would have welcomed an election and that this has consistently been his view since Brown became Prime Minister. He made it sound as if, a fortnight ago, he would have been overjoyed by an election. The audience for Marr is, I should think, politically literate, so no one watching this believed any of it. I don't suppose either Brown or Cameron expected anyone to believe it. We know, and they know, and we know that they know, and they know that we know that they know, and... But that is how the game is played. When you think about it, it is very odd.

Having said that Cameron came off best this morning. Brown looked shifty. He also sounded arrogant: we would have won an election, we will win an election. This is always a mistake, I think. It's better to take the "well, it's up to the British people to decide, and we take nothing for granted, but..." line. It is also thoroughly disingenuous to say that he didn't want an election "on competence" but wanted to be judged on the changes he will make. Cameron carried off his fibbing with greater aplomb (he is an Old Etonian after all); his charge that Brown is treating the electorate "as if they are fools" is a damaging line of attack. He also has the advantage that he has actually been saying that he wants an election, even if a fortnight ago he didn't mean it.

A lot of Brown's reputation depends on his being different from Blair, not obsessed with spin, thinking long-term instead of in terms of tomorrow's headlines, free of gimmicks and publicity stunts. This image has taken a bit of a battering over the last week. But there is still time to put things back on an even keel.

Purnell does it again

A cock-up; but Brown lives to fight another day

Gordon Brown looks a lot less like a master strategist this morning. The polls – and in particular polling in the marginals where it seems Charlie Ashcroft’s money is having its effect - has persuaded Brown not to hold an early election. Osborne’s promise to raise the threshold on inheritance tax to £1 million has apparently gone down well in the prosperous suburbs. The photo-op in Iraq did not, I think, play well either. The Conservatives are cock-a-hoop. Iain Dale is wetting himself (Brown he says is “frit” and “a big girl’s blouse”). This morning’s Sunday Times describes Brown as “all mouth and no trousers”. He is being accused of “bottling it” (Eton Dave says Brown has shown “weakness and indecision”). Postponing the election may well be wise; if he goes after four years in the spring of 2009 he has about a year and a half to get it right (being a card-carrying coward myself I've always though "courage" - about which Brown has written enthusiastically - a much over-rated attribute). Maybe the voters will have forgotten about all this brouhaha by then, although a reputation as a “bottler” is the sort of thing that can stick. The big mistake of course was to set the hare running in the first place. He should have ruled out an election a fortnight ago. It is a spectacular own goal. Brown’s weakness for gimmickry (from someone supposedly “above” spin) seems to have back-fired. Still, he who runs away lives to fight another day…

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Idiot Cyclist

The Times has a story about a cyclist who collided with a pedestrian and killed him. The cyclist - on a mountain bike - was careering downhill at 25 MPH (that's about 40 KMH which is very fast for a bicycle) on the pavement. The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death (Politaholic would not have been so generous).
Even cyclists can be idiots.
But I suppose - without engaging in what Slugger O'Toole would call "whataboutery" - one should bear in mind that reckless motorists cause far more deaths on the road. I think most cyclists are fairly responsible. Politaholic also sometimes rides on the pavement; but when I do I always bear in mind that the pedestrain has the right of way, and I slow down for pedestrians, and if there are a lot of pedestrians I get off the bike and push it. But sometimes, if the pavement if free of pedestrians, and the only alternative is a very busy road, riding on the pavement makes sense so long as you keep your eyes peeled and travel at a reasonable speed. The same is true with red lights. I often go through them. I know it annoys motorists but it is often the safest thing to do; the alternative is to set off when the lights change alongside white van drivers and 4by4's who will turn sharply left (knocking you off your bike) or - on the other side of the road - run the red light to turn right (also knocking you off your bike). So if the road is clear it makes sense for the cyclist to get ahead of the game and stay safe; play by the rules and you could end up dead.
Politaholic is also annoyed by pedestrians who walk on the cycle path when there is a pavement alongside (There is a stretch of cycle path in Manchester which runs along Oxford Road through Whitworth Park where this is routine; it is common for a pedestrain to stroll onto the cycle path without looking while talking into a mobile phone. As I say there is a pavement alongside. What the fuck is wrong with using the pavement..?)
But all this has nothing to do with the case in hand: the idiot, reckless, thoughtless, selfish bastard of a cyclist who killed a man...

Politaholic Nominated for Manchester Blogs

Yes, yes...I'm vain enough to blow my own trumpet. Politaholic has been short-listed for the Best Political Blog in the Manchester Blog Awards 2007!!! (I didn't know about it until Yankunian told me). Recognition at last. The others on the shortlist are Normblog, Skipper, and The Asparagus.
If I were a betting man I would not bet the farm on Politaholic. The front-runners must be Skipper and Normblog. Both are very good blogs and frankly better than my own (Normblog I do not agree with, on Iraq/Israel etc I am prettty much at the other end of the political spectrum, but one can't deny that it is a good blog; he posts almost every day and at length on a range of topics, and although a tough antagonist avoids vulgar abuse. Skipper is a lot more congenial to me as he is an independent-minded Labour supporter, also a very good blog. The Arparagus is new to me; but I have just linked to it and shall follow it in future.

I suspect in truth that there are not that many political blogs based in Manchester (possibly there is only four...?!)

Sadly, it doesn't look as if I will make the event at Matt & Phreds Jazz Club at 64 Tib Street on Wednesday at 7.00 p.m. (I will try).

Anyway, thanks to whoever was mad enough to nominate me.

Finklestein OTT

Richard Dawkins has set up an organisation to promote atheism in the USA (where only one Congressman dares to admit to being an atheist). He says:

"When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told - religious Jews anyway - than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place".

When I read this in the Guardian I thought that it wouldn't be long before he was accussed of anti-semitism. But it is a perfectly unexceptional and reasonable statement. Perhaps he exaggerates a tad when he says that the Jewish lobby "more or less monopolise" American foreign policy; it would be more measured to say they have huge influence upon American foreign policy. But that is a small point.

Now comes the inevitable...Daniel Finkelstein in The Times accuses Dawkin's of saying that "Jews control world power" (for all the world as if Dawkins were peddling The Protocols of The Elders of Zion!) and he - Finklestein - is "a little bit frightened". Frightened of what exactly? All Dawkins has done is to say something, by way of an aside, which is plainly true. Ah, but it not permissible to voice this truth (as Stephen Watt and John Mearsheimer discovered when they published their essay on the Jewish Lobby in The London Review of Books). I suppose we will be told that it is not what Dawkins says but what he implies that matters. But it doesn't imply anything; on the evidence of this statement alone Dawkins could be an admirer of the Jewish Lobby, and could envy their wonderful organisation and persuasiveness, which atheists should emulate. Possibly he thinks the Jewish Lobby does have excessive influence and possibly also he thinks that influence baleful (as I do). But this is not what he says or implies here; and in any case it is a perfectly reasonable point of view. I am less frightened by Dawkins than I am by the way the Israel Lobby goes about trying to silence critics by way of innuendo and smear and bullying.