I am saddened to write that former Scottish Labour MP Jimmy Wray passed away today after a lengthy illness. He was 75. Or perhaps 78. He was a lot like Satchel Paige in that respect.
Jimmy was elected to the British House of Commons in 1987 in the constituency of Glasgow Provan. Later renamed Glasgow Baillieston, Wray was re-elected in 1992, 1997 and 2001 before stepping down in 2005 following a stroke.
You might notice that I am referring to him by his first name. The reason for this is that I worked as an intern for him in the spring of 1995 during my final year as an undergraduate. Carleton University had an academic exchange with the University of Leeds. In the fall semester, students from Leeds came to Ottawa to work for Canadian MPs and then we went over the pond in January to work with British MPs.
Initially, I was assigned to Tessa Jowell, a close ally of Tony Blair and New Labour who later became part of his cabinet. Unfortunately, the placement did not work out as I had hoped and my work there did not meet the academic requirements of the program. So I requested a change in placement and soon found myself assigned to Jimmy Wray.
Jimmy was everything that New Labour wasn’t - bombastic, unrefined, politically incorrect and unabashedly socialist.
To say that James Aloysius Joseph Patrick Gabriel Wray was a character would be like saying Babe Ruth could call his shot. There was absolutely no pretension in the man.
How could there be? He had a grade school education and graduated from the school of hard knocks as a boxer. But this would serve him well as a local councillor in Glasgow, a regional councillor in Strathclyde and later in the Commons.
Although Jimmy was die in the wood socialist who believed that no man owned the sky or the soil, he did have some conservative views when it came to matters such as abortion and drug use. He also vociferously opposed the fluoridation of water going back to his days in local and regional politics. Jimmy successfully blocked implementation of fluoridation in court by arguing it violated the 1946 Water Act and the 1968 Medicine Act. Jimmy was no lawyer, but he possessed an intrinsic understanding of the law and could explain to the working man, preferably over a beer.
When I went to work for Jimmy he had three rules:
1. You’re the boss.
2. Don’t worry and don’t hurry
3. A man who never made a mistake is a man who never made anything.
I still remember that third rule when I find myself in the doldrums.
Needless to say, I thrived under those conditions and had some extraordinary experiences along the way.
The most memorable experience was the week we spent in Strasbourg, France attending a Council of Europe meeting.
I was supposed to spend Easter Weekend with Jimmy in Glasgow. However, that fell through when he initiated divorce proceedings against his second wife not long after meeting Laura, the woman who would become his third wife. Jimmy was smitten with Laura often singing, “Tell Laura I Love Her”.
In any case, Jimmy regretted I wasn’t able to come to Glasgow, “Comrade, I feel bad. How would you like to spend a week in Strasbourg with me?” To which I replied, “Uh, OK.” And yes, Jimmy did refer to me as Comrade.
So Jimmy and I drove from London to Dover, took the Chunnel to Calais, France, then drove to Reims while listening to his Leonard Nimoy album including his take on The Beatles’ classic “Michelle”. It was at this time that I introduced him to the music of Harry Chapin.
We spent the night at a hotel in Reims watching re-runs of Johnny Staccato, Music Detective starring John Cassavettes. Outside the hotel were Front du Nationale supporters chanting, “Mort de la Juifs.” That put some chills down my spine.
We left the car in Reims and took the train to Strasbourg where some Spanish youngsters called me “Gringo” because of the Canadian flag decal on my briefcase. The Canadian Coast Guard had just seized a Spanish fishing trawler in Canadian waters much to the delight of British fishermen. I managed to drive the Spaniards away when I made reference to their unpopular Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez.
The Council of Europe is essentially a holiday for European parliamentarians. A few take it seriously but for most it’s party time. So it was unusual for an MP to take a staff person along, never mind a lowly intern and a Canadian intern at that. The Labour MPs and Lords didn’t like it and several made a point of trying to make things as unpleasant as possible for me.
I didn’t take kindly to it and let Jimmy know. Well, I don’t know what Jimmy said to them but those MPs and Lords did a 180 and treated me with the utmost respect for the rest of the week. I can’t imagine any other MP doing that on my behalf and I am forever grateful for it.
There was also the time when Jimmy organized a luncheon in the wake of calls for boxing to be banned in Britain. Our luncheon attracted the likes of Frank Bruno, Prince Naseem as well as Frank Warren, Don King’s British partner and Jimmy’s old friend. This luncheon included a scrum with the press that I had organized. One of the Conservative MPs invited to the luncheon did some grandstanding and acted as if he had organized the thing. Jimmy looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, comrade. I’ll get him.”
Well, this Conservative MP wanted to speak at the luncheon and Jimmy said no. Not only that, but he had me speak instead.
I spent a little over two months with Jimmy, but they are amongst the best months of my life. We did not have much contact with each other after I had returned to Canada. He had hoped to bring me back to the UK following the ‘97 election as a permanent staff member but EU rules rendered that infeasible and nothing ever came of it. Of course, I can’t imagine he would have been too pleased with my change in political inclination.
His health took a turn for the worse when he suffered a stroke in 2004 which forced his retirement from Parliament. I did correspond with one of his sons who told me that he had recovered and was making jewellery which had put him in better spirits.
I regret that we did not get together one last time, but I will always treasure the time we had together because my life is the better for it.
President met with anti-Tea Party IRS union chief the day before agency targeted Tea Party.
The IRS scandal means House Republicans can defund Obamacare for good.
When does it ever stop?
But now liberals have joined a crusade that, if successful, would effectively legalize sex with 14-year-olds in Florida.
Millennials are going out of their way to deserve their sad fate.
UPDATE: The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza reports that the Obama DoJ wanted to be able to spy on Fox News reporter James Rosen for an essentially unlimited period of time and not disclose their activities to him. After two judges rejected Holder’s claims, he finally got a judge to go along with him. Judge Royce Lamberth owes Rosen a major apology.
So Holder wants to tell us that he recused himself from the AP phone records scandal, but now we learn (from NBC News of all places) that he personally went on the attack against Fox News Reporter James Rosen.
Things just went from bad to worse for Attorney General Eric Holder.
Last week, we noted that Holder was setting Deputy Attorney General James Cole up as the fall guy for the AP scandal. Obama said he had “complete confidence” in Holder and it looked like, once again, the attorney general would survive the storm.
Last night, NBC reported that Holder signed off on the search warrant for James Rosen’s e-mails:
Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.
It gets even worse. As Hot Air noted, Holder may have perjured himself. In testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee last week, he said:
In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material. This is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.
As Hot Air pointed out, this could get really bad:
There is no other way to view this except as a lie. Even if Holder wasn’t under oath, that would constitute a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. It certainly should produce at least a resignation, and almost assuredly would require the appointment of a special prosecutor, especially since the next person down in the organization, James Cole, is suspected of doing the same thing with reporters.
It turns out that Holder was under oath, and this wasn’t even the first time he’s potentially perjured himself. Holder was accused of perjury during the Fast and Furious investigation when it was reported that he had been briefed on the matter in 2010, but told Congress he had heard about it in 2011.
But the left has joined in, too. When people on the right are calling for the resignation of a member of Obama’s cabinet, it’s just another day in Washington. When Salon is publishing an article titled Eric Holder versus journalism and The Huffington Post uses its home page to demand his resignation, it’s gotten pretty bad.
This may be the first time that Sarah Palin and The Huffington Post have agreed on something. Is a resignation coming? The Obama administration has been known to do Friday evening bad-news dumps. There’s still time…
The Boy Scouts of America voted to lift the ban on openly gay Scouts on Thursday afternoon. Their rule forbidding gay scoutmasters and adult leaders is still in place.
The decision is not at all surprising. The Scouts faced extreme pressure from groups like GLAAD and Scouts for Equality to lift the ban.
Scouts for Equality proved a formidable fighting force in the battle against the ban. The group, founded by 21-year-old Zach Wahls, the son of two lesbian mothers, has 15,000 members, including 20 full-time employees dedicated to the cause. Scouts for Equality zeroed in on 200 councils and even hired Global Strategy Group, a communications firm, to drill in its message.
GLAAD aided Scouts for Equality in its cause by helping to gather thousands of signatures via Change.com. It also focused on churches and faith communities, which represent the largest group of donors to the BSA, some of whom the organization risks losing.
In addition, cases like that of Ryan Andresen helped to publicize the cause. Andresen, an openly gay teen from Moraga, Calif., applied to become an Eagle Scout but was rejected solely because of his sexual orientation. Andresen’s case became national news and he even appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show.
The Family Research Council (FRC) led the defense of the ban. Senior Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder headed the Boy Scout task force dedicated to upholding the policy.
“People who join Scouts know what the rules are. They also know there are many alternative organizations for their boys in which prohibitions against homosexuality do not exist,” Schwarzwalder said in a statement on the Family Research Council website. “Just don’t ask the 2.7 million boys in the BSA… to compromise their moral convictions and permanently alter the very nature of Scouting.”
In retrospect, it seemed fairly inevitable that the BSA would vote to end the ban. The dedication of gay activists to the cause was enormous. With statements like “they might as well take America out of their name,” by GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro, it was easy to see how so many people were won over to the cause.
It’s a shame to think that this decision by the BSA might be due to the immense pressure that mounted before the vote. I hope that the 61 percent of the 1,400 members of the BSA that voted honestly believed they were doing what was best for the organization and the boys, and didn’t merely feel that they had to cave to gay rights activists.
Either way, this is far from over. With the ban on gay Scouts gone, expect gay Scoutmasters to be next on the agenda for LGBT activists.
According to the BBC’s Annual Country Ratings World Survey, Israel is the fourth least popular country in the world. It ranks ahead of only Iran, North Korea and Pakistan.
Germany ranks as the world’s most popular country with Canada in second.
Upon closer scrutiny, many of the countries surveyed are in the Muslim world: Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia. Only 1% of Egyptians have a positive view of Israel.
Other countries surveyed outside the Muslim world have had a long history of anti-Semitism: Russia, Germany, Poland, France and the United Kingdom. Indeed, 72% of UK respondents have a negative view of Israel which is the highest total in Europe.
Sadly, Canada and Australia did not fare much better with mostly positive responses of 25% and 16%, respectively.
Many countries with little contact with Israel viewed the Jewish State in negative terms. Only 3% of Japanese surveyed indicated they had a positive view of Israel.
The United States was the only country where more than 50% of those surveyed had a positive view of Israel. Several sub-Saharan African countries had generally positive views of Israel - Ghana (44%), Kenya (42%) and Nigeria (35%). Perhaps Israel’s airlift of Ethiopian Jews during the famine in the mid-1980s could be responsible for this enduring goodwill or possibly its good relations with the newly independent Southern Sudan. Unfortunately, these countries are the exception to the rule.
Sadly, the world’s oldest hatred endures with no signs of dying.
Even before the IRS scandal reminded Americans of the unenjoyable prospect of that agency becoming involved in American’s health care decisions, Obamacare was becoming an increasing political problem for the president and for Democrats.
An Economist/YouGov poll released this week suggests just how big a problem it could be.
Some selected results:
In the latest case of buyers remorse, the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers has called for the repeal of Obamacare, citing risks not only to their members’ health plans but to their members’ ability to find work.
Don’t be surprised if you didn’t hear the story; the media doesn’t like reporting anything which might tend to hurt Obamacare. In fact the Sacramento Bee newspaper took down the roofers’ union statement from their web page. It used to be here. A Google search of one of the first sentences in the roofers’ announcement doesn’t turn up a single “mainstream” media story on the first three pages of results. (I stopped there.)
A couple of foreign policy questions may have interesting political implications, especially for the 2016 presidential race:
H/T to National Review Online
As London reels from the beheading of a British soldier, 1,200 miles away in Stockholm, Muslims, er, youths have been rioting in the streets of Stockholm and elsewhere in Sweden for the past four nights.
News outlets such as Reuters are focusing on the economic policies of Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt who leads the Moderate Party which is the country’s main conservative party. Reinfeldt’s administration which came to power in 2006 has cut taxes and reduced state benefits. While Sweden’s economic growth is amongst the best in Europe, it “has the fastest growing inequality of any OECD nation.”
But are these “youths” Keynesians in the rough?
This chain of events began ostensibly with the police shooting of a 69-year old man wielding a machete. But as Michael Graham notes:
Maybe if we knew the name of this “69-year old wielding a machete”, maybe that would help? But I searched 10 news stories and never found his name. But I did find a lot of coverage of some other fellas in Europe recently wielding a machete. They cut the head off of a British soldier in the streets of London yesterday.
Sweden’s Muslim population nearly doubled between 1998 and 2011 (3.2% to 6.1%). The time has probably come from Sweden to limit Muslim immigration and deport those (without Swedish citizenship) who were involved in these riots. Otherwise, the situation will devolve to what is occurring in Britain where you have the spectre native born Britons coming under the influence of radical Islam and attacking their own country as we saw with the London Underground Bombings in 2005 and with the murder of Lee Rigby in broad daylight on Wednesday.
So Quin Hillyer is throwing his hat into the ring and is running for Congress.
I have enjoyed Quin’s contributions to The American Spectator whether the subject be politics or sport. Quin and I have had a couple of spirited disagreements, but we have also enjoyed some pleasant exchanges as well.
Win or lose, Quin will pursue elected office with the same passion which he has pursued his writing.
All the best you, Quin. I can only hope that The American Spectator’s loss will be Congress’ gain.
In my initial reaction to the terrorist attack yesterday in London was not to be surprised if the perpetrators were British born. One of the two men responsible for murdering British soldier Lee Rigby yesterday has been identified as Michael Abdebolajo. Of Nigerian descent, he was born and raised in Britain and is a convert to Islam.
Abdebolajo has been on MI-5’s radar for years. In 2006, he was arrested along with three others outside the Old Bailey. A man was being tried for calling on Muslims to kill British soldiers. Abdebolajo said at the time that it was his right to urge people to “behead those who insult Islam.”
Well, yesterday he took it upon himself to carry out that edict. Or fatwa, if you will.
Ross Kaminsky recommended that Britain start deporting Muslims. Even if Britain began deporting foreign born clerics who would spread jihad, it might be too late. The problem goes much deeper when the perpetrators are British born and raised,
Lois Lerner, the official at the center of the IRS scandal, has been put on administrative leave.
The Washington Post is reporting:
Lois Lerner, the director of the tax-exempt organizations division at the Internal Revenue Service, has been placed on administrative leave, sources in Congress and the administration confirm.
Federal workers are given pay and benefits when put on administrative leave.
Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel has selected Ken Corbin as the acting director, of the exempt organizations division. Corbin is currently the deputy director of the submission processing, wage and investment division.
Administrative leave is not anywhere near the same as firing. Then again since Lerner is a career employee, it’s practically impossible to fire her. Either way, I don’t think this will deter Darrell Issa from dragging her back to another hearing.
That was the takeaway from a discussion of his new book The End Is Near, and It’s Going to Be Awesome. In it, the National Review ace noted at Thursday’s event hosted by the Cato Institute that fiscal crisis is inevitable as a matter of simple arithmetic. He pegs the “national aggregate fiscal overhang,” including state and local debts and unfunded liabilities, around $140 trillion, and fast approaching the combined value of every asset on earth.
But Williamson insists there is a silver lining. “I think this is a good opportunity for us. I hate to take the approach of Rahm Emanuel, ‘Never let a crisis go to waste,’ but if you have one coming, you should take advantage of it.”
Present fiscal projections generally assume the interest rate, and with it Uncle Sam’s cost of borrowing, will remain close to zero. I would note that the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented expansion of the monetary base in response to the Great Recession makes that virtually impossible. Williamson says that once the crisis hits, which will be soon, political leaders will have to start making tough choices about what to fund—and treasury bond holders will win out over social security claimants. “They [politicians] will do the right thing once they’ve exhausted every other option, and the good news is they are running out of options, and we should offer them alternatives.”
To wit, he proposes voluntary arrangements in the mold of personal insurance and mutual aid societies, like the fraternal lodges of early 20th-century America. This is where preparation can meet opportunity. Invoking Friedrich Hayek, the namesake of the auditorium housing the event, and Ludwig von Mises, both Austrian economists, Williamson said incentives and property rights are not enough to encapsulate capitalism, or present it in a compelling manner that will win over skeptics and open minds unfamiliar with the philosophy of liberty.
He called for a new vision of markets, one that reflects their true nature as a community built on rich, personal relationships, and their potential to solve pressing social problems: “I think we should be talking about a positive obligation to do things for people who are not able to do things for themselves.” Three major sectors of the economy are dominated by government—education, health care, and pensions—and markets can offer solutions, if they are tried.
In the end, Williamson’s message was one of optimism, confidence, and even humor. “American voters are stupid,” he remarked, “but compared to everyone everywhere else, you’re actually very smart people.”
Let’s see if you have the same reaction as I did to this section of President Obama’s speech on drones today:
We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend.
My reaction: Seems to me that the main network he wants to dismantle is Fox News, and the main groups he wants to prevent from gaining a foothold are Tea Party groups. As for whose heart holds these particular evils, what exactly what “ideals” they aim to defend, well I’ll leave that to you to determine.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online