Simon Jenkins

How Politicians and Scientists Have a Vested Interest in Spreading Panic

Now it is planes falling from the sky. On Tuesday it was "superbugs threaten return to dark ages". At the weekend it was internet thought-control menace. Last week we had killer fruit juice. The edifice of fear knows no limits, its apparatchiks know no shame.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman and a Double Standard Over Drugs

Anyone who saw Philip Seymour Hoffman in the film A Late Quartet could sense an accident on its way to happening. We now know that the actor and the tortured violinist he portrayed were close to the same person. Acting is a dangerous calling, pushing its practitioners back and forth over the border of unreality.

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After the UK's Scandalous Detention of a Journalist's Partner, It's Becoming All Too Clear What Kind of a World We're Heading to

You've had your fun: now we want the stuff back. With these words the British government embarked on the most bizarre act of state censorship of the internet age. In a Guardian basement, officials from GCHQ gazed with satisfaction on a pile of mangled hard drives like so many book burners sent by the Spanish Inquisition. They were unmoved by the fact that copies of the drives were lodged round the globe. They wanted their symbolic auto-da-fe. Had the Guardian refused this ritual they said they would have obtained a search and destroy order from a compliant British court.

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Americans Should Be Proud

The ugly American mark two is dead. Overnight six years of glib European identification of "American" with right-wing fundamentalism is over. The gun-toting, pre-Darwinian Bushite, the Tomahawk-wielding, Halliburton-loving, Beltway neo-con, damning abortion as murder and torturing Islamo-fascists has been lain to rest, and by a decision of the American people. Americans should be proud and the world should take note.

Yesterday's result could hardly have been more emphatic. George Bush's election wizard, Karl Rove, said he would make America's midterm elections "a choice not a referendum". He would ask them to choose a congress not vote on his boss. The electorate did both. In a high turnout the majority rejected the tenets of the religious right and of "big government" neo-conservativism. They expressed concern over the corruption and warmongering of Washington and the state of their economy in Bush's hands. For the Republicans there were no consolations.
The new congress is mandated to press ahead with a higher minimum wage, an end to pork-barrel budgeting, immigrant amnesty, energy conservation, stem cell research and radical changes to the drugs bill and welfare generally. Most of these may fall by the wayside, but they have behind them the winds of a mandate. Congress must find a way of curbing Bush's uncontrolled federal expenditure if a new Democrat president after 2008 is not to endure agonies of retrenchment. Whether Bush will decide to cooperate with such change in the hope of rescuing his floundering presidency is up to him. Certainly the only Republican of any stature, the war sceptic Senator John McCain, seems disinclined to help him.

A CNN exit poll of swing issues put Iraq, terrorism, the economy and corruption of equal concern to voters, with the Republicans scoring badly on them all. The politics of fear has now lost its post-9/11 traction. Republicans mouthing dire threats of "islamo-fascists" under every bed are scorned. The most ferocious ad I saw had a solitary figure on any empty set telling Americans that they had become less popular round the world, that terrorism had become worse, that Americans were less safe, that gasoline was more expensive and Osama bin laden was still free - all because of one thing, "the war in Iraq".

Over 60 per cent of electors want American troops withdrawn now or soon. The White House ran on a "pro-victory" ticket and lost. Yesterday's reports from Baghdad indicated widespread expectation and relief that American policy in that country is about to change. The American military is know to want to leave and Iraqis, whether those in power welcome it or not, sense the occupation is de facto over. At such a moment insurgency knows it has won, however long it takes the occupying power to go. Retreat becomes the only option. A wretched era of American interventionism has come to an end. A new day has dawned.
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