Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Desperate May Steals Labour Policies

April 29, 2017

Okay, I was weak. I admit it. Against my better judgement, and what I told you all on this blog last week, I watched Have I Got News For You. The programme’s still biased against Labour, but there are, here and there, a few sharp pokes at the Tories.

One of the sharpest last night came from Ian Hislop, who attacked the Tories’ hypocrisy in stealing a policy that they’d previously denounced from Not Very ‘Red’ Ed Miliband. At the last general election, Miliband had said that Labour would put a cap on energy prices. Of course, faced with a threat to corporate profit at the expense of the poor, the Tories went bug-eyed with fury. This was an horrendous interference with the operation of the free market. To neoliberals, the market is molten idol, which must remain sacrosanct at all times. The same rhetoric was used in the 19th century to justify the global price of grain going up, leading to massive famine in India. It was part of the operation of market forces, which all responsible politicians and economists should respect. Even when it meant the death of millions from starvation. See the description of this sordid episode in the book Late Victorian Holocausts.

Of course, the Tories have no concern for the poor. In fact, they actively hate and despise them. But they are afraid of losing the election. So May, it seems, stole Miliband’s policies. And Hislop justifiably pointed out the Toris’ double-standards in this. Under Miliband, it was a horrendous attack on the free market. Under May, well, it’s still a horrendous attack on the free market.

So much for May’s ‘strong and stable’ government. It is, as Mike has pointed out, weak and wobbly. So wobbly that she’s trying to steal policies from Labour, and hoping that nobody will notice.

Well they have.

Not that anybody should be taken in by this. The Tories are a party of inveterate liars. May’s predecessor, David Cameron, broke so many of his election promises that the Tories went through their on-line records censoring them in an effort to rewrite history. As for May, she was going to put workers in the boardroom. Until she was elected, that is, when it became a bad idea.

Which all bears out what Oscar Wilde – or someone- said about May’s party: The Conservatives are an organised hypocrisy.

The Young Turks on Steve Bannon’s Favourite Viciously Racist Anti-Immigrant Book

March 12, 2017

In this piece from The Young Turks, host Cenk Uygur talks about Steve Bannon’s favourite book, the French racist novel, The Camp of the Saints. It’s a very grim insight into Bannon’s own deeply racist views regarding refugees and non-White immigration, and the racism at the heart of the Trump administration. Bannon is the head of Breitbart and Trump’s leading advisor. Uygur states that there’s some debate over whether Breitbart really is racist and White supremacist. He notes that Bannon boasts that his network has produced the Alt-Right, but that some of them reject the claim that they are racists. They argue instead that they’re ‘Judeo-Christian’ supremacists, or whatever.

Uygur’s report is based on a piece by Paul Blumenthal, another journalist at the Huffington Post, who noticed that Bannon kept referring to The Camp of the Saints. In 2015 and 2016 Bannon made statements, reproduced in the video, comparing the mass influx of refugees from the Middle East into central, northern and southern Europe, to The Camp of the Saints. So Blumenthal followed this up, in order to find out what the book was actually like.

The book was written in 1973 by the French author, Jean Raspail. Cecile Alduy, a professor of French literature at Stanford, states that the book is literally and profoundly racist, in that all the characterisation and motivation comes from race. Reviewing the book in 1975, Kirkus stated that the French publishers were claiming that the book was a publishing event. It was, in the same way that the publication of Mein Kampf by Hitler was a publishing event. Uygur also quotes Linda Chavez, who was a member of successive Republican administrations, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s, who also states that the book is extremely, vehemently racist.

The book is about the landing in France of 800,000 starving refugees from India, whose leader is called ‘Turd-eater’, because he literally eats excrement. They are also hypersexualised, and their migrant boat is described as running with sperm. They have come, not to fit in with French and European society, but as a deliberate plan to overthrow it. Their acceptance by the French authorities will be a sign to the rest of the non-White world that Whites are weak, and ready to be invaded and conquered. As a result, the Chinese flood into Russia, The Queen of England is forced to marry her son to a Pakistani woman, and the president of the USA is forced to put a Black family up at their home, Gracie Mansions. Uygur points out how dated this prediction is, as America have had a Black family put up in the president’s house, clearly referring to the Obamas. This was the president and his family. It may be no big deal to everybody else, but it is a huge matter if you’re deeply racist.

The hero, Calgues, is a young man who murders both the Black and Asian immigrants and those Whites, who seek to help them. He sneers at them because they have never held in their heads the belief in the superiority of their own people, and hated people of other colours. Raspail states that such Whites have been ‘culturally cuckolded’. Uygur states that this may be where the term ‘cuck’, derived from ‘cuckold’, and used by the Alt-Right as a term of abuse, comes from. The book celebrates the White world’s wars of conquest and domination.

Uygur states that much of the book’s characterisation of non-White immigrants is clearly projection, from the hypersexual nature of the Indian immigrants to the fact that their appearance in Europe is part of an organised non-White invasion. Its authors view is coloured by the fact that Europeans invaded and conquered when they immigrated to other countries, and so see the influx of non-White migrants in the same terms.

He then goes on to show how dangerous the book, and the influence it has had over Bannon, is through its influence on the way he views migration from the Middle East. The book celebrates the murder of non-White immigrants. Bannon himself has stated that the current wave of immigration from the Middle East hasn’t happened by accident. Uygur rightly tears into that by making the sarcastic comment that the migrants fleeing from the wars the West has started in their countries couldn’t possibly be doing so for that reason. No, it must be because they want to invade the West.

The book’s readership is tiny, but various extreme right-wing ‘philanthropists’ have kept republishing it, so that it has very much been kept in print. It’s an extremely racist book, and the fact that it is one of Bannon’s favourites does indeed show, as Uygur points out, how racist Bannon and by extension the Trump administration are.

A Treasury of Ancient Mathematical Texts

February 4, 2017

Henrietta Midonick, The Treasure of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1968)

ancient-mathematics-cover

I realise that the history of mathematics is an arcane subject, that few people will have much interest in, having struggled enough with the subject at school. But with Black History Month, there is immense interest amongst scholars of Black and Asian history about restoring Black and Asian scientists and mathematicians to their rightful place in history.

I picked up this book in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham about a year or so ago. It’s a collection of ancient and medieval mathematical texts from Ancient Egypt, Babylon, China, India, Islam, the Jews and, of course, the ancient Greeks. The blurb for it runs

Mathematics is the only true international language. men can communicate more directly, precisely and logically in pure mathematics than in any other tongue. Moreover we have much to learn from the achievements of past civilizations in this field: even modern computers have not fathomed all the intricacies of Stonehenge. In this fascinating collection of original sources (many of them published in a popular edition for the first time) Henrietta Midonick shows individual mathematicians grappling with varied problems – some practical, such as architecture, money valuation, mechanics, astronomy and calendar calculation; others verging on philosophy, such as the existence of zero and the concept of infinity. Her arrangement also demonstrates the growth of key ideas in geometry, arithmetic, logic and calculus.

Volume 1 documents the growth of mathematical science in the civilizations of Babylon, Ancient Egypt, the Mayas, India and China, and assesses the revolutionary discoveries of Plato, Archimedes and Euclid in classical antiquity.

Among the various extracts are pieces on Babylonian mathematics; four geometrical problems from the Moscow Papyrus, which dates from Ancient Egypt, c. 1850 BC; the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, again from Egypt, c. 1650 BC; the Bakhshali Manuscript, from 4th century AD India; the Mayas – discussing their system of numbers, the calendar, arithmetic and chronology, and the Quipu, the method of keeping statistical records using knots, used by the ancient Incas in South America.

Chinese mathematicians include Wan Wang, from the 12th century BC, Chou Kung, c. 1100 BC; Chang Tsang, died 152; Liu Hui, 3rd century AD; Sun-Tsu, from the same century; Hsia-Hou Yang, 6th century AD; Wang Hs’iao-T’ung, 7th century AD, Li Yeh, c. AD 1178-1265; Ch’in Chiu-Shao, c. AD 1250; Yang Hui, c. AD 1275; Chu Chi-Chieh, c. AD 1300.

The Indian scholars collected include Aryabhata the Elder, c. AD. 476; Brahmagupta, AD 598; and Bhascara Acharya, AD 1114-c. 1185.

It also includes the Algebra of Mohammed ben Musa al-Khowarismi, who founded much of modern algebra, including giving it its modern name.

The two Jewish mathematicians collected include the Mishnat ha-Middot of Rabbi Nehemiah, from c. AD 150; and the Method of Division of Immanuel Ben Jacob Bonfils, c. AD 1350.

The ancient Greeks include Hippocrates of Chios, 5th century BC; an extract from Plato’s Dialogues; the Elements of Euclid of Alexandria, c. 300 BC; Apollonius of Perga’s Conic Sections, from the same period; Archimedes’ On Spirals, Mechanical Problems, and Quadrature of the Parabola, Pappus, c. AD 300, and Proclus, AD 410-485.

babylonian-multipilication-table

Ancient Babylonian Multiplication Table for X 10.

For the non-mathematician like myself these texts aren’t easy reading. There are diagrams to help, but many of them, as the pioneering works of their time, are trying to express difficult mathematical ideas without the modern language of Maths, and so it can be difficult understanding what they are trying to describe. Nevertheless, this is an important collection of some of the classic texts of ancient mathematics on which the structure of modern maths has been built.

Jeremy Corbyn Suggests Capping Director’s Pay – Media Goes Ballistic

January 11, 2017

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting on another good suggestion from Jeremy Corbyn, and the predictable response of outrage and sneering from the meejah. The Labour leader had said on an interview on Radio 4 yesterday morning that he believed that there should be a cap on the pay earned by company directors and senior execs. The media naturally responded by pointing out that Corbyn has an annual pay of £138,000 a year, and tried to draw him into giving a price figure for what the maximum amount earned should be.

The story got onto the One Show yesterday evening, where they did a brief survey of people in the street. Opinions were, as they say, mixed. One elderly objected to the cap on the grounds that it might take away the incentive for people rising to the top. Looking at the headlines on the various papers this morning, it was very clear that it had riled someone at the Torygraph, as this was the story they shoved on their front cover. Other newspapers, like Mail, led by claiming that Labour’s policy in immigration was ‘in disarray’. Mike’s also written another article this week showing that’s also rubbish.

Mike in his article makes the point that compared to some of the vast, bloated salaries awarded to company executives, Corbyn’s own salary appears very modest indeed. He suggests that it is stupid to try to lay down a particular set figure – it should be based on company turnover and the lowest wage earned by an employee at that company. He also makes the point that the casting of particular star actors can make a great difference to how well a movie does, and that when this happens, everyone else who worked on the movie should also enjoy the films’ financial awards.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/10/if-we-examine-who-is-complaining-about-corbyns-maximum-wage-idea-well-know-why/

This is all correct. And there’s something else that needs to be added:

Japan already has maximum wage legislation.

Yep, it’s true. Japan is one of the world’s five wealthy countries with a very capitalist economy. The centre right Liberal Democratic party has ruled the country almost uninterrupted since the Second World War. And it also has a cap on how much company directors may be paid. I think it’s set at about 20 times that of the lowest paid employee, but I am not sure.

And the limitation of wage differentials is not something that has been simply added on in the course of reform, but an integral part of the dominant, guiding vision of the nature of Japanese society. East Asian societies can be extremely collectivist, stressing group loyalty over individual opportunity or achievement. In Japan the goal was to create a harmonious, middle class society, where there would be no extremes in wealth or poverty. This isn’t quite the case, as the Burakami, an outcast group rather like the Dalits in India, and those of Korean descent are still subject to massive poverty and discrimination.

The Japanese have also tried to justify their collectivist outlook through racist pseudo-anthropology. One school textbook claimed that Japanese society was more collectivist and co-operative because the Japanese people were descended from agriculturalists, who had to forge strong links with each other in order to cultivate and harvest rice. We Westerners, however, were all isolated individualists because we’re all descended from hunter-gatherers.

As anthropology, it’s rubbish, of course. Some social historians have argued that agricultural societies are more prone to tyranny and absolute government, which would include the type of Asian absolute monarchies described by Western observers as ‘oriental despotism’. But all human societies were originally hunter-gatherers, including the Japanese. And European society has practised settled agriculture since the beginning of the Neolithic 6,000 years ago.

The origins of Japanese and East Asian collectivism probably lie more in the influence of Confucianism, which stressed the right relationships between the members of society, such as between the prince and the people, and between elders, parents and children, and the still powerful influence of feudalism in structuring social relationships. Instead of a samurai warrior giving his loyalty and service to a daimyo feudal lord, it’s now the sarariman – the corporate warrior – becoming part of the retinue of company employees under the lordship of the director.

And European individualism probably comes not from any vestiges of our hunter-gatherer deep past, but from the effect of Hobbesian Social Contract political theorising and the free trade economics of the French Physiocrats and Adam Smith. Hobbes has been described as the first, of one of the first philosophers of the emerging bourgeois society of the 17th century. This was the period which saw Cromwell sweep away the last vestiges of feudalism in England, and the emergence of modern capitalism. But Hobbes’ philosophy views people as social atoms, all competing against each other, as opposed to other views of society, which may stress the importance of collective or corporate identities and loyalties, such as family, feudal lordship or membership of trade and professional bodies. Similarly, the founders of the economic theories of modern capitalism, such as the Physiocrats in France and Adam Smith and in Scotland, also stressed unrestrained individual competition. They were also specifically arguing against the mercantilist system, in which the state regulated trade. For example, in the 17th and 18th centuries the British government enacted a series of legislation governing trade with its emerging colonies, so as to tie them to the economy of the home country, which would benefit from their products. Modern Western individualism come from these theories of capitalist society and the perceived operation of its economy.

The collectivist nature of Japanese society also expresses itself in other ways in the structure and management of Japanese corporations. Singing the company song in the morning is one example. Management are also encouraged or required to share the same canteen as the workers on the shop floor. Both of these practices, and no doubt many others, are designed to foster group solidarity, so that management and workers work together for the good of the company.

This isn’t a perfect system, by any means. Apart from the immense pressure placed on individuals in a society that places such heavy emphasis on the value of hard work, that individuals actually keel over and die because of it when doing their jobs, it has also made Japanese society and corporations extremely resistant to change. Confucianism places great stress on respect for one’s elders and superiors. While respect for the older generation is an admirable virtue, and one which our society in many ways is sadly lacking, in Japan it has resulted in a mindset which resists change or apportioning due blame for historical crimes and atrocities.

At the corporate level, the slow down of the Japanese economy in the 1990s meant there was no longer such a pressing need for company staff to work such long hours. However, so great is the corporate inertia, that staff still feel that they have to keep working past six O’clock in the evening, even if there is little or no work to do, because they don’t want to be seen as breaking with the approved practices of previous generations of employees.

And at the national level, it has been suggested that the exaggerated respect for one’s elders and ancestors is the reason why Japan has had such immense difficulty confronting the atrocities their nation committed during the Second World War. Japanese school texts and official histories have been criticised because they’d don’t discuss the atrocities committed by the imperial Japanese army. One school textbook even talked about the army’s ‘advance’ through Asia, rather than its invasion. The reason for this failure to admit the existence of these crimes, and criticise those who perpetrated them, is that respect for one’s elders and social superiors is so engrained in Japanese society, that except for a few extremely courageous mavericks, casting shame on those responsible for such horrors and, by implication, the whole of society during this period, is unacceptable. Even though many over on this side of the Eurasian landmass would consider that a failure to confront the atrocities committed by one’s nation to be even more shameful.

Japanese and Asian collectivism is not, then, perfect. But a maximum wage cap certainly did not hinder Japan’s advance to become one of the world’s foremost industrial countries. And the goal of creating a harmonious, co-operative society where there is little disparity in wealth is a good one.

The title of Mike’s article on Corbyn’s suggestion for a maximum wage states that the identities of those complaining about it reveal why they’re doing so. Indeed. The proprietors and leading executives of newspaper companies, like the Barclay twins at the Torygraph, have awarded themselves immense salaries. They’re multimillionaires. This wealth is increasingly not being shared with the hacks, who do the actual work of putting the paper out. The Torygraph has been particularly struck with declining sales to the point that Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column regularly reported further job cuts. Many of the big newspaper companies depend on the work of unpaid interns, particularly the Groaniad. And even if they’re not being threatened with the sack, conditions for the paid staff are becoming increasingly Orwellian. For example, the Eye reported a few months ago that one of the managers at the Torygraph had tried to install motion detectors on the staff’s desks to prevent them moving around too much, just like the staff at call centres are also monitored. The hacks were so annoyed, however, that management had to back down and the motion detectors were removed.

As for the film industry, the presence of big name Hollywood stars can sink a movie simply through the sheer expense of paying. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger was paid $7 million for his appearance in the second Terminator movie. While that was a box office success, the presence of ‘A’ list celebrities in a movie does not guarantee that a film will be a success. One of the reasons why the film Ishtar became such a notorious flop in the 1990s was that the producers cast three major stars, who all commanded multi-million dollar salaries. This pushed the bill for the movie towards $20 million or so, even before the film had been shot. The film was thus under financial pressure from the start.

Apart from the Japanese, there are other, successful European nations that also deliberately avoid huge inequalities in wealth. One of these is Denmark. The newspapers have been full of articles analysing and celebrating the traditional Danish concept of ‘hygge’. This has been translated as ‘cosiness’, but it actually means much more than that. The way I’ve heard it explained by a Danish friend, it’s about being content with the homely necessities. I got the distinct impression that it was similar to the Swedish notion of ‘lagom’, which translates as ‘just enough’. You make just enough to satisfy your basic needs, but no more. And from what I’ve heard about Danish society, the social attitude there is that no-one should try to appear ostentatiously better off than anyone else. This is not to say that everyone has to do the same low-paid job, or that they should not earn more than anyone else. But it does mean that they should not be conspicuously more affluent.

This is the complete opposite from the values promoted and celebrated by Thatcher and the wretched ‘New Right’ of the 1980s. They demanded making conditions harsher for the poor, and giving ever larger salaries to management on the grounds that this would act as an incentive for others to do well and try to climb up the corporate and social ladder. The result has been the emergence of a tiny minority, who are massively wealthy – the 1%. Like the Barclay twins, Rupert Murdoch and just about every member of Theresa May’s cabinet. For everyone else, wages have stagnated to the point where a considerable number are finding it very difficult to make ends meet.

But wage caps and an attitude that discourages inequalities of wealth have not harmed Japan, nor Denmark and Sweden, which also have very strong economies and a very high standard of living.

The massive difference between the millions earned by the heads of the big corporations has been a scandal here in Britain, to the point where David Cameron and May made noises urging company directors to restrain their greed. Corbyn’s suggestion is eminently sensible, if Britain is to be a genuinely inclusive, prosperous society. The outrage shown by various media execs to it shows that the Tories are still committed to a policy of poverty for the many, riches for a very few. And all their concern at reining in executive pay is just platitudes to make it appear that they’re concerned when the issue becomes too embarrassing.

Two South Asian Rock Bands

December 6, 2016

This is a little break from politics. Looking around the Net, I found a number of Rock/ Heavy Metal bands from India and Pakistan. Here’s two of them. This Punkh, a Hindi band, performing with the German robot rockers, Compressorhead.

And this is The Nuke, a band from Pakistan, performing their track, Waaday (Promises).

I don’t speak either Hindi or Urdu, and so have no idea what the lyrics mean. However, the music’s good, solid Rock and they both have the genuine spirit and aesthetic. I’ve put them up because they both contradict western perceptions of these nations’ culture. Unless you have some contact with these communities, you simply don’t expect either country to have anything in the way of Rock music. My guess is that most people in Britain would think of Ravi Shankar and sitar music, Bollywood, and possibly Bhangra in connection with Indian music. As regards Pakistan, most of our impressions of the area are reports of terrorism and Islamic militancy. There have, however, been concerts over here of Pakistani musicians performing traditional Sufi music. This shows an entirely different side of these nations’ culture and their music.

Video of Richard Spencer’s Nazi Speech at Alt-Right Conference

November 22, 2016

This is a clip from The Atlantic, and it’s one of the most chilling portraits of a political meeting in a democratic country. I’ve already blogged about how Richard Spencer, the leader and self-declared father of the Alt-Right, made a Nazi speech at their conference this weekend, which was greeted with cries of ‘Hail Trump’ and the Nazi salute. This is a three minute clip from Spencer’s speech, which was a half hour long. And it’s frightening and disgraceful.

Spencer opens with the shout of ‘Hail Trump! Hail our people!’ He then goes to complain about how White people are exploited and marginalised in America today. He attacks the liberal media, which he calls by the term the Nazis coined, Lugenpresse – lying press, and particularly the liberal political commentator, John Oliver. He then describes how to be White is to be an inventor, conqueror, and explorer, makes comments about how Whites are ‘children of the sun’, claims that Whites don’t exploit anyone, and that Blacks and other ethnic minorities benefit from White rule. He states that until a generation ago, America was an ‘all White country’, and makes it clear that America is for Whites, founded by Whites for Whites.

His speech ends to applause, and a few more Nazi salutes and cries.

Nearly all of Spencer’s speech is rubbish. Yes, America was founded by White people for White people, and until a generation ago Whites were in the majority. This is rapidly changing due to non-White immigration and the higher birthrate among certain non-White communities. Whites certainly have explored, invented and conquered. But so have many other civilisations. If you want a corrective to his views, all you need to his crack open a book on the history of inventions to see just how many basic devices we take for granted were invented either by the Chinese, the Arabs, Persians or came from India. There are also a number of excellent books on Black inventors. One I’ve read, which I found in my local library, is Black Pioneers of Science and Invention. Among other fascinating pieces of information is the explanation of who the ‘McCoy’, in the phrase ‘It’s the real McCoy!’, was. Yes, he was a Black engineer working in the American navy, whose success at producing machines became proverbial.

And we Whites have exploited and marginalised non-Whites. All you need to do to read about this is look at any book on the history of slavery and the slave trade, and the exploitation of Black Americans under segregation and Jim Crow. And the continuing poverty and marginalisation of Black communities. even now, forty years after the Civil Rights movements. Ditto with Native Americans. I know much less about this, but here the classic text on the genocide of the Amerindians is Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. And Whites still enjoy a privileged position in American society, although this is declining.

If this were any other Nazi gathering, it could be ignored. Whatever racism there is in American society, explicitly Nazi organisations are very definitely at the margins. They’re a menace, because they do attack and murder innocent people of colour and leftists and anti-racists. That shouldn’t be downplayed. But for many people they’re also so grotesque as to be also figures of ridicule. Think of all the jokes about the Klan and the way John Landis’ The Blues Brothers sent up the Nazi fringe as the American Socialist White People’s Party.

This is frightening, because through Steven Bannon, they’ve got in the White House and Donald Trump’s ear. Already the right-wing media and the blogosphere is out, trying to tell us that the attacks on Trump are all wrong, and that the liberal media are lying and that Trump and his supporters are merely the innocent victims of intolerant leftists. I admit, some of Trump supporters do seem to have been physically attacked simply for their views. That’s wrong, and I don’t condone it.

But this video shows how vile and dangerous the people Trump’s mixing with are. And they have to be stopped, before they don their jackboots are start hurting more innocents with their lies, violence and brutality.

just to take the taste of Spencer and his vile speech out of our metaphorical mouths, here’s the clip from the Blues Brothers where they drive the Nazis off the road.

More on the Real Reason behind Western Intervention in Syria

November 2, 2016

A few days ago I put up a post about a piece from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, in which Seder commented on a piece in EcoWars and Politics magazines by John F. Kennedy, which gave the real reasons behind the calls for western intervention in Syria and attacks on Russia for human rights abuses in the killing of civilians in their own attacks on the militants fighting Assad.

As you might expect from our mendacious governments, it has nothing to do with any real concerns about human rights. It’s all about overthrowing Assad, isolating and weakening Russia, and securing a massive gas pipeline that the Qataris proposed nearly a decade and a half ago. This is planned to go through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. The Saudis, Jordanians and Turks were all in favour of it. Syria refused, on the grounds that they didn’t want to hurt their Russian allies. The moment Assad refused, the Americans and their allies, including ourselves and the French, began to plot Assad’s overthrow. An international alliance was set up called The Friends of Syria Coalition, or some such, a name which Seder rightly described as ‘Orwellian’, in that it meant precisely the opposite of what it said, in the same way that in Orwell ‘war=peace, and freedom=slavery’. This alliance was to campaign internationally for Assad’s removal. The CIA paid £60 million to Barada, a TV station in this country, to run propaganda pieces imploring the Syrian people to overthrow Assad. At the same time, the Saudis and other hardline nations began funding, equipping and training the various jihadist splinter groups, ultimately descended from al-Qaeda, to start a civil war. And the Saudis and other nations also told the Americans that if they invaded Syria, like they had Iraq, they’d also pay for it.

Since I put the original piece up, I’ve got a few more pieces of very relevant information about it from Michelle, one of the great commenters here, passing on comments from David Croswell, who clearly knows much more about this than I do. Michelle writes

Hi Beastie,

I agree with you on the importance of this piece, I put this out on Google plus Friday and received an interesting comment from another googlepuser David Croswell on Dore’s comments he said:

“Mostly right.
The gas field involved is the `South Pars’, the largest in the world.
There are only two countries that have access to this, and they are Qatar and Iran.

Syria is Iran’s number one ally in the Middle East, which is why you see an Iranian military supportive presence in Syria.
So, Assad’s veto on the Qatari pipeline wasn’t simply `for our friend, Russia’.

However, Iran and Russia have a cosy relationship, also, and are working in coordination, with Iran handling the Islamic public relations aspect in the central Asian nations, and, with their gas programme, now extending pipelines to Pakistan and India in the opposite direction to Europe, developing their market there.

So, this shows another factor to the U.S. aspect: In their ongoing campaign to isolate Iran to place it in a more vulnerable position, it is necessary to kick out the prop of their number one Middle Eastern ally, Syria.

In their intent to regain what they once had for next to nothing in Iran, the fourth largest oil production on the planet (Iran was where BP got started, which is why we always find the UK riding along), they’ll also have possession of the South Pars gas field.

Of course, isolating Russia financially and geopolitically, along the way, is a major goal.

So, all and all, the west are not the forces of goodness and niceness … at all.”

When I took a look at the Eurasian gas pipeline a few years backs I downloaded this map (December 2013) European LNG Gas Investment map 2012 development plan ENTSOG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6VgQqAmD1nQR1BZVzlMYkNKZzg/view?usp=sharing

The map shows the gas artery that should run through Syria as well as some large gas fields, the most recent map keeps to the same plan: http://www.gie.eu/download/maps/2016/ENTSOG_SYSDEV_2015-2016_1600x1200_online.pdf

and then later added this comment:

Hi again Beastie, the conversation/comments have continued from David Crosswell on my post, he also said:

“The Syrian fields in the Golan Heights are already being exploited by Israel, with Murdoch and Cheney being two major beneficiaries roped in, in order to horse-shoe support from the U.S./UK support base.

Also, the gas fields off the Gaza are being siphoned off, with American help.

This is what it’s all about.
Wars are not fought on principle any more, but for corporate profit, so the contention that the U.S. is an oligarchy is not at all far-fetched….”

I replied: “Wars have always been fought for power and profit, empires and their trading companies have been carving up peoples and their nations for centuries, hence their armed forces were just as much corporate employees then as they are now.

In the UK there is also a military recruitment crisis so the UK government is using non-subtle techniques to recruit amongst children still at school:

http://www.forceswatch.net/news/pushing-ahead-cadets-schools

REF to comments: https://plus.google.com/+MichelleThomassonShell/posts/UpzfvWxhjq3?sfc=true

This adds much more information on the geopolitical manoeuvring here. And none of this is to our credit. We and the Americans have always been desperate to get our mitts on the Iranian oil industry. It was the reason we and the Americans sponsored a CIA-funded coup in Iran in 1958, which toppled the democratically-elected Iranian prime minister Mossadeq, and led to the installation of the Shah as the country’s absolute monarch. The Shah and his secret police, SAVAK, were so brutal that the Shah’s rule ended in a popular uprising in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which placed the mullahs and the Ayatollah Khomeini in control of the country. And one of annual holidays proclaimed by the new, theocratic regime celebrates the nationalisation of the oil industry.

The Neocons would love to invade Iran as well, and made plans to do so. The Iran regime is brutal and deplorable, but nevertheless it does contain a democratic element and is still freer and more liberal than the Saudis. It should be left to the Iranians to choose what form of government they wish to live under. And after the horrors created by the invasion of Iraq, no-one should have any illusion that any puppet regime created by the West after an invasion of Syria or Iran would be any better for the peoples of those nations. Assad’s Syria is a Fascistic state, but it’s secular nationalist, not theocratic, and definitely more liberal than Saudi Arabia. All that would result from another western invasion of these nations is yet another repeat of Iraq: the mass privatisation and looting of state industries to American and western multinationals, particularly the oil industry; more sectarian violence; killing, racketeering, prostitution and lawlessness by the ‘peace-keeping forces’, particularly the mercenaries; massive economic damage and sky-high unemployment due to the imposition of free-market capitalism; and a sharp decline in women’s status and opportunities. Women in Iraq before the invasion could have careers outside the home, and felt safe leaving work in the evening. That has all gone. As has the free education and health care that the regime also provided. If these also exist in Syria and Iran, you can expect them to disappear as well if the west invades.

The information about the Israelis’ exploitation of the oilfields in the Golan heights – taken from Syria – and Gaza also seems to me to be very relevant to the current attempts by the right, the Israel lobby and the Blairites to smear decent critics of Israel as anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. These slanders are risible, as so many of those libelled as such are anti-racists with a proud record of fighting against racism and anti-Semitism. The Jewish people smeared have included many, who are active members of their faith and community, and who had family murdered by the Nazis – real anti-Semites – in the Holocaust.

Much of this slander is because pro-Palestinian activists are having an effect in raising opposition to the Israeli colonisation of the West Bank and the dispossession of the Palestinians. This is notably true in the case of the BDS movement, which has many Jewish supporters. This movement urges people not to deal with or purchase goods from Israeli businesses located in the Occupied Territories. So far, a third of the Israeli businesses set up there have been forced out, thanks to this campaign. And the Israel lobby has gone ballistic. New York City council recently condemned it at a meeting as an anti-Semitic hate group, despite the fact that many of its supporters present at the meeting were Jews, including six rabbis.

Now it seems that oil is also a factor here as well, and the Israelis’ determination to exploit this in the territories they have seized from other nations.

This is disgusting and outrageous, but I doubt it will ever be reported by a mainstream TV or broadcasting channel. We need to do what we can to stop our governments destroying more lives – those of innocent Syrians, as well as our own brave young people – just to make the petrochemical companies even more rich and bloated than they are already.

The protesters against Gulf War I were right: ‘Gosh, no, we won’t go. We won’t die for Texaco!’ Or BP, Esso, Gulf or anyone else.

Lobster on the Rise of British Mercenary Companies

October 12, 2016

This winter’s edition of Lobster carries a very interesting article, ‘Team Mercenary GB’ by Nick Must on the rise of the various mercenary companies in Britain now being hired out by governments all over the world. Most of the British mercenary companies, or, in modern parlance, Private Military Contractors, seem to have been founded by ex- or serving members of the SAS. Sometimes their founders even alluded to their former regiments in the names they gave their own private armies, such as John Banks’ Security Advisory Services, e.g., SAS. These companies have been involved in a long line of very murky dealings, including several attempts to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi. In the 1960s and 1970s they were involved in the fighting in Yemen, Angola, Congo, Oman and the notorious Biafran civil war in Nigeria. The African writers Abdel-Fatah Musah and J. ‘Kayode Fayemi note that this was a deliberate response by the colonialist regimes to counter these nations’ independent movements. They were also involved in abortive coup attempt to overthrow the government of the Seychelles. In the 1970s the City of London also got involved in the action, with several Lloyd’s syndicates offering various anti-kidnap packages.

Must’s article also describes how they have prospered by taking any worthwhile government security contracts. This has seen them provide military training for some very nasty organisations and individuals, such as Sultan Qaboos of Oman and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka for its bloody repression of the Tamils. Major Walker’s KMS company also got into trouble for supplying arms and assistance to the Contras in Nicaragua, along with fighting with them in the capital, Managua. One of the company’s leaders, Major Brian Baty, had also caused something of an incident while in the SAS. He and a group of other SAS soldiers illegally crossed the border from Ulster into Eire, which they blamed on a map reading error. They were also embarrassed by a question Red Ken raised about an advertisement they had placed in a brochure produced by International Military Services Limited, which was involved in large-scale arms dealing, assisted with bribery.

MI5 were also closely involved with the deal between the British mercenaries and the Sri Lankan government, which not only involved the repression of dissident Tamils at home, but also in Britain. In this, the British government used them as its proxy in order to facilitate an arms deal without offending Indira Gandhi’s government in India, which supported the Tamils. The suppression of the Tamil uprising used the same tactics the British used against the IRA and other Nationalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland – imprisonment, random beatings and assassination. This was so brutal that one of those providing the training, Robin Horsfall, left after three months as he felt that they were training the wrong side. KMS also provided military advice to the Indian government on the suppression of the Sikh paramilitary occupation of the Golden Temple of Amritsar. This ended in the Indian army storming the Temple, an act of sacrilege that is still bitterly resented by Sikhs thirty years later. It should be mentioned, however, that the eventual plan adopted was not that of KMS.

It also covers the attempt by a group of mercenaries under ‘Brigadier-General’ Simon Mann to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea involving Mark Thatcher. This was thwarted, and Mann imprisoned. He was released after a year, and is now providing security advice to the country’s dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema. Since 2011 he has also been working with another mercenary company, Moda Solutions. A previous director of this company was Des Browne, a former defence secretary, and one of its present directors is Lord Brennan, who is a QC at Cherie Blair’s Matrix Chambers. So much for her interest in human rights.

This is the first of a couple of articles, the second of which will be how the War on Terror has led to immense profits for these companies. Even limited to this period, where the mercenary companies were just beginning to develop, shows how they were involved in a series of corrupt, grubby and brutal operations for both foreign dictators and as an ‘arms-length’ instrument of the British state.

See: http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster72/lob72-team-mercenary.pdf

Vox Political: Real Wages Fall by Ten Per Cent Under Tories

July 30, 2016

Mike also published a piece last week on a report published on Wednesday by the TUC, which found that while wages had grown in real terms across the EU between 2007 and 2015, they had fallen in Britain by 10.4%. The average rise in wages across the EU was 6.7 per cent. In Poland, wages had risen by 23 per cent. In Germany wages rose by nearly 14 per cent, and in France by 10.5 per cent. The only countries across the OECD which suffered a fall in wages were Portugal, Britain and Greece.

Mike’s article has two illustrations – one is a graph showing the rise in real wages in various countries, while another is a meme showing the massive pay rises enjoyed by other, very privileged groups, in Britain. Like Bankers, whose pay has risen by 35%, directors of FTSE 100 companies, 14%, and MPs, whose pay has gone up by 11%.

Mike makes the point that New Labour must share some of the blame for this, as not only was Peter Mandelson and his chums very relaxed about people making money, they were also extremely relaxed about wages stagnating. He makes the point that the crash his the poorest the hardest, and the austerity launched by the Tories has been punishing and impoverishing the poor to bail out the bankers and the rich. He also makes the point that Owen Smith’s solutions are just cosmetic, and won’t do anything without concrete proposals for the redistribution of the extra money gained through the ‘wealth tax’ he proposes.

See the article: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/27/real-wages-in-the-uk-have-fallen-by-more-than-10-per-cent-under-tories/

Mike’s right about New Labour being very relaxed about wages stagnating. In fact, wage restraint has been a major part of the neoliberal consensus ever since Maggie Thatcher took power in 1979. Keynsianism tolerated high inflation – and in the 1970s at times the inflation rate in Britain was truly eye-watering – as it was coupled to an expanding economy. Both Labour and the Tories attempted to keep pay rises within certain boundaries nevertheless. Thatcher’s Monetarism was much harder towards inflation. It saw this it as the major obstacle to economic growth, and so demanded that it be ruthlessly cut, even if this meant shedding jobs on a truly massive scale, accompanied by a fall in real wages, and the dismantlement of various welfare programmes. It also meant abandoning the Keynsian commitment, pursued over 40 years, to full employment.

Robin Ramsay in a piece on his ‘News from the Bridge’ column in Lobster, made the point that when he was studying economics at Uni in the 1970s, Monetarism as an economic theory was so poorly regarded by his lecturers that they left it to the undergrads to work out what was wrong with it. Which shows you it was known even then to be totally rubbish and useless. He argues that it was adopted by the Tory party because it gave them a rationale for doing what they wanted to do on other grounds – destroy organised labour, dismantle the welfare state, including the Health Service, and grind the working class into poverty.

Now a number of economists are pointing out that, despite the emphasis by the Tories on wage restraint and very low inflation rates, the economy is not growing. I think Han Joon Chang is one of these in his 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.

The comparison with Greece is particularly chilling. Greece has been ruthlessly punished by the Troika with very harsh austerity policies, partly because the Greeks dared to defy the Eurozone authorities and elected Syriza, a radical anti-austerity party. Counterpunch has attacked the economic despoliation of the country by mainly German banks as a form of economic warfare. Greece was one of the countries that suffered from the effective collapse of the Eurozone. The result has been grinding mass poverty for its people. One recent programme on the country’s plight showed children picking rubbish off dumps to sale, just as they do in Developing Nations. The presenter looked on, aghast, and made the point that he had never seen this before in what was supposed to be a developed, European country.

Is this what New Labour and the Tories have in store for us? One of the books I found in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham yesterday was about how Britain would have a ‘third world’ economy by 2014. Clearly the book was written a little while ago, and the timing’s out, but nevertheless, the appearance of third world conditions in Britain is a real possibility. There are already 3.7 million people living in ‘food poverty’, and hundreds of thousands facing off poverty only because of food banks. I also remember how this was predicted on a BBC Horizon programme, entitled, ‘Icon Earth’, twenty years ago. The programme was about how the image of the Earth in space, taken from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts, had affected global religious, political and economic perspectives. That image had stimulated people around the world to realise that everyone on Earth shared a common home. One result of this, so the programme claimed, was globalisation. It discussed the growing campaigns against migration from the developing world with an Indian anti-racism activist. She predicted that as globalisation progressed, pockets of the third world would appear in the first.

She’s right. This has happened with Greece, and it is occurring in Britain, thanks to the Tories and New Labour. But unlike Greece, we cannot blame the EU. We never joined the Eurozone, and the deterioration in wages and conditions will occur because of Brexit. The cause of this stagnation ultimately is three and half decades and more of Thatcherism.

Counterpoint on the Stupidity of Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister

July 23, 2016

Counterpunch, an American radical leftwing magazine and site, has put up a piece by Brian Cloughey on the utter stupidity of Boris Johnson’s appointment as Foreign and Commonwealth Minister. He describes the political machinations and manoeuvrings of Johnson and Gove as they jockeyed for power, how Johnson stabbed Cameron in the back over Brexit for no reason other than that he thought it would bring him to No. 10; the many lies Johnson has spun over his career, and the ignorant, bigoted and sheer racist comments that have made him at once a laughing stock to the rest of the world, and a danger to Britain’s peaceful relations with foreign nations.

Cloughey states that Johnson was sacked from the Times because he made up a quote. In 2004, the-then Conservative leader, Michael Howard, sacked him from his job as front bench spokesman for lying about his adulterous affair with Petronella Wyatt, whom he made to have an abortion. Cloughey describes Johnson as

clever and has a certain juvenile attractiveness for some people because his private life is colorful and chaotic while he has a certain facility with words and gives the impression that he could be all things to all men and to a certain number of women…

The trouble for Britain is that although Johnson is a twofaced, devious, posturing piece of slime who can’t be trusted to tell the time of day, he was most effective in capturing the public’s attention and helping persuade a majority to vote to leave the European Union.

He describes how he lied about the amount Britain contributed to the EU, and notes how after Gove’s betrayal of the treacherous Boris, the Tories ditched him and elected Theresa May instead. He considers Johnson, and the poisonous, racist rhetoric of the Leave campaign to be responsible for the increase in ‘hate speech’ and attacks and harassment of Blacks, Asians and Eastern Europeans which rose to 3,000 incidents in the weeks before and after the Referendum.

Cloughey remarks on the insulting comments Johnson has made about other leading foreign politicians and heads of state. He described Shrillary as having “dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital”, Obama was ‘downright hypocritical’, and Putin a ‘ruthless and manipulative tyrant’. As for Trump, he described the Donald as ‘out of his mind’ and suffering from ‘stupefying ignorance’.

He referred to the crisis in Turkey as ‘the crisis in Egypt’, declared that ‘Chinese cultural influence is basically nil, and unlikely to increase’. He also claimed that it was said that the Queen loved the Commnwealth “partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.” He was no less sneering about the peoples of the Congo. When Tony Blair went off to visit the country, he declared “No doubt . . . the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”

Cloughey writes that Johnson has tried to excuse his comments by saying that they were taken out of their proper context, without actually saying what the proper context was. And although many people would agree with some of what he said about the various foreign leaders, they are hardly the kind of comments that you want in a foreign minister, part of whose job is speaking diplomatically and trying to establish a good relationship with those with whom he’s negotiating.

Cloughey concludes:

Britain’s prime minister would do well to reconsider her decision to appoint this gobbet of slime to a position of responsibility in her government. He will not serve Britain well.

Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon

Johnson is a clever man, if only in the way he has skilfully creating an entirely false image of a rather Billy Bunterish, lovable buffoon. But his comments about Black Africans and the Chinese are likely to cause offence, and really don’t bode well for Britain’s relations with the rest of the world. Apart from the dated, offensive terms used, like ‘picaninnies’ and ‘watermelon smiles’, the ignorance behind his dismissal of Chinese culture really is stunning. The contribution of the Chinese to science and technology is immense. You only have to open a text book on the history of science to find that many of the most fundamental scientific discoveries, from printing, to paper, to watermills, rockets and so on were made by someone in the Middle Kingdom. The influence of Chinese culture is rather less, but it is there.

Let’s deal with the very obvious modern Chinese influences in British society. One of the most obvious are Chinese takeaways, restaurants and cuisine. It may not be high art or great literature, but it is a very obvious Chinese cultural influence. Very many people in modern Britain like Chinese food, and Chinese restaurants and chip shops are a very common feature of our modern high streets. Then there’s the influence of Chinese cinema. A few years ago the Chinese won critical acclaim for a number of art films, but probably far more influential are the Hong Kong Chinese action and martial arts movies, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, ever since Bruce Lee sprang into action in the 1970s. This encouraged generations of children to learn the eastern martial arts. Many of those taught are Japanese, but they include Chinese techniques too, such as Kung Fu. And then there’s the influence of Chinese literature and religion. In the 1970s and ’80s a generation of British schoolchildren were exposed to the Chinese classics The Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Wu Chen-Ang’s Journey to the West through the TV series The Water Margin and Monkey. There were even two translations of Chen-Ang’s classic novel issued, both abridged, one of which by Denis Waley. The influence of the Monkey TV show and the novel behind it have persisted to this day. The BBC promotional trailer for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 were very much based on Monkey, and made by the same company that made the videos for the Gorillaz pop group. And I noticed that the other night on Would I Lie To You, Gaby Roslin’s response to a stuffed monkey produced by one of the other guests, as to do a mock martial arts move, and intone ‘Monkey’ in the type of strangulated squawk that characterised some of the voices in that series.

Going further back, there was the craze in the 18th and 19th centuries for chinoiserie, Chinese art and porcelain. You only have to turn on one of the antique shows to see at least one of the experts talking about 18th century pottery, exported to Europe, examining pieces of jade, reproduction Shang bronzes, or 18th century wallpaper, depicted with Chinese designs, usually of people going about their business. Quite apart from the very stereotypical images of the country’s art, like the paintings of the two loves on the bridge.
China has also, naturally, had considerable influence on the culture of its neighbouring and other Asian countries. This is clearly an area for someone who knows far more about these nations’ histories and culture than I do. One example of the Middle Kingdom’s considerable influence is Japan. Buddhism was introduced by Chinese monks, and for centuries the Chinese classics formed the most prestigious part of Japanese literary culture. Further west, many of the people depicted in Persian painting have a distinctive Chinese look to their features. This was because of the cultural links and exchanges between those cultures during the Middle Ages.

In short, a moment’s thought reveals that Chinese cultural influence is certainly not negligible. Nor is it likely to remain so. The country has turned into an economic superpower, and has made considerable inroads into Africa. And way back in the ’90s, its space programme was so advanced that the Quantum Physicist and SF writer, Stephen Baxter, published an article in Focus magazine predicting that the first person to walk on Mars was very likely going to be Chinese.

Now clearly, British industrialists and financiers are very much aware of how powerful China now is. You can see it by the way they’re desperately trying to encourage the Chinese to invest, or buy up, British industry, just as they were a few decades ago with the Japanese. No-one wants potentially advantageous trade deals to be scuppered through a few tactless comments from the Foreign Minister.

And BoJo’s comments may very well cause offence. Johnson made much about his suitability for the role on the world stage, because of his position as one of the British team negotiating with the Chinese during the Beijing Olympics. But his comments also suggest that he could well have the opposite effect as well. The Chinese are, as a nation, a very proud people, and I gathered from working in one of the local museums here in Bristol that there is still a considerable feeling of humiliation about their defeat and occupation by Britain and the other foreign powers in the 19th century following the Opium Wars. Many of Britain’s former colonies are very sensitive to what they see as condescension. A few years ago there were diplomatic ructions when one of the Developing Nations – I think it may have been India – accused Britain of showing ‘colonialist and imperialist’ attitudes towards it.

Johnson with his comments about ‘picaninnies’ and ‘watermelon smiles’ uses the rhetoric and vocabulary of 19th and early 20th century racism. If he uses them when he’s foreign minister, he will cause offence, possibly starting another embarrassing diplomatic row. Let’s hope he keeps his mouth shut, and leaves the talking to others better informed.

And just to remind you, here’s the opening and closing titles from the Monkey TV show. Which, even though it’s now thirty odd years old, definitely has more style and class than Boris Alexander de Feffel Johnson.