Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

Trump Insults Australian Prime Minister and Mexican President

February 4, 2017

Another day, another example of how absolutely, constitutionally unsuited for government, or even civilised company, Donald Trump is. Yesterday there was the news that Trump had managed to insult the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, and threatened the president of Mexico with invasion.

Trump had been discussing an agreement signed last November between Obama and the Ozzies in which America promised to take a few of the refugees coming to Australia, who were temporarily settled in the camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Dictator Drumpf really doesn’t like the idea of taking prospective immigrants to Oz, and made his opposition very plain. According to the Washington Post, the orange megalomaniac told Turnbull that it was ‘the worst deal ever’, accused the Ozzie PM of trying to send him the next Boston bombers and said he was worried that the deal would kill him politically. He also told Turnbull that he’d already spoken to four national leaders that morning, including Putin, and that this was the ‘worst call so far’. The phone call was expected to last an hour, but Drumpf rang off after only 25 minutes.

Here’s the Young Turks video in which John Iadarola and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s highly undiplomatic phone call.

Then there are reports that in his phone call to the Mexican president, Trump is supposed to have accused the Mexican army of cowardice in trying to sort out the drug cartels, and threatened to send US troops to do the job instead. He is claimed to have said

‘You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.’

There have been denials that this was ever said from the Mexican president’s office, but it appears to be true. John Iadarola, discussing the report in the video below, suggests that the denial might be an attempt by President Pena Nieta to save face. When he stood up to Drumpf last week, his approval ratings unsurprisingly shot up. Trump talking to him like this looks like a humiliation, and so he may have wanted to cover it up to prevent his approval ratings plummeting accordingly. It does, however, unfortunately seem to be true.

Iadarola and Kasparian make the point in the video about Trump’s insulting phone call to Premier Turnbull that Drumpf is perfectly happy to bomb the nations of the Middle East, but as soon as their citizens want to move out and seek refuge in America, he’s gets upset. In fact Australia’s immigration policy is itself highly controversial. I can remember Duncan Steele, an Australian astronomer at one of the British universities, saying at the Cheltenham Festival of Science in the 1990s that their treatment of refugees made him ashamed to be an Ozzie.

As for the drug war in Mexico, the drug cartels are indeed ‘bad hombres’. Actually, I think that term gives a romantic gloss to gangs of utter scum, who are completely subhuman in their cruelty and barbarism. In one of the Mexican provinces where they’re particularly strong, the gangs were engaged in feminicido – feminicide – as a kind of very sick sport. They got their kicks raping and killing women. And far from being cowards, the Mexican cops, who take them on are as hard as nails. A few years ago the on-line humour magazine, Cracked, did a list of the toughest real life vigilantes. Top of the list was a secret organisation of Mexican coppers, dedicated to rubbing out the gangs and their members. The identities of their members were unknown, to prevent reprisals against their families. The overall impression given was that these men were like the Punisher, but even more ruthless and absolutely dedicated.

I’ve no doubt that the Mexican army isn’t as good, as well trained or as well equipped as the Americans. But considering that America and her allies are still in Iraq and Afghanistan after nearly a decade and a half, I really don’t see that the Americans would have any more success in dealing with the drug cartels than the Mexican authorities.

Quite apart from the fact that you don’t tell the head of a friendly neighbouring state that you’re going to invade his country if he doesn’t sort a domestic problem out. Trump really has no idea how that sounds, not just to other nations generally, but specifically to Latin Americans. There’s considerable resentment of America in Central and South America, particularly in Argentina. It dates from the 19th century. Before then, many Spanish American liberals were solidly in favour of the US as the kind of modern, progressive country they wished their nations to be.

Then the US invaded Mexico, and causing these intellectuals to reverse their previous positive attitudes. They became bitterly resentful of what they saw as the US’s contemptuous, colonialist treatment of Latin America. It was the start of what I think is called ‘Arielismo’, in which South America writers used the character of Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the brutish servant of the wizard Prospero, as a metaphor for the imperialist contempt with which they perceived Americans treated their Spanish-speaking neighbours to the south and their culture.

The Young Turks in the video above also talk about how Trump’s brusque, insulting treatment of his Mexican opposite number may imperil the NAFTA trade agreement with Mexico. This has resulted in a loss of jobs in America, as firms have shifted their locations south to take advantage of the cheaper labour there. But they argue that it has also benefited America.

Trump is clearly one of the most undiplomatic presidents in American history. You really do wonder how long it will be before this loudmouthed buffoon starts another bloody war, or a major international incident, simply because he can’t keep a civil tongue in his head.

He can’t even be counted on to behave decently with our head of state. Mike a few days ago carried a story on his site that Prince Charles had been told not to lecture Drumpf on global warming, if he meets him, as otherwise the Orange Supremacist will ‘explode’. Now I’m well aware that not everyone reading this site is a monarchist, and the exaggerated deference, with which they’re treated should definitely go. I’m referring to all those arcane rules of behaviour, which dictate that you must only talk to the queen if she speaks to you. Those rules should have no place in the 21st century. But that does not excuse another head of state from going on a rant at ours.

A Fitting SF Book For Trump’s Attitude to Mexicans?

January 22, 2017

fritz-leiber-pic

Fritz Leiber

Looking around one of the charity bookshops in Cheltenham on Friday, I picked up a copy of the novel A Spectre Is Haunting Texas (London: Granada 1971) by the great Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror novelist, Fritz Leiber. Leiber’s probably best known for his series of Fantasy novels featuring Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. David Pringle, the former editor of the British SF/Fantasy magazine, Interzone, named Leiber’s You’re All Alone as one of the 100 greatest fantasy novels in his book of the same title way back in the 1990s. That novel is about a man, who gets caught up in parallel society of people, who live outside ordinary humans’ perceptions, very much like the denizens of London Below in Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel and TV series, Neverwhere.

spectre-texas-cover

I’ve wanted to get hold of a copy for some time, ever since the Scottish space scientist and science writer, Duncan Lunan, briefly mentioned it in his book on the colonisation of the Solar System, Man and the Planets. It was that night, after I’d gone to bed, that I realised how weirdly fitting the book is now that Donald Trump is president of the USA. Here’s the blurb:

El Esqueleto!

Christopher Corckett la Cruz (or ‘Scully’) is an actor, an extrovert and a ladies’ man. To most of the inhabitants of post-World War III he looks outlandish, even sinister. To their women he looks very comely. Earth looks equally odd to Scully. Hormone treatment has turned Texans into giants and their Mex slaves into unhappy dwarfs.

To the Mexes, Scully is a Sign, a Talisman, a Leader. To Scully the Mexes are a Cause. The time is ripe for revolution…

It wouldn’t surprise me if some Hispanic Americans didn’t find the book’s politics offensive or condescending. In fairness, the book was published in 1969, when attitudes to race were extremely different, and its heart is in the right place.

And the future the book describes could, terrifyingly, become all too real. The Washington military and intelligence establishment seems all too keen to start some kind of altercation with Russia, egged on by the Democrats, desperate to deflect attention away from the sleazy contents of the material published by WikiLeaks on the shady business dealings and corporate funding of their leaders. Trump wants to end immigration from Mexico by building the wall. He also wants to repatriate 11 million undocumented immigrants. But he’s not the most extreme of the Repugs. One of the most bizarre and reactionary suggestions for stopping immigration from Latin America I’ve come across from the party of Ronald Reagan and George ‘Dubya’ Bush was that illegal immigrants from Mexico should be forced into state servitude for a period of seven years. You know, like slavery.

There’s a nasty movement amongst the Republican extreme right, led by the Von Mises Institute and other corporate think tanks, to try to rewrite the American Civil War. Apparently, the issue wasn’t about slavery. It was about tariff reform. I’m not an expert on American history, but I very much doubt it. And so, I think, would just about every respectable history of the War between the States. Lincoln only reluctantly freed the slaves. There’s a quote from him, in which he said that if he could maintain the unity of the US by keeping slavery, he would. I think by that he meant that if keeping slavery would prevent the break up of the US, then he’d make that decision. And when you consider the horrific carnage that the war brought about, you can easily understand why. Nevertheless, he couldn’t avoid civil war, and freed America’s enslaved. And thus he rightly became one of America’s greatest politicians.

Now right-wing extremists in the Republicans are trying to reverse Lincoln’s achievements, and obscure the causes of the Civil War in an attempt to make a suitably inspiring, sanitised history for those raised on Reagan, von Hayek, and the Fascist enablers of the Chicago school, like Milton Friedman.

Leiber’s title seems to me to be taken from the Communist Manifesto. This opens with the line ‘A spectre is haunting Europe’, before going to claim that it’s the spectre of revolution or Communism. It was rushed out in 1848, the year of revolutions, when all over Europe working people and occupied nations rose up against their class and imperial overlords.

We don’t need violent revolution, and the horror and mass death that comes with it. But we do need strong, left-wing movements to defend and protect ordinary people from increasingly predatory and exploitative political and industrial elites.

And perhaps the whole world now need an El Esqueleto to protect them from Trump.

Nazis Planned Armed March against Jews in Montana

January 8, 2017

The two videos below, from TYT Nation and the David Pakman Show discuss an armed march that the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, has announced will take place in the town of Whitefish, Montana against the Jewish community. The mother of the leader of the Alt-Right, Richard Spencer, lives there, and the Nazis are claiming that they will be marching to protest against her business being cheated by Jews. The organiser has stated that the march will be perfectly legal, due to Montana’s liberal laws regarding bearing arms openly, and so they intend to carry high-power rifles. He also predicted that 200 people would attend and that the march would be against ‘Jews, Jewish businesses, and those who support them.’ A local Montana newspaper, the Mazumian, stated that the Nazis had offered to call off the march, provided that certain demands were met.

Discussing the news, the show’s hosts Jeff Waldorf and Ron Placone state that they don’t know what the Nazis’ demands were, but they were probably that the Jews should leave town. Waldorf makes the point that he’s in favour of people’s right to march and demonstrate, but he’s not in favour of the Nazis’ march, for the same reason he’s not in favour of people marching armed against Blacks or Hispanics, or indeed, armed marches. Placone states that such a march would not be protected by the First Amendment anyway. He states that it is not a free speech issue, as the legislation would view it as an incitement to violence. Waldorf notes that the ACLU has defended the Klan’s right to hold peacefully marches on occasion. Waldorf states that he would despise a peaceful march by the Klan, but would accept that they have the right to hold it. However, this is far more menacing. It would be a large number of men attempting to intimidate what is likely to be a very small community in a small town.

Waldorf also states that the situation is made worse by some of the media coverage of the Nazis. He cites one mainstream news programme that referred to the Alt-Right as ‘dapper’, because they looked like ordinary people now, instead of the usual Nazi thugs. The programme seemed to assume that because they looked normal, they should be treated as normal people, despite their abhorrent views. The Alt-Right is simply the same old Nazism, but with a friendlier face.

Waldorf makes the point that this is entirely predictable. Every time hatred towards one group is permitted, such as Hispanics or Blacks, eventually it reaches the Jews. He notes that a number of Jewish journalists have been attacked and threatened, along with non-Jews. He says that he’s been called a Jew by the Alt-Right, which he finds funny as a staunch atheist who has no time for any religion, and that he has an Austrian ancestry going back to the Middle Ages. And even if he were a Jew, he still cannot understand why this would make any difference. He mocks all the stupid anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about how the Jews supposedly run everything, and control banking – which, he notes, is itself an anti-Semitic stereotype. He notes that their anger at this supposed conspiracy means that anti-Semites are nonsensically angry at success. They also can’t be the master race, if the Jews are in charge. He also points out that they miss the fact that there are plenty of White non-Jews running things, including the banks.

Waldorf then makes the distinction between real and fake anti-Semitism. He observes that you will be called an anti-Semite if you protest against the government of Israel, its construction of illegal settlements and that it is an apartheid state. That’s not anti-Semitic, as Jews are separate from the Israeli government. It is, however, genuinely anti-Semitic to claim that Jews are involved in a vast conspiracy against White people.

David Pakman in his segment notes that the march is planned for either this coming week or the week after. The publisher of the Daily Stormer website is Andrew Anglin, and it is his lawyer, who has advised him about the legality of carrying weapons, and that they intend to bus in skinheads from the bay area.

Pakman and his co-host, Pat, state that there’s something actually very funny about the Nazis having to bring in thugs from the Bay area. Pat makes the point that this may have a bright side, in that news of the planned march may result in more countermarches. He gives the example of a planned march by the Klan, which was called off after it was announced shortly after Trump’s election. People responded to the news by organising a massive wave of opposition marches to the racist organisation. Pakman states that the FBI is aware of it, but believes that if carrying arms on the march is legal, there may not actually be much that can be done about it. Pakman makes the point that anti-Jewish sentiment tends to be ignored as it is believed that Jews in America are doing well. However, Jews have been and are the largest group of victims of religious hate crime. In 2014 60 per cent of all crimes were committed against Jews, compared with 14 per cent against Muslims. He is concerned that anti-Semitic hate is becoming increasingly acceptable. He also states that it’s peculiar that the march is being held in Montana, which has very little ethnic diversity. In 2016 there were only 6,000 Jews living in the entire state, 0.77 per cent of the population, compared to the national average of 2.2 per cent.

Pakman doesn’t know what the solution is, as a counterdemonstration, may be equally heavily armed, seems a recipe for disaster. Pat makes the point that they’re probably marching in Montana because of the absence of diversity – there are far more people who look like them, and few Jews, whereas it would be different in somewhere like New York. But Pakman also says that even Andrew Anglin has stated that the march is a joke.

This is a problem, which could only happen in America, where the Second Amendment defends citizen’s rights to own firearms, and where there is a very vocal and aggressive minority defending this right. In Britain the NF have been allowed to march, but the government cracked down very hard in the 1960s when it was revealed that the stormtroopers were organising paramilitary-style training events and were suspected of making bombs to kill Jews. Part of the evidence was a can of weedkiller found in the organisers shed, which had the word ‘weed’ crossed out and replaced with ‘Jew’.

I’ve no doubt that the march, if it goes ahead, will be extremely threatening to Jews and pro- or non-racist gentiles. Racist skinheads in both Britain and America have a reputation for extreme violence. And some of the right-wing gun nuts in America have also shown themselves willing to behave in a threatening manner towards their opponents. A little while ago The Young Turks ran a story about how a group of women demonstrating against pro-gun legislation were harassed by a group of men from the NRA. They surrounded the women carrying high powered assault rifles, and shouted ‘lock and load’. Pat Buchanan, who was a member of Reagan’s team back in the 1980s, and who also had a reputation for anti-Semitism, became notorious for doing the same stunt. Buchanan was so racist and right-wing, that when he won an election in New Hampshire during one of the presidential contests in the 1990s, Joe Queenan opened an edition of Radio 4’s Postcard from Gotham with a clip of a speech by Mussolini, which he joked was il Duce congratulating Buchanan on his electoral victory.

If this march is allowed to proceed, it will embolden Nazis in America and beyond, and we’ll see more armed marches by them and similar hate groups, like the Klan, until there is violence and bloodshed.

The Young Turks have said before about the rise in anti-Semitism following Trump’s attacks on Mexicans and Muslims, that as soon as that box is metaphorically opened, sooner or later it comes round to Jews. It’s probably because of this that the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish organisation that campaigns against anti-Semitism, has also defended Muslims against rising hatred. And Waldorf is exactly right when he distinguishes real anti-Semitism – like Spencer and his fellow goose-steppers – from perfectly legitimate criticism of Israel and its government’s murderous persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

But who knows – perhaps the Israel lobby will be delighted with such a march. They seem to have seized on similar attacks in Europe to try to encourage European Jews to leave their homelands and settle in Israel. And during the Third Reich Herzog and the other Zionist pioneers were all too glad to see German and European Jews persecuted and murdered, and hated the patriotic German Jewish organisations that stood up for their members’ rights to live in peace in Germany, their homeland. They cynically viewed the Nazis’ butchery of their people as simply another way of increasing emigration to Israel.

Secular Talk: Bernie Sanders Proposes ‘Outsourcing Prevention Act’ to Make Trump Keep Election Promise

November 30, 2016

Here’s another great idea from Bernie Sanders, the self-declared ‘democratic Socialist’, who should definitely be the one to go to the White House next year, rather than Trump.

Remember how Trump was telling everyone at his rallies that if he got into power, he was going to stop the corporations outsourcing their jobs abroad to create more poverty and unemployment in America? Aside from the racism and the islamophobia, it was this promise which may have helped him gain the votes of middle class and blue collar workers, whose jobs are threatened by the neoliberal outsourcing policies championed by the establishment Republican and Hillary Clinton and her clique in the Democrats.

Now Bernie Sanders has come up with a proposal to try and keep Trump to his promise. In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski discusses the report in the Huffington Post that Sanders has put forward the outlines of an ‘Outsourcing Prevention Act’. If this was passed, it would punish companies moving jobs out of America. Those corporations that did so would be banned from receiving federal tax breaks, grants or loans, and demand the repayment of any federal perks. The offending companies would also have to pay a tax equal to the amount they saved through the outsourcing, or 35 per cent of their profits, whichever is the greatest amount. The executives would also be banned from receiving bonuses, stock options or golden handshakes.

Kulinski makes it clear that Democrats and progressive should not be prepared to give an inch of cooperation to Trump when he trying to pass any of the massively unjust or racist measures he’s promised, such as deporting undocumented immigrants, registering Muslims and building that wall with Mexico. Kulinski recognises, however, that the latter is rapidly being played down, with Trump himself now claiming that it was mainly metaphorical. When Trump does propose something that will benefit all Americans, rather than just the corporate elite, or racist Whites, they should be prepared to work with him. This proposal is Bernie’s attempt to make sure Trump doesn’t go back on his promise, and actually does something positive for the American people.

We need something similar in this country. Executive pay has massively outstripped ordinary people’s wages and salaries, and companies are outsourcing jobs abroad, including elsewhere in the EU. It has been something of a local issue here in Bristol, where the local chocolate factory, Cadbury’s in Keynsham, a small town between Bath and Bristol, was closed down after it was taken over by Kraft foods. I’ve got a feeling the company then moved the jobs to a new factory in Poland.

I’m not sure how much chance Bernie’s proposal actually has of ever becoming reality. Trump is now very rapidly going back on all of his election promises, appointing Washington insiders and establishment bankers to important cabinet posts. These include some of the very people he personally attacked at his rallies. And even if it had his backing, neoliberal and corporate interests are now so entrenched in both sides of Congress that it would be bitterly attacked and voted down.

And you can imagine how the Conservatives and their paymasters in the CBI would scream and holler if Jeremy Corbyn promised anything similar in the Labour party. They’d almost certainly be joined by the Blairites. After all, Tony Blair said that his administration was ‘extremely relaxed’ about becoming rich, and did so much to promote businessmen to important and lucrative government posts. And vast numbers of MPs, possibility the majority, are managing directors or senior executives of companies, and therefore stand to benefit personally from government policies that boost business at the expense of domestic jobs.

We need to clean up parliament, and remove the corporate interests so that it starts to represent the British people as a whole, and not wealthy businessmen and women. And we do need to prevent further jobs being lost abroad, and punish the firms that make big profits from creating unemployment here in Britain.

Jimmy Dore: Free Trade Deals Are Designed to Hurt Working People

November 6, 2016

This is another piece from the American comedian Jimmy Dore, commenting and explaining a piece by Dean Baker of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. The article, ‘Inequality as Policy: Selective Trade Protectionism Favors High Earners’, critically examines the way free trade deals are designed to protect high earners’ jobs, while making those of the workers more insecure. Baker comments that while offshoring has harmed working class jobs in America, white collar jobs and intellectual property have been ‘robustly protected’. Baker states that while globalisation and the introduction of greater mechanisation are cited as the main causes of increased inequality over the past few decades, they’re viewed as the natural products of the way the economy operates, rather than as the results of deliberate policies.

Dore criticises the rightwing attitude towards the free market, which claims that this is a natural mechanism. He instead argues that markets are invented by rich people, and deliberately given a set of rules by the rich to protect themselves. You can have a policy that favours workers, and decreases inequality, just as you can have a policy that favours the wealthy and increases inequality. Baker explicitly states that the course of globalisation and the rewards of technological innovation are the results of policy. The greater inequality they have created is the result of conscious choices determining policy. Dore states that ‘you don’t have to sell out your own people’ as under the TPP to send job to poor people, who are in a worse position that American workers. Dore quotes Baker on the fact that Free Trade deals put American workers in competition with their counterparts elsewhere, who are paid much less, and whose products are then imported back into the US. In other words, American working class jobs are offshored, just as they are here in Britain through the adoption of similar policies by New Labour and the Tories. Dore considers how NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement – resulted in the lifting of trade tariffs between America and Mexico, so that the big agricultural businesses went south of the border to use cheap Mexican labour, and shipped the fruit, Vegetables and other products back into the US. This only benefits the owners of industry. It hurts the workers, and it hurts the US economy, as the workers have less money to spend on the domestic economy. The result of this, which has been predicted, is to lower wages from manufacturing workers, and workers without a college education, as they are forced to crowd into the remaining areas of the economy.

Doctors’ jobs, by contrast, are protected. Foreign-trained doctors cannot practise in the US without them completing a residency programme first, and the numbers in this, as for foreign medical students, is consciously limited. Baker notes that this form of protectionism goes unchallenged despite the elimination of the barriers on trade and trade goods elsewhere in the economy. Doctors in the US thus earn $250,000 a year, twice as much as those in other wealthy countries. The cost to America is $100 billion a year in higher medical bills compared to those of other countries. Baker states that economists, including trade economists, have chosen to ignore the barriers that sustain high professional pay at enormous economic cost. Members of Dore’s crew make the point that American doctors aren’t paid more because they’re better than those elsewhere, but on the other hand, the doctors elsewhere in the developed world don’t have ‘a ton of debt’ from medical school. They also talk about the immense bureaucracy that ties up doctors through the insurance-driven American healthcare, which simply doesn’t exist under single-payer systems. The crew members talks about a doctor he knew in Chicago, who raged against the insurance companies because of the immense amount of time he had to spend with them ensuring the patient got treated.

Baker’s article also states that scientific and statistical analysis shows that economic elites and business interests have an impact on government economic policy. By contrast, average citizens and mass-based groups have little independent influence. In other words, government policy is written by the wealthy. The result of this has been to redistribute wealth to the rich over the past four decades. Other ways in which the market has been manipulated at the expense of the middle and lower classes is through macroeconomic policies that deliberately result in high unemployment. Baker recognises that tax policies designed to redistribute wealth are desirable, it should also be understood that economic policies have also been designed to increase inequality. He states that it is easier to have an economic which automatically reduces inequality, than one which produces inequality, which then has to be remedied through redistributive taxation.

Dore states that Trump is correct when he describes how American trade policy has destroyed workers’ jobs in America. However, is he is ‘100 per cent wrong’ when he wants to use the same managers and owners, who have designed these policies, somehow to produce a replacement, as these corporate industrialists have no loyalty to America, only their company. Dore’s crew states that America has suffered, as it’s become a service economy whose people can no longer afford the services, thanks to the gutting of the middle classes. And Dore himself says he gets tweets asking where he gets the information that half the country is poor – which it is. He then advises his interrogators to google the statement ‘half the country is poor’. This isn’t hidden, privileged information. It’s obvious, and deliberately designed.

All of this applies to Britain. The TPP being pushed by the Tories, and which will doubtless receive the backing of the Blairites in the Labour party, will also have the effect of offshoring more British jobs in our dwindling manufacturing and service industries. And thanks to the creeping privatisation of the NHS and the introduction of student fees by the Blairites, which were then raised by the Tories and Lib Dems, our student doctors are also saddled with massive medical fees. And our doctors and medical professionals are similarly being tied up with paperwork thanks to the deliberate introduction by New Labour of medical insurance companies, based on the system used by Kaiser Permanente in America, that also determine where and how patients are treated.

It’s disgusting, and the result of four decades of free market ideology beginning with Thatcher and Reagan, and now carried on by Obama and Shrillary in America, and the Blairites, Lib Dems, David Cameron and his successor, Theresa May, over here.

They have to be turfed out of parliament. All of them.

More Military Tension between NATO and Russia; Pat Mills Right in ABC Warriors

October 9, 2016

Mike today put up a very chilling report about the escalation of military tensions between NATO and Russia. Russia has deployed Iskander missiles in its westernmost province of Kaliningrad. Formerly Koenigsberg, this is small Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, was formerly part of Pommerania under the old Reich. The missiles are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and are presumed capable of reaching Berlin, or the various Baltic states.

Russia is believed to be deploying these missiles in response to NATO manoeuvres in eastern Europe, and the stationing of four more NATO battalions in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. These were in response to Russia sending troops into Ukraine.

Mike states that he recalls either Gorbachev or possibly Yeltsin receiving a promise from NATO that it would not expand into the Russian’s back garden. He is correct. That promise was given. And broken. NATO’s borders are now right up to the very frontier with Russia. Mike asks us how we would feel if the roles were reversed?

That question has been asked by others in America. Left-wing and Libertarian critics of American military expansion have posed the rhetorical question how Americans would feel if Canada broke away and joined Russia. This is the parallel in the Anglophone world Ukraine, which has ties going back thousands of years to the very foundation of Russia, joining NATO.

Actually, it’s not hard to see how Americans would react, as there’s one section of the American conspiracist fringe which actually believed it. FOAFtale News, the journal of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research, in the 1990s report an urban legend then going round the paranoid American Right, that the Fall of Communism was all a ruse. The Soviets had established secret underground tank bases in Canada and Mexico. When everything had been properly prepared, and they were ready, the order would be given and the Soviet tanks would roll over the border to occupy America. You can bet given the paranoid, extreme-rightwing mindset of the kind of people, who voted for Trump, that if Canada ever had joined Russia in a close alliance, most Americans would believe exactly the same thing.

And Mike reported on Friday that it was feared that rising tensions over Syria could result in a nuclear war with Russia. Mike comments

And on it goes. And we all become a little more nervous every day. And that makes us a little more twitchy, and prone to jump to conclusions, and likely to make mistakes…

Everybody concerned needs to step back.

They all need to have a serious think – and maybe a couple of conversations – about what little they stand to gain by acting on accusations and suppositions.

And how much we all stand to lose.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/10/08/nuclear-missiles-deployed-in-russias-westernmost-area-as-fears-grow-over-syria/

I’ve blogged about this issue previously. In the case of Ukraine, it seems to me that it is actually the Russians, who are this time the injured party. The Orange Revolution which ousted the previous, pro-Russian president was staged with covert funding from the Americans. The new ruling coalition includes real, card-carrying Nazis from the Pravy Sektor – the Right Sector. Their uniforms are those of the auxiliary Ukrainian SS units, who were responsible for pogroms against the Jews, and participated in the Holocaust during the Second World War. During the Orange Revolution, a section of these thugs shot at left-wing protesters on their own side before chasing a group of trade unionists into a building. They were then savagely beaten, and one attempted to escape by jumping from a third-floor window. I’ve also seen footage alleging that the Ukrainian regime is responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east of the country.

The situation is made even more terrifying by the fact that a former NATO general has written a book, predicting that by May next year, 2017, Russia will have invaded Latvia and we will be at war. George Galloway in his speech the other year to the Stop the War Coalition described how he had taken the general to task for this, when he was on a panel with him at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival. Counterpunch has also reported that Obama has stepped up the production of nuclear missiles, and is trying to develop short-range ‘battlefield’ nukes. This seems terrifyingly similar to an idea going round in the 1980s when I was growing up. This was part of the madness of the ‘New Cold War’ under Thatcher and Reagan, when these idiots believed that a limited nuclear war could be fought in Europe.

Looking at this site’s stats, a couple of people have been looking at a piece I wrote about a year or so ago discussing some of the very astute satirical comments Pat Mills had put in the ‘ABC Warriors’ strip in 2000 AD. This followed the adventures of Hammerstein, Blackblood, Mongrol, Deathlok, Zippo and co during the Volgan War, a conflict between America and Russia for possession of the latter’s oil.

This was clearly aimed at the real reasons behind Gulf War II and the invasion of Iraq. One of the chief war aims was to seize the country’s vast oil reserves, which are the largest outside Saudi Arabia.

And I’m very much afraid the same is true here. Russia possesses vast natural resources in Siberia, and exports much of it to Europe. Some of the former provinces of the Soviet Union – the Baltic states – are extremely dependent on it for their power supplies. When one of the Baltic states was accused by the Russians of persecuting their people, the Russians also cut off, or threatened to cut off, the oil supply to their country, which would have resulted in massive power cuts.

American politics is heavily driven by corporate interests, and particularly that of the oil industry, dominated by the Koch brothers. These two are supposedly worth over $300 billion. They donate to the Republican party, and to organisations which deny climate change, in order to keep those barrels pumping out of the ground. Just as the Iraq invasion was to steal that country’s oil, I can see Pat Mills, the creator of ‘ABC Warriors’ strip, being in this case literally correct about the real reason for the current tensions.

It’s disgusting. I can remember the feeling of relief I felt when Communism fell, and the Soviet empire collapsed. Despite the horrors of capitalism and the poverty caused by the mass privatisation of Russian industry, which wiped out the savings and pensions of millions of Russians, nevertheless it seemed the dawn of a better world. The threat of nuclear annihilation had been lifted just a little. People from both sides of the continent could travel to each other’s countries to work and open businesses. It’s why I don’t really have a problem with eastern European workers coming over here. Our peoples meeting in friendship and peace is far better than the fear and hatred that was whipped up when I was young in the 1980s.

Now our leaders seem to be determined to destroy this golden opportunity to create a truly peaceful co-existence between the West and Russia. And despite whatever nonsense Obama’s and Putin’s generals may be telling them, there is no way to survive a nuclear holocaust. As Sting sang, ‘It’s a lie that we don’t believe any more.’

He’s right. And so’s Mike: instead of preparing to launch attacks, everyone needs to step back a little. As one of 2000 AD’s other creations, Judge Dredd, also said: ‘War is sick. War is evil. War is hell.’

Let’s follow the ABC Warriors instead and ‘Increase the Peace!’

William Blum on the Naïve Trust of Countries Invaded by US

September 14, 2016

William Blum, in issue 4 of his Anti-Empire Report, published in December 2003, discussed how the Iraqis tried to prevent the US invasion of their country by offering to let American troops enter and show them that they very definitely didn’t have Weapons of Mass Distraction. Blum notes that the Iraqis weren’t the only country, who trusted America, and believed that if they simply gave in and acceded to the US’ demands, or demonstrated their good faith in another way, the US wouldn’t invade or try to overthrow the government. There’s a long list of such nations, which then also included Syria. Blum writes

We now know that Iraq tried to negotiate a peace deal with the United States to avoid the American invasion in March. Iraqi officials, including the chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, wanted Washington to know that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction and offered to allow American troops and experts to conduct a search; full support for any US plan in the Arab-Israeli peace process, and handing over a man accused of being involved in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 were also offered. If this is about oil, they said, they would also talk about US oil concessions.

What is most surprising about this is not the offers per se, but the naivete – undoubtedly fueled by desperation – on the part of the Iraqis that apparently led them to believe that the Americans were open to negotiation, to discussion, to being somewhat reasonable. The Iraqis apparently were sufficiently innocent about the fanaticism of the Bush administration that at one point they pledged to hold UN-supervised free elections. Surely free elections is something the United States believes in, the Iraqis reasoned, and will be moved by.

Other countries have harbored similar illusions about American leaders. Over the years, a number of Third-World leaders, under imminent military and/or political threat by the United States, have made appeals to Washington officials, even to the president in person, under the apparently hopeful belief that it was all a misunderstanding, that America was not really intent upon crushing them and their movements for social change. Amongst others, the Guatemalan foreign minister in 1954, Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana in 1961, and Maurice Bishop of Grenada in 1983 all made their appeals. All were crushed. In 1961, Che Guevara offered a Kennedy aide several important Cuban concessions if Washington would call off the dogs of war. To no avail. In 1994, it was reported that the leader of the Zapatista rebels in Mexico, Subcommander Marcos said that “he expects the United States to support the Zapatistas once US intelligence agencies are convinced the movement is not influenced by Cubans or Russians.” “Finally,” Marcos said, “they are going to conclude that this is a Mexican problem, with just and true causes.” Yet for many years, the United States has been providing the Mexican military with all the training and tools needed to kill Marcos’ followers and, most likely, before long, Marcos himself.

Syria today appears to be the latest example of this belief that somewhere in Washington, somehow, there is a vestige of human-like reasonableness that can be tapped. The Syrians turn over suspected terrorists to the United States and other countries and accept prisoners delivered to them by the US for the clear purpose of them being tortured to elicit information. The Syrians make it clear that they do these things in the hope of appeasing the American beast; this while the United States continues speaking openly of overthrowing the Syrian government and imposes strict sanctions against the country.

The “mystique” of America lives on.

This can be read on the Report’s site at https://williamblum.org/aer/read/4

I wonder how long it will be before the nations of the world decide that America and its allies, including Britain, are irredeemably treacherous, and that no deal can be made with us. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq is a case in point. Hussein at one point was an assassin for America, who tried to kill one of Iraq’s leading politicians after a coup in the 1950s overthrew the Iraqi prime minister installed by us. He was also armed and funded by us during the Iran-Iraq War, as part of our attack on the Islamic Republic. Then, having served his purpose, and with Big Oil demanding the Iraqi oil reserves, and Israel demanding his overthrow because he was funnelling arms to Palestinians – he was discarded and his country invaded and looted. The attacks on Iraq have been responsible for some of the radicalisation of Muslims in this country. Other Black and Asian groups have become disaffected because of the treatment of their peoples and nations by Britain, America and the West. And unfortunately, they’ve got a point. And as long as America goes on leading its allies cynically to break treaties as soon as they see the least advantage, the more this radicalisation will continue.

Black College Students Explain Why They’re Not Impressed with Trump’s Education Policy

September 9, 2016

This is another video from The Young Turks, and it’s part two of a continuing series in which their reporter, Eric Byler, examines Trump’s attempts to reach out to Black Americans. The blurb for this on YouTube notes that only two per cent of Black Americans support him. Given the massive way he’s appealed to White Supremacists and the disparaging way he refers to non-Whites, like Mexicans and Muslims, I’m not remotely surprised that Afro-Americans dislike him. In this piece, Byler talks to the students at North Carolina A & T State University. This is an historic Black college, which is credited, according to the blurb, with being the place that launched the sit-in movement that ended segregation.

Trump has asked Black Americans ‘What do you have to lose?’ by voting for him, promising that he’ll improve their educational opportunities through Charter schools. Those are the American equivalent of our Academies, and they’re about as popular. Like some of the Academies on this side of the Pond, they’ve been forced on communities, despite protests and demonstrations by teachers, parents, clergy and other members of their communities. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the oldest civil rights movement in America, recently demanded a moratorium on their establishment. Several of the pupils state very clearly that they don’t want state education to be disparaged and run down, but to be built up.

And what is most interesting of all is why so many Black Americans resent and are suspicious of Charter schools: they were first launched in the Deep South with the voucher system in the wake of desegregation, so Whites could take their children out of the now officially colour-blind public schools, so that they wouldn’t have to mix with Blacks.

Here’s the video:

I’m posting this as we have the same problems with the promotion of Academies in Britain, although that seems to have gone by the wayside with May’s announcement that all schools will be able to apply to become grammar schools. The experience of Black Americans with voucher schools in the US adds an extra dimension to some of the fears articulated by the critics of Academies and faith schools over here that such schools are divisive and will cause greater disruption to communities.

My sympathies are solidly with those of the students interviewed by Byler in this video. The state system in this country has been deliberately trashed and run down by successive administrations ever since Thatcher. Academies, by and large, are no better than state schools. Where they have succeeded, it’s because they’ve had an enormous amount of money thrown at them, often far more than the budget of the Local Education Authority for all the schools in its care. Any school would include, if they had that kind of money thrown at them. Far from demonstrating the superior results of private sponsorship and investment, they simply show the need for a properly funded state system.

Labour Purge 2: Blairites Do the Stalin Hot-Trot

August 27, 2016

Mike put up another report on yet another disgusting assault on party democracy by the Blairites on Thursday. It’s another purge, directed at anyone who used insulting or pejorative language against other Labour members. This includes the word ‘Blairite’, whether or not the term was used correctly to mean a follower of Tony Blair, or not. This is despite the fact that there has been no notification to Labour members against the use of the term. Hundreds of Labour members have already been expelled, suspended or told they may not vote in the forthcoming leadership elections.

The bans and the censorship on which it is based are highly selective. They seem to be another attempt by the New Labour, pro-corporate, pro-austerity leadership to purge the party of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. The ban does include people like Tom Watson, and other right-wing Labour MPs and apparatchiks, who went off on a rant calling Corbynistas ‘Trotskyite dogs’, ‘rabble’, and so forth. John McTiernan has also not been expelled, despite the fact that he has threatened his detractors with violence. These expulsions are extremely one-sided.

Among the victims so far is John Dunn, the miner and member of the party for 45 years, who was thrown out because he dared to upbraid Smudger on beginning his election campaign at Orgreave, when he had done nothing to aid the miners. It also includes Jonny Will Chambers, who’s a friend and supporter of Prezza and supports Smudger, which seems to show, according to Mike, that the purge has a scattershot approach. The letters sent out to individuals telling them they’ve been purged, or the hopefuls wanting to join the party that their application has been refused, are remarkably vague. Chris Devismes, one of those, whose membership application was turned down, was refused admission because he shared ‘inappropriate content’ on Twitter. There are no further details, so it’s difficult to challenge the accusation.

Mike reports that there is already a backlash on Twitter. Prescott was annoyed about his old oppo being banned, and Rhea Wolfson is similarly unimpressed. She’s a member of the NEC, despite the attempts of the Blairite Jim Murphy, head of Labour in Scotland, to stop her, on the grounds that she had connections to that terrible anti-Semitic organisation, Momentum. Despite the fact that Momentum’s members aren’t anti-Semites, and Ms Wolfson definitely isn’t. She’s Jewish. Wolfson put this message on Twitter observing that people were being punished for social media messages they put out before joining the Labour party. Their crime was therefore not joining the Labour party before they joined the Labour party. She concluded that the party needed to show more respect to its supporters. Another member of the Twitterati, ‘Susan’, summed this up by stating that if you tweeted nice things about the Tories, you were safe. But if you tweeted anything about the parties Labour might have to work with, such as the Greens and SNP, you were out.

Mike notes that the leaflets inform their recipients on how they may appeal about their expulsion or suspension. He also advises them to contact the barrister Liz Davies, who will also try to help them. Ms Davies is at:

A guide for what to do if you haven’t received a ballot for the 2016 Labour leadership election

Mike concludes

There is a clear stink of corruption about this purge. The aim is to prevent anybody who wants to change the current Labour status quo from ever being able to do anything about it. That is wrong.

One hopes those who still have a say in the ballot will take note of what is being done and use their votes accordingly – to restore a leader who will end the corruption, remove the people responsible and restore fairness to the Labour Party.

That’s Jeremy Corbyn, of course.

The article’s at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/25/theyre-calling-it-labour-purge-2-corbyn-supporting-members-are-expelled-or-barred-from-voting-in-leader-poll/

This latest assault on the Corbynites by the Thatcherite entryists is ironic, given that their favourite term of abuse for Corbyn supporters has been ‘Trotskyites’. When not abusing them as ‘homophobes’, ‘misogynists’ and Nazi Stormtroopers, of course. Stalin also used purges to destroy the opposition against him and to consolidate his leadership in the Russian Communist party. He began his rise to power as the party’s secretary, which was then quite a junior post. His job was to throw out undesirables like seducers, drunks and the corrupt. What nobody realised until it was too late, was that he was throwing out the supporters of the other Bolshevik factions, and replacing them with his own loyal supporters. And once in power, the purges became lethal, as millions were hauled before firing squads and sent to the gulags on the flimsiest charges. One of those was Trotsky himself, who became an ‘unperson’. He was written out of Soviet official histories, and he and his supporters were attacked and vilified in the strongest possible terms as imperialist agents, Nazi collaborators, anti-Communist saboteurs intent on destroying the Soviet Union. Trotsky himself was forced to leave the USSR, and died in Mexico, murdered by one of Stalin’s agents.

The old brute said of his tactics ‘It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes’.

And it’s exactly the same with the New Labour leadership, which seems intent on securing their hold on the party by expelling anyone, who once looked cross-eyed at Smudger, or who doesn’t believe that a party founded to support the working class should be trying to win elections by appealing to a middle class electorate on the basis of Thatcherite policies against that class. Like cutting welfare benefits, privatisation and the selling-off of the NHS.

The Blairites’ tactics are massively counterproductive. Not only has Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal massively expanded the Labour party and shown, though various local election victories that Labour is quite capable of winning a national election. It also shows the absolute contempt for democracy for which New Labour was notorious under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Their appearances before the media were carefully stage-managed, along with very carefully crafted ‘popular consultations’, where the public was very carefully selected beforehand to agree with everything the leadership wanted. The purges are part of that shameful tradition.

By carrying them out, the Blairites, or whatever they want to call themselves, are showing the public that they haven’t changed. They’re still a faction of sham democracy and a calculated indifference to the working class and the real feelings and wishes of the general public, in order to appeal to their corporate paymasters. The more they carry on with the purges and other anti-democratic charades, the more the electorate will distrust them. They have nothing to offer Britain, but Tory policies. And like the Tories, they want what Corbyn has described as a ‘zombie democracy’: a political system that preserves democratic forms, but which is in effect a corrupt corporate oligarchy, like America.

The only real alternative is to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

Emma Thompson: Trump and Nigel Farage are white Nationalists

August 27, 2016

Earlier this week Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP until he sort of resigned, but didn’t quite, appeared at a Trump rally in Mississippi to give his support to Trump. Sort of. He never actually told the assembled crowd that he would vote for Trump. Rather, he said that if he were an American, he wouldn’t vote for Hillary ‘if you paid me’. He then told the assembled Trumpists that they could defy the polls and win, just like Britain defied the polls and won with Brexit.

Amy Goodwin, one of the main anchors with Democracy Now!, discussed this with the veteran British thesp, Emma Thompson. Thompson had been in the arctic, and so hadn’t been around when Farage made his pronouncement. Asked for her reaction, Thompson declares that it was frightening, because Farage and Trump were both ‘nationalists- White nationalists’. She was shocked that Trump didn’t accept the reality of global warming, and declared that she was amazed that anyone who had anything between their ears didn’t believe in it, when 98 per cent of the world’s climate scientists did. This included that IPCC, which usually offered only mild criticism. Even they realised we were in serious trouble. She stated that one good reason for voting for Hillary was because she did believe in climate change.

It’s quite a messy little interview. When challenged by Goodwin over what she meant by ‘White nationalist’, Thompson doesn’t answer the question and carries on talking. She’s still talking when the titles start rolling and Goodwin has to cut her off.

I think she’s right about Trump being a White nationalist. He does have very strong racial views against Mexicans and Muslim immigration, even if he tries to camouflage it with claims that Blacks and Hispanics really love him. A similar racism did fuel the Brexit campaign and is evident in much of Bilious Barrage’s party, UKIP, despite its repeated claim that it won’t tolerate members, who have been members of the Fascist Right.

The reference to the arctic I think refers to a film Thompson has been making on the effects of climate change on the environment in that region. About this, I doubt, however, that Shrillary will be much better than Trump. She accepts the reality of climate change, but my guess is that she’s too much of a corporate shill beholden to the big energy companies and Wall Street ever to want to do much to curb their depredations on the environment. Anyone seriously interested in Green issues and tackling climate change would probably be better voting for Jill Stein and the Greens.

And finally, there’s Farage’s presumption in telling Americans how to vote. Talking about this with Mum the other day, she reckoned it was ‘a bit of a cheek’. It is. No nation likes being told which way to vote by foreigners. I remember the time over a decade ago when the Guardian – or was it the Observer – was so horrified by the prospect of Bush winning the election that they organised a mass letter writing campaign to voters in one of the counties in Ohio, on the grounds that this district had just the right number of voters to swing the vote. This had the opposite effect. Good patriotic Americans were duly royally annoyed at being told what to do by the Limeys again, 200 years after throwing us out. The result was a landslide for Bush, and much hilarity on Have I Got News For You when they covered the story.