Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

Counterpunch on the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair

February 25, 2017

Tony Blair emerged from under whatever plush, money-stuffed rock he’s been hiding under since he left power last week to deliver a speech to encourage Brits to remain in the EU. This, however, wasn’t the real point of his reappearance back into British politics. Mike in his piece about the speech stated that Blair’s real intention is simply to undermine Corbyn. Corbyn is trying to heal the rifts created by the Brexit vote. Blair, however, wishes to keep them open. He wants to undermine Corbyn, because the Labour leader represents a return to genuine, traditional Labour politics, while Blair simply wants it to carry on being a pale blue version of the Tories.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/17/blairs-dog-whistle-rallying-call-for-remain-is-another-bid-to-split-labour/

Mike’s right, of course. Blair’s entire electoral strategy was based on embracing Thatcherism and Neoliberalism, imposing even more strict limits on the unions and their ability to defend their members, and privatising the post office, the education system and massively expanding the Tory privatisation of the NHS. This was all done to appease the City, the right-wing press and gaining votes from swing voters in marginal constituencies.

Blair’s old ally, Peter Mandelson, also came out of the woodwork to support his former boss. On the Andrew Marr show on Sunday Mandelson announced that Labour needed unity and ‘sureness of touch’ to win elections. Mike pointed out that the division in the Labour party, which was succeeding in turning some people away from it, as he knew from his own experiences interviewing people on their doorsteps, had been created by Mandelson and the other Blairites. They’re not interested in Labour winning elections. They just want Corbyn out, and so are prepared to do anything to achieve this, including scuppering Labour’s chances of winning elections. Mike concluded that Mandelson was therefore ‘an enemy of the people’. It’s a strong phrase, but it accurately describes the New Labour attitude of tolerating and encouraging even more privatisation and welfare cuts, with the horrific suffering and death they’re causing to the poor, in order to make themselves electable to the rich.

See:http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/19/mandelsons-mixed-message-on-brexit-is-designed-to-confuse-not-help/ and http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/21/enemy-of-the-people-peter-mandelson/

Mike also noted that Labour MPs seemed to be less than enthusiastic about Blair’s return, with some making very lukewarm comments about it. The shadow Brexit minister, Jenny Chapman, made the point that it would be a mistake to argue in favour of remaining in Europe, as this would cut no ice with voters outside London.

Mike in his comments about Blair’s reception states that Labour MPs are aware that Blair is trying to keep the party divided and is a menace to the party’s chances of winning an election. Hence the frost reception the former PM got when he made his speech.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/02/17/labour-mps-turn-on-tony-blair-shock-horror/

The American radical magazine, Counterpunch, was also highly critical about Blair’s return. Their columnist, John Wight, points out very clearly that much of the current political climate, which has encouraged and facilitated the rise of the extreme right, is a direct result of the corrupt policies pursued by Blair in Britain and Clinton in America. Blair’s support for the Iraq invasion has been one of the causes of the massive carnage and destabilisation, not just of that nation, but of the entire Middle East. And the rise of the far right at home has been fuelled by their destruction of traditional working class politics in the Democrats and the Labour party in order to bolster the power of the business elites. He writes

Just when you thought it was safe to venture out, Frankenstein returns – at least its political equivalent in the shape of Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister and poster child for the venality, corruption, and opportunism of Western liberalism in our time.

Blair’s decision to intervene in the ongoing political crisis that has engulfed the UK over Brexit can only be described as offensive. His call to arms, urging the British people to “rise up against Brexit”, which he issued from that renowned fortress of people power, Bloomberg headquarters in the City of London, will only harden support for it given the fact that Blair’s time in office only helped pave the way for it.

The man is a deluded fool if he really thinks that he has the credibility or clout to make any such intervention in frontline politics anything other than a car crash. With the anniversary of the start of the 2003 war in Iraq upon us next month, bringing with it the memory of the role that Blair played in the deaths of up to one million people, along with the destabilization of the region and an explosion of terrorism that has wrought so much carnage in the years since, the only place that Blair should be giving any speech nowadays is from the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where his presence is long overdue.

Tony Blair, along with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, exemplifies everything rotten and depraved about liberal democracy. Whether it be their attachment to the interests of Wall Street and City of London, the abandonment of the poor and working class in the interests of the politics of identity, the worshipping at the altar of the free market and neoliberalism, not forgetting the slavish devotion to Western imperialism under the rubric of democracy and human rights – these people have turned the world upside down and enriched themselves and their cronies beyond measure in the process.

And concludes

Not until the political establishments in both the UK and US finally accept their responsibility for the rejection of everything they represent will there be an end to the political and social polarization that is the new normal in both countries. In this respect they remain stuck in the past, holding onto a belief in the verities of the free market, in NATO and Western exceptionalism. In this regard they are akin to those Japanese soldiers who failed to emerge from the jungles and foxholes in which they served during World War II until over a decade after the war ended.

Returning to Tony Blair, this is a man who not satisfied with helping to set the world on fire thereafter swanned off into a sunset of unparalleled riches and wealth, the wages of sin he’s received in return for services rendered to the some of the most corrupt and unsavoury governments, corporations, and causes in existence. His every public appearance and utterance is an insult to the millions of men, women, and children in Iraq who were slaughtered as a result of the brutal and illegal imperialist war he unleashed in conjunction with Washington in 2003.

It reminds us that their cry for justice from the grave is one that is yet to be heard.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/21/firestarter-the-unwelcome-return-of-tony-blair/

Counterpunch on the Threat of Military Policing in America by 2030

February 19, 2017

Last week there was a chilling piece in Counterpunch by John Whitehead. The left-wing American magazine, the Intercept, had obtained a five minute promotional video by the Pentagon. This forecast that by 2030 conditions in American cities will have decayed to the point where the army is being sent in as a police force.
He writes

The U.S. military plans to take over America by 2030.

No, this is not another conspiracy theory. Although it easily could be.

Nor is it a Hollywood political thriller in the vein of John Frankenheimer’s 1964 political thriller Seven Days in May about a military coup d’etat.

Although it certainly has all the makings of a good thriller.

No, this is the real deal, coming at us straight from the horse’s mouth.

According to “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” a Pentagon training video created by the Army for U.S. Special Operations Command, the U.S. military plans to use armed forces to solve future domestic political and social problems.

What they’re really talking about is martial law, packaged as a well-meaning and overriding concern for the nation’s security.

The chilling five-minute training video, obtained by The Intercept through a FOIA request and made available online, paints an ominous picture of the future—a future the military is preparing for—bedeviled by “criminal networks,” “substandard infrastructure,” “religious and ethnic tensions,” “impoverishment, slums,” “open landfills, over-burdened sewers,” a “growing mass of unemployed,” and an urban landscape in which the prosperous economic elite must be protected from the impoverishment of the have nots.

He then makes connections between the demands by the commentary in the Pentagon’s video to ‘drain the swamp’, with the same slogan used by Donald Trump. He also points out that Americans have become used to the all-powerful surveillance state, which can pinpoint your location and gain information through mobile phones and personal computers.

For further information, see: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/16/coming-soon-to-a-city-near-you-military-policing/

Whitehead states that it’s like the ’60s political thriller, ‘Seven Days in May’. It’s actually far closer to the urban dystopias of Cyberpunk and similar SF, like Blade Runner, Elysium, James Cameron’s Strange Days and John Carpenter’s Escape from New York and its sequel, Escape from LA. This is the America the Pentagon believes will arise within the next fifteen years. Back in the 1990s there was a programme on one of the Beeb’s documentary slots arguing that the cyberpunk future that had been forecast would arise from Thatcherism hadn’t emerged, and that thanks to free market economics, countries all round the world were actually prospering. This is just right-wing biased reporting and wishful thinking. It’s becoming painfully evident that neoliberalism is destroying countries around the world, and immiserating their citizens in even more grinding poverty. But it makes massive profits for big business, so they and their shills in the media will keep that very carefully covered up. The predictions were true. They just go their timing wrong.

There’s another point to be made here as well about the brutal methods America has used around the world to enforce its domination. These have included organising Fascist coups and right-wing military dictators. Critics of this policy that have argued that in addition to the harm done to the countries that have been the victims of these policies, there is the added danger that inevitably the repressive measures empires use to oppress the indigenous peoples of their colonies return to be used on the people of the imperial homeland itself. And this will be the case in America.

Unless neoliberalism is comprehensively scrapped, wealth is redistributed and the widening gap between the poor and the rich is closed.

Here’s the opening titles from Escape from New York, to show the kind of America such SF depicts, and which may arise in the next decades unless we do something to stop it.

The Young Turks on Women’s General Strike Planned for March 8

February 19, 2017

After the successes of the women’s marches across America and many other parts of the world, including Britain, the organisers are calling for another, expanded march and day of protest on March 8th – International Women’s Day. They don’t want the previous march to be a single event, which everyone then moves on from and then forgets. They want to keep the pressure up and the issues alive. Not only do they plan another march, but they’re also calling for a general strike by women. They state:

In the spirit of women and their allies coming together for love and liberation, we offer A Day Without A Woman. We ask: do businesses support our communities, or do they drain our communities? Do they strive for gender equity or do they support the policies and leaders that perpetuate oppression? Do they align with a sustainable environment or do they profit off destruction and steal the futures of our children?

The two hosts, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, point out that many men also joined the women’s march, and that it wasn’t just about one issue, but about a number that worry Americans. They also make the point that protesting is a quintessential tradition of American freedom, and warn about biased reporting from Fox News. Faux News broadcast some sneering, distorted coverage of the original women’s march, claiming that the marchers didn’t know what they were protesting against. To provide some similitude, they interviewed some people marching, who were less than articulate and informed than others. They make the point that this is the stand Faux News trick. If they ask 20 people about a protest, and 19 give a clear, informed answer, but one doesn’t, they’ll broadcast the answer of that one person.

They also jokingly wonder what’ll happen on March 8th, if Ana Kasparian and the show’s female producers and staff don’t come in.

Not everybody was happy with the inclusiveness of the women’s march. Julian Vigo, one of the contributors to Counterpunch, argued that its effect was diluted because it didn’t solely concentrate on women and their issues. I think she’s wrong. The march was very popular, because it included women’s equality as one of a number of issues that concerned women and men. I can remember some of the feminists campaigning in the Labour party, who tried to appeal to women to come out and vote during one election, saying that they believed that ‘every issue is a women’s issue’.

As for Faux News, well, what do you expect? They didn’t get their nickname for nothing. Academics, who’ve analysed their content has said that 75 per cent of it is rubbish. You’re actually less informed if you watch Fox than if you don’t. And pretty much could be said about the Dirty Diggers newspapers around the world, not excluding the Times.

There have been a number of general strikes by women around the world, ever since the ancient Greek play, Lysistrata. There was one way back in the 1970s or ’80s in Iceland, if memory serves me right.

It will be interesting to see if there’s a general strike by this country’s women. We suffer from the same issues that are plaguing America – poverty, starvation, stagnant and declining wages, cuts to benefits, destruction of the welfare state and attacks on state healthcare provision. But the head of the government is Theresa May, and these grotty policies were introduced by Maggie Thatcher. As a result, I’m afraid that if there is a march and women’s strike, the protestors will be smeared as misogynists. Killary’s platform was essentially Conservative, and she herself a staunch supporter of Wall Street and the power of big business. She had also supported the Iraq invasion, and a Fascist coup in Honduras, which saw a female indigenous leader murdered by a right-wing death squad. Despite the fact that her policies would have hurt millions of women across America and beyond, her supporters were smearing her critics, and particularly supporters of Bernie Sanders, as misogynists. There was also the unedifying spectacle of Madeleine Albright, who has very vocally supported all manner of international aggression and atrocities by the US, telling women that there was a ‘special place in hell’ for them if they didn’t vote for Hillary.

British feminists have also shown that they’ll back a female politico, even if they despise her policies. When Thatcher was ousted Germaine Greer penned a piece ‘A Sad Day for Every Woman’, lamenting the removal from power of the first female British prime minister. This was despite Thatcher not considering herself a feminist, there being no women in her cabinet, and the active damage her policies had inflicted on women in general.

Similarly, various female hacks in the Graun and other papers, including the I, tried to claim that Angela Eagle was the victim and other female Labour politicos were the victims of terrible misogyny from Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, just as Killary’s supporters had tried to smear Sanders’, and similarly without any real evidence.

We definitely need more mass demonstrations and days of action in this country against the government and its vile policies, policies that are killing hundreds, and leaving millions in poverty and starvation. But I fear that if women march and strike against Theresa May, just like they marched against the Orange Buffoon, they’ll be attacked and smeared for their lack of solidarity to a female leader.

Secular Talk: Room Full of Republicans Cheer Single-Payer Healthcare

February 19, 2017

This is little clip from Secular Talk is going to frighten and annoy many Republicans and Libertarians. It shows very graphically how their attempts to scare Americans away from universal healthcare is increasingly being rejected even by those self-identified Conservatives, who constitute the party’s constituency.

The clip is of a question by a member of the audience, Jesca(?) Bohun, at a Republican town hall meeting in Tennessee. Bohun says she is a Christian, and believes that the rich have a duty to pull the poor up. She then talks about some of the problems of Obamacare, the ‘Affordable Care Act’ introduced by the last president, to make private health insurance affordable to all American citizens. Bohun makes the point that this insurance is still expensive and can be high risk. Also, the insurance companies are free to pull out of the scheme if they don’t like it. She gives as an example the case where Aetna, one of the insurers, pulled out of the scheme claiming it was due to expense. In actual fact, they pulled out because the federal authorities had prevented them from merging with another insurance company, Humana. The result was that Obamacare now did not cover those insured with Aetna. Bohun then went on to say that rather than try to fix what is wrong with Obamacare, ‘why don’t we have medicare for all?’

Medicare is the American healthcare safety net, where the state pays for the medical treatment of the poorest, who cannot afford private health insurance.

What’s the result of this proposal, which would have many Conservatives screaming ‘Communism!’ and shouting about left-wing brainwashing and ‘pinko Commie liberal faggots’? The people in the room cheer.

Kulinski makes the point that this shows how even Conservatives will adopt left-wing policies if they are carefully explained to them, like the minimum wage, regulating the banks, taxing the rich and single-payer healthcare. He makes the point that labels may not mean much to ordinary Americans, who don’t have Ph. D.s in political science. Thus there was the spectacle of some members of the Tea Party waving placards with the slogan ‘Keep Your Government off My Medicare’, without apparently realising that Medicare is a government programme. Kulinski goes on to state that Bernie Sanders found that he could win over Conservatives to his views talking in the Mid-West, if he explained the issues properly. Kulinski then goes on to say that this episode makes him optimistic that liberal attitudes and policies are winning over the majority of people in America. But it does not take away the duty of liberals to explain these issues clearly.

This is really amazing, considering the way the American Right has long demonised single-payer healthcare and, indeed, anything that looked even remotely like socialised medicine. We’ve had the right-wing televangelists like Pat Robertson rant on about it being ‘Communism’. Lyndon B. Johnson introduced Medicaid in the 1960s, the parallel programme to Medicare in which the state pays for the medical treatment of senior citizens, who cannot afford it. This provoked Ronald Reagan to make an utterly bonkers and malignant speech claiming it was a threat to the freedom Americans hoped to pass on to their children.

But it’s increasingly evident to a growing number of Americans that private medicine isn’t working, and that there is no alternative to state-financed medicine.

Actually, you have no idea how good it felt to right those words about a socialist policy. Maggie Thatcher was found of invoking ‘TINA’ for her policies, standing for ‘There Is No Alternative’. Well, if you want people to have decent medicine for all, There Is No Alternative than various forms of state provision.

This clip, and other occasions like it, will make the Tories and their paymasters in the private health industry even more dangerous. One of the reasons they came over here under Major, Blair and Cameron and tried to persuade them to privatise the NHS, is because they realised that the private healthcare market in America was becoming saturated. And so they want to muscle in on the NHS as a way of maximising the profits they might lose in the US.

And so far, out of all the European countries with a state medical system, our politicians seem to be the only ones stupid, mendacious and venal enough to allow these parasites in.

Get rid of the Tories and the Blairites, and support Jeremy Corbyn to renationalise the NHS.

Four Anti-Trump Pop Videos

February 17, 2017

I found a number of music videos on YouTube yesterday ripping into the Cheeto Generalissimo as a menace to world peace, and a national disgrace attacking the poor, ethnic minorities, and those who rely on state welfare. They range from the savage to the quirky, but all of them try to make the serious point that Trump should definitely not be in charge of the world’s only superpower with his finger on the nuclear trigger.

This one sets a satirical video to R.E.M.’s ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It’.

This one is set to Barry MacGuire’s ‘The Eve of Destruction’.

After that comes the lounge Jazz song, ‘Dump Trump’, by Leigh and the Dumpettes. Apart from the satirical lyrics, this takes the mick out of the Great Narcissist’s hair by having ginger wigs like his in various places.

This last vide is ‘Sympathy for the Donald’, which parodies the Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ to satirise him viciously. Warning: this is the uncensored version, so there is some foul language and obscene imagery.

I’m sure there are other songs out there, but these are a few of those I’ve found so far. I hope you enjoy them.

William Blum’s List of American Foreign Interventions: Part 2

February 15, 2017

Jamaica 1976
Various attempts to defeat Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Honduras 1980s
Arming, equipping, training and funding of Fascist government against dissidents, also supporting Contras in Nicaragua and Fascist forces in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Nicaragua
Civil War with the Contras against left-wing Sandinistas after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.

Philippines 1970s-1990
Support of brutal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos

Seychelles 1979-81
Attempts to overthrow country’s leader, France Albert Rene, because he tried to turn his nation and the Indian Ocean into nuclear free zone.

Diego Garcia late 196-0s to Present
People of the largest of the Chagos islands forcibly relocated Mauritius and Seychelles so that Americans could build massive complex of military bases.

South Yemen, 1979-84
CIA backing of paramilitary forces during war between North and South Yemen, as South Yemen government appeared to be backed by Russia. In fact, the Russians backed North and South Yemen at different times.

South Korea
Support for military dictator, Chun Doo Hwan, in brutal suppression of workers’ and students’ uprising in Kwangju.

Chad 1981-2
Political manipulation of Chad government to force Libyan forces of Colonel Gaddafy to leave, aided Chadian forces in the Sudan to invade and overthrow Chadian government installing Hissen Habre as the ‘African General Pinochet’.

Grenada 1979-83
Operations against government of Maurice Bishop, and then invasion when Bishop government overthrown by ultra-leftist faction.

Suriname 1982-4
Abortive plot to overthrow Surinamese government for supporting Cuba.

Libya 1981-89
Attempts to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy.

Fiji 1987
Prime Minister Timoci Bavrada of the Labour Party overthrown as neutral in Cold War and wanted to make Fiji nuclear free zone.

Panama 1989
Overthrow of Manuel Noriega, long-term American ally in Central America for drug trafficking. The real reason to was intimidate Nicaragua, whose people were going to the elections two months later and stop them from voting for the Sandinistas.

Afghanistan 1979-92
Backing of Mujahideen rebels against Soviet-aligned government then Soviet forces.

El Salvador 1980-92
Backing of right-wing dictator and death squads in country’s civil war against dissidents, after first making sure the dissidents got nowhere through democratic means.

Haiti 1987-94
US government opposed reformist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, aiding Haiti government and its death squads against him. However, after he won the 1991, they were forced to allow him back in. They then extracted a promise from him that he would not aid poor at expense of the rich and would follow free trade economics. Kept army there for the rest of his term.

Bulgaria 1990-1
Massive campaign by the US through the National Endowment for Democracy and Agency for International Development to aid the Union of Democratic Forces against the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the successor to the Communists.

Albania 1991
Another campaign to keep the Communists out, in which the Americans supported the Democratic Party.

Somalia 1993
Attempts to kill Mohamed Aidid. The motive was probably less to feed the starving Somali people, and more likely because four oil companies wished to exploit the country and wanted to end the chaos there.

Iraq 1991-2003
American attempts to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Colombia 1990s to Present
Aid by US to suppress left-wing guerillas.

Yugoslavia 1995-99
Campaigns against Serbia government during break up of the former Yugoslavia.

Ecuador 2000
Suppression of mass peaceful uprising by indigenous people of Quito, including trade unionists and junior military officers on orders from Washington, as this threatened neoliberalism.

Afghanistan 2001-to Present
Invasion and occupation of country after 9/11.

Venezuela 2001-4
Operations to oust Chavez.

Iraq 2003-to Present
Invasion and occupation.

Haiti 2004
President Aristide forced to resign by Americans because of his opposition to globalisation and the free market.

For much more information, see the chapter ‘A Concise History of United State Global Interventions, 1945 to the Present’ in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, pp. 162-220. I realise that many of the Communist regimes Washington sought to overthrow were hardly models of virtue themselves, and often responsible for horrific acts of repression. However, the US has also sought to overthrow liberal and Socialist governments for no better reason than that they sought to improve conditions for their own peoples against the wishes of the American multinationals. And the regimes Washington has backed have been truly horrific, particularly in Latin America.

So it’s actually a very good question whether America has ever really supported democracy, despite the passionate beliefs of its people and media, since the War.

Putin and Trump, and Bill Clinton’s Interference in Russian Elections for Yeltsin

February 14, 2017

There’s increasing concern and speculation that Putin really does have some kind of ‘dirty’ dossier on Trump, featuring some rather unsavory things that the Orange Generalissimo may have done with prostitutes during business trips there.

But America also has a very long and deeply unpleasant history of interfering in the elections of independent states around the world. At its most extreme this takes the form of coups, but the US has also exerted its influence through more subtle means, like the financing of opposition candidates and parties, covert propaganda, threats to withhold aid and so on.

William Blum has a entire chapter on the US ‘Perverting Democracy’ in his book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. And it includes a very, very long list of mostly developing nations, whose democratic processes the US government has attempted to suborn.

But one of the nations whose elections the Americans tried to influence was rather more important on the world state. In 1996 Bill Clinton and his team intervened in the Russian elections to secure the victory of neoliberal privatisers and booze-sozzled corrupt drunk, Boris Yeltsin. Blum writes

For four months (March-June), a group of veteran American political consultants worked secretly in Moscow in support of Boris Yeltsin’s presidential campaign. Although the Americans were working independently, President Clinton’s political guru, Dick Morris, acted as their middleman to the administration, and Clinton himself told Yeltsin in May that he wanted to “make sure everything the United States did would have a positive impact” on the Russians electoral campaign. Boris Yeltsin was being counted on to run with the globalized-free market ball and it was imperative that he cross the final goal line. The American’s scripted a Clinton-Yeltsin summit meeting in April to allow the Russian to “stand up to the West”, to match what the Russian Communist party-Yeltsin’s main opponent-was insisting they would do if they won.

The Americans emphasized sophisticated methods of message development, polling, focus groups, crowd staging, direct-mailing etc., urged more systematic domination of the state-owned media, and advised against public debates with the Communists. Most of all they encouraged the Yeltsin campaign to “go negative” against the Communists, painting frightening pictures of what the Communists would do if they took power, including much civic upheaval and violence, and, of course, a return to the worst of Stalinism. With a virtual media blackout against them, the Communists were extremely hard pressed to respond to the attacks or to shout the Russian equivalent of “It’s the economy, stupid.”

It is impossible to measure the value of the American consultants’ contribution to the Yeltsin campaign, for there’s no knowing which of their tactics the Russians would have employed anyhow if left to their own devices, how well they would have applied them, or how things would have turned out. But we do know that before the Americans came on board, Yeltsin was favoured by only six percent of the electorate. In the first round of voting, he edged the Communists 35 percent to 32, and was victorious in the second round 54 to 40 percent. “Democracy” declared Time magazine, “triumphed”. (pp. 230-1).

Putin is a murderous thug, who has had journalists and members of the opposition beaten and killed. And the Communist party was responsible for horrific repression. Gorbachev’s reforms, if allowed to continue, may have created something positive, and established Communist Russia as a true ‘workers’ state’, where working people had real power, both in elections and over their boss and his decisions at work. But he was overthrown by the hardliners before he could complete it.

As for Yeltsin, his rushed privatisation of anything that wasn’t nailed down resulted in economic meltdown. Millions of ordinary Russians found themselves thrown out of work, in a country that did not have any unemployment benefit schemes, because the state had always provided work. So too did massive inflation wipe out ordinary Russians’ pensions and savings. It’s partly as a reaction to that chaos that Putin was elected. He’s a thug and a strongman, but he offers his people stability and prosperity.

It’s grossly hypocritical for American politicos to whine about Putin interfering in their democratic process, when America has been doing just that all over the world, including Russia, since World War Two. The latest victim of American interference was Ukraine, where the Orange Revolution, far from being a spontaneous display of democracy, was carefully orchestrated by various American state NGOs, including the National Endowment for Democracy.

So as far as this issue is concerned, I’m sure that there are now many people in Russia and abroad who feel this way: ‘Payback’s a b*tch’.

Financial Speculators, Not Cost, Are the Real Oil Prices Are Rising

February 10, 2017

This week it was reported that British Gas were considering raising their prices by 9 per cent. This is frightening, as it means that the other companies may also raise their prices as well. Many people are increasingly finding themselves faced with a choice due to austerity, benefit cuts and stagnating wages. They can eat, and freeze, or stay warm and starve.

I don’t know what the reason given for raising the price of gas is. I suspect, however, from the behaviour of the oil industry, that any justification presented is spurious. William Blum in the chapter on capitalism in his book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, shows that the rise in oil prices aren’t due to rising costs. The cost of getting the stuff out of the ground has remained the same, despite all the guff about having reached peak oil. The real cause of the rise in fuel prices, including gas, is financial speculation, and quotes a US Senate report, The Role of Market Speculation in Rising Oil and Gas Prices. This states

The traditional forces of supply and demand cannot fully account for these increases [in crude oil, gasoline, etc.]. While global demand for oil has been increasing… global oil supplies have increased by an even greater amount. As a result, global inventories have increased as well. Today, US oil inventories are at an 8-year high, and OECD [mainly European] oil inventories are at a 20 year high. Accordingly, factors other than basic supply and demand must be examined…

Over the past few years, large financial institutions, hedge funds, pension funds, and other investment funds have been pouring billions of dollars into the energy commodities markets … to try to take advantage of price changes or to hedge against them. Because much of this additional investment has come from financial institutions and investment funds that do not use the commodity as part of their business, it is defined as ‘speculation’ by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFC). According to the CTFC, a speculator ‘does not produce or use the commodity, but risks his or her own capital trading futures in that commodity in hopes of making a profit on price changes.’ The large purchases of crude oil futures contracts by speculators have, in effect, created an additional demand for oil to be delivered in the future in the same manner that additional demand for the immediate delivery of a physical barrel of oil drives up the price on the spot market… Although it is difficult to quantify the effect of speculation on prices, there is substantial evidence that the large amount of speculation in the current market has significantly increased prices. (p. 248).

Blum goes on to make the point that the American financial regulators have been unable to combat these rises, because their ability to do so has been taken away from them by Congress. (pp. 249-50). As a result, although it still costs ExxonMobil $20 to get a barrel of oil out of the ground, the oil itself can trade at $40, $80 or $130 a barrel. (p. 251).

So if you’re worried about paying the gas or heating oil bill, the reason it’s gone up is due the financial sector. The very people that donate to political parties, especially the Tories and employ MPs when they leave.

The Massive Crisis in American Private Healthcare

February 9, 2017

Mike’s published several articles this week on the continuing stealth privatisation of the NHS by the Tories. Maggie wanted to privatise the NHS in the 1980s, and successive right-wing governments have been gradually undermining it ever since, including that of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. But America’s private healthcare system is in an even worse state. Healthcare costs are rocketing to the point where health insurance is unaffordable to many American citizens. Before Obama passed the Affordable Care Act, 20 per cent of Americans could not afford their health insurance. Now that figure’s been drastically cut. It is still, however, only a palliative stop-gap. Trump and his goons wish to repeal it, leaving millions of Americans without health insurance. So now, about 58 per cent of Americans now want single-payer healthcare.

Russell Mokhiber has written an interesting article in Counterpunch, in which he describes a discussion with an American electrical contractor, who is a staunch advocate of single-payer. The article states that before Obama passed Obamacare, the American health care system was near to collapse. And despite Obama’s efforts, it still is. Mokhiber writes

“There was word behind the scenes that by the mid 2000s the healthcare system as a whole in this country was heading for the rocks. I’m talking about a full blown collapse. For those that studied the problem it is believed that when the number of uninsured people hits forty percent in any region, then the healthcare system falls apart. That is the number at which hospitals pile up unimaginable amounts of debt from uncompensated services. We were at that point in 2007 in many regions of the country. That forced the Democrats’ hand. Obama, lacking the guts, decided to expand the current system using the coercive power of the tax system and some government subsidies to pump up the system sort of like a blood transfusion. And to that extent his Obamacare system worked. But it did absolutely nothing to address the underlying problem.”

“What Trump does should be interesting to watch. If he guts Obamacare like he promises, we could wind up back in the same situation we were facing in 2007 in short order. I would say something like 2019 to 2020.”

“Based on that analysis, the single payer healthcare movement should propose a three year plan that would set itself up for action when the collapse comes.”

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/30/single-payer-engineer-rips-duplicitous-democrats/

Forty per cent of the people in certain parts of America in 2007 were without healthcare, because they couldn’t afford private health insurance!

This is one of the reasons the American healthcare companies are all over here, trying to get our governments to privatise the NHS. The American healthcare market is saturated and collapsing, so the only way they can make even more profits is by destroying socialised medicine elsewhere. Like Britain.

Don’t believe the lying rubbish spouted by May, Cameron, Jeremy Hunt, or even Blair and Brown about how wonderful private medicine is. It’s rubbish. And if we allow May, Hunt and the other thugs to privatise the NHS, we can expect a similar massive crash in the quality of healthcare in Britain.

Do we want forty per cent of Brits to be denied healthcare, just ’cause they can’t afford the premiums charged by May’s, Cameron’s and Blair’s mates in the private healthcare companies?

Support Corbyn’s campaign to renationalise the NHS, and kick out the Tories.

William Blum on the Police Bombing of Black Americans

February 9, 2017

I found this passage in William Blum’s America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy absolutely mind-blowing as it says so much about Reaganite and post-Reaganite America’s willingness to use deadly force, regardless of who gets killed, and the militarisation of the police.

In the chapter on human rights and torture, Blum discusses the continuing misuse of American drone strikes to assassinate terrorist leaders. These are notorious, as most of the victims so far have been civilians, including women and children. Blum mentions that Amnesty International has protested several times against their use. He makes the point that drones are only ever used against poor countries, like Yemen and Pakistan, and would never be used against America’s allies in the Developed world, like Britain. But bomb strikes have been used by the police in America against terrorists in poor Black neighbourhoods, with the resulting massive loss of innocent lives and destruction of people’s homes. He writes

Can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a house in Paris or London or Ottawa because they suspected that high-ranking al-Qaeda members were present there? Even if the US knew of their presence for an absolute fact, and was not just acting on speculation, as in the Predator cases mentioned above? Well, they most likely would not attack, but can we put anything past Swaggering-Superarrogant-Superpower-Cowboys-on-steroids? After all, they’ve already done it to their own – US drone attack killed two American citizens in Yemen in 2011, and on May 13, 1985, a bomb dropped by a police helicopter over Philadelphia, Pennsylvania burned down an entire block, some sixty homes destroyed, eleven dead, including several small children.. The police, the mayor’s office, and the FBI were all involved in this operation to evict an organization called MOVE from the house they lived in.

The victims in Philadelphia were all black of course. So let’s rephrase the question: can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a residential area of Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side of Manhattan? Stay tuned. (p. 127).

No, of course they wouldn’t.

But what in the name of Heaven is a police force doing with bombs? This whole affair reads like something from a dystopian SF novel. You know, something like Stephen King’s The Running Man, which was set in a Fascist America where the cops shoot people rioting to get bread. That one was filmed in the 1980s with Arnie. Or The Hunger Games. It does not sound like the actions of a responsible democracy based on ‘justice for all’.

I’m not disputing that sometimes it is necessary to use force against armed, violent criminals and terrorists. But I am absolutely amazed that the US police was militarised to the extent that the used bombs. As for the victims being Black, that explains so much about why so many Blacks in America hate the police, and the entire point behind the Black Lives Matter movement.