Posts Tagged ‘Austerity’

Majority Report’s Michael Brooks Urges Brits to Vote Labour against Odious Theresa May

April 30, 2017

In this clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, the host Michael Brooks urges British voters to support Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party against the Tories and their right-wing agenda. The Majority Report is an American progressive internet news programme. Brooks notes that May has called this snap election, despite lying that she wouldn’t. He also correctly says that she’s claiming its about getting enough support for her to win a strong Brexit. However, the real reason is that the Tories are decimating Labour in the polls. In Brooks’ opinion, this isn’t because Corbyn lacks a strong left-wing programme, but because of strategic mistakes by his campaign team and his own failures in trying to get his points across.

However, Brooks also says that in this speech in the House of Commons, Corbyn is precisely right. He plays a clip showing Jeremy Corbyn attacking the Tories for standing for the rich few against the many poor, for their massive mishandling of the economy, their deliberate incompetence in running down the NHS, and for creating a situation where millions are struggling to make ends meet. The Labour leader sums up their attitude, spearing May’s pretensions to be a strong leader: ‘They are strong against the weak, and weak against the strong’.

Brooks states that’s exactly right, and also mocks May’s wails that she’s ‘strong’, and her bizarre laugh. He also states that Brits should go in for damage limitation and vote Labour, as the Tories will bring in an even harsher austerity regime, which will leave millions much poorer, all for the benefit of the rich corporations. Just as the right has done over in his homeland, America. He also recommends that people in marginal constituencies should vote Green, SNP or Liberal to stop the Tories.

He’s right about Jeremy Corbyn’s analysis of the Tories’ attitude to the poor. They are bullies, who fear and hate the weak and vulnerable, and wish to create an impoverished working and lower middle class, who will be desperate to accept any kind of work, no matter how exploitative, from their lords and masters.

I don’t agree, however, with his analysis of Corbyn’s leadership. It has not been for want of trying that Corbyn trails in the polls. He has been consistently undermined and attacked by the Blairites in Labour, and the press. Corbyn has and is campaigning much harder than May, but you won’t know about this, because the press and the biased BBC won’t report it. Similarly, you won’t hear much about his policies either, in the same way that Tony Benn’s and Ken Livingstone’s policies weren’t properly reported in the 1980s. The press than simply attacked them as dangerous Commies from the ‘loony left’, despite the fact that both were highly rational men, who very carefully considered their policies. And unfortunately it was effective. One of the books I bought on media bias begins with the description from one woman how she was told by a friend that she wouldn’t vote for Tony Benn. This was despite the fact that she shared all of Benn’s beliefs, including getting British troops out of Northern Ireland. When the lady pointed this out, and asked her friend why she wasn’t voting for him after all this, the woman replied that it was because Benn ‘was mad’. The press said so, so it has to be correct.

The press lies, and the campaign against fake news is simply the mainstream press trying to stop their competitors in the new media from spoiling their lies by telling the truth.

Brooks is also wrong when he advises people to vote Lib Dem, SNP and Green in marginal constituencies. I don’t think the Greens are strong enough electorally to be able to get an MP into parliament, even with tactical Labour votes. As for the Lib Dems, I’ve seen no indication that, if people vote for them, they won’t do what they did last time and immediately jump in bed with the Tories. I also very strongly believe that if people return to voting Labour in Scotland, not only will it strengthen the left throughout the UK, it’ll also drive the Tories finally out of Scotland completely.

Kenneth Surin on Brexit and May’s Corporate Attack on the Poor

April 20, 2017

On Tuesday, Counterpunch published a long piece by their contributor, Kenneth Surin, on Theresa May’s plans for Brexit, and how this will inevitably harm the poor and the working people of this Sceptred Isle. And it’s what you’re already expecting, if you’ve read the Groaniad, those bits of the I newspaper that are still even remotely genuinely liberal, and bloggers like Mike over at Vox Political, the Canary, Another Angry Voice, The Void and so on. May, he predicts, will talk a hard Brexit in order to counter some of the opposition from the Tory Right, but will leave some room for a soft Brexit. She, Boris Johnson, and the other vicious grotesques currently infesting the halls of power, want to use it to turn Britain into a tax haven. So he predicts that the City of London and its connections to some very dodgy individuals – he has a paragraph giving the names of some of them – will get even murkier. But, as he points out, Britain already is a tax haven through the Channel Islands.

He states that we are likely to be given a very hard deal by the EU. He states that there was friction between Britain and the European Union as while the EU represents the power of corporate capital, it draws a line on their direct influence in government. The lingering Social Democratic tradition in these countries, like France, Germany, and the Scandinavian nations, means that the government governs for industry, but is not run like an industry. Unlike the Neoliberal vision, exported to Britain from the US, which wants government to be run exactly like a business.

He also predicts that May and her grotty team will inflict further misery on the poor, because that’s what appeals to the right-wing British press, like ‘the foreigner Murdoch’ and the ‘tax-dodging, Nazi-supporting Rothermere family’. The Tories will follow Farage, and privatise the NHS, just as the are already privatising services and levying charges for them.

He also rebuts May’s feigned concern for those ‘Just About Managing’, or the JAMs. Despite all the crocodile tears she and her cronies shed, she has done absolutely nothing for them. Wages are still stagnant, the opportunities to upgrade one’s skills are similarly being cut, as are welfare services to support the poor and unemployed.

Surin begins his article also by pointing out that when it comes to the day, the vote on Brexit is likely to be influenced by factors and issues that aren’t really relevant. He also talks about the way May has already shot herself in the foot by trying to promote Brexit using images of places, which have actually benefitted from the EU. Like the northern shipyards, which were given a million pound grant.

Surin begins his piece

“So at this moment of change [Brexit], we must respond with calm, determined, global leadership to shape a new era of globalisation that works for all”.

— Theresa May

“My plan for Britain is not just a plan to leave the EU but a plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, underpinned by genuine economic and social reform. To make Britain a country that works for everyone, not just a privileged few”.

— Theresa May

The UK’s Brexit roll-out is a constantly evolving project, zig zagging along because the Tories in charge of it, like everyone else, have no real idea of how it will culminate. So far it has been ad hockery all the way, though one or two of the project’s connecting threads are starting to be visible.

One week, Theresa “the woman without qualities” May, who voted against Brexit, is in favour of a “hard” Brexit (basically one involving no deal of any kind with the EU regarding the single market and immigration), the next she softens her tone and hints that a more placative agreement with the EU, amounting to a “soft” Brexit, might be welcomed in whatever hoped-for way.

Nothing was more symbolic of this chaos and muddled-thinking than the most recent pro-Brexit television broadcast by May, which showed her against the background of ships moving in the Scottish port of Aberdeen.

Oops– the port of Aberdeen was granted a €258 million loan from the European Investment Bank on 20 June 2016, just 3 days before the UK voted to leave the EU!

It all seems to depend on how much heat the pro-Brexit right-wing of her party, citing that chimerical entity “sovereignty”, can turn on her.

Her predecessor, “Dodgy Dave” Cameron, weary of feeling this heat, called the Brexit referendum to cool down his party’s right-wing, absolutely confident in his nonchalantly patrician way that Brits would consider themselves better-off by remaining in the EU.

Such referenda, although purportedly on a single-issue, tend invariably to have outcomes determined very much by the mood of the electorate, which is affected by a plethora of considerations having nothing specifically to do with the issue officially on the table on referendum day.

***

May’s calculation requires her to “talk” a hard Brexit, to neutralize the right-wingers who ended her predecessor’s political career, and to gain the support of the right-wing press– owned by the foreigner Murdoch, the Nazi-supporting and tax-dodging Rothermere family, Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond (the former head of a soft porn empire), the tax-dodging Barclay brothers, and a Russian oligarch.

This overseas-domiciled and tax-dodging (in the cases mentioned) crew have set the low-information agenda for those inclined towards Brexit, so May’s strategy, if we can call it that, has been accommodating towards their hard Brexit stance, while leaving things vague enough for loopholes to enable a “softish” Brexit if needed.

May, craving electoral success, has to cater to all sides and eventualities. The results are likely to be calamitous for the UK.

Why is this?

May’s primary objective is to convey the impression that Brexit will “work for all”.

Alas there is no evidence for this claim.

***

The UK’s pro-Brexit movement, in the absence of anything resembling a Lexit, is not going to be shackled by this or that constraint previously imposed by the EU.

For instance, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage, Trump’s non-American sycophant par excellence, though a minimal figure, has always advocated the privatization of the NHS. And this is exactly what the Tories have been pursuing by stealth since 2010.

***

May has already said she “stands ready” to use Brexit as an opportunity to turn the UK into a tax haven, or as the financial press euphemistically puts it, “a low-tax financial centre”. It is already one of course (this being the primary function of the islands of Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, and Gibraltar).

What May clearly means is that London’s financial sector, which is already awash in murky water, will become an even muddier swamp able to match similar swamps in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Panama, Hong Kong, Singapore, and so forth. Dwellers of these swamps include assorted drug dealers, human traffickers, gun runners, owners of illegal gambling syndicates…

***

In addition to May desiring this state of affairs for the City of London, it is clear from the composition of the team put together by the secretary of state for international trade Liam Fox to negotiate post-Brexit trade deals, that Brexit UK is going to pursue a thoroughgoing pro-corporate agenda.

***

This corporate bonanza will probably be accompanied by a weakening of environmental regulations, since most of the leading Brexiteers are climate-change deniers or supporters of fracking (and in most cases, both).

Pro-Brexit climate-change deniers include Farage, Michael Gove (who tried to ban climate change from the school curriculum when he was education minister), the foreign minister Boris “BoJo” Johnson, Thatcher’s finance minister Nigel Lawson, and the above-mentioned Liam Fox.

***

This hugely attractive and compassionate bunch (sic) are not going to be too concerned about pollution, biodiversity, natural habitats, animals abused by industrial farming, climate change, the prohibition of lethal pesticides, declining fish stocks, the international trade in endangered species, and the use of GMOs, when the agribusiness corporations howl about environmental regulation being a burden to them.

There will be no remotely green agenda under this ghastly crew.

***

May prates on about her deep concern for “just about managing” families (JAMs), but the austerity agenda passed on by the disastrous former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is being implemented with only a slight cosmetic tweak here and there.

The UK economy has grown since 2010, but, according to the Guardian, 7.4 million Brits, among them 2.6 million children, live in poverty despite being from working families (amounting to 55% of these deemed poor) — 1.1 million more than in 2010-11.

The report cited by the Guardian, produced by the reputable Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), shows that the number living below the Minimum Income Standard – the earnings, defined by the public, required for a decent standard of living – rose from 15 million to 19 million between 2008/9 and 2014/5. The UK’s population is 65 million.

These 19 million people, or just under 1/3rd of the UK’s population, are its JAMs.
***

Social care is becoming increasingly unaffordable for them, the NHS is starting to charge for treatment as it undergoes a backdoor privatization, they have fewer opportunities for upskilling in order to raise their incomes, and so on. This while their wages are stagnant even as the cost of living is increasing for them.

***

Such important and pressing issues need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, but they are not.

The Tories pro-corporate Brexit agenda has become the proverbial tail wagging the dog.

***

Many have a name for what is really and truly going on in the UK and US: class warfare.

The bastards have the underprivileged by the throat. All the mainstream political parties are terrified of offending them, if they haven’t already thrown their lot in with the bastards.

What is desperately needed, for the dispossessed and disadvantaged, is a reversal of this situation, in which many firm hands turn round and grasp the throats of those responsible for the misery of tens of millions of people.

Is there anyone in the almost moribund Labour party, torn apart by infighting caused by its still significant Blairite remnant, capable of saying any of the above unequivocally?

Go read the rest of the article at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/18/the-calm-determined-stronger-fairer-uk-brexit-zig-zag/

In answer to Surin’s final question, yes, there are plenty of people in the Labour party willing to point all this out. They’ve tried to do so ad infinitum. But the Blairites and the Tory media are doing their best to stop that message getting out. They never report what they say about the detrimental attacks the Tories and Blair have made on the welfare state, the NHS and the economy, but selectively quote them in order to make it all fit the narrative that Corbyn and his wing of the party are ignoring these issues. And it’s done deliberately to fit the narrative of Corbyn as a Trotskyite entryist.

It’s why I’m afraid that the next two months will be a very hard struggle for everyone desperate to save Britain from the corporatist swamp created by the Thatcherites and their media lickspittles.

Richard Seymour’s Refutation of Sexism Smears against Corbyn

April 14, 2017

A few days ago I put up a piece about Richard Seymour’s book Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics (London: Verso 2016). Seymour’s analysis of the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, and what it means for the Labour party, is very much his own. Seymour points out that one of the reasons why Corbyn was able to take the Labour leadership was because the right-wing Labour vote was divided between three opposing candidates. He sees the Labour party as never having really been a Socialist party, and that Corbyn’s election as leader was part of a process of political stagnation and degeneration both within the Labour party and generally in British politics.

However, in the introduction and first chapter, he does attack the ‘Project Fear’ campaign launched by the Blairites and the press against Corbyn, and refutes the smears against him – that he and his voters were unelectable and anti-Semitic. The Blairites and their toadies in the press also tried smearing Corbyn and his supporters as misogynists, just as Killary had smeared Sanders and his supporters in the US in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. And just as Killary’s smears against Sanders were lies, so were the accusations against Corbyn and his supporters. Seymour writes

One of the main methods of obloquy from the centre-left papers – aside from the claim that Corbyn’s supporters were either spaniel-eyed naifs, gently prancing around in cloud cuckoo land, or dangerous ideological zealots – was to bait Corbyn’s supporters as sexist. The Guardian had backed Yvette Cooper for the leadership, partially on the grounds that she would be the first female leader, bringing ‘down-to-earth feminism’ to the role, and challenging austerity policies that hurt women. Its leading columnist and former Social Democratic Party (SDP) star Polly Toynbee seconded the endorsement, announcing: ‘Labour needs a woman leader.’ This prompted a reply by the seasoned feminists Selma James and Nina Lopez, who pointed out that Cooper not only supported ‘sexist austerity’ but had also implemented it in government, abolishing income support and extending work-capability assessments for the sick and disabled. Nonetheless, having supported Cooper as a ‘feminist’, it didn’t require much imagination to notice that Corbyn was not female and thus to indict his supporters ‘brocialists’. Suzanne Moore complained that as Corbyn was ‘anointed leader’ – that is to say, elected leader – ‘not one female voice was heard’. The remarkable thing about this complaint was that Corbyn won among women by a landslide. The polls showed that 61 per cent of women eligible to vote in the election supported Corbyn, while the two female candidates, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper, gained 4 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. The polling company YouGov pointed out that ‘women who are eligible to vote are dramatically more likely to vote Corbyn than men’. What Moore meant was the she hadn’t listened to the women who supported Corbyn, an important distinction.

This campaign spread to the Independent,which published a surreal piece headlined, ‘If it’s truly progressive, Labour will have voted in a female leader – regardless of her policies’. It was also mirrored by the Telegraph, which gleefully wondered if Corbyn had a ‘women problem’. Cathy Newman, a Channel 4 News reporter who had recently made headlines by falsely reporting an example of sexist exclusion at a mosque, authored a piece for the Telegraph which sneered ‘Welcome to Jeremy Corbyn’s blokey Britain – where “brocialism” rules’. Newman’s complaint did not concern policy, on which Corbyn was difficult to attack, but representation. She alleged that none of the ‘top jobs’ went to women. Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, it must be said, was notable for being the first to have more than 50 per cent of its posts occupied by women – as opposed to the pathetic 22 per cent representation that women have in wider public life. The shadow ministries of Defence, Business, Health and Education were all run by women. The shadow cabinet was, in other words, more gender-egalitarian on this front than any previous Labour shadow cabinet. It is perfectly fair comment to lament that important posts such as shadow chancellor have never been held by a woman, but the force of the point is blunted if it is simply used in an opportunistic way to belabour Corbyn. Likewise, the New Statesman’s effort to pour cold water on Corbyn’s victory, with the headline ‘Labour chooses white man as leader’, would have been more convincing if the publication had not generously supported every previous white man elected as Labour leader.

(Pp.37-9).

From this it’s very clear that the accusation of sexism and misogyny against Corbyn were merely another opportunistic smear by a group of entitled, wealthy Blairites. It was monumentally hypocritical, as these women were perfectly happy with promoting policies that actively harmed – and under the Tories, are still harming women. The ladies, who supported Corbyn knew better, and voted for substance, rather than the specious feminism of a female candidate, who was only interested in promoting herself and not improving conditions for women as a whole.

Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics

April 5, 2017

by Richard Seymour (London: Verso 2016).

I bought this last Friday, as I wanted something that would help me refute the continuing lies about the Labour leader: that he is a Trotskyite, his supporters have infiltrated the party, and that he is too left-wing to lead the Labour party to victory in 2020. The book does indeed provide plenty of information to refute these accusations, though I’m not convinced of its over all thesis. The book’s blurb states that Corbyn’s election as leader is just the latest phase in the party’s degeneration. Flicking through the book, it appears that his main point is that the Labour party has never really been a Socialist party, and that apart from the great victories of Clement Atlee’s administration, it’s record has been largely one of failure as it compromised its radical programme and adopted conventional, right-wing policies once in office. At one point Seymour describes the idea of Labour as a Socialist party as a ‘myth’.

I was taught by historians, who did believe, as Seymour does, that the British Labour party was influenced far more by 19th century Nonconformist Liberalism than by continental Socialism. And certainly when Labour took power in the 1930s, it did disappoint many of its voters by following the-then economic orthodoxy. There is a difference between Labourism and Socialism. However, the party included amongst its constituent groups both trade unions and Socialists, and stated so. However, I haven’t read the sections of the book where Seymour lays out the arguments for his view that the Labour party is degenerating – along with, he says, western democracy. But he does have some very interesting things to say about Corbyn’s supposedly ‘Trotskyite’ views, and the whole nonsense about Far Left infiltration of the party.

Corbyn’s parents were middle class radicals, who met when they were campaigning for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Growing up in rural Shropshire, he worked on farms. He was radicalised while working as a volunteer for Voluntary Service Overseas in Jamaica, where he became aware and appalled by ‘imperialist attitudes, social division, and economic exploitation.’ He was a trade union organisers for the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, and then the National Union of Public Employees. He’s teetotal, and did not take part in the ‘hedonistic pleasures of the counterculture’. He is a member of the Bennite wing of the Labour party, the Socialist Campaign Group, which Seymour states has consistently opposed the government regardless of whichever party is in office.

His former partner Jane Chapman states that he is ‘very principled, very honest … a genuinely nice guy.’ Since 1983 he has been the MP for Islington North. Seymour notes that even his most ‘sceptical’ biographer, the Torygraph’s Rosa Prince, acknowledges that he ‘is known as a “good constituency MP”‘. He takes great pains to help his constituents, and is ‘universally considered to do an exemplary job’.

Apart from being anti-austerity, he has also actively campaigned against attempts to limit immigration, and rejects the New Labour tactic of trying to take on board some of UKIP’s militant nationalism. His first move as the new Labour leader was to attend a pro-refugee rally in London.

His other policies are left-wing, but not extreme Left by a very long way. Seymour writes

The agenda on which Corbyn was elected is not, however, the stuff of which revolutions are made. he has pledged to end austerity, and in its stead implement a People’s Quantitative Easing programme, with money invested in infrastructural development, job-creation and high-technology industries. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won office on an agenda like this. Even the OECD is anti-austerity these days. He promises to address the housing crisis through extensive home-building, to fully nationalise the railways, and to bring all academies back under local democratic control. These objectives are to be funded, not so much by squeezing the rich like a sponge to water the gardens of the poor, as by closing tax loopholes, stimulating growth, and spending less on controversial programmes like Trident.

This is in most ways a classic social-democratic remedy, which could easily have come with some Wilsonian vocables about ‘the white heat of technological revolution’. The problem for the establishment is not necessarily Corbyn’s agenda. It may be too radical for today’s Labour party, today’s media and today’s parliamentary spectrum, but business could live with it, and the consensus would shift if Corbyn gained popular support. (pp. 8-9)

So where did this bilge that he was a Trot come from? Some of it came from the fact that his rallies were partly organised an attended by ‘accredited helpers’, people who were not Labour members, but who gave their time and effort alongside those who were. The only evidence that there was a ‘far left plot’ was the call by a tiny Marxist grouplet, the Communist Party of Great Britain. This has only 24 members, at the most, and whose weekly news-sheet is regarded as the Heat magazine of the Far Left. (P. 30).

So where do the new members comes? Many of them are simply Labour members, who drifted away or became inactive thanks to the managerial, autocratic attitude of the New Labour leadership. They were tired of being ignored, and regarded only as useful for leafletting and so on. And what really annoyed many grassroots members was the scripts the leadership insisted that canvassers should follow when talking to people on doorsteps. A significant number are also young people, who have joined the Labour party because for the first in a very long time there is actually a leader, who means what he says and talks straight in language ordinary people can understand, rather than the waffle and management-speak that constitutes the rhetoric of his right-wing opponents.

Much of the hostility against him in the press and the New Labour coterie comes from his support from two of the largest trade unions, Unite and Unison, which has had the Sunday Times and other rags screaming hysterically about the threat of renewed union militancy.

But what really terrifies the Right – including the Blairites – and the media-industrial complex, is his style of campaigning. Blair and the other parties adopted a style of government based on industrial management, using focus groups, and with news and the party’s statements all carefully marketised and timed according to the news cycles. Corbyn doesn’t do this. He actually turns up at rallies and events up and down the country, and speaks to the people. Corbyn himself said that he went to 100 meetings during his leadership campaign, and by the end of that year would have gone to 400-500. (P. 7). Seymour states that on one Saturday in August, Corbyn spoke to 1,800 people in Manchester, 1,000 people in Derby, 1,700 in Sheffield’s Crucible and a further 800 outside. By the end of the month 13,000 people had signed to volunteer for his campaign. 100,000 people signed up as registered supporters, and 183,658 as active members of the Labour party.

Like his American counterpart, Bernie Sanders, Corbyn is also massively popular on social media. Marsha-Jane Thompson states that within four weeks of setting up his Facebook page, they went to 2.5 million people. The page reached 11 million people every day. As a result of this, when they announced a meeting in Colchester on Facebook, all the thousand tickets were gone within 45 minutes. Seymour also notes the deference given to the traditional media has broken. over half of Corbyn’s supporters received most their information about his leadership campaign from social media. And the attacks on him in the mainstream press and news have compounded a sense among his supporters that not only is Corbyn genuine, but the traditional media is untrustworthy. (p.23).

This is important. It isn’t just that Corbyn and his supporters represent a challenge to the neoliberal consensus that private industry is automatically good, and those on welfare have to be ground into the dirt, starved and humiliated in order to please bilious Thatcherites and their vile rags like the Scum, Mail, Express, Torygraph and Times. It’s because he’s actually going back to doing the traditional hard work of political oratory and speaking to crowds. Not just relying on his spin doctors to produce nicely crafted, bland statements which the party masses are expected to follow uncritically.

And the newspapers, TV and radio companies don’t like him, because his success challenges their status as the approved architects of consensus politics. When 57 per cent of his supporters get their information about him from social media, it means that the grip of the Beeb, ITV, Channel 4 and Murdoch to tell people what to believe, what to think and what counts as real news is loosening drastically. And if no one takes them seriously, then their ability to act as the spokesman for business and politics is severely damaged, as is the ability of the commercial companies to take money from advertising. What company is going to want to spend money on ads following ITV and Channel 4 news, if nobody’s watching. And the businesses spending so much on advertising to take over the functions of the welfare state, like private hospitals and health insurance, are going to demand lower rates for their custom if fewer people are watching them and the mood is turning away from the Thatcherite and Blairite programme of NHS privatisation.

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.

Is Rupert Murdoch the Biggest Purveyor of Fake News?

January 14, 2017

Yesterday, I put up a piece commenting on a report in the I newspaper that the BBC had decided to set up a special team, Reality Check, to rebut fake news on the internet. James Harding, the head of BBC News, said that this wouldn’t be about policing the internet, and it wouldn’t attack the mainstream press.

This all rings very hollow, as at least in America, faith in the mainstream news outlets is at an all-time low. More people are turning to alternative news sources on the internet as a reaction to the bias and misreporting of the established news outlets and broadcasters. And the Beeb certainly has plenty of form when it comes to bias. Like editing the footage of the battle between the strikers and the police at Orgreave colliery during the Miners’ Strike, so that it appeared to show the miners attacking the police. The reality was the complete opposite. Barry and Savile Kushner in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, point out that the Beeb rarely allows a dissenting voice to be heard against austerity. When one is heard, they are interrupted or shouted down by the presenter, keen to maintain the government, establishment view at all costs. And Nick Robinson himself did a piece of deliberate misreporting worthy of TASS or Goebbels during the Scots referendum. He asked a question Scottish independence might have on the financial sector north of the border. Salmond answered it fully. This was then gradually edited down over successive news programmes, until it vanished altogether, with Robinson claiming that Salmond hadn’t answered the question.

So there’s plenty of very good reasons why you can’t trust the Beeb.

Now there is a considerable amount of fake news on the Net. The American elections have thrown up any amount of pure rubbish. In addition to the usual weirdness from the Ufolks, which claimed that Putin had told the Russian armed forces to prepare to defend the motherland against extraterrestrial invasion, there were the tin foil hatted claims of Alex Jones. Jones, the head of the conspiracy news site, Infowars, had come out with some truly barking, and very dangerous comments about Hillary Clinton. He claimed that she was part of some Satanic cult, which was abusing children from a pizza parlour in Philadelphia. She was also supposed to be demonically possessed, like Barack Obama, and may have been an alien or robot, at least in part. It’s entirely bogus, along with the reports others put up claiming that she suffers from a neurological illness contracting from eating children’s brains.

But the mainstream media has also produced bogus news. And one of the worst offenders is Fox News. Someone analysed how many of the stories Fox reported were actually true, and came out with the statistics that about three-quarters of the time they were rubbish. Put simply, if you watch Fox, you will be less informed that someone who doesn’t. There’s a reason why the network’s earned the nickname of ‘Faux News’. It’s very much like the old clip sometimes added to pieces on the internet, in which a man upbraids another for making an answer so stupid, that it’s lowered the IQ of everyone in the room, and the other needs to apologise. Well, that’s Fox writ large.

Fox News is also on the internet, along with many other newspapers and channels. So you can watch Bill O’Reilly tell lies about his career there. O’Reilly’s one of the channel’s veteran anchors. He was caught out claiming that he was actually in the Falklands or nearby parts of Argentina reporting during the Falklands War. He also witnessed a sectarian riot in Northern Ireland, and was present outside the house of one of the witnesses of the JFK assassination when he committed suicide. In fact, this was all shown to be bilge. In the Falkland’s conflict, for example, he was safely several thousand miles away in Buenos Aires.

Will the Beeb try and rebut some of the barking stories reported by Fox? No, of course they won’t. Fox is a mainstream news source, and is part owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Times and the Scum over here. The Scum is notorious for its bias and mendacity, but somehow the Times and its sister paper, the Sunday Times, has managed to avoid this. Sometimes you wonder why, as the Sunday Times has also carried bogus stories.

Like the time it claimed Michael Foot was a KGB agent called Comrade Boot, for which the former Labour leader successfully sued for libel. And then there were the ‘Clinton Crazies’. These were a group of journos around the Sunday Times and the American Spectator, who believed that Bill Clinton was a violent mobster. The former governor and US president was supposed to be importing cocaine from South America through an airfield in his state. He was also responsible for ordering the deaths of 20 + aids and other figures, who had displeased him. One of the journos responsible for this nonsense was so paranoid, that during an interview with another journalist he kept the curtains closed, and anxiously peered out into the street at various intervals, in case ‘they’ were watching him from a parked car. One of the hacks, who produced this tripe later saw reason, and appeared on one of Adam Curtis’ documentaries stating very clearly it was all crazy nonsense. But the Sunday Times published it.

But the Beeb very definitely isn’t going to tackle Murdoch’s rubbish, because Murdoch is the favourite of the various parties that have occupied No.10 in recent years, both the Tories and New Labour. In exchange for favourable publicity for the Murdoch press, they’ve been very happy to concede greater advantages to the media mogul, despite numerous conflicts of interest and the construction of a near monopoly in private broadcasting.

Murdoch hates the Beeb with a passion. He’s been demanding its break up since the 1980s, publishing stories attacking the Beeb at every opportunity in his papers, including the Times. And so with the threat of privatisation now made extremely clear by the Tories, the BBC will very definitely not want to show how mendacious Fox is.

So you can expect the Beeb to crack down on the alternative news outlets on the Net, under the pretext that it’s fighting the rubbish put out by Jones and co., while doing nothing about the fake news churned out by the establishment. Like the Murdoch press, and the Beeb itself.

BBC Wants to Rebut Fake News, But Who’s Going to Rebut Theirs?

January 13, 2017

There’s a piece in the I today reporting that the Beeb intends to set up a ‘Reality Check’ news team to correct the fake news on the internet. The article, by Kim Sengupta, states

The BBC is to create a dedicated team which will identify and expose “fake news” stories being shared on Facebook and other social media.

The corporation said it was not seeking to “police the internet”. But its Reality Check team will identify and correct the most egregious examples of fabricated stories and outright “lies” circulated by fake news sites.

James Harding, the BBC director of news and current affairs, told staff: “The BBC can’t edit the internet, but we won’t stand aside either. We will fact check the most popular outliers on Facebook, Instagram and other social media.”

He added: ” We are working with Facebook, in particular, to see how we can be most effective. Where we see deliberately misleading stories masquerading as news, we’ll publish a Reality Check that says so.”

The BBC believes it can employ the credibility of its news organisation to assist Facebook. However, the corporation said it would not target stories published by “mainstream” media such as UK newspapers. (p. 13).

There are several aspects to this story. First of all, it shows the fear the mainstream media have of the internet. The newspapers, television and radio stations and moguls are being increasingly abandoned as more people, particularly the young, prefer to take their news from the Net, feeling that it’s more trustworthy. Journalists writing in the Radio Times and elsewhere have already whined about this threat to their ability to shape consensus opinion. One of them stated that the different news sites on the internet, with their various biases, was a danger because it meant that people were only looking at the news sources which agreed with their personal biases, and so opinions and views were going to become increasingly polarised. He made it very clear that he wanted the mainstream opinion to continue to shape consensus opinion.

This is obviously an attempt by the Beeb to try and exercise its position as a purveyor of respected, supposedly objective news, to combat the threat posed by the internet.

Okay, there’s an awful lot of rubbish put out by some websites. You only have to look at the content of much of Alex Jones’ Infowars show, which is real tin foil hat conspiracy theory material. Jones’ stock in trade is very loud allegations that the secret rulers of the world are Satanic aliens. Just before the election he was screaming that Hillary Clinton was either an alien, or a cyborg. Other sites on YouTube have ludicrously claimed that Killary has kuru, a degenerative neurological condition caused by eating human brains, contracted from cannibalistic orgies in which she has consumed the brains of children. It’s rubbish, and clearly fake news.

But there is a lot of news on YouTube, which isn’t fake, and which very much is a threat to the establishment. Like the reporting on the real Fascism of the Ukrainian government, and its persecution of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians. The same is true of the information on what is really going on in Syria, which isn’t about freeing the enslaved Syrian people from a dictator, but about ousting a genuinely popular president in order to break Russian power and enrich the western allied oil companies and states still further. Oh yes, and we’re using al-Qaeda and ISIS, the very organisation we’re supposed to be fighting, to overthrow a secular government.

This alternative news is also under threat from the internet companies. I’ve put up a piece from The Jimmy Dore Show in which the American comedian reports how his pieces and those of others about the real nature of the Syrian conflict have been demonetised by Google in an attempt to discourage people from posting them.

And the Beeb itself has plenty of previous when it comes to bias and fake news. That infamous piece of film of the striking miners at Orgreave, which was shown backwards so that it appeared to show the miners attacking the cops when the opposites was true is a particularly notorious piece. Academics from Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities have reported how the Beeb is far more likely to report the views of Conservative politicos and businessmen, particularly from the financial sector, over those from the Labour party and trade unionists. The Kushner brothers in their book Who Needs the Cuts describe their anger at the way the Beeb automatically accepted the need for austerity, and consistently refuses to allow a dissenting voice onto their news shows. When one does appear, the presenter immediately gets annoyed and tries to cut them off or interrupt them. Nothing must stop the proles from accepting that the government is right in taking away more of their rights and destroying the welfare state in favour of corporate profit.

This isn’t just about combating the real, poisonous fake news. This is the mainstream media trying to suppress a danger challenge to the right-wing consensus. It’s about maintaining the credibility of establishment bias and fake news in the face of alternative reporting.

Healthcare in America: Republican Politico Urges People to Save Money by Not Taking Children to Hospital

January 7, 2017

Since Maggie Thatcher, the privatisers and Neoliberals in all three parties have been keen to privatise and remodel the NHS at least partly on the American private healthcare model. This clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report shows just how pernicious this model, and the politicians who defend and promote it, are. Seder here comments on a speech by a Republican member of the House of Representatives, Bill Huizinga, in which he recommended that people worried about their healthcare costs could cut down on them by not seeking medical help immediately until after they were sure it was necessary. Representative Huizinga tells the story about how he waited until the next day to take his son to the A&E department of his local hospital, after the lad broke his arm falling off a trampoline.

Seder rips into this stupid attitude by making it very plain how dangerous it is. Huizinga seems to regard patients as ‘customers’. They aren’t. They are people who require medical care, and in many cases don’t have the luxury of shopping around for the lowest price. The time taken to do this, instead of getting the patient treated, could be decisive, such as in cases of head injury and concussion.

Seder also makes the point about the racism in the way Huizinga’s story was blandly accepted. If a Black parent had said that they hadn’t taken their child to the hospital, because they didn’t know if they could afford it, it’s very likely that social services would intervene. They’d have their child taken into care and be denounced as bad parents. But Huizinga has got away with this, ’cause he’s White and middle class.

However grotesque this, it is the choice faced by millions of Americans. About 20 per cent of the US population cannot afford their healthcare. And I was told by a friend that it’s not uncommon for elderly citizens suffering terminal illness to forgo palliative care in order to save money to pass on to their families.

This is what’s coming to Britain if and when May and Hunt have their way and sell off the NHS. And it did happen here before the establishment of the National Health Service. GPs were in private practice, and although successive Liberal governments introduced some state insurance coverage, this only covered the wage earner. And so many people, particularly women, did not go to the doctor except when they were seriously ill, as they could not afford it.

This is another instance where women are going to be particularly hard hit by the government’s attacks on the welfare state. Despite all the verbiage about making politics and industry more representative, with more women and people from ethnic minorities, and opening up more jobs to women and girls, it has been traditionally female jobs that have been the hardest hit by the Tories’ austerity campaign. And there is the pay gap between women and men, so that if the Tories bring in private insurance contributions into the NHS, as they and the Blairites would like, it will be women who’ll have the least insurance coverage.

Get them and their Lib Dem enablers out. Only Jeremy Corbyn has made it clear that he will protect the NHS from further privatisation.

Vox Political on the Latest Kuenssberg Anti-Corbyn Bias Row

January 7, 2017

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece commenting on the latest Kuessberg Kontroversy. It will surprise no-one that this is again over her biased misreporting of Jeremy Corbyn’s comments about armed police. The complaint was upheld by the BBC Complaints Division, only to be withdrawn when BBC News complained. So, as Mike observes, she staggers on because she has the support of very important people.

Mike also makes the point that this should not be seen in isolation. Remember the Change.org petition against her on the grounds of her egregious Tory political bias? He also points out the way her supporters have tried to deflect criticism from her with false accusations of sexism and misogyny. The Change.org petition was supposed to be full of sexist attacks on Kuenssberg. It wasn’t. There was only one possibly misogynistic comment out of hundreds, if not thousands. And then there was the instance where she was spontaneously booed at a Labour conference, which was used by Tom Watson and the Tories again to claim that Corbyn’s supporters were nasty sexist curs, who were biased against her because she was female.

Mike makes the point that as a result of Kuenssberg’s flagrant political bias, the Beeb’s reputation as an impartial broadcaster is in tatters, and wonders how long this can be allowed to continue.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/06/the-latest-kuenssberg-kontroversy-can-her-supporters-get-her-out-of-this-one/

Kuenssberg’s continued occupation of the post, and the facile way her supporters, including journos in the supposedly left-wing media, like the Guardian, raises serious questions not only about the Beeb’s impartiality, but also about how she got the job and the whole gender and class assumption behind her supporters in the rest of the media bubble. The accusations of sexism, which were thrown at Corbyn and Momentum from the Blairites were copied from the tactics Hillary Clinton used to deflect criticism from Bernie Sanders’ supporters. A group of them threw money at her, and called her a ‘corporate whore’. Which is exactly what she is, alongside just about everyone else in Congress. The politicians there are keen to accept donations and do the bidding of the big corporations, against the wishes and interests of the ordinary Joes and Josephines of the American public. But unlike Sanders, who didn’t take donations from industry, Clinton was extraordinarily corrupt. She was known for her connections to Wall Street, and had made much money giving talks to them. But unable to defend their candidate any other way, her supporters started moaning about how she the was the victim of ‘Bernie Bros’ and their vicious sexism. And the Blair camp, which copied nearly everything Bill and Hillary did, thought it was a good idea, and started making the same accusations against Corbyn. And when Kuenssberg started getting justified flack for her very blatant pro-Tory bias, her supporters – and various female hacks in the media – started defending her by falsely claiming that Corbyn’s supporters were only doing it because she was a woman.

This is rubbish. Kuenssberg’s gender isn’t the issue. I doubt whether most Corbyn supporters care about her sex one way or another. She’d get the same complaints if she were a bloke, just as Nick Robinson was deservedly criticised for his grotesque misrepresentation of Alex Salmond’s response to a question about Scottish independence. Or David Dimbleby’s increasing bias during Question Time. No-one objects to her because she’s a woman. People object to her because she’s massively biased.

But the defensiveness about her gender does raise the issue of whether she was promoted to her post because of it. Was she selected because she was a woman, and the Beeb was under pressure to be seen to be more diverse and representative? Indeed, was she given the post because she was the only female candidate, and so the Beeb was forced to choose the most inept and biased person for the job simply because of her gender? Or were there many other female candidates, who weren’t given the job, because unlike Kuenssberg, they actually cared about professionalism and journalistic standards, whereas the Tories and BBC management wanted a safe pair of hands? And in this case, a safe pair of hands means someone, who’d spout exactly the propaganda they wanted.

As for Kuenssberg media supporters, somebody – I can’t remember now who – remarked on how closely the media set were now tied through class and background to the political and economic elites. They were all comfortably middle class, went to the same schools and lived in pretty much the same areas as the Tory political and business leadership. And since Blair, the political object has been to increase the numbers of women and Black and Asian people in important positions in business and politics, while at the same time reinforcing class barriers and penalising the poor and unemployed. Hence the automatic support of some of the female hacks in the Guardian for Kuenssberg despite the massive harm the Tory government she supports is inflicting on women.

And the Tories are hurting women in particular. Traditionally female jobs in the service sectors have been particularly hard hit through Cameron’s and May’s austerity. As for cuts to welfare services, there have been numerous reports of women having to starve themselves so they can put food on the table for their families. And at its most extreme, I’m still haunted by one of the cases Stilloaks put up on his blog giving the names and information on the people who have starved or taken their own lives because of Cameron’s bloody cuts to disability benefit. One of these was a young woman her killed herself and her baby after her benefit was cut off.

Let’s be clear: men and boys are also being starved and killed by the Tories. But so long as the Tories’ cuts hit women and girls particularly hard, no-one has any right to try to defend Kuenssberg’s pro-Tory bias with grotty, mendacious claims of misogyny.

Kuenssberg’s a disgrace to journalism and so are the hacks who support and defend this lying propagandist. She is one of the long list of reasons why people around the world are turning to the internet and alternative news channels, rather than a complacent and deeply corrupt mainstream media.

Clinton’s Defeat Has Potential to Harm Blairites

November 9, 2016

Mike yesterday posted a piece about the report in the Huffington Post that documents released by WikiLeaks show that Bill Clinton made a number of slighting remarks about Jeremy Corbyn in a speech to wealthy donors to the Democrat Party last October. Clinton claimed that Corbyn was ‘the maddest person in the room’, and that he was only elected because Labour party members were ‘so mad at Tony Blair that ‘they practically went out and got a guy off the street instead’. He compared Corbyn to the leader of the Greek anti-austerity party, Alexis Tsipras, and claimed that Ed Miliband lost the election against Cameron because he was too leftwing.

Mike in his comments states that Clinton’s remarks need to be put in context. He was speaking at a time when Bernie Sanders was competing with Shrillary for the Democrat presidential nomination. Corbyn had supported Bernie Sanders in the past, and the two had been compared to each other. He also notes that Clinton appeared to be a little confused, as he referred to a conversation he had had with a Northern Ireland secretary, who stated that Shrillary had helped him through a bad period in that part of the UK. Clinton thought it was one of Cameron’s minions, but in fact it was a minister in Gordon Brown’s cabinet.
Mike concluded that Corbyn’s office was right not to pay any attention to Clinton’s comments.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/11/08/us-presidential-has-been-attacks-future-uk-prime-minister-awkward/

I think that Mike’s been a bit too generous to Bill Clinton. Yes, he was speaking at a time when his wife was competing against Bernie Sanders, the most left-wing member of the Democrat party. Sanders is a self-declared democratic Socialist, just as Corbyn is seen as far left in the Labour party. Actually, this isn’t accurate. Corbyn is centre left old Labour. He isn’t a Trotskyite at all, no matter what the Blairites and their media enablers scream at the public.

But even without Sanders, Corbyn would be well to the Left of the Clintons, and I don’t doubt for a single moment that the former president despises both Corbyn and Ed Miliband, along with Sanders, for the threat they posed to the transatlantic electoral strategy he and Tony Blair had formed for their respective parties. Blair modelled his ‘New Labour’ on the ‘New Democrats’ Clinton formed within the American Democrat Party. After losing to Reagan and then to George Bush senior, Clinton took over many of the Republican’s policies in order to win over their voters. He therefore declared that his party was going to end ‘welfare as we know it’, and put forward the same neoliberal policies Reagan had pursued in the Republicans.

And the same strategy was put into practise over here by Blair. Blair ditched Clause 4, the article in the Labour party constitution which committed it to socialism. He carried on the Tories’ policy of privatising whatever remained of the state sector, including the NHS. And like the Tories, the American Republicans and Clinton’s New Democrats, New Labour was also determined to cut down the welfare state. Hence the introduction of the work capability test, taken from the ideas of an American medical insurance firm, and administered by Atos, in order to satisfy the Conservative desire to see more people thrown off benefits and into poverty.

I’ve said that Blair and New Labour are Thatcherite entryists. They’ve been pursuing right-wing, Tory policies, despite the fact that they belong to an historically left-wing party. Blair’s tactic was all about convincing the establishment – business, the banks and the press – that Labour was now thoroughly neoliberal and economically orthodox, and so would form a responsible government. In other words, one that would do everything the upper classes wanted.

Hillary Clinton in her own way was even more ‘establishment’. She made hundreds of thousands of dollars from giving speeches to Wall Street bankers, and was as corrupt and corporatist as the other American politicians, for all her claim that she was somehow an outsider because she was female. In the 1990s she briefly supported free universal healthcare and education, before she then started receiving donations from the medical insurers and other big corporations. She and the head of the Democrat Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, stole the nomination from Bernie Sanders, just as the Blairites in the Labour party tried everything in their power to stop Corbyn being elected as leader. And that includes purging voters from the rolls. Faced with Trump being nominated as their presidential candidate, many leading Republicans threw in their lot with Shrillary. She tried to make a show of supporting organised labour and American working people with a speech to an audience of trade unionists, in which she pledged to support them. But the damage was done. The left-wing Democrat base knew that she had betrayed them, and that her promises counted for nothing. Especially as American jobs were being harmed by the very free trade deals, the TPP, NAFTA and so on that she and Obama supported.

And now that policy has come crashing down. Hillary’s attempt to be as corporate establishment as the Republicans failed to get her into the White House, and she lost to a racist, misogynist braggart and wannabe Fascist.

Now The Young Turks have posted up a piece arguing that the Democrats will probably try and blame their defeat on Bernie Sanders. I think that’s highly likely. They’re absolutely wrong, of course. They lost for a variety of reasons. Sexism was one – many Americans objected to the idea of a woman holding the presidency. Media bias was another – for all Trump’s claims that the media were biased against him, they gave him hours and millions of dollars worth of free airtime. Pervasive racism is another factor. But Hillary’s own political stance was also a major factor. The Young Turks, Secular Talk and other shows made the point that if Bernie Sanders had been elected instead, then he would have beaten Trump easily.

But that was a step too far for the Democrats, who’d clearly rather have a Fascist buffoon in the White House than someone, who genuinely spoke for working Americans.

This should be the end of the line for the New Democrat, and by extension, the New Labour project. It has shown that copying the pro-privatisation, neoliberal line of the Republicans won’t get you into the White House. The Democrats really can’t go any further to the right, without returning to their original stance as the party of the KKK. And as that strategy has failed across the Pond, it’s going to fail over here. The Blairites in the Labour party should be worried. Clinton’s defeat has shown that they can’t and won’t get into power by copying the Tories. That was, after all, also the message of Ed Miliband’s defeat as well, followed by the victory of Jeremy Corbyn. But I doubt Bomber Benn and the other Thatcherite entryists will take any notice. They’re probably too busy concentrating on saving their careers and all the lucrative seats on private health and utility companies they can get after they leave politics.

So, you can expect further screaming that it’s all somehow Bernie Sanders’ fault from Shrillary and her team across the Pond, and violent denunciation of ‘unelectable’ Jeremy Corbyn from the Blairites and their right-wing colleagues in the media over here. Because with Clinton’s defeat, they know only too well that Corbyn is all too electable, and represents the end of their project.