Posts Tagged ‘Chris Hedges’

Vox Political on the Blatant Unsuitability of Jacob Rees-Mogg to Lead the Tory Party

September 3, 2017

Mike today has put up a short piece commenting on Jacob Rees-Mogg’s entire lack of ability to be a suitable candidate as next Tory leader. This features people’s posts from Twitter, one of which shows a man next to a dummy dressed in 18th century costume. The caption for this is that the fellow met Jacob Rees-Mogg, but thinks he might be a bit too old-fashioned to lead 21st century Britain.

Mike’s article begins with a photo of Mogg climbing over a low gate, with a caption from Mike asking whether if his campaign to be Tory leader would fall at the first hurdle. What actually struck me from the photo was how much Mogg, in pinstripe suit and bowler hat, resembles John Cleese in the classic Monty Python sketch, the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Perhaps that’s what will have to do to give him the ridicule he deserves. Every time he appears, someone should video it and add Philip de Sousa’s Liberty Bell, otherwise known as Monty Python’s theme music.

More seriously, there’s a short clip from Momentum Bristol, which Mike’s also put up, which fully bears out the comment below it from EL4JC that Rees-Mogg would be behind Vlad the Impaler, the real-life ‘Count Dracula’, as leader of the Tories in his view.

The video shows Rees-Mogg’s voting record, and as Mike has already noted in a feature he did on this upper class, malignant buffoon, he’s horrendous. He has consistently voted for measures to leave ordinary Brits worse off, while enriching the already super-rich, like himself. He voted against gay marriage, allowing EU migrants to stay in Britain, for raising VAT, the Bedroom Tax and college tuition fees, and against increasing welfare relief. He also voted against raising income tax on people earning over £150,000 per annum, and for the expansion of the surveillance state.

In short, despite his veneer of smooth, quiet-spoken politesse, Rees-Mogg’s a monster.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/09/03/jacob-rees-mogg-as-tory-leader-i-cant-quite-see-it/

Looking at the way he voted against gay marriage, I was struck by how different his attitude is to that Chris Hedge’s father. As I’ve written in previous posts, Chris Hedges is an American radical journalist, whose father was a politically liberal Presbyterian minister. He was deeply involved with the early Black and gay rights movements, for which he paid for his career. The very last sermon he preached was in favour of gay marriage. He stood with the Bible before him, read one of the passages on the value and sanctity of marriage, and said, ‘I believe in the sanctity of marriage and the sacraments. That is why I am against those who would deprive people of it based on their sexuality’. Or something like that. And then closed his Bible. Since gay marriage was introduced over here, I’ve read a number of letters on this issue by serving clergy, who’ve made more or less the same point.

My own fear is that, no matter how monstrous Rees-Mogg is politically, there are enough people, who will find him an endearing eccentric to vote him into power. In the same way that the equally repulsive Boris Johnson has managed to ingratiate himself with a part of the British public by play acting as a lovable buffoon when he is anything but.

The Young Turks on Pizza Delivery Drivers Being Replaced by Driverless Cars

September 3, 2017

This is probably going to be the reality behind the driverless cars the car industry and the media have been hyping. In this short clip from The Young Turks, the hosts Ana Kasparian and Brett Ehrlich report and comment on the story that Domino’s Pizzas are planning to replace their pizza delivery people with driverless cars.

It’s only a trial run at the moment. They intend to go through their customers at random, and ask them if they’re happy with their pizza delivered by a driverless car instead. The vehicle will take a maximum of four pizzas to them. To get their orders, the customers will have to punch in a code into a keypad on the car.

After a bit of silly banter about the number of pizzas people usually order, they get down to discussing what this really represents. Kasparian says that when they usually talk about American jobs being lost, they’re usually reporting on corporate outsourcing. But automation is the other way in which people are losing their jobs in America. Kasparian she states that she isn’t against technological innovation, but points out that not only are people going to lose their jobs as pizza delivery staff, but they’re also going to lose an opportunity to acquire useful skills to succeed in a very competitive jobs market. She also states that we also need to give young people proper, affordable college education as well.

Domino’s has released a statement saying that they have at the moment 100,000 pizza delivery people. They hope that when this comes in, they will be able to find other positions within the company. The Turks end by saying that they hope so too.

To be fair, the BBC has carried news and documentary programmes, which forecast that in the coming decades, 1/3 of all retail jobs will be lost to automation. Nevertheless, whenever you see driverless cars appear, the overwhelming message is one of boundless enthusiasm, with the presenters raving about the technology. Clarkson went on a driverless truck on Top Gear, and went almost berserk with excitement when it started to make its way without human guidance.

Driverless trucks are due to be trialed on roads in Britain, according to a report in the I newspaper. They’re going to be tested in groups of three. I talked about this technology and its threats to jobs with a friend a little while ago. He told me that there are about 40,000 truckers in Britain, so that’s 40,000 people, who stand to lose their jobs.

Counterpunch has run an article on this, stating that there’s no desire for the cars from ordinary people. They’re being hyped and pushed by the insurance companies, who hope that their appearance and promotion as being safer than human driving will allow them to put up their premiums for people, who won’t use them.

What also struck me was how cold, lonely and impersonal the future represented by this type of automation is. In much SF depictions of an automated future, the machines performing human jobs also have something like human cognitive abilities and personalities. Long term 2000 AD readers will remember Dredd’s little robotic companion, Walter the Wobot. The character had a lisp and was a gentle soul, providing a contrast with the brutal machismo of Mega City 1’s toughest lawman. Or the robots in the Robohunter strip. These were extremely strong characters with all the traits, foibles and psychological failings of the human creators, including stupidity, thuggishness and all-round criminality. Like the God-Droid, the automatated underworld boss, a machine version of Marlon Brando with a sign stamped across its stomach reading ‘Omerta’, or the incendiary temperament of Molotov, the automatic cocktail-shaker and head of the Amalgamated Androids’ Union, who lectures Spade on the evils of human exploitation. Or Ro-Jaws, a chirpy, bolshie, foul-mouthed sewer droid, and his more dignified mate, the war-robot Hammerstein, and the moronic and sadistic Mek-Quake, the main characters in the Robusters strip, and its spin-off, ABC Warriors.

These fictional machines all had real, authentic characters. They had minds and characters like human beings, even if their bodies and brains were of metal and plastic. And so the strips’ writers could use them to make serious satirical points amidst the cartoon violence and mayhem. From the first, the ABC Warriors strip included a bitter commentary on the horrors of war, and the way soldiers lives were sacrificed by an officer and political class insulated from the actual fighting. The fact that robots were machines, with no rights, also allowed 2000 AD to explore real issues like slavery, racism, and institutionalized discrimination with deliberate, and sometimes very obvious parallels to the experience of Black Americans before Civil Rights.

But the real machines taking our jobs won’t even have personalities, friendly or otherwise, with which we will interact. Admittedly, there isn’t much social interaction with the mail and other delivery people, who turn up at our doors. The conversation is naturally very limited. But with these machines, we won’t even have that. Just a car turning up, following by the customer trudging out to punch in a code to open the doors.

Silent, efficient, and coldly impersonal.

And this is going to make the atomization and despair of contemporary western, and particularly American society, much worse. I’ve also come across a series of videos Chris Hedges has also made, in which he talks about the new American Fascism, and specifically the Religious Right. I think Hedges is probably an atheist, from some of the things he has said about the religious right promoting magical thinking. But he has a divinity degree, his father was a politically radical Presbyterian clergyman, his mother was also a divinity student, and so Hedges doesn’t hate religion or regard the antics of the religious right and the frauds and bigots leading it as normal. Indeed, he is at pains to show that, for all that they scream that they represent traditional values, they don’t. He states in one video that they’re as far from traditional Christian religious doctrine and practice as the religious liberals they despise.

One of the points he makes in these videos is that these bigots have been assisted in their rise to power by the social atomization of modern American society. In places like LA there are no pavements, so people can’t walk down the street. You have to drive. And so people drive straight to work, and then straight home. They don’t really meet or interact with anyone else. And the religious right has exploited this atomization, this alienation, by offering people a community in the ideologically enclosed space of their megachurches. And the people they target are those who have suffered from the attacks of neoliberalism – people in the rustbelt, who have seen their jobs decline and their communities fall into poverty along with them.

Other observers of the American Right have said the same. One of the essays in the book attacking the Neo-Cons, Confronting the New Conservativism, states that these b*stards are able to get away with promoting bigotry and racism, because of the decline in genuine, working class communities. The jobs are going, and White flight has meant that Whites have moved out of racially mixed areas in the centres of town to the suburbs. Community centres have also closed, and the attack on trade unions has also destroyed this pillar of working class community. The result is that the individual is left isolated from both people of other ethnic groups, and similar people to him- or herself. He or she goes to work and comes home. This isolation leaves them vulnerable to the vile propaganda spewed at them by bigots like Jerry Falwell and the rest of the rightwing televangelists that were thrown up by the 1980s.

This atomization and alienation is one of the fundamental characteristics of totalitarian societies of the Left and Right. In the Soviet Union, society was arranged so that people were deliberately isolated from each other. The only way of keeping in contact and forming communities and relationships, at least officially, was through the party organisations. Ditto with the Third Reich. Hitler boasted that they would never leave the individual alone, not even in a poker club.

And the driverless cars also remind me of another dystopian vision of the future, that of Ray Bradbury’s The Pedestrian. This is a tale by one of the great masters of SF, in which a man walking late at night is stopped and picked up by a police car. The car’s not crewed. It’s entirely automatic. Bradbury describes the computer punchcards being processed as the machine thinks. The machine asks the man why he’s on the streets so late at night. He replies simply that he just wanted to take a walk.

Already there are places in some American cities, where you can’t walk. Mike found this out a few years ago when he visited friends in California. You had to drive everywhere, even down to the local stores. Which means that the cold future of The Pedestrian really ain’t that far away.

Radical Journalist Chris Hedges and Cartoonist Dwanyne Booth on the True Horror of War

September 2, 2017

I see that the government have started running recruiting ads for the armed forces again. It was the navy a few months ago. Now it seems to be the army. The ads show a greasy, disheveled man, who clearly represents some kind of Latin American Fascist or other butcher, being hunted down and snatched by our brave boys, who then whisk him over the sea in the motorized dinghy to a waiting British warship and justice.

Oh, if that were the reality!

It ain’t, of course. Like the Americans, we seem to have spent the last seventy odd years since the end of the Second World War propping up every Fascist mass murderer we could, so long as he would protect British interests from Communism or local nationalist movements. In 1958 we and the Americans organized a coup against the Iranian prime minister, Mossadeq, because he dared to nationalize the Iranian oil industry, which included the equipment and complexes owned by Anglo-Persian Oil, which later became British Petroleum, now BP. Then there was Nasser and Suez, and Mrs. Thatcher’s fave South American buddy, General Pinochet. Quite apart from one of the Libertarian organisations that form part of the Tory party inviting the head of one of the South American death squads over as guest of honour at their annual dinner one year.

As for snatch squads, this ad looks inoffensive over here, but if it was shown on American TV it would actually be very sinister. One of the tactics the American military used to terrorise the Vietnamese during the war there was to use snatch squads to catch Vietnamese peasant farmers during nighttime raids. The farmers would then be killed and their bodies left as a mute message to their compatriots.

Britain’s invasion of Iraq with George Bush, in contravention of the UN legislation against pre-emptive war, and the continuing occupation of Afghanistan, have done precious little except create even more carnage and bloodshed in the Middle East. And these wars were not fought to defend America and the West against evil dictators. In the case of Iraq they were fought so that the oil industry and other western countries could loot whatever they thought was profitable in the country’s economic infrastructure. They also managed to wreck the economy by lowering trade tariffs in order to create the magical free trade utopia fantasised about by the Libertarians and Neo-Cons. Added to this was the ethnic and sectarian bloodshed unleashed by the occupation, and the use of mercenaries and Shi’a militias as death squads by the American overlords.

This makes this next video all the more urgently important. It’s not short – over fifty minutes long. It seems to be a film of the American radical journalist Chris Hedges speaking at an American university gathering about his experiences as a war reporter, and the anti-war cartoonist Dwanyne Booth, alias ‘Mr. Fish’, talking about his work. And it’s strong stuff, which doesn’t pull its punches.

Hedges has a degree in Divinity from Harvard. His father was a Presbyterian priest with radical political beliefs, who was strongly involved in the Civil and gay rights movements. Hedges trained in a seminary, but didn’t joint the clergy. After graduating, he joined the New York Times and served as a war journalist in South America in the 1980s, when Reagan was funding Fascists dictators and their death squads, like Contras in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. After that, he then covered the war in Iraq.

And he presents the unvarnished truth about war and the dehumanizing effect it has on those who are involved, whether as combatants or observers. It’s bloody and horrible, and he states that being in a firefight is terrifying beyond imagination. In fact, terror really doesn’t describe the sheer fear felt during these encounters. These are wars fought for the benefit of big business, and the images and stories about it that we are brought up on are lies.

He describes some of the battles in which he was personally involved, and the times he was captured by hostile forces, like Contras in Nicaragua and the Iraqi Republican Army in Iraq, when he really thought they were going to kill him and his companions. He states that before going into battle, everyone, with himself excepted, used to get drunk or high. Particularly the photographers, as they had to do what you really shouldn’t do in a gun battle and stand up. He states he knew many of them, who lost their lives doing their job. He also states that it is not like the movies. He praises Oliver Stone and his movie about Vietnam, Platoon, but says that the battle in that film is not like real firefights. It’s choreographed. Real battles are just chaos, in which you don’t know what’s going or who’s firing. In all the very many battles in which he was personally involved, he only once saw someone firing in his direction.

He describes how the Contras in Nicaragua called the Sandinistas and forces allied or sympathetic to them ‘periacuas’, a Latin American term meaning ‘motherf***er’. The Contras especially despised the press and media as being allied to the Sandinistas, which made his job even more dangerous. They also used to launch night raids, in which they’d murder a couple of peasant farmers. These people, would have had nothing to do with the war or the Sandinistas, but they were killed and a message left for the ‘periacuas’ on their bodies telling them that this was what was going to be done to them next.

They captured Hedges and his team, when he went looking for a group of them, who had gone underground. He found them, and they really weren’t happy. After capturing him, they radioed their headquarters to ask them whether they should kill them. Fortunately, the answer was, ‘No.’ But they were told to release them and say that if they caught them again, they would kill them and burn their jeep. As if they cared what would happen to the vehicle when they themselves were facing death!

He describes how he and another group of journalists were caught in Iraq by the Republican Army, thrown in the back of a jeep, and had guns pointed at their heads. They were then driven out of the city, and were afraid that their captors would stop somewhere in the desert and shoot them. Fortunately, this didn’t happen, and they were captured by proper, regular soldiers rather than the various militias that had sprung up, including companies formed of 14 year old Shi’a boys, who’d been given guns by Iran.

He also talks about the numbing effect war has on its participants, and the way it becomes a drug. Nothing can beat the high experienced by actually surviving a battle. And so he, like the soldiers he covered, became addicted to combat, playing a weird game with God to see if he could survive ever increasingly dangerous situations and battles.

He also talks about the immense alienation former soldiers feel, an alienation that prevents them from fitting back into society when they’ve returned from combat. He describes them as speaking a language no-one can understand, and makes the point that no-one wants to hear what they’re saying. He makes the point that when you find yourself in a war, you realise that everyone, from your government, the media and your educators, has lied to you. He discusses how old soldiers hate being told how well they’ve served their country, and how no-one wants to hear from them what war is really like. Of the troopers who took Iwo Jima, for example, several took their own lives, while a couple of others drank themselves to death. Hedges himself states proudly that he concentrated on talking to ordinary soldiers. He didn’t talk to anyone above the level of lance corporal, because he wanted to get the truth from them, rather than get caught up in the propaganda spouted by the generals and commanding officers. And he was unique in this. Most journalists wanted to see the top people, and so when he went for the job with the Times, he was told that the queue for the job began and ended with him.

As for the brutal reality of war, it is not like it is portrayed on television on the nightly news. He describes how, when he was in Iraq, in one area they visited the Iraqi army had been without water for three days. Dying of thirst, they tried to cross a minefield in the hope that Hedges and the squaddies he was with would give them some. One of the Iraqi troopers had both legs blown off by a mine. It took him six hours to bleed to death.

Hedges says that it’s quite possible now to show incidents like that using a satellite feed, so you can see in real time real soldiers suffering and dying. But no-one wants to see it, or broadcast it, because if they did, there’d never be another war.

Booth in his work is also angry and bitter about war, and the corporations and individuals standing behind it. One of his cartoons shows a little boy pointing into the camera in the classic Uncle Sam/ Lord Kitchener pose in the war recruiting posters. The legend below reads

I want YOU to give me a future not f*cked up by all your crazy bullsh*t about how moral and just the United States of America is when it invades and occupies other countries and how heroic and brave I’d be to kill for you because you’re too f*cking lazy and bigoted and unimaginative to prefer peace to hegemony and terrorism.

Another of his cartoons shows a child’s body in its grave, with corporate logos covering the shroud.

After speaking, there’s also a question and answer session with members of the audience, who include staff at the university. Some of these link the military action of the American empire to the destruction of the environment and other issues.

This is hard-hitting stuff, and it needs to be heard. We still have our politicians telling us lies about Iraq, and the other interventions in the Middle East, like Libya and Syria. And we haven’t been told the whole truth about Afghanistan – that the Taliban were utterly defeated, but the allied occupation was so terrible, and created so much chaos, that they were able to return and actually be welcomed by the people, they’d formerly oppressed.

Despite the fact that he’s a war criminal, Tony Blair’s still at large and desperate to get back into politics.

We need journos like Hedges. But the corporate media aren’t going to allow them to speak. In fact, the New York Times did its best to suppress the truth about what was going on in Iraq. And tens of journalists have died out there in highly suspicious circumstances, which suggests that the American army might have been killing those members of the media, who didn’t follow the approved line and described what they saw, rather than what the military wanted them to.

Don’t believe the corporate claptrap and the rubbish put out in the recruiting films. Support the independent media that dares to say what they won’t. And for heaven’s sake let’s get our young men and women out of the Middle East. Let’s stop wasting the precious lives of courageous people, who are being butchered simply so Haliburton and Aramco can make even bigger, more obscene profits.

Jimmy Dore on the Church Committee Hearings of 1975 Into CIA Corruption

January 15, 2017

This is another great video from the American comedian Jimmy Dore, in which he provides another piece of historical evidence to show why no-one should trust the CIA about anything, let alone the recent allegations of Russian hacking and a supposed dossier they’re using to blackmail Trump. Dore shows a short clip about the 1975 Church Committee, which was convened to investigate whether the CIA was interfering in foreign politics and spying on US citizens. And it concluded that the agency was.

Dore rightly points out that the CIA was out of control, it was interfering in the affairs of foreign states, and that this has continued since then. He cites the way Colin Powell stood up and lied about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq along with the president and the secretary of state.

The American government more recently has suppressed a report revealing that the CIA tortured and anally raped suspects being interrogated through ‘anal feeding’.

And he also rips into the mainstream news media, which supported these official lies and sacked those journos who told the truth. Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, was sacked from the New York Times because he told the truth: there were no weapons of mass distraction. Phil Donohue was also fired, because he also told the truth. Hacks like Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, who repeat and promote these lies, are rewarded.

He makes the point that it’s no wonder that no-one trusts the mainstream media, and that they’re going to the internet. There are almost no real journalists left, journalists, who actually bother to report the truth. He names these true journalists, who include Glen Greenwalt and The Intercept. As for NBC and MSNBC, which retail this rubbish, the companies that owns them has been identified as the worst company in its treatment of workers. He then states that this is the reason Rachel Maddow is paid $30,000 a day: to shut her up and stop her from pointing this out.

This is an angry, embittered tirade, and it’s entirely right. The CIA was and is out of control. Its leader, James Jesus Angleton, was convinced that Harold Wilson was a KGB agent. Over the years Lobster, the parapolitics magazine, has carried numerous stories about the lies and clandestine interference and political manipulation the CIA and the other intelligence agencies and their British counterparts have been responsible for. Larry O’Hara’s Notes from the Borderland is doing the same thing. And the same lies are being retailed by our news media.

Don’t trust them, nor the Beeb when it claims that it’s Reality Check team will objectively counter fake news. This is just more lies to support American military and corporate dominance.

Vox Political: Cameron Sneers at Corbyn and Migrants on Holocaust Memorial Day

January 27, 2016

Mike has posted this story on Vox Political about Cameron’s disgraceful lies about Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to the Calais migrants’ camp: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/27/liar-camerons-bunch-of-migrants-comment-attacked-by-labour/ Cameron stated that Corbyn had met with ‘a bunch of migrants’ and told them that they could all come to England.

The first thing to note about this is that, like just about everything Cameron and the Tory front bench ever utter, it’s a lie. Corbyn did indeed meet some of the migrants, but he did not say they could all come to England. He stated that those with a family connection should. This is clearly different from allowing all of them in, as Cameron well knows.

What is most shocking isn’t that Cameron lied once again, and certainly not that he has lied about migration, an issue which the Tories themselves have been shown repeatedly that they are unable to tackle, despite the boasts, promises and often aggressive rhetoric demonising asylum seekers. What is shocking and really offensive is Cameron’s sneering and offhand attitude to the migrants themselves. They’re ‘a bunch’. Like bananas. A mixed assortment, in other words. And he said this on Holocaust Memorial Day.

This is the day when Europe remembers not only the Nazi extermination of the Jews, but, by wider extension, all victims of racism and genocide. The blurb for it in the Radio Times actually says that. And many Jewish organisations make an explicit connection between commemorating and protesting against their own history of persecution, and contemporary genocides and crimes against humanity. Bernie Farber, the head of one of the major Canadian Jewish organisations, drew the ire of the Canadian right-wing Tories a few years ago during the Darfur crisis. Why? He organised an official ‘Shabbat for Darfur’, a ‘Sabbath’ of fasting and prayer against the genocide against its people then being carried out by the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed militias. It annoyed the particularist right, who felt that Farber should just be concerned to commemorate the sufferings of the Jewish people, without worrying about others. And unfortunately, there are others over here who share the same opinion. Like Richard Desmond, who wrote a moving description of his own visit to Auschwitz, before going on to join UKIP, despite the fact that many of the migrants UKIP vilify and denounce are similarly fleeing from the organised extermination of their peoples in their homelands. It seems from this that Cameron has the same view.

A year or so ago Mike also put up another piece commenting on Ian Duncan Smith’s visit to Auschwitz and the hypocrisy involved there. The ‘Gentleman Ranker’ was trying to show he shared the world’s horror and outrage at the crime, while at the same time his policies, like the Nazis, attacked and degraded the sick, unemployed and disabled. In the case of denying them benefit, to the point of death. IDS seems to have regarded the trip as little more than a photo opportunity, a chance to show that he was a decent human being by going on a pilgrimage to a place of the most extreme horror. While all the time, his policies say otherwise. And Cameron, from his dismissive comments about the migrants at Calais, also apparently shares this blithe indifference, even hostility, to the victims of such holocausts today.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper protested against Cameron’s comments and his sneering lack of concern for those, who have lost everything. She is to be applauded for it. As for Cameron, he should feel ashamed, both about his lying, and the sneering racism underneath it. But I doubt that he will. Cameron is a toff, and as the American Socialist journalist Chris Hedges pointed out in a piece I reblogged last week, the upper classes are unpleasant psychopaths. They sneer at the lower classes and have the same contempt for the middle class. It is, however, disguised by clever PR work and various much-publicised philanthropy.

Cameron’s offhand remark about ‘a bunch of migrants’ also tells you everything you need to know about the Tory attitude to globalisation and the social disruption this causes. The elites love it, because it allows them to break the power of national governments to regulate the economy and protect the working and lower middle classes by exporting industry to other countries around the world, where labour is cheap and welfare provision minimal. And if the workers there prove a bit ‘bolshie’ and demand their rights, it can be moved to somewhere else. For the working peoples of the world, it’s been disastrous, as they’ve seen their working conditions deteriorate, wages stagnate and working hours increase. The process is documented in the book Falling Off the Edge, and Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse. The result of this has been the massive disruption of many societies in the Developing World, culminating in terrorism by guerrillas and the state. The result of this has been the mass migration of millions of displaced people around the world, seeking safety or a better standard of living.

Like those in Calais.

And this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Way back c. ’95, the BBC’s long running science programme, Horizon, devoted an edition to ‘Icon Earth’. This was about the photograph of the full Earth taken from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts, and the way it had changed our perspectives. The programme made the point that there had been no photographs of the Earth as a whole before then. The result of this was that there was a change in consciousness, as the world’s populations became less concerned with their own, particular affairs on more aware of the importance of the planet and interrelatedness of the world’s peoples and their actions. It helped stimulate the nascent ecological movement, as part of this.

The programme covered the contemporary debate about globalisation, then being embraced by the Major and Bliar Conservative and Labour parties. One of the speakers on the programme was an Indian social activist, who opined that while politicians liked globalisation for the opportunities it gave for business, they did not like the mass migration it also engendered. Her words were accompanied by footage of migrants trying to get through various borders, fighting police and border guards as they did. I think she was particularly concerned at the way immigrants to the west from south Asian countries, like India, were being blocked as governments increasingly clamped down. But she also predicted that as time went on, we would also see pockets of the Third World appear in the West.

She’s right. Priti Patel and the other globalists behind the book, Britannia Unchained, wanted to see Brits similarly forced to work the long hours for few material rewards as their counterparts in the Developing World, in order to make Britain, or rather their bosses, more prosperous. And this attitude was echoed in Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems by the MP for Taunton Dean, who wrote his ‘magnificent octopus’ (apologies Baldrick) on the same subject. And the mass migration thrown up by globalisation has carried on. The victims of globalisation’s disruption of societies and economies across the globe, and Cameron and Bliar’s wars in the Middle East, are there in the Calais migrant camps. But they’re un-people, those outside the circle of bankers, industrialists and big businessmen, who are the only people who matter to Cameron. They’re of no interest to him except as a political embarrassment to Cameron, or, at best, just as an opportunity to score a point over a principled rival before his claque of right-wing morons. They are the flotsam and jetsam of the world, thrown up by globalisation.

Cameron’s attitude is disgusting, but entirely explicable in terms of his class and politics. He’s a liar, and the political and economic theories he embraces with such passion have caused misery on a global scale, but he has nothing but contempt for their victims, both within Britain and outside. The sooner he’s voted out, the better.

Vox Political: Government Raiding Pensions of Middle Income Groups

January 20, 2016

Yesterday, Mike over at Vox Political posted this piece at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/18/george-osbornes-plans-could-see-savers-lose-a-third-of-their-pension-in-tax-changes/ reporting that the government is closing a tax loophole for middle income savers. This could result in some of them losing as much as a third of the pension savings.

Mike has mixed feelings about this, as on the one hand it is a tax loophole, and so needs to be closed. On the other hand, Osbo certainly isn’t going for the super rich, who owe far more. He raises the question of whether it’s Osbo’s class bias showing.

Of course it is. It’s part of the ongoing destruction of the middle class by the rich in America, Britain and right across the world where the doctrine of free market capitalism and globalisation has been uncritically swallowed. I’ve posted up this very evening a video with the Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist, Chris Hedges. In it he describes how in private the rich have absolute contempt not just for the working class, but also for the middle class. And despite all the rhetoric of ‘meritocracy’ and creating opportunities, the Tories have been kicking away the ladder allowing people from the lower classes to rise socially since the days of Maggie Thatcher.

And let’s have no illusions. This is what free market capitalism is all about. Marx described it in The Communist Manifesto way back in 1848. If you read it, he states clearly that modern capitalism is forcing the lower middle class into the ranks of the workers. It wasn’t quite right. Later on there emerged gradations in the working class, which broke up its uniformity, which identify more with the establishment. Like the ‘aristocracy of labour’. And then opportunities for the working class to find a place within capitalism were provided by Anthony Crossland and his belief that the modern welfare system and subsidies to industry preserved capitalism by giving workers the necessary money to buy companies’ products, and so keep them afloat.

That was all destroyed by the Thatcherite Revolution. And as a result, everyone except the rich is becoming poorer, despite what the Economist and Telegraph yell at people.

This won’t necessarily result in growing support for Labour. The middle classes still, by and large, identify their interests with the rich, and prefer to kick downwards rather than punch upwards. Many of them – though probably not all – will swallow the lie that it’s all necessary to pay off the debt caused by ‘high-spending’ Labour. They’ll support even more right-wing policies, directed against the poor, the disabled and the unemployed, because they have swallowed the lie that they’re responsible for their poverty, as opposed to the virtuous, self-reliant middle class, who must now suffer because of their profligacy.

It’s time this lie was finally dealt a mortal blow, along with the Conservative’s policies, which are destroying the country and people’s lives and livelihoods.

Chris Hedges on the Pathology of the Super Rich

January 20, 2016

I’ve written a number of pieces about the psychology of the rich, and how they seem driven by a deep psychological desire to degrade, humiliate and harm those less fortunate than themselves. In this video below, the American Socialist journalist Chris Hedges and the programme’s host, Paul Jay, discuss that same issue, which they term the pathology of the super rich. The video comes from the TV series Reality Asserts Itself, which seems to be partly funded through donations from the public, for which Jay appeals at the end.

The programme begins by looking back to a previous programme, in which Hedges and Jay discussed the weakness of the modern Socialist and labour movement in America. They stated that part of this was its failure to articulate a viable Socialist vision of an alternative to the corporate system. They go on to suggest that one of the gravest weaknesses in this lack of vision was the inability to grasp the pathology of the rich. They talk about how American society magnifies and practically deifies the rich, and state that we need to recover the language of class warfare. We need to reject the lie, repeated by Obama, that if we work hard enough and study hard enough we can be one of them. The issue isn’t intelligence. The present economic mess was created by some of the most intelligent, best educated people in the country. It’s greed.

Hedges states that his hatred of authority and the elite comes from his own experience of winning a scholarship to an elite school. He’s middle class, but part of his family were lower working class. One of his grandfathers even at times lived in a trailer. The rich have the best education, but its aim is teaching them how to rule. He states that if you’re poor, you only get one chance to make it. The rich are presented with multiply chances. He cites George Bush, and his history of failure, and how, after he managed to get an academic career despite poor grades, he finally got a job at 40: running the country. There is a small, tight elite circle which protects itself and promotes mediocrity. We are now utterly powerless before them, because the oligarchic elite own the broadcasters and the press.

In their world, everyone is there to serve them. When Hedges was at school, he saw how his friends, themselves only 11-12 years old, spoke to adults, ordering around their servants and parents’ employees. He talks about the fabled quip of Hemingway to Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had said ‘The rich aren’t like us.’ To which Hemingway replied, ‘No, they’re richer’. But this was an instance where Hemingway was wrong, and Fitzgerald right. And Fitzgerald saw it, as he himself had made his way up from the mid-West and saw how decadent and corrupt the elite were. Hedges states that when you have their vast amounts of money, you see people as disposable, even friends and family, and now the citizens, who are required to fight in wars. They live in a bubble where only working class people they see are those, who work for them. They don’t even fly on commercial jets. They’re thus extremely out of touch, and retreat even further from everyone else into enclaves like Versailles under Louis XIV and the Forbidden City under the Chinese emperors. They will continue to extract more and more from society, because they have no idea of the harm they’re causing.

Hedges talks about the Occupy Movement, and the impoverishment caused by student debts that now can never be repaid, which students facing higher interest rates than if they’d gone to a bank. Half of America is officially on or below the poverty line. Yet the government is helping Goldman Sacks by buying junk bonds, which are so worthless they’ll eventually wreck the economy. The government’s response, on behalf of the rich, is to cut unemployment benefits and food stamps and close the Headstart programme. Some of the children of the super rich are waking up to the reality, and joining the Occupy movement, but it’s a tiny minority.

The two also discuss Gore Vidal’s comments about the amorality of the super rich. They state that he should know, both from his own life and the world he moved in. Hedges states that when he was at the boarding school, most of the fathers actually had very little contact with their sons. But they would turn up in their cars, sometimes with their mistresses, and their staff photographers to show them playing happily with their sons. He states that there’s a type of racism there, in that while they were happy to create this illusion for their own family, they treated the working class very differently. They believed that they should have to send their sons to fight foreign wars. Jay makes a comparison with the British enslavement of the Irish, and states that this shows you don’t have to be Black to be enslaved.

Apart from hating the working class, the rich also have a great disdain for the middle class, which Hedges himself found quite shocking, himself coming from a middle class background. The rich on their part have a very sophisticated PR machine, and polish their image with very well-publicised acts of philanthropy, while the reality behind the scenes is very different. Hedges talks about Karl Marx’s statement that the dominant ideology is really the idealisation of existing class and economic relationships. The free market ideology now dominant across America is just a very thin rationale for the elite’s greed. This is now taught right across the country, but is just used to justify the hoarding of immense wealth by the elite. The lie of globalisation – that it will give further prosperity to the middle class, give proper, just remuneration to the working class and lift the people’s of the Developing World out of poverty is a lie that has already been exposed multiple times. This ideology and the intellectual class serve the system. Those economists, who don’t teach the lie, don’t get jobs.

He talks about how the corporate system is ‘socialism for the ruling class’. The corporations loot the treasury, but demand to be bailed out by the taxpayer. There is a complete disconnection between language and reality, as America has been robbed of the very language and discourse to attack this process, even though the corporations are predators on the taxpayer’s money. The bonds now being bought up by the US government include mortgages for foreclosed properties. On paper these are worth perhaps as much as $600,000, but they would need a lot of work to realise that amount due to damage to their electrical systems and flooding.

Hedges and Jay also talk about how, although America now thinks of itself as a centre-right country politically, this wasn’t always the case. Before the Second World War there was a proper liberal, working class movement and debate in the country about what kind of society it would be. This was destroyed through McCarthyism and the House Committee into Un-American Activities. And it was very successful, as Hedges himself has documented in The Death of the Liberal Class. Hedges talks about how he states in one of his books that Karl Marx was right, and that the class struggle does define most of human history. And yet one cannot discuss this on any other American channel. If you did so, you’d be accused of being un-American. Hedges states that the class struggle is at the heart of American corporatism, and that if he were head of a Wall Street company, he would only employ Marxian economists as they understand that capitalism is all about exploitation.

Hedges then states that America is the most ‘illusioned’ society on the planet. The system is such that it whitewashes and humanises even idiots like Donald Trump to disguise what they’re doing to us. The corporations spend an immense amount – billions upon billions – on PR. From their publicity, you’d think BP were Greenpeace, despite the devastation they’ve cause in the Gulf of Mexico, including the poisoning of the fish and seafood, which is then sold to American consumers. No broadcaster, however, is going to make a documentary on this because the corporate elite own the broadcasters.

The only choice in Hedges’ view is go back to Aristotle, and revolt, as the mechanisms for incremental change are no longer functioning. FDR’s New Deal for a time acted as a safety valve, but his has been destroyed. Change for the working and middle classes can’t be done through the existing political parties or the courts. What is needed is to create new parties and mass movements. The elite can’t even stop the dangerous speculation that threatens their own prosperity. He states that the people, who run Wall Street know that another, worse collapse is coming, and are just intent on stealing as much as they can before they run out the door. The head of the private healthcare company, Universal Healthcare, last year (2013) made over $100 million. All the elite are interested in is amassing their tiny empires.

Hedges states that this is symptomatic of a dying civilisation. He quotes Marx on the psychology of the super rich. When asked what it was, Marx said, ‘Apres moi, le deluge’ – ‘After me, the floods’. They know society is going to be toast, and are just concerned to loot as much as they can before it goes under. Then they think they can retreat to their gated communities, and survive. Well, they might live a little longer than everyone else, but even that’s debatable to the damage to the Earth’s ecosystem and massive climate change. The ecological harm may already be too much to avert the extinction of the human race.

Hedges views are a little too extreme for me. I don’t think the opportunities for resistance within the system are already too far gone. Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn over here offer some hope of effecting radical change within the system. But apart from that, I agree with just about everything he said. The rich are rapacious and completely uncontrolled, as you can see from the behaviour of Cameron, Osborne, IDS and the rest of the Tories.

But listen to Hedges yourself, in the video below.

Chris Hedges on Erosion of Civil Liberties, Journalism, the Military-Industrial Complex and the American Empire

January 18, 2016

On Saturday I posted up a piece from The Empire Files about the long history of oppression, exploitation and brutality in Saudi Arabia. This is another video from the Files. Here the presenter, Abby Martin, talks to the veteran journalist Chris Hedges about the Empire and its machine of domination, including his experiences as a reporter in Iraq and El Salvador. Hedges is a Socialist, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the host of Days of Revolt on TeleSur English.

The programme begins with a discussion of how the American state cracked down on anti-War agitators, such as the Socialists Eugene Debs, Emma Goldman, Berkman and others for their opposition to World War I. This conflict saw the beginnings of the military-corporatist machine and the rise of modern state propaganda, pioneered by the Creel Committee and the use of the Sedition Act to crush dissent and peace protests.

After the War, the object of hatred turned from ‘the Hun’ to Communism and what has been described as ‘the psychosis of war’. This psychosis became institutionalised as total war after World War II. After World War I, the factories, that had turned to munitions production, changed back to their peace-time produces. This did not occur after the Second World War. The factories simply carried on producing arms, supported by a government financial network. This created the modern fusion of military and corporatist power.

Hedges and Martin also explore the way the American Empire differs from other, previous imperia. Hedges states that America, unlike other empires, colonised itself. The US army, for example, acted on behalf of the mining corporations, the loggers and so on during the expansion of the American West and the genocide of the Native Americans. After the colonisation of America was complete, America expanded overseas with the annexation of the Philippines and gun boat diplomacy in the Caribbean. Previous empires, like the British, occupied the countries they conquered. American doesn’t. Instead, America trains willing indigenous elites to act on its behalf. These included dictators like Mobutu in Zaire, Samosa in El Salvador and the Shah of Iran. They also overthrow foreign rulers, who threaten American corporate interests. Allende in Chile was overthrown because he threatened to nationalise the copper industry. Arbenz was ousted in Guatemala, because he was going to nationalise the property of United Fruit. America does not directly occupy these countries, but trains their indigenous rulers troops and supplies them with arms to govern for them.

The 1979 victory of Sandinistas in Nicaragua provoked a strong response from America, as they showed that they were not going to protect American corporate interests. And so Reagan pumped massive resources into the resistance movement and in supporting the dictator in El Salvador. The Salvadorean regime were given a fleet of 70 Huey helicopter gunships. They also recruited ‘black’ armies, that did not officially existed, using troops from outside the country. And CIA operatives were also brought in to aid the operations against the Salvadorean rebels. Half the population of El Salvador were landless peasants, while the land was owned by only ten families. The mass of the population were kept in dire poverty Hedges describes as worse than serfdom. When they tried to protest, or resist by forming labour unions and other organisations, they were gunned down in the street. At one point the death squads were killing a thousand people a month.

When America invaded Iraq, the same people, who organised the death squads in Latin America were brought in and used in the same strategy there. One of the officers, who was part of the American forces in the Iraq, had organised and led the death squads in El Salvador. In Iraq he created the Shi’a death squads to murder and terrorise the Sunni Muslims. The result of this was the creation of ISIS.

Hedges also describes the difficulties journalists faced reporting these facts from Iraq. Those reporters, who did cover these abuses were under constant attack from the American government, and particularly the state department. They were vilified as ‘fifth columnists’ and collaborators with America’s enemies. They also faced opposition from their own Washington bureaux. They could also be targeted for execution. In El Salvador, 22 journalists were killed during the war. He also states that the press themselves were quite willing to be used to support the American state’s propaganda in El Salvador. In the First Gulf War, the press was subject to very harsh restrictions. Dick Cheney wanted to deport Hedges, but was unable to find him. Very few war reporters – only 10 – 15% – actually go anywhere near the war. Instead, they stayed away from the front to listen to Cheney and the generals give lectures. The pool system of trustworthy reporters used to control the press in Iraq was actually administered by the journalists themselves. Hedges refers to these journalists as ‘Judenraten’, the Nazi term for the councils the Nazis set up in Jewish communities to administer them, and which chose the members of the population, who were to be sent to the gas chambers. And those journalists, who did join the troops, received great rewards for producing stories about how heroic the soldiers were. For his efforts in covering the dark side of the Iraq War, Hedges was booed off the stage when he gave a speech at Rockford College. The New York Times, for which he was writing, even accused him of damaging their reputation for impartiality. Its columnists were selected by the establishment to report the war as they wanted it. He states that it destroyed his career, but he would not have been able to live with himself if he had not spoken out. He stated he knew people, who had been killed, and describes the destruction of the country. 1 million people have been killed, 4 million displaced; and it has been irreparably destroyed as a unified nation state. It had some of the most modern infrastructure in the Middle East. This has also been destroyed.

Hedges makes it clear that the war is about natural resources, despite the verbiage about bringing democracy. He also states that you can’t be a Socialist without being an anti-imperialist and anti-militarist. It’s important to break the back of the Empire, because the methods it uses to control the subject peoples are then brought back into the heartland to use against the American people. The result of this is that Americans are under greater surveillance, the police has been militarised, civil liberties eroded and removed and so on. All of which could be seen from where they talking in Baltimore. It was the classic disease of empire, which the Greek historian Thucydides had documented when he examined the way ancient Athens similarly destroyed its democracy when it began its imperialist expansion.

Hedges and Martin criticise Bernie Sanders, the left-wing Democratic candidate for the American presidency. Sanders, they state, has not tried to tackle the military-industrial complex. Part of this is that the defence industry and its contractors are able to provide jobs to workers. Hedges quotes one writer as describing the emergence of the military-industrial complex during the Second World War as ‘a coup d’état in slow motion’. At the moment defence officially accounts for 52% of American state expenditure, but this is almost certainly far too low. It doesn’t count veteran affairs, the nuclear arsenal or research and development. The real figure is probably around $1.6 trillion. He states that you can’t really talk about reform when so much is spent on the military. Martin Luther King mentioned this, and that was the moment when, as far as the news was concerned, he was obsolete. It was also the moment Lyndon B. Johnson removed FBI protection, leaving him exposed to assassination. Hedges quotes Engels to the point that it really is a case of ‘barbarism or Socialism’. The world is facing the crisis of climate change, while America is facing the severe problems all empires ultimately face of expanding beyond their ability to maintain themselves. This was the cause of the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Martin and Hedges also discuss the potential for revolution in America. Hedges states that when the system becomes so corrupt, that the elites only rule for themselves, there is always blowback. This can take malign forms, such as the Nazis in Germany. In America, blowback came in the form of FDR. He told the elites that either they gave up some of their power, there would be a revolution. This was when America still had the Communist and Progressive Parties. He states that America is now faced with the problem of challenging the dominant ideology, which has become so deeply ingrained. He describes going through the cemeteries in the American South with a civil rights lawyer. And in all of them there were row upon row of Confederate flags. The lawyer informed him that these had all gone up in the past ten years. Hedges states that what is happening in America is the same that happened in Yugoslavia just before it broke up. When people are made so desperate, they retreat into myth. Hedges finds the current rhetoric against Muslims particularly frightening, as it follows the pattern of violence he found in the wars he covered. Minority groups are first subject to verbal attack, followed by real, physical violence. He describes the American state as hostage to corporate and military power. This has become sacralised in the Christian religion, and part of the American gun cult. It will ignite into Fascism. It’s a symptom of a declining civilisation, the only solution for which is to re-integrate people into the economic system.

It’s a deep discussion, offering profound insights into the emergence of America as the modern imperial power, and the role played in this expansion by the corporate and military interests for whom the American state acts. This military-industrial complex dominates an empire abroad, and is stripping liberties and rights from its own people. The result is violent extremism abroad and at home, as alienated right-wing Americans become even more radicalised.