Posts Tagged ‘Corporate Power’

End Workfare Now! Part 1

June 20, 2017

This is the text of another pamphlet I wrote a year or so ago against the highly exploitative workfare industry. As the pamphlet explains, workfare, or ‘welfare to work’, is the system that provides industry with cheap, unemployed temporary labour under the guise of getting the jobless back into work by giving them work experience. If the unemployed person refuses, he or she is thrown off benefit.

These temporary jobs go nowhere, and it’s been proven that the unemployed are actually far better off looking for jobs on their own than using workfare. And it’s very similar to other systems of supposed voluntary work and forced labour, such as the labour colonies set up in Britain in 1905, the Reichsarbeitsdienst in Nazi Germany, and the use of forced labour against the ‘arbeitscheu’ – the ‘workshy’, as well as the compulsory manual labour required of all citizens in Mao’s china during the Cultural Revolution, and the Gulags in Stalin’s Russia.

Mike over at Vox Political has blogged against it, so has Johnny Void and the Angry Yorkshireman of Another Angry Voice, and many other left-wing bloggers. It’s another squalid policy which New Labour and the Tories took over from Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to get rid of the work capability tests. I hope also that under him, the Labour party will also get rid of this vile policy, so that big corporations like Poundland and supermarkets like Tesco’s will have to take on workers and pay them a decent wage, rather than exploiting desperate and jobless workers supplied by the Thatcherite corporate state.

End Workfare Now!

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. In 1979 the Tory party ranted about the need to ‘restore the will to work’. Geoffrey Howe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, declared that ‘The Government and the vast majority of the British people want hard work and initiative to be properly rewarded and are vexed by disincentives to work’. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

Those forced into workfare are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections.’ Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed. In June that year David Cameron also declared that there was a need to end ‘the nonsense of paying people more to stay at home than to get a job – and finally making sure that work really pays. Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Forced Labour for the Unemployed in History

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state
support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Weimar Germany in the 1920s and ’30s also developed a system of voluntary work to deal with the problems of mass unemployment. This was taken over by the Nazis and became compulsory for all Germans from 19-25 as the Reicharbeitsdienst, or Imperial Labour Service It was mainly used to supply labour for German agriculature. Because of its universal nature, the Reicharbeitsdienst had no stigma attached to it, and indeed was seen as part of the new, classless Germany that was being created by Hitler. In a speech to the Service’s workers, Hitler declared that there would be no leader, who had not worked his way up through their ranks. Much harsher was the Nazi’s treatment of the serially unemployed. They were declared arbeitscheu – the German word, which forms the basis of the English ‘workshy’. These individuals were sent to the concentration camps, where they were identified with a special badge on their pyjamas, just like those marking out Jews, gay men, Socialists and trade unionists, and so on.

Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The Workfare Scheme

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick. Mental health professionals – psychiatrists and psychologists, have also released reports attacking the detrimental effect the stress of these tests are having on the mentally ill. So far they have estimated that upwards of a quarter of a million people with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety have had their condition made worse – sometimes very much worse – through the stress of taking these tests.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.

My Cartoon Against the Daily Mail

June 12, 2017

A few years ago I made a series of drawings, in which I attempted to give visual expression to everything I hated about the Tory party and the British press. One of these was a picture of the Daily Mail, symbolised by its editor, Paul Dacre, and Margaret Thatcher. I drew Thatcher as a flayed corpse, as despite the fact she’s been dead for about five years, and was forced out of office way back in 1990/1, she’s still been a powerful ghost haunting British politics.

The inks ran a bit, so the writing’s difficult to read. It runs

Daily Mail

Hatred, bigotry, racism, fear of:

The poor,
the jobless,
the sick,
the disabled
single parents,
Blacks,
Asians,
Eastern Europeans,
feminism,
gays,
Muslims,
Anyone who didn’t go to Eton.

Adulation of:

The rich,
the cruel,
the murderous – here I was thinking of the Iain Duncan Smith, and the genocide of the disabled thanks to the Work Capability Assessments and benefit sanctions,
private enterprise,
multinationals,
corporate power.

Maggie Thatcher.

My Video Urging People to Vote Labour to Preserve the NHS

June 8, 2017

I’ve already put this video on my blog here once before, but I’m doing it again because the NHS, thanks to Cameron, Clegg and May, really does seem to be on its last legs before they privatise it completely.

This is a video I put up a few months ago on my YouTube channel urging people to vote Labour to save the NHS. I describe what it was like before the NHS, when people had to pay for medical care from the doctor. I go on to describe how Maggie Thatcher wanted to privatise it, and how successive right-wing administrations, including Tony Blair and New Labour, proceeded with her project piecemeal.

The only person challenging this decades-long process is Jeremy Corbyn. He has promised to renationalise the NHS.

Which is probably one of the reasons why the corporate-owned media – the Scum, the Heil, the Depress, the Torygraph and the increasingly shrill and irrelevant Times, are so firmly against him.

So unless you want to have a private health system like America, where 50,000 or so people die each year from lack of medical care, vote Labour today.

Comedian Bill Hicks on Gulf War I and George Bush Senior

June 7, 2017

I found this great tirade by Bill Hicks against the First Gulf War, George Dubya’s murderous father, and the sheer barbarism of American foreign policy on YouTube. And frankly, it’s unbelievable and unbelievably disturbing that it’s still relevant nearly 30 years later.

He begins by attacking George H.W. Bush, and says that it isn’t because of his economic or foreign policy that he hates Bush. No, it’s because Bush is a child of Satan come to destroy the world. And it goes on every bit as vicious and politically informed as it is relevant.

He talks about the double standards of accusing Hussein of having weapons of mass destruction, when America and Britain sold them to him. He talks about the racism behind America – and Britain – attacking a Middle Eastern country. It’s two predominantly White country attacking a nation of ‘sandn*ggers’.

That’s the word Hicks used to describe their derogatory attitude of contempt towards Arabs, and I don’t doubt that was the attitude of the warmongers behind the invasion. Remember the Frankie Boyle joke about the Ministry of War’s ‘Department of N*gger Bombing’? Boyle based that joke on a real statement from Lloyd George. When the great Prime Minister was asked what would Britain do when the country was overtaken as a world power by America, he replied ‘We’ll teach them to bomb N*ggers’.

Looks like the Americans learned the lesson only too well.

He also talks about how the right always focus on the government raising taxes as a way of getting into power. It comes from conversations with Republican friends, who told him that if Bill Clinton got the presidency, he’d raise taxes. At the same time the Republicans are screaming about keeping taxes low, their responsible for horrific butchery of innocent people in South and Central America.

‘Hell,’ says Hicks, ‘I’ll pay that extra nickel just to have a little brown kid not clubbed to death like a baby seal.’

It’s dark, impassioned, angry stuff. Here it is.

And we’re still in Iraq, and still backing terrorist factions – al-Qaeda, ISIS and the al-Nusra Front in Syria – who have also committed horrendous atrocities, all for the same geopolitical reasons Saddam Hussein was overthrown. It’s the toxic mixture of American-Saudi oil politics, Israel’s campaign against the Arab countries supplying arms to the Palestinians, and America’s long established strategy of overthrowing secular Arab and Middle Eastern regimes, ’cause they’re a threat to western imperial power. Secular and Socialist Arab governments, like Hussein’s, Assad’s in Syria, Gaddafy in Libya and Nasser in Egypt are too close to Communism. It’s one of the reasons Britain and America have spent nearly a century backing the butchers, despots and head-choppers in Saudi Arabia.

Most of the Fascist regimes in Latin America have fallen, but the Americans have played the same game down there in this century. Hillary Clinton, fully living down to her nickname of ‘Killary’, backed the right-wing coup in Honduras that overthrew a left-wing president because he was doing too much for the poor and indigenous peoples there. The dams his predecessor wanted to build had been impoverishing and displacing the indigenous Honduran peoples. Furthermore, he wanted to give the peons free electricity and better access to medicine and other reforms. American corporate interests were threatened. So once again, the Americans found a comprador dictator to overthrow his predecessor and set up an oppressive military dictatorship. Trade Unionists, left-wing activists and campaigners for indigenous rights have been rounded up, beaten and killed.

And Killary cosied up to Henry Kissinger, one of the world’s biggest unindicted war criminals. It was Kissinger, who, under Nixon, was responsible for spreading terror and genocidal dictatorships from South America to Asia.

Killary didn’t understand the moral repugnance an increasing number of Americans, particularly the young, feel about their politicians backing murderous Fascists. The Democratic leadership had to arrange a dirty tricks campaign to steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders, who said America should no longer go around overthrowing other governments. And she still can’t understand how she was beaten by Donald Trump. Okay, this was mostly due the Electoral College system, which gave its backing to Trump despite the fact that half a million or more people voted for Hillary. But amidst all his stupid and contradictory verbiage, Trump also promised not to involve America in any more wars.

He’s since broken that promise big time, but clearly some people believed him. He offered a break from the pro-war policies of George Dubya and Obama.

And this country is still supporting the Americans in their imperialist wars in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world.

The war on terror isn’t working. It’s creating more radicalised Muslims through the carnage in the Middle East. And we’re working against stopping terror by selling arms to the Saudis, who are backing the Islamist terrorists.

Jeremy Corbyn has said we need new thinking to stop terrorism. And Labour has pledged to stop arms sales to the Saudis.

As Corbyn has said of Labour’s policies, ‘tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism’.

For a saner, and more peaceful world, vote for Corbyn tomorrow. We can’t afford another five years of Tory misrule.

Nigel Farage’s Outrage over Noel Fielding, Kathy Griffin and the Comic Severed Head of Trump

June 3, 2017

One of the latest controversies to lurch across America last week was when Kathy Griffin, a comedienne on CNN, posed with a dummy severed head of Donald Trump. The Republicans went berserk with outrage and the network ended up apologising and sacking Griffin. One of those, who weighed in on the issue was Nigel Farage, one of Trump’s staunchest British supporters, who appeared on Fox and Friends to give his view of the matter.

The Fuhrage declared that Griffin got what ‘left-wing politicians’ like her deserved. He told of how a stand-up comedian on the Beeb had made a joke about stabbing him, but the BBC are still using him.

In this clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, Seder and his team discuss Griffin’s offensive photo, and tell the joke about stabbing Nigel Farage and reveal what horrible malcontent told it.

It was Noel Fielding, one of the performers in the surreal comedy show, The Mighty Boosh. The joke ran

‘I’m a fly, buzzing around the lampshade. The pineapple said to me that the poor monkey had taken the lamp to Nova Scotia. Oh, and stab Nigel Farage.’

As for Kathy Griffin’s stunt with the mock head, Seder’s team make the point that Republican politicians said far worse about Obama when he was in office. Seder himself jokes about how there was no outrage when Nancy Pelosi held up Trump’s severed testicles in Congress.

He also makes the point that the Fuhrage’s appearance on Fox and Friends probably isn’t unrelated to the fact that he has just been named a person of interest in the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s connection with Russia.

This doesn’t mean that Farage is under suspicion of wrongdoing himself, only that he is believed to have information on the affair.

I can understand the Republican’s offence over Griffin’s image, but as The Young Turks have pointed out in another video, it’s hypocritical. They made absolutely appalling comments about him and his family when he was in office, while Ted Nugent boasted about how he’d like to kill Obama and various other Democrat politicos. Like when he declared that Killary ‘could suck on the muzzle of [his] gun’.

There was absolutely zero outrage from the other Republicans about these appalling comments.

While Griffin probably did go too far, I don’t see how it should be worth her job. It’s joke horror, and she was not inciting anyone to kill the president. Unlike some of the Republicans, who have quite seriously talked about the need for a revolution against Obama, who, they decided, was a ‘Nazi-Communist-Atheist-Muslim’ activist determined to destroy America.

As for Fielding, he was joking too.

People joke about killing celebrities all the time. Some of us can remember when Bill Hicks joked that he had a new idea for a TV show, ‘Let’s hunt and kill Billy Ray Cyrus with dogs’. He also made a joke about Ed Meese, one of Reagan’s staffers. This particular specimen, Hicks joked, was a child serial killer, who’d eventually commit suicide for his crimes in his bathtub. Then they’d find the skins of all the children he’d butchered in his attic.

It’s extreme material, though there was a point to it. Reagan’s government was depriving the poor of funding and welfare support. And in South and Central America, Reagan was supplying arms, training, funds and other aid to real Fascist death squads, who committed unspeakable atrocities. Compared to the horrific things they did in real life, describing Meese as a child killer is very bland.

Trump again is rolling back just about every liberal piece of legislation protecting the poor, the sick, the disabled and America’s precious and beautiful natural environment. All for corporate profit. This has meant the brutalisation of indigenous Americans, protecting their tribal lands and water, and the other Americans, who’ve stood with them. He is also a threat to America’s immigrant communities, and his ICE immigration police have broken up families.

Just as Nigel Farage’s UKIP threatened to do over here.

And lastly, Seder makes a good point when he states that the outrage over Griffin is what happens when Conservatives take over all three centres of power in the government: the outrage they feed on has to come from the culture, as they can’t reveal the far more genuine anger and outrage against what they themselves have done to America’s vulnerable and working people.

The Racist Reality behind Frankie Boyle’s Joke about the Ministry of Defence Bombing N***ers

June 3, 2017

More from controversial Scots comedian Frankie Boyle, but this time he makes a serious point about one of his offensive jokes. The clip starts with a discussion about Bono and the tax system. Black American comedian Reginald D. Hunter, replying to Boyle’s comments that Bono has kept some money back from paying tax, states that as many people think the tax system is corrupt and oppressive, why wouldn’t Bono keep the money and use it instead to feed some ‘hungry n***ers’. He then tries to make his use of the word less offensive by saying that he uses it in a non-racial sense for just about anything, including crisps, which he will call ‘crunchy n***ers’.

This prompts Boyle to talk about how he was accused of racism for using the word after he made a joke about how he preferred it when the Ministry of Defence was honest about what it was. This was decades ago, when it was the ‘Ministry of War’. He then pretended to be one of its staff, who answered the phone with ‘Hello, Ministry of Defence, Department of N***er Bombing’.

He explains that his use of this highly offensive term wasn’t gratuitous. It was based on something he’d read about Lloyd George’s own racist response to a question about burgeoning American power. Lloyd George was asked what would happen if and when America took over from Britain as leading global power. Lloyd George replied

‘Then we’ll teach them to bomb n***ers’.

The blurb for this clip also describes how Boyle won damages from the Mirror after it accused him of being racist.

The joke wasn’t racist, but it was about racism – the official, but concealed racism of the British imperial establishment. You can read excellent analyses in a number of places about the racism behind western imperialism, whether British or American. Edward Said’s Orientalism is the classic about western attitudes to the Islamic world. Counterpunch on its website has published very many excellent articles about the basis of imperialism in racism. But this single quote shows the cynical racism behind the façade of imperial benevolence.

A number of comedians came out a few years ago to protest at how they believe the PC speech codes were a threat to democracy and free speech. Much of this to me seemed motivate by New Labour’s proposals to criminalise hate speech against religious groups. This seemed intended to protect Muslims for islamophobic attacks. However, it raised concern, I think, because it also appeared to be a concession to the hard-line Muslim bigots and their demands for the prosecution and execution of people they believed had blasphemed or insulted Islam, like Salman Rushdie.

I think the Labour legislation was well-meant, and after the terror attacks committed by ISIS and al-Qaeda, Muslims are vulnerable to hatred and prejudice for atrocities committed in their name, but which they don’t support.

But this clip shows how such laws also threaten to prevent more forthright exposure and condemnation of racism, by quoting racists’ own words against them.

As for the ‘Department of N***er Bombing’, I don’t think the American political establishment have needed much help from us. American imperialists since the acquisition of the Philippines have shown little qualm in bombing and massacring people of colour throughout the world, from South America to the Middle East, in their campaigns against Communism and to protect American corporate interests.

Many of these invasions have all been conducted under the guise of giving these nations humanitarian aid, such as during the bombing of Libya and the Iraq invasion. It would indeed be more honest if the Neo-Cons and other imperialists behind this global terror had referred to themselves officially in such crude, racist terms, rather than hide behind a façade of morality.

Tory Troubles at the Polls

April 29, 2017

After being foully slandered in turn for his defence of those falsely accused of anti-Semitism by the Blairites and Israel lobby, I’m very glad to say that Mike is back bashing the Tories. And he’s on form. On Thursday he published a piece commenting on the finding by Tory-owned polling company, YouGov, that the Conservative’s lead ahead of Labour had gone down by a massive eight points in one week. Instead of 24 points, they were now down to 16. And as Mike pointed out, there was time to whittle that down to zero in the weeks before the election.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/04/27/tory-lead-falls-by-eight-points-in-one-week/

The I newspaper also carried a piece reporting that, while the Tories were in the lead overall, Labour was far more popular with young people. Which I can well believe. It’s the pattern you find in America with Bernie Sanders. The younger generations haven’t been filled with the same fear of Communism, which has been used by the corporatists to crush any kind of initiatives for change and social justice. They’ve also been hit hard by the neoliberal assault on workers’ rights and what little there is of a welfare state in America to give more profits and power to the big corporations. Just as they have over here. In both Britain and America they’re facing a harder, poorer future, with lower quality of life and a shorter life expectancy than their parents. And so it’s natural that they start reviving the radical tradition in British and American politics, which was derailed by the election of Thatcher and Reagan.

I don’t entirely trust the polls. As Guy Debord’s Cat has pointed out, they’re there not to model the public’s mood accurately, but to influence election results. They’re carefully manufactured and shaped by the polling companies and the media to give the results they want – which is nearly always that progressive, genuinely liberal social policies are unpopular, and you should wholeheartedly support the latest right-wing attack on the poor if you don’t want to be a loser. But is it great to see those same polls showing that the Tories are also in a bit of trouble.

Despite the Jokes, HIGNFY Is Fake News

April 20, 2017

Okay, the BBC have started running trailers for the new series of Have I Got News For You that’s due to begin on Friday. The trailer jokes about how the programme won’t be dominated by fake news, before going into a series of clips in which the panellists are dubbed over by a voice with a Russian accent, going on about how wonderful Putin’s Russia is.

Ho ho! We all know how corrupt the Russian media is, ever since the days of the Soviet Union, if not the Tsar. So all good fun and fair comment, eh?

Well, no. I stopped watching the show last year, because I got sick and tired of the way it retailed fake news, cleverly masked as fair comment on the news stories of the week, and wrote a post about it. Jokes like that are dangerous, because they promote a very false image of what Russia is doing in Ukraine, as well as ramping up international tensions, which could all too easily lead to war. Remember, last year a NATO general wrote a whole book about how, by next month, we would be at war with Russia. Considering the stupid actions of Trump and the American military-industrial complex and its poodles in the media, I don’t know if that was a genuine prediction or a prepared script that has been laid down for NATO to follow.

But let’s take the connection between Russia and ‘fake news’. This has been heavily promoted by the Democrats to excuse their defeat in the American presidential elections. They lost, not because they had no policies that would really benefit the poor, not because Hillary Clinton is a corporatist hawk, who has been paid obscene amounts by the Wall Street banks for making sure they can get away with wrecking the economy and impoverishing the country’s working people. Or the way she sneered at implementing single-payer healthcare, and has worked for companies like Wallmart, which stamped on trade unions. No! It was all because the Russians hacked into the Democrats’ computer and handed all the incriminating evidence of their crooked deals with industry and to rig the nominations to keep Bernie Sanders out, and then gave it to WikiLeaks. Except that there’s no evidence of this, and WikiLeaks itself has denied this, saying instead that they were given the material in a Chicago park by a Democratic insider, who was annoyed at the way the party was being run.

And there’s more, much more. Since then the Democrats and their corporate shills, like Rachel Maddow, have been not only banging on about this, but also about how they supposedly hacked into Trump, and have some kind of hold over him, blackmailing him to support their interests. There’s no evidence for that, but nevertheless, that’s what’s being sold the American public. There are two videos from the Jimmy Dore show where he reports on the finding by an American media monitoring organisation that stories about Russian hacking now comprise over 50 per cent of the stories covered by Maddow on her show. Despite the fact that figures from the FBI and CIA have said that it’s all rubbish.

Dore points out how McCarthyite this all is, and how it is dangerously ratcheting up tensions with Putin in a new ‘Red Scare’.

Added to this already volatile situation is the current war in Ukraine. If you believe the media, including Private Eye, Putin doing the same thing as Hitler did to Czechoslovakia. He using the supposed persecution of his people in that country to invade and overthrow its democratically elected government and annex the entire nation.

Except that Putin isn’t. He is in Ukraine to protect the ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking Ukrainian population, who are genuinely being persecuted by the Ukrainian government. However, Crimea was never historically part of Ukraine, is overwhelmingly Russian, and was only given to Ukraine in 1950 or so. And its people voted, perfectly constitutionally, to leave Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

As for the current Ukrainian government, they are anything but nice, western-style democrats. The Orange Revolution was not a spontaneous revolution at all, but a carefully funded astroturf coup staged by George Soros and the National Endowment for Democracy, which is the American government’s quango in charge of fomenting coups against governments the American state doesn’t like. Which means, in practice, those countries that try to stop American corporations exploiting them and treating their people as slaves.

The Ukrainian government also contains genuine Nazis from the Pravy – ‘Right’ – Sektor. These organisations dress in the costume and use the regalia – the flags, signs and insignia – of the Ukrainian SS auxiliaries during the Second World War. These organisations, and the leaders they revere, where responsible for some of the pogroms and actively aided the Holocaust during the Nazi invasion. And they are still bitterly anti-Semitic today.

But from Reagan onwards, the American government has supported elements of the Ukrainian far right, and its leaders, like Vladimir Stetso, as freedom fighters.

None of this is being reported in Private Eye, or mentioned on the BBC, not even on Have I Got News For You. Indeed, Private Eye, in their ‘Letter from Ukraine’, actively retailed the narrative that democratic Ukraine is under attack from Putin’s Russia. This is all to serve British, and indeed, western, corporate and military interests.

And so Have I Got News For You, and its hosts, are actively feeding us fake news, all the while pretending to be acting as a kind of humorous check, holding politicians accountable through satire and humour. But there are limits to the joking, beyond which they clearly don’t want to go. And the jolly irreverence then becomes actively dangerous, as it adds an entirely spurious verisimilitude to the lies they are telling about Russia, Ukraine and the former eastern bloc.

I had enough of this a couple of years ago, and have stopped watching it. I am not saying it doesn’t do some good, and that the team and panellists don’t genuinely hold some politicos to account. I’m just saying that it’s also peddling fake news, and that, if you watch it, you need to be very careful about what Hislop, Merton and the guest presenter for that week say.

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.

The Young Turks: CIA Overthrows Democracies, But Can’t Get Rid of Dictators

April 19, 2017

In this short clip from The Young Turks, hosts Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola make some very pointed rhetorical questions about the CIA and its power. Uygur states that he has been reading a book about the history of the CIA and the way it has engineered coups in Latin America and Africa to overthrow largely elected heads of state and governments. Two examples are Mossadegh in Iran, who was overthrown because he nationalised the oil industry, and Arbenz in Guatemala, because he nationalised the banana plantations.

But now that there is a real threat to world peace in the shape of the current dictator of North Korea, the CIA are simply not around. Yes, Uygur acknowledges, there’s been some great cyberhacking, though that could have been done by the NSA. But Kim Jong Il is still around. Now this could be because the CIA’s power has been largely broken – they are, apparently, now more like a bureaucracy. Iadarola jokingly suggests that it might be that Kim Jong Il really is divine. Or on the other hand, it could also be that the CIA really doesn’t represent American interests so much as corporate interests. If a democratically elected leader wants to make Americans pay more for their petrol or bananas, the CIA arrange for him to be overthrown. When it means genuinely protecting ordinary Americans, or Koreans, or Japanese, they’re nowhere to be found.